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June 26, 2015

Here are some new Kindle deals that may interest you: Perspectives on Family Ministry ($0.99); The New Testament by Lea & Black ($2.99); Theologians of the Baptist Tradition by George & Dockery ($2.99); Word Pictures in the New Testament by A.T. Robertson ($0.99); New Testament Exegesis by Gordon Fee ($3.99).

Who Owns the Dead? - I’d say this article is about as off-beat as you’re likely to see me link to. But it’s an interesting one about the strange business of dying and our culture’s efforts to avoid death’s reality.

Marriage, Infidelity, and Ministry - Heath Lambert has a wisely pastoral article about marriage, infidelity, and ministry. (At least I think it’s Heath Lambert. The article doesn’t actually specify.)

Climb ‘El Capitan’ - Google Street View has gone up—way up! 

An Irish Christmas - You’ll want to take a look at the Getty’s dates for their upcoming Christmas tour. We saw them last year and enjoyed every minute of the concert. (Note: Shows prior to November 23 are part of the Hymns for the Christian Life tour.)

The Civil War Then and Now - “150 years after the last shots were fired, Guardian photographer David Levene travelled across the US photographing the sites scarred by the American civil war.” The before and after pictures make it all so real.

A Profile of Russell Moore - The Washington Post tells how a Southern Baptist leader became surprising voice on Confederate flag. I think we all see Moore as doing exactly what God created him to do.

Are you a champion of Christ on Twitter, but not in your neighborhood? —Michael Oh



June 25, 2015

It is our duty to reflect on life’s circumstances and to look for God’s hand in them. It is our duty because God works in and through our circumstances and, by his providence, matures and strengthens us in them. In his work The Mystery of Providence, John Flavel writes about the importance of doing this very thing: reflecting upon God’s performance of providence. He offers 7 reasons that this is our duty.

God commands it. God expressly commands that we seriously and diligently reflect on our circumstances and acknowledge his providence. This is true whether we perceive them to be acts of mercy or acts of judgment. We are responsible before God to investigate each one of them. If we fail to do this we fail to uncover these evidences of God’s favor and, instead, display our own lack of faithfulness.

Neglecting it is a sin. We know the importance of reflecting on God’s providence because to fail to do so is called a sin. To be unobservant in this way is displeasing to God.

The Bible draws special attention to God’s acts of providence. Consider, for example, God’s great work of deliverance in leading his people out of Egypt and into the promised land. God immediately calls on his people to observe and consider it. God calls upon all men to “come and see” the great works that he has done. These calls are meaningless unless it implies a serious duty.

We cannot praise God without it. How can we praise God if we do not praise him for the things he has done and is doing? Think again of how often the biblical writers consider what God has done and then give him praise and thanks. If we neglect this duty, we defraud God of the praise we owe him, and we remove the opportunity to worship his name.

Without it we lose the benefit of the works God has done. God’s great works are done so that we can praise and thank him for them. We need to consider what God has accomplished for us and for others. This is the food our faith feeds upon in times of distress. In troubled times we shall find ourselves starving if we do not taste of what God has done.

We slight God without it. It is through God’s providence that he draws near to us. We slight him—we turn away from his presence—if we do not rejoice in his providence. It is contemptuous of us to ignore him when he is present with us.

We cannot suitably pray without it. Unless we observe God’s providence, we cannot pray in a way that is suitable to our circumstances. Sometimes we are to pray prayers of praise and other times prayers of contrition. We cannot know how we are to pray unless we observe his providence and read it properly.

In each of these ways we owe it to our God to consider his providence in each of our circumstances.

Next Week

We will continue our reading next week with chapter 9: “Directions on Meditating on God’s Providence.” Read it by next Thursday and check in to see what I (and others) have to say about it.

Your Turn

The purpose of this project is to read classics together. So do feel free to leave a comment if you have something you would like to say. Alternatively, you may leave a link to your blog or Facebook or anywhere else you have reflected on what you have read.

If you would like to read along with us, we have only just begun, so there is lots of time to get caught up. Simply get a copy of the book and start reading…

June 25, 2015

A Stupid Promise To God - Have you ever made an unwise or flat-out stupid promise to God? Have you later worried about the consequence of breaking it? Brad Hambrick has some counsel for you.

Advice To Young Pastors - Earlier this year The Gospel Coalition ran a series offering advice to young pastors. Nate went through all the answers and found some interesting patterns.

Fearing the Impact - The New York Times: “Conservative religious schools all over the country forbid same-sex relationships, from dating to couples’ living in married-student housing, and they fear they will soon be forced to make a wrenching choice.

200 Million Per Day - Articles like this, which simply describes how the human male body can produce 200 million sperm per day, ought to make you marvel at the handiwork of God (and scoff at the sheer folly of evolution).

Preventing Gospel-Centered Fizzle Out - This reminds me why Erik Raymond is one of my go-to bloggers: “What the gospel-centered movement needs in order to persevere is a commitment to teaching people how to read, interpret and rightly apply their Bible.”

10 Things I Wish Everyone Knew About Southern Baptists - Russell Moore goes into top-ten mode.

God is not embarrassed by his wrath or ashamed of his judgment, so we shouldn’t be either. —Thabiti Anyabwile



June 24, 2015

This week marks the 150th anniversary of Hudson Taylor’s Brighton Beach experience. It was there and then that he made a decision that would forever shape church history. In honor of it, my friend Tim Keesee has prepared this excellent article. He also invites you visit his site to watch a video clip from his film No Regrets, No Retreat.

One of my favorite quotes from Hudson Taylor, the very quotable pioneer missionary to China is “There are three stages in every great work of God: first, it is impossible, then it is difficult, then it is done.” Taylor knew about impossible. Impossible was going to the other side of the world to untold millions who had yet to hear the Gospel even once. To do that would take months of risky sea passage to reach them, then learning their utterly confounding language, while facing diseases that if they didn’t kill you, then the people you were devoting your life to just might. On top of all that, to evangelize such a large country of large extremes, it would take an army of Cross-bearers. Impossible. 

The second and third stages—difficult and done—are not reached by Samson-like strength or Job-like patience. Hudson Taylor would be the first to correct such thinking. He said, “All God’s giants have been weak men, who did great things for God because they reckoned on His being with them.” And, he added, “Perhaps the greatest hindrance to our work is our own imagined strength.” So the three stages are God’s work from man’s perspective: impossible—difficult—done. But the men and women witnessing this tide turn are not spectators or armchair critics—they are men and women of faith. Faith is not a warm, upward thought. Rather faith is action displayed and lived out in the arena of our days to the glory of God and the advance of His Gospel. Paul described his preaching, teaching, travel—and jail trips in between—as hard labor energized by God, “Struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me” (Colossians 1:29). Therefore, faith is speaking and writing for the sake of the Gospel. It is working and risking. It is winning and losing. It is going and not always returning. It is asking, seeking, and knocking. It’s what Jesus said “moves mountains.”

China MillionsReaching vast China with the Gospel at a time when it was closed, dangerous, and distant, was never impossible for God. But who could believe this enough to follow Him and see Him work? Apparently hundreds—even thousands—could! One of the treasures I “unearthed” during the making of the most recent film in the Dispatches from the Front series, No Regrets, No Retreat,  was a pristine, original edition of China Inland Mission’s annual report from 1888. China’s Millions was a year’s compilation of journal entries and reports from Hudson Taylor and his fellow missionaries. The pages recount the baptisms and the beatings, riots and new arrivals. But the most striking page in the book for me was one that resembled a high school yearbook—only older in every way. Row upon sepia-tinted row of pictures of the 100 missionaries who had left for China the previous year. 

Look into their faces. Look beyond the stiff, monochrome formality of the photography, and see their faces blush with life. I wish I could talk with them, hear their voices, ask them where they came from and what happened after they reached the other side of the world. When these men and women set out for China, they must have parted from their families with kisses and tears, but also with the joy that rushes the heart when Jesus is near. They crossed the world to tell people about their Friend and Saviour. They crossed the world, but some never re-crossed it. For them, missionary service was a one-way ticket. Of course, cross-bearing is a one-way ticket, too.

Still, more and more would follow; and whether through a lifetime of faithful ministry or through the witness of an untimely grave, the Gospel advanced deep into unreached China. God was moving them from the impossible, through the difficult, but they would not see it done, because God had a bigger plan. Hudson Taylor with Gospel-rooted vision and methods wrote in 1873:

The work … is steadily growing and spreading—especially in that most important department, native help. The helpers themselves need much help, much care and instruction; but they are growing more and more efficient as well as more numerous; and the future hope of China doubtless lies in them. I look on all us foreign missionaries as platform work round a rising building; the sooner it can be dispensed with the better; or rather, the sooner it can be transferred to other places, to serve the same temporary purpose … and the better for the places yet to be evangelized.

The “building” Taylor referred to would rise far beyond what anyone at the time could think possible. Today there is a vast army of Chinese believers—60-80 million by conservative estimates. That’s not to say Gospel work is done in China. Hardly. Every generation must reach its own generation. Yet, despite the political, religious, ethnic, and geographic barriers in China, the Gospel continues to advance from the teeming coastal cities and westward to the walls of the Himalayas and beyond. No great walls and no great armies can stop Christ from building His Church! The impossible is now being done all over China. 

But what about today? Where does Gospel advance appear really impossible? This isn’t about our willpower. It’s about God’s power—and the faith in action to believe and follow Him. Yet, as His servants, we so often see only the bricks and barbed wire, the risks and unfavorable statistics. And so, we settle for what we can see and find comfort in the shadow of the wall—never seeing God shake Jericho or move mountains!

June 24, 2015

Here are today’s Kindle deals: Worldly Saints by Mike Wittmer is one of my favorite recent books and a steal at $2.99; Marriage Is by Andrew Walker & Eric Teetsel ($2.99); Adoption by Russell Moore ($5.99); The End of the Law by Jason Meyer ($0.99); Relativism by Greg Koukl ($1.99); Renewing Your Mind by R.C. Sproul ($2.99).

The Invisible Sin of Gluttony - “Gluttony is not that peckish sensation of wanting seconds when you haven’t had enough food to satisfy your hunger; it’s the sin of unrestrained overconsumption. Gluttony is thus the kissing cousin of drunkenness.” (This headline from yesterday seems relevant.)

Would You Pay a Bribe? - I have spoken to several missionaries about this issue. “If you’re like most westerners, you’ve never really had to think about it. You’ve probably never been asked for one. The temptation has never been there. It’s a non-issue.”

GoThereFor - GoThereFor seems to have trouble explaining what it is. But it is actually a very good resource for churches and individual Christians. It is worth investigating, especially now that it has re-launched.

Walking with Jesus Through His Word - This new book comes high commended by some trusted theologians. It, and a few other titles, are on sale for the week.

Homeschooling Concerns - I highlight this one because it is written by R.C. Sproul Jr. who has been (and is) a leading advocate of homeschooling. “Where there are people, there are sins to be concerned about, and that includes we who homeschool. Here are five things I believe are a current danger.”

When Leaders Fall, All Are Punished - “First, a word to leaders. Faithfulness, holiness, and purity are priorities and necessities for all believers in Jesus Christ, but especially for you.”

God’s will is what we would choose if we knew what God knows. —Nancy Leigh DeMoss 



June 23, 2015

You have probably seen him or known him—He is the hypocritical husband. He is the man who speaks or writes or preaches about marriage, who proclaims his enduring affection for his bride, but who treats her dreadfully. Or maybe he just treats her apathetically. He is glad to tell others about his love, but his actions contradict his words.

As someone who both writes and preaches, I have been struck by my tendency toward hypocrisy in this way. I know that I am capable of teaching what the Bible says about marriage (or anything else, for that matter) even when I don’t act what the Bible says about it. I am capable of writing “8 Ways to Guarantee the Flame Lasts Forever” while acting as if I don’t care if it lasts another 5 minutes.

But I don’t mean to write about marriage today, I mean to write about the Bible. This article actually began over a friendly discussion of inerrancy. A friend and I were discussing a proper understanding of the Bible’s claims about itself and I found myself thinking about the people of Grace Fellowship Church. I found myself wondering about their understanding of the Bible, and whether or not they would affirm inerrancy.

I think they would—I think they would all agree with the claim that the Bible is without error and that it does not affirm anything that is contrary to fact. And I think this is true whether or not they have ever heard the word inerrant. Here’s why: The most effective way of teaching inerrancy is not to teach inerrancy, but to teach the Bible. Inerrancy can (and sometimes should) be defined. But more often it should simply be displayed. And I am convinced that it is best displayed in the normal week-by-week expositional preaching of the Word.

It is here, in the preaching of the Word, that we show what we really believe. It is here that we show our theology in action. We open the Bible, say what it says, believe what it proclaims, and do what it commands. We open it up, allow God to speak, and then live out what he has spoken. There is nothing fancy about it. But there is something extraordinary and downright supernatural.

As people sit under this kind of preaching week after week, year after year, and book after book, they see inerrancy, they experience inerrancy, they believe inerrancy, and they consider anything less unthinkable. The most important lessons on inerrancy are not the ones in the systematic theology text but in the pulpit.

I have learned far more about marriage by seeing marriage than by reading definitions or descriptions of it. That is both right and good. And as important as it is to know and define the word inerrancy, it is far more important to see it. When we preach the Bible as inerrant, we teach people to understand that it is inerrant.

Image credit: Shutterstock

June 23, 2015

Here are some new Kindle deals: Radically Normal by Josh Kelley ($1.99); God’s Indwelling Presence by James Hamilton ($0.99); Believer’s Baptism by Thomas Schreiner ($0.99); The New Testament by David Allan Black ($2.99); The People of God by Trevor Joy ($2.99); A Christ-Centered Wedding by Catherine Parks ($2.99); The Whole Story of the Bible in 16 Verses by Chris Bruno ($5.99); Exalting Jesus in Galatians by David Platt ($2.99); A Simplified Harmony of the Gospel by George Knight ($2.99).

Real Conversations with Dad - I completely identify with this: The majority of parenting is done in those sweet, mundane, meaningful little moments.

Pit Stops - You might find this dead boring, but I found it strangely fascinating. It is a series of pit stops from different kinds of car race.

Cigars, The Christian, and the Glory of God - Joe Thorn is starting a series on cigars. I can’t stand the things, but am interested in his take on them.

#PrayForCharleston - “Charleston, South Carolina will always be the place I call home. From my youth, I walked her ancient streets, climbed her shrines to days past, snuck into her private gardens, and enlisted into her Corp of Cadets.”

A Killer Drug Crisis - Weekends are the time I tend to read longform articles. I learned a lot by reading this one from Macleans.

Why Would God Choose Me? - John Piper explains how he explains election.

The Confederate Flag - If you are wondering what Christians are saying about the current controversy surrounding the Confederate flag in South Carolina, this article will get you caught up.

If the college you visit has a bookstore filled with t-shirts rather than books, find another college. —Al Mohler