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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

September 19, 2014

This week’s Free Stuff Fridays is sponsored by CBD Reformed. As they always do, they are offering some great prizes. There will be 5 winners this week, and each of the winners will receive the following 3 books:

  • Building for God’s Glory: Haggai & Zechariah Simply Explained by Michael Bentley (Retail price $15.99). “Times were tough for the first recipients of the prophecies of Haggai and Zechariah. They needed to be encouraged to resume the work of reconstructing the temple - to awake from their lethargy and to be enthusiastic for a life lived in obedience to God. The people were still very materialistic in their outlook. Their zeal was for ritual rather than reliance on the Lord. Their concern was for respectability in religious observance rather than an acknowledgement of their sin and a desire to please God in all their thoughts and actions. Michael Bentley has written a worthy commentary in giving a straightforward explanation of these two prophecies and applying their message practically to the needs of the church today.”
  • KellerThe Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism by Timothy Keller (Retail Price $16.00). “How could a loving God send people to hell? Why does he allow suffering? Can one religion be ‘right’ and the others ‘wrong’? Responding to the questions of open skeptics and ardent believers, Keller draws from literature, philosophy, reason, and real-life conversations to explain how faith in a Christian God is a soundly rational belief. 336 pages, softcover from Dutton.”
  • I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist by Norman Geisler & Frank Turek (Retail Price $18.99). “Norman Geisler and Frank Turek show, first of all, that truth is absolute, exclusive, and knowable. From there, they proceed to demonstrate that the cardinal Christian doctrines are true beyond reasonable doubt, all convincing for you as a Christians to believe, but requiring a leap of negative ‘faith’ if an atheist is to disbelieve them.”

Enter to Win

Again, there are 5 prize packages to win. And all you need to do to enter the draw is to drop your name and email address in the form below. (If you receive this by email, you will need to visit challies.com to enter.)

Giveaway Rules: You may enter one time. As soon as the winners have been chosen, all names and addresses will be immediately and permanently erased. Winners will be notified by email. The giveaway closes Saturday at noon.

Faith Hacking
September 19, 2014

PrayerMateI say it without hyperbole: PrayerMate revitalized my prayer life. It has been at least a couple of years since I made the move from organizing my prayers in a book to organizing my prayers in an app, and, at least for now, I don’t ever see myself going back. I know that praying from an app is not for everyone, but for me it has made all the difference. Let me tell you how I use it.

PrayerMate borrows from the physical world and mimics an organized collection of index cards. Imagine a card file: Each of the dividers marks a new category, each of the categories contains several cards, and each card contains a prayer. Now just take that paradigm and translate it to an app. You create your categories and cards, and each day the app presents you with a collection of items to pray for. It’s that simple!

Card FileI created categories to match the way I pray: Praying in concentric circles. I have included a list of my categories below. Beside each you will see numbers in brackets, like this: (5, 1). The first number tells how many items (prayers) I have in that category and the second is how many of those items I pray for each day:

  • Gospel (5, 1). These are Scripture passages that speak of the gospel (Isaiah 43:25, Romans 8:1, etc). I begin prayer by reflecting on the gospel, and this shapes my prayer by reminding me of who I am, who God is, and what he has done for me. (Again, the brackets indicate that I have 5 items in this category, and I see one of them each time I pray.)
  • Confession (5, 1). These are Scripture passages that help me confess my sin. I pray the passage, then confess my sin and receive God’s forgiveness for it.
  • Personal Godliness (9, 1). Here I have a selection of items I pray for myself. These reflect my roles (father, husband, pastor) or areas of Christian character where I wish to see growth (humility, godliness, evangelistic boldness). I change them regularly.
  • Aileen (7, 1). These are things I pray on Aileen’s behalf. I pray for her various roles and for her growth in character.
  • Son (5, 1). I pray every day for my son and pray through a number of items that reflect his roles and character.
  • Daughter (5, 1). I pray every day for my older daughter and pray through items that reflect her roles and character.
  • Daughter (5, 1). I pray every day for my younger daughter and pray through items that reflect her roles and character.
  • Family (7, 1). Here I have one card for each member of my extended family—parents, siblings, and so on. I pray for one of them each day.
  • Elders (9, 1). There are currently 9 things I pray on behalf of my co-elders at Grace Fellowship Church; I pray for one of those things for them each day.
  • My Church (112, 7). This is a list of all the people or families who consider Grace Fellowship Church their home church. I currently pray for 7 each day. Each card contains the name of an individual (for singles) or a family (for couples and families). For each person or family I have certain items I am praying on their behalf. I may ask people how I can pray for them, I may hear them make a request at our prayer meeting, or I may simply know how I ought to pray. I coordinated this list with my Address Book which then inserts a picture of each person on their card.
  • Unbelievers (10, 1). There are certain unbelievers I am burdened for, and I pray for them here. These may be people in our family, neighborhood, or church.
  • Special (7, 1). These are other people I wish to pray for—friends from outside our church, church planters, and so on.
  • Ministry & Mission (6, 1). These are missionaries and ministries I pray for.

Of course there is so much more I could pray for. I could pray for the nations, though I do that week-by-week at our church’s prayer meetings; I could pray for rulers and politicians but, again, I do that at our prayer meetings. For now these are my categories. Each day I grab my phone, open up PrayerMate, and do business with the Lord. It is often the best part of my day.

Let me share one tip: Maintain your prayer list. Block off a bit of time every week or two to keep it updated. My joy and confidence in prayer are directly related to the freshness and relevance of the things I pray. The more I maintain and update my prayer list, the more I love my times in prayer.

PrayerMate is available for Apple and Android devices. You can get more details right here or watch this brief, introductory video.

September 19, 2014

I tracked down just a couple of new Kindle deals today, but they’re both good ones: The Most Misused Verses in the Bible by Eric Bargerhuff ($1.99) and From the Resurrection to His Return by D.A. Carson ($3.49).

The Church Needs Men and Women To Be Friends - Just because there are horror stories, it doesn’t mean we can’t have successful and meaningful friendships between men and women.

Mentoring - There are lots of good takeaways in this article on mentoring.

How ISIS Works - Here’s an overview of ISIS.

6 Reasons Women Should Study Theology - Jen Thorn has a list.

More Evidence that Scripture is of Divine Origin - Ed Welch: “I am always eager to find Scripture that encourages my confidence in its divine authorship. Every once in a while, I feel like I need to be wowed.”

Books Still Matter - Even ask Lecrae… (This new, free, biographical song of his is quite good.)

I have often repented of speech but hardly ever of silence. —C.S. Lewis

Lewis

September 18, 2014

We are sinful people. We are sinful, forgiven people, who long to live in a way that pleases God. And there are few better tools for battling and overcoming sin than a close reading and application of John Owen’s classic work Overcoming Sin and Temptation. I have been reading through the book and came this week to a chapter on the critical importance of the Holy Spirit. 

Owen’s purpose in this chapter is both simple and clear: He wants his reader to know that sin is put to death only by the power of the Holy Spirit. There may be other ways we suppress sinful behavior, but true mortification always depends upon the Holy Spirit.

Here is a brief outline of his argument:

  1. Other remedies are sought in vain
    1. Because they use means God has not appointed for the work
    2. Because they do not properly use the means God actually has appointed for the work
  2. Why mortification is the work of the Spirit
    1. God promises us that Spirit for this very purpose
    2. All mortification is from the gift of Christ, and all the gifts of Christ are communicated to us and given us by the Spirit of Christ
  3. How the Spirit mortifies sin
    1. By causing our hearts to abound in grace and the fruits that are contrary to the flesh
    2. By a real physical efficiency on the root and habit of sin
    3. By bringing the cross of Christ into the heart of a sinner by faith
  4. If the Spirit alone mortifies sin, why are we are exhorted to put sin to death?
    1. Because all graces and good works which are in us are his
    2. Becase it is still an act of our obedience

Those who read the chapter with me will have seen that much of what Owen writes here is meant to oppose Roman Catholicism, the chief enemy of true faith in his day. But the main points of the chapter remain easily applicable. While I may not be Catholic, I still feel the temptation to allow my man-centered desires to interfere with God’s gracious work. Maybe this is what Owen means when he writes of “the natural popery in man.” I may not wear rough garments or take vows and orders as an attempt to destroy sin, but I may still look to myself and my homespun remedies rather than to God and his remedies. Just as Catholicism has invented ways of putting sin to death, I may also invent ways and means, and find them just as powerless to bring about true and lasting change.

I was struck by what Owen taught about attempting to put sin to death by means God has not appointed for that purpose, and then what he taught about misusing or ignoring the means God actually has appointed. Here is the challenge: I may ignore the means that has appointed for the purpose of putting sin to death. When I do this, I appear to put sin to death, but do not actually do it. He says, “They have sundry means to mortify the natural man, as to the natural life here we lead; none to mortify lust or corruption.” This is the mistake of men ignorant of the gospel, and too often it is the mistake I make. As Owen says, “Duties are excellent food for an unhealthy soul; they are no [remedy] for a sick soul. He that turns his meat into his medicine must expect no great operation.” There is a lot to think about in those words. Do I misuse the means of grace God has given, thinking that they can mortify my sin when really they are meant to feed me, but not to cure me? Am I trying to “sweat out a distemper with working?”

Let me leave you with this fascinating and thought-provoking quote: “He does not so work our mortification in us as not to keep it still an act of our obedience. The Holy Ghost works in us and upon us, as we are fit to be wrought in and upon; that is, so as to preserve our own liberty and free obedience. He works upon our understandings, wills, consciences, and affections, agreeably to their own natures; he works in us and with us, not against us or without us; so that his assistance is an encouragement as to the facilitating of the work, and no occasion of neglect as to the work itself.”

Next Time

Next Thursday we will continue with the fourth chapter of the book. We have only just begun so there is still plenty of time for you to get the book and to read along.

Your Turn

I would like to know what you gained from this chapter. Feel free to post comments below or to write about this on your own blog (and then post a comment linking us to your thoughts). Do not feel that you need to say anything shocking or profound. Just share what stirred your heart or what gave you pause or what confused you. Let’s make sure we’re reading this book together.

September 18, 2014

Here are some Kindle deals: A Quest for More by Paul Tripp (free); Loving the Way Jesus Loves by Philip Ryken ($0.99); That’s Just Your Interpretation by Paul Copan ($2.99). Also, Amazon just rolled out a whole lot of new Kindle devices. You can get details and/or pre-order right here. The new Voyage looks especially nicely crafted for just plain reading.

The Ordinary Church - John MacArthur writes about ordinary life and ordinary church. “God works through ordinary means, ordinary people in ordinary churches, doing very ordinary things.”

Friendless Millennials in a Digital Age - This is a worthwhile reflection on Millennials.

You Can’t Catch Sin Like A Cold - Barnabas Piper writes about those who “live in cultural quarantine, shutting themselves off from what they see as sinful influences.”

Thoughts on a Call to Worship - I appreciate Bob Kauflins thoughts on calls to worship.

Do You Hate to Wait? - This article deals with prayers that are not answered immediately by a clear yes or no.

Dads: Plan for Family Time - There is wisdom in this article on planning and preparing for family time.

Don’t excuse yourself by accusing Satan. —Thomas Brooks 

Brooks

September 17, 2014

I would like to ask for your help, and all it will take is about 2 minutes of your time. Would you mind lending a hand?

I have been at this blogging thing for a long time, but that certainly does not mean that I've got it all figured out. Today I am asking for your help as I try to understand who my readers are and how I can best serve them. All it takes is filling out this [anonymous] form, and that shouldn't take you longer than 2 minutes.

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