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July 06, 2014

I am not the every-week preacher at Grace Fellowship Church, but this week have the privilege of proclaiming God’s Word. I am looking forward to it and find myself longing for unction—what E.M. Bounds refers to as that indefinable, indescribable something. Here is what he says about unction:

Unction is that indefinable, indescribable something which an old, renowned Scotch preacher describes thus: “There is sometimes somewhat in preaching that cannot be ascribed either to matter or expression, and cannot be described what it is, or from whence it cometh, but with a sweet violence it pierceth into the heart and affections and comes immediately from the Word; but if there be any way to obtain such a thing, it is by the heavenly disposition of the speaker.”

We call it unction. It is this unction which makes the word of God “quick and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” It is this unction which gives the words of the preacher such point, sharpness, and power, and which creates such friction and stir in many a dead congregation. The same truths have been told in the strictness of the letter, smooth as human oil could make them; but no signs of life, not a pulse throb; all as peaceful as the grave and as dead. The same preacher in the meanwhile receives a baptism of this unction, the divine inflatus is on him, the letter of the Word has been embellished and fired by this mysterious power, and the throbbings of life begin — life which receives or life which resists. The unction pervades and convicts the conscience and breaks the heart.

This divine unction is the feature which separates and distinguishes true gospel preaching from all other methods of presenting the truth, and which creates a wide spiritual chasm between the preacher who has it and the one who has it not. It backs and impregns revealed truth with all the energy of God. Unction is simply putting God in his own word and on his own preachers. By mighty and great prayerfulness and by continual prayerfulness, it is all potential and personal to the preacher; it inspires and clarifies his intellect, gives insight and grasp and projecting power; it gives to the preacher heart power, which is greater than head power; and tenderness, purity, force flow from the heart by it. Enlargement, freedom, fullness of thought, directness and simplicity of utterance are the fruits of this unction.

What of unction? It is the indefinable in preaching which makes it preaching. It is that which distinguishes and separates preaching from all mere human addresses. It is the divine in preaching.

July 05, 2014

We have just finished our first week of summer vacation here in Canada—the kids’ classes went all the way until June 27. But now they are free until after Labor Day! We will be heading out of town before long, with some Aussies taking over our house while we’re gone. Fun!

For those interested, I have updated my speaking itinerary page; it would be great to meet you if I end up in your neck of the woods in the next year.

And now, here are some links that caught my eye over the past few days:

Christians have not always done well with helping people with mental illnesses. Michael Horton’s thoughts on Faith and Mental Illness are well-formed and represent some clear thinking on the issue.

This video attempts to simply explain your immune system and explain why you aren’t dead yet. (Note: You’ll have to overlook a bit of the language of evolution.)

Drew Dyck says (rightly!) that Millennials Need a Bigger God, Not a Hipper Pastor. I find this fascinating: “The number one predictive factor as to whether or not a young Christian will retain his or her faith is whether that person has a meaningful relationship with an older Christian.”

Tony Reinke asks whether feminine modesty is about sex. He takes this as the main premise of most discussions on modesty, and challenges it: “Here’s the main assumption: Feminine modesty is about sexual provocation. If a woman’s skirt is too short or blouse is too low, it will cause her Christian brother to lust.”

The Guardian has an interesting article on assisted dying. While the author does not necessarily object to euthanasia, he does fear the consequences that will come. And he is exactly right in his concerns, I’m sure.

Here’s a video of Our Earth looking absolutely stunning from far above its surface.

We can be sure our prayers are answered precisely in the way we would want them to be answered if we knew everything God knows. —Tim Keller

Keller

July 04, 2014

This week’s Free Stuff Fridays is sponsored by our friends Crossway. They are giving away 5 prizes this week, and each of those prizes will be a copy of their new ESV Reader’s Bible.

Readers BibleThe ESV Reader’s Bible was created for those who want to read Scripture precisely as it was originally written–namely, as an unbroken narrative. Verse numbers, chapter and section headings, and translation footnotes are helpful navigational and interpretive tools, but they are also relatively recent conventions. In the ESV Reader’s Bible they have been removed from the Bible text. The result is a new kind of Bible-reading experience in a volume that presents Scripture as one extended story line.

On the top of each page a verse range is included for orientation. Other features include a single-column text setting, readable type, and a book-like format. The Reader’s Bible is a simple but elegant edition, and is perfect for devotional reading, for extended Bible reading, or for focusing on the overarching narrative of the Bible.

  • Black letter text, with no verse numbers or footnotes
  • Single-column, paragraph format
  • Two ribbon markers
  • This Cloth Over Board edition is packaged in an attractive slipcase

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.

July 04, 2014

Here are a handful of new Kindle deals: Magnifying God in Christ by Thomas Schreiner is a steal at $4.99; Seeing the Unseen by Randy Alcorn ($2.99); Understanding Spiritual Warfare: Four Views by Various ($3.99); The Ever-Loving Truth by Voddie Baucham ($2.99).

Zamperini’s Greatest Victory - “Zamperini saw his conversion as the hinge for all that went before it, and all that followed in his long life. He wanted as many other people as possible to hear about salvation through Christ through his own story: ‘That’s the message of the book’.”

I Could Have Sued and Won - Tara Barthel writes about having to put her own teaching into action.

When We Best Learn the Bible - This is good stuff: “Sound Bible study is rooted in a celebration of delayed gratification. Gaining Bible literacy requires allowing our study to have a cumulative effect — across weeks, months, years — so that the interrelation of one part of Scripture to another reveals itself slowly and gracefully, like a dust cloth slipping inch by inch from the face of a masterpiece.”

Burial or Cremation - Here’s an interesting look at the burial vs cremation debate.

The Landlord - Lore Ferguson: “I was called the The Responsible One yesterday. But I haven’t felt responsible in a year or more. I’m backtracking and highlighting and caveating and trying to figure out where I misplaced responsibility.”

He counts the stars and calls them by name, yet he heals the broken in heart and binds up their wounds. —C.H. Spurgeon

Spurgeon

July 03, 2014

I am in the unique and enjoyable position of receiving copies of most of the latest and greatest Christian books. Over the past couple of weeks I’ve received boxes of them and, in sorting through the pile, some have risen to the top.

LifelinesLifelines for Tough Times by Mike Fabarez. Here is how the publisher describes this one: “When tough times hit, we often find ourselves vulnerable—to doubt, fear, worry, even depression. We ask, ‘Does God care? Has He forgotten me?’ So why does God allow suffering? Author Mike Fabarez—who is well acquainted with deep pain himself as the father of a special-needs child and as a pastor who has counseled many through life’s hurts—looks to the truths of Scripture for answers. Along the way, he shares how complete trust in God alone can restore your confidence and hope; the power of focusing on God’s eternal goals for you in life’s temporary setbacks; God’s promises to love and protect you no matter what happens. This book will not only help you understand why God allows suffering—it will provide you with the resources to stand strong, rest in God’s care, and endure!” It comes with endorsements from John MacArthur, Joni Eareckson Tada, Jay Adams, and others. (Learn more or buy it at Amazon)

60 People60 People Who Shaped the Church by Alton Gansky. “The Church exists today in its current form because of the people who have come before us. From a consummate storyteller comes this collection of inspiring biographical sketches of people who played pivotal roles in advancing the Kingdom of God on earth. In rich prose and spanning twenty centuries of church history, these engaging narratives range from the well-known to the obscure, highlighting personalities such as Josephus, Francis of Assisi, Thomas Aquinas, Galileo, John Calvin, Blaise Pascal, Jonathan Edwards, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, William Wilberforce, G. K. Chesterton, and many others. Readers will feel the past come alive and mingle in their minds with the present state of the Church, encouraging and galvanizing them to live their own faith courageously in our time—and shape the Church of the future.” (Learn more or buy it at Amazon or Westminster Books)

ExaltingExalting Jesus in Ezra-Nehemiah by James Hamilton. This is the publisher’s description of the series: “Edited by David Platt, Daniel L. Akin, and Tony Merida, this new commentary series, projected to be 48 volumes, takes a Christ-centered approach to expositing each book of the Bible. Rather than a verse-by-verse approach, the authors have crafted chapters that explain and apply key passages in their assigned Bible books. Readers will learn to see Christ in all aspects of Scripture, and they will be encouraged by the devotional nature of each exposition. Exalting Jesus in Ezra-Nehemiah is written by Jim Hamilton.” This series is sound, readable, and affordable. (Learn more or buy it at Amazon or Westminster Books)

July 03, 2014

Here are a few new Kindle bargains: Long Story Short (free) and Old Story New ($4.99) by Marty Machowski; The Man of Sin by Kim Riddelbarger ($3.99); Recovering Redemption by Matt Chandler ($4.99); new from GLH Publishing: The Duty of Pastors by John Owen ($0.99). If you prefer printed books, but sure to check out the weekly deals from Westminster Books; this week many of them are geared toward women.

10 Reasons God Stops Us In Our Tracks - David Murray: “Basically God has stopped my in my tracks once again and I’ve been asking myself Why? Not at all in a rebellious way, but in a humble and teachable way. Did I miss or forget the lessons of three years ago? I’ve already had two strikes; I desperately don’t want a third.”

This Strange Thing Called Growth - John Johnson thinks through this strange thing we call church growth.

5 Questions and the 5 Solas - Did you know each of the 5 solas answers a question? Here they are.

Real Church - “The strange idea is: church is for displaying the best about us, not revealing the worst about us. The result is: burdened, burned out, suffocating Christians and church leaders.”

Rich Young Ruler Redux - Ed Welch reimagines the Rich Young Ruler for a modern context.

How Do We Know the Bible Is God’s Word - Chris Brauns looks to the Catechism for the short answer.

If our purpose in attending church is to meet with God, then we dare not approach with carelessness. —John Sartelle

Sartelle

July 02, 2014

I don’t know how much I’ve driven in the twenty years since I got my license, but I do know it’s a lot, what with all those drives down to the South to visit my family. Here is one thing that has never varied across the hundreds of thousands of miles: When I take my foot off the pedal, the car does not speed up. It doesn’t even maintain the same speed. Instead, from the very moment I take my foot off the accelerator, the car begins to slow. Allowing the car to coast is inviting the car to stop. It may take some time, but left on its own, it will stop eventually. It is inevitable.

I’ve been thinking about this lately because I see in my own life a tendency to coast—to coast in my relationships, to coast in my pursuit of godliness, to coast in my pursuit of God himself. And here are some things I’ve observed:

I do not coast toward godliness, but selfishness.

I do not coast toward self-control, but rashness.

I do not coast toward a love for others, but agitation.

I do not coast toward patience, but irritability.

I do not coast toward purity, but lust.

I do not coast toward self-denial, but self-obsession.

I do not coast toward the gospel, but self-sufficiency.

In short, I do not coast toward Christ, but toward self. When I stop caring, when I stop expending effort, when I allow myself to coast, I inevitably coast away from God and godliness. And this is exactly why I am so deeply dependent upon those ordinary means of grace, those oh-so-ordinary ways of growing in godliness—Scripture and prayer, preaching and fellowship, worship and sacrament. The moment those sweet means no longer appeal is the moment I begin to slow.

July 02, 2014

Here are today’s Kindle deals: Jesus the Evangelist by Richard Phillips (free); Good News for Anxious Christians by Phillip Carey ($1.99); The Genesis Factor by David Helm & Jon Dennis ($0.99); I Am Hutterite by Mary-Ann Kirby ($1.99); You Don’t Cry Out Loud by Lily Isaacs ($4.49).

Down’s Syndrome - I love this father’s celebration of his daughter who has Down’s Syndrome.

The Apparent Paradox of Sanctification - John MacArthur writes about the apparent paradox of sanctification. “How do you overcome sin and live the Christian life?  Is defeating sin something God does in you, or do you defeat it by obeying the commands of Scripture? In other words, is the Christian life an exercise in passive trust or active obedience?”

Hobby Lobby Hysteria - Gene Veith writes about the ridiculous hysteria (and outright lies) about the Hobby Lobby ruling.

Astro-Matic Baseball - If you are interested in baseball, you may enjoy this long look at the Astros and their plan to rebuild their team.

Leading a Worship Team Well - Jamie Brown reflects on a decade of leading a worship team.

Praying for Our Children’s Salvation - Joel Beeke writes very helpfully about praying for the salvation of our kids (Note: Baptists will have to do a bit of adaptation since Beeke writes from a paedo-baptist background.) 

Don’t allow the Internet to become your congregation. YouTube is a horrible place to go to church. —Albert Mohler

Mohler