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May 27, 2012

Have you ever noticed that when Jesus told his disciples that he would be leaving them, they reacted with sorrow, but then, when it actually happened, they reacted with joy? (Compare John 16:16-20 with Luke 24:50-53) What can account for this change? In his book The Work of Christ, R.C. Sproul provides a simple answer: the disciples had come to understand why and where Jesus was going. From here he shows four great results of Christ’s ascension.

#1. Glorification. “When Jesus departed this world on the shekinah cloud, He was going back to the realm of glory. He was going to receive the glory that He enjoyed with the Father from all eternity. So, the ascension was a glorious thing. That is why, after He ascended, the disciples went back into Jerusalem and praised God in the temple. They understood that their Master was getting His glory back. His humiliation was over, and His exaltation had begun.”

#2. Coronation. “In the ascension, Jesus went up to His coronation. He did not go up simply to enter into His rest. He went up for His investiture service. He ascended to the throne, to the right hand of God, where He was given dominion, power, and authority over the whole earth. The Lamb who was slain became the Lion of Judah, who now reigns over the earth.”

#3. The Gift of the Comforter. “One of the most important reasons for Jesus’ ascension was that Pentecost might take place, that the Father and the Son might pour out the Spirit on the church to strengthen it and empower it for its earthly mission. As we all know, to witness for Christ in a corrupt world requires strength greater than our own. John Calvin said that the most important task of the church is to be the visible witness of the invisible kingdom, and for that we need the Holy Spirit.”

#4. The Ministry of the High Priest. “We have a great High Priest who offered a sacrifice for us on the cross once and for all—His own blood. That portion of His priestly ministry is finished. But His priestly work for us goes on as He intercedes for us. … Today, Jesus is in heaven, interceding for you and me, if indeed we belong to Him, and His prayers for us are equally effective. We should rejoice that He has taken up this priestly ministry on our behalf in the heavenly tabernacle.”

May 26, 2012

As Good As It Gets - Phillip Jensen: “ ‘This is as good as it gets’ the man assured me. I was initially shocked, but then deeply saddened by his statement. It was an astonishing statement—but there was no doubting the sincerity with which he was speaking.” This is a great article.

The Man Who Took on Amazon - Here’s a story of a guy who took on Amazon and managed to win. “Certain business ideas seem doomed to fail. You can walk into a restaurant or retail chain and know instantly that its days are numbered. That’s the gut sense I had when I learned that someone new had bought the Harvard Book Store – a comforting oasis for bibliophiles and casual browsers – just a few blocks from my office in Cambridge.”

The Appalachian Region - Here’s a fascinating photo essay. “Getty Images photographer, Mario Tama, spent time in and around Owsley County, Kentucky documenting the life and times of some of it’s 5,000 residents. The 2010 U.S. Census listed Owsley County as having the lowest median household income in the country outside of Puerto Rico, with 41.5% of residents living below the poverty line.”

The World’s Nicest Prison - “Founded in 1982, Bastoy Prison is located on a lush, 1-square-mile island of pine trees and rocky coasts, with views of the ocean that are postcard-worthy. It feels more like a resort than jail, and prisoners here enjoy freedoms that would be unthinkable elsewhere.”

My Wedding Day - “May 26, 2012. It was supposed to be a momentous occasion–the day I would walk down the aisle in my mother’s lace wedding gown, peonies in hand, best friend at my side, family and friends looking on with joy. It was supposed to be the day I started a new chapter, the day my dreams would be fulfilled. Little did I know, God had other plans.”

Fake Love, Fake War - Russell Moore on the porn and video gaming phenomenon that has overtaken a whole generation of young men.

It is not your hold of Christ that saves, but his hold of you!C.H. Spurgeon

May 25, 2012

Free Stuff Fridays
This week’s Free Stuff Fridays is sponsored by CBD Reformed and, as always, they’ve got some great prize packages for you. There will be five winners this week, and each of them will receive the following three books:

  • Gospel Story BibleThe Gospel Story Bible: Discovering Jesus in the Old and New Testaments by Marty Machowski - Retail price $29.99
  • Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes: Cultural Studies in the Gospels by Kenneth Bailey - Retail Price $26.00
  • The Wisdom of God: Seeing Jesus in the Psalms and Wisdom Books by Nancy Guthrie - Retail Price $15.99

The Gospel Story Bible is a great new product for kids. Here’s what the publisher says about it: “It is easy to forget Jesus in the midst of frantic schedules, family squabbles, and conflicting priorities. But the truth is that he is the hero of every story, including these ordinary ones. This is why Marty Machowski puts God’s plan of salvation in Christ on continuous display in The Gospel Story Bible. The easy-to-read storybook introduces your family to many captivating people, places, and events from the Bible’s Old and New Testaments, showing how each one ultimately points to Jesus.”

In addition, CBDReformed is offering a 4-day sale (May 25 - 28) on the following products:

You are free to take advantage of those deals regardless of whether or not you are a winner!

Giveaway Rules: You may only enter the draw once. Simply fill out your name and email address to enter the draw. 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.

Note: If you are reading via RSS, you may need to visit my blog to see the form.

May 25, 2012

Gospel-centeredness is all the rage today. We want the gospel at the center of our lives, our churches, our families. I love it. Gospel-centeredness is simply a new phrase that expresses the age-old practice of recounting the gospel and living all of life in light of what Christ has done. The fact is that the gospel of Jesus’ death and resurrection is relevant to every part of life. When we say that we are gospel-centered, this is all we mean—that we are committed to continually bringing the gospel to our minds, so it can be brought to our hearts, so it can be brought to our lives.

I awoke this morning pondering one component of the gospel: the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. In his death Christ atoned for my sin and after he rose from the dead and ascended to heaven, he sent his Spirit—the Holy Spirit—to live within me. There is a powerful, life-altering consequence: I have been freed from the power of sin. It is stunning to consider that I never need to sin. I never have an excuse to sin. Now that I have the Holy Spirit dwelling within me, there is no power in all the universe so strong that it can force me to sin. Satan may parade temptation in front of me, people around me may demand that I sin, but none of them can compel me.

If I sin today—when I sin today—it is not because I had to or because anyone forced me to, but only because I chose to. The sins I commit between the moment I pen these words and the time I fall asleep will be nothing less than acts of willful rebellion against God. They are not mistakes, they are not blunders, they are not nothing; they are acts of rebellion against my Creator and King.

It is so helpful to know that, to admit that, to own that. When I own it, I can confess it. When I confess it, I can bring to mind the gospel, which brings to my heart the gospel, which transforms my life, which brings glory to God.

I’ve often returned to Jerry Bridge’s description of how he goes about the practice of preaching the gospel to himself. It is just one way of reminding himself of truth, of reminding himself of who he is in Christ. It never loses its power, because it is the power of God. Here is how he does this:

Since the gospel is only for sinners, I begin each day with the realization that despite my being a saint, I still sin every day in thought, word, deed, and motive. If I am aware of any subtle, or not so subtle, sins in my life, I acknowledge those to God. Even if my conscience is not indicting me for conscious sins, I still acknowledge to God that I have not even come close to loving Him with all my being or loving my neighbor as myself. I repent of those sins, and then I apply specific Scriptures that assure me of God’s forgiveness to those sins I have just confessed.

I then generalize the Scripture’s promises of God’s forgiveness to all my life and say to God words to the effect that my only hope of a right standing with Him that day is Jesus’ blood shed for my sins, and His righteous life lived on my behalf. This reliance on the twofold work of Christ for me is beautifully captured by Edward Mote in his hymn “The Solid Rock” with his words, “My hope is built on nothing less, than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.” Almost every day, I find myself going to those words in addition to reflecting on the promises of forgiveness in the Bible.

What Scriptures do I use to preach the gospel to myself? Here are just a few I choose from each day:
As far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. (Psalm 103:12)

“I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.” (Isaiah 43:25)

All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone one to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:6)

Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin. (Romans 4:7-8)

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1)

There are many others, including Psalm 130:3-4; Isaiah 1:18; Isaiah 38:17; Micah 7:19; Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 2:13-14; Hebrews 8:12; and 10:17-18.

Whatever Scriptures we use to assure us of God’s forgiveness, we must realize that whether the passage explicitly states it or not, the only basis for God’s forgiveness is the blood of Christ shed on the cross for us. As the writer of Hebrews said, “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins (9:22), and the context makes it clear that it is Christ’s blood that provides the objective basis on which God forgives our sins.

May 25, 2012

Costly Faithfulness - “It was the Anglican congregation’s firm stance on the authority of God’s word and the moral wrong of homosexuality that cost the 4,000-member church nearly everything they owned. Six years ago when the mainline Episcopal Church ordained an openly practicing homosexual bishop, 90 percent of The Falls Church congregation voted to break with the denomination and align with the conservative branch of the worldwide Anglican church.”

The Hidden Life of Prayer - In case you didn’t catch it yesterday, Christian Audio is giving away to the readers of this site the audiobook of The Hidden Life of Prayer, the book I will be leading us through in Reading Classics Together. It’s free for the taking whether or not you intend to read it with me. Just click the link and apply the coupon code HLOP12.

Singing About the Gospel - Bob Kauflin pulls a good old article out of the archives to say that singing about the gospel should never become rote.

Lame Prayers - Tony Reinke writes about the cure for lame table prayers.

41% of Americans Are Pro-Choice - “The percentage of Americans who identify themselves as ‘pro-choice’ is at the lowest point ever measured by Gallup, according to a new survey released Wednesday.” Owen Strachan gives his take on what this means.

In Jesus Name - A chaplain wrote Russell Moore to ask whether he always has to pray in the name of Jesus. Moore pens a helpful response.

A Wife’s Perspective on Seminary - This article will prove helpful to any wife whose husband is exploring seminary or currently attending.

The way to preserve the peace of the church is to preserve its purity. —Matthew Henry

May 24, 2012

While most of what finds its way into my mailbox is books, I also receive a surprising amount of music. This works out well since I happen to love listening to music while going about my daily work. Here are a few of my favorite recent albums.

Jesus In My PlaceJesus in My Place by The Summit Church. This is an album of modern worship that focuses on the good news of the gospel. The artists say, “Our prayer is that these songs deepen your personal worship of Jesus. The Christian life is ultimately a life of worship, and nothing fuels worship like dwelling on the glorious gospel of Christ. Wherever you are and wherever you go, these songs will help you rehearse the truths of the gospel, allowing the Holy Spirit to stir your affections for Jesus.” You can find lyrics and chords at the church’s web site. Musically, you will find that it is similar to Sovereign Grace Music, Chris Tomlin, and the like.

The Grand NarrativeThe Grand Narrative by Heath Hollensbe - Heath is a Christian musician who has worked and traveled with some of the biggest acts in Christian music. The Grand Narrative is a “6 song concept record that encompasses the history of the universe through the future that is in store for Christians. Each song is titled by a word that describes the steps in the movement (Hovering, Creation, Failure, Atonement, Covenant, Re-Creation).” If you are into music that is experimental in the vein of Keane or Sufjan Stevens, you may want to give this one a try. I’ve enjoyed it a lot.

Rain for RootsBig Stories for Little Ones by Rain for Roots - Here’s one for the kids. “Rain For Roots is a collective of songwriters, young mothers and friends who came together around a single vision to make new scripture songs for children. Inspired by traditional folk melodies, this band of four set out to make new, timeless songs about the old gospel Story.” These songs are based on the poems of children’s author Sally Lloyd-Jones and appear to be targeted primarily at young children.

Church ClothesChurch Clothes by Lecrae - Lecrae is the most popular of all the Christian hip-hop artists and Church Clothes is a new mixtape (which means that it is free). The album has 18 songs that feature Lecrae with other popular Christian rappers. You can read a lengthy and interesting article he wrote in response to the album’s unexpected popularity right here.

May 24, 2012

Read on and you will be able to download a free audiobook. That’s a teaser, of sorts. Before we get there, I want to remind you of the new Reading Classics Together project that will begin next week.

John Piper once said, “God brings books at their appointed times. The Hidden Life of Prayer arrived late but well-timed. This little jewel-strewn tapestry has done for me at 64 what Bounds’ Power Through Prayer did at 34. I could be ashamed that I need inspiration for the highest privilege. But I choose to be thankful.” For all the great classics we’ve read as part of the Reading Classics Together program, none of them have focused exclusively on prayer. For that reason, and based on its history and acclaim, we will turn next to The Hidden Life of Prayer. Already hundreds of you have agreed to read along.

The format is simple: Beginning next Thursday will read one chapter of the book each week and then gather here to discuss it. If you want to participate, all you need to do is get a copy of the book and start reading. For next Thursday just read any introductory matter along with chapter one. 

There are many ways you can get a copy of the book, some of which are free and some of which will require just a few dollars.

  • Westminster Books has kindly discounted a print edition to just $5.49. Click the link to take advantage.
  • The Kindle edition is available for just $0.99.
  • Chapel Library has the PDF for no charge.
  • Granted Ministries has a nice new edition that also includes The Prayer-Life of Our Lord, a sequel of sorts. The cost is just $7.50.
  • A Google search will turn up many online editions.

After I announced that we would be reading this classic, ChristianAudio got in touch with me and said that they would like to record and then give away the audio version of the book. They recorded it earlier this week and it has now been added to their catalog.

  • Click here to take advantage. Simply add the book to your cart and apply the coupon code HLOP12. That will reduce the price to $0.00. Then follow the checkout procedure and you will be all set. It won’t cost you a dime.

Finally, a word about The Hidden Life of Prayer:

The Hidden Life of Prayer

This classic was written by David McIntyre (sometimes spelled M’Intyre) who lived from 1859 to 1938. McIntyre was a Scottish preacher who succeeded Andrew Bonar as minister in Finnieston and later served as principal of the Bible Training Institute in Glasgow from 1913 to 1938. His book was first published in 1913. He describes the book’s purpose in his preface: “Books on secret prayer are without number; but it seems to me that there is still room for one in which an appeal may be taken, steadily, and from every point, to life—to the experience of God’s saints.”

One publisher’s introduction to the book says this: “Upon the foundation of biblical teaching, M’Intyre piles example after example of what has been helpful and effective in the prayer lives of many Christians, from Augustine to Spurgeon. The result is a handbook for prayer based both on Scripture and on the time-tested wisdom of God’s people through the centuries. Reading this book will, therefore, give you an abundance of counselors (Proverbs 11:14) to help you toward a victorious prayer life.” 

May 24, 2012

Dancing on the Edge of Finished - Seth Godin has an important word to say here: “Before, when your shift was done, you were finished. When the inbox was empty, when the forms were processed, you could stop. Now, of course, there’s always one more tweet to make, post to write, words with friends move to complete. There’s one more bit of email, one more lens you can construct, one more comment you can respond to. If you want to, you can be never finished.”

The Unteachables - I know some teachers and professors who agree with this whole-heartedly: “The greatest tragedy of progressive education is not the students’ lack of skills, but of teachable character.” This is an interesting and important article.

How to Start at Your New Church - Here’s a top-notch article from Kevin DeYoung about how to start out at a new church.

Hymns for the Ascension - Cardiphonia has released a new album of hymns related to Christ’s ascension. It’s free for the download!

The Bald Leading the Bald - This is a clever article from Paul Levy, and one with a good lesson. “However, as I looked at the screens I could see a man dressed similarly to me, about my height who had a bald spot reflecting from the lights and whose hair was noticeably thinning. I looked around but there was no one else in the shop.” Uh oh.

Love and Serve Your Wife - Brian Croft offers a list of ten practical ways that a husband can love and serve his wife. On a similar note, here is John Piper’s take on words that you just cannot say too often.

He that has doctrinal knowledge and speculation only, without affection, never is engaged in the business of religion. —Jonathan Edwards