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March 21, 2012

Reading Michael Wittmer’s excellent new book The Last Enemy, I came across a powerful little story that I wanted to share with you. I trust you will enjoy it as I did.


My friend Jeff stopped by the hospital to visit one of his dearest senior saints. Charlotte was in her eighties, but she had been young enough in heart to blossom under Jeff’s ministry. She had paid close attention as Jeff proclaimed the story of God—how the world began with God’s good creation, suffered a cataclysmic fall that ruined us and everything else, is being redeemed by Jesus’ cross and resurrection, and will be consummated when Jesus returns and delivers this world to His Father.

Charlotte said learning God’s story had changed her life. “I get it now,” she told anyone who would listen. “The parts of the Bible make sense when you read them in light of the whole. For the first time in my life, I understand how my salvation fits into the larger picture.”

Now Charlotte was dying. She chatted with her pastor about family, church, and the general quality of hospital food, and then Jeff said a prayer and promised to come see her again.

Jeff was minutes from home when his cell phone rang. It was the floor nurse calling from the hospital.

“Charlotte told me to contact you,” she began. “She said that it’s time for her to die. She told me to tell you not to hurry; she’ll wait until you get here.”

March 21, 2012

I think I knew more about preaching before I began to preach. At least I was more sure of the things I was sure of. Now that I preach on a regular basis I have a better assessment of how little I really know about the art or science or whatever it is of preaching God’s Word. There is a mystery to preaching that makes it so very different from anything else I have attempted, succeeded at or failed at—and all three are descriptors of what I have done in the pulpit so far.

I know there have been times in the past that I’ve rolled my eyes at preachers who have tried to explain to me just how difficult it is to prepare and preach a sermon, but I guess I didn’t take their word for it because they make it look so easy. Albert Pujols looks effortless when he smacks a baseball 387 feet over the left-center wall at Angel Stadium, so I probably won’t believe him when he says it’s tough, but after I take a turn at the plate and dribble a few ground balls down the third base line, I might start to get it. Now that I’ve taken a few turns in the metaphorical batter’s box, I think I’m starting to understand what these preachers were saying. It’s not about whining or crying or asking for sympathy, but just the plain truth. Preaching is really, really tough—far more difficult than it looks on a Sunday morning.

There is a lot I could say about lessons learned, some of the joyful variety and some of the painful, but just one thing I pondered this week was the strange interplay between freedom and burden, two things the preacher wants to have and wants to carry with him as he fulfills his ministry. I think I’ve come to understand at least a little bit of what these preachers were telling me.

March 21, 2012

Fearfully and Wonderfully Made - “The perfection of this little creature shocked each one of us in the operating theatre. In a mere 10 weeks, God weaved together a tiny person with fingers, toes, eyes, ears, mouth and nose. This little one looks peacefully asleep in the nourishing tissue of its mother’s womb. The sacred sorrow, however, is that the baby is dead. A severe mercy perhaps.”

Life Wins - Here’s an encouraging dispatch from a Mercy Ship that you’ll want to read.

How an Affair Begins - This is an important little article. “A friend of mine told me that now she understands how adultery begins. She went to a woman’s house to drop off a package as a favor to someone, but the woman was not home. The husband was, and they exchanged pleasantries for a few moments. “

DVD Deal - Westminster Books has Paul Tripp’s marriage DVD What Did You Expect? at 75% off (from $60 all the way down to $15). Now’s the time to stock up!

The Next Story - Mark Tubbs over at Discerning Reader just reviewed my book. 

October Baby - PluggedIn has a review of the new movie October Baby.

A Free-Falling Elevator - If I find myself in a free-falling elevator, is there any position that might increase my chance of survival? (Climbing on top of other people is not an acceptable answer.) The NY Times has the answer in case you ever need it.

True holiness flows from the soundness of a man’s doctrine. —Robert Richey

March 20, 2012

The current issue of Preaching magazine has Albert Mohler’s annual list of recommended books for pastors. There is a good mix of books here, though I suspect most pastors would take just about the whole year to get through the entire list!

March 20, 2012

This week’s episode of the Connected Kingdom Podcast has me talking about fiction—the value of reading novels (and this at David’s  request). You’ve got two options: You can read the transcript below or you can listen in by clicking on the audio player. If you listen in, you’ll be able to hear the two of us interact a little bit.


Connected KingdomThere is power in story. Christians have long realized this and today, perhaps more than any other time in the history of the church, believers speak of the whole sweep of Christian theology as a story—a story that has its beginning in the Creation of the world and a story that will close with the consummation, with God renewing this world and raising us to join him in it. This is the story that will go on and on forever, the story of all stories. Jesus himself used story in powerful ways, sharing amazing and important truths through parables, short stories designed to both hide and reveal truth—to hide it from those who would not hear and to reveal it to those who longed for it. It is worth noting, of course, that much of the Bible comes in the form of story and that the bestselling Christian book apart from the Bible—The Pilgrim’s Progress—is a story.

I confess that I usually enjoy fiction only in short batches. Every year or two I will pick up a few novels—a few that have been nominated for a Pulitzer prize, perhaps, and I will read them through. They transport me to strange places and, more often than not, make me uncomfortable. But I almost always benefit from them. They give me a glimpse into someone else’s mind, someone else’s world or worldview. And as often as not they also tell me what other people, the people around me, are thinking or feeling, or what they will be thinking or feeling soon enough.

March 20, 2012

Can Britain Tolerate Christians? - “In this morass of rights claims and counterclaims, British Christians may be forgiven for seeing a larger assault on their values and traditions. Yet lost in the country’s increasingly awkward debates over religious versus sexual freedoms, and the competing sensibilities of this or that protected group, is an even more puzzling discrepancy over when any private business is allowed to set potentially discriminatory standards.”

Eating the Apple - Carl Trueman offers some really good thoughts on Apple and our gadget obsession. “The fascinating thing about Apple is, of course, the company’s ability to pull off the same con-trick time after time.  We all know that capitalism requires the constant creation and recreation of markets.”

The Mistakes of Phillip Jensen - The Briefing has quite an interesting interview with Phillip Jensen, one that narrows in on the mistakes he has made in ministry. There are some good words there about regret.

36 Purposes of God in Suffering - Paul Tautges looks at God’s purposes in suffering and comes up with a list of at least 36 of them.

Marriage Is for Losers - I enjoyed this article, sent to me by a reader of the site. “You can be right, or you can be married; take your pick. I can’t remember who told me that, but I do remember that they were only half-joking. The other half, the serious half, is exceedingly important. This is why.”

Mohler and Carson - Dr. Mohler interviews D.A. Carson on The Intolerance of Tolerance.

God dwells in eternity but time dwells in God. He has already lived all our tomorrows as He has lived all our yesterdays. —A.W. Tozer

March 19, 2012

I find it tremendously valuable to have my prayers guided by Scripture. As I pray about sharing the gospel with others, or as I pray for those who do not yet know the Lord, there are many passages from the Bible that can give focus and direction. Here are just a few of them.

1. There is work to be done

Matthew 9:37-38
Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

2. Jesus has commanded you to do it

Matthew 28:18-20
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

3. Success is guaranteed

John 10:16
And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.

March 19, 2012

Sin is inherently anti-God, inherently pro-self. Each time I sin I make a statement about myself and a statement about (and against) God. Each time I sin, I declare my own independence, my own desire to be rid of God; I declare that I can do better than God, that I can be a better god than God. Recently I took some time to think about how life changes when I am god. The results were not pretty.

When I am god, it is against me, me only, that you may sin and do evil in my sight. This world exists for my pleasure, for my glory, and the gravity of your sin is measured according to how badly it interferes with my sovereign will. My wrath falls upon those who do their will instead of mine.

When God is God, your sin against me is light when weighed against its offense to God. This is the Father’s world and it exists to bring glory to him. Sin is any lack of obedience to God or any lack of conformity to his just and holy ways. For such sinners I have sympathy, and love, and hope in the gospel.

When I am god, worship of God interferes with my plans, with my slumber, with my loyalty to pleasure, to socializing, to sport, to amusement. I hate the thought of worshipping another, but long to worship myself or have others worship me.

When God is God, worship is joy, it is nourishment, it is life. There is no greater joy than to gather with God’s people to bring glory to the Creator, to give thanks to the Redeemer.

 

When I am god, sexual fulfillment is my right; sex exists to bring me pleasure and the value of other people is measured only in their ability to fulfill what I am convinced that I need.