Thursday, April 17, 2014

How to be truly nourished by God's Word

“There are times when solitude is better than society, and silence is wiser than speech. We should be better Christians if we were more alone, waiting upon God, and gathering through meditation on His Word spiritual strength for labour in his service. We ought to muse upon the things of God, because we thus get the real nutriment out of them. . . . Why is it that some Christians, although they hear many sermons, make but slow advances in the divine life? Because they neglect their closets, and do not thoughtfully meditate on God's Word. They love the wheat, but they do not grind it; they would have the corn, but they will not go forth into the fields to gather it; the fruit hangs upon the tree, but they will not pluck it; the water flows at their feet, but they will not stoop to drink it. From such folly deliver us, O Lord. . . .” 

― Charles H. Spurgeon

Monday, April 14, 2014

The Resurrection and Kingdom Ministry

from Michael Bird ("Evangelical Theology")

...Finally, resurrection is an inspiration for kingdom ministry.

The resurrection is not simply an amazing fact that God brings dead people to life. It has a host of consequences. Jesus is risen; therefore God’s new world has begun. Jesus is risen; therefore the tyrants and despots of the world should tremble and quiver — because God has exalted Jesus and every knee will bow before him. Jesus is risen; therefore Israel has been restored and the plan for the nation is fulfilled in him. Jesus is risen; therefore death has been defeated. Jesus is risen; therefore creation groans in anticipation of its renewal. Jesus is risen; therefore we will be raised also to live in God’s new world. Jesus is risen; therefore go and make disciples in his name. The resurrection means that God’s new world has broken into our own world, and we are heirs and ambassadors of the king that is coming.

But the resurrection implies something else. It means we have the task of proclaiming and embodying before the world exactly what this new creation is and what it looks like. We are a resurrection people, and we demonstrate how resurrection— as both a present experience and a future hope — impacts people when it is worked out in daily life, family life, and community life. If we are “children of the resurrection” (Luke 20:36), we show the suitability of this name when we are committed to talking, taking, and turning our lives into a means of life-giving grace to those around us.

In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul writes his most extensive discourse on the resurrection— that it is intrinsic to the gospel, what the resurrection body looks like, and how it is part of God’s victory. Yet we must take to heart the application that the apostle makes at the end: “Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (15:58, italics added). Here Paul is telling the Corinthians that despite the world around them, pagan and promiscuous as it is, they must hold their ground, not let up, and not shut up, because they are the vessels of the same divine power exercised in the resurrection of Christ. The future horizon of resurrection gives purpose and drive to Christian living in the present.

If you’re contemplating missionary service, adding your name to rosters at church, learning to preach, becoming a Sunday school teacher, wondering what you can do to stop sex-trafficking, then do it. Here’s why: the resurrection moves us to take risks for God because the resurrection proves that God is behind us, before us, and with us. Our labor in the Lord in this life plants seeds that will sprout forth in the resurrection life; thus, what work we do in this age will flower in the coming age of new creation.

Furthermore, if the resurrection drives us to do anything, it must surely be worship. Look what happened when the women at the empty tomb met the risen Lord: “Suddenly Jesus met them. ‘Greetings,’ he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him” (Matt 28:9, italics added). Their first thought was not to hold a colloquium on the nature of the resurrection body or reconcile scientific notions of personal identity with molecular biology. I imagine that their knees bent with awe, their mouths opened with joy, and their arms were raised in adoration. Resurrection bids us to cling to Christ in joyous and exulting worship.

If our theology is gospel-driven, the resurrection will permeate every facet of Christian thought. We can contemplate Christ only as the risen Lord. We may speak of God’s kingdom only as it enters our world through resurrection power. We imagine the Spirit not as an impersonal force, but as the personal instrument of inward regeneration and physical resurrection. The church exists only upon the premise and in the power of resurrection. Indeed, we can only view the world around us through the lens of resurrection faith. John Chrysostom’s famous paschal homily speaks of the all-encompassing transformation of reality wrought by Christ’s resurrection:

Christ is risen! And you, O death, are annihilated!

Christ is risen! And the evil ones are cast down!

Christ is risen! And the angels rejoice!

Christ is risen! And life is liberated!

Christ is risen! And the tomb is emptied of its dead;

For Christ having risen from the dead,

Is become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.

To Him be glory and power, now and forever, and from all ages to all ages.

Amen. (pgs. 447-448)

- See more at:

Sunday, April 13, 2014

"A Prayer for Palm Sunday" (from Pastor Scotty Smith)

     Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the war horse from Jerusalem; and the battle bow shall be cut off, and he shall speak peace to the nations; his rule shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth. As for you also, because of the blood of my covenant with you, I will set your prisoners free from the waterless pit. Return to your stronghold, O prisoners of hope; today I declare that I will restore to you double. Zech. 9:9-12

    Dear Lord Jesus, we’ll exhaust the wonder of this passage as soon as we drink Niagara Falls dry; as soon as we memorize the names of every star you’ve launched into the heavens; as soon as we finish climbing all the Alps in Switzerland, Italy, Germany, and France. You are the King of Zechariah’s vision, and on this Palm Sunday, we worship, honor, and bless you.

No other king could show up to conquer warhorses and warriors, humbly riding on the foal of a donkey. No other king could break the battle bow and the backbone of all warfare, by the brokenness of the cross. No other king could supplant the politics of evil and tyranny of power, with an eternal reign of peace.

No other king could offer his life and death, for the redemption and restoration, of rebels and idolaters like us. No other king could possibly make prisoners of sin, death, and “waterless pits,” into prisoners of hope.

Lord Jesus, you are that King—the King of glory, the King of kings and Lord of lords—the Monarch of mercy, the Governor of grace, the Prince of Peace. Great is our rejoicing, for you have come to us, righteous and victorious, loving and sovereign.

By the riches of your grace, continue to free us from waterless pits, broken cisterns and worthless idols. By the power of the gospel, enable us to live as prisoners of hope and agents of redemption until the Day you return to finish making all things new. So very Amen we pray, in your holy and matchless name.

-- Pastor Scotty Smith

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Monday, March 31, 2014

Find Your Identity Vertically

"...Gideon [in Judges 6:15] finds his identity in his own strength and in his own family. I think you should respect, love, and cherish your earthly family, but if you're a child of God, you have a new Father; you've been adopted into a new family. Gideon forgets that his identity is defined by God and not by Manasseh.

You will only be able to be the person you're called to be and do the things you're called to do when you find your identity vertically. Horizontal identities never give you the strength you need and never satisfy your soul...."

-- Paul Tripp (part of a very helpful set of articles based on the Book of Judges from Tripp's excellent website)

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Trust....and obey

“By establishing his kingdom, God reveals his glory in the world through creating a people who will obey his commands as an expression of their confidence in his sovereignty.”

-- Scott Hafemann, p. 237 “For the Fame of His Name”

Saturday, March 29, 2014

The King

"The man who was mocked as king—is the king." -- D.A. Carson (Matthew 27:42)  "Scandalous"

Thursday, March 27, 2014

How heresy should be met....

From Ray Ortlund, Jr.: 

In the July 1954 issue of Reformation Review, Francis Schaeffer published “How Heresy Should Be Met.”  He proposed that, to neutralize the heresies defrauding people in our time, what is needed is a three-fold strategy:

“The final problem is not to prove men wrong, but to win them back to Christ.  Therefore, the only ultimately successful apologetic is, first, a clear, intellectual statement of what is wrong with the false doctrine, plus a clear, intellectual return to the proper scriptural emphasis, in all its vitality and in its relation to the total Christian faith, plus a demonstration in the life that this correct and vital scriptural emphasis meets the genuine needs and aspirations of men in a way that Satan’s counterfeit does not.”

"The ultimate apologetic is churches where (1) falsehood is exposed, (2) the gospel is clarified, and (3) we together, though imperfect, become living proof that the gospel creates beautiful human beings in beautiful community."

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

God, Superheroes and What We Really Believe

"In his 2012 memoir Supergods, Grant Morrison, arguably the greatest comics writer of this generation, explained the mass appeal of superheroes to the world in which we live: 'In a secular, scientific rational culture lacking in any convincing spiritual leadership, superhero stories speak loudly and boldly to our greatest fears, deepest longings, and highest aspirations. They're not afraid to be hopeful, not embarrassed to be optimistic, and utterly fearless in the dark.' Isn't that what Western society used to think about the prophets, apostles, and martyrs?

"Morrison goes on, explaining the paralyzing fear he felt as a child living under the constant threat of nuclear holocaust in Scotland. 'Before it was a Bomb, the Bomb was an idea. Superman, however, was a Faster, Stronger, Better Idea. It's not that I needed Superman to be 'real,' I just needed him to be more real than the Idea of the Bomb that ravaged my dreams.'

"Today, we live in age in which the Bomb is both atomic and metaphysical. Deep moral cynicism, physicalism, brutalism, and yes, even nihilism (an overused word which I deploy carefully here) are all very real, all very deadly Bombs. What is the idea that is better than the Bomb?

"We say, 'the gospel.' But before we congratulate ourselves, how confident are we really, outside of our ecclesial safe places? Does orthodoxy really strike the people we meet on the street as wild, dangerous, and romantic in that enigmatic Chestertonian way that we've all come to know and love? Maybe. But if I don't miss my guess, a great number of professional clerics and parishioners these days are pretty much not the droids the Empire is looking for. You can go about your business. Move along.

"As Peter Thiel told The Financial Times, 'from the average liberal in San Francisco to the average church lady in Alabama, I never know how much people believe any of the stuff that they say....'"

-- Gregory Alan Thornbury

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Pleading Our Cause

from "Of First Importance"...

"Jesus’ intercession is his identification and involvement with the will of the Father. If we started with Jesus as the ultimate word of God to humankind, the Word incarnate, we now see him in his exaltation as the ultimate word of humankind to God. His resurrection has shown that he is the perfectly acceptable advocate for sinners. His very presence with the Father pleads our cause, but pleads it from the God who loves to give his true children what they ask. Since this role of Jesus is from start to finish on our account, it gives us confidence to ‘draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith’" (Heb. 10:22).

— Graeme Goldsworthy
Prayer and the Knowledge of God
(Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, 2003), 35

Monday, March 24, 2014

The Freedom of Self-forgetfulness

'Gospel humility is not needing to think about myself. Not needing to connect things with myself. It is an end to thoughts such as, "I'm in this room with these people, does that make me look good? Do I want to be here?" True gospel humility means I stop connecting every experience, every conversation, with myself. In fact, I stop thinking about myself. The freedom of self-forgetfulness. The blessed rest that only self-forgetfulness brings.'  -- Tim Keller

Sunday, March 23, 2014

J.C. Ryle: Comparing Justification and Sanctification

In what ways are justification and sanctification alike?

(a) Both proceed originally from the free grace of God. It is of His gift alone that believers are justified or sanctified at all.

(b) Both are part of that great work of salvation which Christ, in the eternal covenant, has undertaken on behalf of His people. Christ is the fountain of life, from which pardon and holiness both flow. The root of each is Christ.

(c) Both are to be found in the same persons. Those who are justified are always sanctified, and those who are sanctified are always justified. …

(d) Both begin at the same time. The moment a person begins to be [that is, becomes] a justified person; he also begins to be a sanctified person. He may not feel it, but it is a fact.

(e) Both are alike necessary to salvation. No one ever reached heaven without a renewed heart as well as forgiveness, without the Spirit's grace as well as the blood of Christ, without a meetness [appropriateness] for eternal glory as well as a title. The one is just as necessary as the other.

In what ways are justification and sanctification different?

(a) Justification is the reckoning and counting a man to be righteous for the sake of another, even Jesus Christ the Lord. Sanctification is the actual making a man inwardly righteous, though it may be in a very feeble degree.

(b) The righteousness we have by our justification is not our own, but the everlasting perfect righteousness of our great Mediator Christ, imputed to us, and made our own by faith. The righteousness we have by sanctification is our own righteousness, imparted, inherent, and wrought in us by the Holy Spirit, but mingled with much infirmity and imperfection.

(c) In justification our own works have no place at all, and simple faith in Christ is the one thing needful.

(d) In sanctification our own works are of vast importance and God bids us fight, and watch, and pray, and strive, and take pains, and labour Justification is a finished and complete work, and a man is perfectly justified the moment he believes. Sanctification is an imperfect work, comparatively, and will never be perfected until we reach heaven.

(e) Justification admits of no growth or increase: a man is as much justified the hour he first comes to Christ by faith as he will be to all eternity. Sanctification is eminently a progressive work, and admits of continual growth and enlargement so long as a man lives.

(f) Justification has special reference to our persons, our standing in God's sight, and our deliverance from guilt. Sanctification has special reference to our natures, and the moral renewal of our hearts.

(g) Justification gives us our title to heaven, and boldness to enter in. Sanctification gives us our meetness [fitness] for heaven, and prepares us to enjoy it when we dwell there.

(h) Justification is the act of God about us, and is not easily discerned by others. Sanctification is the work of God within us, and cannot be hid in its outward manifestation from the eyes of men.

-- J.C. Ryle