Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Resources from Tim Keller

I consider Tim Keller, pastor of Redeemer Church in New York City, to be one of the most helpful Christian thinkers and leaders today. Steve McCoy has compiled a comprehensive list of resources from Pastor Keller, available online.

Monday, July 28, 2008

The Life-changing Perspective of the Cross

“Does anyone truly understand the message of the cross apart from brokenness, contrition, repentance, and faith? To repeat rather mechanically the nature of the transaction that Christians think took place at Golgotha is one thing; to look at God and his holiness, and people and their sin, from the perspective of the cross, is life-changing.”

- D. A. Carson, The Cross and Christian Ministry (Grand Rapids, Mi.: Baker Books, 2003), 64.
posted at Of First Importance

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Center Everything in Your Life on Him

"If the beauty of what Jesus did [i.e., dying for us, for our salvation] moves you, that is the first step toward getting out of your own self-centeredness and fear into a trust relationship with him.... He invites you to begin centering everything in your life on him, even as he has given himself for you....

"...when we discern Jesus moving toward us and encircling us with an infinite, self-giving love, we are invited to put our lives on a whole new foundation. We can make him the new center of our lives and stop trying to be our own Savior and Lord.

"We can accept both his challenge to recognize ourselves as sinners in need of his salvation, and his renewing love as the new basis of our identity. Then we don't have to prove ourselves to others. We won't need to use others to bolster our fragile sense of pride and self-worth. And we will be enabled to move out toward others as Jesus has moved toward us."

-- Tim Keller, The Reason for God, p.221 (Dutton 2008)

Saturday, July 26, 2008

The Saving, Restoring Work of Jesus (the Last Adam)

"...The Son of God was born into the world to begin a new humanity, a new community of people who could lose their self-centeredness, begin a God-centered life, and, as a result, slowly but surely have all other relationships put right as well.

"Paul calls Jesus 'the last Adam.' As the first Adam was tested in the Garden of Eden, the last Adam (Jesus) was tested in the Garden of Gethsemane. The first Adam knew that he would live if he obeyed God about the tree. But he didn't.

"The last Adam was also tested by what Paul called a 'tree,' the Cross. Jesus knew that he would be crushed if he obeyed his Father. And he still did."

-- Tim Keller, The Reason for God, p.220 (Dutton 2008) [emphasis added]

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Keys to Authentic Pastoral Ministry

From William Willimon:

"Recently I wrote to our retired pastors asking them to share with me their best insights on the work of pastoral ministry. In their years of ministry, what had they found to be the essential qualities for faithful pastors?I have received over fifty wonderful responses. They represent over two millennia of wisdom! Here are some recurring themes in their responses.
  • Successful pastoral ministry requires not only theological ability, biblical fidelity, and a good personality; it requires hard work! Pastors must be "self-starters" who proactively engage their parishioners and their communities by knocking on doors, engaging in conversation, making contacts and other efforts to reach people. Disciplined, determined work is required.
  • Faithful pastors must have a vivid sense of vocation, a sense of being summoned by God to do this work. The work that pastors do is too demanding to do it for any other reason than the conviction that one is called to do this work, that God wants you to do it.
  • The only enduring reasons for being in ministry are theological. Pastors must constantly refurbish their sense that this is a "God thing," that ministry is more than a mere "helping profession." Pastoral ministry arises out of theological commitments and is dependent upon what God is doing in the church and the world.
  • Though some seem to believe that pastoral visitation is outmoded, there is no substitute for meeting people where they live, from offering yourself to them through visiting in their homes and businesses.
  • Pastoral ministry is relational. Your people must believe that you care about them, that you know them individually, and that you are trying to love them."

HT: James H. Grant

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

"Christianities" in Contrast

Compare these two posts at Tullian Tchividjian's blog...

"God Wants Me to Be Rich" (a profile of Joel Osteen and his 'ministry')

"Christless Christianity" (a preview of a forthcoming book from Michael Horton)

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Positive and the Negative

Lately I've been thinking about the importance of 'antithesis' when it comes to authentic Christianity. In simpler terms, there is an unavoidable 'either-or' quality to true Christianity. In other words, there are crucial contrasts: there is 'flesh' and there is 'Spirit'; there is truth and there is falsehood. There's what's godly and there's what's worldly.

Nearly everyone would say they're in favor of the positives in those contrasts...but do we really realize that saying 'yes' to the one necessarily means we have to say 'no' to the other?

For just one Scriptural example, think of what Paul writes in Titus 1:9, as part of the qualities essential for a church leaders: "He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it."

A faithful pastor (teacher, Christian author, conference speaker) will be committed to BOTH "encouraging others by sound doctrine" AND also to 'refuting those who oppose' such healthy teaching.

Both tasks/functions -- the positive and the negative -- are essential to real Christianity and to faithful ministry.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Life in the Kingdom

“At its core, life in the kingdom is not so much about pursuing a thing; it is about pursuing a person. It is about having the eyes of my heart focused on Christ. It is about a soul filled with appreciation and brimming with affection. It is walking around astounded that he would place his affection on me and even received my flawed love. It is living with the hope that someday we will no longer be separated; someday I will be united to him and live with him forever.”

- Paul David Tripp, A Quest for More (Greensboro, NC: New Growth Press, 2007), 168.

posted at Of First Importance

Monday, July 14, 2008

A Great Hymn on the Cross

Here's a great hymn of the ancient church (Middle Ages), including a verse I had never known about before:

O sacred head! now wounded,
With grief and shame weighed down,
Now scornfully surrounded
With thorns, Thy only crown!
How pale art Thou with anguish,
With sore abuse and scorn!
How does that visage languish,
Which once was bright as morn!

What Thou, my Lord, hast suffered,
Was all for sinners' gain:
Mine, mine was the transgression,
But Thine the deadly pain:
Lo! here I fall, my Savior;
'Tis I deserve Thy place;
Look on me with Thy favor,
Vouchsafe to me Thy grace.

What language shall I borrow
To thank Thee, dearest friend,
For this, Thy dying sorrow,
Thy pity without end?
O make me Thine for ever;
And should I fainting be,
Lord, let me never, never
Outlive my love to Thee!

Be near me when I'm dying,
O show Thy cross to me,
And, for my succour flying,
Come, Lord, and set me free!
These eyes, new faith receiving,
From Jesus shall not move;
For he who dies believing,
Dies safely through Thy love.

-- Bernard de Clairvaux (1090-1153)

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Tony Snow: "Cancer's Unexpected Blessings"

From Justin Taylor's blog:

Tony Snow, conservative commentator and former press secretary to President Bush (2006-2007), died this morning.

Snow, an evangelical, wrote an article for Christianity Today in 2007 entitled Cancer's Unexpected Blessings. Justin's blog provides an excerpt from this article.

More regarding this from Tullian Tchividjian.


Friday, July 11, 2008

The Crucified One Was a Conqueror

"Of course any contemporary observer, who saw Christ die, would have listened with astonished incredulity to the [apostles'] claim that the Crucified was a Conqueror.

"Had he not been rejected by his own nation, betrayed, denied and deserted by his own disciples, and executed by authority from the Roman procurator? Look at him there, spread-eagled and skewered on his cross, robbed of all freedom of movement, stung up with nails or ropes or both, pinned there and powerless. It appears to be total defeat. If there is victory, it is the victory of pride, prejudice, jealousy, hatred, cowardice and brutality.

"The the Christian claim is that the reality is the opposite of the appearance. What looks like (and indeed was) the defeat of goodness by evil is also, and more certainly, the defeat of evil by goodness. Overcome there, he was himself overcoming. Crushed by the ruthless power of Rome, he was himself crushing the serpent's head (Gen.3:15).

"The victim was the victor, and the cross is still the throne from which he rules the world.

Fulfilled is now what David told
In true prophetic song of old,
How God the heathen's king should be,
For God is reigning from the tree."
-- John Stott, "The Cross of Christ" pp.227-228 (InterVarsity Press 1986)

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

The Marks of Those Serious About Seeking Salvation in Christ

In this post, Justin Childers shares John Bunyan's penetrating thoughts about the characteristics of those who are sincerely seeking salvation in Christ.

HT: Justin Taylor

Monday, July 7, 2008

"The Church in the Matrix"

Tullian Tchividjian passed along some info about the new documentary being developed around David Wells's book, The Courage to Be Protestant. The project is called The Church in the Matrix:

The American Evangelical church met the culture….and the culture won

(That's the provocative first line from Justin Taylor's post.)

HT: Justin Taylor

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Salvation and Transformation

“Salvation is not merely an objective reality to be wondered at, a theological dictum to be debated about, a philosophical theory to be speculated about—not even merely a marvelous subject to be preached about.

"It is a divine reality entering the human being to transform his fundamental disposition, cleanse him from sin and unrighteousness, redeem him from bondage and corruption, impart to him the nature of God, recreate in him the image of Christ, make him a child of God, a member of the household of God, and qualify him through the gift of the Holy Spirit to live a life of true discipleship in the midst of a world almost destitute of the consciousness of God and eternity.”

—George W. Peters, A Biblical Theology of Missions (Chicago: Moody Press, 1972), 63-64

posted at Of First Importance

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Ben Witherington reviews "Pagan Christianity"

Justin Taylor's blog points to a well-written review of the book, "Pagan Christianity."

As Justin says, "The best kind of reviews not only critique, but also instruct. Such is the case with Ben Witherington's informative in-progress chapter-by-chapter dismantling of Frank Viola and George Barna's book, Pagan Christianity.