Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Thinking About 2014

The new year is always a good time to hit the reset button. A time to start over. A time to reflect upon your past year and think about the coming year. What will you do this coming year of any significance? What mark will you try to hit? What do you want to accomplish? I'm sure you have heard it said before, but if you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time. Goals are good. They are helpful. So what will 2014 hold for you?

Yesterday, I saw Donald Whitney post a series of questions on Twitter to help think through goals for 2014. I thought they were wonderful and they have made me start thinking. Maybe I'll write a few of my answers in the next several weeks as I get time to think through them. Until then, I would encourage you to spend some time in the next several days answering one or all of these questions. (You can find the rest of the questions and some commentary HERE).

  1. What's one thing you could do this year to increase your enjoyment of God?
  2. What's the most humanly impossible thing you will ask God to do this year?
  3. What's the single most important thing you could do to improve the quality of your family life this year?
  4. In which spiritual discipline do you most want to make progress this year, and what will you do about it?
  5. What is the single biggest time-waster in your life, and what will you do about it this year?
  6. What is the most helpful new way you could strengthen your church?
  7. For whose salvation will you pray most fervently this year?
  8. What's the most important way you will, by God's grace, try to make this year different from last year?
  9. What one thing could you do to improve your prayer life this year?
  10. What single thing that you plan to do this year will matter most in ten years? In eternity?

Friday, December 27, 2013

My Favorite Books of 2013

I love to read. And I love to review the books that I read. Even though there were times this past year I felt like I wasn't reading much, I did happen to make my way through quite a few books. And I wanted to summarize which ones I felt were my favorites this past year. But how do I judge whether it was one of my favorites? One simple way. It was a book I talked about to others and still think about today. Or another way to put it. I didn't have to look back through my blog roll to remember I read it. And so, with that, here are my top five books from 2013.

1. Delighting in the Trinity by Reeves
I remember thinking after I read this book, "I thought my view of God was big, but I don't even think I've touched the surface of who God is." That's how important this book was for me. It changed the way I view God. It made Him so relational. And the practical implications from this book were numerous as I seek ways to image God. I absolutely loved this book!
2. Dangerous Calling by Paul David Tripp
Okay, so technically, I finished reading this book about this time last year. But then I posted the review the first part of January 2013. So, in many ways, this could have been on the 2012 list. But then I took a group of pastors through this book. I went to his conference based on this book. The subject of the dangerous calling of pastoral ministry continues to ring true in my heart and mind. If you are a pastor, in church leadership, or a concerned member of a church . . . you MUST read this book for the sake of your leaders.

3. The Devil in Pew Number Seven by Rebecca Nichols Alonzo
Without a doubt, this is the best book on forgiveness I have ever read. It is a book that tells the true story of a young pastors family dealing with severe persecution from someone inside their church. It is really well written. But more than that, its emphasis on how someone forgives will leave you speechless and shocked. I absolutely loved this story.

4. One Way Love by Tullian Tchividjian
This is a book that I finished and posted a review just a few weeks ago. As I said in that review, it is another book by Tullian on the freshness of the grace of God in our life. I particularly appreciated how he tried to answer the accusations thrown his way on how emphasizing grace tends to lead to antinomianism. It was a fresh reminder that will stick with me for months to come. 

5. Fearless by Eric Blehm
Like anyone else, I appreciate a good story. This is a book I read on vacation and still remember being captivated by the life of Adam Brown, a Navy Seal Team Six Operator. I remember trying to steal away 10 extra minutes anytime I could by myself to read just a few more pages of his fearless life. If that happens, you know it is a good book. 

There you have it. I'd love to hear back from you. What were your favorite books of 2013?

Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Myth of a Christian Scrooge

It is almost impossible to go through the Christmas season without hearing the name Ebenezer Scrooge. You know him. He's the stingy shop owner in A Christmas Carol who loves money and hates giving. In the years since Dickens wrote this classic story, the term Scrooge has come to be known as a selfish person who is unwilling to give. It is not a term of endearment, but a term describing selfishness.

Unfortunately, it is also a term that many could use as an adjective in describing a Christian. How sad. How tragic. How misguided. What poor grammar! You see, I content that . . . 

There is no such thing as a Christian Scrooge!

It is a myth. It is an oxymoron. They are two words that do not go together. It is like oil and water, they do not mix. If someone is a follower of Jesus Christ, then that means they have been impacted and changed by a God who is the opposite of Scrooge. He is a giver. At the heart of Christianity, we find generosity. We find God pouring out for our good. We discover what true sacrifice is all about.

How could anyone who has been impacted by the generosity of God be described in the same breath as Scrooge? Seriously. It seems the opposite should be taking place. If you have been given riches unimaginable and have come to see the indescribable gift of Jesus Christ in your life, how could you be compared to a stingy shop owner who hates to even give his employee a day off a year? 

If the Christian has a wealth far superior to any material possession, then why in the world would he ever give into the temptation to hold onto secondary treasures? They wouldn't. They shouldn't.


Why? Could it be that many who claim to be a Christian are not really followers of Christ? Probably. Could it be that as Martin Luther once said, "there are three conversions necessary: the conversion of the heart, the conversion of the mind, and the conversion of the purse", and that the conversion of the purse takes the longest? Certainly. Or could it be that we have created a culture in American Christianity that has made the subject of money, giving, and generosity a separate issue from a person's standing before God? Absolutely. 

Talking about money is a taboo subject for most pastors. How unfortunate when Jesus says more about material possessions than any other subject in the gospels. A Christian responds by saying, "It's personal. It's between me and God." Imagine if we started to treat other issues in the Christian life with such a personal privacy, like say, sexuality. How do you think that is going to turn out? Oh wait . . . that ship just left the port as well. 

Is the Christian Scrooge a myth? Probably not. But it should be. I just don't see how they go together. I just do not see how someone who claims to follow Jesus---who was in the form of God, but did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men---could be so overtly selfish to believe that all God has given them materially is theirs, not His. 

I just don't get it. Do you?

Don't get me wrong, I feel the lure as much as anyone. I feel the weight of temptation for one more _______ as much as you. And I too often give in to the temptation of thinking of self as opposed to what is good for others. But I hope I'm growing in this. And I hope I fall closer to Jesus than Scrooge. Don't you?

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Hallelujah by Cloverton

Absolutely love this tune. Love these new lyrics more. We played this for the conclusion of our Christmas Eve Service last night and people loved it. Nothing more to say on this glorious morning than . . . Hallelujah!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Yearn by Shane & Shane

This song (Yearn by Shane & Shane) came on my Pandora station tonight and I was incredibly blessed. It has been a long week. I have struggled with some sickness. I have been incredibly tired for some reason. Relationships have not necessarily been clicking perfectly. And as we get ready for church tomorrow and Christmas just a few days away, I want this to be my prayer.

Holy Design
This place in time
That I might seek and find my God.

Lord, I want to yearn for You. 
I want to burn with passion over You
And only You
Lord, I want to yearn for You.

Your joy is mine
Yet why am I fine
With all my singing and bringing grain
In light of Him.

Oh, You give life and breath
In You we live and move
That's why I sing.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

One Way Love by Tullian Tchividjian

I do not think there has been an author that has impacted me more in the previous few years than Tullian Tchvidjian. The emphasis he places on God's amazing grace has been a needed source of nutrition for my soul. I have read just about every new book he writes and am usually blessed by each of them. And it remains true of his new book, One Way Love.

In many ways, his books all hit on the same theme; God's grace in our salvation. But as I continue to read them, I haven't grown weary of this message. Honestly. He often writes that the Christian life does not move on from the gospel but it should dive deeper into it. The more you grow in your faith, the more deeply the gospel and God's grace should be impacting you. And that is what he does in each of his books, this one in particular. He exposes the joy of grace and the folly of performance. It is a reminder, no matter how old I get in my faith, that I need to hear over and over again.

What Is Performancism?
From the beginning of this book to the end, Tullian tries to show how performance is draining, exhausting, and anti-gospel. He defines performance as "the mindset that equates our identity and value directly to our performance and accomplishments. Performancism casts achievement not as something we do or don't do but as something we are or aren't" (20). This is the message of the world, and unfortunately, often the church. "The underlying message is always the same: accomplishment precedes acceptance; achievement precedes approval" (29). 

Applied to Christianity, it is the mindset that we will be accepted by God based on something we do or don't do. Nothing could be further from the gospel. The gospel and God's grace is one way love. It is not based upon what we do but upon what Christ has done. Understanding this is relieving for the soul.

Fully Known and Fully Loved
We live in a this for that world. And it is so easy for us as Christians to fall into the same trap as everyone else. Tullian points out how the gospel is God's way of solving the demands He has placed on us. This for that, but He supplies them both.
"As much as we might wish the world--and we ourselves--didn't operate according to debits and credits, there is always a cost to what we do. We are conditional beings living in a conditional universe. 'I called you last time, now it's your turn to call me.' 'If you lie to me, there must be an apology before we're good again.' The condition must be met, the cost must be paid--'either I swallow my pride, you say you're sorry, or we never talk to each other again.' But the debt has to go somewhere. Christianity alone affirms that the God who makes the demands also met those demands for us in the person of Jesus . . .We are both fully known and fully loved" (95-96).
I'm not sure I have fully grasped what it means that He fully knows me and fully loves me. That's humbling and radical. 

What's the Problem with Tullian's Writings?
The circles in which I have been part of struggle with these thoughts. The problem that many people bring up is that if you focus so much on grace, then people will inevitably not pursue holiness. And he has often been accused of this. In One Way Love, Tullian takes added time to address these accusations.
"Christians often speak about grace with a thousand qualifications. They add all sorts of buts and brakes. Listen for them! Our greatest concern, it seems, is that people will take advantage of grace and use it as a justification to live licentiously. Sadly, while attacks on morality typically come from outside the church, attacks on grace typically come from inside the church. The reason is because somewhere along the way, we've come to believe that this whole enterprise is about behavioral modification, and grace just doesn't possess the teeth to scare us into changing, so we end up hearing more about what grace isn't than we do about what grace is . . . Where disobedience flourishes, it is not the fault of too much grace but rather of our failure to grasp the depth of God's one-way love for us in the midst of our transgressions and greed. Grace and obedience are not enemies, not by a long shot" (129).
He continues . . .
"Even those of us who have tasted the radical saving grace of God find it intuitively difficult not to put conditions on it when we try to communicate it to others--'Dont' take it too far; keep it balanced.' As understandable as this hedging tendency may be, a 'yes grace, but' posture perpetuates slavery in our lives and in the church. Grace is radically unbalanced. It contains no but: it is unconditional, uncontrollable, unpredictable, and undomesticated--or else it is not grace" (179-180).
Now, I agree with some people that say the NT gives us imperatives. Yes. It does. But those imperatives are not the basis of our salvation or acceptance, but the fruit of it. Everyone I know that struggles with Tullian's writings agree with that. But they are still uncomfortable with a message so firmly promoting grace as grace.

I don't obey because I have to. I obey because I have been so radically impacted by grace. And if anyone ever gets to the point of saying that they are saved and can do whatever they want, they have never understood grace. Or as Tullian says, 
"I've never actually met anyone who has been truly gripped by God's amazing grace in the Gospel who is then so ungrateful that they don't care about respecting or obeying Him" (195). 
I couldn't say it any better! I loved this book. And I think you will as well. 

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Just One More by Edward T. Welch

I have been preaching through a series on Greed during the month of December. The tagline for the series is simple: "Identifying our desire for more." We live in a culture that wants more and more and never seems to be satisfied. We have little to no contentment. It is killing us.

That is why I love this short booklet, 'Just One More' by Edward T. Welch. It comes in at just 26 pages, but it is filled with gospel hope. He does a marvelous job at identifying the root issues of our desire for more. And idolatry problem. And addiction problem. A problem of worshipping something other than the Lord God of the Bible.

One of the major issues he says in dealing with your sinful desires is to not allow it to grow in darkness. He says,
"Start by being honest, not just with yourself but with someone else as well. Addictions thrive on privacy. They live in the shadows and don't want to be seen. They persuade you that you can do it on your own. But, here again, they lie. Don't listen to the dozens of reasons you could give for staying undercover . . . Keep this rule of thumb: if you are resistant to telling someone else, then you need to tell someone else" (6-7).
This booklet is filled with several very practical steps in overcoming these sinful desires. Ultimately, he gets back to the gospel as the only cure for the desire for more. But because of the brevity of the book, I am not going to share more than that, but I will advise you to buy it and read it. It could be read in less than an hour. But it will be a very beneficial hour. I couldn't recommend this book enough.

CCEF Booklets
This booklet by Welch is just one of many that CCEF has published. You can find them all HERE. Here are just a few selective titles that may be helpful and hopefully, give you some idea of what kinds of subjects they write about as they seek to counsel others:

They have close to 70 subjects on which they have written these short counseling booklets. If you are looking for some godly, gospel-centered advice, check them out.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

How Do You Handle Santa Clause?

Let me be up front and honest: I wish Christians didn't do Santa Clause. It's just too confusing for young children. This has been my belief from the time that we had children. We were going to tell them the truth. And so when I read a blog post of Matt Walsh a few weeks ago, I loved it. His main question was "Who Needs Santa when You've Got Jesus?" Good question. Santa isn't real, but Jesus is. But Santa is the talk of the season, Jesus isn't.

For Walsh, this is more than just a thing to pretend. He takes it a step further. He suggests that to teach your kids that there is a guy who lives at the North Pole that brings presents to all the children of the world . . . is a lie. A Big Fat Lie. Sounds fairly harsh, but I suggest you read his arguments before completely disregarding his conclusion. Here's just a small sampling.
"I'd like to specifically address only one point on the Santa platform. I hear it all the time, and it goes like this: Santa makes Christmas magical. If you take Santa away from your kid, you've taken all the fun out of the holiday . . . This is what I hate about the guy. He's a Christmas-stealing glory hog. He's a diva; everything has to be about him, doesn't it? We invite Santa to Jesus Christ' birthday party, he brings his stupid elves and a bag full of cheap toys, next thing you know it's his party. If he leaves, apparently the party's over. How can we have fun without magic? 
Well, you know, there's still Jesus. The Messiah. The Son of Man. Jesus Christ is better than magical. He offers something far greater than toys. He doesn't have flying deer, but he has armies of angels. He doesn't live in a cabin up in the North Pole, but He does live in a dimension that transcends time and space, and He invites us to join Him there in unending bliss. He doesn't visit every house on Christmas night, but He's always present, everywhere, all the time, because He is an omniscient deity. In other words, Jesus is WAY cooler than Santa."
Read the rest of the article. He makes several fairly strong argument against lying to children about Santa (Find the rest of the article HERE).

But can we take it one step further? If you are a Christian, I am sure you have struggled with what to do. What do you tell your kids? But more than that, how do you keep your kid's perspective correct that it isn't Santa's day or their day, but a day set aside to celebrate the birth of Jesus? How do you find a balance? 

"How can we celebrate Christmas (and Santa) and still make it about Jesus?"

The most popular response I hear from people goes something like this: "Well, we take time to read the story of the birth of Jesus before we open any presents on Christmas morning." At least there's an attempt, futile as it may be. Do you really think reading from the Bible before diving into a room full of presents is going to make that day about Jesus instead of Santa or your children? Let's just be honest. Doesn't it just feel like something we do to ease our consciouses before we make the day about our kids? 

I mean, seriously. If the lead up to this day has been more about Santa and what the kids are going to get instead of Jesus, then reading the nativity story from Luke 2 on Christmas morning isn't going to help. It just won't. That is like trying to put a band-aid on a serious heart condition. It won't do any good. Please don't turn the Christmas story into a good-luck charm, hoping it will make the day about Jesus when in fact, it is already about Santa and the children. Just don't. 

But maybe there is a better solution. What would need to happen this next week to help children and you to remember that this is not about Santa or them, but about Jesus? What needs to happen on Christmas morning so that it isn't about the presents, but about the relationships of family and friends, and most importantly about God? Maybe these are the sort of questions we should be asking. 

I have a friend that tells his children: "Santa is fun, but Jesus is real." I like that. They tell their children from the beginning that Santa is a fun make believe person, but Jesus is the real deal. Can we simply make sure this Christmas is about the real deal instead of the fun make believe?

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Genesis 3D Movie

Someone sent this to me the other day and I loved it. I hope it is going to be as well done as the reviews say it is. Christians have lagged behind in the arts when it comes to production of videos and technology. I hope it is done with a quality that is to the glory of God. 

I really look forward to how our church could help with this project. If you want more information about this coming movie, go to The Genesis Movie.

Friday, December 13, 2013

The Key to Your Spiritual Health

I recently finished a small group discussion group on the book Ten Questions to Diagnose Your Spiritual Health by Donald Whitney. This is a book that made my top 30 list a few years ago (there is a chance it has been knocked out of the top 30 by now, but I won't tell if you don't). It is still a good book. It is a book that forces you to ponder your spiritual health.

One of the main takeaways from this study is how easy it is for me to think I am doing better than I am actually doing. I tend to judge my spiritual health higher than it actually is. That is why I need other people involved in my life. I need them to be there to help me accurately judge my heart in regards to my walk with Christ. I need them to help point out blind spots I do not see. I need others to speak truth into my life where I am believing false things. 

But here is the key to evaluating spiritual health. This help from others must be invited in. Nobody can hold me accountable, but I can certainly ask for it. If I am serious about my spiritual health, I need to ask people to help me. I must open my life to them, to give them a free invitation to freely speak what they see going on in my life. And I need to do it without argument or complaint. 

Sure, there may be times when they point out something that isn't a reality. Sure, there may be times when they go too far. Sure, there may be times when I am overly sensitive and take it personally. Certainly there will be times when it hurts. But those are not good reasons for keeping people out of my life. 

In fact, I go so far as to wonder whether this is THE defining issue in diagnosing a person's spiritual health. I wonder if when we close ourselves off to others, that alone shows there is poor spiritual health. If we are scared of what they may say to us, could that be because we know there is something to point out. No one I know who truly longs to have a healthy spiritual life are overly defensive. The defensive stature comes when we do not want others meddling in our business. If there is a fear of others meddling in your business, what does that say about your spiritual health? Probably that there is something wrong. 

Read the book by Donald Whitney. It's good. But above all, pursue a relationship with someone you trust and open yourself up to them. Ask them to speak into your life for your spiritual health. All to the glory of God and your good. 

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Our Family, 2013

It has been a really big year for our family. We now have a teenager. We celebrated fifteen years of marriage. We have kids playing sports year round. Our church continues to grow. We have been able to build some good friendships and relationships with people in our community. We have had a good 2013. Our life would not be complete with many of you who support us. We love you. You are our family and support. But above all things, we hope this year has been a year of celebrating Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

In Pursuit of Prodigals by Stephen Davey

I am in the process of studying for an upcoming sermon series on the topic of church discipline. As I do for any sort of topical series, I try to read as much as I can on the subject. One of the first books I came across in my research that I wanted to read is In Pursuit of Prodigals by Stephen Davey.

One of the reasons I chose this book first is because of its length. This is a very short book that could be read in a few hours. The subtitle of the book is "A Primer on Church Discipline and Reconciliation." And that is what this is. It is a small introductory book on this subject. As I have read a lot on the subject before, there isn't a whole lot of new, revelatory information. But it is summarized very well. For that, I am grateful. 

Another reason I chose this book to read first in my study of this subject is because of the title. In Pursuit of Prodigals. I love the imagery the title brings to my mind. Even with this imagery, it took Davey over half way through the book until he gave a definition and explanation of the concept of church discipline that corresponds with this title. He says, 
"Discipline is the action of love as a church or individual attempts to awaken the sinning believer who is being mesmerized by the pleasures of sin. It is the loving, firm, caring, and passionate attempt to awaken and rescue the prodigal from danger" (52). 
My guess is that whenever anyone in the church thinks of prodigals, they think of the prodigal son in Luke 15. And so I guess I was a bit surprised to find that he never talked about that parable or others that build off of that (parable of lost sheep, lost coin). I loved the imagery and wished that he would have used it more in the writing of the book.

But in the end, this book is a great summary of this topic. He does a good job of bullet-pointing the main ideas and concepts of church discipline and reconciliation. If you are looking for a place to start on this subject, this might be a helpful resource for you as he quotes Scripture after Scripture. There is little dialogue or explanation of them, but he does show you how the main thoughts come out of the Scriptures. 

In the last chapter, Davey shares the benefits of church discipline. The second benefit he describes is that, if practiced, the integrity of the church is preserved. And then he says what I feel I have been saying and feeling for years now.
"American culture today views the Church as simply one more club to join . . . one more place where you go to be seen . . . one more location to pass out business cards . . . one more voting bloc in the next election. The Church has simply lost its reputation as a distinctive community of people that was once viewed with a mixture of fear and awe--a holy people who represent a righteous God" (67-68). 
I agree. I just wonder if the church has become such an easy place for people to play the Christian game because church discipline is rarely practiced. Maybe this is one key to God purifying His church, not in a negative way. But only as we pursue the prodigal who is running away from God.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Perfect Son-in-Law

My little girl is eight years old. I would be lying if I said I do not think about her future husband. I do. I pray for him often. I think of what kind of man I want her to date and eventually marry. What do I want him to be? How do I want him to treat her? What sort of man will be good enough to marry my precious Anni? 

If you have a daughter, I am sure you have thought many of the same thoughts. As I think about these characteristics of the perfect son-in-law, I wonder how many of them are simply external?

In Mark 10, Jesus has an interaction with a man who had it all. We are told he is rich. We are told he is young. We are told he is a ruler of some kind. We know he is religious, for he says he has kept the letter of the law. He is most certainly influential. He is probably very powerful. And He even pursues Jesus to see how he can be better. I wonder how many people would want this as the resume of the guy dating their daughter? 

He is good. Moral. Kind. Considerate. Upstanding citizen. He opens the door for her. He has nice clothes. He starts a business and does really well at it as he finishes graduate school. He is gentle. smooth. Hard worker. Sounds like a good candidate, doesn't it?

What if I told you there was one more thing about him? He loves his wealth and possessions more than Jesus. He has everything externally in shape, but his heart is far from God. He is everything on the outside most people would want for their daughter. But his sensitivity to the things of God is lacking. Therefore, he is no candidate for my daughter.

The perfect son-in-law is not judged by his wealth, what kind of car he drives, what he wears, or how "good" he is on the outside. Anyone can fake the outside. The perfect son-in-law will be someone that is sensitive to the things of God. He will be someone who is quick to confess his weaknesses. He will be someone who is quick to admit his failures. He will be someone that loves Jesus more than anything or anyone . . . including my daughter. The perfect son-in-law will be someone who is willing to give up everything in order to follow Jesus.

I pray and trust that guy is out there. And so let's be preparing our daughters to be on the look out for that man. And let's be preparing our sons to be that man!

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Son of God, the Movie

This looks interesting. As I have read, much of this will be from the Bible Mini-series. But there will be significant additions. I will reserve my judgment until I get a chance to see it, hopefully in the theaters around us. Scheduled to release in February, 2014. 

Friday, December 6, 2013

Jesus on Every Page by David Murray

I have spent the last fifteen years of my life teaching the Bible to people. And one thing that continually amazes me is how easily it is for people to think the Old Testament has a completely different message than the New Testament. David Murray's book, Jesus on Every Page, helps to address this misconception.

Much of this book flows out of a question Murray struggled with for a long time. It is probably a question many young believers struggle with from time to time. "What is the purpose of the Old Testament?" It is much easier to discover the purpose of the New Testament, but the OT? That's a hard one. 

What he discovered through much study is that there are not two messages in two different parts of the Bible. There is one. It is about Jesus. From the very first words of the Bible through to the end, the stories, the teachings, the wisdom, the literature, the lives of people, and the messages of God are to point us to the One true Son of God. Jesus Christ. Finding Jesus in the NT is easy. Finding Him in the OT takes work. Maybe that is why so many people avoid it. 

The subtitle of his book is "10 simple Ways to Seek and Find Christ in the Old Testament." Here are the Ten Places he suggests we find Jesus in the OT:
  1. Christ's Planet: Discovering Jesus in the Creation
  2. Christ's People: Discovering Jesus in the OT Characters
  3. Christ's Presence: Discovering Jesus in His OT Appearances
  4. Christ's Precepts: Discovering Jesus in the OT Law
  5. Christ's Past: Discovering Jesus in OT History
  6. Christ's Prophets: Discovering Jesus in the OT Prophets
  7. Christ's Pictures: Discovering Jesus in the OT Types
  8. Christ's Promises: Discovering Jesus in the OT Covenants
  9. Christ's Proverbs: Discovering Jesus in the OT Proverbs
  10. Christ's Poets: Discovering Jesus in the OT Poems
Let me illustrate some suggestions Murray gives through one example: finding Jesus in the prophets (chapter 6). Here are several thoughts of how we can find Jesus and learn about Jesus through the role of the prophets.
"Every Old Testament prophet reminds us of our need for a prophetic mediator and anticipates God's provision of Jesus Christ, the Prophet" (116). 
"The divine calling and commissioning of every Old Testament prophet point toward the divine calling and commissioning of Jesus Christ, the Prophet" (117). 
"The carefulness and faithfulness with which the prophets heard and spoke the exact words of God, no more and no less, build expectation of the supreme carefulness and faithfulness with which Jesus Christ, the Prophet, heard and spoke what God revealed to Him" (117-8). 
"Every deficiency or inadequacy in the Old Testament prophets contrasts with the fullness and perfection of Jesus Christ, the Prophet of God. We see that looking back, but the Old Testament believers also saw that looking forward" (119). 
In general terms, I really did appreciate this book and his effort of making Christ recognized in the Old Testament. He goes further than I am comfortable in some areas, for instance, when he refers to the OT believers as the church. He sees a bit more continuity there than I do. 

But in the end, I appreciate the work and his desire that we see Jesus in all the Bible, not just the NT. I know for me, my preaching series through the book of 1 Kings was quite possibly one of the most Christ-centered series I have ever preached. As I looked at King Solomon, I kept seeing a picture of another of David's sons that doesn't fall. That was refreshing.

Special Offer
Over at David Murray's blog, there is an offer to get over $100 of free resources if you purchase the book by December 20, 2013. If you want to take advantage of this offer, you can find all the information you need HERE. It looks helpful.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze.com® <http://BookSneeze.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Thursday, December 5, 2013

A New Poem by John Piper

I have been extremely blessed by the ministry of John Piper and Desiring God. That book alone is the most influential book outside the Scriptures for my Christian walk. So as he releases new material, I am always intrigued. This week, he released a new short poem that he called, The Calvinist.

Before I move on to talk about the poem, I feel I need to say something about the title. If I could ask him a question, it would be why he entitled this what he did. For sure, the lyrics are very reformed. But in the world in which I live, there are so many negative connotations with the term, Calvinist. The lyrics describe the Christian. I wonder if more people would listen and be blessed by this poem if it had a different title. I say that in the hopes that you won't simply dismiss these precious words simply because of the title.

This poem has 17 stanzas. I am not normally someone interested in poetry, but this is sweet to my soul. As I listen to it being read (video below), I was moved to think about my life. Am I the man being described? Can this be said of me? Do I desire it to be said of me?

My encouragement to you is to watch it one time through. And then go back and listen to it as you read the lyrics along with it. I found it moving, maybe you will as well. 

See him on his knees,
Hear his constant pleas:
Heart of ev'ry aim:
'Hallowed be Your name."

See him in the Word, 
Helpless, cool, unstirred,
Heaping on the pyre
Heed until the fire.

See him with his books:
Tree beside the brooks,
Drinking at the root
Till the branch bear fruit.

See him with his pen;
Written line, and then,
Better through preferred,
Deep from in the Word.

See him in the square,
Kept from subtle snare:
Unrelenting sleuth
On the scent of truth.

See him on the street,
Seeking to entreat,
Meek and treasuring:
'Do you know my King?'

Click HERE for the rest of the lyrics

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Diagnostic Questions for Our Greed Problem

I shared yesterday about the problem of greed in our society today. I am sure this is not news to you. But maybe you are like me. It is way easier to look out at the problem of greed in our culture with disgust while avoiding the penetrating look at my own heart and my own greed issues. I may be more civil and not look like the mad rush of people on Black Friday. But that doesn't mean I don't struggle with the "Just One More" mentality. I do. And I would bet you do as well.

But how can we know how big of a deal this is in our life? As I was reading and studying last week, I came up with several diagnostic questions that helped me (some of these questions were inspired by this blog post). Maybe they will help you as well. I think if we were to ask ourselves these questions with a searching heart, we might be surprised at what we discover about the depth of our greed problem.
  • Will this activity, thing, or pursuit move my heart closer to or further away from Jesus?
  • Will this activity, things, or pursuit deceive me into an obsession with the temporal instead of the eternal?
  • Will this activity, thing, or pursuit help or hurt my relationship with other Christians and my church?
  • Am I open to discussing this activity, thing, or pursuit with others before doing it?
  • What is my motivation in wanting this activity, thing, or pursuit?
  • Will this activity, thing, or pursuit usurp the authority of Jesus in my life?
  • Can I discern whether this activity, thing, or pursuit is a want or a need?
  • What would happen if I didn't do this activity, buy this thing, or engage in this pursuit?

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Our Greed Problem

We have a problem. It is a problem that finds its roots established deep with us. It is a problem that we all faced the past Black Friday Weekend. It is a problem that manifests its ugly head daily in our life. It is a problem that spans all race, gender, and age. And it is a problem that brings about devastating consequences in our life. 

We have a greed problem!

On Sunday, I began a sermon series on the concept of Greed. This is as pervasive of a problem in our culture and in my life as just about anything I can think of. When it comes to the concept of greed, most people think only in terms of money. We tend to think of Ebenezer Scrooge, who out of his greed, held onto his money with a very tight fist. But in reality, greed is something that extends far beyond our money. Just grab a dictionary and you will notice that greed is usually defined something like this: "a selfish desire to have more of something." We live in a culture that epitomizes the selfish desire for more. "Just one more" is the anthem of our society.

We have a "Just One More" problem!

Just one more dollar. Just one more toy. Just one more business deal. Just one more piece of pie. Just one more sexual experience. Just one more shirt. Just one more credit card. Just one more car. Just one more drink. Just one more tool. Just one more piece of pizza. Just one more movie. Just one more . . . We are "just-one-more-ing" ourselves to death. We are never satisfied. Our lives epitomize the pig at the mealtime more than we want to admit it does. We have a serious problem that manifests itself in a variety of ways.

The business man who ignores his family in the pursuit of that lucrative new deal probably has a greed problem. It maybe a pursuit of the greed of money, or power, or success. But it is a greed problem.

The child or young adult who has to have the new video game system every couple years probably has a greed problem. They are never satisfied and has to have the newest and latest.

The wife who secretly racks up thousands of dollars on a credit card her husband knows nothing about probably has a greed problem. It might be a pursuit of the greed of power or glory or importance, but her pursuits find their root in her greed.

The young adult who has no time for friends at church because they are incessantly working to pay for all their modern day conveniences probably has a greed problem. After all, their identity and status in life are wrapped up in whether they have the latest fashion or gadget. That's a greed problem.

We have a Serious Greed Problem!

Do you agree? Where do you find your greed manifesting itself in your life? Tomorrow, I am going to give several questions to help diagnose the heart issues of greed. Stay tuned.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Advent 2014

I do not recall if I have ever been intentional about celebrating the advent season. I am not saying I have not been intentional in celebrating the birth of Jesus, but I have not been intentional in working through some sort of material the four weeks leading up to Christmas Day. I hope that changes this year.

John Piper has released Good News of Great Joy, a daily reading of devotionals meant to lead and guide someone during this advent season. This short booklet of short devotionals is available for free Desiring God website in a digital format or you can get a fairly cheap paperback over at Amazon. I plan on spending time in these devotionals each day leading up to Christmas, starting on Sunday, December 1st. David Mathis, the executive editor at Desiring God, has this to share about this little book.
"Advent is for adoring Jesus. At least that's our angle on it at Desiring God. Advent is an annual season of patient waiting, hopeful expectation, soul-searching, and calendar-watching marked by many churches, Christian families, and individual followers of Jesus. There's no biblical mandate to observe Advent. It's an optional thing--a tradition that developed over the course of the church's history as a time of preparation for Christmas Day. Many of us find observing Advent to be personally enjoyable and spiritually profitable . . . Our prayer is that this little devotional might help you keep Jesus as the center and greatest treasure of your Advent season. The candles and candies have their place, but we want to make sure that in all the December rush and hubbub we adore Jesus above all" (i-ii).
And then John Piper shares a very specific goal he has for this short book.
"What Jesus wants most for Christmas is that his elect be gathered in and then get what they want most--to see his glory and then savor it with the very savoring of the Father for the Son. What I want most for Christmas this year is to join you (and many others) in seeing Christ in all his fullness and that we together be able to love what we see with a love far beyond our own half-hearted human capacities. This is our goal in these Advent devotionals. We want together to see and savor this Jesus whose first 'advent' (coming) we celebrate, and whose second advent we anticipate" (vi).
Would you consider joining me this Advent season as we look to marvel at the glory of our King Jesus? 

Thursday, November 28, 2013

I'm Sad We Need A Thanksgiving Holiday?

I know, I know. I tend to look at things from a pessimistic point of view. This holiday is one of them. Don't get me wrong, any holiday that consists of family, turkey, dressing, pie, and football is not something that gets me down. I love it. It is probably one of my favorite holidays of the year. It's just that I don't think we need it. Or . . . we shouldn't need it. But unfortunately, we do. Let me explain.

In many ways, I feel we have reduced Thanksgiving to a holiday instead of a lifestyle. Many good things happen today. For one, many people will sit around a table full of food thinking about all the things they are thankful for. There is no doubt that #Thanksgiving or #Thankful will trend on Twitter. But the question I always ponder on this day is why does it take a special day for me to express my gratitude? Why do I only tend to tell people I am thankful for them on this day? Why does it take a calendar event for me to reflect on what God has done for me? Shouldn't this take place every hour of every day? Didn't the Apostle Paul say we should "give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you" (1 Thess. 5:18)? Shouldn't this be something I am consumed with every day of the year, not just on special occasions?

I'm sad we need a Thanksgiving Holiday.

These are things I think every year at this point. And then the next year rolls around and I wonder why I didn't give more thanks during the year. Why didn't I express my gratitude to those I work with on a daily basis? Why didn't I tell my wife how thankful I am for her gracious love and support and forgiveness each day? Why didn't I tell my kids how thankful I am that they are my children? Why didn't I tell my church and small groups how thankful I am for their investment into my life?

I'm sad we need a Thanksgiving Holiday. But I need it.

What would our lives look like if #Thankful trended on Twitter everyday of the year? What would it look like if we told at least one person every day how grateful we are for them? Do we think it would change anything about us? What if we praised our Father in Heaven every day for His special gifts of grace and love and salvation? Would that give us a different perspective?

I'm sad we need a Thanksgiving Holiday. But I hope it redirects my path today.

As we all sit around and update our Facebook status, Tweet special Tweets about how thankful we are today, tell people we love how much they mean to us . . . let us do it tomorrow. Let it be a reminder to us to be just as thankful on December 12, February 21, June 15, or any other day this coming year. May my heart; may your heart be overflowing with thanks this coming year. 

I'm sad we need a Thanksgiving Holiday. But I'm Thankful we have one!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Greed and Thanksgiving

I am studying this week for a new sermon series I will start on Sunday on the concept of Greed. As this date has approached, I have been overcome by the irony of starting it the Sunday after Thanksgiving. Why? Because if you think about it, they are polar opposites. The Thanksgiving Holiday began because our ancestors were thankful for all they had. Greed lies to the heart telling it doesn't have enough. One has to do with being content. The other, never content. Ever. It always wants more.

In the process of my studying, I came across a blog post by Matt Walsh on the concept of consumerism overtaking Thanksgiving. His point is that if you shop on Thanksgiving Day, you are part of the problem in our consumerist America. Your greed is why thousands, probably millions, of Americans will not be able to spend time with their family giving thanks for all they have. They will be trying to help serve you in your pursuit for more things that will simply end up in a dump someday. There are many insightful things he says in this blog and I would encourage you to read the entire article. Here is just a sampling.
"For a while, Black Friday and Thanksgiving coexisted. We thanked God for His blessings on Thursday, and then jumped into the consumer mosh pit at Best Buy on Friday. But this Black Friday-Thanksgiving marriage was tenuous and rocky from the start. It was doomed to fail. Thanksgiving offers tradition, family, and contentment; Black Friday offers smart phones at drastically reduced prices. In America, we all know who wins that battle. So Black Friday, like a black hole, violently expanded; it absorbed the light that surrounded it and sucked everything into its terrifying abyss, where all substance is torn to shreds and obliterated. Black Friday could not be contained to a mere 24 hours. It is Consumerism. It wants more. It always wants more. Nothing is sacred to it; nothing is valuable. So, now, Black Friday has eaten Thanksgiving alive. Thanksgiving let out a desperate cry as Black Friday devoured its soul, but we barely noticed. It's hard to hear anything when you're wrestling 4,000 other people for buy one get one free cargo shorts at Old Navy." (Read the entire article HERE)
What will the next four days say about who you are? Are you a coveter? Are you moved by Greed? Are you thankful for what you have?

Please do not understand me, there is nothing wrong with shopping this weekend. I bought a stove and microwave a few weeks ago and still go the Black Friday specials. I am not saying "don't spend money." But what I am asking is that you use this weekend as a opportunity to evaluate your heart. Why do you spend? Answering that question honestly might just expose some things in your heart you won't want to know. As James, the brother of Jesus, says . . .
"Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God." (4:4)
What does your desire for more say about your desire for God?

Monday, November 25, 2013

The Care & Maintenance of Your Preachers by Dr. Jack Hughes

The church I used to minister in while in Kansas, Grace Bible Church, was blessed to have a difficult word preached to them last Sunday by Dr. Jack Hughes. He preached two messages on a topic he claims he has heard very little preached on in the past: The Care and Maintenance of Your Preacher. 

His thought rings true. Not many preachers take time to preach on how people should treat them. And for good reason. Most truly gospel centered preaches are very leery of giving any thought to people that they are in it for the money or support. And because of that, they avoid the topic. The unfortunate result is that many people do not understand their calling to support those that labor at preaching and teaching. 

In these two sermons, Hughes gives 11 thoughts to the people of a church on how they are to care for their preachers. If you have every wondered what your responsibilities are to your preachers, I would encourage you to listen to these two sermons.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Christian Biographies: Where to Start?

I shared yesterday that reading the stories of people's lives is good for our Christian faith. There is something about reading about the successes and failures of other people that make our life a bit more exciting and normal. They have run the race before us and set an example that it is possible. 

But who has time to dig into 300 page biographical books. I might be able to read one every once and a while, but I tend to invest more of my reading time to other types of genre. And so I have found a few resources that have been helpful for me as I try to gain a glimpse into someones life. These are shorter books or articles that give the highlights of those that have already run the race. My faith stands on their shoulders in many ways. Here a few places I go to read some biographies.

The Swans Are Not Silent by John Piper
This is certainly one of my favorite series of biographical sketches. Every year at Piper's Desiring God Pastors conference, he takes time to do a major biographical lesson on a father of our faith. Many of these have been turned into books, but you can download all of them at the Desiring God site for free. 

The Puritans by Tim Challies
Several months ago, Challies posted some really helpful and thoughtful summaries of the lives of Puritans. If you are interested in spending five to ten minutes reading about the life of some man your pastor usually quotes, check out his list of biographical sketches. He recently has moved to a series on Christian Philanthropists that is really interesting as well. 

Christian Biographies for Young Readers by Simonetta Carr
Over at my wife's blog, she raves about these biographies from Carr. While these might be designed for younger readers with great graphics, my guess is that many adults can learn a lot of things from these books. My wife has reviewed her book on Lady Jane Grey, Athanasius, Augustine, John Owen, and John Calvin.

Hall of Contemporary Reformers by Monergism
If you are looking for some very short biographies of guys who are still alive (only a few of these guys have passed away), then this is the place to look. From John Piper to Tim Keller to Mark Dever, and many others, the guys over at Monergism have collected short biographical information including their publications. For some, like John MacArthur, this is a very long list.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Christian Biographies

There is something that tugs at our heart when we hear stories of people who have stood where we are standing. Maybe it is just the encouragement that they accomplished it, maybe it is the blessing that they are not perfect either, or maybe it just helps us relate to others when we hear they went through similar trials; but there is something that moves us when we hear the stories of other people's lives.

We see this modeled in the Scriptures. We see the lives of individuals explained in detail. Sometimes they are given just a verse or two; other times their lives are explained in entire books. We see the good, the bad, and the ugly of God's people. We even have an entire chapter of the Bible dedicated to recounting the highlights of many people. 

Hebrews 11 has traditionally been called the "Hall of Faith." It reminds us of the story of men like Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, and countless other followers of God. Their faith in their God is not something that is meant to be static in our life. It has been written down to moves us. To change us. To impact us. As you move on from Hebrews 11, we are told that their model of faithfulness should be a motivating factor for our faithful commitment to Jesus in this Christian race (12:1-3). We run this Christian race with them in the crowd cheering us on.

But this "cloud of witnesses" is not limited to the people mentioned in Hebrews 11. It includes those who have run and finished the Christian race before us. It is those whose shoulders we now stand on to promote the name of Jesus Christ. It doesn't matter whether they lived hundreds or even thousands of years ago, our Christian faith has been influenced by those who have run before us, even if we do not recognize it yet.  

Reading the stories of other Christian's lives can bring great encouragement to your walk with Christ. It can be motivating and humbling to see how God used other men and women in the past. And it could be exciting to see how He could use you as well. Reading their stories can change us.

Unfortunately, I believe most Christians are unaware of those that have run before them. We have become a culture that cares not for those who have gone before us. We are ignorant of church history and of those who have impacted the faith we say we have today. I wish this would change. 

Tomorrow I will share some of the places I go to find short biographical stories of the great men and women of the faith. I hope these resources might be helpful if you choose to start learning about the men and women who have shaped Christianity as it is today. 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Spurgeon on "Gnashing of Teeth"

A few weeks ago I preached a sermon on the Terrible Judgment parables. At the end of time, God will separate the righteous from the wicked and the wicked will be sent to a place of weeping and gnashing of teeth (Parable of Weeds & Net in Matthew 13). It was heartbreaking to think about the eternal destiny of those that do not know Jesus Christ.

While I was studying, I came across a sermon by Charles Haddon Spurgeon called Heaven and Hell. In this sermon, Spurgeon articulates, as only he does, one aspect of what he forsees it means that there will be gnashing of teeth. This is painful to read.
"What is it that the lost are doing? They are "weeping and gnashing their teeth." Do you gnash you teeth now? You would not do it except you were in pain and agony. Well, in hell there is always gnashing of teeth. And do you know why? There is one gnashing his teeth at his companion, and mutters, "I was led into hell by you; you led me astray, you taught me to drink the first time." And the other gnashes his teeth and says, "What if I did? You made me worse than I should have been in after times." There is a child who looks at her mother, and says, "Mother, you trained me up to vice." And the mother gnashes her teeth again at the child, and says, "I have no pity for you, for you excelled me in it, and led me into deeper sin." Fathers gnash their teeth at their sons, and sons at their fathers. And, methinks, if there are any who will have to gnash their teeth more than others, it will be seducers, when they see those whom they have led from the paths of virtue, and hear them saying, "Ah! we are glad you are in hell with us, you deserve it, for you led us here." Have any of you, to-night, upon your consciences the fact that you have led others to the pit? O, may sovereign grace forgive you. "We have gone astray like lost sheep," said David. Now a lost sheep never goes astray alone, if it is one of a flock. I lately read of a sheep that leaped over the parapet of a bridge, and was followed by every one of the flock. So, if one man goes astray, he leads others with him. Some of you will have to account for others' sins when you get to hell, as well as your own. Oh, what "weeping and gnashing of teeth" there will be in that pit!"
May thoughts like this move us to share the gospel with more people. May we not be comfortable in our life when those around us are destined for an eternity apart from Christ.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Why An Elder Retreat

This morning, I posted over at our church blog a petition for prayer for our elders as we meet together this weekend for our our annual retreat. I'm sure in many places, elders have a bad name. Maybe simply because they are leaders and people do not naturally respond to leadership. Certainly in some cases people do not respond well to their leadership because their leaders have abused their positions. I'm sure if we thought about it long enough and heard from enough people, there are many reasons why godly elders seeking to lead a church begin with an uphill climb. 

As I was thinking about our elders retreat and this potential scenario that others approach church leadership with tentativeness, I thought I would share one passage of Scripture that has helped me dramatically.
"So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock" (1 Peter 5:1-3).
Peter gives several commands to the elders of a church. This is why we are meeting this weekend as elders for a time away to pray, plan, and think about the future.

First, Peter says that elders are to shepherd the flock of God. Certainly there is a lot wrapped up in that statement. But the one I want to point out is that a good shepherd cares for His flock. He loves them. He feeds them. He makes sure they are doing well. One of the reasons for this time away will be to pray for the people God has placed in our care so our hearts are drawn towards them to care more deeply for them.

Second, Peter says that elders are to exercise oversight. This is leadership. Part of our time is going to be evaluating where we have been and planning where we see God taking us. We want to give oversight to this growing ministry. We want to set goals, evaluate how we are doing with those goals, and seek ways to impact our church and community for the glory of God.

Third, Peter says that the elders are to be examples to the flock. Part of our time this weekend will be to evaluate our own hearts. We will spend time as elders talking with each other about things we see in each others life. We need humility. We need grace among each other. We need to help each other be the examples of Godly men. 

There is much more I could say about this, but time does not permit me at this moment. Would you pray for us? And if you are not part of CBC, I would urge you to pray for your leadership today. I'm sure they have made mistakes, but I hope they are quick to seek reconciliation when they have. Spend time today praising God for your leaders and asking God to continue working in their heart. 

All for His glory and your good!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Calling All Fathers

Hey Fathers, do you ever question your importance in the home? Think again! Watch this!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Quid Pro Quo

Quid pro quo has often been defined in this way: "Something that is given to you or done for you in return for something you have given to or done for someone else." Unfortunately, this is how many people live their lives. I know I struggle with it. When my wife is loving and pursuing me, it is much easier for me to love her. When my kids obey and run to me when I walk into the door at night, it is easy for me to want to spend time with them and give them things. It certainly is easier to study for my Sunday sermon when people compliment me on my sermons. The only problem with each of these scenarios is that they are natural. 

The Christian armed with the gospel is called to be supernatural. It is not this for that, it is this for nothing. That's what Jesus did in the gospel. One of my favorite gospel authors, Tullian Tchividjian puts it in these terms:
"As much as we might wish the world--and we ourselves--didn't operate according to debits and credits, there is always a cost to what we do. We are conditional beings living in a conditional universe. 'I called you last time, now it's your turn to call me.' 'If you lie to me, there must be an apology before we're good again.' The condition must be met, the cost must be paid--'either I swallow my pride, you say you're sorry, or we never talk to each other again.' But the debt has to go somewhere. Christianity alone affirms that the God who makes the demands also met those demands for us in the person of Jesus. That God would design to reach us in a way that both acknowledges and resolves these fundamental realities is not juvenile or overly abstract/economic--it is both gracious and miraculous. We are both fully known and fully loved." (One Way Love, 95-96)
He is saying we are free to forgive and be wronged because God not only gave the demands, but also met them on our behalf. I would challenge you to think deeply of how this issue of Quid Pro Quo is abolished because of the gospel in your life (or at least it should be). 

It is supernatural for me to pursue my wife when there is nothing coming in return. It is supernatural for me to give to my kids when they despise me. It is supernatural for me to study for the Sunday sermon when people hate my preaching (although, there is probably much more to it than that).

How do you see Quid Pro Quo in your life?