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Our kids are young--ages 5, 3, and 10 months--but one of the things I sometimes think about is giving them each a starter library on the Christian life when they graduate from high school.
One of the books I'd included is J. I. Packer's Knowing God.
I need this book. In fact, I believe every Christian needs to read C.J. Mahaney’s book on humility. And not just once, but several times. At least once a year.
Humility: True Greatness (Multnomah, 2006) is one of the most practical, pastorally helpful books I’ve ever read. For this reason, I find myself coming back to it every few months or so.
C.J. will tell you up front that Humility is not written by an expert on humility.
The PCRT is to come to my town, Sacramento, Kolly-fornia (as our gov says it). Some might see it as a sleepy, brain-dead, nearly Godforsaken town. Unkind observers could describe it as squalid, ugly, and flat — except for the innumerable concrete islands manically splitting every street, so that you have to drive a mile past your destination and pull a U-turn. The church scene (it must be said) is dominated by fad-ism, seeker-wannabe's, emerg*-wannabe's, tepid traditionalism, Charismatics, and cults, with a very few exceptions.
As you might imagine, I receive a good deal of email from people who read this site. Probably the most common questions I receive (other than those mentioning The Shack) deal with books and reading. I guess I’ve established a reputation as a bookworm and people often ask just how I find time to read all these books, what books I recommend, and whether I’ve developed a system to help me retain information. Every now and then I try to jot down my thoughts and I thought I’d share those today. These are, then, some rather random thoughts on reading.
On Sunday, our pastor gave a message about honoring the Sabbath and what that means for us as Christians today. Then on Tuesday, by coincidence, my women’s Bible study addressed the same topic. Among the questions raised were ones such as:
A few weeks ago we brought to your attention proposed legislation in Arkansas that would allow churches to decide whether or not congregants can carry concealed weapons into their sanctuaries. Yesterday the bill stalled after a voice vote in the Arkansas Senate’s Judiciary Committee, killing it after it had passed earlier in the House.
Christian publications distributed in Malaysia can now use terms such as “Allah” as long as they specify that their materials are intended for Christians, not Muslims. The Roman Catholic Church’s main newspaper in Malaysia, the Herald, has added “For Christianity” on its cover, but its editor said it would not drop a legal challenge to the ban.
Two weeks ago I became a father for the fifth time. Since then, I've been reflecting on how God has used these kids of mine to teach me truth about what it means to follow Christ in this world. What follows isn't everything they've taught me, but five lessons I sure wish I'd learned earlier than I did.
Jim Hamilton's 2006 Tyndale Bulletin article is now available online:The Glory of God in Salvation through Judgment: The Centre of Biblical Theology?
In his latest book More Precious Than Gold, Sam Storms encourages readers to experience what he and generations of Christians have found to be true: that the whole of the Christian faith is about lifting God higher and magnifying his name—even during difficult times.
Dr. Storms recently answered some of our questions about More Precious Than Gold:
This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you— if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination. For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.
And though you have not seen him, you love him, and though you do not see him now, but believe in him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:8-9.)
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. (James 1:17.)
I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all lowliness and meekness, with patience, forbearing one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of us all . . . for the building up of the body of Christ until we all attain to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God. (Ephesians 4:1-6, 13).
Philippians 1:27: Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel,
1 Thess. 2:12: we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.
Colossians 1:10: so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.
Colossians 2:6: Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him,
Philippians 2:3: Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.
Colossians 3:13: bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.
Ephesians 1:18: having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints,
Ephesians 4:13: until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ
Galatians 3:27: For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.
1 Corinthians 12:5: and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord;
"I am crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me." (Galatians 2:20)
Acts 20:24, "But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God."
"I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. 7Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you. 8For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. 9I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. 10 All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them. 11And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. 12 While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. 13But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves. 14 I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 15I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. 16They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. 19And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.
1 Vindicate me, O LORD,
for I have walked in my integrity,
and I have trusted in the LORD without wavering.
2 Prove me, O LORD, and try me;
test my heart and my mind.
3 For your steadfast love is before my eyes,
and I walk in your faithfulness.
4 I do not sit with men of falsehood,
nor do I consort with hypocrites.
5 I hate the assembly of evildoers,
and I will not sit with the wicked.
Proverbs 16:9: "The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps."
Proverbs 19:21: "Many are the plans of a man's heart but the counsel of the Lord, it will stand."
Proverbs 21:1: "The King's heart is like channels of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he wishes."
Isaiah 63:17: "Why, O Lord, dost thou cause us to stray from thy ways, and harden our heart from fearing thee? Return for the sake of thy servants, the tribes of thy heritage."
Jeremiah 10:23: "I know, O Lord, that a man's way is not in himself; Nor is it in a man who walks to direct his steps."
Philippians 2:12, 13: "Work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you both to will and to work for his good pleasure."
Hebrews 13:20, 21: "Now the God of peace . . . equip you in every good thing to do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory for ever and ever. Amen.
2 Timothy 2:24-26: "The Lord's bond-servant must not be quarrelsome but . . . able to teach . . . with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will."
I am going to address two topics in this post, so be sure to read long enough to catch both of them.
In just a moment I want to tell you about the next classic book of the Christian faith that we will be reading together. But first, I want to announce a special reading project that I’ll be leading.
One of the best investments you can make in your early 20s is to learn the art of creating and sustaining deep friendships. Keep in mind, though, that the friends you have at 24 years of age may not be the ones who you should take with you on the journey to 42. This is something that few people really think about.
As our new President gets ready to give the "State of the Union" address, we'd like to invite you to take a few minutes to evaluate the state of your friendships.
Profitable businesses don't spontaneously erupt, good marriages don't happen by accident, and fruit doesn't suddenly grow in the middle of the living room floor. God-honoring, soul building friendships take the same good intentions and effort.
I love humor (and for better or worse, I especially like McKinley's). Humor, like all speech, is a gift of God. Yet every time we open our mouths we are communicating a worldview, an agenda (good or bad), and this can most naturally come out in the small talk and humor of our daily lives. Therefore, a good framework to consistently put before ourselves whenever we open our mouths is James 3, along with these resolutions from Jonathan Edwards related to the tongue:
16. Resolved, never to speak evil of anyone, so that it shall tend to his dishonor, more or less, upon no account except for some real good.
Don't make the mistake of equating levity and humor with the fruit of the Spirit. They aren't the same thing. Obviously, joy can produce laughter, but laughter is a fruit of joy, not the essence of joy.
In fact, modern society is filled with jokes but almost totally devoid of real joy.
I had bottled up discontent from a lack of emotional intimacy with my wife from the first year. In immaturity and a gross lack of understanding, I exploded in episodes of anger. Shouting, name-calling, and T-shirt ripping. Yeah, I would grab the collar of my t-shirt with two hands and pull down in angst, ripping the shirt in two. My wife had no idea she was marrying the Incredible Hulk when she said "I do."
To commemorate the 30th anniversary of the New International Version of the Bible, Zondervan (the publishing house that owns the NIV copyright) is sponsoring a “Bible Across America” tour in which more than 31,000 Main Street folks will produce two handwritten copies of the Holy Scriptures. The Los Angeles Times reports:
I'm going to assume you're familiar with the narrative of Numbers 22-24. Balak, son of Zippor, king of Moab (Joshua 24:9), tries to hire the services of a seer named Balaam. Balak believes that Balaam's words have power (22:6), and he wants Balaam to aim those words at his enemy: Israel.
The whole Balak/Balaam saga is a study in paganism vs. Yahwism. The pagan worldview is that the gods can be handled, "worked," manipulated to serve us and our will.
Thabiti, what single piece of counsel (or constructive criticism) has most improved your preaching?
At Capitol Hill Baptist Church, Mark [Dever] held service reviews every Sunday night following the evening service. Prior to then, I don’t think I ever received much feedback other than the customary comments you receive at the church door after service. The first few times through those sessions were excruciating! On one level, just receiving feedback pointed out a lot of pride and an unhealthy lack of reflection on what I was doing as a preacher.
Continuing our food theme this week, I have a few more useful resources to recommend to you all. The first is -- as you may have guessed it! -- an iPhone application. ;) But don't despair if you don't have an iPhone. This app is a spin-off of the popular website, allrecipes.com, where you can enter in the ingredients you have on hand to discover what dishes you can make.
Lia, a 12-year-old girl from Toronto, was assigned to come up with a persuasive speech for her seventh grade class. Teachers told her the topic she chose was “too big,” “too mature,” “too controversial,” and if she went forward with it she would not be allowed to advance to the schoolwide competition or beyond.
Theologian J. I. Packer on restricting the Lord's Supper
Late in 2008, theologian J. I. Packer sat down with a few CTI editors to talk theology. Here's what Dr. Packer had to say when the conversation ranged to Communion.
Do you believe that access to the Lord’s Table should be restricted, and if so, how does the church do that in a way that’s inoffensive?
Yes, I believe access should be restricted at two points.
Meet Thabiti Anyabwile.
Thabiti holds B.A. and M.S. degrees in psychology from North Carolina State University and is the author of three books:
* What Is a Healthy Church Member?
* The Decline of African American Theology: From Biblical Faith to Cultural Captivity
* The Faithful Preacher: Recapturing the Vision of Three Pioneering African-American Pastors
Thabiti is the senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Grand Cayman (the Cayman Islands). He was previously an assistant pastor at Capitol Hill Baptist Church (Washington, DC).
At one time or another, we’ve all been students—driven to absorb knowledge by the beneficent shadow of our next exam. Minus this external pressure, though, our learning often slows to a trickle.
But our student-mindset shouldn’t end with the diploma or degree. We should be lifelong students—first and foremost of God’s Word.
As I said yesterday, the single season is one of the most valuable times of your life to pursue study of doctrine.
For the second known time last week, a team of doctors added a new element to the operating room: Twitter. As the Henry Ford Hospital surgeons worked to remove a cancerous tumor, they posted updates on Twitter, where other doctors, medical students, and the purely curious followed along.
Twenty- year-old Sandul Bibi is in prison in Pakistan, charged with violating section 295-B of the Pakistani legal code, the “blasphemy” law. Sandul is falsely accused of ripping pages from the Quran. On Oct. 9 a large crowd of Muslims attacked Christian families at a church, throwing stones and firing guns.
I will confess to you that I have a passion for my iPhone that is perilously close to idolatry. If there is anything I need to track, manage, or discuss, there's likely to be an iPhone app for it. I'm on that thing all day -- tracking calories, entering exercise, logging business miles, reading email, playing games, answering text messages, organizing my schedule, and occasionally even placing a phone call. Though all these functions serve me, there's something I discovered yesterday that serves others. And for that reason, it's worth drawing attention to it.
I keep learning, in spite of myself, that words in the Bible I skimmed casually, sloughed off, took as hyperbole, or otherwise downplayed, mean exactly and literally what they say. I think that will be one of the surprises and terrors of heaven. It is very clever of the Holy Spirit; it is not a hiding in the dark but a hiding in the light.
The latest example is 1 Corinthians 1:18: “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God.”
I had long ago decided that in saying that the word of the cross is the power of God, Paul meant that the word of the cross contains the power of God.
Facebook quietly changed a portion of its terms of service earlier this month, sparking concerns within the blogosphere that members may be locked into a never-ending relationship with the social-networking website. According to the revised statement, which you can read here, it seems Facebook will now have a perpetual license to keep and use anything you post to your account, even if you remove it or later decide to close the account entirely.
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg responded yesterday to the privacy concerns–but he never answered the primary question of whether Facebook can use a member’s information forever.
A quick review of the first few pages of the Bible could help our government see why the obsession with stimulating spending is tragically misplaced. The curse of sin makes labor less rewarding and more painful. At the same time we have unlimited wants and no desire to delay their gratification. If we work and save we do so because the expected future gains outweigh the pains of toiling and waiting.
If I skip lunch this month, I do it to save enough money to take my wife to a fancy restaurant for her birthday next month.
Okay, probably not in practice. But by the letter of the Arkansas constitution, any “person who denies the being of God” is not allowed to hold a position in any government office or testify in court.
Last week, state Rep. Richard Carroll, a Catholic and newly elected member of the Green Party, introduced a measure to eliminate this surprising constitutional holdover. In support of Carroll, the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty wrote a letter to the Arkansas legislature objecting to the anti-atheist provision:
What does undivided devotion look like in real life? How do you put legs on it and walk it out? For starters, you should become a theologian!
Bruce Milne explains:“[As] a matter of plain fact every Christian is a theologian!… By virtue of being born again we have all begun to know God and therefore have a certain understanding of his nature and actions.
Surely we’d all agree--reading is a good thing. Yet many of us despair that we don’t have time to read. But is that true?
Well, if I may be so bold, I would propose that our problem is not a lack of time for reading, but a lack of planning. And here is my justification for such an assertion. Two separate authors have recommended reading plans that I think even the busiest person would have to say, “I can do that.”
In John Stott’s little book Your Mind Matters I found this quote from Martyn Lloyd-Jones. He was commenting on Matthew 6:30 in his Studies in the Sermon on the Mount and offered a great critique to those who feel that faith and thinking are opposites; that a person who has faith is a person who refuses to use his mind. Instead, says Lloyd-Jones, a person who exercises faith must use his mind.
Arkansas lawmakers are debating a bill that would allow churches to decide whether or not congregants can carry concealed weapons into their sanctuaries. Under the current law, holders of concealed weapons permits can take guns anywhere in the state except bars and houses of worship.
Think not that I come here to defend the human side of salvation at the expense of the divine; nor am I desirous to magnify the divine side of it at the expense of the human; rather would I beseech you to look at the two texts which are together before us, and to be prepared to receive both sets of truths. I think it a very dangerous thing to say that the truth lies between the two extremes. It does not: the truth lies in the two, in the comprehension of both; not in taking a part from this and a part from that, toning down one and modulating the other, as is too much the custom, but in believing and giving full expression to everything that God reveals whether we can reconcile the things or not, opening our hearts as children open their understandings to their father's teaching, feeling that if the gospel were such that we could make it into a complete system, we might be quite sure it was not God's gospel, for any system that comes from God must be too grand for the human brain to grasp at one effort; and any path that he takes must extend too far beyond the line of our vision for us to make a nice little map of it, and mark it out in squares.
I’d like to invite you to participate in this program. It’s very simple. We are focusing on longer portions of Scripture though I am also sending out weekly “Fighter Verses” for those who prefer to memorize shorter portions. This week we are beginning a new passage—Romans 13. It is a great passage that reminds us to submit to those whom God has put in authority over us, “for there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.”
As Jesus taught the tax collectors and sinners gathered around Him, the Pharisees began to mutter to themselves about His open association with those deemed “unclean” according to the Jewish religious code. The parable of the lost sheep was Jesus’ defense of His welcoming of sinners.
Using a demeaning choice of words for the Jewish culture, Jesus compared the Pharisees to the lowest rank in the social class: the shepherd. The people in Jesus’ day knew that when a sheep went astray, the keeper was left no other choice of action except to search until he found it. The question was not “if”, but “when” he would find it.
You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. (Psalm 16:11. ESV.)
Recently I told my wife we ought to call a lot of them “me’s,” not “hymns.” I suppose I’m getting more curmudgeonly, such that I cringe upon hearing a congregation warble what sounds dandy when crooned by an individual over the airwaves, but seems corny and too “me-and-Jesus” for corporate worship. My Savior does indeed love, and live, and He is always there for me, but now that I am here with all my brothers and sisters, couldn’t we see our way clear to sing a song that has a little more reverence or community or—God forbid—theology? Perhaps what I’m really seeking is less individuality in an American Church that has been overrun with it.
This week, I have summarized two evangelical approaches to the arrival of the postmodern era: Carl Raschke’s challenge for evangelicals to embrace postmodernism and David Well’s challenge to resist it.
It is difficult to contrast the visions of David Wells and Carl Raschke because these two books are written for different purposes. Wells’ book puts forth a robust Christology that he hopes will sustain the evangelical church during the postmodern era. Raschke seeks to provide a philosophical justification for evangelicals to embrace several aspects of postmodern thought.
Despite the different purposes of these books, one can still discern several points of agreement and disagreement. Furthermore, one can find strengths and weaknesses in both views, along with some valuable insights that lead to practical implications for ministry in a postmodern world.
Even if my practice of its precepts isn't. So, I'm guilty of having said things in the pulpit that I wish I could take back. I'm not the perfect man of James 3:2, and I suspect he doesn't exist. I've offended people with insensitive comments and off-color illustrations or jokes. Some people were fine with what was said, but others were pricked or hurt or unsettled. No news flash here: but I'm not perfect when it comes to speech.
For some, “Jesus” is no more than profanity. For others, he is a moralist who makes you feel bad if you start having fun. Or he is the founder of a world religion like other founders of world religions—Muhammad, for example. Or he is “Gentle Jesus, meek and mild” who loves to turn the other cheek and who is never, ever, angry. Or he is the Jehovah's Witness Jesus, a pretty impressive second-string god, but certainly not to be identified with the one, true God. Or he is an empty cipher with virtually no content at all. All of these different hearing groups constitute contexts in which what we say about Jesus will be understood (or misunderstood).
Theology remains something of a bad word in Christian circles. I’d believe that the success of a book like The Shack has proven this to us yet again. Many people seem eager to embrace some form of Christian spirituality but have little desire or love for theology. Theology is linked in people’s minds with frigid, dead religion that cares more about principles and matters of the head than deeds and matters of the heart. It is associated with fundamentalism and with cold conservatism.
For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. (Romans 1:20. ESV.)
I’m getting ready to read a book that I hope will be both formational as well as foundational for me: Through His Eyes: God’s Perspective on Women in the Bible by Covenant Seminary Professor Jerram Barrs.
As the mother of four girls (not to mention a woman myself), I have a seriously vested interest here. I cut my theological teeth in a conservative but overly imperative-focused church. There were a lot of important truths I learned there (but also a lot of legalism from which I spent years breaking free).
David Wells’ Above All Earthly Pow’rs seeks to provide a robust Christology for our postmodern world. Wells acknowledges two motifs that are transforming our culture: the postmodern ethos and religious pluralism.
In the first section of his book, Wells seeks to provide an accurate description of our modern life and to show how these recent cultural movements affect us internally. Of course, a proper understanding of today’s world must take into account the philosophies inherited from the Enlightenment – philosophies centered on freedom from the past, from God, and from external authority.
The development of society has paralleled the principles of the Enlightenment.
This is a word of thanks for Abraham Lincoln in spite and because of his imperfections on his 200th birthday.
Two years before Lincoln became our 16th President he debated Stephen Douglas in pursuit of the Illinois U. S. Senate seat. Lincoln lost. He was too progressive on the issue of slavery for a state that made it a crime to bring into its boundaries “a person having in him one-fourth Negro blood, whether free or slave.”
But the debates did bring out the virtually universal racism of 19th century America including Abraham Lincoln's.
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:2. ESV.)
Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God. (Psalm 42:5-6. ESV.)
Therefore do not be anxious, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
34 "Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. (Matthew 6:31-34. ESV.)
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 6:10-12. ESV.)
As you may know, I decided to read through both of the Finding God in The Shack books released this month (two books, two authors, one title). Last week I reviewed the first of these (see: Finding God in the Shack (1)) and in a day or two I will review the second. But first, I wanted to share a few quotes from the book.
It is not lost on me that the majority of the people who vocalized objections to The Shack were Calvinists (Al Mohler, Mark Driscoll, Yours Truly, etc). Randal Rauser and Roger Olson noted this as well and both make a point of refuting some components of Calvinistic theology in their books.
So who is John Piper? What does he read for fun? What discourages him? How does he structure his devotional time? What correction from others has most benefited him? What career path would he have chosen if not ministry?
Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the sake of the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness, in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began and at the proper time manifested in his word through the preaching with which I have been entrusted by the command of God our Savior;
To Titus, my true child in a common faith:
Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior.
I have no idea how long this series is going to go on as I haven't really gotten to my favorite verse in this letter yet, but Paul's greeting to Titus is so rich, you have to at least admire the shiny parts even if you don't really count the stacks of wealth to find out all it is worth.
So we know that Paul thought of Titus and Timothy as true sons to him in the faith; we know that he believed that it was by God's command, and as a servant of God who commands, that he himself was called and therefore these men were called. But think about the purpose here Paul says the servant of God is called: for the sake of the faith of God's elect and their knowledge of the truth.
Nancy Guthrie has served us big-time once again! First, she provided a compilation of Advent readings in Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus which fed my soul each day in December as I meditated on the glorious truths of the Incarnation. And just a week ago, my husband handed me her most recent book, Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross, which will help me to "experience the passion and power of Easter."
Her book arrived in perfect time for me. I just finished memorizing the prose version from A Gospel Primer for Christians a way to grow in applying the truths of the gospel to my daily life.
The impending crucifixion of the Son of God constituted the greatest evil and injustice ever committed. But there was more going on than met the eye. What Jesus revealed to Pilate was that all the perpetrators, conspirators, and evildoers ultimately act under the authority of God. So what was God doing in this horrific event? John Piper answers, “At the all-important pivot of human history, the worst sin ever committed served to show the greatest glory of Christ and obtain the sin-conquering gift of God’s grace. God did not just overcome evil at the cross. He made evil commit suicide in doing its worst evil” (John Piper, Spectacular Sins, 12). Any form of evil, every pain, all sorrow, every degree of suffering, each injustice, all sickness, every disease, and any “bad thing” including death lost its sting at the cross (cf. 1 Cor. 15:54–57).
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:2. ESV.)
Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. (Proverbs 3:5. ESV.)
Yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. 19 GOD, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places. (Habakkuk 3:18-19. ESV.)
For "All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, 25 but the word of the Lord remains forever." And this word is the good news that was preached to you. (1 Peter 1:24-25. ESV.)
We greatly need readers for the Bible. I grieve that even to some who bear the Christian name, Holy Scripture is the least read book in their library. One said of a preacher, the other day, "How does he keep up the congregation? Does he always give the people something new?"
A couple of weeks ago I reviewed The Christian Lover by Michael Haykin, a collection of historical love letters sent from one Christian lover to another. Despite feeling like a bit of a voyeur, spying on private communications, I enjoyed reading these letters, and highly recommended the book. But it got me thinking about my relationship with my wife and whether she and I will leave behind any such tangible evidence of our love for one another. We have a few letters from our courtship days, little love notes that we’d sooner die than have anyone else read, but notes that we can’t bring ourselves to throw away. I remember my mother once saying that she and my father once exchanged such letters and we were free to read them…once she and dad were dead.
Here's an item from one of their editors, describing Charles Spurgeon just three years after he began his ministry at the Metropolitan Tabernacle:
In person, Mr. Spurgeon is short and stout; his face is large and soft, well-developed in the lower part, and with an overhanging forehead. His countenance is devoid of color, and he has a quantity of neatly-arranged black hair. His voice is penetrating and powerful, but strongly accented with an English provincial twang, and he uses a profusion of gesture and dramatic action. Lately, Mr. Spurgeon preached without any gown, and was not assisted by notes or manuscript.
"A little while, and you will see me no longer; and again a little while, and you will see me." 17 So some of his disciples said to one another, "What is this that he says to us, 'A little while, and you will not see me, and again a little while, and you will see me'; and, 'because I am going to the Father'?" 18 So they were saying, "What does he mean by 'a little while'? We do not know what he is talking about." 19 Jesus knew that they wanted to ask him, so he said to them, "Is this what you are asking yourselves, what I meant by saying, 'A little while and you will not see me, and again a little while and you will see me'? 20 Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy. 21 When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. 22 So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you. 23 In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you.(John 16:16-23. ESV.)
The photograph of Phelps reminds me of myself prior to conversion, a competitive swimmer (of slightly lesser skill), a sinner (of greater degree), held captive by sin, pursuing the fleeting pleasures of this world. And sadly, in my case, pursuing sin with passion.
“Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.”(Proverbs 27:6. ESV.)
"If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. 18 Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. 19 Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them."(Matthew 18:15-20. ESV.)
Ray Comfort is setting out on a blog tour to support his new book You Can Lead an Atheist to Evidence but You Can’t Make him Think. Knowing that many of the readers of this site are admirer’s of Comfort, I decided to participate. I solicited questions from readers and here is one that Comfort was eager to respond to.
This is a book that is realistic about teens as they are going to be, not wistful as to what they might be. This is no idealized view of teenagers. Rather, it is realistic, giving an assessment of teens that rings true while providing solutions that can actually work. It teaches a parent to do more than react to a sinful teen, but teaches him to be proactive in approaching the teen, in reaching out to him, and in shepherding his heart. This is exactly what Shepherd Press does so well.
At my church last night I preached a message that was part of a series we are doing on various points of theology. The topic I had to address was biblical manhood and womanhood. It’s something of an uncomfortable topic to have to preach and one we, as Christians, are too often intimidated by. I sought in this message to emphasize the freedom and the delight in God that come to us when we understand and even celebrate the differences between men and women—when we understand what God tells us about biblical manhood and womanhood.
I guess I am very traditional (and hopefully biblical) when it comes to gender roles within the church and within marriage.