The Church: The Gospel Made Visible
Pastoral Leadership Is...
The Pilgrim's Progress
This is one of the most moving and instructive testimonies I’ve ever heard, with some great advice here too about how to minister to and counsel suffering people.
With the way some Christians talk, you might be forgiven for wondering why the canon includes more than four books. Sure, the Old Testament is useful in tracing the development of human reflection on the divine, and the New Testament in conveying the thoughts of some of Jesus' earliest followers. But if you really want to know what God thinks about something, you hear today, you'll need consult the recorded thoughts of Jesus. And if you want to do that, you'll need to stick to the "red letters." In other words, flip to Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John (or that less traversed terrain, Revelation 2-3) and stay put.Read the rest.
To be sure, I understand the impulse. It makes some sense in light of the differences between the sinless Son of God (on display in the Gospels) and the bona fide sinners who penned most of the rest of New Testament (unbelieving James and Jude, denying Peter, blaspheming Paul, and so on). Dubious résumés, to say the least.
Nevertheless, Christians have always recognized the God-breathed character of their words. The miracle of inspiration means the whole Bible is the voice of God. While central and foundational, the fourfold Gospel witness is no more true or reliable or relevant or binding than the black letters that precede and follow. Indeed, when we treat the red letters more seriously than the black ones, we muzzle the Son who speaks in all of them.
How dare you approach the mercy-seat of God on the basis of what kind of day you had, as if that were the basis for our entrance into the presence of the sovereign and holy God? No wonder we cannot beat the Devil. This is works theology. It has nothing to do with grace and the exclusive sufficiency of Christ. Nothing.
Do you not understand that we overcome the accuser on the ground of the blood of Christ? Nothing more, nothing less. That is how we win. It is the only way we win. This is the only ground of our acceptance before God. If you drift far from the cross, you are done. You are defeated.
We overcome the accuser of our brothers and sisters, we overcome our consciences, we overcome our bad tempers, we overcome our defeats, we overcome our lusts, we overcome our fears, we overcome our pettiness on the basis of the blood of the Lamb.
In his book The Rise of Christianity, sociologist Rodney Stark estimates that during the first 350 years of Christianity, the religion grew at a rate of 40 percent per decade. During the 61 year period from 1949 to 2010, Christianity grew at a rate of 78.7 percent per year.
Part of the reason for the exponential growth is attributable to the sheer size of the population of China. With 1.351 billion people in the country, Christians comprise only 5 percent of the country. If current trends hold, in 2030 Christians in China will make up almost 9 percent of the total population. While the ratio of Christians to population would still be small, the total numbers are astounding. By mid-century, China may have more citizens who identify as Christians than the United States has citizens.
Christians in America often find reasons to be pessimistic about our religion's waning influence on our country. But we should remember that our land is not the last bastion of hope for the faith. The remarkable growth in global Christianity -- particularly in Asia and Africa -- should give us reason to be optimistic. The Holy Spirit is changing hearts and minds around the globe in a way that has not been seen since the first century after Christ's Ascension. For this we should be eternally grateful.
Those of us in the West should continue to support our Chinese brothers and sisters with finances, missionaries, theological resources, and -- most importantly -- prayer. In the latter half of this century, assuming the Lord tarries, we may need them to do the same for the American church.Read the rest.
It only makes sense on Good Friday to shine the spotlight on Jesus.
Christ’s death is, after all, the climax of the Gospel accounts (along with the resurrection, of course). That the the Son of God willingly took our punishment is the foundation of our hope and it should be the object of our deepest gratitude. But if God’s wrath is what Christ shielded us from, then how can we rejoice in the Father’s intentions on Good Friday?
The cross certainly reminds of God’s holiness and of his hatred of sin. However, unless we take a step back to consider what was going on at Calvary, our view of God the Father can become distorted. He can become a cold and angry Deity who in his quest for justice is just itching to wipe us out. Until, thankfully, Jesus intervenes.
Gratefully, this is not how Scripture presents God the Father.
In The Cross of Christ John Stott cautions us against characterizing the Father as Judge and the Son as Savior. It is one and the same God who saves us in Christ (140). This error may at first sound subtle, but it’s always a big deal when we have a wrong view of God. Just as we honor the Son by thanking him for his sacrifice on the cross, so too we should honor the Father by responding rightly to his role in our salvation. To this end, here are three things to remember about God the Father on this Good Friday …Read the rest.
On the third day the friends of Christ coming at daybreak to the place found the grave empty and the stone rolled away. In varying ways they realized the new wonder; but even they hardly realized that the world had died in the night. What they were looking at was the first day of a new creation, with a new heaven and a new earth; and in a semblance of the gardener God walked again in the garden, in the cool not of the evening but the dawn.- G. K. Chesterton, The Everlasting Man
If I were scroll through the contacts on my phone or search through my Facebook friends or look at the people I follow on Twitter, I could come up with a fairly long list of people I know. I could tell you where they lived, what they did for work, who they were married to, what their kids were doing, and even a few personal preferences or hobbies.Read the rest.
The opposite would also be true - there's a fairly long list of people who would know where I live, what I do, who my wife and kids are, and a few things that I enjoy in my free time. But here's the real question - how many people do I actually know, and how many people really know me?
I'm afraid that, in the body of Christ, we settle for terminally casual relationships all the time. Sure, we have acquired some superficial data on people we call friends, but we don't actually know them. We participate in weekly or monthly "church fellowship" but there's actually very little fellowship going on.
The resurrection of Jesus is central to the Christian faith. Without the resurrection, there would be no Christianity, as the Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthian Christians: “If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain” (1 Cor. 15:14).Read the rest.
Historically, Jesus’ resurrection (along with his claims to be the Son of God and the Son of Man) has always been the point of contention that separates Christians and Jews. However, the Orthodox Jewish theologian Pinchas Lapide (1922–1997), in his book The Resurrection of Jesus: A Jewish Perspective, turns that expectation on its head. Though he does not believe Jesus is the Messiah, Lapide does believe that the resurrection of Jesus was a historical event. Recognizing that Jesus and his disciples were faithful Jews, he seeks to understand it from a Jewish perspective.
Your mother and I are counting down the days until you shake the hospital room with your first wail. Our home is a small one, and sometimes our bouncing dog makes it seem smaller, but you are most welcome to fill it with your little giggles, abrasive screams and tender tears. We love you.Read the rest.
Here’s something you should know: much of our world is made up of appearances. From advertising, to entertainment, to the small talk of social interactions, it seems that putting on masks and pretending to be a different ‘you’ is quite common. Most everyone has a shinier version of themselves which they put on and off, depending on who’s taking notes at the time.
But I don’t want you to see me in my shiny armor. (I’d rather get rid of it, really.) Instead, I want you to see me the way my Saviour sees me. It’s the only accurate portrayal of who I am. When you look up at me, look for these things: