Friday, May 30, 2014

A Nice Long Blog Break

I started this blog on January 22nd, 2006.  So I have been at this blogging thing for about 8 and a half years, nearly half my adult life.  Lately I have been feeling as though it's time for a nice long break.  There are a variety of reasons for this, but more than anything, I am sensing that there are other priorities in my life that need more attention.

As a result, I'll be taking the summer completely off. It's time for a blog sabbatical.  I'm not sure what the future holds for this blog, but stayed tuned in September for an update.  Thanks so much for reading, interacting, and clicking on my Amazon link.  I am truly grateful!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Cup Has To Be Full To Overflow

Charles Spurgeon to his ministerial students:
You will not be able to extemporize good thinking unless you have been in the habit of thinking and feeding your mind with abundant and nourishing food. Work hard at every available moment. Store your minds very richly, and then, like merchants with crowded warehouses, you will have goods ready for your customers, and having arranged your good things upon the shelves of your mind, you will be able to hand them down at any time without the laborious process of going to market, sorting, folding, and preparing… Take it as a rule without exception, that to be able to overflow spontaneously you must be full.
Read the rest.  

Dangers of Theological Controversy

Helpful article here from Nicholas Batzig.  He writes:
Debate in theological matters is necessary in a fallen world. God commands believers to “contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). We are to be zealous for the defense and propagation of the whole counsel of God for His own glory and the building up of His people. Ministers and local church members, in many Reformed churches, take vows to “study the peace and purity of the church.” This includes purity in doctrine. But, there are also wisdom principles that must accompany a desire to defend the truth. In every battle there is fallout. There are dangers that we need to seek to avoid when entering into theological debate.

In recent years, there has been a growing debate over the doctrine of sanctification. Some of the questions involved in this debate include: Does justification produce sanctification? Is sanctification “getting used to your justification?” What role does sanctification play in the subjective assurance of salvation in the life of a believer? Does justification make union with Christ possible, or does union make justification possible? In addition to these questions, a myriad of others have been–and ought to be–raised for the sake of clarity and the defense of truth. There are, however, several dangers that come with controversy.
Read the rest.

(HT:  Tim Challies)

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The Fuel For Missions

Without the Bible, world evangelization would not only impossible but actually inconceivable. It is the Bible that lays upon us the responsibility to evangelize the world, gives us a gospel to proclaim, tells us how to proclaim it and promises us that it is God’s power for salvation to every believer.

It is, moreover, an observable fact of history, both past and contemporary, that the degree of the Church’s commitment to world evangelization is commensurate with the degree of its conviction about the authority of the Bible. Whenever Christians lose their confidence in the Bible, they also lose their zeal for evangelism. Conversely, whenever they are convinced about the Bible, then they are determined about evangelism.
-John Stott in Perspectives on the World Christian Movement, p.21

Friending but Not Sharing

Trevin Wax:
The term “evangelism” gives many Christians the willies. We immediately think of canned presentations that seem stiff and unnatural. We are paralyzed by the thought of knocking on a stranger’s door and talking about Jesus. 
In response to these images of evangelism, we promote the idea of “building relationships” before sharing the gospel. We call it friendship or relational evangelism. 
I think this development is (overall) a healthy one. We don’t share the gospel apart from who we are as witnesses. The most effective evangelism takes place within the context of relationships where the life of the Christian is on display. 
But sometimes, I wonder if our emphasis on relationships might cause us to turn all our focus to relationship-building and indefinitely postpone gospel proclamation. So someone asks you, “Are you sharing the gospel regularly?” and you think, Of course! I’m building a relationship with an employee at a coffee shop; I’ve got a friend who watches football with me; I’m getting to know the parents in my child’s preschool class. 
Weeks and months (maybe even years) go by, and we’ve made friends, but no disciples. We still haven’t spoken about our Christian faith and what it means to trust in Jesus.
It’s true that effective evangelism usually takes place after trustworthy relationships have been built. But something is amiss when we can “get to know” people well over a period of months and never talk about Jesus.
Read the rest.  

Why Don't We Don't See Miracles Today With The Same Frequency As The Bible Presents Them?

Justin Holcomb:
Many contemporary Christians feel disconnected from the vibrant, Spirit-filled ministries of the prophets and apostles described in the Bible. In the Old Testament, God seemingly took the people of Israel through miraculous event after miraculous event. In the New Testament, those who watched the ministry of Jesus were seized with amazement at the miracles he performed (Luke 5:25), and the apostles in the early church regularly performed signs and wonders among the people (Acts 5:12).  
Yet today, such miraculous events seem rare and, when we do hear reports of miracles, many Christians are skeptical. At the very least, we feel there's something different about the way God worked in the Old and New Testament periods and the way he works today. This raises a valid question: Why don’t we experience today the miracles we read about in the New Testament? 
To answer that question, we need to understand not only how God works through providence and common grace, but we must also understand the purpose of miracles in the Bible.
Read the rest.  

Faking Cultural Literacy

Karl Greenfeld writes for the NY Times:
THERE was a time when we knew where we were getting our ideas. In my eighth grade English class, we were assigned “A Tale of Two Cities,” and lest we enjoy the novel, we were instructed to read Charles Dickens’s classic with an eye toward tracking the symbolism in the text. One afternoon while I was in the library, struggling to find symbols, I ran into a few of my classmates, who removed from their pockets folded yellow and black pamphlets that read “Cliffs Notes” and beneath that the title of Dickens’s novel in block letters. That “study guide” was a revelation.

Here were the plot, the characters, even the symbols, all laid out in paragraphs and bullet points. I read the Cliffs Notes in one night, and wrote my B paper without finishing the novel. The lesson was not to immerse and get lost in the actual cultural document itself but to mine it for any valuable ore and minerals — data, factoids, what you need to know — and then trade them on the open market.

With the advent of each new technology — movable type, radio, television, the Internet — there have been laments that the end is nigh for illuminated manuscripts, for books, magazines and newspapers. What is different now is the ubiquity of the technology that is replacing every old medium.

The information is everywhere, a constant feed in our hands, in our pockets, on our desktops, our cars, even in the cloud. The data stream can’t be shut off. It pours into our lives a rising tide of words, facts, jokes, GIFs, gossip and commentary that threatens to drown us. Perhaps it is this fear of submersion that is behind this insistence that we’ve seen, we’ve read, we know. It’s a none-too-convincing assertion that we are still afloat. So here we are, desperately paddling, making observations about pop culture memes, because to admit that we’ve fallen behind, that we don’t know what anyone is talking about, that we have nothing to say about each passing blip on the screen, is to be dead.
Read the rest.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Magnetic Putty is Fun!

The Beauty of Team

Great video here.

"A Front-Row Seat to the Most Important Work in History"

Justin Taylor:
There’s a certain world-weariness etched onto his face as he has spent years crisscrossing the globe, visiting and supporting and documenting the church around the world. But if you look closer, there is unmistakable joy. You can see it in the warmth of his smile and the twinkle of his eye and the welcome of his embrace as he greets a new brother and a new sister on the other side of the world and worships with yet another outpost of the global family of God. If the new heavens and the new earth will be filled with the redeemed from “every tribe and language and people and nation” (Rev. 5:9), then Tim Keesee has gotten a foretaste of the world to come. 
In his new book you will have a front-row seat to the most important work in history, as the great news of a bloody sacrifice turned risen King transforms lives around the world. You’ll follow along with Tim’s journeys over the past several years as he travels from the former Soviet Republics to the Balkans, from China to Southeast Asia, from Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan to Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea, from the Horn of Africa to Egypt, from Afghanistan to Iraq. You’ll see the joy and the sorrow, the pleasure and the pain, as he sees the glory of the gospel revealed afresh and yet still mourns the danger and bondage of soul-destroying sin.
Read the rest.  

How To Lead Music Well at Church

Good thoughts here from Jamie Brown:
It’s not rocket science.

Sing songs people know (or can learn easily). Sing them in congregational keys. Sing and celebrate the power, glory, and salvation of God. Serve your congregation. Saturate them with the word of God. Get your face off the big screen. Use your original songs in extreme moderation. Err on the side of including as many people as possible in what’s going on. Keep the lights up. Stop talking so much. Don’t let loops/lights/visuals become your outlet for creativity at the expense of the centrality of the gospel. Point to Jesus. Don’t draw attention to yourself. Don’t sing songs with bad lyrics or weak theology. Tailor your worship leading, and the songs you pick, to include the largest cross-section of your congregation that you can. Lead pastorally.
Read the rest.

This Has To Be The Best Invention of the Past 50 years

Even better than the internet.

Cheap eBook Alert

The Gospel Driven Life
Michael Horton

How To Study The Bible
Richard Mayhue

Learn To Read New Testament Greek
David Alan Black

Monday, May 19, 2014

‘Frozen’ Recut as a Horror Film

"This is not a teaching that is very acceptable to vast numbers in western Christendom today."

Not everyone recognizes Jesus’ authority; others sense the power but do not respond with faith. Even some who naturally belong to the kingdom, that is, the Jews who had lived under the old covenant and had been the heirs of the promises, turn out to be rejected. They too approach the great hall of the messianic banquet, lit up with a thousand lamps in joyous festivity; but they are refused admission, they are thrown outside into the blackness of night, “where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (8:12). The idea is not that there will be no Jews at the messianic banquet. After all, the patriarchs themselves are Jews, and all of Jesus’ earliest followers were Jews. But Jesus insists that there is no automatic advantage to being a Jew. As he later says to those of his own race, “Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit” (21:43). An individual’s faith, his or her response to the authority claims of Jesus, will prove decisive. The alternative to entrance into the kingdom is painted in horrible colors: literally the weeping and the gnashing of teeth, to emphasize the horror of the scene, the former suggesting suffering and the latter despair. The same authority of Jesus that proves such a great comfort to the eyes of faith now engenders terror in the merely religious. 
This is not a teaching that is very acceptable to vast numbers in western Christendom today. It flies in the face of the great god Pluralism who holds much more of our allegiance than we are prone to admit. The test for religious validity in this environment is no longer truth but sincerity—as if sincerity were a virtue even when the beliefs underlying it are entirely mistaken.

10 Characteristics Shared By Great Leaders

David Murray summarizes some interesting findings about leadership from the recent book, View From The Top:
Although not an overtly Christian book, Lindsay regularly returns to the way the research can be read and utilized to encourage Christian leaders. 
I personally found many applications that could be made in ministry, especially in the areas of mentoring, EQ (relational intelligence), and servant leadership. 
But now to the 10 characteristics or features that most of these leaders had in common. 
1. A mentor Having a mentor early in a career is by far the most important contributor to a person’s success. It matters far more than a privileged upbringing, the college attended, extraordinary early life experiences, or what they did did in their teenage years. 
2. Two loving parentsThe majority of leaders interviewed came from households with two loving parents with the critical factor being the amount of time they spent with their parents. 
3. College Virtually everyone in the study graduated from some college. Only 3% of the leaders did not graduate from college, and among this small group, most attended for some amount of time. Many of the leaders who grew up in poverty had used education to neutralize their disadvantage. Two-thirds of the leaders attended state colleges/universities (i.e. non-Ivy-League). 
4. Sports A surprisingly large proportion of leaders were varsity athletes – 41% in high school and 23 % in college. 
5. Global awareness Most leaders had a wide worldview, often achieved through learning a second language or international travel. 65% traveled abroad for the first time between the ages of 16 and 30. 
6. Servant spirit The most successful leaders did not use their leadership primarily for personal benefit or advancement but for a greater cause. 
"Those who use their authority to control others or simply for their own gain are not leaders at all, but only power-wielders. 
Transformative power (at an institution, in a personal relationship, or in our daily work) almost always comes from great sacrifices. And moral authority—which is the leader’s greatest currency for influence—develops not through usurping power, as some might contend, but through self-giving sacrifice."
7. Generalist While increasing mastery of their specific field of expertise, the best leaders maintained a generalist orientation. They are “dabblers of sorts, conversant in other kinds of business, knowledgeable about current affairs, and able to connect across divides.” 
8. Exposure and Experience Leadership cannot be taught but it can be caught. The key to developing leaders is to expose students to leadership and to experience it. There is no substitute for trying to do it, and the earlier people try, the more likely they’ll get good at it. 
9. EQ (Emotional Intelligence) In leadership, IQ takes second position to emotional or relational intelligence.
Leading others is significantly easier when followers enjoy being around the leader, and interpersonally gifted people are at a significant advantage in power… The higher the level of the job, the less important technical skills and cognitive abilities were and the more important competence in emotional intelligence became.
10. Positive attitudeThey are positive about their work, exuding energy and enthusiasm. They are positive about people, investing in them and encouraging them, and they are positive about the future, tending not to look backwards but forwards. 
Get the book here.  

Cheap eBook Alert

1-2 Timothy and Titus
R. Kent Hughes and Bryan Chapell

Ray Ortlund

Douglas Sean O'Donnell

Acts: The Church Afire
R. Kent Hughes

The Master Plan of Evangelism
Robert E. Coleman

Christian History Made Easy
Timothy Paul Jones

Thursday, May 15, 2014

This Guy is in The Wrong Profession

He needs to start his Hip-Hop career.  It would be huge.

How To Make Evangelism Authentic

When You Are Worried in the Night Watches

Zack Eswine:

Here are three prayers and a meditation for you who find yourselves wakened in the dark seeing ghosts on the waters and needing the peace and presence of Jesus. Tonight, when you wake, know that I am probably with you, calling out in the deeps, seeing grace set ablaze or waiting it out, when every flame seems frightened and elsewhere. You are not alone. Ancient prayers given by fellow night travelers who’ve gone before us light our path.