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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

A sort-of Formula for Christian Growth

I am not a big fan of “seven steps to spiritual growth” or “four keys to revival” stuff. Formulatic spirituality loses some of the spontaneity that I believe is evidence of the Spirit of God honoring time spent in His Word.

But, if I discern a formula in the reading of Scripture, it maketh sense to me.

I discovered one this morning while reading Romans 4.

This chapter is focused on Abraham, and that he was justified by faith rather than by works. Reading from the English Standard Version, verse 16 summarizes, “That is why it depends on faith…”

Verse 18 declares, “In hope he (Abraham) believed against hope.” The next couple verses reveal he “did not lean on his own understanding” (Prov 3.5); and then verse 20 reads “No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God.” (emphasis added)

Verse 21 reveals that he was “fully convinced that God was able to do what He had promised.”

It appears to me that “as” he gave glory to God, his faith grew stronger.

So, no matter how dark the day, how dense the fog, how tough the journey; we are to “rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice,” give God glory that He is sovereign and that “all things work together for good” and, thereby, our faith grows stronger.

Rather cool.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Child-like Prayer

There is a difference between being "child-like" (which Jesus orders) and "childish."

Several days ago I had the privilege of praying with a 14-year-old who was praying for an awareness/assurance of his salvation, a sort-of recommitment that may, in fact, have been a point of salvation (the Spirit of God knows).

Anyway, here is a portion of his prayer:

"Lord, cover my heart with glue so it will stick this time"

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

"The Great Exchange" a Great Read

Since the gospel is "of first importance," I prioritize on reading, in addition to the Word, books focused on the cross. Currently in "The Great Exchange" by Jerry Bridges & Bob Bevington.

Here's a quote from the preface that is vital:

"Yet, in recent times it has become apparent that some in the church have drifted away from the historical gospel and ventured to redefine sin and redemption and even the meaning of the cross. Some have done this in a sincere attempt to make the gospel message more acceptable to today's culture. Others have attempted to usher in an age of greater authenticity and depth of commitment. But regardless of sincerity, no attempt to reform the church can succeed if it departs in any way from the centrality of the message that our sinless Christ actually died on a real cross as the sin bearer for those who are united to Christ by faith in His substitutionary sacrifice and righteousness." (emphasis added)

"Jesus, keep me near the cross"

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Word of God Does the Work of God

Almost a follow-up to my last post about Bible quizzing and its worth, this is worth a minute and a half of your time: CLICK HERE

The Real Purpose of Bible Quizzing

As most who read this blog know, Bible quizzing has been a huge part of my ministry for three decades. As I say too often, it is the only thing I do in which I can not lose...God's Word hidden in hearts and minds does God's work.

A New York quizzer who graduated last year posted this on his blog. My prayer is that every quizzer from every ministry recognizes the truth of Micah's words:

"Nationals team selections happened a few days ago. This is the first year in six that I'm not quizzing. It's sort of weird; only after graduating from quizzing do I grasp the sheer value of Scripture memorization and want more than ever to be at Nationals.

It hit me at some point in Minneapolis last year that the end goal is not quizzing. Quizzing is a tool that motivates people to study closely that which they would otherwise ignore. It was sort of a late revelation, but I'm happy that it came at all. All of a sudden, I truly didn't care how I placed in the stats; the important thing was that I was equipped with several books of the Bible, and it was up to me to make sure I didn't forget them. It seems obvious, the kind of thing that every good quizzer knows--I mean, I knew it, but somehow it never clicked until late April. It's not the sort of thing you can beat into someone's head by telling him over and over and over again. Once a quizzer graduates, he has to decide whether to keep on memorizing because there's nothing more important to know than God's Word, or to forget all that stuff because he's too old to quiz--it was fun while it lasted.

I hope and pray that the buses home this year will be filled not with students happy that they won or bummed that they lost, but students absolutely joyful because they finally realized the blessing and power that is Word of God hidden in their hearts."

Sunday, March 22, 2009

"A Living Prayer"

I sure would like to know if this singer is singing just words, or her faith:

Thursday, March 19, 2009

No, It Is NOT Harder!

I tire of people saying how difficult it is to reach today’s youth with the truth of the gospel.

Such statements limit God, and put too much emphasis on “us” in this amazing work of salvation.

As Jonah discovered in the belly of the great fish, “Salvation is of the Lord.” (Jonah 2.9) The God who “so loved” that “He gave His only” empowers His Word and His gospel to penetrate lives, minds, and hearts.

To be sure, the world of teenagers is different than it was five, ten, twenty years ago. But God’s Word remains “sharper than a two-edged sword” and is able to “penetrate,” “convict,” and “draw.”

To listen to some, God must be wringing His hands and moaning, “Oh, what do I do now to reach these poor students?”


God is sovereign in the affairs of man, and though God chooses to use weak vessels to accomplish His will, it is still His Spirit who does the convicting, convincing, and drawing.

Does it take more “work” to present the gospel in what some call as “post-Christian” world? Certainly! Those who “brag on Jesus” need to be careful to define terms, explain terms, and never “assume” that someone knows anything about the true God, Jesus, or the gospel.

But the impact of God’s Word projected is not negated. It is always relative, and the One who desires to relate to those outside His family remains omnipotent!

The job of the apprentice of Jesus Christ is to serve Him, to live for Him, to brag on Him, and to breath and share the gospel. Since “no one can come to the Son except the Father draws him,” our job is not to do the drawing, but rather the pointing (or, if it makes you more comfortable, “leading”).

Yes, the days are dark, and today’s teenagers are bombarded by negative influences of every stripe…but the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ is more-than-able to overcome the darkness as the Body of Christ attacks in faith.

When You Have a "Does Anyone Care? Moment:

“If I could hear Christ praying for me in the next room, I would not fear a million enemies. Yet distance makes no difference. He is praying for me.”

—Robert Murray M’Cheyne

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

"Justification by Death"

Reading "The Truth of the Cross," a short but packed book by R. C. Sproul. On page 10 he makes this observation:

"The prevailing doctrine of justification today is not justification by faith alone. It's not even justification by good works or by a combination of faith and works. The prevailing notion of justification in Western culture today is justification by death. It's assumed that all one has to do to be received into the everlasting arms of God is to die."

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Forgiveness Practiced

Eight days after her husband was shot to death in the pulpit, his widow speaks to CBS in an amazing, gospel-honoring way. It is worth five of your irreplaceable minutes:

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Why Obey God?

“What God wants is not just behavioral compliance but loving service. The tree-command [in the garden] means: ‘Please do this commandment just because of who I am, just for me, not because it looks profitable to you. Obey me out of love.’ But we failed to love him because we believe the Lie that he doesn’t care. Here ‘the Lie’ of the serpent is not just the fount of sadness but of disobedience. We lack self-control not just because we are ‘bad’ in some general way but because we disbelieve in the love and goodness of God.

"How can our hearts be changed? [Jesus] obeyed the tree-command [at the Cross] simply because of his love for his Father and for us. He obeyed not because it profited him but because it profited us. Now love God for his own sake, for the sake of his beauty and worth–because he loved you for your own sakes in Jesus.”

- Tim Keller, Preaching the Gospel in a Post-modern World (RTS Class Syllabus, Page 45)

Friday, March 13, 2009

What's The Real Problem?

“The real problem of Christianity is not atheism or scepticism, but the non-witnessing Christian trying to smuggle his own soul into heaven.”
- James S. Stewart

THINKABOUTIT - Why Do People Avoid Church?

“Jesus’s teaching consistently attracted the irreligious while offending the Bible-believing, religious people of his day. However, in the main, our churches today do not have this effect. The kind of outsiders Jesus attracted are not attracted to contemporary churches, even our most avant-garde ones. We tend to draw conservative, buttoned-down, moralistic people. The licentious and liberated or the broken and marginal avoid church. That can only mean one thing. If the preaching of our ministers and the practice of our parishioners do not have the same effect on people that Jesus had, then we must not be declaring the same message that Jesus did.”

- Timothy Keller, The Prodigal God

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Abortion "Thinking"?

Abortion Conversations– Does Might Make Right? from Evan Davis on Vimeo.

More videos like this are available HERE


Much too convicting a study, but I'll share it anyway:

Eph 4.32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Luke 6.36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

Romans 15.7 Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you...

John 15.12 My command is this, love each other, as I have loved you.

Eph 5.25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her.

Monday, March 9, 2009

The Invitation System

Contrary to what some think, I am not against giving an invitation at the conclusion of a message.

I am dogmatically "against" any invitation that gives even a hint that one must raise his/her hand and come forward in order to be saved, or for a Christian to make some type of other commitment. I am against any invitation that communicates that somehow the mere act of moving forward enables salvation.

Any honest reading of the gospels confirms that Jesus always made it easier to say "no" to His demands than to say "yes." All who communicate the gospel should do likewise.

Now comes news that in some circles you don't "have" to come forward, you can just "text" your desire! Wanna read more? CLICK HERE

Friday, March 6, 2009

Bells and Whistles Don't Create Victory

Ministry, life, stuff in general observation: lots of toys, technological stuff, rah-rah jive and more don't necessarily mean victory:

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Was Francis of Assissi in "..if necessary, use words"?

A beauty from Total Church by Tim Chester and Steve Timmis:

Francis of Assissi is alleged to have said, "Preach the gospel always; if necessary use words." That may be a great medieval sound bite, but it falls short of what the Bible teaches about evangelism. Jesus began his public ministry by "proclaiming the good news of God" (Mark 1:14). When he gained a reputation as a miracle-worker, his response was to leave the area so he could give himself to the task of proclamation, for "that is why I have come" (Mark 1:38). And the risen Lord left his disciples with the specific commission to go to the nations, "teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you" (Matthew 28:20).

There is a tendency in some quarters today to promote a kind of evangelism without proclamation. Acts of service are done or people are invited to experience Christian worship. But without words of explanation these are like signposts pointing nowhere or, worse still, signposts pointing to our good works. The gospel is good news -- a message to be proclaimed, a truth to be taught, a word to be spoken, and a story to be told.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009


This is directly from the "Stand to Reason" blog:

Making Abortion Illegal Will Reduce the Number of Abortions

Imagine a politician making the following statement:

"Personally, I believe slavery is wrong. However, I disagree with the suggestion that criminalizing slave owners and slave traders is an effective means of achieving the goal of reducing the number of slaves in our nation."

This would be a ludicrous statement. But Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius made a similar comment.

She said, "Personally I believe abortion is wrong, however, I disagree with the suggestion that criminalizing women and their doctors is an effective means of achieving the goal of reducing the number of abortions in our nation."

This modified pro-choice position is foolish, especially for the governor. She says her Catholic faith "Teaches me that all life is sacred." If abortion kills sacred human life, then shouldn't she want to make killing sacred human life illegal? After all, society usually outlaws methods of killing innocent human beings – abortion should be no exception.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Bible Quiz Tournament - Iowa Invitational

I had the privilege of quizmastering at the Iowa Quiz Regionals in Waterloo, and was also asked to bring a short message Friday night and Saturday morning. About 250 students and a herd of adults; great competition. Quizzing is such a cool tool to get students into the Word, and thus the Word, in context, into students.

Have received several e-mails and facebook messages from folks saying they appreciated the challenges; very encouraging.

We have the final regular season Midland quiz Saturday; then we put together the national teams (Nationals in St Louis in late April), as well as prepare for our invitational the end of this month.

In 2007 Billy Graham wrote, "Now that reading has become more difficult, I probably read the Bible less but pray more. Of course over the years I've memorized many passages from the Bible, and I'm especially thankful now that I did this. I wish we gave more attention to Bible memorization in our churches today."

Amen. And Bible quizzing is a great way to do just that. Questions?