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Monday, February 28, 2011

Thought About God's Wrath Lately?

Don't hear many (any?) songs about God's wrath...His fury, anger, and indignation at sin.

John R. W. Stott has a well-written reminder in a book that, if you've not read it, you should:

“Only he who knows the greatness of wrath will be mastered by the greatness of mercy. All inadequate doctrines of the atonement are due to inadequate doctrines of God and man. If we bring God down to our level and raise ourselves to His, then of course we see no need for a radical salvation, let alone for a radical atonement to secure it.
When, on the other hand, we have glimpsed the blinding glory of the holiness of God, and have been so convicted of our sin by the Holy Spirit that we tremble before God and acknowledge what we are, namely ‘hell-deserving sinners’, then and only then does the necessity of the cross appear so obvious that we are astonished we never saw it before.
The essential background to the cross, therefore, is a balanced understanding of the gravity of sin and the majesty of God. If we diminish either, we thereby diminish the cross.”
–John Stott

Side note: some readers are aware of the ongoing controversy regarding universalism ( all humans are "saved" according to this school of, ah, thought)..Stott is NOT a universalist, though he does believe nonbelievers are annihilated rather than confined to an endless hell. I really respect Stott, but as march as part of my heart wishes to agree, I can't. His books, especially this one, are well worth reading:

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Grace Indicators

Regular readers know I absolutely love the writings, challenges, and encouragements of Scotty Smith. Here are some succinct, powerful "tweets" he wrote over a period of time regarding grace...don't rush through them:

A sign you’re growing in grace is less bombast about not being a legalist & more humility because you “get” the gospel.

A sign you’re growing in grace is less theological arrogance & greater appreciation for diversity in the Body of Christ.

A sign you’re growing in grace is you work much harder at remembering names and forgetting slights.

A sign you’re growing in grace is that everybody notices it but you.

A sign you’re growing in grace is movement from destructive cynicism towards redemptive engagement. Anybody can spew.

A sign you’re growing in grace is that you’re less like a drive-by-shooting with criticisms & more of a healing presence.

A sign you’re growing in grace is evident when you receive feedback non-defensively and give it clearly & lovingly.

A sign you’re growing in grace is evident when people don’t feel like they have to walk on egg shells around you as much.

A sign you’re growing in grace is when you say, “I’ll be prayin’ for ya”, and you follow through on at least 50%.

A sign you’re growing in grace is committing fewer homicides in your heart of slow drivers.

A sign you’re growing in grace is praying for our government rather than simply being cynical about our government.

A sign you are growing in grace is that you are more disgusted with your critical spirit than offended by others’ sins.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Jonah and Jesus

Here's some great stuff from Tim Keller's new book:

We have a resource that can enable us to stay calm inside no matter how the storms rage outside.
Here’s a clue: Mark has deliberately laid out this account using language that is parallel, almost identical, to the language of the famous Old Testament account of Jonah.
Both Jesus and Jonah were in a boat, and both boats were overtaken by a storm—the descriptions of the storm are almost identical.
Both Jesus and Jonah were asleep.
In both stories the sailors woke up the sleeper and said, “We’re going to die.”
And in both cases there was a miraculous divine intervention and the sea was calmed.
Further, in both stories the sailors then become even more terrified than they were before the storm was calmed.
Two almost identical stories—with just one difference.
In the midst of the storm, Jonah said to the sailors, in effect: “There’s only only thing to do. If I perish, you survive. If I die, you will live” (Jonah 1:12). And they threw him into the sea.
Which doesn’t happen in Mark’s story.
Or does it?
I think Mark is showing that the stories aren’t actually different when you stand back a bit and look at it with the rest of the story of Jesus in view.
In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus says, “One greater than Jonah is here,” and he’s referring to himself: I’m the true Jonah. He meant this:
Someday I’m going to calm all storms, still all waves.
I’m going to destroy destruction, break brokenness, kill death.
How can he do that?
He can only do it because when he was on the cross he was thrown—willingly, like Jonah—into the ultimate storm, under the ultimate waves, the waves of sin and death.
Jesus was thrown into the only storm that can actually sink us—the storm of eternal justice, of what we owe for our wrongdoing. That storm wasn’t calmed—not until it swept him away.
If the sight of Jesus bowing his head into that ultimate storm is burned into the core of your being, you will never say, “God, don’t you care?”
And if you know that he did not abandon you in that ultimate storm, what make you think he would abandon you in much smaller storms you’re experiencing right now?
And, someday, of course, he will return and still all storms for eternity.
If you let that penetrate to the very center of your being, you will know he loves you. You will know he cares. And then you will have the power to handle anything in life with poise:
When through the deep waters I call you to go,
The rivers of woe shall not overflow;
For I will be with you, your troubles to bless,
And sanctify to you your deepest distress.
The soul that on Jesus has leaned for repose,
I will not, I will not desert to its foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Loser's Limp

So a couple days ago Lindsay Lohans father says (after her court appearance during which the judge said if she accepted the D.A.'s plea bargain, or pled guilty, she'd go to jail),"I don't see Lindsay as a criminal. This is all a result of her addiction."


So whatever "this is all" means is okay since it is a result of her addiction?


And typical of a fallen society.

Not harping on Lohan...just continually sick of excuses. When I was entering Oregon State Prison the reception committee basically said my criminal career was a result of my experiences in Vietnam.

Translated: "it's not my fault."

Well, yeah, stuff contributes to our decisions; but we are responsible for the decisions.

And if we step into the quicksand of addictions, we are responsible for actions made after that point also.

I'm grateful that my arrest and incarceration resulted in me reading the gospel for the first time...and eventually to taking responsibility/ownership of my sin, turning from sin, and turning in repentance to Christ.

And I pray Miss Lohan experiences deliverance...not from criminal charges, but from God's indictment...

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Thursday Tozer Tidbit of Truth

"God promises to hear your prayers, but not to unconditionally answer them the way you want them answered." AW Tozer

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

He Knows Me!!!

Significant insight from J. I. Packer...if you've not read Knowing God, or if it has been a few years, read (or reread) it!

“What matters supremely, therefore, is not the last analysis, the fact that I know God, but the larger fact which underlies it- the fact that He knows me. I am graven on the palms of His hands. I am never out of His mind. All my knowledge of Him depends on His sustained initiative in knowing me. I know Him because He first knew me, and continues to know me. He knows me as a friend, one who loves me; and there is no moment when His eye is off me, or His attention distracted from me, and no moment…when His care falters."
J.I. Packer

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Condemnation or Conviction?

“When you belong to the King, how can you discern the difference between the Devil’s condemnation and the Spirit’s conviction? How can you determine if you are in the bogus courtroom or the real one?
In the real courtroom:
  • you know your good deeds are not enough
  • your hope is in Christ alone for your deliverance
  • when convicted of sins, you are pointed past your sins and on to Christ
  • the last word is always hope.
In the Devil’s counterfeit:
  • the attention is all on your sins
  • you stand and fall on your own behavior
  • you are alone without an advocate
  • questions are raised about the extent of God’s forgiveness.
Christ alone, Christ alone– that is your defense.”
–Edward T. Welch, in:

Friday, February 18, 2011

Prison and Christian Camp

I was captured by Christ while in jail awaiting a prison sentence. I now work in both youth ministry and prison ministry.

I'm struck by the is relatively easy to make "decisions" for Christ in prison and in Christian camps.

It is a different story to live out those decisions when returning to the real world...whether from a Christian camp or a prison sentence.

As the inmates are always told just before they get out, "Don't leave Jesus at the gate." The same thing applies to students leaving Christian camps.

Of course a week of summer camp doesn't compare in most ways to a 3, 5, 10 or more year prison sentence.

But the fact remains - going back to the "real" world is where the decision must be lived out in dependence on God, in discipline, in accountability, and in community.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Wonderful Plan for Your Life?????

I've always disliked the phrase, "God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life." The first phrase is wondrously true; the "for your life" part implies, "Come to Jesus and all will be well." Yeah, right. "In this world you will suffer persecution" etc.

For the non-Christian God has, from our perspective, a terrible plan...for the repentant, this short-term life will have difficulties of varying degrees.

Trevin Wax offers this insight (from a great book, by the way)

- God’s “wonderful plan” for Christians may include times of suffering and persecution whereby we become more conformed to the image of Christ.

- The better, more biblical place to begin is to affirm that “God has a wonderful plan, period.” Salvation is not primarily about God’s plan for my life, but about God’s renewal of everything. It is only within the vision of the glorious new world that God has promised that we find the strength to cope with the fact that God may have a very difficult plan for our lives!

If you have ever looked at the backside of a quilt or a tapestry, you see that there seems to be no overall design or pattern. The quilt looks strange, without purpose or direction. But once you turn it around, you see how the individual patterns make up something that is beautiful.

Our lives do not always seem wonderful. But rather than trying to see what wonderful plan God has for giving us our best life now, Christians trust that the picture God is painting will be beautiful, so we look to experiencing our best life later. God has a wonderful plan, and because of his grace, we are part of that plan.

Thursday Tozer Tidbit of Truth

"The love of God is such that it can never end...& husbands, you are to love your wives as Christ loves the church." AW Tozer

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Church versus other "Institutions"

“All other institutions serve good and honorable purposes at present, but they await termination at the day of Christ’s return. The church, in contrast, awaits Christ’s return as a day of consummation, when as the bride of Christ she will take her place at the wedding banquet of the Lamb (Eph. 5:22–32; Rev. 19:9–10).”
— David VanDrunen

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Gorgeousness of Grace

Jerry Bridges with a vitally important reminder:

My observation of Christendom is that most of us tend to base our relationship with God on our performance instead of on His grace.  If we’ve performed well—whatever ‘well’ is in our opinion—then we expect God to bless us. If we haven’t done so well, our expectations are reduced accordingly.  In this sense, we live by works, rather than by grace.  We are saved by grace, but we are living by the ‘sweat’ of our own performance.  Moreover, we are always challenging ourselves and one another to ‘try harder’.  We seem to believe success in the Christian life is basically up to us; our commitment, our discipline, and our zeal, with some help from God along the way. The realization that my daily relationship with God is based on the infinite merit of Christ instead of on my own performance is very freeing and joyous experience.  But it is not meant to be a one-time experience; the truth needs to be reaffirmed daily.
Jerry Bridges

Monday, February 14, 2011

THought About His Love For Us Lately?

Yeah, it's Valentine's Day...but this is more important:

“There is no other solution to the marvelous mysteries of His Incarnation and Sacrificial Death but this: Christ has loved us.
There is not a circumstance of our Lord’s history which is not another form or manifestation of love.
His incarnation is love stooping.
His sympathy is love weeping.
His compassion is love supporting.
His grace is love acting.
His teaching is the voice of love.
His silence is the repose of love.
His patience is the restraint of love.
His obedience is the labor of love.
His suffering is the travail of love.
His cross is the altar of love.
His death is the burnt offering of love.
His resurrection is the triumph of love.
His ascension into heaven is the enthronement of love.
His sitting down at the right hand of God is the intercession of love.
Such is the deep, the vast, the boundless ocean of Christ’s love!”
—Octavius Winslow

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Friday, February 11, 2011

Still More From Jamaica...and a bonus of Josiah

Tournament went well; one more night in Jamaica; a bit of tourism tomorrow (Saturday) then pack, board, and fly home leaving Jamaica around 4pm...
                                                                 The Championship Team!

                                                              Jane and a new friend

                                            After a hard day's work...get wet time!

                   Meanwhile, back in Missouri, Josiah Hager coaches the Tiger home school hoopsters!

Few More Shots From Jamaica

Thursday was a partial-rest-and-recreation day, today, Friday, is the "Jamaican National Tournament," the local director is ill so Rick Cleaver and the crew have asked for prayer cover to make this thing work. Here's a few Thursday shots:

Way Too Convicting

I really, really, really like , SCOTTY SMITH but sometimes his stuff is just a whipping that I really need. I dare you to read this...and then pray it...without thinking of others to whom it may apply...and just read it/pray it for yourself:

     And the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?” And he said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, “‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.” Mark 7:5-8
      Dear Jesus, we tremble at the thought of you speaking these words to us. What could be more sobering and tragic than to hear you say, “You talk about me a whole lot, using plenty of spiritual language and Bible quotes. You’re very quick to recognize and correct false teaching. You’re even quite zealous to apply what you know to others. But your heart is very far from me.”

     It would be one thing if such a rebuke came to us because we were acting like Mosaic Pharisees and scribes—distorting and misapplying Old Testament law; putting people under the yoke of performance-based spirituality; replacing your commandments with our traditions. But it’s an altogether different thing to be a Gospel Pharisee and scribe.

     Forgive us Jesus, when we love exposing and damning legalistic, pragmatic and moralistic teaching, more than we love spending time with you in prayer and fellowship.

     Forgive us for loving the theology of the gospel and the doctrines of grace, more than we actually know and adore you.
     Forgive us when we invest great energy in defending the imputation of your righteousness but have very little concern for the impartation of your transforming grace in our lives.

     Forgive us when we are quick to tell people what obedience is not, but fail to demonstrate what the obedience of faith and love actually is.

     Forgive us when we call ourselves “recovering Pharisees” or “recovering legalists,” but in actuality, we’re not really recovering from anything.
     Forgive us when talk more about “getting the gospel” than we’re actually “gotten” by the gospel.

     Forgive us for being just as arrogant about grace theology as we were obnoxious about legalistic theology.

     Forgive us when we don’t use our freedom to serve one another in love, but rather use it to put our consciences to sleep.

     Forgive us when our love for the gospel does not translate into a love for holiness, world evangelism and caring for widows and orphans.

     Forgive us for having a PhD in the indicatives of the gospel yet fail so miserably when it comes to the imperatives of the gospel.

     Forgive us when we love “the gospel” more than we actually love you, Jesus, as impossible as that may seen.

     So very Amen, we pray, Jesus, with convicted and humbled hearts. Change us by your grace and for your glory.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

"Forms of Religion" Can't Deal With Forgiveness

Was reminded of this older clip from ER. God's forgiveness in Christ is absolute...but if you don't hold to substitutionary atonement there is no gospel, and thus no forgivenss, and thus hopelessness, guilt, and condemnation.

This brief video is the "testimony" of people all around us...the gospel, repentance from sin and faith toward God, is our only hope:

More Jamaican Pics

Middle of the week already, hundreds of kids ministered to, here's some shots:

                                                             Janelle quizmastering:

                                    As in quizzing everywhere, it is all about the quizzers!
                                                              Janelle and friends...
                                                               Jane sharing in a public school...

                                                  At day's end...a well deserved break

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Pics From Jamaica

Jane and Janelle having a wondrous time serving in Jamaica; bragging on Jesus, helping with Bible quizzing in the schools...and much more: The leader (Rick Cleaver) is blogging and you can follow that HERE

Agree on What We Disagree On

Very good, and very important (though it will offend some who bow at the altar of "tolerance," nonjudgmentalism, and big-tent-we're-all-God's-children stuff) from KEVIN DE YOUNG

Why can’t all the professing Christians in the world look past their differences and just get along?
Because some of those differences are irreconcilable. Most significantly and most foundationally, the three main branches of Christianity in this country–Roman Catholic, Liberal Protestant, and Evangelical Protestant–do not agree on the locus of authority. We don’t answer the question, “What is our final authority?” in the same way.
Every Christian acknowledges that in some sense our theology and ethics must “accord with Scripture.” But whether that means “Scripture along with Church Tradition” or “Scripture as redefined through personal experience” or “Scripture alone” is what separates us. And as long as we disagree on this matter of authority, we should not expect genuine spiritual unity among the three groups. There can be no unity where there is no agreed upon authority.
Let me show you what I mean.
Peter Kreeft (Roman Catholic):
Most Protestants reject all Catholic doctrines they cannot find explicitly in Scripture–for example, Mary’s Assumption into heaven–because they believe sola scriptura: that Scripture alone is the infallible authority. This is the fundamental reason behind all the differences between Protestant and Catholic theology. (Catholic Christianity, 20).
Gary Dorrien (Liberal Protestant):
The essential idea of liberal theology is that all claims to truth, in theology as in other disciplines, must be made on the basis of reason and experience, not by appeal to external authority. Christian scripture may be recognized as spiritually authoritative within Christian experience, but its word does not settle or establish truth claims about matters of fact. (The Making of American Liberal Theology: Idealism, Realism, and Modernity, 1900-1950, 1)
Michael Horton (Evangelical Protestant):
Ultimate authority always resides outside the self and even outside the church, as both are always hearers of the Word and receivers of its judgment and justification. The church is commissioned to deliver this Word (a ministerial office), not to possess or rule it (a magisterial office). Thus, the authority is always transcendent. Even when it comes near us, it is never our own word that we hear (Ro. 10:6-13, 17). (The Christian Faith, 194)
So it seems that whatever else we may disagree on as Catholics, Liberals, and Evangelicals, we should at least agree that it is our view of Scripture and authority that divides us.

Monday, February 7, 2011

I Don't Wanna be a Crusty Christian!, great stuff from Kevin DeYoung:

What makes a Christian crusty? A number of things. For starters, it’s an attitude. It’s a demeanor where being Calvinist or paedobaptist or inerrantist (three things I am gladly) are put on like armor or wielded like weapons, when they are meant to be the warm glow of a Christian whose core radiates with love for Christ and the gospel. I believe in theological distinctives—I believe in them and I believe it is good to have them—but if the distinctives are not manifestly the flower of gospel root, the buds aren’t worth the blooming.

A second mark of crusty Christians is approachability, as in, not having any. There is a sizing up-ness that makes some theological types unnecessarily prickly. They are bright and opinionated and quickly analytical. They can also be incessantly critical. Crusty Christians are hard to be around. They are intimidating instead of engaging and growling instead of gracious. They are too willing to share their opinions on everything and unable to put any doctrine in any category not marked “absolutely essential.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Excuses are Like Elbows...

Excuses are like elbows; everybody's got a couple (a loose paraphrase of an old military saying...)

And man is without excuse (Romans 1.20), but Linus has a reason, not an excuse:


Saturday, February 5, 2011

The Whole "God-Shaped Hole" quote

Too often, when quoted, only part of this quote is cited...when, in fact, it means nothing unless the "god" is defined: 

“There is a God shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator, made known through Jesus”.  - Blaise Pascal

Friday, February 4, 2011

Is Your Gospel Too Small?

"A gospel which is only about the moment of conversion but does not extend to every moment of life in Christ is too small. A gospel that gets your sins forgiven but offers no power for transformation is too small. A gospel that isolates one of the benefits of union with Christ and ignores all the others is too small. A gospel that must be measured by your own moral conduct, social conscience, or religious experience is too small. A gospel that rearranges the components of your life but does not put you personally in the presence of God is too small."

-- Fred Sanders, The Deep Things of God

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Brief and Brilliant

I sometimes think that the very essence of the whole Christian position and the secret of a successful spiritual life is just to realize two things … I must have complete, absolute confidence in God and no confidence in myself. —D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones