- Gary Thomas
Tomorrow, November 1, is Jared's birthday. I've known him since he was a junior in high school - although I'm not sure if he knew me then. I was just a student-ministry worker observing this charismatic, intelligent leader who stood out from the crowd.
I think tomorrow rings in birthday #thirty-five. Still bright-eyed and bushy-tailed enough to have that young, restless and reformed, pastor-author street-cred. :-)
You've come a long way, brother. Happy birthday!
There's a story about a young lady once said to John Wesley, “I think I know what my talent is.” Wesley said, “Tell me.” She replied, “I think it is to speak my mind. Wesley said, “I do not think God would mind if you bury that talent.”
What some explain away as being forthright or honest are actually just harmful words. Have you ever confronted a person who used words to condemn others only to hear, “Well, I was just speaking my mind”? If that’s true, then someone needs a new mind! People excuse their own "bluntness" with a shrug and a comment like, "That's just the way I am." I would suggest that if that's the way you are, then you need to change.
There’s not enough space here to list all of the Bible verses that warn us against or even outright forbid us to condemn others with our words. The real truth is that words are a powerful tool. Like so many other powerful tools we have, they can be used for great good or great evil. Think about the computer, the gun, the automobile and drugs. The more powerful something is the greater good or evil it can be, depending on how it is used.
If you can communicate with words then God has given you a great tool. It can either be a blessing or a curse.
“With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God's likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water. But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. (James 3:9-12, 17).
So how do we know what we should say or not?
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (Ephesians 4:29).
Normally, we think of “unwholesome talk” as foul language or dirty jokes. While I would agree those things are unwholesome, this verse is talking about much more than that. According to this verse, words that are unwholesome are words that do not build up and benefit others. Unwholesome talk is words that tear down or harm those who listen.
Before you speak (or write) next time, ask yourself this question: “Are my words helpful and encouraging?” and if they are not, don’t say them. I know what you’re thinking. “If those are the only kinds of words that people speak, won’t it get awfully quiet around here?” Probably. But would that be such a bad thing?
The following comment was left on Jared's facebook (it was in reference to a convicting John Piper quote Jared posted, from this Piper sermon)
The comment is bothering me, and I'm not sure why. So I thought I'd just leave it here and let you have at it (or have at me) in the comments thread if you're so inclined
Here's the comment: "If the prolife movement were consistent, the orphanages would be empty."
Today is Thinkling Phil's birthday. I think he's 19 today. ;-)
Happy birthday, Shrode! Love ya, buddy.
Tired of moronic statements like "these are the most difficult times our country has ever faced"? Stupefied by overused and hackneyed analogies of slurpees and economic cars in ditches? Weary of attack ad warfare? Slack-jawed by ginned up class warfare? Baffled by statistics and the lying liars who wield them? Tired of being patronized, condescended, and fed a steady diet of baloney-sausage that would make a carnival barker blush? Disgusted by the slash-and-burn enmity between the "sides"?
I have a quick antidote for you: read a portion of the second inaugural address of a President who led our country through, believe me, the hardest times it has ever faced. Read the words of a President who wrote his own speeches and believed what he said.
You'll feel better.
Neither party expected for the war the magnitude or the duration which it has already attained. Neither anticipated that the cause of the conflict might cease with or even before the conflict itself should cease. Each looked for an easier triumph, and a result less fundamental and astounding. Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God's assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men's faces, but let us judge not, that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes. "Woe unto the world because of offenses; for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh." If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said "the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether."
With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.
- From Abraham Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address, March 4, 1865
This little boy's name is Aidan. He was born with a congenital heart defect last week and he's having open heart surgery today in Fort Worth. Please pray for him.
Do you ever wonder which (if any) of the contemporary songs we sing today in church may end up being the "hymns" of later generations? Some will have to, I believe; every song we place in the category of hymn today was at one time a contemporary worship song.
I can think of three modern worship songs that I believe will be included in the church's hymnody in fifty years:
Revelation Song by Jennie Lee Riddle - straight from Scripture, this song has a lot of the characteristics of a hymn, including a very simple structure (four chords, repeated over and over). This is a powerful song. Below is Kari Jobe's arrangement of it:
How Deep The Father's Love For Us by Stuart Townend - A hymn of praise to God for His great love, beautifully set to music, drenched in scripture. The use of a 5/4 time signature adds, in my opinion, to this song's sense of timelessness.
In Christ Alone by Stuart Townend and Keith Getty - Christ-centered, as all good hymns should be. I love this song.
Which songs of our time do you think we'll still be singing in church in fifty years? Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments.
Judges 19:22-30 is one of the most horrific texts in all the biblical text. Plugging it into Google reveals it is used by many haters of the faith as examples of the Bible's awfulness and unreliability. And the passage does reveal something awful.
If you're not familiar with it, take a minute to read it.
What do we do with something like this?
The first thing we need to say is that the Bible contains many passages that are descriptive, and this does not make them prescriptive. Contrary to what many of the online opponents of biblical authority would have us think, there is no approval from God for the man of Gibeah's heinous bargain or the subsequent rape, murder, and mutilation of the concubine. The Levite gives up his own virgin daughter and his concubine as some sort of trade of self-protection. And that the concubine's dismembered body is grotesquely sent around Israel is reacted to the way it ought to be: notice the people's reaction is shock. "Such a thing has never happened or been seen from the day that the people of Israel came up out of the land of Egypt until this day," they say.
A lady in my church asked me how an unsaved person might read this passage in the Bible; they might think the Bible is somehow condoning this act. But we'd have to show them otherwise. It is in fact a consequence of everyone doing what was right in their own eyes (17:6, 21:25), a consequence of having no king over Israel (19:1). Judges 19:22-30 shows the Bible is honest and realistic about the depravity of man when left to his own devices. In that sense, it is not putting a gloss on what men are capable of which we can clearly see on the evening news. And while we should be disgusted by the imagery, we should also commend the Bible's brutal honesty.
But there is a gospel spring beneath this text too. When there was no king in Israel, a man betrays his women. A woman is unprotected and given over to the enemy to have his way with her, and then she is made an example of in a murderous way to the twelve tribes. But when Jesus is King over Israel, he protects his bride; he won't give her over to the enemy to have his way with her. And Jesus leaves the house himself and offers his own body, going in his bride's stead to be torn apart for the twelve tribes of Israel. Instead of giving us up in some evil bargain, he gives himself up. And his battered body is the sign to his people that he won't sell them out.
I don't think there's a better storytelling comedian than Bill Cosby. Here he is at the height of his genius, talking about trying to sit in on the drums at a jazz club occupied by his heroes.
I also love the picture of him trying his hardest and failing, and the expert sliding in to his place to "rescue him." Very gospel-y.
(HT: Zach Nielsen)
Islam and people’s feelings about Islam are in the news a lot lately. Therefore, I decided to share some things that you don’t normally hear in typical media reports so that your opinions will be better informed. If you are not a Muslim, you may not know what they are taught about non-believers. To the best of my knowledge the following info is 100% accurate and comes from Muslim sources.
First, Islam teaches that every baby is born a Muslim. If they grow up to be something else, they believe it is because their parents or culture steered them away from the true faith. Therefore, if someone becomes a Muslim, they say, “I reverted to Islam.” In other words, they believe that by becoming Muslim, they have gone back to what they were when they were born.
The Koran says,
“[Prophet], when your Lord brought forth the offspring from the loins of the Children of Adam and made them bear witness about themselves, He said, ‘Am I not your Lord’ and they replied, ‘Yes, we bear witness that You are.’ So you cannot say on the Day of Resurrection: ‘We were not aware of this’” (Surah 7:172).
They believe that every human soul ever created was created at the same time that Allah created Adam, and that they acknowledged Allah as the one true God at that time. Muslims believe that God’s first address to all humans is preserved in your unconscious mind and that it will be awakened if you read the Koran.
Second, Muslims consider anyone who associates anything or anyone with “God”, guilty of “shirk.” “Shirk” is the sin of “joining any partners with Allah” or ascribing divine attributes to anything or anyone else. Idolatry and polytheism are considered “shirk.” Believing that Jesus is the Son of God is considered shirk. In fact, Muslims believe that the Christian view of the Triune God is polytheism, and therefore shirk.
The Koran says,
“O you People of the Book! (Christians and Jews) Believe in what We have (now) revealed, confirming what was (already) with you before we…curse them…Allah forgives not that partners should be set up with Him…; to set up partners with Allah is to devise a sin most heinous indeed” (Surah 4:47-48).
I share this with you not to encourage animosity towards Muslims but so that you won't believe it the next time someone tells you that Christians and Muslims worship the same God. There are profound differences between the two. It is true that we both believe that the God who created the world and spoke to Abraham is the God we worship, but we can’t both be right.
Christians believe that God is and has always been triune. Jesus said, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). Christians worship Jesus as part of the Godhead. Muslims do not. When I am worshiping Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit, Muslims would agree, I am not worshiping Allah. The Christian description of God is far different than the Muslim description. We do not all worship the same God.
Some of you bumpkins out there might be familiar with Mother Earth News and Grit magazine. Shortly after Brandi and I became hillbillies (in May of '09), we had our rural neighbors driving up to our little farm in their golf carts giving us handfuls of old homesteading magazines including Mother and Grit. We were hooked from the get go!
Now I've been honored to be accepted as a regular blogger for Community Chickens, an online magazine from the publishers of the aforementioned publications. The blog is called Community Cluckers. Feel free to check out my first contribution, For Love Of Poultry.
. . . says Katherine Lopez, thankful, as we all are, for the rescue of the 33 Chilean miners, to the One who was with them the whole time.
Brian Regan is simply the best comedian out there today. Clean, insightful, and funny as hades.
(I am also pretty sure he's a NASA Apollo missions geek like me. Excellent)
For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. - 2 Corinthians 4:6And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. - Genesis 1:3.
We often (or at least I do this) will talk about conversion as a set of steps that we take toward God over a period of time. While I believe that to be true, the picture I have of the natural human condition is of being in the forest in the middle of a dark, moonless night. Have you ever been there? You haven't known the "pitch" in pitch black until you have. Without a light source of some kind, you aren't going to "discover" or "take steps toward" anything except rocks to trip over and cliffs to fall screaming from.
The light has to shine first. Without getting into soteriological debates here, I think Paul's own conversion is not an extreme case. While perhaps the volume on his was turned to eleven, what happened to Paul on that Damascus road is, I posit, what happens to every believer. Light has to shine into darkness before anything else happens. That light will not shine by us rubbing mental sticks and philosophical rocks together. Making light shine in darkness is what our God does. Only He can do that.
I wonder if Paul wasn't thinking, when he wrote the passage above, about that terrifying, holy moment when he was knocked out of darkness, made temporarily blind but suddenly able to see more than he had ever seen before, face to glorious Face with the Savior he had been persecuting and who he now would willingly serve and for whom he now would willingly suffer.
In Paul's life, God made light to shine into deep darkness.
In the final analysis of each of our lives, either the light is on or it's off. I hope that the light is shining on you and in you today.
Isn't that the question that haunts so many believers the world over?
And by this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. Whoever says "I know Him" but does not keep His commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps His word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in Him: whoever says he abides in Him ought to walk in the same way in which He walked. -- 1 John 1:3-6 (ESV)
Not that leading an ethical life makes one justified, but a justified sinner will necessarily begin to lead a more ethical life as he begins to "deny ungodliness and worldly lust."
This revelation has serious implications for American soteriology (the doctrine of salvation). I say "American soteriology" because I'm an American, and it's the only Babylon I know firsthand. But to speak even more specifically, the implications are particularly damning for, broadly speaking, American Protestants (for American Catholics, the soteriological danger comes in believing that one can be justified by faith and works -- it's a whole other mindset that leads to a different set of problems).
Bobby Protestant might say, "I have believed. I am saved." And then after comforting himself with that thought, Bobby fires up his laptop to view some more sexually explicit material; he's completely disconnected from the idea that sin is death, and that freedom in Christ means freedom from sin. He has no desire to pluck his eyes out. Listen to John Piper:
So I have learned again and again from firsthand experience that there are many professing Christians who have a view of salvation that disconnects it from real life, and that nullifies the warnings of the Bible and puts the sinning person who claims to be a Christian beyond the reach of biblical threats. And this doctrine is comforting thousands on the way to hell.
Jesus said, if you don't fight lust, you won't go to heaven.
The stakes are much higher than whether the world is blown up by a thousand bombs. If you don't fight lust, you won't go to heaven.
"If you don't fight lust, you won't go to heaven." Wow! Those words came out of the mouth of someone who believes in Perseverance of the Saints. He almost sounds like a UPC preacher exhorting holiness or hell, but the distinction is that he's not saying you can lose your salvation, he's saying that if you don't fight sin with bloody intensity, then you never had salvation to begin with.
The good news in all of this is we don't have to do anything apart from God's grace, and indeed we can't do anything apart from His grace. For, as Titus 2:11 & 12 says, "The grace of God which brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age," and as Philippians 2:13 says, "It is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure."
Follow Him. Treasure Him. Then die, go to heaven and be with Him -- forever.
The Funniest Thing You Will See All Day. Possibly The Funniest Thing You Will See All Year.
Masterful. The dudes who came up with that deserve all the money they are making off of Toyota. It's Genius. I will be singing that song forevah!
And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake. - 2 Corinthians 4:3-5I've had internal debates over the years as to the propriety of marketing the gospel (which is, I think, the well-intentioned purpose behind most church marketing). I don't have a firm sense on this yet, other than that we should avoid anything that even sniffs of bait and switch in our church advertising. For various reasons, this is difficult. To illustrate, compare the Biblical calls to "taste and see that the Lord is good", and "come to Me all you who labor and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest", to the more modern "join us on Sunday. We've got a kickin' band".
The call to taste and see anything besides Jesus often amounts to a veil on the gospel. Of course, just because something is a veil doesn't make it untrue: "we've got a kickin' band", "it's a great place to make friends", "we'll help you raise your kids", "we'll help you heal your marriage" - these can all be, and often are, true statements. But look at this statement by Paul: "What we proclaim is not ourselves".
The great danger of proclaiming ourselves is that we place ourselves in the forefront, veiling the gospel and adding a double-whammy to the veils already thrown in front of it by the god of this age who is hard at work blinding the minds of unbelievers. He doesn't deserve our help and, for goodness sake, we shouldn't be so willing to offer it.
Everything that's not Jesus, from the excellence of our music program to the zing in our atrium Starbucks, amounts to a proclamation of us. We can (unwittingly) become the veil that is placed over the gospel.
I do it too.
May Paul's formula for servant-proclamation and gospel-unveiling become embedded in my daily words and actions.
For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake.
Fred Phelps is not, by almost any standard definition, a pastor.
He’s a disbarred lawyer who attended a couple of Bible colleges from which he did not graduate, went on to law school, ended up in that field and then disbarred, for cause, then realized that in Kansas it wasn’t that hard to get congregational status for an operation with a building and some family members on Sunday mornings. His financial program is routed through Westboro Baptist, which is not affiliated with any religious body, Baptist or otherwise. Likewise, Fred has no standing, ordination, or recognition from anyone as a minister, other than from the couple dozen, almost all direct relations, who worship with him when he’s in town on Sundays.
None of this, by the way, does Fred deny. He plagued our town for a couple days years back, which led me to dig around online and end up in a “conversation” with the nasty old man. He’s asocial and somewhat manic, but I’m not qualified to diagnose — but I’d say he’s not crazy. Just mean, and enjoys it. You don’t have to carry clinical credentials to see that, like obscenity, for what it is.
I am happy right now because I found out today that my third book will be my first to keep the original title I gave it. (Long-time readers may remember that Your Jesus is Too Safe was originally titled The Unvarnished Jesus and that Abide was titled God vs. Suburbia.
Publishers tend to know better than authors about what titles catch the eyes of bookstore browsers, though, or what appeals more to target audiences, so they tend to like to change them during the editing/publishing process. But Crossway's editorial team informed my agent today that "Gospel Wakefulness" sums up my book's contents strongly, and they believe it is 'catchy' enough. In just-as-cool news, it is scheduled for release on Reformation Day (Oct. 31) next year.
You can read an excerpt from my ms. after the jump...
Read the rest of this entry . . .