It is one thing to affirm the gospel; It is something altogether different to experience it’s power where the rubber meets the road.

~Tullian Tchividjian, from Jesus + Nothing = Everything

Our Great Shepherd

March 28, 2012

“The Lord’s my shepherd – I shall not be in want.”

(Psalm 23.1)

I am completely satisfied with his management of my life.  Why? Because He is the sheepman to whom no trouble is too great as He cares for His flock.  He is the rancher who is outstanding because of His fondness for sheep – Who loves them for their own sake as well as his personal pleasure in them.  He will, if necessary, be on the job twenty-four hours a day to see that they are properly provided for in every detail.  Above all, He is very jealous of His name and high reputation as ‘The Good Shepherd’.

~ Phillip Keller, from A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23

The Chief End of Man & God

January 27, 2012

I am inclining my ear listening for the collective “OUCH”!   But sometimes the truth hurts. Such is the case with this observation and assertion by Paul Copan, from his book, Is God a Moral Monster?, when applied to the typical American Evangelical:

The Westminster Shorter Catechism (1647) begins with this question: ‘What is the chief end of man?’ The famous response is: to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.’

For many in the West (including professing Christians), the chief goal of many individuals is to ‘further my interests and to enjoy myself forever.’  Or if God exists, then the Catechism’s answer is subconsciously revised to this: ‘The chief end of God is to make me as comfortable and pain-free as possible’…

God’s ultimate role isn’t to advance my own interests and freedom… Rather, God seeks the interpersonal intimacy with us in the context of covenant making. .. God is the all-good Creator and Life-giver. He desires that his creatures live life as it should be.

My thanks to Tom Wood and the folks at gracedagain.com for this quote.

A Key to Vibrant Prayer

January 6, 2012

We are not desperate to pray because we are self-deceived. We are blind to our depravity. We don’t see ourselves as we really are. Do you want to learn to pray more? Learn of your sin. Ask God to show it to you, to give you a glimpse of your need. Ask him to show you what your sin cost him. Look at the cross again and again until you can say, “Lord, I’m so sinful, so weak, so deceived. Please, God, don’t let a day go by without reminding me of this. Make me dependent.”

Then, in faith, draw near knowing that you have needed cleansing but have been cleansed. Know that you have deserved wrath but have been fully loved. Sit down with your Beloved and hear him speak to you. Unburden your heart before him. Have fellowship with your heavenly husband. Be fully assured; he loves you when you pray, and he loves you when you don’t. You’re his bride when you hide from him, when you ignore him, when you think he doesn’t really care. Run, now, to the lover of your soul.

~ Elyse Fitzpatrick, Comforts from the Cross

Living By Grace

January 5, 2012

What an awesome insight from Brennan Manning:

“To live by grace means to acknowledge my whole life story, the light side and the dark. In admitting my shadow side I learn who I am and what God’s grace means.”

A New Year’s Prayer

December 31, 2011

Here is a New Year’s prayer from Jim Eliot I don’t think I could ever express any better:

I pray that the Lord might crown this year with His goodness and in the coming one give you a hallowed dare-devil spirit in lifting the biting sword of Truth, consuming you with a passion that is called by the cultured citizen of Christendom ‘fanaticism’, but known to God as that saintly madness that led His Son through bloody sweat and hot tears to agony on a rude Cross – and Glory!

Only a fraction of the present body of professing Christians are solidly appropriating the justifying work of Christ in their lives.

Many have so light an apprehension of God’s holiness and of the extent and guilt of their sin, that consciously they see little need for justification. Below the surface, however, they are deeply guilt-ridden and insecure. Many others have a theoretical commitment to this doctrine, but in their day-to-day existence they rely on their sanctification for justification….drawing their assurance of acceptance with God from their sincerity…their recent religious performance or the relative infrequency of their conscious, willful disobedience.

Few start each day with a thoroughgoing stand upon Luther’s platform: you are accepted, looking outward in faith and claiming the wholly alien righteousness of Christ as the only ground for acceptance, relaxing in that quality of trust which will produce increasing sanctification as faith is active in love and gratitude.

~ Richard Lovelace, Dynamics of Spiritual Life

Effect of Coming Empty Handed

September 16, 2011

“As we come to Christ…empty-handed, claiming no merit of our own, but clinging by faith to His blood and righteousness, we are justified. We pass immediately from a state of condemnation and spiritual death to a state of pardon, acceptance, and the sure hope of eternal life. Our sins are blotted out, and we are “clothed” with the righteousness of Jesus Christ.

In our standing before God, we will never be more righteous, even in heaven, than we were the day we trusted Christ, or we are now.

Obviously in our daily experience we fall far short of the perfect righteousness God requires. But because He has imputed to us the perfect righteousness of His Son, He now sees us as being just as righteous as Christ Himself,”

 ~ Jerry Bridges, The Gospel for Real Life

Remaining Witnesses

September 13, 2011

The biblical emphasis is upon sowing, not harvesting. It is upon testifying, not sentencing. Witnesses remain witnesses, and they do not move over to the judge’s seat.

~ Darrell Guder

Colin Marshall & Tony Payne give us a good concise definition of what it means to be a follower of Jesus:

The call to discipleship is thus a call to confess our allegiance to Jesus in the face of a hostel world; to serve him and his mission, whatever the cost.

~  from The Trellis and the Vine

A paradox of the Christian faith worth pondering, from John Flavel:

When God intends to fill a soul, he first makes it empty. When God intends to  enrich a soul, he first makes it poor. When he intends to exalt a soul, he first makes it sensible to it’s own miseries, wants, and nothingness.

This Present Communion

May 13, 2011

“We are justified if we have accepted Christ as Savior.  But present communion with God requires continual bowing in both the intellect and the will.  Without bowing in the intellect, in thinking after God; without acting upon the finished work of Christ in my present life; and without bowing in the will in practice, as the waves of the present life break over me, there is no sufficient communion with God.  Without these things I am not in my place as the creature in a fallen and abnormal world.  These three things are absolutely necessary if there is to be real and sufficient communion with God in the present life.”

~Francis Schaeffer

The Glory of the Gospel

February 7, 2011

The Gospel would not be good news if it did not reveal the glory of Christ for us to see and savor. It is the glory of Christ that finally satisfies our soul. We are made for Christ, and Christ died so that every obstacle would be removed that keeps us from seeing and savoring the most satisfying treasure in the universe—namely, Christ, who is the image of God.

~ John Piper, God is the Gospel, p. 62.

A Right Definition of Faith

December 28, 2010

How shall we distinguish a healthy faith from one that is built on more shaky ground?  Consider this insight from John Calvin:

“Now we shall possess a right definition of faith if we call it a firm and certain knowledge of God’s benevolence toward us, founded upon the truth of the freely given promise in Christ, both revealed to our minds and sealed upon our hearts through the Holy Spirit…..

If then, we would be assured that God is pleased with and [is] kindly disposed toward us, we must fix our eyes …on Christ…  We see that our whole salvation, and all its parts, are comprehended in Christ.   We should, therefore, take care not to derive the least portion of it from anywhere else.”

Worship is the proper response of all moral, sentient beings to God, ascribing all honor and worth to their Creator-God precisely because he is worthy, delightfully so. This side of the Fall, human worship of God properly responds to the redemptive provisions that God has graciously made. While all true worship is God-centered, Christian worship is no less Christ-centered. Empowered by the Spirit and in line with the stipulations of the new covenant, it manifests itself in all our living, finding its impulse in the gospel, which restores our relationship with our Redeemer-God and therefore also with our fellow image-bearers, our co-worshippers. Such worship therefore manifests itself both in adoration and action, both in the individual believer and in corporate worship, which is worship offered up in the context of the body of believers, who strive to align all the forms of the devout ascription of all worth to God with the panoply of new covenant mandates and examples that bring to fulfillment the glories of antecedent revelation and anticipate the consummation.

~ D.A. Carson, in Worship By the Book

Every Church Missional

November 2, 2010

Every church is called to be a “missional church”. The fact that we have turned the word mission into an adjective testifies to the American church’s frayed ecclesiology. A non-missional church is not a church in the first place, but in a culture largely devoid of theological vocabulary, this language has become necessary to remind us that the church exists not for ourselves, but for the world.

- Kenda Creasy Dean, in Almost Christian

Currents of Repentance

October 27, 2010

 

 “If all we do in our meditations is to repent of a few petty acts called sins that have accumulated over the last day (and this is not to belittle the importance of doing that), we have not known the deep power of purifying grace that repentance is supposed to offer.  Israel and its stories help me to understand the deep underlying currents of evil response and intent, the tragic aquifers far beneath my conscious life that will continually feed my daily life with impurity unless they are identified and replaced with alternatives of the kind of character God built into Abraham.”    

- Gordon MacDonald

Ancient Prayer

October 19, 2010

Here is a beautiful description of prayer from my friend John Smed:

“In believing prayer, we learn to connect our present troubles to the good and perfect will of God.  We refuse to believe that chance rules our lives.  We withstand the temptation to imagine that God is capricious or malicious.  We know he has a higher purpose and that he is not dealing with us as our sins deserve. As we bring our troubles to Jesus in prayer—asking his will to be done—we approve the will of our Father in heaven. We see our sufferings in the greater reality of his good, acceptable, and perfect will.  In prayer we “turn crisis to Christ.”  Our heart becomes tuned to his heart and we sing the song of grace.”

- John Smed is Senior Pastor of Grace – Vancouver. He is also a Consultant/Trainer with Global Church Advancement (GCA). 

“The Gospel is God’s explosive power that changes everything.

The gospel makes us Christians….  God forgives your sin, declares you righteous in Christ, gives you eternal life, adopts you as His child, and ushers you into an intimate relationship with Himself, through the Holy Spirit.

Secondly, the gospel grows us.  The gospel is not merely the way we enter, it is the way we make all progress…it is the ‘way of righteousness from first to last.’…  Since the gospel not only makes us Christians, but also grows us as Christians, the most desperate need of both unbelievers and believers… is to hear and appropriate the Gospel to their lives.

Thirdly, the gospel empowers us to serve…with a whole new motivational structure…setting us free to love and serve unconditionally in response to God’s grace in Christ”.

-Dick Kaufmann

Benefitting in the Benefactor

September 23, 2010

Sinclair Ferguson offers this wise insight about the gospel-centered life:

“…we must never separate the benefits (regeneration, justification, sanctification) from the Benefactor (Jesus Christ). The Christians who are most focused on their own spirituality may give the impression of being the most spiritual … but from the New Testament’s point of view, those who have almost forgotten about their own spirtuality because their focus is so exclusively on their union with Jesus Christ and what He has accomplished are those who are growing and exhibiting fruitfulness. Historically speaking, whenever the piety of a particular group is focused on OUR spirituality that piety will eventually exhaust itself on its own resources. Only where our piety forgets about ourself and focuses on Jesus Christ will our piety nourished by the ongoing resources the Spirit brings to us from the source of all true piety, our Lord Jesus Christ.”

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