Here are two videos to move your heart toward gratitude–one for farmers and one for the Creator God who is the Farmer of Our Souls
Praise God for Jesus–“That’s My King” by Dr. S.M. Lockridge
Praise God for Farmers: “God Made the Farmer” by Paul Harvey
“One of the difficulties about satire, and I’ll say this about myself in particular, is that it is so difficult to use without sounding arrogant. James Denny said ‘It is very hard to show that Christ is magnificent and that I am clever at the same time.’ That has been a very powerful word for me over the years.” John Piper, “Should Christians Use Satire?”
Ten years ago, I read a piercing reflection entitled “The Scourge of Cleverness,” in which David Gundersen puts “cleverness” in the cross-hairs:
“One of the greatest maladies of the blogworld is the disease of clever-seeking. I’ve seen it in myself and I’ve seen it in others, but it’s unhealthy no matter where it’s found. What I’m talking about is the insatiable drive to say something witty and clever, something that catches people’s attention whether it’s balanced and helpful or one-sided and harmful, something that pricks people’s minds whether the syringe is full of medicine or poison. There’s a lot of substance-less rhetoric out there, and those who produce such rhetoric seem to have the bottomless gift of making clever posts seem insightful and true even though they are often neither. Or maybe they’re both, and the post (or comment) is still suffocated by its own wit.
It’s just hard to resist the urge to be clever.
…In the past I’ve sometimes realized that I’m writing paragraphs that are more flowery than they are true, sentences that are more clever than they are humble, and words that resonate with the flesh but erode true godly affections. I’m not going to stop trying to encourage whoever comes here to read. I know that my life is a vapor and that Christ is all, so I want to do the best I can to spur my brothers and sisters on to love and good deeds. For me, one of the things this means is writing, and writing for a verdict. But I always want the aim and the effect of my words (whether spoken or written) to be encouragement and exhortation instead of a worthless reputation for being clever.”
Here are two blogs I’ve read this week and posts that are worth your time:
Tribute to Tim Keller: This was a fantastic tribute to Tim Keller written by one of his proteges. It’ll deepen your respect for Keller, and provide several insights into spiritual leadership.
Tattoos and the Paradox of Preaching: What are the parallels between tattoos and preaching? Read this fascinating reflection to find out!
James K.A. Smith, “You Are What You Love” (Seminar at 2016 NEXUS Conference, Christian Union)
I found this to be a thought-provoking seminar on the topic of discipleship and the spiritual transformation that comes as a result of loving and following Jesus.
Smith highlights the power of habit and the necessity of engaging God with our affections. Loving God with our minds is not enough–otherwise we are beings filled with intellectual knowledge who lack the depth that comes from enraptured affections. Affections compel us to apply knowledge and imitate the Object of our deepest longings. Smith’s thesis is that “Discipleship is the rehabituation of your loves,” which illustrates a biblical truth crucial to our spiritual reformation: that we become, or we reflect, what we worship (for more on this topic see G.K. Beale’s We Become What We Worship)–examples of this are seen in Psalm 115 and 2 Corinthians 3 (culminating in 3:18).
Lately, I’ve been reading John Wooden’s book, A Game Plan for Life: The Power of Mentoring, in which he highlights seven people who mentored him and rounds out the book with seven people whom he mentored.
In the sweet chapter about his wife Nellie, he records the following conversation:
“I remember one evening, when we were still a young couple, Nellie looked at me very seriously and said, ‘John, I want us to make love every single day of our marriage. And I don’t mean that sexually–it can be a look or a touch or a kind word or an action. I mean that I want us to actually create love in our home each and every day of our lives.’ That was one of the simplest and most profound ideas I had ever heard. That’s exactly what Nellie sought to do, and I found that the love she created was a blessing to our family, and to other people as well…” (John Wooden, A Game Plan for Life (New York: Bloomsbury, 2009), 99.
May our homes reflect everyday love-making!
I love David Platt’s vision for engaging our kids with the gospel message, and cultivating an environment influenced by the light of Christ.
Here’s a “catechism” for teaching your children about God and the good news of the gospel: http://www.sojournkids.com/northstar/
A.W. Pink, “Cultivate the holy habit of seeing the hand of God in everything that happens to you.”
(from A.W. Pink, The Life of Elijah (East Peoria: Versa Press, 2011), 63.
This month, Christian Audio is providing a free download of Rosaria Butterfield’s The Secret Thoughts of An Unlikely Convert, which is her memoir of encountering Christ in the midst of pursuing a distinguished career as a professor of English and Feminist studies. I enjoyed and benefited greatly from reading her testimony and some of the unrefined thoughts she experienced. The narrative is “real”, yet tactful and informative. I recommend it: The Secret Thoughts of An Unlikely Convert–Rosaria Butterfield (AUDIO)
Most of us don’t live as though we’re working for Jesus.
Sure, in the back of our minds, we know that Jesus is our ultimate Employer; but that realization doesn’t often run through our thoughts. But when it does–when we recognize that Jesus is our Master and glorifying Him is our primary motivation, our work, regardless of what we do, becomes an act of worship.
In Ephesians 6:5-7, the Apostle Paul tells us to work “with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ… Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people.”
In Colossians 3:22-24, Paul tells us to work “with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord… Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters… It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”
Let us learn to approach our work–all forms of it–as though we’re tangibly serving Jesus.
Praying with you that God will teach me, teach us, to work this way!
Grace & Peace,
 Sebastian Treaeger & Greg Gilbert, The Gospel at Work: How Working for King Jesus GIves Purpose and Meaning to Our Jobs (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2013).
Tim Challies posted this on his blog the other day, and I thought it was worth sharing:
“On my flight home yesterday I read Iain Murray’s short biography of Amy Carmichael, and he quoted one of her little sayings: “Let nothing be said about anyone unless it passes through the three sieves: Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary?” (These questions sound like they come right out of Ephesians 4:29 and a whole collection of Proverbs.)
I’d like to more consistently live by these, why don’t you consider joining me. Ready… Set… Go!
Let nothing be said about anyone unless it is:
D.A. Carson on John 1:18: “No one has ever seen God… He has made Him known”:
“This Word-made-flesh, himself God, is nevertheless differentiable from God, and as such is intimate with God; as man, as God’s incarnate Self-expression, he has made God known.… From this Greek term [Gk: exegesato, “to make known”], we derive ‘exegesis’: we might almost say that Jesus is the exegesis of God. Elsewhere in the New Testament the verb means to ‘tell a narrative’ or ‘to narrate’ (Lk. 24:35; Acts 10:8; 15:12, 14; 21:19). In that sense we might say that Jesus is the narration of God. ‘As Jesus gives life and is life, raises the dead and is the resurrection, gives bread and is bread, speaks truth and is the truth, so as he speaks the word he is the Word.'”
D.A. Carson, The Gospel According to John (PNTC) (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing, 1991), 135.
Peter Hubbard, Love Into Light: The Gospel, the Homosexual, and the Church (Ambassador Int’l, 2013). Hubbard writes from the vantage point of a pastor whose church compassionately embraces those struggling with same-sex attraction. That is not to say they approve of homosexuality. He offers clarity on the situation and fresh hope to battle-weary believers who need grace and truth. He challenges the church to be a loving community where sinners can find strength in living out the gospel together. His prayer, which shapes the entire book, is that “God’s people would be drawn out of the shadows and into the light of Jesus Christ through the love of His people… so we can fight sin and rejoice in God’s powerful grace together.”
Wesley Hill, Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality (Zondervan, 2010). Hill writes from the deep struggles of his battle with same-sex attraction and his understanding of the gospel. His book is most profitable for better understanding the heartache of those struggling with SSA. However, it’s clear that he’s still on a journey of understanding his identity in Christ, though he emphasizes his new identity at several points. He embraces the gospel and a life of celibacy, and seeks community in the church. But, he refers to himself throughout the book as a “gay Christian,” which I think is unhelpful and confusing terminology. He’s trying to avoid minimizing the struggle with homosexual feelings, but it would have been better had he referred to himself as “a Christian who struggles with same-sex attraction.” For that reason, my recommendation is qualified, but I still think the book has tremendous value for helping the church understand the deep pain and unfulfilled longings of our brothers and sisters struggling with SSA. You might be surprised where you find common ground!
Robert Gagnon, The Bible and Homosexual Practice (Abingdon, 2001). This work is beefy—but one of the most thorough, exegetical and theological treatments of the subject. Gagnon engages both sides of the issue and deals honestly—and faithfully—with the biblical text. If you’re looking for an intensely academic approach to every passage that deals with this topic, then look no further than this robust volume.
“Ten Ways to Love Your Transgendered Neighbor” by Denny Burk
“Making All Things New: Restoring Joy to the Sexually Broken” by David Powlison
“How Can the Church Help Those Battling With Same-Sex Attraction?” by Sam Allberry
“What If Your Child is Gay?” by Russell Moore
“Singleness is Not a Curse” a Podcast with Christopher Yuan
“How Can Churches Engage Believers and Unbelievers Who Experience Same-Sex Attraction?” a series of four videos that have very helpful wisdom
“Hope Positive” a ten-minute video of Christopher’s testimony
During his time at our church, Christopher Yuan mentioned two resources that he most recommended for understanding same-sex attraction and how the gospel speaks to it. I have read and summarized the major thrust of each of these books in hopes that you’ll put them on your reading list. They are worth your time and will strengthen believers in better understanding an often neglected and misunderstood arena of struggle.
Rosaria Champagne Butterfield, The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert: An English Professor’s Journey Into Christian Faith (Crown & Covenant, 2012): In her brief memoir, Rosaria recounts her unexpected and emotionally-traumatic conversion. As a tenured professor at Syracuse University, she proudly fought for women’s and LGBT rights through academic pathways. But, an unexpected letter from a gracious Presbyterian pastor (and a critical book project on the Religious Right) led to friendship and eventually, conversion. But the journey was hardly a smooth one! In this gripping testimony, Rosaria peels back the layers of her mind so that you can see the tumultuous journey of a woman caught in the struggle to understand her own heart and the transforming power of Christ. She speaks boldly of the ugliness of sin and the beauty of the gospel. But, the best take-away for me was that she painted a vivid (though, tactful and appropriate) portrayal of the thoughts and feelings of being a homosexual as Christ turned her world upside down. Her story helped me to stand in her shoes and better understand the painful, yet-life-giving journey that takes place when Christ saves His people from sexual sin.
Sam Allberry, Is God Anti—Gay? And Other Questions About Homosexuality, the Bible, and Same-Sex Attraction (The Good Book Company, 2014): In this primer, Sam analyzes what the Bible says about homosexuality, as well as sex, marriage, and singleness. He begins by sharing his own experience of coming to know Jesus, and how that knowledge intersected with a growing awareness of his own sexuality. He stays tethered to the gospel throughout the book and boldly articulates its implications for all believers, including those struggling with same-sex attraction (SSA). After presenting a biblical case for sex and marriage, he addresses the Bible and homosexuality, noting that the Bible is not fixated on homosexuality. In fact, God condemns several other sins found in Sodom just as much (if not more) than homosexuality. All sin is serious to God, including sexual sin. As sinners reject God, they find themselves craving all sorts of perversions, whether heterosexual or homosexual. While such sins are serious and evidence of God’s judgment, they are nevertheless escapable through the grace of God. Christians who are struggling with SSA can find strength in the power of Christ as they navigate those confusing waters. He offers sympathy and hope as he points his fellow strugglers toward Jesus Christ; and calls them to holiness through living in spiritual community while embracing singleness and abstinence. He also calls the church to be a place of spiritual healing and intimate community for those struggling with SSA. The book is brief and informative, yet loaded with practical, gospel truth! It’s worth your time.
A few weekends ago, our church hosted Christopher Yuan, a professor from Moody Bible Institute. Before he encountered Christ, Christopher lived for himself; his life involved dealing drugs and indulging homosexual desires. Now, as a Christ follower, Christopher is not immune to the temptations that still accompany his former desires, but he seeks to please Christ rather than himself. He is committed to a life of holiness that involves celibacy and singleness, choosing to fight against sinful desires rather than condoning or embracing them. He majors on the gospel and gives practical insight in how it equips the church to apply the gospel to all forms of sin, whether heterosexual or homosexual perversions. I highly recommend each of the following messages, but would commend the last one to you if you’re only able to listen to one!
Overview of the weekend
You can listen to the audio of their teachings by following these links:
- Session 1: Testimony & Redeeming Biblical Singleness
- This session includes a testimony of Chris’ radical conversion and insight into a life of singleness. He calls the church to be a place that values singleness and integrates singles into the life of the church family.
- Session 2: Ordinary Parents, Extraordinary Father
- This session provided perspective and counsel for parents of wayward children. The Yuans share their story and what they learned about trusting God and displaying His love through years of difficulty with their son Christopher.
- Session 3: Running the Race
- This session emphasized the perseverance we need to live the Christian life faithfully. He gives examples of how we can win the fight with indwelling sin that threatens to draw us away from Christ.
- Sunday Morning Service: A Christian Response to Homosexuality
- This session was included a powerful testimony, accompanied by how the church should respond to those dealing with homosexual thoughts, feelings, or behavior.
10min Video Testimony:
This month Christian Audio is offering a free audio download of R.C. Sproul’s Everyone’s A Theologian. His book is a basic systematic theology, which is an overview of Bible doctrine. While I haven’t read it, I highly recommend it based on other books by R.C. Sproul that I have read. Download Here!
I appreciated this fresh articulation of the doctrines of God’s sovereign grace–from start to finish.
PROOF: Finding Freedom through the Intoxicating Joy of Irresistible Grace by Daniel Montgomery & Timothy P. Jones (Zondervan, 2014).
P-Planned Grace: Before time began, God mapped out the plan of salvation from first to last. God planned to adopt particular people as his own children; Christ offered himself as a sacrifice for these people’s sins and as a substitute who satisfied God’s righteous requirements in their place (John 10:11-18; Ephesians 1:4-12).
R-Resurrecting Grace: Everyone is born spiritually dead. Left to ourselves, we will never choose God’s way. God enables people to respond freely to his grace by giving them spiritual life through the power of Christ’s resurrection (John 5:21; Ephesians 2:1-7).
O-Outrageous Grace: God chose people to be saved on the basis of his own sovereign will. He didn’t base his choice to give us grace on anything that we did or might do (John 15:16; Ephesians 2:8-9).
O-Overcoming Grace: God works in the lives of his chosen people to transform their rebellion into surrender so taht they freely repent and recognize Christ as the risen King (John 6:44, 65; Ephesians 2:4-10).
F-Forever Grace: God seals his people with his Holy Spirit so that they are preserved and persevere in faith until the final restoration of God’s kingdom on the earth (John 10:27-29; Ephesians 1:13-14; 4:30).
*Excerpted from pp. 20-21.
Gospel truth produces gospel change. At least, it should. In the following article “Justification vs. Self-Justification”, Ray Ortlund, Jr. explains how doctrine shapes church culture–“grace-justification” should produce an atmosphere of grace and acceptance.
Highlights: We are justified by faith in Christ; He receives our punishment for sin and we receive His reward for righteousness. But, “self-justification is the deepest impulse of the human heart”. We intellectually embrace justification by faith, but functionally we live by self-justification.
We desire to save ourselves… We judge others who live by different standards… We compare ourselves to others (who are worse) in order to justify our sins… We fear man–insecurity, anxiety, etc… We manipulate and condemn… all for the sake of self-promotion and self-validation.
“The doctrine of grace-justification… builds… and protects a culture of grace-justification.”
Check out Ray’s article for further elaboration: Justification versus Self-Justification
Paul and Jill Miller have written a great curriculum to help special needs adults understand the compassion of Jesus!
Compassion is at the very center of Jesus’ being—it is the main way that he relates to people. Jesus shows compassion by incarnating, by stepping into other people’s shoes. It is an entirely different way of approaching people—one that begins by looking.
In this 19-session study, students will learn:
- How Jesus sees people and shows compassion
- How our hearts can prevent us from showing compassion
- How to share Jesus’ compassion with others
Come see the beauty of how Jesus looks, sees, and moves toward people like you and me.
Additional resources can be found at seeJesus.net.