Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Gospel-Centered Sloganeering?

Came across a post from my friend Toby Kurth (HT: Justin Taylor). We often use the phrase, "gospel-centered" - may it be more about a lifelong pursuit of a Christ-centered  lifestyle than a shallow passing slogan! 

Check out what Toby says:
Gospel centrality must not be reduced to a slogan or way of defining yourself that does not really describe how you view the world. Gospel-centrality says that all of life and the Scriptures must be interpreted through the person and work of Jesus Christ. If gospel-centrality becomes just a way of speaking about ministry with certain buzzwords and catch phrases then it will have lost all meaning.

We do not drift towards gospel-centrality in our own lives or in our churches. It involves an active and frequent application of gospel truth to every situation we face. What makes me nervous are phrases like “Is he gospel-centered?” or “That is not a gospel-centered church.” Let’s not settle for shorthand. Being “gospel-centered” is a life-long endeavor, not a slogan. It is not the ability to recite a few well-crafted phrases; it is rather the commitment to continually turn away from defining yourself or your church in accordance with anything other than the person and work of Jesus Christ.
You can read the whole thing here.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

"The Anti-Proverbs 31 Woman"

I enjoyed this post from Jared Mellinger, Senior Pastor of Covenant Fellowship Church. Sometimes we learn from the negative example.
“The Anti-Proverbs 31 Woman”
A substandard wife, who can find?
Her husband must micro-manage her,
And he hesitates to delegate anything to her.
She does him harm, not good,
All the days of her life.
She takes no delight in working,
And she labors with unwilling hands.
She finds a large number of tasks objectionable,
And carries them out with a languid footstep.
She looks first to her own interests in everything,
And avoids being inconvenienced at all costs.
Her household receives no attention,
And her children are neglected.
Her life orbits around herself,
She is lost in her own world.
She often sleeps in,
Her mouth feasts on the bread of idleness.
She is indecisive in decision making,
And her husband is a crutch in all things.
She rarely plans ahead,
And it brings chaos to her home.
She lives in the grip of fear,
Her closest companion is anxiety for the future.
Her husband is floundering in the gates,
Where he sits among the elders of the land.
She occasionally fears the Lord,
But cares far more about physical beauty.
She receives the fruit of her hands
When no one praises her in the gates.
Aren’t we glad that God’s grace and mercy overcomes our Anti-Proverbs 31, or Anti-Sermon on the Mount, or Anti-First Corinthians 13 tendencies so that we increasingly live conforming to God’s will and obedient to His word.

Christ's Sympathy

I hope you are encouraged by these thoughts from Octavius Winslow:

“Christ’s heart is a human heart, a sinless heart, a tender heart; a heart once the home of sorrow, once stricken with grief; once an aching, bleeding, mournful heart. Thus disciplined and trained, Jesus knows how to pity and to support those who are sorrowful and solitary. He loves to chase grief from the spirit, to bind up the broken heart, to staunch the bleeding wound, and to dry the weeping eye, to ‘comfort all that mourn.’ It is His delight to visit you in the dark night-season of your sorrow, and to come to you walking upon the tempestuous billows of your grief, breathing music and diffusing calmness over your scene of sadness and gloom.”

- Octavius Winslow, Evening Thoughts, January 10.

HT: Of First Importance

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Peter Hitchens, “The Rage Against God”

Peter Hitchens, the theistic brother of renowned atheist, Christopher Hitchens has written a book about his journey to Christianity, "The Rage Against God", available May 1 from Zondervan. Wikipedia has this on the new book:
"Peter Hitchens argues in his book that his brother's verdict on religion is misguided, and that faith in God is both a safeguard against the collapse of civilisation into moral chaos and the best antidote to the dangerous idea of earthly perfection through utopianism."
Here's a preview:

HT: Doug Wilson, Justin Taylor

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Greatest Danger Affecting American Evangelical Christianity?

I have been enjoying Mark Noll's insightful, though perhaps dated, analysis of the place of the mind among evangelicals. His quotations from Charles Malik were provocative.  Charles Malik was a Lebanese Christian  intellectual, professor and politician. Read some of his comments from a speech at Wheaton College below:
This is a solemn occasion. I must be frank with you: the greatest danger besetting American Evangelical Christianity is the danger of anti intellectualism. The mind as to its greatest and deepest reaches is not cared for enough. This cannot take place apart from profound immersion for a period of years in the history of thought and the spirit. People are in a hurry to get out of the university and start earning money or serving the church or preaching the Gospel. They have no idea of the infinite value of spending years of leisure in conversing with the greatest minds and souls of the past, and thereby ripening and sharpening and enlarging their powers of thinking.

The result is that the arena of creative thinking is abdicated and vacated to the enemy. Who among the Evangelicals can stand up to the great secular or naturalistic or atheistic scholars on their own terms of scholarship and research? Who among the Evangelical scholars is quoted as a normative source by the greatest secular authorities on history or philosophy or psychology or sociology or politics? Does your mode of thinking have the slightest chance of becoming the dominant mode of thinking in the great universities of Europe and America which stamp your entire civilization with their own spirit and ideas?
You can read the whole speech here.

The Story of St. Patrick

One version of the famous story of Patrick. Happy St. Patrick's Day! Enjoy!

The Conversion and Preaching of (St) Patrick in Ireland

An extract from the “History of the Reformation of the Sixteenth Century” by J. H. Merle d’Aubigné (1794-1872)

On the picturesque banks of the Clyde, not far from Glasgow, in the Christian village of Bonavern, now Kilpatrick, a little boy, of tender heart, lively temperament, and indefatigable activity, passed the earlier days of his life. He was born about the year 372 A. D., of a British family, and was named Succat.1 His father, Calpurnius, deacon of the church of Bonavern, a simple-hearted pious man, and his mother, Conchessa, sister to the celebrated Martin, archbishop of Tours,2 and a woman superior to the majority of her sex, had endeavoured to instil into his heart the doctrines of Christianity; but Succat did not understand them. He was fond of pleasure, and delighted to be the leader of his youthful companions. In the midst of his frivolities, he committed a serious fault.

Some few years later, his parents having quitted Scotland and settled in Armorica (Bretagne), a terrible calamity befell them. One day as Succat was playing near the seashore with two of his sisters, some Irish pirates, commanded by O’ Neal, carried them all three off to their boats, and sold them in Ireland to the petty chieftain of some pagan clan. Succat was sent into the fields to keep swine.3 It was while alone in these solitary pastures, without priest and without temple, that the young slave called to mind the divine lessons which his pious mother had so often read to him. The fault which he had committed pressed heavily night and day upon his soul: he groaned in heart, and wept. He turned repenting towards that meek Saviour of whom Conchessa had so often spoken; he fell at His knees in that heathen land, and imagined he felt the arms of a father uplifting the prodigal son. Succat was then born from on high, but by an agent so spiritual, so internal, that he knew not “whence it cometh or whither it goeth.” The gospel was written with the finger of God on the tablets of his heart. “I was sixteen years old,” said he, “and knew not the true God; but in that strange land the Lord opened my unbelieving eyes, and, although late, I called my sins to mind, and was converted with my whole heart to the Lord my God, who regarded my low estate, had pity on my youth and ignorance, and consoled me as a father consoles his children.”4

Such words as these from the lips of a swineherd in the green pastures of Ireland set clearly before us the Christianity which in the fourth and fifth centuries converted many souls in the British Isles. In after-years, Rome established the dominion of the priest and salvation by forms, independently of the dispositions of the heart; but the primitive religion of these celebrated islands was that living Christianity whose substance is the grace of Jesus Christ, and whose power is the grace of the Holy Ghost. The herdsman from the banks of the Clyde was then undergoing those experiences which so many evangelical Christians in those countries have subsequently undergone. “The love of God increased more and more in me,” said he, “with faith and the fear of His name. The Spirit urged me to such a degree that I poured forth as many as a hundred prayers in one day. And even during the night, in the forests and on the mountains where I kept my flock, the rain, the snow, and frost, and sufferings which I endured, excited me to seek after God. At that time, I felt not the indifference which now I feel: the Spirit fermented in my heart.”5 Evangelical faith even then existed in the British islands in the person of this slave, and of some few Christians born again, like him, from on high.

Twice a captive and twice rescued, Succat, after returning to his family, felt an irresistible appeal in his heart. It was his duty to carry the gospel to those Irish pagans among whom he had found Jesus Christ. His parents and his friends endeavoured in vain to detain him; the same ardent desire pursued him in his dreams. During the silent watches of the night he fancied he heard voices calling to him from the dark forests of Erin: “Come, holy child, and walk once more among us.” He awoke in tears, his breast filled with the keenest emotion.6 He tore himself from the arms of his parents, and rushed forth – not as heretofore with his playfellows, when he would climb the summit of some lofty hill – but with a heart full of charity in Christ. He departed: “It was not done of my own strength,” said he; “it was God who overcame all.”

Succat, afterwards known as Saint Patrick, and to which name, as to that of St Peter and other servants of God, many superstitions have been attached, returned to Ireland, but without visiting Rome, as an historian of the twelfth century has asserted.7 Ever active, prompt, and ingenious, he collected the pagan tribes in the fields by beat of drum, and then narrated to them in their own tongue the history of the Son of God. Erelong his simple recitals exercised a divine power over their rude hearts, and many souls were converted, not by external sacraments or by the worship of images, but by the preaching of the word of God. The son of a chieftain, whom Patrick calls Benignus, learnt from him to proclaim the Gospel, and was destined to succeed him. The court bard, Dubrach Mac Valubair, no longer sang druidical hymns, but canticles addressed to Jesus Christ. Patrick was not entirely free from the errors of the time; perhaps he believed in pious miracles; but generally speaking we meet with nothing but the gospel in the earlier days of the British church. The time no doubt will come when Ireland will again feel the power of the Holy Ghost, which had once converted it by the ministrations of a Scotchman.

1 In baptismo haud Patricum sed Succat a parentibus fuisse dictum. Usser. Brit. Eccl. Antiq. p. 428.

2 Martini Turonum archiepiscopi consanguineam. Ibid.

3 Cujus porcorum pastor erat. Ibid. p. 431.

4 Et ibi Dominus aperuit sensum incredulitatis meæ, ut vel sero remorarem delicta mea, et ut converterer toto corde ad Dominum Deum meum. Patr. Confess. Usser, 431.

“HISTORY OF THE REFORMATION IN THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY,” by J. H. Merle d’Aubigné, 1846. French edition 1835. Published by Baker Book House (USA), reprinted from the edition issued in London in 1846. Vol 5, pp 679-680.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Looking for a Good Daily Bible Devotional?

D.A. Carson's "For the Love of God" is probably the best daily devotional I know. And, it is now available via a blog from the Gospel Coalition.SWEET!

Read it here.

It is based on the Murray M'Cheyne daily bible reading plan and can be used to go through the whole bible in a year or two years.  I recommend the two-year approach for starters.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Do You Worry You Are Passing On A Wrong View of God to Your Kids?

Tony Reinke has an excellent post about passing on to our children a right view of God. 

He includes some suggestions CJ Mahaney made to a dad who is worried that he might pass on his own misunderstanding of God to his children instead of the right view of God.
  • Communicating your affection for them—and joy when you are with them—promotes both good and accurate thoughts about God.
  • Initiate time with them at both planned and spontaneous times. Don’t leave them with the impression that they get most of your attention when they disobey. Let them know you are so grateful for them and love being with them as much as possible.
  • Bless your children with many gifts in many forms! See Luke 11 again. Study your children in order to discern what gifts would genuinely bless them and then purpose to surprise them as often as possible.
  • Requiring appropriate obedience does not promote hard thoughts about God. This only happens when we do so in self-righteousness or anger.
  • Frequently preach the gospel to them (and not at them). Reveal to your children just how far God has gone to show his love for sinners like us.
Take a few minutes to read the whole article here.  I recommend it!

Saturday, March 06, 2010

'They Need to Be Liberated From Their God'

Check out this fascinating interview with Mosab Hassan Yousef, the son of Hamas founder Sheikh Hassan Yousef. He talks about his conversion to Christianity and his work for Israeli intelligence while a member of Hamas. He reports that he worked with Israeli intelligence to save lives on both sides. Listen to him speak about his conversion.
"I converted to Christianity because I was convinced by Jesus Christ as a character, as a personality. I loved him, his wisdom, his love, his unconditional love. I didn't leave [the Islamic] religion to put myself in another box of religion. At the same time it's a beautiful thing to see my God exist in my life and see the change in my life. I see that when he does exist in other Middle Easterners there will be a change." 
He also reports that the fundamental difficulty with Islam is that the God of Islam is not the right God.
"What matters is not whether my father is a fanatic or not, he's doing the will of a fanatic God. It doesn't matter if he's a terrorist or a traditional Muslim. At the end of the day a traditional Muslim is doing the will of a fanatic, fundamentalist, terrorist God. I know this is harsh to say. Most governments avoid this subject. They don't want to admit this is an ideological war. ..... The problem is not in Muslims...the problem is with their God. They need to be liberated from their God. He is their biggest enemy. It has been 1,400 years they have been lied to."
May God raise up millions of Middle Easterners who really know God and show it!  May they teach us in the West what it looks like when you really know God! May Christ reign over the Middle East in a way that shows the world who he really is - not some by-product of the West or corrupted icon of marauding Crusaders but something much better, purer, altogether different and glorious!

 أَبَانَا الَّذِي فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ لِيَتَقَدَّسِ اسْمُكَ.  لِيَأْتِ مَلَكُوتُكَ. لِتَكُنْ مَشِيئَتُكَ كَمَا فِي السَّمَاءِ كَذَلِكَ عَلَى الأَرْضِ