Thursday, July 28, 2011

Evangelism: Past, Present, Future via John Stott

Yesterday, John Stott died and went home to be with the Lord. He has been called an architect of 20th-century evangelicalism. His influence on the evangelical church's mission and beliefs was far reaching. In 2006, CT senior writer Tim Stafford interviewed him at his home in London specifically on the topic of evangelism - a topic near and dear to my heart.

Here are the first two questions and answers where he lays the foundation that links evangelicalism and evangelism:
CT: As you see it, what is evangelicalism, and why does it matter? 
Stott: An evangelical is a plain, ordinary Christian. We stand in the mainstream of historic, orthodox, biblical Christianity. So we can recite the Apostles Creed and the Nicene Creed without crossing our fingers. We believe in God the Father and in Jesus Christ and in the Holy Spirit.

Having said that, there are two particular things we like to emphasize: the concern for authority on the one hand and salvation on the other.

For evangelical people, our authority is the God who has spoken supremely in Jesus Christ. And that is equally true of redemption or salvation. God has acted in and through Jesus Christ for the salvation of sinners.

I think it's necessary for evangelicals to add that what God has said in Christ and in the biblical witness to Christ, and what God has done in and through Christ, are both, to use the Greek word, hapax—meaning once and for all. There is a finality about God's word in Christ, and there is a finality about God's work in Christ. To imagine that we could add a word to his word, or add a work to his work, is extremely derogatory to the unique glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
CT: You didn't mention the Bible, which would surprise some people.
Stott: I did, actually, but you didn't notice it. I said Christ and the biblical witness to Christ. But the really distinctive emphasis is on Christ. I want to shift conviction from a book, if you like, to a person. As Jesus himself said, the Scriptures bear witness to me. Their main function is to witness to Christ.
That statement resonated with me wholeheartedly and is something that often gets ignored on both sides of debate. Liberals tend to eschew strong Biblical teaching, supposedly in favor of "reaching" people for Christ, when the Bible clearly shows that we should be reaching people WITH Christ (ie, the Scriptures). Many conservatives overly emphasize the imperatives found in the Scriptures - things that we need to do, do, do, but forget the the purpose of the Scriptures is not primarily prescriptive, but rather a revelation of WHO GOD IS and what He has done in Christ. The unfolding of scripture moves from types and shadows to fulfillment.1 Cor. 13:12 says, "Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known." Until then, His grace is sufficient and His revealed Word will continue to point us to Him.

The whole interview is a worthwhile read (esp. on the topic of evangelism) >>>

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Love Never Fails (Catching up on Podcasts)

So, yesterday I started catching up on listening to the podcasts to which I subscribe and somehow an "Oldie but a Goodie" made it into the cue. I'm really not sure how exactly it came up in my IPod, but the second podcast that came up was this amazingly relevant and appropriate sermon by Dr. Philip Ryken, formerly of 10th Pres in Philadelphia. He gave the message in 2009, when he was still the pastor there.

I will probably listen to it two or three times this week -- it's just that good!

Here's a link to Sermon Audio where you can listen to him>>>
The two key scripture verses are: 1 Corinthians 13:8-10 and Romans 8:30-39.

"Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away” —1 Corinthians 13:8 (from 1 Corinthians 13:8–10; with Romans 8:30–39 ESV).

Enjoy.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Beholding is Becoming

This awesome article written by John Piper to "An Incomplete, Insecure Teenager" applies to my life just as much as it does to any high school teen. It is a "must read" for anyone who is interested. I could quote the entire letter as a favorite quote, but here is one great excerpt:

"The most important text on my emergent frogishness became 2 Corinthians 3:18
And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.
This was one of the greatest secrets I ever discovered: Beholding is becoming.
Introspection must give way to amazement at glory. When it does, becoming happens. If there is any key to maturity it is that. Behold your God in Jesus Christ. Then you will make progress from tadpole to frog. That was a great discovery."

 Read the entire letter here>>>

Free E-Books at Monergism

Monergism Books is currently offering several e-books for free.

Some of the titles I'm looking forward to checking out include:

God's CanonGod's Canon - New! - by Steve Hays
Available in Kindle .mobi and ePub formats
Traditionally, the case for the Protestant canon has emphasized external lines of evidence (e.g. Josephus, church fathers), as well as the witness of the Spirit. And that remains a valid line of evidence.

More recently, however, many scholars have been giving close attention to the intertextuality of Scripture as well as the paratextuality of the canon. That's a neglected line of internal evidence for the canon of Scripture. And it dovetails with the self-witness of Scripture.

The chapters in this book emphasize the self-attestation of Scripture to the canon of Scripture via intratextual, intertextual, and paratextual lines of evidence. The Bible is far more self-contained and self-referential than first meets the eye.

To the degree that the canon of Scripture is grounded in the self-witness of Scripture, we have not only a canon of infallible books, but an infallible canon–where one infallible book implicitly bears witness to another (or other) infallible book(s), through a tapestry of allusions, foreshadowings, and other types of cross-attestation.

on GraceA Treatise on Grace
by Jonathan Edwards
Available in Kindle .mobi and ePub formats

Chapter I: [Shewing] That Common and Saving Grace Differ, Not Only in Degree, But in Nature and Kind.
Chapter II: Shewing Wherein All Saving Grace Does Summarily Consist.
Chapter III: Shewing How a Principle of Grace is From the Spirit of God.

All of GraceAll of Grace
by C. H. Spurgeon

Available in Kindle .mobi and ePub formats
Here is my fountain, and here is my cup: find fault if you please; but do drink of the water of life. I only care for this. I had rather bless the soul of the poorest crossing- sweeper, or rag-gatherer, than please a prince of the blood, and fail to convert him to God.


The Reformed FaithThe Reformed Faith
by Loraine Boettner
Available in ePub and Kindle .Mobi formats.
This clear introduction to Reformed theology offers a brief outline and exposition of the main teachings related to God’s sovereignty in salvation.
The purpose of this booklet is to set forth, in plain language and in terms easily understood, the basic differences between the Calvinistic and the Arminian system to theology, and to show what the Bible teaches concerning these subjects.

Consider JesusConsider Jesus: Thoughts for Daily Duty, Service, and Suffering
by Octavius Winslow
a 31-Day Devotional
Available in ePub and Kindle .Mobi formats.
"Consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest whom we confess."
–Hebrews 3:1




RegenerationRegeneration Or the New Birth
by A.W. Pink
Available here in both Kindle .mobi and ePub formats.
"... to mortify the lusts of the flesh, to be crucified unto the world, to overcome the Devil, to die daily unto sin and live unto righteousness, to be meek and lowly in heart, trustful and obedient, pious and patient, faithful and uncompromising, loving and gentle; in a word, to be a Christian, to be Christ-like, is a task far, far beyond the poor resources of fallen human nature."

Saving FaithSaving Faith
by A. W. Pink

Available here in both Kindle .mobi and ePub formats.
Saving faith is a genuine coming to Christ (Matt. 11:28;John 6:37, etc.). But let us take care that we do not miss the clear and inevitable implication of this term. If I say "I come to the U.S.A." then I necessarily indicate that I left some other country to get here. Thus it is in "coming" to Christ; something has to be left. Coming to Christ not only involves the abandoning of every false object of confidence, it also includes and entails the forsaking of all other competitors for my heart.

Alive or Dead?Alive or Dead?
by J. C. Ryle
Available here in both Kindle .mobi and ePub formats.
"And He has made you alive, who were once dead in trespasses and sins." Ephesians 2:1
The question which forms the title of this paper deserves a thousand thoughts. I invite every reader of this volume to look at it carefully, and ponder it well. Search your own heart, and do not lay down this book without solemn self-inquiry. Are you among the living, or among the dead?


vantilDefending the Faith
Cornelius Van Til
Available in Kindle .mobi and ePub formats
A six-part series on which appeared in Torch and Trumpet in 1951 and 1952. In this series of articles our concern will be to discover some of the main features of one of the Reformed approaches in Christian Apologetics.


Augustine Anti - Pelagian Writings
by St. Augustine
Available in Kindle .mobi and ePub formats
Preface by B. B. Warfield. Includes among other writings, "On the Spirit and the Letter", "On Nature and Grace", " On the Proceedings of Pelagius", "On the Grace of Christ and Original Sin" , "Of Grace and Free Will". "On Rebuke and Grace". "On the Predestination of the Saints", "On the Gift of Perseverance"
"The grace offered by the Lord is not merely one which every individual has full liberty of choosing to receive or reject, but a grace which produces in the heart both choice and will: so that all the good works which follow after are its fruit and effect; the only will which yields obedience being the will which grace itself has made." - Augustine

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Joined Together in Christ's Body

Today I became a new church member of an established local PCA congregation.

One thing I know for sure is that satan sure doesn't want God's people to join up in an official capacity with a local congregaton of Christ's Church.

For the past several days, I have been assaulted relentlessly with thoughts of condemnation, self pity, rejection, defeat, apathy, hatred, and all kinds of other unGodly inward dialogue. And it has grown worse each day.

As I sat in the worship service, reading the bulletin, I noticed that the new members were going to be received right before the offering, which comes before a second hymn and the sermon. "Oh, no!", thought I. Either at the very beginning -- before the confession and repentence and assurance stuff (which I knew was going to tear me up today, given the trajectory of my thought life over the past several days) or after the sermon which was on Psalm 142. But, please, not in between!!

Just as I suspected, I looked like a complete fool up there. As I stood in front of about 350 people, I had blood red eyes, tears rolling down my cheeks, and such a downcast countenance that Psalm 42 could have been a personal request for today's message.

Again, God is omniscient and knew that Psalm 142 was exactly the sermon that I needed to hear. It is encouraging when so often the weekly sermon is perfectly timed and tailored just for me! God really is gracious and awesome that way.

But, really? Psalm 142/42, right there in front of 350 people? Not cool, God (but very Holy and Wise and Gracious). God never said He would always make us look cool, right? Embarrassed, sometimes, yes, apparently. Humbled, definitely.  As Paul said in 2 Corinthians Chapter 4:
8 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 11 For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.
We must reject any lie from hell, satan, and our old nature that sets itself up against the idea that we should not belong to the body of Christ. There is no other place for broken hearted sinners than in the community of blood-bought believers. There is no other place for people who are called to take up their crosses daily and follow Jesus.

Just as we suffer in these mortal bodies while we are here, Christ suffered in every way we do, so that He now intercedes on our behalf. As we are joined together in His Body, we endure these present sufferings in His strength and we strengthen one another along the way. For His Church, He suffered an eternity in hell on the cross, so that we will not have to endure the eternal suffering that we deserve. We are joined together in the suffering of the here and now, and we are joined together in our future hope of the resurrection together that we have in Him. We were not meant to take this journey alone.
As Paul would write to the church in Ephesus in Ephesians 4:
15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.
Thank you for indulging me as I "Talk to Myself" (ht:challies.com)

Casey Anthony & Where I am

R.C. Sproul, Jr, has a great article at Ligonier with some answers to questions about what we can  make of the Casey Anthony decision. Here is an excerpt:
"It is not a mistake that we are called to love our neighbor. Empathetic feelings about a tragedy far, far away, whether it be a little girl’s death, or an earthquake in Japan, can’t run that deep, given that we aren’t in the least jolted to see the coverage we are watching be interrupted by a pitch to switch which brand of dish soap we use. It is faux empathy, faux compassion, just enough to persuade us that in feeling bad we have actually done something.
"Real empathy requires real relationships with real people, with real neighbors. Were we invested in those closest to us, our families, our neighbors, our pew neighbors we would live real lives."
Read the whole article here >>>

Where this hits home for me is in my quest to serve God for His glory and His kingdom. So often, I feel such a deep empathy for people on the fringe -- folks that don't fit in to the immediate community: the alien, the widow, the fatherless, the elderly, the unchurched, and so forth. I actively give and seek out opportunities to be involved in the lives of these people in order to make friendships and share Christ. Yet, in God's infinite wisdom (or should I say sarcasm and irony??), He has given me neighbors, roommates, coworkers, and even family members who all fall into these same categories. God has brought my mission field home to me (as He probably is doing with most Americans these days).

How do I serve my own neighbors in the immediate context and vocations in which God has already placed me?? Certainly, if my daily obedience and effectiveness are to be of any measure or confirmation of my supposed calling or vocation to such a mission, I am sadly misguided.

Sometimes, when I am reminded that Jesus himself said, "A prophet has no honor in his hometown" (John 4:44), I feel like I might be making excuses and trying to "get myself off the hook". But certainly there is truth in the Word of God! I more often than not beat myself up for not loving the people close to me very well or not being gracious enough in sharing God's Word. It is good to be sensitive to such matters. However, it is also important to remember that the Pharisees witnessed nearly ALL of Jesus's miracles and even that could not persuade them to the truth of God's Word.

In fact, what Jesus tells many of the recipients of his miracles to do as his disciples is to go tell the people where they came from what the Lord has done for them. Jesus heals a person whom He has found outside of the community, living on the fringe in someway, and then sends them back into the community where they came from to tell what He has done for them. He does this with the demoniac, the Samaritan Woman, the paralytic and a number of others.  Meanwhile, as the outcasts are  being  brought back in,  Jesus leaves or is sent out of the land where he performed the miracle -- back to more outcasts.

My point is that while we clearly are commanded to love God and love our neighbors as we love ourselves, I also have to remind myself that the quality, frequency, and consistency of my love toward them is not the main determination of the outcome of their response toward God. That is a huge relief  and a heavy burden removed! Yes, I pray for a moldable heart that is conformed to likeness of our loving Savior's gracious heart toward me and that I'll be ready to give graciously just as I have received grace from Him. And I know that God rworks through us this way. But simultaneously I know that if God is working in them, He can even use my filthy rags of intended good deeds to glorify Himself, even if my efforts appear to be utter failures.

This motivates me to keep pointing to the Cross of Christ, even among people who as of today I have a hard time loving the way I am called to. Lord, use your weak vessel to glorify yourself and to make your Gospel shine even through a cracked pot like me. Amen

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Is Being Radical for Jesus Boring?

Stephen Altrogge (author of The Greener Grass Conspiracy and blogger at The Blazing Center) offers up a good word on what the Bible says about being radical Christians. Here's an excerpt:
"The book of Ephesians is a helpful example in this regard. In the first three chapters of the book, Paul details the incredible, brilliant, mind-blowing plan of salvation that God has devised and put into action through Jesus Christ. I mean, we’re talking serious stuff here: election, predestination, adoption, redemption, and the grand plan to unite all things in Jesus Christ. This is explosive, “set your heart on fire for Jesus” kind of stuff.

Then, in chapter 4, verse 1, he says: “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called…” When I read that I think, “Alright, here it comes. The call to be radical and to live in a manner worthy of the gospel. Lay it on me Paul. Hit me in the face with it!”

And Paul does hit me right in the face. He tells me to walk, “…with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Hold on. What? That’s what it means to be radical? To bear with one another in love and maintain unity? That seems so, I don’t know, boring. Maybe if I read farther in the book I’ll get to the really radical stuff."
Read the whole post here>>>

Saturday, July 2, 2011

About My Break from Blogging

It's pretty obvious by now that I'm on a Blogging Break, especially because it has been 10 days since my last post.

I have found an excellent church that I've been attending regularly that is near to my home and in the same denomination. In addition, they have a small group ministry to international graduate students which i've been attending -- and enjoying immensely.

So, I'm actually just 'taking it all in' right now and serving as the opportunity presents itself. I've had a few ideas for a blog post here and there. And I've found quite a few great resources on blogs like challies.com that are keeping me occupied (for example, e-books from Cruciform Press). Overall though, I consider myself as being mostly in 'receive' mode at this time. I do plan to get back to my blogging eventually, but for now, I guess this is somewhat of a "tech fast" for the short term.

I hope everyone is having a great summer so far! Have a Happy 4th of July!