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John Piper was not always a pastor. He was once a professor at Bethel Seminary. John Piper didn’t even want to be a pastor. Yet God had other plans. Read about the encouraging story of how God called John Piper into the pastorate, a calling that has created an ever-expanding ripple effect for the glory of God as revealed in the Gospel.

I had heard about Rachel Barkley’s testimony but had not taken the time to listen to it until today – the day that God laid her down to die…and live. I wept out loud in celebration for the Gospel and goodness of God demonstrated through Rachel’s faith as she embraced her cancer, defiantly stating that death is not dying. Rachel was 37 years old. Listen to her testimony. It will take an hour of your day, but it will be an hour well spent. You won’t regret it.

How should a biblical community respond to one another when redeemed sinners sin? This is my topic for bible study tonight. Here’s the OUTLINE.

  1. TEST CASE
  2. TWO KINDS OF SIN: Omission and Commission
  3. THREE THINGS WE MUST REMEMBER: Everyone sins, everyone needs grace, and the Gospel is sufficient for both our righteousness and wickedness
  4. CONFRONTATION IS NOT ONLY BIBLICAL, BUT IS A NECESSARY EXPRESSION OF LOVE FOR GOD (Leviticus 19:15-18
  5. WE MUST BEAR ONE ANOTHER’S BURDENS, INCLUDING OUR WEAKNESS TO SIN (Gal 6:1-2)
  6. UNREPENTANT SIN NECESSARILY ALTERS THE LANDSCAPE OF OUR RELATIONSHIPS (1John 1:5-11; 2Thessalonians 3:14-15; 1Corinthians 5:5; 2Corinthians 12:20-13:10)
  7. WHERE REPENTANCE IS PRESENT, FORGIVE ALWAYS (2Corinthians 2:1-5; Colossians 3:13)

We live in an “impress me” culture. We evaluate things – particularly in the Western church – in terms of their excellence, eloquence, and sadly, their entertainment value. Think about it. How often do you leave a worship gathering thinking, “That wasn’t one of pastor’s best sermons” or “The music just wasn’t very good today” or “I just didn’t get anything out of worship today (even though God’s Word was faithfully proclaimed”?

Yesterday I read a post on Justin Taylor’s site with this quote: “The mature Christian is easily edified.” You can read the rest of Justin’s thoughts here, but in short, what this post means is that it is a sign of spiritual maturity when we are encouraged by the simple truths of the Gospel, even when someone struggles to communicate those truths to us in the most winsome, polished or helpful way. Are you easily edified?

howardDwight Howard, superstar center/power-forward for the Orlando Magic, lives in a fish bowl, just like every other professional athlete in the world.  His every word, action and deed are scrutinized by media outlets in all of their forms. Howard’s celebrity status presents significant opportunities to boast in the flesh. Many professional athletes use the media for self-glory, self-advertisment and self-promotion. And at times they also use their platform to air grievances and complaints that should remain in the locker room.

Dwight Howard, by his own admission, isn’t like every other athlete. Howard is a confessing believer in the Lord Jesus Christ. This means that what might be acceptable in the professional sports culture isn’t necessarily acceptable for Dwight Howard (or any other professing believer) because Howard, by the very nature of his confession of faith, is living for Another’s glory, not his own.  This is what makes Howard’s public chiding of Magic Head Coach Stan Van Gundy so disappointing.

Sure, what Howard said may be true, and it wasn’t even the worst kind of public neutering of a coach’s leadership that I’ve ever seen in the media. But were they appropriate? Read the rest of this entry »

In a recent interview with Christianity Today, Rob Bell, popular author, pastor, and face of the Nooma video series was asked how he would present the Gospel on Twitter. Here is Bell’s response:

I would say that history is headed somewhere. The thousands of little ways in which you are tempted to believe that hope might actually be a legitimate response to the insanity of the world actually can be trusted. And the Christian story is that a tomb is empty, and a movement has actually begun that has been present in a sense all along in creation. And all those times when your cynicism was at odds with an impulse within you that said that this little thing might be about something bigger—those tiny little slivers may in fact be connected to something really, really big.

This is the Gospel? Sure, Bell has been limited to a contextual sound-byte with the challenge of saying something substantive about the Gospel via Twitter. Twitter is reductionistic by its very nature. But, sorry, this is no where close to a lucid explanation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. What’s missing? How about sin, sacrifice, substitution, rescue and redemption – and that is just for starters. This is what our hope must be rooted in, not in some innate superstition or gut-feeling that there might be something bigger than us out there.

Christianity Today didn’t ask me, but if I were going to explain the Gospel via Twitter I might start here:

For our sake God made him (Jesus) to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him (Jesus) we might become the righteousness of God (2Cor 5:21).

“The same fire that melts the wax hardens the clay; the same sun which makes the living tree grow, dries up the dead tree and prepares it for burning. Nothing so hardens the heart of man as barren familiarity with sacred things…it is not privileges alone which make people Christian, but the Grace of the Holy Ghost.” – J.C. Ryle

Tonight during dinner with my family I was talking to Emeline (5) about her lack of understanding regarding our instruction leading to disobedience (I didn’t phrase it quite like that). She turned to me in complete exasperation and desperation and said, “I guess I am just going to go to hell. I can’t be good enough to go to heaven.”

Honestly, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry, shout “Hallelujah!” or “Don’t say that!”. How can someone utter such dreadful words and frame them with such cute sincerity? Oh, but how close to the Kingdom she might be if the truth of her words takes root in her heart!

It was a wonderful opportunity to tell her that she is exactly right. She can’t be good enough to go home to heaven with Jesus. No one can. I told her that this is precisely why she needs Jesus. Jesus must be her “goodness” (i.e., righteousness) and he died upon the cross, taking upon her sin, so that she might receive his “goodness” and be adopted as a daughter of God. She continued to talk about how “sinful my heart is” and that she “believed in Jesus”. Tonight she told me that she wanted me to pray for her that she would trust Jesus more and soon become a Christian.

And, so, that is precisely what I am praying. We are eager to see the Spirit at work and the seeds of the Gospel taking root in her heart while bringing forth life. If you think of her this week, join us in praying for Emeline.

If I were to ask you, as a believer in the Lord Jesus, “What are your goals for your relationship with God?”, what would you say? I wonder if your response might be like my initial thought. “Goals? I am certain that God has goals for me, but I’m not entirely sure it is appropriate for me to set goals for my relationship with God through Christ. After all, He is the One calling the shots in this relationship, not me.” The question, by its very nature, implies that we are wanting or desiring something from God in a way that we intuitively aren’t sure we should want or desire. To frame our relationship with God in such a goal-oriented way seems to imply that God is serving us in the Gospel rather than us serving Him. The very notion of a goal orientation to our relationship with Jesus seems too pragmatic. Doesn’t speaking of our relationship with Jesus in terms of goals subtly strip away the mystery bound up in the reality that sinners, enemies of God, can be rescued from sin and reconciled to the Holy One through a bloody instrument of torture and death on which the Son of God was crucified? Read the rest of this entry »

John Piper recently preached a powerful message on prayer. He powerfully and appropriately rebukes any notion that it is harmful or wrong to heap guilt upon those of us who pray  too little, simply because we fail to understand that without prayer we are slowly euthanizing our spiritual lives.

But the hard truth is that most Christians don’t pray very much. They pray at meals—unless they’re still stuck in the adolescent stage of calling good habits legalism. They whisper prayers before tough meetings. They say something brief as they crawl into bed. But very few set aside set times to pray alone—and fewer still think it is worth it to meet with others to pray. And we wonder why our faith is weak. And our hope is feeble. And our passion for Christ is small.

And meanwhile the devil is whispering all over this room: “The pastor is getting legalistic now. He’s starting to use guilt now. He’s getting out the law now.” To which I say, “To hell with the devil and all of his destructive lies. Be free!” Is it true that intentional, regular, disciplined, earnest, Christ-dependent, God-glorifying, joyful prayer is a duty? Do I go to pray with many of you on Tuesday at 6:30 a.m., and Wednesday at 5:45 p.m., and Friday at 6:30 a.m., and Saturday at 4:45 p.m., and Sunday at 8:15 a.m. out of duty? Is it a discipline?

You can call it that. It’s a duty the way it’s the duty of a scuba diver to put on his air tank before he goes underwater. It’s a duty the way pilots listen to air traffic controllers. It’s a duty the way soldiers in combat clean their rifles and load their guns. It’s a duty the way hungry people eat food. It’s a duty the way thirsty people drink water. It’s a duty the way a deaf man puts in his hearing aid. It’s a duty the way a diabetic takes his insulin. It’s a duty the way Pooh Bear looks for honey. It’s a duty the way pirates look for gold.

I hate the devil, and the way he is killing some of you by persuading you it is legalistic to be as regular in your prayers as you are in your eating and sleeping and Internet use. Do you not see what a sucker he his making out of you? He is laughing up his sleeve at how easy it is to deceive Christians about the importance of prayer.

God has given us means of grace. If we do not use them to their fullest advantage, our complaints against him will not stick. If we don’t eat, we starve. If we don’t drink, we get dehydrated. If we don’t exercise a muscle, it atrophies. If we don’t breathe, we suffocate. And just as there are physical means of life, there spiritual are means of grace. Resist the lies of the devil in 2009, and get a bigger breakthrough in prayer than you’ve ever had.