As Promised—-Back by Popular Demand: Weekend Links: John Piper, Trevan Wax, Jared Wilson, Kevin DeYoung, School Pension Reform, Seth Godin

Weekend Links

New Compost Setup

New Compost Setup

For years I have trained others to be “theologically driven and pragmatically informed.” I was seeking to develop disciples who who be able to fight the bent of much of the pop-church culture of being “pragmatically driven and only slightly theologically salted.” 

Training my students at the seminary and disciples in the church was a reminder to me to develop my own views of ministry from the Scripture out rather than from culture or tradition. It still is.

That’s part of what I hope happens for you as you come back and read the weekend links I post here. The Church needs theology. I’m going to try to be more focused on three broad categories: Theology, Practice, Pop-Culture. My hope is that you will be both encouraged and challenged by the offerings here.

On a personal front: I crossed the 200 mile mark for the Spring on my 40 pound department store bike. One mile today was my fastest this year at 16.2 miles per hour. Building strength and hoping to do a 60K in June and a 60 mile trip in July or August. Think I’m going to need a faster bike though. Trying to keep both body and mind sharp as I enter my 7th decade. Never thought I would live this long.

Theology

What is Your Capacity for Mystery?  —John Piper   (Twelve minute video that is powerful in its simplicity and profound in its implications.)

A “Solution” to Same-Sex Marriage that Solves Very Little  (Interesting article on what is happening down in Mississippi. This gets the state out of marriage licensing but does nothing to protect marriage as something that happens between heterosexual couples only.)

Was the Holy Spirit Not on Earth Before Pentecost?  —Jared Wilson (A great illustration about what happened at Pentecost and what was mad possible because of Pentecost.)

Thinking Theologically about Memorial Day  —Kevin DeYoung  (These issues are not just memorial day issues but Veterans Day, Labor Day and issues like having flags in sanctuaries. Some good thoughts. “Allegiance to God and allegiance to your country are not inherently incompatible” [but they could be].

New Rain Barrel Setup Compliments of My Ingenious Son-in-Law

New Rain Barrel Setup Compliments of My Ingenious Son-in-Law

Practice

Journaling in Your Bible  —CrossWay Books  (I like a Bible with wide margins. I want to write my observations, prayers, questions, puzzles, quandaries, historical background notes and have them in front of me as I work my way through a book to help me interpret it. These two options from CrossWay Books are a good alternative for you if you are like me. The New Inductive Study Bible [NASB Update] is also good and includes book introductions to books and other helps for study.) 

Seven Reasons I Wrote a Book on Prayer —Edmond Sanganyado   (I have preordered this book purely on the motives of the writer and my own crying need to learn how to pray better.)

Encouraging Christians in Pakistan  (A bold business man builds a 140 foot cross in downtown Karachi.)

Where You Live Changes What You See When You Read the Bible  —Trevan Wax  (I think Trevan overstates the particular case and understates the value of listening to alternatives, but it is worth noting and being careful about your biases when you study the word of God. I make a similar point in the essay I wrote for A HEART FOR THE COMMUNITY (John Fuder and John Costellanos, editors.)

Pop-Culture and Politics

A Modest Proposal on School Pension Crisis from a Former Teacher (Some interesting ideas here on fair pension reform for school teachers in Illinois.)

Seth Godin and the Tribes We Lead  —TED talk  (Helping leaders to think conceptually about how to connect to tribes of people, people who live for the things you live and think about all the time.)

What Does It Mean to Pour Out Your Heart?

Friday is for Heart Songs

Alexander WhyteI just got off the phone with a brother in Christ who is a stage 4 colon cancer patient living on miracle time. He is a man learning how to pour out his heart to God (Ps. 62:8). He is also an inspiration and this week we will interview him in our services so that our congregation can celebrate with him what he is learning in this season of sorrow mixed with surprising joys. I thought of him today while reading an old and yellowed, almost 100 year old book out of my personal library. 

Alexander Whyte, a preacher from the late nineteenth century, was one of the best expositors of his generation. I have long benefited not only from his wisdom but his craft with words. In a sermon titled, “THE HEART OF MAN AND THE HEART OF GOD” he has an extended exposition of of Psalm 62:8. The quote below got my attention.

Psalm 62:8 (ESV)

Trust in him at all times, O people;
.       pour out your heart before him;
.  God is a refuge for us.                        Selah

“Whatever else we have or have not, we all have hearts; and all our hearts are of the same secret, solitary, undiscovered, unsatisfied kind. And then, along with our hearts, we all have God. Wherever in all the world there is a human heart, God is there. And He is there in order to have that heart poured out before Him. And out of that, out of the aloneness of human heart, and out of the nearness of God to every human hear, there immediately arises this supreme duty to every man who has a heart,—that he shall at all times pour his heart out before God. . . . It is every man’s duty, and every man’s privilege.”

Alexanger Whyte, Lord, Teach Us to Pray, 28-29.

What does it mean to pour out your heart? Dr. Whyte tells us:

“Only let us pour out all our loneliness and all our distress, and all our gloom, before God, as David did, and all will immediately be well. For either, He will remove our trouble at once and altogether; or else, He will do better,— make His love and His peace so to fill our heart that we will break out with David and will sing: ‘In God is my salvation and my glory; the rock of my strength, and my refuge is in God [Ps. 62:7].'”  (p. 30)

My brother in Christ is getting the “either” of that quote. He is getting “the better”. He is getting the peace and presence of Christ. And in the process he is doing more than teaching me/us how to die in Christ. He is teaching us how to live.

Coming Back by Popular Demand: Weekend Links

Weekend Links (to return)

doctor-who-pop-cultureBy popular demand, Weekend Links will be back on Friday evening. It is humbling to know how many of you reading the BLOG have benefited and desire to see them reappear.

Weekend Links represent some of the best of my reading across the week. They ususally include:

  1. Links broken down in an array of categories from Ministry and Church Planting to Politics and Culture, Gardening and Environment. Think of them as Michael Medved breadth with from a commited Christian perspective.
  2. Links that include a one to two sentence annotations to give background context and opinion.
  3. They sometimes include brief commentary and reflection on the falvor of the readings.
  4. Sometimes I will include short book reviews.

Some disclaimers:

  • I do not agree with everything presented in the link (unless otherwise noted)
  • I include the article because I find it provocative and worthy of a hearing
  • I invite conversation and thought not condecension and propaganda

Hope you enjoy the new format and return to Weekend Links.  Look for it Friday evening.

Longing for Home from This Far Country

Saturday Afternoon Musings

It is usually in the extremes of life that my longing for home becomes almost palpable. When my joy is so full, like …

  • when my children were born,
  • when they tell me of their love for Christ,
  • when I see them living out their faith,
  • when I gaze at my wife and see her love for me reflected back,
  • when I get to play with my grandchildren,
  • when I see the way “the two marrieds” love their spouses,
  • when I sit with elderly saints and talk about nothing but Christ because nothing else matters to them,
  • when the worship team and the congregation feed off one another’s praises and Christ is exalted—

these are times when my heart seems like it is going to burst and I want to go home and tell Jesus how thankful I am for the life he has given.  

On the other hand, there are times when the wickedness of the world like …

  • when hundreds of girls are kidnapped by Moslem extremists, raped, and sold into slavery,
  • when the nation is run by bureaucrats rather than leaders with integrity,
  • when racial strife tears cities apart,
  • when the husbands beat wives and children grow up fatherless,
  • when I see the dysfunction of families as the result of generational sin and abuse,
  • when I see families grieving the choices of their children,
  • when elected officials lie with impunity and forget the constitution they are sworn to uphold,
  • when the church is wracked by scandal and is prayerless and apathetic—

these too are times when my heart longs for release from this far country and deepens my yearning for home, our true home, where tears are wiped away and all sorrow ceases. 

Today it hit me at a surprising time. At the graveside of WWII vet and his bride, both dying within months of one another after over 60 years of loving and living well and dieing in Christ. And I thought of my mom and dad, who live with Jesus rather than this far country. And I long to see them again far from here. Resurrection hope is a glorious truth.

Enjoy this link to Andrew Peterson’s song, The Far Country. Lyrics and video follow.

Andrew Peterson 3The Far Country
by Andrew Peterson (2005)

Father Abraham
Do you remember when
You were called to a land
And didn’t know the way

‘Cause we are wandering
In a foreign land
We are children of the
Promise of the faith

And I long to find it
Can you feel it, too?
That the sun that’s shining
Is a shadow of the truth

This is a far country, a far country
Not my home

In the dark of the night
I can feel the shadows all around me
Cold shadows in the corners of my heart

But the heart of the fight
Is not in the flesh but in the spirit
And the spirit’s got me shaking in the dark

And I long to go there
I can feel the truth
I can hear the promise
Of the angels of the moon

This is a far country, a far country
Not my home

I can see in the strip malls and the phone calls
The flaming swords of Eden
In the fast cash and the news flash
And the horn blast of war
In the sin-fraught cities of the dying and the dead
Like steel-wrought graveyards where the wicked never rest
To the high and lonely mountain in the groaning wilderness
We ache for what is lost
As we wait for the holy God
Of Father Abraham

I was made to go there
Out of this far country
To my home, to my home

The Real Strength of a Church

Wednesday is for Bible

Bibles on a Desk“The real strength of the Church is not the amount of its work but the quality of its faith. One man who truly knows his Bible is worth more to the Church’s real strength than a crowd of workers who do not.”

—P.T. Forsyth
The Church and the Sacraments. 9

Pray that the churches of America would value what the Bible says over against all tradition, experience, and culture.

The word of the Living God is not to be triffled with but honored, valued, and obeyed.

Al Mohler on the Eclipse of Religious Liberty

The following article appeared in Kairos Journal and at AlbertMohler.com

The Gathering Storm:
The Eclipse of Religious Liberty and the Threat of a New Dark Age

MONDAY • May 18, 2015

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Remarks Delivered Friday, May 15,  2015:

Mister Attorney General, Mr. Sears, and distinguished guests, it is a great honor to accept the Edwin Meese III Award for Originalism and Religious Liberty. That honor is greatly magnified by the presence of Attorney General Meese and by the fact that this award bears his name. He is one of America’s most courageous defenders of human freedom and the American experiment in ordered liberty.

I am also honored to receive this award from the Alliance Defending Freedom and its President, Alan Sears. I have known Alan for many years, and I know him to be one of the most powerful advocates of virtue and liberty of our age. The work of the Alliance Defending Freedom is essential, singular, and urgently vital. This battalion of defenders fights most of all—and most effectively—for our “first freedom,” religious liberty.

I am deeply, and always aware that I could not be here without the constant support and love of my wife, Mary Mohler.

You will recognize that I borrowed from Sir Winston Churchill for the title of my remarks. In the first volume of his history of World War II, the great statesman looked back at the storm clouds that gathered in the 1930s, when he had bravely warned of a war that would determine the destiny of human dignity and liberty for untold millions of people.

We are not facing the same gathering storm, but we are now facing a battle that will determine the destiny of priceless freedoms and the very foundation of human rights and human dignity.

Speaking thirty years ago, Attorney General Meese warned that “there are ideas which have gained influence in some parts of our society, particularly in some important and sophisticated areas that are opposed to religious freedom and freedom in general. In some areas there are some people that have espoused a hostility to religion that must be recognized for what it is, and expressly countered.”

Those were prophetic words, prescient in their clarity and foresight. The ideas of which Mr. Meese warned have only gained ground in the last thirty years, and now with astounding velocity. A revolution in morality now seeks not only to subvert marriage, but also to redefine it, and thus to undermine an essential foundation of human dignity, flourishing, and freedom.

Religious liberty is under direct threat. Just days ago the Solicitor General of the United States served notice before the Supreme Court that the liberties of religious institutions will be an open and unavoidable question. Already, religious liberty is threatened by a new moral regime that exalts erotic liberty and personal autonomy and openly argues that religious liberties must give way to the new morality, its redefinition of marriage, and its demand for coercive moral, cultural, and legal sovereignty.

A new moral and legal order is ascendant in America, and this new order is only possible, in the arena of American law and jurisprudence, if the original intent and the very words of the Constitution of the United States are twisted beyond recognition.

These are days that will require courage, conviction, and clarity of vision. We are in a fight for the most basic liberties God has given humanity, every single one of us, made in his image. Religious liberty is being redefined as mere freedom of worship, but it will not long survive if it is reduced to a private sphere with no public voice. The very freedom to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ is at stake, and thus so is the liberty of every American. Human rights and human dignity are temporary abstractions if they are severed from their reality as gifts of the Creator. The eclipse of Christian truth will lead inevitably to a tragic loss of human dignity. If we lose religious liberty, all other liberties will be lost, one by one. I am a Christian, and I believe that salvation is found in no other name than Jesus Christ and in no other gospel, but I will fight for the religious liberty of all.

There is a gathering storm, and its threat is urgent and real, but there are arguments to be made, principles to be defended, rights to be respected, truths to be cherished, and permanent things to be preserved. We face the danger of a new Dark Age marked by the loss of liberty and the denial of human dignity. Thus, there is a battle to be joined and much work to be done. Together, may we be found faithful to these tasks. As Churchill would remind us, in every gathering storm there is a summons to action.

Give Up on “Finding Yourself”

Tuesday is for Discipleship

Diving into SelfI stopped trying to “find myself” and decided to seek God.

—Mark Batterson
.   All In, (Zondervan, 2013)

Great quote from New York Times bestseller All In by Mark Batterson. Good advice and completely in sync with Jesus’s word in Matthew 10:39  . . .

Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for My sake will find it.

Jesus no where tells us to spend any energy at all on finding ourselves. But nearly every page of Scripture cries out for us to find Him, to seek Him, to pursue Him and let Him take care of all that concerns us. Our modern search for self is taking us no where but into narcissism and emptiness.

Let’s dive into Christ not self. Let’s find ourselves by losing ourselves in Him.

Branded by ISIS or Christ?

Thursday is for Discussion

Arabic symbol for NazareneYou have seen it on Facebook and twitter and instagram, in news reports and magazines. It is the Arabic symbol for the letter “N” and is used by ISIS to mark the homes of Christians (and to slate them for persecution). It is ISIS’s way of sealing the fate of the residents, of marking them for scorn and ridicule and giving license for others to confiscate property and to do whatever else they want to do with the occupants of the home. If that includes rape, stealing and selling occupants as slaves, forcing them into marriage with moslem men, torture, murder, it is all okay under the Sharia “Law” (sic) that ISIS proclaims. If you are a follower of the Nazarene you deserve whatever ISIS and its supporters want to dish out. Even the options that are offered to followers of Christ are a sham. ISIS says that if your house is marked or branded with the Arabic “N” you have three options, covert, pay a tax, or die.

But reports have proven that even this “mercy” (sic) is a public relations piece to placate Western journalists. Over and over again, even those who pay the tax (extremely high) are continually hounded and in many cases have been spared nothing. Only a delay has occured in their inevitable persecution. Reports from ISIS controlled areas in the Middle East and Africa are numerous where after having paid, houses of Christians have still been ransaked, burned, or destroyed and the Christians have still been raped, sold into slavery, and killed. ISIS marks Christians and lies about what it means. God marks Christians and promises wonder and glory for those who are faithful.

“In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.”   (Ephesians 1:13-14)

“Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.”  (Ephesians 4:30)

Which is why the apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:58

“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.”

Our God reigns. He sees. He has marked you, branded you, as His and He has marked our brothers and sisters who are suffering greviously under ISIS. He has marked them too as His. As you rejoice in your blessings, remember them in their suffering and remember too that ISIS’s seal doesn’t change the reward that will be theirs in the day of redemption. Pray for your brothers and sisters in Christ..

Seeing the Truth Up Close

Tuesday is for Thinking and Reflection

Shepherd with Sheep on Shoulders1 The Lord is my shepherd
.      I shall not want.

6 Surely goodness and mercy will follow me
.      all the days of my life
   And I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
  .    forever.
                           ( Psalm 23:1,6 )

This week my wife and I had the opportunity to spend some time with Bob and Phyllis Hartman, two saints near the end of their journey who prove the wonder and truth of the word of the Living God. What a delight! 

We discussed the word and the Word made flesh. We spent some time in Psalm 23; we prayed; we laughed; we wept; we celebrated the Lord’s Supper, and we made plans to do it again if God allows.

Bob and Phyllis expressed how overwhelmed they were in the care they were receiving. A grand-daughter-in-law was cleaning house, and conversing, and loving on them; the family had been arranging care schedules, the church family was filling in gaps, the refrigerator was filled with meals that had been prepared. In short, their “cup was running over” (v. 5). They felt loved and valued as a life-time of having the Lord as their shepherd was yielding proof of “goodness and mercy pursuing them all the days of their lives” (v. 6).

I covet their experience for every believer in Christ. I covet it for myself. 

And Psalm 23 tells us how it happens.

verse 1        Make the Lord Your Shepherd
verses 2-5  The Lord makes everything work together to produce …
verse 6        Goodness and mercy following us all the days of our lives.

Everything flows from having the Lord as our Shepherd.

Our shepherd laid down his life for us (John 10:11). Know Him as Savior. Serve Him as Lord.

Tweet this: The Lord is my Shepherd … goodness and mercy pursue me all the days of my life. The glory of the gospel for His name’s sake.

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