Everybody hates the Big Guy

Big Government. Big Oil. Big Brother. This morning I even heard a story on the news about Big Whiskey (wasn’t that the setting in “Unforgiven”?). There is this distrust of anything or anyone big. Why?

Maybe it’s because of the fear that anything or anyone too big won’t play by the rules. The thinkings is that the Big Guy ignores the rules and overpowers the Little Guy — you and me. But what if the Big Guy makes the rules? Then what?

God tells us in the Bible “Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.” (Psalm 115:3) For the average person in the culture I live in, that is a threatening statement. It threatens because it takes any kind of control I may have out of my hands. Like anything or anyone Big, we ask “But does he know what’s best for me?” “Can I trust him?” And, the big question whether we ask or not “What about my rights?”

Anyone who takes a moment to look at the world around them soon will realize that there is much that goes out of control. War. Weather. Relationships. But ultimate control rests in God’s hands, who created this world. The less we choose to believe this, the greater our distress in what looks like chaos in this world.

That is a battle I fight every day. A favorite passage of mine is I Peter 5:6-7, where it says “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on Him, for he cares for you.” Just prior to that, it says that God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. So, my battle is to be humble and trust the “mighty hand of God” — that is, the God who does spectacular things for his people.

So, the battle is to trust the ultimate Big Guy who makes the rules and does more than I could possibly do. And part of that battle is to not make myself the Big Guy, because I don’t have the authority or the power to run the world, even my own little one.

Free online books from John Piper: A great resource from Desiring God

I’ve been meaning to share this for some time because it’s been a great help to me. Did you know that you can go online and find several of John Piper’s books for free to read online (or download and read later)? It’s true. Desiring God, which is a great ministry seeking to “spread a passion for the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all peoples through Jesus Christ,” offers the books. You can find them here. New books are being added all the time, and often there are books in languages other than English if you want to use them to minister in that way. One of the ways I use them is I read them online and then bookmark that link so I can go back to them in a web browser without having to go to the home page first.

Thank you, John Piper, for the many inspiring, encouraging, challenging, informative books you have written. And thank you, too, Desiring God for making them available.

The greatest event in history: Look and marvel at Jesus and his death

From John Piper, talking about the two paradoxes in the death of Christ:

The death of Christ was the curse of God and the wrath of God; and yet, at the same time, it was pleasing to God and a sweet fragrance. While turning from his Son and giving him up to die laden with our sin, he delighted in the obedience and love and perfection of the Son.

Therefore, let us stand in awe and look with trembling joy on the death of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. There is no greater event in history. There is no greater thing for our minds to ponder or our hearts to admire. Stay close to this. Everything important and good gathers here. It is a wise and weighty and happy place to be.

He died for me because I was his enemy

And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. — Luke 19:41-42

Scotty Smith writes great prayers at Heavenward because they go deep. This week I particularly felt touched by this one, based on the verses above:

Dear Lord Jesus, everything about Holy Week reveals the depth of your compassion for sinful, broken people, just like me. The tears you wept coming into Jerusalem, even the anger you showed in driving the money-changers out of the temple… every encounter, parable and action gives staggering clarity to Paul’s words…

“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:6-8).

Paul was writing about me, Jesus. I’m the powerless, ungodly sinner for whom you died, demonstrating God’s incomparable and irrepressible love for me. I was God’s enemy when you reconciled me to him through your death on the cross (Rom. 5:9). May I never believe otherwise.

I would still be blind to what, alone, brings me peace if you hadn’t opened my eyes to see my need of you and your death for me. The gospel would still remain hidden from my eyes unless you had given me sight to behold you as the Lamb of God that takes away my sin. I can’t and I won’t sneer at a single Pharisee, Sadducee, priest or teacher of the law… or anyone else, who tried to trick or trap you during Holy Week. I am just as worthy of judgment as they.

Mark Driscoll tells the Washington Post about heaven

Mark Driscoll, pastor at Mars Hills Church, has written a guest editorial in today’s Washington Post about heaven:

Everyone believes in a heaven.

The next time you are standing in line at a store, take a moment to look at the covers of the magazines on the rack. Each cover presents a picture of some sort of heavenly life. There is vacation heaven, fishing heaven, hunting heaven, pet heaven, entertainment heaven, sex heaven, bridal heaven, nicely organized home heaven, baby heaven, and so on. The articles in the magazines speak of life in hellish terms but offer functional saviors to take us from our hellish life to our heavenly one if we just obey the steps and buy the products.

The question persists, however, why? Why do we live for the endless pursuit of heavenly perfection on earth, and spend our hard-earned money relentlessly pursuing that perfect place, perfect thing, perfect person, or that perfect day? Perhaps all of our toys, hobbies, home improvement projects, festivals, parties, toys, joys, and vacations are simply our way of looking for paradise and practicing for heaven.

But practice does not make perfect because we are not able to reach that ideal, no matter how hard we try.

According to the Bible, God kicked us out of paradise because of our rebellion, much like we would do to a roommate who declared war on us in our own home. Subsequently, ever since then we have all been booking airline flights, gassing up our cars, hiking in the woods, buying junk, logging on, and walking on the beach searching for paradise. Deep down we all feel homeless and restless.

Our pernicious problem is that paradise is lost. No matter how close we get to that perfect day in that perfect place, we are continually disappointed because sin is there too and things are not as perfect as we had hoped. Subsequently, we get sunburned, food poisoning, seasick, or bumped off our flight home from the search for paradise and are left to wander through the airport, which is perhaps the best illustration of hell that earth has to offer.

As we progress toward Easter, we should think about what heaven is and how we may be trying to recreate it here on earth. Whatever we think is good about this life, heaven is much better. Of course we are eager to leave behind the pains and disappointments of this world, but we need to look into our hearts and ask if we are treasuring the things we love more than heaven.

The Gospel for Muslims

The Gospel for Muslims

Thabiti Anyabwile, who grew up in a nominal Christian family in North Carolina, converted to Islam while in college. While there, he became — in his own words — “something of the campus Saul, opposing the gospel and anything having to do with the biblical Jesus.” But, God didn’t allow him to stay there and he returned to Christianity. Today, he serves as pastor of First Baptist Church of Grand Cayman in the Grand Cayman Islands.

He has written a new book called “The Gospel for Muslims: An Encouragement To Share Christ With Confidence” in which he shares ways to stir confidence in the gospel, equipping the reader with the basics necessary to communicate clearly, boldly, and winsomely. It is not an exhaustive apologetic to compare Christianity with Islam, but is meant for the average reader as a helpful guide.

Recently, Anyabwile did an interview with Trevin Wax at Kingdom People. Wax asked Anyabwile why it is that Christians feel nervous about sharing their faith with Muslims and why they should be instead be confident. This is what Anyabwile said:

Many Christians seem to accept two myths when it comes to sharing the gospel with Muslims. First, many Christians tend to think every Muslim has memorized the Qur’an and is likely a radical. That’s the “super Muslim” myth.

Second, many Christians think they need to be world class apologists, able to answer ever Muslim question or critique of Christianity. That’s the “I’m so inadequate” myth.

The result of these two assumptions is that many Christians harbor a lot of fear when it comes to speaking with Muslims. And that fear causes a crisis in confidence—they doubt that the gospel is the power of God unto salvation for everyone who believes. They shrink back, telling themselves that they don’t know enough, that their Muslim neighbor is more confident, and that it’s probably no use.

The truth, however, is exactly the opposite. If we are Gospel-believing Christians, with even a basic understanding of the “good news,” then we know all that we need to know in order to effectively reach our Muslim neighbors and friends. The power of God is not in our wisdom or in our techniques; those things threaten to empty the cross of its power (1 Cor. 1:17).

But the gospel itself, that is the power of God unto salvation for everyone who believes. In the message of Jesus’ perfect righteousness, sacrificial death for our sins, glorious resurrection, and second coming in glory, God has placed His power to make sinners new, to raise spiritually dead men to life, to change the hardest human heart into a heart that loves God, to justify us and satisfies His righteous wrath. What we need is confidence in the gospel, for God makes the gospel to triumph in every nation.

It is a very good interview. Go here to read the rest as you can see answers about how he came to faith, how the Trinity is important in Christian evangelism of Muslims and how hospitality is important. You can find his book here.

What is the good news of the gospel?

Greg Gilbert has written a new book, “What Is The Gospel?” in which he tries to clear up some misconceptions about what the gospel is and present it clearly. As Kevin DeYoung says, “Greg Gilbert, with a sharp mind and a pastor’s heart, has written a book that will be helpful for seekers, new Christians, and anyone who wants to understand the gospel with greater clarity. … As a sure-footed guide to a surprisingly controversial subject, it clears up misconceptions about the gospel, the kingdom, and the meaning of the cross.”

Gilbert explains why he wrote the book in this interview:

Here is a portion of sample chapter that you can read for free online:

Since the very beginning of time, people have been trying to save themselves in ways that make sense to them, rather than listening and submitting to God. They have been trying to figure out how to get salvation to work—how to get the gospel to work—apart from the Wicket Gate, that is, apart from the cross of Jesus Christ.

That is no less true in our own day. Indeed I believe one of the greatest dangers the body of Christ faces today is the temptation to rethink and rearticulate the gospel in a way that makes its center something other than the death of Jesus on the cross in the place of sinners.

The pressure to do that is enormous, and it seems to come from several directions. One of the main sources of pressure is the increasingly common idea that the gospel of forgiveness of sin through Christ’s death is somehow not “big” enough—that it doesn’t address problems like war, oppression, poverty, and injustice, and really “isn’t terribly important,” as one writer put it, when it comes to the real problems of this world.

Especially now, when we are in the Easter season, this is a good book to consider. But since it is small (124 pages) it would be a great book to read at any time and to give to others as well for good, sound advice.

The favor you didn’t ask for but God gave you anyway

I was reading the blog of a friend who is living overseas and this story really struck me as some kind of providence that God had provided (although I don’t exactly know why, but that’s what it seemed like). Perhaps I could be accused of overspiritualizing everything, but I know that there are no such things as coincidences. It would be better that we teach ourselves not to shrug off every occurrence in our days and think about how God has his hand on every moment of our lives. How would your life change? How about your attitude?

Today, as I think about it, I would pray that my eyes be opened to see that God is working in the details of my life. When the Bible says in 2 Chronicles 16:9 that the Lord “run(s) to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him” that encourages me. It is good to know that God is working in ways that I haven’t even thought of yet. So, it’s a good thing every once in awhile to stop and look around you. There are amazing things happening.