Stop and Think

I am a deliberate person by nature. I have often told my wife, my family, that I am a unitasker — that is, I do one thing at a time. I always thought this was a character flaw, but only recently I’ve discovered it’s really how we all are.

I’ve been slowly reading through Matt Perman’s great book What’s Best Next: How The Gospel Transforms The Way You Get Things Done. What I’ve learned is that being a multitasker is not ideal because you end up doing everything just a little less than your best. What we think of as being more efficient has the opposite effect — we become less so. In fact, Perman says, the only one who’s truly a multitasker is God. He does all things well, all at the same time. What we need to do, rather than a bunch of things at the same time, is do what we need to do well. This is not only better but more glorifying to God.

In light of that, I’ve been thinking of my own way of doing things. As I’ve said, I’m deliberate but that doesn’t mean I’ve been as efficient as I could be. What I’ve come to see is that I need to take a look at the bigger picture — my goals, my motivations, my purposes — and see where I’m headed and where I want to go. This isn’t just a worldly ideal, it’s a spiritual consideration as well. God does not want us to do less than our best. That certainly doesn’t bring him glory when we are careless or lazy about how we live our lives.

So, before I plunge into another new year I’ve been taking stock of where I am and the habits I’ve formed. I am looking at my purposes and motivations. What are my goals? Are they what they should be, in light of what God desires me to be? God is gracious and he is able to continually work in us his will. It is a good thing to stop and think about where I am headed. John Piper talks about drifting leaves that do a great deal of moving but accomplish nothing. God did not create us to be aimless, but to live with a purpose. If there is a advantage of a calendar it’s that it gives us the opportunity to take stock of our situations on a regular basis and, hopefully, make corrections to our course.

God willing, that is my plan for 2016. I encourage you to take advantage of the opportunity as well.

Advertisements

Crossway’s free ESV Bible app now available for iPad

So, you have a new iPad and would like to actually do something with it that doesn’t look like you’re worshipping it. You know that free ESV Bible app that Crossway released for the iPod/iPod Touch last month? It’s now available for iPad as well — also for free. Now, this will only be cool if you actually take time to read it. Maybe you won’t need to download as many other apps if you get this one. Just a thought.

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.

Getting a grip on how much we’re not worth it: You’re looking the wrong way.

For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. – Romans 5:7-8

The other day I saw a portion of a new book by D.A. Carson called “Scandalous.” In it, he says “Those who draw really close to Jesus think of themselves, first and foremost, as those loved by him rather than those who profess their love for him.” He is talking about the instances in the New Testament where writers described themselves as being loved by Jesus. The point is is that the attention is focused not on them and their efforts but on Christ and what he has done. This is a good thing to think about because we — me, you, all of us — have a tendancy to inflate our self-worth when talking about our salvation.

But, if that’s the case, then how do we read and understand the verse above? When it says God loved us “while we were yet sinners” it doesn’t mean that we were especially valuable. Rather, it points to the depth of his grace and love. We have a tendancy to get it backwards because we are so intent on protecting our self esteem. In Fifty Ways Jesus Came To Die, John Piper addresses this kind of thinking:

I have heard it said, “God didn’t die for frogs. So he was responding to our value as humans.” This turns grace on its head. We are worse off than frogs. They have not sinned. They have not rebelled and treated God with the contempt of being inconsequential in their lives. God did not have to die for frogs. They aren’t bad enough. We are. Our debt is so great, only a divine sacrifice could pay it.

There is only one explanation for God’s sacrifice for us. It is not us. It is “the riches of his grace” (Ephesians 1:7). It is all free. It is not a response to our worth. It is the overflow of his infinite worth. In fact, that is what divine love is in the end: a passion to enthrall undeserving sinners, at great cost, with what will make us supremely happy forever, namely, his infinite beauty. 

Christ’s death on the cross is a magnificent event. We should all look at it and marvel. But if we come away thinking it’s a lesson about our worth, then we’ve tragically missed the point.

Describing the indescribable: Depression

We all have our days that are not as good as others. Depression is something that some struggle with more than others. My heart goes out for those that struggle because I have struggled as well. That is why I found this poem, written by Sue Lubbers, to be something helpful. The idea that a Christian can struggle with depression is not foreign. David Murray, writing at the Gospel Coalition blog, says it well:

Three things make this poem especially touching. First, it was written by a Christian, which actually adds another layer to the suffering. The Christian with depression not only loses physical energy, intellectual ability, and emotional activity, but the most precious thing in their life feels lost – their spiritual relationship with their Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Second, the poem is breathtakingly honest. It does not attempt to gloss over or minimize the horrific thoughts and feelings that stalk and haunt the soul in this desolate valley. It is so far removed from the shallow and artificial triumphalism of so much of modern Christianity. It is much more reminiscent of the deep and realistic piety we find in many of the Psalms, in Job, and in Jeremiah.

Third, the poem holds out great hope for those still passing through these deep waters. To get maximum benefit, don’t read across the two columns. Rather, read the whole of the first column. Then start reading down the second column, comparing it as you go with the parallel line in the first column. What a transformation! The Lord has revolutionized this dear believer’s life. If you, or a loved one, are still in column one, then read column two and see what our almighty and gracious God can do in the most desperate of situations.

Some of us will battle this constantly, but there is hope in a mighty, loving, caring God who is there.

What is Hitchens thinking? Doug Wilson discusses ‘Collision’ with John Piper

‘Collision’ premiered Friday at the 2009 Desiring God National Conference. If you’re not familiar with it, “Collision” is a documentary on the series of debates between pastor/theologian Doug Wilson and atheist/author Christopher Hitchens on their book “Is Christianity Good for the World?”

After the movie was shown, Wilson sat down with pastor John Piper to answer a few questions about the film:

  • Christopher Hitchens said at the end of the movie that, given the chance, he wouldn’t convert the last theist. Why do you think he said that?
  • What is Hitchens’ best counterpoint to the claim that he is getting his morality for judging Christianity from Christians?
  • What is the relationship between doing apologetics and evangelizing?
  • In the video you speak about having “copiousness.” Describe what that is and whether you think it is important for pastors to cultivate.
  • What is your hope for this film?
  • What about the “s” word at the end of the film? Why do you allow for it here but don’t tolerate it from your children?
  • Why the recent upsurge in the New Atheism?
Click on the image to view the video
Click on the image to view the video

The 2009 Desiring God National Conference is going on this weekend in Minneapolis. The theme of this year’s conference is “With Calvin in the Theater of God.” You can follow along with the conference’s messages and find audio and video here.

Seven reasons why we need small groups

This was not the main part of the message, but it was nonetheless a great point that John Piper made this past Sunday during his message at Bethlethem Baptist Church in Minneapolis. That is, seven reasons why we as believers and members of the church need small groups:

He has given pastors to the church “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11-12). I believe in what I do. And I believe that it is not enough. Here are the seven reasons I gave the small group leaders.

1. The impulse avoid painful growth by disappearing safely into the crowd in corporate worship is very strong.

2. The tendency toward passivity in listening to a sermon is part of our human weakness.

3. Listeners in a big group can more easily evade redemptive crises. If tears well up in your eyes in a small group, wise friends will gently find out why. But in a large gathering, you can just walk away from it.

4. Listeners in a large group tend to neglect efforts of personal application. The sermon may touch a nerve of conviction, but without someone to press in, it can easily be avoided.

5. Opportunity for questions leading to growth is missing. Sermons are not dialogue. Nor should they be. But asking questions is a key to understanding and growth. Small groups are great occasions for this.

6. Accountability for follow-through on good resolves is missing. But if someone knows what you intended to do, the resolve is stronger.

7. Prayer support for a specific need or conviction or resolve goes wanting. O how many blessings we do not have because we are not surrounded by a band of friends who pray for us.

David Robinson: A class act. A servant of Christ.

Like all our heroes here on this earth, David Robinson is not perfect. But the humility he displayed while being given the highest honor in his profession is refreshing and something we can aspire to. While many focused on the speech given by Michael Jordan on this night, it was Robinson who gave the memorable speech. Thanks, David.