May you know the Lord’s sweet blessings as you serve and worship him this weekend.
(Yesterday on the blog: I recommended the book Man of Sorrows, King of Glory)
“Is venting legitimate, constructive, healthy, and faithful? In short, is it ok to ‘vent?’ Scripture offers a nuanced response. It gives permission, admonishes caution, and provides direction. It gives permission for honest expression, caution to avoid harm, and direction to express your heart to God.” Todd Stryd provides an answer here.
Nick Batzig: “How can I remain calm under pressure? This has to be one of the most significant questions we find ourselves asking throughout our lives. What is the secret to pressing through the challenges and trials of life without fretting or being overwhelmed by constant anxiety?”
This isn’t the usual A La Carte fare, but I thought it interesting enough to share: “Today marks the 20th anniversary of the crash of American Airlines flight 587 in New York City. We have now gone twenty full years since the last large-scale crash involving a major U.S. carrier. This is by far the longest such streak ever.” What an amazing thing.
Pierce Taylor Hibbs has a challenge for men. “I want to encourage my brothers across the globe with a simple message: know yourself and speak. But I’m going to show you that this ‘knowing yourself’ means a lot more than casual introspection.”
I second this invitation. “For those of you who find yourself playing with words, turning over sentences, creating mounting paragraphs, carrying index cards in your pocket or on the dashboard or atop your nightstand, texting yourself meaningful phrases or ideas, your mind brimming with childhood memories and stories which spark a seeing of the hand of God in the minutiae, I beckon you to write.”
Here’s a simple look at distinguishing right from wrong.
Ambition is good, but it needs to be strengthened by at least two other crucial traits: character and self-discipline.
Jesus bases everything on God-realization, while other teachers base everything on self-realization. —Oswald Chambers
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By Tim Challies — 1 month ago
There are different ways to distinguish a church from a cult. Churches hold to a broad consensus of orthodox beliefs while cults invariably elevate a small number of uniquely unorthodox beliefs. Churches tend to foster a context in which leaders are accountable to their congregations while cults tend to foster a context in which leaders demand mindless obedience. Churches expect loyalty to the word of God while cults expect loyalty to the words of a charismatic leader. And then there is this: Churches tend to reflect unity amid diversity while cults tend to display unity premised upon uniformity.
The gospel of Jesus Christ is meant to transform those who believe it to such a degree that communities structured around it are markedly different from those that are not. When the gospel is honored and valued, it fosters love and unity among people who would otherwise be cold and distant. And in that way gospel communities should reflect a kind of gospel diversity—a community in which a diverse group of people honor, enjoy, and serve one another.
As we look around a church we ought to see people with a wide range of differences experiencing the deepest kind of unity—different races and ethnicities, different ages and socioeconomics, different convictions on politics, different convictions on education, different convictions on vaccinations, and so on. The gospel that was sufficient to bind Jew to Gentile and Gentile to Jew is sufficient to bind any two—or any two hundred—Christians together. The gospel that fostered unity between vegetarians and meat-eaters is plenty strong enough to foster unity between maskers and non-maskers.
Yet a little honest self-examination will probably reveal that we all have a cultist lurking within ourselves. We may pay lip service to diversity, but when it comes down to it we find that our natural instinct is toward uniformity—a uniformity to our own emphases, our own convictions, our own preferences.
We acknowledge that Christians have freedom to disagree when it comes to the ways we educate our children, yet find we look with a disparaging eye at those who have strong convictions that are the exact opposite of our own. We say that we want our church to reflect the ethnic diversity of the surrounding community, but then find that the traditions and ideals of another culture grate against our own. We distinguish between essential and non-essential beliefs—we may even say something like “in essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity”—yet still find ourselves thinking how much better this church would be if we did not have to love people who believed this or acted like that. Like the strong toward the weak in Romans 14, we can despise people who live by different convictions, and like the weak toward the strong, we can so easily pass judgment on them.
The inner cultist tries to convince us that life would be better, relationships would be easier, the church would be safer, if only everyone was the same—the same as me. Yet such a community would display little of the gospel because it would require little divine grace. It takes no divine power to foster community amid uniformity. But it takes great divine power to bind together those who are in so many ways so very different—those who continue to live by conscience, who continue to value their culture, who continue to hold to their convictions.
So when you look out at your church and see a person whose convictions are opposite yours on a key issue, be grateful that you are part of the same church. When you see a person who places great value on what is so uninspiring to you and places little value on what is so close to your heart, be thankful that God has bound you together. When you look out and see diversity, don’t let your heart long for uniformity. For that would be a longing to be part of a cult rather than a church.
By Tim Challies — 3 months ago
May you know the Lord’s sweet blessings as you serve and worship him this weekend.
Logos has lots of great material from Zondervan on sale, including the excellent ZECNT/ZECOT series.
I’m very grateful to AGTV for sponsoring the blog this week with news of their excellent and expanding programming.
(Yesterday on the blog: When Prayer Is a Struggle)
After Mars Hill And John Wayne
This is a good reminder of simple truths. “Evangelicals over the last decade have done a poor job of sticking to the centre of the road with respect to marital sexuality. The abuses and excesses being detailed in exposés like ‘Jesus And John Wayne’ and ‘The Rise And Fall Of Mars Hill’ have launched a (predictable) overreaction among some, leaving many confused as to what the Bible does, in fact, say about proper, kind, and loving sexual conduct within marriage.”
God Scares Me to Death
“God is sovereign. He does as he pleases. This comforts some people—and terrifies others.” I understand this fear very well.
Is “Beloved” Still a Word? (Video)
I don’t completely agree with Bill Mounce here, but I do think he raises some interesting points about words that have begun to get a bit antiquated in English (and without a suitable replacement).
I enjoyed and benefitted from this one. “Cathedrals were designed to invoke a sense of awe and wonder. Cathedrals are intended to move within the worshiper, an internal sense of smallness in contrast to the grandeur of God. Surely, in your travels, some of you have experienced just this.”
The Endless Life Cycle of Book Cover Trends
To be clear, I don’t recommend the books in this article. But I do recommend it as an interesting look at where book covers come from. “What you see on a cover is the product of intermingling cultural and economic forces.”
When Furrows Fight Back
Aimee Joseph: “We are wired for work. Contrary to popular belief, it is not a result of the fall. Challenges in work and struggles with identity around work were most assuredly a consequence of man’s rebellion against God’s created and careful order; however, work itself honors God and is a needed part of human flourishing.”
Flashback: Thank God For Your Job (Doesn’t Matter What Your Job Is!)
If God blesses your labors to give you enough or even more than enough to meet your needs, you ought to give him praise and thanks.
Whatever circumstances our pasts may hold, we can rise above them into a future shaped by God’s grace. —Erwin Lutzer
By Tim Challies — 1 week ago
There is perhaps no book of the Bible that offers as many interpretive challenges as the book of Revelation. I sometimes debate whether the book is actually perfectly clear while we are pathetically thick or whether the book is extremely difficult to understand because God intended it to be. Either way, though the intent and general message of Revelation is clear enough, the details present a challenge worthy of the most eminent theologian.
Speaking of which, Thomas Schreiner has recently taken on that challenge in three forms: a general-level commentary in the ESV Expository Commentary series; a major academic commentary in the Baker Exegetical Commentary series (which is still forthcoming); and The Joy of Hearing, a short book on the theology of Revelation. The latter work represents the debut volume in a new series titled New Testament Theology, co-edited by Schreiner and Brian Rosner. Each volume will examine the big ideas one of the books of the New Testament and do so in a readable and relatively concise format. (The second volume, The Mission of the Triune God: A Theology of Acts, will release in January.)
The Joy of Hearing, then, offers a theology of Revelation, which means it approaches the book thematically rather than chapter-by-chapter and verse-by-verse. Schreiner begins by telling why it is so important that contemporary Christians read the book of Revelation carefully and know it well. And, of course, this means he needs to address what the book is and is not. “The book of Revelation is not a prophecy chart about the future but a call to be a disciple of Jesus. John tells us to be faithful and fruitful, and we should not give in to despair, for in the end, all will be well.”
My contention is that we desperately need the message of Revelation for today’s world. There is a great conflict between good and evil in our world, and the Christian faith is under attack, as it was in the first century. John reminds us in this book that God rules, even in an evil day; that God has not forsaken his people; and that goodness will finally triumph and prevail. In the midst of evil, in a world in which the Christian faith is under attack, we need hope and assurance that evil will not have the last word, and Revelation teaches us that a new world is coming, that a new creation is coming, and that all will be well. God is just and holy and righteous, and those who turn against God and his Christ will suffer judgment. At the same time, we see in the book that the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ are the center of history, or the fulcrum of history. Evil has been defeated because of what Christ has accomplished. The triumph over wickedness was realized not by an act of judgment but through the suffering of the Lion of the tribe of Judah, through the Lamb who was slain. What do believers do as they live in Babylon, as they live in a world in which the governments of the world are like ravenous beasts tearing apart the church? John tells us that we are to stay close to Christ, that we must not compromise with evil, that we must endure to the end, and that we must look to the final reward.
Schreiner then advances to a brief examination of the book’s setting, date, and genre, suggesting that the best evidence is that it was written during the reign of Domitian, which would date it somewhere between AD 81-96.—a time when the churches in Asia Minor were experiencing state-sanctioned persecution. Yet he insists that “no interpretation should be accepted that demands a particular date—an important hermeneutical conclusion that we can draw from the imprecision of the historical situation.” As for the genre, while Revelation is clearly apocalyptic, Schreiner also emphasizes that it was a personal letter. “The epistolary genre in the book reminds us that we should not indulge in what I call ‘newspaper eschatology’ in reading the book. The book was written to readers who occupied a particular social location, and presumably they understood, at least mainly, what was written to them. The hermeneutical significance of this fact is massively important, for it eliminates the popular conception that modern readers interpret Revelation better than the original readers.”
With all this groundwork in place, Schreiner begins the study proper and, through seven chapters, picks up on the major themes of the book:
The deafness of those living on earth
The saints hear and heed
The declaration that God rules on his throne
The good news of the Lion and the Lamb
The testimony of the Holy Spirit
The promise of blessing and the New Creation
Reigning with Christ for one thousand years
Many will want to read this book to know where the author lands on the question of the millennium (and, therefore, which of the three major positions he advocates—postmillennialism, premillennialism, and amillennialism). He treads carefully and writes charitably without advocating one position far ahead of the others. That said, he is clearly most sympathetic toward historic premillennialism and amillennialism while fairly easily setting aside both postmillennialism and dispensationalism.
As he concludes his study, Schreiner says “In a world full of evil, selfishness, materialism, and sexual exploitation, John proclaims a message of hope, although it is an apocalyptic message that is hidden from the world. Thus believers must attune their ears to hear a transcendent message, to hear the words of the Son of Man and the Holy Spirit.” This wonderful little book, which is equally appropriate for pastors, academics, and general readers, will help accomplish just that—it will better equip us all to hear, understand, and apply that transcendent, hope-filled, life-giving, soul-sustaining message.
The Joy of Hearing is available at Amazon or Westminster Books (where it’s currently 50% off).
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