Monthly Archives: November 2009

Always Thanksgiving

I know God’s will for your life:

Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.– 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Always rejoice, always pray, always give thanks. No ifs, ands, or buts.


The key lay in the last verse, which tells us that this is God’s will for us in Christ Jesus. In Christ all things are possible.

If we treasure Christ above all, we will be able to rejoice always, pray continually, and give thanks in everything, because Christ alone is the fountain of joy, intimacy with God, and gratitude.

Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!

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What Gospel-Centered Preaching Does

This is from a message I received yesterday from a lady in our church:

I love having the Gospel preached every week. I’ve been a Christian for over 30 years now (wow! that’s really long), and thought I understood it. And head-wise, I do. But I feel like this is the first time it’s ever been presented in such a way as to really become life changing.

I’ve been receiving variations of this in response to preaching (and to my blogging!) for quite a while. And I am privileged enough to see in my congregation that these aren’t mere words. People are showing the fruit of freedom, from a new light in their eyes to new lifestyles. But this message yesterday is just another needed reminder that the gospel is good news, not good advice, and that the gospel actually creates what the Law requires. The Law can’t do that for itself.

Over at the Evangel blog today, I posted this:

Talking about how the gospel and the law relate to sanctification is no mere intellectual exercise for me. It’s not just one more idea for the blog. It made the difference between the crushing weight of my own sinful failure and the freedom that comes from tasting and seeing that the Lord is good. This is a real freedom, a freedom that makes “good works” a celebratory dance, not a day-laborers’ accumulation of sanctifying sweat equity. That way leads to burn out and bitterness. “Do not again return to a yoke of …

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Tim Keller on the Wonders of Gospel-Centrality

As I said, I am committed to gospel tunnel-vision. But it’s not dark inside this tunnel. The glories of the king of the universe are in this vision! Here is Tim Keller:

1 Peter 1:12: “It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things.”

Angels love to look into the gospel. They never get tired of it. So what does that mean? It means gospel ministry is endlessly creative. It means you can preach the gospel and never have to be afraid of boring people . . .Isn’t that amazing? The gospel is not the ABC’s of Christianity, it’s A to Z. It’s not just the elementary and introductory truths. The gospel is what drives everything that we do. The gospel is pretty much the solution to every problem. The gospel is what every theological category should be expounding when we do our systematic theology. It should be very much a part of everything.Even angels long to look into it. And you should.

Some people will always be bored with the gospel. But pastors, sometimes they are because you’re preaching it wrong. It’s a sin to talk about this one life-giving truth in dispassionate ways.

Related:The Beautiful Monotony of the Gospel

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Why I’m Committed to Tunnel Vision About the Gospel Even Though it Perplexes Some People and Irritates Others

Because it was good enough for Paul.

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Double Dose of Ortlund

Today I was just washing the dishes, staring out the window, and I started thinking about Ray Ortlund, Jr., who became a friend and mentor to me in a crucial time in my life and ministry, and I suddenly began weeping. That doesn’t happen to me a lot. You know, I’m a pretty sensitive guy, but I don’t cry about a . . . well, about a dude.

Ray’s blog Christ is Deeper Still has recently become the latest affiliate blog for The Gospel Coalition, of which he is a Council member. TGC’s addition of Ray to their stable of bloggers is the best thus far. Few preachers and writers are as gospel-fixated as Ray.

If you’re anywhere near the Nashville area — and even if you’re not — you should absolutely try to get to the Death to Performance Conference being held February 10. Speakers include Ray and my friend Ed Stetzer, as well as Acts 29 President Scott Thomas and Journey Church Franklin Pastor Jamie George. Details here. The intended theme — gospel-centered missional ministry in the Bible Belt — is super-important.

Related:My Tribute to Ray OrtlundRay Ortlund’s Gospel Manifesto

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The Gospel is Power

“It happens over and over again that the gospel ‘comes alive’ in a way that the evangelist had never dreamed of, and has effects which he never anticipated. The gospel is addressed to the human person as a human person in all the uncountable varieties of predicaments in which human beings find themselves.

The gospel has a sovereignty of its own and is never an instrument in the hands of the evangelist. Or, to put it more truly, the Holy Spirit, by whose secret working alone the gospel ‘comes alive,’ is not under the evangelist’s control. The wind blow freely.”

– Lesslie Newbigin, The Gospel in a Pluralist Society

The more I press into the reality that, for Paul, the gospel isn’t just an informational proposition but an actual power let loose into the world bearing fruit by Spiritual catalyst, the more I am both confident in gospel proclamation and humble in proclaiming and then getting the heck out of the gospel’s way.

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Don’t Sell Your Pulpit

No, this isn’t an ode to church furniture.

There’s a curious and discouraging article in the November 20th Entertainment Weekly magazine about producers’ efforts to “sell” the upcoming film adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road to Christians (by way of their pastors).

[T]he adaptation of . . . McCarthy’s acclaimed novel about a father (Viggo Mortensen) and son (Kodi Smit-McPhee) traveling through a bleak wasteland is getting the full pitch to Christian audiences . . . Plans include 15 advance screenings for church leaders nationwide, a website featuring free sermon and discussion guides, and a special trailer with extra scenes underscoring the film’s moral message.

This is a relatively new phenomenon, but it has been successful in the past. The most notable film-to-pulpit crossover is undoubtedly The Passion of the Christ, which held advance screenings for ministers and church groups and later supplied resources for pastor use in sermons and group use in Bible studies. The teams that produced Facing the Giants and Fireproof followed suit, although their crossover into pulpit “advertising” was probably considered more acceptable as the movies were made within the Christian subculture pretty much for the Christian subculture. (Hollywood had lesser success but still some crossovers made with the Narnia adaptations and Evan Almighty.)

But The Road has no explicit Christian content. It may very well be the best film of all the films ever marketed for pulpit use, but elements reminiscent of Christian themes are the feeblest excuse for church marketing yet. The money quote from the …

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Pastoral Images and Aspirations In Need of Shattering

With the double honor of 1 Timothy 5:17 comes the double responsibility of James 3:1.

Matt Chandler, pastor of The Village Church outside Dallas, gave a powerful message at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary’s chapel service yesterday morning. You can watch it here or listen to it here, and I encourage you to do so. It’s worth anyone’s time, but is especially good for anyone in church leadership or anyone aspiring to be in church leadership.

In his sermon, Chandler quotes from Eugene Peterson’s Working the Angles: The Shape of Pastoral Integrity:

For a long time, I have been convinced that I could take a person with a high school education, give him or her a six-month trade school training, and provide a pastor who would be satisfactory to any discriminating American congregation. The curriculum would consist of four courses.

Course I: Creative Plagiarism. I would put you in touch with a wide range of excellent and inspirational talks, show you how to alter them just enough to obscure their origins, and get you a reputation for wit and wisdom.

Course II: Voice Control for Prayer and Counseling. We would develop your own distinct style of Holy Joe intonation, acquiring the skill in resonance and modulation that conveys and unmistakable aura of sanctity.

Course III: Efficient Office Management. There is nothing that parishioners admire more in their pastors than the capacity to run a tight ship administratively. If we return …

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Do Not Go Quietly

That is the name of the message I’m preaching this Sunday, from Titus 2:11-15:

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.

Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you.

The gospel of God’s grace in Jesus is an amazing trainer. It humbles us as it emboldens us. It drives us to our knees in awe while it empowers us to stand and walk. It takes away the burden of meritocratic discipleship while it moves us to a life of good works.

It calls us to deny ourselves as it gives us the authority of being ambassadors for the kingdom.

“Let no one disregard you,” Paul says to Titus. This is similar to his admonition to Timothy to not let anyone look down on his youthfulness. But it is less specific and more emphatic: don’t be disregarded.

Are you living as if the kingdom of God is a force to be reckoned with?

Jesus did not get betrayed and arrested and tortured and crucified because he taught peace, love, and good vibes. Anybody can ignore a hippie. But a guy who …

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"Give Us a King"

In what way is evangelicalism’s prevailing pastoral emphasis — from church job postings for pastoral positions to the Leadership cottage industry — like Israel’s asking for a king? And in what way is Saul, the king they got, like the pastoral type we most champion?

Is it possible evangelicalism is asking for a king (and getting what it asks for) all the while we should be cultivating within each other a desire for Saul’s successor? Namely, a shepherd.

Just thinking aloud here.

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