Monthly Archives: April 2010

The Gospel and Vermont Pure Dark Amber Maple Syrup

This is a snip from my current book in progress, titled for the time being Gospel Wakefulness:

The divinely entertained heart of gospel wakefulness finds itself daydreaming about the gospel constantly. It hardly needs prompting. This “autopilot” gospel-centrality is the result of gospel wakefulness itself. It comes from tasting and seeing that the Lord is good.

All Christians have tasted that the Lord is good. Most Christians believe the Lord is good. But fewer and fewer it seems have seen in their tasting that the Lord is good.

When I moved to Vermont I heard a lot about the maple syrup here. I thought I had had maple syrup before. It turns out I had only engaged in a corn syrup masquerade. Aunt Jemima, Mrs. Butterworth — all shams. (Those probably aren’t even their real names.) It wasn’t until I actually tasted 100% pure, dark amber Vermont maple syrup that I “saw” what I had only heard about before. And now — this is the key — I will not have any other kind of syrup (except under protest). It is too late. I will not go back. I’ve tasted the goodness and lost my taste for the pale imitations. Unlike the boy of C.S. Lewis’s parable, I have had the holiday at sea, so making the mud pies has lost all its luster.

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The Gospel Empowering its Own Implications Is Poetry

“Run, John, runThe law commandsBut gives neither feet nor handsBetter news the gospel bringsIt bids us fly and gives us wings.”

– John Bunyan

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"Every Time: Grace Wins"

I said it before, and I’ll say it again: Tony Carter’s breakout session message “Proclaiming the Comfort of the Gospel” was the absolute best thing I heard at Together 4 the Gospel. It was brilliant, compelling, thrilling proclamation. I don’t know if the audio will be made available, but if it is, I highly recommend it to you.

Here is a great snippet of Carter on sin and grace from an Anthem Conference message:

The Stain of Sin and the Grace of God from David Wells on Vimeo.

In the T4G message, Carter quoted a bit from Robert Louis Stevenson and turned it into one of the most powerful illustrations in the sermon. In this video he goes with Shakespeare’s Macbeth. As a lit-geek, I’m loving that stuff.

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The Gospel in Marriage Counseling

There is a good post over at Counseling Solutions today on bringing the gospel to bear in a marriage counseling situation, especially when the couple assumes the gospel is the ABC’s of life and now they need some “better” help.

An excerpt:

Let’s suppose that you really do understand the Gospel and that your understanding is something deeper and broader than the casual, average, run-of-the-mill understanding that any person who has ever been associated with Christianity possesses. The following is a short list of attitudes and behaviors you should demonstrate:

* Daily amazement at what has happened to them. * Daily gratitude for what has happened for them. * Joyful awareness that their greatest problem in life has been resolved. * Overwhelmed by hope because they now know that no problem is too big for God. * Sobered awareness of what they were: amazed awareness of God’s mercy. * Serving others is their first thought, as it pertains to behavior. * Hope, joy, care, encouragement, gratitude, and kindness are the characteristics of their lives. * Tearfulness is a normal response as they think of Christ and what he did for them. * Gospel-centered-motivations shape what they do. * Radically transformed from the inside out. * Uninhibited in their transparency with others.

Unfortunately the descriptors above do not describe Jeremy …

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New Facebook Page

Every week I get a fresh round of Facebook friend requests from people I’ve never heard of. Usually we have mutual friends, but the mutual friends are also writer/speaker/blogger folks, so I assume most of these requests are from readers of the blog, the tweets, the books, or what-have-you. And this is cool.

I am glad to connect with all peeps, but I’m seeing the increasing need to not have all my personal Facebook stuff — family pics, etc. — out there for everybody’s perusal. I know there’s ways to strategically establish privacy, but this is more maintenance than I care to involve myself with and more time on Facebook than I care to spend.

Since Facebook has now phased out the “fan page” terminology, I’ve taken that as an opportunity to create a separate Facebook portal for my “professional” self. I hope all my friends — real and virtual and everywhere in between — will “Like” it. Find me here.

I’ll do publishing/speaking updates from there, and do some giveaways every now and then from the friends list, etc, so don’t be shy.

And if we are current Facebook friends but we don’t really know each other any other way, I hope you will not be offended if I “unfriend” you from my personal page. It’s nothing personal. I appreciate your readership a lot. Let’s stay connected at the new page, ‘kay?

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Transforming Publishing

One of the absolute best blogs you’re (probably) not reading is Milton Stanley’s Transforming Sermons. Milton hosts what is essentially a link-blog, but every link is to quality gospel-centered writing. Milton does the hard work of searching out gospel gems from today’s bloggers in a similar way to how Of First Importance searches out gospel gems from writers/scholars from the past.

And now Milton and his team have launched Transforming Publishing. You can read all about it here, but it seems like an excellent avenue for you writerly bloggers and pastors out there who are looking for an alternative publishing venue for your commentary work or other writing. They are looking for authors. It’s not a self-publishing racket. It’s an indie with a specific heart and target audience. And they might just be for you. Check ‘em out.

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10 Reasons to Under-Program Your Church

I’m a big fan of the “simple church” concept, but I have experienced just how daunting a task it can be to under-program my church. We are inundated constantly with opportunities for activity from other churches (which we don’t want to turn down lest we appear uncooperative and standoffish), advertised “movements” local and national (which are good at getting people excited), and “good ideas” from our own community (which we are reluctant to deny lest we break someone’s heart). But what all this so often amounts to is a church that is merely busy, and busy does not always equal diligent or successful.

Here, then, are 10 reasons to under-program a church:

1. You can do a lot of things in a mediocre (or poor) way, or you can do a few things extremely well. Craig Groeschel has some great things to say about this subject. Also check out Thom Rainer and Eric Geiger’s Simple Church.

2. Over-programming creates an illusion of fruitfulness that may just be busy-ness. A bustling crowd may not be spiritually changed or engaged in mission at all. And as our flesh cries out for works, many times filling our programs with eager, even servant-minded people is a way to appeal to self-righteousness.

3. Over-programming is a detriment to single-mindedness in a community. If we’re all busy engaging our interests in and pursuits of different things, we will have a harder time enjoying the “one accord” prescribed by the New Testament.

4. Over-programming runs the risk of turning a church into …

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Hi, I’m Doug; I Have Just Met You and I Love You- Squirrel!

Grace: “Dad, can I have a tortilla for my treat?”

Dad: “Grace, do you know that God took your sin and put it on Jesus and took Jesus’ perfection and put it on you?”

Grace: “Does that mean Jesus is bad now?”

Dad: “No. He took your sin to the cross and when he died, he left it there. And then he rose again. So now you’re dead to sin but alive in Christ.”

Grace: “But we still sin. Every now and then.”

Dad: “Yeah. But when we sin now we can be thankful that God forgives us already if we trust that Jesus died for our sins. Isn’t that cool?”

Grace: “Yeah.” [pause] “Can I have some Fun-Dip?”

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A Feeble Faith May Lay Bold on a Strong Christ

If you’ve ever heard the name Augustus Toplady, you probably heard it in the context of the great hymn “Rock of Ages,” which Toplady penned. At the Together 4 the Gospel conference, I had the great blessing to find myself in Tony Carter’s breakout session, in which he preached a magnificent message on “Proclaiming the Comfort of the Gospel,” in which he quoted a fair bit from Toplady’s writing on assurance. Hungry for more, I did some poking around online and found this fantastic selection. It’s in the public domain and available for free distribution, so I’m posting it in its entirety. I hope it will minister to and bless you like it had me. (I have bolded my favorite lines.)

It has long been a settled point with me, that the Scriptures make a wide distinction between faith, the assurance of faith, and the full assurance of faith.

1. Faith is the hand by which we embrace or touch, or reach toward, the garment of Christ’s righteousness, for our own justification.-Such a soul is undoubtedly safe.

2. Assurance I consider as the ring which God puts, upon faith’s finger.-Such a soul is not only safe, but also comfortable and happy.

Nevertheless, as a finger may exist without wearing a ring, so faith may be real without the superadded gift of assurance. We must either admit this, or set down the late excellent Mr. Hervey (among a multitude of others) for an unbeliever. No man, perhaps, ever contended more earnestly for the doctrine of …

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The Message of the Gospel is Not "Behave!"

This is the major malfunction of American evangelicalism’s political idolatry. To the extent we equate God’s blessings and his kingdom coming to bear with the right men on Capitol Hill and the right laws in place, we settle for moralism and a righteousness born of self.

We’d all reject this theologically, I think, but it is implicitly central in a lot of the rhetoric and the exasperation from American Christians about what’s wrong with America, etc etc.

As I was waiting for my ride to the airport from the hotel in Louisville, KY last week after the Together 4 the Gospel Conference, I was reminded of cultural Christianity’s real concerns. The transportation attendant at the hotel noticed from my tag that I was from Vermont. Our conversation went like this:

Him: “You’re from Vermont?”

Me: “Yup.”

Him: “That’s great. That van load that just left were from Vermont.”

Me: “Oh cool.”

Him: “Yeah. Good to know you guys are getting the good news out up there.”

Me: “Well, we’re trying.”

Him: “Need to get some Republicans up there.”

And there I was transported back to everything that drives me nuts about American evangelicalism: the equation of the good news with something other than the gospel of Jesus Christ, in this case — as is often the case — with political conservatism.

I believe many Christians in America would be satisfied if “the culture” just stopped using pornography and drugs and alcohol and stopped aborting babies and started “acting right.” As far as I can tell, that would be a Win.

But it’s …

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