Monthly Archives: August 2012

What is this “Gospel-Centered” Stuff?

It is good in some ways that the jargon has gone viral, but for the bad ways, for the prevention of assuming gospel-centrality, it’s always good to recalibrate. Here are some related links:

Joe Thorn reflects on “Gospel-Centered”

Ray Ortlund answers “What does it mean to be a gospel-centered church?”

Redeemer City Church’s definition and list of marks thereof.

And the best short piece I’m aware of is this one by my friend Joel Lindsey: “What is a Gospel-Centered Missional Church and Why Do We Need One?”

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The Gospel and Complementarianism

D.A. Carson, Tim Keller, and John Piper discuss the issue(s). I found this very helpful.

I am particularly struck by Piper’s question, one I first heard him ask in a panel discussion at this year’s T4G: “What will you say to your 8 year old when they ask ‘What makes me a man and not a woman?’” At T4G he added that to reply in simple biological terms will not adequately help a person sort out their identity and place in the home, church, and world. We should not reduce our manhood or womanhood to our body parts.

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Too Wonderful for Us

A treasured moment from the film Annie Hall. Little Alvie’s mother has dragged him to a psychologist:

“What is that your business?” I love that.

There are some things too deep, too dense, too wrapped up in the heavenly economy for us to fathom. God operates in dimensions more than our understanding.

I am always struck by the Lord’s response(s) to the suffering Job. He condescends to answer the laments, but not with sentimental salves and theological niceties — the sort of things we most readily offer others in affliction — but with a dizzying bombardment of the epic scope of his omniscience and omnipotence. Job, scraping the boils off his ash-caked skin with broken pottery, is suddenly taken out into the boundless sea of God’s might. He is carried about like a cork on the waves of God’s sovereignty. “I have uttered what I did not understand,” Job finally says, “things too wonderful for me, which I did not know” (Job 42:3).

God is in his heavens. All is according to plan. “What is that your business?” It’s not. Not most of it, anyway. It’s God’s business. It is too high for us, and not our place to presume upon. Maybe the universe is expanding and will break. It’s our job to be awed. And, of course, to do our homework.

You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is high; I cannot attain it.

— Psalm …

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Believing Prayer

A beauty from Ocatvius Winslow:

Believing prayer is prevailing, successful prayer. It assails the kingdom of heaven with holy violence, and carries it as by storm. It believes that God has both the heart and the arm; both the love that moves Him, and the power that enables Him; to do all and to grant all that His pleading child requests of Him.

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Like Wind and Fire

He makes his messengers winds,
his ministers a flaming fire.

— Psalm 104:4


1. Ministers/messengers for God’s glory go where the wind goes, which is everywhere.

2. Messengers carry power like the wind does.

3. Ministers/messengers for God’s glory are highly visible like flaming fire.

4. Ministers/messengers spread the message like a fire spreads, by touching stuff primed to catch.

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Theology is a Response to the Word

“[Theology is] not a response to the human situation or to human questions; it is a response to the Word of God, which demands a response because of its intrinsic nature”

— Alister McGrath, Christian Theology: An Introduction

“[The] man who refuses to listen and to obey the Word acts not as a free man but as a slave, for there is no freedom except through God’s Word . . . Theology responds to the Word which God has spoken, still speaks, and will speak again in the history of Jesus Christ which fulfills the history of Israel.”

— Karl Barth, Evangelical Theology: An Introduction

Yes. Theology answers the problems of the world but by beginning with the Word, not the world. So much of what we call theological pursuit involves the disjointing of Scripture to fit the contours of our concerns. Instead, real theology results from the heart and mind wrestling with the revelation of God. And if this puts our hip out of joint, so be it.

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The Felicity of Christ

John Flavel writes:

Christ [is] the very essence of all delights and pleasures, the very soul and substance of them. As all the rivers are gathered into the ocean, which is the congregation or meeting-place of all the waters in the world: so Christ is that ocean in which all true delights and pleasures meet. . . . His excellencies are pure and unmixed; he is a sea of sweetness without one drop of gall.

The two eldest Bennet sisters in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice are best friends, but their personalities are like night and day. Elizabeth is cynical, contemplative. Jane is ever-optimistic, perhaps even naive. She can think of nothing bad to say about anyone. If anyone ever wrongs her, she instinctively forgives (if she can even see the wrong to begin with). In one scene, Jane and Elizabeth are celebrating Jane’s engagement to be married. This exchange grabs me:

“I am certainly the most fortunate creature that ever existed!” cried Jane. “Oh! Lizzy, why am I thus singled from my family, and blessed above them all! If I could but see you as happy! If there were but such another man for you!”
[Elizabeth replied:] “If you were to give me forty such men, I never could be so happy as you. Till I have your disposition, your goodness, I never can have your happiness.”

There is Spiritual truth here! Had we forty shiny idols to buoy our affections, still these affections could not be mustered to enduring happiness. Had we forty …

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That Fine Line of Favor

And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
— Acts 2:46-47

Then all the city was stirred up, and the people ran together. They seized Paul and dragged him out of the temple, and at once the gates were shut. And as they were seeking to kill him, word came to the tribune of the cohort that all Jerusalem was in confusion.
— Acts 21:30-31

If everyone hates you, something is wrong. If everyone likes you, something’s wrong.

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Church Facilities: Holiness and Hospitality

A piece of particular interest from Out of Ur on the community’s use of church facilities:

Megachurches are changing. For decades the popular model for church growth was predicated on large facilities hosting many excellent programs to attract the unchurched. But for a number of reasons, not the least being the prevalence of “missional” thinking, some megachurches are trying to adjust their model to be more community-focused. They’re asking themselves, “How can we serve our community?” rather than “How can we serve our attenders?”

One example is Granger Community Church in Indiana. Pastor, author, and blogger Tim Stevens has written about Granger’s shifting philosophy of ministry, and last week these shifts resulted in a name change for the church’s property. Stevens writes:

In our recent revisioning project, we intentionally decided to activate the campus. That is, rather than have a church campus that is primarily focused on weekend services for the congregation-we decided to turn the purpose of the property toward reaching the community…. We realized one of the first things we needed to do was re-brand the entire church property. No longer will it be called Granger Community Church. Instead, we will call it the Granger Commons.

Stevens admits the shift in naming won’t immediate result in a shift in perceptions, but he adds, “It may take a few years, but we truly believe that there will be a day in the future when most people in our region will see the Granger Commons as a place of help and hope for …

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The Scandal of the New Birth

Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God . . .” The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.
— John 3:3,8

What does a baby do to be born?

The Spirit moves as the wind — free, unfettered, invisible. The Spirit is sovereign over regenerative quickening as the Father is sovereign over the election unto it, granting new hearts to everyone predestined to receive them at their appointed time. This speaks to the Spirit’s control over rebirth. A person cannot “will himself” a new heart any more than a baby can will himself to be conceived.

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