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God bearing witness

Jul 16, 2015 | Ray Ortlund

“Dawa . . . also told me that after the killing she saw cowodi [strangers] above the trees, singing.  She didn’t know what this kind of music was until she later heard records of Aunt Rachel’s and became familiar with the sound of a choir.

Mincaye and Kimo confirmed that they heard the singing and saw what Dawa seems to describe as angels along the ridge above Palm Beach.  Dyuwi verified the strange music, though he describes what he saw more like lights, moving around and shining, a sky full of jungle beetles similar to fireflies with a light that is brighter and doesn’t blink.

Apparently all the participants saw this bright multitude in the sky and felt they should be scared, because they knew it was something supernatural.  Their only familiarity with the spiritual world was one of fear.  Dawa has said that this supernatural experience was what drew her to God when she later heard of him from Dayuma.”

Steve Saint, “Did they have to die?”, Christianity Today, 16 September 1996, regarding the moments after his dad and four other missionaries were murdered in the jungles of Ecuador in 1956.

This amazing experience cannot be a case of wish-fulfillment.  The best explanation is that these beings seen by the Indians were real — angels sent by God to bear witness to the murderers that these Christian missionaries had divine favor upon them, and presumably to celebrate these five men as they flew home to God.

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Pioneers of a new humanity

Jul 15, 2015 | Ray Ortlund

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“Without going into wearisome historical details, we need to remember that these [New Testament] letters were written, and the lives they indicate were led, against a background of paganism.  There were no churches, no Sundays, no books about the Faith.  Slavery, sexual immorality, cruelty, callous to human suffering, and a low standard of public opinion, were universal; traveling and communications were chancy and perilous; most people were illiterate.

Many Christians today talk about ‘the difficulties of our times’ as though we should have to wait for better ones before the Christian religion can take root.  It is heartening to remember that this faith took root and flourished amazingly in conditions that would have killed anything less vital in a matter of weeks.  These early Christians were on fire with the conviction that they had become, through Christ, literally sons of God; they were pioneers of a new humanity, founders of a new Kingdom.  They still speak to us across the centuries.

Perhaps if we believed what they believed, we might achieve what they achieved.”

J. B. Phillips, “Translator’s Preface,” in Letters to Young Churches (London, 1947), page xiv.

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Your church can be a gospel culture

Jul 14, 2015 | Ray Ortlund

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The paper I read at the April TGC conference in Orlando — “How to build a gospel culture in your church” — is here:

Paper

Thanks for your interest.  I hope it contributes to your ministry, for his glory.

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Only God remained, and to God they turned

Jul 11, 2015 | Ray Ortlund

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“In Kiev, where I found myself on a Sunday morning, on an impulse I turned into a church where a service was in progress.  It was packed tight, but I managed to squeeze myself against a pillar whence I could survey the congregation and look up at the altar.  Young and old, peasants and townsmen, parents and children, even a few in uniform – it was a variegated assembly. . . . Never before or since have I participated in such worship; the sense conveyed of turning to God in great affliction was overpowering.  Though I could not, of course, follow the service, I knew from Klavdia Lvovna little bits of it; for instance, where the congregation say there is no help for them save from God.  What intense feeling they put into these words!  In their minds, I knew, as in mine, was a picture of those desolate abandoned villages, the hunger and the hopelessness, the cattle trucks being loaded with humans in the dawn light.  Where were they to turn for help?  Not to the Kremlin, nor to the forces of progress and democracy in the West. . . . Every possible human agency found wanting.  So, only God remained, and to God they turned with a passion, a dedication, a humility, impossible to convey.  They took me with them; I felt closer to God then than I ever had before, or am likely to again.”

Malcolm Muggeridge, Chronicles of Wasted Time: The Green Stick (New York, 1982), pages 258-259.

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Spirit-filled intelligence

Jul 11, 2015 | Ray Ortlund

“In our quest for the fullness of the Spirit, we have sometimes forgotten that a Spirit-filled intelligence is one of the powerful weapons for pulling down satanic strongholds.”

Richard F. Lovelace, Dynamics of Spiritual Life (Downers Grove, 1979), page 183.

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2015 is the new 1968

Jul 10, 2015 | Ray Ortlund

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I remember the tumultuous days of 1968.  The top stories of that year included the murder of Martin Luther King Jr. in April.  Two months later, in June, Robert Kennedy was murdered.  Two months later, in August, Hizzoner Mayor Richard J. Daley presided over the demolition of the Democratic National Convention as the Chicago police beat up on anti-Vietnam War protesters in the streets.  It was an intense year.

We are now living in similar times.  Pressure has been building for several years.  Now the cultural upheaval is exploding.  “Surely our transgressions and our sins are upon us, and we rot away because of them.  How then can we live?” (Ezekiel 33:10).

I also remember how Francis Schaeffer lived during that spasm of national self-injury.  His example can guide us in these days.  And there was one thing that stood out about Francis Schaeffer: he was radical.  Not hysterical.  Not fanatical.  But radical.  He followed the vector of the gospel out into bold and costly obedience in ways that other pastors and leaders just hadn’t thought of or dared to attempt.  He told the radical truth of Scripture — lovingly and gently, but without backing off.  He and his wife Edith practiced radical hospitality, with personal sacrifice.  Rather than reject the radicals of those times, he identified with them and adapted his ministry to match their boldness.  He was unafraid to welcome into his world young people as they really were, without fearing them or expecting them to change first.  He worked tirelessly, even to his own disadvantage, for the advance of the gospel in culture and dress and communication that the rising generation could hear clearly and respect.  And God honored his ministry with radical impact.

2015 is the new 1968.  And I’m glad to be right here, right now, with you, for the most radical cause in history.  No hysterics.  No fanaticism.  But radical followers of Jesus doing whatever it takes to communicate the fullness of the gospel in the extremity of our times.

Let’s get after it.

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Gospel + Safety + Time

Jul 09, 2015 | Ray Ortlund

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When to cover, when to confront

Jul 08, 2015 | Ray Ortlund

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Love covers a multitude of sins.  1 Peter 4:8

Rebuke those who contradict sound doctrine.  Titus 1:9

When should we cover another Christian, and when should we confront another Christian?  The categories that guide me are 1 Peter 4:8 and Titus 1:9.

Love, for the sake of the friendship, covers, ignores, blows off, makes light of, a multitude of sins when those sins are of the nature of a shortcoming.  We all fall short all the time in all ways (Romans 3:23).  Everything we do fails to attain to “the measure of the statue of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13).  He is magnificent.  We never fully represent him.  And that multitude of sins should be gently covered and never brought up.

But the same love will risk the friendship with a bold rebuke when the behavior contradicts sound doctrine, when it denies the gospel, when it misrepresents the magnificence of Christ as something ugly and inhumane.  It is one thing to fall short, but it is another thing to behave in a way that is opposite to Christ, that is the photographic negative of Christ.  For example, when the conduct of Peter and the others “was not in step with the truth of the gospel” (Galatians 2:14), Paul confronted Peter publicly.  Peter’s behavior was denying the gospel — not in its doctrine but in its culture, by forcing people to conform to merely human expectations.  Peter’s influence communicated the opposite of gospel freedom and dignity and inclusion.  Paul would have been wrong to cover Peter’s behavior.  He was right to rebuke it openly, “so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you” (Galatians 2:5).

An impulsive rebuke, when covering is called for, scars the Body of Christ.  A cowardly covering, when a rebuke is called for, weakens the Body of Christ.  But our gentle covering of a multitude of shortcomings, with rare but brave rebukes for betrayals of the gospel, strengthens the Body of Christ.

May all Christian leaders be able honestly to say, “I do not nullify the grace of God” (Galatians 2:21).

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Are we preaching Christ or preaching about Christ?

Jul 07, 2015 | Ray Ortlund

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“My wife always says the most important thing about the man as a preacher was, you didn’t notice him.  He came quietly into the pulpit, started quietly, and then something seemed to happen, and then you became absorbed in what he was saying. . . .

‘We beseech you, in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God’ (2 Corinthians 5:20).  Spirit-filled preaching — the preacher is in the background.  And something happens.  The worshiper, by the grace of God, is being spoken to by God and by the Word of God.  So Lloyd-Jones would often say, the difference between talking about Christ and preaching Christ, or talking about the gospel and actually preaching the gospel.  It’s a comparatively easy thing to talk about the gospel, but to really preach it is another thing. . . .

So many preachers have to start their sermon with a nice little anecdote or something interesting, to catch people’s attention.  That is a condemnation of the whole service.  If the service has really been in the presence of God, you don’t need to catch anyone’s attention. . . .

I love that quotation of John Knox.  It’s really a definition of the Reformation: ‘God gave his Holy Spirit to simple men in great abundance.'”

Recent 9Marks audio, Iain Murray interviewed by Mark Dever on “The Pastoral Practices of Martyn Lloyd-Jones.”

Romans 10:14, accurately translated, asks, “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed?  And how are they to believe in him whom they have never heard?  And how are they to hear without someone preaching?”  In real preaching, people hear Him, as they have never heard before.  They don’t merely hear about Him.  They hear Him, Christ preaching through the preacher.  And not because the preacher shifts gears into more forceful rhetoric, but simply because he is a holy man preaching the real gospel under power from on high.  This is preaching.

Are we pastors thinking in these categories?  Are we willing to become as invisible as possible, so that Jesus can become as audible as possible?  Are we reaching by faith and repentance for this power, for the glory of the Lord alone?

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Booker T

Jul 05, 2015 | Ray Ortlund

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