Monday, January 31, 2011

Understanding the Protests in Egypt

If you want a better understanding of what is going in Egypt right now, you should read this post. It's brief and to the point.

Also, here is a moving video combining different protest footage:

(via 22 Words)

Thursday, January 27, 2011

How Undserved Grace Empowers Obedience

It seems that God is really wanting me to understand His grace as it relates to obedience. Over the last six months, I've had numerous conversations and have read countless blogs and books that have centered on this subject. I've also had many conversations lately about the right way for a preacher of God's Word to correctly communicate this to his congregation. But that's another subject altogether and won't get into that right now.

The question at hand is "How does the pursuit of personal holiness and God's grace relate?" How do we know that we aren't being legalistic? How do we know that we aren't being licentious? How do we know that we are pursuing holiness in a way that honors God and is motivated by the gospel?

Dane Ortlund, over at the Gospel Coalition blog, responds to a recent article in Christianity Today. For context, I encourage you to read the whole post, even if it's just to get an wonderful example of how to lovingly disagree with someone through the internet. But, for the sake of brevity, I just wanted to include a few paragraphs where I believe Dane provides excellent insight into the subject of gospel-centered obedience.

He is basically responding to the question, "How are radical obedience and personal holiness to be encouraged?" Here is his answer:
One way is to balance gospel grace with exhortations to holiness, as if both need equal air time lest we fall into legalism on one side (neglecting grace) or antinomianism on the other (neglecting holiness).

The other way, which I believe is the right and biblical way, is so to startle this restraint-free culture with the gospel of free justification that the functional justifications of human approval, moral performance, sexual indulgence, or big bank accounts begin to lose their vice-like grip on human hearts and their emptiness is exposed in all its fraudulence. It sounds backward, but the path to holiness is through (not beyond) the grace of the gospel, because only undeserved grace can truly melt and transform the heart. The solution to restraint-free immorality is not morality. The solution to immorality is the free grace of God—grace so free that it will be (mis)heard by some as a license to sin with impunity. The route by which the New Testament exhorts radical obedience is not by tempering grace but by driving it home all the more deeply.

Let’s pursue holiness. (Without it we won’t see God: Matt 5:8; Heb 12:14.) And let’s pursue it centrally through enjoying the gospel, the same gospel that got us in and the same gospel that liberates us afresh each day (1 Cor 15:1–2; Gal 2:14; Col 1:23; 2:6). As G. C. Berkouwer wisely remarked, “The heart of sanctification is the life which feeds on justification.”

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Thoughts on Anger and Being Right

Ed Welch
"The problem with anger is that those who don’t have the problem take it to heart; those who are angry are confident in their right-ness and over time can become massively, utterly, completely deluded, blind and (this is no exaggeration) can feel quite good about themselves after bludgeoning someone close them, as if they have set the world aright. Arrgghh. I hate anger.

But I also want to hate this evil in myself before I hate it in other people. How? By zeroing in on the more subtle expressions of anger, such as a critical attitude toward someone, complaining, not wanting another’s best, jealousy at the level of my imagination, any hint of “I am right and you are wrong,” sarcasm, or “whatever.” I want to keep asking my wife and at least one other person if they have seen me frustrated or angry. I want to have no wiggle room for righteous indignation. By that I mean that since ninety-nine percent of my anger is sinful, I don’t want to give tacit permission to my frustration by calling it righteous indignation. If I am angry because of what was done to another person I am on safer ground. If I am angry because of what someone did to me, I am always wrong. “Be angry and don’t sin” – forget about trying to master that one. Don’t let it authorize one blasted scrap of anger.


In a world where we are god, anger makes perfect sense. Anger stands above all things in omniscient and infallible judgment. But in the real world, where we are creatures and not the Creator, and where the Creator chose the path of a servant in order to rescue, comfort and encourage, our anger is ugly and perverse.

Lord, help us to recognize our anger and not be the “last to know” about it. Be merciful to us and give us power to show mercy."
Click here to read the entire post.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The News

Neil Postman, (from Amusing Ourselves to Death):
"How often does it occur that information provided you on morning radio or television, or in the morning newspaper, causes you to alter your plans for the day, or to take some action you would not otherwise have taken or provides insight into some problem you are required to solve?...most of our daily news is inert, consisting of information that gives us something to talk about but cannot lead to any meaningful action.”

...What steps do you plan to take to reduce the conflict in the Middle East? Or the rates of inflation, crime or unemployment? ...What do you plan to do about NATO, OPEC, the CIA, affirmative action, and the monstrous treatment of Baha'is in Iran? I shall take the liberty of answering for you: You plan to do nothing about them.

...We have here a great loop of impotence: The news elicits from you a variety of opinions about which you can do nothing except to offer them as more news, about which you can do nothing."
Dallas Willard, (from The Spirit of the Disciplines):
“Henry David Thoreau saw how even our secular existence withers from lack of a hidden life. Conversation degenerates into mere gossip and those we meet can only talk of what they heard from someone else. The only difference between us and our neighbor is that he has seen the news and we have not.”

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Steve Jobs and the Secular Gospel

Yesterday, Steve Jobs announced his leave of absence from Apple. Andy Crouch reflects:
...In his celebrated Stanford commencement address (which is itself an elegant, excellent model of the genre), [Jobs] spoke frankly about his initial cancer diagnosis in 2003. It’s worth pondering what Jobs did, and didn’t, say:
No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because death is very likely the single best invention of life. It’s life’s change agent; it clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now, the new is you. But someday, not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it’s quite true. Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma, which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice, heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become.
This is the gospel of a secular age. It has the great virtue of being based only on what we can all perceive—it requires neither revelation nor dogma. And it promises nothing it cannot deliver—since all that is promised is the opportunity to live your own unique life, a hope that is manifestly realizable since it is offered by one who has so spectacularly succeeded by following his own “inner voice, heart and intuition.”

Jobs was by no means the first person to articulate this vision of a meaningful life—Socrates, the Buddha, and Emerson come to mind. To be sure, fully embracing this secular gospel requires an austerity of spirit that few have been able to muster, even if it sounds quite fine on the lawn of Stanford University. Upon close inspection, this gospel offers no hope that you cannot generate yourself, and only the comfort of having been true to yourself. In the face of tragedy and evil it is strangely inert. Such a speech would have been hard to take at the funeral of Christina Taylor Greene, nine years old, killed along with five others on a bright Saturday morning in Tucson, Arizona. It is no wonder that Barack Obama, who had to address these deeper forms of grief this past week, turned to a vision which only makes sense if there is more to the world than we can see. Anything less is cold comfort indeed.

But the genius of Steve Jobs has been to persuade us, at least for a little while, that cold comfort is enough. The world—at least the part of the world in our laptop bags and our pockets, the devices that display our unique lives to others and reflect them to ourselves—will get better. This is the sense in which the tired old cliché of “the Apple faithful” and the “cult of the Mac” is true. It is a religion of hope in a hopeless world, hope that your ordinary and mortal life can be elegant and meaningful, even if it will soon be dated, dusty, and discarded like a 2001 iPod.
Read the whole article


Friday, January 14, 2011 making flirting easier since 2010

Brett McCracken shares some of his thoughts on, a new social flirting site:
"Though it remains to be seen whether likealittle will be more than a flavor-of-the-week fad, its popularity certainly underscores some of the broader social trends happening among “Generation Y” (or whatever the generation in college is called). Namely: The increasing preference to mediate relationships (even the very initial stage of relationships, such as flirting) via technology and avoid the difficulties and awkwardness of face-to-face communication wherever possible.

Naturally, if there is technology that makes the awkward things in life less awkward, we seize upon it. Who wants to nervously stumble over their words when making small talk with a girl they like when a cleverly crafted likealittle message will do? It’s the same reason why Gen Y communicates almost exclusively by texting on their phones rather than talking. Texting is more controlled. More efficient. Easier. It’s the same reason why updating scores of friends and family about your life in on fell swoop on Facebook is preferable to the laborious process of calling each of them or writing an email or letter to them.

Technology’s dominant raison d’etre has always been about efficiency. Making something easier, quicker, less painful. Think medicine, automobiles, assembly line, central heating. Communication technologies are similarly in the business of making the difficulties of communication easier. But there are always unintended consequences. Likealittle makes flirting easier, but it also makes it anonymous, objectifying and addictive (“dangerously” so). And, as with its various forbears, likealittle thrives because it creates a safe, low-pressure, “just me and my computer/phone” environment where it’s easy to say whatever we want. It removes those pesky filters (in person tact, nervous self-restraint) that sometimes keep us from saying the things that pop into our heads. As with texting and other “nonverbal signals be damned!” modes of fast-paced, send-before-you-think-too-much-about-it communication, likealittle feeds the culture’s ever worsening addictions to communication as diversion/commodity and narcissistic self validation."
Read the whole thing

Friday, January 07, 2011

Gospel-motivated Obedience

Tullian Tchividjian:
"So, it’s a mistake to identify the “two cliffs” as being legalism and lawlessness. The one “cliff” is legalism but it comes in two forms—what some call license is just another form of legalism. And if people outside the church are guilty of “break the rules” legalism, many people inside the church are still guilty of “keep the rules” legalism.

This is super important because the biggest lie about grace that Satan wants the church to buy is the idea that grace is dangerous and therefore needs to be “kept it in check.” By believing this we not only prove we don’t understand grace, but we violate gospel advancement in our lives and in the church. A “yes, grace…but” disposition is the kind of fearful posture that keeps moralism swirling around in our hearts and in the church.

I understand the fear of grace. As a pastor, one of my responsibilities is to disciple people into a deeper understanding of obedience—teaching them to say “no” to the things God hates and “yes” to the things God loves. But all too often I have (wrongly) concluded that the only way to keep licentious people in line is to give them more rules. The fact is, however, that the only way licentious people start to obey is when they get a taste of God’s radical unconditional acceptance of sinners.

The irony of gospel-based sanctification is that those who end up obeying more are those who increasingly realize that their standing with God is not based on their obedience, but Christ’s.

The people who actually end up performing better are those who understand that their relationship with God doesn’t depend on their performance for Jesus, but Jesus’ performance for us.

People need to hear less about what we need to do for God and more about all that God has already done for us, because imperatives minus indicatives equal impossibilities. If you’re a preacher and you’re assuming that people understand the radical nature of gospel indicatives, so your ministry is focused primarily on gospel imperatives, you’re making a huge mistake. A huge mistake!

Long-term, sustained, gospel-motivated obedience can only come from faith in what Jesus has already done, not fear of what we must do. To paraphrase Ray Ortlund, any obedience not grounded in or motivated by the gospel is unsustainable. No matter how hard you try, how “radical” you get, any engine smaller than the gospel that you’re depending on for power to obey will conk out in due time.

So let’s take it up a notch. Don’t be afraid to preach the radical nature of the gospel of grace. For, as the late Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones once said, “If your preaching of the gospel doesn’t provoke the charge from some of antinomianism, you’re not preaching the gospel.”

Saturday, January 01, 2011

A New Year's prayer

New Year, from The Valley of Vision:
Length of days does not profit me except the days are passed in thy presence, in thy service, to thy glory.

Give me a grace that precedes, follows, guides, sustains, sanctifies, aids every hour, that I may not be one moment apart from thee, but may rely on thy Spirit
to supply every thought,
speak in every word,
direct every step,
prosper every work,
build up every mote of faith,
and give me a desire to show forth thy praise, testify thy love, advance thy kingdom.
I launch my bark on the unknown waters of this year, with
thee, O Father, as my harbour,
thee, O Son, at my helm,
thee, O Holy Spirit, filling my sails.
Guide me to heaven with
my loins girt,
my lamp burning,
my ear open to thy calls,
my heart full of love,
my soul free.
Give me thy grace to sanctify me,
thy comforts to cheer,
thy wisdom to teach,
thy right hand to guide,
thy counsel to instruct,
thy law to judge,
thy presence to stabilize.
May thy fear be my awe, thy triumphs my joy.