A Heart Full of Gratitude

Today is mine and Brandon’s Fifteenth Wedding Anniversary. My heart is full of gratitude to the Lord for His gift of marriage that we have enjoyed thus far. As I reflect on marriage as God’s design to be a signpost to the gospel, I am reminded of the words of Ray Ortlund. He wrote:

Why do people feel the stirrings of romance and start spending time together and take long walks hand in hand and long for one another when apart and write poetry and sing along to “our song” and fall so head over heels in love that they finally jump into the mega-commitment of marriage? There is a reason for this very human experience.

He continued:

The Son of God stepping down out of eternity, entering time, taking on flesh, pursuing and winning his bride as his very heart and body with his inmost, sincerest love so that he can fit her to be with him forever above—that dramatic super-reality is the breathtaking reason why human marriage exists. It is truly profound. And Christian married couples have the privilege of making the mystery of the gospel visible in the world today by living out the dynamic interplay of an Ephesians 5-quality marriage. (Marriage and the Mystery of the Gospel, pg. 100, emphasis original)

Brandon and I hope, that by God’s grace, we will continue to grow in our marriage and become a clearer and clearer signpost to the Gospel. As we celebrate today with thanksgiving, here is a reflection I wrote for her to commemorate the day.

Year Fifteen: An Anniversary Poem

Diamonds are forever they say;
Well, we lost that diamond one day.

It was an unusually hot April day.
Number One and Two were in the yard;
Number Three was in your belly.
So you took your rings off as you sat and watched them play.

Something happened; like One hitting Two,
Or kids acting foolishly like they tend to do.
You jumped up to police the scene and ensure they were playing fair.
When you did the rings were launched into the air and landed who knows where.

It wasn’t until the next day you realized those rings were missing.
To the yard we went searching with great care;
We nearly pulled the lawn bare.
In the end, all was recovered but the diamond that was still missing.

Our love is a lot like that diamond.
It’s been catapulted and soared real high.
It’s fallen down and been real low
It’s been kicked and rolled.

Yet, our love and that diamond aren’t completely the same.
You see, Babe, unlike that diamond our love remains.
And what’s more, our love is sweeter than it was at the start.
Through the ups and downs it has grown, increasing with great heart.

Our love has given us One, Two, Three, and now Four.
How I pray our love continues to grow more and more.
What is this love for?
It’s to point others to the One who loves them more.

Diamonds are forever they say;
Well, we lost that diamond one day.
But, by God’s grace, our love remains.

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Myths About Evangelism

Crossway recently published a piece by Kathleen Nielson on their blog entitled, “5 Myths About Evangelism.” I will give you the highlight reel below, but you can read the entire post here.

Myth 1: Evangelism is something I do myself.

“As a redeemed people, we bear witness to the good news that Jesus died on the cross, bore our sin, and rose from the grave, conquering death. Believing this good news makes us part of a body that lives and moves together toward seeing Jesus. We don’t do this evangelism thing alone.” 

Myth 2: We don’t have to speak the gospel—We just live it. Or at least we wait and earn the right to speak.

“As believers, we can run to God’s Word to address and even embrace this tension. And the Word will tell us that God’s good news is a message to be proclaimed and believed: “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Rom. 10:17). We withhold the ultimate help if we withhold “the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 3:15).”

Should we wait to speak?

“But I’d rather do that building (a relationship) with someone who is hearing me talk about Jesus in the process—with sensitivity and restraint, yes, but with confidence that the gospel is the best, most urgent news in the universe. If we wait a long time to speak, it usually becomes harder, more awkward, and more like there’s an elephant in the room.”

Myth 3: Evangelism requires special training.

“Don’t get me wrong: training in evangelism is extremely valuable. We can sharpen our articulation of the gospel, better grasp the Bible’s call to share it, learn more effective ways to listen and ask questions of people, and so forth.

But we don’t need to wait until we’re some sort of trained experts. The Samaritan woman who met Jesus at the well called the people of her town to come and see the man she had just met (John 4:29). She was so overjoyed by having met Jesus and found the promised Messiah that her joy naturally overflowed.”

Myth 4: It’s better not to talk about hell.

“The Bible—from beginning to end—is agonizingly honest about the wrath of God toward sin. The irony is that only in understanding a holy God’s just wrath can we take in the cross, where Jesus suffered that wrath in our place, bearing our sin.”

Myth 5: I’ll get to it eventually.

“Think of it. The Lord God will call every single person who has ever lived, from all the corners of the globe and out of all the graves in the earth and seas, to stand before his throne. Do we believe this?”

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The Church Scattered

Near the end of their recently published book, Nick Roark and Robert Cline, offer a nice compressed statement of what the mission of the church is as it scatters each week. It would be worth reading below and unpacking the thoughts with a fellow church member.

When the church scatters, we seek to be disciples of Jesus who scatter the saving message of his grace wherever we go because “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Rom. 10:13). We pray for the Lord to rescue our lost family, friends, neighbors, and coworkers (Rom. 10:1). We boldly and humbly share the word of truth, the gospel of our salvation, because “faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Rom. 10:17), and because the gospel alone is “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Rom. 1:16).

When the church scatters, we approach all our various vocations as ways to honor our King. This means seeking to love the Lord and to love our neighbors in every sphere of our lives. Being a disciple of the King means that no matter where you are, you are living for his glory and working for him. “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ” (Col. 3:23-24). These efforts are done not in isolation but rather as part of the fellowship and community of the local church. (Biblical Theology, pgs. 113-114)

Think about their statements in light of our call as a church to be disciples and make disciples.

  • How could you be more mindful of this call in your day to day life?
  • How should you be more prayerful in light of this call in your day to day life?
  • How could you be more faithful to this call in your day to day life?
  • How could you become more accountable to this call with the help of your fellow church members?
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Prayer-Driven Evangelism

During the Sermon this past Sunday, while talking about prayer and evangelism, I offered a quote from Pastor John Folmar. Afterward, I had several folks ask me to repeat the line so they could write it down. I understand, it’s a helpful and impactful line that has stuck with me after hearing it nearly 5 years ago. Pastor Folmar said:

Before you talk to your friend about God, talk to God about your friend.

The sermon was on Colossian 4:2-6. Although it was preached at a conference on evangelism and primarily directed to pastors, I still think it would be fruitful for you to listen. His main two points are:

Speak to God about men. (prayer)

Speak to men about God. (evangelize)

Take time to listen. I’m sure you will be encouraged, challenged, and equipped.

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Diligent Remembrance

We often, at Redeemer, speak of the need for us all to continually preach the gospel to ourselves. John Stott told of how John Newton, the author of Amazing Grace, constantly kept the Good News before himself. Stott wrote:

He (Newton) was an only child and lost his mother when he was seven years old. He went to sea at the tender age of eleven and later became involved, in the words of one of his biographers, ‘in the unspeakable atrocities of the African slave trade.’ When he was twenty-three, on 10 March 1748, when his ship was in imminent peril of foundering in a terrific storm, he cried to God for mercy, and he found it. He was truly converted and he never forgot how God had had mercy upon him, a former blasphemer. He sought diligently to remember what he had previously been, and what God had done for him. In order to imprint it on his memory, he had written in bold letters and fastened across the wall over the mantelpiece of his study the words of Deuteronomy 15:15: ‘Thou shalt remember that thou wast a bondman (a slave) in the land of Egypt, and the Lord thy God redeemed thee.’ (The Message of Galatians, pg. 110, emphasis mine)

May we too diligently seek to remember what God has done for us in Christ.

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Summer Reading 2018

Summer is here, and for many, that means a change of pace that might provide an opportunity for a little extra reading. If you think you might be able to slip in a book or two in the coming weeks, let me make some recommendations.

Church Life and Individual Discipleship/Growth

Side by Side: Walking with Others in Wisdom and Love by Ed Welch

The Discipline of Grace by Jerry Bridges

The Hole in Our Holiness by Kevin DeYoung

God’s Grace in Your Suffering by David Powlison

In His Image: 10 Ways God Calls Us to Reflect His Character by Jen Wilkin

Encouragement from Christians of the Past

Spurgeon on the Christian Life by Michael Reeves

Devoted: Great Men and Their Godly Moms by Tim Challies

The Christian and Politics

How the Nations Rage: Rethinking Faith and Politics in a Divided Age by Jonathan Leeman

Letters to an American Christian by Bruce Ashford

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The “Two Journeys”

The Elders have been reading through Andrew Davis’ book, Revitalize. In the final chapter, Davis talks about the importance of being committed to what he calls the “two journeys.” When referring to the two journeys Davis is emphasizing a robust obedience to the great commission (Matt. 28:18-20). Davis says there is an external and internal journey and he simply defines them this way:

External Journey: the progress of the gospel (evangelism and missions)

Internal Journey: progress in the gospel (discipleship toward full maturity in Christ) (pg. 200, emphasis original)

Davis writes:

These two journeys are absolutely intertwined. No healthy church can pick and choose between them, though sadly, most good churches tend to be imbalanced toward one or the other. Dying churches do neither. Perfect churches (of which there are none!) do each with perfect balance. (pg. 200)

What’s needed for churches to progress on the two journeys? Davis says:

…dying to selfishness, to sin, to earthly pleasures, to thinking that the church should serve them. The church has to die especially to caring what people will think if it shares the true gospel of Jesus Christ. (pgs. 207-208)

I have found Davis’ two journeys language to be helpful and have referenced it in the past. His terminology closely parallels our use of “being disciples and making disciples.” This has been our aim since we started Redeemer.

Let’s pray that the Lord would graciously lead us to grow more and more in both of these areas. Let’s also ask ourselves, in what way do we tend to be imbalanced? However, don’t stop there, let’s intentionally seek to grow and strengthen our weaknesses. Let me make two suggestions for growth. First, pray. Yep, pray. No, I’m not offering a cliché, I mean it. Jesus said, “apart from me you can do nothing.” Second, enlist others in the church to help you and hold you accountable. Seek out others who are strong where you are weak and ask for their help and counsel.

The Lord has called us to the two journeys of being disciples and making disciples. By His grace, may we all as a church progress in both.

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Gospel Amnesia

Martin Luther knew well that we Christians are prone to gospel amnesia when he wrote:

This (justification by faith) is the truth of the gospel. It is also the principal article of all Christian doctrine, wherein the knowledge of all godliness consisteth. Most necessary it is, therefore, that we should know this article well, teach it unto others, and beat it into their heads continually. (quoted in John Stott’s The Message of Galatians, pg. 59)

This is why we must continually preach the gospel to ourselves and continually proclaim the excellencies of Christ to one another. Otherwise, we may end up”bewitched” and “quickly deserting” the truth. (Gal. 1:6, 3:1)

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The Evangelism of Worship

Years ago I was listening to a Christian Academic give a lecture. He was talking about Worldview and said the common statement; “What you believe determines the way you behave.” Yet, he then added something I have never forgotten. He said; “What you believe determines the way you behave, and not just what you say you believe.” His point was clear; what we do reveals what we believe…what we really believe, not what we say we believe. (Another way to talk about this is in terms of Orthodoxy (belief) and Orthopraxy (practice).)

We should evaluate all areas of our life in light of this truth. Do my actions in my home, workplace, church, and community line up with what I say I believe? Are my stated beliefs and actions aligned?

Albert Mohler applied this principle to corporate worship when he wrote:

Roger Scruton, a well-known British philosopher, has suggested that worship is the most important indicator of what a person or group of people really believes about God. He writes: “God is defined in the act of worship far more precisely than he is defined by any theology.” In other words, if you want to know what a people really believe about God, don’t spend time reading their theologians. Watch them worship. Listen to what they sing and to how they pray. Then you will know what they believe about this God whom they worship. (He is Not Silent, pg. 31. Emphasis mine)

Yes, indeed, our worship certainly reveals the object of our worship…it reveals what, in our eyes, is of supreme worth. Let me give two specific reasons why we as a church want to continually be aware of our corporate worship.

First, we are all continually tempted and easily led astray into idolatry. Idolatry is worshiping anything other than God. We will be tempted to worship our preferences, tastes, emotions, intellects, and cultural relevance (to name but a few) in corporate worship. Notice the word “our” in the previous sentence. When we are led astray by these things often the idol we end up worshiping is us. We must be aware and prayerful.

Second, our worship is proclaiming either an idol or the triune God of the Bible. What this means is that our worship is evangelistic. It’s either proclaiming the Gospel or the false gospels of the world (consumerism, comfort, materialism, amusement/entertainment…). Remember, in our worship we are telling everyone who our God is. Therefore, we should always pay prayerful attention to our worship in light of God’s Word.

I am thankful to be a part of a church who cares about these things. Let’s pray that by God’s grace we will persevere and continue in this and that we will always be reforming according to God’s Word. Our prayer is that our church would be a faithful witness long after you and I are gone.

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Newton on the Christian Life

John Newton (1725-1807), who is known for penning the hymn “Amazing Grace,” also has a well-known summary statement of Christian sanctification. It comes from a devotional sermon he offered at a friend’s house. According to Tony Reinke, the statement survives via the notes of one in attendance who jotted Newton’s outline down. We don’t even know the notetaker’s name.

Newton’s exposition was on Paul’s words, “By the grace of God I am what I am…” (1 Cor. 15:10). Here is the outline:

I am not what I ought to be —
ah, how imperfect and deficient!

I am not what I wish to be —
I abhor what is evil, and I would cleave to what is good!

I am not what I hope to be —
soon, soon shall I put off mortality, and with mortality all sin and imperfection.

Yet, though I am not what I ought to be,
nor what I wish to be,
nor what I hope to be,
I can truly say, I am not what I once was;
a slave to sin and Satan;
and I can heartily join with the apostle, and acknowledge,
“By the grace of God I am what I am.” (HT Trevin Wax)

All Christians can surely agree!

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