Around The Web

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We Are Gomer – The story of Hosea and Gomer reminds us that God loves us not because of our faithfulness, but because of his. Christ saves, and continues to intercede for, the bride who covets other men. Until we see God face-to-face, we will continue to be drawn to other things. But for now, our Husband stands and fights.

Often Unnoticed Marks Of Godliness – Sometimes growing in godliness looks like calling your wife on your lunch break to find out about her day and let her know you love her (something I don’t do nearly enough). Sometimes it looks like putting down your work or the book that you’re reading to lay on the floor and play Legos with your children (this post is starting to get real convicting!).

A Doubter’s Guide To The Creation Story – John Dickson is on a mission to help skeptics engage and understand the most popular book of all time, the Bible.

What Our Best Sellers Tell Us About Our Discipleship – By now, you’ve almost certainly seen the list of the top 25 bestselling Christian titles of 2014. But, of course, there’s one slight problem… Virtually none of these titles are identifiably Christian.

Dear You Who Doesn’t Want To Do That Hard Thing – Dear Lovely You, who doesn’t want to play the piano, take out the recycling, study for your geometry exam, get on the treadmill, clean up the basement, or do that big thing that feels like an impossible thing—

The 24-Minute Morning Routine That Will Make You An Entrepreneurial Rock Star – Not sure this article lives up to it’s title, but it’s an interesting routing nonetheless.

Crazy Plastic Ball Prank – Awesome!

 

Why We Never Graduate From The Cross

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What actually happened  when “God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ” is a mystery whose depths we shall spend eternity plumbingJohn Stott

We will never fully comprehend the love God has for us. A love and commitment to His creation that was so great that it resulted in the crucifixion of His Son. For many of us, John 3:16 is the first verse we learned and memorized and one in which we now tend to just quote from rote memory. However, the intensity of this verse still remains as we are told  exactly how much God does love us…

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

God loves us SO MUCH that HE GAVE HIS SON. And when God the Father gave us His Son, the world didn’t even recognize him. John writes, He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him (Jn. 1:10-11).

In place of bestowing a crown upon the King of Kings, we nailed Him to a cross. Instead of building Him a palace, we placed Him between two thieves. But all was a part of the plan of God. Christ did not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45). Jesus gave Himself up for us (see Gal. 2:20). Though He knew no sin, He became sin on our behalf (2 Cor. 5:21).

So as we gaze upon the cross, we witness the inexhaustible love of God. A love in which we must continue to remind ourselves of. In a graceless world in which love is shallowly rewarded according to merit and charm, the cross tells us that we are loved unconditionally by the one who created us. Though we look for love in all the wrong places, hoping it will fulfill the cravings of our heart, there is no other love than that found on the cross which will fill the deepest longings of our soul.

Jesus words that greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends, were not just proverbial fluff for Jesus, but were demonstrated upon the cross. Jesus words took on flesh and blood at the place of the Skull. Jesus, who is the very “radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and [who] upholds the universe by the word of his power (see Heb. 1:3), laid down His life on our behalf.

We cannot, therefore, graduate from the cross. The love of God is too deep to plumb it’s depths and our need to be loved is to great to be met anywhere else. Isaac Watts, in his hymn “When I Survey The Wondrous Cross,” concludes it by writing…

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.

When we survey that wondrous cross, we come face to face with the amazing grace of God and begin to realize that there is no greater love. For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Rom. 5:6-8).

John writes that this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins (1 Jn 4:10). As it has been written over and over, we cannot, and must not, graduate from the cross! For it is our continual gaze upon the cross in which we begin, as well as continually feast upon, the unending love of God.

We Never Move Beyond The Cross

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“‘We never move on from the cross, only into a more profound understanding of the cross.”David Prior

Paul, in writing to the church in Corinth, reminded them that when he was with them, he “decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2). Now I’m pretty sure he preached and taught other things. In fact, if you read the rest of 1 Corinthians, his writing has various concerns with the church. However, I think it’s the cross that forms everything he does teach and write.

For Paul, the gospel was the sole focus of his preaching. And as we read in his letter to the Galatians, it was his only boast! Paul did not move beyond the cross because the crucifixion of Christ was the event in salvation history in which our guilt, shame, and sin were placed upon Christ and absolved. It is the message of our salvation. It is our reconciliation with God and where all things are made right.

It is quite an incredible thought that the creator of the universe would limit himself in becoming a man in order to pursue his rebellious creation. And we must remember that his pursuit involved a cross. Yes, the God of the universe took upon himself our sin and died a most humiliating death. It is this message, the message of the cross, from which we never graduate.

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!

“For who has known the mind of the Lord,
or who has been his counselor?”
“Or who has given a gift to him

that he might be repaid?”

For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

Romans 11:33-36

Around The Web

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4 Reasons To Quit Obsessing About Heaven – Christians might be less obsessed with heaven if we better grasped four things.

2014 Christian “Best Sellers” – I found this list both interesting and scary. What can we tell about the Christian culture from what we read?

Terrorism Is Wrong; So Is Ridiculing Other People’s Faiths – I grew up in a religious form of life that was widely ridiculed by others–so much so that anyone who would publicly identify with it could count on being considered a “holy roller,” religious fanatic, probably ignorant, stupid and maybe crazy. I suffered much religious ridicule and even persecution for reading my Bible during “study hall” and for handing out “The Four Spiritual Laws” (a tract) to classmates. It made me very sensitive to ridicule and persecution of others.

New Benefits For Athletes Triggers Talk Of Cutbacks In College Sports – Interesting read in regards to how much money the athletic budgets are at various universities.

Christians Celebrate Supreme Court Approval Of Religious Prison Beards – No religion is an island. This is not just a win for one prisoner in Arkansas, but a win for all Americans who value religious liberty.

Your Average Life Now – What’s so bad about an average, middle-of-the-road kind of life if it’s the life God wants us to live? There are lots of average Christians earning average salaries with average families. They are not to be despised, but encouraged, prayed for, and even admired as they serve God faithfully in their ordinary everyday obscurity.

Josh Wilson Pushing Back The Dark Van Version – I’ve driven many van loads of people, but never any that sang this well.

 

 

Do You Find People Interesting?

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To love one another is a common command in Scripture. In fact, if you were to ask any Christian what a core principle of following Christ might be, they would no doubt probably mention loving others.  Just consider the following verses…

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another (John 13:34-35).

Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law (Romans 13:8).

Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart (1 Peter 1:22).

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God (1 John 4:7).

But what does it mean to love others? Though there are many things that could be written, I just want to mention one idea that, for me, is important to consider. And it is this: be interested in others!!!

The idea of being interested in others moves loving others from the abstract to the concrete. For me, it’s easy to love others from a distance. To get up close however, is altogether different. To know another’s story and to be responsive to it is where love moves from the classroom to the field.

So how do we love and show interest in others? Here are a few thoughts…

1. Realize that people are interesting!

There are no boring people! I know that’s hard for some of us to imagine, but it’s true. C.S. Lewis writes that “there are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal.” He reminds us that “the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would strongly be tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare.”

2. Understand that it’s not all about you!

There is a tendency in us to find our jokes funnier, our stories more interesting, our days busier, and our pain and hurt more severe than those around us. So as a result, since we are the “life of the party,” its important that others make way for our schedules and listen to what we have to say.

We have to be reminded therefore, that we are not the center of the universe. God is! And since it’s not about us, but about Him, then humility should characterize our life. We should have the mind and attitude of Christ who gave himself up for us. Our lives should be one of self-sacrifice.

Paul wrote: Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (Phil. 2:5-8).

3. Ask “How ya doing?” and then listen!

When we ask how those around us how life is going for them, is it just chatter? I know many times asking “How are you?” can be a greeting in which we really do not expect an open and honest answer (Therefore, maybe we should come up with a different way of greeting others and save that question when we really desire a response).

As we do ask “How are you?” to others, however, are we ready to listen? And I mean really listen. I think we might be amazed at how many of those around us are just wanting to be heard. So listen to them. Be patient. Hear their stories.

4. Be careful not to devalue the response of others.

Have you ever had a conversation with someone and were excited to tell them something that had happened to you only to have them say, “Oh yeah, I’ve done that!” or “Yea, that happens to me all the time”?

Or, maybe you are talking about some calamity (maybe how you broke your arm) only to hear someone say, “Oh yeah! You think that’s bad, you should hear what happened to me!”

You probably have not only encountered such interjections by others, but have done them yourself. Our fallenness always seems to want to one-up everyone else and when we do, we devalue not just their story, but them. It’s as if we are saying to them, “Your story or what has happened to you is not that big of deal…at least not compared to my life.”

5. Pray for others.

You cannot love others without praying them. If you are really interested and concerned for those around you, praying is one of the best things you can do for them. This is not a revolutionary idea. Nonetheless, it is vital. Plus, when you pray for others, you might discover that you want to know more about them so you can pray more specifically.

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others (Philippians 2:3-4).

 

 

MLK 2015

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Is Martin Luther King, Jr. still important? Yes. Do we still have much to learn? Most definitely. Below are a few recently posted articles about MLK that I have found both interesting and challenging.

On Evangelicals And Civil Rights: MLK Day 2015 – There are few topics in American history that have as much contemporary relevance in the classroom as Civil Rights and race matters.

Why So Many Are Surprised At The State of Race Relations? – A major problem in understanding race relations in the United States is that we tend to understand race, racism, and the form of racialization as constants rather than as variables. This view has grave implications.

The Most Segregated Hour of The Week – Reflections on church diversity by Ed Stetzer.

Selma – Six reasons why the story still matters.

MLK Still Matters – Reflecting on Dr. King and his legacy, our country has made great strides, but we have hardly achieved the vision Dr. King longed for. Our nation desperately wants racial unity, but apart from the gospel, those efforts will continue to be in vain.

How MLK Made A Better World In Just 10 Years – When Martin Luther King Jr. accepted the ministerial call from Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama, he was just twenty-five years old. That was 1954. What King accomplished over the next decade would radically reshape American society and provide an example and inspiration for us today. So what was his secret?

 

Around The Web

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Is Islam Inherently Violent? – The horrific attack on the staff of Paris’s Charlie Hedbo has renewed questions about Muslims and the besetting problem of Islamic jihadism and violence. Is Islam inherently violent, and is Islam itself to blame for such crimes?

How Stress Shrinks Our Brains And What To Do About It Nearly three-quarters of adults report feeling physical symptoms of stress within the past month, according to the American Psychological Association and while 62% of adults have tried to somehow reduce stress in the past five years, only 37% have had luck in actually doing so.

Fishermen That Don’t Fish – “Follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” It is tragically easy for those of us in ministry to forget this, to get so wrapped up in nuances of theology and specific strategies that we no longer personally seek the lost.

The Indispensable Value Of Practical Theology – We are right to be concerned about a Christianity that only does, does does, and never knows – that’s unsustainable. But Jesus says we should be equally concerned with a Christianity that only knows, knows, knows, and never does – that too is unsustainable.

The Best 37 Business Books I Have Ever Read – A list by Michael Hyatt that is worth considering.

Stuart Scott And (Not) Responding To Internet Critics – I can’t be that concerned with how I’m perceived. I care about how my mother and father think about me and how my friends and how my loved ones think about me.

Grandma Attacked and Shares Her Faith 

Religious Mindset Is One Of A Tourist

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Though first written in 1980, Eugene’s Peterson’s words still ring true today…

Religion in our time has been captured by the tourist mindset. Religion is understood as a visit to an attractive site to be made when we have adequate leisure. For some it is a weekly jaunt to church; for others, occasional visits to special services. Some, with a bent for religious entertainment and sacred diversion, plan their lives around special events like retreats, rallies, and conferences. We go to see a new personality, to hear a new truth, to get a new experience and so somehow expand our otherwise humdrum lives. The religious life is defined as the latest and newest: Zen, faith healing, human potential, parapsychology, successful living, choreography in the chancel, Armageddon. We’ll try anything–until something else comes along. 

A Long Obedience In The Same Direction (p. 16)