Connections | Wednesday, October 18, 2017

From the Word

“O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise because of your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger. When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor.” (Psalm 8:1-5)

Notable Quotables

“Learning never exhausts the mind.” (Leonardo da Vinci)

“Having an open mind is not to be confused with having a hole in the head.” (Gene Mora)

“Merely having an open mind is nothing. The object of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to shut it again on something solid.” (G. K. Chesterton)

“My students are unlikely to learn all that I teach them; they are most likely to learn that about which I am most excited.” (D. A. Carson)

“Without any access to moral knowledge, you are just left with political correctness.” (Dallas Willard)

Around the Net

When You Feel Like Quitting (Mark Altrogge)

Have you ever felt like giving up? Just throwing in the towel? Have you ever said something like, “I’m tired of praying and not seeing an answer. I’ve been asking God to change this situation for 15 years and nothing ever changes.” Or, “I’m just so tired of all this conflict. I’m just so tired of trying to be a peacemaker. I’m out of here.” Or, “I’m just tired of living. I wish the Lord would just take me home.” The Bible says every believer will be tempted to give up. What can we do when we feel like quitting?

Lewis on the Victorious Struggle: A Great Triumph of Grace (Dan DeWitt)

One of C. S. Lewis’ letters touches upon a hot button issue today—and with much hope and grace. “This short letter from C.S. Lewis reminds me of something I heard a Christian leader once say to young men, ‘The struggle is the victory.’ His point was that we cannot allow defeat to keep us from trying to please Christ. We might fall down but we are expected to get back up and press on. He who began a good work in us will be faithful to complete it, Scripture tells us.”

Red Flags for Worship Leaders (Jamie Brown)

“Adding members to a worship team, a choir, or really any volunteer team is one of the most important and consequential jobs of a worship leader. It requires patience (when no one is stepping forward), discernment (whether or not someone is gifted), wisdom (is this person suited for a leadership position in the church?), and leadership (am I building a team or expecting it to fall into place?) Here are some red flags to be looking for (in no particular order of importance).”

Autumn and the Beauty of Death for the Christian (Tim Counts)

“I am a pastor in New England, and let me tell you—there is a reason people come from all over the country to see the Fall foliage. There are bright bursts of brilliant crimson and orange on certain trees. When a leaf falls to the ground, it is dead. The beauty of Fall foliage is death. The beauty in Christian death is hard to see sometimes. Winter can be long and bleak. After the leaves fall, our trees will be barren here for over 6 months. But lift your heads, brothers and sisters, because Spring follows Winter. It may be Fall now, but Spring time–and Resurrection Morning–is coming.”

What I Want from the News (Tim Challies)

With a few notable exceptions, real journalism is dead in this country, so I’m with Challies on this. “It’s gotten so I almost hate the news. I want to know what’s going on in the world, but I’ve lost confidence that there’s as much as a single organization out there communicating it in a trustworthy way. We hear lots of talk today about fake news, but I’m convinced this is less of a concern than what passes as real news. It takes little more than a brief visit to [insert your favorite, then least-favorite news outlet here], to see how the news is far more (and far less) than the news. If I could dream up the news outlet I want, it would be defined by characteristics like these.

Something to Ponder

The Church, Individually and Together

“We want always to avoid the twin errors of individualism and ecclesiastical collectivism. The former neglects the importance of the Church, and the latter neglects the importance of individual faith and devotion. The former thinks that Jesus is a bachelor and has no bride. The latter forgets that we go to heaven or to hell by ones.

“What is the balance? First, keep the worship of God central in your lives. Look forward to the Lord’s Day. Prepare for it throughout the week, and look back on our worship services with gratitude and affection. Second, cultivate the disciplines of personal holiness. Read your Bible faithfully; pray to God without ceasing; confess your sins regularly; obey God in your individual station.

“The faithful body is made up of faithful members. Faithful members cannot survive outside the faithful body. God balances the demands of individual piety and corporate devotion as we follow Him individually, and as we worship Him together. Both are necessary; do not privilege one over the other.”

– Doug Wilson

The Glory of Creation

The Plotting Bandits

racoons-two-logs-looking
Image Credit: @AmazedByAnimals

Into All the World

“The future is as bright as the promises of God.” (Adoniram Judson)

Connections

Connections | Tuesday, October 17, 2017

From the Word

“Praise the Lord, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits—who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.” (Psalm 103:1-5)

Notable Quotables

“If God does not forgive without ceasing, we are lost.” (Martin Luther)

“The more pains you have the more paints you have on your palette.” Jeffrey Tambor

“A troubled person is a person to love, not a person to fix. And people often change slowly and struggle deeply.” (David Powlison)

“God doesn’t love you because you are good. God loves you because he is good.” (Tullian Tchividjian)

“The goal of the Christian life is not simply to get us into heaven, but to get heaven into us.” (Richard Foster)

Around the Net

6 Things Christ Does with Your Sin (Jared Wilson)

Here are six things Jesus does with our sin. (In good preacher fashion, all six points begin with the letter “C,” and they’re supported by Scripture.) He condemns it. He carries it. He cancels it. He crucifies it. He casts it away. He chooses to un-remember it. “Astonishing. We bring our sin to him, repentant and in faithful confession, and he says, ‘What’re you talking about?’ This is how Jesus forgives sin. If we’ll confess it.”

Hope for Loved Ones Who Have Resisted the Gospel (Colin Smith)

“Anxiety over loved ones who have resisted the gospel and rebelled against the Lord is one of the heaviest burdens we carry in our mature years. When I ask members of our congregation how I can best pray for them, the request I hear most often involves sorrow over a family member who is far from God.”

An Open Letter to those Suffering with Depression (Shona Murray)

“I’m so sorry to hear that you are suffering with serious depression. Although you feel hopeless and helpless, I want to assure you right up front that there is hope and there is help. I’ve been there myself and I’ve felt the same despair and darkness that you feel. But God, in his great mercy, brought me out of it and I trust and pray he will also bring you into the light.”

Too Many Women Can Say #MeToo (Aaron Armstrong)

Kate Shellnut tweeted something recently that arrested Aaron Armstrong: “I realized why I hadn’t been particularly struck by #MeToo. It’s because I assume every woman I know has been hollered at, grabbed, insulted, objectified, or violated at some point. It’s terrible that that’s the norm. And me too.” Aaron responds with a word of hope, although he admits, “What’s heartbreaking for me is that there’s always a possibility of my daughters and son experiencing it too.”

Selfies at Niagra (Jeremy Walker)

“As I strolled among the tourists, I was struck by the number of people who were not actually looking at this wonder of creation. With arms or sticks extended, they were trying to angle their bodies so as to get themselves front and centre in a photo or video of themselves with Niagara in the background. Given the opportunity to drink in something of the majesty of the Creator’s work, the concern of so many was to get themselves into the picture. As one friend asked, ‘Exactly how do they think that their face is going to make that picture better?’”

Something to Ponder

Bad News for Bookkeepers

“Jesus has already been critical of the following items taken from everybody’s list of favorite things to be: being first, being found, being big, being important, and being alive. Now however, he castigates the one item that holds all these futilities together and gives them power over us, namely, being a bookkeeper.

“The human race is positively addicted to keeping records and remembering scores. What we call our ‘life’ is, for the most part, simply the juggling of accounts in our heads. And yet, if God has announced anything in Jesus, it is that He, for one, has pensioned off the bookkeeping department permanently.

“It may be our sacred conviction that the only way to keep God happy, the stars in their courses, our children safe, our psyches adjusted, and our neighbors reasonable is to be ready, at every moment, to have the books we have kept on ourselves and others audited. But that is not God’s conviction because he has taken away the handwriting that was against us (Col. 2:14).”

– Robert Capon

The Glory of Creation

Gentle Stream under a Fall Canopy

stream-gentle-fall-canopy

Into All the World

“The smallest deed is better than the greatest intention.” (John Burroughs)

Connections

Connections | Monday, October 16, 2017

From the Word

“Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth. Sing to the Lord, praise his name; proclaim his salvation day after day. Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all peoples. For great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; he is to be feared above all gods.” (Psalm 96:1-4)

Notable Quotables

“Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.” (Thomas Merton)

“The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance.” (Aristotle)

“When I judge art, I take my painting and put it next to a God-made object like a tree or flower. If it clashes, it is not art.” (Paul Cezanne)

“All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.” (Pablo Picaso)

“Evangelicalism has too many critics and not enough creators.” (Trevin Wax)

Around the Net

10 Quotes That Challenge the Way You Study the Bible (Jake Mailhot)

Some passages in the Bible are downright unusual, perplexing, or weird. Studying them requires that we connect with the ancient context of the biblical writers. In his newest book, The Bible Unfiltered, Michael Heiser takes on dozens of specific passages, revealing how understanding their original historical-cultural context can illuminate and inspire. Here are ten quotes from the book that may challenge the way you study the Bible.

Do You Regret Your Dating History? (Marshall Segal)

“Nearly two thirds of not-yet-married Christians express regret over previous relationships. That means the critical questions in dating are not just whom to date, how to date, and when to wed, but what to do when we get it wrong. And the reality is, most of us get it wrong at some point along the way. . . . Your past may be precisely what God uses to prepare you most for marriage—if you allow your past to lead you to him.”

Is the Reformation Worth Celebrating? (Matthew Oser)

“Why isn’t the Reformation celebrated by more Christians? For one thing, Protestantism struggles from a debilitating lack of its own history. Recently, while I explained Martin Luther’s 95 theses in a Bible study, one of my church members asked, ‘Was this before or after his I have a dream’ speech?’ If our society can celebrate World Tripe Day (October 24), we as Protestants can set aside time on October 31, 2017 and remember the 500th anniversary of the event that lit the powder keg of the Reformation.”

Willow Creek Chooses Co-Ed Pastors to Succeed Bill Hybels (Kate Shellnutt)

Since “no one person can replace” Willow Creek Community Church founder Bill Hybels, the influential megachurch has named two people: its current executive pastor Heather Larson and teaching pastor Steve Carter. Hybels announced on Saturday that the pair will succeed him as lead pastors when he steps down in October 2018. The historic transition will make Willow Creek one of the largest churches in America with a woman in the lead pastor position.

The Heavenly Sounds of ‘Hallelujah’ on Crystal Water Glasses (Tabitha Khaye)

 This gifted street artist does an amazing job of playing the song, “Hallelujah” on crystal water glasses. He’s not using any other instruments, but if you listen closely, he manages to produce what sounds like the music of a violin and harp from just these glasses. The result is quite astounding. “What he does sounds absolutely angelic, even heavenly. If you like the song, ‘Hallelujah’ then you’re going to love this!” (Video 3:47)

Something to Ponder

Longing for a Place Called Heaven

Deep inside us, there is a sense of something more in life that drives us on. No matter what experiences you’ve had, no matter how wonderful they were, they were just a glimpse of what is still ahead. You are really homesick for a place you have never been before, and that place is heaven. You were wired this way. The Bible says that God has put eternity in our hearts (Eccl 3:11). This simply means there is a sense inside of us that there is more to life. That is what keeps us moving forward. It is sort of like the homing instinct we see in the animal kingdom, like the salmon making their way upstream with such determination. We see it in the way the swallows return every year to San Juan Capistrano. It’s a homing instinct that drives them.

We have the same thing, but it is a homing instinct for a place we haven’t seen yet. It is a homesickness for heaven. Until that day, there is nothing that will completely satisfy our lives. No matter what happens to us on Earth, it pales in comparison to this great hope. The apostle Paul wrote, “For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever” (2 Cor 4:17–18 NLT).

This is the hope of the Christian—the hope of a place called heaven. There is a better world ahead. There is something greater than what we’re experiencing now.

– Greg Laurie

The Glory of Creation

Acrobatic Dolphin Off the Coast of Cuba

dolphin-jump-cubaImage Credit: @AwesomeEarthPix

Into All the World

“If you live for their acceptance, you’ll die from their rejection.” (Lecrae)

Connections

Connections | Friday, October 13, 2017

From the Word

“And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation.” (Exodus 34:6-7)

Notable Quotables

“Hurry is a form of violence practiced on time. But time is sacred.” (Eugene Peterson)

“Real joy is not found in having the best of everything but in trusting that God is making the best of everything.” (Ann Voskamp)

“Let him who cannot be alone beware of community. . . . Let him who is not in community beware of being alone.” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer)

“By working faithfully eight hours a day, you may eventually get to be a boss and work twelve hours a day.” (Robert Frost)

“To err is human, but when the eraser wears out ahead of the pencil, you’re overdoing it.” (Josh Jenkins)

Around the Net

Reset: Living a Grace-Paced Life in a Burnout Culture (Paul Tautges)

Paul Tautges provides a summary of David Murray’s new book, Reset: Living a Grace-Paced Life in a Burnout Culture. Tautges fought a two-year battle with depression and high-level anxiety triggered by the collision of multiple stress factors. “Perfectionism, over-commitment, people-pleasing, family trials, financial debt, conflict, and my own sinful responses would eventually merge together. Two stress-induced heart attacks would be part of the coming year, and David would be there to help me begin to make some sense of it all.”

Teenagers and the Smartphone Beast (Steve Jeffery)

According to a recent article in The Atlantic, teen promiscuity has declined significantly in recent years. The rationale for this surprising trend has little to do with a revival of traditional morality; rather, it has more to do with the impact of the digital revolution. Specifically, the rise in smartphone use has coincided with an increased tendency among adolescents to delay taking on “both the responsibilities and the pleasures of adulthood.” Jeffrey calls on parents to help their teens tame the smartphone beast.

2 Things Christians Need to Know about Creativity (Aaron Armstrong)

Because we bear God’s image, we have a responsibility to reflect him in our creative efforts. “Art and creativity have value because of who we are as image bearers of God—because God is creative, so are we. Thus, if God does something, and models it for us to do, we should treat it as valuable. Our best efforts should be expended. We should eschew cheap knock-offs. Creative efforts deserve the best we can give them because God is worthy of our best.”

Oppositional (Seth Godin)

The indomitable Seth Godin offers the following provocative paragraph as his entire post. Little else needs to be said. “When someone is frequently naysaying a proposal or a situation, it’s tempting to figure out how to make them happy. What can you change to find a compromise, how can you listen to their objections and respond in a way to gain their approval? It might be, though, that being oppositional is making them happy. It may be that the best way to satisfy their objections is to let them keep objecting.”

Whitney Houston’s Final Hit Was a Cry to God (J-P Mauro)

Whitney Houston’s voice was angelic. Her untimely death, however, seemed demonic. She died way too young—and loaded with an excess of musical talent. I wasn’t aware that the title track from her seventh and final studio album, “I Look to You,” was a personal expression of her faith. “The tone of the song is reflective of the struggles Houston faced between her marriage falling apart and a battle against substance abuse, which ultimately led to her death, in 2012.”

Something to Ponder

Building Community

“Often we surround ourselves with the people we most want to live with, which forms a club or a clique, not a community. Anyone can form a club; it takes grace, shared vision, and hard work to form a community.

“The Christian church was the first institution in history to bring together on equal footing Jews and Gentiles, men and women, slaves and free. The apostle Paul waxed eloquent on this ‘mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God.’ By forming a community out of diverse members, Paul said, we have the opportunity to capture the attention of the world and even the supernatural world beyond (Eph 3:9-10).

“In some ways the church has sadly failed in this assignment. Still, church is the one place I visit that brings together generations: infants still held in their mothers’ arms, children who squirm and giggle at all the wrong times, responsible adults who know how to act appropriately at all times, and those who may drift asleep if the preacher drones on too long.

“If we want the community experience God is offering to us, we have reason to seek a congregation of people not like us.”

– Philip Yancey

The Friday Funny

Brian Regan on Refrigerators

The Glory of Creation

Sunrise in the Autumn Forest

sunrise-in-the-autumn-forestImage Credit: walldevil.com

Into All the World

“Kind words do not cost much. Yet they accomplish much.” (Blaise Pascal)

Connections

Connections | Thursday, October 12, 2017

From the Word

“So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:21-24)

Notable Quotables

“Our hope is not found in the passing of tests but in the forgiveness of failure.” (David Zahl)

“Christianity is not for good people who try hard. It’s for bad people who have finally given up.” (Tullian Tchividjian)

“Well may the accuser roar, of sins that I have done; I know them all and thousands more, my God, he knoweth none.” (Samuel Grandy)

“Each time you fall he’ll pick you up. He knows your own efforts are never going to bring you anywhere near perfection.” (C. S. Lewis)

“My trust is not that I am holy, but that being unholy, He is my righteousness.” (Charles Spurgeon)

Around the Net

The Loving Service of Listening (Sophie MacDonald)

“The task was simple: Engage someone in conversation—ask about her life, work, class-load, past, or dreams—and don’t interrupt once while she shares. I’ll never forget when I received this assignment as a junior in college. I considered myself a good listener and was excited for an easy A. Then I learned how often I interrupt. The next day, as one of my dear friends shared her heart over a mug of coffee, I quickly realized that this assignment was not easy. It became apparent how naturally I interject with my own stories as people share theirs.”

Catching Some Zs—Those Born 1996-2014 (Mark Morning)

Like the Baby Boomers, Generation X, and Millennials before them, Gen Z’s have their own ways of seeing the world—even if it is primarily through that little glowing screen. And, as always, parents and pastors must know their audience. “We have to be students of the culture,” says Jim Burns, executive director of the HomeWord Center for Youth and Family at Azusa Pacific University. “We have to look at who and what is affecting their generation. And it’s complicated.” Morning presents 10 traits of Z Nation.

How to Resolve Most Relational Conflict (Jon Bloom)

“Pride is the enemy inside us that speaks to us like a friend. Its counsel sounds so much like self-protection, preservation, and promotion that we’re often blinded to the fact that it’s destroying us and others. It rises in great indignation as a prosecuting attorney when others’ pride damages us, but it minimizes, qualifies, excuses, rationalizes, and blame-shifts our behavior when we damage others. We can be easily deceived into believing that our pride wants to save us, when really, it’s our internal Judas betraying us with a kiss.”

5 Ways To Pray For Persecuted Saints (Mark Altrogge)

Persecuted believers around the world need the prayer support of other believers. “I want to grow in faithfulness to pray for persecuted saints, both those imprisoned and those who are ‘free,’ but live under oppressive governments. Here is a suggestion: consider taking a portion of your prayer time one day a week to pray specifically for the Christ’s persecuted saints.” For more information and ways to pray, see Voice of the Martyrs and Open Doors.

Literary Devices in the Bible (Tim Valentino)

“The Bible employs a variety of literary devices to convey its message. This dynamic is especially true of Hebrew poetry, which often features an array of verbal imagery and artistry to express the writer’s theological meaning. Perhaps even more so than straight prose, poetry captures the attention, stirs the emotions, and stimulates the imagination, thus helping readers discover new dimensions of familiar truths. Consequently, it also has the ability to provoke deeper reflection on, and greater appreciation of, those truths.”

Something to Ponder

Sharing the Grace We Need Ourselves

“Peter’s healing of a lame beggar drew a crowd, so he used the opportunity to tell them about the God who heals. He told them about Jesus, whom they had rejected and handed over to Pilate. ‘You rejected this holy, righteous one . . . . You killed the author of life’ (Acts 3:14-15). Peter knew what he was talking about. The same Greek word that is translated “rejected” was used by Jesus for Peter’s denial. ‘I tell you the truth, Peter—before the rooster crows tomorrow morning, you will deny three times that you even know me’ (John 13:38).

“Peter ‘broke down and wept’ after his denial; and though Jesus later restored him, that moment of betrayal was seared in his memory (Mark 14:72). I wonder what pangs of remorse Peter felt as he told the crowd they were guilty of the same offense. As he had denied his friend during His hour of need, so they had rejected Jesus and demanded His death. But perhaps Peter found solace in knowing the crowd was equally in need of the grace he had received.

“This is good to remember when we’re crushed by guilt. Yes, we should be ashamed. Yes, we deserve judgment. But we’re all guilty. We’re not alone. And by His grace, God hasn’t left us alone. The very sin that led to Jesus’ death led Him to sacrifice His life for our salvation.”

– Mike Wittmer

The Glory of Creation

Open Flowers by the Morning Sea

flowers-by-the-sea-OurEarthGraceImage Credit: Ross @OurEarthGrace

Into All the World

“Sometimes good things fall apart so better things can fall together.” (Unknown)

Connections

Connections | Wednesday, October 11, 2017

From the Word

“This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time,” declares the Lord. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the Lord. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” (Jeremiah 31:33-34)

Notable Quotables

“Holiness is not the way to Jesus. Jesus is the way to holiness.” (Steven Lawson)

“Be like Jesus. Spend enough time with sinners to ruin your reputation.” (Joshua Harris)

“God, and God alone, can take bloody violence, arrogant injustice, cunning cruelty and bend it all around to serve a redemptive purpose.” (Ray Ortlund)

“The only true joy on earth is to escape from the prison of our own false self.” (Thomas Merton)

“God abandoned one perfect Son for millions of sinful sons.” (Thabiti Anyabwile)

Around the Net

My God, He Knoweth None (Tullian Tchividjian)

“For some reason, we have come to believe that it is a mark of spiritual and emotional maturity to hang onto our guilt and shame. We’ve sadly concluded that the worse we feel, the better we are. The declaration of Psalm 103:12 has been the most difficult for me to grasp; ‘As far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.’ And Hebrews 8:12 has been equally unbelievable; ‘I will forgive their wickedness and remember their sins no more.’ In other words, the sins I don’t forget, God doesn’t remember.”

Do Christians Have to Care about Everything? (Aaron Earls)

“Why don’t you care?” In our age of perpetual outrage, that may be one of the most commonly asked questions. After all, the list of needs and worthy causes is unending. Should we not be expected to voice impassioned concern for every problem and enthusiastic support for every good cause? In short, do Christians have to care about everything? The answer to that question may not be as easy as it first looks. Earls says yes and no.

8 Biblical Reasons to Preach to People’s Minds (Marty Duren)

Professor Mark Noll once famously argued, “The scandal of the evangelical mind is that there is not much of an evangelical mind.” He had a point. Indeed, we seem to talk little about the role of the mind in discipleship. Serving? Yes. Caring? Yes. The fruit of the Spirit? Yes. But, the mind? We almost seem to fear the subject, except in the most generic sense. Americans today—even those of the Christian variety—display little ability to reason. . . The inattention given the life of the mind makes convoluted thinking a foregone conclusion.”

1 in 3 Protestant Churchgoers Personally Affected by Suicide (Bob Smietana)

Suicide remains a taboo subject in many Protestant churches, despite the best efforts of pastors, according to a new study from LifeWay Research. Eight in 10 Protestant senior pastors believe their church is equipped to intervene with someone who is threatening suicide, yet few people turn to the church for help before taking their own lives. Quite significantly, one-third of victims were attending church before their death, but few pastors knew of their struggle.

What Should Evangelicals Think About the Shroud of Turin? (Joe Carter)

The question of whether the Shroud of Turin is Christianity’s most important relic or its most impressive forgery has been hotly debated for 660 years. New research indicates that the purported burial cloth of Jesus shows signs of blood from a torture victim, and undermines arguments that it was painted. Still, evangelicals are divided on the question of the artifact’s authenticity. Gary Habermas takes one view, while N. D. Wilson takes another.

Something to Ponder

Before the Throne of God Above

Before the throne of God above
I have a strong, a perfect plea;
A great High Priest, whose Name is Love,
Who ever lives and pleads for me.

My name is graven on His hands,
My name is written on His heart;
I know that while with God He stands
No tongue can bid me thence depart.

When Satan tempts me to despair,
And tells me of the guilt within,
Upward I look, and see Him there
Who made an end of all my sin.

Because the sinless Savior died,
My sinful soul is counted free;
For God, the Just, is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me.

Behold Him there, the risen Lamb!
My perfect, spotless Righteousness,
The great unchangeable I Am,
The King of glory and of grace.

One with Himself, I cannot die;
My soul is purchased by His blood;
My life is hid with Christ on high,
With Christ, my Savior and my God.

– Charitie L. Bancroft

The Glory of Creation

Mandarin Ducks Relaxing

mandarin-ducksImage Credit: Photo by Alan Shapiro

Into All the World

“Life is too short, the world is too big, and God’s love is too great to live ordinary.” (Christine Caine)

Connections

Connections | Tuesday, October 10, 2017

From the Word

“I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord.” (Psalm 40:1-2)

Notable Quotables

“We sometimes think we have grabbed hold of God and found him, but it is really the other way around.” (G. K. Beale)

“We do not have to make God willing to forgive. In fact, it is God who is working to make us willing to seek his forgiveness.” (Richard Foster)

“Human beings never behave more badly toward one another than when they believe they are protecting God.” (Barbara Brown Taylor)

“Don’t chase accomplishments, people or positions to find your worth. You’re already loved as you are by the Father.” (Chris Tomlin)

“The words your mind thinks become the house your heart lives in.” (Ann Voskamp)

Around the Net

God is Not Ashamed of You (Dan DeWitt)

“Christian, God is not ashamed of you. You may very well be ashamed of you. God isn’t. This truth is presented in the book of Hebrews twice. Its repetition is driving home a point that our hearts desperately long to hear but often avoid. We shrink back from it because we know ourselves too well. God must be ashamed of us. We would be if we were him. But he isn’t. He knows us better than we know ourselves. And he’s not ashamed of us.”

Don’t Freak Out If You’re Not Feeling God’s Presence (Stephen Altrogge)

“For much of my life, I’ve relied on my experience of God’s presence to determine how close I am to God. If I have an emotional experience in corporate singing, then I tend to think I’m closer to God. On the other hand, if my Bible reading feels drier than a college accounting lecture (I sat through some terrible ones), I conclude that I didn’t experience God. . . . But I’ve come to conclude that, for the most part, this thinking is unbiblical. Here’s why.”

Facing the Inner Critic (Seth Godin)

The loudest voice of criticism often comes from inside our own head. “We hear his voice, we know it by heart. He announces his presence with a rumble and he runs away with a wisp of smoke. But again and again, we resist looking him in the eye, fearful of how powerful he is. We’re afraid that like the gorgon, he will turn us to stone. He’s living right next to our soft spot, the sore place where we store our shame, our insufficiency, our fraudulent nature. And he knows all about it, and pokes us there again and again. It doesn’t have to be this way.”

Why You Need to Not Be Afraid of Intimacy (John Ortberg)

“Many of us fear intimacy because, deep down, we think we don’t deserve it. We’re afraid that our flaws are bound to emerge, and it will hurt even more to lose intimacy than never to have had it at all. Anytime we let someone in, we run the risk of being hurt or rejected. So we tend to avoid it. The irony is, of course, is that we deeply desire intimacy. We want to be loved, to be liked, to be celebrated, to have someone who accepts us no matter what.”

The Real Turning Point in the Prodigal Son Story (Glen Scrivener)

The real change in the prodigal—both his change of status and of heart—happens in the arms of the father. That’s where repentance occurs. “Sinners need a whole new life—the old one stinks. But where will they find this new life? Not in their resolve; only in the Father’s arms. The gospel is not a pigsty plan, telling rebels how to make restitution. It’s the announcement of one ‘who welcomes sinners and eats with them.’ He is our focus.”

Something to Ponder

No Defeat Is a Crushing Defeat

“One stumble does not define or break a person. Though you failed, God’s love does not. Face your failures with faith in God’s goodness. He saw this collapse coming. God could see the upcoming mishaps. Still, he tells you what he told Joshua. ‘Arise, go. . .you and all this people, to the land which I am giving’ (Joshua 1:2). There is no condition in that covenant. No fine print. No performance language. God’s promised land does not depend on your perfection. It depends on his.

“In God’s hands, no defeat is a crushing defeat. Scripture says “the steps of good men are directed by the Lord. He delights in each step they take. If they fall, it isn’t fatal, for the Lord holds them with his hand” (Psalm 37:23-24). Put your faith in the One who is always faithful!”

­– Max Lucado, God is With You Every Day

The Glory of Creation

Cathedral Light, Yosemite National Park, California

mountain-cathedral-light-yosemite
Image Credit: @StartlingNature

Into All the World

“There are no superfluous people, no ‘spare’ people in the human world. Everyone is needed for the good of all.” (Rowan Williams)

Connections

Connections | Monday, October 9, 2017

From the Word

“Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time: ‘Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.’ Jonah obeyed the word of the Lord and went to Nineveh.” (Jonah 3:1-3a)

Notable Quotables

“Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me.” (John Newton)

“We count on God’s mercy for our past mistakes, God’s love for our present needs, God’s sovereignty for our future.” (Augustine)

“Your pain (self-induced, or heaped on you by others, or both) is a stewardship to be used as a pathway for others to find grace.” (Victor Oliver)

“It’s such a comfort to know that God’s grace isn’t limited in any way by our struggle with sin or the degree of our weakness.” (Paul Tripp)

“If your identity is found in Christ, then it matters less and less what people think of you.” (Leonard Sweet)

Around the Net

“But God . . .” (Tullian Tchividjian)

Tullian Tchividjian is back, and his new website reminds me of the scene where Obi-Wan Kenobi says to Darth Vader, “If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.” God is still in the resurrection business. “Come with me to your deepest bottom, and together, there, let us find hope and comfort and love and forgiveness and grace and mercy. Because the bad news that we are all guilty is met with the best news that God loves, forgives, and heals the broken hearts of guilty people.”

“Daddy, How Do I Look?” (Tim Challies)

My daughter once was the age of Tim Challies’ daughter. Maybe that’s why this little piece got me choked up. “I’d die for her. Does she know that? Does it even matter? I’d throw myself in front of a bus for her. I’d take a bullet. I’d do anything to keep her safe, to protect her from harm. I’m her daddy and it’s my duty. I’m her daddy and it’s my joy to love her fiercely, to love her gently, to love her without any contradiction between the two. I do.” So do I. And if you have a daughter, I hope you do, too.

Agnostic Turned Believer After Vegas Shooting (Dan DeWitt)

Russel Black was an agnostic before the Las Vegas concert last week that claimed the lives of 58 country music fans. He now believes in God. A selfless, heroic act of sacrificial love by his sister during the hail of gunfire caught his attention and changed his mind. Her bravery was a mini, living illustration of the gospel of Jesus Christ. “Some will see this as an emotional decision made out of fear. Others will assert it as evidence for God. I see it as someone whose commitment to agnosticism was ungrounded and ultimately dismantled.” (Video: 1:51)

The Most Important Thing Leaders Bring to a Hurting World (Brian Dodd)

“The world is in desperate need of leadership. Wayward people need direction. Broken people need options. Under-resourced people need solutions. Hopeless people need to know there is a brighter tomorrow. When you add each of these things up, the most important thing leaders bring to a hurting world is hope.” Brian Dodd considers the restoration work of Drew Brees, quarterback of the New Orleans Saints, after Hurricane Katrina in 2006. “Brees,” he writes, “became a symbol of hope and was instrumental in the its rebuild.”

God’s Word Never Returns Void (Courtney Reissig)

Isaiah 55:11 says that God’s Word will not return to him empty; rather, it will accomplish the purpose for which he sends it out. This promise speaks not only of our evangelistic preaching, but also of our Bible study in general. “If God’s Word doesn’t return void in our gospel proclamations to the lost, then it doesn’t in our own lives as well. . . . Ordinary faithful time spent in God’s Word is never for naught. The deposits of Scripture that we make in our own life, through personal Bible study, will be used by God when we are drawing on the reserves.”

Something to Ponder

Christians Who Reject Grace for Christians

“I don’t think the ministers of grace are ever going to ‘persuade’ the Christian community that grace applies to Christians. I have failed utterly at this for well over 30 years. Outsiders love the message; insiders resist it, even hate it. Probably we just have to ‘let them go’—the ‘Christians’ I mean. Something about the way the religious (sub-)culture works just makes it impossible to hear the grace word there.

“I’ll try to keep on going, and ‘I won’t . . . back . . . down’ (Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers). But have no illusions: You’ll never persuade the ‘religious.’ Better maybe just open up a hospital for these people when they crash (they always crash). Take ’em in then, offer the Old, Old Story, and maybe then, after crashing and burning, they’ll hear it with new ears.”

– Paul Zahl

The Glory of Creation

Scene of the Season

fall-leaves-trees-pond

Image Credit: Photo by Chris Asche

Into All the World

“You will never understand the heart of God unless you see that mercy should govern all our relationships to one another.” (Dallas Willard)

Connections

Connections | Friday, October 6, 2017

From the Word

“Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights.” (Habakkuk 3:17-19)

Notable Quotables

“Thirst was made for water; inquiry for truth.” (C. S. Lewis)

“Success is standing on your pile of mistakes rather than lying under them.” (Dave Ramsey)

“God doesn’t ask for your strength. He has more than enough of his own. He asks for your weakness.” (Charles Spurgeon)

“Blessed is the man who, having nothing to say, abstains from giving wordy evidence of the fact.” (George Eliot)

“How does Satan accuse us? By causing us to look at our sin rather than our Savior.” (Tim Keller)

Around the Net

What If Prayer Makes Anxiety Worse? (Mike Leake)

A recent study shows that prayer is helpful to the anxious only if their view is that God is gracious and loving. But what happens when our view of God becomes so askew that we don’t believe he is gracious and loving? “Prayer is difficult in these times. It’s difficult because when I approach the Lord I’m not approaching a throne of grace. I’m coming before him to get yelled at again and reminded of all the terrible things I’ve done—or worse yet—that at the very core of my being I’m deeply unacceptable to the Lord.”

Weapons in the Fight against Anxiety and Fear (Jason Helopoulos)

In Psalm 131:1, David says, “I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me.” Most of us would benefit from such a frame of mind. We would experience less sleepless nights, obsessing over things beyond our reach creating anxieties about tomorrow. “The desire to know why things are happening in our life and even more so to control things in our life is one of the greatest killers of contentment. It also proves to be one of the greatest engines of anxiety. We can save ourselves a lot of heartache if we would put into practice what David had learned.”

The Gospel According to Autumn (Lauren Hansen)

“I love fall. As I sit on my back patio writing these words, the air makes me want to breathe deeply and enjoy life purposefully. Sure, part of it may have to do with the crisp, humid-less air, the anticipation for holidays with my family, and the pure giddiness that comes from stepping on the crunchiest leaf. But my love for fall is much deeper than the pumpkin spice, bonfires, and football games. This season speaks to my soul.”

10 Signs That You’re Getting ‘Hardened’ in Your Ministry (Chuck Lawless)

Chuck Lawless was my doctoral supervisor in 2008-09. His ministry focus is prayer, evangelism, spiritual warfare, and pastoral health. He is gracious, wise, and serious about his calling. “It happens to most of us. Ministry gets really hard, and we get wounded. Our wounds then become scars, on which other scars later develop. If we’re not alert and self-aware, our heart gets hardened. Be aware of these signs of increasing hardening in your life.” He means it when he says, “Do you see any of these characteristics in your life? How might we pray for you?”

The First Great NT Theologian was a Woman (Carolyn Custis James)

“Mary’s choice to sit at the feet of Rabbi Jesus identifies her as a rabbinical student (Luke 10:38-42). Her sister Martha’s objections juxtapose Mary’s behavior with the culturally assumed ‘proper place’ for women in her day—the domestic sphere. Jesus defied all expectations when, instead of sending Mary scurrying back to the kitchen, he defended her in the strongest possible terms: ‘There is really only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it—and I won’t take it away from her’ (Matthew 38:42, emphasis added).”

Something to Ponder

What the Resurrection Means for Believers

“What does it mean to ‘believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead’? Satan believes that God raised Jesus from the dead. He saw it happen. To answer this question, we need to ponder what the resurrection means for God’s people.

“The meaning of the resurrection is that God is for us. He aims to close ranks with us. He aims to overcome all our sense of abandonment and alienation. The resurrection of Jesus is God’s declaration to Israel and to the world that we cannot work our way to glory, but that he intends to do the impossible to get us there. The resurrection is the promise of God that all who trust Jesus will be the beneficiaries of God’s power to lead us in paths of righteousness and through the valley of death.

“Therefore, believing in your heart that God raised Jesus from the dead is much more than accepting a fact. It means being confident that God is for you, that he has closed ranks with you, that he is transforming your life, and that he will save you for eternal joy. Believing in the resurrection means trusting in all the promises of life and hope and righteousness for which it stands. It means being so confident of God’s power and love that no fear of worldly loss or greed for worldly gain will lure us to disobey his will.”

­– John Piper

The Friday Funny

Jack Webb and Johnny Carson

The Glory of Creation

Iguazu Falls, Brazil-Argentina Border

iguazu-falls-brazil-argentinaImage Credit: Photo by Frans Lanting

Into All the World

“Everybody likes a compliment.” (Abraham Lincoln)

Connections

Connections | Thursday, October 5, 2017

From the Word

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
(Matthew 11:28-30)

Notable Quotables

“The glory of God is humanity fully alive.” (Irenaeus)

“Those most acquainted with grace are least likely to take it for granted and most likely to give it away.” (Jonathan Dodson)

“If we could understand how patient God is with our weaknesses, we would never fail to show patience to others.” (John Piper)

“Success is not what we do compared to ‘them.’ It’s what we do compared to what we were created to do.” (Lecrae)

“Friendship improves happiness and abates misery, by the doubling of our joy and the dividing of our grief.” (Cicero)

Around the Net

Don’t Use Your Theology as a Weapon (Michael Kelley)

Christians have divine truths to cling to in times of tragedy. “We can know, for example, that Jesus is still the authoritative ruler of heaven and earth. And we can know, for example, that God is still, even now, working all things for the good of those that love him and are called according to his purpose. We know these things. But may I offer an exhortation regarding these theological truths? Christian, don’t use your theology as a weapon.”

The Gnawing Pangs of Jealousy (Chuck Swindoll)

“Jealousy will decimate a friendship, dissolve a romance, and destroy a marriage. It will shoot tension through the ranks of professionals. It will nullify unity on a team. It will ruin a church. . . . I lived many of my earlier years in the dismal, gaseous subterranean pipelines of jealousy, breathing its fumes and obeying its commands. It was gross agony. But finally, by the grace of Jesus Christ, I realized that I didn’t have to live in darkness.”

7 Phrases to Ban When Trying to Discover New Ideas (Ron Edmondson)

Change is a difficult reality for many organizations, but done well, it can spur momentum. “If you want to create some excitement around you, get a variety of people in a room and let the ideas flow freely. . . . . [But] there are certain phrases, which cannot be heard in an effective meeting intended solely to generate ideas. They should be off limits. In fact, you might even give everyone the freedom to challenge when they hear one of these.”

Hope for the Beat-Up Pastor (Erik Raymond)

Pastoral ministry is a massive challenge, even to the most competent of leaders. Erik Raymond’s heart goes out to the struggling clergyman who’s taking heat from all sides. “They know ministry is hard, and they really don’t want sympathy. They just want to know it’s going to be all-right and that it’s worth it. I want to remind them that it is. Maybe this describes you today. If so, let me give you hope based on two views. Lift your chin today to see these vital and refreshing vistas.”

7 Spurgeon Quotes for Stressed Leaders (Eric Geiger)

“Charles Spurgeon started ministry at 16 years old, led the largest evangelical church of his day, published more words in English than anyone, preached to celebrities and royalty, earned millions of dollars, gave it all away, and was by almost any measure a success. Yet he battled anxiety, depression, and significant suffering. He knew the pressures of leadership and ministry like few others. Here are seven encouragements from one tired, stressed, faithful leader to you.”

Something to Ponder

On Always Feeling Like an Outsider

“I used to believe that wanting to fit in was strictly a negative thing. As a Christian, I reasoned, only God’s opinion should matter; what other people think should have no bearing on how I feel or what I do. While there is wisdom in thoughts like these, the truth is more complex than this kind of ‘all or nothing’ paradigm allows.

 “God created us for relationship, both with him and with others. Fellowship is an eternal reality designed by our loving Father, an original glory that predates the fall. When I cross over, I will not be in an individual heaven populated only by the Holy Trinity and myself; neither will you. Instead, we will dwell forever in perfect unity with people from every tribe and every nation. Every single one of us will be eternally ‘in.’ If you ask me, that sounds pretty good.

“Jesus said, ‘I am the door; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture (John 10:9). . . . In essence, Jesus told the excluders and haters, ‘You cannot stand in the way. I am the way in, and whoever I receive has complete access, total freedom.’

“To anyone who’s felt rejected and judged, Jesus proclaims today, ‘With me, you’re always in. Come; find freedom in me. Be strengthened by what I provide and go back out into the world, confident in who I’ve made you to be. You may come back in any time you like—for the door is always open to those who are mine.’”

– Jerusha Clark

The Glory of Creation

Hiding in the Fallen Leaves

dog-in-the-leavesImage Credit: @rosirivera26

Into All the World

“I used to ask God to help me. Then I asked if I might help him. I ended up by asking him to do his work through me.” (Hudson Taylor)

Connections