Margin notes: God’s Steady “pillars”

Psalm 75:3 (ESV) — 3 When the earth totters, and all its inhabitants, it is I who keep steady its pillars. Selah 3 Things in the 3rd verse from Asaph are so vital for Christians today to bear in mind. First, there are times when the earth totters, stumbling and quaking and crumbling. The Psalm does not say “IF” these things happen – but “when.” They will. Great upheavals in the creation physically, politically in governments, economically and even religiously and personally. The earth and all earthly system stand presently under the judgment of God. And it is crumbling. Second, The Lord knows there will be these seasons. He is not surprised by them, and so neither should we be. Comfort, ease and outward security are no inalienable rights. We live in a world that is passing away. And this entire world system suffers from its death spasms. This will not be reversed, even tho God in His grace does give seasons of respite as well. But we must make no mistake that this present world which is passing away – cannot be rescued. (1 Cor. 7:31; 1 John 2:17) Third. Those in Christ have this knowledge as well – that in spite of it all, even in its worst moments, the Lord still keeps those pillars of grace and mercy steady. We have a sureness and security those outside of Christ cannot conceive of. Like the Disciples in the boat with Jesus when the storm threatened to sink and drown them – they could not perish because HE could not perish. As long as we are with Him, in Him and He in us, though every piece of the fabric of human existence be torn, we have secure and steady pillars which cannot be shaken even in the least.… Read More

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How to Share Christ in a Workplace Where You’re Not Supposed to Discuss Him

I am a scientist, researcher, politician, and educator. In all these fields, I’m not allowed to talk about my faith in Christ. And sometime it makes me upset. So how can I honor God through my works? This is such a great question. Scripture summons us to speak about the good news of what God has done in Christ. So where does that leave you and many others who spend much of their waking hours in jobs that don’t allow for that? In their helpful new book, The Symphony of Mission, Jim Mullins and Mike Goheen explain that God’s mission is like a great symphony with many instruments playing their notes in one accord. They propose three vital ways we join Jesus in his renewing work: through our spoken words (as your question suggests), our stewardship, and our service. 1. Spoken Words Peter’s epistles are full of wisdom for Christians in environments hostile to the gospel. After encouraging his readers to stand firm amid suffering, he adds: “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have” (1 Pet. 3:15). Even when we aren’t allowed to speak publicly about Jesus, we can have an answer ready for anyone who asks why our work and life look different. “Always be prepared” implies readiness across different situations to share about our hope. This isn’t a passive process but takes intentional creativity. Spend time framing the gospel in language specific to your fields. When fellow politicians raise an eyebrow over why you hold two seemingly contrary commitments, describe a vision for restorative justice motivated by Jesus, who rules with righteousness and mercy. Or when your research assistant notices how excited you get over the smallest discoveries, describe your awe and wonder at the intricate… Read More

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I Feel No Sexual Attraction — Should I Still Pursue Marriage?

Audio Transcript In our culture, every sexual orientation gets a label and a definition. A 26-year-old anonymous female listener has been considering those categories. She writes in to us, saying, “Hello, Pastor John! What are your thoughts on the sexual orientation category of ‘asexual’ — of people who experience no general sexual attraction to others? This seems to be me currently. Am I broken? Is something wrong with me? Or do you think in a Christian’s life this would be a God-given signal that one has the permanent gift of singleness? At first I thought so, but then I see another category for those who are ‘demisexual’ — those who experience sexual attraction to someone, but only after a close emotional connection has first formed. I think I may be asexual, but I don’t know. Perhaps I could be sexually attracted to a man later on? “In light of 1 Corinthians 7:6–11, does the Bible applaud asexuality? And how should a currently asexual young woman proceed in thinking about singleness and marriage that embraces singleness and ministry opportunities, but leaves open the possibility of marriage in the future?” What would you say to this young female listener? I hadn’t planned to say this originally, but yesterday I took a walk with my wife, and I said, “Hey, I’ve been thinking about some APJ questions,” and I paraphrased this one to her about a woman who thought she had no sexual attraction to men as a single woman. And my wife looked at me and said, “What’s the problem?” I said, “Okay, I’ll tell her you said that.” That response might make a little more sense if I tell you what I was going to say anyway, but that’s a short answer. Matrimony Without Romance It might be helpful to start… Read More

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Sow and Sleep, Pastor. Let God Define Success.

“Well done, brother. Well done.” It was a sultry summer day in the heart of our nation’s capital. Just outside the restaurant, laborers were setting up fences and hanging bunting in preparation for the July 4 celebration. Inside, we were having a celebration of our own. Some 10 or 12 men had gathered together to celebrate the ministry of one of our own church planters. It was a wonderful occasion. Dozens of people walked by without interest as the brothers laughed, prayed, and encouraged this precious man. One by one, they spoke words of heartfelt gratitude for how he had inspired and encouraged them in their own ministry. One documented the brother’s biblical fidelity, another his eagerness for evangelism, still another his coffee snobbery, followed by another who testified to his love for the church. Our hearts were as full as our bellies as we rejoiced in how this man had helped us all. Had you been in the neighboring booth and listened, I’m sure you would have testified to the success of this planter. And you’d have been right. Only, the occasion of the meal was to say goodbye to this brother and his family as they transitioned out of the city; his church hadn’t made it past the indomitable five-year mark of a church plant. In the eyes of church-planting gurus, he had failed. But in the eyes of God, he had not. Four S’s For far too long in America, we’ve been led to believe a lie. While few will come right out and say it, we’ve been led to believe that church-planting success is defined by the accumulation of what I call the “four S’s:” size, speed, self-sufficiency, and spread. Get a large size, get it quickly, so you might be financially self-sufficient to spread your… Read More

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I Was a Misunderstood Muslim: Common Misconceptions About Islam

Christians are called to be witnesses of Christ to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). In our day, the ends of the earth are moving into our neighborhoods — at least for those of us in America and Europe. Muslims are emigrating to our cities in record numbers. Many of us don’t need to board a plane to take the gospel to the Muslim world. We only need to cross the street to our neighbor’s house. Unfortunately, many Christians are apprehensive about engaging a relationship or even a conversation with Muslims. Some have a misperception that Muslims will not be friendly. Others are gripped with the fear of potentially offending Muslims by committing a cultural faux pas. Essentially, many are overcome by the fear of the unknown. I want to shed light on some common misconceptions that hinder Christians from reaching out to Muslims with the saving truth of Christ. Misconceptions About Muslims The most common misconception about Muslims is that they are all radical terrorists filled with hatred for the West — or at least they are headed in that direction. The thought is that all Muslims ultimately want to see our society destroyed and Islamic sharia law instituted throughout the land. Although there are movements of radical Islamic terrorists throughout the world, the vast majority of Muslims are among the more hospitable, gracious, and friendly people you will meet. Underlying this misunderstanding is the erroneous thinking that the more devout one gets as a Muslim, the more radical one becomes. Some think that the end of Christian devotion is to sell your possessions and give it all to the poor, while the end of Muslim devotion is to become a jihadist. “In our day, the ends of the earth are moving into our neighborhoods.” Tweet Share on… Read More

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Book Sale at WTS Books: One of the Best Marriage Books Turned Devotional

Book Sale at WTS Books From pastor and New York Times bestselling author Timothy Keller comes a gorgeously packaged daily devotional that takes us on year-long journey into discovering the meaning of marriage Marriage is the most profound human relationship there is. Coming to know and love your spouse is one of the most rewarding and wondrous things we can experience in life. But it is also one of the most difficult and painful. In this 365-day devotional, Timothy Keller and his wife of forty-three years Kathy Keller share powerful instructions on how to have a successful marriage. The Kellers draw from and expand upon lessons they first introduced in their book The Meaning of Marriage, offering stories, daily scriptures, and prayer prompts that will inspire anyone who wants to know God and love more deeply in this life. Think of this book as a tree supplied by three deep roots. The first is my thirty-seven-year marriage to my wife, Kathy.1 She helped me write this book, and she herself wrote chapter 6, Embracing the Other. In chapter 1, I caution readers about the way contemporary culture defines “soul mate” as “a perfectly compatible match.” Nevertheless, when we first began to spend time with each other, we each realized that the other was a rare fit for our hearts. I first met Kathy through her sister, Susan, who was a student with me at Bucknell University. Susan often spoke to Kathy about me and to me about Kathy. As a young girl, Kathy had been led toward the Christian faith by C. S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia.2 She urged Susan to recommend them to me. I read and was moved by the books and by other Lewis volumes that I subsequently studied. In 1972, we both enrolled at the same school, Gordon-Conwell Theological… Read More

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9 Things You Should Know About the Armenian Genocide

Last week the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 296, a resolution “recognizing and condemning the Armenian Genocide, the killing of 1.5 million Armenians by the Ottoman Empire from 1915 to 1923.” A total of 405 representatives voted for the bill, while only 11 voted against it and three voted “present.” Here is what you should know about one of the most horrific atrocities against Christians in modern times. 1. The Armenian people have lived in the Caucasus region of Eurasia for thousands of years. The kingdom of Armenia was even the first nation in the world to make Christianity its official religion in the fourth century. But during the 15th century, Armenia was absorbed into the Ottoman Empire, which controlled much of Southeast Europe, Western Asia, and North Africa, and whose rulers were Muslim. 2. In 1914, the Ottoman Empire entered World War I on the side of Germany and Austria-Hungary. The Ottoman authorities began a propaganda campaign portraying the Christian Armenians as being “in league with the enemy.” On April 24, 1915, hundreds of Armenian community leaders and intellectuals suspected of being hostile to the Ottoman government were rounded up in Constantinople (present-day Istanbul). Many of them ended up deported or assassinated. That date is now known as Red Sunday, and is commemorated as Genocide Remembrance Day by Armenians around the world. 3. The next month the Ottoman authorities passed the Temporary Law of Deportation (“Tehcir Law”) authorizing the deportation of the Armenian population. The government forced the population to march to concentration camps in desert regions in what is today northern and eastern Syria, northern Saudi Arabia, and Iraq. Scholars estimate that 600,000 to more than 1,000,000 Armenians were slaughtered or died on the marches. 4. The Ottoman authorities implemented a plan to systematically remove and kill all Armenian men who could resist. As… Read More

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Weekly Recap, November 9, 2019

Book Summary: THE CROSS IN THE NEW TESTAMENT, by Leon Morris A Brief Book Summary from Books At a Glance By Steve West   About the Author Leon Morris was the principal of Ridley College, Melbourne, Australia. He was one of the finest NT scholars of his generation, producing numerous commentaries… Book Review: Ryan McGraw’s Review of REFORMED SYSTEMATIC THEOLOGY: VOLUME 1: REVELATION AND GOD, by Joel R. Beeke and Paul M. Smalley A Book Review from Books At a Glance By Ryan McGraw   Systematic theology is a broad topic of study. Executed well, it should draw from biblical exegesis and biblical theology, in conversation with historical theology, in order to answer… Kids & Moms: Kristin Stile’s Review of JESUS: THE BEST STORY, by Catherine MacKenzie A Book Review from Books At a Glance By Kristin Stiles   What comes to mind when you hear the term “board book”? Most likely it conjures images of colorful pictures that are accompanied by short, simple sentences that attempt… Our Blog: Book Notice: WE ARE ALL PHILOSOPHERS: A CHRISTIAN INTRODUCTION TO SEVEN FUNDAMENTAL QUESTIONS, by John M. Frame A Brief Book Notice from Books At a Glance   Everyone is a philosopher, and how we live reveals what we most deeply believe. If you and God were asked the same question, would you both respond in the same… ~ The Books At a Glance Team Visit Books at a Glance

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Not Wired for This World: Making a Home for Special Needs

Excitement was palpable on the first day of Sunday school this year. A table featured notebooks lovingly assembled by hand with verses for children to memorize. Teachers chatted with parents about new songs on the agenda, new curricula, new dramas to unfold over the year. As my kids and I waited in line at the registration table, I glanced at my 6-year-old and prayed he could share some of the day’s joy. Yet as I watched, his enthusiasm ceded to anxiety. He stared at a box of name tags as if they were decayed things. A teacher cheered him hello, but he only blurted, “I don’t want a name tag please.” Then he glimpsed the television in the room. “Please, I don’t want to watch a video!” he suddenly cried. He started to backpedal, dragging his sister and me with him. “I can’t watch a video! Mum, I need to go home!” I placed my hand on his shoulder, but he shrank away, as if my light touch induced pain. Other parents stared in alarm. To anyone watching, the scene was bizarre. But to my family, this was just another moment. Just another day when our brilliant, compassionate, sweet boy, who loves Jesus even more than Legos, fought to cope with a world he isn’t wired to handle. Love the Sojourner God has special concern for those who wander in strange lands. He first commanded the Israelites to care for sojourners in the wilderness during the exodus (Exodus 22:21; 23:9). In the book of Deuteronomy, Moses reiterated God’s instruction before his people entered the Promised Land: “[God] executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing. Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt” (Deuteronomy 10:18–19). The… Read More

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Margin notes: Being “Evangelical” Pt. 5

This is last in this series of posts. And I trust there has been a stirring in your heart as there has in mine – to recover true Evangelicalism for our day. It is when basics like those we’ve been examining here either get assumed, and thus for all practical purposes ignored, or shoved out of the way by other important, but not equally as essential things – that the foundations erode quickly. We go off course. It is one of the features of the Old Testament prophets that they were like “master-builders” (to use Paul’s term) who were constantly calling God’s people back to the original plan. Back from distraction and compromise. Back to the foundations. Back to lives and practices commensurate with the foundations laid. Hence we need those prophetic voices in every generation. It would be in that context that I would exclaim with Paul –  “For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all be encouraged 1 Corinthians 14:31 (ESV). Oh for such a spirit of prophecy to fall on our generation. Calling us back consistently to be about the eternal purposes and plan of God in Christ – and not sidetracked by so many other things.  If I might summarize our writer’s points so far – Dr. Ryle has been advocating for understanding true Evangelicalism as having 5 “leading” features. As he’ll note today, these aren’t the only features, but they are the 5 leading ones in his opinion. An opinion I share. The Supremacy of the ScripturesThe Depravity of the human heartThe Centrality of ChristThe Necessity of Regeneration And today: The active Presence of the Holy Spirit (e) The fifth and last leading feature in Evangelical Religion is the importance which it attaches to the outward and visible… Read More

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Book Sale at WTS Books: Give the Gift of the Gospel This Christmas

Book Sale at WTS Books Nothing beats the feeling of giving, or receiving, the perfect gift. The most meaningful gifts we receive make us feel known, loved and valued. And when we give a gift like that, it’s like we’re putting ourselves in our present. And at Christmas, that’s exactly what God did. This light-hearted and lively book explores how our gift-giving traditions show us a glimpse of a giving God. Evangelist Glen Scrivener helps readers to celebrate the gift of life in a world brimming with beauty, before taking us to John 3:16 to unwrap the Christmas gift that can give us what we’ve always wanted, and what we really need. [embedded content] About the Author: Glen Scrivener directs the evangelistic charity Speak Life. He is an ordained Anglican who writes, speaks, and makes media to equip the church and reach beyond it. He is married to Emma and is the author of 7 books, including 321, Long Story Short and The Gift. Endorsements: “In this crisp, clear and brightly written introduction to Christianity, Glen shows how we are made to receive gifts and why that turns out to be wonderful news when we encounter the Giver.” “Glen Scrivener has written a fascinating and compelling guide to the Gift behind our Christmas gifts. It was refreshing for me as a long-time Christian but will also be one of the first things I give to someone who might want to think about this for the very first time.” “Whatever your current beliefs, don’t miss this book! It could be just the coffee shot you need to rethink reality.” “The gospel is wrapped up in Glen’s humble and winsome words. He shows us how our give-and-take Christmas traditions can point us to the gracious Giver. This is worth sharing with family and… Read More

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Bumping Our Heads Against a Secular Ceiling

“That’s life in a secular age. That’s belief under the conditions of doubt. That’s pastoring and leading the church under the conditions of doubt. Because even watching things happen—whether you’re watching people move from death to life, through salvation, or whether you’re watching people experience healing, physical or emotional or whatever—the reality of secularism is that there’s this nagging, needling condition of doubt.” — Mike Cosper Date: April 2, 2019 Event: TGC 2019 National Conference, Indianapolis, Indiana Listen to this episode of The Gospel Coalition Podcast. Related: Find more audio and video from the 2019 National Conference on the conference media page. Visit TGC The Gospel Coalition US

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Why Does the Bible Stress the Power of Jesus’s Name?

Audio Transcript Why does the Bible stress the power of Jesus’s name? The question comes from a listener named Jared. “Hello, Pastor John. I have a question for you that my wife and I have wondered about for a while now. Why the biblical emphasis on praising the name of Jesus? And praying in the name of Jesus? Of course we want to, and it’s a pattern we see all over the New Testament, especially in the book of Acts (2:38; 3:6, 3:16; 4:10, 18; 5:40–41; 8:12; 9:27; 10:48; 16:18; 19:13; 26:9) and in Paul (1 Corinthians 1:2; Philippians 2:10). To ask it another way: Why is there power in Christ’s name rather than saying there’s power in Christ’s person?” What would you say to Jared and his wife? Well, the answer to that last question is easy: There isn’t. There isn’t power in Christ’s name, rather than saying there’s power in Christ’s person. There is power in Christ’s name because there is power in Christ’s person. But Jared knows that. That was just strange wording. What he really wants to know, I think, is what he said at the beginning: Why do we see such an emphasis on praising the name of Jesus and praying in the name of Jesus, doing all of these things in the name of Jesus? What does the focus on name imply in the New Testament? So let me try to answer that in maybe three steps. What’s in a Name? The fact that in the Old Testament God went out of his way to make a connection between someone’s God-given name and the essentially important thing about that person is significant. For example, Genesis 17:5: Abram changed to Abraham. “No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham,… Read More

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