1 Corinthians 13 – The More Excellent Way

Reid A Ferguson 1 Corinthians / 1 Corinthians 13; Romans 8:28–30; Ephesians 4:10–16 It was a great joy for me while away, to be able to tune in to the continuing study in 1 Corinthians on the web. It was fun to hear the different speakers, each with their own gifts opening Chapter 12 with so much continuity. It’s not like we all get together and compare notes ahead. We really trust that as each studies the Word and works through the text, we’ll end up with a shared core of doctrinal truth. That has proved to be the case. In addition, each brings their own flavor or nuance, and that proves to be a practical demonstration of the very passages before us. This is the nature of how spiritual gifts work in the Body of Christ as a whole. It is not an issue of everyone being in lockstep. It is unity without uniformity. This is a precious thing. This is the way of God in all creation. I’m not a scientist nor do I play one on TV, but I’ve been told the entire universe is comprised of the very same atomic and sub-atomic particles each with their properties, but arranged in endless combinations. This was the model when I was in school, before the discovery of even smaller particles like photons, bosons, neutrinos, gluons, and up, down, top, bottom, strange and charm quarks. In studying God’s Word in a team effort like we’ve been doing here, we are all working with and keeping to the same essentials, but arranging them with varying emphases and shades as the truth is refracted through each one. So I want to thank Ed, Daniel and Jim especially for managing Chapter 12 as they did together. They set the stage for this… Read More

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Be Faithful to Christ at the Funeral of a Lost Person

As ambassadors of Christ, we need to be balanced; we must not dare compromise the message, but we must also be respectful and compassionate to those we are sent to. In this excerpt, Mark shares how he sought to be faithful to Christ while sharing at the funeral of a lost person. This excerpt was taken from the full sermon, “Transformation For Proclamation (Part 4)“.

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The Unlikely Pilgrimage of TGC’s New President

For someone who never really fit in, Julius Kim is remarkably confident. Born in Los Angeles to Korean parents, Julius was 2 when his father moved the family back to Korea to restart a defunct electronics manufacturing company. Julius spent elementary school balancing between Korean culture and his English-speaking, private school on a U.S. Army base. When he was 12, the Kims moved back to California, where he continued to tip between a Korean home and an American school. “The not-belonging feeling started then,” Julius said of middle school. “In Korea, switching between my English-speaking friends at school and Korean friends at home, I learned how to code-switch [behave differently in various settings to meet cultural expectations].” Julius Kim will become TGC’s new president February 1. He was code-switching, but his was the dominant culture. Once he moved back to the United States, however, he began to experience racial discrimination. Worse yet, when he went back to visit Korea, he no longer fit. Both his language and cultural skills were off. “I’m in this liminal experience of being in-between,” Julius said. “I’m in both cultures, but I don’t belong to either.” That’s never changed, though the feeling was worse when he was younger. “A lot of people in their teen years try to find their identity,” he said. “I struggled tremendously, wanting to have blond hair and blue eyes. I went through self-hatred, not seeing the wonderful gifts and strengths and opportunities I had.” It felt like being an exile—infuriating and depressing and scary. But Julius had two enormous advantages. The first was a passel of Korean American friends living the same strange homeless experience. When they encountered one another, at church, summer retreats, or schools, they connected quickly and deeply. The second was his father, who had wrestled with… Read More

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Through the Word in 2020 / Jan. 19

Today’s 4 readings are: Matthew 8:1-13; Acts 11:1-18; Psalm 18:25-50, Genesis 41. This, from Matthew 8:1-3 When Jesus says “I will” No pow’r can intervene Even hopeless lepers Are instantly made clean The blind, the deaf, the lame In body, soul and mind In Christ the Son of God The fullest cure do find No remnants of The Fall Abide outside His pow’r Though poisoned by our sin He’ll cure us in His hour When Jesus says “I will” The heart may hope and rest That when we’ve sought Him out He’ll grant us Heaven’s best So seek in Him dear soul The cure for sin’s disease He loves to say “I will” To humble sinner’s pleas When Jesus says “I will” Because His blood was shed The Father joys to raise Foul sinners from the dead Don’t wait a moment more With all your guilty stain Cry out to Christ the Lord He’ll say “I will”, again. — Reid Ferguson / Kuyperian Abnormalist. Dulcius ex Asperis Share this: Like this: Like Loading… Visit ResponsiveReiding

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How Can I Know If I’m Working Too Much?

My husband works a demanding sales job in which he is compensated only with commission, and I stay at home with three small children. He misses dinner most weeknights, and if he isn’t gone on appointments on Saturday, he’s sometimes working from home “finishing up” for the week. Once or twice a week, he stays up until 3 a.m. to get everything done. While we practice a Sunday sabbath, it involves my husband collapsing on the couch after church. We’d both love to hit the brakes and have him be home and more present, but it has proven challenging. We also want to glorify God and thrive in the circumstances he’s given us. How do we know, then, how much work is too much? Work is a gift, but the toil of the stressful demands and long hours of post-fall work is a curse. When God placed Adam in the garden so that he might work and keep it (Gen. 2:15), there were no thorns or thistles. Work was a joy and a blessing. Yet the ground Adam was called to cultivate revolted against him as a result of the curse given in Genesis 3:17–19. He would work by the sweat of his brow; it would be difficult and exhausting. Though agriculture may not be our trade, frustrated sweat is the norm this side of eternity. So how can we find our way forward? Placing Fences Where God Has Placed Freedom Although Scripture doesn’t set a hard-and-fast rule of mandated work hours, or specify which particular vocations Christians should have, it is sufficient to guide us. The Holy Spirit works to illumine his Word and moves us to walk in a manner worthy of Christ’s calling. What we do—and how much we do of it—must account for the attitudes, motives,… Read More

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An Annotated Guide to Martin Luther King’s Letter from Birmingham Jail

On April 12, 1963—Good Friday—a 428-word open letter appeared in the Birmingham, Alabama, newspaper calling for unity and protesting the recent Civil Rights demonstrations in Birmingham. We the undersigned clergymen are among those who, in January, issued “an appeal for law and order and common sense,” in dealing with racial problems in Alabama. We expressed understanding that honest convictions in racial matters could properly be pursued in the courts, but urged that decisions of those courts should in the meantime be peacefully obeyed. Since that time there had been some evidence of increased forbearance and a willingness to face facts. Responsible citizens have undertaken to work on various problems which cause racial friction and unrest. In Birmingham, recent public events have given indication that we all have opportunity for a new constructive and realistic approach to racial problems. However, we are now confronted by a series of demonstrations by some of our Negro citizens, directed and led in part by outsiders. We recognize the natural impatience of people who feel that their hopes are slow in being realized. But we are convinced that these demonstrations are unwise and untimely. We agree rather with certain local Negro leadership which has called for honest and open negotiation of racial issues in our area. And we believe this kind of facing of issues can best be accomplished by citizens of our own metropolitan area, white and Negro, meeting with their knowledge and experience of the local situation. All of us need to face that responsibility and find proper channels for its accomplishment. Just as we formerly pointed out that “hatred and violence have no sanction in our religious and political traditions,” we also point out that such actions as incite to hatred and violence, however technically peaceful those actions may be, have not… Read More

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Through the Word in 2020 / Jan. 18

Today’s 4 readings are: Matthew 7:15-29; Acts 10:24-48; Psalm 18:1-24, Genesis 39-40. Choosing which passage to dwell on today is a challenge. Every portion is so very rich. But we must choose, and I would call your attention to some familiar observations out of Acts 10. I find Peter’s discourse at Cornelius’ house so wonderfully organized, complete, clear and accessible, I pray it might be a great reminder to us of both the simplicity of the Gospel, and how wonderfully great swaths of Biblical truth can be condensed into such a brief space. Not my git for sure. Be assuredly Peter’s.  Note then these 10 things out of our text: 1. vss. 34 & 35 / The Gospel is of equal applicability to all. There are no special groups from whom the Gospel is to be withheld. ​Peter ​assures them they have an interest in ​it​.​ Some may think themselves too good to need the Gospel, too wicked to be beneficiaries of it, too religious to be drawn to the simplicity of trust Christ alone etc. But no matter who you are, where you are from or what your circumstances, if you are seeking God (and even if you are not!) the Gospel is for you. ​ 2. vs. 35 / God receives all who set themselves to seek Him. In this, we are brought to be reminded that the Spirit of God is at work in the world. It is true that no one seeks God AS God on their​​ own. Yet all sorts are aware that something is terribly wrong and are seeking for an answer on the level they understand it, and, the Spirit of God is creating in some a true hunger for God and salvation. It is not a product of their own making, but… Read More

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The Countries Where It’s Most Dangerous to Be a Christian in 2020

Around the world, more than 260 million Christians—one of every eight believers—experience high levels of persecution, just for following Jesus. For the past 28 years, the Open Doors World Watch List has offered a global indicator of countries where human and religious rights are being violated, and those countries most vulnerable to societal unrest and destabilization. During the 2020 World Watch List reporting period, in the top 50 countries, a total of 9,488 churches or Christian buildings were attacked; 3,711 Christians were detained without trial, arrested, sentenced and imprisoned; and 2,983 Christians were killed for faith-related reasons. On average, that’s eight Christians killed every day for their faith. 1. North Korea Persecution type: Communist and post-communist oppression Estimated number of Christians: 300,000 How Christians are suffering: “If North Korean Christians are discovered, they are deported to labor camps as political criminals or even killed on the spot. Driven by the state, Christian persecution in North Korea is extreme and meeting other Christians to worship is nearly impossible unless it’s done in complete secrecy.” Prayer point: “Pray for endurance and courage for Christians who are suffering right now in labor camps across North Korea.” 2. Afghanistan Persecution type: Clan and ethnic antagonism Estimated number of Christians: Thousands How Christians are suffering: “Afghanistan is a tribal society, and loyalty to one’s family, clan and tribe are extremely important. In an Islamic society, it is illegal for an Afghan person to leave Islam. The country is increasingly challenged by Islamic militants, the Taliban controls or contests more and more areas, and an ISIS-affiliated group also targets minorities. Those who decide to follow Jesus do so in secret.” Prayer Point: “The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan does not allow conversion from Islam. Please pray for a softening of the country’s leadership and local rulers.” 3. Somalia Persecution type: Islamic… Read More

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Through the Word in 2020 / Jan. 17

We are reading the Bible through together this year, using the Discipleship Journal Reading Plan published by the Navigators. You can download it free of charge from: https://www.navigators.org/resource/bible-reading-plans/ Today’s 4 readings are: Matthew 7:1-14; Acts 10:1-23; Psalm 17, Genesis 37-38. There is a very timely lesson about Bible reading that emerges out of the reading in Acts today. It pops up in Acts 10:17 (ESV) — 17 Now while Peter was inwardly perplexed as to what the vision that he had seen might mean, behold, the men who were sent by Cornelius, having made inquiry for Simon’s house, stood at the gate. Note first that even the great Apostle Peter, when confronted with this staggering vision – was perplexed about what it might mean. When we are handling the Word of God, we are being met by revelation that God has given to us, and sometimes, we don’t get what it means right off the bat. Don’t feel bad. Don’t be intimidated. It may take some thought, meditation, further study, prayer and consultation with other sources to get to the heart of a passage. You’re in good company. While the main message of the Bible is clear, and the chief facts accessible to most, there are parts and themes and connections that do not lie right on the surface and will require some significant digging to get to. Patient labor will yield rich rewards – but don’t think something is wrong if you have to work for it – we’re dealing with eternal and cosmic truths. In any other field of study, say engineering, mechanics, electronics, sales & marketing, history, mathematics, etc., each has its own unique vocabulary and structure. So does Bible study. Hand in there. You’ll get it. Note secondly how un-modern Peter is. And by his example exposes one… Read More

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What the Church Can Do About the Alcohol-Related Death Epidemic

The Story: America is in the middle of an alcohol-related death epidemic. And the church has something we can do to help that no other institution can. The Background: Last week the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research published a study reporting that between 1999 and 2017 the number of alcohol‐related deaths per year among people aged 16 and older doubled from 35,914 to 72,558, and the rate increased 50.9 percent from 16.9 to 25.5 per 100,000. During that period, nearly 1 million alcohol‐related deaths (944,880) were recorded on death certificates. (But because, as the researchers note, death certificates often fail to indicate the contribution of alcohol, the scope of alcohol‐related mortality is likely even higher.) In 2017 along, 2.6 percent of roughly 2.8 million deaths in the United States involved alcohol. According to the study, nearly half of alcohol‐related deaths resulted from liver disease (30.7 percent, or 22,245 deaths) or overdoses on alcohol alone or with other drugs (17.9 percent, or 12,954 deaths). Rates of alcohol‐related deaths were highest among males, people in age‐groups spanning 45 to 74 years, and among American Indians or Alaska Natives. Rates increased for all age groups except 16 to 20 and 75+ and for all racial and ethnic groups. The largest annual increase occurred among white females. Rates of acute alcohol‐related deaths also increased more for people aged 55 to 64. But rates of chronic alcohol‐related deaths, which accounted for the majority of alcohol‐related deaths, increased more for younger adults aged 25 to 34. Why It Matters: Over the past decade, American has been so distracted by the opioid crisis that we hardly noticed an even deadlier epidemic. Perhaps we pay attention to opioid-related deaths because overdoses are dramatic, while alcohol is often the cause of slower forms of dying, such as liver disease.… Read More

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Through the Word in 2020 / Jan. 16

We are reading the Bible through together this year, using the Discipleship Journal Reading Plan published by the Navigators. You can download it free of charge from: https://www.navigators.org/resource/bible-reading-plans/ Today’s 4 readings are: Matthew 6:25-34; Acts 9:20-43; Psalm 16, Genesis 36. Matthew 6:33 “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” is one of the most recognizable and oft-quoted passages in the Gospels. And many have focused on the last phrase, while virtually ignoring the first part. But as is true with all texts, we need to take the whole to avoid making the part into something it is not. If we seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness – what things will be added to us? His Kingdom and His righteousness. Don’t think those small or inconsequential – they are the fullness of the riches He delights to bestow on us. Note: We do not seek righteousness generically, but rather HIS righteousness. remembering, that His kingdom is a kingdom of righteousness, one that bears none of the ravages of sin whatever. So in the first place, we seek His righteousness to justify us. Each must put their trust in the Gospel to begin with. The religion of the Bible is not one of trying to establish our own righteousness, but of always seeking to be sure we are trusting in HIS righteousness. But in the second case – and here is an extraordinary insight into the Christian’s primary occupation – we seek His righteousness lived out in us. Victory over sin. Living in love toward the saints that they too might find victory over sin. To live as the righteous people we have been pronounced by Him to be in justification. As strange as it sounds, Jesus is calling… Read More

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The Best Kind of Mercy Ministry

Acts 29: Churches Planting Churches Transcript The following is an uncorrected transcript generated by a transcription service. Before quoting in print, please check the corresponding audio for accuracy. Tony Merida: Welcome to ”Churches Planting Churches,” a podcast on the theology and practice of church planting. I’m your host Tony Merida. There are no easy answers when it comes to how we should help the poor. Just look at how nonprofits and government organizations bound in poor communities across the world. Many of these groups do good work and we should thank God for his common grace where we see it helping to alleviate unjust suffering. But as Christians, we know that people’s deepest need transcend what can be seen. As John Piper aptly put it, Christians care about all suffering, especially eternal suffering. Therefore, we must prioritize gospel proclamation in poor communities and ongoing gospel proclamation happens best through local churches. Sadly, many poor communities lack healthy churches where this kind of gospel proclamation can happen. For us, we need to focus on planting and sustaining healthy churches in poor communities all over the world. This is no easy task. It will be costly. We’ll need God’s sovereign grace to sustain us every step of the way. Thankfully, that’s the kind of grace he delights to give. So to talk with us about planting and sustaining healthy churches in poor communities, I’m excited to have my friend Tyler St. Clair with me on the podcast today. Tyler is the lead pastor of Cornerstone Church in Detroit, Michigan. He also serves as the network lead for Church in Hard Places in Acts 29’s US Midwest network. He is married to Elita, and they have five kids. Tyler, welcome to the podcast, my brother. Tyler St. Clair: Yeah, man. What’s going on?… Read More

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Through the Word in 2020 / Jan. 15

We are reading the Bible through together this year, using the Discipleship Journal Reading Plan published by the Navigators. You can download it free of charge from: https://www.navigators.org/resource/bible-reading-plans/ Today’s 4 readings are: Matthew 6:16-24; Acts 9:1-19; Psalm 15, Genesis 34-35. Psalm 15 is both delightful, and terrifying. Delightful in the picture it paints of one who would walk with God. Terrifying in how far short I fall in every respect.  Who indeed can dwell on God’s holy hill, when what it takes to qualify to do so, I’ve long since failed at? O that I would walk blamelessly. But even if I did from this moment forward, what about my past? That I would always do what is right – but I fail in that every hour. And falsehood still finds its way into my heart. I lie to myself about my own goodness; lie about others to feel better about myself; and worst of all, lie about God – failing to know the real truth of Him as fully revealed in Jesus. Still harboring the lies of Eden that God is not ALL good and has only my best interest at heart – without flaw. How I have slandered others – especially those with whom I disagree. And I’ve not always done only good to my neighbor – even my closest neighbor, my spouse, my child, my brothers and sisters in Christ. And there have surely been times when I’ve reproached my friend needlessly. I have often – and still have the tendency to be impressed and intimidated by the wicked as adding some perceived value to me if they are brilliant, talented, astute, accomplished, powerful, recognized, forceful, and attractive. And I have failed to honor those who fear the Lord regardless of their station. At times, when my promises appeared… Read More

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