Latest Links

Links of the last week…

Not every Jesus is the real Jesus

Liked this from Kevin DeYoung

“The greatness of God is most clearly displayed in his Son. And the glory of the gospel is only made evident in his Son. That’s why Jesus’ question to his disciples is so important: “Who do you say that I am?”

The question is doubly crucial in our day because not every Jesus is the real Jesus. Almost no one is as popular in this country as Jesus. Hardly anyone would dare to say a bad word about him. Just look at what a super-fly friendly dude he is over there. But how many people know the real Jesus?

There’s the Republican Jesus who is against tax increases and activists judges, for family values and owning firearms.

There’s Democrat Jesus who is against Wall Street and Wal-Mart, for reducing our carbon footprint and printing money.

There’s Therapist Jesus who helps us cope with life’s problems, heals our past, tells us how valuable we are and not to be so hard on ourselves.

There’s Starbucks Jesus who drinks fair trade coffee, loves spiritual conversations, drives a hybrid and goes to film festivals.

There’s Open-minded Jesus who loves everyone all the time no matter what, except for people who are not as open-minded as you.

There’s Touchdown Jesus who helps athletes fun faster and jump higher than non-Christians and determines the outcomes of Super Bowls.

There’s Martyr Jesus, a good man who died a cruel death so we can feel sorry for him

There’s Gentle Jesus who was meek and mild, with high cheek bones, flowing hair, and walks around barefoot, wearing a sash and looks very German.

There’s Hippie Jesus who teaches everyone to give peace a chance, imagine a world without religion, and helps us remember all you need is love.

There’s Yuppie Jesus who encourages us to reach our full potential, reach for the stars, and buy a boat.

There’s Spirituality Jesus who hates religion, churches, pastors, priests, and doctrine; and would rather have people out in nature, finding the god within and listening to ambiguously spiritual musical.

There’s Platitude Jesus, good for Christmas specials, greeting cards, and bad sermons; he inspires people to believe in themselves, and lifts us up so we can walk on mountains.

There’s Revolutionary Jesus who teaches us to rebel against the status quo, stick it to the man, and blame things on the “system.”

There’s Guru Jesus, a wise, inspirational teacher who believes in you and helps you find your center.

There’s Boyfriend Jesus who wraps his arms around us as we sing about his intoxicating love in our secret place.

There’s Good Example Jesus who shows you how to help people, change the planet, and become a better you.

And then there’s Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God. Not just another prophet. Not just another Rabbi. Not just another wonder-worker. He was the one they had been waiting for: the Son of David and Abraham’s chosen seed, the one to deliver us from captivity, the goal of the Mosaic law, Yahweh in the flesh, the one to establish God’s reign and rule, the one to heal the sick, give sight to the blind, freedom to the prisoners and proclaim good news to the poor, the lamb of God come to take away the sins of the world.

This Jesus was the Creator come to earth and the beginning of a new creation. He embodied the covenant, fulfilled the commandments, and reversed the curse. This Jesus is the Christ that God spoke of to the serpent, the Christ prefigured to Noah in the flood, the Christ promised to Abraham, the Christ prophesied through Balaam before the Moabites, the Christ guaranteed to Moses before he died, the Christ promised to David when he was king, the Christ revealed to Isaiah as a suffering servant, the Christ predicted through the prophets and prepared for through John the Baptist.

This Christ is not a reflection of the current mood or the projection of our own desires. He is our Lord and God. He is the Father’s Son, Saviour of the world, and substitute for our sins-more loving, more holy, and more wonderfully terrifying than we ever thought possible.”

The Need for Family-Based Youth Ministry

I have enjoyed reading Family-Based Youth Ministry by Mark DeVries.  Before writing one of my book recommendations I will post a three part summary of the book.  The first part below deals with what I’m calling the need for family-based youth ministry which covers the first 6 chapters of the book.

***

The Need for Family-Based Youth Ministry 

Chapter 1: Something’s Wrong The Crisis in Traditional Youth Ministry

There is a crisis in youth ministry today.  The crisis is not getting teenagers to come to our youth meetings but rather that we have not been effective in leading our young people to mature Christian adulthood.  More teenagers are participating in our programs but they are not growing up into adults who participate in church.

One of the dangers in youth ministry is that youth workers and churches evaluate their success or failure by the wrong numbers.  They spend huge amounts of effect and energy getting more teenagers to participate while ignoring most of the ones that God has already given them.

Chapter 2: Is Anybody Out There? The Growth of Teenage Isolation

The main cause of this current crisis is the way that our culture and our churches have systematically isolated young people from the very relationships that are most likely to lead them to maturity.  Young people grow in maturity generally, and maturity in Christ particularly, by being around those who exhibit such maturity themselves.

9 cultural shifts have taken place which has increasingly separated children and young people from the world of adults (taken from Urie Bronfenbrenner). 

  1. Father’s vocational choices that remove them from the home for lengthy periods of time.
  2. An increase in the number of working mothers.
  3. A critical escalation in the divorce rate.
  4. A rapid increase in single-parent families.
  5. A steady decline in the extended family.
  6. The evolution of the physical environment of the home (family rooms, playrooms and master bedrooms).
  7. The replacement of adults by the peer group.
  8. The isolation of children from the work world.
  9. The insulation of schools from the rest of society.

There are now today, less opportunities for children and young people to be with adults in the neighbourhood, schools, social activities, families and church.  Hanging out with friends or partying in an adult-free home has become the norm for the teenager’s social life.

Church is possibly where youth are segregated the most from the world of adults.  Youth programmes keep them separate from the rest of the church.  Even when adults and young people do worship together, they sit in peer groups – adults with adults, youth with youth etc.

Chapter 3: The Developmental Disaster The Impact of Teenage Isolation

There are a number of things this isolation of teenagers from adults brings:

1) Teenagers won’t learn the skill required of mature adults.  Maturation occurs as less mature have repeated opportunities to observe, dialogue, and collaborate with the more mature.  This does not happen in a peer centred Sunday School class. 

Youth culture keeps young people in youth rather than moving them towards adulthood.  Young people who sit together in church tend to act like children.  Young people who sit with parents, or who are divided amongst the rest of the congregation imitate the behaviour of the adults they are with.

2) The media now plays a more powerful role in the formation of teenagers values .

3) Teenagers are severely limited in their ability to think critically, leaving them easily swayed by what feels right at the moment.

4) Peer influence correlates closely with the rise in rebellion, resistance, chemical abuse, and promiscuity. 

Chapter 4: Sitting on a Gold Mine The Power of the Nuclear Family

What happens in the youth group has miniscule impact compared to what children learn on a day to day basis as they do the everyday things of life in and with their families.  The best long term youth leaders are parents themselves because they ultimately have the greatest interests in their kids.

Research has found a number of things to support this: It’s found that parents remain the single most important influence in the development of a teenager’s personality.  It’s found that parents who talk about faith and invite their children in serving alongside them can double and sometimes triple their children’s chances of living out their faith as adults.

This shows how important it is to equip fathers and mothers to play a more active role in the religious education of their children.  Parents play a role second only to the Holy Spirit in building the spiritual foundation of their children’s lives.

However, it’s also important to remember that the parent’s power to build up is matched by their power to cause harm.

Chapter 5: The Critical Care Unit The Peculiar Crisis in Today’s Christian Family

There are some barriers to involving more parents in youth ministry.

Here are three of the biggest:

1) Parents are not mature Christian adults themselves.

2) Parents are feeling helpless when it comes to providing for the Christian nurture of their own children.

3) Parents are victims of their own schedule – they are too busy.

Chapter 6: Stacking the Stands The Power of the Extended Christian Family

Every teenager needs an extended family of Christian adults – adults who can be a part of the cloud of witnesses that cheers them on.  Church is where teenagers are exposed to these adults.  An extended Christian family is a community of believers who affirm and encourage growth toward Christian maturity.  Only church and family can provide Christian nurture from birth to old age – even death.

The extended Christian family can be equally as powerful in faith formation as parents, especially for those who come from non-Christian homes.  Research has found that when person reaches mature Christian adulthood they often will point to the influence of a godly parent or Christian adult who modelled what being an adult Christian was all about.  It’s important that teenagers are give opportunities to build connections with Christian adults.

When the church and family abandon their role of helping young people navigate passage to adulthood, the teenager becomes more susceptible to influence of friends, music and media.

Often it is the stronger youth programmes that weaken the chances that young people will remain in the church, because participation in the youth programme takes the place of participation in the church.

London Men’s Convention 2009 – He will return in glory

Here are my notes from Mike Cain’s exposition on 2 Thessalonians 1:1-12 at the London Men’s Convention 2009.  This fourth session focused on Jesus, He will return in glory.

lmc

Knowing the future means that I know what to give myself to now.  Paul sums up the Christian life as waiting for the King to come back in 2 Thessalonians, getting ready for Him.  For some this meant persecution (v4).  But if Jesus isn’t coming back there is no point in getting ready. 

If we’re not waiting for the King to return we will not be able to live the Christian life at all.  

Four reasons to stand firm on the conviction that Jesus will return: 

1) God is Just (v5-6) 

Day of Judgment is real because of what God is like.  God is just so will judge.  Persecution is evidence that God’s judgment is right.  The story of the Bible is how the Creator of the world will bring justice to the world in the light of the injustice of sin.  The Thessalonians were wobbling because it looked like God won’t judge.  We are wobbling because it looks like He will. 

2) Jesus will be revealed (v7) 

When He came as a baby He was hidden in a stable.  When He comes again the whole world will see Him.  Jesus said the Father has entrusted judgment to Him.  The Jesus we need to be ready for is the judge.  Jesus when He comes will burn up the impurity in front of Him.  Look at this Jesus; He will come again in history in a blazing fire of judgment. 

3) Jesus will shut his enemies out (v8-9) 

Enemies don’t know God because they don’t obey the Gospel.  Gospel is God calling us back to know Him.  Those who don’t know Him are punished with everlasting destruction.  As the whale was made for the ocean, so we were made for God.  In His presence we enjoy life as it was meant to be.  The further away from God, the more destroyed we are. 

On the Day of Judgment those who haven’t turned back to God will be shut out from His presence forever and eternal destruction.  The punishment fits the crime.  I say I want nothing to do with God and that’s what He gives me.  This is not to frighten us but save us. 

There is a place where fire of God’s judgment has already burned out at the cross of Calvary where the judge experienced the fire of God’s judgment so we can be let into God’s presence.  Before He comes as judge, He came as Saviour. 

4) Jesus will be glorified in His people (v10) 

The life to come is the main event.  It’s where all God’s plans are heading.  The world restored to the glory He created it.  People restored to the glory He created them.  Salvation is all about being in God’s presence. 

God’s glory is God in all His brilliance.  We will see that, but we will also see His brilliance in us.  We were created to glorify Him, to reflect His brilliance.  That’s what will happen when we are re-created.  It’s in the world made new we will taste life in its fullness.  We will see how worth waiting for He is.  Look at what is coming, don’t you want to be part of that.  Stand firm in the gospel. 

Glorify Jesus today (v11-12) 

If we’re not ready for Jesus what would we say to Him?  Paul prays we’ll be counted worthy of His calling; we’d suffer for His kingdom.  What will it cost for you to get ready?  Do what it takes! 

For 4½ months, 22 men waited on Elephant Island for Ernest Shackleton to return to rescue them after their ship the Endurance sank.  Frank Wild each day encouraged the men on the island with the words: “Roll up the sleeping bags, the boss may come today”.  That’s what Paul is saying to us.  Keep going, get ready the King may come today!

London Men’s Convention 2009 – He rose to rule

Here are my notes from Tim Keller’s second talk on John 20:1-3, 10-18 at the London Men’s Convention 2009.  This third session focused on Jesus, He rose to rule.

lmc

The connection between death and resurrection in John’s gospel has to do with faith.  The cross itself does not produce faith.  People looked at the cross and said God can’t bring good out of this.  But what triggered saving faith, faith in the cross, was the resurrection. 

Three marks of faith that the resurrection triggers: 

1) Faith rests in truth 

Jesus said He would rise again over and over again.  He said it so often that His enemies had heard it so they put guards next to the tomb.  You would have thought His disciples would have said: “It’s the third day, let’s have a look!” 

What evidence would your friends need to believe that Jesus was raised from the dead?  See Him, touch Him, see Him eat, see Him lots of times.  This is exactly what we’ve got in the Gospels.  Jesus gave the evidence that broke through these barriers. 

If you were making up a story about Jesus rising from the dead, you wouldn’t put women as the first eyewitnesses.  The reason why women were the first witnesses was because it happened that way.  Historical evidence is powerful.  Believe in Christianity because it’s true. 

2) Faith comes by grace 

All around Mary is evidence, the angels in front and the Lord behind, but she still thinks it’s a disaster.  Even if you don’t think Jesus is near you, He is.  Jesus breaks through and sends her as the first messenger.  How clear does Jesus make it that salvation is by grace.  He chooses a women not a man, a former mental health patient as the first messenger.  This salvation is as much hers as ours.  She was at the bottom of the pecking order but He chose her.  

3) Faith works through love 

Mary was grabbing hold of Jesus to never let Him go (v17).  But Jesus is saying once I’m ascended you’ll still have me.  I’m about to ascend to the Father and send the Holy Spirit and you’ll have me.  The Spirit brings my presence in your life.  Don’t be satisfied with just the objective side.  Jesus can come into your hear now. 

Be willing to pray and meditate on His Word so you get to a place where He touches you.  Let the resurrection not only convince your mind but let you have Him.

Rock Solid: 12 gospel truths to live by

A helpful book I’ve just finished reading is Rock Solid: 12 gospel truths to live by.  Originally written for the London Men’s Convention a few years back, it has now been repackaged for a wider audience. 

rocksolid

This book is definitely one to, as they say in the preface, be worked through in small groups “as a means of getting a hold on the truths that define who we are as followers of Christ”.

This book packs so much into every chapter.  As well as explaining and applying one of the 12 truths, there is also a short Bible study, some discussion questions, a real life story of how the truth has been used by God in a person’s life, and a brief account of someone who has contended for this doctrine in the history of the church.

The introduction is helpful because it explains why doctrine is so important, and also why these 12 truths have been selected and the relationship between each one of them.

The 12 gospel truths covered in this book are:

  • The unique supremacy of Christ
  • The depravity of sin
  • The penal substitution of Christ
  • Justification by faith alone
  • The sovereignty of God the Father
  • The regeneration of God the Holy Spirit
  • The reality of judgment
  • The priority of evangelism
  • The authority of the Bible
  • The centrality of Bible teaching
  • The importance of the local church
  • The necessity of holiness 

There are a number of reasons why I like this book:  

Firstly, it’s an easy read.  

Secondly, it gives a good overview of these important doctrines in a practical way.  For new Christians who may not be ready to delve in Grudem’s Systematic Theology, it’s a great introduction to what Christians believe.  

Thirdly, it defends the great truths of Christianity that have come under attack.  

Lastly, because of the multiple settings it could be used with: one to one discipleship, home groups, men’s groups, ladies groups, adult Sunday School, older youth group, basis for a sermon series.  I think it would also be possible to adopt this book for a series of children’s talks for church (now that’s an idea!) 

For an introduction to the doctrines of the Christian faith, you can’t get much better than this! 

Rock Solid: 12 gospel truths to live by is available to buy HERE

Also check out the special offer on this book at 10ofthose.com HERE.

“Forgive us our sins”

“Forgive us our sins”

6 things this petition teaches us: 

  • It teaches us that we still sin every day.
  • It teaches us that we still need forgiveness every day.
  • It teaches us that we must confess our sins.
  • It teaches us that God is holy.
  • It teaches us that God is ready to forgive us every day.
  • It teaches us that God our Father wants a close walk with his children. 

(Hugh Collier, ‘Forgive us our sins’)

He for us

“He stood in for us, He took our place under God’s wrath; we should have been forsaken by His Father, but He took that experience instead of us.  He changed places with us – the righteous for the unrighteous.  He made Himself our penalty-bearing Substitute.”

(Bob Horn, Rock Solid: 12 gospel truths to live by)

What keeps Him on the Cross?

“Make no mistake: Jesus can descend from the cross and save Himself at any moment.  It isn’t the nails that keep Him there.  What keeps Him there is what placed Him there – His passion to do the will of His Father, and His love for sinners like you and me.”

(C.J. Mahaney, Christ our Mediator)

The Biblical Gospel

“Thus the gospel is integrally tied to the Bible’s story-line. Indeed, it is incomprehensible without understanding that story-line. God is the sovereign, transcendent and personal God who has made the universe, including us, his image-bearers. Our misery lies in our rebellion, our alienation from God, which, despite his forbearance, attracts his implacable wrath. But God, precisely because love is of the very essence of his character, takes the initiative and prepared for the coming of his own Son by raising up a people who, by covenantal stipulations, temple worship, systems of sacrifice and of priesthood, by kings and by prophets, are taught something of what God is planning and what he expects. In the fullness of time his Son comes and takes on human nature. He comes not, in the first instance, to judge but to save: he dies the death of his people, rises from the grave and, in returning to his heavenly Father, bequeaths the Holy Spirit as the down payment and guarantee of the ultimate gift he has secured for them-an eternity of bliss in the presence of God himself, in a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness. The only alternative is to be shut out from the presence of this God forever, in the torments of hell. What men and women must do, before it is too late, is repent and trust Christ; the alternative is to disobey the gospel (Romans 10:16; 2 Thessalonians 1:8; 1 Peter 4:17).”

(Don Carson, The Biblical Gospel)

An incredible story – John Harper

Mark Dever tells this incredible story about John Harper in the opening chapter of ‘The Gospel and Personal Evangelism’:

“John Harper was born in a Christian home in Glasgow, Scotland, in 1872. When he was about fourteen years old, he became a Christian himself, and from that time on, he began to tell others about Christ. At seventeen years of age, he began to preach, going down the streets of his village and pouring out his soul in passionate pleading for men to be reconciled to God. 

After five or six years of toiling on street corners preaching the gospel and working in the mill during the day, Harper was taken in by the Reverend E. A. Carter of Baptist Pioneer Mission in London. This set Harper free to devote his whole time and energy to the work so dear to his heart-evangelism. 

Soon, in September 1896, Harper started his own church.  This church, which he began with just twenty-five members, numbered over five hundred by the time he left thirteen years later. During this time he had been both married and widowed. Before he lost his wife, God blessed Harper with a beautiful little girl named Nana.  

Harper’s life was an eventful one. He almost drowned several times. When he was two-and-a-half years of age, he fell into a well but was resuscitated by his mother. At the age of twenty-six, he was swept out to sea by a reverse current and barely survived. And at thirty-two he faced death on a leaking ship in the Mediterranean. If anything, these brushes with death simply seemed to confirm John Harper in his zeal for evangelism, which marked him out for the rest of the days of his life. 

While pastoring his church in London, Harper continued his fervent and faithful evangelism. In fact, he was such a zealous evangelist that the Moody Church in Chicago asked him to come over to America for a series of meetings. He did, and they went well. A few years later, Moody Church asked him if he would come back again. And so it was that Harper boarded a ship one day with a second-class ticket at Southampton, England, for the voyage to America. 

Harper’s wife had died just a few years before, and he had with him his only child, Nana, age six. What happened after this we know mainly from two sources. One is Nana, who died in 1986 at the age of eighty. She remembered being woken up by her father a few nights into their journey. It was about midnight, and he said that the ship they were on had struck an iceberg. Harper told Nana that another ship was

just about there to rescue them, but, as a precaution, he was going to put her in a lifeboat with an older cousin, who had accompanied them. As for Harper, he would wait until the other ship arrived. 

The rest of the story is a tragedy well known. Little Nana and her cousin were saved. But the ship they were on was the Titanic. The only way we know what happened to John Harper after is because, in a prayer meeting in Hamilton, Ontario, some months later, a young Scotsman stood up in tears and told the extraordinary story of how he was converted. 

He explained that he had been on the Titanic the night it struck the iceberg. He had clung to a piece of floating debris in the freezing waters. “Suddenly,” he said, “a wave brought a man near, John Harper. He, too, was holding a piece of wreckage.  “He called out, ‘Man, are you saved?’ “‘No, I am not,’ I replied.

“He shouted back, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.’ 

“The waves bore [Harper] away, but a little later, he was washed back beside me again. ‘Are you saved now?’ he called out.  “‘No,’ I answered. ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.’ “Then losing his hold on the wood, [Harper] sank. And there, alone in the night with two miles of water under me, I trusted Christ as my saviour. I am John Harper’s last convert.”1 

1 Moody Adams, The Titanic’s Last Hero: Story About John Harper(Columbia, SC: Olive Press, 1997), 24-25.

Christ our Mediator

In ‘Christ our Mediator’, CJ Mahaney wonderfully takes us to the suffering and death of the Lord Jesus Christ, from His agonised prayer in the garden, to His cry of forsakenness on the cross, and helps us to meditate on its purpose – why He suffered and died, and what He achieved by doing so. 

As we approach Easter, this is a subject we should have at the forefront of our mind (in fact we should have this subject at the forefront of our mind throughout the year).  The length of the book makes it perfect to read during the Easter week to enhance our understanding, our experience, and appreciation of what Jesus has done for us.  

com1

CJ begins by reminding us with the help of Lloyd Jones that as we approach this subject we need to ask ‘Do I believe it?’ before we start thinking about how we feel about it.  He then takes us to the place we need to be to see this good news – our sin and God’s holiness and their incompatibility which results in our punishment, our hopelessness and our need for a mediator. 

The mediator is then introduce, as CJ explains how Christ, God’s own Son is that mediator and for those who trust in Him, the results of His mediation is we have peace with God, we no longer face condemnation from God when our life on this earth is over, and we have the privilege and responsibility of proclaiming this grace. 

We are then taken to three key events in the gospel.  

To the Garden of Gethsemane and the cup: “In this garden, our Saviour is beginning to confront as never before the ultimate and deepest agony of Calvary – an agony that will go infinitely beyond any physical aspects of His suffering.”  There Jesus pleads remove this cup: “This cup contains the full vehemence and fierceness of God’s holy wrath poured out against all sin, and we discover in Scripture that it’s intended for all of sinful humanity to drink.  It’s your cup…and mine.”  “This is what bearing our sin means to Him – utter distress of soul as He confronts total abandonment and absolute wrath from His Father on the cross, a distress and an abandonment and a rejection we cannot begin to grasp.” 

Then to the scene of crucifixion and the crowd: “Unless you see yourself standing there with the shrieking crowd, full of hostility and hatred for the holy and innocent Lamb of God, you don’t really understand the nature and depth of your sin or the necessity of the cross.” 

And then to Jesus on the cross and His cry: “He cries out to God, “Why have You forsaken Me?” so that you and I will never have to make a similar cry.  He was cut off from His Father so that we can boldly say, “Nothing shall separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus”.  He’s forsaken so that we might be forgiven.” 

The book closes with CJ appealing to us to preach the gospel, the good news, this grace, this love in action to ourselves daily, to make it our treasure, best and highest thought because as we do our lives can’t help but be filled with joy as we remember what Christ our Mediator has done for us.  (You can read more about this in the rest of ‘Living the Cross-Centered Life’). 

As Easter approach if you are going to read one book, why not read this one as you will be taken to the heart of how Christ has made a way for you to be intimate relationship with God.  It is definitely worth recommending this book to the young people in your church too. 

Christ our Mediator is available to buy as part of ‘Living the Cross-Centered Life’ (chapters 2-10) HERE

For more from CJ Mahaney, check out his blog HERE

You can download talks by CJ on some of the topics of this book HERE.