>Am I Doing My Part?

>I detest the term “lay people” (even more than I hate the phrase “parachurch”)…and this is the reason:

“According to Christ’s law, every Christian is to be a minister in his own sphere; every member of the church is to be active in spreading the faith which was delivered not to the ministers, but delivered to the saints, to every one of them, that they might maintain it and spread it according to the gift which the Spirit has given them.” Charles Spurgeon

>Most books, yeah, But not the Bible

>Somerset Maugham said, “The only important thing in a book is the meaning it has for you.”

This may well be true of most books; but it is not true of the sixty-six books contained in The Book.

“Well, what this verse is saying to me…” sounds okay at first blush…and certainly the Spirit of God uses the Word of God to speak directly to us in a variety of ways. But that same Spirit wrote through human authors with certainty and primary meaning. As we “work out our salvation in fear and trembling” it does, in fact, take work (and time) to “study to show ourselves approved…”

To rightly hear from God it is vital to read in context…and that is why I continually encourage people to read the Word the way it was written…book by book rather than hopping around reading a few verses here, and a few verses there.

In these days when there is so much garbage “preached,” written, and taught; it is vital for us to become rooted and grounded in the Word of God.

There are no shortcuts to anywhere worth going….

>Preserving Gospel Passion

>NO! Not “simply” passion about witnessing, or holiness, or hell, or the authority of Scripture, or any of a zillion other things…but passionate about (and understanding and living out) the gospel!

Slowly read this from C. J. Mahanney:

I have learned a very important lesson over the years: those I have the privilege to teach are not usually most affected by the general content of my teaching; they are often most affected by what I am most passionate about. 

I am still learning this, and it’s all too easy to forget.

When I teach, my passion must be theologically informed, and proportional to the content or point I am making in the sermon. This insight is not original with me (no insights are original with me!), and I have found this point better articulated by Dr. Don Carson in a lecture he delivered last year at the CBMW Different by Design Conference (Feb. 2, 2009, Minneapolis, MN). While speaking of those who are passionate for social justice, he delivered this caution:

There are some wonderful instances of ordinary Christians, not least the young, who are concerned to preach the whole gospel unabashedly and do good first to the household of God and then, as much as is possible, outside as well [Galatians 6:10]. That has got biblical mandate behind it.…
My warning would be to those who are coming along and talking a lot about, “I want to be faithful to the gospel, but I also want to do social justice of good works.” My warning would be: it is not just what you do, it is what you are excited about.

And the implications are broader than social justice. All manner of topics can capture our excitement, like church methodology, parenting style, or any other point of application. Carson continues,

If I have learned anything in 35 or 40 years of teaching, it is that students don’t learn everything I teach them. What they learn is what I am excited about, the kinds of things I emphasize again and again and again and again. That had better be the gospel.
If the gospel—even when you are orthodox—becomes something which you primarily assume, but what you are excited about is what you are doing in some sort of social reconstruction, you will be teaching the people that you influence that the gospel really isn’t all that important. You won’t be saying that—you won’t even mean that—but that’s what you will be teaching. And then you are only half a generation away from losing the gospel.
Make sure that in your own practice and excitement, what you talk about, what you think about, what you pray over, what you exude confidence over, joy over, what you are enthusiastic about is Jesus, the gospel, the cross. And out of that framework, by all means, let the transformed life flow.

Seminary professors and preachers will transfer to others what they are most passionate about. And those we serve should see a difference between our passion for the gospel and our passion for other issues. It’s worth asking ourselves regularly: Is it clear to others that nothing excites me more than the gospel of Jesus Christ and him crucified?

>Deut 29.29

>”The workings of grace in the heart are utterly mysterious and unsearchable. We cannot explain why the word produces effects on one person in a congregation, and not upon another. We cannot explain why, in some cases–with every possible advantage, and in spite of every entreaty–people reject the word, and continue dead in trespasses and sins. We cannot explain why in other cases–with every possible difficulty, and with no encouragement–people are born again, and become decided Christians. We cannot define the manner in which the Spirit of God conveys life to a soul, and the exact process by which a believer receives a new nature. All these are hidden things to us. We see certain results, but we can go no further. “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” [John 3:8]”

~ J.C. Ryle

>Great, Timely Insight from Spurgeon

>I need to constantly be reminded of these wise words from Charles Spurgeon:

“If you are drawn into controversy, use very hard arguments and very soft words. Frequently you cannot convince a man by tugging at his reason, but you can persuade him by winning his affections” (Lectures to My Students, p. 280).http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=jacksjots-20&o=1&p=8&l=bpl&asins=1598565176&fc1=000000&IS2=1&lt1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifr

>The Cross: Picture of God’s _______

>How you “fill in the blank” of the title “The Cross: Picture of God’s _______” determines how you look on things like atonement, hell, wrath.

Most will put the word “love” in the blank…and it should be there…but should be followed by “hate.”

Love of people. Hatred for sin.

A simultaneous portrait of His amazing love and the horribleness of sin.

It is “normal,” (but not right) to get off balance on the love portrait. But to ignore, or be ignorant of, God’s absolute holiness, and thus His hatred of sin, opens one to all kinds of error.

I look at the cross and, gratefully, I see His love (Romans 5.8). The very next verse reminds me that I am “…saved by Him from the wrath of God.” That wrath should be poured out on me, but it is not…because it has been poured out on the Sacrificial Lamb.

>Sovereignty and Sanity

>SCOTTY SMITH keeps cranking out phenomenal stuff. No, he doesn’t crank; he reads, prays, trusts, and shares. Here are great insights regarding the absolute sovereignty of God:

     At the end of that time, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven, and my sanity was restored. Then I praised the Most High; I honored and glorified him who lives forever. His dominion is an eternal dominion; his kingdom endures from generation to generation. All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing. He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him: “What have you done?” Daniel 4:34-35

     Almighty Father, I need to “bookmark” this passage and return to it often, for it doesn’t just tell the conversion story of a pagan King, it’s the ongoing story of my heart. We’re never more sane than when we raise our eyes towards heaven and focus our attention on you. Navel gazing, circumstance watching and daily-news fixating never serve us well.

    Father, help us to understand the glorious implications of your perpetual enthronement. Your dominion as the only eternal dominion. November elections and political insurrections; the world economy and temperature instability; earthquakes and oil leaks; multiplied conspiracies and conservative tea parties don’t affect your reign one micro-bit for one nanosecond.

     For your kingdom endures from generation to generation. There never has been, nor will there ever be any nervous sweat, furrowed brows or anxious pacing in heaven; not one moment of consternation or vexation in the corridors of paradise; no need for a plan B to emerge from the Big Boardroom.

     Father, you do as you please with the powers of heaven and the peoples of earth. I praise you for marshalling  the powers of heaven for the salvation of ill-deserving rebels like me and the ultimate transformation of the entire cosmos. Though many tried to hold back your hand; though many said “What are you doing?”, nevertheless, you chose the sacrifice of your Son and the “foolishness” of the cross, as the greatest demonstration of your sovereignty and grace.

     The only King who could say, “Behold the world I have made” is the only King who would say, “Behold the people for whom I die.” Father, the greatest sanity is gospel-sanity. Keep us sane, Father, keep us gospel-sane.

     We choose to lift our eyes to heaven today and fix our gaze on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, and we cry with unfettered, unabated joy, “Hallelujah what a Savior! Hallelujah what a salvation!” So very Amen, we pray, in the name and for the glory of the true King, Jesus.