Monthly Archives: November 2011

From Grace to Gratitude

This post is from a Romanian pastor, friend, and former seminary colleague of mine, Ovidiu Patrick. He sent it to me a couple weeks ago, and I asked him if I could share it with others.





All these words are in a logical and theological order. In Greek, they all belong to the same family of words (charis-charisma-chara-eucharisteo).

GRACE (charis)

God is the author and the source of grace. Grace is the best thing that ever happened to man. Without grace we are condemned and lost in God’s divine court.

Grace is not a theory, a myth, or a beautiful idea. Grace is God’s favor for the lost. This divine favor is materialized in God becoming man, in the incarnation that we celebrate year after year on Christmas. Jesus Christ is the ultimate expression of grace.

The grace of God gives the condemned man what he does not deserve – eternal forgiveness and endless life – and does not give man what he deserves – eternal damnation and destruction. To be in God’s grace is to be right with God and to live a free life, free from sin that the law of God condemns and from which it cannot save you.

Grace saves. The law condemns.

Grace takes you out of all sin’s debts. The law shows the eternal debts that man has before God.

Grace has the power to change the man. The law is powerless in changing anybody.

Grace is amazing. The law is frightening.

The law shows you what only grace can do, but from …

Posted in Christianity, Devotional Thoughts, Theology | 2 Comments

Encountering the Trinity 2 – "Immersed in Love"

Yesterday, we looked at the beauty of encountering the Triune God. Today, I want to focus on how this indwelling by the Holy Spirit takes shape in our lives.

Immersed in Love; Overflow of Love

Augustine’s picture of the Trinity imagines the Holy Spirit as the bond of love between the Father and the Son. The Father is the Lover, the Son is the Beloved, and the Spirit is the Love of the Father for the Son. What, then, does it look like for a believer to be indwelt by the Holy Spirit?

It means that the Father’s love for the Son will be replicated in the believer’s delight in Jesus. The very love that the Father has poured out on Jesus throughout all eternity is the love that is present in our hearts. Whenever you hear the name of Jesus and feel your heart leap for joy… whenever on your darkest days you lean heavily upon the love of God for you shown in Jesus Christ… whenever you are enraptured in worship at the beauty of Jesus Christ’s suffering for your sins – you are experiencing the eternal love of God the Father for His Son! The Spirit of God is residing in you so that the love of the Father for His only Son is coursing through your veins. Your heart is reflecting the Father’s.

That’s why anyone who claims to love God must inevitably love the Son of God. If you claim to love God but not Jesus, you …

Posted in Theology | 4 Comments

Worth a Look 11.23.11

At ETS, Bobby Herrington presented a paper called Online Churches and Christian Community. Marc Cortez responded with a follow-up post: Is Online “Church” Really a Church? Why We Need Better Arguments:

I’m not convinced that the answers we’re offering do justice to the questions involved. And I’m afraid that if we don’t do a better job answering the question, people attracted to online communities will (justifiably) ignore our answers. So I’d like to summarize Herrington’s argument and then identify 5 things I think are commonly missing in these discussions.

Some Fear Megachurch Bubble May Soon Burst:

Most megachurches — which earn that label around the 2,000-attendance level — are led by baby boomer pastors who soon will hit retirement age and without suitable replacements in the pipeline. And some fear the big-box worship centers with lots of individual programs no longer appeal to younger generations.

Theological Questions are Often Personal Questions in Disguise:

If we embrace that there is something, something intensely personal, usually driving these questions, then a better response, rather than a dispensation of information, is to simply return the question with a question: Why do you ask?

How Do Love and Holiness Relate?

Some churches have veered too far toward what they think is holiness, while other churches have veered too far toward what they think is love. If a church has abandoned holiness, it has abandoned love, and if it has abandoned love, it has abandoned holiness. Holiness and love are mutually implicating and work in concert, not in opposition.


Posted in Worth a Look | 1 Comment

Encountering the Trinity 1 – "Desire and Indwelling"

The biblical truth about God as a Trinity is intended to stir up our affections for our glorious God. It is not enough to know about God in three persons. We should also ask the question: What does it look like to know Him personally as a Trinity?

The Desire for Love

Every human being who has ever lived has encountered a hunger for the Trinitarian nature of God. The very fact that humans relate to one another, crave community, come together in marriage and family demonstrates the truth of this desire. The desire to love and be loved is, at its core, part of what it means to be made in God’s image.

That’s why we have so many movies and TV shows and plays and songs and books written about love. Perfect love remains elusive. We desire it. We crave it. We want to set our affections upon something or someone, and we want to be the object of someone else’s love as well.

We love and are loved because we are made in the image of a God who is love. “Our hearts are restless until they find themselves in thee,” said Augustine. That inner restlessness, that yearning for perfect love, is God-given. We were made for God.

Only Christianity satisfies the craving for a relational God of self-giving love. Islam’s Allah is distant and judgmental. Eastern religions so confuse the personhood of God with creation that it is difficult to see how they are distinct. But in Christianity, we are …

Posted in Theology | 1 Comment

Worth a Look 11.22.11

Sally Quinn reflects on the lessons she’s learned since launching The Washington Post’s On Faith. Interesting mix of postmodern presuppositions and conclusions:

I have never been so enthralled, learned so much or been so fulfilled by any subject so much as this. It has totally changed my perspective on life. It was clearly what I was meant to do. From the volume of emails and comments, I know that others find the site as informative, provocative, thoughtful and entertaining as I do.

Don’t Waste Your Exclamation Points:

Generally speaking, a church will over time become affected by, influenced toward, and transferred into whatever her preacher is most excited about. Pastor, our people don’t usually get excited about what we tell them to be excited about. Have you figured that out yet? Instead, they get excited about what they see actually excites us.

J.D. Greear - “Salt and Light”:

The Hebrew word for “holiness” means separation-quite literally, ‘to be cut away from something.’ It also means “perfection,” as we see in our English word holiness, “wholeness” of beauty, love, moral integrity. Jesus was the Holy one, our supreme example of holiness: he was separate from all impurity in the world, yet so “whole” in his love for us that he took upon himself our pain and our sin.

Many Christians only think about the first dimension of holiness…

Parents and the Image of God:

Christ died to restore us to being full rep­re­sen­ta­tions of God’s char­ac­ter.  That is what we were made for.  That is …

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The Gospel Project

UPDATE: The website for The Gospel Project has been launched.

A little over a year ago, I transitioned out of pastoral ministry and took on the role of editor at LifeWay Christian Resources of a new small group curriculum for churches.

Beginning Stages

My first two months at LifeWay (November-December 2010) were primarily focused on helping develop the vision for the new curriculum. In conjunction with Ed Stetzer (general editor), I began mapping out what topics this curriculum might cover. We put together some different options – some focused more on systematic theology, others focused on a variety of approaches, etc.

We also began putting on paper the core values we wanted to keep at the forefront of this curriculum. “Theologically robust” (which we renamed “deep, but not dry”), “Christ-centered,” “Grand-narrative-focused,” and “Mission-driven” are the important elements we want to see in every quarter and (hopefully) every lesson. We took these buzz words and fleshed out how they might apply to a curriculum.

Advisory Council

Then we brought together an advisory council to speak into the project, leaders like D.A. CarsonMatt ChandlerJames MacDonaldJ.D. Greear, Eric MasonJuan SanchezCollin HansenKimberly ThornburyJoe Thorn, Danny Akin, and Jay Noh. We met with members of the council in Dallas and Chicago earlier this year and received helpful feedback and great insight into this curriculum.

The meetings with the advisory council were very helpful. The group helped us refine the vision, make needed adjustments, and craft a …

Posted in Christianity, Church Issues, Education, Gospel, Missions / Evangelism, Southern Baptist Convention, Theology, Writing | 14 Comments

Worth a Look 11.21.11

Michael Patton: “Why Do We Love C.S. Lewis and Hate Rob Bell?”

Rob Bell supporters often appeal to C.S. Lewis, stating that he believed similar stuff as Rob Bell (in as far as holding out hope for unbelievers relates to inclusivism). In fact, Rob Bell seems to love and be inspired by C.S. Lewis in his thoughts and ideas.

Here comes the question I got Tuesday night a the Credo House “Coffee and Theology” study: “So why do we love C.S. Lewis but hate Rob Bell?” This is the great question I hope to answer briefly…

Mark Galli on The Confidence of the Evangelical – Why the Spirit, not the magisterium will lead us into all truth:

On a recent trip to Durham, North Carolina, I was asked, “What do you make of all the evangelicals converting to Roman Catholicism?”

Lincoln and the Mormons:

These facts added up to an unusual predicament for Abraham Lincoln in the fall of 1861. Most Americans were thinking about the North and South; but the West was on his mind as well. With the rebellion raging, Lincoln needed as many allies as he could find, and both his government and Jefferson Davis’s coveted the west for its minerals and its access to the Pacific. Could he count on the Mormons?

How Many Presidents Have Been Accused of Being the Anti-Christ?

Suspected White House shooter Oscar Ramiro Ortega-Hernandez was obsessed with President Barack Obama, according to investigators, and reportedly thought Obama was the Antichrist. In September, heckler David Serrano …

Posted in Worth a Look | 2 Comments

May Your Own Heart Become an Altar Aflame

May you be comforted by the burning protective strength of your Father’s strong and stormy love.

May you be captivated by the focused heat and glow of your Bridegroom’s jealous passion.

May you recline at peace and with veiled face bow.

May you be thrilled and terrified at the rampaging, irresistible zeal of this consuming fire who has pledged Himself to do you good all the days of your life and who will not hold back even if the good seems bad, and stings and burns and blisters your skin.

May your heart thrill at the awesome God who held nothing back that He might hold you close, who poured on His Son what He never deserved that you might receive forever what you would not have desired, but were created for.

Then may your own heart become an altar aflame with fiery love and exclusive zeal to bring Him glory and expand His praise among all peoples and nations—among your friends and enemies too.

- Timothy Stoner,  The God Who Smokes: Scandalous Meditations on Faith

Posted in Prayers | 1 Comment

Wesley on Reading

What has exceedingly hurt you in time past, nay, and I fear to this day, is want of reading.

I scarce ever knew a preacher read so little. And perhaps, by neglecting it, you have lost the taste for it. Hence your talent in preaching does not increase. It is just the same as it was seven years ago. It is lively, but not deep; there is little variety, there is no compass of thought. Reading only can supply this, with meditation and daily prayer. You wrong yourself greatly by omitting this. You can never be a deep preacher without it, any more than a thorough Christian.

O begin! Fix some part of every day for private exercises. You may acquire the taste which you have not: what is tedious at first, will afterwards be pleasant.

Whether you like it or not, read and pray daily. It is for your life; there is no other way; else you will be a trifler all your days, and a petty, superficial preacher. Do justice to your own soul; give it time and means to grow. Do not starve yourself any longer. Take up your cross and be a Christian altogether. Then will all children of God rejoice (not grieve) over you in particular.

– John Wesley to John Premboth on August 17, 1760, quoted in Ben Witherington’s Is There a Doctor in the House?: An Insider’s Story and Advice on Becoming a Bible Scholar, pg. 71.

Posted in Quotes of the Week, Reading | 10 Comments

Friday Funny: Crazy Christmas Song

I was in a pharmacy this week and heard Christmas music playing. It happened to be one of the songs that drives me nuts every year: “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” (It’s a creepy song, really.) This reminded me of the crazy lyrics in some Christmas songs. In this one-minute video, Tim Hawkins shows why “Do You Hear What I Hear?” doesn’t make sense. Hilarious!

Posted in Friday Funny | 1 Comment