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  1. What Ever Happened to Mercy?

    Posted on July 2nd, 2015 by David Burnette

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    As you think about the circles you run in as a Christian, what attributes of God seem to be ignored or downplayed today?

    My guess is that God’s wrath, his holiness, or his righteousness come to mind. All those are probably true, and they are evidence of the low view of God that seems so common, even among professing Christians. This is why we highlighted God’s holiness last week. However, has it dawned on you that by downplaying God’s holy character we inevitably undermine his mercy?

    If I assume that God approves of whatever I’m doing, then what need is there for mercy? After all, mercy assumes that some punishment is deserved, that judgment is withheld. We may ask God to bless us, help us, or guide us–all of which we should pray for–but it’s much less common to hear the words of the tax collector in Luke 18:13, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” To downplay God’s mercy is to miss a fundamental aspect of who he is. And as the psalmist reminds us, God’s mercy is “over all that he has made” (Psalm 145:9).

    At the Core

    When God revealed himself to Moses on Mount Sinai, he began by proclaiming himself to be “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious . . .” (Exodus 34:6). There was more to this revelation, but we cannot miss the fact that mercy gets at the core of who God is. He is the God who condescends to redeem his people and to make a covenant with them. Without such mercy, a holy God could never join himself to us in love; judgment would be the only option. To know God, then, is to know him as merciful.

    Our only Hope

    In order to make God’s mercy more concrete, consider your own conversion. You were dead in sin, and the only reason that wasn’t the end of the story is because of God’s “great love,” and because he is “rich in mercy” (Ephesians 2:4). Or as Peter says, you have been born again according to God’s “great mercy” (1 Peter 1:3). Instead of judging you, Christian, God chose to lay the punishment on his only Son. By the power of the Spirit, God’s mercy brought you into the Christian life. But, thankfully, that’s not where mercy ends.

    A Daily Need

    God’s mercies are “new every morning” (Lamentations 3:23). They greet us like the sunrise, assuring us that today’s sins will be no match for God’s forgiveness. Whether our sin is as glaring as King David’s with Bathseeba, and we have to cry out, “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love, according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions” (Psalm 51:1), or whether it’s just the daily defilement of selfish thoughts, twisted desires, and ten thousand other sins, we need mercy. And, by God’s grace, it is available to those who are in Christ.

    So as you think on God and what he is like, don’t forget that he is holy, righteous, and just. These are foundational attributes. But, if you belong to Christ, these foundational attributes should remind you of your need for another foundational attribute of God–his mercy. Without it, we have no hope.

    — For more on God’s attributes, see Secret Church 4, “Who is God?

  2. CBMW: Counter Cultural Order Amid Social Chaos

    Posted on July 1st, 2015 by Jonathan

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    In a time when gender distinctions are abused, confused, blurred, and ignored, it’s hard to overstate the importance of an organization like the the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW). We are honored to call them one of our Counter Culture ministry partners.

    Mission – The mission of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood is to set forth the teachings of the Bible about the complementary differences between men and women, created equally in the image of God, because these teachings are essential for obedience to Scripture and for the health of the family and the church.

    Vision – The vision of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood is to see the vast majority of evangelical homes, churches, academic institutions, and other ministries adopt the principles of the Danvers Statement as a part of their personal convictions and doctrinal confessions and apply them in consistent, heart-felt practice.

    What’s at Stake? –Since it was established in 1987 “to help the church defend against the accommodation of secular feminism,” the CBMW has seen an even greater need for biblical teaching on this subject. At the heart of God’s design for men and women is the gospel itself.

    1. The authority of Scripture is at stake.
    2. The health of the home is at stake.
    3. The health of the church is at stake.
    4. Our worship is at stake.
    5. Bible translations are at stake.
    6. The advance of the gospel is at stake.

    You can read more about these six areas HERE.

    Get Involved

    • Join the CBMW at any of their events (you can even request they come your way).
    • For solid teaching and practical application, take advantage of their regularly-updated blog.
    • Support their gospel ministry to families and local churches by donating.

    Find out more about the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood by visiting CBMW.org, from which all of the above information was taken.

  3. Going for the Root and Not Just the Branches: Route1520

    Posted on June 29th, 2015 by Radical

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    It’s probably not news to you that a number of aspects of sexual sin continue to plague not only our culture, but also the church. This is one of the reasons we have highlighted Route1520 as a Counter Culture ministry partner. Route1520 offers gospel-centered help for those who find themselves in the grip of sexual sin.

    Like all other sins, Christians must actively fight against sexual sin on a daily basis. However, this daily battle cannot be disconnected from the gospel. With that in mind, we asked Traylor Lovvorn, co-founder of Route1520, to explain how the gospel figures into their approach of addressing sexual sin, and then to offer several ways in which Route1520 offers ongoing help in this battle:

    1. Many people trying to fight sexual addiction would say they believe the gospel. So how does the gospel affect the way you counsel people who are struggling with sexual sins?

    It is no secret that pornography, sexual addiction, and other forms of sexual brokenness are reaching epidemic, if not pandemic, proportions in our culture. God’s beautiful gift of sex is being profaned and defiled by our enemy in every imaginable way. But God is not wringing His hands over this issue. Instead, He is using the struggle with sexual sin to lead men and women into a deeper understanding of His gospel of grace . . . the only thing that has the power to change our hearts. In this way, pornography and other forms of sexual sin actually become a gateway to the gospel. THAT is good news!

    Most say that they believe the gospel, but, when you begin to get beneath the surface of what they actually believe, you find that most have a fundamental misunderstanding of grace and the gospel, which leads to a practical theology that points to more willpower, more discipline, more effort, and more striving as the keys to bringing about lasting change. When it comes to sexual sin, instead of helping individuals “fix” this area of powerlessness with new tips or techniques, we want to help them embrace their powerlessness and limitations so that they begin to see their desperate need for a Savior.

    At Route1520, we use a tree to help illustrate this concept. Picture an enormous oak tree. Let’s say that the branches all represent some form of sexual behavior that we are trying to overcome and change in our lives. Much time, effort, and energy is spent sawing off those branches of unwanted behavior. When we have successfully sawed off a branch, it feels like a victory in the short-term. The problem, however, is that the branches grow back, often bigger and stronger than they were before.

    Instead of offering men and women a better or different saw to get rid of these branches of unwanted behavior, we point them to the root issues that drive the behavior and gently help them understand that their problem is actually much bigger than they realize. This opens the door for us to reveal to them the good news of the gospel–that, through Christ, God has done for them what they could not do for themselves, and it is not up to them to change their hearts. Instead of more striving, more doing, and more performing, men and women are free to receive God’s unconditional love and to simply rest in the fact that they are a beloved son or daughter.

    As illustrated in Luke 15, the truth of the gospel is that it is God’s kindness that leads us to repentance. Only the unconditional love of the Father can overcome the shame and self-contempt that results from sexual sin in a believer’s life. Route1520’s weekly recovery communities are safe environments where individuals are reminded of these truths that can be so quickly forgotten. As the Centurion prayed in Mark chapter 9, “I believe; help my unbelief!”

    2. What tools and resources does Route1520 offer to help men and women address the deeper, root issues that drive the struggle with sexual sin?

    Our main focus is to come alongside the local church and other ministries by providing solutions that address the heart and not just the specific external behavior.

    These solutions include:

    • Christ-centered recovery communities for men and women
    • Relationship and recovery coaching for strugglers and their spouses
    • Crisis coaching for ministry leaders to equip as they shepherd through a specific incident involving sexual addiction or brokenness
    • EMBARK: a 4-day recovery intensive for men
    • GroupNow: a comprehensive resource kit designed to help churches establish a safe culture for sexually broken people within their congregations

    Connect with Route1520 on Twitter (@route1520) and Facebook, or online at Route1520.com.


    A former pastor, Traylor was married for 11 years before his secret struggle with pornography and sexual addiction ripped his family apart, leaving his wife and 4 children to try to figure out what had happened to Daddy. After 6 years of divorce, God miraculously restored and reconciled his family and he was remarried to his ex-wife Melody in 2008.

    Traylor co-founded Route1520 in 2010 with Melody to address the growing epidemic of pornography and other forms of sexual brokenness within the church. Traylor and Melody co-host a weekly podcast called Undone Redone,  facilitate weekly recovery groups for men and women, and spend much of their time coaching and encouraging those who have been impacted by sexual brokenness.

    Traylor and Melody live in Birmingham with their four children.

    Connect with Traylor on Twitter (@tlovvorn) and Facebook, or email him at traylor@route1520.com.

  4. It’s Their Move

    Posted on June 27th, 2015 by Jonathan

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    On Friday the Supreme Court legally redefined marriage for U.S. citizens. According to the Court, same-sex couples now have a legal right to marry.

    It would seem that, as evangelical Christians, it’s now our move in what’s perceived to be an epic game of cultural chess. And maybe in one sense that’s true – the legal implications of this ruling will change the discussion in terms of public policy, religious liberty, and cultural engagement. We’ll have to figure out how to practically navigate it all as we cling to our biblical convictions, and it will probably be pretty difficult. But we counted the cost when we first decided to follow Christ, and we will continue to follow him no matter what it requires.

    And that’s how, in another sense, it’s not our move. It’s still theirs. Though the legal circumstances may have changed, our position will not – we will still be loyal to the King of kings and submit ourselves to all of his decrees. What will our increasingly secular culture do when they figure out that our beliefs about marriage are here to stay?

    I pray that many will begin to see our passion for truth as an inherent part of our love for them. That’s what it is. Just as we cannot truly love people and coldly condemn them to hell, we cannot truly love people and warmly lie to their face. God judges sinners. All sinners (ourselves included) need to know this, because only when they realize that they’re going the wrong direction will they turn around. And when they do, they may be surprised to find that the same God who judges sinners is there, mercifully pursuing his bride in order to wash away her sins.

    What will their move be then, when they see that biblical marriage, the very thing they are rebelling against, is the means of their salvation? Christ did what only he could do and gave his life for his bride. He endured God’s just judgment in the place of his bride, those who trust in him. And one day soon, he’s returning to bring her home forever.

    I hope God makes their next move as clear to them as he did to me when I made it years ago.

  5. June 26: Responses to the SCOTUS Marriage Ruling

    Posted on June 26th, 2015 by Jonathan

  6. The Supreme Judge has Defined Marriage Once and for All

    Posted on June 26th, 2015 by Radical

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    It is altogether right to be grieved about the redefinition of marriage in our culture. So-called “same-sex marriage” is now recognized as a legitimate entity in the eyes of our government. Such a designation by a government, however, does not change the definition God has established. The only true marriage in God’s eyes remains the exclusive, permanent union of a man and a woman, even as our Supreme Court and state legislatures deliberately defy this reality. Without question, we are living in momentous days–momentous in devastating ways.

    Yet all is most definitely not lost. The opportunity for gospel witness in contemporary culture is far greater now than it was even a couple of years ago. As spiritual darkness engulfs the biblical picture of marriage in our culture, spiritual light will stand out even more starkly in the portrait of a husband who lays down his life for his wife and a wife who joyfully follows her husband’s loving leadership. Be sure of this: God’s design for marriage is far more breathtaking and much more satisfying than anything we could ever create on our own. The more men and women manipulate marriage, the more we will discover that “this kind of marriage” or “that kind of marriage” will not fully gratify us, for only the King who designed marriage is able to finally (and eternally) satisfy us.

    Furthermore, we have much reason to be confident in the resilience of marriage as God has designed it. After all, it has been around since the beginning of time (see Genesis 2:24-25). Jesus himself affirms the foundational reality of marriage in the fabric of God’s creation (see Matthew 19:1-12). Moreover, marriage will be around at the end of time. Sure, it won’t look the same as it does now, for this earthly shadow will one day give way to its eternal substance. On that day, Christ will be united completely with his church, and all of heaven will shout, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready” (Revelation 19:6-7). John writes in the book of Revelation, “The angel said to me, ‘Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.’ And he said to me, ‘These are the true words of God'” (verse 9).

    Based upon these “true words of God,” we need not worry about whether marriage is going to make it. Ultimately, we do not look to any court or government to define marriage. God has already done that, and his definition cannot be eradicated by a vote of legislators or the opinions of Supreme Court justices. The Supreme Judge of creation has already defined this term once and for all. Marriage does not morph across cultures the same way that football does, for marriage is a term that transcends culture, representing timeless truth about who God is and how God loves. The call and challenge for us is to live according to such truth in the time and culture in which he has placed us.

    David Platt, Counter Culture, 152-154

    More on Today’s Ruling . . .

  7. Hudson Taylor, Internationals, Charleston, Small Churches

    Posted on June 26th, 2015 by Jonathan

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    Hudson Taylor and the Founding of China Inland Missions, 150th Anniversary: “On June 25, 1865, Taylor knelt on a beach in Brighton, England and cried out to God asking him to supply skilled, willing workers to bring the gospel to the inland provinces of China.” (Don Sweeting)

    Building Relationships with Internationals: “One of our desires as a church is to be used by God to share the gospel with the international community in our own backyard. Here are 4 tips to help you build relationships with internationals…” (Joshua Hedger)

    What Charleston Should Remind Us About Forgiveness and Justice: “Too often, we assume that forgiveness means something far different from what forgiveness means in the Bible…. Forgiveness, in the Christian sense, is not at odds with justice.” (Russell Moore)

    Your Small Church is Big: “Small churches may be Christianity’s most overlooked, underutilized asset. If they’ve been reaching the world while we’ve been looking the other way, just imagine what they could do with our support.” (Karl Vaters)

    10 Reasons Racism is Offensive to God: “As Christians we must think and feel deeply not just the what of the Bible but the why. If racism is so bad, why is it so bad?” (Kevin DeYoung)

  8. A God Who is Not Like Us

    Posted on June 25th, 2015 by David Burnette

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    As children of God, we can take great comfort in the fact that God knows us personally, that he understands our struggles and cares for our needs. He is not some distant deity; he is a Heavenly Father who loves us deeply.

    However, as we continue to encounter God in his Word and grow in our knowledge of him, we will be confronted again and again with a startling reality: this God who is so near to us and so intimately involved in our lives is not like us. He is unique, set apart from us in fundamental ways. This is another way of saying that God is holy. It’s what Hannah realized when God blessed her by giving her a long-awaited son:

    There is no one holy like the Lord. (1 Samuel 2:2).

    Holiness is the first of God’s attributes we’ll look at over the next several weeks. Below we’ll highlight two different aspects of God’s holiness, and then we’ll see why this is good news for those who have the privilege of calling God Father. [1]

    The Creator and The Creature

    First, God’s holiness means that he is in a completely different class than us—he is the Creator and we are the creatures. He is infinitely greater than us in terms of his glory, majesty, and power. God existed before the mountains were formed (Psalm 90:2), but man was created from the dust of the ground (Genesis 2:7). Some people might worry that this profound difference between God and us makes us insignificant to him, as if God’s holiness means that he is detached from his creation. However, Jesus teaches us that God even cares for the birds and lilies (Matthew 6:26, 28). How much more does this holy God care for those who are made in his image and redeemed by his Son?

    Righteousness and Sin

    Second, God’s holiness also refers to his moral perfection. He always does what is perfectly just and righteous and loving. In fact, he is the standard for all that is good. It’s no wonder that the prophet Habakkuk addressed God as, “You who are of purer eyes than to see evil . . . ” (Habakkuk 1:13). A holy God can have nothing to do with sin.

    Why This is Good News

    So if God can’t tolerate evil, then how does his holiness work out to be good news for those who sin against him daily? Michael Horton reminds us,

    Because of God’s mercy, God’s holiness not only highlights his difference from us; it also includes his movement toward us, binding us to him in covenant love. [2]

    We can look to the cross as the greatest display of God’s holiness, for he is so just and righteous that it took the death of his Son to atone for sin. However, because God is also gracious and merciful, this same death also brought salvation for God’s enemies (you and me). Now, as those who have been reconciled to God, we can take comfort in God’s perfections. He is faithful, so he never fails to carry through on his promises. And he is never limited by a lack of knowledge, a lack of strength, or the inability to meet a need. He is sufficient in every way for his people.

    In Christ we stand in a right relationship to the One whom the angels declare to be “Holy, holy, holy” (Isaiah 6:3). This is the God who is to be feared, but who, at the same time, fulfills our longings for that which is truly glorious and beautiful. Now we can say with the psalmist,

    For our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name. (Psalm 33:21)

    — For more on the holiness of God and God’s attributes, see Secret Church 4, “Who is God?”

    [1] These two aspects of God’s holiness are based on Michael Horton, The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims On the Way, 268-270.

    [2] Horton, 268

  9. 1 Comment

    Obedience is a Matter of Faith

    Posted on June 24th, 2015 by Jonathan

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    Have you ever thought about what being a Christian requires?

    Maybe a passage like Ephesians 2:8-9 comes to mind: “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” What, then, is required to be a Christian? Easy – faith, and faith alone.

    That’s absolutely true. But if faith is the only requirement for being a true Christian, then we should naturally ask: What is the mark of genuine faith?

    And perhaps surprisingly, the answer is obedience.

    I say surprisingly because Scripture is clear that our works are completely unable to save us. However, works are not irrelevant to the Christian life. Unfortunately, it’s common to encounter reasoning that pits all works against faith, throwing obedience into the Legalistic Works bin with all our other self-righteous attempts at righteousness. But such reasoning is faulty, because obedience is where our faith comes to life. Obedience is just as necessary to faith as a spirit is to a body. Don’t take my word for it. “For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead” (Jas 2:16).

    Think of it this way. If you get sick and your doctor prescribes you some medicine with instructions to take it every day, what do you do? If you trust him, then you follow his orders. His goal is to get you well again, and he knows way more about medicine than you do, so you obey him. Similarly, if you trust God, then you obey what he says. Disobedience means that your ultimate faith must be elsewhere.

    For this reason, we cannot ignore or dismiss the commands of God’s Word and just have faith in him to save us. In fact, Scripture’s purpose is “to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim 3:15). Like driving through a “Road Closed” sign, disobeying God’s Word puts us in grave danger. It shows that we place greater trust in ourselves than in God. The hearts of people who truly have faith in God cannot be bent toward rebellion against the one they’re trusting, and disobedience to the Word is just that: rebellion against God.

    So be wary of a supposed faith that saves but which is devoid of obedience to the Word. Genuine Christians have faith, and genuine faith obeys.

  10. Content to Send. Longing to Go.

    Posted on June 23rd, 2015 by Radical

    This message was delivered by David Platt at CROSS 2015. In it, he shares his own personal longing to go to the unreached while urging all believers to give their lives for the spread of the gospel among the unreached. Below are his three main points:

    • Surrender to Christ regardless of the cost.
    • Abide in Christ and follow where He leads.
    • Trust in Christ, for He is the great reward.