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  1. Coming To Life

    Posted on September 30th, 2014 by Jonathan

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    In the Old Testament, God gave his people the law. In the New Testament, he gave them his Son, the fulfillment of the law. Jesus is the only way to the Father, because he’s the only one to ever perfectly keep God’s law. That’s why, in Galatians 5, Paul rails against the idea that our standing before God is dependent upon us doing certain things rather than being dependent upon the death and resurrection of Jesus: “You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law” (4).

    But if our justification doesn’t depend on the dos and don’ts of the law, why, then, does Paul turn around and give us another list of sins to avoid—the “works of the flesh” (21)? He goes so far as to say our eternity is at stake if we indulge in sexual immorality, idolatry, jealousy, etc. Isn’t this just another attempt to be justified by what we do . . . or don’t do?

    How are we to navigate this impossibly confusing balance of not-looking-to-the-law-for-salvation-but-still-having-to-obey-it?

    Another list from Galatians 5 clears the haze: “the fruit of the Spirit” (22-23). The difference here between works and fruit couldn’t be more important. Works of the flesh are the things we do, naturally. The fruit of the Spirit is what the Holy Spirit does in us, supernaturally. Our Spirit-produced works still don’t save us, but they necessarily flow from our salvation as the Spirit lives in us. Faith is the root and works are the fruit. But unlike the works we produce in our weak flesh, “the Spirit produces the life and character of Christ in every facet of our character” (David Platt, Secret Church 5: Exploring the Holy Spirit). It’s a total transformation of who we are from the inside out.

    It may seem that the Holy Spirit makes our works completely irrelevant, but nothing could be further from the truth. Now, because of the Spirit’s work in us, we not only have the desire to obey God’s commands, but also the power. When we’re walking by the Spirit, we aren’t gratifying the desires of our flesh (v 16), and the character of Christ – the great law-keeper – is manifest through us.

    In other words, the Spirit doesn’t make good works disappear. In a very real sense, they come to life.

  2. The Most Attractive and Cruelest of Lies

    Posted on September 29th, 2014 by Eric Parker

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    Biblical counselor Paul Tripp looks to Genesis 3 to analyze some of the underlying realities of sin. Satan’s promise of self autonomy may have sounded attractive, but it was a cruel lie:

    Eve stands in one of the most important moments of history. You can almost imagine the deathly silence of creation as it waits to see what she will do. Will she follow the counsel of the Creator or the counsel of the Serpent? Where will she find her meaning and purpose? To whom will she entrust herself? What, finally, will she believe about God, his character, and his plan? These are the underlying questions of the moment.

    The  moral drama here gets to the core of human existence. Notice that the passage says that Eve saw the fruit as ‘desirable for gaining wisdom.’ Satan was not just selling Eve the best fruit in the garden, but something more fundamentally appealing. He was telling Eve that if she ate the fruit, she would be independently wise. The promise was autonomous personal wisdom, without any need for God or his revelation! This was the attraction that led to the Fall.

    Satan was offering a different path to wisdom, holding out the promise that people can discern life on their own. His words suggest that however beautiful God’s revelation, it is not really necessary. Satan’s wisdom places peoples’ lives in their own hands, so that they rely on their own ability to think, interpret, understand, and apply. The Serpent is selling Eve the most attractive and cruelest of lies, the lie of autonomy and self-sufficiency. He offers her wisdom that does not need to bow the knee to God. . . . To listen to this new counselor (Satan), they must not only deny God, but their own nature. What the serpent offers as a credible option is no option at all. Adam and Eve were created for a certain kind of existence. They cannot live successfully outside their design. Yet this is what Adam and Eve are about to do, and what millions of people attempt every day.

    Paul David Tripp, Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands, 47-49

  3. Gospel-Informed Life: Family, Purpose, Roots, Confession

    Posted on September 26th, 2014 by Jonathan

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    Family Life and the Kingdom of God: For you and your house to choose to always serve the Lord (Joshua 24:15) is what Gloria Furman calls, “the highest aspiration of every Christian family.” Though such a resolve is not easy, it’s possible through the gospel, seen even in Joshua, Judges, and Ruth.

    Why Are You on the Earth?: John Piper answers the question with a line from a George Herbert poem: to be a “secretary of God’s praise.”

    Two Ways to Drive Our Roots Deep into the Gospel: Since life consists of seasons–good and bad, high and low, happy and sad–we ought not take queues from our good-season-seeking culture. Rather, explains JD Greear, we ought to trust in God’s Word, driving our roots deep into the gospel so as to bear fruit in all seasons.

    Mutual Confession: A Holy Experiment: What’s to keep your accountability from becoming moralistic and discouraging “Do better; be better” speeches? Dane Deatherage and his friend Cale have found beautiful freedom in confessing their secret sins to one another and offering gospel forgiveness.

  4. A Collection of Videos on Missions

    Posted on September 25th, 2014 by Jonathan

    To acquaint (or re-acquaint) yourself with David Platt’s teaching on missions, here is a collection of videos in which he talks about different aspects of it. While these videos do not offer a comprehensive theology of missions, we hope they will compel you to go to God in his Word and to the lost in the world.

  5. Mid-Term Field Report: “Because Jesus Is Worth It”

    Posted on September 24th, 2014 by Jonathan

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    Have you ever been “missing in action” when a loved one needed you? Karina has. And from her critter-infested home in Thailand, she can testify to the pain it causes . . . but she can also testify to the joy of loving and obeying Christ.

    Karina was sent out by The Church at Brook Hills to serve mid-term (anywhere between two months and two years), teaching English to kindergarteners. We hope that her example will encourage and challenge you to love Jesus far more than anything else. According to Karina, even though such love is sometimes hard, “Jesus is worth it.”

    Here’s what Karina had to say . . .

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    What has been the most surprising aspect about serving in this new context?

    It never fails to surprise me just how many other creatures I share a home with. We’ve had infestations of ants, termites, geckos, mosquitos, roaches, tokays, snakes, lizards, spiders (anywhere from really small to as big as my face), snails and rats.

    What has been the most difficult part of your time there?

    The most difficult part is managing my classes. I teach anywhere from 27-39 students. That’s 39 three-year-olds. So to keep them all focused and on task is a bit challenging, to say the least.

    Can you give us your highlight of the trip?

    In April my mom and good friend were able to visit me. We were able to celebrate Songkran (the water throwing festival). It’s basically the ice bucket challenge all day for three days, and everyone plays. It’s the best festival ever.

    What advice would you give to people considering going mid-term?

    Go. And try to learn as much language beforehand.

    What advice would you give to friends, family, and church members in terms of how they can support workers like you?

    Please pray for us daily. I can’t say it enough. Pray, pray, pray, pray, pray. Also, little notes of encouragement are great too. It can get pretty lonely overseas, so it’s always a pleasant surprise to find a personal email waiting for you in your inbox.

    What is one big takeaway that the the Father has taught you in your experience as a mid-term worker?

    Luke 14:26 has really taken on a new meaning to me since being here. “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” I only thought I knew what that meant, but now I know what that means. Being a disciple of Jesus means missing weddings and baby showers of my dearest and oldest friends. It means being away from family in illness. It means missing birthdays, graduations, and other celebrations. It means people may not think you love them because you are away when they “need” you the most. And it’s hard. Especially on the rough days, and the enemy tempts you to think it’s not worth it. But it is worth it, because Jesus is worth it.

    What is one thing you have learned from the national brothers and sisters that you are partnering with?

    They are so selfless, generous, and some of the most joyous people I have ever met.  They don’t let their circumstances dictate their emotions. They may not have much, but they will sacrifice for you.

  6. How to Spot a Church Leader

    Posted on September 23rd, 2014 by David Burnette

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    What does the life of a godly church leader look like?

    That’s an extremely important question that churches and individual Christians need to be able to answer. Church leadership is vital to the overall health of a local church. In addition to being able to teach the Word of God–a massive responsibility in itself–a church leader (an elder or pastor) must also model the character of Christ with his life. Based on 1 Timothy 3:1-7, Titus 1:5-9,  and 1 Peter 5:1-4, the following questions provide a good starting point for identifying godly leaders in the church. These lists are taken from David Platt’s commentary on 1 Timothy 3:1-13 (Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in 1 & Timothy and Titus, 57-58).

    In His Personal Life    

    • Is he self-controlled?
    • Is he wise?
    • Is he peaceable?
    • Is he gentle?
    • Is he a sacrificial giver?
    • Is he humble?
    • Is he patient?
    • Is he honest?
    • Is he disciplined?

    In His Family Life

    • Is he the elder in his home?
    • If he’s single, is he self-controlled?
    • If he’s married, is he completely committed to his wife?
    • If he has children, do they honor him?

    In His Social/Business Life

    • Is he kind?
    • Is he hospitable?
    • Is he a friend of strangers?
    • Does he show favoritism?
    • Does he have a blameless reputation (not perfect but above reproach)?

    In His Spiritual Life

    • Is he making disciples of all nations?
    • Does he love the Word?
    • Is he a man of prayer?
    • Is he holy?
    • Is he gracious?

    No man will fulfill these qualifications perfectly, but on the whole, these are qualities that ought to mark the life of a church leader. Who in your church comes to mind as you read this list?

     

  7. When You Don’t Know What to Pray For

    Posted on September 22nd, 2014 by David Burnette

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    Prayer is simple, we’re told. It’s as easy as inhaling and exhaling. Just as a newborn baby breathes, so the child of God naturally calls out to his heavenly Father. So, then, in our experience, why is prayer so often difficult and perplexing?

    One reason we may struggle in prayer is because of what Paul calls our “weakness” (Rom 8:26). The apostle isn’t referring to the kind of physical and mental weakness that makes it difficult to concentrate for long periods of time, though that’s certainly a challenge. Paul is talking about our ignorance, or our limited knowledge of God’s ways. The apostle describes our weakness this way: “For we do not know what to pray for as we ought” (Rom 8:26). Of course, broadly speaking, we know to pray for God to be glorified in all things. But that doesn’t mean we always know what to pray for in specific circumstances. Questions remain:

    • Should I ask God to change this difficult situation, or am I just being discontent?
    • Which job should I take? Which school should I attend?
    • How does God want to use me in this season of life? Am I missing his leading?

    How do you pray in situations like these? You know you need help, but you you’re not exactly sure what to ask for. Thankfully, God’s grace and provision are not based on our knowing precisely what to pray. Paul tells us that the Holy Spirit intercedes for us–the Spirit who is divine and who knows the Father’s will perfectly (Rom 8:27). Here’s how one commentator captures the Spirit’s mysterious and hope-giving intercession:

    “Our failure to know God’s will and consequent inability to petition God specifically and assuredly is met by God’s Spirit, who himself expresses to God those intercessory petitions that perfectly match the will of God. When we do not know what to pray for–yes, even when we pray for things that are not best for us–we need not despair, for we can depend on the Spirit’s ministry of perfect intercession ‘on our behalf.'” (1)

    That’s good news for those who don’t have access to God’s perfect knowledge, which is to say, all of us. The same God who designs our weakness also overcomes it through his Holy Spirit. We are free, then, to seek God’s face in prayer and to cast our cares and petitions before him, knowing that even misguided requests will be turned for our good (Rom 8:28). So the next time you don’t know what to ask for, don’t let that stop you from praying. The Holy Spirit knows what you need, and he’s interceding for you.

    – For more on the person and work of the Holy Spirit, see Secret Church 5: Exploring the Holy Spirit.

    (1) Douglas J. Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, 526.

  8. How to Criticize a Preacher, Exercising Headship, & More

    Posted on September 18th, 2014 by Radical

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    What the church needs most today: Robert Godfrey points to Psalm 81 to make the point that the church’s greatest need is to listen to God.

    Abandoning the term pro-choice: John Stonestreet points out that abortion advocates are redefining themselves by taking an even harder “pro-abortion” line. Trevin Wax also wrote about the change–“If the abortion-rights agenda is to succeed, then, abortion must be de-stigmatized.”

    Ministering to those who experience loss: By sharing her personal experience of losing everything in a house fire, Julie Lowe of CCEF helps us think through how to minister to those who experience loss.

    How to criticize a preacher: David Murray gives us ten questions to think through before telling your preacher that he got it “badly wrong.”

    Ten ways for husbands to exercise Christ-like headship: Over at CBMW, Owen Strachan lists ten ways husbands can exercise biblical, Christ-like headship.

  9. John Piper Interviews David Platt

    Posted on September 18th, 2014 by Jonathan

    Several years ago, John Piper sat down with David Platt to ask him some questions about missions and his heart for the unreached. This 30 minute video gives a great glimpse into who David is and what he’s about.

    (HT: Desiring God)

  10. Mid-Term Field Report: “Utilize The Time”

    Posted on September 17th, 2014 by Jonathan

    As many of us are leaving summer behind to return to school or get back into a regular routine at work, Matt is doing no such thing. Life is different for him. Matt lives in Central Asia and was sent out to serve mid-term by The Church at Brook Hill. Mid-term is described as a period of anywhere between two months and two years. For him, school looks more like learning a foreign language, and monotonous routine . . . well, there’s not much of that.

    We asked Matt some questions about his life in Central Asia. Our hope is that his words might challenge those of us tempted to simply survive the next test or deadline. Our lives are intended for more than intention-less routines driven by purposeless attitudes. When we realize that God desires to use us to bring the nations to Himself, and when we hear of brothers and sisters whose devotion to Christ means harsh persecution, we see everything differently. The reality is, we have so much more to live for than the weekend.

    Here’s what Matt had to say . . .

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    What has been the most surprising aspect about serving in this new context?

    Time and time again, my team and I have been surprised at how quickly God answers the prayers of us and our supporters back home, and His answers to these prayers are often even better than we knew to ask for! We shouldn’t be afraid to ask Him to act in big ways to help us reach lost people. He desires and is worthy of the worship of all peoples and is actively working in hearts and lives all across the world.

    What has been the most difficult part of your time there?

    It has been difficult being part of a new team re-engaging a minority people group that has not been worked with for several years. Due to the difficulty of gaining access to our people’s homeland, we are in the process of establishing a business in a nearby country where there is a significant population of our people. This poses many challenges such as learning a minority language with few immersion experiences, balancing business and ministry responsibilities, and justifying to the community why we as Western businessmen spend so much time with this minority people and are learning their language.

    Can you give us your highlight of the trip?

    One of the biggest highlights so far has been growing closer as a team and becoming more like a family.  Being part of such a small team, we spend a lot of time together, and the Lord has used that in teaching us more of what it means to be the body of Christ. Praying, worshiping, and having fun together, holding one another accountable, and being united in a common vision has helped us to encourage one another during the difficult times and overall thrive in our first year on the field.

    What advice would you give to people considering going mid-term?

    Utilize the time before you leave the U.S. to establish routines of engaging lost people where you are currently. Often times, we get caught up in enjoying the benefits of Christian community so much that we rarely put ourselves in places where we are surrounded by the lost. Going mid-term is a weird balance between a sprint and a marathon; the routines you are able to establish before arriving on the field will help you to make the most of the time you have in your new context.

    What advice would you give to friends, family, and church members in terms of how they can support workers like you?

    The way that is most obvious and yet often over-looked is to actively pray for that person, their ministry, and their people. Be proactive in asking for ways to pray for that person and in regularly praying for their boldness and evangelism opportunities. Also, we love hearing from friends, family, and supporters about what is happening back home and how we can be praying for them.

    What is one big takeaway that the the Father has taught you in your experience as a mid-term worker?

    I often feel like I am sitting on the front row watching Him prepare the harvest of these people in a way in which only the Creator of the universe is able! In our first month on the field, He answered our prayers by providing a language teacher, national believer, and friend all with a single person whom He had burdened to return to his family and country (at the risk of his life) to help reach his people with the gospel of Christ. The things we’ve seen happen over the past year are more than coincidences; no doubt the Lord is doing the same type of things in unreached people groups all across the world!

    What is one thing you have learned from the national brothers and sisters that you are partnering with?

    Extreme persecution is normal, expected, and worth the risk for the believers in this part of the world. Coming from a place, like the U.S, where it is “safe” to be a Christian, it is still difficult to fully understand what these national brothers and sisters experience everyday in living and dying for Christ. That being said, the Lord is using these terrible acts to bring others to faith, grow the church, and advance the gospel of Christ to the most difficult to reach people and places in the world.