Archive for the ‘Featured’ Category

  1. Voskamp_Hudson

    Sophie Quote

    Ann Voskamp and Sophie Hudson recently sat down with Pastor David and his wife, Heather, to talk about a number of topics surrounding this year’s Secret Church topic, “The Cross and Everyday Life.”  Ann is the author of One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are and she blogs at “A Holy Experience.” Sophie is the author of A Little Salty to Cut the Sweet: Southern Stories of Faith, Family, and Fifteen Pounds of Bacon and she blogs over at “BooMama.”

    Ann and Sophie each bring a unique perspective to this discussion in their respective roles as wife, mother, author, and blogger. Yesterday we posted our interview with Ann about Secret Church and how the gospel impacts everyday life. Today we put Sophie on the hot-seat.

    Sophie …

    SophieTell us a little about your involvement with Secret Church and how it has impacted you.

    Sophie:  Since we’re members at Brook Hills, I remember the first time David announced that we were going to do Secret Church. I tried to listen really carefully as he went over some of the details–it would help us identify with the persecuted church, it would be six hours of intensive Bible study, it would be on a Friday night–and because I am so deeply spiritual, my first reaction was, “Oh. Bless his heart. I just don’t know that people are going to show up for that.”

    Clearly I’ve been given the gift of prophecy.

    I ended up volunteering to help at either the second or third Secret Church, and I was blown away. For one thing I was so moved by the sight of all the college students who showed up at our church and gave up their Friday nights to study the Bible. But the biggest thing for me has been that when you get to cover that much scriptural ground in one sitting, it is utterly encouraging (and oh-so-humbling) to be reminded of the consistency of God’s character, the depth of His love, and the sufficiency of the cross. So, despite my ROCK SOLID initial reaction, now I totally get why people all over the world participate in Secret Church via simulcast. It’s an incredibly edifying and convicting and affirming six hours. There’s no agenda other than the faithful proclamation of what God reveals to us through His Word.

    And I also think that the later Secret Church gets, the funnier David gets. But that is just my personal observation.

    You’ve got a new book coming out next year … can you tell us a little about what you’re working on? 

    Sophie:  Oh, it’s pretty much exactly like Radical and Follow Me, except I added in an exegetical take on the book of Leviticus because I was feeling bored and needed a challenge.

    I kid.

    It’s actually going to be another book of Southern stories. For my last book (A Little Salty to Cut the Sweet), David planned a ten-week sermon series on it but called it off after the first week because he felt like it had more rich theological content than he could possibly cover. Actually, that didn’t happen at all–the book is mostly about God’s faithfulness to us through our families. This new one, which I think is going to be called Home Is Where My People Are, is a little more focused on friendship and how God faithfully puts the right people in our lives at the right times. It’s scheduled to be released in February of 2015, but that’s all dependent on whether or not I finish writing it. FINGERS CROSSED.

    Your focus on family fits with an issue we’ll cover in Secret Church 14–how husbands and wives treat one another. So how should the gospel inform these relationships? 

    Sophie:  So you know how you’ll be at church and you’ll see a couple in the congregation who have this amazing zeal for service and they talk about how, from the early days of their marriage, all they’ve wanted is to serve the Lord together and make His name known and leave a rich spiritual legacy for their kids? I love those couples. But that is not the story of my marriage.

    When David and I got married almost 17 years ago, we didn’t have the faintest idea about how the gospel should inform our relationship. I mean, we wanted to treat each other well and love each other well and all that, but in terms of the parallels between the gospel and marriage … I don’t think we’d have been able to articulate that, even after growing up in the church.

    But here’s why it’s so cool that God doesn’t leave us where He finds us. By His grace, He has shown both of us that the gospel is not just the foundation of our marriage; it is the purpose of our marriage. We die to ourselves and love each other and sacrifice for each other and lovingly confront each other and support each other, not so that we can be happy, but so that God can be glorified. That doesn’t mean that marriage is daily misery that we endure, because the kicker to this whole thing is that there is such joy and contentment in lovingly surrendering and submitting yourself to another person. Marriage has been one of the most sanctifying experiences of my life, no doubt about it, but by the same token it has been such a privilege to see the Lord do amazing things in the life and heart of my husband. I am unspeakably grateful for that.

    As for parenting: How much time do you have? Every moment of parenting parallels something in my relationship with God. I can’t think about how much David and I love our son without thinking of one of my favorite hymns: “How deep the Father’s love for us, how vast beyond all measure; that He would give His only Son, to make a wretch His treasure.” For me, motherhood has exposed every insecurity I have, every tendency to compare and keep score and feel like all the other mamas have everything under control and I’m the only train wreck in the bunch. But what I’ve learned is that I don’t have to be a perfect mama with a perfect child in order to be in the center of God’s perfect will. Motherhood is messy and wonderful and difficult and glorious; I will never get over how the Lord teaches us as we teach the little ones He’s entrusted to us. Yes, it can be a hard road to travel sometimes, but let’s not miss that the road leads us to healing, redemptive places.

    We’re also going to be talking about sports, and it’s no secret that you’re a huge sports fan—Mississippi State to be exact. So what are the dangers and blessings of sports as you see it? 

    Sophie:  Well, I’ve always been very level-headed and even-keeled where sports are concerned.

    And now I’m just gonna sit here and wait for some lightning to strike me (!)

    Listen. I love me some sports. My daddy and I always went to Mississippi State games (football, baseball, basketball – you name it) when I was growing up, and even now that is my favorite thing to do as a family. Just this morning, in fact, I felt a little giddy when I realized that the SEC baseball tournament is just a little over a month away because our family just enjoys the fire out of it.

    Given all of that, I am all too aware that sports can take on a significance in my life that is neither merited nor healthy. It’s so easy to get caught up in the stories and the games and the drama, especially living here in the heart of the SEC. So I am forever asking the Lord to help me keep that part of my heart and my life in check. It gets tricky with kids’ sports, too. As parents, we can take something that’s so good for our children–being on a team, sacrificing for teammates, learning to work with others–and taint that thing with our pride and our egos and our expectations.

    I have learned (and I am still learning) that there’s a big difference between enjoying something and elevating it to god-like status in my life. If sports are a hobby, that’s awesome. But if sports are an idol, that’s troublesome. Sometimes that means that I have to distance myself from the message boards, and I’ve pretty much quit listening to sports radio altogether. That’s not because those things are bad; that’s just because my preoccupation with those things can start to create a barrier in my relationship with the Lord and change my priorities in a way that’s not necessarily wise.

    All that being said, there can be so many blessings that come from sports. There are physical benefits from playing and participating, and sports are the source of so many of our favorite family memories. I just have to be careful to keep those things in perspective and remember that there is no place in Scripture where Jesus rang a cowbell and screamed, “Hail State.”

    As a wife and mother, why do you think this particular Secret Church topic is so crucial?

    Sophie:  It’s everything, isn’t it? I mean, I can have all the head knowledge in the world, I can quote Scripture and sing hymns and memorize the entire book of Psalms, but if I’m not lovingly putting the gospel into practice in my everyday life in terms of how I care for and respond to my family and co-workers and neighbors and people who don’t know Jesus, then some part of my so-called cross-centered life is out of line (I just re-read that last sentence and thought, Um, that’s pretty much the gist of 1 Corinthians 13, and really, Paul says it so much better). Sometimes I think I learn more about where I am in my walk with Christ when I’m standing in line for a car tag than when I’m spending the weekend at a women’s retreat, because the daily stuff is where I see the places in my head and my heart that aren’t fully surrendered (Can we please talk about the opportunities for sanctification that are available to us in the carpool line? Or at Chuck E. Cheese?). Our day-to-day routines are where the sacred and the ordinary intersect, so how we view the gospel absolutely affects how we walk it out in all the different areas of our lives.

    For more information or to register for Secret Church 14, “The Cross and Everyday Life,” go here.

  2. Voskamp_Hudson

    Ann Voskamp and Sophie Hudson recently sat down with Pastor David and his wife, Heather, to talk about a number of topics surrounding this year’s Secret Church topic, “The Cross and Everyday Life.”  Ann is the author of One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are and she blogs at “A Holy Experience.” Sophie is the author of A Little Salty to Cut the Sweet: Southern Stories of Faith, Family, and Fifteen Pounds of Bacon and she blogs over at “BooMama.”

    Ann and Sophie each bring a unique perspective to this discussion in their respective roles as wife, mother, author, and blogger. We decided to post their answers in two parts – Ann’s post is below and Sophie’s will appear tomorrow. In this first post, we asked Ann several questions about how the gospel impacts her everyday life.

    So Ann…

    What are you working on these days? (family, church, writing, etc.)

    Anna VoskampAnn:  There’s the raising and teaching of our 6 exuberant kids, including 4 teenagers, and then there’s the attempt to go deeper with the families in the small group that we host and lead. I’m also studying Scripture and writing the next book out of that time of studying. But you know, as our family has been reading and memorizing the book of John this year, I keep returning to John 6:29 (Amplified Bible): “Jesus replied, ‘This is the work (service) that God asks of you: that you believe in the One Whom He has sent [that you cleave to, trust, rely on, and have faith in His Messenger].’” Jesus is saying that our realest work always is, no matter what we’re doing with our hands, to trust Him. Unless I choose again and again today to trust Jesus, what I am practicing is atheism, not faith. So no matter what the work is, the real work is to trust God and His unwavering, ultimate goodness and the complete and saving work of Christ on the cross. That’s the work everyday: I. Trust. You. Jesus.

    You’ve previously been involved with Secret Church through live-tweeting. What makes the topic “The Cross and Everyday Life” so important?

    Ann:  I will never forget the words David Platt preached the Sunday I was at Brook Hills, only a few weeks before Christmas. He said, “Your only hope for joy, your only hope for peace, your only hope for comfort, your only hope for strength and your only hope for love in this life … is found in the cross of Jesus Christ. Your only hope in this life is found in the brutal, bloody, humiliation of a naked man on a wooden post. My hope is that you go out of this building clinging to the cross of Christ.” And THAT is the crux of everything. Sometimes I wonder if we see the cross simply as our door into God’s presence instead of regarding it as our only air in God’s presence. We don’t get over the cross, but rather we spend a lifetime allowing God to get the cross into us. Christ said it on the cross: It is finished, and Christ finished it, but I am never finished with the cross. I need a cross-centered life if I am going to live the Christ-filled life. The cross is the sign of God’s lavish, unfathomable affection for us, and we need the cross daily because of these two realities: 1) How else can I remember that He loves me? 2) How else can I remember how to die daily? We need a place of execution in our lives if we’re ever to rightly execute a life of faith. Bottom line: If my life isn’t cross-centered, my life is off-centered, and the warping spin leaves me sick. My life needs centri-faith force and the centrality of the cross is the force that holds together my universe. Grace is my gravity and the Cross is my cosmos. If everything in my world is spinning out of control, is it because I’ve lost the centrality of the cross? The Cross isn’t just the kindling that ignites our Christian life … the cross is the very fuel of all of our life. If the the cross of Christ isn’t your everyday fuel, the fire you warm your heart around, then you grow cold. Your faith goes nowhere. So God never moves us beyond the cross; He moves more deeply into the cross, and then we are so moved by this grace that we move out into the world.

    In One Thousand Gifts you’ve written about being grateful for God’s everyday gifts. How do you see this idea overlapping with this year’s Secret Church theme? How does gratitude fit in with the gospel?

    Ann:  I read in Scripture that the gospel shapes us in two fundamental ways, much like what we see happening at the gathering of the Last Supper:

    1) The shape of the Christ-life is eucharistic — Jesus takes the bread and does what? He gives thanks, eucharisteo in Greek (the original biblical language). So the shape of the Christ-life is firstly eucharistic, full of gratitude for the incomprehensible grace of the constant goodness of God, thankfulness for the saving grace of Christ, endless gratefulness for the relentless love and companionship of Jesus and His tender sanctification of our souls. Because of Christ, the call on our life is nothing short of wholesale gratitude.

    2) We see how, at the Last Supper, the shape of the Christ-life is secondly cruciform. The shape of our lives should be cross-like, full of cross-like sacrifice. Jesus took that bread, gave thanks for it, and then broke it and gave it. How does our everyday life look like Christ did in that moment of breaking the bread, symbolic of His body, and of giving Himself away? How do we, on a daily basis, embody the cross, the sacrificial love that we’ve experienced, and then pass it on to a hurting world? If our lives don’t look eucharistic, full of gratitude, or cruciform, sacrificially shaped like the cross, then how will we bring the good news to the world?

    What do everyday routines and responsibilities look like for you as the wife of a farmer, a mom to six, a homeschooler, and a writer?

    Ann:  Gritty. Loud. A bit of a crucible. A gift. We have 6 kids, 8 to 18. All the kids work for 2-3 hours each morning in the barn doing barn chores, taking care of hundreds of sows and piglets. Then they come in for breakfast, then morning routines, which fold into math, Latin, grammar, and spelling. After lunch, we have read-alouds covering literature, history, science, Shakespeare, poetry, and then piano practices. I write in the margins, the fringe hours, early morning, late at night.

    TableBy far, the routine that most anchors our days and shapes us is that we eat around the table together three meals a day, and we never, ever leave the table without chewing The Real Bread. If you sit down to eat, you never leave the table without eating Words — you have time for Real Food. Because we just came to realize that the food served on plates … is actually dead food. The food we eat has to be kept in the fridge like a corpse, or it would rot. The food we serve on plates is dead food. But when we eat Scripture, we eat the only real food, for Christ is Living Bread. We are eating He who sustains all things, body and soul. When we eat His Words, we eat of the eternal Word. Deuteronomy 8:3 says, ” … man does not live by bread only, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord” (Amplified Bible). The Word of God is what is living and active; it’s a Word that can revive the hungry, and when we eat the Book, the cells in the body, they rejuvenate, enlivened with the true strength. Eating Scripture three times a day as a family around the table … that’s the everyday routine, the one spiritual habit that has most changed us. A body, famished, needs to eat and there’s only one way to eat life. This was actually so paramount to us that we had a table built for our family (by the same carpenter who built the house I grew up in). The table was built out of barn beams and it has eight drawers around all around it, so each person has a drawer at the table with their Bible in it. So when we are done eating, each child opens his/her drawer and takes out real food and we read Scripture together around the table. Because really, to live Christ-centric is to live Word-Centric.

    –Stay tuned for tomorrow’s interview with Sophie Hudson. For more information or to register for Secret Church 14, “The Cross and Everyday Life,” go here.

  3. Secret Church Interview with the Erwin Brothers, Part 1

    Posted on April 8th, 2014 by Jonathan Lenning

    Andy and Jon Erwin are followers of Christ. But they are also filmmakers. They made October Baby and are currently working on another feature-length film called Mom’s Night Out, in theaters this Mother’s Day weekend. In the short video below, they were gracious enough to tell us how the gospel led them to the entertainment industry and how it affects their work as filmmakers. Entertainment and work are two of the many topics that will be covered this Good Friday at Secret Church 14, “The Cross and Everyday Life.” There’s still time to register and participate in the simulcast!

    Stay tuned in the coming days for more from the Erwin brothers on “The Cross and Everyday Life.”

  4. 3 Comments

    Suggested Resources on Family Worship from Matt Mason

    Posted on March 31st, 2014 by David Burnette

    Pages of a book

    In our recent interview with Matt Mason on family worship, we asked him for some resource recommendations. He gave us a boatload of good suggestions, so we decided to include those separately in the post below.

    Here are some books Matt recommends for you and your family along with some brief descriptions…

    Family Worship: In the Bible, in History & in Your Home (Donald Whitney). I brought it with me on a personal retreat several years ago, and God used it to awaken me to the biblical call and the beauty of family worship. I read it through many tears. A short, but potentially life-changing book.

    Once you’re convinced of the value of family worship, here are some resources we’ve found useful for family worship…

    • The Big Picture Story Bible (David Helm).  If you have young children, this is a must have resource. Simple but gospel-rich storytelling. Great pictures.
    • The Jesus Storybook Bible (Sally Lloyd-Jones).  Another must have for those with young children. Beautiful pictures and writing. Like Big Picture, the author connects each Bible story to the Bible’s central character and central message, Christ and His saving work.
    • Mighty Acts of God (Starr Meade).  Much like the previous, except that it gives more detail and tells more stories. It’s a good Bible to let your reading-age son/daughter take to bed and begin his/her personal times of reading Scripture.
    • Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing (Sally Lloyd-Jones).  I heard someone say that one of the great signs of maturity in faith is seen in one’s increasing ability to connect the gospel to everything in life. This book is a primer on seeing how the gospel relates to everyday life.
    • God’s Mighty Acts in Salvation (Starr Meade).  A study through the book of Galatians. Begins with a brief Bible reading (a verse or two) followed by a devotional unpacking of the significance of that verse or verses for our lives as people who love Jesus and want to keep the gospel central in our thinking and living. Readings take roughly 5-10 minutes.
    • Note to Self  (Thorn). Gospel meditations based on the reading of a verse or brief passage of Scripture. Good for older kids. The devotional readings take roughly 5-10 minutes.
    • Grandpa’s Box: Retelling the Biblical Story of Redemption (Starr Meade).  Meade uses a story of children visiting their grandpa as the backdrop for teaching the one big story of the Bible. In one biblical episode after another, the Grandpa shows the unfolding progression of how the serpent-conquering Seed of the woman (prophesied about in Gen 3:15) peeks through throughout the OT and then appears in living color in the NT. Readings can take (if memory serves) 10+ minutes, so it’s probably better for older kids (maybe 8 and up).
    • Big Truths for Young Hearts (Bruce Ware).  Devotional chapters written to unpack major doctrines (God as Creator, etc.). Can be doctrinally heavy (in a good way). For older kids. Readings take about 15 minutes.

    Some resources for bedtime reading, road trips, etc….

    • Dangerous Journey (Hunkin/Bunyan). An easy to read (and with pictures!) version of Bunyan’s classic, Pilgrim’s Progress. Younger ones will have a hard time comprehending it all and (warning) some pictures are gruesome.
    • Keeping Holiday (Starr Meade).  A Christian allegory akin to Pilgrim’s Progress. Excellent portrayals of how temptation works and many other biblical motifs. Great refrains about “the Finder.” Older kids (maybe from 8+) will get the most out of it.

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  5. An Intro to Spiritual Disciplines with Dr. Donald Whitney

    Posted on March 17th, 2014 by David Burnette

    Donald S. WhitneySimply mention the term spiritual disciplines and many believers cringe.

    Maybe that’s you. You already feel convicted by your own lack of discipline, or perhaps your schedule seems so hectic that you can’t imagine plopping guilt on top of it. Either way, I hope this interview with Dr. Donald Whitney will challenge and encourage you to pursue Christ through these graciously-given means known as spiritual disciplines.

    Dr. Donald Whitney is the Associate Professor of Biblical Spirituality as well as the Associate Dean of the School of Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. Dr. Whitney has authored a number of books, including Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian LifeSince the topic of spiritual disciplines will be covered in our upcoming Secret Church 14, “The Cross and Everyday Life,” we’re grateful Dr. Whitney agreed to answer the following questions to give us an introduction to this important topic …

    1. What is a spiritual discipline, and can you list some of the foundational spiritual disciplines?

    Dr. Whitney: First Timothy 4:7 says, “Discipline yourself for the purpose of Godliness” (NASB). The kind of discipline that promotes Godliness isn’t physical (see v. 8), but spiritual. Thus the practical, biblical ways by which followers of Christ pursue Christlikeness have historically been called spiritual disciplines.

    So the spiritual disciplines are those personal and interpersonal activities given by God in the Bible as the sufficient means believers in Jesus Christ are to use in the Spirit-filled, gospel-centered pursuit of Godliness, that is, closeness to Christ and conformity to Christ.

    Specifically, the foundational spiritual practices involve the personal and interpersonal disciplines involving the intake of God’s Word, prayer, and worship. The other disciplines—including fellowship, serving, taking the Lord’s Supper, etc.—flow from or are interwoven with these.

    2. What are some of the most common obstacles to practicing the spiritual disciplines on a day-to-day basis?

    Dr. Whitney: The first thing that comes to mind, of course, is the relentlessness of our schedules and the avalanche of our responsibilities. And certainly this is part of the battle. When we feel overloaded with life—which is most of the time—an exhortation to practice the spiritual disciplines can make us feel like an exhausted juggler, struggling to keep half-a-dozen family heirloom plates in the air while someone is trying to toss us a few more.

    But the reality often is that we simply have not made priorities of the spiritual disciplines. It’s not that we fail to practice the disciplines only because we have no time—our devotion to TV, Facebook, and Netflix prove that we regularly do have some discretionary time. Rather it’s more often that we do not practice the spiritual disciplines because we do not plan to, whether time is available or not. Snow days, vacation days, and holidays result in no more time in the disciplines than any other days.

    I should also mention that boredom with or a lack of a sense of blessing experienced through the disciplines is also an obstacle. Many—and I am speaking of truly converted people here, those indwelled by the Holy Spirit—find themselves bored in prayer, for example. I believe the root problem here is usually one of method, as when a person prays and regularly says the same old things about the same old things. As a result they struggle to pray except out of a sense of mere duty or obligation. The simple, biblical solution to that is a change in method to one of praying through a passage of Scripture

    3. How does our practice of spiritual disciplines relate to the gospel?

    Dr. Whitney: Most importantly we need to realize that practicing the spiritual disciplines—no matter how faithfully, consistently, or sacrificially—does nothing to endear us to God. The gospel is not a message of what we must do for God in order to overcome the offense of our sins and become acceptable to Him, rather it is a message of what God has done for us in Jesus Christ in order to bring us to Himself.

    Once we accept the message of the gospel and receive credit for the righteousness of Christ and are indwelled by the Holy Spirit, the spiritual disciplines become the means by which we enjoy God and are transformed more into conformity to Christ.

    It is by means of the biblical spiritual disciplines believers in the gospel of Jesus focus on the person and work of Jesus. Through them we learn from, gaze upon, and enjoy who Jesus is and what He has done. By means of the disciplines we find the truths of the gospel restoring our souls. As we engage in the spiritual disciplines given by God in Scripture, we should continually sense our need for Christ and find the infinite supply of grace and mercy to be found by faith in Jesus Christ.

    To register for the upcoming Secret Church 14, “The Cross and Everyday Life,” or to find out more information about Secret Church, go to www.secretchurch.org.

  6. J.D. Greear on the Gospel and Everyday Routines

    Posted on March 11th, 2014 by David Burnette

    greear.php_Sure, the gospel is necessary for our conversion, but what role does it play after that? How does it shape our everyday lives? Pastor and author J.D. Greear has answered a few questions for us on this very topic. J.D. is a pastor at The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina, as well as an author and a blogger.

    J.D.’s book Gospel is particularly relevant to the topic of our upcoming Secret Church 14, “The Cross and Everyday Life.” That’s why we’re grateful he agreed to answer the following questions….

    1. How should a recovery of the gospel affect everyday tasks, responsibilities, and routines? 

    Download  /  By Alejandro Escamilla

    For years now I have begun every day with “The Gospel Prayer” (see below), a tool that I’ve found helpful in steeping my mind and heart in the truths of the gospel.

    Sometimes people in the gospel-centered movement seem ill-at-ease with spiritual disciplines, as if forcing yourself into a habit automatically spells legalism. True, devoid of the gospel, such disciplines will become legalistic and empty. But the entire purpose of daily disciplines is to give us an opportunity to think about, and meditate on, and move within the gospel. Practicing spiritual disciplines is like cutting furrows that faith in the gospel can fill with new life. The discipline has no power in itself, but provides a context in which God form the affections of faith. And ironically enough, our obedience to God when we don’t “feel” like it can even be an act of faith in and of itself, a cry to God can change our hearts.

     2. How can we tell from a practical standpoint if we’re not being motivated by the gospel in our everyday routines?

     Well, start each day with the assumption that overnight your heart got re-steeped in idolatry. John Calvin said that the human heart is an “idol factory,” constantly coming up with new things to replace God, new ways to have a life of happiness and power without God.

    Ask yourself some diagnostic questions: What one thing do I have to have today to be happy? What made me feel the most significant yesterday? Where did I turn for comfort when things weren’t going well? These questions can reveal certain patterns in our lives—where our heart runs for meaning, satisfaction, and comfort.  As St. Augustine said, things like worry, fear, sadness, and jealousy are “smoke from the fires” rising from the altars of our idolatry. Follow the trail of that smoke and you’ll see where you have substituted the gospel for something else.

     3. How would you counsel a believer who is beginning to notice that his daily life is disconnected from the truths of the gospel?

    Our hearts are hard-wired towards works-righteousness, so we need to constantly saturate ourselves in the gospel. If we don’t, our natural drift will always be away from those crucial truths. As I said in question 1, I’ve prayed a specific prayer every day for years now to remind myself of the gospel. I simply call it, “The Gospel Prayer.” It’s not magical, but it’s a tool to train your mind in the patterns of the gospel:

    1. In Christ, there is nothing I can do that would make You love me more, and nothing I have done that makes You love me less.
    2. Your presence and approval are all I need for everlasting joy.
    3. As You have been to me, so I will be to others.
    4. As I pray, I’ll measure Your compassion by the cross and Your power by the resurrection.

    To register for Secret Church 14, “The Cross and Everyday Life,” and to get more information about Secret Church, go to www.secretchurch.org.

  7. Kevin DeYoung on Busyness and the Christian Life

    Posted on March 4th, 2014 by David Burnette

    busy

    We don’t usually think about busyness as a spiritual issue, but as pastor and author Kevin DeYoung reminds us in his latest book, Crazy Busy, we need to stop and consider what is for many believers today a massive problem.

    Kevin is a pastor at University Reformed Church in East Lansing, Michigan. He has authored several books and his blog over at TGC -  “DeYoung, Restless, and Reformed” – is worth visiting regularly.

    The fact that busyness affects how we follow Jesus on an everyday basis makes it extremely relevant to our upcoming Secret Church 14, “The Cross and Everyday Life.” That’s another reason we’re glad Pastor Kevin was willing to answer the following questions on this important topic.

    So Kevin…

    1. How can someone determine whether their level of busyness is normal or an indication of a deeper problem?

    Busyness itself is not the problem. God made Adam to labor in the Garden and He made it good. We have been created for good works, which means we have work to do. Any Christian who cares about people will seek to bear the burdens of others. Clearly, inactivity is not the goal of godliness.

    Having said all that, obviously some busyness is problematic. We all know and feel that—some of us every day. To determine what is healthy busyness and what is not, I’d start by looking for sin’s symptoms. Am I losing my patience more than I used to? Do I find myself easily angered? Have I lost the joy of my salvation? Then I would take a look at the patterns in my life. Am I taking a regular Sabbath? Do I have habits of feasting and fasting, work and rest, leisure and labor? Do I seem to be working all the time and actually getting less done? Finally, I try to ask myself this simple diagnostic question: am I trying to do good to others or look good before others? If we’re honest, so much of our busyness is about people-pleasing, pride, and positioning ourselves for earthly applause.

    2. How is our busyness, or at least our feeling of busyness, a gospel issue?

    It could be a gospel issue in a number of ways. If busyness chokes out the seed of God’s word (like in the parable of the sower and the soils), that’s a gospel issue. If busyness is a convenient way to cover up the rot in my own soul—or make me forget that I even have a soul—that’s a gospel issue. If I am trying to do everything for God to such an extent that I don’t find any joy in God, that’s a gospel issue. And perhaps most seriously, busyness is a gospel issue when I keep running at breakneck speed just to prove myself to my parents, prove myself to the world, or prove myself to God. If we can’t come to Christ, take his light and easy yoke upon us and rest in him, then we haven’t understood the gospel at all.

    3. In your book Crazy Busy you mention one thing busy people (and all people) must do. Can you summarize that one thing?

    The one thing we must do is sit at the feet of Jesus. I know that sounds super-spiritual, or worse, like one more thing to do. But it’s the point of Jesus’ interaction with Mary and Martha in Luke 10. Martha is trying to be a great host, but all her preparations matter for nothing if she neglects the Host in our midst. Jesus gently rebukes Martha for being frazzled and bothered by lesser things, when Mary has chosen the better part, namely, to listen to Jesus and learn from him. It’s not a silver bullet, but I really believe if we could make it a priority to take an hour each day, or 20 minutes, or a regular five minutes to slowly read the Bible and pray, we would begin to see Spirit-prompted changes. It’s no accident that Luke was inspired to put the Mary-Martha story at the end of chapter 10, after the sending out of the 72 disciples for powerful ministry and after the parable of the Good Samaritan. It’s the Lord’s way of telling us: look, you can cast out demons, you can preach, you can heal, you can stop by the side of the road to help the sick and dying, but if you don’t spend time with me, you are neglecting the very thing I want most from you: to sit at my feet.

  8. 1 Comment

    Are We Worshiping Sports?

    Posted on February 7th, 2014 by Jonathan Lenning

    In the wake of Super Bowl XLVIII, Albert Mohler commented on a recent essay published in The Washington Post titled “Is Religion Losing Ground To Sports?” Their answer was yes, and so was Mohler’s. According to him,

    Sports StadiumThe fastest-growing segment of the American public in terms of religious identification is the ‘nones,’ designating those who identify with no religious tradition at all. At the same time, a religious dedication to sports has been growing. While correlation does not prove causation, the links between these two developments are haunting.

    How is it haunting? Mohler pointed out the undying devotion of adolescent athletes and their parents who scarcely miss a practice, much less a game, while simultaneously, “team sports activities or other forms of organized athletics have taken many evangelical families away from church activities.” What is the object of our worship? To top off this sobering comparison, he metaphorically referred to the stadium in which next year’s already-anticipated Super Bowl will be held as a “cathedral” and the travel of the masses to it as a “pilgrimage.”

    Given the wild popularity of athletics in our cultural climate today, this is one of the topics that David Platt will focus on in the upcoming Secret Church simulcast, “The Cross and Everyday Life.” As you’ll see in the below clip, though he is not opposed to sports, he resonates with Albert Mohler when it comes to the haunting correlation between the (often idolatrous) devotion people have to sports and the seeming lack of devotion they have to the church. Register for the April 18 simulcast to hear him unpack this a little bit more and explain how the gospel compels us to engage in sports in a healthy way.

  9. 5 Things We Can Learn From Flawed Biblical Characters

    Posted on January 29th, 2014 by David Burnette

    One of the striking features of our great heroes of the faith, these men and women who shut the mouths of lions, conquered foreign armies, and helped rescue God’s people, is … their flaws. And by flaws I mean their sins and weaknesses.

    I was recently reminded of this reading through Genesis 15-16.  Abraham, the man who was counted righteous by believing God’s miraculous promise of countless descendants and worldwide blessing, turns around in the very next chapter and tries to help God out by having a child with a woman who was not his wife. Go and figure.

    And it’s not just Abraham: Noah got drunk right after being delivered through a worldwide flood of destruction; Moses got impatient with the God who had parted the Red Sea; David committed adultery and murder after being promised an eternal dynasty. The list goes on and on.

    Things don’t get any better when you turn to the New Testament. Jesus’ disciples heard His teaching and saw His miracles, but the Gospels are filled with accounts of their hard-hearted lack of faith. They even got to perform healings and exercise demons in Jesus’ name (Matt 10:5-10), yet they abandoned the Savior in his dying hour. Not exactly encouraging.

    So what are we to make of these way-less-than-perfect characters? I want to suggest five benefits of noticing the flaws of the “heroes” we encounter in Scripture:

    1. Flawed characters help us personally identify with the truth.

    When we only think of biblical characters in terms of their highlight reels, it’s easy to get discouraged. Their experience feels like it’s from another planet. But a careful reading of these biblical accounts leaves us with a different picture: we read of people who committed terrible sins and showed surprisingly little faith despite all God’s blessings. It’s people like you and me. Their weaknesses help us identify with what we’re reading. God can and will work in us too.

    2. Flawed characters put God’s mercy on display.

    Sinful characters help us see how patient God is. He uses people, not because of their righteousness and devotion, but because of his undeserved love. King David’s courage is inspiring, to be sure, but God’s forgiveness of David’s illicit affair and subsequent arranged murder is simply stunning. It’s mercy through and through.

    3. Flawed characters remind us of God’s transforming power.

    Once we cue in to the flaws and ingrained sin of the biblical characters, their faith and obedience is even more amazing. Think about it: these former rebels stepped into fiery furnaces, walked on water, and got sawn in two (see Hebrews 11). That’s a testimony to the power of God’s saving work. He overcomes our sinful nature and gives us a faith that overcomes the world (1 Jn 5:4).

    4. Flawed characters remind us that God is supreme.

    When our heroes are unmasked for who they really are, we are less tempted to exalt them. It is God who is making a great name for himself. We may march around the city, be He is the one who tears down Jericho’s walls. In fact, God has told us that he chooses the weak and the despised so that we can’t brag about our accomplishments (1 Cor 1:26-31). He is supreme.

    5. Flawed characters point us to Jesus.

    Against the backdrop of all these flawed characters in Scripture, Jesus stands out like a diamond on a backdrop of black velvet. His power, His wisdom, His compassion, and His unflinching devotion to God. We never see Jesus stumble in thought, word, or deed. He alone fulfilled God’s law, always walking in obedience to His Father. Seeing other biblical characters fail reminds us that we must put our trust in Another. Only Jesus can say without qualification, “Follow Me.”

    – Image/Photo credit

  10. One-Time Resolutions and the Everyday Christian Life

    Posted on January 21st, 2014 by David Burnette

    SC 14 Radical Web ThumbSome of the most unforgettable encounters with Jesus in Scripture involve someone forsaking everything to follow Him. Of course, every believer is called to renounce everything for Christ (Lk 14:33), but I’m talking about those accounts where someone tangibly gives up his occupation or his earthly possessions.

    Think of Zacchaeus giving away half his goods, Matthew leaving his tax booth, or Peter, James, and John saying goodbye to their fishing nets and their families. The lesson from Scripture is clear: when we come to Jesus, He takes priority over everyone and everything else in our lives.

    These encounters with Jesus are vivid pictures of His authority and the response we owe Him, truths which we must continue to trumpet in a culture, even a Christian culture, that thinks lightly of Christ’s lordship. However, it’s possible for us to read these encounters (out of context) and get the wrong impression: a one-time resolution to surrender everything for Jesus is not the whole of the Christian life.

    Following Jesus is a daily pursuit. Simply look at the lives of His disciples, these men who left everything to follow their Lord, and you’ll find individuals who continued to struggle with sin, unbelief, and treasuring Christ above the opinions of men. Even after Pentecost, Peter had to be soundly and publicly rebuked by Paul for his hypocrisy (Gal 2:11-14). Not exactly a picture of a fully sanctified man!

    Jesus speaks of this everyday aspect of following Him in Luke 9:23: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” Taking up your cross is a day-in, day-out process that involves repenting of sin and trusting in Christ’s promises. It means continually putting to death your selfish desires and pursuing that which brings glory to Christ. And the good news is that God empowers us to do this with joy by His grace in the gospel. He declares us to be righteous once and for all at the moment of our conversion, but the process of becoming more like Jesus plays out over a lifetime.

    In light of these truths, we don’t simply need to think of grand resolutions we plan to make for the kingdom someday (not a bad thing necessarily), but perhaps more importantly we need to ask questions like…

    Am I daily dying to my sinful desires?

    Am I daily trusting in Christ’s death and resurrection for my standing with God?

    Am I resting in God’s provision instead of seeking security and happiness in other things?

    These are the kinds of questions we’ll be led to ask in this upcoming Secret Church, “The Cross and Everyday Life.” We’ll be exploring how the gospel of Christ’s death and resurrection affects everything about us, from the time we roll out of bed in the morning to the time our head hits the pillow at night. This is what it means to follow Jesus.

    Will you join us in thinking through these important questions?