Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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Movie Review ~ Cinderella

CinderellaCinderella, Rated PG
****

Before the feature film, we saw the entertaining seven-minute short Frozen Fever, which reunites the characters and song writers from Frozen, the highest grossing animated film in history, generating $1.3 billion since its release in November, 2013. The plot focuses on Anna’s birthday preparations that are complicated by Elsa catching a cold. Yesterday Disney officially announced the sequel to Frozen, with directors Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck once again on board for the new full-length film.

Disney’s new live action version of its 1950 animated Cinderella classic is directed by Kenneth Branagh (Thor, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit). It is a triumph, stays close to the original, is beautifully filmed and features a good cast and wonderful costumes.

Young Ella (Eloise Webb) is very happy, living with her loving parents and animal friends in a country mansion. But Ella’s mother (Hayley Atwell) suddenly gets ill and dies. After a number of years Ella’s father (Ben Chaplin) marries a widow, Lady Tremaine (Cate Blanchett) who has two daughters Ella’s age, Anastasia (Holliday Grainger) and Drisella (Sophie McShera, Daisy from Downton Abbey). The older Ella/Cinderella is well played by Lily James, who also plays Lady Rose on Downton Abbey.

When Ella’s father dies while away on a trip, Ella is no longer treated as a daughter, but instead, after all of the staff are released, Ella is treated cruelly, being forced to live in the attic and clean and cook for her stepmother and stepsisters. However, instead of turning bitter, she lives by what her dying mother told her – to have courage and be kind.

From there, you know the rest of the Cinderella story. Ella is renamed Cinderella by her stepsisters after one day she is seen covered in ashes (cinders). Helena Bonham Carter portrays Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother, the Scottish actor Richard Madden (Robb Stark on Game of Thrones), portrays the prince and British classical actor Derek Jacobi his father, the ailing king.

I very much enjoyed this film which is appropriate for all ages.  This film has a wonderful message of courage, kindness and forgiveness in the face of cruelty, but also that your identity is not defined by other people.  Character matters and (along with being beautiful inside and out) will help to win the heart of the prince.


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This and That …

This and That
THEOLOGY:

  • How Can You Know the Bible Is True? John Piper writes “How can average people, with no scholarly training, and little time to invest in historical studies, know for sure that God has spoken in the Bible? Historically and biblically, one answer that has been given is: “the internal testimony of the Spirit.”
  • What Difference Does an Inerrant Bible Make? Last week, John MacArthur hosted an Inerrancy Summit (read Tim Challies articles on the Summit here). R.C. Sproul writes “Does it matter whether the Bible is errant or inerrant, fallible or infallible, inspired or uninspired? What’s all the fuss about the doctrine of inerrancy? Why do Christians debate this issue? What difference does an inerrant Bible make?”
  • Three Final Reflections from the Inerrancy Summit. Tim Challies shares his final thoughts on last week’s Inerrancy Summit at John MacArthur’s Grace Community Church. Watch the videos of messages from the conference here.
  • Mohler on Inerrancy. Mike Riccardi shares helpful quotes from Albert Mohler from the book Five Views on Biblical Inerrancy.
  • Francis Chan Sermons. You can listen to almost all of his sermons on his website.

MUSIC:

  • New NEEDTOBREATHE Live Album. Live from the Woods will be released April 14.
  • 2015 Ravinia Festival Schedule Released. The Ravinia Festival tucked away in Highland Park, Illinois, is hands-down my favorite place to see a concert. They recently released their 2015 schedule, which includes shows by Switchfoot and NEEDTOBREATHE, Amos Lee, Brian Wilson and many others. And fans of The Good Wife will be interested in the June 19 concert. Check out the entire schedule.
  • Winter Jam Coming to Peoria. Just a reminder that Winter Jam is coming to the Peoria Civic Center, Sunday, March 29 at 6:00pm. Doors open at 5:00pm. Tickets are only available at the door and only cost $10! Artists include Jeremy Camp, Francesca Battistelli, Skillet, For King & Country and others.
  • New Mumford and Sons Album. Wilder Mind won’t be released until May 4, but it is currently sitting at #1 on the iTunes album charts.
  • Kelly Clarkson and Jimmy Fallon “History of Duets”. Did you see Kelly Clarkson and Jimmy Fallon perform the history of duets recently on The Tonight Show?
  • Video of “The Night We Called it a Day” from Bob Dylan. From his album Shadows in the Night.
  • Postcards from Paradise. As a Beatles fan, I enjoyed trying to pick out all of the references to Beatles songs in Ringo Starr’s new song, the title track from his upcoming album.

IN THE NEWS:

BOOKS:

  • New Charles Spurgeon Biography from John Piper. Read about how to download it for free or purchase the physical copy. Jonathan Parnall of Desiring God writes “Drawing on the life and work of Spurgeon, John Piper delivered a message on this topic to a group of pastors twenty years ago. We recently edited that message into a more readable format, and release it to you as the small book, Charles Spurgeon: Preaching Through Adversity. In this book, Piper presents an inspiring vision of gospel ministry and offers practical counsel for how pastors keep going when the times are toughest.”
  • Spurgeon’s Sorrows. Here’s a good review of Zack Eswine’s new book Zack Eswine. Spurgeon’s Sorrows: Realistic Hope for those who Suffer from Depression by Jeff Robinson. Here’s our review of this excellent book. And here’s an interview with Zack about the book on the Confessing Baptist podcast.
  • On My Shelf: Life and Books with Tim Keller. On My Shelf helps you get to know various writers through a behind-the-scenes glimpse into their lives as readers. Matt Smethurst talked with Tim Keller about what’s on his nightstand, books he re-reads, biographies that have shaped him, and more.
  • Adopted for Life, Ten Years Later: What I’ve Learned Since. Russell Moore, who spoke at the recent Ligonier National Conference, writes about what he has learned since his book Adopted for Life was published.
  • ESV Following Jesus Bible. Crossway has announced the forthcoming ESV Following Jesus Bible––a new edition to help kids ages 8–12 understand and enjoy God’s Word. Ideal for the years between a children’s Bible and the more advanced ESV Student Study Bible, the Following Jesus Bible will help kids learn more about the Christian faith and teach them what it means to be a disciple of Jesus.  The ESV Following Jesus Bible is scheduled for publication on March 31, and is available now for pre-order.
  • A Bestselling Book On Tidying Up! David Murray writes “The top-ranked book in the self-help section of the New York Times bestsellers list is The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. That’s right, a book on tidying up has become a bestseller. I suppose anything with “life-changing” in the title is going to attract attention, but that doesn’t fully explain its popularity. I believe that the book’s success is more about the “tidying up” part of the title than the “life-changing” bit. Like all best-selling books, it reveals something about our culture, about our personal lives – that we are in a mess!

CHRISTIAN LIVING:

  • Facebook Obsession and the Anguish of Boredom. Tony Reinke of Desiring God writes “For many users, Facebook is the object we turn to, to satisfy our Boredom-Induced Distraction-Addiction (BIDA). This is when it becomes problematic. Unhealthy Facebook addiction flourishes because we fail to see the cost on our lives. So what are the consequences of boredom-induced compulsive behaviors? Here are three to consider.”
  • How to Persevere in Prayer When You’re Really Stressed Out. Our friend Kevin Halloran writes “Have you ever had one of those days where you just can’t shake your anxiety? No matter what you do, you can’t get your mind off of what is bothering you. You try to pray, but the only words that come out are short, anxiety-soaked cries for help. Right after those short prayers you go right back to worrying. I’ve been there. Truth be told, this article was birthed from an anxiety-ridden prayer session. That prayer session reminded me of a very important truth.”
  • The Top Ten Most Fiercely Defended Traditions in Churches Thom S. Rainer writes “Of course, by “traditions,” I am referring to those extra-biblical customs that become a way of life for many congregations. A tradition is neither inherently good nor bad. Its value or its distraction in a given church really depends on how members treat the traditions. With that in mind, I began noting the most frequently defended traditions in churches. As a corollary, these traditions can also be a potential source of divisiveness. They are ranked here according to the frequency of the comments.”
  • God Wants His Children to Enjoy Creation. David Murray writes “Becoming a Christian means giving up bodily pleasures for spiritual pleasures, right? Wrong. In fact, according to Jonathan Edwards, in his sermon “The Pleasantness of Religion,” Christianity increases pleasure through our bodily senses. He explains how in eight ways.”
  • You Cannot Have Two Masters. Kevin DeYoung writes “You can have two friends. You can have two hobbies. You can even have two jobs. But you cannot have two masters.”
  • We Are All Messy’: Rosaria Butterfield on Loving Our Gay and Lesbian Friends. Enjoy this video of Rosaria Butterfield’s interview with Mark Mellinger. Rosaria spoke at the recent Ligonier Ministries National Conference. You can listen to her message – and all of the other ones – here.
  • Should we have and use credit cards? Randy Alcorn takes a page out of Dave Ramsey’s playbook in this article, but doesn’t go quite as far as Dave who only recommends debit cards, not credit cards.
  • Pray for Those Who Abuse You. John Piper writes “The place to start in praying for our enemies is the prayer that the Lord taught us to pray.”
  • Josh Hamilton and the Monster that Hunts Us All. Jeff Robinson writesThe sin that has hunted Hamilton since he was a teenager found him, again. I whispered a prayer under my breath: “Father, lavish your mercy on Josh Hamilton and his family. And have mercy on us. Let us never forget what hunts us.”
  • Why the Reality of the Resurrection Means You Don’t Need a “Bucket List”. Randy Alcorn writes “But the “bucket list” mentality, that this life is our only chance to ever enjoy adventure and fun, is profoundly unbiblical. It disregards the teaching of the resurrection”.
  • Divine Happiness Superior to Disney Happiness. David Murray writes “While attending the Ligonier National Conference at Disney’s Coronado Springs resort recently, I couldn’t help asking, “What is happiness?” Here I was at the world center of happiness and not many people looked that happy. Admittedly the weather was unseasonably cold, but even so, I didn’t see many smiles among the multitudes of Mickey Mouse-eared children and their stressed-out parents. In contrast, when I walked into and through the Ligonier conference venue, I saw a lot more happiness, I sensed a lot more joy, and I heard a lot more laughter. Who would have thought that there would be more happiness in God’s Kingdom than in Magic Kingdom?”
  • Worship is More Important Than Your Small Group. Here’s an excellent article from guest blogger Jason Helopoulos on Kevin DeYoung’s DeYoung, Restless and Reformed blog. Speaking of DeYoung – who is only 37 years of age – I’m convinced will be a leader in Reformed circles for many years. Watch Kevin’s message “Do Not Love the World” (and all of the other messages) from the recent Ligonier Ministries National Conference here.
  • Do Women Look at Porn? Yes. If there ever was a time when porn was an exclusively male habit, that time is long gone. Matt Fradd talks about some of the most recent statistics.
  • A Prayer for Greater Release from our Shame. Here’s another wonderful prayer from our friend Scotty Smith.

Blog Updates

Music Review: Lead Us Back: Songs of Worship – Third Day

Book Review: The Evangelistic Zeal of George Whitefield by Steven Lawson

Recommended Resource: Reformation Study Bible – R.C. Sproul, General Editor

Reading Together Week 1: Counter Culture: A Compassionate Call to Counter Culture in a World of Poverty, Same-Sex Marriage, Racism, Sex Slavery, Immigration, Abortion, Persecution, Orphans and Pornography by David Platt.

I’m Currently Reading

Favorite Quotes of the Week ~ 3.8.2015

  • We must show sympathy with sinners, but not with their sins. Charles Spurgeon
  • Worldliness is what makes sin look normal in any age and righteousness seem odd. David Wells
  • God’s graciousness is not totally removed from any individual during this lifetime. In hell, it is. R.C. Sproul
  • Character isn’t who you are when life goes your way. Character is who you really are when the bottom falls out. Lecrae
  • Doctrine causes joy, which in turn is the fuel for good works. Matt Perman
  • The Gospel is good news not good advice. Advice=what we should do. News=report of what was done for us. Tim Keller
  • Don’t work for recognition but do work that is worthy of recognition. Ken Blanchard
  • If there is a God, you owe him far more than a morally decent life. Tim Keller
  • Everything before Jesus is preface. Everything after Jesus is appendix. Jesus is the story. Kevin DeYoung
  • The saved man is not a perfect man, but his heart’s desire is to become perfect. Charles Spurgeon
  • The gospel is good news to those who know they don’t measure up. It’s offensive to those who think they do. Tullian Tchividjian
  • There are no ‘little sins’, because there is no little God to sin against. John Blanchard
  • Let us always be more bothered by our sin than our suffering. Burk Parsons
  • A loving God who has no wrath is no God. He is an idol of our own making as much as if we carved Him out of stone. R.C. Sproul
  • If your theological convictions are not producing a deeper love for others, then it’s time to rethink some stuff. Tullian Tchividjian
  • Anyone claiming all religions are the same betrays not only ignorance of all religions but also a caricatured view of even best-known ones. Ravi Zacharias
  • If you love anything in this world more than God, you will crush that object under the weight of your expectations. Tim Keller
  • Ambitions for self may be quite modest. . . . Ambitions for God, however, if they are to be worthy, can never be modest. There is something inherently inappropriate about cherishing small ambitions for God. How can we ever be content that he should acquire just a little more honour in the world? No. Once we are clear that God is King, then we long to see him crowned with glory and honour, and accorded his true place, which is the supreme place. We become ambitious for the spread of his kingdom and righteousness everywhere. John Stott
  • Man was never meant to be a god, but he is forever trying to deify himself. Martyn Lloyd-Jones
  • As a strategy for missions, Ready, Fire, Aim, is a better strategy than Ready, Aim, Aim, Aim, Aim, Aim, Aim, Aim, Aim, Aim. John Piper
  • Because of Jesus the sin we cannot forget God does not remember. Tullian Tchividjian
  • Christianity is so much more than getting your doctrine right, but it is not less. Kevin DeYoung
  • The supreme form of cursedness is for the Lord to turn His back on you and bring judgment on you. R.C. Sproul
  • Today, let’s love to the glory of God, laugh with the merriment of God, weep with the tears of God, and encourage with the grace of God. Scotty Smith
  • The first service that one owes to others consists in listening to them. Dietrich Bonhoeffer
  • God’s willingness to clean things up is infinitely greater than our capacity to mess things up. Tullian Tchividjian
  • God put enough into the world to make faith in Him a reasonable thing. But He left enough out to make it impossible to live by reason alone. Ravi Zacharias
  • How do you change your behavior? Change what you worship. Tim Keller
  • I’ll tell you what’s more important than all the commentaries in your library: prayer. Mark Dever
  • Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow; it empties today of its strength. Corrie ten Boom
  • Scripture doesn’t need to be denied for apostasy to begin: all that is needed is that Scripture takes second place. Iain Murray
  • It is not our believing of the Gospel that makes it true. It exists as independent, true Truth. Alistair Begg
  • A little flattery makes people feel good about themselves. When you notice someone looking great, give them a compliment. Ken Blanchard
  • The simple fact is that only if I love Jesus more than my wife will I be able to serve her needs ahead of my own. Tim Keller
  • Do you understand that it’s impossible to please God in any way other than wholehearted surrender? Francis Chan
  • The gospel is not only about what God has accomplished for us in the past, but what he promises still in the future. Michael Horton
  • It would be easier to grow oak trees by planting marbles than for someone to be saved without the seed of the word. Steven Lawson
  • You can’t be in love with the world, impressed by the world, and hate worldliness at the same time. Burk Parsons
  • Are you smiling when you talk? Try it today, and I guarantee you will notice a difference in your life. Andy Andrews
  • Bosses push, Leaders pull. Real leadership is servant leadership. Dave Ramsey


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INTEGRATING FAITH AND WORK: Connecting Sunday to Monday

integrating faith and work

  • “My First Hope Is That We Can Change the Default around Work”. Here’s an interview with Missy Wallace of the Nashville Institute for Faith and Work. The Institute ministers to professionals by providing them with resources to integrate their faith and work.
  • Opportunities to Show Love at an Aluminum Sheet Mill. Trilla Newbell interviews Joel Baker, who lives in Knoxville, Tennessee, and works for Alcoa as a senior operating manager, about his vocation.
  • Staying In Your Gift Zone, But Getting Out Of Your Comfort Zone. Dave Kraft writes “We should be open to the challenge of moving out of our “comfort zone,” but careful about moving out of our “gift zone” into the “danger zone.”
  • Becoming a Balanced Leader? Impossible? Dave Kraft writes “Attaining balance is a hopeless dream…it will never happen…why strive for it? Is this really true? Is living in balance as a disciple of Jesus, a leader, a biblical concept? Is the current leadership “rat race,” that most leaders I know find themselves in, a capitulation to our fast-paced culture or should it be embraced as normal and acceptable? I believe the answer is found in making a distinction between two types of balance.”
  • 16 Ways to Lead Through Sadness. Dan Rockwell writes “Some of the world’s great leaders held hands with sadness, Lincoln and Churchill for example. It wouldn’t surprise me if you do too. Sadness isn’t the end of leadership. It may be a beginning.”
  • More Encouraging Videos from the Faith@Work Summit. Some more great talks from the Faith@Work Summit have now been posted. (Here’s the first set , here’s the second set, and here’s the third set.).
  • John Maxwell on Respect. In this “Minute with Maxwell” video, leadership expert John Maxwell discusses respect.
  • Making Change Happen. Andy Stanley talks about three things you have to do if you are going to bring about organizational change.
  • Wondering How God Works in Our Ordinary Lives? Titus 3:14 Has Answers. Kathryn Feliciano asks “Where is God working in your daily routine?”
  • Teenage Temptations, Old and New. Becca Benson writes “Sexual immorality is not a new topic. The world has known of it since the days of Genesis. This generation of teens is not the first to experience the temptation and pressures of sexual immorality. But are they walking in a time of different and maybe even greater pressure?”
  • Wisdom on our Work and Vocations: Two Great Anthologies. Chris Armstrong, in looking at two books, writes “Both books provide ample food for thought on this important topic of vocation, including reflections both on what the Puritans, modifying an idea of Calvin’s, called our “general” vocations (to be disciples of Christ) and on our “particular” or “special” vocations (to do whatever work we end up pursuing). Most illuminating to me is the wealth of material on how secular work can be understood as divine vocation.”
  • What does the Wall Street Journal know about the meaning of work? Will Messenger writes “So maybe the Wall Street Journal is on to something after all, even if the true source of meaning at work is not the corporate mission statement, but the Lord of heaven and earth.”
  • 3 Reasons a Leader Should Never Respond to Criticism in Anger. Leaders receive criticism every day. Ron Edmonson write “While I believe we should always speak truth in love and correcting false statements against us may have a place, I do not believe responding to criticism with immediate anger is ever appropriate.”
  • How Leaders Should React When Someone Disappoints. Peter Bregman writes “High performing leaders expect a lot of themselves and the people around them, as they should. But when people fall short of those expectations, the way leaders handle their disappointment can mean the difference between a return to high performance and a downward spiral of failure.”
  • 20 Quotes from “Spiritual Leadership” by J. Oswald Sanders. Eric Geiger writes “Spiritual Leadership by J. Oswald Sanders is a classic book, one of the greatest leadership books in print today. Its depth and breadth of biblical wisdom and practical application are nearly unmatched in a single volume.”
  • The One Thing Your Leadership May Be Missing! Dave Kraft writes “I am personally fascinated by people’s sleeping habits and their corresponding productivity or lack thereof. Leaders are notoriously poor sleepers trying to convince themselves that they can do just fine (and get more done) on 4-6 hours sleep despite all the study and research that says otherwise. If you doze off while reading this, you may be guilty! Here is Michael Hyatt on the subject.
  • Living the Gospel at Work. Bill Peel writes “The workplace is filled with spiritually hungry people.  Most of them, however, won’t connect their gnawing emptiness with their need for God unless they can see the difference He makes in us.”
  • Why You Will Fail to Have a Great Career. Unless… Matt Perman writes “This is a fantastic TEDx talk by Larry Smith. In a very compelling way, he shoots down all the excuses people make not to go after what they are truly passionate about in life.”
  • You May Be the Only Bible They Read. Bill Peel writes “The workplace is filled with spiritually hungry people. Most of them, however, won’t connect their own emptiness with their need for God unless they can see the difference Christ makes in a Christian’s life.”
  • Four Little Known Qualities of Godly Leaders. C. Patton writes “I would like to share what I learned about great, godly leaders from Dr. Crawford Loritts, a pastor in Atlanta, GA. Loritts talked about four qualities or characteristics of great, godly leaders during his segment in Dennis Rainey’s Stepping Up video series. Even these are not commonly found in leadership books, I believe we all need to seek these qualities. If we do, I believe God can better use us to point others to Him.”
  • Is the gap between pulpit and pew narrowing? New research conducted by the Barna Group for the Center for Faith & Work at​ LeTourneau University shows a substantial uptick in the number of pastors who say they preach on the topic of work. However, most church-goers still doubt the significance of their work to God.

 Faith and Work Book Clubs – Won’t you read along with us?

Generous JusticeGenerous Justice Book Club

Generous Justice: How God’s Grace Makes Us Just by Tim Keller

Tammy and I are reading and discussing this book by Tim Keller. This week we look at Chapter 4: Justice and Your Neighbor

  • The text that most informs Christians’ relationships with their neighbors is the parable of the Good Samaritan.
  • Do you love God with every fiber of your being every minute of the day? Do you meet the needs of your neighbor with all the joy, energy, and fastidiousness with which you meet your own needs? That is the kind of life you owe your God and your fellow human beings.
  • What was Jesus doing with this story? He was giving a radical answer to the question, What does it mean to love your neighbor? What is the definition of “love”? Jesus answered that by depicting a man meeting material, physical, and economic needs through deeds. Caring for people’s material and economic needs is not an option for Jesus. He refused to allow the law expert to limit the implications of this command to love. He said it meant being sacrificially involved with the vulnerable, just as the Samaritan risked his life by stopping on the road. But Jesus refuses to let us limit not only how we love, but who we love.
  • By depicting a Samaritan helping a Jew, Jesus could not have found a more forceful way to say that anyone at all in need—regardless of race, politics, class, and religion—is your neighbor.
  • I have preached this parable over the years, and it always raises a host of questions and objections, many of which sound like the kind of questions that the law expert would have asked. No one has helped me answer these questions more than Jonathan Edwards. In 1733 he preached a sermon entitled “The Duty of Charity to the Poor.” The word “neighbor” is found in the sermon nearly sixty times, and the discourse stands as one of the most thoroughgoing applications of the parable of the Good Samaritan to a body of believers that can be found anywhere. The heart of the sermon is a set of answers to a series of common objections Edwards always heard whenever he preached or spoke about the duty of sharing money and goods with the poor.
  • We don’t wait until we are in “extremity” before doing something about our condition, he argued, so why should we wait until our neighbor is literally starving before we help?
  • We ought to have such a spirit of love to him that we should be afflicted with him in his affliction.”
  • Another objection comes from people who say they “have nothing to spare” and that they barely have enough for their own needs. But one of the main lessons of the Good Samaritan parable is that real love entails risk and sacrifice. Edwards responds that when you say, “I can’t help anyone,” you usually mean, “I can’t help anyone without burdening myself, cutting in to how I live my life.” But, Edwards argues, that’s exactly what Biblical love requires.
  • In dealing with the objection that many of the poor do not have upright, moral characters, he counters that we did not either, and yet Christ put himself out for us.
  • When answering the objection that the poor have often contributed to their condition, Edwards is remarkably balanced yet insistently generous. He points out that it is possible some people simply do not have “a natural faculty to manage affairs to advantage.” In other words, some people persistently make sincere but very bad decisions about money and possessions. But what if their economic plight is more directly the result of selfish, indolent, or violent behavior? Christ found us in the same condition. Our spiritual bankruptcy was due to our own sin, yet he came and gave us what we needed.
  • Edwards says that we should not continue to aid a poor person if that person continues to act “viciously” and to persist in the same behavior. Yet Edwards has a final blow to strike. What about the rest of the person’s family? Sometimes, he says, we will need to give aid to families even when the parents act irresponsibly, for the children’s sake.
  • Your neighbor is anyone in need.
  • Jesus is the Great Samaritan to whom the Good Samaritan points. Before you can give this neighbor-love, you need to receive it. Only if you see that you have been saved graciously by someone who owes you the opposite will you go out into the world looking to help absolutely anyone in need. Once we receive this ultimate, radical neighbor-love through Jesus, we can start to be the neighbors that the Bible calls us to be.


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Music Review, Book Reviews and Recommended Resource

 Music Review

Lead Us Back - Third DayLead Us Back: Songs of Worship – Third Day
****

This is Third Day’s fourth Offerings album, comprised of three worship music albums and Christmas Offerings, released in 2006. While the previous Offerings albums were a mixture of live tracks, new songs and covers, the standard release contains all new worship music written specifically for this album (the Deluxe edition contains at least one cover).

One of my favorite songs of the year – “Soul on Fire” featuring All Sons and Daughters – is the first single. Third Day is an excellent live band that we have seen in concert a few times. I purchased the Deluxe edition of Lead Us Back, which features three additional new songs and eight songs, including “Soul on Fire” recorded in concert, for a total of 22 songs, well worth the extra few dollars.

Any discussion of a Third Day album starts with the powerful voice of lead singer Mac Powell, and his voice is in top shape on this release. The album also features excellent backing vocals from guest artists including not only All Sons and Daughters, but also Michael Tait (formerly of DC Talk and now the lead singer of the Newsboys), Michael W. Smith, Natalie Grant, David Crowder, Sarah MacIntosh, Daniel Bashta and others.

Here are a few comments about and lyrics from each of the new songs:
Spirit a song that could be used as a call to worship in church, with Powell and background singers pleading for the leading of the Holy Spirit.

Oh, Lord, fill us with Your Spirit
Guide us by Your presence
How we need You, God

Soul on Fire – the first single, co-written with Matt Maher, is an upbeat catchy song that you’ll have stuck in your mind, featuring the vocals of All Sons and Daughters. The song had its origins with South African worship leader/songwriter Brenton Brown who allowed the band to change the arrangement and add a verse. The band performed a great version of the song live on Fox and Friends on March 7.

God, I’m running for Your heart
I’m running for Your heart
Till I am a soul on fire
Lord, I’m longing for Your ways
I’m waiting for the day
When I am a soul on fire
Till I am a soul on fire

Your Words – a song about God’s Word that features female worship artist Harvest Parker and begins with a hammered dulcimer.

Let me hear Your words
Above all other voices
Above all the distractions in this world

Your words give us life that’s never ending
Your words bring us love that never fails
Everything else will fade away
But what will remain
Are Your words

Our Deliverer – one of the songs that was released early if you pre-ordered the album. The song looks forward to the second coming of Christ.

Our Deliverer is coming
With salvation in His wings
Our Deliverer is coming
Here to set His people free
Our Deliverer is coming
Coming back for you and me
Our Deliverer is coming

He is Alive – this would be an excellent song for churches to sing this Easter:

He is alive
Death is defeated
Sin has retreated
From the power of the Son
And He is alive
The enemy is faded
The battle still rages
But the war has been won

In Jesus’ Name – features vocals from Michael W. Smith, Natalie Grant and Michael Tait.

Name above all names
Savior and our Lord
Every knee will bow
And every tongue confess
No other name is given
By which we can be saved
Let us find our life and love
In Jesus name

Lead Us Back – a short song that contains the following lyrics:

Lead us back where we belong
Call us as Your very own
Lead us back
Safe into to Your arms

Maker – an easy-going acoustic song about the creator of all things.

Maker, there is none like You
Savior, no one else will do
Lord, there is no other God
Lord, there is no other God
Maker, there is none like You

Victorious – another of the songs that was released early if you pre-ordered the album. A piano driven song that will sound great in worship services.

Victorious, You reign victorious
Over sin, over death, over all, over us
Victorious, You reign victorious
In Your mighty name we trust
Let all proclaim You reign victorious
You reign victorious

I Know You Can – a song about trusting completing in our sovereign God that has a modern country sound to it.

Give me the words to say
Bring me the strength to stand
Take all the doubt away
Jesus, I know You can
For if I’m to follow You
It’s only by Your hand
Help me to make it through
Jesus, I know You can

Father of Lights – this song has very much a Crowder feel to it.

Father of truth, Father of grace
Be with us now fill this place

The One I Love – available only on the Deluxe edition. An acoustic guitar driven song.

Oh, you of little faith
Oh, how quickly and how often you have forgotten
Oh, you of little faith
Aren’t you tired of all the wars and battles you have fought in
And when all your world is gone
And you cannot sing your song
I will help you carry on
The one I love

Praise the Invisible – a cover of the Daniel Bashta song available only on the Deluxe edition.

Praise the Invisible, praise the Immortal One
Praise God Incarnate, praise Father, Spirit, Son
For He is God, for He is holy
For He holds the keys to the grave
And forever He will reign

Arise – the closing song is available only on the Deluxe edition.

Arise O God, lift up Your hand
Bring freedom and forgiveness
Arise O God, Help us to stand
For mercy and for justice

I’m a long-time Third Day fan. I look forward to hearing these songs on the radio and hopefully in concert.

Book Review

The Evangelistic Zeal of George WhitefieldThe Evangelistic Zeal of George Whitefield by Steven Lawson. Reformation Trust Publishing. 178 pages. 2013
****

I’ve enjoyed reading a few of the books in the Long Line of Godly Men series – books on Charles Spurgeon, Martin Luther, John Owen and now George Whitefield. I look forward to reading Steven Lawson’s books on John Calvin and Jonathan Edwards in the future. About the series, the series editor Lawson writes:

This Long Line of Godly Men Profile series highlights key figures in the age-long procession of sovereign-grace men. The purpose of this series is to explore how these figures used their God-given gifts and abilities to impact their times and further the kingdom of heaven.”

This book focuses on the great English evangelist George Whitefield. Lawson writes: “In the eighteenth century, a day plagued by lifeless orthodoxy, Whitefield burst onto the scene with power and passion. In a day marked by great spiritual decline, Whitefield preached with a supernatural unction and intense boldness that became the primary catalyst in ushering in two major revivals simultaneously, one in the British Isles and the other in the American colonies.”

Lawson indicates that if he could be anyone in church history it would be Whitefield, because of his consuming evangelistic zeal. Whitefield has instilled within him a passion for preaching.

Lawson begins with a brief biography of Whitefield. A few highlights of which are:

  • Whitefield was the force behind the British Evangelical movement and the First Great Awakening. Not since the first-century missionary journeys of the Apostle Paul had such evangelistic preaching been taken so directly to the masses of the world.
  • In his thirty-four years of ministry, Whitefield preached some eighteen thousand sermons, often to multiplied thousands. If informal messages are included, such as in private homes, this number easily increases to thirty thousand sermons, perhaps more. Three sermons a day were common; four were not uncommon. Conservative estimates are that he spoke a thousand times every year for more than thirty years. In America alone, it is estimated that eighty percent of the colonists heard him preach. This means Whitefield was seen by far more American settlers than was George Washington. Whitefield’s name was more widely recognized by colonial Americans than any living person’s except for those of British royalty. It is believed that Whitefield preached to more than ten million people over the course of his ministry, a staggering number.
  • Making seven demanding trips to America, Whitefield crossed the Atlantic Ocean thirteen times for the express purpose of preaching the gospel. He spent almost three years of his life on a ship en route to preach. In all, about eight years of his life were spent in America. He made fifteen trips to Scotland, two to Ireland, and one each to Gibraltar, Bermuda, and the Netherlands.
  • Near the end of Whitefield’s first year at Oxford, Charles Wesley (1707–1788), the future hymn writer, introduced him to a small group of students known as the “Oxford Holy Club.” Included in this group was Charles’ brother, John Wesley (1703–1791), and ten others who met to pursue religiously moral lives. Despite their rigid discipline in Bible reading, study, prayer, fasting, and service, not one of these young students was converted. So stringent was Whitefield in his self-righteous efforts to earn salvation that his severe discipline caused him to suffer a lifelong physical weakness.
  • At age twenty-one, Whitefield was regenerated by the Holy Spirit, and placed his faith in Christ.
  • The Wesleys, still unconverted, departed for the mission field in the American colony of Georgia, leaving Whitefield the leader of the Holy Club. With flaming zeal in his soul, he evangelized his fellow students and placed new believers into small-group Bible studies. This strict discipline in Bible study led many to label the members of the Holy Club with the derisive term “Methodists.”
  • Unexpectedly, correspondence came from John and Charles Wesley in Georgia, urging Whitefield to help in their new missionary work.
  • Whitefield at last arrived in Savannah, Georgia, on May 7, 1738, only to discover that John Wesley had left the colony under indictment by a grand jury. The mission work was in complete shambles. As Whitefield surveyed the scene, he saw a great number of orphans and felt compelled to build an orphanage.
  • Upon his return, Whitefield discovered the Wesleys had been converted and had assumed the leadership of this new, emerging movement known as Methodism.
  • Vicious pamphlets were circulated in opposition to them and rumors spread, smearing Whitefield’s name. Church doors were closed to him, forcing a bold new strategy. He would bypass church buildings altogether and preach in the open air. This first success in open-air preaching proved to be the turning point not only for Whitefield’s ministry but, in many ways, for evangelicalism in general.
  • During this one summer, it is estimated that in London and the surrounding counties Whitefield preached to as many as one million people. Astonishingly, this success occurred while Whitefield was but a mere twenty-four years old.
  • But at the very height of this ministry, Whitefield made a daring decision. Rather than ride this wave of popularity, he determined in August 1739 to board a ship and sail for America. This young evangelist was determined to enter the large cities of the colonies and bring this same evangelistic preaching and revivalist spirit to the New World.
  • After a two-month voyage, Whitefield landed at Lewes, Delaware, ready to launch a new preaching campaign. This evangelistic tour through the colonies is considered by many the greatest preaching campaign ever undertaken.
  • Benjamin Franklin was a close friend of Whitefield. Franklin set out to make Whitefield famous in the colonies. He printed ten editions of Whitefield’s Journals, and secured the assistance of eleven printers in making them bestsellers. During 1739–1741, more than half the books published by Franklin were by or about Whitefield.
  • Jonathan Edwards (1703–1758), the recognized leader of the first wave of the Great Awakening, invited Whitefield to Northampton, Massachusetts, where he preached four times in October 1740. This would be the only time that the leaders of this powerful movement would meet.
  • Not since New Testament times had the world witnessed such explosive energy and extensive outreach in evangelistic preaching.
  • Having left England at the height of his popularity, he returned a year later to dwindling support. This decline was due to a crisis created by John Wesley over Whitefield’s belief in the sovereignty of God in salvation. Before Whitefield’s return, Wesley had distributed a tract titled Free Grace, a bitter condemnation of the doctrines of grace aimed directly at his old friend. Whitefield responded by defending the biblical teaching of God’s election and predestination. However, the damage was done. The painful separation of these spiritual leaders resulted in a division that affected countless people.
  • En route, four-month-old John was overtaken by the cold and died. In strange providence, Whitefield’s son died in the very home in which George himself had been born, and as he confided, “laid in the church where I was baptized, first communicated, and first preached.”
  • Further difficulty came when Whitefield survived a well-orchestrated assassination plot in which he was attacked while in bed at night.
  • Sorrow came in 1768 when his wife, Elizabeth, unexpectedly died.
  • On September 16, 1769, Whitefield preached his final London sermon from John 10:27–28. Soon afterward, he sailed for America in what would be his last trip across the Atlantic.
  • Whitefield preached his last sermon in Exeter, New Hampshire, on September 29, 1770. It was a soul-searching exposition that would last two hours, and was titled “Examine Yourself,” from 2 Corinthians 13:5. On Sunday morning, September 30, 1770, at approximately six o’clock a.m., George Whitefield breathed his last and entered into the presence of Him whom he had so faithfully proclaimed. As per his instruction, Whitefield was buried under the next pulpit in which he was to preach. Appropriately, his body was laid in a subterranean crypt under the pulpit of the Old South Presbyterian Church. In London, John Wesley preached Whitefield’s memorial service at one of Whitefield’s churches, Tottenham Court Road Chapel.

I highlighted a number of passages in this short book and would like to share some of them with you below:

  • His unparalleled effectiveness as an evangelist cannot be grasped until one sees the depth of his close communion with the Lord.
  • He was consumed with a fervent desire to know God Himself, which ignited a contagious fire within his soul to lead others to a saving knowledge of Christ.
  • Whitefield was, as Lloyd-Jones identified, “a pietist, that is, one who saw practical personal devotion to the Father and the Son through the Spirit as always the Christian’s top priority.”
  • Whitefield’s spiritual devotion was established upon his immovable commitment to the Bible.
  • The Word of God became so all-consuming in Whitefield’s daily life that he confessed to having little time to read anything else: “I got more true knowledge from reading the Book of God in one month, than I could ever have acquired from all the writings of men.”
  • As Whitefield lived for Christ, the Word of God became the ruling authority over his life.
  • Moreover, Whitefield was devoted to God in earnest prayer. Whitefield understood that prayer was a necessary spiritual discipline for the grounding and growth of his soul.
  • Further, Whitefield’s devotion meant he maintained a singular focus upon Jesus Christ.
  • The magnifying lens through which Whitefield saw Christ was Scripture. Above all, Whitefield’s desire was to know Jesus Christ.   In addition, Whitefield’s piety was evidenced in his remarkable humility.   Whitefield never lost sight of the fact that he was a wretched sinner saved by grace.
  • This gifted preacher would not allow a Christian institution to be named after him. The more he looked upon Christ’s holiness, the more he became aware of his own sin. He was willing to concede the error of his ways whenever he discovered he was wrong.
  • But perhaps the supreme example of Whitefield’s humility concerned his theological differences and strained relationships with the Wesley brothers. For the sake of peace, he chose to resign his leadership role in the Methodist movement, which he had helped to start.
  • Finally, Whitefield’s godliness was witnessed in his constant pursuit of personal holiness.
  • Moral perfection, he contended, was not ultimately attainable until he entered the heavenly realm. This understanding was diametrically opposed to the perfectionism taught by the Wesleys, who asserted that a believer could cease sinning. Whitefield countered that perfect holiness could never be fully realized upon this earth.
  • George Whitefield was arguably the most prolific evangelist since the time of the Apostles. Yet, at the same time, he was also a staunch Calvinist. Undergirding his passionate gospel preaching was an unwavering belief in God’s sovereignty in man’s salvation.
  • Some argue that these two realities—sovereign grace and evangelistic zeal—cannot co-exist. But nothing could be further from the truth. They meet perfectly in Scripture, and they existed side-by-side in Whitefield’s ministry.
  • “I embrace the Calvinistic scheme, not because of Calvin, but Jesus Christ has taught it to me,” Whitefield said.
  • Whitefield drank deeply from the well of the doctrines of grace, and it proved to be the spring of all he believed and preached. Each tenet of Calvinism shaped and molded him into a zealous evangelist.
  • Whitefield held to the biblical doctrine of total depravity. This is the scriptural teaching that the original sin of Adam was imputed to the entire human race, condemning all subsequent generations. Likewise, the sin nature of Adam was transmitted to every person at the moment of their conception.
  • Every faculty of every person—mind, affections, and will—is fatally plagued by sin. The entire fallen race cannot, by its own moral efforts, save itself. Neither does any sinful creature have faith to believe in Christ. Whitefield believed that man is utterly dead in sin, and his will is held captive in bondage.
  • Whitefield believed that man rejects the teachings of original sin and total depravity due to inherent pride.
  • Whitefield’s understanding of total depravity indelibly marked his preaching. Virtually every sermon Whitefield preached pointed man to his desperate condition in sin.
  • Whitefield likewise embraced the biblical doctrine of sovereign election. He maintained that before time began, God the Father freely chose those whom He would save out of the whole of the fallen race. These chosen ones were elected not on the basis of anything good foreseen in them, and certainly not for any foreseen faith in Christ. God chose to set His sovereign love upon certain individuals for reasons known only to Himself.
  • Whitefield firmly held to the Reformed position on predestination. In this biblical view, from all eternity God decrees some to election and intervenes in their lives to work regeneration and faith by a divine act of grace, bringing them all to Himself in eternity future.
  • Whitefield was also convinced that the doctrine of election has great converting power.
  • God withholds from the non-elect this work of saving grace, passing them by and leaving them to themselves, a biblical truth known as reprobation.
  • Whitefield also championed the doctrine of definite atonement, also known as particular redemption.
  • This is the teaching that the Father’s election, the Son’s redemption, and the Spirit’s application of salvation are all coextensive; that God planned to save a certain people, His sheep…and sent His Son explicitly to achieve this goal.” God the Father designed the death of the Lord Jesus Christ with the specific purpose of saving His elect.
  • Definite atonement was an essential element in Whitefield’s explanation of the gospel.
  • Whitefield further preached that all those chosen by the Father and redeemed by the Son would be regenerated by the Holy Spirit. The saving work of Christ on the cross is applied by the effectual call of the Holy Spirit. He held that the third person of the Trinity would convict the elect sinner, efficaciously draw him to Christ, and grant the gifts of true repentance and faith.
  • Whitefield believed that regeneration is monergistic, an exclusive work of God in the human heart that both precedes and produces saving faith.
  • Finally, Whitefield upheld the biblical doctrine of the perseverance of the saints. Whitefield was convinced that God brings all His chosen ones to future glory. Those whom God elects and brings to salvation will be preserved by grace, both in time and eternity. Those whom God saves, He saves forever. They will never fall away. They will never perish. This doctrine brought great joy to Whitefield throughout his Christian life and ministry.
  • The focus of his extraordinary ministry was the simple proclamation of the gospel and the appeal to the unconverted to enter through the narrow gate.
  • He purposed not to be with anyone for more than fifteen minutes without confronting them with the claims of Christ.
  • Whitefield was convinced that any presentation of the gospel must begin by exposing the listener’s sin and his dire need for salvation.
  • Only when confronted with their sinfulness, Whitefield insisted, would unbelievers seek to embrace Christ as their Savior and Lord.
  • Whitefield’s sermons were filled with vivid warnings of the horrific dangers of remaining in a state of sin.
  • Whitefield understood that gospel preaching must include the threat of hell, which is intended to drive men to flee to Christ and escape His terrors.
  • Whitefield next proceeded to the saving death of the Lord Jesus Christ. The message of sin is dark, but by it the truth of salvation through the cross shines that much brighter.
  • Whitefield set before sinners Christ’s death and His atoning blood as the only means of salvation.
  • Whitefield preached best, he perceived, when he proclaimed the glories of the cross.
  • Whitefield, moreover, was continually expounding upon the necessity of regeneration, as a “great theme” in his preaching, according to Lloyd-Jones.
  • At the heart of Whitefield’s preaching was this doctrine of the new birth. Regeneration had not been a central focus for the Reformers, but Whitefield made it a dominant emphasis in his preaching. Standing behind the truth on regeneration is the doctrine of election.
  • Whitefield pressed the hearts of his listeners for an immediate response. It was not enough for him that people knew the truth of the gospel. They must fully commit themselves to Jesus Christ.
  • It could be argued that Whitefield’s favorite word in preaching was the word come. He repeatedly urged his listeners to come to Christ by faith.
  • It is quite clear that Whitefield believed an invitation must be offered to the lost to come to Christ. Still, he did not practice an “altar call,” nor did he encourage emotional excitement among his congregation.
  • Whitefield further impressed upon his listeners the certain reality of eternity that lay before them.
  • In nearly every sermon, Whitefield affirmed that the day of eternity was close at hand.
  • With graphic words and an arresting voice, Whitefield had the keen ability to dramatically represent the horrors of hell. His vivid language in describing the lake of fire caused people to feel as if they might drop into the bottomless pit at any moment.
  • The evangelistic zeal of George Whitefield flowed out of his love for the glorious gospel of grace. It was this supreme love and devotion that drove him to pursue the lost, expose sin, exalt the cross, summon the will, and point to eternity.
  • Arnold Dallimore wrote, “His ministry presents an unparalleled example of declaring the sovereignty of God combined with the free offer of salvation to all who would believe on Christ.”
  • Whitefield provides the quintessential example of one who held the doctrines of grace in one hand and the free offer of the gospel in the other hand.
  • In a day when pulpit delivery had degenerated into dry ritual, involving nothing more than a monotone reading of a sermon manuscript, Whitefield burst onto the scene with intense preaching.
  • Whitefield’s passion arose from the depth of his biblical convictions. Whenever he stood behind an open Bible, Whitefield was thoroughly convinced that he was delivering divine truth.
  • Whitefield so elevated the importance of preaching that he stated, “May I die preaching.” Again, “I hope yet to die in the pulpit, or soon after I come out of it.” In God’s providence, Whitefield realized this very desire. On a balcony not far from his deathbed, he preached his last sermon to a large crowd that had filled the street in front of the parsonage. He died within hours of extending the invitation for all to embrace Christ.
  • Whitefield’s soul was ignited with fiery zeal in his preaching. Whitefield’s intense passion was kindled by his own deepening love for God and Jesus Christ, which in turn ignited his compassion for lost sinners.
  • Whitefield’s affection for God was stoked by reflection upon the greatness of His character. Moreover, his heart of love was fueled by his personal communion with Jesus Christ. This intimate knowledge of Christ was the consistent theme that filled his soul and increased his affections.
  • Whitefield often wept as he preached. Deep compassion for unbelievers moved Whitefield in his preaching.
  • An understanding of Whitefield’s ministry must recognize his relentless pursuit of the lost.
  • Whitefield is remembered as one of the first to preach to African slaves in the colonies.
  • Whitefield believed God had sovereignly called him to preach the gospel.
  • The relentless drive of Whitefield’s herculean effort was fueled by power from on high. Consider the unparalleled pace of Whitefield’s itinerant ministry.
  • He founded three churches and one school, and founded and assumed responsibility for an orphanage in Savannah, Georgia, often preaching five or six times a day, for as much as forty hours a week.
  • The only way Whitefield could endure all he did, travel as much as he did, preach as much as he did, and exert the energy that he did, was through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit.
  • Whitefield’s deep love for the souls of men and women did not originate in himself. It was God who gave him an uncommon love for those to whom he preached.
  • Time and again, Whitefield attributed his effectiveness, influence, and scope in ministry to the quickening effect of the Holy Spirit.
  • The Spirit also gave Whitefield resilience in the face of opposition to the message he preached.
  • Whitefield was inwardly consoled in the midst of many demanding circumstances in his life and ministry.
  • At times, Whitefield felt abandoned by the Lord. It was then that the Lord came in great power to shore up his weakness.
  • As he faced these many trials in his life and ministry—the conflict with the Wesleys, the financial burden of the Bethesda Orphanage, the long ocean voyages, the premature death of his newborn son, the loss of his wife, and the growing hecklers in the crowd—this valiant soldier of the cross found supernatural solace in the Lord, mediated by the Holy Spirit.
  • Whitefield understood that the effects of his preaching were sovereignly determined by God. His responsibility was to deliver the message and leave the results entirely with God.
  • The same Spirit who indwelled Whitefield has taken up His royal residence within the heart of every believer in Christ. The same Spirit who called Whitefield from obscurity to worldwide influence has placed the same call upon every Christian’s heart to bear gospel witness. The same Spirit who empowered Whitefield in his numerous endeavors will propel every follower of Christ to service in His name. The same Spirit who energized Whitefield will give divine energy and supernatural power today to accomplish all He wills.
  • Among his many qualities worth emulating, we see the primacy of the gospel in his preaching. He lived to proclaim the saving message of Jesus Christ.

Lawson concludes by writing:

“May the Lord raise up a new generation of zealous evangelists who will never lose sight of the need to preach the gospel with urgency and passion.”

Reading Together ~ Week 1

Counter Culture by David PlattCounter Culture: A Compassionate Call to Counter Culture in a World of Poverty, Same-Sex Marriage, Racism, Sex Slavery, Immigration, Abortion, Persecution, Orphans and Pornography by David Platt.

David Platt, author of Radical, has written an important new book. So important, I believe, that rather than doing one book review, I’m going to review the content chapter by chapter. Here’s our first installment, covering the material through chapter 1 of the book. Note, all of Platt’s royalties from this book will go toward promoting the glory of Christ in all nations.

Each chapter concludes by offering some initial suggestions for practical requests you can pray in light of these issues, potential ways you might engage culture with the gospel, and biblical truths we must proclaim regarding every one of these issues. These suggestions will also direct you to a website (CounterCultureBook.com) where you can explore more specific steps you might take.

Platt starts out by talking about the Gospel. If someone asked you to clearly describe the Gospel would you be able to do it? Platt writes: “The good news that the just and gracious Creator of the universe has looked upon hopelessly sinful men and women and has sent his Son, Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, to bear his wrath against sin on the cross and to show his power over sin in the resurrection, so that everyone who turns from their sin and themselves and trusts in Jesus as Savior and Lord will be reconciled to God forever.

In the Introduction, Platt writes:

  • On popular issues like poverty and slavery, where Christians are likely to be applauded for our social action, we are quick to stand up and speak out. Yet on controversial issues like homosexuality and abortion, where Christians are likely to be criticized for our involvement, we are content to sit down and stay quiet. It’s as if we’ve decided to pick and choose which social issues we’ll contest and which we’ll concede. And our picking and choosing normally revolves around what is most comfortable—and least costly—for us in our culture.
  • And what if Christ’s call in our lives is not to comfort in our culture? What if Christ in us actually compels us to counter our culture? Not to quietly sit and watch evolving cultural trends and not to subtly shift our views amid changing cultural tides, but to courageously share and show our convictions through what we say and how we live, even (or especially) when these convictions contradict the popular positions of our day.

Chapter 1: The Greatest Offense: The Gospel and Culture

Platt writes:

  • The gospel is the lifeblood of Christianity, and it provides the foundation for countering culture. For when we truly believe the gospel, we begin to realize that the gospel not only compels Christians to confront social issues in the culture around us. The gospel actually creates confrontation with the culture around—and within—us.
  • One of the core truths of the gospel is that God will judge every person, and he will be just. This puts us in a position where we desperately need his grace.
  • Tell any modern person that there is a God who sustains, owns, defines, rules, and one day will judge him or her, and that person will balk in offense.
  • Do you see the role reversal here? It all begins when the command of God is reduced to questions about God. Is God really holy? Does he really know what is right? Is God really good? Does he really want what is best for me? Amid such questions, man and woman subtly assert themselves not as the ones to be judged by God but as the ones who sit in judgment of him.
  • Godless worldviews thus leave us with a hopeless subjectivity concerning good and evil that is wholly dependent on social constructs. Whatever a culture deems right is right, and whatever a culture deems wrong is wrong. This is precisely the worldview that prevails in American culture today, where rapid shifts in the moral landscape clearly communicate that we no longer believe certain things are inherently right or wrong. Instead, rightness and wrongness is determined by social developments around us.
  • For even as the gospel grounds the definition of good and evil in the character of God, it also claims that evil is not limited to certain types of sin and select groups of sinners. Evil is unfortunately inherent in all of us and therefore unavoidably a part of any culture we create.
  • The essence of what the Bible calls sin is the exaltation of self. God has designed us to put him first in our lives, others next, and ourselves last. Yet sin reverses that order: we put ourselves first, others next (many times in an attempt to use them for ourselves), and God somewhere (if anywhere) in the distant background. We turn from worshiping God to worshiping self.
  • When you put all these truths in the gospel together, you realize that the most offensive and countercultural claim in Christianity is not what Christians believe about homosexuality or abortion, marriage or religious liberty. Instead, the most offensive claim in Christianity is that God is the Creator, Owner, and Judge of every person on the planet. Every one of us stands before him guilty of sin, and the only way to be reconciled to him is through faith in Jesus, the crucified Savior and risen King. All who trust in his love will experience everlasting life while all who turn from his lordship will suffer everlasting death.
  • I envision three categories of readers for this book. The first category includes readers who don’t believe the gospel. You don’t currently profess to be a Christian, yet for any number of reasons you’re reading this book.
  • The second category of reader is similar to the first in that you don’t believe the gospel. The difference, however, is that you currently profess to be a Christian.
  • The final category of reader includes those who do believe the gospel. I assume this comprises many of those reading this book, and this is certainly the main audience for whom I am writing.
  • In addressing each of these issues, I want to call Christians to conviction. Ultimately, may it be said of us that we not only held firm to the gospel, but that we spoke clearly with the gospel to the most pressing issues of our day. In addition to calling us to conviction, I want to call us to compassion. Based upon his love, I want to call us to action.
  • The goal of this book is not information about the gospel and social issues; it is application of the gospel to social issues.

Next week we’ll look at Chapter 2: Where Rich and Poor Collide: The Gospel and Poverty. I recommend that you purchase this book and read along with us.

Recommended Resource

 Reformation Study BibleReformation Study Bible – R.C. Sproul, General Editor

In April 1995 I first saw the New Geneva Study Bible (later renamed The Reformation Study Bible) at the book table. We were in Springfield to hear Dr. John Gerstner (R.C. Sproul’s mentor), speak near the end of his life (he would die less than a year later on March 24, 1996). I had my copy on order so couldn’t purchase a copy that day.

I am so excited that The Reformation Study Bible has been thoroughly revised and carefully crafted under the editorial leadership of R.C. Sproul and the contributions of 75 distinguished theologians and pastors from around the world. It was released at the recent 2015 Ligonier National Conference, and will be available publicly this month.

Over 1.1 million words of new, expanded, or revised commentary represent 40% more content faithfully presented to emphasize the need for the grace of God to lead out of darkness and into the light of Scripture.

Trustworthy Scholars & Commentary

  • New theological notes from general editor, R.C. Sproul
  • Commentary from 75 faithful theologians from around the world
  • New topical articles to enrich additional study of Scripture

Thoroughly Revised & Expanded Study Aids

  • Over 1.1 million words of verse-by-verse and topical explanations
  • Over 20,000 new, revised, or expanded study notes
  • Historical creeds and confessions from 2,000 years of church history

New Study Tools & Visual Helps

  • Includes over $400 of digital resources (eBooks, videos) from Ligonier Ministries and 6 months of Tabletalk Magazine
  • 16 pages of high-resolution full color maps at back of Bible
  • Embedded maps provide quick references as you read
  • Concordance, table of weights and measures, and more

I was told at the conference that the e-book edition of The Reformation Study Bible would be released (for the first time) in about a month from now, and that when you buy the physical copy you will also receive the e-book version.

There are many excellent study Bibles available – I used the ESV Study Bible, Gospel Transformation Study Bible, MacArthur Study Bible for example. However, once the updated Reformation Study Bible is released in e-book format, it will be the Bible I’ll use each day.


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Living an Intentional Life

God created me – and you – to live with a single, all-embracing, all-transforming passion – namely, a passion to glorify God by enjoying and displaying his supreme excellence in all the spheres of life.

But whatever you do, find the God-centered, Christ-exalting, Bible-saturated passion of your life, and find your way to say it and live it and die for it. And you will make a difference that lasts. You will not waste your life.    – John Piper from Don’t Waste Your Life

Since returning from the recent Ligonier National Conference, and re-listening to the messages, I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to live an intentional life. The messages at the conference really challenged me, especially “Don’t Love the World” by Kevin DeYoung, “Christ’s Message for the Church” by Sinclair Ferguson and “No Place for Truth” by Alistair Begg. I wrote in my reflections about the conference the desire to be more intentional about my prayer life and Bible reading. However, when you think about it, it’s likely that only a small percentage of each day is dedicated to those activities, as much of our time is already committed to our vocations, whether they be in the workplace, home or ministry. When we really consider this, how much of our lives is comprised of activities that we feel we have to do, be it because it’s an obligation, we don’t want to disappoint someone, or conversely that we want to please someone? I want to live my life according to the quote that John Piper shares was in his home growing up:Only One Life

Books that have in the past challenged me in the area of being intentional with my life have been Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper, Crazy Love by Francis Chan and Radical by David Platt. I have read each of those books multiple times. Conference messages and books are great, but the question is what am I (or we) going to do about it?

My wife Tammy has the following at the top of her “To Do” list:
Lord, I am Yours, Yours alone. All I am, and all I have, I devote to You. You have bought me with Your blood– let me spend myself and be spent in Your service. In life and in death let me be consecrated to You.

How are we going to apply what we’ve learned? How are we going to change our lives so that they are not wasted?

A few things that have been bouncing around in my head have been:

  • To be more intentional about my prayer life and Bible reading.
  • To be more intentional about the books I read.
  • To be more intentional about the blogs I read.
  • To be more intentional about the time I spend with my wife.
  • To be more intentional about the movies I watch.
  • To be more intentional about the television programs I watch.
  • To be more intentional about how I invest my life with (friends, family, mentees, etc.).
  • Overall, to be more intentional about the time I spend, wanting in the end to hear my Lord say to me, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21).

What about you? What does living an intentional life mean to you?

You get one pass at life. That’s all. Only one.
And the lasting measure of that life is Jesus Christ.
-John Piper from Don’t Waste Your Life


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Movie Review ~ The Drop Box

The Drop BoxThe Drop Box (not rated)
****

This Focus on the Family documentary was shown in selected U.S. theatres March 3-5 (and in Canada March 4, 5 and 9). The theatre was packed for the showing we attended. Hopefully this moving film will be available via video or streaming outlets soon so more will be able to see it.

The film tells about the incredible ministry to abandoned children of Pastor Lee Jong-rak of Jusarang (God’s Love) Community Church in Seoul, South Korea and his wife Chun-ja. The couple’s second child Eun-man (now 26), was born with severe disabilities. He spent the first 14 years of his life in the hospital as his parents and hospital staff cared for him. Pastor Lee and Chun-ja sold their home to pay for Eun-man’s medical expenses.

The word spread about the compassion of Pastor Lee and his wife. As a result, mothers who couldn’t, or didn’t want to, care for their children began abandoning their children at the doorway of the church. Many more babies were just left in the street, many of whom died before they were found. Thus the “baby box” was created.

Mothers who are unable or unwilling to care for their babies can leave their babies in the baby box, which is like a heated cupboard. When the door to the box is shut, a bell rings to alert Pastor Lee. Pastor Lee stays up most nights to listen for the bell. After praying for the child, Pastor Lee gets the baby to a hospital and then the child is taken to an orphanage or adoption agency.

Many of the children who are placed in the baby box (there had been 354 children as of the time of the filming), are disabled, and the lack of any records on the child make things (hospital visits, adoption, etc.) challenging. In addition, Pastor Lee’s tireless work has had a detrimental effect on his health. But there is no doubt that Pastor Lee and his wife daily live out James 1:27:

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.

Pastor Lee points to Psalm 27:10 as his motivation for his work:  For my father and my mother have forsaken me, but the LORD will take me in.

The film introduces us to the touching stories of several (15 now live in the small home) of the children that Pastor Lee, his wife and small staff have lovingly cared for and raised.  It is a wonderful story of sacrificial love and the sanctity of life.

The film, which includes subtitles, ends with a “Question and Answer” session that includes the film’s director Brian Ivie (who became a Christian while making the film), and Steven Curtis and Mary Beth Chapman, taking about their Show Hope ministry.

Around the world, there are more than 150 million orphans waiting to be adopted. Joni Eareckson Tada, who I respect greatly, says this about the film:  “When the church reaches out to rescue and embrace the weakest and most vulnerable in society, it can’t help but push culture in a better, wiser direction. And The Drop Box is a remarkable film that shows Christian leaders and congregations how it’s done. The story of Pastor Lee and his love for “discarded” children – especially children with disabilities – displays the power and influence of true Christian character.”

To find out more about Pastor Lee and his ministry, and to donate if you feel led to, go to www.thedropboxfilm.com


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Coram Deo ~ 3.5.2015

This and ThatNew Recommended Website and Blog. Leadership Resources serves, equips & trains faithful pastors worldwide so they can teach and shepherd the Word of God with the Heart of God for the Glory of God.

BOOKS AND BIBLE-READING:The Case for the Real Jesus

MUSIC AND MOVIES:

  • Upcoming Music Releases. Here are a few upcoming music releases that I’m excited about:Lecrae Anomaly Tour
    • Lead Us Back – Third Day – March 3
    • Saints and Sinners – Matt Maher – March 17
    • Passion 15’ Conference Album (Title TBD) – Passion – March 17
    • Duets: Reworking the Catalog – Van Morrison – March 24
    • Tomorrow We Live – KB – April 21
  • Lecrae and Andy Mineo at the Fabulous Fox Theatre in St. Louis April 30. Don’t miss it!
  • “Frozen Heart” from The Hawk of Paris. Here’s a new single from Jars of Clay lead singer Dan Haseltine’s side project The Hawks of Paris.
  • In the Studio with Michael Card. Michael Card hosted a wonderful weekly radio program, In the Studio with Michael Card. It was carried by stations in 48 states, Canada, and the Caribbean. It was also available via internet streaming audio and as a podcast. The show was an amalgam of talk, musical performances and Bible study. The show ceased production in March, 2009. Now you can enjoy some of the programs and relive the lessons and the music with Michael and his guests. This was my favorite radio show at the time.
  • Andrae Crouch: The Man Who Raised the Goal. Kirk Franklin writes “Our music doesn’t affect people the way it used to. It doesn’t create movements like it did during Andrae’s time. Is it because today’s worship leader is too busy trying to get the record deal, the applause, a higher church salary, and that crossover song? Every step we take away from the cross — and the cross alone – every time we focus on sales over souls… the goal gets lower and lower.”
  • Wheel of Music Impressions. Did you see Christina Aguilera and Jimmy Fallon play Wheel of Musical Impressions on The Tonight Show recently?
  • Irish U2 frontman Bono may have perfectly summed up the American idea. “In 2012, U2 frontman Bono gave a speech about poverty and social enterprise at Georgetown University. On February 13, Glenn Beck played the audio and called it one of the best descriptions of human potential and the American idea he’s ever heard.”
  • “Every Breaking Wave” Video. Here is a 13-minute music film for U2’s excellent song “Every Breaking Wave”
  • New Van Morrison Album. Duets: Re-Working The Catalogue will be released on March 24. The album features Morrison re-recording some of his earlier songs with artists such as George Benson, Mavis Staples, Stevie Winwood, Mark Knopler and Natalie Cole. The first single, which you receive when you pre-order the album on iTunes is “Real, Real Gone” with Michael Buble.  
  • Brian Wilson Biopic Trailer. The first trailer for the Brian Wilson biopic Love & Mercy has hit the Internet. Paul Dano stars as the young Wilson, the chief architect behind much of the Beach Boys’ buoyant pop. John Cusack plays Wilson later in life.
  • 12 Questions to Ask When Watching a Film. Here are helpful questions from John Frame.
  • 9 Ways to Find a Movie’s Worldview of Redemption. Justin Taylor writes “Screenwriter and reviewer Brian Godawa (who wrote the screenplay for the excellent film, To End All Wars) suggests what to look for in order to understand a movie’s vision of redemption, which is a key part of its worldview.”

PORNOGRAPHY:                  

CHRISTIAN LIVING:

IN THE NEWS:

World Magazine Cartoon
Courtesy of World Magazine

 

Doug Michael Cartoon
Beyond the Ark by Doug Michael

Blog Updates

Glory to the Holy OneMusic Review ~ Glory to the Holy One: Sacred Music for the People of God – Jeff Lippencott and R.C. SproulRomans for You 8-16 - Tim Keller

Book Review ~ Romans 8-16 for You by Timothy Keller

I’m Currently Reading

Truth is Stranger than FictionAMTCaudition.org

Over the years Orlando always seems to generate a good “Truth is Stranger than Fiction” contribution – from a guaranteed express worship at a church on the way to Mount Dora to a drive in worship service at a church in the downtown Orlando area. This year’s contribution comes courtesy of a billboard on Sand Lake, near the Drury Inn hotel we stayed at the beginning of our week in town.

 Favorite Quotes of the Week ~ 3.1.2015

  • Am I desiring and seeking the temporal and eternal good of my neighbor with the same zeal, ingenuity and perseverance that I seek my own? John Piper
  • Worship is not simply a feeling that is experienced; it must also involve understanding and the mind. R.C. Sproul
  • The Bible is shallow enough for a new believer to wade in, but deep enough for a theologian to drown in. Steven Lawson
  • Some Christians live in such fear, they act as if they believe in the sovereignty of Satan rather than the sovereignty of God. Steven Lawson
  • The issue on which everything hangs is not whether or not you like his teaching but whether or not he rose from the dead. Tim Keller
  • The sin of fallen man is this: Man seeks the benefits of God while at the same time fleeing from God himself. R.C. Sproul
  • Tolerance is a relatively weak virtue; we’re called to so much more than that in the body of Christ. Kevin DeYoung .
  • Loving as Jesus loves us is the best thing to do with the rest of our lives. Scotty Smith
  • He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose. Jim Elliot
  • Because He’s the living God, He can hear. Because He’s a loving God, He will hear. Charles Spurgeon
  • The poor are not a problem to be solved but a people to join. Eugene Peterson
  • We’re far worse than we ever imagined, and far more loved than we could ever dream. Tim Keller
  • A loving God who has no wrath is no God. He is an idol of our own making as much as if we carved Him out of stone. R.C. Sproul
  • A high view of God leads to high worship and holy living, but a low of God leads to trivial worship and low living. Steven Lawson
  • Here is a vocation that will bring you more satisfaction than if you became a millionaire ten times over: Develop the extraordinary skill for detecting the burdens of others and devote yourself daily to making them lighter. John Piper
  • At the final judgment, everyone will stand before God alone. R.C. Sproul
  • God doesn’t merely invite people to worship him, he commands it. Burk Parsons
  • The way of God’s grace becomes indispensable when we realize that the way of God’s law is inflexible. Tullian Tchividjian
  • The more I learn about God, the more aware I become of what I don’t know about him. R.C. Sproul
  • The irreligious don’t repent at all and the religious only repent of sins. But Christians repent of their wrongfully placed righteousness. Tim Keller
  • Christian discipleship recognizes life as a gift, not a given. We don’t make ourselves. We are made. Michael Horton
  • We do not sit in authority over the Scripture, the Scripture sits in authority over us. Steven Lawson
  • Dear single, widowed, abandoned, divorced, heartbroken, or happily married woman, may your first and ultimate love be Christ. Burk Parsons
  • The church is not a museum for pristine saints, but a hospital ward for broken sinners. Tim Keller
  • The situations that have been the biggest wins for me have been because I was forced to think differently. Andy Andrews
  • For the Christian, every tragedy is ultimately a blessing, or God is a liar. R.C. Sproul.
  • We are likely to deny Christ when the cost of identifying with Him is great. Bob Smart
  • Jesus Christ is able to set us free because He has dealt with the sin that enslaves us. Sinclair Ferguson
  • No one can go back and make a new start. But everyone can start now and make a new ending. Lecrae
  • The law demands that we do it all; the gospel declares that Jesus paid it all. Tullian Tchividjian
  • Take me, and enable me to glorify You now, in all that I say, in all that I do, and with all that I have. Charles Spurgeon
  • Worry is not believing God will get it right, and bitterness is believing God got it wrong. Tim Keller
  • Thinking that I deserve heaven is a sure sign I have no understanding of the gospel. Sinclair Ferguson
  • Hope can see heaven through the thickest clouds. Thomas Brooks
Church Sign

Seeing this church sign in CT Entertainment, I thought “Now this might be a church Jimmy Fallon would attend.”!

integrating faith and work

  • Our Children’s First Glimpse of the Value of Work. Courtney Reissig writes “My home is my work right now. My children are my work right now. Of course, they are so much more than that, but they are not less.”
  • My Job Exists Solely Because of the Fall. Paul Maxwell interviews Nate who lives in Maryland with his wife, Becky, and daughter, Lina.
  • More, But Not Less, Than a Carpenter. Tom Nelson, author of the excellent book Work Matters, writes “Several years ago I remember reading a fine book that was winsomely titled More Than a Carpenter. In this book, the author points out a great deal of convincing evidence that supports the deity of Jesus. This is essential to understanding the person and work of Jesus. Yet in no way should we conclude that because Jesus was more than a carpenter, his vocational calling to work as a carpenter was somehow less than important. Clearly the Son of God was much more, but not less, than a carpenter. This incarnational pattern of Jesus’s earthly life speaks volumes about the importance of our day-to-day vocational work.”
  • Stay-at-Home Work when Kids Have Special Needs. Courtney Reissig interviews Rachael Newton is married to Josh and is a stay-at-home mom to their three kids. Their 9-year-old son has autism. They live in Little Rock, Arkansas, and are members of Midtown Baptist Church, where she also serves as the children’s ministry director.
  • 5 Strategies to Cultivate a Healthy Leadership Spirit. Randy Conley writes “Even more important than recognizing the warning signs something is wrong with your inner life as a leader, is pursuing strategies to prevent yourself from running off the rails in the first place. To cultivate a fertile soil for your life as a leader, or to apply a soothing balm to your wounded spirit, try following these five strategies.”
  • I Don’t Have a Job. I Have a Higher Calling. Rachel Feintzeig writes: “Those who can connect their work to a higher purpose—whether they are a janitor or a banker—tend to be more satisfied with their jobs, put in longer hours and rack up fewer absences, according to Ms. Wrzesniewski’s research.”
  • Sometimes You Win, Sometimes You Learn for Teens. John Maxwell writes about his new book written for teens.
  • Andy Stanley Leadership Podcast. In this month’s podcast Andy explores the dangerous desire for autonomy.
  • What Is Meaningful Work? Courtney Reissig writes “It’s all meaningful, from wiping bottoms to writing sentences. We can all work, mothers and non-mothers, and find great meaning in what we do on any given day—not because the world tells us it is meaningful work, but because the God who created work tells us so.”
  • Character Matters for Workplace Culture, All the Way up the Corporate Ladder. Check out part one in this series on Character at Work from Art Lindsley.
  • Your Job Does Not Matter! C. Patton writes “The point here is that it really does not matter exactly what you do, you should do it in the name of Jesus and do it for Him. Are you a teacher? Then teach for Jesus. Are you in business? Then do business for Jesus. Do you design software? Then do that for Jesus. WHATEVER you do, do it for Jesus.”
  • The Five Practices of Leadership. Dan Rockwell writes “People of influence knowingly engage in the five practices of leadership described in, “The Leadership Challenge.”
  • In Praise of Trade Schools. Anthony Bradley writesOne of the benefits of a Christian theology of work is that it frees parents up to encourage their children to pursue various employment-related vocations that cultivate creation, rather than prod them to waste a life in the unfulfilling pursuit of the American Dream.
  • 3 Ways You’re Giving up Power with Your Words. Michael Hyatt writes “ur words can be powerful tools to accomplish our goals. But sometimes the things we say can sabotage our success”
  • Does the L-Word Belong in Business? J.B. Wood writesPlenty of research keeps cropping up showing that people at work are much more productive when they also feel cared for.”
  • John Maxwell on Maximize. Check out this short video from John Maxwell as he discusses “Maximize”.
  • An Extraordinary Skill for Ordinary Christians. Tim Challies writes “I love what John Piper says: “Here is a vocation that will bring you more satisfaction than if you became a millionaire ten times over: Develop the extraordinary skill for detecting the burdens of others and devote yourself daily to making them lighter.” This is the extraordinary ministry for every ordinary Christian—bearing the burdens of others. What seems so mundane and so unspectacular, is actually bringing great glory and honor to God.”
  • 4 Groups to Whom the Leader Should Listen. Eric Geiger writes “Where should leaders look to find the people who will speak into the direction of the organization? Where should leaders find people who will influence them? As you evaluate the voices you listen to and the feedback you elicit, consider the following four spheres of influence.”
  • An essential faith and work bibliography, or two, or three… Check out these posts on essential resources for understanding the interconnection of faith, work, vocation, and economics.
  • A Sacred Trust In this Lead Like Jesus devotional an excellent question is posed – “How would you approach your leadership responsibilities differently if you saw them as God-given?”

 Friday Reflections by Greston Miller

 I meet with some wonderful folks at work each Friday morning to discuss faith and work books. Currently we are reading and discussing Matt Perman’s excellent book What’s Best Next. Recently, Greston Miller, a long-time friend recently shared his thoughts with the group. With his permission I’m sharing it with you as well:

 F Forget and Forgive Forget about any setbacks you may have had this week.  Forgive yourself.  And, forgive those who may have offended you or let you down.
R Reflect Reflect upon your week and remember your accomplishments and those who helped you to be a little better this week than you were last week.  Did you send a note acknowledging them, or a note of thanks, or a note of appreciation?
I There is no “I” in team Yes there is!  What did you do to help your team this week?
D Did I? Ask yourself, “Did I give my team and my family my very best this week?”
A Ask Ask yourself, “What can I do next week to be a little better than I am this week?”  Then, from this day forward, ask yourself at the start of each day, “What can I do today to be a little better than I was yesterday?”  And, at the end of the day ask yourself, “Who did I help today?”
Y Say “Yes” Say “Yes” to having a wonderful weekend.  Tell your family how much you love them.

 Faith and Work Book Clubs – Won’t you read along with us?

The Conviction to Lead Book Club The Conviction to Lead by Albert Mohler

The Conviction to Lead: 25 Principles for Leadership That Matters by Albert Mohler

I’m re-reading this excellent book from Albert Mohler, one of the best that I’ve read on leadership. It is broken down into 25 relatively short chapters. Won’t you read along with me? This week we look at Chapter 6 – The Passion to Lead: Passionate Leaders Driven by Passionate Beliefs Draw Passionate Followers:

  • Leaders need to possess and develop many qualities, but the one element that drives them to the front is passion. Without it, nothing important happens.
  • Passion is not a temporary state of mind. It is the constant source of energy for the leader, and the greatest cause of attraction for followers.
  • Kierkegaard reminds us that passion cannot be artificially generated or transmitted. If authentic, it naturally shines through as convictions come to life, as a great mission is undertaken, and as people share the same great passion and join together as one.
  • Passion must arise out of conviction. It cannot come any other way. Passion arises naturally or not at all. It happens when convictions come to life, and deep beliefs drive visions and plans. The passionate leader is driven by the knowledge that the right beliefs, aimed at the right opportunity, can lead to earth-shaking changes.
  • In any context of leadership, passion arises out of beliefs. For the Christian leader, those convictions must be drawn from the Bible and must take the shape of the gospel. Our ultimate conviction is that everything we do is dignified and magnified by the fact that we were created for the glory of God. We were made for his glory, and this means that each one of us has a divine purpose. The Christian leader finds passion in the great truths of the Christian faith, and especially in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
  • Leadership arises from this passion and is driven by it. Other leaders may be driven by a passion for cars or technology or empire building, but the Christian leader is driven by the convictions that give all of life its meaning. Everything else flows from this naturally.
  • Passionate leaders attract and motivate passionate followers. Together, they build passionate movements. When this happens, anything is possible.
  • When the mission is ambiguous and the beliefs of the organization are nebulous, passion dissipates quickly.
  • Leaders must use their brains, but they need to speak from the heart.
  • The passionate leader emphasizes morality and purpose. It is not enough that a decision is workable; it must also be right. The leader cannot be satisfied that a product is adequate; it must enhance the lives of those who use it.
  • Organizations driven by passion thrive on the experience of seeing change happen in the service of common convictions.
  • When push comes to shove in leadership—and it will—the leader resets the equation by going back to the convictions and leaning into passion. As new people come into the movement, they must be trained in the convictions if they are to share the passion. When trouble is confronted, the leader responds consistently with the convictions in order to protect the passion.
  • The language of passion requires boldness. Leaders learn to speak of causes, not structures; of movements, not mechanics; of people, not statistics; of cherished principles, not mere policies.

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Music Review: Glory to the Holy One: Sacred Music for the People of God – Jeff Lippencott and R.C. Sproul

Glory to the Holy OneGlory to the Holy One: Sacred Music for the People of God – Jeff Lippencott and R.C. Sproul
****

This is an exciting new sacred hymns project for the church from theologian R.C. Sproul and award-winning composer Jeff Lippencott (to find out more about Jeff to go to http://www.scphilharmonic.org/aboutjeff.html).

The music was premiered at Saint Andrews Chapel in Sanford, Florida, where Dr. Sproul serves as Co-Pastor, the night before the 2015 Ligonier National Conference. In addition, four songs were performed in a mini-concert on Friday evening at the conference.

For the most part, Dr. Sproul wrote the lyrics to the hymns and Jeff Lippencott wrote the music. Lippencott also arranged, orchestrated and conducted the music, as well as producing the album (and did not take any compensation for his work; when hearing him speak about it, it was clear that it was a labor of love). Dr. Sproul writes in the liner notes: “I have poured a lifetime of biblical study and reflection into this theologically rich music in order to encourage and equip the church”. The project was recorded during 2014 in Washington, Arizona, Saint Andrews Chapel, Canterbury, U.K. and the famous Abbey Road Studios in London. Below are a few comments about the project:

1517 is a spoken word piece by Dr. Sproul about Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation. He ends with:

“In every generation the gospel must be published anew with the same boldness, and the same clarity, and the same urgency that came forth in the 16th century Reformation. The church has always done this in both the spoken word and in song – producing hymns that tell us of the great salvation that has been wrought by God alone through Christ alone. These hymns that you hear today are sacred music for the church giving glory to the Holy One”.

Glory to the Holy One
“Holy, Holy, Holy”
Cried the seraph throng
Glory to the Holy One
Join in heaven’s song

Heavy is Our Savior’s Cross is a somber hymn about the beating and crucifixion of Christ.
Heavy is our Savior’s cross
Weighed down by human sin
His blood so pure, no earthly dross
Is borne by only Him

Highland Hymn. In one of the Ligonier National Conference “Question and Answer” sessions, R.C. Sproul Jr. became emotional about this song, saying as he listened to it he envisioned being united with his wife and daughter in Heaven. This song features musicians on Uilleann Pipes and Hammered Dulcimer that played on the scores for The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings films.
Above the mists of Highland hills
E’en far above the clear blue skies
The end of pain and earthly ills
When we shall see His eyes
Lutes will sing
Pipers play
When we see Him face to face
On that day

Watch this behind-the-scenes glimpse into the making of “Highland Hymn”.

Viam Dei is an instrumental by Jeff Lippencott. Here’s how he explains the song:
“Viam Dei – a Latin title meaning “Way of God” – is a work that tries to express musically the struggles, the push and pull, the pain and peace that the Christian encounters on the road on which God has placed each of his beloved – the path toward sanctification”.

No More the Grave. This is a wonderful hymn that we sang at the conference and I’d like to sing at my church:
No more the grave can yield its sting
No more is death our foe
Our souls can now with gladness sing
Now gone all curse and woe He once was dead but now He lives
A groom now fit to wed
The Alpha and Omega reigns
Beginning to the end

Clothed in Righteousness. This is a hymn that we have sung at the past few National Conferences and at Saint Andrews Chapel:
Clothe us in Your righteousness
Hide filthy rags of sin
Dress us in Your Perfect garb
Both outside and within
No work of ours is good enough
For evil to atone
Your merit, Lord, is all we have
It saves, and it alone

These Great Things
What shall we say to these great things?
Of mystery sublime
That if He is for us we can sing
Now and for all time

Worthy is the Lamb – taken from the book of Revelation:
Ten thousand times, ten thousand more
The host of heaven cried
All blessing, honor, glory, and pow’r
To Christ, the Lamb that died

At the end of the album is a bonus conversation with Dr. Sproul and Jeff Lippencott talking about the project. Also included is a hymn Jeff wrote, “This Hymn, My Simple Gift”, which was inspired by the project.

The album is available on iTunes, Amazon.com and Ligonier.org. Read more about the new project here http://www.ligonier.org/blog/glory-holy-one-announcing-rc-sprouls-new-sacred-hymns-project/


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Movie Review ~ Old Fashioned

Old FashionedOld Fashioned, rated PG-13
** ½
Intentionally released on the same date as Fifty Shades of Grey to provide a different perspective, this is a well-made and acted film with a good message about dating. However, the movie has a serious flaw. More about that later.
Clay (played by Rik Swartzwelder, who also wrote and directed the film), runs an antique business, named Old Fashioned, in a small Ohio town. It was given to him as a graduation present by his dear Great Aunt Zella, well played by Dorothy Silver. Above the shop is a furnished apartment. He shows the apartment to Amber (Elizabeth Roberts), an attractive young woman whose plan was to drive her car until it ran out of gas and wherever she runs out of gas would be where she would look for a place to live. This is not new for Amber, as she later reveals that she has lived in fourteen states and has had several failed relationships.
But Clay, who seems to be somewhat older than Amber, will not walk into the apartment with Amber. Clay, who is not married, has made a promise not to be alone in a room with a woman who is not his wife, something Amber finds strange. In fact, Clay tells Amber that he will not even kiss a woman until his wedding ceremony.
Almost immediately the free spirited Amber takes a liking to Clay. She creates reasons for him to have to come to the apartment and fix a clogged drain, etc., all the time she waits outside the door talking to him. Eventually, Clay also becomes attracted to Amber, but Clay is socially uncomfortable to say the least. It turns out that he has a past that he is not proud of. He became a Christian some time ago, but is self-absorbed, suffering with guilt and shame. He has become judgmental and as a result is fairly isolated. In fact, other than Zella, his only friend seems to be David (LeJon Woods). He doesn’t attend church on a regular basis because he couldn’t put up with the hypocrites, as he calls them. All of this complicates Clay and Amber’s growing relationship.
But here’s the problem with this better than average faith based film. Amber is not a believer when they start dating – far from it. And Clay doesn’t in any way try to bring her along to a better understanding and acceptance of Christianity. In fact, it is Amber who eventually asks him if they could go to church together. And despite Clay’s admirable thoughts about dating (really what used to be called courtship), he blatantly violates 1 Corinthians 6:14 by dating a non-believer. 1 Corinthians 6:14 states:
Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? (ESV)
So of all of Clay’s “rules”, he forgot perhaps the biggest one by dating a non-believer.
I really enjoyed this film, though some may find that it moved too slowly at times. The characters are quite likeable, especially Amber, Clay’s Great Aunt Zella, and Joseph Bonamico as George the dealer who stops by Clay’s shop periodically to sell him antiques. But the whole time, I found myself pulling for Clay and Amber to grow in a relationship that was unequally yoked.
There is no bad language in the film and it could easily have been rated PG.