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Unsung Heroes: People Who Made the Response Possible

I think the best people in the world are probably the ones whose names you never hear. These are the people who live and serve like Jesus did. He wasn’t in big cities all the time, didn’t write any books, made no headlines, networked with no one important.

He was with fishermen and no-counts, prostitutes and sinners.

Why am I reflecting on these realities this morning? Because of the little glimpse I had into how hard the dedicated Communications team at Southern Seminary worked to bring out God and the Gay Christian? A Response to Matthew Vines.

I’m not aware of all the details, but they had a very short turnaround time to meet the deadline of having that project ready to go when the Vines book released last night at 3am. They worked nearly until that time, some of them having started almost 24 hours earlier. While the rest of the world was watching the NBA Playoffs or sleeping, this team was re-reading, editing, fixing, and fussing over that last detail.

They left it all on the court.

So if you are helped by this book that Heath Lambert, Owen Strachan, Denny Burk, myself, and Dr. Mohler wrote the words of, let me encourage you to thank God and pray for the people who made sure those words were grammatical, made sure the references were right, made sure the cover looks sharp, and did a thousand other things that we would never imagine such a project would entail.

I give praise and thanks to God for the quiet, behind the scenes work of Jim Smith, Steve Watters, Aaron Hanbury, Eric Jimenez, RuthAnne Irvin, Matt Damico, Jason Thacker, Jason Coobs, and I probably haven’t gotten them all. Unsung heroes. Thank you guys. I’m praising God for you.

If you know these folks, you know they are talented people who each have important stuff going. Know, too, that like their Master, Jesus, they can serve when there won’t be any recognition, when they won’t get so much as a mention on a masthead. But when you see a phrase like “SBTS Press,” know that there are hardworking people making that happen. Pray for them. Thank God for them. Where would we be without them?

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The 2013 Book I’m Most Excited to See

Warning, hyperbolic statement ahead:

More than any other book that will be published in 2013, I’m excited to see this new one from Brian Vickers. Having already published on imputation (which if you haven’t read it already, you should click right here and get yourself a copy of Jesus’ Blood and Righteousness), and having spent years doing exegesis, reading widely and deeply, and faithfully teaching students, to say nothing of living well through joy and sorrow, there’s nobody I’d rather read on the article on which the church stands or falls than Brian Vickers.

My recommendation is that you pre-order your copy today. Seriously, can you think of a topic more central to the gospel than justification by faith? Don’t think you’ve got this one in your back pocket. I’ve had the pleasure of many a conversation with Prof. Vickers, and I’m excited about the insights waiting to burst in the minds of the readers of this book. After you pre-order your copy, I recommend you write P&R to thank them for publishing this important book, and ask the Lord to do more than can be asked or imagined with this important new title.

Just in case you’re wondering why I would give the warning with which this post began, the problem is that my enthusiasm over this new one from Brian Vickers is approximated by my anticipation of forthcoming volumes by Denny Burk and Tom Schreiner.

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Hope and Change and the Promises of God

What hath Whittaker Chambers to do with “Hope and Change”?

What hath communism and secular liberalism to do with the promises of God in the Bible?

What do racial equality and diversity, environmentalism, peace in our time, provision for all, the hope of socialism, the goals of liberalism, and the aims of all politicians have to do with Christianity?

On Sunday, November 20, 2011, it was my privilege to address “Hope and Change and the Promises of God” at Providence Baptist Church in Pasadena, TX.

This was an overtly evangelistic, gospel sermon. This was a sermon aimed at unbelievers pleading with them to embrace Christianity.

May the Lord be pleased to call many to himself.

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Can You Identify with Judas?

Have you ever betrayed a friend?

Can you identify with the bargain that Judas made? Have you ever decided that something else was better than Jesus? I’m not referring to inadvertent mistakes but to moments when one knows what God requires, knows what God has commanded, and chooses something else instead.

What is it in your life that you prefer to Jesus?

That’s what came down to for Judas. He decided that the money he would gain by turning Jesus over was better than all it will cost him to stay with Jesus. The authorities would appreciate him. Public opinion would shift in his favor. He would be viewed as a hero. If he stayed with Jesus, all the people who mattered in Jerusalem would continue to feel disdain for him. If he turned Jesus over to them, they would lionize him. Judas Iscariot would be known and appreciated by the Jerusalem elite. He would be famous. He would be (anachronism coming) the darling of the media. He would be a man of interest. They would surely conclude that he was a man with the fortitude to see the error of his way, recognize how dangerous Jesus was to Israel, and do the right thing without regard for his emotional and personal connection to Jesus.

Can you understand and identify with the temptation that faced Judas?

Rather than stay with the wonder worker who started with great promise but then did all the wrong things and spent all his time with these bumbling Galileans, Judas changed sides.

Do you identify with Judas?

At least we can understand the rationale for what he did. We can sympathize with him and understand him.

One of the most insidious things that literature, tv shows, and movies do is enable us to sympathize with people who do evil things. They get us emotionally wrapped up with a character. They show us why a character chose a certain course of action. They can even make that course of action seem inevitable, given who the character is and how his life has gone.

Some writers and artists manipulate their audience into calling good evil and evil good.

The fact that we can understand Judas and identify with him should not make us feel any less revulsion at the evil he has done.

We need to understand Judas, to see how he could have done what he did and why he did what he did, not to diminish our sense of right and wrong, not to call good evil and evil good, but because we must recognize recognize how we, too, could do evil like what Judas did.

It is evil because Jesus is in the right and God is with Jesus. Judas betrayed Jesus and he betrayed God.

We could fall in the same way. How do we respond to the ways that we can identify with Judas?

We pray for God to make us love righteousness and hate wickedness. We pray that God will keep us faithful to him and his Messiah, to our wives and children. We pray that God will give us moral clarity. We pray that God would cause us to feel even more horrified than we already are by the abominable profanity of the insidious and subversive and treacherous nature of evil.

On Sunday, July 3, it was my privilege to preach the passage in Mark that depicts Judas’ betrayal of Jesus, Mark 14:26–52, “Jesus Stands Alone,” at Kenwood Baptist Church. The audio is here.

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Justice and Mercy Planned by Jesus and the Count of Monte Cristo

In Alexandre Dumas’s novel, The Count of Monte Cristo, Edmund Dantes is about to marry his beautiful beloved Mercedes. On the night before he is to be married, Dantes is falsely accused by one man who wants his woman, and another who wants his job. It so happens that the judge is implicated in the circumstances, in response to which he sentences Dantes to life in prison without trial.

While imprisoned for 14 years, Dantes is befriended and instructed by Abbe Faria. Faria also tells Dantes of a treasure hidden on the isle of Monte Cristo. Faria dies, and Dantes becomes the only prisoner ever to escape from the prison of Château d’If.

Dantes goes to the island of Monte Cristo, finds the treasure, and plots vengeance, astonishingly elaborate in its detail and poetic justice. The justice that Dantes accomplishes is so perfect and so complete and so elaborate that if we do not willingly suspend our disbelief, if we back away from the fictional dream, we begin to question whether this is credible. Could a man pull this off?

An innocent man, falsely accused, taken from his betrothed the night before their wedding, and unjustly imprisoned for 14 long years.

The world needs justice. Who can give perfect justice?

The world needs redemption. Who can give perfect redemption?

Can we have justice and redemption?

In Mark 14:1–25, we see Jesus bring to fulfillment an astonishingly elaborate plot that upholds justice and accomplishes redemption. On Sunday, June 26, 2011, it was my privilege to preach this text at Kenwood Baptist Church.

The Count of Monte Cristo, Edmund Dantes, achieved a limited, human justice. He ruined the lives of those who ruined his life. He even forgave one mortal enemy who repented of his sin and plead for forgiveness. Dantes could not, however, win back Mercedes. While he was imprisoned, she married another, one of those who falsely accused Dantes. Dantes takes vengeance on the man, but he cannot redeem his lost bride.

Jesus is a better avenger and a better redeemer than Edmund Dantes. No real man could take the vengeance Dantes accomplishes. Only a fictional hero could pull it off. Jesus achieves a perfect justice, and Jesus doesn’t lose his bride. Jesus will redeem all those who belong to him. Jesus will never fail you.

This hyperlinked title of my sermon on Mark 14:1–25 will take you to the audio file: “Justice and Mercy Planned by Jesus and the Count of Monte Cristo.”

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Review of Paul Barnett’s “Paul: Missionary of Jesus”

Paul: Missionary of Jesus. After Jesus, vol. 2. By Paul Barnett. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2008, xvi + 240 pp. $18.00 paper.

Published in The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology 15.1 (2011), 112–13.

In this book Paul Barnett asks whether the mission and message of Paul the Apostle was the mission and message of Jesus of Nazareth. Having introduced the question, Barnett devotes a chapter that surveys both those who have driven a wedge between Jesus and Paul and the information about Jesus in Paul’s letters. He then takes the reader on a chronological flyover of Paul’s life, concluding that “He was from an aristocratic Diaspora family and a Roman citizen by birth, yet conservatively Jewish in nurture (in Tarsus) and education (in Jerusalem); he was an eminent younger Pharisee, yet bilingual and an accomplished scholar of the Greek Bible” (44). Barnett then asks why Paul persecuted the church, when his teacher, Gamaliel, advised against it (Acts 5:33–39). Barnett argues that the combination of the conversion of numerous priests and Stephen’s preaching that touched on the role of the temple and the law (Acts 6:7–13) catalyzed Paul’s violent opposition, forcing him into action in spite of Gamaliel’s earlier advice (48–49). The significance of the Damascus event in Paul’s life and thought is examined next, with Barnett arguing that “the core elements of Paul’s doctrines that he was to preach were formed in Damascus” and that what happened there “represented a complete relational and moral turnabout that was accompanied by a radical new vocation” (75).

Barnett then takes a close look at what can be known about the so-called unknown years, from the time of Paul’s conversion at Damascus (Acts 9) to his first westward mission starting from Antioch (Acts 13). He notes that the details from Acts and from Paul’s narration in Galatians agree in the sequence of locations (77). In chapter 7 Barnett asks what he considers “the most critical question of all”: “Was Paul’s mission to the Gentiles according to the mind of Jesus and an authentic extension to his own ministry in Israel?” (99). He shows that a two-stage “Israel first, then the nations” trajectory can be seen in Mark and Matthew’s portrayals of Jesus. This matches Paul’s to the Jew first and also the Gentile mentality. Further, Paul regarded himself as seized by Christ, and leading apostles confirmed Paul’s call to preach to the Gentiles (114–15). Interacting with Donaldson and Sanders, Barnett discusses the way that “Paul appears to have regarded himself and his life’s work in fulfillment of a number of OT texts” (118).

Barnett’s final chapters deal with Paul’s mission and what he calls the countermission. He writes, “Paul’s mission immediately provoked the rise of a Jerusalem-based countermission in churches that insisted Gentile believers be circumcised. This countermission was active throughout the decade of Paul’s mission in the provinces, and it was the major problem Paul faced during those years” (135). Barnett holds that most of Paul’s letters come in the decade of AD 47–57. Though there is no mention in Acts of Paul being imprisoned in Ephesus, Barnett posits an Ephesian imprisonment and claims that Philemon, Colossians, and Ephesians were written while Paul was imprisoned in Ephesus it in AD 55 (136­–37, 215–17). Barnett suggests that apocalyptic ferment, the hardening of Israel, and the political stability under Claudius opened the door for Paul to move beyond the God-fearing Gentiles in synagogues to the intentional evangelization of Gentile idolaters. Barnett sees this as a paradigm shift that provoked a Jewish countermission (137–42). The only evidence he has for this is Paul’s letters, and in my judgment he over-reads that evidence at several points. For instance, somehow he knows that as Paul was laboring on the collection of funds for the poor in Judea, the difficulties culminated “in the revelation in Corinth of a Jewish conspiracy for a shipboard interception of the money” (154). Perhaps Barnett is drawing an inference from Acts 20:3, but he gives no scripture references and cites no other evidence for this event. He also over-reads the evidence when he makes a bizarre suggestion about why Paul wanted to collect money for the famine-struck poor in Judea in the first place: “Implied, perhaps, is the underlying motive that the Gentiles sent such gifts to secure a place in the covenant in lieu of circumcision” (155). So now a financial gift in time of need is something like a bribe? Calling this grace-based does nothing to ameliorate this problematic suggestion. Barnett continues his foray into fiction when he writes of how this bribe was received, “So far as we can tell, the collection was not successful in fulfilling Paul’s hopes. His cool reception from the elders of the Jerusalem church suggests that, initially at least, his hopes for strengthening the fellowship between Jews and Gentiles with consequent recognition of the Gentile churches were not realized . . . . In short, they are unimpressed with Paul’s Gentile companions and their money!” (155–56). I think this is a total misreading of the texts that rehearse this situation, and I doubt very much that Paul would have countenanced the suggestion that he was using a financial contribution to smooth the way for his law-free gospel. Barnett writes, “the collection . . . was to secure unity within the new covenant people of the Messiah” (158), but Paul sees the gospel, not monetary gifts, as securing that unity (cf. Rom 14–15; Eph 2:11–22).

There is more over-reading of the evidence in Barnett’s discussion of the relationships between Apollos and Paul and Peter and Paul as reflected by the Corinthian correspondence (166–70), culminating in this totally unwarranted statement: “We infer that Cephas prompted questions about Paul’s apostleship but that Paul did not reciprocate regarding Cephas” (170). This is little more than slander directed at Peter! The book concludes with a chapter arguing that Romans was Paul’s comprehensive answer to the Jewish countermission, a final summary of “Paul’s Achievement” (198), and appendices on Paul’s name, Acts and Paul’s letters, how Paul made decisions, the provenance of Philemon, Colossians, and Ephesians, and Paul’s names for Jesus.

I have noted several things with which I strongly disagree, and those concerns registered, the historical perspective makes this is a stimulating book. Barnett rightly argues for the historical reliability of Acts and for a harmonious reading of Luke’s narrative and Paul’s letters. In view of the way he sometimes slides into the writing of historical fiction, readers will want to test Barnett’s claims against the actual evidence, holding on to what is good.

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Available for Pre-Order: Revelation (Preaching the Word)

An ancient dragon.
A vulnerable bride holding fast to a promise.
An immoral temptress and her consorts.
And the King, coming on a white horse.

John writes to small, scattered churches with little worldly influence, urging them to hold fast to the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.
Sexual immorality lures them toward destruction.
False teaching threatens to undermine their standing before God.
An ancient dragon wages war on their souls.
But the King is coming on a white horse.

Revelation: The Spirit Speaks to the Churches in the Preaching the Word series is now available for pre-order on Amazon.

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Shepherd the Flock of God: The Ordination of Ross Shannon

On Sunday, May 22, 2011, it was our pleasure and privilege to ordain Ross Shannon to gospel ministry. Ross has been serving as the Assistant Pastor for Discipleship and Evangelism at Kenwood, and he just graduated from SBTS and was called to serve at First Baptist Church, Lapeer, MI. I had the honor of preaching Ross’s ordination. Ray Van Neste’s recent post on a good shepherd laying down his life for the sheep provided my introduction, and Floyd Doud Shafer’s phenomenal 1961 Christianity Today article inspired the conclusion.

We had a number of members of Kenwood graduate from SBTS, and as I was sitting there watching them cross the stage on Friday, reflecting on Ross and some other dear friends moving on to new ministries, I started this poem for Ross’s ordination.

Commission You Do We This Day

There is, my friend, no higher call
Than this we send you on with all
Our hearts, our souls, our minds we join
Both to rejoice and also mourn

The moving on of these so dear,
You’ve loved and served us so well here
That this sweet sadness deepens now
As though the grief is right somehow

We’d love to see your children born
Watch them grow and sing and learn;
And old together we might grow,
But there’s a deeper joy we’ll know

As you answer the call and go,
Our joy and grief together show
That there’s a love worth more than life,
A truth that merits sacrifice,

So join we now the ranks of those
Whose love in leaving deeper grows
Commission you do we this day
Giving God the thanks and praise.

Saturday, May 21, 2011
Begun during graduation on Friday, May 20, 2011
For the Ordination of Ross Shannon

Here’s the link to the sermon: Acts 20:17–38, “Shepherd the Flock of God: The Ordination of Ross Shannon

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Do Flowers Make You Feel Guilty?

Have you ever looked at a flower?

This week we went down to Bernheim Forest, and we saw this Quiet Garden full of Peonies. Have you ever thought about how delicate, transient, gratiuitous, and useless flowers are? God has lavished his creativity, resources, energy, mental ingenuity, and power on these things that serve no other purpose than to be beautiful.

Now think about the fact that there are deserts in the world where no flowers grow.

God has made some parts of the world gardens and other parts of the world deserts.

My point is not that those who enjoy gardens shouldn’t think about ways to irrigate deserts. We should.

My point is that those who live in gardens don’t need to feel guilty about the flowers.

We can apply this to God’s spiritual blessings just as well as we can to material ones: Some parts of the world have the word of God (incidentally, those also tend to be the parts of the world where it is possible to have clean water, good medicine, and funds that are safe from thugs and dictators who seize assets). Other parts of the world lack the Bible. Those who live in a land where the Bible is shouldn’t feel guilty about the mercy God has shown us. We should try to get the Bible and the gospel to other lands, but we shouldn’t feel guilty about the goodness God has given to us.

Why am I talking about flowers and deserts? Yesterday it was my privilege to preach the first part of Mark 10. I was going to do the whole chapter, but time ran out so I had to do a crash landing in the middle. Anyway, we were right there in that passage where Jesus tells the rich young ruler that he has to sell everything and give to the poor.

You can listen to the sermon here.

I bring up this thing about flowers because I think Jesus telling the rich young ruler to sell all and give to the poor has caused a lot of Christians to feel false guilt about about having possessions and putting money in savings. The point about flowers is picking up on what Paul says in 1 Timothy 6, where he tells rich people not to hope in wealth but in God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy – that is what 1 Timothy 6:17 says – go read it.

If God has given you something, he wants you to enjoy it, not feel guilty about it. Don’t reject God’s goodness and mercy to you by refusing to enjoy his gifts. Be generous to others. Preach the gospel. Lay your life down for them like Christ did for you (i.e., live the gospel). And enjoy God’s kindness.

But doesn’t the passage about the rich young ruler teach that we shouldn’t enjoy things (not even as God’s gifts) and that we shouldn’t save money?

No! A resounding NO!

Let me summarize a few points hermeneutical and observational:

1)    This rich guy is not a believer, so Mark isn’t giving this episode to show Jesus teaching his disciples. Mark is showing Jesus doing evangelism in this instance, not discipleship.

2)    Jesus isn’t giving this guy a ladder he can climb to get into heaven. The guy could do what Jesus tells him to and still go to hell–if he continued to trust in his ability to make more money and if he continued to worship Mammon. Jesus is exposing this guy’s idolatry, not giving a recipe to unbelievers. So if you’re not a believer, Jesus is calling you to trust in him, not your money. And he’s trying to help you recognize that you can’t redirect your trust on your own power. It’s a miracle that you need God to do for you. You need God to cause you to be born again. So if there’s something in your life that you don’t know how to overcome—maybe it has to do with the fact that you do love and trust money more than you love God and trust Jesus. Maybe it’s the fact that you’re living in adultery and you can’t overcome it. Jesus wants you to recognize your inability, and he wants you to cry out to him to help your unbelief.

3)    Mark 10:30 shows that the issue here is not having possessions, because Jesus says that those who follow him are going to get everything they give up back in this life (with persecutions). So Jesus doesn’t have something against possessions. He’s not advocating poverty or communism or socialism or homelessness. He is advocating the worship of God by faith in him.

So I submit that if you read this passage and come away thinking that you need to do something for Jesus in order to enter the kingdom of heaven or be his disciple, you’re missing the point.

Do I think Mark is teaching that followers of Jesus are called to sell all they have and give to the poor?

No.

Are we called to trust Jesus not Mammon?

Yes.

Are we called to steward what God has given us for the glory of God?

Yes.

Are we called to leverage all we have for the gospel?

Yes.

But divesting yourself of all possessions and of all means is not necessarily good stewardship, nor does it necessarily give you leverage.

Bring all the Bible to bear on your thinking about money. Two passages:

Proverbs 6:6–8,

[6] Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise. [7] Without having any chief, officer, or ruler, [8] she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest.

1 Timothy 6:17–19,

[17] As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. [18] They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, [19] thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.

If you’d like to hear the sermon, it’s here: Mark 10:1–31, “Are We Commanded to Sell Everything and Give to the Poor?”

Look at those beautiful flowers. Smell their fragrant aromas. And worship God who causes such beauty to continue in this world made ugly by sin.

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The Debate about Shouwang Church

Here’s an interesting article about what is taking place in China: “The Debate about Shouwang Church.”

I have a proposition, then a question prompted by the article, then brief thoughts on Paul’s response to such situations:

Proposition: The Chinese government is wickedly persecuting Christians and opposing God and his gospel. May God break the teeth of the wicked (Ps 3:7).

Question: Did the Shouwang Church need to force this issue? Maybe so. I really don’t know. From the article linked above, it appears that the church could have continued to worship had they been content to do so in smaller numbers in private venues.

Thoughts on Paul: On the one hand I can imagine Paul saying that the public confrontation will result in more people hearing the gospel (Phil 1:12–21). On the other hand, there were times when he did not take on the confrontation with the overpowering government, fleeing from King Aretas (2 Cor 11:32–33), and though he wanted to take on the crowd in Ephesus the other believers wouldn’t let him (Acts 19:30).

No doubt more information about the situation in China would be helpful.

What do you think? Should the Shouwang Church have forced the issue or stayed underground?

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Have You Read “Unbroken”?

What a book! Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken is a “true tall tale” (AP) powerfully told.

At 19 in 1936, Louie Zamperini “was the youngest distance runner ever to make the [U. S. Olympic] team” (27). The 1940 Olympics were cancelled because WWII had begun (44). Zamperini was drafted and became a bombardier (45). May 27, 1943, his plane went down in the Pacific ocean. Of the eleven man crew, only three rose to the surface after the plane crashed. In the debris from the crash two of the life rafts had surfaced. The three men, including Zamperini, would drift for 47 days over 2,000 miles on a current in the Pacific Ocean, washing ashore on the Japanese occupied Marshall Islands. Sharks constantly circling the life rafts. One of the men died on the raft, starved and exhausted. The two survivors, Zamperini and the pilot, Russell Allen Phillips, became prisoners of war. They were beaten, enslaved, degraded, starved, tortured, and eventually subjected to a deranged madman named Mutsuhiro Watanabe, nicknamed “the Bird.”

Somehow Zamperini survived the war, and though at the time they might not have called it Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, coming home he had it with a vengeance. He met a beautiful girl, and after two weeks had convinced her to marry him. Haunted by nightmares of the vicious cruelty of the Bird, Zamerpini was a drunken disaster. Having a nightmare of the Bird using his belt as a whip and lashing his temple with its buckle, Zamperini attacked the bird and began to throttle him. He woke to find himself on top of his wife with his hands around her throat. He was strangling his pregnant wife. Soon after the baby was born, she decided to file for divorce and left him (367).

Then in September of 1949 Billy Graham arrived in Los Angeles (369–70). As Zamperini was making plans to find his way back to Japan to murder the Bird, his wife returned to LA to arrange the divorce. She went to the Graham crusade and believed the gospel (371). She talked Zamperini into going to the crusade the next night, and when Graham gave the invitation, Zamperini marched out furious. Why did he go back the next night? The nightmares and exhaustion caused him to relent under his wife’s coaxing, and at the end of the second night Zamperini trusted Christ. He poured out his alcohol, threw away the girlie magazines and cigarettes, and never had another nightmare about the Bird (376).

He began to minister by sharing his testimony (377). He traveled to Sugamo Prison in Japan, where the war criminals who had abused him were now imprisoned. He forgave them (379). Back in California, he opened the Victory Boys Camp for troubled young men. He has carried the Olympic torch at the opening of five Olympic Games (383).

You won’t regret reading Unbroken.

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To the Jew First and Also the Gentile

On Sunday, March 20, 2011, it was my privilege to preach Mark 7:1–37, “To the Jew First and Also the Gentile,” at Kenwood Baptist Church.

At the exodus from Egypt Moses led Israel through the Red Sea into the wilderness where they immediately needed water and food. The Lord provided bread from heaven and water from the rock. Then they arrived at Sinai, where the Lord gave Israel his word through Moses. Then Moses taught the people how they were to live to preserve cleanliness and walk with the Lord.

In the new exodus Mark is depicting, John the Baptist has prepared the way, Jesus has calmed the sea and walked on it, he has provided bread in the desolate place, healing for the sick, and authoritative teaching. Now in Mark 7 Jesus will issue an authoritative declaration about all foods being clean.

Jesus conforms to his own standards and helps people on his own terms, and his standards and terms are holy, righteous, and good.

The Pharisees miss the point of the Old Testament and nitpick Jesus’ disciples about handwashings, then Jesus declares that it is what comes from the heart that defiles. After the scribes and Pharisees reject Jesus, he goes to Gentile territory, where Mark shows it’s better to be a dog who gets crumbs than a child who refuses to eat, and then a Gentile has his ears opened and his tongue loosed.

To hear more, click here.

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The Most Important App Available

Fighter Verses for your mobile device.

Hide it in your heart. Talk of them when you rise up and lie down, when you sit in your house and walk by the way.

Don’t waste your life. And don’t waste the childhood of your little ones.

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Glenda’s Story

From Elisabeth Ellliot’s foreword:

“Abandonment, abortion, abuse, addiction, adultery, alcoholism, alienation, anorexia–words hardly understood a few generations ago but now on everyone’s tongue, words we can hardly escape if we pick up a newspaper or turn on television. It is generally taken for granted that these sins and sorrows can be dealt with only by law, or by something we heard little about years ago–counseling. The results of such measures are not always brilliant.

Glenda’s Story, comprising all of those ‘A’ words, reveals the wondrous efficacy of a far older answer, an answer far less frequently sought today except as a desperate venture–the Cross of Jesus.”

The second to last paragraph in the book reads like this:

“I have heard people argue for abortion ‘because the child would be better off never to see life than to be abused and violated. It is better to be dead than unwanted,’ they say. May I offer my life–and the lives of my children–as a contradiction to that argument?”

My friend Justin Tubbs loaned me this powerful testimony of God’s grace and the cleansing and healing and renewing beauty of the gospel, and I commend it to you.

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Jeremy Farmer, Psalm 127, and Taking the Gospel Where Christ Has Not Been Named

This past Sunday we were privileged to hear a fabulous exposition of Psalm 127 in its canonical context at Kenwood Baptist Church from Jeremy Farmer. This was the first sermon I’ve heard on Psalm 127, and Jeremy did a great job tracing out how this Psalm of Solomon fits with the promise to David and is fulfilled in Jesus.

You definitely want to hear this.

If you’re like me, you’re eager to know about and support those who are taking the gospel where Christ has not been named, and Jeremy and his family are doing just that. So I commend him to you. Jeremy is a great preacher who understands biblical theology and does a great job articulating God’s big purpose from the perspective of the whole story.

Check out their website. They have raised about 60% of the support they need, and they hope to be ready to go to Cambodia by May of 2011.

If you want to know how to help them get there, you can visit this page, and you can contact them here.

Here’s how Jeremy concluded his sermon:

The eternal purpose of God is to call out from every kindred, tongue, people, and nation, a multitude redeemed by the blood of His Lamb, slain from the foundation of the world, over whom He will crown His Son, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, King of kings and Lord of lords forever.

This is the passion of the heart of God that cannot be quenched, the obsession of His mind that cannot be denied, the vision of His eye that cannot grow dim, and the destination to which He has committed His omnipotent, immutable, eternal being: a destination He will not abandon. (Daryl Champlin)

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