There are two major prophecies concerning the advance of the gospel that remain unfulfilled at this very moment: that Israel would embrace the Messiah, and that the good news of Jesus would reach every tribe and ethnic group in the world.

These are not just isolated prophecies. Instead, they are repeated often, and play a significant role in how the believers are to think about the future.   Continue Reading…

GIFSec.com

GIFSec.com

You’ve probably heard it many times. “We just need to get back to the days of the early church.” “You know, things would be so much better in contemporary Christianity if we were more like the early church.”

While there were some great things happening then, I’m not so sure that I am eager to get back to the early church days. They, too, had their problems. Here are a few reasons why we might put the brakes on the glamorization of the early church.

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Every once in a while, a leader, whether it be a judge, a king, or a Czar, tries to do the impossible and shut down the Gospel.

All throughout history many have attempted this impossible feat. Perhaps one of the most famous attempts occurred in 1673. The Lord Judge Magistrate of Bedford was fed up with John Bunyan and his preaching of the Gospel. John Bunyan was reaching thousands with the truth of scripture, and the judge obviously hated sound preaching. But when John Bunyan was told to stop, John Bunyan famously answered, “If I am freed today, I will preach tomorrow!” And so the judge sentenced him to jail and said,

“At last we are done with this tinker and his cause. Never more will he plague us: for his name, locked away as surely as he, shall be forgotten, as surely as he. Done we are, and all eternity with him.”

A sillier statement has never been spoken.

John Bunyan went on to write The Pilgrim’s Progress, along with other books that the Lord has used for centuries to lead men and women to himself. That chief magistrate was not only wrong about John Bunyan, but he believed that he could put a stop to the Gospel. By sentencing Bunyan, he ended up spreading it further than even Bunyan himself thought possible.

The Gospel cannot be stopped. No one on earth has the power to shut up a man or woman consumed with it.

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Buyer’s remorse often grips people just after they indulge in an expensive purchase. It’s a cognitive dissonance of the “what if” factor. What if what I bought isn’t as good as what I didn’t buy; what if I can’t afford it and will regret the expense later? Marketing pundits have come up with ways to ease the buyer’s distress. There are two main ways to do this.a bag of regret

The first tactic is to offer a reasonable exchange policy. If you regret your choice and change your mind you can simply return the item or exchange it for a different one. It’s the old “take the puppy home and if you want, just return it in a couple of days” routine.

The other method is a bit more crude, but just as effective: you remove the chance of buyer’s remorse caused by too many choices by limiting the choices. Apple does this. They don’t have 100 different laptops they have the Macbook –Air or –Pro in one color and two sizes. And when a new model hits the rack, the former choices evaporate into oblivion. You get what you get and you don’t get upset. But for this to work, you need a superior product.

In your spiritual life God has made your choice simple: the true, living, loving, all-powerful saving God, or dead idols who can’t save.

Joshua’s parting words to the nation of Israel was a simple case of choose your love, and then love your choice.

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Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him.
– 2 Corinthians 5:9 –

AmbitionThe relationship between this verse and the previous is instructive. The “therefore” signals that this is a consequence of the preceding truth. What is the necessary consequence of having the settled preference to depart from this life and be with Christ? What is the necessary consequence of longing for unhindered, sin-free, face-to-face communion with Jesus? If the open enjoyment of Christ’s glory is the great hope of your life in the future, then that means your supreme ambition will be to be pleasing to Him in the present.

Ambition

This phrase, “We also have as our ambition,” speaks to the intensity of Paul’s desire to please Christ above all else. It is the all-consuming, driving force behind all he does. Usually, the concept of ambition has a negative connotation, speaking of someone who is wholly preoccupied with self-promotion and self-glory. A young man enters the corporate world with designs of running the company one day, determined to climb the corporate ladder no matter who he has to step on to get to the top. A politician strategizes and schemes and conspires as to how he can put himself forward, undermine his opponents, and portray himself in the best light, so that he can win the favor of the electorate. A young man has the ambition of playing professional sports, and he shapes his entire childhood around receiving the proper training and coaching, putting in the necessary workouts, watching his diet, getting good grades to go to a Division 1 university—he eats, sleeps, and breathes his game, all so he can wear that uniform and play in front of thousands of fans.

With that same all-consuming passion (albeit expressed positively rather than negatively), the Apostle Paul says: My supreme ambition is to always be pleasing to Christ. Charles Hodge comments, “As ambitious men desire and strive after fame, so Christians long and labor to be acceptable to Christ. Love to him, the desire to please him, and to be pleasing to him, animates their hearts and governs their lives, and makes them do and suffer what heroes do for glory” (500).

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The violence that gripped the United States last week was a jarring reminder of the importance of authority. It seems that too many Americans—and that should probably be broadened to include the entire Western world—see themselves as above authority. The concept of respecting authority has eroded, and the result of this erosion can only be a flood of violence.

Our society prides itself on being post-Christian, and in so doing it declares that all divine truth is irrelevant. But in discarding God’s decrees about marriage, life, and morality, we also throw away a biblical concept of authority.   Continue Reading…

pulpit

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It happened again. Another pastor has fallen. From Mark Driscoll, to Darrin Patrick, Bob Coy, Tullian Tchividjian, and now Perry Noble; the past few years have witnessed more pastoral disqualifications than any of us would like to see.

As a young man with eight mere years of senior pastor experience, I have been attempting to learn and re-learn a few basic-but-essential lessons from these tragedies. A few thoughts for some of us young men in positions of church leadership:

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It was 1856 and things could not have been going better for Spurgeon.

spurgeonTwenty-two years old, married for about a year, already with twin boys, Spurgeon was also experiencing great blessing in ministry. He was preaching to thousands. On October 19, 1856 some say almost 14,000 gathered to hear him preach, even though only 10,000 fit in the building. They were eager to hear this young pastor who preached the Bible. But there were many jealous people.

That night during the service at around 6 o’clock some people started shouting “fire!”

A stampede broke out, and in the midst of the panic, people trampled over each other causing the death of seven people.

There was no fire.

Because Spurgeon was so distraught over the events that occurred, he was unwilling to preach the next Sunday, he even thought about quitting the ministry altogether. And it wasn’t until the Sunday after that that he was willing to return to the pulpit. Here were his first words as he got up to preach that morning,

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In the sixth grade I decided I wanted to be a diplomat. I wasn’t sure what a diplomat did, but one of them had a daughter who was in my class; her name was Calin. She spoke with an exotic accent, she got to translocate to a new country every few years, and the best part, according to her, was that her family had diplomatic immunity.

“What’s immunity?” I asked. She went on to patiently explain that immunity is like when you get a shot in your arm so you can’t get the flu. Other people can catch the disease, but you can’t, because you are now immune to it. Similarly, diplomatic immunity meant that Calin’s whole family was immune from getting into trouble of any sort.

Calin jovially boasted how her dad could do anything he wanted, break any law, park where he desired, and wouldn’t get a traffic ticket nor go to jail. You can see how this job would appeal to an eleven year old. I had found my vocation. I would happily take a shot in the arm for that superpower any day!

simpson immunity

It never occurred to me that Calin didn’t quite understand the immunity issue until one day when the teacher left the class with explicit instructions to keep quiet and keep working. Upon her return she found Calin out of her chair and chatting away to a friend. As the teacher tugged her by an ear and led her out of the classroom, the last thing I heard her say was a plaintive squeal, “But I have diplomatic immunity!”

 

Representing your country as an ambassador certainly comes with privileges, but it also brings major responsibilities. Which is a concept with which all Christians should be familiar.

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“Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord—for we walk by faith, not by sight—we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord.”
– 2 Corinthians 5:6–8 –

“Therefore” points us back to Paul’s thoughts, where he celebrated the truth that even if his earthly tent was torn down—even the constant opposition, conflict, and persecution that results from his ministry results in losing his life—he was absolutely certain that God would one day raise him from the dead in a glorified body (2 Cor 5:1–5). And he could be that certain because God Himself had given him a pledge—an earnest—the down payment of the permanent indwelling of the Holy Spirit in his heart, guaranteeing that God will one day deliver all the fullness of Paul’s heavenly inheritance (2 Cor 5:5).

The Pledge of the Spirit

The consequence of that Spirit-guaranteed assurance of a resurrection body is “good courage.” Verse 6: “Therefore, being always of good courage.” And then again in verse 8: “We are of good courage, I say.” The word means to be boldly and confidently courageous. Whether the beatings and stonings and imprisonments that would come as a result of preaching the Gospel to the lost, or the distrust and the false accusations and the heartache of broken relationships that would come as a result of ministering to the church—he could face any circumstance with courage and confidence.

And as we lay our lives down in the service of Christ and His church, so can we. There is so much strength and courage to be drawn from the reality that the Holy Spirit of God Himself is dwelling in us, fighting sin in us, warring against the flesh in us, and will one day raise our mortal body from the dead into conformity with the body of Christ’s glory. As long as that Spirit dwells in you, and guides you and leads you into holiness, and empowers you for ministry, you need never despair in the midst of your labors. You can be always of good courage. One commentator said, “The good courage that animates the [believers] is as permanent and serene as the Spirit dwelling within” (Hughes, 175). The Father’s pledge of the Spirit in our hearts is cause for fearless sacrificial ministry.

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