Easter Extravagance – Some of all that Jesus did for me!

27 03 2010

Fifty Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die

This is a useful book of short devotional chapters by John Piper ideally suited to be read daily and appropriately relevant around the Easter season.  You can get a free PDF of the book at http://www.desiringgod.org/store/topicindex/90/660_fifty_reasons_why_jesus_came_to_die/ or you can access a free audio book at http://christianaudio.com/product_info.php?products_id=952

Have a blessed Easter.

Chapter headings:

1. To Absorb the Wrath of God

2. To Please His Heavenly Father

3. To Learn Obedience and Be Perfected

4. To Achieve His Own Resurrection from the Dead

5. To Show the Wealth of God’s Love and Grace for Sinners

6. To Show His Own Love for Us

7. To Cancel the Legal Demands of the Law Against Us

8. To Become a Ransom for Many

9. For the Forgiveness of Our Sins

10. To Provide the Basis for Our Justification

11. To Complete the Obedience That Becomes Our Righteousness

12. To Take Away Our Condemnation

13. To Abolish Circumcision and All Rituals as the Basis of Salvation

14. To Bring Us to Faith and Keep Us Faithful

15. To Make Us Holy, Blameless, and Perfect

16. To Give Us a Clear Conscience

17. To Obtain for Us All Things That Are Good for Us

18. To Heal Us from Moral and Physical Sickness

19. To Give Eternal Life to All Who Believe on Him

20. To Deliver Us from the Present Evil Age

21. To Reconcile Us to God

22. To Bring Us to God

23. So That We Might Belong to Him

24. To Give Us Confident Access to the Holiest Place

25. To Become for Us the Place Where We Meet God

26. To Bring the Old Testament Priesthood to an End and Become the Eternal High Priest

27. To Become a Sympathetic and Helpful High Priest

28. To Free Us from the Futility of Our Ancestry

29. To Free Us from the Slavery of Sin

30. That We Might Die to Sin and Live to Righteousness

31. So That We Would Die to the Law and Bear Fruit for God

32. To Enable Us to Live for Christ and Not Ourselves

33. To Make His Cross the Ground of All Our Boasting

34. To Enable Us to Live by Faith in Him

35. To Give Marriage Its Deepest Meaning

36. To Create a People Passionate for Good Works

37. To Call Us to Follow His Example of Lowliness and Costly Love

38. To Create a Band of Crucified Followers

39. To Free Us from Bondage to the Fear of Death

40. So That We Would Be with Him Immediately After Death

41. To Secure Our Resurrection from the Dead

42. To Disarm the Rulers and Authorities

43. To Unleash the Power of God in the Gospel

44. To Destroy the Hostility Between Races

45. To Ransom People from Every Tribe and Language and People and Nation

46. To Gather All His Sheep from Around the World

47. To Rescue Us from Final Judgement

48. To Gain His Joy and Ours

49. So That He Would Be Crowned with Glory and Honour

50. To Show Us That the Worst Evil Is Meant by God for Good

The Trellis and the Vine – Lessons in Christian Ministry Revisited

27 03 2010

Almost finished this great book. Here are some other lessons to keep in mind in the face of Christian ministry.

Keeping the Big Picture in Focus

a. Remember what God is doing in the world.

Keep this overall perspective in mind in all of life and ministry.

“It’s the story of what God is really doing on plant earth. It begins with his plan to create all things by and for his Son, and it culminates in new heavens and a new earth, populated by a newly resurrected people of God who are united to Jesus Christ.” (p. 31)

b. Remember what God is doing in the world now.

“This is what God is doing now in the world: Spirit-backed gospel preaching leading to the salvation of souls.  It’s his program, his agenda, his priority, his focus, his project, or whatever other business-related metaphor you’d like to use.  And by it, he is gathering a new Christ-centred people as his very own; a quiet steadily growing profusion of leaves on the great vine of his kingdom.” (p. 35)

I wish they had said ‘fruit’ instead of ‘leaves, but Amen to that…

c. Remember God works through his Word by his Spirit

“The apostolic task is to preach; to bear witness; to proclaim the word; and to do so under the power and enabling of God’s Spirit.  The apostles affirm this priority in Acts 6 when they indicate how determined they are to keep devoting themselves “to prayer and the ministry of the word”.

“But it’s interesting how little the New Testament talks about church growth, and how often it talks about ‘gospel growth’ or the increase of the ‘word’. The focus is on the progress of the Spirit backed word of God as it makes its way in the world, according to God’s plan…  But the emphasis is not on growth of the congregation as a structure – in numbers, finances and success – but on the growth of the gospel, as it is spoken and re-spoken under the power of the Spirit.” (p. 37)

This is a helpful reminder…

From these observations Marshall and Payne draw three implications:

1. Is there anything more vital to be doing in our world?

2. The only growth that has any significance in God’s plans is the growth of believers.

3. Growth happens only through the power of God’s Spirit as he applies his word to people’s hearts.

“…what happens is the same [in every context]: a Christian brings a truth from God’s word to someone else, praying that God would make that word bear fruit through the inward working of his Spirit.” (p. 39)

Let us keep the focus on such ‘vinework’.  Everything else is trellis.

The Trellis and the Vine – Lessons in Discipleship Revisited

11 03 2010

I’ve been enjoying reading  more of Colin Marshall and Tony Payne’s challenges to the traditional approaches into which we have drifted in our evangelical models of ‘doing Christian ministry’ (see my previous post).  I have appreciated their simple and straightforward style and their regular references to Scripture which they continually look to as the basis for the evaluation of what we are doing now.  Here are a few of the sections that I have appreciated – not too much ‘new’ stuff, but old stuff put in a fresh way that calls us to renewed action .

  • The Correct Focus of the Great Commission
    “Sometimes our translations may give the impression that ‘go’ is the emphasis of the command, but the main verb of the sentence is ‘make disciples’, with three subordinate participles hanging off it: going (or ‘as you go’), baptizing and teaching” (p. 12).  “The disciples are now, in turn, to make new disciples by teaching them to obey everything commanded by their Master.  This ‘making-disciples-by-teaching’ corresponds to preaching the gospel in the parallel mandate in Luke…” (p. 12)  “It’s a commission that makes disciple-making the normal agenda and priority of every church and every Christian disciple” (p. 13) (emphasis theirs)
  • Ministry Mind-shifts
    “Most churches nned to make a conscious shift – away from erecting and maintaining structures, and towards growing people who are disciple-making disciples of Christ” (p. 17).  (emphasis theirs)
  • An Apprenticeship Model
    We need a shift “From relying on training institutions to establishing local training.”  Marshall and Payne, although positive about the value of theological education (as I would be) continue, “But a college cannot be expected to provide total training in the character, conviction and skill that is required for ministers and co-workers.  Much of this ought to be done through training ‘on the job’ in church life… a ministry apprenticeship before college and in-service practical training after college” (p.24).
  • A focus on “Gospel Growth”
    “We must be exporters of trained people instead of hoarders of trained people” (p. 25).

Four great concepts that are simple sound sanctified truth from the Word.  Obedience to the Great Commission in making disciples, not just converts, of all nations requires a relational approach to ministry that will model the Christian faith every day and not from the pew or the pulpit alone.

More to follow…

Get to the Prayer Meeting for Boldness in Speaking God’s Word

5 03 2010

The Prayer meeting modelled in Acts 4:23-31 is a gathering marked by characteristics we must learn to long for and incorporate into our own church prayer meetings.  We need the vitality, the unity and the perspective these Christians had in meeting for prayer as the people of God.  We need the Word-based, cross-centred, and service-oriented prayer focus which they had that results in the will of the Sovereign Lord increasingly being seen and done among his people.  As Sovereign LORD, God is maker of heaven and earth and the sea and everything in them – no wonder then their expectations are so high as they come to him in adoration, confession, thanksgiving and supplication.

Notice four things that marked their prayer time:

1. They recognised and praised God because He is Sovereign LORD (adoration) (v24)
2. They acknowlegded God had revealed to them by his Word the sinful condition of men’s hearts (confession) (v25, 26)
3. They understood that God had provided redemption for his people in Christ Jesus through the cross (thanksgiving) (v28)
4. They were expectant of God because he alone empowers his people for service (supplication) (v29, 30)

The outcome of their prayer is also remarkable:

1. The place where they were was shaken…

Perhaps this in one thing we need from God: that we would be shaken at the place where we are now.  Shaken out of our meetings and church buildings; shaken out of our complacency and dereliction of duty; shaken to our core as we bow in awe and reverent fear before the Sovereign LORD, creator of heaven and earth; shaken out of our slumber to be witnessing, watchful and waiting for a coming Saviour.  Perhaps Isaiah’s commissioning to service was set in such a context of prayer when he saw the LORD high and lifted up, ruling in power and sovereign control, for the doorposts and the thresholds of the temple shook (Isaiah 6:1-11).  It was time to go out from the place where he had been.  Here am I, send me.

2. They were filled with the Holy Spirit…

Holy Spirit filling is a direct answer to the prayer of their hearts – specific prayer, specific answer.  In Acts 2:4 the ‘enabling’ of the Holy Spirit is clear and here again their cry for enabling (v29) is met in Holy Spirit empowerment (v31).  The disciples were under threat and facing severe opposition so this supernatural endowment of divine power was very much needed and sought.  Gladly, the Holy Spirit had previously been promised by their Lord and Master for just such an occasion as this – not for a gift of tongues as at Pentecost, but for a special enabling to speak (Lk 1:15, 41-45, 67; 21:12-15).  How quickly we forget or are perhaps afraid to ask specifically for the Holy Spirit’s filling that is available to those whose heart’s desires are consistent with God’s purposes (Lk 11:13).

3. They spoke the word of God boldly…

The reason for their boldness is not to be attributed to training, education, eloquence or religious tradition but rather it was as a result of their dependence upon God by His Spirit.  The spread of God’s word proclaimed in the power of God’s Spirit marks the subsequent growth of the church throughout the pages of Acts (Acts 4:31; 6:7; 8:4, 25; 12:24; 13:49; 15:35; 19:20).  Their confidence in God and his word is such that they are prepared to take God at his word. They recognise that it is just that – the word of God.  Not their word, not their message – God’s message.  They speak it out boldly in the sure conviction that his word will not return to him without accomplishing the purpose for which he sent it (Isaiah 55:10, 11).  God demonstrates that his word is true by the stretching out of his hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of his holy servant, Jesus.

May the Lord teach us to pray with this commitment and train us to preach and minister in this confidence.

FREE Christian Audio books

1 03 2010

Some great offers here people – two great FREE audio books to download – BOTH classics! Bonhoeffer – The Cost of Discipleship and Piper, Fifty Reasons Why Jesus came to Die


Get them here: http://christianaudio.com/free