The Early Bird Gets The Link

Was out and about yesterday but here is your links for today.

Ray Ortlund on What Makes a Gospel-Centered Church

But here is something troubling. If a message so good lies at the defining center of our churches, why do we see such bad things in those same churches—ranging from active strife to sheer exhaustion? Where is the saving power of the gospel? Why don’t we see more of Tyndale’s singing, dancing, and leaping for joy in our churches, if the good news is setting the tone?

How To Understand and Apply the New Testament

Helpful review on Andy Nasseli’s new book.

Identity: Knowing Who We Are in Christ

Far too often, we think of ourselves mainly in terms of what we do or how we feel about ourselves and our relationship to our temporal circumstances. Becoming aware of our position and identity in Christ uplifts us by pointing us to tremendously empowering truths and confronts us with some sobering facts.

The God Who Broke My Heart

One thing I know I must do is pay attention to what is going on not only in my body but also in my mind and heart, and right now my heart is fighting a war. I’m angry.

Has a Good Gift Become an Idol? Four Diagnostic Questions

We feel our hearts being tested when something bad happens. But did you know that a good gift will also test your heart?

The Early Bird Gets The Link

Some good links in today’s edition, hope you enjoy the links.

Seeking Unity in the Southern Baptist Convention

For those who have been following the issues between the ERLC & the SBC, here is a helpful response from the ERLC executive committee and Dr. Moore.

When Christians annoy you #1: remember Christ died for them

Our frustration is a form of judging. We convene the court, appoint ourselves as judge and come to our verdict. It all takes place in our heads, but that’s what we’re doing. Look at verse 10: ‘You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister?’ Or look at verse 13: ‘Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another.’ Stop passing judgment.

6 Lessons Learned Ministering in a Blue-Collar Community

I serve in a church in a small town in South Carolina. Our church is a blue-collar church. You must understand that blue-collar is not primarily about socioeconomics—it is primarily about a mindset. I have people in my church that make very good money. I have men in my church that make $200,000 per year while wearing a t-shirt and jeans to work every day. We have college graduates, bankers, and people with advanced degrees. But the profession doesn’t make the man (or woman). The profession is what they do, but not who they are. Deep down they are small-town people. Many of them are country people. They are wonderful, fun, salt-of-the-earth people, but they do not fit in well among a white-collar crowd. (And for the record, they are perfectly OK with that.)

Why I Didn’t Sing When I Visited Your Church

I enjoyed Challies’ stylistic approach to this article.

Faith Engages the Omnipotence of God

There is no road betwixt my soul and heaven. In the deepest wintertime faith is a road on which the horses of prayer may travel–aye, and all the better for the biting frost; but blockade the road, and how can we communicate with the Great King? Faith links me with divinity. Faith clothes me with the power of God. Faith engages on my side the omnipotence of Jehovah. Faith ensures every attribute of God in my defence. It helps me to defy the hosts of hell. It makes me march triumphant over the necks of my enemies.

Teach Teens Discernment

Caring for plants reminds me that growth takes a lot of work. But growth is also a necessary survival mechanism for all living things. If a flower grows, it’s alive. If it stops (or never starts), it withers and dies. That’s basic biology.

The Early Bird Gets The Link

Here are your links for Monday.

Hell Is the Default Destination

There are only two ways to pay for sin: The eternal Son of God can die for it, or we can pay for it eternally in hell.

10 Ways to Strengthen the Partnership between Home and Church

If you’re a parent, here are a few practical ways for you to take advantage of the partnership with the church in helping your child grow spiritually:

How John Piper’s Seashells Swept Over a Generation

Before he spoke, Piper asked God for “a prophetic word that would have a ripple effect to the ends of the earth and to eternity.”

We Can’t Microwave People Into Maturity

Christians should be careful to not approach discipleship like they approach their fitness goals. 

Scandalized by the Substitute: A Response to Young and Gungor

The doctrine of atonement for sin is—or at least has been—at the center of Christian faith and practice since Jesus’s earthly ministry. But in recent days, various voices have raised objections to the cross. Musician Michael Gungor called the atonement “evil” and “horrific” on Twitter, decrying a God who would mandate blood sacrifice for sin. William Paul Young, author of the 20-million-copy-selling The Shack, concurs. In his new Lies We Believe About God, Young says of Christ’s death:

Eight Steps to Christian Maturity

Take whatever you find helpful, and create categories and pathways that mobilize you to actually love and disciple your neighbors — Christian and non-Christian.

The Early Bird Gets The Link

Here’s your links for Friday.

Remembering Saint Patrick

We celebrate St. Patrick but what should we remember about his life and ministry? With that in mind here is 10 Things You Should Know about St. Patrick

Defining Gossip 

It would be nice if we, as believers, could speak of gossip as only being a danger “out there” in the world. But that is not the case. Much gossip takes place in churches, among professing Christians. Surely we have all been guilty of speaking gossip and, sadly, we have all been the subject of other people’s wagging tongues. 

3 Principles to Maximize Your Lifetime Impact

Worth the The click.

Solomon’s Twitter Guidelines

I’ve probably broken these rules more than I realize, but here’s how I think about what I should and shouldn’t tweet. A big shout out to King Solomon for his help is putting these 25 guidelines together.

The Devil Knows How to Discourage You

But we are not always of good courage. Why? Because unbelief in the promises of God dis-courages us. This is the focus of all Satan’s massive, multifarious strategies: to dis-courage us through dis-belief in God’s promises. His strategies are disorientingly sophisticated, but his goal is simple: to discourage Christians. Discouraged Christians are immobilized 

The Early Bird Gets The Link

The Early Bird is a daily round up of articles, video clips and/or podcasts which will feed the souls, challenge you, help you grow and sometimes laugh. 

Reclaiming Your Eyes from Pornography

Let the unveiled image of Christ burn into the eyes of your heart. This is the hope of transformation. It’s not enough to stop the input of harmful images, when memories continue their vehement haunt. The residual stains of past sin need eradication from your mind and heart. And there is only one way to that good end–the glory of God in the face of Christ.

Do Not Love the World: Breaking the Evil Enchantment of Worldliness

Do you think I am trying to weave a spell? Perhaps I am; but remember your fairy tales. Spells are used for breaking enchantments as well as for inducing them. And you and I have need of the strongest spell that can be found to wake us from the evil enchantment of worldliness which has been laid upon us for nearly a hundred years.

Are You a Scoffer?

Are you sitting in the seat of the scoffer? Are you jeering out loud or under your breath at sin, judgment, or people? Can you receive correction? Or are you always trying to save face?

How the Gospel Transforms the Teen Years

We’re no longer teenagers defined by the world’s standards, we’re no longer defined by sin, by what we once wanted to do, but we are defined by the gospel, by God

If Grace Is Free, Why Must We Work?

If salvation is God’s gracious free gift to us and is “not a result of [our] works,” why do we need to “work out [our] salvation”? Is this just the Bible speaking out both sides of its mouth?

Recovering Masculine Friendship

And so we need to teach the next generation of boys what masculine friendship looks like because too many are left fearfully scrambling around in the dark. In order to do this today’s men must step up and cultivate a father’s heart for younger men.

Gleanings in Joshua: Achan’s Scales

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Grandpa Tony  and Grandma Florence are my heroes. Whenever I could spend time with them I would and whenever they could spend time with me they would. I would spend days at their house, looking back they provided a safety and security I longed for. Their only flaw, in my childhood eyes, was they had a bad habit of smoking. When I would ask them why they wouldn’t quit they would say it isn’t hurting anyone. We know this isn’t true.

My grandparents lived into their mid 70’s, my grandmother passed first, among her various illnesses, one of them was lung cancer and it eventually took her life. Her passing had a profound impact in my life and one thing I learned in my preteen years is that her bad habit of smoking impacted more than just her. The ripple effects of her passing reverberated through my family like a loud boom in a cave.

Sin has that kind of effect in our lives and a great example of this is Joshua 7, where we learn of Achan’s treachery. In Joshua 6 we read of how God brought down the walls of Jericho and the command of the Lord was to destroy everything, except Rahab and those in her household. When Israel was done with Jericho everything appeared to be fine and they were ready to move on to the next battle.

What the Israelites didn’t know is that Achan took for himself some of the devoted things from Jericho and hid him in his tent, buried in the ground. Achan may have been thinking; Taking these things isn’t going to hurt anyone. No one will know. Who is gonna find out? If anyone does find out it will only affect me.

Sin is a sickness that has a profound impact not only on the one committing the act of disobedience but also to his family and the community he is involved with.

Sin Impacts The Community 

When Joshua sent his military strategist to Ai to develop a plan of war, the strategist returned saying they only needed 2-3 thousand men to take Ai. Joshua sends them out to take Ai and instead of the men returning in victory they return defeated by the hands of Ai and in fear.

Joshua tore his clothes and cried out before the Lord, let’s listen in to his cry,

Joshua 7:7-9 (ESV)
7  And Joshua said, “Alas, O Lord GOD, why have you brought this people over the Jordan at all, to give us into the hands of the Amorites, to destroy us? Would that we had been content to dwell beyond the Jordan!
8  O Lord, what can I say, when Israel has turned their backs before their enemies!
9  For the Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land will hear of it and will surround us and cut off our name from the earth. And what will you do for your great name?”

Joshua was confused, he knew the promises of God to provide for them the land and victory over his enemies. Joshua is dumb founded, a deer in the headlights not knowing which way to run. Listen to the Lord’s response,

Joshua 7:10-12

10 The LORD said to Joshua, “Get up! Why have you fallen on your face? 11 Israel has sinned; they have transgressed my covenant that I commanded them; they have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen and lied and put them among their own belongings. 12 Therefore the people of Israel cannot stand before their enemies. They turn their backs before their enemies, because they have become devoted for destruction. I will be with you no more, unless you destroy the devoted things from among you.

I love the Lord’s response, get  up boy! It reminds me of the moment in Rocky 3 when Apollo Creed is attempting to train Rocky a new style of boxing. But Rocky appears unfocused, confused because of the fear he has of Clubber Lang, his opponent. In Apollo’s frustration he proclaims “what’s the matter with you?” This is God telling Joshua “what’s the matter with you?” Get up, you are in this situation because someone has sinned.

Sin impacts the community and yet many of us like Achan think, who’s it going to hurt?  When the questions we should ask are: How will this hurt my witness for the Lord? Who is going to stumble when they find out I am doing this? Who will doubt the Lord’s work because of my sin? How is this sin going to affect my church?

Achan’s desire for the material wealth of Jericho, his lust for stuff, his disobedience to God’s commands withdrew God’s presence, protection and power from the whole community. When Joshua discovers it was Achan he asks him, why did you bring this trouble on us (Josh. 7:25)?. What trouble is Joshua referring to? The trouble Achan’s sin caused was  36 men of war died by the hands of Ai (Josh. 7:5), the nation was confused and afraid and the Lord withdrew his presence, protection and power from Israel.

Sin Impacts Your Family

Achan’s secret sin comes to light and has tragic effects on his family. Take a look,

And he who is taken with the devoted things shall be burned with fire, he and all that he has, because he has transgressed the covenant of the LORD, and because he has done an outrageous thing in Israel…. 24 And Joshua and all Israel with him took Achan the son of Zerah, and the silver and the cloak and the bar of gold, and his sons and daughters and his oxen and donkeys and sheep and his tent and all that he had. And they brought them up to the Valley of Achor. 25 And Joshua said, “Why did you bring trouble on us? The LORD brings trouble on you today.” And all Israel stoned him with stones. They burned them with fire and stoned them with stones. 26 And they raised over him a great heap of stones that remains to this day. Then the LORD turned from his burning anger. Therefore, to this day the name of that place is called the Valley of Achor. Joshua 7:15, 24-26

Punishment for disobedience wasn’t new for Achan. He may have been young but he knew why the nation of Israel was wandering in the wilderness for 40 years, because of the unbelief and disobedience of the generation before. It isn’t like the wrath of God caught Achan by surprise, he lived through the warnings and punishments of the generation before him. Achan knew that the sin of one, a few or many can affect the whole group.

Achan knowing all this weighed the pleasures and desires of the lust for more against God’s commands and his wrath and decided the devoted things of Jericho were more glorious, more pleasurable and more satisfying than God. As a result, Achan’s lust for stuff, for material positions, for the idea of more, costed not only his life but the lives of his family. The impact of sin on his family was tragic.

Before we cast our stones upon Achan, let’s take a moment to examine our own hearts. How often do we choose to sin without thinking of the consequences it will have on our family? Which sin/sins captivate our hearts enough to bring out Achan’s measuring scale? Is it pornography, outburst of anger, sex, gossip, excessive spending?

We all have Achan moments, when we weigh the pleasures of sin and compare them to an ever satisfying glorious God and still choose to sin. Our families have had to deal with those decisions and the consequences they bring, just like Achan’s family. Your sin impacts your family.

The Lord Turns From His Burning Anger

It would be depressing to end this blog without talking about grace. On the cross, Christ absorbed the wrath of God for our sins (1 John 2:1). He paid the ultimate price, a sinless divine saviour for sinful man so that we can be made right with God (2 Cor. 5:21).In Christ we are forgiven and declared not guilty. When we turn to Christ, repent, believe and confess him as Lord, God’s wrath is turned away from us.

Does that mean we should sin more? Everytime I hear a question like that I reminded how truly sick our hearts are, after recieving a gift so glorious we would want to sin more not less.

Suppose you come home and just explode in a fit of rage on your spouse. You know you’re wrong, she knows you’re wrong and when you realize it you apologize and ask for forgiveness and your spouse forgives you. Does her forgiveness mean you can explode in fits of rage more often? Of course not! Her forgiveness means you should attempt to never do it again. How much more so with the Lord?

If God has forgiven our sin, and his wrath and anger our turned away, does that mean when we sin as believers there are no consequences? A great question and one I will tackle next week.

Until Next Time

Put the scales away and be satisfied by Christ

The Early Bird Gets The Link

The Early Bird is a daily round up of articles, video clips and/or podcasts which will feed the souls, challenge you, help you grow and sometimes laugh. 

Attacking Viruses That Destroy Leaders

How to fight and attack the viruses that corrupt a leaders heart. Article focuses on leadership, but this happens to all of us.

The Secret to Job Satisfaction

If Paul could write these self-denying, countercultural, other-worldly words to slaves about their livelihood, could he write them to us about our jobs? If so, here are three ways we can glorify God in our job, whether we are working the dream, or dreading our work.

Living Faithfully in Difficult Times

It’s encouraging to reflect on the fact that God’s followers in biblical times lived in societies that opposed them and made it difficult to faithfully follow God. And all of us have times in our lives that are hard to live through.

An Inexaustible Fountain of Goodness

But for those who belong to him, God’s generosity continues throughout eternity. Even in this life, every single circumstance is a good gift working an eternal purpose. All things, including life’s trials, are part of God’s benevolent plan to make believers more like Christ (Romans 8:28-29). Can you see why the apostle Paul reminds his readers to be thankful in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:18)? Our generous God uses everything, even the hard things, to remake his people in his image.

Feminism and the Fall

By definition, feminism is “the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes”. Clear enough, and a worthy cause I might add. But I asked Christians of different ages and genders how they would define feminism and here are some of their statements:

Do You Desire The Ministry?

“I would say that the only man who is called to preach is the man who cannot do anything else, in the sense that he is not satisfied with anything else. This call to preach is so put upon him, and such pressure comes to bear upon him that he says, “I can do nothing else, I must preach.”

When Should Christians Use Satire?

John Piper responds to this question, very helpful and worth the read or you could just listen.