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Why did Jesus say, "Don't tell others?"

Yesterday I preached on 4 incredible stories from Mark 4:35-5:43 where Jesus calms the storm, heals the demoniac and the hemorrhaging woman, and raises Jairus' daughter from the dead.  Afterwards, a member of my church asked me a great question: Why did Jesus tell the demon possessed man to go and tell others but told the ones who saw Jairus' daughter being raised to strictly tell no one?  What a great question!  Here's my response: The demon-possessed man was in a Gentile region where not many knew about Jesus or cared about the coming Messiah. In Mark 5:17, after Jesus had healed the man, they begged him to leave the area.  Jesus left, but told the demoniac to go and tell what had happened to him since he would now be the only real witness in this region (Mark 5:19).

Now Jairus and his daughter lived in Galilee. This region would've been Jewish and therefore anticipating a coming Messiah and so Jesus wanted to keep this a secret because he didn't want to stir up a big crowd.  The concern on Jesus' part was that people's attention would be distracted from what he really came to do, namely, the ministry of the word (Mark 1:38).  His essential aim was to preach repentance and faith (the message of the kingdom) and then die on a cross. After he died and rose again, that's when he told his disciples to go and tell everyone who he was because that was the real message he came to bring as the Messiah.

 

The Mystery of Abiding

Why do I doubt God? Why do I expect so little from him? After all, if I really am his child, if I really do have access to his throne, if I really have his Son and his Spirit interceding for me, then why am I not asking more of God and believing he will answer? Jesus, you say, "If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish and it will be done for you" (John 15:7). Really? Are you serious? Do you really want me to ask and believe with that kind of boldness, with that kind of heart, expecting you will answer?  I guess that's where it starts - with my heart being united with your heart and my words in prayer sounding strangely familiar with your words in scripture. Is that what abiding is all about? When you and me are so intimately connected, so unified as one, that the process is as natural and effortless as a branch bearing fruit?

In the end, it's a mystery--one that I can't analyze and figure out, but only experience. Abiding, praying, and seeing the Holy Spirit move in my life is something I cannot comprehend but what I long for more and more for your glory and my good. So teach me to remain in you. Cause me to slow down. Remind me that you are a real Person that I am joined to. And set me free to believe you for great things.

Whose “fault” is it that sin is here: Satan’s, God’s, or Adam and Eve’s?

Eric Schumacher answers this very difficult question here.  His summary:

The answer is: Yes.

Satan did tempt and incite Eve to eat the apple, who gave it to Adam who ate. Satan willed and carried out evil. He bears responsibility.

Adam and Eve acted wickedly, disobeying God’s clear instruction. They rebelled, and through Adam sin entered the world. He bears responsibility.

But, ultimately, we know that God is sovereign over all that comes to pass. He chose, before the foundations of the earth were laid, to redeem a people for his glory in Christ (Eph 1:4; Rev 13:8). This—including the fall and all its consequences—was his plan and his sovereign will. And yet, wonderfully and mysteriously, God can be charged with no evil, with no wrong-doing. He is the Sovereign Lord, who is righteous and just in all his ways.

Please check out Eric's full treatment of this question.  He gives a very biblical, pastoral and comprehensive answer.

New Website: Divorce Ministry for Kids

Divorce affects the lives of so many children in our society today, but how can the church respond?  I appreciate Wayne Stocks and his heart to help hurting children and their families through his new website called divorceministry4kids.com. Here's why he started the website:

Since 1972, over 1,000,000 kids each year have joined the ranks of the children of divorce. These kids face struggles which are very unique and very real. And, unfortunately, many of our churches are ill-equipped to deal with the special needs of this growing segment of their congregations. Whether they worry about addressing the issue of divorce for fear of alienating their congregations, pretend that the problem simply does not exist, or simply fail to recognize the magnitude of the issue, many churches are ill-equipped to deal with, or minister to, children of divorce.

Read the rest ... and check out Tony Kummer's podcast with Wayne about the website

the power of little books in the life of a church

guest post by: stephen cavness

about a year ago, i started a reading challenge at our church called "little books, big truths". i started with a dozen books that are small in size and page number, (and as such not very intimidating) but big in the truth included. here is the information we distributed: (pardon the capital letters, this was an "official" document!!!)

Little Book/ Big Truths!

If religious books are not widely circulated among the masses in this country, I do not know what is going to become of us as a nation. If truth is not diffused – error will be. If God & His Word are not known and received – the devil & his works will gain the ascendancy. If the evangelical volume does not reach every [town] – the pages of a corrupt & licentious literature will. If the power of the Gospel is not felt throughout the length & breadth of the land, anarchy & misrule, degradation & misery, corruption & darkness, will reign without mitigation or end.Daniel Webster

Why does today’s Christian find the reading of great books always beyond him? Certainly intellectual powers do not wane from one generation to another. We are as smart as our fathers, & any thought they could entertain we can entertain if we are sufficiently interested to make the effort. - A.W. Tozer You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them. – Ray Bradbury

One of my greatest desires as a pastor is that the people under my care would read more good books. In this context (a pastor to his congregation) I am defining a “good book” as one that enriches the mind & soul with & stokes a hunger for biblical truth as well as love & obedience to Christ.

Objections that often come are “I’m not a good reader”/ “I don’t like to read”. While I certainly understand the sentiment, I also understand that life is full of our doing things we don’t necessarily “love” doing. But I have also found that those who begin to read with purpose discover that it becomes less & less of a chore over time.

Another objection is “I don’t understand all of those big words/concepts” or “I am not up to that level of reading”. While there are certainly books written specifically for the academy or for specialists in a given area, there are just as many books written for the “person in the pew”.

We should take intentional steps to grow in our understanding of the Lord & His word - to expose ourselves to those things that will increase our affections for Christ. (see Matt. 28:20; Acts 20:18-21; Rom.12:2; 1 Cor. 14:20; Eph. 4:11-15; Col. 1:28-29; 1 Thess. 2:9-12; Hebrews 5:12; 1 Peter 2:2)

With all of these things in mind, I wanted to let you know that I have started a reading project for our church called “Little Books, Big Truths”. On the foyer table in the lobby are several books that are very small in size & page number (each could be read, even by a slow reader, in a week or so), but each of these books are HUGE in the truth packed into them. The topics cover a wide range of essential matters of the faith. I have hand selected these titles with *you*, the church member, in mind. Simply check them out as you would any book from the church library & return it when you are done for the next person to enjoy.

My challenge for you is to, over time (there’s no deadline!), read each of the books in this project. The benefit to your life & walk with Christ will be immeasurable. As an added incentive there will be prizes & rewards for those who read through each book in this project.

Certainly I am not advocating that we replace our scripture reading. These books, as are all good Christian books, are meant to supplement our scripture reading- helping us to think through, contemplate, & mentally “chew on” the truths of scripture. That is why I have handpicked books that have that as their purpose- pointing us to the Big Truths of the Bible. May God be glorified in our pursuit of Him, with our hearts, souls, and MINDS!

With you in Pursuit of Him – pastor stephen

here are the current titles in the reading challenge:

The Cross Centered Life by C.J. Mahaney

The Dangerous Duty of Delight by John Piper

Five Things Every Christian Needs to Grow by R.C. Sproul

Five Who Changed the World by Danny Akin

The Grace and Truth Paradox by Randy Alcorn

The Goodness of God by Randy Alcorn

In Light of Eternity by Randy Alcorn

Just Do Something! by Kevin DeYoung

The Treasure Principle by Randy Alcorn

The Truth of the Cross by R.C. Sproul

What Does God Want of Us Anyway? by Mark Dever

What is a Healthy Church Member? by Thabiti Anyabwile

What is the Gospel? by Greg Gilbert

Worldliness edited by C.J. Mahaney

maybe you could help start a personal library for your family of thesetitles and others- or check with your pastor or church librarian aboutstarting a reading challenge in your church! those who read each of the titles at our church get a free esv study bible,but of course the best reward is the wisdom, knowledge, and affection for christ  that these books provide.

My 2-year-old Illustrates the Folly of Sin

Guest Post by: Ben Reaoch Thanks, Doug, for this opportunity to participate in your blog while you're away. I thought I would share about a recent event in our family that turned out to be a poignant picture of biblical truth.

Over the years I’ve thought about different ways to describe the folly of sin, but I think this was one of the most vivid portrayals of it I’ve ever encountered.

Our family was recently at a cabin out in the middle of nowhere in West Virginia. We really enjoy this place because there’s no cell phone reception and no TVs or internet or anything like that, and we just hang out as a family and play games and go on hikes and enjoy being together.

We hadn’t been there long—Stacy and I were still unloading some things and the kids were playing outside—when our older kids (Milaina and Noah) found our 2-year-old (Annalyse) trying to eat a muddy stick. I don’t know what came over her to make her want to taste this thing, but apparently these kinds of things happen to 2-year-olds from time to time. Sure enough, she had dirt around her mouth, and Stacy and I brought her inside to clean her off.

Then it was time for her to sit on the potty, which is an exciting part of our lives right now. Many of you can identify. I think the fact that parents have to potty-train their children is part of the curse. While she was sitting there I said to Annalyse, “Why did you put that muddy stick in your mouth?” She said, in all seriousness, “I thought it would taste like candy.” I’m not even making this up. It was all I could do not to burst out laughing. But I said, “Did it taste like candy?” And with almost a surprised and perplexed look on her face, she said, “No?!” Then she told me, “And my brother was telling me, ‘No, don’t put that in your mouth.” So I told her, “That’s because your brother loves you and doesn’t want you to hurt yourself.”

When we were hiking later we talked about how that muddy stick is a lot like sin. We think it’s going to taste like candy, but we end up with dirt on our faces and a bad taste in our mouths. And when our brothers and sisters in Christ call out to us, “No, don’t do that,” we better listen, because they’re doing that out of love for us.

no one deserves grace...

guest post by: stephen cavness

recently i was contacted by a college student who wanted some input on this exchange: "my family got into a discussion[argument?] about people who never hear about jesus. my cousin says people who don't hear the gospel will go to hell, but my aunt said that if god sent people to hell who never even had a bible or heard of jesus, then that would be cruel & evil. what do you think happens to people who never hear about jesus?"

i don't know if anyone in this discussion has been privy to the recent "is hell real?" debate or not,but i am glad that she is thinking through this and not just blindly taking sides. the issue for her was that the choice presented was "either god is loving and people who never hear the gospel go to heaven anyway-*or* he is cruel and sends them to hell even though they didn't get a fair chance".

i wrote a pretty lengthy response(much longer than what is below), starting with re framing the question. rather than "is god loving or cruel" the actual question seeking an answer is "why is it that anyone goes to hell?",with  the answer being..."because we are all sinners who deserve nothing but hell from a holy and just god".

i included a lot of references from scripture regarding god's holiness and justice and our own state apart from christ, and the problem that poses for the sinner who will be judged by a holy and just god. then i drew aline from there to christ as the only salvation from getting what we all deserve.

i won't post my entire response,but here is an excerpt. maybe it will help you think through the topic so that you can be prepared if you find yourself on the receiving end of a similar question- from a family member,co-worker,or even in a sunday school class/ small group. ___________________________________________________________________________________

[scriptures referenced prior to this point - romans ch. 1, 3, 5, & 6; ephesians 2; john 3]

suppose that you are standing in line at your local bank and in walks a man who declares that he would like to pay off your debt if you meet with him and fully disclose to him your debt and your responsibility to pay for it, and then trust his word that he will pay your debt. shocked, you go to him,admit that you have tremendous debt that is rightfully yours (student loans, car, etc.- all debt that is rightfully yours). he asks the bank president how much the total of your debt is, and then gives him a check for that exact amount.

you would be ecstatic, no? and then this man tells you to go and start telling people about him and promises to do the same for them, if they will follow the same steps you did.

now, imagine  someone hearing this story who responds by saying  "well he is the most cruel and evil man i have ever heard of...  that's not fair at all...what about the people who weren't there- they have debt too??!??!"

you see the issue? this person has ignored the fact that everyone's debt is deserved by them, and they *SHOULD* pay for their own debt. this man's act was tremendously gracious and loving. he is not mean or cruel at all! this person has allowed their sense of justice to be skewed. they are wanting to escape what they *do* deserve (paying off their own debt) and are demanding what they do *not* deserve (someone else paying the debt for them).

this man's act of kindness does not obligate him to extend it to everyone. yet he continues to extend his graciousness and goodness by offering to do the same for anyone who comes to him and follows the procedure. no one who has their debt paid by him deserves it, but he will do it for every single one who does come.

here is the parallel... all of us have a sin debt that we deserve to pay off on our own. it is our debt that we have because we are born into this world rebellious sinners. no one, apart from the new birth, wants to be under god's rule or in his kingdom. we do nothing but sin in our "cosmic treason" against god- constantly telling him in word or deed/attitude "you are NOT my boss!!!" when in fact, he is- he created us and has complete authority over us.

every single person who is in hell deserves to be there.nor is there anyone there who wanted be saved, but wasn't. they are paying the debt that justice demands that they pay. it isn't unfair or unjust. people who heard of jesus and had bibles and people who never heard or had bibles... they are all sinners who deserve an eternal and literal hell.

but here is the kicker...i deserve hell too...and so do you. in fact, every person (except for jesus) who has ever walked this earth has deserved hell. the difference between the christian and the unbeliever (whether they ever heard of jesus or not) is that the christian's debt has already been paid. so when the christian goes to heaven, it is not because god ignores or forgets about the debt that they avoid hell. it is because he knows that their debt has already been paid by a substitute (jesus)and he does not demand payment again for a debt that has already been paid. but having that debt paid wasnot deserved by anyone. god does not owe anyone grace.

so whenever anyone goes to hell...it is not simply because "they didnt have a bible or hear about jesus" . it is because justice and holiness demand that their sin debt be paid - its what they deserve. when the christian gets heaven, its only because they have a blood stained receipt marked "paid in full" signed by the son of god- and none of us deserve that, nor does god owe it to anyone. it is by grace we are saved- and no one deserves grace.

so this reminds us of two things: 1.) the great love and mercy of god who promises to save everyone who will repent of their sin and believe in jesus christ alone for the forgiveness of their sinfulness and their right standing before god. he does not have to do this. he is not obligated to do this. he is not unfair or "mean" to not save everyone. on the contrary, he is infinitely kind, gracious, and loving to say to everyone from every nation tongue and tribe, "if you will repent and believe- i will NOT give you what you deserve!"

2.) it reminds us the importance and urgency of missions and evangelism. the offer of the gospel is to all people without regard to age, ethnicity, location, reachability. "whoever will call on the name of the lord will be saved!" but as paul as reminds us that they will only have faith if they hear the word of god, but they wont hear unless people "go and tell". (romans10)

may god use the terror filled reality of hell and the beauty and joy of the gospel of grace to move us to always be telling people deserving to pay for their sins that there is indeed one who will pay their debt for them... even though he doesn't have to and they don't deserve it.

that isn't unfair or wicked- it is beautiful.

Reading Your Bible in 2011

Guest post by Mark Wolter From the Crossway Blog:

What’s your 2011 Bible reading game plan? Check out esv.org for several options to help you prepare for Day 1 (January 1, 2011)! Access your plan on the web, via RSS feed, in iCal, on your mobile device, or print off your old fashion PDF and stick it in your Bible. Be sure to also check out the listening option via RSS feed or onESVOnline.org.

Kevin Rossen gives a great video explanation of how the ESV daily reading plans work. Since this video, the ESV site has been modified and updated, but the functions are very similar.

(HT:Zach Nielsen)

Presuming Grace

Guest post by Mark Wolter R.C. Sproul:

I wonder if we really are amazed by grace? I think we express more amazement at God's wrath than at His mercy. We've come to the place, I think, in our religious thinking where we assume that God will be merciful, that God will be kind, that God will be gracious, and so we're not surprised whenever we experience His kindness. . . .

One of my favorite illustrations about the dilemma that we face with respect to understanding God's mercy goes back to the early days of my career as a teacher in college and seminary. One of my first teaching assignments was to teach 250 freshmen a required course on "Introduction to the Old Testament." Here I had 250 students assembled in a large lecture hall, very uncomfortable, trying to communicate with so many students at one time. I had to print up in advance the requirements for the course because I'd already learned, very quickly, that college students are all budding Philadelphia lawyers. You have to "dot your i's and cross your t's" to make sure that the assignments are clearly set forth. I gave them a published syllabus and told them what their requirements would be. I said, "We have three very small papers, book report type things, that are required during this semester. The first one is due at noon on September 30, the on second October 30, and the third on November 30. Now here's the way it goes: I want these finished, on my desk at 12:00 noon on the appointed times unless you are physically confined to the hospital or the infirmary or there is a death in the immediate family." We had to spell out all this sort of thing for the college students. I said, "Does everybody understand the assignment?" They said, "Oh, yes indeed."

So, September 30 came around and 225 of my students brought their papers in and presented them dutifully at the proper time. 25 of these poor souls had failed to complete their assignments and they were scared to death. These were freshmen, just making the transition from high school and they were in a posture of abject humility. They said, "Oh Professor Sproul, please don't give us an 'F' for this grade." I had told them that if they didn't get their paper in on time they would get an "F" for that assignment. They said, "Please give us some more time, give us one more chance." They were begging me for grace, for mercy. They wanted an extension. I said, "Okay, I'll give you an extension. But don't let it happen again. Remember the next assignment is October 30. I want those papers on time." They said, "Absolutely. They will be there."

October 30 came around. 200 of my students came and put their term papers on my desk. 50 of them were now assembled outside in terror because they hadn't planned their time properly, and were not prepared. So once again these students came to me pleading. They said, "Oh Professor, we didn't budget our time properly. It's mid-term, we have so many assignments all coming in at the same time, so many pressures, it's Homecoming. Please give us just one more chance." They begged me with earnest faces and I was a soft-hearted guy and I said, "Okay, okay. I'll give you one more chance, but don't let it happen again." You know what they did? They began to sing spontaneously, "We love you Prof. Sproul, oh yes we do." So I was the most popular professor in the school for 30 days.

But 30 days later the third paper came due. This time 150 students came into the classroom with their papers prepared and the other 100 came in as casual, as cavalier, as you can imagine. They didn't have their papers, they weren't worried in the slightest, and I said to them, "Where are you term papers?" They said, "Hey Prof, don't worry about it. We'll have it for you in a couple of days, no sweat." I stopped them right there in their tracks and I took out that dreadful little black book and I took out my pen and I said, "Johnson, where's your term paper?" He said, "I don't have it Professor." So I wrote an "F" in the book. "Greenwood, where's your paper?" "I don't have it, sir." I put "F" in the book. What do you think was the response of those students? Unmitigated fury. In one voice they called out, "THAT'S NOT FAIR!"

I said, "What was that? Johnson, did I just hear you say that's not fair?" He said, "Yes, that's not fair." He was furious. I said, "Okay. I don't ever want to be thought of as being unfair or unjust. Johnson, it's justice that you want?" He said, "Yes!" I said, "Okay, if I recall, you were late the last time, weren't you?" He said, "Yes." I said, "Okay. I'll go back and change that grade to an 'F'." So I erased his passing grade and gave him an "F." I said, "Is there anybody else that wants justice?" Nobody wanted justice. Do you see what has happened here? The first time they were pleading with me in utter, pathetic humility, and I said sure. The second time they begged. By the third time, not only did they begin to assume mercy, but they began to demand it. They assumed now that I was obligated to be gracious to them.

Friends, that's what we do with God.

(HT: Dane Ortlund via Z)

Parents, do you struggle with control?

So, I'm noticing lately how much I struggle with control.  I like to have things my way.  The strange thing is that God is showing me this through my oldest daughter.  She fits the firstborn description pretty well.  She's smart and motivated, and very much a perfectionist.  She likes to have things just so, and if they aren't, she can get pretty emotional.  It's silly how we can get into arguments about such little, unimportant things. A couple nights ago, as we were getting ready for bed, I told her to brush her teeth first before reading her book.  But she wanted to read her book first and then brush her teeth.  I didn't like that. But she didn't understand why it mattered so much.  I told her because I said so.  She got frustrated and started whining back at me pleading her case.  But I wouldn't budge.  I was going to win this battle!  After all, I'm the parent and I'm in control!  And yet at the end of the day (literally!), I was tired and she was tired ... and I responded to her in anger.  I wanted her to be flexible and to not to have to be in control, but I was modeling the opposite: inflexibility and complete control!  Thankfully, God brought both of us to a place of brokenness over our sin.  I asked her to forgive me as I often forget that I am not in control ... I am not God.  We talked about how God has put me as an authority over her for her good and that even when she doesn't understand why I'm asking her to do something, she is called to trust me and not argue to get her way.  At yet at the same time, I told her that I need to release the control over things that don't really matter and really listen to her and her needs.  In the end, I'm still the parent, but I don't have to be a dictator, I can be a loving shepherd by the grace of God.

You see, God is parenting me as I parent my kids.  He's showing me that if I still struggle with control, why do I get so angry when my 8 year old daughter struggles with it?  Why am I so impatient with her when God is so patient with me?  If you're a parent that struggles with this let me share with you a book that has helped me.  It's called, Grace Based Parenting by Tim Kimmel.  Here's one quote worth meditating on:

I'm urging you to raise your children the way God raises His.  The primary word that defines how God deals with His children is grace.  Grace does not exclude obedience, respect, boundaries, or discipline, but it does determine the climate in which these important parts of parenting are carried out (p. 20).

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