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Character Sketch: William Carey and Adoniram Judson

Thomas J. NettlesDr. Tom Nettles, widely regarded as one of the foremost Baptist historians in America, recently gave two messages on the lives of William Carey and Adoniram Judson.  Tom is a member of my church and one of the most humble servants you'll ever meet.  These "character sketches" will encourage you and inspire you. Character Sketch: William Carey

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Character Sketch: Adoniram Judson

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Good Christians, Good Husbands?

Good Christians, Good Husbands?As a pastor or church leader, how do you balance family and ministry?  Which comes first?  What are the biblical responsibilities of a husband and father?  And how should a wife respond to the many trying circumstances in ministry?  These and other questions are explored by Doreen Moore in Good Christians, Good Husbands? an "inspiring and convicting account of three 18th century Christian leaders (John Wesley, George Whitefield, and Jonathan Edwards), all of whom were passionate about glorifying God by serving Him in their generation ... how they balanced (or did not balance) their passion for ministry with being married is the subject of this book."

I'm about halfway through the book, and it's a very convicting read.  If you're a church leader who feels the weight of balancing family and ministry, you need to get this book.  My friend, Dr. Tom Nettles, Professor of Historical Theology at Southern Seminary, endorses the book saying, "each reader will receive rewards in personal development far in excess of the time investing in reading."  I couldn't agree more.

MLK Jr.'s Powerful Call to the Church

Martin Luther King Jr. with a powerful call to the church, which still rings true today as it did fifty years ago:

There was a time when the church was very powerful--in a time when the early Christians rejoiced at being deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed.  In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society ... But the judgment of God is upon the church [today] as never before.  If today's church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century."

Originally taken from Martin Luther King Jr., "Letter from Birmingham Jail," p. 17 (later quoted in Brothers We Are Not Professionals by John Piper, p. 203).

Christmas is Disturbing

I'm home (in Iowa) for the holidays.  It's been a joyful time being with family, opening presents, singing Christmas carols, and eating lots of food!  Perhaps like many of you, my family went to a Christmas Eve service together.  The service included many songs and many Scripture readings which I enjoyed hearing and taking in.  And then there was the message.  It was okay, but typical of most Christmas sermons.  Let me explain. Most Christmas sermons, like the one I heard, tell of how God has come down to us (the incarnation) so he can show us the way and comfort us in our dark times.  That's true, but the incarnation is not the end.  In fact, the only reason why God came down is so that he would be lifted up on a tree at Calvary.  The incarnation means nothing without the crucifixion.  But this is the disturbing part of Christmas, isn't it?  The little baby born in Bethlehem is the one who grew up and died on a bloody cross at Calvary.  And if we tell only the beginning of the story we have no story at all -- at least no gospel story. 

C.J. Mahaney puts it this way:

The purpose of the manger was realized in the horrors of the cross. The purpose of his birth was his death. Or to put it more personally: Christmas is necessary because I am a sinner.

And so, in order for us to see Christmas for what Christmas really is, we must first see how disturbing the Christmas message really is.

Mahaney tells of an article written some years ago in WORLD Magazine by William H. Smith with the title, “Christmas is disturbing: Any real understanding of the Christmas messages will disturb anyone” (Dec. 26, 1992).

Smith ends his column with these words which I invite you to ponder:

Only those who have been profoundly disturbed to the point of deep repentance are able to receive the tidings of comfort, peace, and joy that Christmas proclaims.

And so my prayer for you and me is that we would be filled with peace and joy this Christmas--because we have been disturbed by the God who was born in a manger so he could die on a cross for our sins.

President Obama

Justin Taylor:

It's very easy to forget--especially for those of us who are on the younger side--that it was only a little over 40 years ago that there were Jim Crow laws in the US. Just a generation ago, many African Americans were segregated from whites in public schools, transportation, restrooms, and restaurants.

Tonight, the United States has elected a biracial man to serve as its leader.

It would be an understatement to call this a watershed cultural moment in our country's history.

No matter who you voted for--or whether you voted at all--it's important to remember that, as President, Barack Obama will have God-given authority to govern us, and that we should view him as a servant of God (Rom. 13:1, 4) to whom we should be subject (Rom. 13:1, 5; 1 Pet. 2:13-14).

There are many qualifications to add to these exhortations--for example, see this excellent post by John Piper--but it's still important to remember that these are requirements for all Bible-believing Christians.

Praying for the Election

Father in heaven, as we approach this election on Tuesday, I pray ... above all, that we will treasure Jesus Christ, and tell everyone of his sovereignty and supremacy over all nations, and that long after America is a footnote to the future world, he will reign with his people from every tribe and tongue and nation. Keep us faithful to Christ’s all important Word, and may we turn to it every day for light in these dark times.

In Jesus’ name,

Amen.

Visualizing the Bible

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The folks at Culture Making Blog have put together (above) a beautiful diagram of biblical cross-references:

This diagram arose from a collaboration between a Carnegie-Mellon Ph.D student and a Lutheran pastor to create a grand map of Biblical cross-references: "We wanted something that honored and revealed the complexity of the data at every level –- as one leans in, smaller details should become visible. This ultimately led us to the multi-colored arc diagram... The bar graph that runs along the bottom represents all of the chapters in the Bible. Books alternate in color between white and light gray. The length of each bar denotes the number of verses in the chapter. Each of the 63,779 cross references found in the Bible is depicted by a single arc - the color corresponds to the distance between the two chapters, creating a rainbow-like effect.

They're Back ... Return of the 17-Year Cicadas!

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Check out this video and be amazed at God's creation (even though you're annoyed at these swarming cicadas reaching near biblical proportions)!

 Emie, on the other hand, seems to love these bugs!  Although, she hasn't eaten one yet (supposedly they taste like shrimp).  Below is is an interesting map showing where these little guys are emerging.

Pittsburgh-A Parable of Population Loss

Al Mohler reports that "Pittsburgh is becoming a parable of population loss for the rest of the nation ... the collapse of birthrates is a sign of huge social and moral transformations." My wife and I went to Pittsburgh last weekend to visit some good friends.  Jaime spoke at a Women's Retreat and I preached on Sunday.  I had never been to Pittsburgh before.  It was quite different than I expected.  I was expecting a dirty city with lots of steel buildings, but the city was really beautiful with the many hills and three rivers coming together.

  • Read Mohler's previous post on Japan's population crisis and my brother Mark's reaction as a missionary in Japan

Calvinism in Southern Baptist Life

With all the current "fuss" in the Southern Baptist Convention about Calvinism, my pastor Tony Rose, and well-known Baptist historian and scholar, Dr. Tom Nettles, are teaching a six week series at my church on Calvinism in Southern Baptist Life.   We are currently half way through the series.  I encourage you to listen as they walk through T.U.L.I.P.

Simon Cowell and Martin Luther King Jr.

During a recent episode of American Idol, Simon Cowell turned to his fellow judges and said, "You know what's amazing about this country is that you're genuinely happy when someone you know does well.... The idea of me knowing somebody, they get good news and celebrating with them — I couldn't do it." Simon, without knowing it, has hit on something rather profound.  Deep down, there is something inside each one of us (except for Simon apparently!) that longs to share in the happiness of others.  There is a natural inclination to feel what others are feeling--to be happy for those who are happy, and sad for those who are sad.  Where does that come from? 

Ironically, Martin Luther King Jr. once said,

In every human being, black or white, there exists, however dimly, a certain natural identification with every other human being, so that we tend to feel that what happens to a fellow human being also in some way happens to us. (Quote taken from Marshall Frady's book, Martin Luther King Jr. -- A Life., pg. 39)

Could it be that this natural identification with our fellow human beings points to what we were made for in the beginning?  Could it be that this natural desire to share in one another's happiness (however dimly it may seem) is a pointer to what we all long for and what God promises to his children in the end?

We see indications of this desire in God's heart all throughout the Scriptures.  Indeed, God's design for the church is to be a diverse people who rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep.  A people who share their lives with one another in deep awareness of one another's needs.  And finally, an ethnically diverse people who worship forever in eternal happiness around the throne of the One who was slain for the sins of the world.

Even Martin Luther King Jr. understood that the fight for compassion and justice was a fight that ultimately pointed to a biblical ending.  On one occasion, he told his congregation,

The end is reconciliation, the end is redemption, the end is the creation of a Beloved Community. (Quote taken from Marshall Frady's book, Martin Luther King Jr. -- A Life., pg. 39)

For King it was not just a racial reconciliation, but an ultimate reconciliation of all people.  A reconciliation of all human beings, regardless of color.  A reconciliation of ethnic diversity and harmony.  A reconciliation and creation of a beloved community crying out to King Jesus for all eternity.

So, the question for us today is simply this:  Are we working toward reconciliation?  Are we giving others a picture of the beloved community that's coming in the new creation?  If so, maybe Simon Cowell, and other skeptics like him, will take notice and perhaps bow the knee to King Jesus.

  

Turkey Day?

images14.jpgCheck out this post by Al Mohler as he reminds us, "while others celebrate "Turkey Day" and ponder poultry, direct your thoughts to the God of Heaven, by whose hand we have been brought near and given more than we can even remember."

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!  Get away from your computer (me included) and spend some good time with your family, friends, and neighbors.  We'll see ya next week!