Free Easter Resources

I’ve been noticing a lot of good free resources floating around on the internet as we begin Holy Week. Use these resources to set your heart upon the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Raised: Doubting The Resurrection by Jonathan Dodson (ebook)
Available in Kindle (.mobi) iBooks (.epub) and .PDF format

Love To The Uttermost by John Piper (ebook) A devotional for Holy Week
Available in Kindle (.mobi) iBooks (.epub) and .PDF format

The Truth of The Cross by R.C. Sproul (ebook)
Available in Kindle (.mobi) iBooks (.epub) and for Logos Bible Software

Did The Resurrection Really Happen? by Josh McDowell and Dave Sterrett
Available in Kindle format (.mobi)

Hallel Songs by Cardiphonia (Free Album Download): ‘”Hallel Psalms” is our sixth “flash mob” compilation. This collection of songs meditates on Psalms 113-118 often called the “Egyptian Hallel.” They were traditionally sung during passover, were sung by the disciples at the last supper, and make a fantastic set of texts to guide worship and devotion during Holy Week (March 25-30). ‘ You can download all of Cardiphonia’s albums HERE

Page CXVI is a project of a band called The Autumn Film. Their desire is to reintroduce ancient hymns of the faith to the church today. You can download  ALL 11 of their albums for FREE for a limited time.

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True Peace On Earth: Guest Post by Steve McCullough

I was at an office Christmas party when I first read the news,“27 killed at Elementary School.” Immediately my heart sank.

Back in the office, I couldn’t focus on my work. What if that had happened at my son’s school? I decided to take some vacation time to ride bikes with the kids. I’d almost pushed the whole incident to the back of my mind, when I spotted a neighbor.

As I greeted her, I could see that she was upset. The news of the shooting had made her cry all the way home from work. I struggled for something to say, but nothing came. In that moment, I felt like an ineffective Christian. This bothered me all weekend.

On Sunday, God gave me an idea: have a neighborhood prayer service. One of the videos I’d worked on, Fostering the Harvest, talked about something similar being done after 9/11. It would give people a chance to honor the grieving and to process the hard questions about the incident. That afternoon, we printed invitations and passed them out in our neighborhood.

As I began to prepare what I would say, I realized that I could not properly explain this incident without including the gospel. I had to spend time on my knees begging for courage. But God was gracious, and assured me that I could speak with boldness, because real comfort is based in real truth.

On Monday evening, people from our subdivision crowded into our living room. As they began sharing, it was clear that everyone had been deeply moved by the shootings. Some even expressed fear, and bewilderment. I led the group in a prayer for those who lost loved ones, for the family of the perpetrator, and for our nation. After praying, I spoke for about three minutes. I have included a paraphrase below, hoping that it may help anyone who is still struggling to reconcile this incident with his view of God.

Incidents like the one at Sandy Hook remind me that evil is real, and present. But it was not always this way. God created a perfect world, but Man chose to listen to the Enemy, and rebel against God. This sin brought death into our world. Man hasn’t stopped rebelling against God. In fact, what happened on Friday was indeed an act of rebellion against God.

It almost seems wrong to be celebrating and enjoying the Christmas season when so many are grieving. But I have to remind myself that I don’t celebrate Christmas because of the decorations, or the fun times with the family. I celebrate Christmas because 2000 years ago, Christ came to earth, lived a perfect life, and then laid that life down for my sin on the cross. He not only took my punishment—the death that I deserve—but by rising from the dead He literally defeated sin, and death. For now, He allows evil to continue. But I trust His promise that one day, He will return to earth and judge all evil. He will take those who believe in Him to a place where there will be no pain, no grief, no tears, and no death. A place where I willnever hear of events like what happened on Friday. Christmas is a time to celebrate the hope of true peace on earth.

A brother from our church sang “It Is Well with My Soul.” I shared that the author wrote this hymn while he was traveling to the funerals of his children who had tragically died. It was a beautiful example of the hope and peace found through trusting in God. I closed the service by telling our neighbors that our doors are always open to pray with them.

After the service, people signed a giant card with messages for the families in Connecticut. Many of those attending expressed how helpful it was to process such an incident together.

We are disturbed and horrified by the violence at Sandy Hook, and our hearts recoil at the pain it brought. People around us are trying to process these events. Some don’t have answers. We have hope, and the true reason to celebrate Christmas. May God open doors for us to share this with others.

Book Review: The Hole in Our Holiness by Kevin DeYoung

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The Hole in Our Holiness: Filling The Gap between Gospel Passion and the Pursuit of Godliness (Crossway, 2012) by Kevin DeYoung is a book that seeks to biblically answer the many questions surrounding the personal holiness of the Christian. In an evangelical culture where the phrase ‘Gospel-Centered’ is pasted on many book covers and church descriptions, DeYoung wrestles with what Gospel-centrality means and doesn’t mean for the pursuit of holiness.

DeYoung begins the book to show that there seems to be a gap in Christians today, particularly young Christians, between believing the truth of the Gospel and living holy lives. He uses the helpful illustration of his feelings towards camping. He lives in an area where everyone camps. DeYoung, while acknowledging that camping is for some people, does not like camping. This, according to DeYoung, is how many seem to view personal holiness; as something for certain people but not for everyone.

DeYoung goes on to say, “My fear is that as we rightly celebrate, and in some quarters rediscover, all that Christ has saved us from, we are giving little thought and making little effort concerning all that Christ has saved us to.” With this, DeYoung begins to lay a foundation for the importance of personal holiness as seen in the Scriptures (Romans 16:19, Revelation 21:8, Hebrews 12:14, etc).

For the remainder of the book, DeYoung fleshes out what personal holiness looks like. He looks at the purpose of salvation in Chapter 2, showing that the saved are to display Christ to the world through holy living. In chapter 3 he clearly shows what holiness is not and what it is according to scripture. Chapter 4 may be the most important chapter in the book. There DeYoung deals with a proper reading of the imperatives and indicatives of Scripture. He shows that the whole Bible, including the law, is important for Christian living. DeYoung puts the law in it’s proper place, showing that “the good news of the gospel leads to gracious instructions for obeying God.”

Chapter five shows pleasing God as an important motivation for personal holiness. Chapter 6 describes tackles proper motivation and place of the effort of the Christian in holiness. Chapter 7 deals with the oft neglected doctrine of union with Christ as essential for personal holiness. Chapter 8 directly addresses with sexual immorality and the Christian life. In Chapter 9 DeYoung shows the difference between union with Christ and communion with Christ, showing the necessity of cultivating a life of abiding in Christ. Chapter 10 ends on an encouraging note as DeYoung reminds the reader that personal holiness is a slow progression over time.

DeYoung writes very clearly. He is obviously a well educated theologian, but he labors to make difficult doctrines clear for the common reader. This is seen most clearly in his chapter on union with Christ. He follows the Puritan’s he commends in Chapter 1 by showing the necessity of deep thinking for proper living and, in this case, for personal holiness.

Another strength is the Biblical approach to applying the gospel that leans neither toward legalism or licentiousness. It is a temptation among many to ignore the imperatives (‘do this’) of Scripture as if the gospel was only in the indicatives (‘you are this’). DeYoung clearly shows that there are many motivations to holiness that we find in the Scripture. While justification is the first and foremost motivation, it is not the only motivation. Other motivations include the pleasure of God, the promises, and the warnings of the Bible.

DeYoung’s chapter on sexual immorality is necessary in our Christian culture today. He addresses head on one of America’s greatest idols. He shows the particular sinfulness of sexual sin while giving practical advice for Christians, especially young ones, who are struggling.

The final strength of the book is the study questions given for each chapter. This book will be a great resource for one-on-one discipleship, small group settings, youth groups, etc. DeYoung’s questions for further study help the reader press deeper into the issues and apply the truths to personal life.

The only critique of the book is that DeYoung’s claim that Christian’s today do not care much about holiness could have been better supported by some outside sources. There is much background surrounding this book that may have helped to shed light on the concern. DeYoung and Tullian Tchividjian had a helpful blog exchange over some of the issues that concern DeYoung, including motivations for Christian living, justification, sanctification, etc. Showing some different perspectives would have bettered the book.

Overall, The Hole In Our Holiness fills the gap between Gospel passion and our pursuit of godliness by giving a sound biblical understanding of sanctification in the Christian life. It is very accessible for Christians of all walks of life and is a great tool for growing in godliness.

Headed to Boston…


Lauren and I are on our way to Boston, MA this morning for the Gospel Coalition New England regional conference. We’re excited for many reasons. This is the next step in pursuing God’s burden on our hearts for planting a church in New England. I wanted to share a few prayer requests for us while we’re on this trip.

  • Safe travel to and from and all around Boston
  • Good meetings. We will have a great opportunity to spend time with church planters, seasons NE pastors, strategists with the North American Mission Board, etc. Pray that God would use these times to give us direction. Also, there will be many others with a similar stirring that we have for New England. Pray for God to begin relationships around Gospel ministry.
  • Worship in the Word. We will be sitting under some solid teaching over the weekend from D.A. Carson, Tim Keller, John Piper and many others. Pray that God would convict, correct, encourage, and humble us through the preaching of his gospel.
  • Our children. It’s always hard to leave our little ones. Pray for safety and well-being of our parents who will be loving on them while we’re gone.

Follow me on Twitter and Facebook for updates throughout the weekend. Thank you for your prayers!

Reasons to Leave a Church, part 3

This is the third of a 3-part series of posts addressing the question, “what constitutes a good reason to leave a church?”  The first couple of reasons were dealt with in the first post, and dealt with issues concerning the church leadership.  Yesterday’s post dealt with a couple of reasons related to a church’s theology and practice.  Today’s post deals specifically with conflict in the church.

So, the fifth and final “good” and “bad” reasons….

Good Reason #5 – There is no “good” version of this 5th reason, so let’s get right to the “bad reason”

Bad Reason #5 – conflict within the church – While #4 above may be the biggest component of the “consumer mindset”, I believe that this reason (conflict) is the number one reason why people leave their church.  It is the both the most prevalent reason, as well as the most unjustified reason.

A couple of weeks ago the History Channel aired a 3-night mini-series about the infamous “Hatfield and McCoy” feud that erupted between two families in West Virginia in the late 1800’s.  I found it ironic that in the movie’s adaptation of the feud, both families attended the same church.  Some folks can give testimony to the potential for feud-like conflict within the church, but most often the conflict is left unaddressed while the festering wounds of the conflict continue to cause pain for years.  Many have left their church home in such instances.

Scripture is filled with admonition to work out the interpersonal conflict we have with other people, especially within the church.  “Love between the brethren”, not bitterness or resentment or hate, is to be the defining characteristic of those who follow Christ (John 13:35).  Consider Paul’s exhortation to two women in the church at Philippi to “agree in the Lord”:

I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord.  Yes, I ask you also, true companion, help these women, who have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.  Phil 4:2-3

Resolving conflict in the Body of Christ can be messy and complicated, but Paul gives one of the keys in Philippians, chapter 2, verse 3:

Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.

Paul then goes on the explain that the kind of humility we need to have in our relationships with one another is the kind of humility that Jesus displayed in His coming from Heaven and dying on a Cross for those who were in rebellion against His Father (Phil 2: 6-11).

If you are in conflict with another person in the church, please don’t leave the church over this.  The hurt and pain that are a result of the conflict will not go away just because you move your membership to another church.  In reality, you will only be bringing that hurt and pain with you to the next church, and it will become the filter through which all of your new relationships are established.  Instead of leaving, please prayerfully, graciously, lovingly, patiently address the conflict in humility with a willingness to forgive and seek forgiveness where necessary.  If needed, ask a pastor/elder or another mature believer to help you walk through this conflict resolution.  Let the Gospel of Jesus Christ replace conflict with grace, and allow it to be a resolution that bring glory to God.

Conclusion – In over 10 years of pastoral ministry, I would have to say that the vast majority of those who left the church probably should not have left.  Of those who left because of good reasons, over half of them did not leave well.  Only a very small percentage of those who left, did so because of reasons that in my opinion are justifiable, and that when they left, they left well.  My encouragement to those reading this who are considering leaving their church home, is to prayerfully reconsider.  If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, you can’t just do whatever you want to do….you gave up that right when you made Jesus Lord of your life.  Our obligation is to pray and ask God what He wants us to do, and then trust Him to give us the faith, patience, strength, and whatever else it might take…to obey Him.

Tradition vs. Traditionalism

Yesterday we unpacked Matthew 9:14-17, and among other things, we talked about how tradition is good, but traditionalism is not.  I thought this post might be helpful in fleshing that idea out a bit more.  This is a blog post that original appeared on The Resurgence blog, and was written by a guy I went to seminary with, Jeremy Carr.

 

TRADITION VS. TRADITIONALISM

By Jeremy Carr

THE MASTERS

My hometown of Augusta, GA is renowned for the annual golf tournament The Masters. Golf is central to the identity and culture of our city. In college, I had the great opportunity to work as a driver for a world famous company during the 1997 Masters. That week I met numerous celebrities and had an up close and personal experience of the lifestyle and traditions of golf’s greatest. These golf traditions are expressed in many ways: players exhibit pre-game rituals, spectators observe golf “liturgy” as they approach the hallowed ground of the Augusta National, and the world watches on as the champion is praised by the offering of the coveted green jacket (despite the unforgiving Georgia heat). For many, golf is a tradition. For some it is a religion.

EVERYONE HAS TRADITION

Part of contextualizing the gospel involves recognizing the traditions of that culture—discerning what is redeemable and what is an idol. The south, for instance, is rich in history and tradition, yet in many ways remains under-gospeled. Pastors and church planters are typically wide-eyed and ambitious, seeking to build a new expressions of gospel-centered faith in culture. The simple fact is that the moment something is done more than once, a tradition has been established. Tradition is good in so much that it points to Christ and connects with the saints of history. We must ask: what traditions are we establishing and upholding?

PRESERVING THE NON-ESSENTIALS

In Mark 7 we see the Pharisees approaching Jesus with questions regarding certain traditions. It soon becomes evident that the issue is not tradition, but traditionalism. The Pharisees are observing “the tradition of the elders” (Mk 7:35) and “many other traditions” (Mk 7:4). The root of their observances are traditions of men rather than commands of God. Their oral law had become equivalent in authority to the written law. In so doing, the Pharisees were promoting cultural traditionalism at the expense of extending the gift of God’s word.Traditionalism is an idol that replaces Christ and isolates from the saints of the past.

MISSING THE GOSPEL

Jesus is quick to shift the focus from the human authority of traditionalism back to the commands of God revealed in Scripture, of which Jesus himself exhibits authority over. Quoting the prophet Isaiah (Mk 7:6-7), Jesus states with authority, “You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men” (Mk 7:8). He later charges that their traditionalism makes void the word of God (Mk 7:13). Traditionalism is a very affront to God by placing obstacles for true communion with God, while missing the good news that tradition intends to display.

ESTABLISHING, UPHOLDING, NEGLECTING?

Historical theology gives us an understanding to the gospel-centrality of certain traditions that should be established and upheld, not neglected. Tradition should not be ignored, but infused with the gospel. Traditionalism should not be tolerated, but confronted with the gospel. What traditions are you establishing? What traditions are you upholding? How are you combating traditionalism in your context? Traditionalism requires that we come to God in a certain way, while the timeless tradition of true gospel belief frees us to come to Jesus as we are.

Are we holding to traditions of men or commandments of God?

Worship Music Recommendation: Sovereign Grace- From Age To Age

I’m always on the look out for Jesus-centered worship music to recommend to people. I’m encouraged by the amount of biblically rich, gospel saturated worship music that is coming from the Church today. From Age to Age by Sovereign Grace is one of those albums. It’s hot off the press (came out Tuesday) and it’s only $7.99 on Amazon.

Here’s how the liner notes describe the concept of the album…

How does one define a hymn?

It’s hard to say, but most hymns are characterized by theologically rich lyrics, symmetrical rhythmic patterns in the verse lyrics, and a tune that congregations find easy to sing. At the heart of hymn-writing is a desire to create a song that will endure for generations.

Inspired by the hymn writers of the past, we’ve written 14 new hymns for this album. Some songs are old hymn lyrics set to new tunes. For others, we used the thematic structure of a hymn as the basis for an entirely new song.

And in some cases we’ve written completely new hymns that attempt to communicate the inexhaustible riches of God’s word and the Gospel through the simple elements of words and melodies.

Above each lyric, different songwriters have shared thoughts on the background or meaning of the song. We hope you enjoy their stories. More importantly, we hope these songs open your heart and mind to the song that never changes from age to age: the song of the redeemed to their matchless Redeemer, Jesus Christ.

And here is an acoustic version of the song Glorious Christ (Track 11)

Be sure to check out the new Sovereign Grace Music website for more great music.