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Month: October 2017

Not Halloween, Reformation Day!

The fact is, there are plenty of Christians—not to mention everyone else—who struggle to see the relevance of Reformation Day on October 31, and fewer again who could give a comprehensive reason as to why it’s so important. Who was Martin Luther? Isn’t October 31 actually Halloween? And why is he trying to hijack this popular day?

Reformation Day is the symbolic day on which the Protestant Church celebrates Martin Luther’s nailing his 95 theses to the castle door of the church in Wittenberg, Germany. These theses were largely a protest against the current practice of indulgences, but included other calls for Christians to return to a more gospel-centric life. While Luther had no intention of sparking a revolution, his actions started a wildfire which spread all across Europe.

The truth is, I don’t know as much about Luther or the Reformation as I would like, but one thing I know for sure is that I’m thankful that I don’t have to pay indulgences. In a nutshell, indulgences were the practice that for a price, sins (either yours or your deceased family members’) could be forgiven for a sum of money, thus reducing or preventing time spent in purgatory (a place the Catholic church invented) before entering heaven. This money then went to help complete construction of St. Peter’s basilica in Rome. Seems like a good deal, right? Well, Luther was adamant that it was nothing short of blasphemy, and he said as much in his passionate denials throughout the 95 theses.

The Reformation also gave to the Christian church what have come to be known as The 5 Solas (they weren’t officially called that until the 20th century):

Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone)—The bible alone is our highest authority
Sola Fide (Faith Alone)—we are saved through faith in Jesus Christ alone
Sola Gratia (Grace Alone)—that salvation comes as a gift of pure grace
Solus Cristus (Christ Alone)—Jesus Christ is the only Saviour and Lord
Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)—Glory belongs to God alone.

These 5 Solas sum up everything about the Christian faith and serve as the foundational pillars for the Protestant Church.

Salvation is by God’s grace alone,
on the basis of Christ alone,
received through faith alone,
to the glory of God alone,
made known to us through the authority of Scripture alone.

In addition to the Solas, I’m also grateful for Luther because on this side of the Reformation, we have the bible in our own language; we don’t have to pay financially to lift the guilt-trip (because money never saves); and we don’t have to go through a pastor, priest, or any other mediator to have access to our loving God. So this October 31st , as the 500th anniversary of the Reformation arrives; I’ll be celebrating Reformation Day. And there is much to celebrate.

What I Read in October

The God-Shaped Heart

I abandoned this book after 6 chapters. It had a promising, even fascinating start but took a turn into dangerous waters when it downplayed God’s justice, denied the significance of Christ’s penal substitution, and flirted with Universalism.

I’d recommend skipping this one.

 

North! Or Be Eaten

Andrew Peterson is a skilled world-builder, has an encyclopedia of fantastic creatures to thrill the imaginations, and writes to engage with an audience of both kids and their parents. I gave high praise to book one of the Wingfeather Saga, and I love when a sequel is better than the original. North! continues the adventure at rapid pace with new places, new foes, and an ending that makes me glad I’ve already got book three in the mail.

Sing!

Singing is one of the most commanded acts in Scripture, and Sing! is one of the best books on congregational singing I’ve ever read. It is immensely readable; while also being convicting, informative, encouraging, and deep. Every pastor, worship leader, and serious Christian should read it.
Read my full review
.

 

The Whole Christ

This month’s free audiobook from Christianaudio.com, it’s an instant classic. Although it’s a bit dense (at least, it was for me) it is also full of glorious truths about the assurance of our faith, and full of great statements like “It is misleading to say that God accepts us the way we are. Rather he accepts us despite the way we are”. I know I’ll have to read it again to fully appreciate all its contents, but that just adds to my recommendation.

What have you been reading?


See what else I read in 2017:

Wednesdays on the Web (25/10)

4 Reasons to Make Your Kids Go to Church

Want a hot-button issue to divide Christian parents? Mike Kelly believes we should undoubtedly force our children to go to church, even when they don’t want to. Before you pick up stones, read his post.

The Solas of the Reformation: A 5-Day Reading Plan

At the time of its release, we are 7 days away from the 500th anniversary of Luther’s nailing the theses. Even putting that aside for the moment, the 5 Solas hold the key tenets of the Christian faith, and we would do well to spend time reading scripture with them in mind. This is guaranteed to be a few minutes of your next 5 days well spent.

Simple Prayers for Your Grieving Heart

The shock of loss seems to steal our breath and with it our ability to think clearly. It can be extremely difficult to think of how to pray for ourselves and the people we love so dearly. Thankfully, our faith in God and reliance on Him has greater power and yields greater results than our grief.

11 Resources about the Reformation

I’ve read (or have on my nightstand) 4 of these, and can say with confidence that Christians today have so much more to learn from the Reformation than we first realise. Keep an eye on these titles, buy them, borrow them—just don’t ignore them. Your life will absolutely be richer for it.

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Listening is Loving: Part 1

Listening is something of a lost art which needs to be recaptured, retaught, and reapplied in our relationships with God and with others; both because it will greatly improve our quality of life, and because it lies at the heart of what it means to be like the God who Himself listens to us.

In his book The Listening Life: Embracing Attentiveness in a World of Distraction, Adam S. McHugh talks about listening as one of the best gifts we can both give and receive. At the time of writing this I’m four chapters in to his book and already I’ve been encouraged and challenged about the importance of listening with all my senses—not simply listening with one ear while my fingers text and my head writes a shopping list. (more on this in part 2)

When it comes to listening to—and hearing from—God, McHugh argues that although Scripture is the primary means through which God speaks with his children today we would be doing God (and ourselves) a disservice if we were to consider it to be the only means. He writes:

I am prepared to take a liberal position on God’s voice and his communications to his creation. God wants to be known and speaks freely, in a multitude of different ways. I believe all these means of hearing God’s voice are fair game. This entire book is about listening to God because God’s voice fills the universe, and when we listen to any agent we are potentially listening to God. Such a position may make me the most raging charismatic the Presbyterian Church has ever known. But if we want to confess God as truly sovereign, then his means of communication must be unrestricted, and they certainly cannot be less than what the Bible testifies to.

Rather, McHugh believes that the answer is to have safeguards for hearing (what we think is) God speaking to us. In this way we flip the restrictions from how we ‘allow’ God to speak over so the restriction is now on us, our interpretations, and what we do with them. I find this approach excellent, and well aligned with the church throughout history. McHugh suggests three ways that we can rightly filter what we’ve heard in order to use our God-given wisdom to better respond.

The Bible

First, what we hear has to sound like the God of the Bible. If it is inconsistent with what we read about God’s character and ways in Scripture, it must be rejected. Any voice that calls for personal gain at the cost of others, self-aggrandizement, any voice that goes against the fruits of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindess, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control) is inauthentic. Straight up.

The Community

Second, we have been saved into a community of saints with whom we seek to better listen, and with whom we filter our interpretations. Listening is a communal exercise, and God rarely (if ever) gives direction to people in a way that has no benefit for His people—at the very least for the purpose of building each other up in the faith through a shared testimony of His goodness. McHugh writes: “People that hear from God on an island have nowhere to go but into their own egos.” We need the wisdom, experience, and maturity of fellow believers in order to best confirm the words we believe we have been given.

Reflection

Last, we should be people of reflection. It is not simply enough to immediately act, as though we are mindless robots whose only requirement in relationship is to obey. Each Christian has been given the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit, and with His presence comes wisdom to consider the impact of these decisions and we would be wise to take time to reflect. The Holy Spirit is never confused; so if we feel there is a lack of clarity, the best thing we can do is wait.

Recently I was with a group of people who shared their experiences of acting upon (what they felt was) God speaking to them. In my case, hindsight can clearly see that this voice was in fact my own desire colouring the lens through which I saw the right decision. Would I have interpreted the words I heard differently if I’d spent more time with the Bible, the community, and reflection with the Holy Spirit? It’s impossible to say. What I do know is that Jesus tells us that his sheep know his voice, and that should be equally true in the silence as it is in the midst of this turbulent, noise-filled world. To know his voice, I first need to learn how to listen.

You Are Not Enough

There’s a dangerous rhetoric that has invaded the Christian vernacular, and the three small words of this subtle message have had a massive, subversive influence on many young Christians’ understanding of themselves, and by extension a cheapened view of the cross and ultimately of God. What are these words, and how could they be so damaging? It’s the notion memorably set to music in Christina Aguilera’s 2002 hit “beautiful”, captured now in inspirational Instagram quotes superimposed over strong mountains or tall trees.

You Are Enough.

The only problem is, it’s a lie. So the next time a preacher, pastor, public speaker, self-help guru, or friend tells you that “you are enough”, don’t believe them. Don’t buy into the lie that says you should trust in yourself or have confidence in yourself or look for answers within yourself because it simply isn’t true. The reality is that you are human. You are descended from Adam, of the same genetic stuff that caused God to flood the world to rid it of people whose hearts and deeds were only evil continually (Genesis 6:5). That’s the stock you and I come from.

Why It’s Dangerous

Humankind has always sought to be master of our own destiny. From Adam & Eve disobeying God’s good design, to God’s people Israel continually thinking they knew better, to modern Christian self-help books designed to bolster our self-worth thinly veiled in Christianese. But Scripture tells us a different story, and one that we would be wise to pay attention to. Proverbs 3:5 begins “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.” If I was to draw a circle that contained all knowledge about everything there is, and ask you to draw a circle inside it to represent your knowledge, you’d probably place a single, barely-visible dot. And yet when we’re facing trials, temptations, trouble that would overwhelm and leave us decimated, we lean on comfortable clichés like “chin up. You are enough” rather than placing our trust in the LORD, whose knowledge fills the entire circle to its perimeter. A biblical perspective on humanity reveals that if you’re going to take your eyes off God and attempt to trust in your own broken, sinful heart—what theologians throughout history have referred to as pulling yourself up by your own boostraps—you’re going to have a bad time.

But There’s Hope

In the middle of the Bible there’s a book called Psalms. In this book, we find authors like David who time after time cry out to God to rescue them from their current circumstances. In these pages we are clearly shown that God is infinitely more capable, more knowing, and more powerful to not only take care of our circumstances, but us as well. The Psalms help to re-orient our hearts away from ourselves and fix our eyes on the One who is enough. About this God David writes in Psalm 103:14-19:

14 For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.
15 As for man, his days are like grass; he flourishes like a flower of the field;
16 for the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place knows it no more.
17 But the steadfast love of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him,
and his righteousness to children’s children,
18 to those who keep his covenant and remember to do his commandments.
19 The LORD has established his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules over all.

God is totally sovereign. He is perfectly just. He speaks and where there was nothing, now there is something. God sees everything visible by the strongest Hubble telescope, and he sees everything that it can’t see, out to the very edge of what exists. He sees everything visible by the strongest electron microscope, and he sees everything it can’t see, down to the most minute level of what is. And he knows it all perfectly, effortlessly, and he learned none of it because he made it. That sounds like the One who is enough.

Listen to A. W. Tozer:

“God knows instantly and effortlessly all matter and all matters, all mind and every mind, all spirit and all spirits, all being and every being, all creaturehood and all creatures, every plurality and all pluralities, all law and every law, all relations, all causes, all thoughts, all mysteries, all enigmas, all feeling, all desires, every unuttered secret, all thrones and dominions, all personalities, all things visible and invisible in heaven and in earth, motion, space, time, life, death, good, evil, heaven, and hell.”

Infinitely Enough

Have you ever had a time in your life where you’ve gone through a crisis? A job loss. A heart-crushing breakup. An injustice where you feel like you’ll never be heard? God sees your circumstances, and not only is he able to oversee the outcome of those circumstances for your good and his glory, he is also infinitely, lovingly, perfectly enough to care for your every need. So the next time trouble hits, remember David’s words from Psalm 121:

1 I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come?
2 My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.
3 He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber.
4 Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.
5 The LORD is your keeper; the LORD is your shade on your right hand.
6 The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night.
7 The LORD will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life.
8 The LORD will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore.

John Calvin begins his Institutes by saying that a right understanding of ourselves begins with a right understanding of God. When we know who God is we can properly know who we are, and joyfully depend on Him in every circumstance for our good and his glory. He is powerfully, lovingly, perfectly for us. We are not enough. And that’s actually good news.

Wednesdays on the Web (17/10)

Is It Really God Speaking to You?

Recently, I had a conversation with some guys about times in our lives when we’ve felt like God is speaking/confirming/leading us to do this or that (life decisions—not where to park the car). Mike Leake has a good word to add to this conversation.

Sufficient for Its Day

Here’s something totally unexpected. As a Christian, you heard certain phrases and immediately equate them to the part of the Bible you think they’re referring to (or maybe just me). I had an idea of what this article would be about and immediately put it on my shortlist, thinking it would contain good advice for Christians struggling with today. I had no idea, and what I found was a more beautiful, evocative, stirring piece that mingled sadness and joy with bright, enduring hope.

Crucify Them!

Two things continue to fascinate me about situations like this one from Melbourne over the weekend. First, the reality that Love is Love Until You Disagree (then we’ll cry “crucify them!”). The second is that Christians continue to be shocked and saddened that they’re being persecuted. Like that’s unexpected, or a new thing.

5 Psychologically Proven Ways Scripture Teaches Us to Combat Anxiety

I’ve deeply struggled with anxiety in my life and the scriptures have played a defining role in my ongoing recovery. So I want to share with you what some of the scriptures have to say about facing anxiety, and how it’s psychologically proven to be true.

A Five Minutes Guide to Better Typography

Tame the text. (please)

#MeToo — Stop Asking Women to Fix it

It’s happening in response to the revelations of widespread sexual harassment in Hollywood. But this extends way beyond Hollywood.

Too many of our sisters in our church family and too many women in our neighbourhood have experienced sexual assault or harassment. This is not right. We hear you. We believe you. We’re sorry.

Theologicon: Australia’s First Pop-Culture Conference

Take your favourite comic book characters, pop-culture icons, and silver screen superheroes, mix in theology… and you’ve got Theologicon: a conference to explore how Christians can engage with the enduring themes and questions posed within pop-culture. The timetable has been released, the topics look amazing, and the tickets are selling fast.

A Prayer for the Church

Heavenly Father, we pray for the Christian church worldwide, which You have called into existence for a witness and testimony of Your grace, mercy, love, and truth. We ask Your forgiveness for ‘peddling the gospel’, for making your sacred truth and benevolent grace a profane product to be advertised, marketed, and merchandised. Lord forgive us for pursuing material gain, worldly success, and personal happpiness as the highest priority in our lives. Cause us to seek first, and above all else, to love You with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength—to seek first Your Kingdom, the Kingdom of God, and Your righteousness and true holiness.

Make us to realise that You are building Your church and the gates of Hell will not prevail against it. Likewise, humble us to acknowledge Your supreme wisdom, knowledge, and power. Lord, you don’t need us or our feeble, misguided plans and methods; for Thou, O Lord, art able to raise up from the very stones of the ground faithful children unto Abraham. We thank You for the opportunity You have given us to partner with You in the expansion of Your Kingdom here on earth. Help us to remember that our role and responsibility in God’s Great Commission is to sow, and not to grow. As the Apostle Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 3:16 “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow.”

And so, O God, we are confronted with our own poverty and impotence, trusting in You to govern, guide, lead, train, and equip us to disciple all nations in the way of Christ. Anoint us with Your Holy Spirit and empower us to transform our world for Jesus. Raise up labourers for the harvest. Bring into the sheepfold of God those who through repentance and faith have submitted themselves to the rule of Christ their Messianic King. And Lord, we will be sure to give You all the glory, honour, and power, in Jesus’ name. Amen.


This prayer was taken from Lord, Teach us to Pray by Manfred Wagstaff, 2017.

Sing!

Singing is one of the most commanded acts in Scripture. As Christians we should know not only that we ought to sing, but we should love to sing. In Sing! How Worship Transforms Your Life, Family, and Church Keith & Kristyn Getty outline five goals they seek to impart into pastors, worship leaders, songwriters, production teams, and singing Christians (so that pretty much covers everyone).

  1. To discover why we sing and the overwhelming joy and holy privilege that comes with singing
  2. To consider how singing impacts our hearts and minds and all of our lives
  3. To cultivate a culture of family singing in our daily home life
  4. To equip our churches for wholeheartedly singing to the Lord and one another as an expression of unity
  5. To inspire us to see congregational singing as a radical witness to the world

One of my favourite points that Keith and Kristyn raise is that the command to sing is not arbitrary, nor is the manner or content left to our own preferences. They write

We are commanded to sing the Word of God—the truth revealed in the Scriptures, the story of redemption. Fundamentally, we’re to sing about God, revealed in Christ and supremely in His suffering and His glory, since that’s what the Word of God is all about (Luke 24:26–27).

Content matters. We’re allowed to be picky, in fact we should be picky. Every part of our song lyrics should link together to bring a wonderful, thoughtful, deep expression of Scripture to every singer. If you are choosing songs as a worship leader, this is your responsibility. The question of why we sing is rarely voiced out loud, but Keith and Krisytn remind us all that our hearts and minds require a good balanced diet of gospel truth that becomes the soundtrack for our week, taking Sunday’s truths into Monday. They continue

Biblically rich content in songs, sung by people who look like they mean what they are singing, helps teach the gospel as something that is credible and powerful rather than cultural and optional.

We need to sing of how we were once under the wrath of God, condemned to die, without even a hint of hope. We need to sing of how that hope came to us as the Son of God entered the world to reconcile us to this holy God, and that we need to sing with joyful hearts to the glory of Him who saved us so that all might be pointed to Him. Whenever we sing, we witness to the faith that we hold to, and the One in whom our hope is secured. If I were a visitor to your church and knew nothing of the gospel, what would your church music (and congregational engagement) convey to me about your faith? Our singing witnesses to our faith, so the question we should be asking ourselves is this: is my singing a good witness or not?

Sing! wouldn’t be complete without including a fresh perspective on singing in the home. The Gettys provide encouragement (and a few ideas) towards making singing a regular part of home life through immersing different parts of our lives with the songs we sing on Sunday. Reminding ourselves of gospel truths through music in the car, singing while preparing dinner—or singing as grace before dinner—bedtime songs, whatever works for you; but always songs with rich theological content that your children can grow up into, and carry into their adult lives. They offer ten practical ideas for getting the gospel into our children’s lives through song

  1. Use all the help and opportunities you can get
  2. Teach your kids songs you want them to grow old with
  3. Talk about what you’re doing and what the songs mean
  4. Prepare for Sunday services
  5. Model passionate participation in the services
  6. Be aware of all the music your kids are into
  7. If your kids are into music… encourage them!
  8. If your church has a children’s choir, support it if you can
  9. Cultivate high opinions of all types of art
  10. Sing today!

All these ideas are unpacked in detail and are thoroughly inspiring for parents (like me) who haven’t got family worship all figured out yet.

Lastly, at the end are a number of “bonus tracks” with practical suggestions targeted at specific groups of people (Pastors & Elders; Worship & Song Leaders; Musicians, Choirs & Production; and Songwriters & Creatives). Each of these four bonus tracks are wonderful and insightful, even if you’re not currently in one of these specific roles. In short, Sing! How Worship Transforms Your Life, Family, and Church is one of the best books on congregational singing I’ve ever read. It is immensely readable; while also being convicting, informative, encouraging, and deep. Every pastor, worship leader, and serious Christian should read it.

Buy This Book from Book Depository, Free Delivery World Wide

For more, check out thesingbook.com

Wednesdays on the Web (11/10)

Serious Preaching in a Comedy Culture

David Murray has put together these relevant reflections on what preachers can learn from TED talks. He outlines seven main arguments, each of which should inform and motivate those who preach today. He writes

I am all for being natural in the pulpit. However, there are certain elements of our nature that we have to control when we are representing Christ. One of the repeated qualifications for an elder is to be “sober.” That means to be “self-controlled,” to be able to restrain and curb some elements of our nature, character and personality. In the light of the seven reasons for seriousness, I would suggest that the natural ability to make people laugh is something we should leave at the bottom of the pulpit steps. Would we crack jokes in the Oval Office?

Learning to Doubt our Fears

Obeying the command to take “every thought captive” begins with our ability to doubt our fears. But what does that look like?

Clinging to the Crutch

Anxiety is all-encompassing, and it has the potential to lead to ultimate destruction, but there’s hope in recognising that we are not in control. We are not masters of our own destiny, but rather when we lean on Christ as the One who bears our burdens and carries our very souls, we find this crutch is more than able to take the weight.

Five Obstacles that Dads Face

I’ve just spent two weeks at home spending quality time with our children while my wife was away (for the most part), and I loved being able to invest time in them, watching them grow, learn to interact, and discover. But I’m not perfect, and kids have a way of revealing the areas in which I still have a long way to go. Scott Slayton puts his finger on a few.

Don’t Freak Out if You’re not Feeling God’s Presence

If you’re dependent on an emotional experience during Sunday morning worship, or expect to always feel God while you’re in prayer, you could be running with some unbiblical thinking. Stephen Altrogge explains.

The Council of Trent

We’re in a series of articles exploring the councils and creeds of the Christian church. Why? Because when it comes to faithfully and diligently working out our salvation with fear and trembling (Phil 2:12) we miss a great deal when we simply try to construct our own “real Christianity” with nothing more than a bible. To take heed from those who have gone before us is to benefit from the wealth found in the most important theological declarations of the Christian tradition.

Today we continue the series with a look at the council of Trent.

Background

Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the church in Wittenburg in 1517. By the 1540s all attempts on the part of the Holy Roman Empire to bring peace between the protestants and the Catholic church have failed. The challenges held by the Reformers still required a response however, and so the Catholic church convened the council of Trent—held in three stages beginning in December 13, 1545 and ending in 1563 with a 235-to-1 vote in favour of the canons established there.

The Council

Put simply, the council’s purpose was to remedy the problems within the Catholic church that had caused the Reformers’ cries of protest. The reforms included correcting abuses of power by the clergy, clarifying the balance of power between the authority of Scripture and church tradition, and issuing official statements on the topics of justification, the sacraments, and purgatory.

Clergy/Institutional Reform

Even today, we can see the abuses of power when a person in leadership holds authority at more than one level in a government or institution. Trent attempted to straighten out the potential for corruption through ruling that Bishops must be resident and serve only where they are placed, and not in more than one location. The most important institutional reform was the decision that (without admitting Luther was right) the selling of indulgences needed to be reigned in and come under tighter scrutiny.

Scripture, Tradition, and Revelation

The Reformers held to Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone) as the ultimate authority for life, with all other sources of guidance still highly regarded, but subordinate. Trent ruled differently however, determining that Scripture and the traditions of the church (passed down through Apostolic succession) held equal weight. Trent also recognised the Apocrypha as part of the Bible, contrasting the Reformers who held that the Hebrew Bible is the only legitimate Old Testament.

Justification

The most significant doctrinal issue discussed at Trent was how a sinful person comes to be justified before a holy God. Luther argued that all humans are sinful and condemned from birth, and we are saved by grace alone through faith alone, on the merits of Christ alone. The Catholic position however holds that humans work towards a state of being justified through God giving them opportunities to further develop and strengthen themselves into a person that is more acceptable to God. As we respond to God in the right way, our right decision shapes us further into the person He wants us to be, and in this way we prepare ourselves for justification.

Why it Matters

As Trent was a Catholic council, should we immediately assume that contemporary Christians have nothing to learn? The Reformers wanted to see Christians living without fear that the church had power or influence over salvation, or that God requires good works and merit in order to justify us. They wanted Scripture to be available to all believers (not just those who could read Latin), and they sought a hierarchy which cared for all people with fairness and transparency. Even today we see instances where people in church leadership hold more than one office in a denomination (this should not be so), or where people are taught that a man can be justified by his works (this comes in different shapes and packages). We can agree with Trent that the history and tradition of the church (those great men and women of faith on whose shoulders we stand) has much to offer us in living a fuller Christian life. We can further agree that man is not justified by his own works apart from divine grace through Jesus Christ, but that works are evidence of our salvation, not a requirement of it. Lastly, Trent helps us to think with more clarity about our Protestant beliefs by contrasting those things that Trent stands by that differ from our own—in this way we ask questions that seek with humility to take seriously our own faith and the richness of our shared heritage.

More articles in Councils & Creeds:

You Don’t Even Have a Bucket, Jesus

The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with,
and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water?
– John 4:11, ESV

If you’ve grown up in church, you’ll be familiar with the story of the woman of Samaria who encounters Jesus at a well, and the way that she reacts to Jesus bizarre, puzzling, not to mention culturally taboo question. If you’re not, pause and re-read John 4:1-45 here. Now perhaps if it were you or I standing there with Jesus, we’d react the same way that this woman did. She looks at Jesus, considering the act of drawing water, and reminds him “but you don’t even have a bucket, Jesus”. It’s not so strange that we can’t imagine the same thought occurring to us. In this woman’s mind, Jesus is failing to meet the basic requirements of water-giving.

How often in our own lives do we find that Jesus is right there, saying to us “I have everything you could ever need” and in our pain, in our uncertainty, in our own perceptions of the exact thing that we need in order to fix our situation we respond “but you don’t even have a bucket, Jesus.”

The gospel tells me “I can heal you of that bitter unforgiveness, Chris.”

“But you don’t even have a bucket, Jesus. Now maybe if you come back with a psychology degree, or brought a ten part DVD series, or at least come with something that makes you look like you understand my situation…. Maybe you should just stick to telling stories and dying for people. Stick to what you know, Jesus.”

But maybe that “bucket” isn’t what I need. And I’m standing at that well so focused on Jesus’ lack of a bucket that my eyes are blind to what he’s actually offering to do for me. Just maybe he knows something that I don’t.

You see, this woman’s issue wasn’t that she didn’t know she was sinful. Believe me, she was painfully aware every day of her immoral lifestyle; having had five husbands and currently living unmarried with her boyfriend. We can say with some confidence that it’s the whole reason why she’s made her way to the well in the hottest part of the day when no one else would venture out—precisely for that reason because she doesn’t want to have to deal with the judgmental glances, the hidden whispers as she approaches, the comments behind her back as she leaves. She knows all about her sin. But there’s a sense in which her sin isn’t actually her biggest problem. I’m more inclined to think that her biggest problem—the one that so many of our friends and family share with her today—is that she doesn’t know Jesus. She doesn’t know the one who has come to die for her sins. The one who freely offers her water, living water….LIFE.

Jesus offers this living water without reserve, without condemnation, and without regard for circumstance. Will you come and drink?

Wednesdays on the Web (04/10)

Pastor, What’s Your Point?

David Murray: Just because a sermon has points, doesn’t mean it’s got a point.

Searching for Meaning in Las Vegas

Our hearts break with the families who are still experiencing the affects of the worst mass shooting in US History. Here’s a round up of encouraging, formative, or reorienting words from Al Mohler, the ERLCGentleReformation, and Russell Moore.

Only the Christian worldview, based in the Bible, can explain why moral facts exist, and how we can know them. Only the biblical worldview explains why sinful humanity commits such horrible moral wrongs. The Christian worldview also promises that God will bring about a final act of moral judgment that will be the final word on right and wrong — as facts, not merely speculation. The Gospel of Christ points us to the only way of rescue from the fact of our own evil and guilt. -Al Mohler

Think Fake News is Scary? Try False Teaching

From Jen Wilkin (via Christianity Today):

We learn to spot a lie by studying the truth. Both fake news and false teaching bow to this principle. To help children sift the digital messages that bombard them, educators now teach media literacy in the classroom to aid critical thinking. The church must act similarly.

Let’s Get Real about Women’s Discipleship

I’ve seen some wonderful women’s resources (and women teachers) become better known in 2017. The 3 points in this post are simple yet transformative, like the gospel it encourages women everywhere to look deeper into.

A Reformation Song

This magnificent song from Bob Kauflin and Tim Chester is an example of the perfect congregational song. Engaging the intellect and declaring wonderful truths (each verse or chorus begins and focuses on one of the Five Solas) while simultaneously making the heart soar. For me, it is exactly what joining together in song is all about.