A Glimpse Into the Gospel of Grace

“The question the gospel of grace puts to us is simply this: Who shall separate you from the love of Christ? What are you afraid of?

Are you afraid that your weakness could separate you from the love of Christ? It can’t.

Are you afraid that your inadequacies could separate you from the love of Christ? They can’t.

Are you afraid that your inner poverty could separate you from the love of Christ? It can’t.

Difficult marriage, loneliness, anxiety over the children’s future? They can’t.

Negative self-image? It can’t.

Economic hardship, racial hatred, street crime? They can’t.

Rejection by loved ones or the suffering of loved ones? They can’t.

Persecution by authorities, going to jail? They can’t.

Nuclear war? It can’t.

Mistakes, fears, uncertainties? They can’t.

The gospel of grace calls out, ‘Nothing can ever separate you from the love of God made visible in Christ Jesus our Lord!’

You must be convinced of this, trust it, and never forget to remember. Everything else will pass away, but the love of Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Faith will become vision, hope will become possession, but the love of Jesus Christ that is stronger than death endures forever.

In the end, it is the one thing you can hang onto.”

(Brennan Manning, The Ragamuffin Gospel; pp.87-88)


Preach The Word: Day 2 Panel Q&A

[These are notes from the Q&A Panel on Day 2 of the Preach The Word 2013 Acts 29 West Regional Conference in Reno, NV]

Participants: Harvey Turner, Tony Merida, Alex Early, Justin Anderson and Leonce Crump


[[Psalm 16 reading]]

How much time do you spend preparing and critiquing your sermon?

-Leonce Crump: prep (4-5 hrs) critique (1-1.5 hrs)

-Justin Anderson: pre-series a lot of time fleshing out themes // in-week (10 hrs) critique (occasionally a couple hrs; most of the time 20-30 mins)

-Tony Merida: 10-15 hrs prep but you never stop preparing “it took me 36 years to prepare this sermon” (everything is shaping you)

-Harvey Turner: 10-15 hrs (including prayer time)

Everyone has their flaws, what red-flags would show that we can’t trust the leader(ship) anymore?

-Justin Anderson: The moment a staff member is asking that question.

-Alex Early: Go to the big issues: for men those tend to be–with a drastic majority–inappropriate stewardship of: money or women

-Leonce Crump: When they stop practicing repentance

-Harvey Turner: Sometimes the problem is not your pastor (just be honest and mindful FROM SCRIPTURE with that)

What if you’re called to preach but your church doesn’t seem to share that belief that you were called to do so? What do you do?

-Justin Anderson: anyone can talk out loud about Jesus and the bible; that’s not preaching. People need to listen and confirm that (it WILL be confirmed)

Being convinced you were supposed to do something and hearing otherwise is a tough pill to swallow, but it happens.

-Harvey Turner: If God is really telling you, He will confirm that with the church (your leaders, peers, etc.)

Acts 13 – “it seemed good to us and the Holy Spirit

-Leonce Crump: If you put yourself in any untrustworthy situations you may sometimes need to seek outside counsel (but don’t jump around for that immediately; don’t be rebellious, etc.)

-Tony Merida: In the Hebrew Bible Ezra and Nehemiah are the same book. Nehemiah is the administrative, priestly guy and Ezra is the bible guy (they know their roles and know when to step aside to let the other do what they do)

“The church is dying for the Paul Tripp counseling types. We need more of those.”

Have you ever thought “I can’t do what that preacher does?” What do you do with that?

-Tony Merida: God has called to give an account to your life, not theirs.

-Alex Early: I’ve absolutely felt this… But I need to remember it’s unhealthy and dangerous/distracting

There will always be someone 10x better but it shouldn’t be competed against but celebrated. Celebrate it when someone is flourishing in the gift God called Him.

Leonce Crump: The time it becomes sin is when you get mad at God that your aren’t like them (you can admire, but don’t covet)

-Harvey Turner: There are varying levels of influence/favor (from Driscoll): there are church-focused, regional, national, and international leaders // know which you are

Many passages have multiple ideas–how can we be faithful to the passage without imposing a single idea on the passage (risking minimizing the text)?

-Tony Merida: The more ideas the more general the theme (but likely still one common theme constantly)

 What resources would you point to for preaching Christ in the Old Testament?

-“Preaching Christ from the Old Testament” (book)

-“Preaching the whole bible as Christian scripture” (book)

-Tim Keller series “preaching Christ in a postmodern world” (RTS App and iTunes)

-“Preaching and Biblical Theology” (Clowney; Book)

What things in Acts 29 churches hinder evangelism in our church culture?

-Alex Early: We get overly concerned in theologically nit-picking that we miss the point about being missional

“Sometimes, you have to loosen up a bit”

We get so caught up about being doctrinally solid in every respect and may be faithful but aren’t being fruitful

Some would rather argue about penal substitutionary atonement rather than talk to their barber to see if he knows Jesus

-Justin Anderson: We think we’re too cool for our own good (and we’re likely too young)

Because of our desire to be cool and because of our age, we tend to more likely reach young, specific types, and narrow our demographic

-Leonce Crump: we have a very particular type of person reached: white, plaid, angry, and precise.

Almost every church (in Acts 29) feels the same.

This is a hindrance (we need to figure out how to avoid that and be faithful to the context you’re in)

Don’t try to be the black guy.. But be faithful to your community. It goes back to “Who is your neighbor?”

Are there women or moms in your archetype prep (regarding session six)?

-Justin Anderson: there are many moms who are smart skeptics and many moms who are “disciples”.. But also I need to own [my lack of accounting for women in the model]. We [at Acts 29] are intentional about men but are also a little overly focused on them (and can miss it at times).

-Harvey Turner: Luther parallels men who lead churches to a drunken man on a donkey. We fall off one side, get back up rightly, and fall off the other side (it’s a constant rebounding/redirecting)

How do you preach against prosperity gospel but still assure the people and yourself of God’s promises?

-Leonce Crump: In myself I am a worm. In Jesus I am not a worm but a son.

As a critique of our movement: “I don’t know when our sin became bigger than our Savior” (we tend to spend so much time magnifying sin and, in doing so, miss magnifying our Savior)

“I don’t waste my time preaching against the prosperity gospel, I preach the fullness of the riches in Christ” you know you messed up, but Jesus (standing between you and it) declares you holy and righteous and blameless.

On the other end of the spectrum we need to be mindful not to preach our sin so much that our savior looks small.

How, specifically, would you break down a small chunk of scripture?

-Tony Merida: Study the text, unify the theme, creat a rough outline, add some meat to it (illustrating, applications, etc), then pray for God to bring the rain.

-Alex Early: Every word has a semantic range (make sure if you examine “propitiation” in context of that particular passage; ie Romans 3 v 1 John 2) — be mindful of it to not universally apply.

You critique not catering to those from other churches, but there are people who come from moralistic churches who aren’t hearing the gospel preached. Isn’t loving them doing the work of an evangelist?

-Harvey Turner: As a general rule, we are too quick to assume that other pastors are not preaching the Gospel. Quick to stroke our own egos (“we’re doing it right, they aren’t”)

Pastors will also use this as justification to not reach the lost (won’t say it but that’s what they’re doing

-Justin Anderson: An easy way to differentiate these situations are to have relationships with pastors around you. (“No guy is too busy to not have lunch with you in the next month”)

How can you get out of JUST discipling and get into evangelizing also?

-Harvey Turner: Discipleship is fundamentally evangelistic (“fishers of men”). All discipleship must be done in view of our mission (not meant to only hang with Christians)

Always look at “how is this (CG, gathering, etc) going to lead us towards mission/evangelism?”

-Leonce Crump: John 6 (eat my flesh and drink my blood) emphasizes that discipleship is related to community and relationships (some follow that aren’t Christians)

We lead them to Jesus and His cross then continue leading them to Jesus afterwards (some turn away, some continue following because he has the words of life).

How many people can you pour into/disciple? How do you stay deep and wide?

-Justin Anderson: Putting butts in the seats is the easy part (not much time, commitment, etc). Discipleship and leadership development is the hard stuff (so we are focusing on the hard stuff and let the easier stuff just happen)

“If you’re doing discipleship and it’s not working itself out in evangelism, you aren’t doing discipleship”

It’s not realistic to expect a deep conversation when it’s a group of 15-20 people

For most “normal” people the number of people they can legitimately “pour into” is 1-2 (for his staff and himself it’s 50% of their time)

“I’d rather start hard on the hard stuff and swing it back a bit than the other way”

-Tony Merida: Timmis says “the church is not a building you visit or an event you go to but a people you belong to” (may be slightly off on the quote)

If we don’t make it a priority (with specifics) it won’t happen.

9 Lessons from God Concerning Sickness

Sickness is meant…

1. To make us think—to remind us that we have a soul as well as a body—an immortal soul—a soul that will live forever in happiness or in misery—and that if this soul is not saved we had better never have been born.

2. To teach us that there is a world beyond the grave—and that the world we now live in is only a training-place for another dwelling, where there will be no decay, no sorrow, no tears, no misery, and no sin.

3. To make us look at our past lives honestly, fairly, and conscientiously. Am I ready for my great change if I should not get better? Do I repent truly of my sins? Are my sins forgiven and washed away in Christ’s blood? Am I prepared to meet God?

4. To make us see the emptiness of the world and its utter inability to satisfy the highest and deepest needs of the soul.

5. To send us to our Bibles. That blessed Book, in the days of health, is too often left on the shelf, becomes the safest place in which to put a bank-note, and is never opened from January to December. But sickness often brings it down from the shelf and throws new light on its pages.

6. To make us pray. Too many, I fear, never pray at all, or they only rattle over a few hurried words morning and evening without thinking what they do. But prayer often becomes a reality when the valley of the shadow of death is in sight.

7. To make us repent and break off our sins. If we will not hear the voice of mercies, God sometimes makes us “hear the rod.”

8. To draw us to Christ. Naturally we do not see the full value of that blessed Savior. We secretly imagine that our prayers, good deeds, and sacrament-receiving will save our souls. But when flesh begins to fail, the absolute necessity of a Redeemer, a Mediator, and an Advocate with the Father, stands out before men’s eyes like fire, and makes them understand those words, “Simply to Your cross I cling,” as they never did before. Sickness has done this for many—they have found Christ in the sick room.

9. To make us feeling and sympathizing towards others. By nature we are all far below our blessed Master’s example, who had not only a hand to help all, but a heart to feel for all. None, I suspect, are so unable to sympathize as those who have never had trouble themselves—and none are so able to feel as those who have drunk most deeply the cup of pain and sorrow.

Summary: Beware of fretting, murmuring, complaining, and giving way to an impatient spirit. Regard your sickness as a blessing in disguise – a good and not an evil – a friend and not an enemy. No doubt we should all prefer to learn spiritual lessons in the school of ease and not under the rod. But rest assured that God knows better than we do how to teach us. The light of the last day will show you that there was a meaning and a “need be” in all your bodily ailments. The lessons that we learn on a sick-bed, when we are shut out from the world, are often lessons which we should never learn elsewhere.

~ J.C. Ryle (Tract: Christ in the Sick Room)