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)

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Jonathan Edwards’ Resolutions – #18

Resolved to live so, at all times, as I think is best in my most devout frames, and when I have the clearest notions of the things of the Gospel, and another world.

While this resolution is very similar to Resolution 17, in reading this resolution I had a very different train of thought. Instead of the mindset “thinking of this world will fuel us for lasting impact in this world” I thought to Hebrews 11:13 to those who “acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.”

I then began thinking of the implications of what it means to be a stranger and exile, and what it means for us today.

It’s easy for many of us to be desensitized to our surroundings. Our rides to work are along the same route, take roughly the same amount of time, and the rides often become a “featureless corridor from home to work; a non-place where the mind drifts and we suddenly find ourselves arriving without having any memory of the journey” (from A Mis-Guide to Anywhere). When thinking of these implications, it’s easy to be so casually associated to your surroundings and completely miss the beauty in them.

The book mentioned above–A Mis-Guide to Anywhere–seeks to combat this mentality by providing various activities/tasks to see your typical surroundings (workplace, cities, transit, etc.) in a different perspective [if you’re interested, definitely check it out. There’s quite a bit of interesting things there which could spice up some of our [especially my own] routine-driven, sometimes repetitive lifestyle(s).

Anyways, back on point: I believe my thoughts jumped to this because as strangers and exiles we shouldn’t think of this place as home. Strangers see things around them as unfamiliar, they have a mentality of learning and seeking to understand from the people around them. I know for me this mentality is not present enough–and I’m all too often content to stay within my Christian sub-culture. Exiles are ones who have been displaced for one reason or another, but all the while they long to be reunited with their true home–no matter how “at home” they may be in their new location. With this in mind, remember that we are to live as exiles, aware that we have been cast out of the garden yet long to return to the shalom–the abiding fullness, rightness, and flourishing that God created us to experience with Him–of His presence.

Tying it all back to the Resolution, keeping our thoughts fixed on the Gospel and the “other World” (the one that is to come as promised in the Word of God) helps remind us that this world and these circumstances are not all there is. This should motivate us to live differently, learn differently, and perceive the world around us as something to marvel at.

Mark Batterson has a couple of quotes that I have found particularly helpful in this regard: “When a routine becomes routine, change the routine” (and)

“Change of pace + Change of place = Change of perspective”

When you force yourself to look at things differently and when you slow down enough to observe–truly observe–your surroundings, I think you’ll be surprised at the majesty in the mundane.

I Want to Hear From You

Hello all followers or onlookers,

I would love to hear what you would want to see posts about.

Whether it be a particular topic, scripture, resource, dialogue, etc. I would love to hear what you would be interested in seeing. My goal is to make the blog more interactive between you and I and to do that I want to be sure that you are adequately engaged (within the proper scope of things).

Let me know if you would like to hear about something, be given a particular set of resources, blogs, have any questions I could directly respond to, etc.

Thank you for following or checking out the blog and take a second to let me know how I can best serve each of you!

Fulfill YOUR Ministry

As for you,always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

(2 Timothy 4:5; emphasis mine)

For this posting, I’d like to set the tone for my future posts by simplifying my expectations. Instead of posting a wide spectrum of ideas, thoughts, content, etc. [of which this blog will still consist of in some capacity], I am hoping to narrow my focus to 3 particular frameworks and plan to do so through 4 practical applications.

The Frameworks for my Focuses:

-1) Church Leadership/Planting –This particular content-matter will emphasize such topics as a philosophy of ministry, biblical manhood, Triperspectival leadership (Prophet, Priest, King), and overall leadership (both being a leader and becoming a leader/growing as a leader)

-2) Missions This content will be missions-oriented in nature (both locally and globally). This includes content related to the unreached and unengaged, calling as a missionary (and the biblical command to be sent and on mission), and suffering for the sake of the spread of the Gospel)

-3) Gospel Contextualization — Focusing on, as Mark Driscoll says “showing the relevance of the Gospel and not trying to ‘make the Gospel relevant’.” This content matter will also include information from Tim Keller’s work on delivering the Gospel in urban environments from his book Center Church. Lastly it will include what it means to live a life (both personally and congregationally) that is both deep and wide (simply: theologically deep, a depth of the gospel, and wide relationally).

With these three categories in mind, I wish to accomplish them by doing four things.

1) Be affected (It is necessary to be affected by the Gospel before attempting to talk about it or dissect it. We are ever-living out of a response to what God has already done, is doing, and promises to do)

Love well (This happens through intentionality through service, contextualization, and community)

Lead well (Through church leadership, humility, and realizing that I will fail, mess up, and that Jesus alone provides the ability and perfect model of biblical leadership)

Go well (Through understanding what it means to be sent into the world [again, both locally and globally] and to care more about the lost and hurting in this world than living a comfortable Christian lifestyle)

Pray with me as I pursue these things, and pray that Christ will be glorified and magnified in our time.

Change of Pace

This post will serve to be more of a vision-casting than actual content distribution, but I feel like it holds strong enough implications that it’s worth sharing with all of you.

For a while I’ve used this blog to distribute and facilitate content to you all that I’ve found particularly edifying, encouraging, and challenging. I feel like I’d like to start transitioning it’s scope to a more personalized (individual) one.

I’m hoping to modify the blog from dissemination of existing content to a blog which provides helpful sermon notes and links based upon my personal experiences, as well as personalized reflection and thematic progressions. Without being too wordy, I feel the push to write more with myself, and less of parroting everyone else’s content.

Rick Warren has a quote that has been on my mind lately which says, “To improve your mind, write something everyday, then rewrite it to be clearer. Rewriting sharpens your thinking.” Prayerfully, this blog will help sharpen my thinking, and be a vessel of writing/rewriting; and I pray this for you as well.

I think there is more potential for me to consolidate and clarify my thoughts and experiences than I’ve been previously utilizing. I’m sorry if this post is a little scattered; my hope is to be as clear as possible.

One thing I’m asking you all to do is to help contribute when possible. It’d be extremely helpful for me to hear your feedback and reactions to the things I plan on posting, and one of my goals in this transition is to be more regular in my posting and more practical than merely theological/conceptual.

You can expect a blog soon about the primary focuses I hope to hone in on, and until then, I pray that you are all doing well and that you will be encouraged by the urgency and compassion of Christ, today.

God bless.

~Mike.

Book Review: Greater (Steven Furtick)

To be honest, I didn’t come into this book with incredibly high hopes. For quite some time the Christian bookstores have been flooded with “your best life now”s and self-help books, so when I came across a book talking about God having “greater” plans for your life, I was a little skeptical, but because it was Steven Furtick I gave it a shot.

After reading this book, I was certainly not disappointed. Steven Furtick, though his conversational, story-rich writing style is not the sort of book I typically read, knows how to handle the Scriptures well, and that certainly shines through in his ideas.

The core concept in this book is that God has a vision for your life that is “Greater” than the one you’re likely living in right now, and Steven Furtick sets out to identify why that is and what we can do about it. One of the things I love the most is that in many books on this topic, you’re given the vision that something greater is out there, but either settle for less, or dream big, and are left in both situations without a means to do much with the newly acquired information. Steven provides a great deal of practical application with the content and I would definitely say this book, as a quick read, is a helpful tool to igniting a greater vision in your life, as well as equipping you to flesh out what it looks like to get there.

There is a danger in modern Christianity, and life in general, to simply drift along, right about baseline, and show little to no tangible differences than anyone else. The truth is: the Bible calls us to a radical sort of living, a counter-cultural, self-denying lifestyle that should cause us to live and think much differently than the culture around us. I believe this book is a breath of life in the right direction towards fighting against a complacent, “wasted” christian life.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes by Multnomah Publishing. I was not required to post a positive review and the views expressed in this review are my own.

Trials That Establish and Root Us

“After that ye have suffered awhile, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.”—1 Peter 5:10.

You have seen the arch of heaven as it spans the plain: glorious are its colours, and rare its hues. It is beautiful, but, alas, it passes away, and lo, it is not. The fair colours give way to the fleecy clouds, and the sky is no longer brilliant with the tints of heaven. It is not established. How can it be? A glorious show made up of transitory sun-beams and passing rain-drops, how can it abide?

The graces of the Christian character must not resemble the rainbow in its transitory beauty, but, on the contrary, must be stablished, settled, abiding. Seek, O believer, that every good thing you have may be an abiding thing. May your character not be a writing upon the sand, but an inscription upon the rock! May your faith be no “baseless fabric of a vision,” but may it be builded of material able to endure that awful fire which shall consume the wood, hay, and stubble of the hypocrite. May you be rooted and grounded in love. May your convictions be deep, your love real, your desires earnest. May your whole life be so settled and established, that all the blasts of hell, and all the storms of earth shall never be able to remove you.

But notice how this blessing of being “stablished in the faith” is gained. The apostle’s words point us to suffering as the means employed—“After that ye have suffered awhile.” It is of no use to hope that we shall be well rooted if no rough winds pass over us. Those old gnarlings on the root of the oak tree, and those strange twistings of the branches, all tell of the many storms that have swept over it, and they are also indicators of the depth into which the roots have forced their way. So the Christian is made strong, and firmly rooted by all the trials and storms of life. Shrink not then from the tempestuous winds of trial, but take comfort, believing that by their rough discipline God is fulfilling this benediction to you.

~ C.H. Spurgeon (from his devotional Morning and Evening; formatting mine)