The Friday Briefing 19 (1 February 2019)

What does it mean that God is jealous? Tim Challies asks, “God’s perfections are a matter for praise; but how can we praise God for being jealous?”

The missing word in our modern Gospel Kevin DeYoung writes, “By definition, you cannot have a Christian who isn’t shaped by and saved by the gospel. . . . . But let’s preach the gospel the way Jesus and the apostles did. . . . . It is good news to hear . . . that God loves us in Christ and that we are precious in his sight. But the gospel is more than positive self-talk, and the gospel Jesus and the apostles preached was more than a warm, “don’t let anybody tell you you’re not special” bear hug. There’s a word missing from the presentation of our modern gospel.”

The everlasting impact of faithful shepherding Dustin J. Coleman writes, “The Bible calls on both the church community and the leaders of the church to care for and oversee each of its members. . . . . Faithful shepherding secures souls. . . . . Faithful shepherding has an everlasting impact.”

Learning to linger in a Spotify age Jimmy Needham asks, “If we cultivate unfocused and fickle attention spans, how can we possibly expect to cultivate a deep and intimate knowledge of God?”

His Suffering Sparked a Movement. David Brainerd (1718–1747) John Piper writes, “His life was short — 29 years, 5 months, and 19 days. And only eight of those years as a Christian. Only four as a missionary. And yet few lives have sent ripples so far and so wide as David Brainerd’s. Why has his life made the impact that it has?”

Teaching doctrine to uneducated hearers Andy Prime, a church planter in Edinburgh, Scotland, shares briefly about his experience of teaching in a context where there are many people who won’t achieve any educational qualifications.

What does it mean that God is jealous?

Tim Challies writes, “. . . time and time again, God reveals himself as a jealous God. He even goes as far as to give his name as Jealous (Exodus 34.14). So we do well to ask: “What is the nature of this divine jealousy? How can jealousy be a virtue in God when it is a vice in humans? God’s perfections are a matter for praise; but how can we praise God for being jealous?” Read the whole article HERE.

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The missing word in our modern Gospel.

Kevin DeYoung writes, “By definition, you cannot have a Christian who isn’t shaped by and saved by the gospel. . . . . But let’s preach the gospel the way Jesus and the apostles did. Theirs was not a message of unconditional affirmation. They showed no interest in helping people find the hidden and beautiful self deep inside. They did not herald the good news that God likes you just the way you are. . . . . I don’t doubt that many of us feel beat up and put down. We struggle with shame and self-loathing. We need to know we can be okay, even when we don’t feel okay. It is good news to hear, then, that God loves us in Christ and that we are precious in his sight. But the gospel is more than positive self-talk, and the gospel Jesus and the apostles preached was more than a warm, “don’t let anybody tell you you’re not special” bear hug. There’s a word missing from the presentation of our modern gospel.” What is that missing word? And why is it so important? DeYoung explains.

Read the whole article HERE.

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The everlasting impact of faithful shepherding.

Dustin J. Coleman writes, “A couple of weeks ago, I had two conversations. The first was with my best friend from college, Steve. . . . . He told me how he did not any longer consider himself a Christian or have any sliver of belief in what could be called the Christian God. I could hardly sleep that night. I buried my head in my pillow, praying with all my heart that God would undo in Steve’s heart what I had heard him say with his mouth. The second conversation I had later that week was with Joan, a woman who is a member of our church but has not been attending recently. The elders of our church have a shepherding plan where we contact each of our members, whether by phone or face to face, every couple of months. . . . . She had been struggling in her faith. . . . . As we talked, I reminded her of the gospel. I reminded her of our church’s love and concern for her. I reminded her not to separate herself from her faith family and cut herself off from the preserving power of church fellowship. . . . . . . . by the end of our conversation she was joyful. . . . . As I hung up, two questions overwhelmed me: First, what would have happened to Joan if no one had called? And second, had anyone from Steve’s church ever called him? When he stopped showing up, did anyone notice? Did anyone from his church community reach out to him, not to chide him for non-attendance, but to listen to his heart and the areas where he was struggling? Did anyone remind him of the gospel? Affirm their affection for him? In short, did anyone from Steve’s church take responsibility for his soul? . . . . Faithful shepherding secures souls. . . . . Faithful shepherding has an everlasting impact.”

Read the whole article HERE.

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Learning to linger in a Spotify age.

Jimmy Needham comments, “Humans were made to gaze. . . . . My greatest times of growth and dependence on God have come when I’ve taken an extra hour, day, or week to wrestle with a passage, meditate on a truth, or enjoy a promise. . . . . The best things in life don’t come in an instant but over time, which means we must cultivate the ability to wait, listen, and linger. Our age, though, is one of short-form content. We live in a world of bits and bytes, snippets and sermonettes, scores of one-liners—140 characters or less if you please. . . . . Scripture shows us what it looks like to become stable, sturdy, faith-filled people. We learn that the righteous man “delights in the law of the LORD, and in his law he meditates day and night” (Ps. 1:2). It is sad but true that, by and large, the church has lost the capacity to meditate like this.”

Needham asks, “If we cultivate unfocused and fickle attention spans, how can we possibly expect to cultivate a deep and intimate knowledge of God? . . . . Are fast-paced mediums of entertainment and social networking making it difficult for you to linger long over the things of God? If so, bid them farewell for the sake of joy.”

Read the whole article HERE.

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His Suffering Sparked a Movement. David Brainerd (1718–1747).

John Piper writes, “His life was short — 29 years, 5 months, and 19 days. And only eight of those years as a Christian. Only four as a missionary. And yet few lives have sent ripples so far and so wide as David Brainerd’s. Why has his life made the impact that it has? Why did John Wesley say, “Let every preacher read carefully over the Life of David Brainerd“? Why did William Carey regard Jonathan Edwards’s Life of David Brainerd as precious and holy? Why did Henry Martyn (missionary to India and Persia) write, as a student in Cambridge in 1802, “I long to be like him!” (Life of David Brainerd, 4)?  . . . . Why has this life had such a remarkable influence? Or perhaps I should pose a more modest and manageable question: Why does it have such an impact on me? How has it helped me to press on in the ministry and to strive for holiness and divine power and fruitfulness in my life?”

Piper continues, “The answer is that Brainerd’s life is a vivid, powerful testimony to the truth that God can and does use weak, sick, discouraged, beat-down, lonely, struggling saints who cry to him day and night to accomplish amazing things for his glory. There is great fruit in their afflictions. To illustrate this, we will look first at Brainerd’s struggles, then at how he responded to them, and finally at how God used him with all his weaknesses.”

Dr Piper gives a brief biography of David Brainerd – the various struggles that he faced and his response to them, the fruit of his ministry, the impact of Jonathan Edwards’ biography of him, The Life of David Brainerd.

Read the whole article HERE.

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Teaching doctrine to uneducated hearers.

Andy Prime, a church planter in Gracemount, Edinburgh, Scotland, shares briefly about his experience of teaching in a context where there are many people who won’t achieve any educational qualifications. He says, “teaching doctrine to someone who has been a school dropout is not harder than teaching doctrine to someone who’s got a university degree. It may change the way you do it but it doesn’t change the fact that you can do it.” Listen to what he says HERE. Learn more about Andy and his wife Sarah and their ministry HERE.

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Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations (apart from those in direct quotations) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, published by HarperCollins Publishers. © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

The Friday Briefing 18 (4 January 2019)

The priority that isn’t Tony Payne wrote “Over the past couple of months, pastors and church leadership teams in many parts of the world have been reviewing the year just past, and dreaming and scheming about the year to come. . . . . Perhaps you and your team have been be considering some of the following plans . . . .” He then lists 8 areas of church life and ministry. He comments, “The problem, of course, is that you simply can’t do all this. . . . . So which items are you going to prioritize?”

If you preach like Whitefield, think like Wesley Eric Geiger writes, “In his highly popular book, The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell contrasted the ministry of George Whitefield and John Wesley. . . . . . . . Wesley’s impact was more far-reaching . . . . ” Geiger explains why, and how we can, in his words, “think like Wesley”.

‘Broken,’ ‘authentic,’ ‘surrender’: the problem of Christian jargon Dan Doriani throws a spotlight on a number of terms often used in Christian circles. He comments, ”The need to get our language right applies to all sorts of theological and ethical discussions. Approaching them, we remember Paul forbids quarrels about words and encourages a peaceable approach (2 Timothy 2.14, 24–26). Yet we also know that precise language is a servant of good theology. . . . . So let us strive to use the right words in the right way, for the sake of Christ and his church.”

Say it in a sentence Justin Buzzard writes, “When I was 21, I started preaching once a month at The Santa Barbara Rescue Mission. . . . . One Thursday afternoon I went for a walk with my pastor. He asked me what my sermon was about for later that night. Four minutes into trying to explain what my sermon was about, my pastor interrupted me and said: “SAY IT IN A SENTENCE!” . . . . That piece of advice transformed my preaching . . . .”

Four lessons I’ve learned from the Puritans Dave Arnold writes, “Although I was exposed to a few of the Puritans when I was in college – namely, in my preaching classes – it wasn’t until 2014 that God, by His grace, opened my eyes to these spiritual giants of the seventeenth century and forever changed my life.”

He will hold me fast Ada R. Habershon wrote the hymn When I fear my faith will fail in 1906; the chorus begins He will hold me fast. Matt Merker adapted the words and wrote a new tune for it. This is a wonderful hymn; in Keith and Kristyn Getty’s words, “a unique jewel that would be a comfort and encouragement to God’s people as we live out faith in these difficult times, whether in suffering, persecution or death.”

The priority that isn’t

Tony Payne, of Matthias Media, wrote (in January 2014): “Over the past couple of months, pastors and church leadership teams in many parts of the world have been reviewing the year just past, and dreaming and scheming about the year to come. . . . . Perhaps you and your team have been be considering some of the following plans . . . .” He then lists 8 areas of church life and ministry. He comments, “The problem, of course, is that you simply can’t do all this. You have limited time and resources. So which items are you going to prioritize? . . . . . . . I continue to be surprised at how widely one of the most important of these bullet points is neglected. It just gets overlooked, or put in the too-hard basket, or falls off the end of the priority list in the face of all the other competing pressures and possibilities. It is one of the most important because it is the bullet-point that in many respects drives and enables all the others.” What is that priority? Find out HERE.

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If you preach like Whitefield, think like Wesley.

Eric Geiger writes, “In his highly popular book, The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell contrasted the ministry of George Whitefield and John Wesley. Gladwell articulated that Whitefield was the better communicator, a more powerful preacher than Wesley. Whitefield was also known as a more capable theologian than Wesley, more likely to be compared to Luther or Calvin than Wesley would have been. Yet Wesley’s impact was more far-reaching . . . .” Geiger explains why. He then briefly considers what it means, in his words, “to think like Wesley”. Read the whole article HERE.

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‘Broken,’ ‘authentic,’ ‘surrender’: the problem of Christian jargon.

Dan Doriani writes, “It’s easy, perhaps even necessary, to mock Christian jargon from time to time. . . . . . . . however, we must make distinctions. Some jargon comes directly from Scripture. For example, “saved” appears many times in God’s Word, and it generally has the sense we give it in church circles. “Saved” is an important biblical term, and the danger is not that it’s misleading, but that we use it thoughtlessly, so the term loses its heft. But more often, our jargon has a light connection to Scripture. One thinks of prayer language like “hedge of protection” and “open door.” . . . . “Broken” is an interesting case. In my circles (perhaps not yours), certain pastors and teachers often tell their people they are broken or need to face their brokenness. . . . . There are three difficulties with the jargonish use of “broken.” . . . . There is a third category of jargon—terms that have no biblical basis whatsoever and come from secular culture. “Surrender,” “transparency,” and “authenticity” all belong in this category.”

In his conclusion, Dr. Doriani comments, “The need to get our language right applies to all sorts of theological and ethical discussions. Approaching them, we remember Paul forbids quarrels about words and encourages a peaceable approach (2 Timothy 2.14, 24–26). Yet we also know that precise language is a servant of good theology. . . . . So let us strive to use the right words in the right way, for the sake of Christ and his church.”

Read the whole article HERE.

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Say it in a sentence.

Justin Buzzard writes, “When I was 21, I started preaching once a month at The Santa Barbara Rescue Mission. I didn’t know how to preach and I wanted to learn . . . . . . . . I used spare time to work on my sermons for the Rescue Mission. I didn’t have a method. I generally picked a text or two, studied the text, then wrote down a bunch of stuff to say. One Thursday afternoon I went for a walk with my pastor. He asked me what my sermon was about for later that night. Four minutes into trying to explain what my sermon was about, my pastor interrupted me and said: “SAY IT IN A SENTENCE!” He said I wasn’t ready to preach until I could state what my sermon was about in one, clear sentence. That piece of advice transformed my preaching . . . .” [Please note: a link to an interview follows, but this link is broken.] Read the whole article HERE.

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Four lessons I’ve learned from the Puritans.

Dave Arnold writes, “Although I was exposed to a few of the Puritans when I was in college – namely, in my preaching classes – it wasn’t until 2014 that God, by His grace, opened my eyes to these spiritual giants of the seventeenth century and forever changed my life. I remember the morning clearly. It was early and my daughter (who was only a few months old), was sitting on my lap contently. I reached over to grab my Kindle and scrolled through the ‘free books’ section. It was then my eyes fell upon a title Samuel Rutherford and Some of His Correspondents by Alexander Whyte. I knew of Whyte and had read some of his sermons, so I thought I’d download it. And I’m so glad I did! Whyte had me at the introduction, as he beautifully portrayed the life of Rutherford, the great Scottish divine of Anwoth, his exile in Aberdeen, his involvement in the Westminster Assembly, and most importantly, his ardent love for Christ. Not only did I read Whyte’s classic work on Rutherford’s letters, but then went on to read the Letters myself, which drastically impacted the trajectory of my life. Moreover, through Whyte, and then incidentally, Rutherford, their writing opened my eyes to other Puritans; and thus, my journey to understand the Puritans began. With that said, I’d like to share with you four lessons on how the Puritans have impacted me personally.”

Read the whole article HERE.

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Ada R. Habershon (1861–1918) wrote the hymn When I fear my faith will fail in 1906. Matt Merker has adapted the words and written a new tune for it, which was introduced to Merker’s church, Capitol Hill Baptist Church, Washington, DC, in 2013. Keith and Kristyn Getty write, “From the first time we heard this song written by Matt Merker, we felt it was a unique jewel that would be a comfort and encouragement to God’s people as we live out faith in these difficult times, whether in suffering, persecution or death.” Kristyn Getty sings it as a solo in the YouTube video above. Below you can hear it sung by the congregation of Capitol Hill Baptist Church.

You can find more information, including the lyrics and Matt Merker’s story of how he came to write this new version of Ada Habershon’s hymn, HERE.

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‘Biblical theology in discipleship’ by Nancy Guthrie’

Image from Lightstock

In her article, Biblical theology in discipleship, Nancy Guthrie writes, “A number of years ago I was teaching a study of Genesis in my church when one of the discussion group leaders, an older godly woman, came and sat down by me. “How come I’ve never been taught this before?” she said with tears in her eyes. She was beginning to recognize that, as many years as she had spent studying the Bible, she had never seen how the story of the Bible fit together in a way that is centered on the person and work of Christ from Genesis to Revelation.”

Guthrie comments: “I’ve been on a mission not only to understand the Bible this way myself but also to introduce and infiltrate Bible studies —especially women’s Bible studies in the local church—with biblical theology. I often look at church websites to see what studies are being offered to the women of the church or in adult Sunday School classes. And I am often disheartened to discover studies that are felt-needs driven, studies with little biblical or theological rigor, and studies oriented around self-improvement. I am thrilled when I see studies of particular books of the Bible, as that indicates an expectation that what we need most is God’s Word and that we can expect it will speak to us. But sometimes even these studies can be oriented to jumping too quickly from what the text says to personal application, untethered to the larger story the Bible is telling that is centered on Christ.”

In her article, which you can read HERE, Guthrie gives five reasons why she believes that biblical theology should be woven into the fabric of discipleship in the local church.

In her new book, Even Better than Eden: Nine Ways the Bible’s Story Changes Everything About Your Story, Guthrie traces nine themes as they develop through the Bible. The next post will give more information about this new book (you can read the publisher’s description HERE).

The Friday Briefing 2 (16 March 2018)

Welcome to the second issue of The Friday Briefing. (If you missed the first, it’s available HERE. The aim of this weekly briefing is to introduce a wide range of books, articles, and audio and video resources helpful for studying the Bible, for Biblical thinking and understanding, and for Christian discipleship. It will also include quotations that I’ve found thought-provoking and significant. There’ll also be alerts to material uploaded on this site.

Three reasons to keep reading the Old Testament

The Skull Crushing Seed of the Woman: Inner-Biblical Interpretation of Genesis 3:15

7 theological issues confronting the local church

The assumption we cannot afford

A golden age in Christian publishing

The parable of the unforgiving servant (Matthew 18.21-35) – a sermon

Three reasons to keep reading the Old Testament

Aaron Armstrong comments, “The Old Testament causes much consternation among North American evangelicals. Although historically, Christians have embraced the Old Testament as being absolutely essential to the Christian life—I believe the first person to do this was Jesus—somewhere along the way, we got scared of it.” Aaron gives us “three reasons to keep the Old Testament front and center” HERE

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The Skull Crushing Seed of the Woman: Inner-Biblical Interpretation of Genesis 3:15

After Adam and Eve had sinned in the Garden of Eden, God cursed the serpent, who had tempted them, (Genesis 3.14-15) and pronounced judgment on Eve (Genesis 3.16) and Adam (Genesis 3.17-19). To the serpent, he said, “Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” James M. Hamilton, Professor of Biblical Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, writes, “God’s first act of judgment in the Bible is accompanied by his first promise of salvation, and the salvation will come through the judgment. As the serpent is cursed, he is told that he will proceed on his belly and that he will eat dust (Gen 3:14). Further, enmity is placed between him and the woman, and between his seed and the seed of the woman. This enmity will issue in the seed of the woman crushing the head of the serpent (3:15).” In his article, Dr. Hamilton highlights “the theme of the head crushing seed of the woman in the Bible.” He continues, “Even if at many points my interpretation of the data is disputed, this study will nevertheless contribute a catalog of the intertextual use of the theme of the smashing of the skulls of the enemies of God.” Dr. Hamilton finds imagery from Genesis 3.15 in many texts in both the Old and New Testaments – in his words, “the seed of the woman crushing the head(s) of the seed of the serpent, . . . shattered enemies, trampled enemies, dust eating defeated enemies, and smashed serpents.”

Read the whole article HERE

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7 theological issues confronting the local church

Jason K. Allen comments that in every era, Christians are called “to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.” (Jude 3). He writes, “Some struggles recur in every generation. Battles such as the veracity of Scripture or the person and work of Christ are perennial ones. The church, again and again, has to articulate and defend these doctrines. Other battles, such as the Bible’s teaching on marriage, gender, and human sexuality, seem to appear out of nowhere, and require the church to be agile, quick, and forceful in response. Christians are not to be pugilists, always on the look out for doctrinal fights. But we better not be cowards either, unwilling to find one. In fact, Martin Luther—the reluctant reformer—serves as a good role model. Luther challenged the ruling ecclesiastical and magisterial authorities of his day, under constant threat of death, because his “conscience was bound to the Word of God.” . . . . In the spirit of Luther, the church—and especially those who lead it—must continually ask itself, “where is the battle raging? Which truths are under assault? Against what attacks should Christians mobilize and engage?” When considered in this light, seven theological challenges surface for the church to confront.”

Read about those seven theological challenges HERE

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The assumption we cannot afford

Jen Wilkin writes, “We ended another year of women’s Bible study last Tuesday: eleven weeks in the epistles of John and eleven weeks in James. Fifty-four different churches were represented in our enrollment this year. A couple thousand more women podcast from around the country. At the conclusion I was deluged with cards and e-mails from participants expressing their gratitude, reflecting on what they had learned, and, almost uniformly, uttering a confession I have heard so often that it no longer surprises. . . . . Their confession is this: ‘I’ve been in church for years, but no one has taught me to study my Bible until now.’ . . . . . . . it is terrifying to me that so many women log years in the church and remain unlearned in the Scriptures. . . . . Church leaders, I fear we have made a costly and erroneous assumption about those we lead. I fear that in our enthusiasm to teach about finances, gender roles, healthy relationships, purity, culture wars, and even theology we have neglected to build foundational understanding of the Scriptures among our people.”

Jen urges us to “. . . teach the Bible.” She continues, “Please hear me. We must teach the Bible, and we must do so in such a way that those sitting under our teaching learn to feed themselves rather than rely solely on us to feed them.”

Read the whole article HERE

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A golden age in Christian publishing

Tim Challies sometimes finds himself “grumbling a little bit about the state of publishing today, and especially the state of Christian publishing. Many of the big publishers have been gobbled up by corporations whose primary concern is not the glory of God but the health of the bottom line. Some of the medium-sized publishers seem to collect any and every rambling word of the popular pastors and personalities so they can slap those words on paper. Many of the smallest publishers are churning out books that simply do not deserve to be printed. New tools for self-publishing allow anyone with an idea to commit it to paper and distribute it as widely as they can. And that’s not all that is concerning or annoying. There are the thousands of truly awful, unbiblical books being published each year, and the fact that the bestseller lists are inevitably dominated by titles that are not only bad, but often downright dangerous.”

But he continues: “And yet, when I stop and consider the state of Christian publishing, I can’t help but think that we are in a golden age. A strange age, to be sure, but a golden one nonetheless.” Tim brings evidence for this HERE

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The parable of the unforgiving servant (Matthew 18.21-35) – a sermon

Mark Stirling, senior pastor of Cornerstone Church in St. Andrews, Scotland, gets to the heart of this powerfully challenging parable about forgiveness. In this message, Mark says: “if we don’t forgive other people, then we have failed to grasp the character of God Himself.” He comments: “Over the years that [my wife and I] have been involved in various aspects of Christian ministry, we would say that this issue of unforgiveness is one of the major stumblingblocks . . . towards people . . . becoming the people that God has made them to be.”

Mark points out that simply and humbly to receive from God, knowing that we cannot pay Him back, that we cannot earn our forgiveness, changes who’s in charge of our lives. If we try to pay God back, we remain in control of our lives. But to receive God’s mercy and forgiveness takes our self off the throne of our lives.

Listen to the whole sermon HERE (it’s the fourth message down from the top).

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Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, published by HarperCollins Publishers. © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.