November 30, 2013

Risky Gospel: A Book Review

A Great Book for the Millenial Generation

Owen Strachan's book, Risky Gospel, is written for a generation in the eye of today's cultural hurricane. They are floating unattached to needed mooring points, being blown out to sea by the gale, all the while thinking it is merely a nice summer breeze to be enjoyed. While Strachan does call for unsettling risk in living out the gospel every day, it is not the kind of risk we hear from other authors. Instead of calling for "wild-eyed, John the baptist in camel hair clothes gnawing on locusts" radicalism, the author raises visibility to such radical ideas as living a faithful Christian life in obscurity while loving those around you through self-sacrificing service.

Risky Gospel's focus audience is a few years removed from where I'm at in life.  It is strongly oriented towards the 30ish-and-under crowd. The life-choices Strachan explores are not what most empty-nesters, retirees, or senior-citizen-saints are considering. Nonetheless, for its intended audience, I see the author stretching in many ways to try to bring reality as it is and Christian life as it should be into view for the millenials. I found many surprising word-hooks that should find traction with a disconnected, vaguely-committed generation.  For example:

"A Christian is not some prettified spiritual contestant in the great pageant of Who Can Look the Most Religious."

"John Owen, a Puritan teacher who wore one of those killer white wigs,..."

"Life as many evangelicals approach it isn't supposed to be scary. ... We want the Jesus of our best life now to give us a blanket and some hot cocoa, not send us out in a fearsome world."

"We can see where we should be. We just don't really have the oomph, the spiritual horsepower, to get there."

But Discipline Takes So Much... Well... Discipline

In describing hurdles to discipline, Strachan's somewhat sardonic sense of humor is on display:

"I remember the first time I tried to be disciplined in prayer. Maybe you had a similar experience. I saw that I needed to devote myself to prayer, so I set out to pray for half an hour. Target: set. Locked and loaded, I launched in.
 "I prayed up a storm. Everything I could think of. The wind howled; the earth shook. Moses and the saints interrupted their heavenly discussions to peer down through the filmy clouds at this fledgling mystic. This was serious prayer.
 "As I wound to a close, I let my words trail off. A prayer warrior had been forged. A lifetime of supplication had begun. I looked at the clock with a sense of pietistic triumph...
"... and saw that exactly nine minutes had elapsed. And--wince--my knees hurt from kneeling."

Watch Where You Step

The author isn't afraid to scatter some sanctification landmines across the countryside. He skewers the oft-repeated mantra, "I lack discipline." Instead, Strachan rightly diagnoses our heroic, olympian, mis-directed discipline.  He writes:

"We have discipline, all right: discipline for hedonism, self-satisfaction, pleasure.
 "Call it self-driven discipline.
 "Our favorite TV shows? You couldn't make us miss that must-watch reality program on fashion if you stole all five of the remotes it takes to DVR them. Our fantasy football league? We conduct more research on who to draft in round seven than paralegals working on billion-dollar settlements. Going to sports events or concerts of the artists we love? Of course we can postpone our studying or call in sick for work. You only live once, right? Buying the latest offerings from the technology gods? We'll wear the same clothes for a month if it means we can access the cloud whenever we want. Getting the coffee and treats we want? You couldn't stop us from that Starbucks run if you personally took hold hold of the wind, the rain, and the snow. Nothing keeps us from our $4.50 coffee--truly nothing.
 "You know what these patterns show us? You and I are serious about what we want to be serious about."

Can Risky Gospel Christians Make Plans?

Risky Gospel hits on many areas of life, and some very specific challenges within the evangelical world. For example, many of our young people are fearful to embark on an active faith because they don't have any solid footing biblically to stand on. More specifically, many are confused on how to turn faith into any specific concrete action due to a flavor of mysticism at work in the evangelical world. Waiting to hear "the still small voice", a profound paralysis strikes our young people because they aren't sure if they are hearing anything. Strachan writes:
"You may have been trained as many believers are in mystical, fearful Christianity. If so, the Bible has great news for you. Provided you are saturating your mind and your prayers with biblical wisdom in a Romans 12:1-2 sense--such that your heart and mind are being transformed by Scripture--it's appropriate to strategize, and plan, and then to act."

Could Ricky Gospel Launch You To a New Life?

Yes. It is worth reading, considering, learning from. The author gives wise counsel, settles a few old debts and doubts, and keeps his eyes on the cross of Christ while moving towards it. I believe this book will prove to be a cornerstone work for the Millenial generation. To give a compliment that is truly a compliment, Strachan has written an impacting work akin to Jerry Bridges' Pursuit of Holiness/Practice of Godliness for this generation. Risky Gospel is set on the bedrock of the cross-work of Christ and the real freedom that results from the concerted effort of the Trinitarian God in saving all who would come to Him. I leave you with the following extended quote to demonstrate Strachan's commitment to the gospel as the bedrock of Christian freedom, upon which every encouragement to risk is built.

"Jesus triumphed over the grave, much to the shock of his followers. This is not an abstract fact, though. It's not a magnet for your refrigerator, a key chain for your pocket. With the defeat of sin at the cross, the defeat of death through the resurrection means that now we can live righteous lives.
"This is a bonfire in your heart.
"The gospel message of Jesus' saving work offers us the power to risk everything for him, and gain everything in him. When we come to Jesus, we are not merely punched through to the afterlife, though. We are redeemed--all of us. Heart, soul, and mind. The old has passed away. The new has come. This is precisely what Paul tells us: "From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation" (II Cor. 5:16-18).
"This passage is foundational for bold spirituality. If you're going to pursue the Lord with zeal each day, you need to know the core DNA of your faith. Here it is. Bullet, meet powder. You are not a miserable wretch. You are not 50 percent saved/50 percent wicked. You are in Christ, and you are a "new creation." The old is gone. The new is here.
"This isn't your work or mine. God has done this through Christ. On the cross, Jesus bore our sin; through the cross, we gained his righteous standing. This is what his reconciliation means for us. We're no longer outcasts. We're reconciled to God. This is our fundamental identity.
"God loves us. We are his." 

Christ Considered As The Ages Roll On

The days of eternity shall pass on, and our eye shall never weary of looking on Him, but 'shall gaze upon His glories, as the eagle is said to do upon the meridian sun.' Ages upon ages pass, and still He is to us all in all. We admit the light from His Person freely now; never did Moses so eagerly survey the goodly land from Pisgah, as we now survey the glories of the Lamb. We get looks into that heart where love has dwelt from everlasting, and where love shall dwell to everlasting. Eternity is in its full course! Long, long ago, we lost sight of the shores of time, and still He is the unexhausted and inexhaustible fountain to us of 'Good tidings of Great Joy!' Eternity only serves to let in upon our souls the fullness of the blessing given to us in the day when we received Him, and began to have fellowship in His Gospel. The Gospel is still 'THE EVERLASTING GOSPEL;' for Christ is its substance; Christ is its essence; Christ is its Alpha and Omega; and the life it has brought us is out of 'Christ our life,' and must be 'Life Everlasting.'

--Bonar, Andrew; The Person of Christ

November 29, 2013

Sola Scriptura: The New Hampshire Baptist Confession, 1833

1. Of the Scriptures
We believe that the Holy Bible was written by men divinely inspired, and is a perfect treasure of heavenly instruction;(1) that it has God for its author, salvation for its end,(2) and truth without any mixture of error for its matter;(3) that it reveals the principles by which God will judge us;(4) and therefore is, and shall remain to the end of the world, the true center of Christian union,(5) and the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and opinions should be tried.(6)

  1. 2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Pet. 1:21; 1 Sam. 23:2; Acts 1:16; 3:21; John 10:35; Luke 16:29-31; Psa. 119:11; Rom. 3:1-2.
  2. 2 Tim. 3:15; 1 Pet. 1:10-12; Acts 11:14; Rom. 1:16; Mark 16:16; John 5:38-39.
  3. Prov. 30:5-6; John 17:17; Rev. 22:18-19; Rom. 3:4.
  4. Rom. 2:12; John 12:47-48; 1 Cor. 4:3-4; Luke 10:10-16; 12:47-48.
  5. Phil. 3:16; Eph. 4:3-6; Phil. 2:1-2; 1 Cor. 1:10; 1 Pet. 4:11.
  6. 1 John 4:1; Isa. 8:20; 1 Thess. 5:21; 2 Cor. 8:5; Acts 17:11; 1 John 4:6; Jude 3:5; Eph. 6:17; Psa. 119:59-60; Phil. 1:9-11. 

November 26, 2013

Twitter Tuesday

 Caleb Suko(@sukofamily)Buying things you don't need with money you don't have seems to have become the American way of life. Jesus>Materialism

 adviseamad(@tjacobbsmith)by Jesus’ Cross I am saved, and to his Crown I am subject.

Burk Parsons(@BurkParsons)God has all power to defend you, all wisdom to direct you, all righteousness to clothe you, and all happiness to crown you. HT: T Brooks

 Nick Batzig(@Nick_Batzig)Talked to a friend tonight who lives in a US city with a population of one million with no good church. Welcome to the mission field.

 Donald S. Whitney(@DonWhitney)I'm often aware that I stand on the shoulders of giants. But sometimes I think the best I do is just step on their toes.

 Tony Reinke(@TonyReinke)Spurgeon (120 years ago): "Where Christ is not prized, health becomes an idol."

November 23, 2013

The Short List: Three Ideas On How You Can Encourage Your Pastor

1. Pray today for your pastor.
The number one priority for you to encourage your pastor is to pray for him. Period. This isn't the gratuitous #5 to assuage everyone's guilty conscience for not praying anymore. It isn't the polite unspoken duty that isn't necessary to mention because everyone knows they need to do this. Pray for your pastor. Today. Tomorrow. And the next day. Stop talking about Christian duties and actually pray. Stop saying "I really need to make time for that". Pray. If it means that you stop reading this right now and spend the next few minutes praying for your pastor and never reading the other two ideas, that is "mission accomplished" for me. This is #1 for a reason. It's that important.

2. Talk to your pastor like he's a human being.
He's not a theology robot, even if he happens to be a theology geek. The guy is a human being. Do you talk to other people throughout your day? Good. Then I can assume you understand how to talk to people. Talk to your pastor. You don't need to impress him with a new theological discovery or inform him of an anticipated spiritual event. Talk to him like you would talk to your brother about everyday things.

3. If you don't have a "your pastor", get one.
Brothers and sisters, if you're not in regular attendance at a local church, change that this week. Find a church you can join together with and worship God as part of the assembled congregation. If you are a regular attender but not a member of your church, talk to your pastor about joining the church. It's really that simple, and "your pastor" will be greatly encouraged by your attendance and membership.

November 21, 2013

The Christian Battles To Be Like Christ

"He that would be holy must fight. He must war a good warfare (1 Tim 1:18); fight the good fight of faith (1 Tim 6:12), though not with carnal weapons (2 Cor 10:4). He must fight upon his knees, being sober, and watching unto prayer (1 Pet 4:7). He must wrestle with principalities and powers, being strong in the Lord and the power of His might, having put on the whole armor of God, girdle, breastplate, shield, helmet and sword (Eph 6:13-17). This battle is not to the strong (Eccl 9:11), but to the weak; it is fought in weakness, and the victory is to them that have no might; for in this conflict time and chance do not happen to all; but we count upon victory from the first onset, being made more than conquerors through Him that loved us, and are cheered with the anticipation of the sevenfold reward "to him that overcometh" (Rev 2:7). Though, in this our earthly course and combat, we have the hostility of devils, we have the ministry of angels in aid (Heb 1:14), as well as the power of the Holy Ghost (Eph 1:13). "
  -- Horatius Bonar, God's Way of Holiness

November 20, 2013

Sola Scriptura: Midland Confession of Faith - 1655

3rd. We profess and believe the Holy Scriptures, the Old and New Testament, to be the word and revealed mind of God, which are able to make men wise unto Salvation, through faith and love which is in Christ Jesus; and that they are given by inspiration of God, serving to furnish the man of God for every good work; and by them we are (in the strength of Christ) to try all things whatsoever are brought to us, under the pretence of truth. II Timothy iii.15-17; Isaiah viii.20. 

November 19, 2013

Twitter Tuesday

This week's list includes: Evan Welcher, ThaKiddJopp, Nick Batzig, Mark Dever, Erik Raymond, and Jon Tyson.

 Evan Welcher(@EvanWelcher)They say you’d be healed if only you were asking God in the right way: Convenient: they're selling a book to teach you. #SermonNotes

 ThaKiddJopp(@ThaKiddJopp)Your relationship with Jesus should be a everyday thing, not just a weekend fling.

Nick Batzig(@Nick_Batzig)You can overdo nearly anything in life; but you can never worship, love, bear witness to, speak of, sing to or call upon Christ too much.

 Mark Dever(@MarkDever)"Shall man be proud after God has been humble?" (Richard Sibbes, Bruised Reed, p. 27)

 Erik Raymond(@erikraymond)The (successful) finished work of Christ means that he has accomplished something that cannot be done by anyone else. Even us.

 Jon Tyson(@JonTyson)Dear church planter. 


"Disciples Disciples Disciples"


"Locations, Campuses, Sites"

November 17, 2013

Words of Wisdom

"Justification without sanctification would not be salvation at all. It would call the leper clean and leave him to die of his disease; it would forgive the rebellion and allow the rebel to remain an enemy to his king."
  --Charles Spurgeon, All of Grace

November 16, 2013

True Evangelical Fellowship of Calvinists and Arminians

What think you, readers? Is Machen's view correct for his time, timeless, or flat out wrong?

"Another difference of opinion is that between the Calvinistic or Reformed theology and the Arminianism which appears in the Methodist Church. It is difficult to see how any one who has really studied the question can regard that difference as an unimportant matter. On the contrary, it touches very closely some of the profoundest things of the Christian faith. A Calvinist is constrained to regard the Arminian theology as a serious impoverishment of the Scripture doctrine of divine grace, and equally serious is the view which the Arminian must hold as to the doctrine of the Reformed Churches. Yet here again, true evangelical fellowship is possible between those who hold, with regard to some exceedingly important matters, sharply opposing views."

  -- J. Gresham Machen,  Christianity and Liberalism (pp. 51-52).


November 15, 2013

Sola Scriptura: First London Baptist Confession (1644), Second Edition (1646)


And this is life eternal, that we might know Him the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom He hath sent. And on the contrary, the Lord will render vengeance, in flaming fire, to them that know not God, and obey not the gospel of Jesus Christ.

John 17:3; Heb. 5:9, 2 Thess. 1:8; John 6:36.


The rule of this knowledge, faith, and obedience, concerning the worship of God, in which is contained the whole duty of man, is (not men's laws, or unwritten traditions, but) only the word of God contained [viz., written] in the holy Scriptures; in which is plainly recorded whatsoever is needful for us to know, believe, and practice; which are the only rule of holiness and obedience for all saints, at all times, in all places to be observed.

Col. 2:23; Matt 15:6,9; John 5:39, 2 Tim. 3:15,16,17; Isa. 8:20; Gal. 1:8,9; Acts 3:22,23.

November 12, 2013

Twitter Tuesday

Select highlights from Twitter. This week: Kevin DeYoung, Jared Wilson, Colten Barnaby, and Tabletalk.

 Kevin DeYoung(@RevKevDeYoung)If your favorite Christian blogger/writer/speaker never talks about the cursed Christ on a bloody cross, find a new favorite.

 jaredcwilson(@jaredcwilson)Every day we are busy building our own Babel Towers, but in prayer we set the bricks and trowels down, trusting God to knock the towers over

 Coltenbarnaby(@Coltenbarnaby)You don't have to be outraged all the time.

 Tabletalk Magazine(@Tabletalk)I have often repented of speech but hardly ever of silence (C.S. Lewis).

 Mitchell Chase(@mitchellchase)"You cannot serve God and money" - Jesus.

November 9, 2013

From the Archives: The Great Trinity Debate: Bowman & Burke

From the Archives: Occasionally I will repost something helpful from the archives.  Here is an online debate from 2010 that many have found to be very helpful.


Evangelical Rob Bowman and Christadelphian Dave Burke have completed their debate of the nature of God on the Parchment and Pen blog. Below are their posts collected to help you follow the discussion from beginning to end.


Part 1 - On God and Scripture

Part 2 - On Jesus Christ

Part 3 - On Jesus Christ, continued

Part 4 - On The Holy Spirit

Part 5 - On The Trinity
Part 6 - Closing Statements

November 5, 2013

Words of Wisdom

"The gospel calls us to an active pursuit of holiness."
--Mitchell Chase. The Gospel is for Christians

November 2, 2013

Words of Wisdom

"Into this vast universe, into this human world of sin, there came from the outside, in God's good time, a divine Redeemer. No mere teacher is he to us, no mere example, no mere leader into a larger life, no mere symbol or embodiment of an all-pervading divinity. Oh no; we stand to him, if we are really his, in a relationship far dearer, far closer than all that. For us he gave his precious life upon the cross to make all well between us sinners and the righteous God, by whose love he came."
  --J. Gresham Machen. The Gospel And The Modern World: And Other Short Writings

November 1, 2013

Right Out of the Gate

"The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God." (Mark 1:1, ESV)

Mark starts his Gospel off, not merely with a bang, but with a theological BOOM. He designates Jesus as the Christ, but even more telling, as "the Son of God". Both of these terms are theological black powder, igniting worship in the hearts and minds and lives of believers throughout the world, in Mark's time as well as in our world today. Right out of the gate, boom! "Jesus is the Messiah. Jesus is the Son of God."

Amen and Hallelujah.

Mark pushes the theological launch button at the very beginning of his writing by choosing to dive directly in the deep end of Christian theology... into pure Christology. It is an intriguing choice. Every author has decisions to make... questions to answer. Who is my audience? What is their vocabulary? What do I want to say? How do I start? At what background rhythm do I introduce new ideas and flesh them out? As an author, Mark had those and other questions in mind as he wrote, and he made choices for each of them. (sidebar: I fully acknowedge the role of the human author in writing inspired Scripture, as well as the superintending of the Holy Spirit to ensure a fully God-breathed, inspired Scripture as well.)

Mark's evident decision is to play his hand in the opening sentence, serving his readers with a foundation for everything Mark writes. In fact, he starts so big that I am struggling myself with an adequate description of what Mark has done. I hesitate to use the word-picture "foundation", since the concepts of Jesus as Messiah and as the Son of God are so large. They extend beyond a foundation, providing a towering superstructure to give shape and substance to the entire construction of Mark's gospel.

Mark's Gospel has been characterized as "the Gospel to the Romans". Why would people describe his work this way? Partially due to the repeated emphasis on Jesus as a man of action and authority, appealing to Roman cultural sensibilities built up from a long history of military domination and victory. Further, Mark translates Jewish ideas for his readers, assuming they are unfamilar territory to his audience, so they may grasp the deep realities he is communicating. Perhaps this is a new idea to you. Maybe you've never thought about Bible authors and how they wrote as authors;  considering their intended audience and writing from their own perspective while reaching through the cultural/religious window, influencing not only what they would write but also how they would write it. And yes, it is possible to hold to Biblical inspiration, inerrancy, and infallibility while acknowledging the very real role of the individual human authors.

Then again, this might be nothing new to you at all. Perhaps you've wondered about whether and how much should we contextualize our message. Should we modulate our vocabulary and imagery to avoid stumbling people with deep theology until we walk quite a ways down the road with them?

What I gather from Mark's opening is, at a minimum, we do not always need to back off, dumb down, or gloss over rich theology early on. Why, Mark hasn't even taken a second breath and we've already seen Messiahship and "Son of God"-ness come into play. While both of these need to be fleshed out in the subsequent text, it doesn't force Mark to abandon using them in his opening.

Taking this principle in hand, we see now that we are not compelled to always test the waters with a tentative toe in the pool, pulverizing the good news into a digestible mush in order to reach the unchurched masses. No, instead of a fearful foray into the dark land, we can carry the bright torch of our Messiah, our Savior, the Son of God with us, to give light to lost souls living in darkness.