John Bunyan on what dazzles the eyes of angels

It's hard not to like John Bunyan (1628-1688). Of all the Puritans, he's among my favorite. His Pilgrim's Progress, written during his imprisonment for preaching the gospel, is one of the most beloved and translated books of all time. (I highly recommend A Dangerous Journey, an adaptation of Pilgrim's Progress for kids.) John Owen, when asked by Charles II why he went to hear the uneducated Bunyan preach, famously said, "May it please your majesty, could I possess the tinker's abilities for preaching, I would willingly relinquish all my learning." He had an incredible gift for preaching to the heart. In my study for this weekend, I came across these gospel-laden treasures.

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Raised? Finding Jesus by Doubting the Resurrection | A Brief Review

Jonathan Dodson and Brad Watson have written an incredibly helpful, culturally accessible and doctrinally sound book in Raised? Finding Jesus by Doubting the Resurrection. The premise of the book is simple, in the words of the Apostle Paul, "if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins." (1Cor15:17) If Jesus did not rise from the dead, then everything else he said or did is of little importance. However, if he did rise, that changes everything about everything. That makes the resurrection of Jesus perhaps the best place to start for those examining his life and claims - and that is where Raised? comes in. 

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Our church celebrates three years of life on Jesus' mission

Yesterday our church (Downtown Cornerstone) celebrated three years of life together following Jesus in our great city. From the beginning our hope and prayer was to see lives changed through the gospel, souls saved and reconciled to God, and the city served. That's happening. It takes a lot of different kinds of churches to reach a lot of different kinds of people with the same gospel, in any given context. We couldn't be more thankful to be a small part of what He is doing in our city. Some talented folks put together the simple, family reunion style, video below to capture just a bit of the diversity of our family-on-mission and the diversity of ways Jesus is moving among us. Thanks for sharing in our joy. 

11 compelling evidences that every follower of Jesus should be passionately committed to a specific local church

Until setting out to plant Downtown Cornerstone a few years ago, I had done little investigation into the biblical rationale behind church membership - or, more simply, being passionately committed to a specific, local, loving community of Jesus-followers. Though I had previously belonged to a church that practiced membership, I had a very cursory understanding of its biblical depth. I find this is very common. When it comes to the Christian life, the local church’s importance is often overlooked, minimized or misunderstood. Have you ever stopped to ask, “What is the local church? What is God’s purpose for the local church? What is church membership all about? Is that some sort of legalism or authoritarian power-grab? Is it biblically essential or merely optional? Is membership a matter of obedience to Jesus Christ or a matter of personal preference?” Over the years, through my own study and that of others, I have compiled the following list of 11 compelling evidences that every follower of Jesus should be passionately committed to a specific local church. I hope they serve to biblically root and stoke your affections for Jesus' local church as they have mine. 

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Five books that every new, or renewed, follower of Jesus should read

Recently, I took up the challenge of considering the top five books that I would recommend for new, and renewed, followers of Jesus. If you’ve recently begun to follow Jesus, or are coming back to him, where do you start? What are the best books to get you “up-and-running” and heading in a solid, well-rounded direction? Here are my suggestions.  

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Eight encouragements to single men

This is for single men. However, I'm throwing it out to everyone because I want single ladies, in particular, to know what you are called up to. I’ve been married for twelve years, but I too was single at one point. I, for one, know the pro’s and con’s of singleness intimately. I made my share of honest mistakes and outright stupid moves. I also, by the sheer grace of God, made some good, godly, wise decisions that I am thankful for to this day. I know that the season of singleness, like marriage, comes with its own unique set of fears, temptations and idolatry. So, I want to help. If you're interested I addressed this topic about a year ago in our church's study through Proverbs in a sermon called, Understanding Singleness.

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Prayers answered by crosses by John Newton

On Sunday, January 26th, I preached a sermon on Mark 4:35-41 (“The Lord of the Storm”) and discussed, in part, the role of life’s storms as instruments in the hands of God. During my preparation I came across the poem below by John Newton (most famously known for writing Amazing Grace) called Prayers Answered by Crosses. What he calls “crosses” we'd also call storms, suffering or difficulty. If you’re currently in the middle of a storm or you’re praying to know God more deeply, you should read this and take heart. In God’s hands, no storm is in vain.

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Seahawk's Derrick Coleman, "outsiders" and the gospel

This short commercial about Derrick Coleman's (Seattle Seahawks) journey to the NFL has been getting a lot of attention leading up to the Super Bowl. Why? Because he's been deaf since he was three years old. His story is incredible and deeply moving, whether you're a football fan or not. And it got me thinking. Why do we love stories like this? Outsiders becoming insiders. Underdogs coming behind for the win. The weak overcoming the strong. The powerless out-performing the powerful. The bullied overcoming the bully. Clearly these stories are powerful, but why? Because deep down we know we are "outsiders" and remind us of our deep felt desire to be "inside". You may think I'm reading too much into this, but hang with me.

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The ultimate issue underlying the abortion debate (and how to learn more)

Yesterday marked the 41st anniversary of the 1973 Supreme Court decision known as Roe v Wade. The annual March for Life rally - the world's largest anti-abortion rally - takes place on this date every year, nationally, in Washington DC and, locally, at many state capitols. This issue, like no other, evokes the strongest of emotions that make it particularly difficult to objectively consider. Even more, the rhetoric around this debate, such as "pro-choice" or "pro-life" confuses many. Polls indicate that most people do not even understand the basic differences that lie at the heart of this issue and just want it to go away. 

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Lloyd Jones on the main art of following God

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I have a deep respect and admiration for Martyn Lloyd Jones. If you're not familiar with him, you should alleviate that problem immediately and pick up his Studies in the Sermon on the Mount or Spiritual Depression: It's Causes and Cure. If you're a pastor and preaching is a regular part of your service to God's people, his book Preaching and Preachers is a must read. Over the last couple years many of his sermon recordings (which were originally only captured for church members who were too sick to gather with the church on Sundays) have been released here at MLJ Trust. If you're looking for more then I also recommend Iain Murray's double volume biography. There are a handful of defining principles I've learned from MLJ and one of those is the importance of knowing yourself well enough to preach to yourself. Here's a classic excerpt from Spiritual Depression

I say that we must talk to ourselves instead of allowing 'ourselves' to talk to us! ... I suggest that the main trouble in this whole matter of spiritual depression in a sense is this, that we allow our self to talk to us instead of talking to our self....Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself? Take those thoughts that come to you the moment you wake up in the morning. You have not originated them, but they start talking to you, they bring back the problems of yesterday, etc. Somebody is talking. Who is talking to you? Your self is talking to you...The main art in the matter of spiritual living is to know how to handle yourself. You have to take yourself in hand, you have to address yourself, preach to yourself, questions yourself...And then you must go on to remind yourself of God, who God is, and what God is and what God has done, and what God has pledged Himself to do. Then having done that, end on this note: defy yourself, and defy other people, and defy the devil and the whole world, and say: 'Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within  me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.' (Spiritual Depression, 21)