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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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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10 gospel-saturated verses to memorize

In my personal and pastoral experience, there is no better way to keep the gospel central, clear and uncluttered than memorizing particular passages of scripture that deal explicitly with the gospel. The act of memorization forces you to define the gospel biblically. The result of memorization is that the gospel is now within you, ready to be recalled anytime you need some gospel encouragement or have an opportunity to share. Below are ten verses on the gospel to consider memorizing. You don’t have to memorize them all. Start with your three favorite verses and go from there. 

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Expectation and the Christian life

In life, invariably, anything that you do over-and-over has the potential of devolving into mere repetition with no feeling involved. We call that “going through the motions”, right? It can happen with anything: work, exercise, paying the bills, regular date nights with your spouse, community, Sunday church gathering, discipleship group, daily Bible reading, and so forth. When that happens, the tendency can be to think, “I need something different. I need something bigger-and-better. Or, something is wrong with this thing I’m doing. I need fireworks! I need excitement! I need a change.”

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Lovelace on standing on Jesus' finished work

Only a fraction of the present body of professing Christians are solidly appropriating the justifying work of Christ in their lives. Men...have a theoretical commitment to this doctrine, but in their day-to-day existence they rely on their sanctification for justification...drawing their assurance of acceptance with God from their sincerity, their past experience of conversion, their recent religious performance or the relative infrequency of their conscious, willful disobedience. Few know enough to start each day with a thoroughgoing stand upon Luther’s platform: you are accepted, looking outward in faith and claiming the wholly alien righteousness of Christ as the only ground for acceptance, relaxing in that quality of trust which will produce increasing sanctification as faith is active in love and gratitude...Much that we have interpreted as a defect of sanctification in church people is really an outgrowth of their loss of bearing with respect to justification. Christians who are no longer sure that God loves and accepts them in Jesus, apart from their present spiritual achievements, are subconsciously radically insecure persons...Their insecurity shows itself in pride, a fierce defensive assertion of their own righteousness and defensive criticism of others.
— Richard Lovelace, Dynamics of Spiritual Llife, 101, 211-212, as quoted in Center Church, 64

The type of people God's grace produces

Anyone can love his friends; only grace can produce someone who truly loves his enemies and seeks their good so that God gets all the honor. Anyone can forgive one act of betrayal; only grace can produce someone who goes on forgiving time after time so that God gets all the honor. Anyone can dip into her purse and give coins to a beggar; only grace can produce someone who sells all her possessions and give the proceeds to the poor so that God gets all the honor. Anyone can expend himself on behalf of his wife; only grace can produce a husband and wife who open their homes to the destitute and oppressed so that God gets all the honor.
— from Gospel Living, by Porterbrook

Questions for gospel-fueled self-examination

Some time ago I came across a list of questions used by George Fox for regular self-examination in order to identify sin in his life and apply the fresh grace of God, in Jesus. Then, I came across similar lists by John Wesley and Jonathan Edwards. I thought, "These guys are on to something here." So, over time, I have merged, added-to, subtracted-from and, in turn, created my own list of questions for gospel-fueled self-examination.

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"Who am I?" Praying your identity in Christ

The second you place your faith in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins, God gives you a new identity in Him. He declares who you are - not your emotions, not your friends, not your family, not your coworkers, not your neighbors, not your conscience, not your suffering, not your past, not your future, not your present, not your successes, nor your failures, and not your career. If we are to know and grow in Jesus, we must know and grow into who God has declared us to be, in Jesus.

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Video clip of our August baptisms.

On August 16th, 2012, we had the privilege and honor of holding our second annual summer baptisms as a newly forming church in the heart of downtown Seattle. Simply speaking, it was an amazing evening. This was likely the most gospel-centered baptism celebration I have ever been a part of. You can catch a glimpse of it here.
Video credit: Peter Isaza (www.peterisaza.com)