The apologist Dr. William Lane Craig, and his team at Reasonable Faith, recently created this compelling clip to answer whether we can be "good" without God. This line of reasoning is also known as the moral argument for God. This topic is particularly important because it is an area we easily take for granted and, therefore, give little thought. No matter where you stand, I encourage you to check it out. It is worth your time.
On Sunday I shared the poem, "God Moves in a Mysterious Way" by William Cowper (1731-1800), with Downtown Cornerstone. It's an oldie, but a goodie. You may be familiar with it. Over the years it has become deeply meaningful to me. Cowper was a contemporary and friend of John Newton (author of Amazing Grace). He struggled with significant bouts of depression throughout this life, even to the point of attempting suicide on a number of occasions. Yet, amidst his personal darkness, he learned to see and sense the mysterious, gracious and sovereign presence of God. It was out of this brokenness and despair he wrote this poem. If you're hurting, struggling or confused, take heart, my friends, God moves in a mysterious way.
All inadequate doctrines of the atonement are due to inadequate doctrines of God and man. If we bring God down to our level and raise ourselves to his, then of course we see no need for a radical salvation, let alone for a radical atonement to secure it. When, on the other hand, we have glimpsed the blinding glory of the holiness of God, and have been so convicted of our sin by the Holy Spirit that we tremble before God and acknowledge what we are, namely 'hell deserving sinners', then and only then does the necessity of the cross appear so obvious that we are astonished we never saw it before.
- John Stott, The Cross of Christ, 109
One of the things our church has done, since the very beginning, is carve out one night a month for corporate prayer and song. We call it our monthly prayer night. It's not original, but we're not trying to be original. Our goal is to come before our Father in heaven, together, to ask Him to do above and beyond all we ask, think or imagine (Eph 3:20). I've received a lot of questions about these nights from other pastors. What do they look like? Who leads? How many people turn out? What happens? Why do you do them? If you have any of these questions this is for you. I asked many of the same questions when we were starting out. I was particularly helped by Dave Lomas of Reality | San Francisco. I'm not an expert, but we have learned some things over the last four years that you may find helpful.
By God's grace, and the generosity of our church, our family was able to get some extended time away last month. In addition to having longer-than-usual stretches to read the Scriptures, I had a chance to read a number of great books and revisit some others I’ve found to be helpful in the past. If you’re still looking for some summer reading recommendations, I recommend most of these. Clearly, there is a pastoral bent to this, but there’s something here for everyone.
I recently came across this great thought by Jonathan Edwards. I am deeply thankful, and indebted, to how Edwards vigorously refused to separate the intellect from the affections. Too often we separate them, rather than recognizing how the one informs the other. What do accurate ideas about who Jesus is, what he has done and who we are in him have to do with our loving of him and enjoying his goodness? Everything. Our thoughts feed (or starve) our passion for Jesus. Right thoughts, carried by the Spirit, throw gasoline on the fire of our affections, while wrong thoughts douse them. In other words, our theology (understanding of God is, what He is like, what He has done) is the fountainhead and source of our affection for him. Here's how Edwards puts it.
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...