Thursday Links: “The Task Unfinished”

I considered saving today’s post and using it on Monday since it involves music, but it is more than just music so I thought I would include it today!

Keith and Kristyn Getty (whose music you can and should listen to here) have partnered with OMF, a missionary agency that focuses on the peoples of East Asia, to promote a global event which will take place on February 21st. The idea is simple: get as many churches as possible to sing “The Task Unfinished” (an old song with a new arrangement written by the Getty’s) to promote and encourage a passion for world missions. Here are the words to the first verse:

Facing a task unfinished

That drives us to our knees

A need that, undiminished

Rebukes our slothful ease

We, who rejoice to know Thee

Renew before Thy throne

The solemn pledge we owe Thee

To go and make Thee known

You can see a map of those participating here and register your church to participate here.  The Getty’s tell the story behind the song and why they are using it for this event at the OMF website, which you can see here: OMF website. It is a great song with a great story being used to promote the greatest mission, namely the spread of the gospel to every tongue, tribe, and nation. Seems like a good idea to me!



Wednesday Word: A Final Word on 1 Corinthians

I finished preaching through Paul’s first letter to the Corinthains on Sunday. Just wanted to post some final thoughts on the letter today.

The early church was not what we often believe it was: It is hard to read this letter and conclude that ‘we need to get back to the early church.’ If Corinth is any indication, we might need to steer clear just a bit. Truth is, every local church has faults, even some serious faults. That is not an excuse for us to just dismiss our shortcomings (that is not the approach that Paul takes in the letter). But it should keep us humble, give us perspective, and prevent us from being too harsh on the local church today.

Sexual sin is not new: The Corinthians were struggling with what to do with their bodies. Due to cultural leanings, some wanted to act as if what we do with our bodies is inconsequential. Who cares if we sleep with prostitutes or our father’s wife? Paul confronted these errors directly and did not shy away from the truth that God commands us to use our bodies (and our sex) for His purposes and His glory. Such truth will be needed in our churches until the Lord returns.

Christians must labor to love each other: It sounds so simple: “Let all that you do be done in love” (16:14). Yet, churches continue to struggle with this command. We claim to love each other and at least act like we do at times, but when push comes to shove, we all have a tendency to act in our flesh. We look out for number one and convince ourselves that we are justified in our actions. In doing that, our love looks more like what the world has to offer than what was displayed by our crucified Savior. If we thought about Him before we made the call or sent the email or spoke in the business meeting, then perhaps we would learn how to love like He did. The sacrificial love of Christ will overcome any division in the Body of Christ. We must never stop laboring for that kind of love.

The gospel is the answer: Paul confronts numerous problems in the church at Corinth: division, worldly wisdom, sexual sin, lawsuits, divorce, idolatry, selfishness in corporate worship, and denial of bodily resurrection. And what is the answer to each of these problems?

“For this I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures…” (15:3-4)

Living out the Christian faith with a community of believers is not easy, but neither is it complex. The problems will be numerous and varied. But the answer is always the same: live the gospel. Treat each other as Christ has treated you. Serve each other as Christ has served you. Forgive each other as Christ has forgiven you. Show mercy and grace and love to each other as Christ has shown to you. If we are all sinners deserving of death and Hell who have been gloriously redeemed by the love of our Savior and set free to walk in the power of the Spirit, then surely we can overcome any problems that might threaten to divide us. No matter what Paul is addressing in this letter, he is constantly pointing them back to the gospel. He does the same for us. May we build well upon this solid foundation!


Tuesday Books: ‘Crimson Shore’ (Preston and Child)

I have not read much fiction so far this year, but just checked out the latest Pendergast novel from Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child from the local library. Although this is the fifteenth novel in the series and things tend to start getting repetitive and predictable at that point, I am enjoying this story so far. The plot is interesting, beginning with the theft of a wine collection in a small town on the coast of Maine (I love Maine!), progressing to activities much more sinister (which I guess depends upon your affection for expensive wine). As usual, Pendergast is great. His dealings with the local sheriff are particularly enjoyable in this novel. Of course, there is history in the old town that has led to the current crimes and Pendergast and his ward, Constance (who is like 150 years old but looks like a twenty-something year old girl…long story) must put all the pieces together to figure out what is going on and catch the killers (oh and maybe recover some of the wine).

I still think Pendergast is one of my favorite modern fiction characters. Preston and Child have done a great job developing his story and it is always great to read of his new antics. I think they remain true to his character while finding interesting ways for him to act and respond in each new novel. Sherlock Holmes meets James Bond meets Dr. House, all with a New Orleans’ accent! Good stuff. Looking forward to seeing how he solves the latest mystery, confident it will be enjoyable.


Monday Music: ‘When the battle’s over’

I have a standing gig at the Clearview Nursing Home. The residents like it because I bring my guitar and I like it because they never complain about my playing! Every Thursday morning we sing ‘I’ll fly away’ to start and ‘Amazing Grace’ to close and I am always blessed to hear them sing.

But something special happened last Thursday. I have been teaching through 1 Corinthians and we had been talking that morning about our future victory over death through faith in Christ (ch. 15). As usual, when we finished, we closed with ‘Amazing Grace.’ Only this time, when we finished that last verse acappella, one of the ladies began to sing this line: ‘When the battle’s over, we shall wear a crown.’ On the second time through the others joined with her. I am not overly familiar with that old hymn so I just listened as they sang:

“When the battle’s over, we shall wear a crown

When the battle’s over, we shall wear a crown

When the battle’s over, we shall wear a crown

In the New Jerusalem.”

They sang through the verse and the chorus together. Their voices are not as strong as they used to be, but they sang with power and conviction. And it was beautiful. Not just because of the song or the words but because of their belief. I could hear faith in the coming victory through Jesus in their voices. I could see it on their faces. I have rarely been so moved by a performance. It was everything I could do to keep from weeping in the floor. Even now, just thinking about it brings tears to my eyes.

As a culture, we are enamored by big performances. Millions tuned in to watch the half-time festivities at the Super Bowl. Thousands pack stadiums and concert halls to hear the latest acts. Yet, the more I live, the more I am convinced that the greatest performances go largely unnoticed. I mean, who cares about some people singing at a nursing home? I can tell you One person who cares. I can see Him leaning in to take delight in their praise and smiling over their persevering faith. We should do our best to listen as well.

Each week the residents of Clearview Nursing Home teach me that faith can last a lifetime. Unlike these bodies we possess, it does not get old or wear out. On the contrary, it is stronger with each passing day and each passing year. Each week they remind me of that. And this past week they taught me even more. They taught me the beauty of enduring praise. I figure from now on, if someone asks me about my favorite concert, I will have to at least mention the time I got the privilege of hearing the impromptu performance of ‘When the battle’s over’ by the Clearview singers. What an encouragement to my soul!


Friday Sports, etc: Vols beat Kentucky and sign a good class

I haven’t been posting too much about the Vols, but they had a week that deserves some attention. On Tuesday night, the men’s basketball team came back from 21 points down to beat Kentucky. Our team is unbelievably up and down (we have beaten the teams in the top of the league and lost to some at the bottom). As frustrating as that is, it does keep you watching. I was about ready to give up on them after they gave up 14 point leads in back to back games, but the win over Kentucky was big. Hopefully they can build some momentum for the second half of league play.

And on Wednesday, Butch Jones scored another good recruiting class on NSD. It was a bit down from years past (mostly due to limitations in the size of the class), but it met some needs for the Fall and makes the years ahead look bright.

All in all, pretty good week for Vols fans!


(Oh, and almost forgot, our favorite quarterback is playing in an important game on Sunday! Go Broncos!)

Wednesday Word: 1 Thessalonians 3:3 and 5:9

We had a great time at Feast Week working through Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians. The sermons were encouraging and convicting. The fellowship with other believers was sweet and uplifting. And I was once again reminded of the value of viewing the books of the Bible as complete works, as opposed to various verses that are loosely connected. Let me try to illustrate what I mean.

On Monday night I preached 1 Thessalonians 2:17-3:13. In this passage, Paul is encouraging the Thessalonians in their sufferings and afflictions. He tells them to remember that the followers of Christ are destined for this (3:3). That may seem like a very discouraging thing to tell these believers who are struggling, but Paul sees it as just the opposite. We can persevere through afflictions when we know that they ultimately come from the sovereign hand of God. He is using every ounce of our suffering to make us more like our Savior, who suffered in our place at the cross.

On Wednesday night, one of my brothers (HT: James Guy) preached 1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:11. The main point of this section is that we have hope for those who have fallen asleep in Christ because we know that they will be raised with Him on the final Day! What a powerful promise! At the end of that section is one of my favorite verses: For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ…(5:9). The glorious good news of the gospel is that Jesus took the wrath that I deserved at the cross. He paid for my sin. He bore God’s righteous wrath in my place! Hallelujah, what a Savior!

What struck me Wednesday night as I was listening to my brother preach is how these two passages go together. The truth is that the followers of Christ will face affliction in this life. We should not be surprised by it or overwhelmed by it because God has destined us for it to make us more like Jesus (see Romans 8 for more on this). Yet, even though we may face affliction on the earth, the amazing news is that we will never face God’s wrath as believers in Christ. Jesus has already faced that for us. Affliction will come to refine me and conform me to Christ, but I am not destined for wrath because of what Jesus has done on the cross. Either one of these ideas is encouraging and comforting, but when you consider them together, it makes you want to sing and shout (or tremble and weep) at the amazing love and plan of our God.

I am so thankful for the opportunity to study through a book of the Bible in one week with other believers. We should carve out more time as followers of the Word to sit and read through whole books of the Bible in one sitting. I believe it helps us see the big picture of the story of our redemption and the great God who stands behind it all!


Tuesday Books: FREE BOOKS!

I am a lover of free books. Especially when they are really good free books. For this reason (and a few others), I always enjoy attending Together for the Gospel. At each gathering they give away 15-20 really good books, which almost covers the price of admission to the conference, which is also really great. If you are in the ministry then I encourage you to try and attend.

And this year they are also giving away some free books before the conference (I think they did this a couple years ago as well). You can register for the giveaway here: T4G Giveaway. (Full disclosure, if you sign up by following that link then I get more entries into the contest as well….can’t blame a guy for wanting free books). They are giving away some volumes from the Christ Centered Exposition commentary set (pictured above), as well as a copy of the HCSB Study Bible. And if I understand it correctly, you don’t have to attend the conference to enter the giveaway, so even if you can’t attend you can still (maybe) get some free books. Not a bad deal!


Wednesday Word: Getting ready for Feast Week

For the second year now, some local pastors and I will be preaching through a book of the Bible in five consecutive nights (Sunday-Thursday). Last year we worked through 1 Peter and this year we will be studying 1 Thessalonians. We break it up into five (hopefully manageable) sections and take turns preaching through the text. We call it Feast Week because our hope is that we will feast together on the Word of God!

This year begins on Sunday and we are preaching through 1 Thessalonians.  My assignment? 1:1-2:16 (still wondering why I was given almost two chapters!) It has been fun preparing for my message Sunday night. Paul’s letters to the Thessalonians were some of his first (most think only Galatians was earlier). In these, we get an early glimpse into Paul’s missionary work and the fruit that it produced through the power of the gospel. In particular, we see his love and concern for the churches he planted and his longing to see them live as faithful followers of Christ. He also addresses some issues that had already arisen in the lives of these new believers. For instance, a good bit of 1 Thessalonians deals with the question of what happens to believers who die before Christ returns? Paul speaks of the hope that we have for them in chapters 4-5. One of my all-time favorite verses is found chapter 5: “For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ” (v. 9). What a gracious God we serve!

My passage (1:1-2:16) includes Paul’s thanksgiving for the Thessalonians and their faith and a recap of his visit with them, which probably happened a few months to a year before he wrote the letter. He is reminding them of their identity in Christ (indicative) before he gives them instructions for living out their faith (imperative). He follows a similar pattern in a number of his letters. In preparing for teaching this passage, I came across some good quotes from a couple of commentators:

Leon Morris: “In every age this (that we are not to please men but God) needs emphasis, for the Christian preacher is always tempted to accommodate his message to the desires of his hearers. People do not want a message that tells them that they are helpless sinners and that they must depend humbly on God’s mercy for their salvation.”

Every preacher must learn from Paul the importance of striving to please God and not men (2:3-4).

G. K. Beale: “God’s word is the power that works in people and transforms their lives, whether at the inception of the believer’s life or at any other point along the way.”

Beale is commenting on 2:13, which says, “And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers.” The word of God continues to be at work in believers. It continues to comfort and strengthen, wound and heal, convict and transform. It is our hope and belief that the Spirit will use the preaching of 1 Thessalonians to do just that. I can’t wait for the feast!


(If you are in the area, come out and join us each night at 6:30)