Thursday, January 3, 2019

The Most Encouraging Sermon I Heard Last Year

Ray Ortlund, Jr. preached at Cornerstone Church of Knoxville this past Sunday. We were visiting my family in the area, so we were able to attend. Ray preached from Romans 8:31-39. It had to be the most encouraging sermon I heard in 2018. I encourage you to give it a listen.

Here are a few soundbites:
God is not tired of you. He is not wishing he hadn't gotten involved. When he sees you coming, he is not looking out his peripheral vision for an exit strategy. He loves high maintenance sinners.
He promises to love out of you everything resistant to his love, and love into you everything receptive of his love.
He himself, at the cross, already removed every reason why he shouldn't love you.
If God gave us his most sacred gift at the cross, his Son (Romans 8:32), is he going to nickle and dime us now? 

And a couple of encouraging quotes he used:

Martin Luther,
When the devil accuses us and says, ‘You are a sinner and therefore damned,’ we should answer, ‘Because you say I am a sinner, I will be righteous and saved.’ ‘No,’ says the devil, ‘you will be damned.’ And I reply, ‘No, for I fly to Christ, who gave himself for my sins. Satan, you will not prevail against me when you try to terrify me by setting forth the greatness of my sins and try to bring me into heaviness, distrust, despair, hatred, contempt and blasphemy against God. On the contrary, when you say I am a sinner, you give me armor and weapons against yourself, so that with your own sword I may cut your throat and tread you under my feet, for Christ died for sinners. . . . As often as you object that I am a sinner, so often you remind me of the benefit of Christ my Redeemer, on whose shoulders, and not on mine, lie all my sins. So when you say I am a sinner, you do not terrify me but comfort me immeasurably.'
John Owen,
A man may love another as his own soul, yet perhaps that love of his cannot help him. He may thereby pity him in prison, but not relieve him; bemoan him in misery, but not help him; suffer with him in trouble, but not ease him. We cannot love grace into a child, nor mercy into a friend; we cannot love them into heaven, though it may be the greatest desire of our soul. … But now the love of Christ, being the love of God, is effectual and fruitful in producing all the good things which he wills unto his beloved. He loves life, grace, and holiness into us; he loves us also into covenant, loves us into heaven. 

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Fighter Verses for 2019

Would you like 'rootedness', 'fruitfulness', 'durability', and 'flourishing' to characterize you in 2019?

Who wouldn't?

Well, that's exactly what's promised to believers who delight in God's Word and meditate on it day and night.

Psalm 1:1-3
Blessed is the man who[se]...delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. 
He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.
What better way to meditate regularly on God's Word, and thus experience these promises, than by memorizing scripture? Life-giving, fruit-producing meditation is the point of memorizing. Many of us have experienced the grace of this discipline, and yet it is often the most neglected. So, let's help each other out...

We are encouraging the Bethel church family to commit to the Fighter Verses program for 2019. Will you join us?

Fighter Verses was developed by Desiring God and is available for iPhone (or iPad) or Android devices. There is a one-time cost of $2.99, but what you receive is worth way more than the cost of a cup or two of coffee. You'll have full access to 5 years worth of verses, and a TON of other helpful resources built right in. For instance, every verse has been put to song, so you can hear your verse sung. There's also a blog with devotional thoughts that go along with each week's verse(s).

The app looks like this (note the 'F' for 'Fighter Verses' emblazoned like a cross on the shield):

Why not commit as a Community Group, encouraging each other to stick with it when you start to get lazy and let it slide? Text each other with ways the verse of the week has encouraged you.

If you don't have a smart phone, you can still use the program. You can buy a flashcard pack HERE, or you can go to and see the verses there. We will also be printing the verses in the bulletin each week, and will be using each week verse(s) for our devotional at prayer meeting each week.

"Blessed is the man or woman whose delight is in the law of the LORD...[who] meditates day and night...." Let's believe this is where blessing will be found in 2019, and let's go get it.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Honest Answers: "How Did We Get the Biblical Canon?"

"Honest Answers" is a very helpful series of videos produced by Southern Seminary. Here's an excellent one by Dr. Robert Plummer entitled, "How Did We Get the Biblical Canon?"

Thursday, September 6, 2018

The Beautiful "Scum of the Earth"

Voice of the Martyrs produces a video each year for the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. These videos provide a window into the real life suffering of our brothers and sisters around the globe. This year, they tell the story of life for Christians in Pakistan. Take five minutes and view the video HERE. It is a heartbreaking, yet beautiful picture of the power of the gospel.

These Pakistani Christians are walking in the footsteps of Jesus (Philippians 2:7-8) and the Apostle Paul (1 Corinthians 4:8-16). They may be treated like second-class citizens in their country, but there is no second class in the kingdom of God. Their citizenship is in heaven (Philippians 3:20), and they are the meek who will inherit the earth (Matthew 5:5). And one day, when Jesus returns, the great reversal will take place, and "many who are first will be last, and the last first" (Matthew 19:30). Then the world will know that Pakistan's trash is actually God's treasure. 

Friday, August 17, 2018

Testimony of Tragedy and Grace in Rome

For those of you who attended our missions conference back in April, you got to know Leonardo De Chirico and the ministry of his church (Brecchia de Roma) in Rome.

Laurie sent me this powerful video testimony of Reid and Kyra Karr, missionaries who served together with Leonardo for six years. While on furlough back in the States, shortly before their intended return to Rome, Kyra was tragically killed in a car accident. 

After Kyra's death, Reid returned to Rome and continues to serve Christ there. Watch this powerful testimony to the mighty sufficiency of God's grace:

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Introduction to Genesis Resources

We began our series through the book of Genesis this past Sunday. As promised, I wanted to point you to some excellent introductory material for your own study. The more you dive into this great book, the more you'll benefit from it.

First off, be sure to read Genesis for yourself! Take time in the next week or two or three to read it the whole way through. And then do it again. One of the most profitable exercises in Bible study is repeated reading. We often see things on the second or third (or 57th) reading that we didn't see the first time.

The best "one-stop shop" for resources can be found over at The Gospel Coalition. They've put together a free "Introduction to Genesis" course.

This "course" combines great resources from The Bible Project (including four introductory videos), the ESV Study Bible, and an overview sermon of the whole book of Genesis by Mark Dever.

Here are two of The Bible Project videos to whet your appetite:

The first is on the background to Genesis 1-11:

The second is on the details of Genesis 1-11 in their "Read Scripture" series:

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Falling Plates

James Askren recently pointed my attention to this video by Cru. It's powerful. Maybe you know someone who needs to see it.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Proverbs 18:10, Illustrated

I thought I'd voice my "Amen!" to Lily's visual "sermon" here. She drew it a few Sundays ago. Don't you love the looks on the faces of "the righteous"?

In the Bible, "the righteous" are not stoic, super-saints. They are the honest, humble ones who know their need, and where to run for help (a la Psalm 32).

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Financial Time Travel - A Little Wisdom in a Word Picture

An insightful way to look at borrowing and saving (quote by CPA Brent Esplin, found in a YNAB newsletter, emphasis added):
While physical time travel is still only fantasy, financial time travel is a reality. Modern finance provides us the necessary tools to send money to our future selves through saving and investing and to send money from our future selves back to the present through borrowing.
In other words, when you borrow or use credit, you are forcing your future self to pay for your past self's decisions. When you save or invest, you are blessing your future self (and other persons you love) with your past self's decisions. No ground breaking discoveries here, but a helpful way to capture some financial wisdom in a word picture.

Speaking of financial time travel, the most significant form is summed up by Randy Alcorn's "Treasure Principle" (when you give money away as an act of grace and worship - see 2 Corinthians 8 & 9 and Matthew 6:19-24): You can't take it with you, but you can send it on ahead.