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Who Is The Good Samaritan? (via Tullian Tchividjian)

I appreciated this article by Tullian Tchividjian.
He considers Jesus’ parable about the Good Samaritan and presents an interpretation which emphasises the fact that it was told in the context of a discussion about eternal life.
I think Tchividjian helpfully points out that to contend that Jesus’ lesson is that eternal life is gained by treating more people better undercuts the real focus of the story.
There are ethical implications about how we treat others, but these are based on Jesus’ portrayal of himself as the outsider who sacrificially care.
There are some issues to consider about this interpretation, but it is interesting in that it asks us to find Jesus in the story, not just as the one telling the story.

For every good story in the Bible there’s a bad children’s song. This is the one I remember for the Good Samaritan:
The man who stopped to help, right when he saw the need; he was such a good, good neighbor, a good example for me.
On the surface, this little ditty may seem harmless. The problem, however, is that Jesus wants us to identify with every person in the parable except the good Samaritan. He reserves that role for himself.

Read the whole post at Liberate.


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Our Church Prays For The Other Churches In Our City

Week by week during our worship services at mgpc we pray for the other churches in our town, and for those people who lead them. (Usually a different church each week)
Reading this article by Greg Gilbert reminded me that it’s not a very common practice.
But we don’t look at the other Christian churches in this town as competition.
We hope they will faithfully share the Gospel and live it out, and that their witness will be a means that God is pleased to use to grow His kingdom.
Gilbert’s article reflects the same philosophy.

Praying for other churches also communicates an important truth about the various churches in a city: We are all on the same team. We all have the same mission, and it’s to proclaim the gospel of Jesus and make disciples of him. The last thing we should want as pastors is to communicate a provincial, myopic spirit among our members that recognizes good only in our church, and cannot see what God is doing more broadly. We serve a massive God, and an important way to show that truth to our people and teach them to rejoice in it is to teach them to care about God’s work in the lives of other churches.
I have found that praying for other churches also helps me to cultivate friendships with their pastors. It reminds me, week after week, that there are others engaged in this same work that so consumes me each day, and it challenges me to strain against any tendency I might have to isolate myself in the work.

Read Greg Gilbert’s whole post (originally published by 9Marks) at The Gospel Coalition.


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Raising Bethel – A Genesis 28 Funeral Message

Today I conducted funeral for a lady who died in her one hundredth year.
As part of her preparations for the funeral she recorded a request that I sing a solo of Nearer My God To Thee.
In accepting her request it seemed appropriate to read Genesis 28:10-22 and explain the background to the hymn’s distinctive imagery.
The reading describes the situation of Jacob, a man who had sought the blessing of his father and the family birthright, and had achieved these at the cost of his relationships and his safety. His brother wanted to kill him, he had deceived his father, and his indulgent mother could no longer protect him.
He had gained everything he wanted, but, in effect had nothing.
Under the open skies, Jacob beds down for the night on a pillow of rocks, an emblem of the loss, grief and confusion which is now his life.
It is as he sleeps that God reveals himself to Jacob.
All the scheming and deceptions have counted for nothing. It is at this lowest of the low points that God comes to Jacob and reveals the nature of the promises of relationship and blessing which will flow to Jacob and his descendants.
Importantly this is the time during which the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac personally becomes the God of Jacob.
Not when he is at his best. Not when he is at his strongest. Not when all is as Jacob wants everything to be.
But when he is at his worst. When he is at his weaker. When his circumstances are loss, grief and uncertainty.
This pattern is observable throughout the Scriptures. Again and again God reveals Himself to people when they are at their lowest. He includes them in His love when they are most hopeless.
We see this most clearly in the incarnation and redemptive work of the Lord Jesus Christ. Immanuel, God with us, comes among those who weren’t seeking him, and who didn’t want to receive him.
God reveals Himself.
What does this say to us?
Well, at times like this, when we grieve the loss of a loved one, when we realise the fragility of our own lives, when we come to understand our inability to get or maintain our own way; when our struggles to achieve our own blessings and sense of peace with God seem futile or fragile, we are in the very place where God can come to us.
God reveals Himself to Jacob as Jacob’s God.
Jacob is able to take the stones which represented shattered dreams and a ruined life, and erect a marker place he calls ‘Bethel’, the house of God, as a demonstration that the place which was the end of his personal dreams was the beginning point of a new life in which God’s plans take the forefront in his life.
The sadness, loss, confusion and grief which we experience at this funeral can also be the marking point of a new season of life, what we experience now as a ruin of grief can be the time when God makes Himself known to us in redeeming love.
If you seek Him, He will reveal Himself to you, and this time of sadness will become your own Bethel.

Note: In singing the song I added the sixth verse which has been added to the original five stanzas. This verse clarifies the themes of the hymn which I explained above.

Nearer, My God, To Thee
1
Nearer, my God, to thee, nearer to thee!
E’en though it be a cross that raiseth me,
still all my song shall be,
nearer, my God, to thee;
nearer, my God, to thee, nearer to thee!
2
Though like the wanderer, the sun gone down,
darkness be over me, my rest a stone;
yet in my dreams I’d be
nearer, my God, to thee;
nearer, my God, to thee, nearer to thee!
3
There let the way appear, steps unto heaven;
all that thou sendest me, in mercy given;
angels to beckon me
nearer, my God, to thee;
nearer, my God, to thee, nearer to thee!
4
Then, with my waking thoughts bright with thy praise,
out of my stony griefs Bethel I’ll raise;
so by my woes to be
nearer, my God, to thee;
nearer, my God, to thee, nearer to thee!
5
Or if, on joyful wing cleaving the sky,
sun, moon, and stars forgot, upward I fly,
still all my song shall be,
nearer, my God, to thee;
nearer, my God, to thee, nearer to thee!
6.
There in my Father’s home, safe and at rest,
There in my Savior’s love, perfectly blest;
Age after age to be,
nearer my God to Thee.
nearer, my God, to thee, nearer to thee!


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What Wife Never Knows What She Doesn’t Want Until I Suggest It

We have a discussion like this everyday.
Right in the middle of Woolworths.


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Prepared By Grace, For Grace – A Book Review

9781601782342__79122.1357758779.1280.1280What does Prepared By Grace, For Grace (Joel Beeke and Paul Smalley, Reformation Heritage Books, 2013) promise?
Beeke and Smalley address “the question of how God ordinarily brings sinners to the point of trusting in Christ alone for salvation. Specifically, is conversion an event or a process?” (pg 15)
They believe that the answer to this question is vital for Gospel presentation: “Should we portray God as nothing but love, and try to woo people to this loving God who can ease their pain and fill the emptiness of their lives? Or should we also tell people that emptiness and pain are symptoms of sin, and God hates sin with a burning, righteous fury?”(pg 15)
Since contemporary evangelicalism seems to embracing the first of those two patterns of Gospel, and are motivated to do so on the basis that it is congruent with the concept that salvation is by grace alone, Beeke and Smalley seek to demonstrate preaching law and judgment to those who are not Christians is a means by which their minds and hearts are graciously prepared to receive God’s gracious salvation.
What did I like?
Beeke and Smalley allow their historical sources to speak for themselves. The copious use of source materials could be overwhelming, but the authors guide the reader along through their survey.
Their overall aim, though, is not to ultimately defend the puritans as upholding the letter of Calvin’s thought, as to hold all of their subjects up to the Bible and point out where they best align with Scripture’s teaching, and are not afraid to observe instances where the bounds of biblical warrant have been overstepped.
It is difficult to summarise a book of this depth and complexity, but I appreciated their demonstration that the puritans were concerned to preach in a way that prepared souls for conversion, while being careful not formularise the experiences which lead up to the new birth.
What I’m not sure about.
A subject for another book would be an exegetical and homiletical theology which applies these principals to contemporary preaching.

While the subject matter could seem centuries and continents distant, the central theme of Prepared By Grace, For Grace is strikingly topical. If you’ve ever attended an outreach rally where people are invited to receive Jesus as Lord and Saviour on the basis of their lack of fulfilment, broken relationships, or personal need for healing or material provision; and where His death and resurrection are not explicitly explained as having been in our place to receive God’s judgment for our sin, then you can understand how contemporary Prepared By Grace, For Grace really is.
Recommended for pastors and those who have a heart for seeing the church present the Gospel with biblical integrity.

The pdf copy of Saved By Grace, For Grace upon which this review is based was provided by Cross Focused Reviews for their Saved By Grace, For Grace blog tour.
A positive review was not required.


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A Real Rodent Of Unusual Size

Meet Gary the capybara, a R.O.U.S. which really does exist.
No fire swamp involved.
This video weirds me out a bit.


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Dogs Welcome Soldiers Home Compilation Video

This video of dogs welcoming their owners home from armed forces deployments will provide smiles and maybe even a tear.
Of course, some dogs will welcome you home like this if you’ve just been gone for the day.
Lots of feel good moments for you dog lovers.