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Who Would Have Dreamed: Sovereign Grace Christmas Music

The lyrics, the melody, the instrumentation, the singing… It’s all so well done. Another fantastic song from Sovereign Grace’s upcoming Christmas album Prepare Him Room. Lyrics are posted below the video.

Lyrics

On a starlit hillside, shepherds watched their sheep
Slowly, David’s city drifted off to sleep
But to this little town of no great renown
The Lord had a promise to keep

Prophets had foretold it, a mighty King would come
Long-awaited Ruler, God’s anointed one
But the Sovereign of all looked helpless and small
As God gave the world His own Son

And who would have dreamed or ever foreseen
That we could hold God in our hands?
The Giver of Life is born in the night
Revealing God’s glorious plan
To save the world

Wondrous gift of heaven: the Father sends the Son
Planned from time eternal, moved by holy love
He will carry our curse and death He’ll reverse
So we can be daughters and sons

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What’s the main thing you need to be a pastor?

This both encourages and challenges me: the main qualifier for ministry is steady growth in love for God and others. Paul Woodson writes,

There is no one style of ministry that is productive and no one type of personality that represents good pastoral ministry. The sheer diversity of personality types among ministers is surely a sign that any particular personality type has little to do with the building of the Church. But the pastors whose ministries I particularly applaud (whether successful in the eyes of the world or not) are those whose love for the Lord Jesus is transparent and growing, whose ability to expound the Scriptures with devotion, clarity, practical application, and real unction is increasing, and whose love for people is not artificial or sentimental but self-denying and perceptive (this is essential to what is often called “pastoral care”), and whose desire to proclaim the gospel and work out its implications dictates the focus and priorities of their lives.

You can download this book, “Letters Along the Way” by D.A. Carson and Paul Woodson for free as a pdf by clicking here.

The Glories of Calvary – Sovereign Grace Music

This beautiful song played this morning while I was working and encouraged me. Some lyrics:

Lord, You’re calling me to come
And behold the wondrous cross
To explore the depths of grace
That came to me at such a cost
Where Your boundless love
Conquered my boundless sin
And Mercy’s arms were opened wide

The First Five Books of the Bible Summarized in 90 Words

The first five books of the bible, summarized in 90 words:

We may summarize the Pentateuch [Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy] as follows.

  1. Genesis is a book of origins. It describes the beginnings of the universe and the origins of God’s people.
  2. Exodus traces the salvation of his people, who are helpless to save themselves.
  3. Leviticus calls for holiness as the only natural lifestyle for the Israelites and as the only possible response to God’s grace.
  4. Numbers is a book of wanderings in which God’s people suffer the consequences of their unbelief. But the story ends on a positive note, when
  5. Deuteronomy presents a program for renewal.

Encountering the Old Testament, p.66, formatting added.

Did Jesus Exist? Part 1: What the Greeks and Romans Said

How do we know that Jesus actually existed?

In the four Gospels we have about 300 individual and unique literary units all generated by this figure: Jesus Christ. There’s no doubt that the early church thought he existed. Their lives were radically changed because of who he was, what he did, and the things said. But how do we know that our gospels aren’t simply Christian delusion, or the result of an ancient conspiracy that went just a little better than planned? Are the Gospels the only place that we hear about Jesus?

The answer is a firm “no.” We have several written documents besides the Gospels that mention Jesus. While it’s true that the Gospels are the main place we hear about Jesus, it’s not true that they’re the only place. Other ancient witnesses testify to the existence of Jesus. And even though that doesn’t settle the question, “was he who he said he was?” it does answer the question, “did he exist to say these things?” And that’s what I want to focus on in these posts. What evidence, outside the four Gospels, do we have for Jesus’ existence?

Greco-Roman Sources

1. Tacitus

Tacitus (AD 56-117) was a Roman historian who described the persecution that Christians faced during Nero’s reign. Tacitus refers to Jesus through his latin name, “Christus.” Speaking of the Christians, he says

“They got their name from Christus who was sentenced to death during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilate.”

Annals, 15.44.

Tactitus goes on to describe the way that the Christian movement was “checked,” or stopped, because of the crucifixion of Jesus. Unfortunately for the Romans, the movement “broke out” once again both in Judea and in Rome.

… a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judæa, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome

Annals, 15.44.  It’s clear that Tacitus thought of Christians as a nuisance. His words mock Christianity, “mischievous superstition,” “evil.” Tactitus’ historiographical skill and anti-Christian bent leads many scholars to believe that Annals 15.44 is the most important and trustworthy reference to Christians and Christ we have outside the Gospels themselves. There is no way that a Christian would refer to their own movement in this way.

2. Suetonius

In the early second century (100’s), another Roman historian, Suetonius, wrote,

Because the Jews at Rom caused continuous disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus, he [Claudius] expelled them from the city

Suetonius: The Twelve Caesars, §25. There’s a lot of debate about this section in Suetonius’ history. One of the main issues is whether Suetonius is actually referring to the Christ, Jesus. The “misspelling,” is at the root of the confusion. Is “Chrestus” a reference to Christ? Or is this another figure in Rome?

I’m inclined to say that Suetonius is referring to Christ for two main reasons:

  1. The Jews and Christians in Rome (and everywhere) did not get along. The book of Acts testifies to this. 1st century Jews and Jewish Christians had numerous irreconcilable religious differences that would have (and did) lead to many disputes and conflict. This would’ve happened in Rome only if there were someone for them to fight with: those instigated by Christ, the Christians.
  2. The majority (though not all) of writing I’ve read on this quote seems to evaluate it this way: “a garbled reference to Christ.” Once you’ve considered Tactitus’ reference to Christ and Pliny’s reference to the problems Christians are making him face, that seems to be a fair evaluation. Christians probably did exist to create these issues for government.

3. Pliny the Younger

Around the same time, in the early second century, a governor of Bithynia (in Asia) named Pliny the Younger wrote to the emperor Trajan wanting to know how to deal with Christians who wouldn’t worship Trajan. Pliny mentions “that on an appointed day they had been accustomed to meet before daybreak, and to recite a hymn to Christ as to a god.” Documents of the Christian Church, Henry Bettenson, pg 5-7, cited Four Gospels, One Jesus, pg 39 by Mark Strauss.

Darrel Bock, in his class on the “Life of Christ,” says that the evidence of opponents can sometimes be worth more than we first think. It’s especially true in this case. In Pliny the Younger, we have an enemy of Christianity with something very important to say: the Christian trouble-makers worshiped Christ as though he were a God.

A Pending Conclusion

“In summary, Greco Roman writers of the late first and early second centuries are aware that Jesus was a Judean who was crucifed by Pontius Pilate during the reign of Tiberius, and that his followers now venerated him as a god.”

There are certain questions that historical research can (usually) answer: Did a person exist? What did they say? How were they received? These are all legitimate questions that can be addressed by going to the sources. It does seem Jesus existed. We do have a record of what he said. And we know exactly how he was received: at once with enthusiasm, and finally with blows. But there are questions that historical inquiry cannot answer: Is it true? Of how much value was this person? Were they justified in doing what they did? Once these kinds of questions are run through a text, they us up off the ground and into the air of evaluation and judgement.

But because of these 3 Greco Roman sources we have this firm ground beneath our feet: A Judean man. Governed by Pontius Pilate. Crucified. Worshiped. [1] That’s what the Greek and Roman sources tell us.

1. Four Gospels, One Jesus, pg 39 by Mark Strauss.

The New Testament & Old Testament in 10 Minutes

These two videos has been making their rounds across the Christian blogosphere. In them you’ll see two trustworthy and articulate thinkers presenting the essence of each Testament. The essence. See, for yourself, if the Bible is an amazingly unified whole:

The Old Testament in 10 Minutes

The New Testament in 10 Minutes

A Truly Wide Taste in Humanity

face in a crowd

The truly wide taste in reading is that which enables a man to find something for his needs on the sixpenny tray outside any secondhand bookshop.

The truly wide taste in humanity will similarly find something to appreciate in the cross-section of humanity whom one has to meet everyday. In my experience it is Affection that creates this taste, teaching us first to notice, then to endure, then to smile at, then to enjoy, and finally to appreciate, the people who “happen to be there.”

Made for us? Thank God, no. They are themselves, odder than you could have believed and worth far more than we guessed.

C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves, pg 37.

God is love. Love isn’t God.

It happens in marriage:

…when we realize we’ve married someone selfish, we discard the dream and become cynical about the possibility of love. We set ourselves up for failure by overloading love with far more than it can bear. Married love as a source of life crashes on the rocks of human depravity. … But love and relationships were never meant to be the center. Love is not god. God is love.

Paul Miller, A Loving Life, pg 38.

And it shows up in the Bible:

St John’s saying that God is love has long been balanced in my mind against the remark of a modern author (M. Denis de Rougemont) that “love ceases to be a demon only when he ceases to be a god”; which of course can be re-stated in the form “[love] begins to be a demon the moment he begins to be a god.” This balance seems to me an indispensable safeguard. If we ignore it the truth that God is love may slyly come to mean for us the converse, that love is God.

C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves, pg 6-7.