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Posts tagged ‘Gospel’

Is a New Grace Reformation Taking Place Today?.

Michael Brown
Michael Brown

Is there a new reformation sweeping the Church today, a reformation as radical and important as the Protestant Reformation that rocked the world 500 years ago? According to a growing number of Christian leaders, the answer is emphatically yes.

Pastor Clark Whitten, author of Pure Grace: The Life Changing Power of Uncontaminated  Grace, claims that, “Little has changed in the Protestant church in more than 500 years” – until now, that is. He believes that Luther and Calvin “got it right concerning justification, or how one is saved. . . . But they missed it on sanctification, or how one is perfected into the likeness of Christ.”

Whitten states that Luther and Calvin, followed by the Protestant Church ever since, taught a doctrine of “saved by grace but perfected by human effort,” an approach that has produced “a Church that is judgmental, angry, hopeless, helpless, dependent, fearful, uninspired, ineffective, and perpetually spiritually immature.”

Because of this, Whitten claims, we have failed to impact our culture and have become a laughingstock to most “casual observers.” And Pastor Whitten contends that this doctrine has also brought, “personal devastation” to countless believers who have consequently checked out on Church (or on God Himself).

John Crowder, in his book Mystical Union, claims that, “Just as there is a new mysticism on the rise, I believe it is coupled with a new reformation. The good news will be preached with such clarity that, even the days of Luther will seem utterly primitive in its concepts of grace and faith.”

Indeed, Crowder writes that “a clarity is coming to the preaching of the gospel like has not been heard since the days of the Apostle Paul.”

Other modern grace teachers share similar sentiments. In his book GRACE, the Forbidden Gospel, Andre van der Merwe writes, “Once again in the church there is a struggle for a theological reformation that will liberate believers to break free from the yoke of bondage that has been put on the children of God by people who may have had good intentions, but that have only taught the religious doctrines and traditions that they themselves have been taught.”

His prayer is that his book will “destroy the religious arguments and doctrines of demons forever,” referring to whatever teaching contradicts this allegedly new revelation of grace. That’s why the full title of his book is GRACE, the Forbidden Gospel: Jesus Tore the Veil. Religion Sewed it Back Up, and that’s why Pastor Joseph Prince, perhaps the best known modern grace preacher, calls this a “Gospel Revolution.”

Could it be, then, that there really is a grace reformation sweeping the Body today? Could it be that the Church has been so stuck in legalistic religion for the last 500 years that nothing less than a radical reformation can get us out of the rut?

It seems clear that many believers have been caught up in externally imposed religion (which is the essence of legalism), seeking to please God by following an endless list of “do’s” and “don’t’s,” never being certain of the Father’s love and looking first to their own efforts rather than looking first to the cross. Consequently, they are always falling short and never walking in the abundant life that Jesus has for them.

Within a two-day span, I heard from two women, both friends of our family and former students in our ministry school, both married with children and active in God’s service. One wrote this: “I am one of many who have been changed drastically and fantastically by the ‘grace message.’  Judging by the amazing fruit of it in my life and my family’s life as we have gone through some very hard times, it is the fruit of the true grace message.”

Speaking of one well-known, modern grace teacher, she explained that while she only agreed with about 80% of what he taught, she said that “I feel like I have taken a bath and glimpsed the beauty of Jesus and what he did for me almost every time I hear him.” This is wonderful to hear, and I do not want to tamper with something so sacred and liberating.

The other ministry school grad wrote this: “I can say for me, I sure tried, and worked, and failed. Finally, almost three years ago, I finally had a ‘Grace encounter’ that changed my life. Can honestly say I’m more free, more confident, and more ‘sin-LESS’ than I’ve ever been. If that makes sense.”

This is from the Lord!

Sadly, I have met many believers who have struggled with legalism and performance-based religion, and when I hear today that, through a revelation of God’s grace, they are now living in intimacy with the Lord and overflowing with joy at His great love for them, I am thrilled.

That is truly wonderful news, and it indicates that, for many, there is a need for a fresh infusion of anointed teaching on the beauty and glory and wonder of God’s amazing grace.

At the same time, I constantly hear stories from believers and leaders concerned about the modern grace message, like this one: “I have seen the effects of this message on my own loved ones. It has ruined our family and caused many of them who loved the Lord to stray.”

And this, “We have seen this up close and personal with some of our family members. Very destructive things are going on.”

And this, from a pastor, who spoke of “the three close male friends I have had in the past, all three from the grace side; two were unfaithful and then left their wives and the third just left. I have had no one close in the grace group (forgive my terms) displaying good lasting fruit.”

One young man, who had served together with a well-known hyper-grace leader wrote to me at length, wanting me to understand just how bad things were: “I heard more ‘F’ and ‘S’ words in that movement than anywhere else in my entire life.  After all, you’re ‘legalistic’ if you EVER tell someone to ‘not’ do something.”

Is this simply a matter of the modern grace message being abused?

Honestly, I wish that was the case, since I love the message of grace and it would be a shame if pastors and leaders drew back from preaching grace because it was abused.

But the truth is that the modern grace message is quite mixed, combining life-changing, Jesus-exalting revelation with serious misinterpretation of Scripture, bad theology, divisive and destructive rhetoric, and even fleshly reaction. And, in all too many cases, it is being embraced by believers who are not just looking for freedom from legalism but also freedom from God’s standards.

There is no doubt in my mind, then, that the notion of a “grace reformation” (or “grace revolution”) is highly exaggerated, that some of this new grace teaching is unbalanced, overstated, at times unbiblical, and sometimes downright dangerous – and I mean dangerous to the well-being of the Body of Christ.

In short, I do not believe that we are witnessing a new grace reformation. I believe we are witnessing the rise of a hyper-grace movement, filled with its own brand of legalistic judgmentalism, mixing some life-giving truth from the Word with some destructive error.

And that’s why I wrote Hyper-Grace: Exposing the Dangers of the Modern Grace Message, a book for grace lovers, not grace haters, a book for those who embrace both grace and truth (John 1:14, 17). Does that describe you?

(Excerpted and adapted from Hyper-Grace: Exposing the Dangers of the Modern Grace Message.)


Michael Brown is author of Hyper-Grace: Exposing the Dangers of the Modern Grace Message and host of the nationally syndicated talk radio show The Line of Fire on the Salem Radio Network. He is also president of FIRE School of Ministry and director of the Coalition of Conscience. Follow him at AskDrBrown on Facebook or at @drmichaellbrown on Twitter.

Bible Reading Plan – Read the Bible in a Year.

Here’s How it Works

  • 1. Register or Login, so we can show you a customized Bible reading progress tracking chart.
  • 2. Choose a reading plan. Currently, we offer the following Bible reading plans:
    • 71 Days in Isaiah – Carefully work your way through Isaiah in 71 days to experience the full impact of the prophet’s words.
    • Book Order – Read from Genesis 1 to Revelation 22 in the order in which the books of the Bible are arranged.
    • Chronological – Read the Bible in the order that the events happened.
    • Chronological New Testament – In only 3 months you can read the New Testament in the order that the events happened.
    • Classic – Read 3 passages each day, starting with Genesis, Psalms, and Luke. From the original Bible Study Tools reading plan.
    • Daily Gospel – This plan focuses on the record of the life of Christ. You’ll read through all four gospels in 45 days.
    • Daily Psalm – Read one Psalm per day for a spiritual boost
    • Daily Wisdom – Find wisdom each day as you read straight through the Psalms, Proverbs, and Song of Solomon in 60 days.
    • New Testament – Read straight through the New Testament in 90 days.
    • Ninety-Day Challenge – Read the Bible all the way through in only 90 days. It’s a challenge well worth taking.
    • Old Testament and New Testament – Read one passage from the Old Testament and one from the New Testament each day.
    • One-Year Immersion Plan – With this immersive plan, you’ll read the Old Testament once and the New Testament three times each year.
    • Prof. Horner’s Reading System – A unique and challenging system where you read 10 chapters a day.
    • Stay-on-Track Plan – If you have trouble staying on track, this one-year plan will help. There are readings only on the weekdays, with weekends free to catch up or get ahead.
    • The Busy-Life Plan – If your life is busy, this plan will help you get through the Bible at a pace that works for you. You’ll read a short selection each day and complete the Bible in two years.
    • The Christmas Bible Reading Plan – Designed for personal or family reading times, these 25 New Testament readings highlight the birth of Jesus and the purpose for His coming. Related Old Testament passages are also featured daily.
    • Thematic – This Bible reading schedule is thematic or connective in nature. The goal is to make as many associations as possible between the different parts of Scripture while still reading individual books of the Bible from start to finish.
  • 3. Choose your Bible reading plan start date and preferred Bible translation.
  • 4. Start your daily Bible reading plan!
  • 5. Record your Bible reading progress. Complete your assigned Bible reading each day. Then click the “Finished Reading” button at the top or bottom of the Bible in a Year reading page to record your completion.

Should Pastors Speak Out on Social Issues?.

Joseph Mattera
Joseph Mattera

Recently a well-known New York City pastor of a megachurch (whom I know and like) was interviewed by Katie Couric regarding his stance on several issues including same-sex marriage.

To paraphrase in my own words, the pastor essentially said that Jesus only dealt with the root issues of the heart and not the symptoms of sin. Thus, since Jesus never took a stand on the moral issues of His day, we should not make general statements regarding important moral issues of society but deal with these controversial issues in personal dialogue with those with questions.

I want to make a few observations regarding his statements.

I agree Jesus did not directly tackle the moral issues related to His surrounding culture, but it was because His focus in the gospels was to reveal Himself as Messiah to the lost sheep of the house of Israel (Matt. 10:5-6). Hence, although Jesus did not focus on said social issues of the empire, He did indeed deal with controversial moral issues related to His fellow Jews, such as:

  • Marriage, adultery and divorce (see Matt. 19:4-10);
  • Greed and money (see Luke 12:13-21);
  • The true meaning of the Sabbath (see Mark 3:1-6).

Since Israel was a theocracy, there was no separation between faith and civic law. Thus, Jesus was indeed dealing with some of the more salient issues of His day that were religious, legal and even political.

Furthermore, in Mark 7:20-23 Jesus mentioned various sins including sexual immorality, which He described as emanating from evil thoughts and which defile a person. Jesus’ reference point for the definition of sexual immorality is found in the Old Testament Scriptures. Leviticus 18 has the most comprehensive list: It teaches that all sexual relationships outside of a marriage between one man and one woman is sin.

Jesus had no need to restate these sins specifically because He was speaking to Jews who already knew the law. Furthermore, Jesus said He didn’t come to abolish the law but to fulfill it. In saying this He validated the Old Testament definitions of morality (see Matt. 5: 17-20).

Furthermore, the church has historically adopted a body of Scripture that includes all 66 books of both testaments—not merely the four Gospels—thus, in order to faithfully proclaim the Word we need to go by the whole counsel of God contained in the full body of Scripture, which Jesus said pointed to Him (see Luke 24:27).

Jesus did not operate in a vacuum in isolation from the former prophets, but pointed to the Old Testament writings to affirm His legitimacy. Thus, to answer the question related to the title of this article, we need to include the Old Testament prophets and the New Testament writings that practically apply the teachings of Jesus.

The first two chapters of the book of the Old Testament prophet Amos was a current events commentary regarding the sins of the surrounding nations. All of the Old Testament prophets from Samuel to Elisha dealt with the contemporary social/moral issues of their times—and even John the Baptist explained to his potential adherents that true repentance meant they were to cease from receiving bribes and extortion (see Luke 3:12-14), which were symptomatic of the social and moral decay of the Roman/Greco/Jewish culture, and not just an issue of personal heart transformation (true internal change always results in behavior modification as well).

Finally, what would said pastor say about the apostle Paul, who not only named as sin many practices that are controversial today, but also said those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God? (See 1 Cor. 6:9-10.)

Speaking the truth in love we need to be honest from the pulpit regarding our biblical beliefs or we run the risk of misleading our flock and/or having a syncretistic church that waffles between biblical Christianity and humanistic paganism. The apostle Paul’s hands were free from the blood of all men because he never ceased preaching the whole will of God (see Acts 20:26, 27).

While I agree with my fellow pastor that the primary focus of church preaching should be on personal change, intimacy with God and inner transformation, at appropriate times and with much humility, love and wit, pastors are obligated to take public stands on relevant social and moral issues.

As the church leads the way in practically serving our cities, meeting the holistic needs of our communities and loving our neighbor (irrespective of their worldview or stated lifestyle), our prophetic voice regarding controversial issues will not be easy to ignore.



Joseph Mattera is overseeing bishop of Resurrection Church, Christ Covenant Coalition, in Brooklyn, N.Y. You can read more on or connect with him on Facebook or Twitter.

7 Reasons to Love Sharing the Gospel.

What are your reasons to love sharing the gospel?

What are your reasons to love sharing the gospel? (Lightstock)

Who doesn’t want to hear when they get to heaven, “Well done, thy good and faithful servant”? What better reason is there to revel in spreading the Good News?

Here are seven reasons to love sharing the gospel:

1. It’s like sharing with a person who is broke that they just won the Lotto (only better!).

2. You enter a struggle with the forces of darkness in a battle over a soul’s eternal destination (epic!).

3. When you share the gospel, you are put in a position of being forced to rely on the Holy Spirit for wisdom (James 1:5-6), courage (Eph. 6:19-20), and clarity (Col. 4:4).

4. It’s like sharing with a cancer victim that you just discovered the cure for cancer (only better!).

5. Evangelism is the communication of the greatest love story in the history of the world (sorry, Romeo!).

6. It’s like telling an orphan they’ve been adopted into the family of the richest person in the universe (well, that’s exactly what it is).

7. The pressure is not on you to convert them but to share the gospel clearly, wisely and lovingly. The Holy Spirit does the rest!

By the way, if you don’t know how to share the gospel, download the amazing Dare 2 Share app, watch the videos, and be equipped! Or get yourself to the Dare 2 Share “Reverse” tour kicking off in late January and finishing in April.

Keep sharing the Good News!

Greg Stier is a husband, a father, a preacher, an author, a twitchy revolutionary and a fanatic for Jesus. He’s the president of Dare 2 Share Ministries, which has led thousands of students to Jesus and equipped thousands more to reach their world with the gospel. He blogs at

For the original article, visit

Written by Greg Stier

‘Tis the Season to Attack the Gospels?.

Dr. Jerry Newcombe, Truth in Action Ministries

Every year at Christmastime, like clockwork, you can expect the mainstream media to come out with some sort of “fresh” perspective on Jesus. We see this on TV specials and in magazines and reports. Since December has just begun, I thought I’d be pro-active in answering the critics.The basic questions are these: Can we trust the Bible? Can we trust the Gospels? If they were put on trial, as in a court case, how would they hold up?

One man who contributed significantly to Christian apologetics was one of America’s great legal leaders. Simon Greenleaf (1783-1853) was a professor at Harvard Law School (1833-1848). He contributed a great deal to the school, expanding it, including its library.

Greenleaf wrote a major textbook used widely, A Treatise on the Law of Evidence

Contrary to some accounts (even found extensively on the Internet, to this day), Greenleaf was not an atheist or agnostic converted to Christianity by the evidence for the resurrection. He was livelong, active member of the Episcopal Church. In 1847, Greenleaf applied his expertise as a pioneer in the area of trial evidence to the Gospels in a landmark book.

Greenleaf wrote The Testimony of the Evangelists: The Gospel Examined by the Rules of Evidence. The evangelists, of course, are Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. As he applied the rules of evidence to the Gospels, he found them reliable.

Greenleaf says, “The foundation of our religion is a basis of fact—the fact of the birth, ministry, miracles, death, resurrection by the Evangelists as having actually occurred, within their own personal knowledge. Our religion, then, rests on the credit due to these witnesses. Are they worthy of implicit belief, in the matters which they relate? This is the question, in all human tribunals, in regard to persons testifying before them; and we propose to test the veracity of these witnesses, by the same rules and means which are there employed…” He answers, Yes.

He goes on from there to highlight the four Gospel writers:

*Matthew (also called Levi), the tax-collector and one of the twelve, an eyewitness of the Gospel events. Writes Greenleaf: “Matthew was himself a native Jew, familiar with the opinions, ceremonies, and customs of his countrymen; that he was conversant with the Sacred Writings…”

*Mark (also known as John Mark) was essentially Peter’s scribe in his Gospel—from the early Church comes the consistent report that Peter’s recollection of the Gospel events are found in the second Gospel. Mark went on to preach the gospel in Egypt, where he was martyred.

*Luke, believed to be a physician, traveled with Paul. Says Greenleaf, “If…Luke’s Gospel were to be regarded only as the work of a contemporary historian, it would be entitled to our confidence. But it is more than this. It is the result of careful science, intelligence and education, concerning subjects which he was perfectly competent to peculiarly skilled, they being cases of the cure of maladies.”

*John was a fisherman of Bethsaida, on the Sea of Galilee. Greenleaf says he wrote his Gospel after the other three, recognizing their truthfulness, and added things not found in the others.

Greenleaf notes a great unfairness shown the Evangelists in modern scholarship: They are somehow guilty until proven innocent. They are viewed as untrustworthy for no cause, until they can somehow be corroborated by some outside secular source. (If it was true in Greenleaf’s day, how much more is it true in ours—despite the wealth we have of additional archaeological and manuscript evidence in favor of the Gospels’ veracity.)

Says Greenleaf: “But the Christian writer seems, by the usual course of the argument, to have been deprived of the common presumption of charity in his favor; and reversing the ordinary rule of administering justice in human tribunals, his testimony is unjustly presumed to be false, until it is proved to be true.”

Greenleaf adds, “It is time that this injustice should cease; that the testimony of the evangelists should be admitted to be true, until it can be disproved by those who would impugn it; that the silence of one sacred writer on any point, should no more detract from his own veracity or that of the other historians, than the like circumstance is permitted to do among profane writers; and that the Four Evangelists should be admitted in corroboration of each other, as readily as Josephus and Tacitus, or Polybius and Livy.”

He affirms: “their honesty…ability… the consistency of their testimony…the conformity of their testimony with experience…the coincidence of their testimony with collateral circumstances. Let the evangelists be tried by these tests.” He does and finds them trustworthy. He also answers common objections, such as the miraculous elements found in the Gospels.

So, be prepared, when you see the TV specials coming up about “the true story of Christmas” or the like, when they attack the Gospels. The Gospels have been put on trial, and they have passed the test.
Dr. Jerry Newcombe is a key archivist of the D. James Kennedy Library, a spokesman and cohost of Kennedy Classics. He has also written or co-written 23 books, including The Book that Made America and (with Dr. Kennedy) What if Jesus Had Never Been Born? and (with Peter Lillback),George Washington’s Sacred

How to Stay and Change Your Church When You Feel Like Leaving.

Whitney Hopler

Editor’s Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Caleb Breakey’s new book Called to Stay: An Uncompromising Mission to Save Your Church (Harvest House Publishers, 2013).

Problems in your church – such as apathy, judgment, gossip, and conflict – can discourage you so much that you feel like leaving. In extreme cases, God does sometimes call people to leave unhealthy churches. But usually, God stands ready to help believers stay and change their churches for the better.

God can use you as a powerful change agent in your church if you choose to stay and inspire others in your congregation. Here’s how to stay and change your church when you feel like leaving:

Consider the benefits of staying. If you decide to stay and work to change your church, you can be a great influence on everyone there. Gradually, as God works through you, others in your congregation will join you in your efforts to change the church, and the transformation will grow. The power of that change will keep rippling outward, since a changed church can change the world. When you cooperate with God to help change your church, some benefits include: you help yourself and other believers become more like Jesus, you bring balance and perspective to the church, you practice the forgiving others as God calls you to do, God notices and appreciates your efforts even if others don’t, you gain wisdom from other people, you make the church more attractive to the world, you live out the Gospel message and Jesus’ beatitudes, you overcome evil with good, you help teach people how to obey God’s commands, you embrace God’s plan for church structure, and you bring greater unity, depth and purpose to your congregation.

Identify your church’s weaknesses and encourage your fellow church members to seek God’s strength to help overcome those weaknesses. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you pinpoint your church’s specific weaknesses. Then use the Bible’s wisdom to encourage the people in your church to grow beyond those weaknesses. Some examples include: churches that operate from head knowledge can focus more on heart, churches that emphasize outward appearances can pay more attention to people’s souls, churches where people are hypocritical can emphasize the importance of practicing what’s preached, churches full of proud people can become more humble, churches that teach a watered-down version of the Bible can start teaching it more faithfully and radically, and churches that avoid difficult questions can encourage people to ask hard questions and explore possible answers together honestly and openly.

Pursue change in your own life, as well as in your church. Humbly admit that, just like any person in this fallen world, you’re not perfect and can change for the better with God’s help. Include yourself as part of the congregation of people who needs to change at your church. Honestly assess how well you’re currently obeying Jesus in each part of your life. Examine your motives for the decisions you’ve been making lately. Ask God to let you see yourself the way He sees you, and allow your heart to break where it needs breaking. Then confess and repent of specific sins you’ve noticed in your life. Tell God that you want to grow closer to Him, and ask Him to forgive you, heal you, and restore you.

Embrace the power of the Holy Spirit living inside you. Pay attention to nudges you sense from the Holy Spirit, who lives inside the souls of Christians. Listen to the Spirit’s messages to you. Seek guidance and empowerment from the Spirit every day as you work to help change your church for the better.

Become childlike. Ask God to give you the awe and wonder of a child to deepen your faith and help you change your church for the better through humility, trust, and wholehearted devotion to Jesus.

Encourage people in your congregation to develop a greater commitment to Jesus.Get to know others in your church well, and talk with them honestly yet lovingly about Jesus. Urge them to consider: their love for Jesus (how they talk about Jesus, how they worship Jesus, and how much they want other people to know about Jesus), their obedience to Jesus (how they love and serve people in need, how they practice forgiveness and make peace, and how often they tell others about Jesus), their trust in Jesus (how often they get out of their comfort zones, how much they rely on the power of the Holy Spirit and prayer, and how uplifted they are by God’s promises), and their knowledge of Jesus (how they study the whole Bible and all of its truths, how often they look to the example of Jesus’ life as described in the Bible rather than just to theological principles, and how well they focus on what the Bible says their ultimate purposes should be: loving God and others well).

Engage in thoughtful conversations with people about faith and the church. Talk with people at your church, asking them questions such as what they thought of the sermon you all just heard, how they’ve noticed God at work in their lives during the past week, what they’ve been praying about lately and what you can pray about for them, and what God has been teaching them lately. Use social media to passionately express your faith and respectfully engage people in conversations about God and the church. Identify where people are in their spiritual maturation process, accept them where they are, and build them up from there.

Consider leaving your church in certain circumstances. If you’ve honestly done your best to stay and inspire your congregation to change but your church continues to be unhealthy, pray for the wisdom to discern whether or not you should consider leaving and finding a new church. Circumstances that may warrant leaving your church include when: you’re being abused or threatened, the church is destroying your health or relationships with your family, you’re not allowed to think differently from your pastor, your pastor doesn’t turn to the Bible as his final source of authority, most people in the congregation don’t value or follow biblical commands, church leaders fall into sin and refuse to repent, and the Holy Spirit clearly urges you to leave.

Adapted from Called to Stay: An Uncompromising Mission to Save Your Church copyright 2013 by Caleb Breakey. Published by Harvest House Publishers, Eugene, Or.,

Caleb Breakey, a former journalist, is a frequent conference speaker with a sincere passion to lead, challenge, and inspire others in discussions about relationships, the church, and radically following Jesus. He lives in Washington State with his wife, Brittney.

Whitney Hopler, who has served as a contributing writer for many years, is author of the Christian novel Dream Factory, which is set during Hollywood’s golden age. Visit her website at:

Publication date: December 10, 2013

Evangelist: Gospel Profoundly Affected Nelson Mandela.

Nelson Mandela
One of South Africa’s leading evangelists says he believes the gospel profoundly affected Nelson Mandela’s outlook as he re-entered politics after his years in prison. (CBN News)

One of South Africa’s leading evangelists says he believes the gospel profoundly affected Nelson Mandela‘s outlook as he re-entered politics after his years in prison.

Evangelist Michael Cassidy said Billy Grahamasked him to visit Mandela in 1992 in response to a letter Mandela had written to Graham after he left prison.

He said he personally took a signed copy of Graham’s book, Peace with God, to Mandela.

“I remember him telling me that when he was in prison he never missed Bible study or church service or Sunday nights. I was very impressed by that,” Cassidy said.

“I personally like to believe that the Christian gospel also informed his responses. It wasn’t just pragmatic politics. These were principles in his heart and soul and mind that he had come to believe were right,” he continued.

At Mandela’s request, Cassidy went to network with other church leaders to press for reconciliation, both before and after Mandela’s election in 1994.

“He was saddened that there were portions of the church that had given explicit or implicit support for the apartheid system and had legitimized it theologically,” he reminisced.

“But it was not lost on him that the church was a very important player in the whole process whereby apartheid was brought to an end,” Cassidy added.

Cassidy said Mandela wrote a letter to Graham saying he was touched by one of Graham’s TV broadcasts while in prison.


{ Day 339 }.

I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel I preached is not something that man made up. I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ—Galatians 1:11-12

One of the characteristics of prophetic revelation is that it is sometimes allegorical or symbolic, and it is fully understood only after future events have taken place. From the Old Testament perspective, it was not altogether clear what the Messiah would look like. The prophets foretold the coming of both a kingly Messiah and a suffering servant, but no one even remotely considered that both were the same person. Obviously, kingly messiahs aren’t servants, and they don’t suffer. Even the disciples had a hard time with it. The Gospels, especially the synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke), show how baffled the disciples were. The messianic secret is a theme that runs throughout all the synoptic Gospels. They had a very difficult time figuring out who Jesus was and the nature of His eternal kingdom. We have to be careful about locking in on our interpretation of prophetic revelation lest we miss what God is trying to say to us and do with us.


Father, I love when You speak through Your Spirit to me with revelation that helps me to understand the allegorical and symbolic examples You have placed in Your Word to reveal Yourself to Your people. Help me to clearly understand Your revelation through these methods.

Carelessly interpreted prophetic revelation
can cause chaos in someone’s life.


What Hebrews Teaches Us about Preaching.

I think I can make a pretty good case that Hebrews was a sermon, probably, in fact, a handful of sermons stitched together to respond to the urgent needs of a community in crisis. (You’re just going to have to trust me on this one.) Here I want to reflect on three things aspiring pastors like myself—and, I suspect, seasoned ones too—can learn from the wise pastor who prepared this sermon.

#1: What sort of sermons—solutions—should we offer? The pastor models for us what we should do to address the needs of people within our churches. He’s met with a problem as multi-faceted as it is urgent and he thinks long enough about it to tell the difference between its implications and its cause. Then he identifies what part of his community’s confession—what part of the Gospel—they needed to hear to confront their problem and heal their spiritual disease at its source (for a summary, see, esp., 4:14–16; 10:19–21). Pretty straightforward. It’s pretty simple, even if it’s not often very easy. There’s quite a bit more I might say about this one, but let me here simply draw out two further implications. First, we need to listen. That’s right. Listen. We need to spend the energy necessary to get the “pulse” of our communities, to know our people’s hurts, disappointments, fears, accusations, doubts, etc. (After all, we’re not looking to do exploratory surgery with every sermon.) To put it another way, as pastors we’ve got more than one “text” to exegete each week. And, added to this, we need to follow Hebrews lead and commit ourselves to a robust, probing grasp of the Gospel so that we’re ready and able to faithfully, nimbly, and insightfully bring it to bear on the needs of our flocks.

#2: What shape should our sermons—our solutions—take? The pastor also models how we should bring the Gospel to bear on our community’s needs. He doesn’t simply meet their problems with Gospel aphorisms, with naked Gospel propositions, with—forgive the way I’m going to put this—dogmatic theology. Rather, he brings the Gospel to bear by placing his people and their problems within God’s story. He meets their needs with biblical theology. He places his friends, first, in the story’s broadest context—Jesus and Adam (1:5–14; 2:5–9, 10–18)—and, then, in one of its narrower story-lines: Jesus and Israel (spec. Levi; 5:1–10; 7:1–10, 11–28; 8:1–13; 9:1–10, 11–28; 10:1–18). In both places, the author shows the audience that what the Gospel asserts about Jesus corresponds to what earlier parts of the story anticipated and, moreover, prepares the audience for the story’s next chapter. We might say, then, that there’s a satisfying movement, complete with an eschatology, to the author’s response.

#3: How should our sermons—our solutions—be administered? Finally, the pastor models for us how our sermons—our solutions—should be administered. At the heart of his response (see, e.g., 10:22–25, esp. vv. 24–25), the pastor insists that the community of faith—the church—is an indispensable part of the solution, an urgently-important means of grace. If the gospel work of our sermons is to have its full effect, the church must be actively involved. The pastor encourages his friends to follow his example and do the hard work of insightfully-preaching the Gospel to one another. The pastor makes it clear, in other words, that his and the other elders’ leadership was insufficient. His friends needed the member-to-member ministry of the word; they needed the pastoral oversight of the community itself.

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by Jared Compton

{ Day 331 }.

I wait for your salvation, O Lord, and I follow your commands. I obey your statutes, for I love them greatly. I obey your precepts and your statutes, for all my ways are known to you. —Psalm 119:166-168

We stumble over the fact that God doesn’t speak or act the way we think He should. But from Isaiah we learn not to manufacture our own light when we walk in darkness. From Saul we learn not to run ahead of God when the answer is delayed. From the Gospels we learn that God’s silence does not mean we are rejected or unloved; it must be understood in the light of God’s redemptive purposes. For those who have allowed the Holy Spirit to perform His work in their lives, the “Why, God?” questions are accompanied by a growing peace and trust rather than disillusionment and unbelief. God wants us to learn to be at peace in our souls by virtue of our relationship with Him, not by virtue of the information about our circumstances that we sometimes receive from Him. People searching for God’s peace and comfort often look for it by asking God for information about their future. But He wants our peace to come first by fixing any problems in our personal relationship with Him.


Father, how often I run ahead of You and question, “Why?” Teach me to be at peace with Your purposes because of the trusting relationship I have with You.

Our “Why, God?” questions are a normal
part of the walk of faith for all
of us until the very end.


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