Morning Mashup 04/10

Morning Mashup

A daily mashup of book recommendations, articles, and videos for your information, edification, and enjoyment.


BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS

This Is Our Time: Everyday Myths in Light of the Gospel | TREVIN WAX

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12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You | TONY REINKE

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ARTICLES

REMEMBERING THE RURAL | CANON FODDER

Michael Kruger: In recent years, this interest in the urban has sometimes turned into a superiorityof the urban, and even a disdain of the rural. Those who are a part of urban churches can sometimes project an attitude, even unwittingly, that urban centers are where “real” ministry happens.

ARE SHORT TERM MISSION TRIPS VALUABLE | EPM

Randy Alcorn‘s answer to the question, “Wouldn’t it be better just to take the money spent on short-term trips and send it to the mission field instead?”

THE OBSCENITY OF THE CROSS AND THE TRUTH OF THE GOSPEL | TPJ

Timothy Paul Jones: These forsaken bodies—the vast majority of the victims of Roman crucifixion—remained on their crosses to be consumed. Thus their remains disintegrated into the dust of the Roman Empire. But the case of Jesus—a Jew, crucified near Jerusalem on the eve of a popular religious festival—doesn’t fit this pattern.

WHY YOU MAY BE MISREADING SCRIPTURE | LOGOS

Tyler Smith: When we come to familiar passages, like the Easter story, we are tempted to rely more on our memory of the story and less on the text of Scripture itself.

RAISING EXPECTATIONS FOR YOUNG BELIEVERS| REFORMED MARGINS

Erik Odegard: There are young believers throughout our churches who are capable to be trusted with significant responsibilities, gospel labors, and growing in grace.  I pray that we would recognize that God has gifted young believers for the edification of our churches (1 Corinthians 12:7), raise our expectations of them, sharpen them training, and entrust them with significant tasks.

5 LESSONS FROM FALLEN PASTORS | ERIC GEIGER

Eric Geiger: As pastors are removed from ministry, the implications on churches and families are far-reaching. Here are five lessons from a season of fallen pastors, a season that has, at times, felt epidemic.

VIDEOS

Russell Westbrook Game-Winning Buzzer Beater | NBA

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Grace and Peace: How God Shows His Love in the Death of Christ

Whether it is dieting, exercising, studying, or practicing, we all want to see good results. If you study for three hours every night for a test, you want to see an A+ on your paper. When you stop eating tacos and drinking Mountain Dew, and start exercising five times each week, you want to see the number on the scale get smaller each time you take that fateful step up. Results are important because they prove whether something is true or false, helpful or unhelpful, worthy or unworthy.

Paul has spent Romans 1-4 defending the truth of our sinful condition, God’s righteous response, and Christ’s gracious provision. We are guilty of sin and deserving of wrath, but in his grace, God made a way for us to be right with him. The only way to be right with God is for God to declare us righteous, and this only comes through the propitiation of Christ on the cross.

Now, Paul moves to discuss the results of justification. What does it mean for us to be justified by faith? Paul’s answer is that being made right with God means we have peace with God. Being declared righteous means we have gone from being enemies of God to friends of God. He says, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:1).

Jesus makes peace between God and man only through the blood of his cross. We are reconciled to God only through what Jesus did for us on the cross. When we were weak and ungodly, Christ died for us. Jesus didn’t die for us because he saw something special or admirable in us. Our value is not the motivation for God’s sacrificial love in Christ. God’s sacrificial love for us in Christ is the basis of our value because Christ died for us when there was nothing valuable in us. “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). Let’s think about God’s love for us in Christ.

Paul says God shows his love for us in the present through Christ’s death for us in the past. The way Paul said this means that God shows his love for us today and for a thousand tomorrows through one single event that occurred in the past. The death of Christ in the past was sufficient to extend God’s love to an eternal future (1 Peter 3:18).

But have you ever considered how it is that God shows us his love even today and tomorrow through something that happened in the past? It would make more sense for Paul to have said, “God showed his love for us…” But the gospel is sweeter than an expression of love through a past action. It is the promise of present and future love, which is made possible by a past action. Through the past action of Jesus’ death on the cross, God shows his love to us in the present forevermore.

How? God continuously show us his love in the death of Christ through the ever-present work of the Holy Spirit. “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Rom. 5:5). Believers have been given the Holy Spirit who continuously pours the love of God into our hearts. Like an ever-flowing spring, the Holy Spirit never ceases to pour God’s love into our hearts. Assurance of God’s love is found in a present divine demonstration through a past definitive action.

Paul has seen the results of the gospel, and like a fat man seeing the needle on the scale drop, he rejoices in what he sees. We who fought against God’s righteous will and who God righteously opposed now are at peace with God because of what Jesus has done for us. Jesus’ death on the cross puts an end to the struggle between God and man. His blood purchased peace. At no cost to you, but at great cost to God in Christ, we can be at peace with the God of the universe.


Mathew Gilbert (B.A. Boyce College) is Associate Pastor for Children and Preschool at The Church at Trace Crossing in Tupelo, MS. He is the author of Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God (Westbow Press, 2016). He is an M.Div student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Mathew is married to his high school sweetheart, Erica. Mathew and Erica live in Tupelo with their sons, Jude and Jack. You can follow him on Twitter @mat_gilbert.

Morning Mashup 08/29

Morning Mashup

A daily mashup of Kindle deals, articles, and videos for your information, edification, and enjoyment.


KINDLE DEALS

Weakness Is the Way: Life with Christ Our Strength | J.I. Packer | $3.99

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Finishing Our Course with Joy: Guidance from God for Engaging with Our Aging | J.I. Packer | $3.99

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Disability and the Gospel: How God Uses Our Brokenness to Display His Grace | Michael Beates | $2.99

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ARTICLES

On David Gushee’s Dishonesty | Jake Meador

In Gushee’s world, no one is acting to promote a certain social agenda premised on redefining marriage and transforming sexual ethics into an exclusively consent-based system. It’s just happening like magic. Because #history.

Attention Students, Put Your Laptops Away | NPR

As laptops become smaller and more ubiquitous, and with the advent of tablets, the idea of taking notes by hand just seems old-fashioned to many students today. Typing your notes is faster — which comes in handy when there’s a lot of information to take down. But it turns out there are still advantages to doing things the old-fashioned way.

Christianity and the American Founding | Thomas Kidd

 For all of our arguments about religion’s role in the American Founding, we may not have considered the possibility that the Christianity of the American Founding could have produced watered-down “bad religion.”

Why Men and Women Are Not Equal | Glenn Stanton

Man and woman are not equal. He owes what he is to her. That is hardly her only power, but it is among her most formidable. Christianity has always known this. The Savior of the world chose to come to us through a wife and mother.

The Beautiful Gift of Gospel Community | Brandon Smart

It’s a gift that we even have someone to share our lives with. It’s a gift that we can confess sin and met with grace and restoration. It’s a gift to be able to look at your brothers and sisters and with tear filled eyes say “I’m not okay” and have them love us well enough to shower us with the gospel.

Welcome to the Big Time | ESPN

The implosion of the daily fantasy industry is a bro-classic tale of hubris, recklessness, political naïveté and a kill-or-be-killed culture.

VIDEOS

The Worst Kind of Approval

handI have found it true that when you struggle with certain sins, you are more sympathetic with others who struggle with that sin. But if you don’t struggle as much with a certain sin, you will tend to be more impatient with those who do. For example, kids who struggle to obey their parents think it is hilarious when other kids disobey their parents. They get it. But for kids who always follow the rules, their gasps at their friends’ disobedience can be heard for miles. We sadly tend to take the sins of others more seriously than our own. But when we are stuck in a pit of repetitive sin, we more easily give our approval to those who are in the pit with us.

One of the cardinal sins in the current stream of American culture is the sin of non-approval or non-acceptance. People of all lifestyles desire to be accepted for who they are and what they do. The deep desire for approval was a major driving force for the LGBT agenda in the same-sex marriage narrative and it continues through a similar push for the legalization of polygamy from the Sister Wives. It has become increasingly difficult for Christians to navigate the waters of pluralism while having to dodge the bullets of accusations of bigotry and intolerance. Refusing to approve of a particular lifestyle, behavior, or identity is seen as prudish and regressive.

But the worst kind of approval is that which approves of what kills. The Bible teaches that sin in all its expressions leads to death. To approve of what God has condemned serves no one. It is self-condemning. It is the opposite of love. Who in love for his friend refuses to call out to him as he walks blindly toward the edge of a cliff? As easy and comfortable as it is to approve of cultural permissible sins, God’s people must not be found in the position of cheering their neighbors as they march gladly toward eternal death. In the words of Landon Dowden, “Sin should produce tears, not cheers.”

Paul closes his scathing section of Romans 1 by saying, “Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them” (Rom. 1:32). Probably the greatest evidence and most serious result of God giving us up to ourselves is when we not only sin, but give our approval of sin in others.

People know that certain actions like the ones listed in Romans 1:29-31 are deserving of death. This moral code is written on the heart of every person under the sun. But they are so lost in their sin that they not only commit those sins anyway, they also give a thumbs up to others who commit these sins and more.

It is dangerous to both human souls and human societies when people begin to approve of sin. When we justify sin in ourselves and in others we are approving of the things God justly pours his wrath against. It may sound obvious to you that it is wrong to approve of sin, but it is very easy to fail in this way. How easy is it to join in gossip? How easy is it to justify your friend’s gossip in a large group? For the sake of perceived unity with friends and family, many Christians have capitulated on many hotbed issues. But it should be remembered that while capitulation on social or sexual issues God condemns may make you friends with men, it will cause you to stand in stark opposition to God.

When you ignore sin in your heart, you will ignore sin in your neighbor’s heart. Only when you confess sin in your own heart will you be able to helpfully confront sin in your neighbor’s heart. Deal seriously with sin in your life. See it as a deadly disease that callouses hearts to goodness and truth and joy. If you truly love your neighbor, you cannot offer your support and approval for their sin.

Only in Jesus do we find life and freedom from the curse and power of sin. Indeed, “those who practice such things deserve to die.” Jesus never practiced such things. He never sinned. Yet, he died the death we deserve, so we can have life with him. Jesus never approves of that which kills. Instead, he died to kill the disease of sin so we can have approval with God.


Mathew Gilbert (B.A. Boyce College) is Associate Pastor for Children and Preschool at The Church at Trace Crossing in Tupelo, MS. He is the author of Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God (Westbow Press, 2016). He is an M.Div student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Mathew is married to his high school sweetheart, Erica. Mathew and Erica live in Tupelo with their son, Jude. You can follow him on Twitter @mat_gilbert.

Morning Mashup 08/25

Morning Mashup

A daily mashup of Kindle deals, articles, and videos for your information, edification, and enjoyment.


KINDLE DEALS

Shaped by the Gospel: Doing Balanced, Gospel-Centered Ministry in Your City (Center Church) | Tim Keller | $3.99

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Relationships: A Mess Worth Making | Tim Lane | $2.99

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ARTICLES

Purity Culture | Samuel James

 It is often difficult for me to read a blog post that excoriates evangelical purity culture, and discern where the criticism of legalism ends and the criticism of the Bible’s teachings on sex begin. 

Remember Their Names | James Faris

You can minister to family members of public figures by following God’s pattern: remember their names. Most are pretty happy to live in the orbit of their more luminous family member; but when you work to know a person’s name and use it, it brings them even greater joy because it shows that you care about them as an individual.

You Are Not the Bride of Christ | Ryan Higginbottom

The image in Scripture is clear: God is preparing and purifying his people for a great gathering at the end of time. The victorious Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ, will meet his bride, the church, and there will be a great feast of celebration. Let’s not dilute or distract from this great biblical image. You are not the bride of Christ; we are.

Writing and the Lie of Better-Than | Barnabas Piper

When we worry about which writers are better than us we have taken the infinite game of creating and lowered it to the finite world of win or lose. When we do this we lose ourselves and our unique ability to say or create anything that matters. We become derivative and soulless – precisely the opposite of what makes the most significant writing significant. Our game is not to defeat other writers but to continually grow as writers.

Pastoral Ministry Doesn’t Have to Be Sedentary | Erik Raymond

Pastors spend a lot of time in a chair. Consider a quick list of regular tasks that a pastor attends to: sermon preparation, counseling, reading, prayer, meetings, driving to meet someone, answering emails, working on projects, and a host of other (seated) things. We know that without some degree of intentionality a pastor can slouch into a sedentary lifestyle. We also know that this type of lifestyle is not healthy. In this post I want to highlight a few practices that I have found helpful in my ministry to combat this problem. If calling them “life-hacks” makes them more compelling and inviting then so be it, but I’m content to call them suggestions.

VIDEOS

No Moody Deity: Why the Wrath of God is Unlike the Wrath of Man

fire-orange-emergency-burningIf you’ve ever seen the movie The Lion King, then you’ll surely remember the scene where Mufasa, king of the lion tribe, gazes out at his entire kingdom with his young son, Simba. Mufasa is trying to help Simba see that one day he will be gone and the kingdom will belong to him. The royal lions are gazing out into their dominion of the African safari, which is marked by a glorious and booming sun shining down. Mufasa’s words are, “Look, Simba. Everything the light touches is our kingdom.” Then, little Simba notices another part of the kingdom that is untouched by the sun. He curiously asks his father, “But what about the shadowy place?” Mufasa responds, “That’s beyond our borders. You must never go there, Simba.”

Romans 1 is much like this scene from The Lion King. The first 17 verses shine with the glorious light of the gospel. However, picking up in verse 18 until the end of the chapter, Paul goes to a very dark place. The first half of Romans 1 is the domain of light we not only want to walk in, but all we want to talk about. The second half of Romans 1 is the domain of darkness we would rather ignore. Indeed, we stay away from this shadowy place in thought and action. But as New Testament scholar Douglas Moo has said, “Only when we have really come to grips with the extent of the human dilemma will we be able to respond as we should to the answer to that dilemma found in the good news about Jesus.”

Romans 1:18-32 really is a shadowy place filled with the wrath of God, the power and curse of sin, idolatry, depravity, and judgment. Paul seems to move from the light of the gospel to the darkness of sin and judgment to answer one question: “Why do we need the gospel, which is the power of God for salvation?”

There are few topics or truths in the Bible that ruffle feathers quite like the wrath of God. Even saying, the wrath of God, sounds scary. It’s not something we like to talk about much. In fact, I’ve heard non-Christians say they could easily believe in a God of love, but they could never believe in a God of wrath. In other words, they can believe in a John 3:16 God, but not a Romans 1:18 God.

The problem with this concern is that the John 3:16 God is also the Romans 1:18 God. There aren’t multiple gods revealed in Scripture. There is only one true and living God revealed in Scripture, and he is both loving and holy. Actually, because he is loving and holy, he pours out his wrath against unrighteousness and the unrighteous. But an important question for us to ask is, “What is the wrath of God?”

Wrath is just an intense word that basically means anger. God is angry at unrighteousness and ungodliness. But it is important to remember that God’s anger is not like our anger. It is possible for us to be angry in a righteous or holy way. For example, it is good to be angry at murder, injustice, and evil of all kinds. But most of the time we are angry in sinful ways. Our motivations and actions fueled by anger are usually sinful.

God is never angry in an unrighteous or sinful way. His anger is pure, holy, and right. It is also wrong to think about God’s wrath as the attitude and action of a moody deity. God doesn’t have mood swings or a temper. Instead, in the words of John Stott, “God’s wrath is his holy hostility to evil, his refusal to condone it or come to terms with it, his just judgment upon it.”

God’s righteousness is the origin of his wrath. If he did not hate and destroy that which is unrighteous, he would rob himself of glory and his people of joy. It is amazing news that God opposes unrighteousness and sin because he also absorbs the very wrath the unrighteous deserve. God’s wrath and God’s love are not enemies. The enemy of God’s wrath is neutrality. If God just ignored our sin, he could not save us from our sin. Instead, God’s wrath is against sin and sinners. And in God’s love he sent Jesus to fully bear his wrath in our place. In the finished work of Christ, God saves us from himself, to himself, and for himself.


Mathew Gilbert (B.A. Boyce College) is Associate Pastor for Children and Preschool at The Church at Trace Crossing in Tupelo, MS. He is the author of Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God (Westbow Press, 2016). He is an M.Div student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Mathew is married to his high school sweetheart, Erica. Mathew and Erica live in Tupelo with their son, Jude. You can follow him on Twitter @mat_gilbert.

Throwback Thursday: John Stott on the Wrath of God

Throwback Thursday3One of the most uncomfortable Christian doctrines to discuss in any social setting is the wrath of God. It doesn’t matter if you are in a small group, Sunday morning sermon, or a coffee shop, when you talk about God’s wrath, the tension in the room automatically increases.

Last night, I was leading a small group of teenagers in a discussion about the exclusivity of the gospel. The only way to enter and enjoy God’s presence is through the person and work of Jesus Christ (John 14:6; 1 Tim. 2:5). In the process of that discussion, I asked them to think about all of their friends who are outside of Christ. Then, I asked them to funnel the exclusivity of the gospel through the lens of friendship. My hope was that the wrath of God against those outside of Christ would not casually pass over them. My hope was that they would see the hopelessness that even their kindest friends are facing outside of Christ. Ultimately, my hope was and is that they would be ignited to leverage their friendships for the sake of the gospel and the eternal joy of their lost friends.

Have you ever considered God’s wrath in relation to loved ones in your life who you know are outside of Christ? Doing this doesn’t change the truth and reality of God’s wrath, but it does help us pause to consider a true biblical definition of God’s wrath. Wrath, most commonly associated with raging anger, has absolutely zero positive connotations in human relations.

So, how can something as unstable as anger, which Jesus equates to murder, be found in a perfectly holy God?

In John Stott’s commentary on Romans, he writes very helpfully on the relationship between human anger and God’s wrath:

If we are to preserve the balance of Scripture, our definition of God’s anger must avoid opposite extremes. On the one hand, there are those who see it as no different from sinful human anger. On the other, there are those who declare that the very notion of anger as a personal attribute or attitude of God must be abandoned.

Human anger, although there is such a thing as righteous indignation, is mostly very unrighteous. It is an irrational and uncontrollable emotion, containing much vanity, animosity, malice, and the desire for revenge. It should go without saying that God’s anger is absolutely free of all such poisonous ingredients.

The wrath of God, then, is almost totally different from human anger. It does not mean that God loses his temper, flies into a rage, or is ever malicious, spiteful or vindictive. The alternative to ‘wrath’ is not ‘love’ but ‘neutrality’ in the moral conflict. And God is not neutral. On the contrary, his wrath is his holy hostility to evil, his refusal to condone it or come to terms with it, his just judgment upon it.

[Stott, Message to the Romans, pp. 71-72]

Read that last paragraph again. Crucial to an understanding of God’s wrath is knowing that the alternative is not love, but neutrality. The good news of God’s wrath is that he is not neutral when it comes to sin, evil, and suffering. He is a sovereign conquerer of these things. His wrath is poured out against them. And the most radically mind-blowing news I’ve ever heard is that the way God conquers sin, death, evil, and suffering is by bearing his righteous wrath himself.


Mathew Gilbert (B.A. Boyce College) is Associate Pastor for Children and Preschool at The Church at Trace Crossing in Tupelo, MS. He is the author of Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God (Westbow Press, 2016). He is an M.Div student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Mathew is married to his high school sweetheart, Erica. Mathew and Erica live in Tupelo with their son, Jude. You can follow him on Twitter @mat_gilbert.

Review: A Christ-Centered Wedding

519JWJfMcxLCatherine Strode Parks and Linda Strode. A Christ-Centered Wedding: Rejoicing in the Gospel on Your Big Day. (Nashville: B&H Books, 2014). 256 pp. $12.51

One of the most stressful experiences in a person’s life is the preparation for one of the most joyful experiences in a person’s life. Marriage is an amazing gift of God’s grace in which we have a unique opportunity to tell the story of God’s covenant-keeping love for his people in the sacrificial love of his Son. Weddings are a snapshot of what should be played out over years of marriage. In general, weddings are beautiful. In one sense, it’s kind of hard to mess them up. But, we’ve all seen our fair share of weddings that just leave you shaking your head.

Nothing deflates a wedding service like that moment when you realize the couple planned their wedding to exalt themselves instead of God. However, nothing brings tears to your eyes like that moment when you realize the couple planned their wedding to put the gospel of Jesus Christ on display and exalt the glory of God’s grace and love for his people, the reality to which marriage points.

Wedding preparation is foreign ground for nearly everyone who embarks on the treacherous journey. Most women who plan their wedding only learn about how expensive they are when they are standing in the flower or dress shop. There are a few societal wedding prep laws that guide the whole wedding prep process for many couples, even Christian couples. First, the wedding day belongs to the bride. It’s her day. Family, friends, photographers, caterers, planners, and the random guy at Starbucks had better cater to the bride’s every whim without complaint because, well, it’s her day!

The second wedding prep law, which flows from the first, is that parents of the bride must spare no expense. Thousands upon thousands of dollars are spent on a 30-minute ceremony and a reception. Many parents go for broke for a few hours of eating, drinking, and dancing.

So, where does the Christian couple begin in the process of planning a wedding that doesn’t follow these wedding prep laws, but instead seeks to put Christ at the center of the wedding? Catherine Strode Parks and Linda Stode seek to answer this question in A Christ-Centered Wedding.

Serving as a helpful guide on the entire wedding prep process, A Christ-Centered Wedding shows couples, particularly brides, how to navigate the treacherous waters of dress shopping, registries, parties, ceremony planning, rehearsal, and reception. From the perspective of a mother-daughter, the authors give their own experiences in wedding planning. But, the ultimate goal of A Christ-Centered Wedding isn’t to provide a litany of tips, but instead to promote a vision of putting Christ at the center of both wedding and marriage. And they desire for the wedding prep process to be joyful and God-honoring, not miserable and God-awful. They write,

Marriage is one of God’s good gifts. It is a blessing to all of creation, and it’s a beautiful picture of Christ’s relationship with the church. Before you can experience the joy of this gift, though, you need to get through the wedding, and the wedding planning. This can be either an uplifting, encouraging experience or a frustrating exercise in trying to please everyone and failing. Many times it’s a combination of the two.

There are many books dedicating to helping couples exalt Christ in their marriage, but Parks and Strode seek to help couples exalt Christ on the wedding day itself. The greatest aspect of A Christ-Centered Wedding is the dual impact of theology and practice. Their theological explanation of the gospel and marriage is satisfying. The first three chapters are biblical meditations on the definition and purpose of marriage, which provides a biblical basis from which to make practical applications. Their basic argument is that since Christ is the center of marriage, he should be the center of the wedding.

But this book isn’t just filled with theological truth. It is also filled with rich practical instruction. When I was helping my sister and her husband plan their wedding, the goal was to plan their wedding to be as God-centered as possible. My goal as the officiant of their wedding was to honor God and honor them while exalting Christ as the center of their wedding. We used many specific practical instructions from A Christ-Centered Wedding in the process of planning their wedding.

The authors provide a plethora of creative and helpful ideas for every aspect of wedding prep from engagement all the way to the end of the reception. In each step of the wedding planning process, the ultimate question the authors ask and answer is, “How does this decision honor Christ and show him to be central to our wedding and marriage?”

I highly commend A Christ-Centered Wedding to any engaged couple in the wedding planning process. It’s also a helpful resource for pastors to use in a premarital counseling setting. Readers will leave with a higher view of marriage, the gospel, and the rightful place of Christ in a wedding–front and center.


I received this book from B&H Books. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html.


Mathew Gilbert (B.A. Boyce College) is Associate Pastor for Children and Preschool at The Church at Trace Crossing in Tupelo, MS. He is the author of Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God (Westbow Press, 2016). He is an M.Div student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Mathew is married to his high school sweetheart, Erica. Mathew and Erica live in Tupelo with their son, Jude. You can follow him on Twitter @mat_gilbert.

The Gift of the Gospel in Romans 1

pexels-photo-104966One of the most important questions for a Christian to be prepared to answer, both for himself and others, is What is the gospel? You should ask yourself this question often and always be prepared to give an answer to others. The reason many Christians don’t grow in holiness and righteousness is because they ironically don’t have a firm grasp on the gospel. The same is true for Christians who don’t go with the gospel to their neighbors and the nations—they simply don’t think enough about the gospel. Deep meditation on the gospel will increase your joy in God and ignite a passion for others to know God through the gospel.

When Paul writes that he desires to preach the gospel among the Roman Christians, he means that he wants to take part in both discipleship and evangelism. This means he wants to preach the gospel to the Roman Christians for their discipleship. He also wants to preach the gospel with the Roman Christians for the evangelism of the lost in Rome. But what is this gospel Paul wants to proclaim? What is this message he desires the Christians and lost in Rome to know?

The gospel and theme of the entire letter of Romans is stated nicely and clearly for us in Romans 1:16-17. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’” The theme of the gospel and the letter of Romans is that the righteousness of God is freely given to sinners.

Paul wants to preach the gospel in Rome because he is not ashamed of the gospel. He is fearless to share the gospel, and he is proud of the universal effects of the gospel. The gospel carries the power of salvation for anyone who believes in Jesus—Jews, Gentiles, and everyone in between. You can be unashamed of the gospel in these same ways. Be fearless to share the gospel and live your life in line with the gospel. And, be proud and glad to share the gospel freely with anyone. There is power in the gospel to save even the worst person you know.

The reason we can be unashamed of the gospel is because it is a message from God and it contains power of God for salvation. God produces salvation, not human effort. You cannot do anything to earn salvation. It is entirely a work of God to save his people from the penalty of death we deserve. God reveals his righteousness in Christ’s life, death, and resurrection. Jesus, who was perfectly and divinely righteous, dies in the place of those who are unrighteous. “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21). The gospel is a gift. It is a gift of God’s righteousness given freely to the unrighteous who receive it by faith. Share this gift as freely and generously as you have received it.


Mathew Gilbert (B.A. Boyce College) is Associate Pastor for Children and Preschool at The Church at Trace Crossing in Tupelo, MS. He is the author of Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God (Westbow Press, 2016). He is an M.Div student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Mathew is married to his high school sweetheart, Erica. Mathew and Erica live in Tupelo with their son, Jude. You can follow him on Twitter @mat_gilbert.

Don’t Raise Your Hands in Vain: Reflections on True Worship from Psalm 111

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Photo Creds: lapideo on Flickr

Praise the Lord! I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart, in the company of the upright, in the congregation. Great are the works of the Lord, studied by all who delight in them. –Psalm 111:1-2

When you hear the word worship what is the first thought that comes to your mind? For many of us, we think of worship as the thing we do on Sunday mornings as a faith family. We gather for a worship service in the worship room to sing worship songs led by a worship leader. But did you know it is possible to attend worship services every single Sunday and never actually worship?

It makes me think of the time I went to watch Duke play Indiana in the NCAA tournament in 2002. The game was played at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky. It was a great game! But I really didn’t care who won. Kentucky basketball fans hate few things more than Duke and Indiana basketball. My granddad and I joked that it would be awesome if they could both lose. Even though I didn’t like either team, I found myself clapping for the first player who was introduced…for Duke! My granddad quietly leaned over and asked politely, but firmly, “What on earth are you doing?” I didn’t know! I definitely wasn’t cheering for Duke to win. I wasn’t a Duke fan. Being in the place where Kentucky played their home games and seeing Duke sitting on Kentucky’s bench and hearing the same announcer from every Kentucky game caused me to clap from habit. I had no love for Duke in my heart even though my hands made it look like I did.

Many people do the same thing I did at Rupp Arena in church buildings on Sunday mornings. Their hands, words, and actions make it look like they are worshiping God, but their hearts are far from him. True worship is less about physical acts and more about the direction of the heart. Worship begins in the heart and directs love, joy, and obedience toward God in every area of life.

Psalm 111 begins with three simple words: “Praise the Lord!” This psalm is all about worship. What do you notice about the psalmist’s worship in verses 1-2?

First, his worship is God-centered. The eyes of his heart are gazing on God and his awesomeness.

Second, his worship flows from his heart. While you can hide your heart from others by singing the lyrics of worship songs, you can’t hide the desires and motives of your heart from God.

Third, his worship is both personal and corporate. That means he personally worships the Lord with his whole heart, but he also worships the Lord “in the company of the upright.” It is important to practice personal worship every day without forgetting how important it is to worship the Lord together with your faith family.

Finally, his worship is not mindless or joyless. I love verse two. In it, the psalmist says that those who delight in the works of God will study them. Do you see that? There is an inseparable connection between the mind and heart. Between thinking and rejoicing. The greatest motivation you could ever have to study your Bible, labor over theological truths, or teach a biblical theme to your children is found in this verse. Those who study the Lord’s works delight in them. Deep, God-centered joy is insatiable motivation to know the Lord. In this sense, theology is never boring! The whole goal of theology is joy!

We don’t worship God because someone forces us to do it. And we don’t worship God without thinking. We think deeply about who God is and all the things he has done. This deep meditation on God fuels worship in those whose joy is in him. Any kind of worship that is forced isn’t really worship to begin with. True worship is free. It is the free and glad-hearted desire of God’s people to meditate on his works and delight in what they see. Worship involves the full capacity of the mind and the full range of emotions of the heart.

You never have to prepare your heart to worship falsely. That’s easy. You just show up and go through the motions. You just ignore the daily reading of Scripture and prayer. You just build your own kingdom in your own image in your family, work, and leisure. But to worship truly? Oh, this requires much work–not to earn God’s favor. But to truly rejoice more in God than anything else, you will need to work hard to know and meditate on the things of God.

When was the last time you studied God? If you are struggling to come to a place of genuine and robust worship in every area of your life; if you are struggling to worship the Lord with your whole heart, then give yourself to the study of God. Meditate on who he is and what he has done for you in Jesus and see how your heart responds. I pray your experience would be that of the psalmist,

Praise the Lord! I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart, in the company of the upright, in the congregation. Great are the works of the Lord, studied by all who delight in them.


Mathew Gilbert (B.A. Boyce College) is Associate Pastor for Children and Preschool at The Church at Trace Crossing in Tupelo, MS. He is the author of Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God (Westbow Press, 2016). He is a M.Div student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Mathew is married to his high school sweetheart, Erica. Mathew and Erica live in Tupelo with their son, Jude. You can follow him on Twitter @mat_gilbert.