Recommended Resource: Come Weary Saints

Come Weary SaintsCan I recommend a resource that will serve your soul? Sovereign Grace Music just released the CD “Come Weary Saints”, and I really believe that it will deeply encourage you. Here’s how the CD is described:

As Christians, we know that our greatest problem?separation from God?has been solved. Jesus Christ, the only Savior, has taken our sin upon himself, enduring God?s wrath in our place and rising from the dead to assure us of our forgiveness.

But all our problems don?t end when we turn to Christ. We still get sick. Marriages end. Children die. Our plans, great or small, are disrupted. We grow weary in the battle.

Scripture assures us that God is sovereignly using our difficulties as tools to make us more like his Son. ?We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God?s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.? (Ro 5:3?5) While we know these things are true, in the midst of our hardships we can lose perspective. Problems can loom large, and our hopes can grow dim.

Come Weary Saints is an invitation to redirect your focus to the God whose love has been forever demonstrated at the cross of Calvary. As you listen to these songs, may your faith and joy in the Savior be strengthened for the challenges you face, now or in the future.

For those of you who go to my church, you can get the CD in the bookstore. For the rest of you, you can get the CD here. You can also get a free download from the CD by clicking here.

When God is Silent

desert

A believer recently said to me, ?I feel like God doesn?t love me. He doesn?t seem to hear my prayers.?

Sometimes it seems like nobody?s home in heaven. Many believers can identify with David?s cry:

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?
O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer,
and by night, but I find no rest. (PS 22:1-2)

David felt forsaken. It seemed like God was deaf and distant. What do we do at these times?

David encouraged himself by reminding himself of God?s past faithfulness to Israel and to himself:

In you our fathers trusted;
they trusted, and you delivered them.
To you they cried and were rescued;
in you they trusted and were not put to shame (4-5).

Yet you are he who took me from the womb;
you made me trust you at my mother’s breasts.
On you was I cast from my birth,
and from my mother’s womb you have been my God (9-10).

The Bible records centuries of God?s steadfast love to his people. He gave Abraham a son, delivered Joseph from prison, Israel from Egypt, Daniel from lions and Paul from the Jews. God always comes through for his people.

And can you not recall many examples of God?s goodness to you?

Past grace guarantees future grace so David goes on to confidently say:

I will tell of your name to my brothers;
in the midst of the congregation I will praise you. (22)

David was sure he?d praise God for his goodness down the road, because God had been good to him in the past. He who didn’t spare his only Son but gave him up for us all will give us all the grace we need to glorify him. God hasn?t brought you this far only to abandon you. You will yet praise him in the future.

My Short List of Books to Master

Last week I wrote a post on creating a short list of gospel-centered books and then mastering the contents of those books. After some hard thinking, I’ve come up with my very short list of books to be mastered. Why am I sharing this list with you? Two reasons. First, I want to encourage you to buy and read at least one of these books. Your life will be changed. Second, I want to encourage you to come up with your own list. So without further ado:

The Gospel For Real Life – by Jerry Bridges

Herein lies the glory of the cross. Justice and mercy are reconciled; wrath and love are both given full expression – and all of this so that we might experience the unsearchable riches of Christ. What great humility this should produce in us: humility that we were the cause of our Savior’s unimaginable suffering, and gratitude that He so willingly and lovingly experienced God’s wrath that we might not suffer it ourselves.

Living the Cross Centered Life – by C.J. Mahaney

Reminding ourselves of the gospel is the most important daily habit we can establish. If the gospel is the most vital news in the world, and if salvation by grace is the defining truth of our existence, we should create ways to immerse ourselves in these truths every day. No days off allowed.

God is the Gospel – by John Piper

…if God is not treasured as the ultimate gift of the gospel, none of his gifts will be gospel, good news. And if God is treasured as the supremely valuable gift of the gospel, then all other lesser gifts will be enjoyed as well.

The Holiness of God – by R.C. Sproul

Death reminds us that we are creatures. Yet as fearsome as death is, it is nothing compared with meeting a holy God. When we encounter Him, the totality of our creatureliness breaks upon us and shatters the myth that we have believed about ourselves that we are demi-gods, junior-grade deities who will try to live forever.

The Power of the Cross of Christ - Charles Spurgeon

He bore the sinner’s sin, and He therefore had to be treated as though He were a sinner, though sinner He could never be. With His own full consent He suffered as though He had committed the transgressions that were laid on Him. Our sin, and His taking it upon Himself, is the answer to the question “Why hast thou forsaken me?”

I could add many more books to this list, but won’t for the sake of brevity. What books would you add to the list?

Now go out, buy one of these books, and master it.

Hearing The Voice of Jesus

Holy Bible

While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him. – Matthew 4:18-20

This is a bizarre scene. Peter and Andrew, working with their dad. Jesus stops by, tells them to follow. Pete and Drew throw their nets down and leave the family business behind, no questions asked. Crazy.

What was it that would make Peter and Andrew throw away their job and family at the call of complete stranger? Doesn’t it strike you as just a bit odd? How would you respond if a complete stranger told you to quit your job and become their disciple? My guess is that you would nervously chuckle as you reached for the pepper spray.

But let’s not forget who is speaking in these verses. With Jesus things are different. He speaks and things happen. When he spoke to Peter and Andrew they must have felt an irresistible, burning desire to follow Jesus. They were hearing the voice of Jesus, and in that voice was all the power of God himself. This was the same voice that spoke stillness into a raging storm. This was the voice that injected life into the dead body of Lazarus. This was the voice that created and sustains the universe. When Jesus speaks, things happen.

That same voice speaks today. It’s speaks through the red and black phrases that make up your Bible. Ponder the enormity of this truth for a minute. On your nightstand you have the very word of God. As you take in the words of scripture, you are truly hearing the voice of God. This voice creates faith in us. It sustains us in the midst of trials. It is our joy and life. It’s a glimpse into the heart and mind of God.

Hearing the voice of God might lead you to do something crazy, like go on a missions trip, or give away your tax refund, or spend hours of time with a needy person. But the reward will far outweigh the cost.

So will you make time to hear the voice of God? There are a million other voices crying out. Email, newspapers, television, video games. But only one voice matters. Only one voice creates and sustains spiritual life. Will you give yourself to hearing the voice of God today? Will you give yourself to hearing the voice of God this year?

+ photo by Emuishere Peliculas

John Piper’s Prayer Before Evangelism

At the Together for the Gospel Conference, John Piper shared this incredible insight about praying before evangelism. I want to pray like this so that I might share the gospel boldly. This was shared during a panel discussion between Piper, Mahaney, Mohler, and Duncan.

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Download all the audio from the conference here.

Billy Joel and the Glory of God

piano keys

Two Fridays ago, my friend Scott took me to see Billy Joel, one of my all-time favorite songwriters.

The Mellon Arena in Pittsburgh is packed with thousands of excited fans. The crowd begins cheering as the Arena lights dim. For a few minutes we sit in darkness as shadowy musicians move about on stage. Suddenly lights flood the stage and in the center Billy Joel is bent over his grand piano pounding out the unforgettable staccato intro to ?Angry Young Man.? ?I can?t believe I?m seeing this!? I shout to a smiling Scott.

Hold it ? don?t call the Christian music police on me. I know Billy?s not a Christian. And he?s got a few songs I don?t listen to. But I can praise God for him.? Why? Because he?s fulfilling Psalm 8:

Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You have given him dominion over the works of your hands (PS 8.5-6)

God has crowned human beings (even non-Christians) with glory and honor by giving them dominion over creation. This means that God has granted us the ability to take the earth’s raw materials and make things out of them – skyscrapers and grand pianos and iPods, yarn and yogurt, bridges and basketballs. When Billy Joel writes a song, he?s unknowingly taking dominion over the creation.

I once heard Wayne Grudem say that if Adam came back today and saw our automobiles and washing machines and televisions he?d be amazed at what we?ve done with the earth and he?d praise God for giving humans such abilities.

In Psalm 8, as the writer contemplates the heavens, he?s amazed that God would care about us clods of dirt, and even more amazed that he would crown us with the talents to do such incredible things with his world. As the Psalmist contemplates man?s creativity he?s not amazed at humans, but at God:

O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! (v9).

I can praise God for paintings by Monet and Van Gogh, though they were probably not Christians. I can worship him for Google and Gibson guitars and digital cameras and Teflon pans, and for the gifts he?s given Billy Joel. Because I?m not amazed at Billy. I?m amazed at God.

2009 – The Year of the Bible

A man named Ray Ortlund recently wrote the following:

I have met people who knew a lot about baseball, a lot about oldies rock and roll [oops], a lot about computers, a lot about a lot, but I have never met anyone who knew the Bible too well. Not one person. Ever. Especially not in these times.

The ESV Study Bible comes out this October. I see an opportunity here. Could we all give ourselves ESV Study Bibles for Christmas and then set 2009 apart as “Our Year of the Bible”? Could we all give less to other things so that we give more to the Bible? Could we bore down together and discover the wonders of this holy Book as never before? Could we acknowledge our spiritual hunger, and thoughtfully, carefully, attentively, daily feed our souls? Could we shut off the noise and listen? Could we re-set our focus from the voices inside our heads to the Voice in the Book? And if we did, is it even conceivable that we could then come to the end of 2009 and say, “Dang. I could have done more TV and more computer and more video games and more dumb stuff. What a loser year 2009 has been! Next year, man, it’s going to be different. No more of this Bible-focus for me. I’m going to LIVE again”? Is there any chance, any chance at all, that could happen? Or might Jesus become more real to us? Might the Holy Spirit be poured out? Might we look back on 2009 as our turn-around year?

October 2008. The ESV Study Bible. Think of the possibilities.

What a wonderful idea. 2009, the year of the Bible. Are you in?

(HT: JT)

How God Gave Me a Song

Sheet musicThe year is 1676. 100 years before the Declaration of Independence.

German composer Samuel Rodigast composes a hymn, “Whatever My God Ordains is Right,” to encourage a friend who is suffering. Almost 200 years later, in 1863, Catherine Winkworth translates the hymn into English.

Fast forward to 2007. My daughter Beth, who has suffered with migraines for 7 years finds herself 250 miles from home shooting photos at a friend’s wedding. The past couple years have been painful for Beth in many ways – a good friend lost her 2-year old daughter to cancer and another friend’s car accident left him in a coma.

Sunday morning she attends a local church and hears a message on – surprise – God?s sovereignty in suffering. In his message, the pastor quotes a hymn, ?Whatever My God Ordains is Right?. Beth brings the lyrics home to me, asking, “Dad, can you try put music to these words?” I write a melody and the song gets on a Sovereign Grace Music CD. Since then, a number of people have told me how much the lyrics have comforted them. Little did Samuel Rodigast suspect in 1676 that his lyrics would comfort my daughter Beth and others over 300 years later. God?s providence never ceases to amaze me.

I hope these lyrics comfort you.

Whatever My God Ordains is Right

Whatever my God ordains is right
In his love I am abiding
I will be still in all he does
And follow where he is guiding
He is my God; though dark my road
He holds me that I shall not fall
And so to him I leave it all.

Whatever my God ordains is right
He never will deceive me
He leads me by the proper path
I know he will not leave me
I take content, what he has sent
His hand can turn my griefs away
And patiently I wait his day.

Whatever my God ordains is right
Though now this cup in drinking
Bitter it seems to my faint heart
I take it all unshrinking
My God is true; each morn anew
Sweet comfort yet shall fill my heart
And pain and sorrow shall depart.

Whatever my God ordains is right
Here shall my stand be taken
Though sorrow, or need, or death be mine
Yet I am not forsaken
My Father’s care circles me there
He holds me that I shall not fall
And so to him I leave it all.

Original lyrics by Samuel Rodigast and translated by Catherine Winkworth -Trinity Hymnal #94. Alternate lyrics and music by Mark Altrogge 2.18.07. You can download this song from the CD “In a Little While” at Sovereign Grace Music.

My Book: Game Day For The Glory of God

Gameday Cover

Some of you may know that I recently wrote a book entitled Game Day for the Glory of God: A Guide for Athletes, Fans, and Wannabes. In his incredible mercy, God has opened many doors for this book to be published through Crossway Books. The book will be out in September of this year. Here’s a little blurb that will accompany the book in Crossway catalogs:

Biblical guidance on playing, watching, and discussing sports in a God-glorifying manner, helping believers grow in both their love for God and their passion for holiness.

Scripture calls Christians to do everything for the glory of God. That means every thought, every word, and every deed are to be done in a way that brings pleasure and honor to him. Believe it or not, this includes playing, watching, and talking sports! But most of us fail to recognize how sports fit into the big picture of a God-glorifying life, unable to imagine that the God who created the universe might actually care about Little League games and Monday Night Football.

So how do we play, watch, and talk sports for God?s glory? Game Day for the Glory of God seeks to answer that question from a biblical perspective. Sports fan Stephen Altrogge aims to help readers enjoy sports as a gift from God and to see sports as a means of growing in godliness.

What a blessing to work with these folks!