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What’s so Amazing About (Common) Grace?

Evangelicals typically see God’s common grace (His goodness toward non-Christians) as a stream running eternally parallel to the stream of special grace (His goodness presented in the gospel).

But this is impossible.

The presentation of the gospel requires God’s universal common gift of language, syntax and conscience, for example. B.B. Warfield writes: “Without general revelation, special revelation would lack that basis in the fundamental knowledge of God as the mighty and wise, righteous and good, maker and ruler of all things, apart from which the further revelation of this great God’s interventions in the world for the salvation of sinners could not be either intelligible, credible or operative.”

So, common grace is not a parallel stream, running its course to the waterfall of judgment. It is potentially that, yes. But if we channel the stream of common grace into the ocean of special grace, we cooperate with God: we use the momentum of His common goodness to forge a path to His ultimate goodness: grace.

Which is why:

David celebrates God’s common grace in Creation alongside Israel’s redemptive history.

Jesus channels the common grace of shepherding, monarchies and money-systems to the ocean of God’s kingdom.

Paul forges a path between Gentile poets and Gospel wisdom.

Why does God love contextualization? The answer, in part, is this: we are exemplary worshipers when we honor the path God’s walked before us: His common goodness toward sinners like us. 


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Breakfast Blend 10.21.14

Coleridge’s Four Types of Readers – Austin Kleon with a helpful little excerpt.

14 Ways to Overcome Writer’s Block – “It happens to every writer. It’s inevitable. Your prose has turned to mush, you don’t have a creative bone left in your body, and you want to throw in the towel.”

Staying Focused on a Project – “Every business has projects from time to time that demand our total focus and attention. The good news is that there are certain tactics we can use to keep our edge even when we’re under the gun.”

Quotes from “How Shall They Preach” – My good friend Alex Kato put together this Evernote collection from one of his favorite books on preaching.

Rhythm, Rhyme and Jesus – Dan Dewitt on his journey away from, and back to, hip-hop as a means of grace.



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Breakfast Blend 10.20.14


7 Ways to Attract Readers to Your Blog – COPYBLOGGER: “…when you think about large numbers of readers, you turn people into a faceless crowd. And when you write for a faceless crowd, your writing becomes colorless, drab, and boring.”

12 Treasures of Europe – NY TIMES: “For the Travel section’s Oct. 19 issue on Europe, writers and editors selected special items to profile from a dozen cities. Below, explore everything from chocolate in Brussels to silk in Florence to design in Copenhagen.”

Interview with John Steinbeck – THE PARIS REVIEW: “A man who writes a story is forced to put into it the best of his knowledge and the best of his feeling. The discipline of the written word punishes both stupidity and dishonesty. A writer lives in awe of words for they can be cruel or kind, and they can change their meanings right in front of you. They pick up flavors and odors like butter in a refrigerator. Of course, there are dishonest writers who go on for a little while, but not for long—not for long.”

34 Things I Wish I Knew Before my Starting my PhD – BETWEEN A ROCK AND A HARD PLACE: “These are geared toward PhD students, but are applicable to anyone, especially students: So I’ll cut right to the point: below is a list of handy tips, tricks, general advice and things I wish I knew when I started my PhD. The list was put together from chats with other PhD friends of mine, but is by no means exhaustive (nor is it in any particular order, though it did get quite long…).”

Google It… – SETH GODIN: “The job is no longer to recite facts, to read the bio out loud, to explain something better found or watched online. No, the job is to personally and passionately make us care enough to look up the facts for ourselves.”

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Will More People Be Saved if the Gospel is Contextualized?

From God’s perspective: No.

The question is, really: “Does God normally use a contextualized gospel to save people?” On one level there is an ecumenical head-nod to that question: common sense tells us God would normally not save people if the gospel were preached in Old Latin. He normally would save English-speaking people through an English-speaking preacher.

So at least at one level, we can say, “Yes – God normally will save more people through our ministry when we contextualize the message.” And – “Less (or no) peoplewill be saved through our ministry if we don’t contextualize the message (at least into the native tongue).”

This does not, of course, deny that the Holy Spirit COULD use a non-contextualized message: he could save someone if I presented the gospel in Klingon to African children. And it does not denythat He will save everyone He chooses.

It’s simply affirming that there is a way in which God delights to save people: He delights to save people through contextualization. Thus, a Bible that requires translation.

Why does He?

That’s a question for tomorrow.

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Breakfast Blend 10.17.14

25 Oscar Wilde Quotes to Celebrate 160th Anniversary – MENTAL FLOSS: These are sacreligious, but hilarious and incredibly clever.

Why Neil Postman Wants to Ban Political Commercials - KEVIN HALLORAN: “Television is drastically changing our epistemology–that is to say that TV changes the way we formulate what we believe–at least according to Neil Postman, the author of the 1985 book Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business.”

C.S. Lewis on Why You Should Read Fiction – BETWEEN TWO WORLDS: “The nearest I have yet got to an answer is that we seek an enlargement of our being. We want to be more than ourselves.”

20 Ways to Be Refreshing in the Local Church - DEYOUNG: “It has been my pleasure to serve in the local church with some individuals that are truly “refreshing” to the saints. When you meet them, you know it!”

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If I Were the White Witch…

There’s one way Narnia could be: winter without Christmas. But if I were the White Witch, I would try the opposite: Christmas without winter.

It would sell, after all.

And it would do as much damage: The demand for wrapping paper would tank the environment. Stores would go out of business, from all-year Christmas specials. Spoiled children would cannibalize on their parents’ daily gift-giving.

And in a way, that’s what the White Witch gave us. America is not a winter without Christmas – it’s a Christmas without winter. The extraordinary is accessible. The wonder is purchasable. There are no corners to turn, only highways. “Have it Your Way” has exploded into an expectation we’ve garnered from life in general: if we don’t, something is wrong.

And we fell for it. We do every day. Who wouldn’t want more Christmas? More is ALWAYS better.

But when Christmas is everywhere, there is no Christmas.


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Breakfast Blend 10.16.14

Fears of the Writer – BRIAN C.E. BUHL:  “I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.” — Frank Herbert, Dune. “That’s easier said than done.  Let’s crack open some of these little-deaths, and see what’s squirming inside.”

Top Ten Places Books Make me Want to Visit – STARDANCE PRESS: E.L. Bates composes a fun list – “Oh man, how to narrow this down to ten?”

How to Deal with Literary Rejection – BOOK BABY: Speaking of Frank Herbert: “Herbert is just one name on a long list of writers who found success after being repeatedly rejected. Nearly twenty publishers told Frank Herbert “no thanks” after he’d submitted the manuscript for Dune.”

Mark Driscoll Resigns from Mars Hill - RELIGION NEWS: “By God’s grace I have pastored Mars Hill Church for 18 years. Today, also by God’s grace, and with the full support of my wife Grace, I resign my position as a pastor and elder of Mars Hill. I do so with profound sadness, but also with complete peace.”

5 Common Characteristics of Ideas that Spread - 99U: “Your success as a creative depends not only on coming up with great ideas and making them happen, but also with getting those ideas adopted by your target audience. Whether it’s the buying public, an art dealer, or just your direct supervisor, getting your work off of your hard drive and into the world is perhaps the most important (and scariest) part of creative work.”

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Where Were the Old Testament Gentiles?

The Gentiles were not a new idea in the New Testament.

God promises Abraham: “And in your seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed” (Gen. 22:18) The Psalmist cries, over and over again, “I will praise you, Lord, among the nations” (57:9). King Solomon prays: “that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God; there is no other.” (1 Kings 8:60)

We are those nations. This is the clarion call of Old Testament worship.

The mystery is not whether Gentiles would be/could be included.

The mystery is – “When?”

David – and so Israel – was playing a world-geared song. But the auditorium was empty.

Jesus didn’t start a new show.

He brought in the crowds.


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Breakfast Blend 10.15.14

Four Reasons Some Pastors Improve Their Preaching - THE GOSPEL COALITION: “I’ve seen guys who were no better the fifth time they preached for me than they were the first time, but I’ve seen guys whose initial sermon was depressingly awful turn it around so radically by the end of the semester that I almost couldn’t recognize them as the same preacher.”

How to Become a Morning Person – MICHAEL HYATT: “First of all, yes, it is possible. This is not like trying to become a professional basketball player if you are only 5’6″ tall. This is more like trying to change a belief system and a set of habits. You can do it if you are intentional.”

Advice to Young Pastors from Dockery, Keller and Powlison – THE GOSPEL COALITION: These three pieces of advice are strikingly similar…

Encouragement for Writers Who Are Tempted to Quit - JODY HEDLUND: “I had the recent privilege of doing some paid critiques at a writer’s conference. Ahead of the conference, writers sent me twenty pages of their manuscripts which I then read and carefully critiqued. As I met with each writer one-on-one at the conference, many of them voiced their concerns, saying things like, “I just don’t know if I should keep going” or “Should I really be spending so much time on my writing?

The One Key Component to Great Writing - THE BLAZING CENTER: “Has there ever been a great writer who wasn’t a great reader? That’s like asking if there has ever been a great baseball player who has never watched baseball. It’s almost a nonsense question.”

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Is Concision King?

Tolkien once said the only flaw of the Lord of the Rings was, “It was too short.” Which raises the question: “Is concision always king?”

Or, “Should War and Peace be abridged?” And, “Why not?”

Concision is a good friend, and a terrible master.

Be too concise, and you lose clarity (or, the evil-twin of concision is “density”).

Be too concise, and you lose depth.

Be too concise, and you lose the epicness of your story.

The answer is “No.” War and Peace should not be abridged. The cliffnotes of Shakespeare are not Shakespeare. It is not the same to watch the Lord of the Rings trilogy as to read it – because the adventure is smaller. And so the grand twist, the “eucatastrophe”, is also smaller.

Why are so many of our favorite novels as thick as a brick? Because “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” The more time invested, the more benefit received.

Great things require time. Be concise – but only as concise as possible.

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