491 years ago today, Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the church door in Wittenberg.
He wanted to debate the sale of indulgences with his fellow university professors. So he wrote in Latin.
But a nameless visionary translated the theses into German, carried them to the printing press, and enabled their dispersion far and wide. Luther ended up with more than he bargained for, but he proved to be no coward in defending the discoveries he was making in Scripture.
The truth of Luther’s first thesis would reverberate throughout his lifetime, even finding expression in his last words.
His first thesis reads,
When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said “Repent,” he in…
This short note is mainly for those with connections to Bethlehem Baptist Church. Our weekly newsletter, the Bethlehem Star, is now offered in a very attractive electronic version. I love this new edition.
I am writing to encourage everyone who gets the Star or wants the Star to subscribe to this electronic version. It’s simple. Click here, and enter your email address twice. That’s all there is to it. You can unsubscribe just as simply at any time.
Thank you for considering this.
I invite you to be a part of the Wednesday Connection on November 5 at 6:15 PM at Bethlehem. (It will be live at the North Site, simulcast downtown, and replayed the following week at the South Site.) We will interrupt for one week the flow of the Fall sessions on “Growing a Heart For the Nations.”
The TBI Board of Directors has asked me to give a public lecture on the biblical foundations for Bethlehem College and Seminary. The message is titled:
“The Earth Is the Lord’s”
The Supremacy of Christ in Christian Learning—
Biblical Foundations for Bethlehem College and Seminary
The implication of the words college and seminary is that we are moving toward offer…
“Guard your heart” is a good command. That’s because it’s biblical:
Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life. (Proverbs 4:23)
In its context, this verse suggests that keeping—or guarding—your heart means to retain wise words and resist wicked desires. But I’m afraid some people—ahem, me, too often—use it to justify being cowardly or cold instead of loving others, because we think that “guard your heart” means “don’t get hurt.”
C. S. Lewis provides the necessary rebuke:
Of all arguments against love none makes so strong an appeal to my nature as “Careful! This might lead you to suffering.”
To my nature, my temperament, yes. Not to my conscience. When I res…
Prophetic love often feels painful. It hurts when prophets tell us we have sinned. If prophets let that short term fall in popularity govern their words they are false prophets. And they do not love people, they love themselves. Here is what prophetic love would have looked like in Jerusalem before it was too late.
Your prophets have seen for you false and deceptive visions; they have not exposed your iniquity to restore your fortunes (Lamentations 2:14).
Love longs for the restoration of the fortunes of a sinful people. But not by comforting them in their sins. There is a way toward restoration. It would have looked like this:
They have exposed your iniq…
I believe the Lord brought this word to mind in one of our prayer meetings on Friday:
The worst of all times is the best of all times for missions.
We were praying over Lamentations 3. Those were the worst of times for Israel. But in that moment they were given the best of promises,
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. (3:22-23)
Today marks the close of Missions Focus at Bethlehem. So we were praying for missions. That is when this word came: The worst of all times is the best of all times for missions.
Such words do not have intrinsic authority the way Script…
When I got my copy of Spectacular Sins and Their Global Purpose in the Glory of Christ a few weeks ago, I took it to my prayer bench, knelt down, and prayed the closing prayer printed on pages 108-110.
I thought you might be willing to join me in praying this.
A Closing Prayer
Gracious and glorious Father,
because you are rich in mercy,
and great in love,
and sovereign in grace,
we ask that you would make this little book
a window onto the panorama of your glory,
and a skylight to your supremacy in all things.
By the truth-loving power of your Holy Spirit
grant that the glass pane would be clean—
that what is faithful to your word would be confirmed,
and what is not…
Voting is like marrying and crying and laughing and buying. We should do it, but only as if we were not doing it. That’s because “the present form of this world is passing away” and, in God’s eyes, “the time has grown very short.” Here’s the way Paul puts it:
The appointed time has grown very short. From now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none, and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no goods, and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away. (1 Corinthia…
A word to preachers. Truth and falsehood is a good pair of categories to use when deciding what to preach. Speak truth not falsehood.
But there is another crucial pair of categories. God tells Jeremiah that he must use this pair if he would be faithful:
Therefore thus says the Lord: “...If you utter what is precious, and not what is worthless, you shall be as my mouth. (Jeremiah 15:19)
In deciding what to preach make these two judgments: Is it true and is it precious? Preach what is both. If it is true, preach it with authority. If it is precious, preach it with passion.
One great reason why some preaching leaves people unmoved is that preachers seem unmoved.…
Witnessing about light is a strange task if your aim is for people to see the light and believe in the light. Light illumines by itself. When you want someone to see a light, you don’t witness about the light, but you hold up the light. If you have a torch in your hand, and you want someone to see the torch, you don’t say, “This is a torch.” You hold up the torch.
But John 1:7 says that John the Baptist “came as a witness, to bear witness about the light.” So as strange as this task is, that was John’s mission. And it is ours too.
So what do we learn about our task when it is described as witnessing to the light?...
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