Why God Makes Understanding Difficult

Tyler Kenney

Jonathan Edwards, from Miscellanies #139:

I am convinced that there are many things in religion and the Scriptures that are made difficult on purpose to try men, and to exercise their faith and scrutiny, and to hinder the proud and self-sufficient.

John Piper addresses this same issue, speaking particularly about difficulties we encounter in Scripture, in his sermon, "Why God Inspired Hard Texts." He says God has…

Continue Reading

Drudgery Vs. Christianity

Mark Priestap

Recently I expressed some frustration to my pastor about how I am not "applying the gospel to my children." So this past Sunday he lovingly took me aside to make sure I wasn’t legalistically trying to "apply the gospel" in a slavish, duty-bound way.

It's easy to allow slavish obedience to muddy the gospel, isn't it? We discover something beautiful about Christ and the gospel, but then after some time,…

Continue Reading

Prayer Answered by Crosses

Jon Bloom

One of our dear small group members recently sent all of us this hymn by John Newton. It was refreshing to my soul. Thank you, God, for John Newton—and for my friend!

If you’ve been praying for greater faith and love and freedom from selfishness and more of God, you probably need to read this and take heart. Our Father “disciplines us for our good that we may share his…

Continue Reading

Dismembering an Idol

Jon Bloom

In Luke 19, Zacchaeus the tax collector was converted. He vowed to give back fourfold to anyone he had defrauded. Imagine a conversation he might have had when returning the money. 

*          *          *

"Dad, there's a man at the door. He said his name is Zacchaeus."

"Zacchaeus!" Judah's face flushed with sudden anger. "What does he want?" Under his breath he muttered, "The little vermin." His young daughter didn't need to…

Continue Reading

Changing a Church Culture

David Mathis

In the sixth and final session of the Trellis and Vine workshop, Col Marshall presented 13 ideas for changing a complicated and programmatic church culture into a culture of disciple-making:

  1. Set the agenda on Sunday. The public ministry of the gospel and the Scriptures is essential.
  2. Teach “the ministry of the pew”—that everyone can minister to everyone, and they can come to the weekly gatherings on the lookout for…
Continue Reading

Building Ministries Around People

Jonathan Parnell

Women in the Work of Vine-Growing

The fifth session of this 2-day Trellis and Vine workshop began with an excursus as Tony briefly commented on the ministry of women in this vine-growing work. Tony and Col both hold to a complementarian view of gender roles. Although this is different from the Anglicanism in which they are a part, Tony admits that the Scriptures drive them to the complementarian position.

In…

Continue Reading

Spiritual Parenting

David Mathis

After yesterday’s afternoon of small-group evaluation and discussion, we started Day 2 with another teaching session.

Col Marshall led us through 1 Thessalonians 1:1–2:16 and pointed to how Paul himself was a trainer of ministers—a discipler of disciplemakers. Three key points Col highlighted from the text came under the headings 1) word, 2) prayer, and 3) parenting.

First, Paul’s ministry was word-centered—shaped and powered by the gospel and the…

Continue Reading

Small Groups: Positively Dangerous?

Jonathan Parnell

For session three yesterday of the Trellis and Vine workshop (the second half of which is today), the pastors split into three groups to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of their current ministry.  I sat in on one group and listened to the discussion. As one pastor would stand, introduce himself, and report from the frontlines, all of the pastors responded with resonating nods. Although these pastors are speaking as…

Continue Reading

The Costume Kingdom

Paul Tripp

It was always one the most dramatic moments in the well-known secret agent drama. Although viewers didn’t know it, one of the Mission Impossible agents had donned a latex mask that was meant to make him look familiar and safe to the enemy. The mask was so pliable and real-looking that it took on the appearance of actual human skin. At some crucial moment, the government agent would reach up…

Continue Reading

Key Questions for Growing the Vine

Jonathan Parnell

Col began the second session of today’s workshop with a story of a young cricket player who embraced the gospel after two years of intentional ministry of the Word. In summary, Col said that the careful, personal proclamation of the gospel, alongside the public, is being used by God to call people to himself.

Why Do We Do Small Groups?

The session then moved into the subject of small group…

Continue Reading