Archive for March 15, 2014

Mar 15

Clarus ’14 Photo Roundup, Saturday, March 15

2014 | by Ben Moore | Category: Clarus 14

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Conference Photography by Benjamin Moore Photography. Contact Ben at

Mar 15

Session 7 Recap: Anyabwile, “Contentment Through Communion With Christ”

2014 | by Clint | Category: Clarus 14

Editor’s Note: Clint M. is the Missions Pastor at Desert Springs Church in Albuquerque, NM. This post is a summary of Thabiti Anyabwile’s message from Saturday evening at Clarus, March 15, “Contentment Through Communion With Christ,” from 1 John 2:28-3:3.


This evening Pastor Thabiti Anyabwile gave a short devotion from 1 John 2:28-3:3.  He shared from the text three reflections on the contentment we find from our communion with God in Christ.

1) The Basis of Our Communion With God: Our Status as Adopted Children.

First, from 1 John 2:28, we learn that our communion is based on our adoption as children of God.  It would be remarkable enough that God call us his children, but that is what we actually are. As human fathers ought to love and adore their children, God loves and adores us as His.  Our being in God’s family, though a miracle, is no fairy tale; it is not make believe.  It is the reality of our new identity because of rebirth by God’s grace and Spirit.  And therefore, we do not come to God as a servant, but as his children.  Because of our new identity as a child of God, we ought to live this identity, or “abide in him,” staying close to him, trusting Him, relying upon Him, and knowing Him, and all of this in and through Christ.

2) The Result of Abiding in Him: Confidence

Second, John says that we abide in him “so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame” (1John 2:28b).  We abide in Christ through understanding our identity and obeying him as a child of God.  If we do not, we cannot approach God in confidence.  Like a child who has disobeyed their parent, we have shame and fear when we do not abide in Christ.  But when we abide in Him, we have confidence because of His work and promise.  And where fear once was, hope and joy replace it, so that we confidently await the return of Christ.

3) The Fruit of Communion With God: Right Living

Finally, 1 John 2:29 tells us that if God is our father, we ought to have a spiritual family resemblance.  Proof of our rebirth is our increasingly rightous living in obedience to God’s Word.  Though always imperfect, our righteousness is a kind of rebirth certificate in Christ, a faternity test, an affirmation of our new identity.  And in 3:1, John helps us understand that this is not the love of food, or stuff, or animals that we may know, but rather a deep familial love that is to be discovered and marveled at only by the children of God.  This love is none other than the love given to those who deserve wrath instead.  A love that meant the agonizing, fellowship-breaking, wrath-absorbing, body-breaking crucifixion of Christ on our behalf.  And the love that couldn’t leave Him there, but instead raised Him from the dead, defeating death for us, and raising us in Him forever.  This is the kind of love we want and the kind of communion we want.  And this is the kind of love that leads to true contentment in any and all circumstances. We are called to know this love, to enjoy this love, and to be changed by it.

We come to know this love by the means of grace of taking in God’s Word both individually and corporately as a church.  And we are reminded of it regularly through the observing of the Lord’s Supper together.

Mar 15

Session 6 Recap: Panel Discussion with Thabiti Anyabwile and Rick Phillips

2014 | by Nathan Sherman | Category: Clarus 14

Editor’s Note: Nathan Sherman is Minister to Youth and Families at Desert Springs Church in Albuquerque, NM. This post is a summary of the Panel Discussion with Thabiti Anyabwile and Rick Phillips on Saturday afternoon at Clarus, March 15.


Question: What’s the difference between a trial and God’s discipline?

Rick Phillips: If God is chastising you, you know why. His discipline comes for unrepentant sin that is clearly on your radar. But more commonly our trials are not that way. They come to strengthen our faith – refining us; and to give us opportunity to glorify him.

Question: What do you say to someone who wants to know why God is giving a trial?

Thabiti Anyabwile: There is a subtle conceit in the assumption that even if God would tell us, we could understand. We are creatures and not the creator, and there is something in that assumption that forgets our creatureliness. Without any effort, God is upholding the universe by the Word of his power, while we can’t do five things at the same time. He is God, and we are not.

Question: How does one reconcile contentment with godly ambition?

Thabiti Anyabwile: Whatever you do, do it unto the Lord. Our every act is coram deo and sola deo gloria and should imply a holy ambition as well as a holy discontentment. We’re not happy with our selfishness and ego, and yet Christ is all. Contentment at bottom is not complacency or laziness – it is a repose or satisfaction in God which awakens desire and energy to worship. And in worship, we bring our best ambition in work. In worship, we don’t want to bring bad work or rotten fruit.

Rick Phillips: It matters if our work is for our righteousness or brought as a thank offering.

Question: Is there a time to be discontent in things that can be changed, e.g., being a member of a church with poor leadership?

Rick Phillips: If you are a father in a church where the Word is not soundly taught to your family, why are you in that church? You should be willing to ask questions of your leadership in humility, but generally speaking you will not change your pastors, and it may be right for you to leave.

Thabiti Anyabwile: We need to draw a distinction between complacency and contentment. In my opinion there are many Christians remaining in churches under leaders who have committed disqualifying sin. It’s also important to distinguish between different kinds of failings – it’s not imperative that your pastor be perfect but that he is growing.

Question: Does Acts 2 and 4 imply communal living or required sharing?

Thabiti Anyabwile: There is as much biblical basis for communal living as for capitalist living. Acts 2 and 4 are not teaching capitalism, socialism or any other ‘ism’ other than the familial relationships of the local church. We can run the risk of guarding the value of capitalism to the neglect of the greater value of love.

Rick Phillips: The problem for Christians to say “Why should I care about others’ needs?” is that we really are our brothers’ keepers. I don’t mind being taxed; I mind when my taxes are being used to hurt people, but the principle of my money going others I am for.

Question: How do we decide which needs to meet with our money?

Rick Phillips: If you give money to a beggar, you may be harming him. This is where para-church ministries can be very helpful. If you are going to care for the poor in our cities, you must really work at it – you can’t dabble in that. The mission of the Church itself is the proclamation of the gospel for the salvation of their souls; however, individual Christians must be working for our neighbors.

Thabiti Anyabwile: Proximity matters. The responsibility I have for my neighbor down the road is greater than the responsibility I have for the man in Zambia. But we need to be leaning toward mercy and generosity rather than reeling from it. We are too often looking for excuses to not give so that we may not be defrauded. It is better to risk being defrauded than being unmerciful.

Question: Is there a tension between, on the one hand, allowing difference of conviction in the amount of  giving and personal possessions; and, on the other hand, the need to talk to and challenge each other about our giving and possessions?

Rick Phillips: Our churches are not giving enough because we are satisfied with a nice church with nice programs. If we can meet our budget without special need of prayer, we are not aspiring to enough. The purpose of this Age is the spread of the gospel to every nation, and the more connected we are to the global Church, the more we will be encouraged to give.

Thabiti Anyabwile: In a smaller setting, we try to press home that our convictions should be biblical and these should circumscribe our freedom. We must fundamentally recognize that we are stewards, and that nothing that we own is ours. The questions we ask of stewards are much different than the questions we ask of owners. “God asks us to give, not to get money out of our pockets, but to get idols out of our hearts.”

Mar 15

Session 5 Recap: Phillips, “Contentment With Our Weaknesses”

2014 | by Tim Ragsdale | Category: Clarus 14,Gospel

Editor’s Note: Tim Ragsdale is an Elder at Desert Springs Church in Albuquerque, NM. This post is a summary of Rick Phillips’ message from Saturday afternoon at Clarus, March 15, “Contentment With Our Weaknesses,” from 2 Corinthians 12:1-10.


Pastor Phillips began by reading 2 Cor. 12:1-10 and by describing how Paul was defending himself against the so-called “super apostles,” not by boasting in his strengths and accomplishments, but by boasting in his weaknesses.

Pastor Phillips gave five points relating contentment and our weaknesses:

1) Christians will have wonderful experiences, but with those they will have suffering and weakness that need to be handled with prayer.

This is the Christian life.  Paul’s thorn in the flesh is a subject of a lot of speculation and is never explained physically, but we can know that it was painful and annoying.  As Christians in this fallen world we can expect our own thorns.  Paul (with his thorn), like the Lord Jesus (Gethsemane) responded to suffering, not with self-pity, but with prayer.

Christians will suffer trials, tribulations, temptations, persecutions, discouragements, and weakness.  “For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake” (Philippians 1:29).

2) Contentment is aided by an understanding of God and His purposes.

When Christians can embrace God’s goodness and purpose in suffering, they can know that they are not alone in it. God is using it for good, and in this sense God is protecting them.  Paul recognized the necessity of his suffering, and therefore took comfort in it and embraced it:

Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:8-11)

3) Contentment is encouraged by God’s sufficient grace. 

While earthly possessions are not distributed evenly, all believers share equally in the spiritual gifts in the heavenly places – forgiveness, adoption, seal of the Holy Spirit, and position as heir with Christ (Eph. 1). Pastor Phillips then described Joni Eareckson Tada’s story of growing to realize that her life as a minister of the Gospel from a wheelchair was not God’s “Plan B” for her life but was “Plan A” all along.

4) Contentment is experienced as God’s power is made perfect in our weakness.

It is in our weakness that God’s power is evident.  Two examples:

Major League Baseball pitcher Dave Dravecky’s tragic shoulder injuries and subsequent amputation tempted him to bitterness, but he learned that God was using and being glorified in him all along.

The missionary William Carey was rejected by his missions agency, weak in every respect by worldly standards and yet proved faithful and fruitful.  His understanding of God’s power inspired him say and live, “Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God.”

5)  Contentment is manifested as we rejoice in our weakness.

We need only to look to the Cross to see the thorn we deserve. Christ rejoiced in his appointed suffering:

Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. (Heb. 12:2-3)

Mar 15

Session 4 Recap: Anyabwile, “Contentment with Our Possessions”

2014 | by Ryan Ellsworth | Category: Clarus 14

Editor’s Note: Ryan Ellsworth is the Teaching Pastor at City of Faith Christian Fellowship in Santa Fe, NM. He is a member of the Albuquerque Chapter of The Gospel Coalition. This post is a summary of Thabiti Anyabwile’s message from Saturday morning at Clarus, March 15, “Contentment with Our Possessions,” from 1 Timothy 6:3-10.


In this session Pastor Thabiti Anyabwile used various Scriptures to show us that the gospel turns us from the creation to the creator.  The sermon dealt with four questions:

1) What Is the Connection Between Contentment and Personal Possessions?

“Either our possession will keep us from contentment or our contentment will change our view and use of personal possessions”.  In Matthew 19, we saw in the account of the rich young ruler that the suggestion of losing his possessions proved that he was inwardly discontent, which gets to the heart of the issue – discontentment is heart idolatry.  This man was rich and had everything, and yet he wanted more. His possessions were keeping him from contentment in God.

2) How Does the Gospel Produce Christian Contentment? 

The gospel frees us from being possessed by the world so that we may now possess the world and use it in the worship of our Lord.  Praise God that in the glorious gospel of His Son every chain is broken.  The gospel does this first by destroying old idols and turning us to God.  Having turned us to God as our source and joy, we are now able to enjoy His creation properly.  And this proper enjoyment of God’s creation will actually contribute to our assurance and contentment in God himself.

3) What Does Contentment Look Like?

Acts 2 and 4 show us that true contentment actually manifests into radical generosity.  Our hearts learn that it is more blessed to give than to receive, and for those in our churches to have their needs relieved.  This is because “in God’s economy, the more you give, the better off you are.  Our motive is not to possess things, but to possess God.”  A good warning was given against the prosperity teaching that corrupts the gospel.

4) How Can We Use Our Possessions To Cultivate Contentment? 

Simply stated, we clean our hearts of idols, we clean our houses of injustice, and we clean our churches of needs.  Contentment comes from the inside-out as God works in our heart.  As Jeremiah Burroughs said, “The art of contentment is not to seek to add to our circumstances, but to subtract from our desires.”