Monday, April 30, 2012

Beware of Blessings

James 1:17 says, "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change."  One implication of this (that every gift is from our heavenly Father) is that we ought to give Him thanks for the countless blessings we experience in a given day.

This implication is made explicit in 1 Timothy 4:4-5, "For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer."

Yes, receive the blessings of God (spouse, children, clean water, blooming flowers, chocolate brownies...) with grateful hearts. 

But beware of blessings too.  Specifically, beware of measuring God's goodness and love by those earthly gifts He sends down from above.  The way of thinking goes something like this: You've got a strong marriage? Isn't God good!  You've gotten a promotion at work? Isn't God good!  You're pregnant?  Isn't God good!

And that's all true; it's right.  Indeed, they are expressions of God's goodness.  But in the midst of celebrating these blessings, we must train our eyes to see God's goodness beyond the temporal blessings that He showers on us so liberally, and here's why:

When you say to yourself over and over, "Train your eye on these earthly blessings, and gauge God's goodness by what you see," you'll be  ignoring the fact that life will not always be the accumulation of good things.  And then, when hardship comes, you will look out and have no evidence of God's goodness.  

So praise God today for your blessings.  But beware that you don't use them as the sole barometer of God's goodness.  Training your eye on earthly blessings alone will never produce in a man this sort of heart:

    Though the fig tree should not blossom,
        nor fruit be on the vines,
    the produce of the olive fail
        and the fields yield no food,
    the flock be cut off from the fold
        and there be no herd in the stalls,
    yet I will rejoice in the LORD;
        I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
(Habakkuk 3:17-18 ESV)

Friday, April 27, 2012

GCM Collective

Yesterday I went to a gathering in Philadelphia for something called a GCM (Gospel, Community, Mission) collective.  It's basically a cluster of pastors and church leaders from a particular region that have some similar convictions on how gospel, community and mission shape the life of the Church.  The goals are mutual encouragement, equipping, and multiplication. 

Since I don't have many relationships with other like-minded pastors in the area, I thought it was worth exploring, and I was encouraged by our time together.  Our plan is to meet on a bi-monthly basis. 

You can read more about GCM here; below are some distinctives that unite those involved with GCM:

GCM Collective Distinctives


The gospel is central to everything
 The gospel is not simply the means by which we are converted–it is the good news of redemption through Jesus Christ that reconciles us to God and adopts us into his family. It transforms our hearts, shapes our ethics, pastors our souls and changes our behavior. It creates the Christian community and defines its purpose. The gospel is the word we speak to bring unbelievers to faith and to bring believers to maturity. The Christian community is created by the gospel for the gospel. 

Community is the primary apologetic of the gospel
Because the Christian community is created by the gospel it is the place where the gospel can be seen and understood. The reign of God is a reign of life, justice, peace, blessing and freedom. But the good news that God is king is not heard as good news by a world that has chosen self-rule. The people of God therefore are to so live under the reign of God that the world sees that God is good and his reign is good news. We explain and commend the gospel through our lives and especially through our life together in Christian community.

Community is missional and mission is communal
The Christian community is created by the gospel for the gospel. So its defining purpose is to glorify Christ by proclaiming and demonstrating the gospel to a needy world. Christian community cannot be introspective. It is always seeking to bless its neighborhood and proclaim Christ to a lost world. Because the Christian community is an apologetic of the gospel, mission should normally not be a lone activity. Wherever possible we want to do mission together and introduce unbelievers to the Christian community.

We share our lives as extended family
The church is the community created by the gospel, so Christians are not individuals who gather for meetings, but members of God’s family. Our identity is communal. We make decisions with regard to the implications for the church, and we make significant decisions in consultation with the church. We should share our lives together as a family. We spend time with one another, care for one another, exhort one another with the gospel, pray with one another and take the initiative to resolve conflict, all the time inviting unbelievers to participate in this common life. In a broken world we offer a place of belonging. Church life is family life.

All believers exercise gospel ministry
Mission should be communal. Gospel ministry is not the preserve of a professional elite or people in full-time ministry. It belongs to all God’s people. We are all given the privilege and responsibility of mission. We are all missionaries. We are not all called to be the same–our different gifts and personalities compliment one another as we share together in the exciting privilege of mission. We need one another. The role of leaders is not to do gospel ministry on behalf of others, but to prepare God’s people for gospel ministry.

Discipleship, shepherding and leadership development happens in community on mission
The Christian community is the primary, God-given context for pastoral care and leadership development. In the Christian community the gospel not only informs the head, but also transforms the heart. The gospel is not only learned, but also lived. We learn about gospel ministry by doing gospel ministry. The idols of our hearts are revealed not in a therapist’s office, nor in a classroom, but in the context of shared lives. And in the context of a shared life we daily apply the gospel to one another’s hearts and lives. 

The goal of teaching and preaching is gospel transformation that equips for ministry
Good Bible teaching and preaching should capture and recapture our affections for Christ. Our goal is not simply to have good Bible teaching, but for the Bible to shape people’s hearts and lives. We want to be doers of the word as well as hearers of the word. The frontline of gospel ministry is not a sermon when the church gathers; it is the lives and words of the people of God throughout the week. Bible teaching, when the church gathers together matters, but it matters because it prepares God’s people for frontline gospel ministry throughout the week. This is to be the goal and measure of our teaching and preaching.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Not So Long Ago

A great post from Ray Ortlund; he posted this video, with the following statement:

So, what ideas that we value today will look this dumb in another fifty years?  The only escape from the prison of our cultural moment is the eternal truth of God.

The Gospel Assumed, or Explicit?

The title of Chandler's book originated in a blog post by Josh Patterson, one of the pastors at the Village Church.  It's worth reading it's entirety:

Is the gospel assumed in your relationships? Or, is the gospel explicit? I have been thinking about this distinction for a few days now. Those who live life under the banner of an assumed gospel simply navigate the waters of life with an underlying foundation that is personal and meaningful. An assumed gospel often means that a person deeply values the gospel and tries to live life according to the gospel.

 The issue with an assumed gospel is that it is often too personal and, therefore, becomes private. The person who lives under the assumption of the gospel often knows how it relates to their life, but nobody else does. Their kids never see how the gospel affects decisions, arguments, finances, etc. Their neighbors never hear of the hope within. Their co-workers are left to wonder about what makes them different. Those who live under the assumed gospel often find it awkward to bring it up and talk about the work of Christ. Why? Because they never bring it up and learn to articulate the implications of Christ's work and their life.

On the contrary, those who are explicit about the gospel in their relationships have a different effect. By living out the gospel and speaking about the gospel and working through the gospel (verbally), they are helping to connect the dots for those around them. Their kids hear how the gospel relates to the family finances or time or relationships or arguments. Their neighbors hear about the hope within. Co-workers are privy to the reality that this person is not simply a moral guy/girl, but one who is forgiven and transformed by the death and resurrection of Christ.

I want to encourage you to begin, and with some of you, continue to make the gospel explicit in your relationships. Don't waste life by living an assumed gospel; rather, flesh it out and connect the dots for yourself and those around you. Talk with your spouse about how Christ's Person and work relates to everything. Pass this on to your kids. Mention Christ. Talk about Christ. Point to Christ. Relate to Christ. Oftentimes where the gospel is assumed, it is quickly lost.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness

Ministry is a lot more painful than I would have imagined as a young, excited believer in Christ.  Sometimes you pour your heart and soul into people, and then they say or do things that are extremely hurtful.  I've tasted some measure of this, though my hardships are infinitely small compared to what many endure. 

 Over the past year, one of passages of Scripture that God has used to help me in this regard has been 1 Corinthians 4:1-5,

    This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful. But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God.

Recently, 10 Publishing released a new little book from Tim Keller called The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness, based on a sermon Keller preached on that passage.  Here's a quote I especially enjoyed:

The only Person whose opinion counts looks at me and finds me more valuable than all the jewels in the earth.  How can we worry about being snubbed now?  How can we worry about being ignored now?  How can we care that much about what we look like in the mirror?

Like Paul, we can say, 'I don't care what you think.  I don't even care what I think.  I only care about what the Lord thinks.' And he has said, 'There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,' and, 'You are my beloved child in whom I am well pleased.' Live out of that.  

It is a daily battle, but I am laboring to expend grace-driven effort to live out of this gospel reality each and every day.  It's the only way to survive in ministry...or in any walk of life, for that matter.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Wonder Demands Humility

Thomas Dubay: "Wonder at reality demands the humility to sit at the foot of a dandelion.  The proud are so full of themselves that there is little room to marvel at anything else."

Another Book on the Gospel?

The other day I posted about my visit to Philadelphia to be a part of the Explicit Gospel Book Tour, in which Matt Chandler preached on the material from his recently published book by that title.

 I could anticipate the question: do we really need another book on the gospel?  Isn't there enough out there already that says plenty on the gospel?  As I think about this question, there are two main responses that pop into my mind:

1. The angels of heaven long to look into the deep riches of the gospel (1 Peter 1:12).  They are fascinated and wonder-filled as they glimpse it's unfathomable glories.  I'm pretty certain that angels are a good bit more holy and more knowledgeable than us mortals, yet the gospel continues to elicit their adoration.  So, in light of that, I think another book for us mortals to ponder and cherish this gospel is not over-doing it.

2. Having read many books about the gospel, and having just finished The Explicit Gospel, I believe this book makes a valuable contribution that sets it apart from other books on the gospel: the way in which Chandler addresses and works out the implications of what he calls the gospel in the air and the gospel on the ground.

 Chandler does, in my opinion, a terrific job of showing how the gospel paradigm of God, Sin, Christ, Response relates to and complements the over-arching storyline of Scripture in Creation, Fall, Redemption, Consummation.  To omit one or the other of these is to reduce the gospel in a way that fails to give God all the glory and honor He deserves.

Most people gravitate towards one or the other, and tend to be skeptical of those who gravitate more towards the opposite one.  But Chandler highlights how both are necessary and precious, and contribute to our understanding of all that God has done (and will do) in Christ.

For this reason, it may be the first book I would point people to who are looking for an answer to the question, "What is the Gospel?"  You can read some other endorsements for the book from men like David Platt, Mark Dever and Don Carson, here

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Three Views on the Lord's Supper

Specifically in view in these three posts is, how frequently should we take the Lord's Supper?  This is a question I have given some thought to, but probably not enough. 

I'd love to know what you readers think with regard to this question.  Leave a comment and let me know...

Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Explicit Gospel Tour

Earlier this week, I had the privilege of going over with Michelle to Epiphany Church in Philadelphia for The Explicit Gospel Tour. That is the name of a new book by Matt Chandler, who preached from Colossians 1, while Shane and Shane led worship. You can check out the "trailer" for the book:

After the event I was fortunate enough -- through an especially sweet bit of providence -- to talk with Matt for a few minutes. I had wanted to thank him especially for this message which I had watched a couple of years ago, and has been an ongoing source of encouragement over the last year, which has been a challenging one for me.

I was able to share with Matt why that message had been so helpful for me, and also to thank him for his example of courage in the midst of his suffering from an aggressive form of brain cancer. He took a few minutes to pray for Michelle and me, for which I was very grateful. All in all, the evening was a great blessing, and I am enjoying the book for which the tour was named.

I have an extra copy of his new book, The Explicit Gospel, which I'd like to give away to the first person to leave a comment on this post. Giveaways in the past have never been a big draw on this blog, but let me know if you want a copy!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Like Water to a Plant

A wise, humbling, challenging word to husbands:

Words of encouragement to a wife are like water to a plant.

And again:

What a ministry husbands have in encouraging their wives! It is nurturing to the heart of a woman, compelling her forward in service to her family and community. For mothers of young children who are not yet capable of expressing appreciation, the husband's opportunity is not only to encourage his wife, but also to teach his children thankfulness and respect toward their mother. Through your words of blessing, you have an opportunity to minister to your wife in a way that no one else can.

Read the whole thing here.

Pondering Good Grief, Part 2

Yesterday I said I would post the portion of Ben Witherington's article in Christianity Today that I would like to interact with over the course of a few blog posts. Here it is:

Was This God's Will?

From the day Christy died, I was determined to be open to whatever positive thing there might be to glean from this seeming tragedy. I clung to the promise of Romans 8:28, that "God works all things together for good for those who love him."

The first point immediately confirmed in my heart was theological: God did not do this to my child. God is not the author of evil. God does not terminate sweet lives with a pulmonary embolism. Pulmonary embolisms are a result of the bent nature of this world. As Ann kept repeating, "God is not the problem; he is the solution."

One primary reason I am not a Calvinist is that I do not believe in God's detailed control of all events. Why? First, because I find it impossible to believe that I am more merciful or compassionate than God. Second, because the biblical portrait shows that God is pure light and holy love. In him there is no darkness, nothing other than light and love. And third, the words, "The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away," from the lips of Job (1:21), are not good theology. According to Job 1, it was not God but the Devil who took away Job's children, health, and wealth. God allowed it to happen, but when Job said these words, as the rest of the story shows, he was not yet enlightened about the true nature of the source of his calamity and God's actual will for his life. God's will for him was for good and not for harm.

The beginning of "good grief" starts with the premise of a good God. Otherwise, all bets are off. If God is almighty and malevolent, then there is no solace to be found in him. If God is the author of sin, evil, suffering, the Fall, and death, then the Bible makes no sense when it tells us that God tempts no one, that God's will is that none should perish but have everlasting life, and that death is the very enemy of God and humankind that Jesus, who is life, came to abolish and destroy.

Jesus said, "I came that they may have life and have it abundantly" (John 10:10). If there are promises I cling to as I weep for our Christy, it is this promise, not the sorry solace and cold comfort of, "God did this but we do not know why." No! A thousand times, no. God and his will are aligned with what is good and true and beautiful and loving and holy.

Days later, as I stood before the casket and stared at our "Christy girl," as we called her, I was so thankful that the God of the Resurrection had a better plan for her. Her lifeless body was so cold, so empty. The phrase, "It's all God's will," is cold comfort. I believe in a God whose "Yes!" to life is louder than death's "No!" Death is not God's will. On the contrary, God is in the trenches with us, fighting the very same evils we fight in this world—disease, suffering, sorrow, sin, and death itself. He cries with us.

Thursday, April 19, 2012


From my days working at a Christian bookstore in State College, PA (circa 2002), I've always loved this picture of Jesus. There are many days in which I feel like this man; it is wonderfully precious that when I can't pick myself up or fight the fight of faith, that Jesus upholds me with His victorious right hand.

If you were to caption this picture with a Bible verse, which one would you pick?

Pondering Good Grief, Part 1

Around a year ago I read Adrian Warnock's book Raised with Christ: How the Resurrection Changes Everything. This past Holy Week I picked up the book again to review a chapter as I prepared my heart for Easter Sunday. Inside the front cover, I had scribbled this statement:

Is God only worthy of my worship when He conforms to my expectations for how He should act? If I don't have a God who can contradict my wisdom/intentions, then I'm worshiping a figment of my imagination.

As I re-read that note inside the book, I recalled the circumstances in which I had written it: about a week or two prior, my mom had experienced a catastrophic infection that ravaged her body and has left her in a semi-vegetative condition, confined to a bed in a nursing home, for the past 13 months. With that little statement tucked inside a book on the resurrection, I was preaching to myself.

The same week that I re-read my reflection, I read Ben Witherington's article in the most recent issue of Christianity titled, What Good Grief Looks Like When a Daughter Dies. His daughter, Christy, died suddenly of a pulmonary embolism at the age of 32. In the article, Witherington writes of how he walked the way of grace in the midst of his grief.

I'm going to take a few blog posts to interact in particular with one portion of the article, which disturbed me personally because of its view of God and His role in this tragedy. From what I can gather in the article, it seems as though Witherington would disagree with the note I wrote to myself last April, or at least what that note was assuming. For my own reflection and grappling, I am going to interact with Witherington a little bit, since I have tasted at least a measure of this grief in seeing what has happened to my mom over the past year.

But this post is getting long enough. Tomorrow I'll post the portion of the article that I feel compelled to interact with.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Romans for Dummies

The people at Desiring God have put together a summary of the book of Romans, condensing all the great material in that awesome letter to just 45 tweets. Check it out here.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Eric Clapton and Common Grace

I really enjoy Ray Ortlund's blog, Christ is Deeper Still. Yesterday he wrote:

Now and then a commenter asks why I post music videos that are not devoted to God. Most inquiries are courteous. A few are not. In any case, here is my answer.

Check out his answer here.

Doubting Dawkins

Monday, April 16, 2012

Your Life is a Billboard

From Soma Communities' Gospel DNA:

You see, all of life is worship. We are ALWAYS worshipping. Everything we do is an affirmation of who or what we are looking to for significance, security, approval, etc.

The reality is that your life is like a billboard…you are advertising the thing that is most important to you. “This is what I value! This is what saves me!” That constant advertisement, “here’s what I’m all about!” is worship. All of life is worship.

So what are you worshiping this week?

Monday Morning Fuel

Last week at T4G, C. J. Mahaney quoted this gem from Charles Spurgeon, a wonderful Monday morning encouragement for a pastor's soul:

“The lesson of wisdom is, be not dismayed by soul-trouble. Count it no strange thing, but a part of ordinary ministerial experience. Should the power of depression be more than ordinary, think not that all is over with your usefulness. Cast not away your confidence, for it hath great recompense of reward. Even if the enemy’s foot be on your neck, expect to rise and overthrow him. Cast the burden of the present, along with the sin of the past and the fear of the future, upon the Lord, who forsaketh not his saints. Live by the day—aye, by the hour. Put no trust in frames and feelings. Care more for a grain of faith than a ton of excitement. Trust in God alone, and lean not on the reeds of human help.

Be not surprised when friends fail you: it is a failing world. Never count upon immutability in man; inconstancy you may reckon upon without fear of disappointment. The disciples of Jesus forsook him; be not amazed if your adherents wander away to other teachers; as they were not your all when with you, all is not gone from you with their departure. Serve God with all your might while the candle is burning, and then when it goes out for a season, you will have the less to regret.

Be content to be nothing, for that is what you are. When your own emptiness is painfully forced upon your consciousness, chide yourself that you ever dreamed of being full, except in the Lord. Set small store by present rewards; be grateful for earnests by the way, but look for the recompensing joy hereafter. Continue with double earnestness to serve your Lord when no visible result is before you. Any simpleton can follow the narrow path in the light; faith’s rare wisdom enables us to march on in the dark with infallible accuracy, since she places her hand in that of her Great Guide.

Between this and heaven there may be rougher weather yet, but it is all provided for by our covenant Head. In nothing let us be turned aside from the path which the divine call has urged us to pursue. Come fair or come foul, the pulpit is our watch-tower, and the ministry our warfare. Be it ours, when we cannot see the face of our God, to trust under the shadow of his wings.”

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Teaching Your Kids to Fail

Barnabas Piper has an insightful little article on World Magazine's website titled, That's Not Fair?

Here's a quote:

One of my primary responsibilities as a parent is to prepare my children for all of life, not just what I want their life to hold. Of course, I never want my children to fail, but they will fail. I do not want them to experience disappointment, but it is unavoidable. They will not always be winners and will thus be forced to deal with the struggles of losing. If all I have taught them is that they are winners, what have I really prepared them for besides delusions of ease and grandeur?

Winning and losing are a part of life. And so are the accompanying rewards and struggles. Sadly, the contests are often not fair, making those struggles even more poignant. What am I to do as a parent? I cannot stick my head in the sand and my daughters’ along with it.

Winning and losing are real, so I must model being a humble and gracious winner and loser, no matter whether the circumstances are fair or not. My children need a definition of “fair” that motivates them to work hard and develop the gifts God has given them, not one that teaches them to expect praise and prizes at every turn. Most importantly, I must show them and teach them what it means to find value not in victory but in being a reflection of the Creator.

Read the whole thing here.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Swallowing Suffering

Worth some reflection: "The resurrection is not a consolation for suffering or even the removal of suffering. The resurrection swallows suffering" (Tim Keller).

When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:
“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
“O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”
(1 Corinthians 15:54-55 ESV)

Thursday, April 12, 2012

The King of kings is not Indifferent to this World

The Devil's Sort of Bible Study

A fellow pastor in South Jersey, Michael Wallenmeyer, wrote this Screwtape Letters-like reflection on his blog, Missional in Suburbia. I found it thought-provoking and convicting:

“You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe-and shudder.” -James 2:19

Slysnare: Mindpleasure, did the enemy have their Bible study again this past Wednesday night?

Mindpleasure: Yes, they continue to meet faithfully every Wednesday night from 7:00 till 8:30 PM. They are like clockwork.

Slysnare: Good, good. What did they discuss this week?

Mindpleasure: You won’t believe it. They were discussing some of the most dangerous teaching in the enemy’s book. They read from James 1, the stuff about true religion. You know the garbage, “religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit the orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” Makes me shudder to think of what would happen if….

Slysnare: Yes, if they only knew the hideous power of those words. I trust that you made sure all they did was talk, right?

Mindpleasure: As you know, it is not in my nature to be honest, but I must tell you that I did not have to do much. Jimmy and Sarah, who have been in the enemy’s camp for years, were only concerned with the style of teaching and so they were mentally distracted the whole time. Craig was mad because someone had offended him earlier in the week so he’s been existing in a self-imposed prison. The beautiful power of unforgiveness! Chris and Stacy had brought their highlighters and were marking up their Bibles like crazy but I know that they are so busy with life that there is little chance that these words from James will ever seriously impact them. Child’s play.

Slysnare: Mindpleasure, I see a promotion in your future. Tell me about the neighborhood in which they have their Bible studies.

Mindpleasure: That is the best part! Their Bible studies have had almost no impact on their neighbors or their neighborhoods. Don’t get me wrong, there have been some close calls. There are rare occasions in the Bible study where I can see the enemy begin to open their spiritual eyes and they start using phrases like “living it out” and “let’s do something.” But very subtly I remind them how busy they are or get them to argue about the exact meaning of a Greek word. Sometimes it is just too easy.

Slysnare: Good, good. I have noticed that for some in the enemy’s camp Bible study is like a drug. They are always chasing the next buzz, the next high. They pursue a little bit more knowledge believing that this is the end game. Long ago we came to realize that dead religion is just as effective as crack, maybe even more powerful when it comes to immobilizing the enemy. Keep up the great work and let’s meet again after their next Bible study.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Eyes Wide Open

This morning on his blog, Tim Challies recommended the book Eyes Wide Open: Enjoying God in Everything, by Steve DeWitt. In his review, Challies writes:

The place to begin when considering the topic is with a question like this one: Why do I enjoy _________ so much? You can fill in that blank with a kind of food or a form of art or even with a beautiful landscape. Why do you enjoy that thing so much? What draws you to it? What does it do in you and for you?

DeWitt wants to help you appreciate those things even more than you do now, and in order to do that, you need to understand beauty and joy and wonder from a biblical perspective. You need to know why God made this world as wondrously beautiful as he did. The author’s reflections on this topic, more than anything else in the book, have resounded in my mind and heart:

Beauty was created by God for a purpose: to give us the experience of wonder. And wonder, in turn, is intended to lead us to the ultimate human expression and privilege: worship. Beauty is both a gift and a map. It is a gift to be enjoyed and a map to be followed back to the source of the beauty with praise and thanksgiving.

This is a subject that I've give some thought to over the past few years, at times on this blog. And I've been told on occasion that this whole idea of teaching people to enjoy the world all around them is unnecessary and dangerous, because it will promote worldliness, and people already do a fine job of loving the stuff of this world too much. The thought is that books like this one just promote and give justification for the idolatries of people's hearts.

While I think there is a needed caution there, I think the logic is misguided. If people are not taught to enjoy beauty in a godly way, they will mimic the world's way, and that is suicide. So I am glad that there are books like this one, and I think they are of value to those who desire to bring glory to God in all of life, which is what we're commanded to in Scripture (1 Corinthians 10:31).

If anyone chooses to read it, let me know what you think. If you want to buy it in Kindle format, it’s just $6.99. If you want to buy it in printed format, the only way to do so is to buy it here.

Stepford God

“If you don’t trust the Bible enough to let it challenge and correct your thinking, how could you ever have a personal relationship with God? In any truly personal relationship, the other person has to be able to contradict you.

“For example, if a wife is not allowed to contradict her husband, they won’t have an intimate relationship. Remember the (two!) movies The Stepford Wives? The husbands of Stepford, Connecticut, decide to have their wives turned into robots who never cross the wills of their husbands. A Stepford wife was wonderfully compliant and beautiful, but no one would describe such a marriage as intimate or personal.

“Now, what happens if you eliminate anything from the Bible that offends your sensibility and crosses your will? If you pick and choose what you want to believe and reject the rest, how will you ever have a God who can contradict you? You won’t! You’ll have a Stepford God! A God, essentially, of your own making, and not a God with whom you can have a relationship and genuine interaction.

“Only if your God can say things that outrage you and make you struggle (as in a real friendship or marriage!) will you know that you have gotten hold of a real God and not a figment of your imagination.

“So an authoritative Bible is not the enemy of a personal relationship with God. It is the precondition for it.”

- Tim Keller, The Reason for God, pages 113-114

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Bane of the Medium-Sized Church

This post from Mike McKinley resonated with me, as it seems to describe the situation in a church that is approximately the one I have the privilege of serving in:

Our church is not big (speaking in terms of attendance and membership). I’d say that it’s small for a medium-sized church. But it’s growing, and attendance is certainly up from the 10 people who were here when I became the pastor. And what I’ve experienced is that as the church grows, more and more people find that it’s difficult to build relationships and get to know people in the congregation.

Now, in a weird way, I think this might be the particular bane of the medium-sized church. In a small church, it’s usually pretty easy to get to know most of the people. In a large church, people come in the door already knowing that they’re not going to get to know everyone. But in the medium-sized church, you’ve got some of the expectations of a small church alongside some of the challenges of size.

But as I’ve been thinking about this problem in our church, here’s what I’ve noticed: people who show up a lot usually aren’t lonely and disconnected. So for example: our church has a Sunday morning gathering, a Sunday evening gathering, small groups through the week, a fellowship meal once a month, a one-to-one Bible reading program, monthly men’s and women’s meetings, and a bunch of different community outreach and mercy ministries that are run by church members. Those are a lot of opportunities to connect with other people in the church. And in my observation, people who avail themselves of those opportunities almost always feel connected to others in the congregation. People who don’t show up for things, however, usually don’t feel as connected.

So it may sound a little old school (as in Hebrews 10:24-25), but there’s something to be said for the guy who wins the perfect attendance award. If you’re feeling like your church doesn’t have enough community, make sure that you’re plugging in to the opportunities that are offered. And don’t wait for someone to approach you, give them a call and invite them over for lunch after the Sunday gathering.

Conformed to Christ

How will I be changed into the image of Jesus?

By re-rooting my mind and heart each and every day in the rich soil of the unfailing love, the inscrutable wisdom, and the unthwartable power with which the Triune God governs all the details of my life, and the entire world.

Monday, April 9, 2012

California Redwoods

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD,
whose trust is the LORD.
He is like a tree planted by water,
that sends out its roots by the stream,
and does not fear when heat comes,
for its leaves remain green,
and is not anxious in the year of drought,
for it does not cease to bear fruit.”
(Jeremiah 17:7-8 ESV)

Bubba Watson wins Masters

It must really be the year of the Christian athlete...Tim Tebow, Linsanity, and now Bubba Watson wins the Masters' Golf Tournament. Check out this article on his faith.

I especially loved this tweet on the eve of the final round of the tournament, after Watson had played himself into contention for the championship:

Thanks everyone for the support! 3 reasons tomorrow will be
, 1. Jesus has risen 2. See my new baby boy & my wife 3. Masters Sunday

He really seems like a man who has his values in order...praise God. Let's pray that it stays that way, given the enormous boost his golf career took yesterday.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Love Lustres at Calvary

One of my favorite prayers, from the book Valley of Vision:

My Father,

Enlarge my heart, warm my affections,

open my lips,

supply words that proclaim ‘Love lustres

at Calvary.’

There grace removes my burdens and heaps them

on thy Son,

made a transgressor, a curse, and sin for me;

There the sword of thy justice smote the man,

thy fellow;

There thy infinite attributes were magnified,

and infinite atonement was made;

There infinite punishment was due,

and infinite punishment was endured.

Christ was all anguish that I might be all joy,

cast off that I might be brought in,

trodden down as an enemy

that I might be welcomed as a friend,

surrendered to hell’s worst

that I might attain heaven’s best,

stripped that I might be clothed,

wounded that I might be healed,

athirst that I might drink,

tormented that I might be comforted,

made a shame that I might inherit glory,

entered darkness that I might have eternal light.

My Saviour wept that all tears might be wiped

from my eyes,

groaned that I might have endless song,

endured all pain that I might have unfading health,

bore a thorny crown that I might have

a glory-diadem,

bowed his head that I might uplift mine,

experienced reproach that I might receive


closed his eyes in death that I might gaze

on unclouded brightness,

expired that I might for ever live.

O Father, who spared not thine only Son that thou

mightest spare me,

All this transfer thy love designed and


Help me to adore thee by lips and life.

O that my every breath might be ecstatic praise,

my every step buoyant with delight, as I see my

enemies crushed,

Satan baffled, defeated, destroyed,

sin buried in the ocean of reconciling blood,

hell’s gates closed, heaven’s portal open.

Go forth, O conquering God, and show me

the cross, mighty to subdue, comfort and save.

A few years ago, the folks at Sovereign Grace turned this into a beautiful song, called How Deep. Here's a video of the song: