Thursday, March 31, 2011

Tomorrow Isn’t National Atheist Day

Tomorrow is April Fools Day and I can almost guarantee that there will be a Facebook status that makes it's rounds that proclaims tomorrow as National Atheist Day.  Hehehe.  Get it?!?  The Bible says, “The fool says in his heart there is no god”.  That’s an atheist.  Atheist are fools.  Today is April Fools Day.  Silly atheist…

But tomorrow isn’t national atheist day, it is National Everyone Apart from the Grace of God Day. 

“What do you have that you did not receive?  If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?” 

The problem with these bumper stickers, T-shirt slogans, and Facebook status updates is that it reeks of pride.  You aren’t a Christian because you were smarter than an atheist, saw the evidence, and made a rational decision.  No, you are a Christian because God through his grace caused light to shine into darkness (2 Cor. 4). 

In fact before the gospel came into your life you (like every atheist) saw the truth of God but you actively rejected and suppressed it.  Then grace happened.  Now you are able to see.  Now your heart embraces the gospel.  It is by grace that you have been saved.  So, stop boasting and calling atheist fools. 

Yeah, they have a depraved mind.  But so did you.  In fact you are still being redeemed from it.  Yep, their arguments don’t hold water.  But neither did yours until grace broke through.  And even today our defenses are often driven more by fear than they are Scriptures. 

So, I’m not going to pretend to have all of the answers about how precisely God causes light to shine into the hearts of unbelievers.  Nor am I going to pretend that I know all of the answers about why some people are saved and some are not.  (I know which way I lean—but I could be wrong). 

But what I do know is this, the means that God has promised to use to cause light to shine into darkness is the gospel of Jesus Christ proclaimed through life and lips.  People aren’t won to Christ because you expose them as idiots.  People are won to Christ because the gospel breaks through and liberates dead enslaved hearts. 

Maybe today rather than mocking their “ignorance” and depravity we should be weeping for their souls, praying that the Lord would embolden us to live the gospel and speak the gospel, and perhaps we should use this day to thank the Lord that He is rescuing us from being idolatrous fools (by nothing but His free grace). 

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Introducing Borrowed Light Book Club

Would you be interested in going through a book together?  I would like to do this and make it a regular part of Borrowed Light.  Right now there are four options:

1. Knowing God by J.I. Packer

During the past 20 years, J. I. Packer's classic has revealed to over one million Christians around the world the wonder, the glory and the joy of knowing God. This anniversary edition is completely retypeset, with Americanized language and spelling, and a new preface by the author. 312 pages, cloth (includes study guide)

2. Transforming Grace by Jerry Bridges

The freedom in falling short of God’s standard relies on His gift of grace. Unfortunately, too many of us forget the free offer. We spend our lives basing our relationship with God on our performance rather than on Him. We see our identity as never being worthy of His love.

Isn’t it time to stop trying to measure up and begin accepting the transforming power of God’s grace?

The product of more than 10 years of Bible study, Navigator author Jerry Bridges' Transforming Grace is a fountainhead of inspiration and renewal that will show you just how inexhaustible and generous God’s grace really is.

3. God is the Gospel by John Piper

Most people, when they ponder what it means to be loved by God, think of the things that God does for us. John Piper writes that what is most loving about God is not his making much of us, but his enabling us, at great cost to himself, to enjoy making much of him forever.

Piper writes for the soul-thirsty who have turned away empty and in desperation from the mirage of methodology. He invites us to slow down and drink from a deeper spring. “This is eternal life,” Jesus said, “that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” This is what makes the gospel—and this book—good news.

4. Your Jesus Is Too Safe by Jared Wilson

There are too many Jesuses running rampant in the world today.

Culture has introduced us to Hippie Jesus, Postcard Jesus, and Get-out-of-hell-free Jesus. There's also Grammy Award Jesus, Therapist Jesus, Role Model Jesus, and Buddy Jesus.

The question is: which one do you worship?

He may be the most popular, the most cited, the most admired, and the most controversial figure in all of history, but Jesus is more than a generic brand, a logo, or a pick-me-up. He has been fictionalized, humanized, satirized, and romanticized. And yet he still isn't recognized.

Open this book and take a closer look at who Jesus really is.

(All summaries are taken from either Monergism Books or Amazon)


So which book would you like to go through together?  We will take it one chapter at a time.  I would post a general summary of the chapter and then we would discuss the chapter via blog comments and Facebook. 

Monday, March 28, 2011

Quick Review of Posers, Fakers, and Wannabe’s

In an effort to get his grandkids to pay attention to him grandpa decides to get an earring, a tattoo, spikes up his 4 hairs, and trades in his Harry Carey glasses for some square-rimmed Pomo glasses.  He also decides to spend a week watching MTV and consuming everything youth culture so that he can pick up a few buzzwords here and there to go with his flashy new ensemble. 

“NOW, they will listen to my stories”, thinks grandpa.

But here’s the problem: If Grandpa’s stories are still lame a few buzzwords and a new look isn’t going to change anything after about 5 minutes.  They’ll notice but they won’t remember any of grandpa’s stories.  Grandpa can’t be rescued by buzzwords.

What is worse, though, is if grandpa actually does have really cool stories.  What will happen is that rather than hearing grandpa’s cool story all the kids will walk away with is the scarring-image of grandpa’s four spiky hairs.  The story gets lost by the distracting medium.  Grandpa doesn’t need to use buzzwords. 

In Posers=Fakers=Wannabes Jim Hancock has attempted to give Brennan Manning’s best-selling book Abba’s Child a makeover youth edition.  This book falls under the second scenario.  I don’t agree with everything Manning teaches but he is an apt and thought-provoking author.  Brennan Manning is the grandpa that has good stories and doesn’t need buzzwords. 

The problem that I have with this book is that the message is lost because of the medium.  How strange that this book is fundamentally about “being set free to be who you really are” and yet it’s packaged as if Manning isn’t able to be who he truly is.  If he wants to engage the youth culture then he had better be a poser, a faker, or a wannabe; he had better spike his hair and use a few buzzwords.  And that is a shame because the youth of today need to hear Manning’s message. 

Now don’t get me wrong, there is plenty of Manning here to be recognizable.  I may even be overstating my case a tad.  Hancock does not abuse Manning’s writing and make him indiscernible.  The problem though is that today’s teenagers see through the buzzwords and are often turned off by them.  They long for “just grandpa” and not “grandpa trying to be a teenager”. 

The content of Abba’s Child is really good and the central message is very helpful: stop faking it, be real, trust in Jesus.  Every page oozes with that theme.  Again, I’m not saying that this youth version is horrible.  It can be very beneficial.  The problem is that the philosophy that undergirds the change is dangerous.  Rather than rewriting Abba’s Child to make it appeal to teens, why not encourage mom’s and dad’s to go through the original with their children? 

If the point to grandpa’s story is something akin to, “son, be who God made you to be” but he tells it using buzzwords that are foreign to him doesn’t it undercut his message?  I’m all for adaptability and writing and speaking in a way that youth can relate to.  But teens (all people) have a tendency to go to the level we set for them.  Abba’s Child doesn’t need to be made cool…it just might need a little stretching and guidance to go along with it.

Buy Abba's Child: The Cry of the Heart for Intimate Belonging.  Or if you think I need to buy some square-rimmed glasses and spike up my hair (in other words you disagree and want the hip-version) you can buy it here: Posers, Fakers, and Wannabes: Unmasking the Real You

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Learning Letters and Gospel Sanctification

My son is learning to write his letters.  Some he has mastered better than others and some are simply unrecognizable. 

He has a little book that we use as a guide (also a program on his LeapFrog has been helping).  This little book has a letter that he observes, then he traces it, and then to the right he tries it on his own. 

isaiah letters

I realize that my son’s letter writing skills are a picture of sanctification.  Christ is the guide (the letter in its correct and perfect form).  What my son does in freehand is his attempt to copy the guide.  My life is a reflection of that.  As I fix my eyes upon Christ, his character and his person, my life sometimes looks like Isaiah’s letter “f” or “m”.  Still imperfect but looking more like the guide.  And sometimes there is a ton of work that still needs to be done, like Isaiah’s letter “k” or “g”.

But there is another thing to learn from this.  Check out Isaiah’s letter “R” when he isn’t focusing on his guide:

isaiah r


Notice the difference?  That’s what happens in my life when I try to live in holiness apart from my model.  Of course in reality Jesus is much more than simply a guide; He wraps His life around my little hands’ pursuit of holiness. 

For this idea I’m indebted to Stuart Scott in his book The Exemplary Husband: A Biblical Perspective

Friday, March 25, 2011

Sweet Sixteen!

Thanks to your voting Borrowed Light made it into the Sweet 16 of the SBC Blog Madness.  I am, to be honest, shocked and absolutely honored to be voted into the sweet 16.  I appreciate every vote that you cast and now gently exhort you to VOTE AGAIN!!!!!!!!

I’m going against Founders Ministries, Ed Stetzer, and B21.  The fact that I’m even considered in the same category as these giants is humbling to say the least. 

My goal for this round…don’t be dead last.  You can help me achieve that inspiring goal by going to SBC Voices (Round 2) and casting your vote for Borrowed Light in the Southeast Division.

Free Book Winner


There were not nearly as many people sign up for this as I thought.  But that is good news for our winner…


Denise, pick your book and give me your new address via facebook message and I’ll ship you out the book of your choice. 

Thursday, March 24, 2011

If King David Blogged In Our World

King David wakes up from his royal slumber.  The dreary-eyed David checks his email. 

14 new messages. 

After deleting all of the male enhancement products, requests from Nigerian princes, and chain letters about loving Jesus and America Israel he reads this gem:


Subject: You Suck!

Dearest King David,

I heartily disagree with your theology.  RANT, RANT, RANT, RANT, a few true statements, A COUPLE STABS AT YOUR CHARACTER, bless your heart.


Joe Troll. 


Now what happens in our day? 

King David hits reply and plays some serious defense.

Subject: You are in Error!  And I Suck Less than You!

Thanks for reading my blog.  Rather than listen to any positive criticism or truth that may be in what you are saying I am going to ignore this.  Instead of actually applying the gospel to my heart I am instead going to defend myself.  You have attacked my performance and I cannot handle that.  Therefore, I am going to pick your argument apart and display for all the world to see that you sir are an idiot, and I suck much less than you do.  Also NEVER question my theology.  I can’t handle that either.  So please respond with something that I am sure to also not listen to, so that we can talk around each other for all the watching world to see. 

King David after my own heart.


You know what?  David actually had all sorts of junk a million times worse in his life.  His own son wanted to kill him.  David didn’t blog about it.  David didn’t defend himself.  He pleaded with the Lord:

O LORD, how many are my foes!
        Many are rising against me;
     many are saying of my soul,
        there is no salvation for him in God. Selah
    But you, O LORD, are a shield about me,
        my glory, and the lifter of my head.
     I cried aloud to the LORD,
        and he answered me from his holy hill. Selah
    I lay down and slept;
        I woke again, for the LORD sustained me.
     I will not be afraid of many thousands of people
        who have set themselves against me all around.
    Arise, O LORD!
        Save me, O my God!
    For you strike all my enemies on the cheek;
        you break the teeth of the wicked.
    Salvation belongs to the LORD;
        your blessing be on your people! Selah
(Psalm 3 ESV)

David didn’t hit reply.  He went to sleep and trusted that the LORD would vindicate him.  And of course this is only reflecting the Greater David who was silent when mocked.  Jesus didn’t hit reply, either.  He endured the Cross know that the Father would vindicate him (the resurrection).

I have a ton to learn from David.  Obviously, even more to learn from Jesus.  Because he did speak sometimes.  He defended His gospel against the Pharisees.  He fought heresy.  He tackled demons.  But he also endured persecution.  Sometimes he was silent.  I pray that the LORD gives me the grace to take criticism well.  To be silent when I should and speak when I should. 

More than anything I pray that the gospel goes deep enough into my heart that I can go to sleep instead of feeling like I need to hit “reply”. 

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

MLB 2011 Predictions

Last year I made a few bonehead selections but my predictions were relatively solid.  I thought I’d give it a go again this year:

AL East:

  1. Boston Red Sox
  2. Baltimore Orioles
  3. New York Yankees
  4. Toronto Blue Jays
  5. Tampa Bay Rays

AL Central:

  1. Chicago White Sox
  2. Minnesota Twins
  3. Detroit Tigers
  4. Kansas City Royals
  5. Cleveland Indians

AL West:

  1. Texas Rangers
  2. LA Angels
  3. Oakland A’s
  4. Seattle Mariners

NL East:

  1. Philadelphia Phillies
  2. Florida Marlins
  3. Atlanta Braves
  4. Washington Nationals
  5. New York Mets

NL Central:

  1. Cincinnati Reds
  2. St. Louis Cardinals
  3. Milwaukee Brewers
  4. Chicago Cubs
  5. Pittsburgh Pirates
  6. Houston Astros

NL West:

  1. LA Dodgers
  2. San Francisco Giants
  3. Colorado Rockies
  4. Arizona Diamondbacks
  5. San Diego Padres

ALCS: Boston Red Sox defeat Minnesota Twins

NLCS: Philadelphia Phillies defeat St. Louis Cardinals

World Series: Philadelphia Phillies defeat Boston Red Sox

Again this year I hope I’m wrong!  I do think that the Royals will at least be close to .500 this year.  The Marlins are a dark horse pick for me, as are the Baltimore Orioles.  I also wouldn’t be surprised if the Pirates make some early season noise.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

What To Do When the Gospel Confronts You

A couple months ago I quoted this gem from Wesley Hill:

The gospel resists the fallen inclinations of Christian believers.  When we engage with God in Christ and take seriously the commands for purity that flow from the gospel, we always find our sinful dreams and desires challenged and confronted. 

In other words it is impossible to be comfortable in the Christian life.  As long as there is still sin in my life, God is still holy, and as long as God he is committed to me, then it will be impossible for me to be comfortable. 

God, through His gospel, is always confronting my fallenness.  And my fallenness is constantly running from the gospel and attempting to hide in darkness or build a life of mock holiness.  The sin in me cannot stand the Lord’s blazing holiness.  And the Spirit within me cannot stand my wretched wickedness.  Who do you think is going to win that one? 

So, then the gospel is constantly confronting us. 

And when that happens I can do one of three things.  I can change the gospel, I can claim the gospel, or I can allow the gospel to change me and claim me.  Ultimately, if I am a believer, the gospel will win.  I know that I will still die with sin in my life; but Christ is greater.  But in the here and now will I live a life of redemption or rebellion?  Will I experience now what Christ has already purchased? 

Change the Gospel

This option is very attractive.  My plain ol’ ESV outreach Bible has some 900 pages worth of material that I can twist, distort, and shape to fit whatever heresy my wicked heart wants to promote.  Every heretic has his verse and every rebel can find Scripture to justify wickedness.  (That’s scary).

Not only can I find refuge in my distorted view of Scripture but I can also find a community that will make me feel good about myself.  I’m certain there are plenty people that are living in the same delusion—and we can gather together as a merry band of Scripture-twisting gospel dodgers.  If you need it you can find any false prophet telling you “peace, peace”; even when there is no peace. 

So if I want, I can change the gospel and the nagging of the gospel will be quiet for a season. 

Claim the Gospel

When the gospel confronts me one option is to claim a cheap grace.  This is also very attractive because it’s a half truth.  At this point I’m claiming the promises of the gospel but ignoring the conditions and the demands of the gospel. 

Hiding behind cheap grace has its perks.  You can feel forgiven and stay comfortable with a rebellious heart at the same time.  I’m certain that the accuser would be more than happy to help us hide our sin behind a false gospel for a good 80 years before he exposes it, for the sake of accusation, when we stand before Jesus.  (And that’s scary).

So if I want, I can claim the gospel in part and hide behind a cheap grace.  As long as I feel forgiven it doesn’t matter if I really am, does it?

Be Changed, Be Claimed

The other option, and the only fitting option, is to actually believe the gospel.  When the gospel confronts me I can agree with God that my sin is odious, live in the power of the resurrection, and rest in the merits of Christ. 

To be claimed is what Paul is referencing in Galatians 2:20. 

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
(Galatians 2:20 ESV)

I belong to Jesus.  My old idolatrous heart has no claim to my life.  My desires now must be his desires.  So when the gospel confronts my idolatrous heart I—through the power of the resurrection—turn from idols and cling to Christ.  This also means that I am hidden in Jesus; I have a new identity.  I am adopted, forgiven, justified, cleansed, made holy, etc. etc.  And all of this because of the identity of Christ.

Being claimed by the gospel inevitably leads to being changed and transformed by the gospel. 

And this is why the gospel is constantly confronting me.  Even though I occasionally attempt to change the gospel to fit my idolatry the Spirit doggedly pursues me, chastises me, bruises me; whatever it takes.  He is radically committed to me and WILL bring about my holiness.  The gospel wins.

And occasionally I try to claim the gospel and hide in cheap grace.  Jesus NEVER lets me get away with that.  He breaks through the facade.  He conquers my spiritual self-righteousness, lays me bare, and calls me to hide in His powerful and costly grace. 


For a great article on gospel repentance check out this article by Tim Keller.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Surrending Our Children To The Flames of a Lesser-god

In Ezekiel 16 the Lord gives a very stinging rebuke to Judah.  In this chapter the Lord shows how he blessed his wife (Judah) and caused her to prosper.  Instead of using these things to enjoy a loving relationship with her husband she instead went after other lovers.  Verses 20-21 may be most shocking of all the indictments:

And you took your sons and your daughters, whom you had borne to me, and these you sacrificed to them to be devoured. Were your whorings so small a matter that you slaughtered my children and delivered them up as an offering by fire to them?

These children are the ones born to covenant Israelites.  They were to have been brought up in the knowledge and fear of the Lord, they were supposed to have reflected the Father’s image.  But instead the Israelites actually sacrificed their own children for the worship of other gods. 

It could be possible that this is only a metaphor for the Israelites dedicating their children to the gods of Babylon instead of to YHWH.  That is possible.  Or it could mean that they actually burned their own children as an offering to pagan gods.  This is what Manasseh did (2 Kings 21:6). 

Now, I want to be careful here in how I apply this verse.  I do not want to overextend it and try to make this text say something that it is not intended to teach.  But I do think we should ask ourselves if we have a Manasseh type of heart with our own children. 

Is it possible that rather than dedicating our children to the Lord we are raising our children to bow to the counterfeit gods of our culture?  We may not be surrendering them to flames but are we fighting for their souls? 

I must remember that the LORD has given Nikki and I children not only for our own enjoyment but primarily for His glory.  Isaiah is a very gifted little boy.  I know that I am biased, but I can see in him some really awesome talents.  I think he is going to be a great musician someday.  So it is our responsibility to raise him in such a way that his musical talent is spent for the glory of God.  We would be no better than Manasseh if we allowed Isaiah to settle for the counterfeit god of success, fame, and money.  May we strive to a better end.  (Obviously, the same thing goes for Hannah). 

And it is also possible that Isaiah will not have musical talent, he won’t be able to throw a baseball, he’ll never enjoy reading Puritans, he won’t be called to preach, and he’ll never get married and have children.  And neither will his sister.  Those aren’t tragedies.  The only tragedy would be if their lives are surrendered to the flames of a lesser god.

May the LORD constantly stir the heart of Nikki and I to fight for Isaiah and Hannah’s souls. 

Take a Bribe, Win a Free Book

I am not above bribing you.  If you vote for me I will enter you in a chance to win a free book:  The Expository Genius of John Calvin or a Pre-Ordered copy of Radical Together.  This book is still in its shrink wrap and it can be yours. 

Two ways to win.  First you can go to SBC Voices and place a vote for Borrowed Light in the Southeast division.  Then simply leave a comment letting me know you voted.  

Second way to win is to subscribe to this blog and then leave a comment letting me know you are a subscriber (and what way you subscribe). 

If you do both I will enter your name in the drawing twice.  Winner will be announced on Friday!  If you win tell me which book you want. 

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Vote for Borrowed Light

For the past 3 years I have been honored to be part of the SBC Blog Madness.  In 2008 I entered the tourney field with an 11 seed and was quickly ousted.  The selection committee must have token note as I entered the field as a 16 seed in the next two years.  This year, thanks to your help, I enter the tournament as a #5 seed.

With your help I think it could be possible to make it to the next round this year.  So be certain to go to SBC Voices and vote for Borrowed Light in the Southeast Division.   Only the Top 4 entries move into the next round so be certain to vote and encourage your friends to vote as well. 

Also vote for my friend Brian (Counted as Righteousness) in the Southwest Region. 

Five Insane NCAA Predictions

Last year I made five insane NCAA Predictions and they proved to be truly insane…not to mention completely wrong.  So I thought I would make five more silly picks:

  1. Pittsburgh will need overtime to beat Old Dominion in the second round
  2. Utah State will make the sweet 16
  3. BYU makes it to the Final Four as does Arizona
  4. Bucknell upsets UCONN and then Mizzou to make a sweet 16 appearance
  5. Texas loses to Oakland and Wisconsin is upset by Belmont.

I have Kansas playing UNC in the final with Kansas winning it all.  I feel dirty picking that and I hope I am wrong.  Even though it would kill my bracket I would be completely fine with seeing Kansas be the first ever team to lose to a 16 seed. 

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Review of Radical Together by David Platt

David Platt’s first book Radical has already changed the lives of many people, and this change has impacted several churches.  Many churches have used Radical as small group material, and many will be observing Platt’s six hour Secret Church simulcast.  (Our local church is one of them). 

On April 19 Platt will release his second book, Radical Together: Unleashing the People of God for the Purpose of God .  Radical was an urgent plea for individual Christians to take back their faith from the American Dream.  This offering is an urgent plea for churches to reshape their vision and priorities to take back their churches from the American Dream. 

What you will find in this book is not a full-orbed ecclesiology but a passionate plea for churches to abandon the “good” for the great of following a “self-centered God” that is passionate about extending His glory to all the nations.  Platt offers six correctives to the typical American church.  I will discuss each of these chapters individually. 

The Tyranny of the Good

If you have spent any time behind closed doors in a church you know how scheduling typical happens.  “What did we do last year?”  “How did that go?”  “Ok, we’ll schedule these things again this year, with a few minor tweaks”.  Many of these things are good things but are they the best

In typical Platt fashion he encourages churches to consider the lostness of the world, the dire needs of those around us, and the heart of God.  As we consider the purpose of God in the world we have to ask of every program and activity, “Is this the best way to spend our time, money, and energy for the spread of the gospel in our neighborhood and in all nations?” (8) 

Platt also shows how this is not merely a theory.  Brook Hills (Platt’s church) is putting their money where God’s heart is.  Through asking these hard questions this thriving church made radical cuts to several areas to better spread the gospel to the nations.  One such “radical” result of these questions was spending all of their excess cash ($525,000) to serve impoverished churches across India. 

Platt says that as we ask these questions:

“We begin to discover our dangerous tendency to value our traditions over God’s truth, just as Jesus warned.  We find ourselves defending a program because that’s what’s worked before, not because that’s what God has said to do now.  We realize just how prone we are to exalt our works over God’s will, our dreams over God’s desires, and our plans over God’s priorities”.  (9)

The Misunderstood Gospel

There are two types of wrong responses to what Platt asserts in Radical.  One such response is to balk at its claims while maintaining a faith that is dead.  Such a person believes a “gospel” that is nothing more than fire insurance.  It is a “gospel” that is diametrically opposed to the one that you find in the Scriptures. 

The other wrong response to Radical is the person that passionately attempts to be radical in the hopes that somehow he/she will be accepted by God.  This person is motivated by guilt and a wrong-seated obligation.  Being Radical this way will simply wear you out.  This is no gospel either. 

This chapter seems to be a needed corrective to the claims in Radical.  Here Platt firmly roots the call to be radical in the gospel.  As he at one point states, “The gospel is the key—and the only sustainable motivation—to sacrificial living”.  Of course the gospel does indeed motivate and free us to work. 

Here Platt is grounding all of the claims (not only in Radical Together but also Radical) in the gospel.  He is urging churches to not live and proclaim the first “gospel” of inaction as well as the second “gospel” of “law-action”.  Instead let us “show in the church a gospel that saves us from work and saves us to work” (37).

God Is Saying Something

If we want people to become enthralled with the mission of God how do we bring that about?  How does a church inspire people to forsake their very own lives for the sake of spreading God’s glory throughout the world? 

One way to answer those questions is to be innovative and creative.  If you want to inspire people for mission then you certainly need to have an inspirational pastor that has an engaging persona.  This why so many of the ads placed by churches that are looking for a pastor have something about being a dynamic leader in the job description.  Sad thing is you won’t find many of these qualifications in Scripture.  (41)

How then does David Platt suggest we motivate people?  Simple: 

“Scripture is clear that any leader who wants to unleash the people of God in the church for the glory of God in the world must simply be competent to communicate and faithful to follow the Word of God. (41)” 

This chapter is a simple plea for believing that the Word of God “is sufficient to hold the attention of God’s people and satisfying enough to capture their affection” (57).  It is a simple chapter but perhaps the most important.  I say that because throughout this book Platt asks several open ended questions.  The Word of God is what we use to answer the questions about “what is the best way to…” 

I pray that those of us that claim to believe in the sufficiency of Scripture read this chapter and really test our hearts.  Do we really believe in the sufficiency of Scripture or do we only give our doctrine of Scripture lip service?  If we really believed in the sufficiency of Scripture I’m convinced that many of our churches would look different.  (Including my own ministry). 

The Genius of Wrong

If we are going to really be serious about reaching the world with the gospel then we must gather together the best people possible.  Our task as ministry leaders is to put all of the right people in the right places.  This is why we have spiritual gifts tests, personality tests, etc.


According to Platt the key to “building the right church depends on using all the wrong people”.  The assertions that Platt makes in this chapter have huge implications for how we “do” church.  And I have to be honest I love it.  The vision of community that Platt is presenting here is inspiring:

“We want to focus on ways we can cultivate the best people: a people who love to pray together, fast together, confess sin together, sing together, and study together; a people who depend on the Word that is spoken more than the one who speaks it; a people who are gripped in music more by the content of the song than the appeal of the singer; and a people who define worship less by the quality of a slick performance and more by the commitment of a humble people who gather together week after week simply to behold the glory of God as they surrender their lives to him. (64-65)”

There is one question that really drives this chapter.  Think on this question for awhile and then when you buy this book in April you can see how Platt answers it.  Here you go:  “Imagine that your church had no building or facilities whatsoever.  Could you still make disciples?”  (68)

Our Unmistakable Task 

This chapter is vintage Platt.  (Can you say vintage for a guy that’s only 31?)  Here Platt makes a very interesting observation.  When did Jesus say that he would come back?  When the gospel reaches every people group, right?  When will Satan’s influence be ended?  When Jesus comes back.  So, where do you think Satan is going to be putting all of his energy?  You guessed it.  When you engage in this mission to share the gospel with every people group then you can expect all the powers of hell to come against you. 

Here Platt encourages the both/and of local and global missions.  We cannot neglect either.  But Platt says we do local missions to equip people for global missions, because we want to see the return of Jesus. 

The God Who Exalts God

This chapter is written by John Piper.  Well, not really, but Platt is echoing much of what Piper has proclaimed for decades.  And this really is the foundation of the entire book.  Because God is passionate about His glory above all things and because God is engaged in this mission, we have power to engage the world with the beauty of God. 

If you’ve read much of Piper then not much will be new here.  But I am really glad that Platt has this chapter in his book.  I am glad because Platt is reaching people with this message that Piper was not.  Platt communicates this essential gospel truth in a way that is far more communicable to many pastors than Piper’s deeper theological books.  In other words I am excited that more people will hear the message of the God-centeredness of God. 

Summary Thoughts

This book is only 140 pages worth of material (though the copy you will buy will have a helpful discussion guide).  Though small it packs a huge punch.  I am convinced that many churches will be changed through these six principles that Platt introduces us to.  Not because David Platt is a great communicator or because he is innovative.  But I believe God is using Platt in a mighty way to be faithful to the gospel and inspire and encourage a great number of people to really believe that God is powerful, sufficient, and passionate about spreading His glory to the nations. 

I look forward to seeing how the Lord uses this book in the same way that he used Platt’s prior offering of Radical. 

You can pre-order your copy of Radical Together and get it for under $10.  (Honestly, I would encourage you to pre-order it if you want it in April because I’m expecting a massive amount of people to buy this up front).

Friday, March 11, 2011

Review of Practicing Affirmation by Sam Crabtree

Have you ever tried to compliment a pastor after a sermon but are not quite sure how to do it?  It’s difficult isn’t it?  You want to be certain to give glory to God but you also thought the message was really good (whatever that means).  Because of this conundrum many people simply refuse to give good affirmation because they do not want to risk causing the other person to struggle with pride, nor do they want to risk robbing God of His glory.  Others want to give a compliment but aren’t quite sure how to do it, so they just offer a “good sermon Pastor”.  Then there are some people that know how to strike that helpful balance of “giving God-centered praise to those that aren’t God”. 

Sam Crabtree, I believe, is one of those people that has found the balance.  That is why I am grateful for his book Practicing Affirmation .  Of course it is about far more than how to compliment your pastor.  The subtitle sums up the book nicely:  “God-centered Praise of Those Who Are Not God”.  Crabtree believes that affirmation is a key that could unlock many relationship problems.  But it is more than a help to our relationships—affirmation is commanded by God.  If we aren’t affirming people in a God-centered way we are disobedient. 

That is a pretty big claim but one that Crabtree aptly defends in his first chapter.  Honestly, the first chapter is worth the price of the book.  From the beginning he is both convicting and motivating; affirming as well as correcting. 

The next two chapters are Crabtree’s explanation of the simplicity of affirmation as well as it’s complexity.  In chapter two he shows how affirmation is the key to refreshing relationships.  If you have a stale or difficult relationship it may be that affirmation is lacking.  Crabtree paints a picture here that makes me wonder what our homes and churches would look like if we were as passionate about affirmation as we are about pot-lucks.  The third chapter simply builds on the second chapter and gives more practical advice on affirming others. 

These first three chapters are the basis of the entire book.  These argue that we are commanded by God to affirm His character in other people.  The glory of God is at stake.  But that is not all.  Living in refreshing relationships is also at stake.  Affirmation, according to Crabtree, is the key to refreshing relationships. 

After establishing these points the rest of the book is stocked full of practical help for living out the beautiful picture that Crabtree paints in the first three chapters.  One very practical chapter is the ninth one, where he gives 100 Affirmation Ideas for Those Who Feel Stuck.  These are simple, practical, and helpful examples of affirming the character of God in others.  And that is what this book encourages and exemplifies. 

This book certainly exhorted me to be more affirming in my relationships and it also showed me how to do it.  It is also worth mentioning that the foreword by John Piper is brilliant, and the two appendices are also very helpful. 

There is one concern that I have with this book.  It is one that I am guessing he has heard before, because it is a question that he addresses in chapter 6.  There the question is framed this way: “How is your position not the equivalent of straightforward behaviorism?  Are you not suggesting we simply reward behavior as though people were in Skinner boxes? (121)” 

His sum answer is this, “God is not dependent upon behaviorism to bring about change in people, but behaviorism is dependent upon God at every point, whether the dependence is recognized and admitted or not (122).” 

I have to be honest and say I do not think he answered this objection strongly enough.  At times it sounds like he is saying if you do A then B is likely to happen.  Now it is true that the Lord has wired us certain ways and there is an element of truth that Skinner observed.  But is this an element of the fall or redemption that he observed?  Yes, people will often respond refreshingly to affirmation but does it address deep idols in the heart? 

By asking these questions I am not by any means dismissing this excellent work by Sam Crabtree.  I would recommend putting this book in the hands of many people.  My only disappointment is that many people reading this may be motivated by behavioral and relationship changes rather than the obedience to Christ that Crabtree defended in his first chapter.  I think Crabtree is arguing for a “both/and” (both obedience and expectation of refreshing relationships) in that case I agree.  I simply would appreciate a little more clarity on this charge. 

Nonetheless, the authors central point in this book is amazing.  We must affirm others for the glory of God.  He practically shows how to do this and for that I am grateful.  This book has reoriented the way I think about affirmation and Crabtree is right—it has refreshed my parenting and marriage.

You can, and should, buy this book from Amazon for under 10 dollars: Practicing Affirmation

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Only Jesus is Radical Enough

I am excited that I have gotten an advance reading copy of David Platt’s new book Radical Together.  In the second chapter he says something is a helpful assistant to his previous book Radical:

“…I must tell you something: you will never be radical enough.  No matter what you do, even if you sell all of your possessions and move to the most dangerous country in the world for ministry’s sake, you cannot do enough to be accepted before God.  And the beauty of the gospel is that you don’t have to.  God so love you that, despite your hopeless state of sin, he sent his Son—God in the flesh—to live the life you could not live.  Jesus alone has kept the commands of God.  He alone has been faithful enough, generous enough, and compassionate enough.  Indeed, he alone has been radical enough.”

Only Jesus is Radical Enough.  Great word! 

This book is coming out in April, pre-order it now for under $10

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

You Probably Already Know This…

Wise words here from Sam Crabtree:

“…give your congregation the benefit of the doubt that they may possess knowledge.  They may know the very thing you are about to teach.  Don’t assume your message is the first time they have considered such things.  Don’t preach down to them.”  (Crabtree, Practicing Affirmation , 110)

Us youngin’s certainly need to heed Crabtree’s warning here.  Just because we are considering things and wrestling with things for the first time does not mean that every person in our congregation is too.  One of the quickest ways to not only bore, but also alienate, your congregation is to preach down to them.  (You probably already know that though don’t you?) 

This takes a good amount of wisdom and pastoral sensitivity to accomplish.  I say that because in one sense we should never assume people know anything.  But at the same time we should not assume that they are ignorant either. 

In the end this is a call for humility.  May I heed it…

Monday, March 7, 2011

None Can Pluck; An Awful and Glorious Truth

To be in the hand of God can be a wonderfully secure thing or an exceedingly horrible thing. 

In John 10 we read these encouraging words from Jesus:

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand. (John 10:27-29 ESV)

Here we see the beauty of being secure in the hand of the Lord.  When God has devoted Himself to securing our redemption there is nothing that can thwart Him.  That is a precious and wonderful promise. 

But there is another aspect to being “in the Lord’s hand”:

Now I will uncover her lewdness
        in the sight of her lovers,
        and no one shall rescue her out of my hand.
(Hosea 2:10 ESV)

I am tempted at this point to highlight the woeful state of what happens when the God of wrath is bent on destruction.  That is the message of Joel; what happens when the Almighty is bent on destruction?  Who can endure His wrath?  Indeed, the answer is no one.  But, I’m not convinced that this would apply here. 

Hosea 2 is fundamentally about the Lord’s plan to root idolatry out of his harlot wife.  I think this “out of my hand” may still hold a glimmer of covenant language.  God will not allow any of her other lovers (Baal) to provide prosperity, hope, peace, security, etc.  All of these are going to come up empty.  Nothing will thwart the Lord’s idol smashing work in his people; his bride. 

So I apply this by saying it is an awful and glorious truth to be secure in the hand of the Lord.  It is glorious because He is good and at His right hand are pleasures evermore (Psalm 16).  But it is an awful truth because He is jealously committed to the purity and fidelity of His bride.  And this doesn’t come about unless He “uncovers our lewdness” and the emptiness of our less-wild lovers is painfully exposed. 

C.S. Lewis is correct:

“In awful and surprising truth, we are the objects of His love.  You asked for a loving God; you have one.  The great spirit you so lightly invoked, the “lord of terrible aspect,” is present; not a senile benevolence that drowsily wishes you to be happy in your own way, not the cold philanthropy of a conscientious magistrate, not the care of a host who feels responsible for the comfort of his guests, but the consuming fire Himself, the Love that made the worlds, persistent as the artist’s love for his work and despotic as a man’s love for a dog, provident and venerable as a father’s love for a child, jealous, inexorable, exacting as love between the sexes…It is certainly a burden of glory not only beyond our deserts but also, except in rare moments of grace, beyond our desiring.”  (From A Grief Observed, quoted in How People Change, p24)

You are secure in the hands of the Lord; a precious and awful truth. 

Friday, March 4, 2011

Review of Pujols: More Than the Game

It was 1987.  I was six years old and watching the World Series, equipped with one of those cardboard pieces inside toilet paper as my microphone.  I was cheering on my favorite team the St. Louis Cardinals.  They lost.  I was devastated.  They broke my heart, and you don’t break the heart of a six year old boy. 

So I turned my affections to the Kansas City Royals.  They annually offer something the Cardinals never do—a lack of hope.  You know going into the season as a Royals fan that it will be a good season if you aren’t dead last and a remarkable season if you somehow win half the games. 

The Royals never get my hopes up, so my heart is never broken.  And year after year as I see the Royals plummet in the standings I take great joy in knowing that the St. Louis Cardinals will give tons of hope to people in our area only to break their hearts.  Poor suckers, they should have learned what I did when I was six.  (Maybe this also explains my love for the Cleveland Browns). 

As much as I enjoy rooting for the Royals I think I equally enjoy hating the Cardinals.  But one thing makes that difficult.  Rather, one person.  Albert Pujols.  I remember when he first came up and had an explosive rookie season, that I predicted he’d fizzle.  Yeah, I was wrong.  Pujols is a stud.  He’s also very likable.  And he also loves Jesus. 

Pujols is making the Cardinals more difficult for me to hate.  In fact, now that I live in Indiana and don’t have to hear so much about the Cardinals I may actually be okay with them winning a few games.  Or maybe Albert will leave the team after this year and I can cheer for Pujols and the Cardinals demise. 

After reading this excellent biography by Scott Lamb and Tim Ellsworth my respect for Pujols has grown immensely.  They do not attempt to paint him as many authors do Christian athletes; as so grounded in Jesus they should probably be pastoring churches.  Lamb and Ellsworth are honest about Pujols struggles in faith.  And I love that.  They don’t pretend that just because Pujols is a stud athlete that he is also perfect in the faith.  He’s a believer that struggles with sin just like the rest of us. 

They do labor to show that one of those sins that Pujols struggles with is NOT the use of PED’s.  It was very wise of Pujols’ biographers to put this in the book.  Albert truly is a hitting machine.  And with statistics likes his in the steroid era regardless of his innocence people will forever point a finger and want to put an asterisk by every stat in this era.  Lamb and Ellsworth give twenty convincing reasons why Pujols stats should stand as legit. 

I also appreciate how Lamb and Ellsworth occasionally will use Pujols story to share the Christian faith.  Take this section for example:

“Every Christian is to be a witness for Christ.  When Albert and Dee Dee share Christ, they are not doing something reserved only for the so-called celebrities of the faith…Telling others about Jesus is a stewardship and responsibility embraced by the Pujolses.” (137)

All in all this is a good read.  I have read many reviews that are frustrated with the continual use of statistics and baseball stories.  I’m not sure what they thought they were signing up for, but Albert IS a baseball player and that is his platform.  Just as you would expect a biography of a person engaged in foreign missions to include that activity, you should expect a biography on a baseball player to have plenty of baseball. 

This book will be a great, and enlightening, read for every baseball fan.  Believers that do not like baseball probably will not get a ton out of it, but this is a great book to put in the hands of young men and women that are aspiring athletes.  Pujols is a great man, a great athlete, and a humble follower of Jesus.  I am glad that Scott Lamb and Tim Ellsworth have written this book.  Great job, fellas. 

You can buy your copy of Pujols: More Than the Game for 16.49.  Or if you are cool like me and get a free copy from Thomas Nelson in exchange for a review (that’s my not-so-creative way of saying I got this book for free from the publisher, didn’t have to give a positive review, but I liked the book so I did).

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Protection of God in Tearing Me to Pieces

“But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy, and spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may exult in you.”  (Psalm 5:11)

“Spread your protection over them”

Sure doesn’t seem like that sometimes.  If God is protecting me then why do I still have to endure suffering?  If God is protecting me why do I still get sick?  Why do we go through financial difficulties?  Why do certain things happen in my life that cause heart-breaking anxiety? 

Sometimes I don’t feel protected.  Granted it could be that God is protecting me and I just don’t see it.  I am certain that happens at times. 

But seriously, God seems to have no problem rocking my life every so often.  From all appearances he is not protecting me from suffering.  Rather than spreading protection over me it feels like he is tearing me into pieces. 

I wonder, though, is it possible that maybe those two things aren’t polar opposites.  Is it possible that the activity of God in tearing me to pieces (Hosea 6) is actually the means that he is using to spread his protection over me?

The truth is that I’m too short-sighted to know my real enemies.  Sickness, financial difficulty, and anxiety may be God protecting me from the enemy of self-sufficiency and self-reliance; which are far more deadly than any physical calamity.  What good would it be for me to gain the whole world (protected from all calamity) and yet lose my soul? 

Perhaps the greatest part of God’s protecting ministry is to protect us from our own foolish hearts and soul-damning idolatry.  God is absolutely committed to me.  He has said he will protect me even if that means painfully ripping idols out of my heart and life. 

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

How to Destroy Your Family

If I could, I would protect my wife, son, daughter, and even myself from every ounce of suffering.  And If I were somehow granted this wish I would destroy every one of us.

Weird isn’t it. 

Suffering is part of the fall.  Suffering will be ultimately redeemed.  Yet, suffering is the path to glory and redemption from the fall.  Without momentary suffering there is only eternal suffering.  Without suffering I will never be healed, never cleansed of sin, never able to partake of eternal life.

God then does what is really hard for a father (if you can speak that way of God).  He allows his children to suffer.  He’d rather have us enjoying the richest treasure for all eternity than settling for an empty substitute. 
I’m glad that God is a better father than I am.  I’m too short-sighted.


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