Wednesday, June 29, 2011

GET A LIFE…Free Book Giveaway

Actually it’s not only one life that you can get…Attic Books (a division of New Leaf Publishing) has graciously agreed to give away all 5 volumes of their Life of SeriesThat includes the Life of Martin Luther, Andrew Jackson, John Knox, John Newton, and George Washington.


It would cost well over 50 bucks to buy all 5 of these but they can be yours for free.  Enter the giveaway below and you could win.  UPDATE: Contest will end on the evening of Wednesday, July 6th.  Winner will be announced Thursday the 7th!

*RSS Readers may need to click through.  Also, sometimes PunchTab is a little slow at loading so if looks blank on your post wait a few seconds and it should load.

Mustard Stains and Stuttering Speech

One mustard stain can ruin everything.  It doesn’t really matter that 99.4% of my shirt is clean.  It’s that .6% of mustard stain (or maybe 15% pending on how I tackled that sandwich) that my eyes immediately go to. 

We are like that aren’t we?  Some more than others.  We tend to focus on the blemishes.  Blemishes have a tendency to register a pretty hefty on the “am I cool or not” scale.  Enough blemishes (whether perceived or real) and you won’t feel adequate even if you have a staff that turns into a snake or a hand that can change from leprosy to healed quicker than a Hollywood “marriage”. 

In Exodus 4 an insecure Moses tells the LORD that he is afraid the people will not listen to him.  To help Moses God empowers his staff to turn into a serpent and back again.  If that doesn’t do the trick then he will do his sweet leprosy-hands trick.  If even then they do not listen God assures him that this third thing will certainly garner their confidence…he will turn water from the Nile into blood. 

To this Moses responds:
“Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and tongue.” 
Seriously, Moses?  You have a staff that can turn into a snake and you are afraid people will laugh at your lisp? 

But maybe Moses is on to something.  I mean what do you remember about Mike Tyson?  Of course you remember that he was a beast in the ring, he bit a guys ear, he did time in prison, etc.  But you also remember his voice don’t you?  It kind of made it hard to take him all that seriously because no matter how hard he could punch his voice didn’t match the muscle and we couldn’t take him serious.

His Grace is Sufficient

So, why then doesn’t God change Moses’ speech?  That seems to be something that Moses is sort of asking when he says, “or since you have spoken to your servant”.  It seems as if Moses is saying, “heal my tongue and I’m all yours”. “Cure my blemish, God, and I’ll jaunt into Pharaoh’s house right now and tell him what’s up”. 

But that is not what God does is it?  Instead he says, “I’ll be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak”. 

Fast forward a few millenniums to the apostle Paul, who has a thorn in the flesh.  We have really no idea what this thorn is other than that it was a “messenger of Satan sent to torment”.  This is Paul’s “blemish”.  He, like Moses, pleaded with God to take it away.  And just like with Moses, God’s response was, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness”. 

What does this mean for you and I?  It means that God probably is not going to fix all of our weaknesses or cure all of our blemishes.  It also means that He doesn’t need to.  Our life is about magnifying the Lord—His power is made perfect in our weaknesses.  So, may we like Paul
“boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities.  For when I am weak, then I am strong. 
In other words God loves, uses, and magnifies himself in the midst of mustard stains—no matter how many or how large.  His grace truly is sufficient. 

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Jesus Did Not Call You to Quit

In the very last lines of Dave Kraft’s book Leaders Who Last he says this:

My fellow leader, Jesus did not call, equip, and put you into a leadership role to have you start and then quit, plateau, or be disqualified.  He called you to finish the race, and finish it well.  It is my prayer that you, with his help, will be a leader who lasts, a leader who will hear those wonderful words as you hit the ribbon in full stride: ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.’”

I really needed to hear this today.  Perhaps you do to.  Keep pressing on…

Quick Review of Life of John Knox

I love books.  I especially love old books.  I am beginning to use e-readers a little more but I am confident that nothing will ever be able to replace the look and feel of having a book in your hand; especially an old book. 

Attic Books (a division of the New Leaf Publishing Group) is doing something amazing; they are taking old biographies and putting them back in print.  A few months ago I had the opportunity to review The Life of Luther by Barnas Sears.  Shortly after that review I requested a copy of The Life of John Knox in exchange for a review. 

I will repeat here what I said in my review of Life of Luther:

As a bibliophile (that’s book lover) I have to say that the look of these books is amazing.  I love the “old” feel to them, with their somewhat dilapidated looking edges and rustic covers.  There is something that makes reading history feel more significant when the book feels older. 

This Life of John Knox was originally published in 1833 by the American Sunday-School Union.  Because it comes from a different time period the biographer is able to be a little more slanted that what is accepted in our day.  That is part of what I love about these older biographies.  As an example, rather than commenting as a neutral observer on the Mary Queen of Scots’ involvement in the religious issues of Scotland, the author of this work leaves no doubt where he stands:

In the mean while the reformation was still making progress, and its secret enemy, the queen-regent, from political causes, was under the necessity of wearing the mask a little longer, in order to accomplish her schemes…but as soon as the artful regent attained her wishes she began to throw off the mask.  (46)

I love reading history that is written not from a detached observer but from someone that is passionate about the subject.  One certainly has to be careful in reading this type of history—but it is engaging and at times very helpful nonetheless. 

Reading the Life of Knox is not drudgery.  It is actually only 140 short pages.  It is a very quick read, but sometimes a little difficult because the paragraphs sometimes take up three to four pages.  If you plan on reading this in a couple of sittings or chapters at a time you will not find the longer paragraphs too burdensome. 

Who is John Knox?

I will not assume that all of my readers know of John Knox.  Knox is mostly known as the father of the Scottish Reformation.  As many of the Reformers in this period did, Knox spent a good amount of time in and out of prison or exile for non-conformity.  One area where Knox did conform however, was in wearing a sweet beard like many other Scots in his day.  Every man would hope to have his beard a subject of his eulogy—Knox is one of those fortunate ones, as one biographer notes:

John Knox was a man of small stature, and of a weakly constitution; and according to the custom of the times, wore a long beard reaching down to this middle.  (129)

Knox was a bold man that not only preached the gospel boldly before congregations each Lord’s Day but also did not tickle the Queen’s ears.  Knox boldly proclaimed the truth of Jesus to a Mary Queen of Scots and it did not gain him many friends. 

His life is a fascinating story and a model of faithfulness to Jesus despite persecution. 

At only 140 pages this biography is certainly one that is worth adding to your library.  You can do so here

You’ll Know When You Get There

I tend to give the type of directions that people hate.  Actually, I give the type of directions that I hate.  You know the ones that are never detailed and usually end with something like, “don’t worry you’ll know when you get there—you can’t miss it”. 

Well, what if I do miss it?  What if I’m a total moron?  I am the guy that once stopped at a gas station to get directions for the building across the street.  It is possible that I could totally miss the obvious building that even a monkey could drive to. 

These type of directions stress me out because they require a good amount of trust in the person giving them.  First of all, I have to trust that he/she knows my level of imbecility.  I have to trust that if he says I cannot miss it—he genuinely knows that I CANNOT miss it this time.  Secondly, I have to trust that he/she really can guide me to this “obvious” location. 

God’s Answer to Moses

“Trust me” type of directions can be really disconcerting.  And it is precisely these type of directions that God gives Moses in Exodus 3. 

Moses says to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?”  His question is certainly sensible.  Who is Moses that he—a stuttering murderer—should lead Israel out of Egypt? 

If I were Moses and God responded to me in this way, I’m not sure that I would have found what he said helpful.  Check out God’s response:

“But I will be with you, and this shall be a sign for you, that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain”.

In other words God is saying, “once you’ve brought them out of Egypt then you will know that I called you to bring them out of Egypt”. 

Is “I will be with you” enough?

I wouldn’t have been cool with this response.  I should be cool with this response—but I’m not.  The problem is with me, not with God’s answer.  But I don’t want God to say, “trust me, you’ll know it when you get there”.  I want God to give me a picture now, map it out.  Don’t just tell me—once this has been accomplished you’ll look back and say—see I told you so.  I don’t like that because that takes some serious trust. 

The key to this text—the foundation of what God said to Moses—is this statement: “But I will be with you”.  That should be enough shouldn’t it?  Moses asks, “who am I”, to which God responds, “It’s not who you are, Moses, that matters.  What matters is that I AM, and I am going with you.” 

Is it enough for me today that God says, I am with you?  Because in Jesus I have the certain promise, “I am with you always”.  Christ has not left us as orphans—through His Spirit, He is now with us always.  Is that enough?  Is God’s presence enough for me today or do I need a map?

Do I trust God enough for him to say, “You’ll know when you get there”? 

Every Day Conversation

Ephesians 4:29 has recently captured my attention and it will not let me go. “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it might benefit those who listen.”

There it is, the command to guard every word I utter. How often do I ever consider the spiritual need of the person on the other end of the conversation? How often do I consider the benefit people who are hearing my conversation with someone else? How often am I observant enough to discern what the person really needs in the course of the daily chatter of the day?

There is so much that could be said about the application of this verse, but I’m going to limit my thoughts to a few ideas.

1. People need to hear 95% less criticism from me. When I utter my critical words about the government, society, problems in the church, poor performance of the St. Louis Cardinals, and a host of other issues in which I give flight to my opinions, what I say changes nothing and tends to encourage my listeners to join in. I ought to have enough integrity to stop complaining that the news media focuses so much on ‘bad’ news if most of my observations are equally cynical.

2. People need to hear 195% more grace from me. When I speak about others, what do I see and comment on first: the worst or best? In truth, most of the time, my criticism of and about others has more to do with self-exaltation (“I not be perfect, but look at how bad he is!”) than it has to do with humility and grace. I stand before God with no righteousness of my own. My only hope is the righteousness of Christ at work in my life. How can I choose to be so critical when I have been give so much grace?

3. People need to hear the truth more often. It is amazing how deeply God can strike into the sinful soul of someone who hears the truth in love from a humble, non-critical person. We all need to love one another enough that we are willing to speak the truth, which may hurt for a season, but in time will help build one another up. Of course if I am willing to speak the truth I first need to be willing to hear the truth about myself.

When I get down to it, I need to hear and obey the Word of God.
“Heavenly Father, lead me in the path of blessed conversation. Plant in my heart an abiding desire to guard the words I speak so that I will be useful to you. Give me humility and openness so that I will receive both correction and commendation in such a way that I will not react defensively or in pride. Give me ears to listen carefully to the other person listen, really listen to his/her heart cry and be ready to offer the words needed. Give me courage to offer grace and correction as the moment requires. Give me peace that I might not respond “in kind” when I truly follow the directives of your Word and someone reacts in anger toward me. Teach me to point to Jesus Christ and the gospel in my everyday conversation because I am filled with your Spirit and overflow with your love.”

Monday, June 27, 2011

Al Mohler, Homosexuality, and Job’s Friends

There has been somewhat of a controversy within the SBC concerning statements made by Al Mohler at the Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting.  Actually it’s probably not as much of a controversy as some bloggers would have us to believe.  Truth is much that gets the blogosphere in an uproar is usually but a pebble in the ocean of real controversy.  Nonetheless, there has been a good amount of discussion regarding Mohler’s comments.

You can read the full transcript here.  Or watch the video below.  But most of the controversy stems from these words:

But we as Evangelicals have a very sad history in dealing with this issue. We have told not the truth, but we’ve told about half the truth. We’ve told the biblical truth and that’s important, but we haven’t applied it in the biblical way.

Not to put words in Dr. Mohler’s mouth but I think in part what he is saying is that we have been very similar to Job’s friends.  They are only beating on one side of the drum—you’ve sinned, you’ve sinned, you’ve sinned.  To this Job finally responds in Job 19:

“Have mercy on me, have mercy on me, O you my friends, for the hand of God has touched me!  Why do you, like God, pursue me?  Why are you not satisfied with my flesh?”

Job’s point is that IF he has sinned as they claim why are they still chasing him down in judgment and not offering him mercy.  There is nothing in their words that is pointing them to a redeemer.  They are simply saying, Job ‘fess up and maybe things will get better for you. 

Job 19:25-27 should not have been on the lips of Job--or at least only as a response.  These words should have been on the lips of Eliphaz, Zophar, and Bildad.  They should have been proclaiming to Job redemption and not only his sin:

For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth.  And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another.  My heart faints within me!

Unless the gospel goes deeply into our hearts we will be just like Eliphaz, Zophar, and Bildad.  We will look at a lost, dying, sinful, hurting, rebellious, and broken people and only shine the flashlight on their wretched condition.  Instead we should proclaim Jesus (I know that E, Z, and B didn’t have a full knowledge of Jesus) and allow the Spirit to turn on the floodlights to display the beauty, excellencies, and sufficiency of Jesus to conquer any sin no matter how heinous. 

This I believe is what Dr. Mohler is saying, “In our response to homosexuality we have only called it sin but we have not done as great of a job of pointing to Jesus.”  If that’s not describing you, then, great—thank the Lord that the Spirit has so worked in your heart that you apply the gospel rightly. 

But I believe Dr. Mohler is correct.  For far too long we have ministered to those guilty of practicing homosexuality and those with same sex attraction in an overly simplistic way that looks more like Job’s friends than it looks like Jesus Himself. 

As Mohler says, “The gospel is what we stand for and the gospel is the only remedy for sin.”  May we be gospel people and not Job’s friends.

Yes, We’re Worse Than Broken; But I Still Use the Term. Response To Randy Newman

It was with great joy that I read and reviewed Randy Newman’s book, Bringing the Gospel Home.  There was one spot however that gave me pause.  In his book Newman argues that, “if a tract or online presentation of the gospel only refers to our sin as ‘brokenness,’ we are misrepresenting the truth.”  Newman then argues that using terms like brokenness makes it sound as if we are only victims when really we are the ones in rebellion and given over to idolatry. 

Late last week Newman expounded upon this point in his article “We’re Worse Than Broken”.  He believes that the word is not helpful for believers or unbelievers.  For the believer, Newman says, “the word doesn’t go deep enough to move us forward in sanctification”.  He points out that God uses words far worse than broken to describe our lost condition. 

This word is also inadequate in sharing the gospel with unbelievers, says Newman.  It is inadequate because it fails “to convey the dire straights that only the gospel overcomes”.  Newman helpfully notes that

…the Bible’s description of sin is far more active than passive, more something we do—willingly, rebelliously, idolatrously, and knowingly—rather than something perpetrated upon us by others against our will, contrary to our nature, or different from our cravings.

To this end Newman believes that we should chose our words more carefully.  Using a term like “brokenness”, in his opinion, leads to a “reduction of the full and multifaceted concept of sin, as it is described in the Scriptures, into a buzzword that feels more at home in our therapeutic culture than in God’s Word”


In one sense I agree with Randy Newman.  We must be very cautious not to diminish the multifaceted concept of sin for the sake of using buzzwords that are acceptable in a therapeutic culture.  He is also correct in noting that brokenness often makes people feel more like victims than active rebels.  So I agree that we should be cautious in using the word brokenness. 

However, I do continue to use the word.  I continue to use the word for two primary reasons.  First, I use it precisely because it actually does help me to explain a robust biblical theology and the multifaceted concept of sin. 

To be broken means in part that something is not functioning properly—it is out of working order.  To say then that people are “broken” means that people are not functioning properly.  In order for something to be “broken” this implies that something was once functioning properly.  This allows us to begin the gospel with God and His creation. 

God lovingly created us in His image to display His glory through our enjoyment of Him.  And because of this great truth we can say that each person has great value, great responsibility, and great accountability to God. 

It is only through the lens of Eden that we can even come close to understanding the depth of our fall.  Zac Eswine helpfully states that, “without placing our sin into the context of our having been created, we discard vital aspects of the beauty of redemption”.  That is one reason that I continue to use words like “brokenness”: to show that we are not functioning the way that God created us.  We are broken people living in a broken world. 

Secondly, I use that word because people feel broken.  Newman admits this much when he says:

Our experience of alienation from God does indeed feel like we’re broken. We’re not living the lives we were created for. We’re not connecting with others with the level of intimacy we were designed for. We’re cut off from the kind of connectedness with God that he intended.

My contention is that we should continue to use a word like broken but define it using a biblical paradigm.  Certainly we should not present a gospel that makes people passive victims.  But we can explain their feelings of brokenness by saying, “yes, you and I are broken—let me explain why I say that…” 

Terms like “brokenness” can be a huge bridge to sharing the gospel with someone.  It can easily help us explain creation, fall, and redemption.  I agree that it is not a synonym to “sinful”.  But it is still a helpful word and does not necessarily mean that one is watering down the gospel. 

Friday, June 24, 2011

Quick Review of The Greener Grass Conspiracy by Stephen Altrogge

Awhile back Crossway was giving away 100 copies of a book called The Greener Grass Conspiracy.  For some really strange reason (maybe it was part of a vast conspiracy) I decided I did not have time, or really the desire, to read a book about the global warming debates. 

Fast forward two months, when I make a startling discovery (apparently the man couldn’t keep it from me forever)!  The Greener Grass Conspiracy is actually NOT about global warming.  In fact it has nothing to do with global warming. 

This book is actually about finding contentment where God has you instead of searching for something better…greener grass.  Ah ha!  I get it now.  So, I purchased the book with a gift certificate from Crossway (by the way you should join their Impact: Member Rewards program).

As soon as I began reading this book I was hooked.  In fact after reading the introduction I put it on my list of books to turn into small group material.  The message here is so unbelievably helpful and relevant to those of that are constantly bombarded by this greener grass conspiracy. 

There are some books though that are ridiculously helpful and boldly biblical, but their pages must contain that chemical that is in mashed potatoes that makes you fall asleep after Thanksgiving dinner.  Altrogge’s book thankfully is not one of those.  He is humorous and forces you to pay attention to what he is writing. And it is good that you do because he exposes the greener grass conspiracy and replaces it with deep affections for Jesus. 

I would love to tell you that you NEED to read this book.  But would that be promoting the greener grass conspiracy?…(oh, man, whitey is sooooo sneaky).  So rather than saying that you NEED this book I will simply very strongly urge you to purchase this book and read it…and maybe also say that if you do not get this book your life will forever suck, none of your dreams will come true, and the grass in your yard will be brown and parched.

Seriously, though, this book was very helpful in my own walk with Jesus.  I don’t think there was really anything new in this book, but it Altrogge put things together in such a way that it caused me to see the ignorance of pursuing junk at the expense of enjoying Christ.  I needed this reminder.  This book really does expose the greener grass conspiracy and point you to a deeper satisfaction in Jesus.

You can purchase the book here

Also Stephen was kind enough to answer a few questions about his book.  You can read those seven questions and his responses here

Thursday, June 23, 2011

When to Enter a Quarrel?

Earlier I vented a little about one frustration I have with the blogosphere: fires draw more traffic than Jesus. I mentioned Proverbs 26:17 and that it causes a small conundrum for me. Simply put, my conundrum is trying to figure out when to actually enter into a quarrel, and how to know if my motives are pure.

Before I give you this list one disclaimer. I am not, here, attempting to answer when should you intervene and speak truth and love into the life of someone in your circle of friends and family. My question is more concerned with entering into "debate" with those online that I may never meet this side of eternity.

These are 7 questions I try to answer before I engage in a "quarrel":

1. How closely related is it to the gospel? I will be quicker to enter a discussion on the exclusivity of Christ than I would my view of the millennium.

2. Am I angry? You don't stop a dogfight by getting on all fours and barking like the dogs. Pursuing peace and unity is really the reason to enter into a quarrel, I can't do that very well if I am angry.

3. Am I more concerned with winning an argument than I am speaking truth in love? In other words am I going to make every reasonable attempt to understand the other persons point of view.

4. Do I have the time? These online discussions can be time consuming.

5. Am I approaching this humbly?

6. Am I trying to be Jesus? Am I trying to be the savior of somebody else?

7. Am I trying to defend God? He doesn't need me to defend Him.

I may ask myself a few more questions, but the big picture is that I want to approach entering a quarrel with extreme caution. I want to constantly be checking my heart as I do so. I certainly want to make sure that my aim is unity, peace, and exalting Christ.

I certainly don't want to engage in a quarrel for the sake of blog traffic.

Lord, make me humble. Help me to be wise. And above all help me to always be content in You. Amen!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Kidney Stones and Hardness of Heart

…the child of God has not total and final hardness of heart, but has a sensibleness of it, he feels and sees it.  Total hardness feels nothing, but a Christian that has hardness of heart, feels that he has it; as a man that has a stone in his bladder, feels and knows that he has a stone.  (Sibbes, The Tender Heart, 41-42)

I have never had a kidney stone.  But I can say with a pretty firm confidence that I do not want one.  This quote leads me to ask myself whether or not I grieve my occasional hardness of heart towards the Lord as I would grieve a kidney stone? 

Does an absence of strong affections for Jesus cause me pain like passing a kidney stone would?

Venting…But With A Point

I am from a ridiculously small town.  Population 666.  Seriously. 

In said small town it is quite humorous what happens whenever there is a fire in town.  First of all the town whistle blows.  If I remember correctly over 4 blows of the sacred whistle lets us know that the fire is out of town.  Under 4 means that the traffic in town is about to pick up. 

One volunteer fireman on his way out to put out the fire will stop for a brief moment and write on a huge blackboard who the unlucky sap is that is experiencing an unwanted fire.  Knowing this ritual somewhere around 650 people, like lemmings, get in their vehicles (mostly big trucks with Old Dixie hanging from the back) and get the low down on the fire. 
Then about 200 of those 650 attempt to slyly drive out to wherever the fire is.  We (yeah, I confess I used to do this too), try to pretend that we are only going to the gas station…but everybody is in on the secret.  We are all curious about the fire. 

Sad thing is nobody had visited this poor sap UNTIL his house burns down.  Why is that? 

We like a good car crash.  That is why sober and adjusted people only watch NASCAR for the wrecks.  And non-Canadians only watch hockey for the fights.  Controversy, turmoil, fires, etc. creates traffic. 

The same thing is true in the world of blogging.  And that frustrates me to no end.  It frustrates me because every writer wants people to read what he/she writes.  Yeah, I love writing.  But I also want to write well and write in a way that honors Christ and makes Him the only boast of this generation. 

That is why it frustrates me whenever those that stir up controversy get massive traffic and meanwhile I plod along slowly, keep writing, and slowly gain traffic.  If this post would have Driscoll, Calvinism, SBC, Alcohol, or Homosexuality, or some sort of end times jargon in the title I guarantee it would have had a good amount of traffic.  But if it’s something about the excellencies of Jesus it will get a minimum amount of traffic.

And I could write about that stuff.  I do have opinions on many of these things.  Problem is I do not want to.  At the end of the day I want to stand before the Lord and be able to say that I wrote for His glory and not blog traffic.  Or at least I want to want that.

One thing that guides my writing and social media involvement is Proverbs 26:17, “Whoever meddles in a quarrel not his own is like one who takes a passing dog by the ears”.  I could enter into many of these quarrels but it would end up biting me in the end. 

But this causes a small conundrum for me…And I’ll share that one later…

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

7 Questions with Stephen Altrogge: Author of The Greener Grass Conspiracy

Stephen Altrogge has written a helpful book on contentment entitled The Greener Grass Conspiracy.  (I plan on reviewing this book on Friday).  You will certainly want to buy a copy.  You also will want to check out Stephen’s blog, The Blazing Center

Stephen was nice enough to answer 7 questions about himself and his book:

1. I have to be honest, for awhile I was not interested in purchasing this book because I thought it had something to do with the global warming conspiracy. I’m not sure why. Just in case I am not the only one, how would you sum up for my readers the main message of your book?

The main message of this book is that God has loads of joy and contentment for us right where we are, and that we don't always need to be on the search for something else to satisfy us.

2. Why this book on contentment?

Two reasons.  First, because I'm often a very discontented pig.  Several years ago I was going through a time when I just didn't like the way my life was shaping up.  My schedule was frenetic, I was tired, and I hardly had any time to be with my family.  In the midst of all this I found myself grumbling and complaining, rather than going to God for joy and contentment.  These circumstances prompted me to go to the Bible and see what it had to say about contentment.  What I found there, particularly in Philippians 4, was transforming, and prompted me to start writing this book.  The second reason I wrote it is because every Christian battles against discontentment.  We all have an idea in our heads of what a perfect life would like, and when we don't get that life, we battle discontentment.  I wrote this book in the hopes that it would help others find their contentment in Christ instead of circumstances.

3. I notice that you quote the Puritans quite often. What were some of the books that you drew most from in writing this book?

I drew primarily from "The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment" by Jeremiah Burroughs and "The Art of Divine Contentment" by Thomas Watson.  Everyone should read those books.  Seriously. No, I mean drop what you are doing and go purchase those books right now.    (To follow Stephen’s advice you can do so here and here).

4. I love your writing style. You are funny, engaging, and yet always bring your humor around to make a really solid point. I know most of this is probably simply God-given talent, but I am curious who are your greatest influences in writing?

Hmm, that's tough.  Off the top of my head, I would say: John Piper, Dave Barry, with maybe a splash of Jon Acuff thrown in.  I read a ton so it's hard for me to nail down all my influences.  Anne Lamott might be in there somewhere too.

5. I love this statement, “complaining sucks the joy out of life”. I tend to agree with this statement but I do wonder about the Psalms. Something tells me that their “complaining” is much different than what we typically engage in. What is the difference between the complaints of the Psalmist and our typical complaining? Is there a…I’m not sure how to phrase this…redemptive way of complaining?

Yeah I think you're on to something.  I think that the posture of the heart makes all the difference when it comes to complaining.  We can complain in such a way that we are demanding something of God.  When I complain about having a cold, behind that complaint is the implicit demand that God owes me better health.  The Psalmists, however, voiced their complaints to God in a humble, trusting way.  Basically they would say, "God this is hard, I don't like this, please help me, but ultimately I trust you."  I think that we can tell God about our struggles in such a way that we are not demanding better treatment from him, but simply laying our burdens at his feet.

6. Many of my readers may not know that you also write music for Sovereign Grace Ministries. What are some of the most popular songs that you have written?

Let's see.  I've written "The Birthday Song", "The Alphabet Song", and "Thriller".  No, seriously, the one people might know the most is called "He Is Jesus".  I also wrote on called "How Deep" that people seem to do a fair amount. 

7. You state in your book that your favorite Christian rock group is dcTalk. First question, related to this. Are you serious? Second question. “Rock” group, seriously?

You had to bring this up, didn't you?  Yes, dcTalk is my favorite Christian rock group.  I liked other groups like Audio Adrenaline, Newsboys, and Pax 217, but in terms of pure creativity and songwriting, dcTalk is my favorite.  When they released "Jesus Freak" in 1995, that was a momentum shifting album for the entire Christian music industry.  And yes, they are a "Rock" group.  Now, granted, up until "Jesus Freak", I would say that they were a rap group.  But "Jesus Freak" was most definitely a rock album. 

Thanks for the interview!!!!

Thank you Stephen for your time and your helpful responses.  And I’m really sorry about the dcTalk thing.  Not asking the question…just sorry that you haven’t been discontent enough to search out better music. 

I know Stephen encouraged you to buy those books by Burroughs and Watson, but you should also seriously consider buying Stephen’s book.  It is funny, engaging, and probably just as helpful as the two books he suggests buying. 

You can buy Stephen’s newest book here

Hold ON!

“Though he slay me, I will hope in him; yet I will argue my ways to his face”.  Job 13:15

This verse has long been a hallmark of rich biblical faith.  It is, but it may not necessarily be in the way that you think.  Often Job’s faith, here, is compared to that of Habakkuk. 

“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.  God, the Lord, is my strength…”

Habakkuk is trusting that God knows best even if it hurts.  Habakkuk has come to learn that even though there is great suffering and loss he can trust a good God.  Habakkuk finds His joy in God and no longer in circumstances. 

Is Job’s faith in 13:15 like Habakkuk’s? 

I submit to you that it is actually more like Peter’s in John 6. 

Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.

Peter’s confession comes on the heels of Jesus’ famous “eat my flesh and drink my blood” sermon.  That one did not go so well (at least on Jesus’ ACP report).  The beginning of John 6 is a rousing“we love Jesus” rally, with the hopes of crowning Him as the their King.  John 6 ends with these same people leaving…probably thanking YHWH that the cannibal Jesus didn’t accept the crown. 

As everyone is leaving Jesus turns to the disciples and asks, “are you going to join them?”  To this we have Peter’s response…there is nowhere else to go. 

Peter’s faith is more like Job’s in 13:15.  Job is not chipper or speaking of joy as Habakkuk does.  Job, just as I am assuming Peter and the disciples were, is still scratching his head.  He is still longing for answers. 

Job wants and audience with God even if it kills him.  Why?  Because he knows that God is the only one that “has the words of eternal life”.  He knows that God is the only one that can redeem him, and so even though it may kill him he ventures to have an audience with God. 

I have no idea what many of you are going through.  Some of you are perhaps at a spot of Habakkuk faith—where you are finding joy in drinking from the fountain of God’s riches, despite outward circumstances that still cause pain. 

Some of you may be closer to Job.  He’s just sitting in the fountain wishing he could enjoy a drink.  He knows that there is no other fountain to find life in, that is why he is sitting in this one.  But Job isn’t at a spot yet where he can taste and see that the Lord is good. 

Hold On!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Why Did This Tragedy Happen? Response.

Paul Tripp has wisely stated that we are all “meaning makers”.  We are constantly looking for meaning and answers.  One of our favorite questions is, “why”. 

These questions are never more prevalent than when tragedy strikes.  And usually there are plenty of pundits that rise to the occasion to give us reasons why this happened.  Within Christian circles the answers are…wait for it…diverse.

Consider what happened to Job or the Hebrews in Egypt.  Think through that story and consider how many different “Christian” responses there would be to this tragedy. 

Different Responses

You would have the Westboro Baptist type of folks that would without a shadow of a doubt—nor a shred of humility—“this obviously happened because God is judging Job for his sinfulness.”  Then of course there would be the people that would be quick to absolve God from any sort of involvement but almost fall into dualism:  “God did not wish that these tragedies happen, Satan has obviously gotten a foothold, but don’t worry God will beat him up in the end”.  Then there are about a million different responses somewhere in between. 

Apart from a long embrace, to me the best response is simply this:
Job, I don’t know why all of these things have happened to you.  I know that God is in control.  But that is not new information for you.  I also know that God is good, even if that is hard to believe right now.  I am hanging on to the promise of Romans 8:28 that, “all things work together for good”.  You and I know, Job, that our greatest good is conformity to Christ.  That does not necessarily take away the pain, but it at least mixes the pain with hope.  Somehow through this you will be brought into a deeper enjoyment of Jesus.  So in the midst of this hurt and pain just hang on.  And I’ll be hanging on with you. 

I am convinced that pat answers do not really help suffering people.  In fact most people that are suffering KNOW that God is in control.  That is what is bothering them.  It’s not His sovereignty they question—it is His goodness.  And that is what we somehow must hang onto. 

Why do tragedies happen?  I don’t really know.  All I know is that we cannot hide behind saying, “the devil did it”.  This undercuts our hope; because if God couldn’t stop this cancer then what makes me think He can resurrect the dead?  Nor can we arrogantly assume that we know the specific “why”.  All we can really do is cling to the promise that our suffering will pale in comparison to the glory that awaits us. 

Suffering (as if I truly know anything about it) is painful.  It sucks.  Cancer, rape, adultery, murder, death, genocide, starvation,…the list could go on and on…are horrendous and they hurt.  So, I have to wonder how amazing must Jesus be that when we finally “attain” Christ that we would look back on these horrible tragedies and say, “what suffering?” 

I don’t know what your “tragedy is” or what the specific reasons why.  But I do know the One that is so glorious that the real pain you feel pales in comparison to His very real glory, splendor, and joy-producing majesty.

Why Did This Tragedy Happen?

Tragedy strikes a small up and coming nation.  They are in the middle of a fierce drought.  They are ravaged by this famine.  People are starving to death.  Babies are starving to death.

The famine gets so bad that this nation is easy prey for a much more powerful nation.  At first it is a good relationship.  The more powerful nation takes this fledgling nation under her wing to protect her from the famine.  But eventually the policies change.  It’s not long before the bigger nation enslaves the smaller nation.

As if slavery were not enough, these people are abused by their owners.  They are no longer starving but now they are being made to work ruthlessly for cruel task masters.  These are cruel task masters that eventually attempt ethnic genocide.  They put together a cruel plan to kill every male child among this people.

For those knowledgeable of Scripture you probably guessed that this was the beginning of the history of Israel.  Hang with me as I ask a rather deep question.  Was this part of God’s plan?

Mull that over for a moment while we consider Job. 

A guy loses EVERYTHING…well, all accept his unhelpful friends and his very unhelpful wife.  The same wife that told him after this tragedy, “curse God and die”.  So, yeah Job lost EVERYTHING. Was this part of God’s plan?  Or was it an aberration; a plan “B”, of sorts?

Listen I do not understand how all of this fits together but I do want to let Scripture speak for itself.  Consider what God said to Jacob before he began his journey into Egypt:
“I am God, the God of your father.  Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for there I will make you into a great nation.  I myself will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also bring you up again, and Joseph’s hand shall close your eyes.” 
God is reassuring Jacob that going to Egypt is keeping with his promises.  Notice how God recapitulates his promise to Abraham.  We can see the themes that will run throughout all of redemptive history: “I will make you a great nation…I will be with you…I will also bring you up again”. 

The Israelites are in Egypt because the all-knowing God told them to be there.  This is not plan B.  God is reassuring Jacob that their presence in Egypt is absolutely NOT plan B.  This is plan A.  And certainly this includes their slavery. 

Or consider Job.  You know how he answered our question?  In Job 12:9-10 he says, “who among all these does not know that the hand of the LORD has done this?  In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind.” 

This whole chapter is Job proclaiming the absolute sovereignty of God.  If something happens ultimately it happens because of God.  Job does not allow us to hide behind secondary causes.  You can say that he was a loon, a raving mad man.  Job said this much about himself.  But at the end of the story it is Job that God says has the proper theology.  It’s hard to get around that. 

When tragedy strikes we like to say, “the devil did this”.  I am not so certain that Scripture allows us that freedom. 

So what does all of this mean?  Ultimately you will have to wait for eternity to get that one.  But I hope to try to tie a couple of loose ends together and consider where Jesus is in the midst of all these question. 

For that you will have to read my response....

Monday, June 20, 2011

Review of Bringing the Gospel Home by Randy Newman

If it wasn’t so sad it would be hilarious.  OK.  I confess.  I laugh at it.  “It” being C.S. Lovett’s (any relation to Lyle?) magic formula for evangelism.  You can read a sample of that lovely book here.  Essentially, Lovett unashamedly does what many books on evangelism have mildly done for decades; they promise quick results by following an easy formula that any person that loves Jesus can follow, and do without fear. 

The myriad of these books, and their infiltration into the church, leave those of us that still wet our pants while doing personal evangelism feeling as if we are failures as followers of Jesus.  This emotion is only magnified whenever we feel the burden of evangelism for those within our family that do not know Jesus. 

We think to ourselves, “If only I were obedient and had the guts and the know how to follow C.S. Lovett’s formula, then my family would be saved”.  Or worse yet, we use Lovett’s formula—it doesn’t work as promised and then we wonder why God dropped the ball.  No wait.  Even worse; we use the magic formula’s and we get somebody in our family to pray a prayer (just to shut us up), and then assume they are good with the Lord and we move on to evangelizing others within our family. 

Meanwhile those of us that aren’t so successful at using formulas and who especially have damp trousers when sharing the gospel with family continue to feel burdened but overwhelmed.  Thankfully Randy Newman has written a book, Bringing the Gospel Home, that is realistic, gospel-saturated, and remarkably helpful. 


From the very beginning Newman breathes fresh air into the countless number of evangelism books.  Newman notes that “when we’re told that witnessing should come naturally, we’re set up for failure and frustration”.  This is what drives Newman’s realistic and humble approach to evangelism. 

Newman also rejects the typical formulaic method of most evangelism books.  His philosophy is to give us a “richer understanding of biblical truth” and with this we will have a “firmer foundation for bold witness and clear communication”.  Because of this philosophy you will not find chapters on specific questions or how to minister to a specific family member. 

What we do find are 7 helpful chapters on family, grace, truth, love, humility, time, and eternity.  The first chapter is an exploration of the difference between God’s plan for the family and Satan’s plan for the family.  After this Newman weaves together six chapters that adequately display the maxim in his epilogue: “Witnessing to family takes TLC…”T” stands for time, “L” stands for love, and “C” stands for comprehensiveness.” 


In the introduction the reader is given the purpose of this book:  “to offer hope”.  Newman certainly does that.  He manages to practically present an unapologetic biblical theology of the gospel and evangelism that infuses the reader with hope.  But not hope because I now feel equipped with awesome Ninja-like evangelism skills.  No, what happens in this book is that my evangelism “skillsdo not necessarily grow, but my confidence in God does. 

Your view of God will get bigger as you read through this book.

As your view of God gets bigger you will be infused with hope.  And this new found hope that maybe God actually can and will save your family members is further refined with Newman’s patient and humble approach to living the gospel and speaking the gospel. 

What I love most about this book is that Newman not only applies the gospel to “them” but also applies the gospel to the one hoping to see a beloved family member come to Jesus.  After all the deeper the gospel goes in our own hearts the better witnesses we will become.  I found this particular selection refreshing:
“Isn’t grace amazing—and breaking?  Isn’t it absolutely breathtaking that a holy righteous God forgives people like me…and you!  Doesn’t that just break your pride and arrogance and self-absorption!  Doesn’t that kind of news sound really good?  Doesn’t it change your tone of voice and posture as you tell your family that Jesus died for them?  Until the grace of God strikes you as both amazing and breaking, it may be best for you to just pray for your family.  Pray that God brings others into their lives to witness to them while he works in your life to fill you with wonder and joy.” 
This book is full of such gospel-centered wisdom and insight.  Each chapter even ends with a few “steps to take”. 

If you have a desire to “bring the gospel home” to your family then this is a great book to read.  It will infuse you with hope, strengthen your own relationship with Jesus, and assist you in taking the gospel to your family. 

You need this book. 

Get your copy here!!!

Randy Newman Interview- "Bringing the Gospel Home" from Crossway on Vimeo.  (HT: JT)
**I apologize that I was not able to cite the page number for various quotes.  Chalk it up to my technological ignorance.  I am unsure how to get the page numbers off of my iPad when I use the Kindle app for books I bought somewhere other than the Kindle store. 

Michael Scott and the Reading of Scripture

This is one of my favorite quotes from The Office (sorry for the quality):

Do you ever feel this way after reading Scripture? 

Sometimes the word feels like somebody “took my heart, and dropped it into a bucket of boiling tears”.  Then I turn to another Scripture and it feels like it “is hitting my soul in the crotch with a frozen sledgehammer”.   Then my third reading in Scripture “starts punching me in the grief bone”. 

Conviction hurts.  And the Holy Spirit is fond of using the Word to bring conviction.  Indeed “the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword…all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give an account”. 

Though that is on occasion my experience I am convinced that it may NOT be the right way for a believer to read the Scriptures.  Yes, Scripture brings conviction; but it is never meant to stop there.  If my reading of Scripture feels like a frozen sledgehammer to the crotch then chances are I am not applying Jesus. 

Consider what Paul says in Romans 15,

“For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope”. 

God’s Word is not meant to merely punch us in the grief bone.  The Scriptures are meant to give us hope because they are meant to point us to Jesus—who is Himself our Hope. 

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Job’s Arbiter

“There is no arbiter between us, who might lay his hand on us both.  Let him take his rod away from me, and let not dread of him terrify me.  Then I would speak without fear of him, for I am not so in myself.”  (Job 9:33-35)

Sure there is Job, his name is Jesus. 

No, He IS Calling You to a Church

Okay there are a good number of things off about this particular demonstration (I’m not going to call it a sermon).  Watch it until the end because I want to key in on something that he says:

(HT: Scotteriology)

Notice that he said “I’m not talking about joining the church, I’m talking about becoming a Christian”.  This is a pretty popular saying with many television preachers, and it is picked up by many other well-meaning preachers.  It sounds so pious doesn’t it. 

“Don’t worry we aren’t trying to get you to join our church, we aren’t trying to increase our numbers, we just want you to have a relationship with Jesus”.

“Oh, whew!  I thought that maybe you were calling me to dedicate my life to unity with a local expression of the body of Christ.  That was close.  Yeah, I’ll take me some DNA-changing-Jesus but please don’t call me to be united to other believers that will hold me accountable, rub me the wrong way, and continually—often painfully—sharpen my relationship with Jesus”. 

Brothers and sisters, Jesus IS calling you to more than just a relationship with Him.  Yeah, the gospel isn’t about joining a church like you would join a Blockbuster or Sam’s Club.  But it is about uniting yourself to Christ and in turn uniting yourself to other blood-bought believers in Christ. 

I leave you with these words from Mark Dever:

If you have no interest in actually committing yourself to an actual group of gospel-believing, Bible-teaching Christians, you might question whether you belong to the body of Christ at all!  (Dever, What is a Healthy Church, 27)

Dever continues:

We demonstrate to the world that we have been changed, not primarily because we memorize Bible verses, pray before meals, tithe a portion of our income, and listen to Christian radio stations, but because we increasingly show a willingness to put up with, to forgive, and even to love a bunch of fellow sinners.  (28)

Friday, June 17, 2011

A Question the Holy Spirit Asks of Preachers On Sunday Morning

On Wednesday I reviewed Albert N. Martin’s excellent little booklet Preaching in the Spirit.  I thought today I would share with you my favorite quote from this book:

“Will I be able to do My most delightful work today through that man’s preaching?  Will the preacher give Me sufficient material with which to do My work?  I have the lights all ready to turn on and focus on Jesus.  Will the preacher put Christ and front and center so that I can turn the floodlights of My influence on the Savior?”  (Martin, 50-51)

Hardening, Hiding, and the Gospel

“It is a terrible thing to keep a wound of some great sin upon the conscience, for it makes a way for a new breach; because when the conscience once begins to be hardened with some great sin, then there is no stop, but we run on to commit sin with all greediness.”  (Richard Sibbes, The Tender Heart, 35)

What Sibbes is saying here, with his Puritan language, is that we must be quick to root out sin because once it takes root it will only make way for more hardening and more sin. 

Earlier in this text Sibbes gives the example of King David.  When he spiraled out of control with Bathsheba he had to numb a part of his heart.  A smaller sin, like taking a census, David was able to deal with and his conscience was still able to bring about his repentance.  But there are some things that we simply cannot deal with and so we harden ourselves. 

Once this hardening (perhaps you could say hiding) takes place it opens up a door for more and more sin to enter in.  Look at David.  He committed adultery.  He kept it in the dark.  It turned into lying.  Which eventually manifested itself in murder.  And worse yet it shut off a part of David’s heart to the LORD.  When Nathan the prophet came David was so “hardened” to this area in his life that he was not even able to see himself in Nathan’s parable. 

The only solution to this sick spiral is the gospel of Jesus. 

I say the gospel is the only cure because it is the only thing (or should I say Christ is the only One) powerful enough to uproot the cause of the hardening. 

We are unable to face these “big” sins because we all too often attempt to face them on our own.  Just like David and Adam and Eve before him, we attempt to fix our mistakes with our own efforts and our own righteousness. 

But there are certain sins that seem much bigger than our own perceived sense of righteousness.  When the magnitude of the sin outweighs the level of our perceived righteousness we shut down, hide, and try to find covering.  Perhaps if we wait long enough God’s statute of limitations will run out.  So we harden ourselves either until we can gain enough "righteousness” to merit come out of hiding—or we think that God has forgotten about our transgression. 

Hiding in the bushes is never neutral, though.  Something happens.  Part of our humanity has to die to live behind a bush of hiding.  You and I were not made to live in the dark.  And when we do it destroys our humanity.  This is what Sibbes is talking about. 

But the gospel changes things. 

The gospel says that I do not measure my perceived righteousness against the magnitude of my sin.  I measure Christ’s true righteousness against the true magnitude of my sin.  Jesus wins every time.  His righteousness is greater than my sin—no matter how great, no matter how vile.  And whenever this truth goes deep in my heart I don’t have to hide anymore.  I am hidden in Christ. 

Even though he did not fully know how; David got that his only hope was the cleansing and covering of God.  Read Psalm 51.  He realized that if the Lord cleansed him then he would be whiter than snow.  Once God used Nathan to pull David out from hiding David came to realize that his only hope was the Lord’s covering. 

May we learn the same today.  No matter how BIG your sin is, know that Christ’s righteousness is infinitely BIGGER.  Hide Away in the Love of Jesus. 

(This is the best video that I could find of this awesome song by Sovereign Grace Ministries). 

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Review of Preaching in the Holy Spirit

I still remember the very first time that I stood behind a pulpit to deliver the message on Sunday morning.  I had prepared for hours upon hours.  Crafting my sermon to be faithful to Jesus, helpful for the congregation, and biblically faithful. 

Finally it was Sunday morning and I drove one hour to fill the pulpit of I Forget the Name Baptist Church.  I believer there were about 25 dear saints there that morning—gracious enough to have a young pastor wannabe preaching the gospel to them.  My knees were knocking as I began the discourse.  The first five minutes were really rough.  And then something happened…

I began moving a little outside the manuscript and speaking from what the Spirit had laid on my heart.  I felt for the rest of the sermon a good deal of freedom and a growing sense of love and unity with these dear believers. 

Towards the end of the sermon if I remember correctly I also had a heightened sense of pride, “I’m really doing it, look at me I’m really preaching…”  Then I started to feel quite shackled again.  My freedom of speech was gone.  Something was missing.  In that brief moment I started trusting in my competency as a preacher.  God was gracious, left me, I fumbled and stumbled, and then once again threw myself on the mercy of the Lord.  I closed the sermon with freedom and what preachers of old would call “unction”. 

What brought about that freedom, heightened sense, growing love, and greater confidence in the Word?  According to Albert N. Martin I was in those moments engaged in Preaching in the Holy Spirit. 


Preaching in the Holy Spirit is a helpful little booklet published by Reformation Heritage Books.  Its 67 pages are actually the fruit of Martin’s 2 messages at an annual pastor’s conference in October of 2002 on “Preaching in the Spirit”.  For the readers benefit the booklet is broken up into five chapters. 

In the first chapter Martin hopes to chart the course, explaining that this booklet will address the agency and operation of the Holy Spirit (as a sovereign divine Person) with reference to the act of preaching itself.  After this introduction Martin argues in chapter two for the indispensable necessity of the Spirit in preaching.  Here he shows that the Spirit was needed in the ministry of Jesus, the apostles, and all new-covenant ministry. 

The third and fourth chapters are the meat of the booklet.  In these chapters Martin attempts to explain what preaching in the Spirit looks like as well as the experience of diminished preaching, respectively.  He concludes with a passionate plea to “let Christ loose” (66) and to keep preaching in the power of the Holy Spirit. 


Do you ever have certain beliefs, passions, or experiences that you never really tell anybody, but finally some brave soul opens up and shares that they too have the same experience?  What a relief to know that you aren’t a total nutjob; at least not in this area. 

I felt that way reading this book. 

What Albert N. Martin describes about the preaching experience—both in the positive and negative—has been my typical experience in preaching for the last ten plus years.  I was deeply encouraged to know that what I am experiencing is not just being amped up on an extra does of caffeine but it is the operation of the Holy Spirit. 

I was also rebuked and helped by Martin.  Not every time I preach do I do so with an enlarged heart, heightened sense, growing confidence in the Word, and great freedom.  And because of this I could sadly identify with Martin’s fourth chapter on a restrained or diminished measure of the Spirit.  It was helpful to know some of the pitfalls that preachers fall into that might cause a diminished measure of the Spirit. 

One of the greatest strengths of the work is Martin’s balanced view of the relationship between Spirit-driven study and Spirit-directed preaching.  Sometimes the Spirit is quenched because of our lack of study, and other times he is grieved because we are more shackled by our manuscript than we are free in Jesus.  Martin encourages intentional study for the sake of freedom in preaching.  Very helpful. 

This book should be a welcome addition into any pastor’s library, if nothing more than simply to paint a picture of what your Sunday morning should look like.  This is not an exhaustive study of the topic.  (For a more thorough treatment I would suggest Arturo Azurdia’s Spirit-Empowered Preaching).  Thought not exhaustive this primer still packs a punch.  There is plenty within these 67 pages that will edify the preacher and cause us to long for more of the Spirit’s work in our preaching. 

You can buy your copy here.

Jesus Has More Power Than My Lack of Bread

The disciples frantically shuffle through all their belongings hoping to find some bread.  “I thought Andrew was bringing the bread”, remarks a beleaguered Thomas.  “No, it was Thaddaeus”, Andrew responds.  Back and forth they go only to find one measly loaf of bread. 

Then their greatest fear is realized.  Jesus says, “Watch out; beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.” 

“GREAT! The Master knows.  Our foolish act of forgetting bread has been exposed.  And now Jesus, speaking in parables like he always does, is rebuking us for being so dense.  We are going to starve out here in the middle of the ocean all because none of us remembered to bring the bread.”

Then Jesus interrupts.  “Fellas, I’m not talking about bread here.  Is this really what you are worried about?  Are you really so dense to get this worked up over bread after I’ve just fed 5,000 and then again 4,000 with only a few loaves of bread?” 

Silly disciples. 

Better yet, silly me.  Just like the disciples I can have my eyes blind to what is really significant to Jesus.  And just like the disciples I can get worked up over my failure to do something, like bring bread, but neglect the much bigger picture. 

Jesus is less concerned about having perfect bread bringing disciples than he is about having disciples that—in the midst of their brokenness and failures—stand in awe of his power to take our lack of bread and transform it into an abundance of bread.

What matters in life and ministry is not that you brought the bread.  What matters in life and ministry is that Jesus has power, He is building His church, and nothing will stand against Him. 

Crossway-Giveaway Winner Announced!

Thanks to his twitter referral Mr. Ryan Lake has won the first semi-annual Crossway Giveaway.  Ryan has won 4 excellent books from Crossway.  If you did not win I encourage you to add this website to what ever feed reader you use.  We will be having giveaway’s every month.  So stay tuned.


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Tomorrows LGBT Petition and Hopeful Strategy

Tomorrow there will be a “coalition of local and national LGBT activists will hand-deliver a petition to leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention at their annual meeting calling on the SBC to apologize for the harm its teachings have caused the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. Prior to delivering the petition, an historic 'Teach-In' will take place outside of the SBC's convention.”

You can read about it here

I believe that the SBC will probably respond by holding its stance on homosexual behavior as being sinful.  That stance is one that I agree with.  However, I hope that we (SBC believers) do more than simply state that homosexuality is wrong.

I have a picture in my mind of what I would love to see happen.  On one side of the street various LGBT protesters are condemning the Southern Baptist Convention for its harmful, hateful, and bigoted stance against homosexuality.  On the other side of the street are gospel-drenched Jesus-followers with equally large billboards; but rather than saying things like “God made Adam and Eve NOT Adam and Steve” these billboards are invitations to lunch. 

Not invitations to go debate homosexuality over a burger and fries, but a legitimately sincere invitation to just have lunch together.  We do not have to budge on our position that homosexual behavior is harmful, destructive, and ultimately idolatrous and God-belittling.  But we do come to realize that the Law is powerless to convert and it is powerless to sanctify. 

Let the LGBT community continue to call our theology wrong and harmful.  Let them continue to say that we, “promote religion-based bigotry and start recognizing the enormous pain and suffering caused by its mistreatment of LGBT people, particularly vulnerable youth”.  But may they do it trampling over us with out-stretched arms. 

"If sinners be damned, at least let them leap to Hell over our dead bodies. And if they perish, let them perish with our arms wrapped about their knees, imploring them to stay. If Hell must be filled, let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let not one go unwarned and unprayed for."


New Comment System at Borrowed Light and a very important mustache question

With much thanks to my friend Chris, Borrowed Light will now be using Disqus for commenting.  I hope that you enjoy it.  If everything works smoothly this commenting system should integrate Facebook and Twitter comments with blog comments. 

Give it a try.  (You may have to clink on the post title for comments on the first entry).

Who would win in a mustache growing contest Chef Boyardee or Cap’n Crunch?

To get the full effects of this new comment system stick around to argue your answer.  And if this goes really well who knows maybe we’ll make the “who would win…” a weekly feature. 

Not Being Eliphaz

I hope I am getting better at pastoral counseling.  When I first began doing ministry I figured that the key to effective counseling was knowing answers and giving those answers to hurting people.  I’m not so sure of that anymore. 

I take my cues from the book of Job.  Consider this little snippet from Eliphaz’s counsel to his hurting friend Job:

“8 As for me I would seek God, and to God would I commit my cause…17 Behold, blessed is the one whom God reproves; therefore despise not the discipline of the Almighty.  18 For he wounds, but he binds up;  he shatters, but his hands heal.  19 He will deliver you from six troubles; in seven no evil shall touch you.” 

That is good solid counsel is it not?  Calamity has come upon Job.  Depressing, “my life will never be the same”, type of calamity.  Is it not good advice to tell a hurting man to entrust Himself to the Lord’s care?  Eliphaz is reminding Job that this is a period of discipline but trust in the Lord and eventually he will heal you.  Eliphaz essentially tells Job to “turn that frown upside down” God will bless you again eventually. 

Every one of those verses can find other Old Testament Scripture to back it up.  Whether it be from the Torah, the Psalms, or the Prophets what Eliphaz is saying is biblical

Then why this:

“After the LORD had spoken these words to Job, the LORD said to Eliphaz the Temanite: “My anger burns against you and against your two friends, for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.”  (Job 42:7, emphasis mine)

So what is the problem; is Eliphaz’s problem a theology problem? 

As I read Job I am becoming increasingly convinced that the problem with Eliphaz and his two friends is not that they have horrible theology.  These men aren’t the Dr. Phil and Oprah of the camel riding days.  They have pretty solid theology (especially given their historical place in God’s unfolding revelation).  Theology is not really their problem.  Their problem is that they are wrongly applying pretty solid theology.  And because of this they are not speaking accurately of the LORD. 

Notice in 5:17 that Eliphaz encourages Job not to despise the discipline of the LORD.  That is true.  But it does not apply to Job because this is not happening to Job because of the Lord’s discipline.  So everything that Eliphaz says—no matter how true theologically—is off the mark.  It is crappy counsel. 

Those of us that are pastors need to be extra sensitive in seeing ourselves in Eliphaz.  We spend a good amount of our time studying Scripture, rubbing shoulders with people, and learning the ways of the LORD.  We typically know the right answers.  But we are prone to being like Eliphaz where we try to make our theological answers fit every situation.  Sometimes we need to just listen and humbly say, "maybe I don’t have the answers to this one”.

Monday, June 13, 2011

The Cause of Passion

Reformation Heritage recently sent me a couple of books to review.  One of them is a little booklet written by Albert N. Martin. entitled Preaching in the Holy Spirit.  At one particular point he provides the reader with a few things that will bring a true earnestness in the pulpit.  I share them for your benefit:

Well, brethren, what are we doing in the pulpit?  Are we merely earning a living, trafficking in noble and religious notions?  Do we really desire to see sinners saved?  Do we genuinely long to see the people of God brought to greater maturity in Christ?  Do we believe that the things we convey in our preaching will, with the blessing of God, produce those very things for which we yearn?  If the answer to these questions is yes, then how can we help but be passionate and earnest?  (Martin, Preaching in the Holy Spirit, 32-33)

May our goal be a more fixed eye upon Jesus and not passion for passion’s sake.

Tommy Boy and Idol Destruction

Do you remember that scene in Tommy Boy where Chris Farley backs David Spade’s car door into a pole and it rips the door off?  Remember how Tommy (Farley) tries to “fix” the problem and simply place the door back on, so that whenever Richard (Spade) open the door it falls off in his own hand.  As the door falls off into Richard’s hands Tommy is heard screaming in shock (the way only Farley could do), “What’d you do!” 

Doesn’t this seem very similar to what Adam and Eve did in the Garden?  Isn’t this what you and I still do today? 

Rather than coming to the Lord in faith and repentance we are like Adam.  We try to flee the presence of the Lord.  I don’t think it is necessarily that we do not desire a relationship with the Almighty. 

We want to be in His presence. 

But we don’t want to be naked in His presence. 

And so we run away and try to sew fig-leaf garments for ourselves.  We’d rather have itchy undies than face up to our fall.  And so we hide and try to fix things on our own.  And when our shallow efforts at “fixing it” are exposed we turn to our fellow man and say, “What’d you do!” 

It is because I do not want to be naked in His presence that I often run away from the heart work of exposing idols.  It takes much grace for me to come to a spot where I am willing to look at the idols in my heart that are often driving me more than the Lord Jesus. 

But whenever I remember verses like Romans 8:1 I decide to come out of hiding and face some of these idols.  In those moments i have found Tim Keller’s book, Counterfeit Gods, to be very helpful.  Here he gives a few suggestions for uncovering idols of the heart.  I will summarize these four questions:

  1. What do your thoughts effortlessly go to when there is nothing else demanding your attention? (That may be what you are daydreaming about right now)
  2. How do you spend your time and money?
  3. How do you respond to unanswered prayers and frustrated hopes? What are those things in your life that when God says “no” or “wait” it is met with explosive anger or deep despair? These are your functional idols.
  4. What are your most uncontrollable emotions? Where do you find fear? Anger? Despair? Guilt? This is often where we can find many of the deep idols in our hearts.

I know from the character of God and the work of Jesus that whenever these idols are exposed, and whenever I bring them to the Lord through faith and repentance, they will be met with love, mercy, and grace. 

There is never a time when I will go to the Lord with an idol that is so vile that He will refuse to meet it with grace.  Though the idol and its damning effects may be more than I can bare to see—I know that Jesus Christ has already peered into the cup of wrath, saw that sin, and drank it’s punishment to the dregs.  None of my idolatrous affairs will surprise Jesus. 

Brothers and sisters, we cannot take idolatry as a passive thing. The beautiful thing about our union with Jesus is that he does not just sit passively by and allow us to wreck our lives on these idols. No. He lovingly exposes our less wild lovers. He exposes and strips bare those false gods that will only leave us wrecked and ruined. He does this because He desire to replace them with strong affections for Himself. Christ is a jealous husband. And that is a good thing.

He will not let you go. He is passionately dedicated to you in this rooting out of sin and unbelief. We will find that each idol will be met with grace, love, and power to change our affections and our worship. Christ is a jealous husband but He is also patient.

May we join with him in rooting out these idols. They are ripping us off. I pray that we might join with the Spirit in searching our hearts for God-belittling idols and that in so doing we might also trust Him to root them out and replace them with God-honoring affections.

The SBC and THE Hope of the World

Timmy Brister has posted 10 Thoughts about the SBC.  Because I strongly identify with his #10 I thought I would share it:

10.  I believe the best Southern Baptists are those who don’t spend their time and energy talking about the SBC but focus their life on Jesus Christ.  The SBC is not the hope of the world.  Jesus is.  The SBC may not be around 100 years from now, but the kingdom of God is eternal.  Those who spend their lives in the politics, debates, and other peripheral issues may gain attention in the blogosphere and domain of bureaucratic conference rooms, but the future of the SBC does not belong to those wearing pajamas our suits.  Rather, it belongs to those with a towel and basin, following Jesus on mission–serving, loving, and giving their lives away.  I want to be found in that number because I love Jesus, because I believe in the local church, and because I am grateful to be called a Southern Baptist.


Saturday, June 11, 2011

Ineffective Leaders

I haven’t read a book on leadership in awhile so I thought I would pick up what sounded like a good one from Dave Kraft: Leaders Who Last.  One gem that I’ve picked up so far is Kraft’s list of Seven Habits of Highly Ineffective Leaders:

  1. They spend too much time managing and not enough time leading.
  2. They spend too much time counseling the hurting people and not enough time developing the people with potential.
  3. They spend too much time putting out fires and not enough time lighting fires.
  4. They spend too much time doing and not enough time planning.
  5. They spend too much time teaching the crowd and not enough time training the core.
  6. They spend too much time doing it themselves and not enough time doing it through others.
  7. They make too many decisions based on organizational politics and too few decisions based on biblical principles.

I have found that while many want an effective leader and one that lasts, within the church they often require him to be ineffective.  How many pastoral job descriptions have you seen that are populated by the first statement in each sentence and not the latter? 

Friday, June 10, 2011

Sifting Through Donkey Dung

In Mark 5 we read of a woman
“…who had a discharge of blood for twelve years, and who had suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse.”
There were many options for this lady to find healing.  The Talmud lists eleven.  In Lightfoot’s Commentary we are made privy to a few of the more ridiculous ones:
  • “Take of gum Alexandria, of alum, and of crocus hortensis, the weight of a zuzee each; let them be bruised together, and given in wine to the woman that hath an issue of blood.
  • But if this fail, “Take of Persian onions nine logs, boil them in wine, and give it to her to drink: and say, Arise from thy flux.
  • But should this fail, “Set her in a place where two ways meet, and let her hold a cup of wine in her hand; and let somebody come behind and affright her, and say, Arise from thy flux.
  • But should this do no good, “Take a handful of cummin and a handful of crocus, and a handful of faenu-greek; let these be boiled, and given her to drink, and say, Arise from thy flux.
  • But should this also fail, “Dig seven trenches, and burn in them some cuttings of vines not yet circumcised (vines not four years old); and let her take in her hand a cup of wine, and let her be led from this trench and set down over that, and let her be removed from that, and set down over another: and in each removal say unto her, Arise from thy
Apparently she never Arose from her flux.  MacArthur gives us a few more examples:
  • One was that you had to carry the ashes of an ostrich egg in a linen bag in the summer and transfer them to a cotton bag in the winter...
  • Another was that you had to carry around on your person a barleycorn that had been found in the dung of a white she-ass**
I would imagine that within that twelve year period of time this woman drank plenty of potion, slung around a good amount of corn found from donkey rear, and heard more than her fair share of “Arise from thy flux”.  But NOTHING worked.  (Don’t seem so surprised). 

This issue of blood would have left her ceremonially unclean.  So, this is more than just a physical malady.  This is something that is hindering her worship and making community almost impossible.  This woman is in much pain. 

One day she hears of Jesus.  Maybe he can help.  She probably thought to herself “I’ll drink anything, touch anything, be told anything, etc. I just want to be healed.  This guy seems pretty powerful so perhaps if I touch the hem of his garment I will be better”.  Maybe it was superstition and Jesus was just another name on her list of “Junk I’ve Tried”. 

Or maybe not.  We don’t know. 

But what we do know is that she grabbed hold of the only thing—the only Person—that could actually give her healing.  That which potions, doctors, magical chants, and ostrich eggs could not fix Jesus was powerful enough to heal by her touching his robe. 

Dung Sifting in the 21st Century

There is a lesson here for us as well, because we are like that woman.  We would often rather feed a donkey some barley, follow him around with a pooper-scooper, and sift through his dung than we would actually follow Jesus.  Because if I get my hands stained with donkey excrement I can at least say that I’m dedicated and that I discovered my own cure. 

Actually we are worse than that woman.  She didn’t have a dusty Bible sitting on her shelf.  She hadn’t heard of Jesus.  She only knew of a few remedies to “Arise from thy flux”.  Not us.  We know Jesus.  We know his power.  And yet for some reason we still shuffle through donkey dung looking for barleycorn while we neglect Life Himself. 

Today I want to be humble enough to take my burdens to Jesus.  I want to start, progress, and end with trusting Jesus to make me “Arise from thy flux”.  (Though I’m not certain if dudes can have a “flux” or not).  I want to find all of my feeble solutions to healing and discard them on the way to following Jesus.  Only Jesus.  Only Jesus.
**As a side note if a preacher wants to wake up the snoozers a sure remedy is to say the words “white she-ass” in your sermon.  That will wake them up.  It may be the last Sunday you preach…but you’ll have their attention for at least a couple of minutes.

2 Corinthians 5:21 A Little More Graphic

To help us see a 2 Corinthians 5:21 a little more graphically:

Son of Man!  Why have you behaved so?  You have cheated, lusted, stolen, gossiped—murdered, envied, hated, liked.  You have cursed, robbed, overspent, overeaten—fornicated, disobeyed, embezzled, and blasphemed.  Oh, the duties you have shirked, the children you have abandoned!  Who has ever so ignored the poor, so played the coward, so belittled my name?  Have you ever held your razor tongue?  What a self-righteous, pitiful drunk—you, who molest young boys, peddle killer drugs, travel in cliques, and mock your parents.  Who gave you the boldness to rig elections, foment revolutions, torture animals, and worship demons?  Does the list never end?  Splitting families, raping virgins, acting smugly, playing the pimp—buying politicians, practicing extortion, filming pornography, accepting bribes.  You have burned down buildings, perfected terrorists tactics, founded false religions, traded in slaves, relishing each morsel and bragging about it all.  I hate, I loathe these things in you!  Disgust for everything about you consumes me!  Can you not feel my wrath?

Not all of my readers will agree with this theology.  But I find what Joni Eareckston Tada and Steve Estes present here to be quite compelling.  Christ became our substitute and as doing such He bore the wrath of God and was treated by God as if He had done all of the things listed above (and more). 

I leave you with this…

He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?  --Romans 8:32

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Lil’ Brudder Syndrome

This is how many of us try to live the Christian life:

Are You a Fool?

Paul Tripp using the Proverbs as his guide offers twelve characteristics of a foolish person.  A fool is a person who:

  1. Is convinced that he is right (12:15)
  2. Quickly shows his annoyance (12:16)
  3. Is hotheaded and reckless (14:16)
  4. Spurns discipline and correction (15:5)
  5. Wastes money (17:16)
  6. Delights in airing his own opinions (18:2)
  7. Is quick to quarrel (20:3)
  8. Scorns wisdom (23:9)
  9. Is wise in his own eyes (26:5)
  10. Trusts in himself (28:26)
  11. Rages and scoffs, and there is no peace around him (29:9)
  12. Gives full vent to his anger (29:11)

(Quoted from Paul Tripp, Instruments in the Redeemers Hands, page 291)

You are in this list.  So am I.  So is your teenager, your toddler, and your grandma. 

Discipleship is the process whereby fools are transformed into the image of the Only Wise God.  Jesus helps us stop being idiots.  He also helps us to patiently (wisely) help fools be transformed by Wisdom Himself.


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