Thursday, March 29, 2012

From the Pen of Newton: On Being a Consistent Protestant

According to John Newton, popery “has a very extensive sense”.  Newton believe that anyone that desired to confine another person to “follow his sentiments, whether to doctrine or order, is so far a papist”.  He then described a consistent thus:

Whoever encourages me to read the Scriptures, and to pray for the teaching of the Holy Spirit, and then will let me follow the life of the Lord gives me, without being angry with me because I cannot or will not see with his eyes, nor wear his shoes, is a consistent Protestant.

One of the reasons that I love John Newton so much is because of his gracious spirit and desire to see unity within the body.  He constantly strove to encourage believers of all stripes to “love one another, bear with one another, to avoid dispute; and if they must strive, to let their strife and emulation be who shall most express the life of the Son of God in their temper and conduct”. 

If we really believe the gospel and the unity that Christ has bought for us then we have no other option than to pursue the type of unity and mindset that Newton models and exhorts us towards.  Consistent Protestantism means that we believe in the priesthood of all believers and we believe that the Spirit guides others just as much as us.  It means that we humbly acknowledge that the Christ is Lord over their lives and not us or any other “vicar of Christ”. 

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

People You’ve Maybe Never Heard Of But Should: Bernard of Clairvaux

Bernard was born in 1090 and died in 1153.  He was a French abbot who sought admission into the Cistercian order to be a monk shortly after the death of his mother.  He goes down in history as the “most powerful propagator of the Cistercian reform” not only of his day but probably of all time.  In 1115 he was sent to begin a new monastery in Clairvaux (hence the name).  Bernard was very instrumental in the Catholic development of Mary’s mediatorial role.  He was often sick throughout his life eventually succumbing to death in 1153.

Why You Should Know Him:

Bernard is one of those interesting writers for evangelical Protestants to enjoy.  His views on Mary’s mediatorial role obviously leave us shaking our heads and tempt us to confine him to the ranks of those that simply do not understand the gospel.  But then there is another side to Bernard where Protestants enjoy not only his spiritual and personable writing but also we rejoice at his conception of justification.  It sounds very close to that which Calvin and Luther would teach years later.  Bernard was passionate about imputed righteousness. 

Hundreds of years after the Protestant Reformation we are left confused at how someone could be so instrumental in formulating much of the Mariology present in the Roman Catholic Church today and ALSO someone that Calvin and Luther are able to look for in formulating a doctrine of imputed/alien righteousness. 

It is also quite possible that we owe some of the Reformation to Bernard’s monastic reforms.  In a time when the importance of Scripture reading, meditation, and prayer was drying up Bernard insisted on these—aided by the Spirit--as keys to Christian living. 


Ever heard the phrase, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions?”  Many believe that this pithy saying is to be originally attributed to Bernard. 

Here is an example of the devotional and heart searching way that Bernard wrote:

“There are those who seek knowledge for the sake of knowledge; that is Curiosity. There are those who seek knowledge to be known by others; that is Vanity. There are those who seek knowledge in order to serve; that is Love.”

Tell me this doesn’t sound like something you would hear from evangelicals in our day?

“What we love we shall grow to resemble.”

“So far from being able to answer for my sins, I cannot even answer for my righteousness!”

"Your sins are very great and beyond number. Never will you be able to make satisfaction for them, so many and so great are they, not even if you strip the very skin from your body.”

Further Reading:

I have no idea if you can find it anywhere—I’ll let you search—but I believe Danny Akin actually did his doctoral work on Bernard of Clairvaux.

Good quotes here from Just and Sinner


The Life and Miracles of St. Bernard of Clairvaux
Project Gutenberg
You’ll find quite a bit on Google Books

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Brothers, We Must Do Better

A few months ago I asked the question “Is it Hard to Hug an Arminian?”  In that article I shared an experience that I had where I was an outsider coming into an already established fellowship.  I noted that:
Many of the non-Calvinists were more apt to give me a hearty handshake and say, “welcome to the group”.  Not so with those who were more Reformed…I got a cordial welcome but not an open armed “welcome to the group, brother”.  If I had been wearing my scarlet C I can’t help but think that it would have been different.
Today, an article I wrote a month or so ago was published at SBC Voices.  The article is part 1 of a series on The Root of Angry and Divisive Calvinists.  Before getting to my point please read a little bit of a back story.

Back Story

SBC Voices is a great blog.  But it is also a community of commenters that can frankly get ugly at times.  The folks at SBC Voices are working to change this and make the community more Christ-centered and less vitriolic.  I’m part of that community and I hope to help in that regard and never to cause it to go backwards. 

Because of the history of SBC Voices and especially on issues related to Calvinism I am always a little leery of posting something with the C word on it.  But Dave Miller liked my series and suggested I bring it to SBC Voices.  I was a little reluctant but thought that it might be helpful.  One thing I was worried about was Part 1.  In part 1 (if you read it) you will notice that I say little about Calvinism or any other issue.  As I noted in the “update” which was originally in Part 2 this could just as easily be titled The Root of Angry and Divisive Cheese-Eaters.  As I noted “It doesn’t matter what topic you pick because the problem isn’t as much Mark’s sermon topics as it is a much greater issue. A bigger issue that has replayed itself within different circumstances for centuries.”

Because of this open ended nature I was a little worried about what the thread would look like.  But I had hope that the discussion could remain cordial (as it has) but I never expected what awaited me in the morning. 

Brothers, We MUST Do Better

It has become a great point of irony in a post about Angry and Divisive Calvinists that I was met with many angry Calvinists.  I think they thought that I was a non-Calvinist who was gathering my sticks to torch a straw-man.  If you know me that’s funny.  Here is an example of a comment:
Meh. What a lovely little story with no immediately apparent point other than to inflame and prepare yet another straw-man, albeit anecdotal, to be dutifully set aflame.
I will freely admit that part 1 does have “no immediately apparent point”.  In part 1 it may not seem to be connected to the other parts.  But it is.  I wrote it for a reason.  And I took a good amount of time and wrote it the way that I did for a very specific reason.  I assure you that reason was not to torch Calvinism.  I’m a Calvinist. 

But what should have happened is that people should have read part 1 and identified with Mark.  Perhaps as a congregation perhaps as being Mark.  Especially after I put the update in there it should have been read as not principally about Calvinism but there is going to be something about the heart.  Though it did not appear to be connected, as a brother in Christ I should have been given the benefit of the doubt. 
I understand that Calvinists are often thrown under the bus and straw-men are argued and torched in front of us.  I’ve experienced the pain of some of those battles.  I’ve fought in a Christ-like manner and I’ve fought like a jerk.  I’ve played the game.  I’ve also experience the “us vs. them” rise up in our hearts.  I’ve labored to protect Calvinism at the expense of protecting the gospel and the church.  I’ve been “Mark”.  I don’t want to be “Mark” anymore. 

To that end I want to urge my Calvinist (and non-Calvinist) brothers and sisters to do a few things in blogging. 

1. Assume the best unless the only option left is the worst.  If you see a post title Part 1 you should probably not assume that you already know what the other parts are going to look like. 

2. If you want non-Calvinists (or Calvinists) to hear and read you fairly then do the same for them.  Many Calvinists urged non-Calvinists to just read the Gospel Project.  Wait for the whole thing to come out and then make critiques—then you can say it’s too Calvinistic or has an agenda.  But until the whole thing is out don’t assume the authors have an agenda.  I wish that same thing would have been followed in responding to my series. 

3. Read things with a gospel lens and not an us vs. them lens. 

4. Try to find truth and rejoice in it.  Even if what I wrote was perhaps unwise or unhelpful in the way that it was framed try to find some truth and rejoice in it.  It’s fine to discuss in a Christ-centered manner areas in which you disagree.  But make sure while you are loading your shotgun you remember that the guy you are getting ready to “battle” probably has a wife and kids, loves Jesus, has the same Spirit dwelling in him, and wants to love, honor, and serve Jesus too.  He might be doing it imperfectly but so are you.  So find the truth of Christ that you see in a brother or sisters life, rejoice in it, and lovingly sharpen where you can. 
P.S. I really hope Dave posts Part 2 very soon. 

Review of Your Church is Too Safe by Mark Buchanan

I just finished reading Mark Buchanan’s new book Your Church is Too Safe.  My view of the book is different from when it first came in the mail from Zondervan for me to review.  When I first received the book I liked the cover, thought the concept was catchy but honestly figured that this would be a book that I would skim, gather a few nuggets and move on with life and ministry.  If I’m being honest, this is what most books written to challenge and reinvigorate the church end up doing in my life.  I learn a principle or two, I appreciate them, I assimilate some of the thoughts into my life and ministry, and then I move on.  That is what I expected to get in Buchanan’s new book.

Sitting here on the other side of Your Church is Too Safe I must confess that the Lord is using it to really shake me up to the core.  It’s something the Lord has been doing for awhile but something about this book served as a dagger to rip open my heart.  And I think that is what Mark wanted to do.  He wants pastors and church folk like me to read this book, be torn to shreads, and then stare over our congregation and community and ask—“what the heck am I supposed to do now”?  You won’t find a cookie-cutter answer in this book.  But I think you’ll find Jesus and that’s enough.


For those that have read a good amount of these type of books the first few chapters may not be anything all that new—at least they weren’t for me.  They are good reminders that we are called as believers to love and reflect the love of Christ.  We are called to bring the kingdom of God to bear on the communities that God has entrusted us with.  I was in basic agreement but nothing really slapped me across the face. 

Then I read what may be the nerdiest chapter in the book: Going to Mordor.  The whole thing is an analogy using Lord of the Rings to show the difference between fellowship in the midst of battle and fellowship outside the battlefield.  It’s different and meaning fellowship really only happens in the midst of battle.  Something about this chapter sparked that part of my heart that God has been kicking around for a few months.  From this point forward I was hooked.  Some chapters are better than the others but all of them use Scripture to remind believers that church (living out the Christian life with other believers) is not meant to be safe.  It’s messy.  It’s dirty.  And this is the way of the master. 

My Take

Buchanan is a really good writer.  He masterfully weaves biblical stories, personal stories and anecdotes, along with compelling and convicting truths.  As I read through this I wanted to pull out my Bible and try to argue with some of the things he was saying.  Truth is I wanted to be comfortable.  I don’t like to think that about myself but God has used this book alongside a few other things in my life to expose this idol of comfort and safety.  I want to talk missions and outreach and Christ-centeredness but I want it to be nice and neat. 

Buchanan is biblical.  And that’s partly what makes this book frustrating where others fail.  Many of the other books in this ilk have weak theology attached to them.  They keep me safe, because I can disagree with the theology, point out their Swiss-cheese biblical interpretation, and then throw out the whole book.  Buchanan’s book doesn’t really let me do that.  I want to try to argue with him but the Spirit within convicts my heart that I’m just trying to hide from what Jesus is really asking of my life. 

There is much in this book that leaves me unsettled.  There is much that leaves me asking “what does this mean for ______?”  What does a church do when you have limited resources and people that it seems genuinely do not want help but just want to milk your church continue asking for help?  What do you do when you’ve counseled somebody hundreds of times and it seems like they just want “counsel” for some reason other than actual life change?  I wish Buchanan would have answered some of these questions, but at the end of the day I’m glad he didn’t.  I’m glad because I know myself.  I would have tried plugging in a formula.  Where it stands now I’m just left to pour over Scripture, pray, and get to know more deeply the heart of Jesus.  That’s a better place.  I can’t help pastor a church that’s not too safe without the Master guiding our steps, and that’s a good place to be.

Should You Buy It?

If you want to stay safe and comfortable I would stay away from this book.  It’s kind of like David Platt’s Radical but there is something about this book that brings about a different experience.  I loved Platt’s Radical and I also found this book very helpful.  If we are honest all of our churches are too safe.  You may not rush to the store to buy this book because few people like to be made uncomfortable, but I really think it is needed and you should certainly try to get your hands on this book.

You can buy it here for 12 bucksYour Church is Too Safe by Mark Buchanan.

Also feel free to check out some of the other reviews that are part of the Engaging Church: Your Church is Too Safe blog tour.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Stay Away From Jesus

I’m really digging Matt Papa right now.  This song is especially convicting and honestly quite helpful:

My favorite line is probably, “The words he speaks are meant to set you free…” 

I love that!  The words that Christ speaks to us—even those that are really hard to follow—are meant to give us freedom.  His gospel and His commands are not another hoop for us to jump through—they are freedom.  Freedom, that He has already purchased for us. 

Friday, March 23, 2012

Push to the Final Four Book Giveaway!

Do you like fiction?  Win a copy of Frank Perreti’s new book Illusion.

Are you a fan of Matt Chandler?  He has a new book coming out in April: The Explicit Gospel.  Win a free copy.


Want a solid gospel-centered book NOW instead of waiting for Chandler’s?  Did you get excited when you read my review of Note to Self?  Want your own copy for free?  Win a free copy.

Fill out the entry form below and be entered numerous times into the drawing.  The biggest thing that I want to happen is you going to SBC Voices: Blog Madness and voting for Borrowed Light in the Midwest Region.  If you have already voted then I’m asking you to go the extra mile and share the SBC Voices page with your friends on Facebook and encourage them to vote for Borrowed Light.  Currently I’m 5 votes away from first place.  I need your help to push into the Final Four.  Once you’ve voted or shared simply leave a comment here letting me know that you voted/shared. 

The winner will get to choose 1 of the above books as his/her prize! 

Win Below:

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

MLB 2012 Preview: AL East

New York Yankees:

The Yankees won 97 games last year before being ousted by the Detroit Tigers in the ALDS.  The 2012 version of the Yankees looks virtually the same as far as their lineup goes.  The only difference is that these aging veterans are one year older.  The Yanks did vastly improve their rotation adding Hiroki Kuroda and Michael Pineda in the offseason.  If age and injuries do not catch up with them these Yankees look to be just as formidable of opponents as they were last year. 

Boston Red Sox:

The Red Sox are an interesting club this year.  Gone are some of the veterans such as Tim Wakefield, J.D. Drew, and John Lackey.  Gone is Terry Francona.  Gone is Jonathon Papelbon.  They did go out and secure Andrew Bailey (can he stay healthy?).  They also got a few “Moneyball” type of players in Nick Punton, Mark Melancon, Kelly Shoppach, and Ross Ohlendorf.  Looking at this club makes me ask many questions.  Will Carl Crawford show up?  What David Ortiz will they get?  Will Ryan Sweeney and Cody Ross be solid in right field?  Is this pitching staff deep enough?  Will Andrew Bailey make the Boston faithful say “Papel..who”?  Is Bobby Valentine more than an announcer?  Pending on the answer to these questions the BoSox could either be headed for a disappointing season or challenging the Curse of the Bambino again. 

Baltimore Orioles:

The O’s only won 69 games in 2011.  But they are also young and they also had some serious injuries and disappointments last year.  Can some of these young pitchers begin making a significant impact in 2012?  The O’s didn’t really add any big name stars for their 2012 roster.  They also did lose a little pop when Luke Scott and Vlad Guerrero departed.  And also a young arm in Jeremy Guthrie.  It’s hard to see the O’s making a significant leap and I’m not certain they can get much worse.  For now Baltimore fans are left cheering for Poe’s bird. 

Tampa Bay Rays:

The exciting Rays won 91 games last year to make the playoffs.  Virtually the same team (minus Johnny Damon) is returning this year.  They also added a little pop (and a few strikeouts) with the addition of Luke Scott from Baltimore and Carlos Pena returning to the Rays from the Cubbies.  The rotation will also receive a boost from a full year from future ace Matt Moore.  This Rays rotation looks to be very stellar anchored by Shields and Price and supported by the young arm of Moore.  I’m not sold on this bullpen or some of these young bats (Matt Joyce and Desmond Jennings), but the Rays and Joe Maddon just know how to win.  Will they do it again in 2012?

Toronto Blue Jays:

You’ve really got to feel for the Blue Jays.  They kept throwing Canadian dollars at players only to find themselves still looking up at the Yanks, BoSox, and Rays.  So they decided to rebuild and go young, and it seemed to help.  Last year they played .500 ball but still found themselves 16 games out of first place.  That must be frustrating.  Can this years team finally enter the chase?  The bullpen is different this year with Sergio Santos being the closer and Francisco Cordero also providing relief help.  Youngsters like Brett Lawrie will have another year under their belt and only improve at the plate.  The same can be said for their younger pitchers: Brett Cecil and Brandon Morrow.  Can the Jays make a significant run? 

Predicted Order of Finish:

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

Division Predictions:

Injuries and slumps will hinder the Rays from making a late season run.  They will finish below the upstart Blue Jays.  Even though I hate to say it I think the Yankees will make another run at a World Series.  The Red Sox will slump early but get hot around July and make a run for a Wild Card.  The Orioles will struggle to win 60 games.  Jose Bautista will have an off year.  Andrew Bailey will save at least 45 games.  Matt Moore is the real deal.  So is Michael Pineda.

Graffiti on Church Buildings

I found this in Mark Buchanan’s new book Your Church Is Too Safe and found it too good not to share.  Buchanan here quotes E.V. Hill, a prominent African-American preacher who spent his entire life ministering in inner-cities.  On one occasion Hill was preaching in an upscale white suburban church and this is what he said:

As I drove to your church building this morning, through your neighborhood, I noticed you folk have a lot of fine things.  You have big houses, and very pretty.  You have lovely gardens.  You have new shiny cars.  You have schools that got no barbwire around them.  It’s very nice. 

But something’s missing, and at first I couldn’t figure out what.  Then it hit me.  You ain’t got no graffiti.  None.  You can’t have a hood without that.  I tell you what, I’ll go get some of my boys, we fix that for you.  And I’ll even suggest what word we write in our graffiti.  We write it on your schools, on your homes, on your cars and on your boats, even here on your church.  The word I’d like to write is this:  “Temporary.”  All this stuff one day goin’ up in smoke. 

Now here’s the deal.  You could give up a little bit of all that temporary stuff and get yourself something that’ll last forever.  \


People You’ve Maybe Never Heard of But Should: Jeremiah Burroughs

Jeremiah Burroughs was born sometime around 1600.  He went to college at Emmanuel College in Cambridge in 1617 finally graduating with a Master of Arts in 1624.  His tutor was another famous Puritan--Thomas Hooker

He began his ministerial “career” as an assistant to Edmund Calamy in Suffolk.  Here he and Calamy vehemently opposed King James’ Book of Sports, refusing to read “the king’s proclamation in church that dancing, archery, vaulting, and other games were lawful recreations on the Lord’s Day.”  Eventually he moved to Norfolk where he served as pastor until 1636 when he was suspended for refusing to read the Book of Sports, bow at the name of Jesus, and read prayers rather than speak them extemporaneously. 

From 1638-1640 the ejected Burroughs ministered in the Netherlands with other Congregationalist pastors.  By 1640 he returned to London and became a very popular preacher.  He pastored two of the largest congregations in London: Stepney and St. Giles, Cripplegate.  Burroughs remained in London until his death in 1646.  He died two weeks after a fall from his horse. 

Why You Should Know Him:

He’s a Puritan with a stately mustache an awesome hat and what appears to be double-jointed fingers, what more do you need to know to be inspired to read him? 

Not only did Burroughs pave the way for great mustaches but he was also had a great influence on the Westminster Assembly.  He was one of the few Independents that opposed the Presbyterian majority.  Yet he did so with his typical moderate and irenic spirit.  Those of us churches that come from an Independent strain of Puritanism owe a great deal to the work of men like Jeremiah Burroughs who paved the way for a middle-ground between Presbyterianism and the more chaotic Brownism. 

Though Burroughs is worth studying for his historical value and influence on Westminster the greatest reason to get to know Jeremiah Burroughs is his prolific writing career.  (Actually his books are really nothing more than a compilation of his sermons).  One of Burroughs’ works that has had a great influence on me personally—and many other believers—is his Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment

Burroughs’ writing contains within it an engaging Christian spirit and a steadfast dedication to the gospel.  He writes like many of the Puritans of his time, in that he will tear open up your soul with the Law and then apply the gospel for healing. 


As far as God sees Christ in anyone He accepts them. If Christ is not there, no matter what they have, He does not regard them. Christ is all in all, even in the esteem of the Father Himself. He was the delight of the Father from all eternity, Prov.8:30, and the Father undertook infinite contentment in Him upon His willingness to undertake this blessed work of the redemption of mankind. God the Father is infinitely satisfied in Christ. He is all in all to Him. Surely if Christ is an object sufficient for the satisfaction of the Father, much more, then, is He an object sufficient for the satisfaction of any soul.

I will give you just this note: if it were your last time to pray to God and your everlasting estate depended on God's mercy, should you seek God never so earnestly, if it is only in a natural way as your Creator, your condition would be very dreadful and you would perish eternally. If God should lay any of you upon your sick or death beds and you should cry to God for mercy, be sure to take Christ along with you and look upon God through Christ, or else all your cries will be of no avail. Luther said that God looked upon outside of Christ is most dreadful and terrible. And it proves a great deal of ignorance in us when we think we can go to God and find mercy in Him without considering Him as a God that will be reconciled to us only through His Son.

Both selections are from Christ is All in All an excellent piece worthy of your reading.

Further Reading:

Joel Beeke’s Biography from Meet the Puritans is helpful and also includes a listing of his Modern Reprints available for purchase.  (NOTE: I’m indebted to Beek’s biography for much of the material above). 

The full text of The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment is available for free here

You can find almost anything you want to know at the Jeremiah Burroughs Homepage.  Phil Simpson has also written a biography that I may try to check out at some point.  You can buy that biography here.

I’ve also quoted and written a few things from Burroughs on my own site—a search on Borrowed Light will yield you some fruit.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Luther on Wrongly Reading the New Testament

“It has become a deplorable custom that the Gospels and the Epistles are treated like law books, in which one is to learn what we are to do, and in which the works of Christ are presented as nothing but an example held before one’s eyes.  Wherever this errant opinion remains within the heart, there neither gospel nor epistle can be read usefully and in a Christian way; such readers remain nothing but heathen,  as before.”

Luther rightly sees that all of the imperatives (do this!) are grounded in the indicatives (Christ did this).  Reading the New Testament any other way is to read it sub-Christianly. 


On a lighter note, if you are looking for a great way to insult friends consider the Luther Insult Generator

Help Borrowed Light Make the Final Four and Keep the Terrorists from Winning

Thanks to your help Borrowed Light made it into the Sweet 16 in the SBCVoices Blue Collar Blog Madness.  What is at stake is a coveted spot on the Voices Watchlist.  Trust me you want Borrowed Light to be on that Watchlist and not those jokers that I’m going up against.  I already outed them as kitty haters.  You don’t want these type of writers to be featured on Voices. 

So here are the steps to follow. 

Step One: Go to SBC Voices Blue Collar Blog Madness Sweet 16.

Step Two: Scroll down to the Midwest division and vote for Borrowed Light.

Step Three: Share this page and/or the SBC Voices Sweet 16 page on Facebook and encourage your friends to vote for Borrowed Light. 


To further motivate you I have found a little bit of dirt on my opponents in the Midwest Division:

The Truth about Joe Blackmon: This has been confirmed by both Jared Moore (of Harry Potter Bible Study fame) and  Joe Blackmon is the inspiration for the Lord Voldemort character from Harry Potter.  I don’t watch Harry Potter but I hear he’s a bad dude.  Do you really want someone whose name ought not even be spoken to be on the SBC Voices Watchlist? 

The Truth about Frank Gantz: After slowly rewinding the Zapruder film I discovered what appeared to be a small child near the grassy knoll during the famous Kennedy assassination.  Through high-tech research and computer technology that you wouldn’t understand I was able to enlarge the photo and age it to see what this little tot would look like in our day and age.  To my shock it was a picture of Frank Gantz.  Yes a young Frank Gantz was the shooter on the grassy knoll.  You don’t want to vote for this guy.

The Truth about Andrew Wencl: After a rather lengthy and expensive research project on I have been able to determine that Andrew Wencl is the nephew of Frank Stallone.  I’m not sure what this means but I doubt you want to vote for the guy.  I was hoping for something a little more sinister, but perhaps Andrew is so sneaky and devious that he bought off the folks at  Regardless, unless you want to see tons of posts giving homage to Frank Stallone I wouldn’t bother voting for this Andrew fella. 

From the Pen of Newton: Turning the Gospel into the Law

…it is common and easy in a dark hour to turn the gospel into a covenant of works.”  -John Newton

These words from Newton come in the context of counseling what appears to be a discouraged Joseph Symonds.  Symonds seems to be struggling with what I have experienced both in my own life and in counseling other believers in the way of the gospel. 

In dark times many believers begin to turn the gospel into law.  They chastise themselves for not being what I word term “gospely enough”.  Rather than living in the freedom that Christ has already purchased these believers despair over their imperfections, their lack of spiritual experiences, their feelings of doubt and restlessness, and their shamefully meager love for Christ.  As this despair takes root the believer can conclude that he/she must not be truly saved because he/she does not have the gospel flowing through their life as they should. 

Newton’s counsel is again solid. 

“If a fear of being deceived, a mourning under a sense of vileness, a hungering and thirsting after righteousness, a sense of the evil and danger of sin, a persuasion of the preciousness and suitableness of Christ in his offices, etc; if these are not spiritual experiences, I know not what are.” 

Luther rightly said that “it is the supreme art of the devil that he can make the law out of the gospel”.  One of the most deadly things that believers can do to hinder their spiritual growth is to neuter the gospel by making it a checklist to perform rather than a Person to savor.  Newton’s very biblical counsel (See Colossians 3:1-4) is to look not on self and your level of “gospel-centrality” but to look on Christ the author and finisher of our faith. 

Evidences, as you call them, are of use in their place; but the best evidence of faith is the shutting our eyes upon our defects and our graces, and looking directly to Jesus as clothed with authority and power to save to the very uttermost. 

It’s foolish to look to yourself and try to determine whether you are gospely enough.  Don’t seek rest in your level of gospel centrality, rest in Christ.  “You have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God”.  Therefore, stop analyzing the dead man and exult in the hope of life that we have in Christ. 

New Look at Borrowed Light

I switched the template and a few other little things at Borrowed Light.  What do you think?  I am open to any suggestions on how to improve this website.  Do you like the new look?  Are there any features or gadgets that you would like?  Is this theme too boring? 

Monday, March 19, 2012

Monday’s Ministry Musing: Amen’s on Monday

“Carron-shore.  My last.  Some tears; yet I fear some like the messenger, not the message; and I fear I am so vain as to love that love.  Lord, let it not be so.  Perish my honor, but let thine be exalted forever.”  -Robert M. McCheyne

I am at times so shallow in my aims and hopes for those that are within earshot of my preaching.  At times I can be tempted to think that if I get an “Amen” on Sunday that I have done a solid job and that I have been faithful in my task of preaching.  But deep down I know the truth.  I know that I know enough, and have been speaking for long enough, that I can work a crowd.  I know how to get an “Amen” on Sunday. 

But there is a work that is the point of pastoral ministry that I cannot “work”; namely, an “amen” on Monday.  The goal of a pastor and his preaching is that the sacred words of Sunday will generate an “amen” on Monday.  It is to the preacher’s honor that he gets an “amen” on Sunday.  It is to Christ’s honor that he gets an “amen” on Monday!

A preacher that pursues his owner honor will work diligently for Sunday’s amen.  The preacher that pursues the honor of Christ will work diligently to accomplish what only Christ can do—generate amen’s on Monday.  I cannot speak for other pastors but there are a few signs that I am pursuing my honor instead of Christ’s.  Here are a few:

  1. Passionless and dutiful praying or prayer neglected altogether
  2. “Changing” the message on Sunday morning mid-stream just to get a response
  3. Approval addiction rising up in my heart after the preaching event
  4. A stupid desire in my heart to “draw all men unto myself”
  5. Neutering the gospel message in places of possible offense
  6. When I lack confidence that the gospel is powerful enough to change hearts (both of believers and unbelievers)
  7. When I measure the sermon by listener response rather than biblical fidelity

Thankfully the gospel is powerful enough to redirect prideful and self-glorifying preachers even on Monday.  The Spirit doggedly pursues us gospel ministers (as he does all believers) and shines the beauty of Christ up against our half-hearted and fallen aims for ministry.  He reminds us that yes, “amen’s” are great on Sunday morning.  But they are even more valuable when the “amen” is Christ-likeness on Monday.  Perish my honor, but let thine be exalted forever.

Borrowed Light Fantasy Baseball

Did your NCAA Tournament bracket get missed up over the weekend?  Has your dreams of being a fantasy champion been dashed?  Cry no more!  On March 25th the Borrowed Light Fantasy Baseball League will be drafting.  A 20 team league with an interesting scoring format.  The winner will receive a $25 Amazon Gift Certificate.  There are limited spots available so respond quickly. 

How to join:

1. Email me your email address mike[AT]fbjasper[DOT]org and I will send you an invite. 

2.  Leave a comment (either here or on facebook) with your email address and I will send you the invite. 

3. Respond to @mikeleake with your email address and I will send you an invite. 

Friday, March 16, 2012

How to Save Cute Little Kittens: SBC Voices Blue Collar Blog Madness

Last year you helped Borrowed Light make the Sweet 16.  And that was against powerhouse SBC blogs.  This year those powerhouse blogs are gone and the folks at SBC Voices are seeing which of the “little guys” should be moved up to the hallowed status of (queue James Earl Jones) FEATURED BLOG!!!! 

Here is how you can help Borrowed Light become a FEAUTRED BLOG on the SBC Voices watch list. 

Step One: Go to SBC Voices Blue Collar Blog Madness

Step Two: Scroll down to the Midwest region and vote for Borrowed Light. 

Step Three: Don’t bother voting for any of those other jokers.  I can assure you that everyone else in my division puts little baby kitties in wood-chippers*.  Not me.  I’ll never do that.  So only vote for the guy that would never do that.

Step Four: Let other people know about the Blue Collar Blog Madness.  Tell them to vote for Borrowed Light and save baby kitties**. 


*This claim cannot be proven, but this is the SBC so it’s totally fine to assume that such crazy claims are true—that’s what we do. 

**If you abhor baby kitties and would actually cheer for people that put them in wood-chippers…first of all, shame on you…second of all, pretend it’s not baby kitties, pretend that they are Yankees fans, or Cowboys fans, or Hitler fans.

Review of Acts of the Risen Lord Jesus

When most people decide to begin a study of The Acts of the Apostles they typically do so to study issues of church government and practice, the work of the Holy Spirit (and all the side issues attached to that—speaking in tongues, baptism of the Spirit, etc.), or the missions of the early church.  Acts is typically thought of as the place to go to get answers to your questions about the Spirit or how to develop an ecclesiology for your church. 

Alan Thompson believes we may be trying to answer questions that Luke never intended to ask.  That is why he has written The Acts of the Risen Lord Jesus.  He believes that Luke’s major themes are often neglected by modern interpreters looking for answers to ecclesiology or issues of the Spirit that Luke is not as concerned with answering.  Thompson believes that the major thrust of Luke is “for his readers to see what God is doing in the narrative, how God is accomplishing his purposes and how we may embrace and identify with these purposes and so glorify the God of the biblical narrative” (22).  In other words Luke wants his audience to know that “God is continuing to accomplish his purposes even now through the reign of the Lord Jesus”. 

The book of Acts, according to Thompson, could better be titled, “the Acts of the Lord Jesus, through his people, by the Holy Spirit, for the accomplishment of God’s purposes”.  Acts then is about the continuing work of Jesus as He now reigns from heaven.  The resurrection of Jesus, then, is central to Acts.  Luke wants his readers to know that “the departure of the Lord Jesus does not mean the departure of the kingdom” (67) to this end his major concern is to show that Jesus is still acting from heaven. 

In six chapters Thompson makes his argument that “God is fulfilling his promises through the acts of…the risen and reigning Lord Jesus” (196).  He shows in chapter two how the resurrection of Jesus fulfills the hope of Israel and brings in the last days.  That Jesus is now administering the blessings of God is further evidenced by the kingdom coming to the Gentiles (chapter 3) through the fulfilled promise of the Father; namely, the gift of the Holy Spirit (chapter 4).  That the kingdom of Christ is now inaugurated means that the era of the old system has ended.  This means that the temple system (chapter 5) as well as the law are no longer in direct authority over God’s people (chapter 6), Jesus and his reign through his disciples is the new authority. 

My Take:

Thompson’s clear and cogent argument is something that every serious student of Acts will have to deal with.  Perhaps Thompson is restoring for us Luke’s original intention.  Perhaps we will no longer forcer Luke to answer questions that he does not intend to answer. 

What then does this mean for ecclesiological practices that are derived from Acts?  Are we reading Luke wrongly?  Not necessarily.  Thompson’s thesis serves to provide a framework for understanding the central theme of Acts.  One could just as easily argue that the risen Lord Jesus shows us in Acts how he desires to set up his kingdom.  Then we can still see Acts as a place to guide our ecclesiology.  But we are still left with a fundamental question of whether Acts is meant to be descriptive or prescriptive.  Regardless of your take Thompson would have us see that in the church today as it was then the risen Lord Jesus is still reigning and is still fulfilling the promises of God. 

Should You Buy It?

Any serious student of Acts is going to need to interact with Thompson’s argument.  As D.A. Carson notes in his endorsement of the book, “the strength of Dr. Thompson’s book is that it uncovers the main theological emphases of the book of Acts on the book’s own terms”.  I agree.  And because of this if one wants to be a faithful expositor of Acts then one will need to be introduced (or reminded) of these central themes otherwise the exposition may not be faithful to Luke’s original intent. 

The book is a pretty easy read, though maybe a little academic at times.  Any though that are willing to tackle such a difficult preaching assignment as Acts should at least familiarize themselves with this book. 

You can buy it here


One another note I love this series.  I am trying to slowly get the entire series.  I have about 6 of the NSBT books and I frequently search through ebay in the hopes of finding bargain ones.  Familiarize yourself with this series.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

People You’ve Maybe Never Heard of But Should: Anne Bradstreet

Anne Bradstreet was born in 1612 of nonconformist stock.  Her father, Thomas Dudley, was a solider that had managed the affairs of the Earl of Lincoln.  Due to her families position Anne was a well-educated woman.  At the age of sixteen she married Simon Bradstreet.  Her husband (as well as her father) served as a governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.  Anne and her husband, along with Anne’s family, sailed for America in 1630 as a Puritan emigrants.  The Bradstreet and Dudley family were instrumental in founding Harvard.

Anne gave birth to eight children.  Throughout her life she would taken her family (often while pregnant) and move all around New England with her husband.  She died at the age of 60 in 1672. 

Why You Should Know Her:

Anne Bradstreet is actually New England’s first published poet.  In 1647 her brother-in-law, John Woodbridge, sailed to England carrying with him a manuscript of her poetry.  There is some discussion as to whether Anne knew it was to be published or not.  More than likely she had intentions of publication but had to carry a hint of surprise at its publication because during this time period women authoring books was quite controversial. 

Bradstreet was a friend of Anne Hutchinson but was less “liberal” in her views.  Using contemporary terms Bradstreet saw herself as a complementarian but was very much an early feminist.  Many believe that those around Bradstreet also believed that a godly and educated woman such as Anne could do such things as write and that would not necessarily contradict her other roles as a wife and a mother.  Few held this view at the time and Bradstreet faced much opposition during her life. 

Bradstreet’s poems are endearing and reflect much about the life of a Puritan woman.  They were probably not originally intended for publication so they almost serve as a diary and an autobiography of the life of a godly and intellectual Puritan wife and mother. 


One of Bradstreet’s poems was written before the birth of one of her children.  In it one can see that those living in New England lived with constant reminders of their own mortality.  Here we see both the joys and fears of a new mother.  Even upon the joy of a child this pervasive death and toil is evident in her writing:

All things within this fading world hath end,
Adversity doth still our joys attend;
No ties so strong, no friends so dear and sweet,
But with death's parting blow is sure to meet.
The sentence past is most irrevocable,
A common thing, yet oh, inevitable.
How soon, my Dear, death may my steps attend.
How soon't may be thy lot to lose thy friend,
We both are ignorant, yet love bids me
These farewell lines to recommend to thee,
That when that knot's untied that made us one,
I may seem thine, who in effect am none.
And if I see not half my days that's due,
What nature would, God grant to yours and you;
The many faults that well you know
I have Let be interred in my oblivious grave;
If any worth or virtue were in me,
Let that live freshly in thy memory
And when thou feel'st no grief, as I no harms,
Yet love thy dead, who long lay in thine arms.
And when thy loss shall be repaid with gains
Look to my little babes, my dear remains.
And if thou love thyself, or loved'st me,
These O protect from step-dame's injury.
And if chance to thine eyes shall bring this verse,
With some sad sighs honour my absent hearse;
And kiss this paper for thy love's dear sake,
Who with salt tears this last farewell did take.

Further Reading:

Several of Bradstreet’s poems can be found here.
You can find a good amount of information on Bradstreet here.
Some may be interested in her interesting genealogical record.  (President Calvin Coolidge is a descendant of Bradstreet).
Also check out

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Review of The Gospel as Center

Commentary sets and compilation books are sometimes like a banana.  What I mean is that there are parts of them (certain volumes) that are amazing and exemplify what they were created to do.  But then there seem to be certain chapters or volumes that leave you scratching your head as to how the editor of the series let this one slide.  It’s a huge contrast between “tasty snack” and “vile, diseased flesh of the damned”. 

Because of this difficulty it is really difficult to review compilation books like The Gospel as Center.  Thankfully, for me, this book is no banana with vile diseased parts.  This is the rare banana that you pick off the tree and are simply able to enjoy the tasty snack without wondering what that horrible dark spot of death must represent. 


The Gospel as Center is actually a compilation of 14 booklets produced by The Gospel Coalition.  The Gospel Coalition is “a fellowship of evangelical churches deeply committed to renewing our faith in the gospel of Christ and to reforming our ministry practices to conform fully to the Scriptures.”  These 14 booklets (this book) flesh out what that renewal and reformation looks like. 

The topics covered are: Gospel-Centered Ministry, Can We Know the Truth?, The Gospel and Scripture: How to Read the Bible, Creation, Sin and the Fall, The Plan, What Is the Gospel?, Christ’s Redemption, Justification, The Holy Spirit, The Kingdom of God, The Church: God’s New People, Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, The Restoration of All Things.  Also included is an Appendix that includes all of the foundation documents of the Gospel Coalition. 

Contributors include (to name a few): D.A. Carson, Tim Keller, Bryan Chappell, Sandy Wilson, Kevin DeYoung, Thabiti Anyabwile, Ligon Duncan, Sam Storms, and more. 

Some of the sections are more theological and some more practical, all strive to be biblically faithful.  As is the case with any compilation book some chapters are written by those that are really good communicators and a few are written by those that say things truthfully but perhaps not as poetically as others.  Regardless, every chapter is a faithful exposition of the topic assigned.

My Take:

I especially enjoyed Storms’ treatement on The Restoration of All Things.  I have heard Storms before on this topic and he is always brilliant and engaging, this chapter is no exception.  I also enjoyed what was somewhat a dialogue between Anyabwile and Duncan on the practice of The Lord’s Supper and Baptism.  Duncan comes from a Presbyterian perspective and Anyabwile comes from a Baptist perspective.  Such an irenic discussion and chapter shows why the gospel really can be the center even in historically heated debates. 

One of the things that I have always enjoyed about The Gospel Coalition is its emphasis on the Gospel Story.  You see throughout this book that this narrative informs much of the material.  Those within this group always do a good job of showing how the gospel narrative has a bearing even on things such as science, philosophy, as well as the way the church comes together.  This book shows how the gospel shines a light into the muddied world in which we live in. 

Should You Buy It?

One of the questions that I was asking myself in reviewing this is whether one should buy the whole book or just the booklets that are superb.  If this book were a banana with vile parts but one that is mostly tasty I would suggest just buying the booklets.  But the truth is that all of these chapters are solid and helpful in their own regard. 

Who should buy this book?  One way that I think this book would be beneficial would be for a pastor to buy the book and then if possible a few booklets of each chapter.  That way he knows the booklets that he is giving away and then he also will be able to keep the book to still have the material when he gives it away.  But you do not need to be a pastor or a church leader to benefit from this book.  Any believer will find help in these chapters—some perhaps more than others. 

This book is no banana.  Buy the whole thing and enjoy.  You can get it from Amazon for a little over 10 bucks.  You really can’t beat that price.  Get it here.

From the Pen of Newton: Rock Stars and Heavenly Jewels

Apparently celebrity pastors and rock star Christianity are not new to our culture.  Many even in John Newton’s day struggled with the assumption that more visible and mightily used men like George Whitefield must be more pleasing to God. 

The formula is simple. 

Whitefield is a pastor, Whitfield is a successful pastor, therefore, he must be a great man in the sight of God.  Frank is a shoe-shiner, though a good shoe-shiner and a humble man that loves Jesus, still he’s a shoe-shiner, therefore, he must not be quite as great a man in the sight of God as one like Whitefield.  To this notion Newton responds:

One man, like Mr. Whitefield, is raised up to preach the gospel with success through a considerable part of the earth.  Another is called to the humbler service of sweeping the streets, or cleaning the minister’s shoes.  Now, if the latter is thankful and content in his poor station,—if he can look without envy, yea, with much love on the man that is honored,—if he can rejoice in the good that is done, or pray for the success of those whom the Lord sends,—I see not why he may not be as great a man in the sight of God as he who is followed and admired by thousands. 

His point is that God has called George Whitefield to be George Whitefield and not Frank the shoe-shiner.  Frank is not judged because or seen as unfaithful because God has not called him to be George Whitefield.  Frank is judged as a “great man in the sight of God” by his attitude and response to the lot the Lord has given to him.  Perhaps American ingenuity and the mantra we feed our kids that “in America you can be anything you want to be” has even infiltrated our views of heaven, rewards, and gospel faithfulness. 

Newton continues by imagining a quest to find the “best Christian in the land”.  He says:

…it is more than two to one we should not find the person in a pulpit, or any public office of life.  Perhaps some old woman at her wheel, or some bed-rid person, hid from the knowledge of the world, in a mud-walled cottage, would strike our attention more than any of the doctors or reverends with whom we are acquainted. 

None of this is meant to demean the faithfulness of a Whitefield.  Instead it is to exalt Frank the shoe-shiner and the grace of God in his life.  His point is simple.  “Let us not measure men, much less ourselves, by gifts or services.  One grain of grace is worth abundance of gifts”.  What really matters is our heart and our response to the situations the sovereign Lord directs us into.  Newton brings this point home by looking at in from the view point of levels of sin:

The sin of nature is equal in all; and so I think would actual sin be likewise, but for the differences made by the restraining grace and providence of God.  He is not, perhaps, in the sight of God, the greatest sinner, who has committed the most notorious acts of sin in the sight of man.  We should not judge one wolf to be fiercer than another because he had opportunity of devouring more sheep.  Any other wolf would have done the same in the same circumstances.  (emphasis mine)

We are either righteous in Jesus and stand in a position to enjoy all of His lavish gifts or we are not.  So enough talk about comparing rock stars and heavenly jewels.  Love Jesus and be content with a happy pursuit of all that He is. 


The above quotations are from Newton’s Letter to Joseph Symonds.  The whole thing is worth a read.  It’s letter 4 when you follow this link: Eighteen Letters to a Pastor.

Borrowed Light Bracket Challenge

You want to win a $10 Gift Certificate to Amazon?  Simple.  Win this bracket challenge:

Borrowed Light Bracket

Click the link.  Join the group.  Fill out a bracket (only one bracket).  And start praying. 

This year looks to be pretty “chalk”.  Most people are not picking a ton of upsets.  Will you go against the grain and pick another VCU type of run into the final four this year?  Or will it be only 1 or 2 seeds in the Final Four? 

Monday, March 12, 2012

Review of Trained in the Fear of God

There is a classic story (that probably has Jewish roots) about a new bride that is cooking her first big dinner for her husband.  She decides to go with a recipe that has stood the test of time; a roast that was passed down to her by her mother, who in turn had learned it from her mother.  Part of the recipe called for cutting off the ends of the roast.  The husband, is astonished by this.  He asks, “why in the world do you cut off the ends of the roast?  That is the best part!”.  Her reply is simple, “That’s the way my mom always made it”. 

Later on in the week the new bride decides to question her mom about this practice of lopping off the ends of the roast.  The mother’s reply is the same as the daughter’s, “that was always the way my mom made it”.  The two curious ladies decide to ask grandma why she cut off the ends of the roast.  She says, “I always cut off the ends of the roast because that is the only way that I could get it to fit in the pan”. 

The point of the story is that generations upon generations can dutifully follow a tradition without even understanding it.  What is worse when ripped from its original intention the new generation’s following of a practice is not only stupid it is also quite unhelpful and maybe even harmful.  What happened with the grandmother and her roast is that she taught the daughter the practice but never explained why she did it.  The daughter then was not able to contextualize the recipe for her own setting and so she slavishly followed a tradition and handed an unnecessary “must” down to her own daughter.

What is true of a three generations of ladies cooking a roast is just as true of many churches.  There are various practices and strategies that have become a “must” to churches but the historical, theological, and even practical reasons for doing them have not been handed down.   As a result of this oversight churches either neglect to key biblical practices (such as parents discipling their children) or they slavishly follow extrabiblical traditions without really knowing the reason why. 


Trained in the Fear of God is a book compiled by Timothy Paul Jones and Randy Stinson that aims at providing these historical, theological, and practical reasons for engaging in family-equipping ministry.  Family-equipping ministry is “the process of intentionally and persistently coordinating a congregation’s proclamation and practices so that parents are acknowledged, trained, and held accountable as primary disciple-makers in their children’s lives”.  It’s not a program to be added to your church but a philosophy of doing family ministry that attaches itself to everything the church does. 

This philosophy of ministry is catching on in many churches.  It is the philosophy of youth, student, and family ministry at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and is quickly spreading to many other institutions.  It is filling a void that is left in many other approaches to family ministry.  As such many churches are adopting it.  With such a spreading one of the dangers is that family-equipping ministry will just become the latest program and two generations from now it will become the next “lopping off the end of the roast” and its theological, historical, and practical foundations will be neglected. 

Trained in the Fear of God is divided into three sections: Biblical and Theological Framework, Historical Foundations, and Practice.  They are not titled that, but that is essentially the way the book is broken up.  There are seventeen different chapters from different contributors (many of them are professors at SBTS).  The reader is encouraged to check out the Table of Contents

The book not only makes a compelling case for the necessity of family ministry it also paints a picture of what family ministry looks like in practice.  There are helpful chapters that engage cultural misrepresentations (Al Mohler’s chapter on Homosexuality as an example).  There are chapters that deal with family ministry in various contexts (Kevin Smiths’ chapter on Family Discipleship and the African American Experience).  There is even a chapter on the child’s brain and how family ministry helps to shape the child’s brain.  There is much to offer in these pages.

Should You Buy It?

If you are a church leader you should really consider buying this book.  I am convinced that Family-Equipping Ministry (whatever it looks like in your particular context) is the way that churches need to minister to families.  Every church that buys “how-to” books for moving towards family ministry needs to be certain to also purchase this book.  It will build a foundation that will answer the question of “why” for generations to come. 

If you are a mom or dad you should also buy this book.  It will not only help you to see your valuable role in discipling your children but it will provide helps in doing so.  In places where the book itself does not answer the “how-to” questions it will point you to other resources that will. 

I highly recommend this book.  Also as a little tip I would suggest looking up the Table of Contents and then doing a Google Search for the articles.  You might be surprised what you find while you are waiting to purchase the book. 

You can buy it here.  It’s a little pricy but worth every penny.  Churches need this book as a resource, so do schools, and so do parents. 

Saturday, March 10, 2012

The Root of Angry and Divisive Calvinists: Part Five

One of the first signs of healing in the life of an angry and divisive Calvinist is in the way or the frequency that he/she responds to criticism, debate, or disagreements.  A wonderful model of humble and consistent Calvinism is John Newton.  Consider his response to a “controversy”. 

The June 1772 edition of the Gospel Magazine held within its pages a letter from Omicron (which was one of Newton’s pen names). In this letter, fittingly titled On the Doctrines of Election and Final Perseverance, Newton outlined for Joseph Milner his views on these often controversial topics.

Six years later, a Methodist preacher named Nicholas Manners took up his pen to dispute Omicron’s letter. Manners “disputed Newton’s letter line by line in the controversial style of the period.”[1]

Now imagine for a moment that this took place in the twenty first century.

Imagine that you just wrote an article that was picked up by a popular blog (let’s say The Gospel Coalition). In this article you felt that you did a fair job of explaining a very difficult and controversial topic. Your tone was not demeaning. It was a balanced explanation of what you believe.

To this stellar article another brother strongly disagreed and posted a lengthy series on his personal blog, going through your article line by line and disputing it.  How does a twenty-first century believer respond?

Simple. You pop your knuckles, get your Mountain Dew, sit at your swivel chair, and slam out a response.  Line by line.  Defending your argument and your dearly loved doctrine, under the guise of gospel fidelity. The debate roars through the blogosphere and your blog traffic hits Challies type numbers.

That’s what we would do in the 21st century. But, what did Newton do? (By the way, WWND bracelets are for sale on my website for a quarter a piece)


That’s right.  Nothing. “He let the dispute die in silence[2]”. Newton’s letting this discussion die in silence exemplifies his philosophy of how people become Calvinist. As Bruce Hindmarsh has rightly noted, “He was increasingly convinced that a person became a Calvinist through personal experience, not by argument”[3].

Once a Calvinist is able to “let a dispute die in silence” he is well on his way to finding healing from his angry and divisive stage.  The sooner young Calvinist see living models like Newton and are introduced to saints of old (such as Newton) hopefully the sooner their angry and divisive stage will be over.

Consider, tomorrow, one additional help from John Newton. 

[1] Hindmarsh, John Newton and the English Evangelical Tradition, 161

[2] Ibid, 162

[3] Ibid, 162

Friday, March 9, 2012

The Root of Angry and Divisive Calvinists: Part Four

“Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that ‘all of us possess knowledge.”  This knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.”  If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know.  But if anyone loves God, he is known by God.”  1 Corinthians 8:1-3

Concerning the question of eating food offered to idols, logically and theologically the “strong” Corinthians had this question nailed.  They rightly believed that there is only one God, “an idol has no real existence” and correctly deduced from this that a “nothing cannot affect meat”[1]  Yet, what they failed the most important test; namely, that of love.  In other words the “strong” Corinthians had notions in the head but it had yet to trickle down and transform their hearts.  Such a knowledge only puffs up the individual it never edifies the body. 

Anthony Thiselton helps us to see that Paul subtly challenges the “strong” Corinthians’ view of knowledge:

Paul distinguishes between knowing (using the verb) as a process that is continuous and ever learning and knowledge (the noun gnosis) as denoting a static, completed state.  The latter (but not the former) leads to a cast of mind that regards everything as “buttoned up,” mastered, and fully processed. 

Herein, lies the root of angry and divisive Calvinism.  Fundamentally, it is a problem of the heart and has little no bearing on the validity of the “ism” being distorted by its follower.  The puffed up pride that comes from only have a notion in the head is what makes for an angry and a divisive Calvinist. 

Really all of these posts is only backing up what Joe Thorn noted as the three reasons for angry and divisive Calvinists.  In his interview with Ed Stetzer (which you should real all of including the comments, here) Thorn notes three principle reasons that I will summarize. 

1. Over-zealous and excited about a new found truth.  “Some of us, and I was one of them, would benefit from being locked up in a cage for a few years until our heart can catch up with our head.”

2. Anger at being denied this in the past.  “They feel as if they've wasted years of their life, or the church has let them down. So, they're angry about that…”

3. A short-circuit between the head and heart.  “When we Calvinists are ungracious, unnecessarily combative, proud, and arrogant, we are not being true Calvinists. We are posers.”

So how do you disciple a young Calvinist whose either angry, over-zealous, or simply has a short-circuit between his head and heart?  Apart from patient plodding and let the gospel take deeper roots one particular thing I do with young Calvinists (including myself) is introduce them to John Newton--and that will be what we do in Part Five and Part Six. 


[1] Anthony Thiselton’s Commentary on 1 Corinthians, 124

The Spirit of the Christian Household

I will be reviewing Trained in the Fear of God on Monday.  Until then I thought you could benefit from a rather lengthy sample.  This is from Peter R. Schemm Jr.’s contribution:

I once thought that the defining mark of a Christian home was “family worship” in the living room every evening[1].I would not have put it that way at the time, of course. Yet I have since realized that I was far too invested in performing the act of family worship as a measure of my success as a father. I possessed the spirit of a Pharisee-and few attitudes are more unhelpful to the Gospel of Jesus than such a spirit. It is the spirit of one who works to impress God and others through religious achievements. It is the spirit of self-justification. It is not the spirit of a Christian household.

By the spirit of the Christian household, I mean something closer to what Dallas Willard suggests in his book The Spirit of the Disciplines. He says,

The spirit of the disciplines-that which moves us to them and moves through them to prevent them from becoming a new bondage and to deepen constantly our union with the heart and mind of God-is [our] love of Jesus, with its steadfast longing and resolute will to be like him.[2]

Spiritual habits and disciplines are hollow apart from a genuine love and affection for Jesus Christ. They tend to take on a “new bondage” and become a means to seek an evil and enslaving endpoint instead.

The spirit of the Christian household is inspired by the love of God whom “we love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19). It is a disposition that consistently reflects God’s love through grace and forgiveness. This disposition moves us to and through the habits proposed below. Our habits and disciplines, founded on the love of God, become a good means to a greater end. They form and transform our families into redemptive communities. These habits and disciplines train not only children but also fathers and mothers, to repent of specific things such as anger and demanding expectations. Paul Tripp describes it this way, “As we-parents and children alike-face our need as sinners, the family becomes a truly redemptive community where the themes of grace, forgiveness, deliverance from sin, reconciliation, new life in Christ, and hope become the central themes of family life.”[3] In a word, the spirit of the Christian household is a spirit of redemption.

Fortunately I didn’t have to type all of that out.  I did a search to see if I could find this quote somewhere else.  Looks like the Family Ministry Today blog thought this selection was worthy of quoting as well.  Credit to them for typing all that out.  Lot’s of good stuff at that blog.  Check it out: Family Ministry Today.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Root of Angry and Divisive Calvinists: Part Three

If it wasn’t seminary (or any other new found education) that caused mark to become angry and divisive what happened to Mark, then?

Probably the same thing that happened to students in Newton’s day when he said:

I do not mention this as the necessary fault of the institution, but as the frequent effect of notions too hastily picked up, when not sanctified by grace, nor balanced by a proportional depth of spiritual experience.[1]

Newton is saying what Luther said 200 years prior, “experience alone makes the theologian[2]”. What happened to Mark and a host of students like him is that he became like a young David wearing Saul’s armor; wearing the armor of another man without first growing into it. Newton expresses this well in verse:

When first my soul enlisted
My Savior’s foes to fight,
Mistaken friends insisted
I was not arm’d aright:

So Saul advised David
He certainly would fail,
Nor could his life be saved
Without a coat of mail.

But David, though he yielded
To put the armor on,
Soon found he could not wield it,
And ventur’d forth with none.

With only sling and pebble,
He fought the fight of faith;
The weapons seem’d but feeble,
Yet prov’d Goliath’s death.

Had I by him been guided,
And quickly thrown away
The armor men provided,
I might have gain’d the day;

But arm’d as they advis’d me,
My expectations fail’d;
My enemy surprised me,
And had almost prevailed

Furnish’d with books and notions,
And arguments and pride,
I practis’d all my motions,
And Satan’s pow’r defy’d:

But soon perceiv’d, with trouble,
That these would do no good;
Iron to him is stubble,
And brass like rotten wood.

I triumph’d at a distance,
While he was out of sight,
But faint was my resistance,
When forc’d to join in fight:

He broke my swords in shivers,
And pierc’d my boasted shield,
Laugh’d at my vain endeavors,
And drove me from the field.

Satan will not be braved
By such a worm as I;
Then let me learn with David
To trust in the Most High;

To plead the name of Jesus,
And use the sling of pray’r:
Thus arm’d , when Satan sees us,
He’ll tremble and despair

Notice, once again, that Newton refers to “books and notions” as he did earlier “notions too hastily picked up”. Through his experience Newton found that theology not owned is unhelpful to the flaming darts of the evil one.

The most likely root of angry and divisive Calvinism (or any other angry and divisive “ism”) is mostly like found in this principle of “notions too hastily picked up”.  Until “notions in the head” match experiences of grace in the heart what is typically manifested is angry, divisive, and prideful. 

“This knowledge puffs up, but love builds up”…

[1] Newton, Vol 1, 139

[2] Trials, 25

Review of The Resignation of Eve by Jim Henderson

Warning: My introduction may be totally unwise.  It could add fuel to what could become a wild fire.  Read on…

A few years ago I attended my very first Missouri Baptist State Convention.  At one point there was a very heated discussion on the issue of alcohol.  Anyone following SBC life knows that the use of moderate alcohol for recreational (or missional) purposes is highly debated. 

In my opinion there are people who give very reasonable arguments on both sides of the discussion.  But what happened at the MBC was not a reasoned discussion.  What ended up happening was that at least four people right after another came to the microphone and gave emotional and passionate stories of how alcohol use had ruined their life.  We clearly moved from reasonably debating the issues from a biblical standpoint to emotional appeals based on varying personal experience. 

That is what you have, in my opinion, in Jim Henderson’s book The Resignation of Eve.  The fundamental question in this book is what would happen if women stopped coming to church.  Henderson believes that all across the church landscape women are overcome with a sad resignation.  Women are wondering why it is that God has gifted them but leaders in the church (men) are not allowing them to lead. 

What follows are numerous stories of women and their views of women in the church.  The book begins by highlighting women that are “resigned to” their position.  In other words they agree with the complementarian position.  Then the stories slowly move towards the other end of the spectrum.  Henderson does an excellent job showing that this issue is far more complex than simply complementarian and egalitarian. 

The problem, though, is in the way Henderson frames his arguments.  He treats those on the complementarian problem as those that are simply blind to the problem.  They do not hold their position because of a reasonable biblical defense.  They hold their position because they are blind to the other world that could be theirs.  For Rose Claxton who is committed to a more traditional interpretation of submission, Henderson cannot help but note that “none of us escape the influence of our past”.  It must be because of her “confusing childhood” that Rose is “grateful for the structure and security submission has provided for her”.  (35)

Fast forward to Jennifer Roach.  She too had a troubled past but through the help of “three important men” she has risen above that past and is now “being ordained as a priest and becoming one of the first female church planters in her denomination”  (223).  Yes, this is Jesus’ rescue, and his empowering of Jennifer and elevating her.  Not even considered is that her story of abuse does not impact her understanding of Scripture. 

This is the problem throughout the book.  Henderson has a bias—which appears to be the same structural disdain found in all things Barna—and it clouds everything in the book.  And that is really sad.  It is sad because I think there are actually some really good things to be said here.  It is true that men have abused power and that churches have been really sloppy in how they handle the teachings of Scripture concerning women.  These stories are real and they are sad.

But what I find increasingly sad is that the mindset that permeates this book is the same one that I have encountered in counseling struggling couples that pursue a divorce, or those struggling with homosexuality that decide to give up on the struggle.  The argument is simple.  A) God made me this way.  B) What you are saying the Bible says would go against how God made me, and would lead to my unhappiness.  C) God would never desire me to not use my gifts, not be who I am, not be happy.  D) Therefore, what you are saying must be incorrect and your interpretation of the Bible must be outdated. 

There is much room here for discussion and reasoned debate.  The problem is, as it was at the MBC a few years ago, such a discussion is not allowed to happen because of the emotional appeal, sloppy rhetoric, exaltation of personal experience, and anthropocentric world views. 

Should You Buy It?

I wouldn’t.  It’s irresponsible.  These stories might very well be ones that should be told.  There is much that those of us that come from a complementarian position can learn from hearing these stories.  But at the end of the day this book is just simply irresponsible on a very difficult and often heated topic. 

Yes, it comes from the same perspective as I do but I have found Tom Schreiner’s book Women in the Church very reasonable and a good defense of the complementarian position.  Which by the way is never really fairly represented in this book.  It’s just caricatured and then torched as an outdated and brainless (perhaps heartless if the analogy would fit) straw-man. 

On the Barna agenda you might find this beneficial.  It’s far from watchblogging.
I received this book for free from Tyndale (I think) in exchange for a review.  It didn’t have to be positive—as you can clearly see. 

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

People You’ve Maybe Never Heard Of But Should: Charles Simeon

Charles Simeon was born in 1759 in Reading, Berkshire.  He attended Eton College and Cambridge.  While at Cambridge he came to know the Lord.  John Piper helps us to see the miracle of this when he says, “He had no mother to nurture him.  His father was an unbeliever.  His boarding school was a godless and corrupt place.  And his university was destitute, as far as he knew, of other evangelical believers.”

After his conversion he soon became the pastor at Trinity Church in Cambridge.  Here he remained for the next 54 years until his death.  We have much to learn from a pastor that has such staying power as Charles Simeon. 

Why You Should Know Him:

Simeon was vital in the modern missions movement.  He used his influence through his position at the university to not only fill many pulpits throughout England with evangelicals but also to send missionaries to the East.  Many of those that would pioneer missions movement go back to Simeon as a mentor.  His branches extend far throughout the world. 

Simeon was also a wonderful preacher.  Simeon said that the three great aims of all his preaching where, “To humble the sinner, to exalt the Savior, and to promote holiness”.  For 54 years that is precisely what Charles Simeon did.  And he did it, especially in his early years against the backdrop of much persecution. 

The newly minted preacher was not wanted by his parishioners.  They wanted another guy.  So they revolted.  It wasn’t until 1794 that the congregation allowed their own pastor, Simeon, to give the Sunday afternoon lecture.  When Simeon tried to start a Sunday evening service the churchwardens locked the door.  They also had a habit of locking the pew doors on Sunday morning and then going home.  Those that wanted to hear Simeon would have to do so while standing.  When Simeon decided to provide seats in the empty spaces (at this own expense) the churchwardens threw them into the churchyard. 

All of this is not to mention the cold reception that he would receive when visiting peoples houses.  On top of this he was despised as he taught at Cambridge University.  All of this lasted for at least ten years.  Finally, through patient plodding and preaching the Word the community gradually began to accept Simeon. 

Charles Simeon’s faithful endurance under very difficult circumstances is a model to all of us.  Many pastors—(perhaps even including myself)—would not have been strong enough to have endured such attacks.  But Simeon kept pressing on and left a lasting gospel legacy. 


One particular thing that is endearing about Simeon is his response to controversy and his refusal to needlessly engage in it.  I love his word to a pastor encouraging Simeon to engage in controversy:

I know you will forgive me if I say that the very account you give of yourself in relation to controversy is a dissuasive from embarking in it.  Let a man once engage in it, and it is surprising how the love of it will grow upon him; and he will find both a hare in every bush, and will follow it with something of a huntsman’s feelings.

Simeon was also very passionate about experiencing and enjoying grace and not merely defending it:

By this then, my brethren, you may judge whether you are Christians in deed and in truth, or whether you are only such in name…For a nominal Christian is content with proving the way of salvation by a crucified Redeemer.  But the true Christian loves it, delights in it, glories in it, and shudders at the very thought of glorying in anything else. 

There is much more gospel centered and humble preaching that flows from the works of Charles Simeon. 

Further Reading:

John Piper’s Biography on Simeon is one thing that I used in putting together this article.  It’s very helpful. 

There is much on Google Books by Simeon and about Simeon.

Also check out the Simeon Trust.

Hump Day Humor 3.7.12

I’d take guitar lessons from this person:

I love this commercial (HT: 22 Words): 

I should probably just call this feature HT: 22 Words because here is another funny from there:

Pentecostal Gorilla:

The only hope for Cubs fans (and probably Royals fans too):

This from a fun site called Questionable Advice:

Review of How to Read the Bible Through the Jesus Lens

Part of God’s calling on my life is to teach students how to read the Bible.  Occasionally, I will have some students that desire to learn how to do Bible studies, write sermons, and do other types of ministry.  Inevitably, in both these endeavors I find myself consistently telling them to make sure that Jesus is the hero of every text.  That is a question I ask of my own preaching and one that I hope to instill in the lives of students that God has entrusted me with. 

One of the difficult things in this endeavor is to have a Christ-focus in various Old Testament passages.  It can be rather difficult for the beginning Bible reader to discover how exactly Christ is found in Leviticus, the conquest of Canaan or other passages.  Even in some New Testament passages it can be easy to apply the imperatives (do this) without first putting on the Jesus lens (indicatives). 

Michael Williams’ new book, “How to Read the Bible through the Jesus Lens” is written to help beginning Bible readers learn how to use a Jesus lens in reading all of the Scriptures.  The book covers all 66 books of the Bible in four pages each.  Every section has a short summary of the book with a helpful statement of the books major theme.  A memory passage is also highlighted as well as a few “hook questions” to give each chapter staying power.  Williams also applies the Jesus lens to the books major theme and then dives into a few contemporary implications. 

What you are getting with this book is a brief, popular level (though not shallow), introduction to the Bible.  This book is written for beginning Bible students with the hopes of “avoiding the dry, data-intensive introduction to the Bible” that most introductions fall into.  Here you will get a simple and concise theme for each book and then be shown how the books overall thrust can be read with a Jesus lens. 

I figured one of the best places to give the book a trial run would be the book of Job.  Here Williams views the theme of the book as being the truth that “God is active in areas and realms beyond our understanding”.  In response to this theme, Williams encourages the reader to use the book of Job to “see God at work in our suffering”.  When we put on our Jesus lens we see that Christ gives us the “ultimate picture of the righteous sufferer as he accomplishes God’s saving purposes” (71). 

How To Use This?

With every book that I read and review I try to determine who would benefit from reading the book.  With this particular book I know that the audience will be those that are relatively new to reading the Bible (or perhaps those new to trying to reading it in a Christ-centered way).  As I went through this book I tried imagining one of my students that is newer to reading Scripture.  How would he use this book?  Would it be beneficial?  What disciplines would reading through this book cultivate in his walk with Christ? 

I picture a new believer opening up his Bible to Job.  The only Bible that he has is just a simple pew Bible with very little “helps” inside of it.  There is no introduction to his copy of Job, but he did just pick up a copy of this Jesus Lens book.  Before he begins reading Job he reads through this book.  He learns here that the book of Job is about suffering—and suffering that doesn’t seem to make sense.  From the beginning pages he knows that Job will be exhorting him to trust in God even when it seems really dark.  He will find—through picking up his Jesus lens—that Christ is not only a model for enduring suffering but is the one by whom we are able to endure suffering and the one in whom suffering is ultimately conquered. 

My Take

Part of me really likes this idea.  I am in absolute agreement that we should read the Bible “through a Jesus lens”.  I also welcome a simple and easy to read introduction to not only this practice but also to books of the Bible.  I love being able to hand someone a quick reference that will help them see how to apply a “Jesus lens” to the book of Job, or Nehemiah, or any other book in the Bible.  So, part of me loves this idea.

The other part of me is…something.  I’m really not certain what word to call it.  Disappointed?  That’s too strong.  Cynical?  Yes, but that probably doesn’t apply here.  Whatever word you want to call it I question whether this book will actually accomplish what it intends to do.  I do not think it is myopic (that means narrow focused) to read everything through a Jesus lens.  But what I do think might be myopic is applying the Jesus lens only to the books major theme. 

Job has more gospel in it than simply that “God is active in areas and realms beyond our understanding”.  There is more to it than that Christ is the ultimate righteous sufferer and that He is in the business of making all things right even when we do not see His hand.  I agree with all of this theologically, and I even agree that these truths you can find in Job.  But what about what we can learn through Job about Christ-centered counseling?  What about the truth that Christ is the instrument by which God’s proclamations in Job 38-41?  There is so much more that a Jesus lens enlightens than could be covered in four pages. 

So again I’m…still can’t find the word.  I love the idea.  I love the practice.  I even like the simplicity of this book.  I just wonder if the fact that each book is only given four pages will be training readers to be a tad too myopic in their reading of Scripture.  Does it really train them to read through a Jesus lens or does it train them to read the Bible through a meta-narrative?  Both are crucial, but they are different.

Should You Buy It?

If you have been reading the Bible for years and already practice reading the Bible through a Jesus lens you may not find a ton of help here.  It’s not really written for you.  But you could buy it and give it to a new believer.  Even with my reservations I do heartily recommend this book for new Bible readers.  Do not attempt to make this book a stand alone or even the definitive book on teaching someone “how to read the Bible through the Jesus lens”. 

You can buy the book here.  And you really should.  Williams is a really good writer and he packs some in depth stuff into a really short section.  He does it, though, in a way that is not “heady” but it is written on a popular and very helpful level.  You will benefit from the book. 


I received this book free from Zondervan in exchange for a review.  This review is also part of a Blog Tour that you can check out here.  Read the other reviews because other reviewers focused on other books of Scripture. 


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