Saturday, June 30, 2012

7 Questions with Greg Dutcher, Author of Killing Calvinism (Part 1 of 2)

One of the best books that I have read in 2012 is Greg Dutcher’s, Killing Calvinism.  I was very happy that Greg agreed to answer 7 questions about his book and his ministry. 

1. What means did God use to make you a more humble Calvinist?

Like many fresh-from-the-factory Calvinists, I never considered that there could be any deficiency in me. The problem was in other people's inability to embrace what I had discovered. When some of these folks got their feelings hurt or found me distasteful it all simply confirmed my belief that I was being attacked for standing up for the truth. Sadly (and I remember saying as much to reformed friends) I considered their negative reactions a badge of honor that I wore with pride. Of course, had I thought about that word "pride" just a little bit longer perhaps I would have been humbled a little bit sooner.

Like many Calvinists I learned in the school of hard knocks. There was not one stand-out experience per se but the aggregate effect of many experiences eventually caught up with me. At some point my heart changed, and I started seeing myself as the least common denominator in all of these unpleasant interactions. And at the risk of attributing too much to one man, John Piper and the long-term effect of his preaching powerfully effected me. He combined two things that I had rarely seen fused, unashamed Calvinism with uncommon humility. As I devoured his books and sermons, the Lord gradually showed me that true Calvinism leads to humility not pride.

2. Tell us a little about your church, some of the things the Lord is doing.  Also, what are you most excited about seeing God do there?

I absolutely love Christ Fellowship Church! By God's grace I planted it in the summer of 2003, so at 9-years-old it is really beginning to build some history. It is an independent, non-denominational church, and that has to do a lot with my own eclectic make up. We are probably most similar to an Acts 29  church, but when I planted it, we knew nothing of the Seattle-based movement. We average about 300 people each week, and we are really beginning to understand the implications of the gospel for missional living. Our community groups are increasingly becoming a more central part of our congregational life. My own goal (although I know that no church ever reaches it) is that each person would be intimately involved in a spiritual family where he is growing as a learner, servant and missionary. 

The majority of the attenders probably don't even know that the preaching/teaching they get each Sunday is "reformed." I rarely use any of the buzzwords (Calvinism, doctrines of grace, T.U.L.I.P.) from the pulpit. Those who are looking for it, can always tell (the running joke is "he must be getting a chunk of the royalties from those Piper quotes"), but I have been very intentional in teaching authoritatively from the text of Scripture itself.  The only "ist" label mentioned at CFC is "Biblicist." That is what I'm hoping my people become in increasing measure.

In the last year we have had several lost people come to saving faith in Jesus. In almost every case it has been in the context of suffering and death. Just last week I baptized a couple in their 70's who just came to faith in the past year. The doctrine of God's sovereignty (especially in difficult circumstances) has become especially precious to me.

3. How do you typically respond to an aggressive non-Calvinist?  Do you respond?

I do not always respond if the emotion is reaching fever-pitch level. I tell about a few such examples in the book. But if emotions are somewhat under control then I usually try to diffuse any negative emotion by talking about my respect for non-Calvinists like Billy Graham, John Wesley or D.L. Moody. I then ask if they knew of the friendship between Wesley and Whitefield and how they had a gentleman's agreement to not let their differences in soteriology keep them from partnering in the preaching of the gospel. I find that once the non-Calvinist knows that he is respected (as he should be!) as a fellow brother in Christ, then genuine conversation can begin. 

At that point I usually start from a total depravity angle. I find that most Bible-believing Christians readily accept the portrait of mankind's sinful state. What they often need help with is thinking through the implications of this portrait. When a Christian accepts that mankind does not submit to God's law because he cannot (Romans 8:7), then sovereign election and irresistible grace are almost necessary to make sense out of the salvation of any sinner. From there the issues of God's eternal decree, fairness, etc... become easier to discuss.

4. How would you disciple a young-Calvinist that is blowing all 8 of your points?

Easy. I would just invite him to learn from my mistakes! Seriously! I can easily furnish ample illustrations of how I killed my Calvinism. Of course all of that is a negative approach (don't do this), and I would seek to balance that with a (do this instead) positive approach.

I wish every Christian had the privilege of knowing Roscoe Adams. He was a fellow elder, equal to me on a leadership level but a father to me on a spiritual level.  He died on April 22 of this year, and he never got to see that the book was dedicated to him. It will take me a long time to move past my grief at his loss. He was a humble, gentle and joyful Calvinist.  I would suggest that each person find his own "Roscoe" and learn from his example.


Be sure to check back in on Monday for part 2 of our interview.  In the meantime you may want to check out my review and the TweetNotes for Killing Calvinism.  If the book seems interesting to you then you can get it on your Kindle for around $5

Friday, June 29, 2012

Review of Date Your Wife by Justin Buzzard

Guy woos girl. 

Girl accepts wooing.  Is swept off her feet.

Guy puts ring on girls finger, says I do.

Guy stops wooing and pursuing. 

Guy wonders why wife isn’t who she was when they dated. 

That scenario has sadly played out in many marriages.  Some of these marriages even, regrettably, end in divorce.  God has called men to so much more than just dating in order to snag the girl.  God has called men to date even more passionately and intentionally once he wins her over.  Justin Buzzard has written Date Your Wife to inspire men to date their wives again and to give tips for getting out of this rut.

Buzzard begins his book by encouraging husbands to consider not only the start of marriage in the Garden of Eden but the start of their own marriages.  It’s important to do this, says Buzzards, because what he is asking of men in this book is “to do something we’ve already done, something we’ve already built into the foundation of our marriages—to date our wives.” (22)

The second section of the book is the most hard hitting.  Buzzard teaches men that what is wrong with their marriage is fundamentally them.  Using the story of Adam he notes that he “failed to cultivate his wife—he didn’t cause her to flourish…he failed to guard his wife—he didn’t protect her from danger”.  (42)Men have struggled with doing those two things since.  Men are the problem in their marriage but men do not have what it takes to fix it.  Only the gospel can do that.

It is this life-changing, marriage-altering gospel that Buzzard focuses on in the third section.  The gospel makes everything new—including our wives.  Because of the gospel we are able to have new dreams for our marriages.  After encouraging men to have gospel-motivated dreams for their marriages, the author then gives a few practical tips about how to put a plan in place to fulfill that dream.  The book closes with a chapter on death and an encouragement to date our wives in preparation for this day. 

My Take:

There is much in this book that is commendable.  There are points in the book that hit me like a brick in the face.  But each brick was also soaked in the gospel before whacking me upside my jaw.  I need to be encouraged not to take my wife for granted.  I wish that wasn’t the case but we don’t really drift into dating our wives. 

The action points at the end of each chapter are very helpful as well.  The author gives some great ideas that could be tweaked or implemented as is.  He also gives 100 dating ideas in an appendix at the end.  The fact that the author is young and has three younger boys helps him to write from “in the trenches” and to be realistic in many of his suggestions for dates.  (Although sometimes his suggestions would be more expensive than I could pull off—unless sacrificing the electric bill is protecting my wife). 

I also appreciate Buzzard putting a quick message from 90 year old Bob Mounce.  Tim Challies, has offered a helpful critique of this book.  I will echo some of it in a moment.  One of the things that Challies mentions is that Buzzard has only been married for a little over 7 years.  As he notes, “seven years is not inconsequential, but neither does it carry a great deal of authority.”  I can’t help but wonder if Buzzard foresaw this criticism and is using a 90-year old Mounce to give a little more credibility to his claims.  Buzzard’s having only been married 7 years is not a major problem for me.  (I kind of agree with Aaron Armstrong on that one). 

I did however find two things problematic.  Not quite enough to make me not recommend the book, but enough to make me recommend it with some caution.  The first caution concerns both Justin and Taylor Buzzard discussing how many times per week they have sex.  This includes an email that Taylor sent to another woman.  It just seems unnecessary and was very off-putting.  On more than one occasion they mention a “sex tank” and that the wife needs to make sure to fill her husband’s tank.  While I agree with Paul in 1 Corinthians 7 that spouses ought not to neglect frequent sexual union —I don’t think a number is helpful for anything other than boasting.  Perhaps there are issues of idolatry that need to be dealt with that a “quickie” wouldn’t.  (At one point in the book Taylor refers to quickies as their “Ace in the hole”). 

The other place that I find potentially problematic is Buzzard’s insistence on saying, “If you want to change a marriage, change the man”.  While I do believe that men are to be leaders, that mean are held accountable for cultivating and caring for their wives, and that men can have considerable influence on their wives, I do not believe that women are entirely passive in the process.  I do not think that Buzzard would say that either but it seems implied.  There may be times when a man is loving his wife well—yeah he might be messing up in some areas and not absolutely perfect—but he is certainly not the cause of his wife’s rebellion.  In these instances Buzzard’s council could be very damaging and wounding. 

At the end of the day, though, I think that for the most part husband’s do need to step up and date their wives.  This book did not fall on deaf ears.  I needed this book.  This book, I believe, will be used by God to help my marriage.  So, while I did have a little problem with those two things it’s not enough to make me not recommend the book.

Should You Buy It?

For the ideas alone you should buy it.  I’d encourage many men to read this book and go through some of the action points with other guys.  The practicality of the book is what really sets this book apart from other marriage books. 

Some men will need the hard-hitting examples that Buzzard gives.  All men will need the grace and the reminder that only Christ can stir up our hearts to care for our wives the way that we are called to. 

You can buy this book for under $10 and you should.  It was a much needed book in my life and I believe I will use these action points for years to come. 

Today in Blogworld 6.29.12

20 Quotes from Killing Calvinism

I am really glad to see Greg Dutcher’s book Killing Calvinism getting so much play.  As you can tell from my review I love the book and highly recommend it.  Tony Reinke apparently loves the book as well and has compiled 20 very helpful quotes from the book.  (I’d also encourage you to check out the TweetNotes that I compiled for the book and also to stick around for my forthcoming interview with Greg). 

10 Reasons to Underprogram Your Church

This one is from Jared Wilson’s archives but it’s tweaked a little and worthy of re-reading if you have already had the opportunity to consider these.  I’m with Jared on this one.  Though I think some might leave church to go to those that have more programs I believe it is often to their peril to do so. 

12 Propositions on Sanctification

Tim Challies has compiled twelve propositions concerning sanctification using J.C. Ryle’s classic work Holiness.  If you have never read Holiness it’s a tremendous book that you can purchase here for only .99 on your Kindle

Husbands: Don’t Treat your Wife Like a Guy

Good word here to husbands from Erik Raymond.  “One of the most common non-spiritual, basic, counseling I give to a husband is: don’t treat your wife like a guy. Believe it or not, men seem to forget this fact about as often as we leave our dirty socks on the floor. One of the chief areas this is seen is the area of romance. Many men think that they can woo their wives by treating like men.”  The whole thing is worthy of your time. 

Watch Steve Saint’s powerful testimony from his hospital bed:

(HT: JT)

Thursday, June 28, 2012

TweetNotes for Killing Calvinism by Greg Dutcher

Killing Calvinism is a tremendous book by Greg Dutcher.  In the book Dutcher gives eight ways that Calvinists can throw on the brakes to the resurgence of Calvinism and kill a perfectly good theology.  I would encourage you to also check out my review of the book as well as the TweetNotes

#1 Calvinism isn’t the goal, it’s the windshield.  #leadstoGod?#promotesholiness? 

#2 Being like Christ is the goal not being like Calvin.  Good theology w/cold affections=garbage theology.

#3 God is more than sovereign.  #allHisperfections #allHisexcellencies

#4 God’s Sovereignty should compel life and lips of mission not laziness

#5 God uses and speaks through non-Calvinists, don’t read and listen like He doesn’t

#6 Every verse matters.  God doesn’t need spin-doctors.  #letthetextspeak

#7 A prideful Calvinists, though all too common, is an oxymoron #andamoron

#8 Be honest with your discomfort and empathetic with the discomfort of others #lovethosethatdiffer

This book is very helpful and I recommend it for Calvinists and non-Calvinists alike.  You can purchase it on your Kindle for about 5 bucks or get the hard copy for under 10

Today in Blogworld 6.28.12


Dave Dunham argues that our culture is monopolized by pornography, and it is taking its toll on marriages and many other relationships.  He also offers a helpful response to our increasingly porn-saturated culture. 

The Early Jobs of 24 Famous Writers

I found this really interesting.  John Grisham watered bushes for $1 an hour.  Check out some of these other early jobs of famous authors.  (HT: Trevin Wax)

Flags in Church?

Chad Hall wonders whether or not we should have flags in church.  I have agreed with Hall’s position for quite some time.  I appreciate his well articulated argument.  (HT: Aaron Armstrong)

How Do You Encourage Your Pastor

Brian Croft gives 5 ways to encourage your pastor.  As a pastor myself I can say that when these 5 things have happened in my life they are greatly encouraging.  #3 is the one that may not come naturally to many people but it may be the most needed at times. 

Everything is amazing and nobody is happy.  Hmmm..might be a sermon illustration in this one too:

(HT: Ad Fontes)

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

I Didn’t Need Twitchy

Justin Taylor has posted a very helpful two minute or so illustration from D.A. Carson about two Hebrew guys named Smith and Brown on the night of the Passover.  Watch it here (It starts at about the 2 minute mark and ends a little after 4):

When I first saw the title of this post I had imagined that Carson was discussing Smith who believed and put blood on the doorpost and Brown who was skeptical and didn’t put it on the doorpost.  I was going to use this as a launching pad for a very brief point—that there is also probably a third guy present, whom I was going to call Twitchy. 

Twitchy of course is just like Mr. Smith in Carson’s story.  So, I didn’t need him.  He puts blood on the door post but he doesn’t sleep very well that night.  He trusts the Lord enough to cover slaughter the lamb and spread the blood but he spends his night indoors quivering and saying, “Boy I sure hope this works”. 

Christian faith is like that sometimes.  At times we are strong in our faith like Mr. Brown.  We are trusting in Christ and we are graced with confidence and assurance.  At other times we find ourselves a little more like Mr. Smith saying, “Boy I sure hope this works”. 

Remember a weak faith can lay hold of a strong Christ. 

Obviously we’d all rather be Mr. Brown.  But the Mr. Smith’s of the world will stand amazed when the death angel passes over and the sons of God that took refuge in the mighty King stand with the Conquering Lion. 

Today in Blogworld 6.27.12

Unity and the Heart of Jesus

I appreciate Dave Miller’s vision for the SBC.  That is one reason that I am proud that he was voted 2nd VP.  Here, Dave, reminds us that Jesus’ heart for the SBC is not only doctrinal fidelity but also unity.  Is central question is this: “Is it possible that in our passion as Southern Baptists to defend the veracity of the Bible we have ignored one of its most powerful teachings?”  I look forward to more from Dave on this topic. 

Take Care How You Listen

A new ebook from John Piper on listening.  Free!  Be sure to gobble this one up. 

The Father Wound

I appreciate this vulnerable piece from Dave Jenkins on the father wound.  This “father wound” is becoming more and more prevalent in our society.  Thankfully, though, the God of the fatherless is still mighty to save.  (HT: Aaron Armstrong)

The Problem with Plagiarism in the Pulpit

Here Justin Taylor quotes D.A. Carson and R.R. Reno on the dangers of plagiarism.  Though there are some sermon websites dedicated to fostering plagiarism I wouldn’t suggest it.  If you must preach another’s sermon give credit where it is due.  I still remember what it did to my heart when I discovered that a preacher that I was listening to had cut and pasted a sermon and made it sound like his own. 

I think there is a sermon illustration in here somewhere:

(HT: 22 Words)

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

3 Reasons I Seldom Use Facebook

It still looks like I use Facebook but I really do not.  It looks that way because it is linked to my Twitter account and so whenever I post something to Twitter it will also post on Facebook.  And I am messaged by Facebook for certain things and so I will still respond and check in occasionally.  But for the most part I no longer scroll through Facebook and here are 3 reasons why.

1.  It’s summer time.  I don’t want to see you in a bikini.  I’m happy that you had fun in Florida and that your swim party was really exciting and awesome and wonderful but I don’t really care to see pictures.  Bikini’s are no different than you posting pictures of you in your underpants, I don’t want to see that either. 

2. Too much junk.  No matter how many of these little Facebook programs I say “I don’t want to be notified about” they keep coming up with new junk that I have to intentionally ignore.  I wish that Facebook had an option that said, “Generally I don’t care about imaginary farms, I’ll let you know if I start to care, but until then please don’t send me these notifications”.  This is not to mention all of the pictures and pithy statuses that tell me I’m going to hell if I don’t forward this picture of Kenny Loggins

3. It’s distracting.  There are a million links, pictures, and a host of other things that can tempt me into squandering valuable time.  Don’t get me wrong I think there are some really good links and articles on Facebook.  But there is also so much to sift through that the end doesn’t really justify the means. 

So these are 3 reasons that I have largely abandoned Facebook.  I still use it for a few things.  It’s good for messages.  It’s good for announcements.  I do like the ability to have conversations.  But I think for the most part there is so much junk on Facebook now that even that has been muted because within 15 minutes there is something else up on your Facebook feed. 

Hotdogs and Craving

Have you ever had Nathan’s Famous hotdogs

Though watching those hotdog eating contests on ESPN makes me not able to eat a hotdog for a few months afterwards, I cannot get enough of these Nathan’s hotdogs.  They are a little more expensive than your generic 99 cent hotdogs at the grocery store.  But the $2 more is worth every scrumptious bite. 

Now that I’ve tasted the delicousness that is a Nathan’s hotdog I find it a little difficult to eat those poor excuses for hotdogs that Wal-Mart tries to trick me into buying based on their cheap price.  Once you’ve tasted a Nathan’s you won’t want to grill out with another brand. 

I doubt he had Nathan’s hotdogs in mind when he wrote these words but 2,000 years later they fit:

“Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation—if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.”  (1 Peter 2:2-3)

When you have tasted the Lord’s goodness—through His Word and his mercies then you develop a hunger for more of him. 

As I am writing this little article about Nathan’s hotdogs my mouth is starting to water and I am thinking about calling my wife and letting her know I plan to grill some hotdogs tonight for supper.  Just thinking about their goodness creates a hunger and a longing to sink my teeth into one. 

The same thing is true of the Lord and His Word.  He makes all other things seem like eating a cheap hot dog.  Nothing but a fresh encounter with the living God will satiate when you have tasted the Lord’s goodness.  There is no one and no thing like Him. 

Tasting leads to the craving. 

The Slough of Despond (2/2)

Yesterday, I quoted from John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress concerning the Slough of Despond (otherwise known as the Swamp of Despair).  This swamp of despair is the place that many who set out to follow Christ and remove the burden of the Law end up falling into.  Some liken it to depression.  Others liken it to what happens whenever you have a deep conviction of sin without a vision of Christ.  Both are probably somewhat in view.

As I was thinking through Bunyan’s Slough of Despond and my own battle with depression (that often feels like despair) my eyes were opened to an error in my thinking.  Sometimes when I fall into this pit I spend a good amount of time trying to familiarize myself with the descent into the abyss. 

While in the pit of depression and despair I spend a good portion of my time trying to figure out how I got in the pit.  I look around and try to familiarize myself with my unwelcome surroundings.  I replay in my mind everything leading up to my descent.  I long to have my feet on the land just inches before my plummet.  In my mind I study everything prior to the pit and everything that now encompasses me. 

Why do I do this?  Why do I spend time studying my gloom? 

In my mind I do this so that it can help me battle.  If I know what the ground looks like just inches before an abysmal plunge then I can keep my eyes open and prevent this from happening again.  If I study my surroundings I can perhaps acclimate myself to life in the pit, keep myself alive, and somehow figure a way out of this pit. 

Sounds good.  One problem, though.  It forgets about Jesus. 

While there may be benefit in thinking through what caused my descent and trying not to follow that path again, it may not really help me in getting out of the pit—or even preventing other descents.  My above strategy would work if I were the one responsible for getting out of the pit.  But it’s not me. 

    He drew me up from the pit of destruction,
        out of the miry bog,
    and set my feet upon a rock,
        making my steps secure.
(Psalm 40:2 ESV)

My time would probably be better spent focusing on the strong hand that gets me out of the pit than studying my descent.  After all He knows the pit better than I do.  He directs my steps.  He makes my feet secure. 


What does this look like practically, you ask?  It means that rather than spending my energies trying to figure out why I fell I expend my energies on grabbing the holy hand that pulls me out of the pit.  If I can only read Scripture for 2 minutes before the darkness takes over then I read passionately for two minutes.  It means that I throw all of my energies into meditating on the objective truth of the gospel and not the subjectivity of the pit of despair.  It means that when the Lord does reveal to me sin that led to my fall that I engage in faith-fueled repentance. 

If you find yourself in a pit today don’t try to acclimate yourself with your surroundings.  Instead open your eyes and look for the strong hand that’s reaching down to pull you out of this pit.  Trust him. 

Today in Blogworld 6.26.12

“The Idea of Evangelism Makes Me Uncomfortable”

Trevin Wax tackles the objection that doing evangelism reeks of arrogance and feelings of superiority.  I especially like how he ends Fix the worship problem, and evangelism starts coming naturally.

7 Steps to Avoid Sexual Sin and Stay in Ministry

Dustin Neeley reflects on the all-too-often headlines of pastors disqualifying themselves.  Put these 7 things into place and you’ll be less likely to give sin an opportunity. These are helpful safeguards that every pastor ought to put in place.  I agree with all 7 and would actually add an eighth—“Be enamored with Jesus”.  When our affections for Christ grow cold sin looks sweet.  But when Christ is sweet and we are tasting that the Lord is good sin doesn’t have such an appeal.

Sinners Prayer & The SBC

David Platt responds to the recent dust-up in the SBC over the use and validity of a “sinner’s prayer”.  I appreciate Platt’s words in part 1.  I anxiously await part 2.  I also think Dave Miller makes a good argument at SBC Voices that there is more agreement on this issue than there appears to be.

The Nowness of Obedience

Rebekah Merkle, writing for DG, has a few reflections on the nowness of obedience.  Her central argument is that “it’s flatly impossible to obey God in any other moment than the present”.  Great word. 

If you have ever been awake at night pondering what it would be like to see Mr. Rogers Breakdancing then wait no more:

(HT: Z)

Monday, June 25, 2012

The Slough of Despond (1/2)

I had intended to just quote from this section of John Bunyan’s Pilgrims Progress and then interject a few thoughts on being in this slough (that’s another word for swamp).  Yet as I read through this I could not help but weep and be extremely grateful for that hand that continuously pulls me out of this swamp of despair.  Read through this and think through it today and tomorrow I want to provide a brief commentary:

Now I saw in my dream, that all the highway roads, and lanes, that led from the valley of Destruction towards the gate of the way of life, were full of people, who were traveling toward that gate, and some of them walked along very vigorously, others halted, and grew weary, through the violent heat of the season, which made them even ready to faint; for it was in the hottest time of all the year; and the sun burnt up the herb of the field, and scorched the poor travelers, so that many of them were forced to sit down and rest themselves; and in the night time many of them returned back again to their old habitations;

others more hardy than the rest, went on till they came to the Slough-of-Despond, where Pliable forsook Christian, and there falling into the filth and mire of that place, were so disheartened, that they returned in whole droves to their own dwellings again; and very few there were who would venture through the Slough; yet some got very dextrously over the steps, without being in the least bemired, whilst others, through ignorance, or heedlesness, missing those steps, were forced to wade through the dirt, which was very deep, and made their passage exceeding painful; but at length, with much ado, they weather’d the point, and master’d the difficulties of that horrid quagmire, and got safe upon dry ground.

Among the rest of the travelers that got over this Slough, I saw a young man of an amiable countenance, walking by himself, after he had got clear of the Slough; but he was all over bedaubed with the filth of that place, which made him go very heavily on; for what with struggling to get thro’, and what with the apprehensions he lay under during his passage, he was extreamly weakned, and his joints were loosened: Besides, it was the nature of the dirt of this place, to cause a trembling and disorder in the limbs of those that were defiled with it, and to whatsoever part of their body it stuck, there it would do them some injury. Now the young man being all over clammed with it, he went with a very slow pace, his head hanging down, his hands quivering, and his feet tripping at the least unevenness or ruggedness in the way, and a speck or two of the diret being spatter’d in his eyes, made him dim-sighted, so that he groped along like one that is blind, and sometimes stepped out of the path.

In this condition he was, when at length I saw in my dream, that he sat down upon the ground to bemoan his sad estate, and he wept very bitterly; and behold, a bright cloud hovered over his head, which gradually descending, overshadowed him, and out of the cloud a hand was reached forth, which, with the tears that ran like rivers from his eyes, washed the dirt from off his face and his whole body, so that in a moment (as it were) his sight and his strength were restored to him again, and a voice came out of the cloud, saying, Son of man, go on in the strength of the Lord thy God. So he was mightly comforted and refreshed after this, and began to rouze up himself, being more nimble and active, more vigorous and strong than ever he was before; and his eyes being healed also, he clearly saw the shining light that Evangelist shewed to Christian. Then he tript along over the plain, and made directly up to the shining light, by means of which he quickly found the wicket-gate; at which he knocked aloud, minding what was written over the gate, viz. "Knock, and it shall be opened."

The Pilgrim’s Progress is actually Free to purchase on your Kindle today.  You can also find it online in several places. 

The King’s Bedraggled Wife and His Unrelenting Love

    For I will not contend forever,
        nor will I always be angry;
    for the spirit would grow faint before me,
        and the breath of life that I made.
    Because of the iniquity of his unjust gain I was angry,
        I struck him; I hid my face and was angry,
        but he went on backsliding in the way of his own heart.
    I have seen his ways, but I will heal him;
        I will lead him and restore comfort to him and his mourners,
        creating the fruit of the lips.
    Peace, peace, to the far and to the near,” says the LORD,
        “and I will heal him.
(Isaiah 57:16-19 ESV)

This verse shocks me.  I am amazed by the grace of the Lord that flows throughout this passage.  The math doesn’t make sense.  The logic doesn’t fit.  The story seems too good to be true. 

Act One:

A good King chooses a bedraggled and off-putting woman to be his bride.  To every passerby she seems like a horrible choice for a bride—much less the bride of a King.  Yet he promises that he will make her beautiful.  His love will change her and make her the desire of the nations. 

Act Two:

The bride becomes beautiful.  The King’s bride is now the envy of the nations.  The King promised beauty and he delivered. 

Act Three:

The bride becomes arrogant.  She begins thinking the beauty is her own.  Sadly she rebels.  Her rebellion is not small.  She goes all out in her defiance of the King.  She will not be ruled.  And so she uses her beauty to become a harlot.  Her beauty is spent not on her husband, the King, but upon her empty lovers.

Act Four:

The husband responds.  He takes back his gifts.  He disciplines her.  In anger he hides his face.  His hope is that when she tastes the bitter fruit of her rebellion that she will come back and once again be his.  Not

Act Five:

She responds to his discipline with even more rebellion and even more pride.  She engages in more harlotry.  The King knows his bride more than anyone else and therefore he is fully aware of the depths of her rebellion and wickedness.  The beautiful bride has exchanged her beauty for the slavery of an imaginary freedom.  The first six acts end with a cliffhanger.  “I have seen her ways…”


As the onlookers take a bathroom break, refill their drinks, and get some more popcorn the questions abound.  Will the king find a new love?  Perhaps one more deserving of being married to a good king?  Will this rejection change the King, himself?  Will she finally come to her senses? 

Act Six:

When you expect the King to pursue another, more faithful lover, the depths of His unrelenting love is shown.  He declares that He will not give up on His bride.  He had promised that He would love her and make her beautiful inside and out.  No amount of her rebellion will change his plan.  He knew that when he picked her up.  Her rebellion has not caught him by surprise.  And so he says, “I have seen [her] ways, but I will heal [her]”. 

Act Seven:

The King will heal her by humbling her.  He is a powerful King, after all.  More powerful than any other King.  This King can move hearts and this is precisely what He does with His wayward bride.  Ultimately it will take his death and a change of her heart to heal her.  And this He does, gladly: “for the joy set before Him he endured the Cross”.  The wayward wife will be humbled and her heart will be changed. 

Act Eight:

The King and His Bride dance forever. 


As I think through Isaiah 57 I am astonished at the Lord’s unrelenting love.  I know that at times I have responded to the Lord’s discipline with more arrogance and with more rebellion.  Yet because of His love and mercy He will not allow me to stay in my prideful rebellion.  He graciously humbles me so that He can powerfully dwell with me and “revive the heart of the contrite”. 

As I think about the call that the Lord has placed on my life as a husband, daddy, pastor, and writer I am able to rest a little easier in the Lord’s unrelenting love.  The Lord is powerful enough to provide healing (everything that is required to “dwell with Him”) and He is loving enough to see it through to completion.  I am thankful that the Lord has set His unrelenting love upon my wife.  And I am hopeful that the Lord is doing that same thing in the life of my children. 

He is good. 

Today in Blogworld 6.25.12

Most of these are from a few days ago that I was not able to put into the other lists of links.  These are quality articles that deserve to be read:

How to Hack Your Introversion and Warmly Visit Someone in the Hospital (Even If You’ve Never Met)

Eric McKiddie gives helpful advice to those, like myself, that are more introverted and yet called to visit those in the hospital. I appreciate most that he says that you do not have to be an extrovert to be a shepherd.  And I also heed his warning that “if you let your introversion control you, you will fail as a pastor”.  Great words. 

Don’t Just Wait Until They’re Teenagers

Jen Wilkin considers the way that parents speak to their young children.  She notes that uncivil exchanges come from uncivil homes.  She notes that, “Many of us have wrongly defined our homes as places where parents should be respected instead of places where everyone should be respected. Children do not hold equal authority in the home, but they do hold equal personhood and dignity.”  Great word, and excellent questions to ponder as a daddy. 

The Minimalist Pastoral Library: 19 Book Recommendations for Those Just Starting Out

Eric McKiddie has compiled a list of 19 books that a new pastor ought to consider when beginning his ministry and beginning his pastoral library.  If I compiled a list it would probably be very similar to Eric’s.

Helpless Sacks of Sand

What is the purpose of sleep?  How is sleep a reminder that God is God and we are not?  Tim Challies considers these questions and concludes that at times we’re all just helpless sacks of sand.  Good word, and I pray that Tim starts getting more sleep.   

Great video.  I am excited that our church will be going through The Gospel Project in all of our Sunday school classes:


A Quick Note to Those Who Gave Money to Their Church Yesterday

Just a quick note to those of you that put money in the coffer of your local church on Sunday.  It’s quite possible that the Lord did not move in your heart to show your faithfulness so that now he can bless you with a houseboat.  It might be that he stirred up in your heart to give, so that when I (or your pastors) get a call on Monday morning from a family that is about to be homeless we have the resources to help. 

Give the King a carrot and not yourself a horse

If you gave in the hopes of getting a houseboat, I must confess I’m praying that the Lord blesses you far more than you can imagine.  That might mean no houseboat.  But it may be that He gives you something far more valuable; namely, Himself. 

Thanks for your faithfulness and your love for Christ.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Metal Worship?!?!?

I’m dusting this one off and spicing it up a little.

Should there be rap and metal music in a church service?  Is there a style of music that is inherently evil or worldly?

Awhile back I had a discussion with a group of brothers about the place of rap and metal music in church.  Initially their comment was that there are some forms of music that are simply too pagan in origin and are not redeemable; like rap, metal, and other uncomfortable forms of music.

For full disclosure you need to know that I have a few former students that I love deeply that are in a metal band.  So, I may be a little biased.  But I do not believe my love for these guys clouds my judgment in this matter. 

My Answer

God has created us with a ton of diversity, and he is redeeming people from every tribe, tongue, nation, and language.  People of different cultures have different forms of music.  What may seem evil to one culture is the common expression of another culture.  Deep drum beats are typical in African culture—but to someone in the Deep South it signifies gangsta rap.

My take is that certain expressions can be very helpful within a worship setting.  Rap tends to make you feel like it’s subject is amazing.  The beats confirm the awesomeness of the subject being rapped about.  There is some Christian music that seems to use this to display how amazing they are for being Christians.  Kind of like a “eat that world…see Christians are amazing”.  But other rappers like Flame, Lecrae, Tedashii, Trip Lee, etc. use this genre to say that Jesus is absolutely amazing.  It’s a form of worship.

Now think about metal music.  Metal music (especially screamo) is a good genre for displaying angst, struggle, and explosions.  It can be used to say I’m in pain.  It can be used to buck the authorities.  It can be used to curse God.  It can be used to generate an unholy expression for anger.  But it can also be a cry out to God that says, “I’m in pain God”.  It can be used to say to God “I hate this sin”.  It can be used by God to passionately express dedication.  It can be used to musically symbolize a violent casting off of the world.  It can be used to worship.

Therefore, lets embrace all styles of music provided that everything within the song (music and lyrics) are centered around exalting God and His beautiful Gospel.

A Little Kickback

One argument that can be made against using rap and metal music in a corporate worship service is that the words are often not intelligible to the vast majority of people there.  That is not a hurdle that is too high to overcome but it is one that must be considered.  Perhaps those that sing metal or rap music can be certain to provide words to their music. 

Another argument is that many people may not be able to really sing along with rap or metal music.  Fair enough.  I tend to agree.  Yet, how much different is this to choir specials or solos?  (If given the right argument I could maybe be persuaded against these). 

Lastly, you could argue that some people may have been delivered out of a rap music culture or a metal culture and they associate that music with paganism.  Though one may be tempted to say, “get over it”, that is not a biblically faithful response.  One is left to wonder how similar an argument like this might be to Paul in 1 Corinthians 8-10.  So, while there is nothing inherently wrong with rap or metal music it may be a stumbling block to some.  Of course country music is a massive stumbling block for me—mostly because I associate it with beer-drinkin’ racists that sing about loving America and a watered-down Jesus in the same sentence as having an affair.  Nonetheless, this may be an argument against having rap or metal music in a worship service.

What say you?

Marriage Defined

It is no secret that marriages are under attack in our world.  This is not surprising since marriage is a visible picture of Christ and His Church, what better place for the forces of hell to aim their fiery darts.  In response to this our church tries to have at least 2 marriage conferences per year (with hopes of having more).  As such I have been tasked with using several resources and putting together a curriculum for the conference. 

Our very first session is What is Marriage?  In this session we attempt to come together on a theology of marriage.  We begin by defining marriage.  As far as I am aware this definition is original with me.  I would like to share it and then expound on it a bit—hopefully for your benefit.

Marriage is a binding covenant created by God between one man and one woman for our holiness, for our joy, as a picture of the gospel to spread the glory of God.

If I pick this definition apart I can come up with seven individual statements (and these are used as teaching points for the first session).

  1. A Binding Covenant.  Covenant’s are a big deal to God.  Breaking covenants is a big deal to God.  To see how big of a deal covenants are consider Genesis 15.  The Lord walks through a host of animals that are ripped asunder and essentially says, “If I break my covenant let what is done to these animals be done to me”.  Covenants are a big deal.
  2. Created by God.  If humans created marriage then we could make the rules.  But marriage is a binding covenant that is created by God, as such He makes the rules.  God created your marriage, so away with this silly talk of having “married the wrong person”. 
  3. Between one man and one woman.  The two shall become one.  This means breaking away from parents, past relationships, future relationships, and any other lovers.  This also goes against any arguments for homosexuality rightly being called marriage. 
  4. For our holiness.  Marriage is one of the means that God has ordained to sanctify us.  God is not satisfied with us merely having a “good” marriage. God wants to use our marriage to conform us more and more into the image of Christ. God has a rescue plan for your marriage. His goal is not simply to rescue your marriage. His goal is to use your marriage to rescue you.
  5. For our joy.  Our joy increases when we, in holiness, fight for the joy of another.  Marriage can be extremely joyful.  Just read Song of Solomon.  Furthermore, if marriage increases holiness it will also increase our joy in God. 
  6. As a picture of the gospel.  Your marriage reflects Christ and His church.  It was created by God to be a visible picture for everyone to see the love between Christ and His Bride. 
  7. To spread the glory of God.  The purpose of God for humanity is to enjoy His grace and extend His glory.  Marriage is no different.  He uses marriages to rip out of our heart sin and unbelief. He uses marriage to further our joy. But he also uses marriage to create children, and to raise and nurture children in godly homes. 

Your marriage has purpose.  It has meaning.  Don’t give up on your marriage. Don’t stop fighting for your marriage.  Know that God is fighting for your marriage as well.  Have hope in him and keep holding on. 

Enjoy your marriage.  God is using it to display His greatness.  Rejoice that the Lord is using the union of two sinners to display His incomparable greatness and Trinitarian love.  Marriage is sweet.  Savor it.  Taste and see that the Lord is good. 

Saturday, June 23, 2012

If It Wasn’t For You

One of my favorite artists is Jimmy Needham.  He is a very gifted writer and musician that is also very gospel-centered and Christ-exalting.  Rarely do I hear a Jimmy Needham song that doesn’t make me stop, think, and worship. 

This is one of my favorites:

This song is from his album Nightlights.  His newest album Clear the Stage is great as well, as is Not Without Love

Friday, June 22, 2012

7 Ways to Create a Reading Culture In Your Church

Some chap somewhere has said that in 5 years you’ll be the same person you are today except for the books you read and the people that you meet.  Though, I think a tad simplistic I do believe that in 5 years you will be shaped by what you have read (or did not read). 

Call me a nerd all you want, but I am a firm believer that it is very beneficial for a pastor to cultivate a reading culture within the community that he influences.    Consider these words from Mark Dever:

Without knowing it I have actually put many of these things into practice in the church where I currently serve as an associate pastor.  With a much help from Mark Dever here are the Top 7 ways to create a reading culture in your church.

1. Read yourself.  How are you going to know what to recommend if you don’t read a bunch yourself?

2. Giveaway books any chance you can.  Every Sunday evening I give away free books.  We give away free books at marriage conferences.  I usually give away or suggest books in counseling sessions.  We give away free books at many other seminars.*

3. Take advantage of small groups.  If you do small groups at your church take advantage of them by suggesting high quality books to go together as a group. 

4. Write book reviews for your church.  I hope to begin utilizing my book reviews for the benefit of our church even more.  If I can figure out how to cut cost I want to put them in bulletins, perhaps as a book of the month.  As of now some from our church members read my book reviews here at Borrowed Light.

5. Quote from great books.  When you are preaching, teaching, counseling, or just talking feel free to do some name dropping and quoting.  This will help people when they are at a book store to know quality authors.  (Be sure to stress JOHN Piper instead of DON Piper though). 

6. Read with people.  Just like Dever’s Theology Breakfast, find a way to go through various books (even if you just read them) to a group of people.  

7. Never neglect the supremacy of THE Word.  Part of what you are doing is creating a culture that will take the Word of God more seriously and be better equipped to really dig into and reflect upon the Word.  If you make books central then you’ve missed something.  This also helps to filter what books you giveaway.  If they aren’t biblical but simply free then you might be creating a reading culture but not necessarily a good one. 


*We have $0 to budget for a book allowance and for me giving away these books.  Nor do I have the income to buy a free book every week.  So, how do we do it?  I have two channels.  First, I receive a good number of free books from publishers to review.  I also receive free books from conferences and such that I attend.  Many times I give these away.  Second, a little over a year ago I made a phone call to a publishing company.  I won’t mention the name because I doubt they could do this for every church.  (But it rhymes with Drossway).  This unnamed publishing company graciously sent close to 100 free books for us to distribute on Sunday evenings.  Amazing!

A Little Clarity on “Shocking Barna Statistic”

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a little piece on Barna statistics.  In this piece I provocatively stated “A new study shows that 100% of Barna statistics are skewed to lend credibility to his anti-church bias.”  I defended this by citing a few places that have noted “bad numbers” from Barna, and I noted that I believe sometimes these “bad numbers” are driven by “bad theology”. 

Since that time I have gotten several comments and a few emails on the article.  While I am going to maintain the heart of my post I do believe there is a need for some clarity.  There is one particular flaw in my post that was pointed out in the comments that needs to be addressed.  Namely, the difference between The Barna Group and George Barna. 

First clarification

Three years ago David Kinnaman purchased The Barna Group from it’s founder George Barna.  Because of this fact it is erroneous to throw the present Barna Group “under the bus” for my disagreement with George Barna’s vision for the church found in Revolution.  And honestly, as I was making that statement to my friend about Barna statistics being “skewed to lend credibility” I was mostly referring to past statistics that are still being thrown about. 

So, I apologize to The Barna Group for inadvertently casting a negative light on their present research when my main points of disagreement lie with their founder, George Barna.  That is my first point of clarification. 

Second clarification

My second point of clarification has to do with the way that I worded the provocative statement.  The way it sounds could be read as my saying that George Barna is a man that hates God, the church, and intentionally alters statistics to get people away from the church.  That is not my intention. 

In fact I believe, as stated in the previous article, that much can be learned from Barna and their statistics.  I do not doubt that these statistics are for the most part true--at least in the way that the questions were asked and the surveys were crafted.  In other words I do not doubt that there are people all across America that claim to be born-again Christians that live and believe no different than those that do not claim to be born-again. 

The problem, for me, is the way in which the statistics are formed and the categories created.  What happens is that people are able to claim to be followers of Christ, then stuck with the label of Born-Again, and then their lives are analyzed according to this profession.  From this we have articles that say “Born-Again Christians Just as Likely To Divorce as Non-Christians”. 

The effectiveness of the church is then often called into question.  “We aren’t discipling people.  We aren’t doing church the right way.  Here is my vision for how to change these statistics…”  The problem, though, is that if you start from the other end—with people that have a vital commitment to the church and other things more solid than a profession of faith—the statistics are different. 

And so that is what I mean by skewed.  I don’t think George Barna gathered stats that disagreed with his conclusions and then tweeked them to make them fit.  But what I do believe is that George Barna asked the questions and framed the discussion in such a way that supported his conclusions and agenda. 

Third clarification

It has also been pointed out that George Barna loves the “church” but does not have the same view of church that I do.  Fair enough.  I’ll concede that point.  What would have been better for my to have written is “anti-local church bias” instead of simply “anti-church” bias. 


I am still leery of statistics coming from George Barna (that means everything from before the last three years).  I am not suggesting that you stop listening to Barna, that you even stop quoting Barna, but what I am suggesting is that you do so with great caution.  I still would encourage you to read Bradley Wright’s book Christians Are Hate-Filled Hypocrites…and Other Lies You’ve Been Told

Today in Blogworld 6.22.12

3 Lies We Tell Ourselves About Marriage

Aaron Armstrong has posted three really good articles on the lies we tell ourselves about marriage.  1) Marriage is about my happiness 2) Marriage is supposed to be easy 3) My spouse is the problem.

Al Mohler Reflects on 2012 SBC Annual Meeting

Dr. Mohler reflects on the historic events of the 2012 SBC Annual Meeting in New Orleans.  Including the election of Fred Luter, the “name change” that isn’t really a name change, and the theological discussions. 

20 Ideas for Dating Your Wife

Justin Buzzard has published a new book called Date Your Wife.  (I will be receiving and reviewing this book next month).  As a preview for the book here are 20 ideas for dating your wife. 

5 Reasons I Avoid Writing Negative & Controversial Blogposts

Thom Rainer shares five reasons why he does not engage in negative and controversial blog wars.  I agree with Rainer, but I think if done well and carefully occasionally controversy and “negative” blogging may need to be done—but very rarely. 

Watch history being made:

(HT: Daily Bleat)

Thursday, June 21, 2012

7 Questions with @StephenAltrogge, Author of Create: Stop Making Excuses and Start Stuff

Last month I shelled out a whopping $3 to buy Stephen Altrogge’s latest offering into the world of books.  As I noted in my review this booklet not only gives permission to be creative it shows us that God commands it.  It’s a great read.  For a summary of it’s contents you may also want to check out the TweetNotes for the book

Stephen was gracious enough to answer 7 questions about his book.  Here are his answers:

1. Why this book? What motivated you to write it and what should motivate us to read it? 

I wrote this book because I believe that God has given creative gifts to every single person. However, we tend to think that only artists and poets are "creative". I wrote this book to inspire every person to use their creative gifts to bring glory to God. 

2. Why is the book so short and only in E-book format?

It's short because my thoughts on the subject were short! Plus I wanted it to be easy to read. It's in e-book format because it's much easier to publish something in e-book format rather than in paperback.

3. I love the cover. Who designed it? Any story behind it?

My friend Shepherd Ahlers designed the cover. He's great and I highly recommend him. Not really any story behind it other than the fact that I loved the photo.

4. What is the biggest piece of advice that you would give to the guy wasting his talents by eating cheetos and watching Matlock marathons in his mom's basement instead of being creative?

Get off your butt, pray for God to help you overcome your laziness, and get started on that project that has been lingering in the back of your mind. And watch something other than Matlock.

5. Let's pretend that I am a dude that is absolutely convinced that I don't have a creative bone in my body. All I can create are disasters and maybe finger-paints that monkey's would laugh at. Convince me that I'm wrong. 

You were created in God's image (Gen 1:27). Our God is an explosively creative God, and he put that same drive and impulse in you. Creativity may look different for you. You can be creative by organizing something, gardening, plumbing, etc. God has given us a desire to create and bring order out of chaos. You have it. Use it. 

6. You mention in your book that sometimes you read while running on a treadmill. Perhaps I am just not familiar with treadmills, but that seems like it would be vomit inducing. What device did you create that allows you to do such a thing?

I set my Kindle on the biggest font. Then I set my Kindle on this little ledge on the treadmill. Then I run. I don't vomit. 

7. You also mentioned in your book that you follow a bazillion blogs. I have to Borrowed Light one of those bazillion? And if not, what steps--apart from repenting in dust and ashes--will you put in place to acknowledge your error and change your ways?

I repent in dust and ashes. I'm ripping my clothing as we speak. 

Thanks for taking the time to answer these questions Stephen.  You can follow his blog, The Blazing Center, here.  You can also purchase Create for only $2.99

***I also should mention that I noticed that Stephen didn’t mention actually putting Borrowed Light on his feedreader as a sign of repentance.  Apparently, it is so bad and I am so uncreative that he would rather tear his clothing than have to endure scrolling through my nonsense everyday.  This clearly shows that Stephen is part of the man’s grand conspiracy to keep me down.

Review of Killing Calvinism by Greg Dutcher

Calvinism is on the upswing.  So much so that it made Time Magazines list of 10 Ideas Changing the World Right Now.  Calvinism has become a great point of discussion—and even concern—for those within the SBC.  Calvinism is a big deal in the current climate of evangelicalism, whether you are for it or against it.

Greg Dutcher, is for it.  Yet, he also warns that Calvinists could easily destroy this good theology from the inside.  In his book, Killing Calvinism, Dutcher gives eight ways that Calvinists can throw on the brakes to this resurgence and kill a perfectly good theology.  Here are his eight ways that Calvinists can destroy Calvinism

  1. By loving Calvinism as an end in itself
  2. By becoming theologians instead of disciples
  3. By loving God’s sovereignty more than God himself
  4. By losing an urgency in evangelism
  5. By refusing to learn from non-Calvinists
  6. By tidying up the Bible’s “loose ends”
  7. By being a bunch of arrogant know-it-alls
  8. By scoffing at the emotional hang-ups others have with Calvinism

These eight points serve as the eight chapters and fill the 120 pages of this little book.  Dutcher argues each point forcefully and yet graciously.  He writes as a former “caged-Calvinists” that has been re-captured by the sovereign grace that he adopted theologically. 

My Take:

Honestly, I did not anticipate being deeply challenged by this book.  Not that I’m not a Calvinist and not that I did not expect to agree with the book.  Problem is I assumed that I would just nod my head with everything Dutcher said, promote it to a few newer Calvinists I know, and move on. 

You see I too was once a caged-Calvinist but the Lord has mightily worked in my heart to humble me and help me to live and proclaim the sovereign grace that I theologically affirm.  So, I’ve already been through the fire and I don’t struggle with being a bad Calvinist anymore. 

At least I thought I didn’t. 

Reading through Dutcher’s work exposed a few vestiges of both pride and inconsistency in my walk with Christ.  There were a few moments in the book where I found myself soundly rebuked.  Funny thing is I think I had even taught some of these points myself, but the way that Dutcher worded them and proclaimed them brought conviction to my soul. 

Here is a helpful sample for you to see how Dutcher is passionate, forceful, and yet very gracious:

A disciple is a student of Christ—someone who spends time with the Savior in order to come to know him better and resemble him more closely.  As a pastor, I have found that many Christians simply assume that learning more and more about the Bible and theology—Reformed theology in particular—is the same thing as growing as a disciple.  It isn’t.  Robust theology can be a powerful catalyst in this process, but like anything else, we can turn it into an idol.  The danger is that, while we may begin with Reformed theology as the framework by which we more coherently understand and appreciate our faith, over time it can become the substance of our faith.  At that point, daily living is more about mastering Reformed doctrine than being mastered by Jesus and his total claim over every area of life. 

Should You Buy It?

Every Calvinist needs to read this book, whether you’re a new member to club Calvin or you’ve been a Calvinist longer than Charlton Heston has been Moses.  Even those that are non-Calvinist ought to read this book and see the heart of many within the Reformed/Calvinistic movement.  We truly do want to live out the doctrines of grace as Greg Dutcher describes in this book.  When we don’t it’s not a fault of the “system” but of our own hearts. 

You can pick up this book for your Kindle or a hard copy

Today in Blogworld 6.21.12

22 Rules of Storytelling

Pixar storyboard artist Emma Coats has compiled nuggets of narrative wisdom she's received working for the animation studio over the years.  (HT: Z)

What Can a Depressed Person Do Daily While Fighting for Joy?

Brian Croft gives two suggestions that a depressed person can do to fight for joy.  These are simple and practical and I believe would help a depressed person fight for joy. 

Honoring God in an Unequally Yoked Marriage

Sarah Flashing, writing for TGC, explains her struggles in an unequally yoked marriage and helps readers see how they too can honor God in an unequally yoked marriage.  (HT: Aaron Armstrong)

I found this really funny.  (HT: 22 Words)

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Retracing Steps

I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary.  But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.  (Revelation 2:3-4)

The word “abandoned” might be a little strong for what is going on in my heart but I certainly feel the weight of Revelation 2:3-4.  A couple of years ago the Lord absolutely shook up and rocked our little world when he moved my wife and I from our 6 year home of First Baptist New London.  With great confidence we sensed the Lord moving us to attend seminary at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.

And so with great hope and a vision in our minds we moved our 2 year old son two states East.  We were excited about living and ministering in Louisville, KY.  6 months later we were packing our bags and moving 75 miles West to serve a church in Jasper, Indiana. 

I’m a different man than I was 3 years ago.  I’m not dead, far from it, I’m just not where I want to be.  I feel like a kid trying to celebrate his first Christmas with the knowledge that Santa Claus is really your dad.  I can feel myself slowly drifting, losing wonder, losing awe, losing hope. 

And so I sat in our sanctuary for a good while this morning just praying.  Praying over the church.  Praying over my own soul, and the Lord deeply impressed me with a conviction that two things need to happen.  First, a minister without awe is a sham and if it persists his “lampstand” will be removed.  Second, I need to retrace my steps and “remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first”. 

My Response

I am very grateful for the Spirit’s work.  I am glad that he is warning me and exhorting me well before I “hit rock bottom”.  I am glad that his intention in rebuking me is to make beauty from ashes.  I am glad that the only reason why he awakens a desire for more and more of Him is because He intends to fill it with His fullness. 

So, in response to the Lord’s calling I am retracing my steps.  There are five things that I plan to do to retrace my steps:

  1. Read 3-4 books that really stirred and shaped me 3 plus years ago.
  2. Block out a more intentioned time for prayer each day
  3. Restart McCheyne’s bible reading program. 
  4. Watch a couple sermons per week
  5. Spend time with the JoAnn’s of the world*

Notice that most of what I am doing is putting myself under the ministry of the Word and prayer.  What restores passion is being held captive by Christ and His Word.  That happens when we put ourselves under the ministry of the Spirit through the Word and prayer. 

May the Lord continue to increase my passion.  And continually mold me into a “life-giving preacher”:

The life-giving preacher is a man of God, whose heart is ever athirst for God, whose soul is ever following hard after God, whose eye is single to God, and in whom by the power of God’s Spirit the flesh and the world have been crucified and his ministry is like the generous flood of a life-giving river.  (Piper, Brothers We Are Not Professionals, 3)


*JoAnn is a dear elderly woman at our church that exudes a love for Christ.  Just hearing her pray sounds like overhearing a conversation between a woman and her husband away on a business trip.  Everyone needs to be surrounded by people like her. 

Today in Blogworld 6.20.12

Southern Baptists Elect First Black President

Yesterday history was made at the SBC Annual Meeting.  In 1845 Baptists in the south split from Baptists of the north over issues of slavery.  167 years later Fred Luter, an African American pastor, was elected to be the President of the SBC.  As Dr. Russell Moore tweeted: “Jim Crow is dead, Jesus Christ is alive.”   Joe Carter has an excellent rundown that is worthy of your read.

Calvinism in the SBC

Ed Stetzer, from LifeWay, has provided us with some updated statistics on the resurgence of Calvinism within the SBC.  Interesting statistics.  Should get interesting in the days ahead, may the peace of Christ rule. 

Don’t Waste Your Exclamation Points

Great word here from Jared Wilson.  Basically Jared’s point is that if we shout at everything nothing we’ll lose our voice.  He urges us to save our exclamation points for that which really matters. 

That Awkward Moment When We Speak the Gospel

Evangelism can be awkward.  I’ve said for awhile that it’s awkward transitioning from talking about football to talking about Jesus.  No matter even if you deeply believe that God is sovereign over every square inch of the world, it is still awkward in that moment when we begin to speak the gospel.  Why did God make it so awkward?  One reason, “God gives most of us this awareness of awkwardness so that we would never, not for a second, trust in or magnify ourselves and drift away from the magnificence of the gospel.” 

Looking forward to this.  Great video plugging The Gospel Project:

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

An Open Letter to Creative Technological Make-it-Happen Guru Guy or Gal

Dear Creative Technological Make-it Happen Guru Guy or Gal,

You know who you are.  If I emailed you my next sermon series you could put together a graphic, a video to promote it, and probably a couple of T-shirts.  You make things happen.  And you don’t just Google search a few images and put together a hodgepodge of images and say, “that’ll do”.  You create.  You know how to make websites.  You know what html code is.  Your laughing at me right now because html code isn’t even that big of a deal anymore.  You know what it is. 

Also, you could figure out all the ins and outs of creating a brand new television station. 

That last one is why I am writing to you.  You see there are many people in my life that are being fed a healthy dose of poison to go with their weekly dose of preaching.  These dear believers in Jesus are hungry for the word.  But as newer believers, they are susceptible to eating rat poison and thinking its a new brand of Fruit Loops. 

I know that the answer on my end is faithful, Spirit-led preaching, teaching, and plodding in gentleness and respect.  I know that discernment often is not something that happens over night.  I know that what will really protect them from the rat poison on television is to see, savor, and feast upon the Lord Jesus Christ and all that He has taught us. 

Yet, it is also really difficult on my end.  It is difficult because whereas we may get at most 4 hours of preaching during the week these false teachers promote their ridiculousness 24-7.  And they are crafty.  What they say often sounds so biblical, so faithful, so Christ-like.  And it’s killing our people.  And it’s making our job as pastors even more difficult because whenever we say things like, “God places value on you” they hear, “God wants to bless me with a houseboat”.  And so, everything we say in the local church is heard through muddied ears because of the shoddy preaching that these hungry souls go to for a meal on Tuesday, or Thursday, or Friday evenings. 

One thing that grieves me greatly is that there is no preaching on television that competes with this foolishness.  This is not for a lack of quality preaching.  One could go online and find hours upon hours of quality, Christ-honoring, biblically-faithful preaching.  That is well and good for those of us that spend more time in front of iPad’s and computer screens than televisions.  But for those that spend more time watching television they seldom take advantage of these healthy options.  (And this is a large number of those within our congregations). 

So, I’m pleading with you dearest creative technological make-it happen guru guy or gal, make it happen.  Create a new television station that will hit the airwaves and compete with the horrible preaching that is on television.  People are dying and we need your gifts.  Make it happen, please.

Love In-Christ,

Mike Leake

TweetNotes for No Ordinary Marriage by Tim Savage

I had the opportunity to read and review No Ordinary Marriage by Tim Savage.  No Ordinary Marriage is no ordinary marriage book.  Savage writes with grace, candor, passion, and is saturated in the gospel and the Scriptures.  Here are the TweetNotes for the book

1: As hopeless romantics we carve fulfillment in our marriage, the only way 2 achieve this is to pursue God’s glory

2: In the midst of circumstances, differences, etc., the only tie that is big enough to bind marriages is the glory of God

3: We most mirror the self-giving God when we engage in self-emptying cruciform love for our spouse

4: The greatest undermining influence on marriage is self-centered sin.  Therefore, the only remedy is gospel-producing transformation

5: Wives display God’s glory through a proactive subordination.  Revolutionary wives gladly pursue their husbands best interests

6: Husbands initiate w/super-natural cruciform love #faithful #attentive #understanding #sympathetic

7: God’s plan for marriage is a fusion of 2 into 1 in such a way that the Trinitarian love & unity is displayed

8: Sexual union expresses the glory of God like little else can.  Therefore honor God w/your body

9: Marriages need the church.  Churches need your cruciform marriage

10: Fear, weaknesses, and even death are conquered by self-giving love #therewardisgreat

11: As single-hearted disciples, singles should relinquish their position w/wisdom and caution

12: Marriage is uncommon b/c of its opportunity to display God’s glory, only the cruciform lover can create & sustain cruciform marriages

You can purchase the book here.

Today in Blogworld 6.19.12

Don’t Live for a Legacy

You hear a lot of talk these days about the necessity of leaving a legacy.  I appreciate David Murray’s take on this. 

A Word to My Reformed Brothers in the SBC

With all of the hoopla in the SBC and our Annual Meeting, Tim Brister has offered 5 do’s and 5 don’ts for his reformed brothers to consider.  Great word here. 

How to Blow Up a Church in Three Easy Steps

Jim Hamilton offers young pastors 3 easy steps on how to destroy a church. 

How to Minimize Uh’s and Um’s

The Art of Manliness is a very fun sight, but it also has some really helpful advice—occasionally.  Here they give some really good advice on becoming a better speaker and minimizing your “uh’s” and “um’s” or any other verbal pauses that you may do. 

Grace Changes Relationships:

7 Questions with Dave Rohrer, Author of The Sacred Wilderness of Pastoral Ministry (Part 2 of 2)

A couple of months ago I was privileged to read and review Dave Rohrer’s book The Sacred Wilderness of Pastoral Ministry.  He was gracious enough to answer 7 questions, we looked at the first 3 yesterday and today we will consider the next 4. 

4. Who have been the most influential people in your life? (Both non-biblical historical and modern day friends).

Hands down, my wife Mary Ann, and my children Justin and Laura, are the most influential people in my life. Most of the big decisions I have made for the last 27 years have somehow been influenced by them. I’ve come to believe that covenant relationships are the most fertile soil for growing the fruit of the Spirit in us and my relationships with the members of my family have taught me this.

Beyond family, those next in line are the people who have influenced my journey as a disciple of Jesus and as a pastor. Apart from Eugene Peterson’s books and his willingness to answer my letters I would probably be doing something other than being a pastor. Apart from hearing Fr. Gregory Elmer (a Benedictine monk from St Andrews Abbey in Valyermo, CA) reflect on the scriptures I wouldn’t know very much about prayer and about allowing the scriptures to lead me into prayer. Apart from the life and lectures of Dr. James Loder I’m not sure I would live expecting to be a part of the work of the Holy Spirit. And apart from the teaching and friendship of Ian Pitt-Watson, my preaching professor at Fuller Seminary, I don’t think I would have ever had the ability to hear God’s call to pastoral ministry.

If you look on my bookshelf you would also be able to deduce that Wendell Berry, C.S. Lewis and Marilynne Robinson are authors who have had a major influence in my life.

5. In your book you encourage pastors to see their role as fundamentally being pointers to Jesus. What practices have you cultivated in life and ministry to make you a better pointer? Both to keep the focus off yourself and to help people see Jesus better.

The word mystic has very little appeal in the protestant world. In fact, I have traveled in some circles where the word is about as attractive as the words mass-murderer or pedophile. Yet I think there is in this word a key to being a pointer. A mystic at his or her best is simply one who chooses to stay awake and be an observer. A mystic, like a scientist simply wants to see what is and respond to it accordingly. A mystic is not one who transcends his/her body in order to attain some higher spiritual and non-material plane, but one who embodies faith in a time and place and seeks to stay away to the presence of God in that place. I would say in order to be a pointer to Jesus you have to stay awake and be willing to engage the disciplines of silence, observation, openness, humility and hospitality.

6. Pastors are to be pointers. But, how much should they polish their fingers?

Looking ahead to the next question I am going to assume that you are using a metaphor here and are not talking about regular manicures. The finger is important only to the extent that it grabs enough attention so that folks can follow it to where it is pointing. In the book I use the image of John in the crucifixion scene from the Isenheim altarpiece. Grunewald has depicted John’s finger with enough artistry to draw our attention to John, but not so much that we can’t also apprehend his message. That bony forefinger is edgy enough to get my attention but not so prominent that it keeps me from seeing of the figure of the Crucified Christ.

Similarly, I make the point in the book that John was actually quite popular in his day. The way he did what he did, played well among the seekers of his day. It caught people’s attention. But there was never any doubt about the core content of his message. The medium never became more prominent than the message. In short, we need to bring our whole self (our gifts, our unique personalities, our skills, etc.) to bear on the work of pointing.

We will each have unique ways of pointing that are developed according to who we are. The polish, if you will, is to play the role given to us by our office with “energy, intelligence, imagination and love.” (Those words are taken from one of the ordination questions we are asked in the PC(USA)). In short, the polish we use is the willingness to bring all of who we are to this work. That requires discipline and dedication, planning and preparation. It is hard work, but hard work to an end of drawing attention to someone other than ourselves.

7. Dave, I notice from your profile picture that you are not bearded. This confused me. John the Baptist certainly had a beard, right? When I picture John the Baptist I picture a guy similar to Grizzly Adams. So, two questions. First, why did you not include a chapter on beards? Secondly, have you found John the Baptist type ministry difficult while not also sporting a John-esque beard?

I feel about beards what I would also probably feel about wearing a camel hair cloak. I don’t like itchy things. Most married men I have talked to don’t grow beards because their wives don’t want them to. That is not my story. In fact, when I have grown a beard Mary Ann has loved it. The reason I don’t grow a beard is that the process of growing it drives me crazy. Getting through the itchy stage without the experience of wanting to cuss or kick the dog is always something that has eluded me. So no; no chapter on beards. I have no word from the Lord on beards… only my opinion.

In spite of this shame of a naked face, I have not found the John the Baptist type ministry to be difficult. But then I fear this is because I have perhaps done something similar with John that those 19th century “Life of Jesus” theologians have been criticized for doing when they wrote about Jesus. In many cases their quest for the historical Jesus often produced a figure that looked very similar to themselves. I fear that I may have done the same thing with John. Thus I feel no need to look like him, since he already looks so much like me…


Dave, thanks for taking the time to answer these question.  I pray that the Lord continues to bless your ministry efforts.  I know this book was a blessing to me and I hope that others are inspired to pick up their own copy


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