Sunday, December 30, 2012

An Idiots Guide to Week 17 #NFL Predictions

It’s week 17. Only a couple of games matter. But I’m still dedicated to helping you look amazing in your bold NFL predictions. These are the teams to pick in week 17.

Falcons over Bucs
Jets over Bills
Bengals over Ravens
Lions over Bears
Titans over Jags
Colts over Texans
Saints over Panthers
Giants over Eagles
Steelers over Browns
Broncos over Chiefs (I want to pick an upset)
Packers over Vikings
Patriots over Dolphins
Raiders over Chargers
49ers over Cardinals (OT)
Rams over Seahawks (upset of the week)
Redskins over Cowboys

Other Crazy Picks:

No record for AP. In fact he’s almost 100 yards short.
The Browns only manage 125 total yards and get blown out
Big day for Eli and Victor Cruz
Poor day for Romo, key turnover leads to RGIII game winning TD
Megatron goes for 12/225/2
Mark Sanchez looks like he wants his job back
I want to pick a Cardinals upset (it will either be a blowout or OT).
4 turnovers for Russell Wilson
Chris Johnson scampers for 200 yards.
Tom Brady gets hurt.  (Or one of the big starting QB’s)

Friday, December 28, 2012

Quick Review of The Handy Guide to New Testament Greek by Douglas Huffman

I’m not good at Greek. At all. I passed my seminary Greek classes but mostly because my professor (Dr. Robert Plummer) was a really good teacher. For the most part doing Greek* hurts the same part of my brain that failing Pre-Calculus does. Nonetheless, I am going to challenge myself in 2013 to read through the Greek New Testament.

I fully expect to make it until about January 4th before I give up on this endeavor. But during those four days I will be certain to continue referencing Douglas Huffman’s The Handy Guide to New Testament Greek. It is this book that I wanted to bring to your attention today.

If you have already had at least one year of Greek and are struggling with remembering some of those tricky rules this book will help. Huffman notes in the introduction that, “If kept in hand with the Greek NT, this volume could be in constant use, assisting in the preparation of NT lessons and sermons.” I agree.

The book is divided into three parts. The first part is a reminder of elementary Greek. The reader will find over fifty pages of case endings, verb tenses, and other mnemonic devices. The second part is a guide for syntax and exegesis students. It is filled with the different case and verb usages. There are also memory devices for these as well. The third section is what sets this book apart from the others. In the final section the reader is exposed to the art of phrase diagramming. All of these helpful tools are scrunched into a mere 112 pages in a handy 5x7 pocket guide.

My Take:

For a book like this you really cannot review the content. Case and verb endings are pretty standard. But we you can judge is how accessible and useful such a book proves to be. Since receiving this book in the mail it has not only inspired me to pick up my Greek NT again it has also helped me when I do.

Now I don’t have to thumb through a 350 page text book or file through pages of notes and self-produced charts. The book truly is handy and of benefit to any learner of Greek.

Should You Buy It?

If you don’t know the difference between Greek and Pig Latin I doubt this book is for you. It will not teach you Greek. Furthermore, if you are a Greek master I doubt you’d need the references. But if you are anything like me—someone that knows enough Greek to be dangerous—this book would prove a handy resource for you.

Purchase it for only $12.40


*Don’t even ask me what doing Hebrew feels like.

Today in Blogworld 12.28.12

The Bible Eater: A Plan for Feasting on Christ in 2013

This looks to be an interesting Bible reading plan. I may give it a try.

Church Signs of the Week: Best of 2012

I’ve enjoyed seeing Ed Stetzer’s compilation of church signs each week. Here he compiles his best of 2012 list.

The Dangerous Consequences of Outsourcing the Local Church

This before Christmas post slipped past me. I’m digging Brister’s vision for insourcing instead of outsourcing.

Looks like I won’t have to buy my kids a drum set:

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Today in Blogworld 12.27.12

How much does a pastor share with his wife in regard to confidential matters?

Brian Croft answers this dicey question. The key, he says, is balance. “Stray too far to one side, and we are keeping our heart from our wives and cutting her out of our inner circle; stray too far to the other side, and she can feel trapped about situations in which she has no voice or recourse.”

Top 10 YouTubes of 2012

Every year Denny Burk posts his top 10 videos of the year. This is his 2012 selections.

Brothers We Are Still Not Professionals (Free eBook)

This is a short new ebook based on Piper’s book from 10 years ago. It has ten pleas for Today’s Pastors.

The Offended Brother

I found this article by Dave Kraft very powerful and helpful.

Who’s On First…the sequel

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Top 12 Books of 2012

12. A Puritan Theology by Joel R. Beeke & Mark Jones.

I haven’t gotten to read all of this one yet only a little bit. But I think this will be a valuable resource for all of us Puritan nerds.


11. Kingdom Through Covenant by Stephen Wellum and Peter Gentry

Once again this is a book that is so big I doubt I’ll finish it before the return of Christ. What I have read though is phenomenal. For those that will not have the benefit of ever taking Dr. Wellum’s class on Hermeneutics that section of the book is worth the price.

10. (tie) Pastoral Graces by Lee Eclov and The Sacred Wilderness Wilderness of Pastoral Ministry by Dave Rohrer

These are the types of gritty and honest books on pastoral ministry that are shaping. Read my review of Pastoral Graces here and my review of Sacred Wilderness here.

9. Gospel Deeps by Jared Wilson

Gospel Deeps was a risky book.  But I’m glad that Jared Wilson took the risk.  He’s right.  Jesus is precious enough that you can just reflect on His awesomeness for 200 pages and still want more.  I wish more preachers, myself included, understood this.  Just telling people for 45 minutes how amazing Jesus and His gospel truly are, is abundantly practical. (Read my full review)

8. Sensing Jesus by Zack Eswine

By the time I finish this book it might have pushed its way into the top 5. I love Eswine’s book Preaching to a Post-Everything World. This one is another of those gritty and honest books on pastoral ministry. I can already feeling it shaping my heart.

7. Pursuing Peace by Robert D. Jones

This is now the book that I recommend for people going through relational conflict. It is very practical and easily accessible. Of all the books from 2012 this one might be the one that I refer back to more than any of the others. (My review)

6. Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes by Richards and O’Brien

Randolph Richards and Brandon J. O’Brien believe that “some of the habits that Western readers bring to the Bible can blind us to interpretations that the original audience and readers in other cultures see quite naturally”. This is their well-written and helpful defense of that statement. (My review)

5. Shame Interrupted by Ed Welch

If you think that you do not need this book you probably do.  I doubt there will be a large line at the bookstore of people waiting to purchase a book that will completely ravage your soul, but it is necessary.  Your shame needs to be exposed. It is exposed and healed through Welch’s book. (My review)

4. Killing Calvinism by Greg Dutcher

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. (My review)

3. Wordsmithy by Douglas Wilson

It is a phenomenal help to any writer.  Just reading Wilson’s writing style will make you a better writer.  For as inexpensive as you can get this book you’re slightly crazy if you want to write but you can’t find the time to read through this book. This book helped me write much more gooder. (My review)

2. Wherever I Wind Up: My Quest for Truth, Authenticity and the Perfect Knuckleball by R.A. Dickey

Looks like the “wherever” is going to be Toronto. I was hoping the Royals would snag him. This book was very formative for me. I love baseball and I love redemption. This book is about both. (My review)

1. Dangerous Calling by Paul Tripp

This book may be The Reformed Pastor of our day. It is weighty and necessary. If you are a pastor you really ought to purchase this one. (My review)

Honorable Mentions:

The Explicit Gospel by Matt Chandler (My review)
Creature of the Word by Chandler, Geiger, and Patterson
Center Church by Tim Keller
The World-Tilting Gospel by Dan Phillips (My review)

An Idiot’s Guide to Week 16 #NFL Predictions

Good week for my picks last week. Bad week for actual football. The Browns slim playoff hopes were dashed. My fantasy team lost (again). And to be honest I have very little to still care about in the NFL. But because I know several of you rely on my bold predictions to make you sound like a genius around your friends, I’ll humor you.

Falcons over Lions
Saints over Cowboys (blowout)
Packers over Titans (close though)
Chiefs over Colts
Dolphins over Bills
Chargers over Jets
Redskins over Eagles
Steelers over Bengals
Bucs over Rams
Panthers over Raiders
Patriots over Jags
Texans over Vikings
Browns over Broncos (upset of the week)
Cardinals over Bears
Giants over Ravens
49ers over Seahawks

Fantasy stud of the week: Jamaal Charles
Fantasy sleeper of the week: Lester Jean

Other Crazy Picks:
Browns haven’t won against Broncos since 1990 that ends this week
3 picks and only 1 TD and 175 yards for Peyton Manning
80 yards for AP
Cardinals D/ST scores thrice
Charles scampers for 200 yards and 2 TD’s
125/2 for Trent Richardson
Eli looks like Super Bowl Eli
Cowboys QB looks like Never-go-to-the-SuperBowl-with-Romo, Romo
McElroy is serviceable
Bengals get blown out by Big Ben

Today in Blogworld 12.22.12

Clarifying Words on Wife Abuse

Awhile back John Piper answered a Q & A about submission and spousal abuse. Some took great offense at Piper’s words. Here he clarifies.

Did Jesus Assume a Fallen Human Nature?

I just had this conversation the other day. I wondered if Jesus cut perfect angles as a carpenter? Did he ever have to throw away a piece of wood? We then started talking about whether or not Jesus ever had a cold. This is somewhat of an answer to those questions.

The Media and the Massacre

Andy Crouch writes on the humdrum of constant broadcasting: “Not a single person in that airport was assisted in any way by these ghastly disclosures, pat press releases, and offensive atheologies. But this is the ironclad logic of continuous broadcasting: Broadcasting must be continuous. Someone must always be saying something even when there is nothing new to say.”

I Am NOT a Depressed Person

Michael Patton reflects on his battle with depression. Calling to his (and our) attention the truths of Romans 6.

Okay this blows my mind. It will certainly blow yours as well:

Friday, December 21, 2012

Top 12 Posts of 2012

Many people are writing Top 12 posts of 2012. I’ll be a lemming and join the crowd. Here are what I consider the top 12 posts of 2012 at Borrowed Light.

12. What if Toto IS in Kansas?/Church Planters Need Curmudgeons

Perhaps I didn’t make the point well. Maybe it just disappeared because they posted on a day when there were a bunch of other great articles. Either way I might revisit the points from these articles in the future. I’m concerned with a couple of things as it concerns the direction of church planting. It might be possible that these articles didn’t get much attention because I’m a crazy loon.

11. Forget This Post

Kind of ironic that this made the list. In some ways this might need be the first one on the list. I have been reminded over the past year (and with a heavenly megaphone recently) that I need to be made willing to be forgotten.

10. In Defiance of Them All

I really enjoyed writing this article. It is a reflection on my son’s castle rebuilding efforts.

9. How You Ended Up Gutted Like a Deer in a Tree

Pornography claims many of young men. The Proverbs serve as helpful warnings to the deadly result of lust and porn. This article is a helpful reminder of the end result of lust.

8. 10 Tips for Destroying Your Children’s Souls

This one was more for me than anyone else. Just as I need to be intentional about serving my wife (see #5) I also must be intentional about discipling my children. I hope this post helps other dads too.

7. God’s Happy Little Trees

Nobody else seemed to really like this article. (I’m judging that from the lack of comments, shares, visits, etc.) I thought it was a good picture of God’s redemptive plan. And I like Bob Ross.

6. The Effect of the Prosperity “Gospel” On Pain/How a Subtle Dualism Robs the Church of Missionaries

Both of these will appear in a little different form in my forthcoming book, Torn to Heal. Dualism and Stoicism are deadly enemies to suffering well. So is the prosperity gospel. That’s why I think these articles are helpful reads.

5. Husbands and “Honey-Do’s”

I’m not sure that the article is really the fifth best, but the effects of it are. God really convicted me about being a more intentional servant to my wife. I believe it has made me a better husband (and a handy-man at that).

4. How John Piper Helped Me in Darkness

Anytime I can help someone that struggles with depression I’m excited. I believe this post was helpful to many people that battle darkness.

3. 12 Things I Doubt Pastors Will Hear in Heaven

This post took about 10 minutes to write. I had just read a debate about something really insignificant and I set to writing twelve things that I doubt will be significant in eternity. More people read this article in 2012 than any others.

2. The Root of Angry and Divisive Calvinists Summary

This series was picked up at SBC Voices as well. The conversation was crazy. I had originally written this piece to be included in a piece on John Newton. But it evolved into something different. I think it’s an important series for young calvinists to consider . But it rightly faded into the background when Greg Dutcher’s excellent book Killing Calvinism came out in April.

1. The Pain of Being Blackballed by @Challies & @TGC

This was a tremendously fun piece to write. For two days I pretended as if I was very wounded by Challies and The Gospel Coalition because they had never linked to me. I had uncovered a vast conspiracy where these “superstars” of blogging and gotten together to blackball me. It was really fun. Especially on Twitter. Ironically enough, this post is one of my favorites because it initiated an online friendship with Tim Challies. Since then the blackball has been removed and Challies has linked to me several times. But I’m starting to think I might have been on to something as it concerns The Gospel Coalition…


Honorable Mentions: You Know What Happens When You Assume: on the dangers of assuming the gospel.
Why Your Prayers May Be Hindered: A reminder to husbands and wives about how much he values marital unity.
Faithful Disciples Aren’t Just Wet Disciples: A disciple is marked by passionate worship AND faithful ministry
The Googlization of Bible Study: Google has harmed my Bible study. I might do a Google fast for a few days in 2013. We’ll see…

The Christmas Victory March

With his one good arm the decaying man hoisted himself up from his slumber.

“O Come all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant…” the humble choir sang.

A sparkle now seemed to fall upon his eyes. This dying man was looking upon a victory march. Perhaps his own.

“O come, let us adore Him, O come, let us adore Him, Christ the Lord.” Young and old passed by his room. Some too young to know what they were singing. Others so beaten down and distracted by the cares of the world that they’re only singing from memory, not taking in the full effect of this parade. Yet, some are truly belting out the victory of Christmas.

The sounds of adoration now fade down the halls. The old man turns his feeble ear to hear the fading sounds of Christmas victory. The parade continues marching down the corridor proclaiming the joys of Christ to others enduring the curse. Reaching the end of the hall, the choir marches back towards his room as they begin a new song.

“Joy to the world…”

What a silly, and even offensive, song to sing to dying men if the gospel isn’t true. This isn’t a birthday song. This is a victory cry. The curse is being lifted. The long awaited King has come and joy is the only fitting response. Yes, such far-reaching joy would be silly to proclaim to those that are daily assaulted by the atrophy of their bodies. Unless of course the gospel is true. Then, it’s not silly at all, it’s altogether necessary.

The choir now passes by the old man’s room again. “He comes to make His blessings flow, Far as the curse is found, far as the curse is found, Far as, far as, the curse is found…”

He feels that curse every day. But tonight he feels something different. Tonight, he feels the victory of Christmas. He will still die. Maybe days from now. Maybe months. He might even hang on for a year or two, but eventually the curse will overtake him. Yet, if he is found in Christ, the curse will not consume him. Death has lost its sting.

We still live on the fallen side of a Redeemed Eden and so we still mourn and we still sing things like “O Come, O Come Emmanuel”. We long for just to make things fully right. Yet because of the victory of Christmas and the Cross we march down the halls of this nursing home proclaiming the triumph of Christ over the curse.

I’ve always enjoyed the phrase “charging hell with a water pistol” to speak of youthful vigor. Wednesday night I enjoyed doing something similar as my four year old son and I walked into a nursing home with our brothers and sisters in Christ and proclaimed to dying men and women that the curse is lifted. The Conquering King has been born.

“…Born that man no more may die, Born to raise the sons of earth, Born to give them second birth”…

May we continue this Christmas march throughout every day of 2013.

Today in Blogworld 12.21.12

5 Ways to Play with Your Kids This Christmas

I’m finding myself having to repent of something I never thought I would have to; namely, a scroogy and begrudging attitude as it concerns playing with my kids. Trevin’s article gives a few ideas. And be sure to click the links he provides as well. Those are the ones that will really convict you.

Are the Metro-Evangelicals Right?

I really appreciate this article from Keith Miller. I’ve had a somewhat nasty taste in my mouth for awhile concerning this “strategic importance of the city”.

Can I Pray to Jesus?

TGC continues answering questions posed by readers. This is one that I’ve heard numerous times. Good answer.

Does God Hate Westboro?

I couldn’t stomach putting “Baptist” or “Church” in that title. They are neither. Nor are they good Calvinists (as they also claim). Josh Buice makes a compelling case that they are an abomination to the Lord and calls us to pray for their repentance. I agree.

This is the awesome story of the origin of Sometimes little ideas turn into huge things. (And of course sometimes they are little ideas and always stay that way).

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Singing to the Deaf

Yesterday I looked at the Mystery of “God Moves in Mysterious Ways”. In my research for this I read through John Piper’s biography of William Cowper again. There was a statement that Piper used that came alive to me. One of his section headings reads: Never Cease to Sing the Gospel to the Deaf.

Piper writes,

Let us rehearse the mercies of Jesus often in the presence of discouraged people. Let us point them again and again to the blood of Jesus…Don’t make your mercy to the downcast contingent on quick results. You cannot persuade a person that he is not reprobate if he is utterly persuaded that he is. He will tell you he is deaf. No matter. Keep soaking him in the “benevolence, mercy, goodness, and sympathy” of Jesus and “the sufficiency of the atonement” and “the fullness and completeness of [Christ’s] justification”…Pray that in God’s time these truths may yet be given the power to awaken hope and beget a spirit of adoption. (Piper, The Hidden Smile of God, 117-19)

This is what John Newton did in the life of William Cowper. Newton was very discouraged and perplexed at Cowper’s ailment. Yet he remained by his side, even at times foregoing vacation so as not to leave his dear friend alone. Newton never ceased to sing the gospel to the deaf. It took a toll in Newton too.

On one occasion Newton wrote to John Thornton of the toll it was taking on him:

Mr. Cowper’s long stay at the vicarage in his present uncomfortable state, has been upon many account inconvenient and trying. His choice of being here was quite unexpected; and his continuance is unavoidable, unless he was to be removed by force…I make myself easy by reflecting that the Lord’s hand is concerned; and I am hoping weekly for his deliverance…The Lord evidently sent him to Olney, where he has been a blessing to many, a great blessing to myself. The Lord has numbered the days in which I am appointed to wait upon him in this dark valley, and He has given us such a love to him both as a believer and as a friend, that I am not weary; but to be sure, his deliverance would be to me one of the greatest blessings my thoughts can conceive.

Why it was so taxing on Newton?

Sometimes when I read through tattered pages from days long ago I slip into a type of fairy tale thinking. People stop becoming real. John Newton becomes a hero without warts. I rejoice in the fruit of his ministry but I do not accurately reckon the toil that such fruit entails. I say things like—and will say again in a moment—that we need more pastors like John Newton. But I forget the travail that Newton must have experienced as he bled with William Cowper.

Consider this letter from Cowper and how it must have pained Newton. Keep in mind this is written in 1784. That is eleven years after Cowper’s second bout with madness (first under the watch of Newton). Now it is happening again after a brief respite. Listen as if you had received this letter from a dear friend that you had been counseling and bleeding with for years:

Loaded as my life is with despair, I have no such comfort as would result from a supposed probability of better things to come, were it once ended ... You will tell me that this cold gloom will be succeeded by a cheerful spring, and endeavour to encourage me to hope for a spiritual change resembling it—but it will be lost labour. Nature revives again; but a soul once slain lives no more ... My friends, I now expect that I shall see yet again. They think it necessary to the existence of divine truth, that he who once had possession of it should never finally lose it. I admit the solidity of this reasoning in every case but my own. And why not in my own? ... I forestall the answer:—God's ways are mysterious, and He giveth no account of His matters:—an answer that would serve my purpose as well as theirs that use it. There is a mystery in my destruction, and in time it shall be explained.

Do you hear what has happened in the mind of Cowper? His mind has become so set upon destroying him that his precious hymn written in 1773 is now darkened. “There is a mystery in my destruction, and in time it shall be explained”. He has somehow believed that the mystery of God’s ways is that he will be damned even though he is one of the elect. He theologically agrees with everything that Newton is saying but he is, as on biographer said, “utterly deaf” to “every consolatory suggest” because he had “concluded that God had rejected him”.

Yet Newton never abandoned his friend.

We Need More John Newton’s

Some would probably consider Newton’s soul care of Cowper a failure. After all he never really found healing. We like magic words that somehow fix everything. But Cowper wouldn’t be “fixed”; not on this side of Eden.

Newton couldn’t be Cowper’s savior. But he could be his friend. Though it’s a mystery and not something I would really want to write a theological dissertation on, it seems that at times the Lord calls people like John Newton to hold the hand of his friend while simultaneously holding the hand of Jesus. His dear friend was in such despair that he could no longer cry out for mercy. It seems that Newton interceded for Cowper when he was too weak to even plead for help.

Newton’s ministry to Cowper was a ministry where he continued to “sing the gospel to the deaf”. He did it as his friend not as his fixer. He loved William Cowper, madness and all. He was never a project but always a brother in Christ. To this end Newton never gave up on his friend. He pleaded for Cowper’s stake in Christ even when Cowper was confident that he had been forsaken.

Ministry success isn’t defined by the number of hands we heal but the hands we hold. Healing belongs to the Lord. Holding on is our sacred duty as fellow sojourners. We need more pastors like John Newton. Pastors that aren’t discouraged because their “projects” fail. But pastors that ache because their friends hurt. Pastors that stay and preach, and plod, and proclaim the excellencies of Christ even when it seems that we are only holding a symphony for the deaf.

Jesus is pleased with such faithful husbands, daddies, friends, and pastors. I pray that I am one.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Mystery of “God Moves in Mysterious Ways”

God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm.

Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never failing skill
He treasures up His bright designs
And works His sovereign will.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessings on your head.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.

His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower.

Blind unbelief is sure to err
And scan His work in vain;
God is His own interpreter,
And He will make it plain.

Those words were penned by William Cowper. There is a question, however, surrounding the circumstances that led to the poem. In the early 1900’s a story arose that Cowper had decided once again to commit suicide by drowning himself. Here is how one person tells it:

One night he de­cid­ed to com­mit su­i­cide by drown­ing him­self. He called a cab and told the driv­er to take him to the Thames Riv­er. How­ev­er, thick fog came down and pre­vent­ed them from find­ing the riv­er (ano­ther ver­sion of the story has the driv­er get­ting lost de­liber­ate­ly). After driv­ing around lost for a while, the cab­by fin­al­ly stopped and let Cow­per out. To Cowper’s sur­prise, he found him­self on his own door­step: God had sent the fog to keep him from kill­ing him­self. Even in our black­est mo­ments, God watch­es over us.

Cool story. Tullian Tchividjian picks this story up in his book Glorious Ruin when he writes, “after one of his failed suicide attempts, he wrote what has become one of my favorite hymns…” Heart-warming tale, unfortunately I can’t find historical accuracy to this story.

Many of those who share this story place the date for God Moves In Mysterious Ways (originally titled Light Shining Out of Darkness) at 1774. This is almost certainly impossible. Cowper was in such despair at this time he would have never spoke with such faith. By February of 1773 he had become convinced that God had rejected him. As one early biographer wrote, “to every consolatory suggestion he was utterly deaf, concluding that God had rejected him.”

The More Likely Story

The cab driver story is absent in all of the early biographies that I could get my hands on. The story behind the writing of God Moves in Mysterious Ways is much different. The year was 1773. Cowper had enjoyed almost a decade of respite from his earlier depression and suicidal tendencies. Then something most unwelcome happened on January 1st of 1773. A few hours after attending morning worship (where he would have heard John Newton preach), the poet was visited with what can only be termed a “terrible premonition” that he was about to return to his previous state. Before the madness set in, he put to verse a proclamation of his faith. That is what we have today entitled God Moves in Mysterious Ways.

Cowper did not recover from this fit of madness for half a decade. Some would even say that he never really recovered. This hymn was the last one of the 68 hymns that he would write with John Newton. It would later be published as part of the Olney Hymns collection.

Why the First Story?

There could be an element of truth to the first story. It is possible that Cowper had this premonition and decided that suicide would be better than enduring another bout of darkness. And it could also be possible that this hymn was a sort of repentance before he was completely enveloped in madness. But I find that unlikely knowing Cowper’s mental frame when he was prone to suicide. Such darkness would not have penned the hopeful words of this hymn.

My guess is that the cab driver story has an element of truth to it. Cowper attempted to commit suicide many times. And on many occasions he was prevented by mysterious circumstances. Yet, these should not be attached to the hymn. Yet, we like to attach these stories to the hymn because they not only make for a great story they also serve to convince us that everything will eventually make sense to us.

It is true that “even in our blackest moments God watches over us”. But the darkest times for Cowper were yet to come. Even after this particular fit of madness dissipated another was on the horizon. Before his death he said, “I feel unutterable despair”. His last words were, “What can it signify?” William Cowper died a miserable man.

The words of the hymn are true. God does move in mysterious ways. God is his own interpreter and eventually He will make it plain. But there is no sure promise that he will “make it plain” this side of redemption. For some, like Cowper, the “sweetness of the flower” is never enjoyed in this life. For him life under the sun was marked by the “bitterness of the bud”.

We don’t like this story. We don’t like that heavens response to this poem was five years (and later more) madness. We want a story where God watched out for Cowper, kept him from suicide by using fog, and then rescued him from the darkness of despair. Though Cowper never committed suicide he did live a majority of his life in darkness and deep anguish. He seldom saw the smile of God.

239 years later Cowper’s life and the poem attached to it begs us to look to a different land for the “blessings to break upon our head”. Cowper dreaded the clouds that were looming on the horizon. Yet, at the beginning of his madness he held hope that someday they would break. They rarely did. Cowper died a miserable man…BUT a miserable man that was welcomed into the arms of Jesus. Though convinced by his madness that he had been disqualified to receive the blessings of Christ, nonetheless they were still his lot. He received his “golden harp” of which he had written in his other famous hymn There is a Fountain Filled With Blood

Lord, I believe Thou hast prepared, unworthy though I be,
For me a blood bought free reward, a golden harp for me!
’Tis strung and tuned for endless years, and formed by power divine,
To sound in God the Father’s ears no other name but Thine.

Today in Blogworld 12.18.12

A Dream of Mine: The Insourcing of the Local Church

Tim Brister has a dream. I share his dream. That local churches would stop outsourcing. As he notes, “The Great Commission is to be worked out in the context of the local church, by means of the local church, and for the multiplication of the local church.”


I appreciate this reflection from Jen Hatmaker. “I told God today that I didn’t want to do this anymore. That He couldn’t make me. That telling me to hold a torch of hope was too much to ask…”

Are We a Violent People?

In the aftermath of the Connecticut tragedy people are looking for answers. They are looking for a scapegoat. Trevin Wax thinks we ought to look at ourselves and our cultures thirst for violence.

How Calvinists Should NOT Respond to Newtown

I’ve already heard all three of these (and not always from Calvinists). His three suggestions: 1) don’t make it an us vs them 2) don’t say this was God’s will 3) don’t be too quick to respond theologically. Great word.

I couldn’t stop laughing at this. I don’t know why:

Being an Animal Cracker Pastor


This is what I grumble as I open up my $1.29 bag of six potato chips. I know that bags of potato chips are known for looking full but delivering mostly air. But six chips?

Don’t get me wrong, they are luscious. Just as the little jingle says I can’t eat just one. But if this degenerating trajectory of chips per bag continues it looks like I am going to have to learn to eat just one chip. A bag of chips looks like it ought to be a filling snack. It only taunts me and makes me have to look elsewhere.

This isn’t true of animal crackers. You can buy a bag of animal crackers at Wal-Mart for under two bucks. Opening these bags has a different disappointment attached to them. When you open this bag of joy typically 40-50 animal crackers fly through the air and onto the floor. They are so filled to the brim that they can’t help spilling out everywhere. Yeah, some of their treasure is wasted; especially, for you wimpy germaphobes that don’t follow the five second rule. But they fill you up.

I want to be an animal cracker pastor instead of a potato chip pastor.

A potato chip pastor projects much and offers little. He’s alluring. He’s somebody you want to bring with you to the Super Bowl party. But at the end of the day he’s really only filled with hot-air. Yeah, he might satiate a few people. But he doesn’t fill anyone. At the end of the day he leaves his congregation having to look elsewhere for sustenance.

The animal cracker pastor might be a little bland and boring to some. But he will fill you up. He’ll do what a pastor is supposed to do; namely, “feed my sheep”. He is so overflowing with the gospel that some of what he says will just spill onto the ground. I’d rather be a little bland but overly helpful than scrumptious but disappointing.

There is probably a lesson in here too about under-promising and over-delivering instead of the other way around. But for me when I think about a bag of chips filled with hot-air I pray that my ministry isn’t similar. I pray that the Lord so overwhelms me with His love and gives me such a vision of Himself that I can’t help but overflow in the lives of others.

Be an animal cracker pastor.


The potato chip illustration is an extension of a point that Zack Eswine makes in his book Sensing Jesus. Give him all the credit and me all the blame.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Resources for Mental Health Issues

A good friend emailed me over the weekend asking for resources on a Christian response to mental health issues. I figured that more people than just this one are asking this question. Therefore, I thought it might be wise to compile a list of resources for mental health issues.

There are many different views of Christian counseling and mental health issues. Dr. Eric Johnson has edited a very helpful book called Five Views of Psychology and Christianity. It can be a little technical at times but it might be a helpful place to start. My particular view will be reflected in the books that I have suggested. My theology and philosophy of counseling/mental health issues is very similar to that proposed by CCEF.

A resource list like this could be vast. (For a really short list skip to the bottom). I decided to organize it by asking one central question: How deep do you want to go?  (Click on the links to buy the book)

Introductory: I’m just curious or I need quick help

The best introductory book on depression is David Murray’s Christians Get Depressed Too. My review is here.

Another book that might fit in the next section as well is Redemption by Mike Wilkerson. This deals with a vast amount of issues related to mental health (including things like abuse and addiction). My review is here.

If you want an introductory book on various mental health issues that gives an answer to whether it’s a biological condition or something else there are none better than Ed Welch’s book Blame it On the Brain.

For those dealing with sexual abuse a good resource is Dan Allender’s Wounded Heart (though I wouldn’t agree with quite everything in there). Another solid resource is Rid of My Disgrace.

Often mental health issues are the result of not dealing with the past. Steve Viars has a great book for this: Putting Your Past in It’s Place. I have also found great help from Kerry Skinner’s book The Joy of Repentance (he has a couple other books too that might be of help after you read his book on repentance).

What if you can only get one book? If you are depressed and need help get Murray’s. For anything else either Wilkerson’s Redemption or Welch’s book on the brain.

Practice: I want to help

It’s a lengthy book but one of the best books for thinking through day to day counseling (that ought to happen with every member ministry) is Paul Tripp’s book Instruments in the Redeemers Hands. I hand this to everyone that says, “I want to help people”.

Another very helpful little book is the one written by William Cutrer: The Church Leader’s Handbook. This will book has a little bit of everything.

If you want to help people with mental health issues you need to consider the works of David Powlison as well. Seeing with New Eyes and Speaking Truth in Love.

Though I believe he at times overstates his case you can find great help from the work of Jay Adams.

Ed Welch has also written a decent amount of books that will help with specific issues. He has dealt with depression, addictions, fear (my review here), codependency, and shame (my review here).

If you can only get one: get Instruments in the Redeemers Hands.

Theology: I want to go deep in thinking through mental health issues

If you really want to study counseling and mental health Eric Johnson has written a massive book on the Foundations of Soul Care.

Again, I think he overstates his case at times but Jay Adams’ book Competent to Counsel is one that you have to read through if you are going to consider Christian counseling and understanding mental health issues.

I haven’t read this one yet but I think Heath Lambert’s book The Biblical Counseling Movement After Adams is one that needs to be considered as well.


These are only a few of the resources available. Honestly, it seems that at present we are doing decent with having books at a macro level of mental health issues. What we are not yet thriving in is having micro level books on specific issues like Asperger’s Syndrome. Right now secular counseling seems to be leading the way on some of these issues and that scares me. So, I would say if you really want to understand mental health issues and biblical counseling pick up a few of these resources and get a healthy big picture theology of Christian counseling. Then pick up books on the specifics once it becomes necessary or they become available.

This list is overwhelming. So read this article:

Counseling and the Authority of Christ by Russell Moore

Then buy these three books that will give you a start:

1. Paul Tripp, Instruments in the Redeemers Hands

2. Ed Welch, Blame it on the Brain

3. Mike Wilkerson, Redemption

Evil Doesn’t Make Sense

It’s Monday.

We’ve mourned through the weekend the tragedy of Newtown, CT. On Monday people will begin giving solutions. We will offer suggestions for change. We will map out strategies for preventing such actions from happening again. We will continue to ask questions, but on Monday we will begin trying to solve them. Today we will try to make sense of this madness.

And it is with such resolve to make sense of evil that I am reminded of these words from Christopher J.H. Wright:

“God, with his infinite perspective, and for reasons known only to himself, knows that we finite human beings cannot, indeed must not ‘make sense’ of evil.  For the final truth is that evil does not make sense.  ‘Sense’ is part of our rationality that in itself is part of God’s good creation and God’s image in us.  So evil can have no sense, since sense itself is a good thing.”

“Evil has no proper place within creation.  It has no validity, no truth, no integrity.  It does not intrinsically belong to the creation as God originally made it nor will it belong to creation as God will ultimately redeem it.  It cannot and must not be integrated into the universe as a rational, legitimated, justified part of reality.  Evil is not there to be understood, but to be resisted and ultimately expelled.  Evil was and remains an intruder, an alien presence that has made itself almost (but not finally) inextricably ‘at home.’  Evil is beyond our understanding because it is not part of the ultimate reality that God in his perfect wisdom and utter truthfulness intends us to understand.  So God has withheld its secrets from his own revelation and our research.”

“Personally, I have come to accept this as a providentially good thing.  Indeed, as I have wrestled with this thought about evil, it brings a certain degree of relief.  And I think it carries the implication that whenever we are confronted with something utterly and dreadfully evil, appallingly wicked, or just plain tragic, we should resist the temptation that is wrapped up in the cry, ‘Where’s the sense in that?’  It’s not that we get no answer.  We get silence.  And that silence is the answer to our question.  There is no sense.  And that is a good thing too.”

“Can I understand that?  No.  Do I want to understand that?  Probably not, if God has decided it is better that I don’t.  So I am willing to live with the understanding that the God I don’t understand has chosen not to explain the origin of evil, but rather wants to concentrate my attention on what he has done to defeat and destroy it.” (42-43, The God I Don’t Understand)

Wright’s entire book is a great reflection on the tough questions of our faith. It is one of the best books that I have read on the topic. You can buy it today.

Today in Blogworld 12.17.12

Sharing the Gospel with Gay People

Mike McKinley gives some advice for sharing the gospel with those in the homosexual community. His third one is very similar to my suggestion the other day of doing battle on Baal’s court.

Rachel Weeping for Her Children—The Massacre in Connecticut

There have been many responses to the Connecticut tragedy. Here is Dr. Mohler’s response. “God, not the murderer, has the last word. For those in Christ, there is the promise of full restoration. Even in the face of such unmitigated horror, there is hope.”

Newtown: Time to Operate on a “Need to Know” Basis

This is an interesting take by David Murray on the Newtown tragedy. He says that “for most of us, it’s time to pull the plug and avert our gaze”. Noting that “It is deeply damaging to our short and long-term mental, emotional, and spiritual health to expose ourselves to such bloodcurdling details.”

Tolkien on Fairy Stories

My nerd friends will enjoy this one. I haven’t got to see the Hobbit yet, but I hope to very soon. This article is a defense of fairy tales and how they might draw us closer to the gospel than any other genre.

I have never seen anything like this before. Was anyone watching this game to know why this was even close to necessary?

Friday, December 14, 2012

What Will End the Hate?

I have a long list of things to do today. I can’t seem to do any of them. Maybe that’s acceptable. I am fixated on the news out of Connecticut today. The reports are early but what we know as of right now is that a 24 year old man shot his mother a kindergarten teacher as well as her class.

I can’t stomach this. I have a little boy that is 4 years old going into kindergarten next year. I have watched him play with his preschool class after I dropped him off. Such naivety and youthful vigor. I cannot image the gruesome scene at Connecticut. This one hurts because I’m wondering what if this were my little boy. After I write this I’m going to pack up my work and go home and give him a huge hug.

Rainn Wilson (from TV’s The Office) tweeted in response to the tragedy:

My heart is just broken for those poor kids! Those poor families! Praying for them & to end this hate & violence.

I think most all of us want that. To live in a world that is no longer filled with hate and violence. Or better yet to live in a world where we hate what we ought to hate and love what we ought to love. This begs a question.

What will bring that about?

Shortly after posting this Rainn Wilson’s twitter feed was filled with discussion about gun control. Undoubtedly there will be many that respond to this tragedy by saying that we ought to have better gun laws. Others will say that we need to teach our children more about tolerance, love, and acceptance instead of hate. And there may be some truth to these.

Some will blame this young man’s battle with depression. If we could only get better help to struggling teens. If we could keep them on their medicine. And there is probably an element of truth to this as well.

There will be others, people that are more from my camp, that will use this tragedy and say that we ought to have more prayer. And certainly we do. Others will blame those that have “taken God out of the schools”. They will blame our nations abandonment of Christian values. And they probably have great points too.

But I don’t think either of them really have the right answer. What will bring about the end of hatred and violence?

It’s not a “what” it’s a “Who”. Only Jesus. It’s not gun laws, though that may help. It’s not getting prayer back in schools, though that may help. None of these can do what only Jesus can; namely, usher in His kingdom. God is in the process of rooting out of His kingdom all sin and unbelief and filling it with passionate worshippers. What happened in Connecticut today was a worship problem.

School shootings will not happen in a Redeemed Eden. And it won’t be because such a land will not have guns. Nor will it be because depression is wiped away. It won’t even be because a Redeemed Eden will honor the 10 Commandments. School shooting won’t happen in a Redeemed Eden because our hearts will be finally changed. Our worship problem will be no more. We will love and esteem that which is lovely. There will be no more hatred for things that ought not be hated. Our hearts will be held captive.

In the Meantime…

But we don’t live in a Redeemed Eden, do we? We don’t yet live in a place where our hearts are fully held captive. And so we will continue to have painful tragedies, like the school shooting today. Yes, Jesus is ushering in his kingdom, but today we are still waiting. What do we do in the meantime?

  • Mourn with those who mourn. Don’t try to stick a band-aid on the problem. Comedian Jim Gaffigan had a great response when someone asked him what he was going to say to make everyone feel better. He simply wrote, “We shouldn’t”.
  • Extend the Gospel. That’s the only answer. Not moralism. Not legislature. Not medicine. People need the gospel. Everything else is but a band-aid. While band-aids might be helpful they don’t heal only Jesus does that.
  • Hug your children. Enjoy everyday of life as you have it. When the Lord gives us seasons to rejoice we had better take them. If you have children, go hug them.
  • Maranatha! Wait for, prepare for, and long for the return of Christ. He alone will set this right. Cry to Him for redemption on this day. Knowing that someday He will wipe away every tear, and tragedies like this will be no more.

Battling on Baal’s Court

As a Browns fan (and a Royals fan) I know the pain of losing. But some losses hurt more than others. As an example, the Browns lost to the rival Pittsburgh Steelers 18 times in the ten years from September of 2000-December of 2009. They only one three times. One of the worst punch to the gut losses came in 2005 when the Steelers won 41-0 at Cleveland Browns Stadium. There is something about a home loss that hurts worse than losing on the road. Even a drunken Browns fan was body-slammed by the Steelers. (see video below)

Beating someone—and so badly—communicates your absolute dominance. Or in the Browns case being beaten so badly on your home field shows the world exactly how inept you actually are. In the same way the Lord often does battle on the idols court just to show his dominance.

Consider Baal. Baal was the god of fertility. Not just the dude in charge of making babies but the one that was in charge of crops and all things agricultural. In an agrarian community Baal was a big deal. This is why the Lord says in Hosea 2:12, “I will lay waste her vines and her fig trees, of which she said, ‘These are my wages, which my lovers have given me’”.

The Israelites thought that their bounty came from the hand of Baal. Their enjoyment of the fruit of the land was a direct result of their faithful Baal worship. Or so they thought. The Lord was about to utterly strip the land of all agricultural success. They would be laid barren. And Baal was left powerless. The fertility god was shown exactly how infertile he is. As Ray Ortlund has said:

The power of life and death lies with YHWH alone, and he is able to blight her happiness and fertility and make the nation a virtual desert with no mitigation of the suffering entailed, even to the point of death. (From God’s Unfaithful Wife)

In order to win hearts Yahweh must utterly expose and shame the competing idols. Otherwise, the Israelites will bow a knee to Baal in all things fertility and add Yahweh to their affections for all else. He must show that He alone is God.

What this Means for Missions

I don’t know that Christians, myself included, are confident enough in the Lord’s beauty to do battle on the court of our culture’s idols. If we really believed the Lord’s sufficiency I’m not sure that we would engage in defensive apologetics as much as we do. I doubt we would apologize for the gospel. We wouldn’t be so afraid of hiding the sharpened edge of the gospel.

Awhile back I was out and about in the community trying to share the gospel with people. We were doing ministry in a poverty stricken area of town. Here we would try to meet people and ask if they had any prayer requests or if there was any way that we could serve them. We would keep coming back to this neighborhood week after week asking the same questions.

On one occasion we met a young man that informed us that he recently had become a Buddhist. After studying the claims of Buddha and that of Christianity and a few other religions he found that Buddhism seemed to be the most peaceful and the one that appealed to him the most. He thanked us for our time and wished us well. As we were leaving I felt compelled to ask him whether or not he had peace.

I didn’t know it at the time but I was doing battle on Buddha’s court. Buddhism is all about inner peace and tranquility. This man was pursuing that and I wondered how it was going for him. He was somewhat stopped in his tracks but nervously acknowledged that he did seem to have more peace. We went back to our cars and prayed that he wouldn’t be able to sleep until he received the peace that only Christ gives.

Three days later someone from our team received a phone call. This guy hadn’t been able to sleep for three days. He had found himself in the psych ward because he had attempted suicide. He couldn’t find peace. Apparently my off-handed question had rattled him more than he put on. He couldn’t get the question out of his mind. Thankfully, some people from our team came to visit him in the hospital and shared the gospel with him. He found true peace that day.

This is why I say we ought to do battle with the idols of our culture. I’m not saying that we present the Lord as if he’s a better Santa Claus. I’m not saying that we tell materialistic people that the way to get more prosperity is to bow a knee to the God that owns everything. Nor am I saying that we tell people that are hell bent on psychological comfort that the way to comfort is through Jesus Christ. What I am saying is that we confront the idol of comfort, prosperity, and everything else with the sufficiency of Jesus Christ. He really is better. If we truly believe that then we believe that He can take on any idol and win every time.

Church, let’s do battle on Baal’s court. Let’s body slam Baal on his home court...(how was that for a lame transition):

Today in Blogworld 12.14.12

Safeguarding Against Abuse in the Church

Wise counsel from Jared Wilson on setting up structures of accountability and policies to prevent and deal with abuse in the church.

The Missed High Five

Zach Nielsen linked to this site yesterday. It’s gold.

Who Was St. Nicholas?

Kevin DeYoung gives us a history lesson on the real St. Nick. I really hope the slapping Arius story is true.

Christmas The Dawn of the Death’s Destruction

Christmas for some people can be a very depressing time. Jon Bloom writes that this is okay. “Christmas is actually a very good time for grief. Because sorrow has a way of disbursing fantasy nonsense and pointing us to what the birth of Jesus was all about: death’s destruction”

This is a funny take on one of those really awkward missed handshakes. Kevin Love seems like a pretty funny dude:

Thursday, December 13, 2012

An Idiot’s Guide to Week 15 #NFL Predictions

Last week I had the flu. Really bad. I had no idea what I was picking. Turns out I did just about as well as normal. In my ESPN Pigskin Pick ‘Em I actually had 11 wins because I took a couple gambles I didn’t here (like the Panthers upset I was feeling). This week I have no flu…at least I don’t think…so let’s see how I do in my right state of mind.

Bengals over Eagles
Falcons over Giants
Packers over Bears (in OT)
Redskins over Browns
Vikings over Rams
Dolphins over Jags
Saints over Bucs
Ravens over Broncos
Texans over Colts (blowout)
Seahawks over Bills
Lions over Cardinals
Chargers over Panthers
Cowboys over Steelers
Chiefs over Raiders
49ers over Patriots
Titans over Jets

Fantasy Stud of the Week: Alfred Morris
Fantasy Sleeper of the Week: Kendall Wright

Other Crazy Picks:

Browns slim playoff hopes are dashed (this one isn’t crazy, is it?)
Brady Quinn actually throws for over 300 yards
Alex Smith plays more than Kaepernick
2 scores for Kendall Wright
Alfred Morris 3 scores 150 yards
Matthew Stafford threatens 500 yards passing but only 1 TD
Turbin rushes for more yards than Lynch
Giants look really flat. Poor game for Eli and their D.
3 Turnovers for Tom Brady
3 Turnovers and under 100 yards for Mark Sanchez

Quick Review of Church for the Fatherless

Fatherlessness is a growing epidemic in our culture. Not only father’s that physically abandon their children but also father’s that might be physically present but not actually there. How the local church responds to this crisis shows a good deal about what we really believe about the gospel. As Mark Strong writes, “…ministry to the fatherless is not simply an option”. That is why he has written his book Church For the Fatherless.

Mark Strong set out to plant a church. On one particular occasion the discussion of fatherlessness came up. Mark realized that three-fourths of his core leadership had grown up without an active father figure in their lives. That’s when he knew that one key component of this church had to be that they would become a church for the fatherless. Church For the Fatherless is filled with anecdotes from Strong’s ministry, but more than anything it is biblical advice on how other churches can become churches to the fatherless.

There are three overarching goals for the book. First, to gain a deeper understanding of the problems surrounding the issue of fatherlessness. Secondly to practically show church leaders how they can serve their communities and lead them to become churches of the fatherless. Lastly, Strong hopes to inspire and encourage his readers to be a part of God’s answer to the fatherlessness in our world.

My Take:

The book is filled with practical and easily reproducible ideas for your local church. Strong does an apt job of explaining the problems of fatherlessness. Some of the specifics of the book might be more geared to the African-American problem of fatherlessness. But the issue and the solution transcends culture. Even though I am a white dude from Southern Indiana I can see the impact of fatherlessness. Though at times tailored to an African-American community there is nothing in this book that could not be applied cross-culturally.

Strong is correct that this is not an option for churches. If we are not churches that minister to the fatherless then according to the Lord (James 1:27) we aren’t much of a church. More church leaders need to read and apply this book. It is very practical and very biblical. We have worked at FB Jasper to embed our values with help to the fatherless. This book has helped me to be more intentional in our wording. It has also inspired me to look for ways to infuse our teaching with messages for the fatherless and to fight against this epidemic.

Should You Buy It?

The book is mostly written to church leaders. You don’t have to be a pastor though to read and benefit from this book. I would love for people in our congregation to read this book and champion the cause of the fatherless. We need people to become a “pain in the neck” (75) for this neglected area of church ministry. Buy the book and be encouraged and inspired to touch society’s most pressing problem.

Get it here.

Today in Blogworld 12.13.12

The Healing Within the Healing

Jared Wilson reflects on the “Gospel Deeps” of Mark 5:21-43. “The gospel story is about Christ’s exaltation, but our healing is an integral part of the story — indeed, it is part of his exaltation. The love of Christ is so deep, there is more than enough for you if you want it.”

Freedom of Speech is a Joke (or at least the freedom to tell one)

“The ranks of the professionally offended seem to grow every day”, says Carl Trueman. Here Trueman reflects upon the suicide of the woman who let through two prank callers and the backlash tha3 St has ensued.

3 Secrets of Productivity and Godly Efficiency

Andy Naselli shares D.A. Carson’s 3 secrets. Guess they aren’t a secret anymore…nice job, ruining the secret Andy.

How Should Seminaries Train Pastors to Counsel

This is only part one but it is a really interesting post. I’m not one that has any ability to influence the seminary but I do think many need an overhaul at how they train pastors in counseling. Many know how to exegete Scripture but it seems that fewer know how to care for souls.

Matt Papa tells the best story ever:

Seven Steps to Becoming a Heretic

Heretics usually fall into the role. Seldom does a man wake up in the morning, grab a cup of coffee, read the morning newspaper, put on his clothes, and then stare himself in the mirror and say “Today, thou shall become a heretic”. Heretics usually start by staring in the mirror and saying, “Today, thou shall be a difference maker”.

Consider Sabellius. Sabellius became what is now known as a modalist. They were very concerned with maintaining the truth that God is one. They also wanted to maintain that Christ was fully God. Sabellius emphasized these two truths to the neglect of another truth: that God is also three distinct Persons.

Tertullian responded to the modalists. (It is from Tertullian that we have the statement “one substance consisting in three persons”). To our knowledge, this would be the first time that the term Trinity was used. Sabellius and the other modalists were unmoved. Sabellius was eventually condemned a heretic in 220 AD.

His story is not unique. I share it simply because it is the typical pattern of heretics. If you want to become a heretic here is the way to do it:

Step One: Have a desire to be an epic difference maker.

Step Two: Find a truthful doctrine that is being neglected or under emphasized

Step Three: Make your ministry about restoring this precious doctrine.

Step Four: Begin emphasizing this truth to the expense of other equally true doctrines

Step Five: When people begin to question your overemphasis and/or your negating of other truths consider this the price of being an epic difference maker.

Step Six: Continue undeterred. Begin seeing this “other truth” that your opponents are emphasizing as part of the reason why your precious doctrine was under- emphasized. Find ways to minimize this truth, or even show that it is an error.

Step Seven: Emphasize your truth. Totally deny the other truth. Congratulations you are now a heretic that has denied a key doctrine of Scripture. 


The above picture is from a great series at The Resurgence on Know Your Heretics.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Who Am I Missing?

I like discovering new blogs. There are of course the big dogs of Christian blogging. I’m subscribed to most all of them. But then there is the little guy, like me. I want to find some new blogs. So here is your chance to point them out to me.

What blogs do you read that most people do not know about (less than 300 subscribers)?

Feel free to self-promote. Tell me about your blog. I want to check it out.

Today in Blogworld 12.12.12

The Self-Righteous Wife

Trilla Newbell has a word for ladies about being judmental and self-righteous.

Mark Driscoll Interviews John Piper

This was a great interview. I love Piper’s answers. I especially appreciated his final word: “I am an old pastor now, desperately in need of the old, old gospel.”

The Problem with Plagiarism in the Pulpit

This is older, but I found it again today. I just had a conversation with another pastor about this very thing.

Am I Prone to Wander?

Awhile back (can you tell I’m digging for stuff to link to) Mark Altrogge questioned Come Thou Fount. Tim Challies offered a response. The role of depravity in the believers life seems to be a discussion that needs to be had.

Had the Bengals won this might be known as the Rally Coon. Now it’s probably just known as a saboteur:

Back Door Greed

“90% of your finances with God's blessing will always go further than 100% without it.”

A popular pastor tweeted that statement yesterday. It’s not the first time that I have heard those statements. I have probably even said similar things myself. And that’s okay because there is a good amount of truth to the statement. I just wonder if maybe it’s a wrong focus. Giving to God shouldn’t be a way to slip our dreams for prosperity in through the back door. What if giving 10% of my income really is a sacrifice and it doesn’t “go further” than 100% of it would? What if it causes me pain to give?

I am not saying that God does not and will not take care of our needs. He will. But if we are not careful we will use faithful giving as a means to strengthen our idol of money. Give God 10% and he’ll make your 90% bigger. Sometimes it sounds like we are saying, If you give Santa Claus cookies and milk and Rudolph a carrot he will make sure that you get sweet presents.

I simply wonder if we are neutering the gospel of it’s “come and die” call as it regards our finances. What if we said, “Giving this percentage of your income is going to hurt. It is going to be a sacrifice. It will mean that you cannot get that new truck you want. It might mean that you need to buy the off brand Pop-Tarts that taste like cardboard. But you know what the cause of the gospel is worth it”.

Consider the poor widow in Luke 21:1-4. Her giving was truly sacrificial. It hurt. She wasn’t giving two copper coins because she figured that somehow the Lord would bless her and give her six copper coins back. She was sacrificing. That means that she’s giving and not expecting a return on her investment. Shouldn’t our giving be less of a financial investment plan and more of a sacrifice for the kingdom?

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Today in Blogworld 12.11.12

Protecting a Gospel-Centered Culture In Your Church

Pastors must protect a gospel-centered culture in their church. “Gospel-centered leaders do not have the luxury of being accepting of personal preferences as anything more than personal preferences.”

Death and Life and Your Tongue

Comments on blogs can be horrible. I largely ignore them. Tim Challies believes that the answer to better blogging and commenting is simple: Grow up.

Tullian Keeps Digging

David Murray continues to have concerns with the words of Tullian Tchividjian’s writing. You need to give David a fair hearing on this. In my opinion he has some valid points. My spidey senses have been tingling for awhile and I think David might be on to some of the reasons.

A Few Things to Consider Before Supporting Gay Marriage

“On college campuses, around dining room tables, and in not a few of our churches, gay marriage marches on by the simple logic that says: what business do we have telling people who they can or can’t marry?” Kevin DeYoung gives a few answers.

The real Santa Claus:

Forget This Post

“I need to be made willing to be forgotten.”
–R.Murray McCheyne

This quote has been jarring my heart for the past few days. In the past I read it with a great deal of stupidity. I read it as if it was sort of tongue in cheek. As if McCheyne is saying, “If I really want to be made great…then I need to be made willing to be forgotten”. The way to greatness is to not really pursue it. And so if you want to secretly pursue greatness the way to do it is to pursue humility and in the end you’ll be made great.

Oddly enough that philosophy is probably correct. Scripture is clear that the way to be made great is to become the servant of all. To be exalted by God you don’t pursue exaltation you pursue humility.

But here is where I have been dumb. Those aren’t tongue in cheek statements. The idol of greatness needs to topple not just pursued through godly means. If I’m still pursuing my name being great—even if I’m trying to do it through sneaking in the back door of humility—all I will ever muster is mock humility and self-forgetfulness.

Help From David Murray

As I was praying through what the Lord was doing in my soul I remembered an article that David Murray had written back in June about leaving a legacy. It was a great article encouraging us to not live for a legacy. Looking back I think this article was used by the Lord to pry His sandal into the door of this heart idol of mine.

One of the statements that David made in that post was this: “most of us have ordinary ministries, and our ministries will die with us.” That stings. And not because I want to be useful to the Lord. That stings because I want to be remembered. I want to be a difference maker. Often not for the sake of actually making a difference but so that I can park in the space that says “Difference Maker”.

I read Murray’s article again and another statement floored me. “I’d rather my children know Christ than people know who David Murray is a hundred years from now.” That statement pierced my soul. In my head and in my heart I really do believe that same thing. Or at least I want to. But when reality sets in the truth is that I’m probably more passionate about being remembered as a great dad than actually being one.

David is living the same thing that McCheyne said over 150 years ago, “I need to be made willing to be forgotten”.

Forgotten But Useful

This is not a call to be lazy. It is a call to pursue usefulness and let the Lord decide our legacy. I am learning now that this is not a tongue in cheek promise. As if I faithfully plod along and pursue usefulness that someday he’ll make me a nice legacy. I am learning now that this is a fool’s pursuit. My aim is Christ and being made useful as a servant to Him.

Useful means that he decides the rhythm of my ministry. It means that my chief aim, which is already mine, is to be remembered by God and to make my life ambition to make sure that He is the remembered one and not me. As Zack Eswine reminds us that is a good thing. “Being remembered by him means we no longer fear being forgotten by the world”. (Sensing Jesus, 19)

One of my favorite quotes is now taking on new life, “No man can bear witness to Christ and to himself at the same time. No man can give the impression that he himself is clever and that Christ is mighty to save.” Pointing to Jesus isn’t a backdoor way of robbing glory and making myself an exalted preacher. Pointing to Jesus is the end in itself. Period.


Lord Jesus, forgive me of foolishness. Forgive me of attempting to rob you of glory. Forgive me for all of the times that I expected You to quote me. I have been a fool. Thank you for grace. Thank you for patience. Thank you for exposing this idol in my heart. I pray as McCheyne did some 150 years, “make me willing to be forgotten”. You will be remembered. And this is my greatest good.


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