Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Hump Day Humor: When Goats Take Over Pop Songs

This wins the internet:

And this:


They're even take over 80's Rock:

Today in Blogworld 02.27.13

Top 200 Preaching Resources

David Murray has compiled 200 resources for preachers to use. I’m honored to have made the list.

What Someone Needs to Say

Kevin DeYoung gives us what he believes people ought to say to the media when pressed on the issue of homosexuality. I also like Dan Phillips’ take.

Grow a Disciple Making Culture in Your Church

I am stoked that so much emphasis is being placed on disciple-making in the local body. It’s needed. This article is a very helpful outline.

7 Steps to Move Members into Ministry

Every church faces this struggle. Chuck Lawless gives some basic principles to help move members into ministry.

I need to invest in a bus so I can do this:

One Reason Evangelism & Missions Are Difficult

When I first became a believer I heard a healthy dose of pleas for doing evangelism and missions. Often they came in the form of a skit of some sort that would show the hopeless chap that has not heard the gospel. At the end the speaker would say, “If only someone would take the gospel to them.”

I assumed that most people were not believers simply because they had never heard the gospel. Now don’t hear me wrongly. Those presentations are helpful. Lost people do need to have the gospel proclaimed to them. In fact that is the way that they will come to know Christ. We must take the gospel to lost people. That part is true. What those skits often failed to mention, though, is that a good number of people are not just waiting to hear the good news of Jesus.

Responding in Darkness

When you spend a few minutes in a really dark room your eyes adjust and you get accustomed to the darkness. When some joker throws on the lights…especially after a night of joyous sleep…your first instinct is to kick and scream. You want to tackle the guy that turned on the light. Darkness doesn’t appreciate a light switch being thrown on.

This is what Jesus said in John 3:19,

“And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.

The natural response of darkened and depraved hearts is to kick and scream against the gospel. We do not like it’s exposure. We do not agree with its criticism of us. Nor do we agree with it’s entirely selfless solution. Therefore, we naturally want to kick the dude in the groin who throws on the lights.

This is why we should not be surprised that gospel advancement comes through suffering. People in darkness do not want you to turn the light on. No matter how much that darkness is destroying their humanity. Yet, being in the light is the one thing that they need in order to wake up and to actually enjoy eternal life.


There are times when God says “let there be light” into a darkened heart. Only then are the scales removed. Only then is the light treasured. When that takes place their posture towards the messenger is changed. What might have started as a lunge toward us is transformed into the loving embrace of a brother or sister.

As the light of the world we are called to be faithful no matter the response. Whether we are met with a kick to the groin or a loving embrace it is our duty to flip on the switch. That’s hard. But it’s the most loving thing to do to awaken sleeping sinners.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Lord, Make Me Willing to Live and Die for My Convictions

Albert Mohler’s second principle for leadership is that leading is believing. By this he means that the leader is driven by beliefs that lead to action. Leaders must have passion. They must have firmly held convictions.

I want to be a leader that is known for “being willing to die—or even to live—for [my] convictions”. (From The Conviction to Lead.)

Lord, make me willing to live and to die for my convictions. I pray that my convictions are not merely stupidly held beliefs but they are grounded in my Surety. Help me to be convicted about that which should captivate my heart and to hold loosely the things that I ought to hold loosely. Make me like Luther; “Here I stand…” Give me a heart of full conviction. Amen. 

When Cancer Hi-Jacks Your Reunion

image A little over a year ago Jason Taber had supper with his sister, Tonya. This was no ordinary meal. This was the first time they had met. On Jason’s 38th birthday he reached out to his sister for the first time in his life.

Now, one year later Jason stands beside Tonya’s hospital bed as she is fighting complications from Hodgkins lymphoma*. Their story is a testimony of God’s grace and the uniting power of the gospel. Jason was kind enough to share his story with us.

Jason, can you share the back story to your relationship with Tonya? What inspired you to finally reach out to Tonya?

My birth father left me when I was a baby. I learned that I was adopted at the age of 12 or 13. I first learned that Tonya existed when she first got married about 13 years ago. I had always stayed away because I assumed that the family wanted nothing to do with me. In reality Tonya had known about me her whole life, and had prayed for the day that we would meet.

God had been working in my heart for awhile about my propensity to isolate when things get difficult. One Sunday a man from our church shared his testimony of reaching out to his estranged daughter. On November 22, 2011, my 38th birthday, I finally decided to contact Tonya. I feared that it would be awkward. It has been everything but that; it is as if we had known each other those 37 years.

Shortly after our reunion I met my dad for the first time. Or rather I saw him for the first time, he was lifeless on a hospital bed. Tonya’s relationship with him had been fractured. We were able to be there for one another during this time.

When was Tonya diagnosed with cancer?

Tonya was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma in October of 2012, just under a year of our first meeting.

What was your initial reaction?

My first reaction was a mixture of fear, anger and confusion. I was terrified to lose this person that I had just found. We had quickly filled empty spots in each others lives and become extremely close. I was also very angry and confused with God. I could not understand why He would bring us together only to take her away from me. That along with other setbacks in my life made me pull away from God and those close to me. I was becoming bitter.

About a week ago Tonya had some major complications from the cancer. Can you tell us a little about this recent trial?

About two weeks ago Tonya experienced extreme fatigue from chemotherapy treatments. On February 10th she collapsed in the shower. She was admitted to the hospital the next day. At first the doctors assumed they were treating dehydration and other deficiencies due to her weakened immune system. Little did they know an infection had taken hold, with her body having no way to fight it. On February 15th, Tonya developed a fever and labored breathing. They quickly determined that she had fluid in her lungs and feared she could be septic. Within hours she crashed, with her blood pressure dangerously low and unable to breathe.

I received the call that she had been rushed to ICU, and I needed to come quickly. Shortly thereafter the decision was made to put her on a ventilator. Things looked very bleak. For three days she was under constant sedation as they tried to kill the infection in her body. On Monday the 18th they awoke her from sedation. It took me 2 hours to get her to open her eyes. She has steadily—actually quite miraculously—improved since then. From last Wednesday on she has improved leaps and bounds every day. (Tonya was actually released yesterday, to continue recovery at home).

How have you seen God's grace during this time? 

God's grace was evident in so many areas. Tonya's immune system was completely gone, medically speaking she should not have made it. The outpouring of prayer on Facebook and in churches all over the place was an act of grace. The cancer that had caused me to isolate from God and other unbelievers, had now by the grace of God drawn hundreds of believers to my side to encourage me. There is no way on my own volition I would have done that. God was gracious to draw me to Him, and believers to me when I needed it most. It was by God's grace that Tonya received amazing care. Doctors somehow made the correct choices without even knowing what they were fighting at first.

How has this trial of suffering strengthened your relationship with Tonya? with the Lord? 

My relationship with Tonya was very strong to begin with, but this situation has made it even stronger. We lived 37 years without being able to be there for each other. We both suffer from abandonment issues due to our history with our dad. He wasn't there for her much more than he was for me. Tonya knows now that even in the worst circumstances, I will never leave her side. Watching my sister through a window, many mornings at 3 or 4am, struggling to just take each breath, made me realize just how much that I love this person.

These same times alone in the morning, also strengthened my relationship with God. I was at a point where I was helpless to do anything. All I could do was cry out to God to save my sister. Sometimes I didn't even have words, just sobs or tears. In the beginning, I felt alone without my sister. By the end, it was obvious that God has carried Tonya and the family through. We had given everything, we were drained and weary. He picked us up each time that we felt like we couldn't go on. I feel ashamed for pushing God away while I attempted to fix all my problems on my own. I have no doubt that it was only by God that Tonya was healed. His grace and love was so great that at times it felt like being hit by a truck. It was overwhelming each time Tonya was able to do something she had no business being able to do. This is one of those markers in life I can look back on and say “look what God did!”

What is one thing that you would say to estranged siblings?

For those who know they have a sibling out there, don't ever give up. Tonya prayed for years to have a relationship with me, her brother. For those scared to reach out, take the risk, it is worth it. For years, I missed out on a relationship with an incredible woman, my sister. I was held back by fear. We have a God who forgives, and who heals broken relationships. Pray!!!  I can't say enough about Tonya praying and the faithfulness of God to hear that prayer.

Lastly, how can people get involved? How can we pray?

Pray for Tonya to continue gaining strength. Also, she does still have cancer. Pray that she can get rid of the cancer when her strength returns. Pray also for her three young children.

If you are interested in further updates to the story, or to know how to pray with more information, you are invited to join the Praying for Tonya Hief page.


*Tonya was actually released from the hospital yesterday to continue her recovery at home.

Today in Blogworld 02.26.13

Reaching Catholics in Your Community

I live in a Catholic community. My wife teaches music at a Catholic school. At least in our community Chris Castaldo is spot on in this article. I’ve noticed a great number of what he terms “Charismatic Catholics”.

Why Johnny Cash Still Matters

Russell Moore, who is not shy about his love for Johnny Cash, honors his birthday by showing us why The Man in Black still matters today.

A Social Media Heart Check

Tim Challies exposes what he calls the scariest button on Facebook.

The SBC Benefits from a Balance of Calvinists and Non-Calvinists

Dave Miller believes that the SBC needs both C’s and Non-C’s to stay healthy. I believe that history proves him correct.

This is a powerful wakeup call. Watch, weep, respond:

Monday, February 25, 2013

Feeding Sheep, Even If They Don’t Want to Be Fed

This is too good not to share. William Still brings it to a group of pastors:

If you think that you are called to keep a largely worldly organization, miscalled a church, going, with infinitesimal doses of innocuous sub-Christian drugs or stimulants, then the only help I can give you is to advise you to give up the hope of the ministry and go and be a street scavenger; a far healthier and more godly job, keeping the streets tidy, than cluttering the church with a lot of worldly claptrap in the delusion that you are doing a job for God. The pastor is called to feed the sheep, even if the sheep do not want to be fed. He is certainly not to become an entertainer of goats. Let goats entertain goats, and them out in goatland. (Still, The Work of the Pastor, p10, emphasis mine)

Shepherds are called to help sheep die to themselves and find true life in Christ. That isn’t always popular. Yet our call remains “feed the sheep, even if the sheep do not want to be fed”.

Still’s book is phenomenal and a very quick read. It is one that every pastor ought to read and heed. You can get it here.

Today in Blogworld 02.25.13

Why Pastors Should Read Over Their Heads

I’m constantly realizing that I am preaching over my head. So why not read over my head as well. Kevin DeYoung gives a few reasons why “pastors should…jump into the deep end of the pool and get in over their heads once in awhile.”

Don’t Feel Qualified for Your Calling?

“Join the club”, says Jon Bloom

Where to turn in exhaustion

Aaron Armstrong gives us helpful advice on where to turn when we are totally exhausted.

SBC Values in Conflict. Why our Theology is Not the Only Issue

This is an interesting piece by Rick Patrick. I think it is one that Southern Baptists ought to read. I’m not sure yet of my take on Rick’s position but it’s certainly one worth reading.

Okay. Maybe the Royals don’t have a shot at the playoffs this year:

Sunday, February 24, 2013

The I AM in a Boat

And when evening came, the boat was out on the sea, and he was alone on the land. And he saw that they were making headway painfully, for the wind was against them. And about the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. He meant to pass by them, but when they saw him walking on the sea they thought it was a ghost, and cried out, for they all saw him and were terrified. But immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” And he got into the boat with them, and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded, for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened. (Mark 6:47-52 ESV)

Regular people don’t walk on water. Not even exceptional people cascade over choppy waters.

Jesus did.

And that declaration gave 20th century liberals a headache. In searching for the “historical Jesus” (read non-supernatural Jesus) they could not grasp how the laws of nature could be broken by a man walking on water.

So they did what every smarter-than-the-text theologian does, they explained it away. Perhaps it was an optical illusion. Maybe it was actually a sandbar. Whatever solution you can concoct is more plausible than a man with a beard walking upon the sea instead of sinking underneath it. That is too astonishing of a claim.

I think they missed something.

Verse 48 (the water-walking verse) is not the most astonishing verse in that passage. What is most astonishing is verse 51, “and He got in the boat with them…” THAT is what is mind-boggling about this passage.

If we really read this text for what its saying we aren’t astonished that deity is transcending the “laws” of physics and walking upon water. And the Deity of Christ is all over this passage. His intention to “pass them by” is likely a reference to Exodus 33. And it certainly is a reference to Job 9. Where, as James Edwards has pointed out, “the Job quote summarizes a passage that begins in 9:1ff by recounting the awesome separation between God and humanity”.

The text screams out to us that this isn’t just some ordinary dude that has figured out how to walk upon H2O. The text screams out that this is God Himself. And that is why verse 51 is so mind-boggling. Because it tells us that the transcendent God, the wholly Other, the eternal I AM, has now become Emmanuel.  The majestic God that had to cover Moses’ eyes is now getting in a boat with a few smelly fishermen at 4 in the morning.  THAT is what is unbelievable about this text.

God walking on water is not so hard for me to grasp.  After all He is God.  What is hard for me to grasp, though, is that this transcendent God bridged the gap of separation and could be found in a boat.  The I AM has become Emmanuel and that is astonishing!


Originally published here.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Is Being Persecuted For Biblically Held Beliefs the Same Things as Sharing in the Sufferings of Christ?

Sometimes I am really glad to not have a blog that elicits a ton of comments. Actually, I’m lying. It makes me sad that I haven’t yet succeeded at creating a community here at Borrowed Light. But let’s pretend that I’m cool with it so I can make my next sentence. On days like today I wish that I had an active community here, because I would love to have a discussion.

My question is one that I don’t yet have an answer formulated for.

When the culture at large rejects biblical principles can we also say that they are opposing the gospel?

Or allow me to ask it a little differently.

Can we say that we are being persecuted for the sake of the gospel, when it’s really “biblical principles” (like the issue on homosexuality) that we are being persecuted for? Is being persecuted for biblically held beliefs the same thing as sharing in the sufferings of Christ?

What do you think?

I might attempt an answer to this later. But I need to have one first…

Today in Blogworld 02.22.13

25 Years of Evangelizing My Husband

I’ve seen it happen numerous times, focusing on the other persons faults makes us blind to our own. This is a tremendous testimony.

For You It’s Sin, For Me It’s Service

Grumbling probably isn’t a spiritual gift. I love this tongue-in-cheek piece by Tim Challies.

Listen to Your Critics

This is from the practical theology for women blog, but I’m a dude and it helped me tremendously. Pastors, I believe, can especially benefit from this article. \

Do You Still Want to Be Like Mike?

Everybody and their mom has already linked to this article. So, why not me too? There is a reason that so many have suggested this article, it’s really good. Michael Jordan doesn’t have peace. Matt Smethurst interjects the gospel into what is really the sad tale of Jordan.

Powerful stuff:

Thursday, February 21, 2013

People You’ve Probably Never Heard of But Should: Bede

Bede (which rhymes with feed) lived his entire life in a monastery where he grew a beard which could house a flock of birds. Yet he is most known for his mind, which gave words to the history of England.

We know very little of Bede. We only know what he has recorded for us, which is not much. He was born in 672. He died in 735 while singing a hymn. He lived out most of the dash between those dates in a monastery in Jarrow (which is near modern-day Newcastle…which also doesn’t help me locate it any better).

Though the man himself is not much known his work is well preserved.

Why You Should Know Him:

Have you ever wondered why we use AD in our dates, or where this came from? Look no further than Bede. Actually, it wasn’t Bede who invented the anno domini but he did make it popular. Much like Justin Bieber didn’t invent bad music he just made it popular.

The anno domini is not why you should know Bede, though. We owe a great debt to Bede because of his Ecclesiastical History of the English People. Our information on the conversion of England would be dicey at best if it were not for this scholar, now known as The Venerable Bede. There are those that critique Bede’s work. And some of that criticism may be just. Yet his work has shaped history.

There is one other reason I believe we should know Bede; he seems to have really loved the Lord and passionately proclaimed the gospel. His commentaries are in Latin. Since the only Latin I know comes from Monty Python’s Holy Grail I couldn’t understand much. However, I was able to read a couple of sermons that were translated. One such sermon On the Meeting of Mercy and Justice is a wonderful exposition of the gospel (read an article about that sermon here).

Bede is an interesting figure in that he lived in the 700s and spoke of the world being round


You can see his love for Christ in quotes like this:

"No words are able to speak," he wrote, "that beauty, that virtue, that glory, that magnificence, surpasses every expression, every sense of human mind. And if to attain to that ineffable sight and to be made radiant with the splendor of Christ's countenance it were worthwhile for you to suffer torment every day—if it were worthwhile for you to endure hell itself for a season, so that you might behold Christ coming in glory, and be joined to the number of the saints—is it not then well worthwhile for you to endure [mere] earthly sorrows that you may be partakers of such good and of such glory?"

This is a great quote for all students of history:

“If history records good things of good men, the thoughtful hearer is encouraged to imitate what is good: or if it records evil of wicked men, the devout, religious listener or reader is encouraged to avoid all that is sinful and perverse and to follow what he knows to be good and pleasing to God.”

Six Tips for Helping the Busiest of Pastors to Start Writing

In his book, 25 Principles for Leadership That Matters, Albert Mohler states that, “Leaders who want to make a difference, and to make that difference last, must write.”

I am passionate about writing. I’ve often wondered if I’m a pastor who writes or a writer who pastors. In actuality I don’t think these two can be easily separated. Writing is a huge part of my pastoral ministry. It’s easy for me to heed Mohler’s advice to write. Other pastors have to work harder at writing. For those of you that read my article yesterday on 7 Reasons Why Pastors Should Be Writers, and immediately thought to yourself, “no way, man”. This article is for you.

Here are Six Tips for Helping the Busiest of Pastors to Start Writing

  1. Write out your sermons and edit them for the public. You don’t have to go into the pulpit with a full manuscript if that isn’t your bag. But it does help to be intentional about your thoughts and really flesh out the right words. Once you write your sermons you could easily turn one sermon into a week of blog posts.
  2. Prioritize. It is essential that you are convinced that writing is a vital part of your ministry. If not it will get thrown aside quickly. Force yourself to write at least something every day.
  3. Make it part of your devotional time. Do your daily devotionals with a pen and paper. Write out your thoughts and prayers. Go back to them a week later and try to craft them into an article.
  4. Avoid procrastination, today. This is especially for those of us that have deadlines to meet. If you don’t take captive every moment then sure enough you’ll be called out for a hospital visit when you had planned on writing.
  5. It’s okay if you aren’t Stephen King. You don’t have to be the best writer in the world. Just write something. If it’s not good enough for publication then keep it between you and your aunt Maude. Or perhaps try a blog. That’s where us not-ready-for-primetime players get our feet wet and actually get gooder…I mean better.
  6. Read Good Writers. You will get better at communicating if you take the time to read those that have mastered the craft. Don’t spend all your time in commentaries. One of the most helpful things that you can do for your preaching and ministry is to read a good novel. (Please don’t misunderstand what I am saying. I know that the power is in the Word preached and not the preachers eloquence. But we don’t necessarily have biblical promises attached to the words that we choose in business meetings. Those can be made better by reading helpful communicators).

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Lord, Give Me Conviction to Lead Well

I have been greatly benefiting from Albert Mohler’s book, 25 Principles for Leadership That Matters. At the end of almost every chapter I find myself crying out to God to shape me into a better leader. I figure I’m not the only one. So I thought that you might benefit from reading the prayer that I wrote in response to each chapter.

Chapter One: The Conviction to Lead

Lord, even though there is a no scarcity of leadership materials there is a dearth in leadership in our land and in our churches. Stir in my heart a passion that is proportionate to the convictions that I hold. You have called me to lead. I pray that our generation will “lead with conviction and “have the conviction to lead”.

I know that in Your Word an absence of leadership is often a sign of your judgment. Lord, would you meet us with grace? Would you transform our world through the powerful gospel? Would you set the world on fire with passionate worshippers that passionately proclaim that your kingdom comes. May I be obedient to you. Make me a leader after your heart. Amen.

Hump Day Humor: Good Idea/Bad Idea

A few nights ago we introduced our son, Isaiah, to the world of Animaniacs. One of our favorites growing up was the Good Idea/Bad Idea shorts. This one was Isaiah’s favorite:

If you want to spend 9 minutes laughing here is the whole collection:

7 Reasons Pastors Should Be Writers

“You need to stop writing so much and start doing more ministry”.

I’ve heard that criticism several times. And it always comes from the same place. Myself. I’m not alone in that criticism, though. I hear the rumbling throughout evangelicalism. (See here for an example). “Writing isn’t doing”.

To fight this voice of discouragement I’ve come up with seven reason why pastors ought to be writers. In fact I believe that writing is one of the most important things that a pastor can do with his ministry. Here is why:

  1. Writing assists thinking. Forcing yourself to put thoughts to paper will assist in bringing clarity to all the ideas floating around in your head.
  2. Writing makes for better communicators. Being an intentional in writing will hone the way you use words. This will make you a far better communicator in the pulpit and elsewhere.
  3. Writing leads to more thoughtful reading. If you intend to interact and write about, review, or recommend something you are reading then it will make your reading that much better.
  4. Writing gives you an outlet. Pastors often have an overflow of content in sermon preparation. We also need an outlet for the many things we deal with each day. Writing (even if it’s not intended for publication) will create an outlet.
  5. Writing makes your blood visible. What I mean by this is that writing often helps you to know what you are passionate about. It shows you what gives you life. Often you have things bubbling inside of you that you aren’t even aware of until you connect your heart to a pen.
  6. Writing will last. I have a library filled with books that I access all the time. Even though I can access a ton of sermons online I seldom do. Writing lasts in a way that the spoken word does not.
  7. Writing demands attention. Al Mohler says that “the written word can do what the spoken word simply cannot do—sit flat on a page and demand attention”. It’s hard to ignore the written word, which you can read over and over again without it changing forms.

For these reasons I believe writing not only assist my wider ministry but it is a vital part.


Daniel Darling has given 5 Reasons Why Pastors Should Write
The DG Staff has given 6 Reasons Why Pastors Should Blog

Today in Blogworld 02.20.13

What Do I Do If My Child is Looking at Pornography?

This question terrifies me. But it’s a necessary question and one that we need to be prepared for.

A Few Sweet E-Deals

Amazing Grace by Eric Metaxas (story of Wilberforce) only $2.99
Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart by JD Greear only $4.99
Wages of Spin by Carl Trueman only $2.99

Take a Course with Tim Challies and David Murray

This looks like an interesting opportunity. I’m not sure if I have the time to sign up for this but perhaps you do. It looks like such a great opportunity I might just have to make time.

Why Do We Sing About Wrath?

Mark Altrogge answers a question I’ve wondered myself a few times.

Trip Lee’s Testimony:

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Is It Enough to Just Speak the Truth?

On the day of his first public service at St. Mary Woolnoth, John Newton explained to his hearers the truths that would inform his gospel ministry. They are evangelical and gospel-centered as to be expected with on like Newton. One thing, however, that I believe sets Newton apart as an exemplary example for us to follow. He believed that just speaking truth was not the whole of his duty:

But the cause of truth itself may be discredited by improper management; and, therefore, the Scripture which furnishes us with subject-matter for our ministry, and teaches us what we are to say, is equally explicit as to temper and spirit in which we are to speak. Though I had the knowledge of all mysteries, and the tongue of an angel to declare them, I could hope for little acceptance or usefulness, unless I was to speak “in love”.

I believe Newton is correct. Just speaking truthfully—even eloquently--about the great mysteries of our faith is not sufficient. Certainly the Lord is powerful and convert sinners using even the weakest means. But the apostolic method of preaching/pastoring/leading/living is to speak the truth in love. Both are necessary.

“Loving” people without speaking truth is a sham. At the same time, speaking truth without loving people is a mockery of Christ our example.

The Most Unsettling Thing in the World

Read this:

It pleased God to cite me inwardly, judicially, in my conscience, and to present all my sins before me in such a sort, that He omitted not a circumstance, but made my conscience to see time, place, persons, as [distinctly] as in the hour I did them. He made the devil accuse me so audibly, that I heard his voice as [vividly] as ever I heard anything, not being sleeping but awaking. And so far as he spoke true, my conscience bare him record, and testified against me very clearly…my conscience condemned me and the condemnator tormented me, and made me feel the wrath of God pressing me down, as it were, to the lower hell; yea, I was so fearfully and extremely tormented, that I would have been content to have been cast into a cauldron of hot melted led, to have had my soul relieved of that insupportable weight.

How do you expect this story to conclude? Do you expect this to end in this man’s conversion?

It doesn’t. He was more than likely already a follower of Jesus at this point.

Perhaps at this point you are assuming that he is a depressed Christian that is lacking assurance. You might assume that what is about to happen in his life is what Jared Wilson has termed Gospel Wakefulness. Maybe this troubled soul will experience and apply the gospel in a way that he never has before.

You would be partially correct. Yet, what is really going on in this moment is that Robert Bruce has been running from gospel ministry. He later said, “I [murmured] long to my calling to the ministry. Ten years, at the least, I never leaped on horseback, nor lighted, but with a repyning and just accusing conscience”.

Here in a loft chamber of Airth Castle in 1581, Bruce could no longer run. Bruce bowed a knee and surrendered to God’s call upon his life. “That same night ere the day dew, or ere the sun rose, he restrained these furies and these outcries of my just accusing conscience, and enabled me to rise in the morning”.

Is it possible that some of the torments of conscience that we experience are a result of our running from the Lord’s calling upon our life? Ministry is scary. Following Christ in the hard stuff is difficult. But there is nothing more unsettling than disobedience to Christ.


This biographical information on Robert Bruce is from Iain Murray’s A Scottish Christian Heritage.

Today in Blogworld 02.19.13

The Dangers of “Faking It” In Ministry

What does a person do when ministry is calling but our heart isn’t prepared and isn’t in communion with the Lord. Most of us fake it. And if we are unlucky we get by and so we do it again and again. This was a convicting piece by Kathy Keller.

Leadership 101: Fix the Problems, Don’t Attack Those Who Identify Them

There is crazy junk happening at Louisiana College. Dave Miller mentions a little of it, but I believe he also gives us a great lesson on leadership in the process.

All To Him I Owe

Kevin DeYoung shows us a really radical way that we can follow Christ…

Church Was Great! Let’s Not Talk About It

“We've just heard the Word read and proclaimed, sung the praises of our great God, and petitioned him for mercy in our time of need. And then we spend our time afterward talking about last night's movie, the game, the hobby, the state of the nation, or whatever. Anything but the great truths of the gospel we've just heard and by which we're saved. Why do we do this?”

This dude can rock a glass. Listen to the whole thing because it gets absolutely amazing after about 2 minutes. Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah on crystal glasses:

Monday, February 18, 2013

10 Books I Want the Next Generation to Read

A Christian man that is battling cancer is compiling a list of ten books that he wants the next generation to be sure to read. He has sought my top 10.

Rather than just giving a top 10 books I think it might be more beneficial to say what 10 “types” of books I’d want to leave to the next generation. It is my hope that these books would ground the next generation and give them a passion for digging further. Because of that aim most of these are more introductory type of books to inspire further reading.

I’ll give an example or two of each of these. These are in no particular order.

  1. How to read the Scriptures: 40 Questions About Interpreting the Bible by Robert L. Plummer
  2. What is the gospel?: Gospel for Real Life by Jerry Bridges or God is the Gospel by John Piper
  3. How to apply the gospel: How People Change by Paul Tripp and Timothy Lane
  4. How to live the Christian life: Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life by Don Whitney
  5. Who is God?: Knowing God by J.I. Packer
  6. Something to break me: The Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul
  7. Something to introduce you to a deep well like the Puritans: The Bruised Reed by Richard Sibbes.
  8. Someone to model: The Works of John Newton (I would suggest also stockpiling biographies of Newton and his letters. Wise Counsel by Grant Gordon is also a great resource).
  9. How to fight for joy: Pleasures Evermore by Sam Storms or Desiring God by John Piper
  10. How to share the gospel: Tell the Truth by Will Metzger or The Gospel and Personal Evangelism by Mark Dever

I feel like the author of Hebrews must have felt when writing his eleventh chapter. I don’t have time to tell you of Dever’s 9 Marks, or Lloyd-Jones, or all the great books to help with preaching and ministry, or suffering, or the immensely helpful Puritans, or McCheyne’s diary. I didn’t even scratch the surface of church history. But my hope is that the aforementioned books would create a solid foundation and cause the next generation to seek further helps.

More than anything, though, it is my prayer that the next generation will have a hunger for knowing and living God’s Word.

Today in Blogworld 02.18.13

A Statement on Southern Baptist Soteriological Unity

This is a really good list compiled by Bart Barber. I might have a few minor quibbles but I could sign my name to this document. (Bart’s not intending to create a movement, he just wants to make a point that we have a ton of important issues in common).

Luke 24 and the Christological Hermeneutic

Matt Waymeyer says that Luke 24 does not justify a christological hermeneutic (that is a fancy way of saying “reading Christ in every passage”). At the end of the day I’m going to disagree. But I think there are some good points here to consider.

Suffering for the Gospel in Unity with Jesus

We are all called to suffering in the gospel, but not all of us the same way. Eric McKiddie gives three ways to suffer for God’s glory in your ministry.

How Can I Tell If I’m Called to Pastoral Ministry?

This is a question that many believers have asked. Kevin DeYoung’s list here is very helpful.

This might be only funny for me. But give it a minute or two, so that you can thoroughly hypnotized:

Sunday, February 17, 2013

7 Ways to Interpret the Bible Like a Pharisee

I made this list awhile back and hoped to return to it. Over a year later here I am. Here are 7 ways that the Pharisees seemed to interpret the Bible.

1. Make the text about something other than Jesus. In John 5:39 Jesus accused the Pharisees of searching the Scriptures to find eternal life but failing to see Jesus in them. Reading the Old Testament (or the New) to find something other than Jesus is to misread their intention.  

2. Force the text to fit into your pre-made theological mold. In Mark 2:18-28 Jesus faces the hot button issues of his contemporary Judaism; namely, fasting and the Sabbath. They had a pre-conceived idea of who the Messiah was going to be. They expected him to fit their mold. By using an illustration of new wine and old wineskins Jesus teaches them that He doesn’t fit into a pre-made mold. He must speak for Himself. The same is true of the inspired Scriptures.

3. Do not bother to consider whether your implications and applications have an organic relationship with the text.  In Matthew 7 the Pharisees are bent out of shape because the disciples were eating with “defiled” hands. This Mark tells us was because they were following the tradition of the elders. They are trying to convict Jesus of breaking the Mosaic Law but he isn’t. He’s breaking their implications and applications of the Mosaic Law. Application which obviously did not have an organic relationship with the text. Our implications and application of the Scripture ought to have an organic relationship to the meaning of the text.

4. Exalt the literal (wooden) over the literary (story). You see this one whenever the Pharisees laugh at Jesus saying he is going to tear down the temple. And when Nicodemus scoffs at a man entering into the womb a second time. Both of these were Old Testament themes that should have been picked up if they were reading it like a story. But instead they continued to read things in a literal and wooden fashion. Not that we don’t take the Scriptures literally. Nor should we engage in some sort of wild allegorical interpretation. But the overall story ought to drive our literal reading.

5. By all means bypass the heart. This is perhaps the most common critique of the Pharisees. In Jesus’ woes against the Pharisees in Matthew 23 center on the heart. It is clear that when the Pharisees read the Scriptures they were looking for an outward way of living and did not address the heart. Jesus helps us to see that what really matters is the heart. And our hearts are far more wicked than the religious might outwardly display. To get to the heart will show our desperate need for Christ in every sphere of life.

6. Get caught up in speculation, making the Bible about answering your questions. The fact that the Pharisees had lengthy books arguing about things so tedious that it’d make those how-many-angels-dancing-on-a-pin guys chuckle a bit. We see this even in the gospel accounts when they frequently come up to Jesus asking questions about speculation.

7. Read yourself wrongly into the text.  Example: Rather than seeing yourself like Cain, interpret the text as if you are Abel. You can see this evidenced in the Pharisee and the tax collector. The Pharisee is the winner. When he reads himself into a text he’s the hero. They are the guys that wouldn’t have shed the blood of the prophets (Mt. 23) yet they are partially responsible for slaying the son of God.

Now, that’s how the Pharisees did it. Do you see yourself in their interpretive methods? I know I can see myself there. Let us search the Scriptures with the hopes that they’ll point us to Christ and stir up our hearts to worship. Above all may we be more concerned with being mastered by the Word Himself instead of our own mastery of the word of God.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Review of The Joy of Calvinism


What comes to your mind when you hear that word? Some hear that word and start foaming at the mouth. For many this word elicits debate. Many think of a cold and stale religion. Others think of doctrines of grace that need to be vigorously defended. Some think of TULIP’s and formulas to be defended.

When Greg Forster think of Calvinism the first word that comes to his mind is “joy”. He believes that “real Calvinism is all about joy”. It is to prove this point that he has written The Joy of Calvinism.

It is not his intention to say that those that are not Calvinists have no joy. In fact Forster believes that “all the major traditions confess the same doctrines that are central to Calvinism”. The only difference is that Calvinists “preserve these doctrinal commitments more purely and follows them more consistently than other traditions do”.

After taking a brief detour to explain and defend Calvinism, Forster tackles some of those hard to swallow doctrines and shows how they are consistent with evangelical commitments and actually leads to further joy. The author attempts throughout to show how such sticky doctrines as limited atonement, unconditional election, and irresistible grace are actually just more consistent with the core of Christian belief.

First, he argues that Calvinists are more consistent in saying that God loves you personally. For every other tradition the “work of Jesus is creating a system of salvation. All it does is create the system…” but none can consistently say that Jesus died to save them personally. Save for those who hold to the Calvinistic tradition. Limited atonement teaches that Jesus actually died for actual people.

Secondly, Forster argues that adopting anything other than unconditional election leaves one in a difficult position of prioritizing systems over people. Only the Calvinist can consistently say that “God loves you so much that he will utterly demolish all obstacles in order to save you”.

He also compellingly argues that God’s love for us irresistible and unbreakable. In the new birth God completely transforms a sinners heart. Yes, contrary to their fallen wills, he gives us a new heart. As Forster explains:

God changes our natural systems of thinking, feeling, and willing not by working within the framework of our natural system, like a counselor, but by cutting out our natural system and transplanting a new one, like a surgeon.

In some ways his fourth chapter seems almost unnecessary. If God has went through such depths to save us isn’t it only logical that he would go through an equally great length to keep us. He concludes by restating his overall thesis that Calvinism does indeed help in our quest for joy in God. A lengthy appendix that attempts to answer various questions posed of Calvinism is also attached for the readers help.

My Take

I doubt I will hand this book to my non-Calvinist friends. I should restate that. I doubt I will hand this book to my settled non-Calvinistic friends. If someone is in a neutral position or wanting to learn more I believe they would benefit from this book. But if someone is a convinced non-Calvinist I doubt this book will change their minds. Not that it is isn’t good. It is. But I think his audience isn’t to a convinced non-Calvinist. His audience seems to be those of a Calvinistic persuasion that need a kick in their worship. And also to defend Calvinism to those that have only heard wrong stereotypes.

For me personally there were times when I had to put the book down and just marvel at the goodness of God. Forster is right, this doctrine ought to cause worship and profound joy. It even sparked my prayer life and gave me even more confidence that God can save anyone. Furthermore, it gave a boost in my evangelistic preaching. After reading Forster’s third chapter I put together a passionate sermon for our teenagers, opening up for them how much God actually overcomes in saving us. In it was an appeal to unbelievers as well. At least in my heart this book has done what it set out to do; give me more joy in Christ.

Should You Buy It?

It depends on what you are looking for. If you are genuinely curious about what Calvinist believe then I think this book might serve as a really helpful introduction. Or if you are a Calvinist looking to grow in your worship, at least in my experience this book will assist in that. It’s probably not a book for everybody but for those that it is written for you will be immensely blessed.

You can buy it here.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

People You’ve Probably Never Heard Of But Should: Asahel Nettleton

If the Lord tarries for one hundred years and some chap like myself decides to start a series of blog articles on people you’ve probably never heard of, do you think that Billy Graham would be one of those forgotten leaders? That seems shocking doesn’t it? How could a man that has been influential in seeing thousands come to Christ be forgotten when we talk about church history? Impossible, right?

It is estimated that 30,000 people were converted to Christ due to the ministry of Asahel Nettleton. Yet, most of us have not heard of this man of God.

Little Asahel was born to a Connecticut farming family in 1783. He was converted during a season of revival in the early 1800s. His heart was soon stirred to follow Christ in missions. To this end, and with much difficulty, he attended Yale. At the time Yale was a sturdy evangelical school led by Timothy Dwight (the grandson of Jonathan Edwards).

By 1811 Nettleton was preaching. His intention was still foreign missions but the Lord would have him to be an itinerant preacher instead. Almost from the beginning the Lord blessed Nettleton’s preaching and ministry. By the time of his death in 1844 he was instrumental in seeing some 30,000 people come to know Christ.

Why You Should Know Him:

If you have any familiarity with revivals/revivalism you are probably asking yourself how many of those 30,000 decisions for Christ actually stuck. Consider this: “of the 84 converts in an 1818 revival at Rocky Hill, Connecticut — according to their pastor’s report 26 years later — all 84 had remained faithful. Similarly, only three spurious conversions out of 82 professed commitments were noted by another pastor in his report on revival services held in Ashford, Connecticut.” (Source)

There were two prominent contemporaries of Nettleton. One such man was Nathaniel Taylor. Taylor and Nettleton were actually friends at Yale. The two went separate ways. Taylor embraced what has come to be known as New Haven Theology.

Taylor denied original sin. He believed that Adam’s sin was not imputed to any man but that men were guilty when they have sinned themselves. All men are able to choose the right path but none do. Taylor further denied the doctrine of election. The New England Theology of Jonathan Edwards (Calvinism) was “in” during this time. Taylor and one of his disciples, Charles Finney, were instrumental in changing that tide. Taylor did not view the death of Christ as actually saving any man but only introducing a system whereby men might be saved.

Nettleton rejected this. He also rejected the “dangerous methods” of Charles Finney. Finney, a Pelagian, adopted a more emotional approach to evangelism. He hoped to influence the free will of men through their emotions. This led to an influx of such things as the altar call. Men like Nettleton rejected this and hoped to appeal to the will with the power of truth.

To contrast the ministry of Nettleton with Finney/Taylor is telling and instructive for our generation. By some accounts Finney had produced over 500,00 converts. “Produced” is probably the correct term. Finney’s contemporary supporters (and later even Finney himself) believed that a good number of these had not remained in the faith.

Nettleton serves as a great example of faithfully plodding in gospel ministry.


Nettleton had a deep and abiding confidence in the power of God and His Word to convert sinners. That is evident in his various writings:

We have no new Gospel, no other terms of salvation than those that have always been held out for acceptance. The sinner has been taught invariably that he must not look for comfort without submission. And such has been the faithfulness of our spiritual teachers, that, in most cases, those who have been slain by the law, and brought to despair of climbing up some other way, have been led directly to the Saviour, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life; and who has always been ready and willing to receive them.

Though he strongly opposed the work of Finney he was always cordial and loving in his discussions with him. He embodied what he said here:

We may talk of the best means of doing good; but, after all, the greatest difficulty lies in doing it in a proper spirit. Speak- the truth in love, in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves — with the meekness and gentleness of Christ.

Lastly, it is helpful in a day when Calvinism is equated with a lack of evangelism or passion for the lost, to read the words of Nettleton’s appeals to sinners:

A certain individual said to him: "I cannot get along with the doctrine of election."

"Then," said Nettleton, "get along without it. You are at liberty to get to heaven the easiest way you can. Whether the doctrine of election is true or not, it is true that you must repent, and believe, and love God. Now, what we tell you is, that such is the wickedness of your heart, that you never will do these things unless God has determined to renew your heart. If you do not believe that your heart is so wicked, make it manifest by complying with the terms of salvation. Why do you stand cavilling with the doctrine of election? Suppose you should prove it to be false, what have you gained? You must repent and believe in Christ after all. Why do you not immediately comply with these terms of the gospel? When you have done this, without the aids of the divine grace, it will be soon enough to oppose the doctrine of election . Until you shall have done this, we shall still believe that the doctrine of election lies at the foundation of all hope in your case."

Further Reading:

This is a nice short biographical sketch of Nettleton, The Forgotten Evangelist.

There is a book by Bennet Tyler on the Life and Labors of Asahel Nettleton. You can purchase it here. Or you can try to piece it together for free at Google Books (and also here). Honestly, if you are really interested I’d just spend the 15 bucks and get the book.

Iain Murray has done a ton of work on this period. Much is said of Nettleton, Taylor, and Finney in his work Revival and Revivalism.

Finding whole sermons of Nettleton’s is difficult. You’ll find most of the existing ones and a few other resources here.

Does Jesus Teach Tithing in Matthew 23?

How do I write a post about tithing when my point is really nothing about tithing? The title probably didn’t help my case any. What I want you to take away from this is more a way of reading the Scriptures and less a principle of giving.

I’ll say up front that my view of tithing is very similar to that of Dave Miller outlined here. If you want to use tithing as a guide and talk about giving on top of it, by all means go for it. If we read an article like Dave’s and think “woohoo now I can give 7% instead of 10%”, then shame on us for being such greedy misers. We don’t get giving anymore than the next guy. But I’ll leave all the arguing about tithing for Dave’s post. My main concern is with how we read the Bible.

On to Matthew 23.

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel! (emphasis mine).

Here Jesus tells the Pharisees that they ought to have tithed their spice rack. I wouldn’t go so far as to say he praises them for their straining of a gnat, but he certainly affirms their dedication to tithing. Clearly Jesus affirmed tithing for these Pharisees.

Nail in the coffin. Case closed. Pry open that checkbook, grab your calculator, do the math and give your 10%?


In Matthew 5:23-24 Jesus speaks of the need to reconcile with our brother before “offering your gift at the altar”. Now when we read this we just gloss over it and think of that place at the front of the church building where we go to pray or ask Jesus to save us. But that is not what Jesus had in mind when he says, “altar”. He is talking about an offering that was tied to the sacrificial system. That “altar” isn’t a place to just pray. It’s a place where something is going to die.

We know that in order to follow this text we don’t need to “leave our gift at the altar”. We don’t have bloody-sacrifice-an-animal altars and nor should we (read Hebrews). His point is that reconciliation to our fellow man takes precedence even over person acts of worship. His mention of the altar is simply a reflection of his living in the time of the Old Covenant.

Back to Matthew 23

Jesus affirms the Pharisees in tithing their spice rack because they lived under the old covenant. They would have been sinning not to follow this command. Even Christ Himself was born under the law. He was circumcised just like every other Jew. He paid tithes. He did everything that was required of one that was born under the Law.

But when Jesus ushered in the new covenant all of those shadows disappeared. The Levitical priesthood is gone. As Tom Schreiner has noted, “The tithe is irretrievably tied to the old covenant, which is no longer in force”. Tithing is not taught in Matthew 23 any more than offering sacrifices is taught in Matthew 5. And this is not because these are unbelieving Pharisees but because this is a statement that belongs to the Old Covenant.

Now if you want to make an argument that the tithe belongs in the New Covenant go for it. But I do not believe you can use Matthew 23 (or Luke 11) in your defense. It’s important that we read the Bible in light of the fulfillment of Christ.

This has massive implications for the way that we consider the role of the OT Law for believers today. For help with this I would suggest two phenomenal books by Tom Schreiner. First, his less technical book 40 Questions About Christians and Biblical Law. Second, his more technical The Law and It’s Fulfillment.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Hump Day Humor: Need a Valentine’s Date?

It’s Valentine’s Day tomorrow.

Some of my readers might be single and needing a date. If that is the case and if you lean towards Calvinism (or if you want to score a date with someone who does) try these sweet pick up lines. Or even if you’ve been married for over 40 years and want to sweep your honey off her feet.

This is old but still funny…kind of like my grandpa:

Today in Blogworld 02.13.13

How to Stop Church Killing Gossip

Few things cripple a church like gossip. Here are a few ways to stop it.

Should I Get Re-Baptized?

As one that has asked this question for myself numerous times I found this a very helpful article from Challies (who really just introduces a snippet from JD Greear’s new book).

The Dangerous Power of Online Messaging

“Every day, relationships are damaged through online messaging.” I am becoming increasingly convinced of this. Brian Howard explains.

Winston Churchill’s Black Dog

This is an article showing how depression helped win World War II.

I've been listening to a ton of Jack White stuff lately. So, I just had to post this:
Jack White - Love Interruption & Freedom At 21... by IdolxMuzic

9 Ways Small Groups Go South

Have you ever been part of a really bad small group*?

I know I have.

Some small groups are terrible because nobody talks. Others are terrible because no matter what the topic is some dude brings the whole discussion back to his hobby horse. Others make you want to hit yourself in the face with a 2 x4 simply because the second that you actually start looking like a legit life group super-spiritual-Sammy quotes a few Bible verses and shuts down any discussion.

One of the things that I am working on in our church at present is helping our life groups grow and become more focused. In doing this I’ve created a Life Group Leader Training**. One topic that we discussed was where Life Groups go south. Many of these are connected and only symptoms of other things. In this instance I shot with a shotgun instead of a rifle so the leaders could grab hold of something tangible. And I thought it might be good to share with you.

How Life Groups Go South

  1. By not seeing the necessity of community. If Life Groups are nothing more than a program they’ll go south pretty quickly. When they are viewed as vital to our life together then we’ll take them far more seriously.
  2. By not having ownership (leader, group). This is connected to the first one. If Life Groups are just the preachers idea it won’t go anywhere. Ownership of a Life Group (by both leader and group) is like the fuel that motivates many of the other things in this list. When you have ownership of something you’ll do the necessary work of changing what needs to change, like lovingly telling Hobby Horse Hank that he ought to talk about something else once in awhile.
  3. By being centered on something other than the gospel. Some groups can be centered on very good things—but soon enough they’ll go south. The only One powerful enough to bind together sinners into meaningful community is the Spirit. And the Spirit is about exalting Christ. When we start exalting something else as primary we lose our glue.
  4. By showing a lack of hospitality. Groups ought to be growing or else they will become stagnant and die. You can’t grow if you have really poor hospitality.
  5. By having a culture with a lack of gospel love. If Life Groups are really going to be life giving then there had better be an atmosphere of genuine repentance, confession, and love. How else will sinners come to find life? 
  6. By not outward focused. If we are not careful our Life Groups can become cliques. One way to prevent this is to be intentionally outward focused. We always challenge our groups to think of unbelievers they could invite to join us.
  7. By only meeting when obligated. This is more of a symptom, but it is important. When Life Groups really love one another they’ll want to get together more than just when the group meets. It’s wise to schedule opportunities for this to happen.
  8. By not reproducing leaders. Leaders should always look for other leaders within their group. We are constantly challenging our Life Groups to grow and multiply into other Life Groups. This can only happen when leaders are being trained.
  9. By setting the expectations far too low. When we refuse to challenge our Life Groups we sign our names to their death sentence. We should search the Scriptures and paint a picture of community for our Life Groups that is as big and earth-shattering as what God paints. That’s where we aim as we celebrate baby-steps along that journey. Aiming at only what we think our people want is ripping off God’s people. If He intends to place them in a robust community how dare we attempt to create something different?


*Or life group, or community group, or cell group, or whatever you’ve decided to call your gathering of really cool and awesome people that get together to talk about Jesus and eat Doritos.

**In preparing for this I found myself repeatedly helped by Brad House’s excellent book Community. It’s possible that some of his wording or lists have slipped into this article. So, if you found something helpful credit him. If it’s dumb, it probably came from me.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

How Would You Like This Résumé?

How would you like to have this on your résumé?

  • Wrote a best-selling book
  • Wrote arguably the most popular hymn of all time
  • Faithfully married to your sweetheart for 40 years
  • Pastor a growing church for 15 years
  • Pastor a thriving church in the largest city in the country
  • Instrumental in ending the slave trade
  • Wrote hundreds of letters that are still being read today

That is only a small portion of what John Newton could write. He could also list the names of William Wilberforce, William Cowper, Hannah More, and a host of others of whom he was influential in their life. Newton was also a key behind the scenes influence on the modern missionary movement. His influence is still be uncovered even in our day.

One might be tempted to having a life and ministry similar to that of Newton. Reading his writings makes me want to drink deeply from the well that is Christ. I further want to make an impact for the kingdom as Newton did. You might say that part of me seeks great things.

All of these accomplishments happened to John Newton after 1764 (save for his marriage to Polly). Listen to a somewhat discouraged Newton in 1761:

My comfort is comprised in this one sentence—“I know whom I have believed”. I know that Jesus is mighty to save; I have seen myself lost in every view—but the hope of his mercy; I have fled to him for safety; I have been preserved by him thus far; and I believe he will keep that which I have committed to him even to the end. Blessing and honor, and glory and praise, be to his name, who has loved poor sinners, and washed them in his most precious blood! Amen.

For the rest, alas! alas! I am unfaithful and unprofitable to a degree you would hardly believe; yet, vile as I am, I taste of his goodness every day, and live in hope, that in his own time he will enable me to show forth his praise. I have been much exercised with respect to the ministry; my heart is led that way—but the Lord's hand keeps me in; I need much humbling; there is that in me which seeks great things, though I am, as I said, sadly unfaithful in small ones; therefore, for my pride, I am set aside for the present.

In the early 1750’s Newton felt a tug to pursue vocational ministry. Finally in 1757 he applied to be ordained as a priest in the Church of England. He was not met with willing arms. He was met with denial. This is why Newton says, “I am set aside for the present”. The above quote was written in 1761. It wouldn’t be until 1764 that Newton was finally ordained.

Most of us would desire Newton’s resume. Less are as willing to embrace the humbling. In 1761 Newton was learning the lesson of being faithful in the small things. What is interesting is that this seemed to be the call of his entire life. Most of the things on that resume were thrust upon him. A good portion of them came as a result of him just being faithful in the small things and the Lord gave them increase.

Newton is drinking deeply from the fountain of Jesus. He believes that if the Lord sees fit he will eventually “enable me to show forth his praise”. Until that time Newton knows that he needs to be faithful in the small things and rest in the Lord’s unending grace.

Résumés like Newton’s seldom come without an equal catalog of humbling.

Today in Blogworld 02.12.13

Gospel Centeredness Requires a High View of the Law

Amen! As our view of the Law diminishes so does our view of the gravity of sin. And once that diminishes so does the Cross. Great piece here by Tim Brister.

I Will Not Let You Go

This is a powerful story. Greg Lucas got into a fist-fight…and it taught him something about rebellion and God’s persistence. Be sure to read the whole thing.

Top 10 Reasons the Church is Losing Our Youth

Justin Taylor summarizes a lengthy article by Marc at 5 Solas.

10 Foolish Obstacles to the Foolishness of Preaching

“The Gospel message is foolishness to the world. But so is the Gospel medium – preaching.” David Murray shows 10 obstacles that every preacher has to overcome. Thus showing that this medium is quite “foolish”.

This is a tremendous story of the power of grace:

Seeing God’s Hand When He’s Holding the Hand of Another

It had been a really bad few years for the Israelites. And in the midst of this intense suffering the Lord says to them through the prophet Isaiah:

“Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you, I give men in return for you, peoples in exchange for your life. Fear not, for I am with you; I will bring your offspring from the east, and from the west I will gather you…”

The Lord promised to Israel that she was special to him. He was going to rescue her and bless her abundantly.

And then He starts holding the hand of Cyrus. “Thus says the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have grasped…” You don’t expect the name Cyrus in that sentence. You expect something like Hezekiah or Uzziah or some other Jewish sounding name. Not Cyrus.

And so the Lord holds the hand of Cyrus and causes him to make some serious bank. He blesses Cyrus in a way similar to what He said was going to happen for Israel. Certainly this would have caused great consternation for the faithful Israelites.

We have the advantage of history.

We can look back and read Isaiah as well as Ezra/Nehemiah and see how God used Cyrus to bless the Israelites. Cyrus was God’s instrument to fulfill His promises to the Israelites.

Yet I have to wonder what it looked like to the Israelites when they were actually living this. I know in my own life it seems as if the Lord is doing the exact opposite of the promises that He has made. It seems like rather than restoring us he is wrecking us. Sometimes the gospel of peace feels like everything but. From the outside it can look like the Lord is giving all of the fruit of His promise to those like Cyrus while His church is left to sift through ashes.

In my weaker moments I want to bicker and complain and try to tell the Lord that the way that He is shaping His church is totally backwards. “Why does He have to raise up a Cyrus? Why not a Hezekiah. Why can’t the sovereign and all-wise Lord of the universe fill His church with passionate and holy worshippers without all of these bumps along the way?” And to these bickering and foolish questions the Lord says:

Woe to him who strives with him who formed him, a pot among earthen pots! Does the clay say to him who forms it, ‘What are you making?’ or ‘Your work has no handles?’

There is beauty here that should calm my questioning heart. God can use even a Cyrus that doesn’t know Him to bless His church and fulfill His covenant promises. Everything in all of creation is at His disposal to actually accomplish the rich blessings that He has promised to us. This ought to cause great comfort. So when I see Him holding the hand of another, and I feel cast off to the side for a season, it is best for me to trust in His wisdom. And know that His holding the hand of another isn’t divorced from His earlier promise to do me much good.

Monday, February 11, 2013

The Devotional Side of Calvinism

“Real Calvinism is all about joy”, says Greg Forster. In his book of The Joy of Calvinism he hopes to defend that statement. He believes that Calvinism is a wonderful path to rejoice in the Lord always. Calvinists have gotten a bad rap and a good amount of that is our fault. But at it’s heart Calvinism is about joy.

I’ll review the book on Friday, but in the meantime I want to give you a taste.

The trouble is that people outside the Calvinistic tradition only hear the formulas and technicalities. They don’t hear what we say ‘within’ Calvinism; they only hear what we say about Calvinism. So while Calvinists produce reams of positive, spontaneous, and devotional religious writings, the outside world never knows. If it hears our devotional voices at all, it never associates that devotion with our Calvinism; it thinks we’re pious in spite of our Calvinism, not because of it. “Calvinism” to the outside world means only the formulas, technicalities, and negations.

I pray along with Forster that this changes. A good place to start is by giving this book a read. It’s actually on sale this week for under 5 bucks.

5 Reasons a Calvinism Discussion Doesn’t Matter

Earlier today I explained why this discussion on Calvinism matters. Now I’m going to explain in what way this discussion doesn’t matter and why I wish we’d spend our efforts elsewhere. Apparently 5 points are really helpful for discussion…so in honor of all the problems those five points have caused…here are 5 reasons why this Calvinism discussion doesn’t matter.

Truth is the Spirit’s job

I don’t need to be the truth police. I cannot change someone’s heart and make them embrace the truth. All I can do is present the truth as I see it in Scripture and leave it up to the work of the Spirit. It’s not my job to beat truth into someone’s head. Besides there is a decent chance that I’m wrong myself. There are likely doctrines of which I hold (yes even important ones) of which I’ll need to repent of no more than 5 minutes after entering into heaven.

If I really believe that leading brothers and sisters into all truth is the Spirit’s job it changes the way that I interact with them. John Newton is instructive here. When explaining his position on election and perseverance he said, “If you should accede to my opinions upon my persuasion only, you would be little benefited by the exchange”. Newton knew that what really mattered was the Spirit’s work upon the man to whom he was speaking. And it made him humbly present his position, love the man, and leave the results of the discussion up to the Lord.

Unity and love are more important

I love doctrine as much as the next guy. But I’m becoming increasingly convinced that love and unity are more important. Yes I believe that the fuel for love is doctrine. But I also believe that when Jesus was praying for us his central concern was that we be united and show love for one another. And this not merely in talk but in actually loving sinners like ourselves.

These discussions serve as a great barometer of our hearts. I agree with Newton that there is a “principle of self, which disposes us to despise those who differ from us; and we are often under its influence, when we think we are only showing a becoming zeal in the cause of God”. If in the midst of our differences love and unity flow out, then we know that gospel is gaining ground over self.

Lengthy debates are seldom helpful

Seldom do lengthy debates lead to the fruit that we desire. Even if a few people are won to a right position a good number of people are slain in the crossfire. I do see Jesus and Paul reasoning with people and even engaging in debate. Yet I never see them drawn out. (Perhaps because they entrusted the work to the Spirit).

Again I turn to Newton:

We may become wise in notions, and so far masters of a system, or scheme of doctrine, as to be able to argue, object, and fight, in favor of our own hypothesis, by dint of application, and natural abilities; but we rightly understand what we say, and whereof we affirm, no farther than we have a spiritual perception of it wrought in our hearts by the power of the Holy Ghost. It is not, therefore, by noisy disputation, but by humble waiting upon God in prayer, and a careful persual of his holy word, that we are to expect a satisfactory, experimental, and efficacious knowledge of the truth as it is in Jesus.

I like to share my position from Scripture and maybe stick around for a few questions. But I’ve never found great fruit come from lengthy debates on an issue. If it gets overly heated I can’t just chalk it up to a “I’m just really passionate about this”. I know that it’s the flesh that’s warring (no matter what side of the aisle) and I know that this zeal isn’t from the Lord.

Implications matter but aren’t central

I like what Charles Simeon said to John Wesley. After outlining the things of which they agreed Simeon said this to Wesley:

Then, Sir, with your leave I will put up my dagger again; for this is all my Calvinism; this is my election my justification by faith, my final perseverance: it is in substance all that I hold, and as I hold it; and therefore, if you please, instead of searching out terms and phrases to be a ground of contention between us, we will cordially unite in those things where in we agree.

Yes, Calvinism will have certain implications for ministry and living the Christian life that those of a different persuasion will not approve of. The same is true vice versa. These matter. See my post on why Calvinism discussions matter. Yet at the end of the day the implications are not central.

Usually after a couple salient points these conversations degenerate into ridiculous but/if scenarios. Most of the discussion is on implications. “If we embrace this, then…” While some of these might even be true they aren’t central nor is it helpful to any sort of discussion.

Points of which we contend aren’t what the church needs

As I see it the major points of contention are not central to the gospel. Yes there are HUGE implications that come from what you believe on these issues. But they aren’t central and in many instances they aren’t even secondary matters.

Here are some of the major issues that I see:

  • Can I tell a lost person that Jesus died for them? While I understand this question and what is behind it, I don’t see why it matters. The scriptural accounts of someone sharing the good news of the risen Christ are pretty simple. They share the claims of Jesus and then say therefore, repent and believe the gospel. “For whom did Christ die?” doesn’t matter when it comes to sharing the gospel.
  • What did we inherit from Adam? Again this has quite a few implications. But allow me to ask a couple of questions. Are all men guilty now? So why does it matter so much to debate this? What about babies? Let’s be honest at the end of the day anything that we construct is exegetically flimsy. The best we have is that the judge of the earth will do what is right. That leaves a ton of comfort for me because I know that God is good. 
  • Which came first regeneration or faith? Once again several implications from this. But does it really matter? Are there scores of people walking out there that aren’t regenerate but who have faith? Nope. Are there scores of people that don’t have faith but might be regenerate? Even if a Calvinist says yes, won’t this person then have faith? So, why does it matter? Aren’t these really inseparable graces? Are we really going to divide or debate over which inseparable grace came first?
  • Are people saved because God foreknew them or because God foreknew they would choose God? Several implications to this one. But at the end of the day do you say that God saves sinners? If you do then perhaps we’re just debating about an eternal decree.

Even if we solved each of these issues and came to an agreement on them I’m not certain that all of our churches would be transformed. What we really need are passionate worshippers of Jesus that obediently live out the truth that they do know. By and large we have an obedience problem far more than we have a doctrinal unity problem. And I believe the sinful way that this discussion is often carried out is evidence of that.

What will transform our churches is a robust gospel of a holy God that is wholly other that has purposed to save sinners. Obedience to that gospel will revolutionize our churches. Falling in love with this Jesus will cause us to boldly proclaim the gospel in the dark places of our world. This same thing will create in believers a heart that treasures Christ more than the lures of the world. And we’ll be about the business of making disciples as the Great Commission compels us AND loving God and others as the Great Commandment exhorts us. 

This is what we need. Not another lengthy argument.

Today in Blogworld 02.11.13

How Do We Cherish Virginity Without Moralistic Fearmongering

“Must we teach our teens to be responsible, to cherish their purity, and to save the gift of sexual intimacy for marriage? Yes, without question. But so many of our efforts amount to condemning present affections without that expulsive power of a new one. We give them the “no” to sex with a “yes” to virginity or freedom from disease and pregnancy, but no “yes” is as propulsive for saying “no” to sin as the “yes” that is in Jesus.” Read more…

When the Light Comes On

A great reminder of what it was like to be in the dark where God is concerned. And also what it is like to have the lights on.

9 Things You Should Know About Pope Benedict XVI

The Pope has resigned. First time that has happened in 600 years. Joe Carter gives us a few facts on the current pope.

Christian Hedonism and the Challenge of Depression

These are links to a few Ask Pastor John Daily Podcast sessions. They center around the question of Christian hedonism and how it relates to depression.

Tim Keller will be putting out expository guides to the Bible. His work on Galatians will be the first. Find out more:


Buy it here.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...