Sunday, March 31, 2013

Friday, March 29, 2013

The Greatest Lesson I Have Learned from John Calvin

  • Where did Satan come from?
  • Why did God create a world in which the New York Yankees (evil) would win more championships than the Kansas City Royals (righteous)?
  • In the mind of God which came first…the chicken or the egg?
  • If you were the only person in the world would Jesus have died for you?

These and a host of other questions are not directly or clearly answered in Scripture. There are many things that the Lord has not chosen to reveal to us. What I have learned from John Calvin is to ground all my knowledge of God in what God has revealed about Himself. If He has not revealed something to us in Scripture we shouldn’t plunge too deeply or speak too confidently about it.

He is actually speaking of unbelievers here—but I think believers can fall prey to this as well:

Indeed, vanity joined with pride can be detected in the fact that, in seeking God, miserable men do not rise above themselves as they should, but measure him by the yardstick of their own carnal stupidity, and neglect sound investigation; thus out of curiosity they fly off into empty speculations. They do not therefore apprehend God as he offers himself, but imagine him as they have fashioned him in their own presumption. When this gulf opens, in whatever direction they move their feet, they cannot but plunge headlong into ruin.

This is only one quote among many in Calvin’s Institutes that helped me to see this grand point. Whenever the Scriptures are silent on something I’m pretty stupid to spend my time on speculation and I had best not speak with much certainty.

One of the statements that I make in my book*, Torn to Heal, is that me trying to solve the problem of evil is like a sumo wrestler attempting to river-dance on a patch of thin ice. He’s going to get in a few sweet moves here and there but eventually he is going to fall through the ice—making himself and every onlooker wet in the process. This statement was largely influence by John Calvin.

I can say this because God has not seen fit to solve the problem of evil in Scripture. I’m not responsible for untangling the paradoxes that the Lord has revealed to us in Scripture. I’m just responsible for grabbing hold, in faith, to everything that He has revealed. I don’t want to back away from anything that He has said. But I also don’t want to proudly proclaim a god of my own making.


*I am not certain as of yet if this statement will make the final cut.

Today in Blogworld 03.29.13

Dear Abused, Remember Jesus

A great reminder on Good Friday. For those abused, remember Jesus.

It’s the Little Things, OK It’s the Big Ones Too

A heartwarming reflection from RC Sproul, Jr. on the loss of his daughter and wife.

Does Gethsemane Separate the Trinity?

This is a super question. And a solid answer as well. This is a good question too, answered by Doug Wilson: Can We Say ‘God Died’?

Don’t Waste Your Spike!

Ed Stetzer helps churches to seize the Easter momentum.

I always love watching this.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

When Jesus Looks Like a Failed King

And John, calling two of his disciples to him, sent them to the Lord, saying, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?”

I don’t blame John for his question. Actually I identify with it. Sitting in a discouraging prison, looking upon a world that seems the opposite of Jesus’ rule, shaking his head wondering if maybe this isn’t the Mighty One that would baptize with the Spirit.

I wonder what John thought the world would look like once the Mighty One began His reign? Did he picture rejoicing throughout the land? Did he believe that Jesus would quickly overthrow his enemies and put justice in its place? Certainly he did not envision himself shackled by a wicked Roman ruler.

I understand why he asked that question. John’s world didn’t look like one painted by the Loving Messiah. It looked the opposite. And that discouraged him and caused him to question everything he knew to be true. I understand John’s question because I have asked it myself.

Is Jesus really overturning darkness? Is he really the One that He says that He is? John’s prison stay caused him to question Jesus’ identity and the validity of His reign.

A different prison

Fast forward a couple decades. A follower of Jesus, named Paul, is housed in a prison much like John the Baptist. Here is his response:

I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel…Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.

Rather than seeing his prison time as a hindrance to the kingdom of God, Paul saw it as a beautiful plan. You see, Paul wasn’t chained to a Roman guard in prison. A Roman guard was chained to the gospel. And once his shift changed a new unsuspecting victim would be handcuffed to Paul, who would then lovingly proclaim the gospel of Jesus.

Paul was able to see the reign of the Mighty One through prison bars. John saw it as defeat. My natural tendency is to be more like John the Baptist. (I am a Baptist, after all). I tell my daughter to watch out for the thorns while she smells a rose. I’m prone to darkness and discouragement. But the gospel transforms our natural tendencies.

The difference Maker

The difference between John the Baptist and the apostle Paul is the resurrection and the outpouring of the Spirit. I live in the age of Paul’s prison—not in the excuse of John’s.

Jesus’ answer to John is the same to use today. “Look…darkness is being overturned”. He’s also saying, “…blessed is the one who is not offended by me”. Which means, “blessed is the one that trusts me in prison instead of questioning my identity and the validity of my reign, just because I’m accomplishing my kingdom purposes in a way that flies in the face of everything you expected me to do”.

God is overturning your darkness and the darkness of our world. At times it doesn’t look like it, but that prison cell might be the very means that God uses to shovel dirt onto a defeated devil.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Why Ministers Need the Wilderness

“It takes a crucified man to preach a crucified Savior.” –Alexander Maclaren

“I abhor the thought of God being robbed of his glory…” That was part of the response that a young man was giving in one of my seminary classes. I shudder as I type the latter part of his comment. “…and if that means the damnation of infants then so be it”.

It’s not my concern to throw this dude under the bus. Truthfully, I see some of myself in him. Getting so wrapped in theology, idealism, and the way things ought to be that I forget the way that things actually are. Grace will likely grab hold of this young man and transform him. Jesus has a way of doing that. While we roll our eyes at statements like this (and maybe rightly so) Jesus moves in and administers grace. Grace that crushes…but grace still.

I was concerned that day as I thought about this young man pastoring a church. I was worried for him and for his congregation. Mostly because broken men don’t say things like that. Even if it were theologically true, broken men just don’t speak like that. As I’ve gone through seminary for a few years now I am becoming convinced that students should have to spend at least one semester in the furnace of suffering before we can graduate.

Jesus was 30…

And he didn’t start his public ministry until he was in the wilderness. The wilderness is necessary. As are the wilderness temptations. There in his, dare I say, weakness, Jesus was confronted with the full onslaught of hell.

  • Would he trust in God’s sufficient Word or would he rely on a quicker fix?
  • Would he plod along God’s redemptive (though rocky) road or would he sell-out to the flash?
  • Would he remain faithful to serving the Lord, careful to follow the God-ordained means or would he take the shortcut with no suffering?

Jesus conquered Gethsemane and embraced the Cross because he had already won that victory in the wilderness. The same applies to ministers today. It is in the wilderness that we learn to rely upon the Lord, to trust His narrow and often frightening path.

A broken minister

When the Lord bruises a man in the wilderness he doesn’t hide behind “correct theology” and call it “just speaking the truth”. He, with dust in his throat, simply holds the hand of the mother who lost her infant. He weeps with her. With nothing to say. No sermon to give. No lesson to be learned. No pontificating about the Lord’s glory. A broken man knows how to be silent and speak with only his empathetic brokenness.

Seminaries and churches that are training ministers ought to be careful about unleashing an unbroken man onto a congregation. Put him in the wilderness for awhile. Ministers need the wilderness.

The Influence of Dr. Albert Mohler

Yesterday marked the 20th anniversary of Albert Mohler’s election as president of Southern Seminary. (See this article by JT). It also marked day one of Russell Moore’s tenure as president of the Ethics and Religious Liberties Commission (ERLC).

Moore’s election puts him on an increasingly long list of entity heads that served closely with Dr. Mohler directly before attaining their current position*:

  • SEBTS – Danny Akin, Mohler’s Dean of Theology
  • MBTS – Jason Allen, Mohler’s VP for Institutional Advancement
  • NAMB – Kevin Ezell, Mohler’s pastor
  • LifeWay – Thom Rainer, Mohler’s Dean of Missions, Evangelism, & Church Growth
  • ERLC – Russell Moore, Mohler’s Dean of Theology

This is really quite astonishing if you think back to 1993.

Bill Clinton took office for his first term, the Cowboys actually won the Super Bowl, Joe Carter hit his epic homerun in Game 6 of the World Series, Beanie babies were released, Snow’s song Informer topped the charts, dudes were wearing carpenter pants, ladies were wearing neon, and Southern Seminary was in shambles.

To turn the SBC’s flagship school around a 33 year old newspaper editor named Albert Mohler was hired. Twenty years later Southern Seminary is churning out conservative gospel-centered young leaders to serve the SBC.

These young men and women that are passionate for the truth, for the church, for the world, for the glory of God.” Which just so happens to be the institutions motto. Which also reflects the central convictions of her president, Albert Mohler.

In his book, The Conviction to Lead, Dr. Mohler says:

The plans and visions of the leader will be outdated soon after his burial. The style of the leader is a personal signature. Your tastes will not be the tastes of the future. Yet none of this really matters. What matters is that the convictions survive.

I, for one, am grateful that the deeply held biblical convictions of Albert Mohler will survive into generations to come. I also pray that the Lord continues to work in the life of Dr. Mohler and Southern Seminary, for the truth, for the church, for the world, and for the glory of God.


*I am indebted to Ben Simpson for this list.

Today in Blogworld 03.27.13

Better to Give Than to Receive

I enjoyed this piece by Challies. I had to chuckle at this statement: “For a long time I was stingy in linking to other sites, thinking that in some strange way affirming another person’s success or contribution was lowering my own, as if a vote for them was a vote against me.” I used to be the exact same way.

Three views on elder’s “faithful” children

Scripture says, “[An elder must be] someone who is blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of wildness or rebellion”. There are three different ways that we apply that verse.

Russell Moore Elected Next ERLC President

I am sad to see Dr. Mohler leave but ecstatic to see him fill this position. To think that Dr. Moore will now be speaking for Southern Baptists on ethical issues gets me excited.

Why the Arguments for Gay Marriage Are Persuasive

Kevin DeYoung tells us why gay marriage fits with our cultural moods and assumptions.

My apologies if you start singing along with the real NWA Song:

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

12 Ways to Serve Your Readers

This morning I noted that the word platform makes me cringe a little. I shared my philosophy to worry more about loving and serving my reader than building my platform. Here are 12 ways you can love and serve your readers:

  1. Point to Jesus. Always.
  2. Work hard.
  3. Make them laugh.
  4. Write to your audience and not someone else’s.
  5. Don’t take yourself too seriously.
  6. Respond to comments with gentleness and respect.
  7. Don’t provoke them to sin by hosting needless controversy.
  8. Listen to them.
  9. Be vulnerable. If I’m struggling or asking a question someone else probably is too.
  10. Be hospitable. none of this, “it’s my blog home, leave if you don’t like it”.
  11. Quit when you’ve made your point

Today in Blogworld 03.26.13

8 Practical Ways to Celebrate Easter

Chuck Lawless gives eight practical ways to celebrate the resurrection of Christ.

On Creating a Disciple-Making Culture

It seems like everything Tim Brister puts together lately is immensely helpful to the church. This post also does not disappoint. These are 6 means that pastors/leaders should implement to help create a disciple-making culture in our churches.

10 Traits to Identify Potential Leaders

This is helpful for me at present. Ron Edmonson gives us 10 traits to look for in potential leaders.

The Old Man and His Big Book

David Mathis and Tony Reinke tell the story Robert Duncan Culver. Pieces like this warm my heart. I love hearing of men in their 90’s who still are enamored with Jesus and still plodding away for the sake of the Kingdom.

Micah Fries shared this new song from Aaron Keyes. I love it.

Why the Word “Platform” Makes Me Cringe a Little


I keep hearing that word. And every time I hear it, or read it, I cringe a little. In his book, Platform, Michael Hyatt says that “a platform is the thing you have to stand on to get heard.” He then notes that “today’s platform is built of people”.

That bothers me.

It causes my stomach to churn because of who it makes me as a writer. Not to mention what it makes you the audience. I don’t like calling my readers a platform. For one, I’m not a product. Secondly, you aren’t something that I desire to step on in order to be heard.

Once I begin viewing my readers as a platform it changes the questions that I ask. As I sit down to my keyboard, I want my controlling thought to be “will this build them up?” I don’t want my driving question to be, “will they promote this?” My goal is to build others up through my writing in such a way that they make Christ the only boast of this generation.

Yet, here’s the difficulty. And this is what Michael Hyatt is saying in Platform. How will I be able to build others up in Christ if I am never heard? That is why I need a platform. One of the tricky things to navigate, as a Christian using Web 2.0, is the fine line between standing on a platform that people built for you and standing on people as your platform.

My philosophy for navigating these tricky waters is simple, but hopefully not simplistic . It seems to be working…slowly but surely. Make it your aim to help people by pointing them to Jesus. Work really hard to love and serve your readers. Spend more time serving your readers and less time pimping your articles. If you love them and serve them they will come! And they’ll start bringing their friends too.

Though there are probably ways to create higher platforms and gain a wider reach in a shorter time, I am convinced that the best way to truly be heard is to think about your readers first and your platform much later.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Life After the Fires of Affliction

Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tried you in the furnace of affliction. –Isaiah 48:10

It was a terrific dog. For three whole weeks I had spent my time in 8th grade Art class crafting this marvelous ceramic dog. Now only one step stood between Fido and a sweet blue ribbon. That final step…cue the drums and dark music…was the furnace.

Fido didn’t make it. He kind of made it. But not really. He lost a leg, a tail, and his ears folded over. Truth be told he went into the furnace as a beautiful dog and came out the other end as a three-legged pig.

I had only one option. Fido’s dog days had to be over. He’d now have to become Wilbur the pig. So I put on him a curly tail, a new leg, and tweaked his face a little. One quick trip into the kiln and out came Wilbur the pig that used to be a dog.

The moral of the story: The furnace of affliction changes us.

As believers the Lord puts us into the furnace of affliction for our good and His glory. It is in the furnace of suffering that he chisels away our impurities. It is here that we become more moldable and easier to be used for His glory. We often go into the furnace as an arrogant dog, sure to win first prize. We come through the other end a maimed pig--but a maimed pig that is more fit to be used for God’s glory and more receptive to enjoying God.

Yet I find in my heart a terrible tendency on the other side of the kiln. After I’ve been through the season of affliction I expect things to soon return to normalcy. “Normalcy” meaning life before the kiln. I long for things to go back to how they were before the furnace.

But it can’t. Life can’t go back to how it was because I am no longer who I was when entering the furnace. And I’m not meant to be. Nor should I want to be. The furnace is meant to strip away the old and shape us into who God wants us to be.

When I come out the other end of the furnace I’m not charged with getting my life back to how it was before the season of affliction. I am charged with learning to live and walk and breathe in the new. Trying to live like Fido doesn’t work when God decided Wilbur the pig was a better option.

Walk in the new.

Today in Blogworld 3.25.13

Say Something Right Now, or Else!

Really great words here from Kevin DeYoung. When someone doesn’t speak to an issue it doesn’t mean that they are indifferent or that they agree/disagree with either party.

When Preachers Should Say Sorry

Here are three times preachers should say sorry.

Prepping for Easter Attacks

I appreciate this piece by Mark Driscoll. There are four ways that ministry leaders might get attacked during this Easter season. Watch out for them.

I Hate My Church

Seth McBee discusses what to do “if you are frustrated with the ministry approach of your local church”

Apparently it’s true that if you snooze you lose:

Friday, March 22, 2013

Help Select the Final Cover for Torn to Heal

Thanks for all of your support last week. Thanks to your votes the design team at Cruciform Press has narrowed down their selection to the top 5 covers. Here they are:

Go here to vote.

You can also read a sample chapter. And preorder your copy.

I appreciate all of your support and help in getting this book off the ground. Though I do not personally know some of my readers—you guys are tremendous. I appreciate your readership.

Today in Blogworld 03.22.13

Why Do Rookie Pastors Get Fired?

This is a tremendous piece by David Murray. Find out why he believes rookie pastors get fired. His answer is only two letters.

7 Mistakes in Public Speaking

I think I’ve made every one of them. But by the grace of God I believe I’m making them less.

A Writer’s Confession

These hurt. (HT: Challies)

How Many Hours Should Pastors Work?

Daryl Dash doesn’t give you a set number. But he does say, “There's no place for laziness in the pastorate, but there's no place for capitulating to unhealthy cultural patterns either.”

This is well done:

Thursday, March 21, 2013

You Deserve This Post

Finally. After 31 years of trying to convince people someone finally gets it. I am awesome and I deserve awesome things. This was confirmed to me in an email sent by Marriott, the luxurious* hotel chain. According to these dudes I’m entitled to a spa, a weekend stay, chocolates, and a bunch of other goodies. The subject of the email was simple: YOU DESERVE THIS.

Darn right, I do, Marriott. And I deserve one of those sweet cozy bath robes too.

Of course the jokers said at the bottom of the email that it would cost a few dead presidents for me to obtain the reward for my awesomeness. Nevertheless, I am feeling pretty good about myself after reading this email. Now two people—the secretary for Marriott’s CEO and my wife—agree that I’m pretty amazing.

Actually this is not a new message. I have been hearing this message since I was old enough to hear messages. I was told that I deserved A’s in school. And I got awards just for showing up. My cartoon shows told me that I could be anything that I wanted to be. I deserve success. Whilst pounding down McNuggets in the late 80’s I was reassured by Ronald that “I deserve a break today…” The health clinic down the road tells me that I also deserve to be healthy. I deserve an amazing house. Apparently I deserve that Camaro down the street (and not apparently my 2000 Oldsmobile Alero).

Thank you world, for recognizing what I’ve known all along! I’m amazing simply because I suck air.

I know that you are wondering what my next amazing trick is going to be. So I will tell you. Why? Because YOU deserve it, that’s why! My next trick will be to reinterpret this verse:

Will any one of you who has a servant plowing or keeping sheep say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and recline at table’? Will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, and dress properly, and serve me while I eat and drink, and afterward you will eat and drink’? Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty’.

Not cool, Jesus. I deserve to be thanked. I deserve to be applauded. Doesn’t he understand that if I have such a negative view of myself (unworthy servant) that I will not be able to do all of my awesome stuff? How can I possibly love other people if I’m not enamored with myself first?

This verse has to go.


Keep in mind that “luxurious” to an associate pastor raised in a town with a population of less than 1,000 will tend to be different than those of you that have actually experienced luxury.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Today in Blogworld 03.20.13

Battling Discouragement as a Pastor’s Wife

Pastor’s wives have it hard. And they often get discouraged living in the fish bowl. Amie Patrick gives some good advice on battling discouragement.

Rules for Writing

These are helpful. I would greatly benefit from #7.

Read the Fine Print Before Supporting “Marriage Equality”

The same-sex marriage debate has some fine print. Be sure that you read that before you sign on.

9 Things You Should Know About Duck Dynasty

I can’t get into it, but many of my friends love Duck Dynasty. Here are 9 things to familiarize you with this popular show.

Check out the dude digging for gold…then watch what he does:

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Two Rules For Blog Critique that Would Help Online Discussions

What are the top 5 blogs that you read? Now ask yourself about the length of each post. I’m guessing that your favorite blogs typically post articles that are about 800-1200 words in length.

Lengthy articles only get read by your most loyal of readers. Therefore, most bloggers will post articles with one simple point that can be made in under 1200 words. If it takes more than 1200 words to make your point then bloggers are advised to turn their idea into a series of posts.

Here is my point. Bloggers can’t shouldn’t fit everything they have to say about a particular topic into one post.

Therefore, I propose these two rules for blog critique that would help online discussions:

  1. Only critique what the author is saying. One of the rules to reviewing books is to deal with what the author actually wrote instead of what you thought he/she was going to write about. Perhaps you can offer a small critique and say, “I wish you would have written a chapter about ____”, but the thrust of your critique needs to be about what is actually there and not about what the author left out. The same applies to blogging—if not more so. There is always more that could be said. Don’t critique all of the things that the author could have said, just deal with what he/she did say.
  2. Don’t fault for a point the author does not make. Consider this post by Tim Challies on the issues surrounding Sovereign Grace Ministires. Tim’s point in this article is that those of us on the outside of a situation ought to withhold judgment until all of the facts come forth. In the meantime we ought to hope and pray for the best. At the same time we should be careful not to dig too deeply into matters that we are not directly involved in. Tim’s article caused an uproar. Some even accused him of “implying that Christians’ shouldn’t care if kids get molested in other churches”. His post is not dealing with how a church or a Christian should respond to child molestation. His post is about how Christians ought to think about controversies that they only see from the outside. Critique that if you will, but don’t accuse the author of paving the way for child molesters simply because he wasn’t making a point about abuse within the church.

There are exceptions to every rule. Occasionally a post is off base simply because of what is not being said. These ought to be exceptions and not the norm. Keep in mind that writers cannot fit everything into one particular piece. I close with these words from Lore Ferguson

Today in Blogworld 03.19.13

After being sick and not posting for a couple days, I should probably call this “a few days ago in blogworld”; at least until I get caught up.

10 Things to Consider Before Engaging in Controversy

Burk Parsons encourages us to examine ourselves before engaging in controversy. Here are ten questions to ask yourself. (HT: Z)

9 Things You Should Know About the Papacy

With the election of a new pope the papacy has been in the news a good deal recently. Here are 9 things you should know.

9 Ways to Boost Creative Thinking

Why are there so many lists of “9” things these days? Here is another one—this time 9 ways to boost your creativity.

The King of Clean Comedy

I love comedy. I seldom get to watch it because most of it is too vulgar. Jim Gaffigan is an exception. I appreciated this article about top comics “working clean”.

Here are 50 misconceptions debunked. (I’d like to research a few of these, but that’s because I’m a nerd)

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Should I Voluntarily Abstain From the Lord’s Supper

This is a question that we will address in our Life Groups this evening.

If I am struggling in my faith, where my love for Christ is faint, my love for other believers is hardening, and I’m having a hard time seeing the gospel should I take the Lord’s Supper when it is offered?

Allow me to make that question concrete.  Many pastors have us “examine ourselves” before we partake of the Lord’s Supper.  Typically we are urged to look at our hearts and see if there is a breach of fellowship between ourselves and another believer.  If so, we should make that right before we partake.  We are further urged to look at our life and our heart.  Is there known sin that we are refusing to give up?  If so, we need a serious time of confession before we partake. 

But what do I do if I look into my heart and see some of those really deep and tangled sins?  What if I am struggling in a relationship with another person, but it’s not just as simple as—“make things right”?  What if I find myself much like the man in Mark 9—“Lord I believe, help my unbelief”?  Should I take the Lord’s Supper when my faith is weak, I’m struggling with bitterness, and I’m having a hard time giving myself fully to the Lord?

I find John Calvin’s answer to this question helpful. In his day there was a rampant view that only “those who were in a state of grace ate worthily”.  This was defined as those who are “pure and purged of all sin”.  To such a view Calvin responds, “Such a dogma would debar all the men who ever were or are on earth from the use of this Sacrament”.

This doctrine (very similar to the scenario I mentioned above) Calvin says “deprives and despoils sinners, miserable and afflicted with trembling and grief, of the consolation of this Sacrament”. 

He then goes on to define what it really means to be “worthy” to take the Lord’s Supper. 

Therefore, this is the worthiness—the best and only kind we can bring to God—to offer vileness and (so to speak) our unworthiness to him so that his mercy may make us worthy of him; to despair in ourselves so that we may be comforted in him; to abase ourselves so that we may be comforted in him; to abase ourselves so that we may be lifted up by him; to accuse ourselves so that we may be justified by him; moreover, to aspire to that unity which he commends to us in his Supper…

Calvin continues…

How could we, needy and bare of all good, befouled with sins, half-dead, eat the Lord’s body worthily?  Rather, we shall think that we, as being poor, come to a kindly giver; as sick, to a physician; as sinners to the Author of righteousness; finally, as dead, to him who gives us life.

I appreciate Calvin’s pastoral sensitivity. For those reading this that are pastors, be careful in how you speak to these weak and feeble souls that may cut themselves off from this ordinance. 

For those that are reading this that are those weak and feeble souls, I want to encourage you that when you look into your heart and see darkness, sin, despair, bitterness, and a whole host of other things—your best response is not to run away from the table and try to go fix it.  Your best response is to run to Christ as represented in the Lord’s Supper. 



Originally posted here.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Two Resources for Practicing Biblical Church Discipline

Our church wants to take the SBC Resolution on Regenerate Church Membership seriously. In order to do this we need to think through the issue of church discipline. What are the best books to guide us in practicing biblical discipline?

Typically I give you a lengthy list. Not this time. There are only two (plus one + plus one) suggestions.

The absolute best book I have ever read on church discipline is Jonathan Leeman’s book The Church and the Surprising Offense of God’s Love. If you want to develop a theology of church discipline this is the place to turn (apart from the Scriptures of course). Leeman has also published Church Discipline: How the Church Protects the Name of Jesus. I have not had a chance to read this book—but I believe it is a more immediately helpful and practical.

The other book that I have found immensely helpful is The Handbook of Church Discipline by Jay Adams. Leeman’s is better, in my opinion, but this one is certainly worthy of your consideration. There are a few charts in here and practical steps that warrant a purchase.

The last resource that I want to suggest is one that I have not read. I am always cautious in suggesting resources that I have not read, but I have always benefited from the work of Ben Merkle. I would be shocked if his book, Those Who Must Give an Account, is not also a solid read. (Have any of my readers read this book? Can you tell me if it’s as solid as I assume it is?)

There you have it.

For only about 30 bucks and some time you will have a few helpful tools in navigating the choppy waters of practicing biblical church discipline.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Help Select Torn to Heal’s Book Cover

My first book, Torn to Heal, is releasing on May 1st. We need your help designing the cover. Our design team has narrowed their options down to these 11:

Which do you like the best?

You can read a sample chapter here: Torn to Heal Chapter One. After reading that chapter which cover do you feel best captures the books intention?

Go here and vote!!

Today in Blogworld 03.15.13

When the Black Dog Howls

Great article by Marty Duren on depression.

I’m Not a Brand

Aimee Byrd has written a book. Now she is beginning the awkward stage of marketing. I echo her sentiments. Especially when she says, “I am a person, not a brand.” Amen, Aimee.

The Anti-Beatitudes, As Taught By Satan

You’ve probably heard of the Beatitudes. These are the opposite.

The Tragedy of Dorothy Carey

Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God! This is the story of that guys wife.

Lecrae on how Romans 8 gives hope when life is hard:

A Leadership Lesson From @JohnPiper

In preparing a training session on hospitality I found myself wading through a few older John Piper sermons. In one particular sermon from 1985 I read this quote:

“When I am dead and gone and another man stands in this pulpit to candidate as your pastor, O how I pray that you will ask: Does he relate everything to God? Or is he content to simply promote morals? Is there distinctively Christian theology in all he says? Or could his messages be spoken by a tender-hearted secular psychologist with keen insight into how to get along better?”  -John Piper, sermon from 1985

That was 1985. Fast forward to 2012/13. The day has arrived when “another man stands in the pulpit” of Bethlehem Baptist Church. That man is Jason Meyer. Of whom Piper has said:

I joyfully and expectantly commend him to you with all my heart. Not only because of a long list of gifts and graces and competencies, but also because I believe God has chosen him and anointed him for this role. May the Lord confirm this with a hope-filled, happy, unified vote of the Bethlehem family.

It is because of the mercy and goodness of God that Bethlehem Baptist Church is supplied with a godly pastor. The means that God used to accomplish that purpose can be found in Piper’s statements from 1985. For 30 years he gave his flock a vision of what his successor should look like. It was not by accident that Piper could say, “I joyfully and expectantly commend him to you with all my heart”. Piper had labored for that moment for three decades.

The lesson for us?

The second that you step into the pastorate begin preparing the congregation for your successor and being praying for him.

It is not that you do not intend to have staying power. You prepare for your successor because you are not in control of your stay. Unless the Lord returns, the church you now serve will someday have someone else as their shepherd. A faithful shepherd prays that his sheep are fed for their entire life—not just for the season in which he has the title of her pastor.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Today in Blogworld 03.14.13

Sam Storms’ New Blog

Sam Storms is blogging again. And there was much rejoicing in the land…

The History of Christianity in 25 Objects

This looks to be an interesting series by Tim Challies. He is using 25 objects to tell the story of Christianity.

The Wisdom of Church History

Speaking of church history…Michael Haykin is interviewed on the importance of studying church history.

Celebrate the “ordinary” and “extraordinary” testimonies

I really appreciate this piece by Aaron Armstrong. He notes that he wants his kids to have a “boring” testimony and believes that every parent wants the same. I agree.

Wow, these kids are terrible at hide and seek:

When Sanctification is Like a Blind Man Describing Colors

This is a blind dude trying to describe color:

Do you ever feel this way about trying to put on the righteousness of Christ? I know I do.

The “taking off” stuff seems easier to me. “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths”…okay I know what that looks like. I’ve done “corrupting talk”. I have a list that describes corrupting talk. I know what it looks like to stop it.

“…but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear”. This is more difficult. How do I know what “building up” looks like if I came from a culture of death that only tears down?

There are some deep-seated sins that seem to be attached to my identity. Some things seem really difficult to tear down. But there are some things that seem impossible to build up, because its like a blind guy trying to describe color. I have a big empty spot in my heart where sin is being ripped out but righteousness has not yet been erected in its place.

Yet I hope…

I have hope for this emptiness because I serve a God who calls light out of darkness. I serve a God who “calls into existence the things that do not exist”. I know that God is teaching me righteousness in places that I’ve never lived it before. I know that God is not only healing my blindness but he is also teaching me how to see.

And he mostly does this through his church. God has placed people in my life to help me live in color.

If you are like me—at times feeling so damaged and empty that positive redemption seems impossible—know that there is hope. God creates beauty out of ashes and he calls into existence that which was nothing. You have hope. Surround yourself with people that live in color.

If you live in color it is a necessity that you seek out those that are learning to see. We need your eyes.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Today in Blogworld 03.13.13

5 Theses on Anti-Intellectualism

Justin Taylor has developed 5 theses on anti-intellectualism and has backed them up with quotes from various authors.

F.L.E.E.—A Strategy for Pursuing Sexual Purity

Trent Hunter gives us a strategy for dealing with sexual temptation and actively pursuing sexual purity.

Your Baby’s Ugly

Hershael York gives four things that makes the difference between a growing preacher and one that never gets better.

10 Time Management Rules You Are Breaking

Breaking these rules will only lead to wasted time in the long run.

This will probably be the only time you see a clip from TBN on here. Ed Stetzer appeared on a recent broadcast:

Why Online Discussions Are Seldom Profitable

I have greatly benefited from reading The Narcissism Epidemic. I found their insight into online discussion particularly helpful:

…the system of comments, responses to comments, and so on encourages argument—and often one-sided argument. It’s not a true dialogue, as a verbal conversation would be, but one diatribe followed by the response to the diatribe. Doing it all onscreen also takes out the human element of empathy, nuance, and face-to-face interaction.

Most comment streams are one-sided argument. Yes, there was that one time way back when, in that conversation you had a long time ago, when you actually got somewhere in an online conversation. But for the most part it isn’t true dialogue and isn’t helpful.

Twenge and Campbell make another salient observation:

Our modern culture instead says, “Everybody's opinion is just as valid as everyone else’s,” and now backs up this notion on the Internet with the proliferation of blogs and comment sections. The problem is that most of the people who leave comments have no earthly idea what they are talking about. They think they do—common among people with a tendency toward narcissim—but they’re clueless. The comments that do say something intelligent are often lost in the mountain of ignorance.


Of course we have to be careful not to deny such important doctrines as the priesthood of every believer with statements like this. But does the priesthood of every believer mean that every believer is somehow an expert in every field? Yeah, we all have the Holy Spirit—but doesn’t the Spirit give different gifts to different people?

Do you agree with Twenge and Campbell about the nature of online discussions? (If you offer an answer I promise we won’t call you a narcissist).

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Today in Blogworld 03.12.13

10 Things Pastors Wish They Knew Before They Became a Pastor

Churches and seminaries should take note of these things. When we train future ministers we need to be sure to teach them some of these basics.

Life is too short to be in a hurry

“Have you noticed how impossible it is for a hurried person to love someone?” That’s a good question.

The Gospel-Centered Everything

Tim Challies shares the benefits and concerns of the gospel-centered everything movement. He also gives a list of gospel-centered titles.

Marriage: What It Is, Why It Matters, and the Consequences of Redefining It

I haven’t had the chance to read this thoroughly yet. But from what I have seen it is a piece that is worthy of your consideration.

It’s the next logical step. Ball’s in your court goat…

A Lesson in Forgiveness From Tom Crean

Last Sunday the Indiana Hoosiers narrowly defeated the Michigan Wolverines to capture their first Big 10 title in twenty years. This happened after the game:

Apparently, Tom Crean holds Jeff Meyer partially responsible for the wreckage he inherited when he took the position at IU. He was clearly wrong in confronting Meyer in such a way, especially after such an important game.

Crean has apologized to the Wolverines assistant. I’m glad that he apologized so quickly after the incident and not in response to a media firestorm. It’s great that he apologized.


He also said this:

We discussed a couple of things and I apologized. In retrospect, I wish I had never addressed anything after the heat of battle in a game, but I did and we move on. End of story…

It is likely that what Crean is saying is, “Let’s not continue to cover this in the media”. And that is probably a valid point. But I found something in his apology that I see occasionally in my own heart.

I mess up sometimes. I mess up as a follower of Christ, as a husband, a father, a pastor, a friend, and anything else you could add. And when I say “I mess up” I mean that I rebel against God and commit odious sin that caused Jesus to hang on a cross. When I sin as a believer the Holy Spirit convicts me. In my better moments I then apologize and confess.

However, it can be really tempting when asking for forgiveness to assume that your apology is the end of the story. There are times when we must reap the consequences of our sin. We must allow the other person to feel the weight of our sin against them. We ought not let ourselves off the hook too easily. Of course forgiveness needs to happen whenever we seek forgiveness. But restitution also needs to happen. And sometimes that takes time.

Just because it is “end of story” on your side does not mean that it is the end of the story on the side of the one you have offended.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Why We’ve All But Lost the Gay Marriage Debate

Back in 2011, Focus on the Family conceded that “we’ve probably lost” the gay marriage debate. Two years later “probably” would be an understatement. We have all but lost this debate. I am making the argument in this piece that this happened years ago when we swallowed certain cultural virtues instead of confronting them.

In their book, The Narcissism Epidemic, authors Jean Twenge and Keith Campbell make the argument that narcissism is on a relentless rise in our culture. Starting in the 1960s, “Americans core cultural ideas slowly became more focused on self-admiration and self-expression”. We raise our children to believe that they are special simply because they were born. Somewhere along the way our “specialness” was tied to our imago Homo (image of man) instead of the imago Dei (image of God). The pervasive belief in our culture is that we are special simply because we are human and not because humanity was created in the image of God.

If I am special “just for being me” it is only logical to conclude that the most important virtue is for me to be “true to myself”. It would be supremely unloving and even harmful for someone to try to change me. It would be a suicidal step away from greatness. The most loving thing that I can do for myself is express me—whatever me is.

Twenge and Campbell note that in generations past, religion kept a check on such narcissism. Not anymore. In fact, for many Americans, God exists to make them happy. Not happy in Him, mind you—but happy in our own flesh. Rather than being a deterrent to such self-centeredness the god of many Americans actually gives us a “thumbs-up” in our quest to be positively awesome.

In sum, our culture believes that every person is amazing simply by existing, the most important virtue is to be true to yourself, and God is passionate about the same thing that we are; namely, me.

How the Church Swallowed This

This is a humorous video but it captures our narcissism:

In some instances these cultural “virtues” have not been swallowed whole. But instead efforts have been made to redeem them. Rather than confronting the unbelieving assumption that I am positively awesome, much of our evangelism material starts with affirming that. We then encourage people to become truly awesome by accepting Jesus.

By and large we have not confronted these “virtues” we have just tried to Christianize them. And it is killing us.

Why this is causing us to lose this debate

How does all of this relate to the current debate over gay marriage? Honestly, you could substitute the phrase “gay marriage” with “culture of divorce” and a host of other issues the church is facing. My argument is that accepting our cultural narcissism has provided a breeding ground for normalizing many things the Lord defines as sin.

Think with me for a moment.

When I assume that I am awesome simply because I exist, will I be prone to be governed by anything external? If I am the standard of awesome why would I listen to what a 2,000 year old book has to say? Why would I care about God’s law? It does not define me.

One of the most common arguments in favor of gay marriage is that “it is who I am” therefore it would be supremely unloving to deprive people of simply expressing themselves. It is denying a freedom that is given by our constitution.

This argument can even be Christianized. God wants me to be happy. Happiness comes through me being true to my desires. Therefore, God would not call people to do something that was making them miserable?

What is the church’s response to these claims?

For years we thought that screaming “stop it” loud enough and long enough would do the trick. We thought that if we simply reminded people of what the Bible says and what the Lord thinks about homosexuality then people would be convinced. Yet we never confronted the core problem—that people have rejected the external message of God as definitive. (See this by Dan Phillips)

Then we tried saying, “You can change”. We confronted the idea that “it is who I am” arguments with a message that said, “You can change”. While that is true, it was ineffective because again we never confronted the underlying belief. When we said “you can change” we were met with an angry response of “why would I want to”. No wonder. If being “true to myself” is the highest virtue wouldn’t it be wrong to try to change?

Furthermore, such a change might cause suffering. It’s who I am. Would God really want me to have to suffer through something like this? Does God really want me to stifle desires? Does a loving God really not want me to express love? Wouldn’t it be supremely unloving for God to make me be somebody that I am not.

What does a church that believes God is primarily focused on our happiness say to such a thing? “You know what you might just have a point!” And so it slowly becomes more and more acceptable within the church. Because by and large we’ve swallowed the same virtues that the culture has.

Our Only Hope is the Gospel

Saying that our only hope is the gospel is quite common. And I agree with the statement. But I want to extend it a bit. When many say, “our only hope is the gospel” what they are really saying is, “Jesus can take a homosexual and change his desires and make him no longer gay”. While, I do believe in the power of redemption and change, and I do not want to minimize that, I believe it is aiming too low.

It’s not just homosexuality that needs to be confronted. It’s an entire mindset. The gospel directly confronts these “virtues” and defines them as the vices they really are. What we need in our day is a robust gospel. One that has God at the center instead of man. One that is willing to suffer for the sake of Christ. One that has it’s identity grounded in Christ and His work and not our own innate awesomeness. One that believes our greatest virtue is conformity to Christ and not some “being true to myself” hogwash.

This is what is needed. And the gospel really does have the power to rock mindsets and transform entire cultures. Yes, I believe that we’ve all but lost this debate on gay marriage. But I don’t believe it’s over. Nor do I believe that it is the central issue. It’s just a symptom—as divorces, abortion, etc.—is a symptom of our larger cultural problem of having abandoned the gospel.

I believe if the church focuses on what we really ought to focus on—making disciples—then eventually our culture will change. And maybe my children’s children will one day look at institutions like gay marriage and say, “Wait, a minute this isn’t what is best for us because this is an attempt to find happiness outside of God.” And maybe the gospel will have so penetrated our culture that righteousness becomes the new normal.

Or maybe it won’t. And maybe we and our children’s children will have to suffer; not because of our stance on gay marriage but because we aren’t drinking the Kool-aid that has man at the center of everything. And maybe we’ll be so passionate about Jesus that we’ll be willing to kiss the Cross if it means glorifying him and winning a few people to the unchangeable truth of Christ.

Today in Blogworld 03.11.13

This is What Forgiveness Looks Like

I love powerful stories like this one.

5 Ways to Find Joy in a Job You Don’t Love

Almost everyone has been in a job that they didn’t love. Even at times jobs that we do love can be unlovely. These five tips will help with those times.

Excuses, Excuses

If you are looking for some excuses not to do evangelism…here are a few. Though I’ll warn you David Murray is going to show you why they are lame.

7 Things to Pray for Your Children

Here are seven specific things you can pray for your children.

This is a great song by Lecrae:

Anti-Freeze Theology

Last week, a brother in Christ was inquiring on Twitter about something good to take for a sinus infection. Me, being the jerk I am, responded, “anti-freeze cures it every time”.

What I said was true. Absolutely, 100% true. Drink enough antifreeze and you will no longer have a sinus infection. Or breath in your lungs.

If we aren’t careful we can become this way with our theology. We can say true things that wrongly applied leads to death. Or we can highlight something that is totally true (drinking anti-freeze cures sinus infections) but leave out an equally important truth (it also causes death).

This was the problem in Corinth.

One group had a pretty good theological argument for eating food offered to idols. They rightly said that “an idol has no real existence” and that “there is no God but one”. Therefore, when people sacrificed to false gods they were sacrificing to only “so-called gods in heave or on earth”.

In their mind this was the end of the case. These believers with a weak-conscience needed to get with the program and stop denying the freedom of the gospel. So, they ate meat and mocked those whose conscience would not allow them to partake. They used true theology to bludgeon weak believers.

Anti-freeze theology “puffs up”. It is true theology held by an arrogant heart. Paul’s argument throughout 1 Corinthians seems to be that knowing right things is only half the battle. Having a grace-captivated heart that responds in love is also a necessity. To have one without the other is as harmful as suggesting anti-freeze for a sinus infection.


Don’t drink anti-freeze. Ever. This is my DO NOT DO THIS AT HOME disclaimer. Or at church. Or anywhere. If you drink anti-freeze you will die. So don’t do it.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

One Reason Why Movie Theaters Are Packed But Your Bible Study Isn’t

Why do people who pile into movie theaters on a Friday evening complain that the Bible is boring on a Sunday morning?  One reason, and I stress ONE reason, is that we have not rightly been convinced that the Bible is a compelling story. 

If our view of Scripture is akin to Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth then I doubt very seriously that we will be compelled to open its pages.  At least not until something goes wrong.

I’m one of those guys that attempts a project without the instruction manual. Key word in that sentence is “attempts”. I typically read them after the project is “finished” and I’m holding an extra part in my hand. Or I consult a week or so later when the whole thing topples in on itself because that extra piece really wasn’t an extra piece.

If we view the Bible like an instruction manual then we won’t pick it up until we have significant trouble in our lives. And even then it likely will be misread; rather than seeing Christ you’ll see “answers”. In fact any answer will often do. Occasionally, we consult this instruction book just to reassure ourselves that we are doing just fine in our project. Then we go back to building our piece of junk and don’t consult the manual again until the wheels fall off.

Do you realize how hard it is to convince people to find Life in the Scriptures when this is our view?  Or to convince them to attend your Bible study? It’s like trying to convince people that if they want to really enjoy food they should become acquainted with their refrigerator’s manual of operation.  That’s just silly. 

What if instead we started viewing it as a compelling story told by the Creator of the universe or as a drama that is acted out and then explained by God about God?  (I’m indebted to Michael Lawrence for that thought). 

I’m convinced that a good number of people piling into movie theaters on a Friday night are doing so because they are looking for story.  Not everyone mind you.  But story is powerful.  And we have the most compelling story ever told—the story that all stories comes from—but we’ve decided to sell it as an instruction booklet. 

So, please…Let’s stop it!


Originally posted here.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

How Would You Spend $100 on Pastoral Ministry Resources

I’m a new pastor. I’ve got about $100 and not much of any library. I want hard copies—non of that e-reader stuff. When I was ordained last week a former professor bought me 5 books from your preaching list. Now I need to focus on building a few resources to help me with pastoral ministry. What do you suggest?

Here is my answer:

  1. Dangerous Calling by Paul Tripp for $12 
  2. The Reformed Pastor by Richard Baxter $8
  3. 9 Marks of a Healthy Church by Mark Dever $11
  4. The Conviction to Lead by Albert Mohler $15
  5. Brothers We Are Not Professionals by John Piper $10
  6. Instruments in the Redeemers Hands by Paul Tripp  $12
  7. Download this letter from John Newton $FREE

That’s about 70 bucks. Take the next $30 and take your wife out on a date.

Also there are a couple of books that you can get online for free that are great classics. I know you like hard copies so maybe you can save up a little money and print these off somewhere. Lectures to My Students by Spurgeon is an invaluable resource as is Charles Bridges’ The Christian Ministry.

I would also advise you to find an older pastor that is willing to mentor you. He’ll be really helpful also when you have questions about how to do a baptism, how to train a Sunday school teacher, etc. And he will talk you off the ledge when you want to give up after a few Monday’s on the job.

Lastly, find another pastor from history and make it your life ambition to follow him as he follows Christ. I’ve begun a lifelong friendship with John Newton—I just wish he knew it. You can get his 6 Volume works online for about $100.

How would you answer this question?

Friday, March 8, 2013

Review of Faithmapping: A Gospel Atlas for Your Spiritual Journey

I saw a movie once—or maybe it was a dream that I had—where a bunch of people had been given a treasure map. This treasure map, like almost all treasure maps, was to help them find buried treasure. Each thought that they had the whole map. But as the movie—or my dream—unfolded everyone realized that they only had a piece of the map. They needed to combine all the pieces in order to find the treasure map.

Am I a loon? Isn’t there a movie with that plot? Maybe it’s about 4 movies combined into one awesome movie that only shows in the theater of my mind. Either way there is a book that makes a similar point. That book is Faithmapping by Daniel Montgomery and Mike Cosper.

Cosper and Montgomery believe that “we are navigating the Christian life with fragments of a map—bits and pieces of the good news—rather than the whole picture”. Faithmapping is an attempt to “put those map fragments together”. They argue that we ought to think of the gospel in a tri-perspectival manner. Rather than emphasizing the kingdom, the cross, or grace we ought to bring these all together into a whole gospel.

The churches identity and mission flow out the gospel. “…the gospel, the church, and our mission are a coherent, organic, interrelated whole, rather than distinct independent ideas”. That is why the authorial intention of this book is to map a “whole gospel for the whole church on mission in the whole world”.

The book is structured around these themes. First, the whole gospel is outlined. One chapter is given to each of the perspectives (kingdom, cross, grace) and then and argument is made that we need the whole gospel. The gospel informs the churches identity. The second section outlines these five aspects of “gospel-informed identity”. These five might sound familiar: worship, family, servants, disciples, and witnesses. The last section, only one chapter, makes the argument that it is within the whole world that the church lives out their “gospel-transformed lives”.

The book is well written. Jessica Thompson is correct when she says “it is theologically profound and yet very easy to read”. Though it may feel a little like being entered into the middle of a theological discussion, I do believe that the average lay person would have no problem navigating their way through this book. In the same vein a well seasoned theologian would not be bored.

With all of the focus these days on gospel-centered books I believe this book is a welcome addition. I appreciate that Cosmer and Montgomery tie together friends that are often treated as enemies; namely the gospel as kingdom and the gospel of the cross. I also believe every disciple would greatly benefit from a thorough exploration of the second section of this book. The Map It section at the end of each chapter would make this book pretty easily adaptable for a small group gathering.

Personally, I found myself convicted, challenged, and confessing as I read through this book. It helped me as a pastor to articulate points better. But even more than that it helped me as a disciple to be a more holistic follower of Christ.

I would recommend this book to anyone. Get it here.

Today in Blogworld 03.08.13

Create a Contrast Culture in Your Church

Jonathan Leeman gives 12 tips on creating “a culture of discipling, of evangelism, of mutual care and hospitality”.

A Conversation with David Platt

Matt Smethurst interviews David Platt on his new book, Follow Me, among other things.

Battling Sinful Sarcasm

We live in a very sarcastic culture. Lindsey Carlson warns us that sarcasm isn’t innocent and we need to battle it.

Cultivating a Gracious Climate in Your Church

Jared Wilson gives us six ways to cultivate a climate of grace in our churches.

This is very punny. I bet you can’t watch the whole thing without rolling your eyes in disgust at least once:

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Today in Blogworld 03.07.13

When You Are Sick of Theology

Michael Patton encourages those who are worn out with theology to stand back up. What do you think?

Solidly Reformed, Strikingly Small

Reformed churches can be very small. This often causes criticism. Sometimes it should. Other times not so much.

Canadian Supreme Court Ruling Has Implications for Christian Witness

The Canadian Supreme Court recently made a decision concerning hate speech. This will have an impact on Christian witness in Canada. Joe Carter explains.

200 Leadership Resources

David Murray gives us links to 200 leadership helps.

Here is how to speak Christianese:

How Hospitality Reflects Your Grasp of the Gospel

You want to grow your church?

Practice hospitality. (And that means more than serving awesome fried chicken)

I’ve read about 50 articles today that begin a similar way. They promise us church growth and then give us a few steps to implement hospitality. Tips like making sure that the word of life doesn’t come with the breath of death—in other words tell your greeters to try some breath mints.

Now don’t get me wrong. These articles have been really helpful. And I really do believe that healthy churches are also hospitable churches. But when I read these articles something in my stomach starts to churn.

What’s the Problem?

Hospitality is not a means to grow your church. It is fundamental to a churches identity. It is who you are. If we’ve botched hospitality it is because in some way we have botched the gospel.

Consider the story of Simon the Pharisee. This dude was a terrible host. There are certain things that a host does for his guest. Or at least he has a servant or somebody do them. But not Simon. Simon’s hospitality stinks. And Jesus tells us why, “…he who is forgiven little, loves little”. Our hospitality reflects our grasp of the gospel.

Furthermore, hospitality is a reminder of our alien status. Show me a church that does not practice hospitality and I will show you a church that is comfortably living the American dream. They’ve started thinking that they are home and so they’ve lost their sojourner impulse.

Throughout the narrative of Scripture God’s people are portrayed as sojourners. They are slaves in Egypt. Exiles in Babylon and Assyria. This doesn’t change in the New Testament. Our Master didn’t have a place to lay his head. We are strangers. Aliens. Sojourners.

When we embrace this it isn’t hard for us to associate with the bewildered single mom trying to get her three scraggly-headed kids through the door. The fact that she’s a stranger here on a Sunday morning is obvious to all. And so the alien in us begins to emerge. We remember what it was like when the Lord picked us up out of a pit so we greet her with warmth instead of apathy.

Yes, we need to train our greeters. Breath mints are helpful. But before we get into the 10 steps for greeting somebody with a smile, we should first remind them what it was like to be a foreigner brought into the family of God.

How to Read this as a Mr. Leader-Man

Some of my readers are leaders. You get stuff done. Your kind of a big deal. You know that your fundamental task in the church as a leader is to help other people use their gifts. You build up the body this way. (I’m not disparaging that. It’s true. That is often how you serve).

And you hear something like this and you start thinking about ways that you can train people to have a theological basis for hospitality. You think of all the people that you need to teach to be hospitable.

And do that.

But be careful…

Be careful that while everyone else is getting their hands dirty you aren’t sitting down eating some of that pie that you delegated to be made. Don’t forget that when Abraham entertained angels in Genesis 18 that it wasn’t his servants that showed hospitality. It was Father Abraham getting his hands dirty.

You’ve read in all your leadership training books that there are some things that simply cannot be delegated. Maybe hospitality and service is one of them. (See 1 Timothy 3:1-3 and note that “be hospitable” is as important to your elder qualification as “don’t be a drunkard" is).

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Today in Blogworld 03.06.13

The Most Essential Life Skill: Teachability

I’ve found this to be true as well. David Murray talks about teaching people to be teachable.

10 Rules of Thumb for Healthy Churches in America

These types of nuts and bolts are really helpful for churches to consider. Especially churches that are in a building phase.

Some Positives and Negatives of The Bible on The History Channel

I haven’t had a chance to watch this one yet. Stand to Reason gives an honest review.

7 Warning Signs of a Leader’s Fall

Peter’s fall in Luke 22:31-62 gives a few warning signs for us today.


How to Rock Twitter Like a Pharisee

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 6:1 ESV)

I wonder what it would look like if the Pharisees had a Twitter account. It would probably look a little like this:





Maybe it isn’t so hard to imagine…

There is a fine line between facebragging and giving God-honoring information. I’ve been working through taking the log out of my own eye before attempting to take the specs out of my brothers and sisters.

I started out by making a list of a few rules for determining if it’s God-honoring or facebragging. Then I realized that sounds too much like what a Pharisee would do. In reality it all comes down to my heart. Am I posting stuff in the hopes you’ll wake up to my awesomeness or to somehow praise the Lord and point to Him?

Here is the central question: Do I want to be seen by men or do I want to be a window by which people see the beauty of Jesus?

That is a question that I want to ask myself before I tweet things that tip-toe towards facebragging.


By the way that “My new ride” link works.

I should also mention that Twister is a crazy fun way of creating fake tweets like the ones above.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Today in Blogworld 03.05.13

The Problem with Arrogant Pastors & 5 Ways Not to Be One

Ed Stetzer and Jonathan Howe have listed five warning signs that you are headed down the road of arrogance.

Embracing Weakness Will Change Your Life

“When we embrace weakness, it means we’ve looked at ourselves long enough to know we can’t make it without looking to Another.”

Wormtongue at the Listless Wheel

With a little help from Lord of the Rings, Jared Wilson makes a salient point that “we can learn nothing from the heterodox about navigating ‘the future of evangelicalism’ except how to shut the engines off and drift”.

Are Rewards in Heaven Based on Our Effort or God’s Grace?

Michael Patton answers. Sort of…

Pure awesomeness:

How Often Should I Post On My Blog?

I’ve been asking myself that question recently.

I started with a few general thoughts. 5 to be exact:

  1. Write daily
  2. Don’t post everything I write
  3. Post quality
  4. Post frequently (enough that people don’t wonder if I’ve died)
  5. Always keep people wanting more…

Then I charted posting frequency of some favorite blogs that are also widely read.

  • Challies 16.3
  • Ed Stetzer 12.8
  • Trevin Wax 11.0
  • 22 Words 65.6
  • Zach Nielsen 30.8
  • Desiring God 14.0
  • Jared Wilson 4.7
  • Justin Taylor 7.5
  • The Gospel Coalition 14.9
  • SBC Voices 14.2
  • Kevin DeYoung 6.5
  • David Murray 14.5
  • Aaron Armstrong 13.3

I compared this with my blog: 15.2

I asked myself, “What type of blog do I want to be”?

Zach Nielsen and Abraham Piper post so much because they seldom right original material. Jared Wilson and Kevin DeYoung post so little because almost all that they post is original material. DG, SBC Voices, and TGC post a couple times per day because they are group blogs filled with original material. Challies posts 16 times per week because he’s Challies. Folks like David Murray, Stetzer, Trevin Wax, Aaron Armstrong and myself post 13-15 times per week because we share content and post original stuff.

Then I asked myself, “What do I want to accomplish with my blog”?

At core I want to write in such a way that Jesus is the only boast of this generation. I want to accomplish that goal by sharing Christ-exalting resources. I also want to accomplish that goal by writing quality Christ-exalting resources myself.

I have secondary goals, like having fun, making sports picks, creating a community, sharing humor, etc. But all of that is to ultimately point people back to Jesus.

I came to this conclusion:

My 15.2 article per week is too high. I cannot post at a high quality level by posting this much. Furthermore, I am not fulfilling my goal of keeping people wanting more. Therefore, my new goal is to post 12 times per week. This means no more than 14 and no less than 10.

I will share quality content M-F in my Today in Blogworld segment. That takes up 5 posts. On Saturdays I will attempt to compile a resource list. On Sundays I hope to pull something out of my archives. This leaves 5 original posts to be written Monday-Friday. I believe this will help me accomplish my goal and focus on better content.

Monday, March 4, 2013

A Word to Weary Pastors

“75% of pastors report severe stress causing anguish, worry, bewilderment, anger, depression, fear, and alienation.” –Pastor Burnout

In the loneliness of the pastors office, with the walls closing in around him, the pastor mumbles to himself. “Why do I even do this?” With complaints and unhelpful criticism assaulting his fraying mind he stares at a stack of papers and books that cry for his attention. As he sits down on Friday afternoon to begin sermon preparation, his mind wanders to all of the ministers that are faltering, marriages crashing, teenagers rebelling. It’s no wonder that he asks the question—“Why am I doing this”.

Isaiah 50:4 tells this weary pastor why:

“The Lord God has given me the tongue of those who are taught, that I may know how to sustain with a word him who is weary”.

Sustaining the weary with a word from Yahweh is why this weary pastor will press on. The labor of study, pouring over Greek texts, boring commentaries, and difficult verses has a purpose. The pastor sweats in his office so that he might have “the tongue of those who are taught”. He does this because he knows that weary sheep need fed.

But what does the pastor do when he is weary?

Sometimes a pastor simply needs to buck up, stop whining, and get to the business of feeding the sheep. At other times the darkness is too deep. In either case what the weary pastor needs is a word from the Suffering Servant.

Pastor, Isaiah 50 is not fundamentally your song. It is the song of Another, known as the Suffering Servant. You and I are the weary in this song. The one who sings this song has already given his beard to be plucked and his cheeks to be struck. He has already set his face like a flint and climbed upon a Roman cross. And He has already been vindicated by the Lord. You and I need the finished work of the Suffering Servant in order to be faithful servants that suffer well.

As weary pastors we can press on because Christ has secured not only His own vindication but ours as well. Because of His work we too can “set our face like a flint” and get about our work of “sustaining with a word him who is weary.”

Pastor, you can endure because He already has. You know weariness. So also do the sheep under your care. Heal them with the words that have healed you. “The tongue of those who are taught” is crafted in the kiln of affliction.

May he “awaken our ears to hear as those who are taught”.

Today in Blogworld 03.04.13

Raising Kids in a Pornified Culture

Pornography among children/teens is an ever-increasing problem. Zach Nielsen gives 8 suggestions to help us raise our kids in such a pornified culture.

It’s Time to Quit Your Job

Thom Rainer gives us 12 signs that it is time to quit your job. “Because you are a lazy bum and want to spend more time at home playing Xbox” did not make the list.

A Beginners Guide to Reading Over Your Head

If you want to read books that will make your brain smoke. And you probably should. Here is a list. 

Thinking Biblically About CJ Mahaney and SGM

He’s gotten some flack for this article, but I thought it was helpful. Tim Challies thinks about how those of us not directly involved in the situation ought to respond to the Mahaney-SGM situation. In my opinion those that have been critical of Tim’s post have missed his intention and are faulting him for points that he was not making.



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