Tuesday, April 30, 2013

If you had the opportunity to send a letter to a Christian hero of the past what would you write?

I’ve decided to begin a project that I have been dreaming about for a few years now. In order to move along in this project I need your help.

Pastors, laypeople, anyone…

If you had the opportunity to send a letter to a Christian hero of the past what would you write?

There are a couple of ways that you can help out. First, you can give a basic answer in the comments. Second, you can go the extra-mile and actually write a letter and email it to me: mike AT fbjasper DOT org. Third, you can send this request to others.

There is chance that your letter could appear in a future book. It can be as big or small as you would like.

John Newton On the Boston Bombers

There was no little turmoil in the world in 1801. England was only a few years removed from the Revolutionary War and now they faced the ever-increasing advance of Napoleon Bonaparte’s rule. Newton, writing to Hannah More, reflects upon the times:

He does and will overrule all the designs of men for the furtherance and accomplishment of his holy plan. Not only his friends but his enemies contribute to it. The wrath of man, so far as it is permitted to act, shall praise him, and the remainder of their wrath, whatever they mean more than is subservient to his purpose, He will restrain…We, perhaps, have been tempted almost to wish that some persons had not been born, or had been taken away before they had opportunity of doing so much mischief, but what the Lord said to Pharaoh will apply to all like-minded, ‘For this very cause have I raised thee up.

Words like this usually draw sharp criticism in our day. How in the world can we say that the Boston bombers are somehow instruments in the hands of Almighty God? Doesn’t this make God evil and wicked? How could we serve such a God?

Such questions are tough. And I don’t know all of the answers to them. But at the end of the day I find comfort in the words of Newton, especially these:

When I consider all second causes and instruments as mere saws and hammers in the workman’s hands, and that they can neither give us pleasure nor pain, but as our Lord and Savior is pleased to employ them, I feel a degree of peace and composure.

Suffering is tough. Easy answers do not suffice. It seems that every day we open a newspaper some new story of suffering is unfolding. Abortion clinics, bombers, train wrecks, explosions, tsunamis, on and on the litany of pain continues. We either believe that God’s drama is somehow unfolding or we believe that He’s a reactionary. I don’t understand all the implications of it but I believe Scripture paints the first picture. 

Newton went on to say, “how little can we judge of this great drama by a single scene!”. We don’t have all the answers and that is intentional. But somehow we have to trust that God has a good purpose in all suffering.


For a more complete treatment of this theme I would invite the reader to check out my book, Torn to Heal, which releases tomorrow.

Timothy Paul Jones (@timothywashere) Endorses Torn to Heal for #Royals Fans

According to Timothy Paul Jones, Torn to Heal is a great book for Royals fans:
"As two of the few remaining fans of the Kansas City Royals, Mike Leake and I know what you're talking about when you talk about suffering. After two decades in the tomb of the American League, it is true of the Royals what was true of Lazarus: 'Lord, they stinketh.' And verily, we are tempted to become Stoics or dualists about it. Books like this, however, may help Royals fans to see a purpose in their suffering. Purchase a copy for the Royals fan in your life, even though it's highly unlikely that you have any Royals fans in your life since most people have assumed for several years that the Royals have turned into a high school team. And last year, they played like it--but they're still officially Major League and, thus far this year, they're almost playing like a professional team but we're not holding our collective breath. Even if you don't know any Royals fans, this book may work for Cleveland Indians fans too and maybe even Cubs fans, if you know any. So buy it for them."
He also seriously endorsed the book:
"Mike Leake takes us on a gospel-driven path between dualism that acts as if God has lost control of his world and fatalism/stoicism that tries to bury pain beneath emotionless acceptance of whatever happens. The result is a brief but potent primer for ordinary people on the purpose of suffering."
Dr. Jones is one of my favorite professors at SBTS. I’m honored that he took the time to not only endorse the book once but twice. The book is scheduled to release tomorrow. Be sure to get your copy today. (For those of you that asked it should be available on Amazon in the next couple days).

Today in Blogworld 04.30.13

What Would Churches Do With More Money?

This was interesting.

Getting Through a Preaching Slump

Great advice from Thabiti Anyabwile on how to get through a preaching slump.

Why I Pray Publicly for Other Churches

For all those that pray in public this is a great thing to do. Greg Gilbert explains why.

Broussard, Bigotry, and the NBA

How long until Chris Broussard gets fired for his “intolerant” comments? Denny Burk has the story.

There are a couple of words in here that some might find slightly offensive. I post it here because I want to scientifically prove to my wife and many others that when my son or daughter punches me there I’m not over-exaggerating—or at least only slightly.

Monday, April 29, 2013

How to Get Your Blog to Appear on Morning Roundups

There are thousands of people every day that plead with me to appear on Today in Blogworld (TiB).

Ok, not really.

But every article written aims for wider exposure. We want what we write to be read. Every link you get (even from a little guy like me) extends the life of your article. It’s a win if you get picked up by a curator.

Here is how I decide what appears on TiB in the morning. I use Feedly and subscribe to hundreds of feeds. I click through them relatively quickly. If something even looks mildly interesting I save it for later. At a set point in the day I go through everything that I saved for later. I read a little of each article and either link to it, trash it, or save it for tomorrow. I imagine others do something similar.

Here are six ways to keep yourself from appearing on TiB

  1. Make me click through. Nine times out of 10 if you make me click through to keep reading I won’t do it. In fact if this is the pattern for your blog I probably don’t even subscribe.
  2. Don’t have a catchy title. If you don’t have an effective title, no matter how amazing the article I doubt I’ll ever see it. This might help.
  3. Bore me out of the gate. Your title might have caught my attention so I saved it. But if I start reading and fall asleep I’ll quickly move on.
  4. Write a novel. This rule can be broken. Some articles are so good that they need to be over the typical 7-800 words. Some can pull this off. Don’t assume that you can.
  5. Fail to ask. On occasion people will email with an article that they’ve written and ask me to take a look. I almost always do. Go the extra step and email me. But don’t do it daily or be Sir Spam-A-Lot
  6. Promote sin. I want to be helpful to my readers. If your article promotes sin (which means slander, gossip, needless controversy, etc.) then I won’t even bother.

Here are five positive tips

  1. Be helpful
  2. Be unique
  3. Spend time on your title
  4. Use shorter paragraphs
  5. Pictures can be helpful but don’t overdo it

Today in Blogworld 04.29.13

Can a Dying Church Find Life?

I’m glad the answer is “yes”. See how Thom Rainer suggests it can happen.

30 Reasons Why It Is a Great Thing to Be a Pastor


Pursue Justice of Extend Grace in Sexual Harassment?

This is an important question—and I appreciate the answer.

The Thing About Sex

One of the most important books that you can read on sex and pornography is Tim Challies’ book Sexual Detox. Tim really excels in teaching on this topic. Here is another phenomenal article.

This is funny and actually teaches us a good lesson.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

The Most Important Aspect of Your Faith

“A weak faith may lay hold on a strong Christ”

I could have swore that this quote was from Richard Sibbes.  I know for certain that Thomas Watson wrote it in his work A Body of Divinity.  Regardless of where it came from I know that it has been used by God to encourage and strengthen my soul. 

When I interviewed for my current position as associate pastor one of the questions asked me was this:  What is the most important aspect of your faith?  My response was simple.  It’s object. 

Of course you want to increase your faith.  As faith increases our experience of God intends to increase.  This seems to be what Paul was praying for when he prayed for the Ephesians that “the eyes of [their] hearts may be enlightened”.  That’s a decent definition of faith: seeing Jesus with the heart.  The result, says Paul, is that “you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe…”  In other words,

more faith—>greater sight—>deeper experience of the grace already received

So, we should passionately pursue an increase in faith.  But we must constantly remember that our pursuit is a greater sight of faith’s object; namely, Jesus Christ. 

For those that feel weak in faith be encouraged by the fact that the gospel is true in your life no matter if your trust in Christ is weak or strong.  The hope of the gospel is fixed for all those that embrace Christ, even if that faith is no bigger than a mustard seed. 

Our faith doesn’t save us.  Our Savior does.  And he is very strong.  As Spurgeon once said:

Ah! the bridge of grace will bear your weight, brother. Thousands of big sinners have gone across that bridge, yea, tens of thousands have gone over it. I can hear their trampings now as they traverse the great arches of the bridge of salvation. They come by their thousands, by their myriads; e'er since the day when Christ first entered into His glory, they come, and yet never a stone has sprung in that mighty bridge. Some have been the chief of sinners, and some have come at the very last of their days, but the arch has never yielded beneath their weight. I will go with them trusting to the same support; it will bear me over as it has borne them.

Jesus is indeed Mighty to Save!


Originally appeared here.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Is Dat Funny?

hannah “Is dat funny”, says my daughter as she dances on the table after being told for the fourteenth time that we don’t dance on the kitchen table.

Part of me wants to laugh with her. But the other part of me is a little frustrated that we’ve told her a million times not to do this particular activity and yet she still wonders whether or not mommy and daddy will let it slide and laugh it off.

I want to say to her, perhaps rather loudly, “No honey it is NOT funny because it is outright disobedience. Mommy and Daddy will never laugh at you disobeying us. It’s just NOT funny”. In my finer moments I stay composed and calmly help her to see that it’s not all that funny because we’ve asked her to not stand on the table, then I try to redirect her towards things that actually are funny.

I see myself in my daughters actions.

I love making people laugh—and I’m discovering that she does too. Yet I’m beginning to wonder if maybe somehow she’s picked up a little of her daddies twisted sense of humor.

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. –Ephesians 4:29

This one has been a battle for me. I’ve always had a weird sense of humor—and for years before Christ captivated my heart it was pretty vulgar. I’m the guy that not only crosses the line but crosses the line and spanks it. (Hopefully that statement wasn’t doing that). Or at least I was that guy, the Lord has transformed my wit over the years.

Yet, I still struggle.

At times I foolishly assume that just because something is funny that the Lord is slapping his knee up in heaven and going to give my words a free pass. It’s the humor clause. And so I say something really dumb and I’m like my daughter saying, “Is dat funny, God”?

No, son, it’s not. It’s disobedience and disobedience is never funny…


*Just as a side note, my daughters disobedience is somewhat excusable. She’s not even quite three yet. She’s still trying to learn the ins and outs of humor. But that’s not the case with me. My “is dat funny?” moments are far less excusable.

Also isn’t my daughter about the cutest thing you’ve ever seen?

Today in Blogworld 04.27.13

How God is Good for the Soul

Dr. Eric Johnson is one of my favorite professors at SBTS. This article is good stuff.

John Newton’s Pastoral Poem

It seems that more and more people are rediscovering John Newton. That’s awesome. Jared Wilson shares this Newton poem to his audience.

The Conservative Resurgence: Reflections of a Foot Soldier

I appreciated this perspective of the Conservative Resurgence in the SBC from Dave Miller.

9 Things You Should Know About Planned Parenthood

Here are 9 facts about PP, every one of them makes me sick.

I’m praying that somebody in Chicago gives this man a job:

Friday, April 26, 2013

4 Reasons Why I’m Tentatively a Historic Pre-Millennialist

Yesterday I proposed a grid for thinking through early church practices. I believe it partially works for how to apply early church theology too. Following a similar grid is why I am tentatively a historic pre-millennialist.

  1. New Testament passages explicitly deny a Post-millennial position; namely, those passages which show the world will get worse (2 Thess. 2:3-4) and those passages which seem to state the number of believers will be fewer than unbelievers when Christ returns (Mt. 22:14).
  2. I am not convinced by pre-millennial dispensationalism.This article explains that in part.
  3. The historical place that historic pre-millennialism holds. The Apostle John discipled Papias and Polycarp. Polycarp discipled Irenaeus. Between these three we have explicit claims that the apostle John held to a pre-millennial position.
  4. It is the most clear reading of Revelation 20:1-10. This seems to be the most clear reading of the binding of Satan and the nature of the resurrection.

In all honesty I want to hold to amillennialism. I find certain aspects of that position compelling. But I believe because of the place in history that the historic pre-millennial position holds the burden of proof lies on other positions. There is nothing in Scripture that seems to directly contradict a pre-millennial position. Therefore, I’m inclined to lean that way.

I hold the historic pre-millennial position tentatively. There does not, in my estimation, appear to be enough textual evidence to overturn the most clear reading of Revelation 20:1-10, nor to overturn the historical precedent set by the early church fathers. Therefore, I hold at least a form of historic pre-millennialism—yet there is still much that I do not know.

The one thing that I do know is that Christ is returning. Christ has defeated Satan on the Cross and will more fully defeat him in the culmination of the history as we know it. It is to the return of Christ that I look. Regardless of your view of the millennium it is appropriate to say, Maranatha!

Feel free to convince me of your position in the comments. I could be an easy sell to an a-mill position, you’ll have a more difficult time of convincing me on the others.

Today in Blogworld 04.26.13

Advise for Raising Godly Children

These are 10 pithy saying from John Witherspoon, a Scottish pastor from the 1700s.

Stuff Christians Say

There was a pretty funny video a month or so back about the silly things that Christians say. This is a thoughtful response from Tim Challies on the importance of true knowledge and good words.

Envy Hunts in a Pack

This is an article that encourages us to “soak in God’s grace, kill the wolf-pack of envy, and don’t forget to scrub behind the toilet.”

Homeschool v. Public School

My wife and I are going to make the decision on Isaiah this weekend. This article was timely. We are very much on the fence. This article was timely.

I’ve been dying to know this information:

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Today in Blogworld 04.25.13

10 Ways to Grow a Small Group

These are great suggestions from Chuck Lawless.

When Your Husbands Heart is Hard

I wish article like this were not necessary. Sadly I imagine that they are. (HT: Challies)

Autopsy of a Deceased Church

Thom Rainer profiles a church that went from 750 in attendance in 1975 to 83 approximately thirty years later. Articles like this are painful but they are helpful for us to learn from.

Top 300 Counseling Resources

David Murray has compiled 300 resources for counseling. Though this is a massive amount of material David has divided them up and made this something immensely helpful. You’ll want to bookmark this and come back to it again and again.

Is it wrong to wonder if this goat tastes like chicken?

Why I Don’t Make the Sign of the Cross OR How to Think Through Early Church Practices

The sign of the cross is “a ritual blessing made by members of many branches of Christianity. This blessing is made by the tracing of an upright cross or + across the body with the right hand, often accompanied by spoken or mental recitation of the Trinitarian formula.”

This practice at least goes back as early as Tertullian (160-220) who said:

"In all our travels and movements, in all our coming in and going out, in putting off our shoes, at the bath, at the table, in lighting our candles, in lying down, in sitting down, whatever employment occupies us, we mark our foreheads with the sign of the cross."

Because this is such an early practice it really causes me to wonder whether or not we ought to follow suit and do what these early Christians obviously practiced. As I read through early church history there are many such practices that can, at times, be unsettling.

A person in the second century lived closer to Jesus than I do. And they lived closer to the apostles—some of them even disciples of the apostles. I’ve had to give some thought to how I think through early church practices. When I come across one of these practices I ask a couple of questions.

1. Does it directly contradict Scripture? Is it expressly commanded in Scripture?

Just because somebody lived in the 3rd century it doesn’t mean that he has to be right. Even the apostle Peter abandoned the teaching of Jesus when he hypocritically refused to eat with Gentiles. That means that anybody who isn’t the incarnate Son of God is fair game for questioning. And we question ourselves and history according to the Scriptures. (In fact if the claims of Christ were held up “according to the Scriptures”).

If a practice contradicts Scripture then I had better avoid it no matter what tradition says. On the other hand if something is expressly commanded in Scripture (and not merely descriptive) then I had better be sure to practice it.

2. How does it translate into today?

There is a reason why I don’t encourage the women in our church to wear head-coverings. It’s not because I believe what Paul was saying in 1 Corinthians 11 has no meaning. It is because I believe the symbol of head-coverings has lost the meaning that Paul wanted to highlight. Therefore, it’s pointless to make a stink about the shadow if the substance is retained in something else.

So if I see an early church practice I’m left to wonder whether it has that same meaning/symbolism in our day. If it doesn’t can that be recovered? Would it require a ridiculous amount of teaching to recover a 2,000 year old practice? Is there really a point in doing that—especially if it’s not something commanded in Scripture?

Also under this question I ask myself whether or not this practice would cause others to stumble. Is it possible that this practice is something that is associated with a former life that would cause my brother or sister to stumble?

What about the sign of the cross?

On my first question, I do not believe that it directly contradicts any Scripture. Unless you want argue that somehow the sign of the cross confers grace upon someone, then we’ve got a problem with sacramentalism. I also believe that it is not directly taught in Scripture. (I’m not persuaded by the instances in Revelation of marking the forehead with the sign).

Based upon this I’m not going to throw a massive stink if someone is using the sign of the cross as mnemonic tool to remind them of the Trinity, Christ, and His gospel. But am I going to do it myself?


That is because it doesn’t pass my second test. I believe that the practice has become superstitious for many. Most of those that I’ve asked about doing the sign of the cross (which is a small sample size) have not really known what it means. “It’s just something we do”.

For most people in my Southern Baptist congregation making the sign of the cross is a “Catholic thing”. We live in a very Roman Catholic community. One in which people are brought up in the church but many do not have a vital relationship with Jesus*. When they truly come to know Christ they associate things like “the sign of the cross” with their former way of life—which to them was nothing more than superstitious idolatry. For me as a pastor to make the sign of the cross it would, I believe, cause them to stumble.

Therefore, I do not make the sign of the cross, but I don’t make a stink about those that do it—especially if they actually know what it means.

My major point in this article is actually not about making the sign of the cross but only to use that as an example of how I think through early church practices. I believe this is a grid by which we can decide whether or not an early church practice ought to be adopted in our congregations.


I’m not saying that a Roman Catholic cannot be saved. My answer to that question is similar to that of Doug Wilson.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

What If the Darkness Doesn’t Break?

I’m wrestling with God a little today.

I read this and it put no slight discomfort in my soul. Speaking of William Cowper, John Newton writes:

He lived far above the common standard [of comfort] for about ten years; and for twenty-seven years afterwards he knew not one peaceful day. May it remind me likewise of the precarious tenure by which we hold all our desirables. A slight alteration in the nervous system may make us a burden and a terror to ourselves and our friends.

I’ve got to be honest this is scary. I struggle with bouts of darkness and depression. So do some people in my life that I dearly love. This quote scares me because I know that in one sense nothing is off limits. God could allow me to go mad—overtaken with despair—and do all of this for His glory (and somehow my good).

In my arrogant humanity I want to believe that nothing like this could befall me or the ones that I love. Doctors can give us medicine, counselors can give us treatment. This isn’t 1800 and we’ve come long enough that things like this no longer need to happen.

My over-spiritualized confidence responds that so long as I continue faithful in the gospel—repenting and believing, nothing like this will befall me or those I love. I’m not so sure. That sounds more like Job’s friends than it does the reality of the Bible.

I believe that God is passionate about doing us good. I also believe that He is passionate about spreading His glory. I don’t believe those two are combatants. But I do believe that our experience of His “doing us good” might be held for another age and in the New Jerusalem instead of this fallen world.

So, I’m wrestling a little. I’m thinking very clearly today. The sun is shining. Darkness feels far off. But I know better. I know that in one moment I could be clinging to Christ in the midst of darkness instead of light. The darkness has always broke. Someday it might not.

The question for me today is this. Do I believe this along with Newton:

“But we are sure that He is rich enough, and that eternity is long enough to make them abundant amends for whatever his infinite wisdom may see meet to call them to, for promoting his glory in the end…”

God is always good. At times we see His smile as bright as the noon-day sun. At other times “He hides his smiling face behind a frowning providence”. For some they might not see that smile again until the see Him face to face. Will I trust Him in the light and in the darkness?

He will make the darkness light. May He give us grace to hold on until all things are made well again.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Today in Blogworld 04.24.13

Honoring Christ Online

I liked this interview with Tim Challies.

5 Tools Needed to Reach Today’s Teens

As one working with teens (as well as other associate pastoring duties) I can say that these are spot on.

The Power of a Parent’s Words

This one is both convicting and encouraging.

When we talk about “pre-marital sex”

Marty Duren and “Z” talk about the changing ways that we need to talk about “pre-marital sex”. I learned from this post.

Some of these are more funny than others:

My 13 Favorite Fake Twitter Accounts

I love fake Twitter accounts. Here are my favorites, in no particular order

  1. Fake JD Greear
  2. Fake John Piper
  3. Church Curmudgeon
  4. Surly Deacon
  5. Joe Osteen
  6. Not Bill Walton
  7. Not Kenny Rogers
  8. Not Charles Barkley
  9. Celebrity Pastor
  10. Unappreciated Pastor
  11. Bitter Blue Betty
  12. Honest Toddler
  13. sammyrhodes

Be sure to click on the links and follow these people.

Who did I miss?

Don’t Go There, Man!

I’ll just come out and say it. Scripture can be really confusing.

Not only is it confusing because I’m a Western-whitey that speaks English instead of Greek and I live in an age when a Camel is a cigarette instead of a ride to town or an uncomfortable shirt; but it is also confusing because Scripture is just flat out difficult. Hence thousands of years of disagreement over the sacred text.

Part of this is because each side of an argument usually has a litany of valid Scriptures to back up their point. And that’s actually a good thing. Here is what I mean…
I picture biblical truth like a narrow road with massive canyons on each side. So long as we’re on the road its not terrible for us to lean towards one of the ditches. After all, we’re human. We’re dust, we aren’t yet fully redeemed. Therefore it’s not surprising that we’ll have a tendency to lean away from the middle of the road. Not to mention that certain seasons often require a greater emphasis of biblical truth.

Thankfully, though, on each side of the road are massive stop signs that boldly say, “Don’t go there, man!” If you ignore the sign, cross that line, and then fall into the canyon then we’ve got a problem. Scripture provides those stop signs to help believers know where a certain doctrine—and usually its implications—are supposed to stop.


12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
One person focuses on verse 13 and notes that it is God who works within us to work out our salvation. As he leans this way and emphasizes certain parts of this truth he gets awfully close to the canyon of passivity. To wake him from slumber a loud siren and bright red stop sign screams out, “work out your salvation with fear and trembling”.

Another person focuses on verse 12 and notes that we are to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. As she leans this way and emphasizes certain parts of this truth she gets awfully close to the canyon of works-based righteousness. To wake her from slumber a loud siren and bright red stop sign screams out, “for it is God who works in you…”

There is help for everyone in Philippians 2:12-13. To the one wracked with guilt because she has fearfully and in trembling tried to work out her salvation but has fell flat on her face, there is balm in verse 13—”God is still working! Get up. Get back to work. He’s not going to let you fall”. To the guy withering in passivity verse 12 lights a fire under his comfort and drives him to cry out to Christ for change.

That’s only one example of many. There are many supposed contradictions in Scripture that are actually beauties to behold instead of questions to be answered. Let’s be sure to walk in the beauty of truth, finding unity somewhere on the road of grace, always heeding the signals that we’ve went too far in our lean.

Today in Blogworld 04.23.13

Letter to a Parent Grieving the Loss of a Child

I wish letter like this were foreign and unhelpful. Sadly, they aren’t. So this letter from Piper would be very helpful to those grieving the loss of a child.

Top 10 Ways to Ruin Your Child’s Imagination

If you want to ruin your child’s imagination so that you can exert mind control over him/her, this is the way to do it. Or if you’re a good parent and want to know what not to do.

Responding to Sexual Brokenness in Our Families and Churches

I appreciated this piece by Lore Ferguson. “If you have a background with sexual brokenness, whether you were abused or the abuser, the seductress or the succumbed, you have the opportunity to walk free from that.”

This, then, is how you could pray

This is a letter from a dad to his son on praying in public. This is really helpful. I’ve worked with teens for over a decade now and this is a common concern for them.

I don’t know why I found this so funny, but I did:

Monday, April 22, 2013

God’s Wrath and the Boston Bombers

In Revelation 15-16 we see people and angels in heaven praising God for the execution of His wrath. That’s hard to swallow. I know that we are to praise God for all of his attributes and all of his actions—but it’s hard to fathom praising God for His wrath.

Watching the news last Friday evening helped me to get a faint picture of how we might praise God for His wrath. The picture to the right is from the Friday evening when Dzhokkar Tsarnaev was finally captured. The crowds gathered to cheer on the police as they escorted the scene.

This gives us a picture of what is going on Revelation 15-16. Justice is being served. Things are being made right. And it’s good for us to clap in those moments. As Wayne Grudem writes:

As with the other attributes of God, this is an attribute for which we should thank and praise God. It may not immediately appear to us how this can be done, since wrath seems to be such a negative concept. Viewed alone, it would arouse only fear and dread. Yet it is helpful for us to ask what God would be like if he were a God that did not hate sin. He would then be a God who either delighted in sin or at least was not troubled by it. Such a God would not be worthy of our worship, for sin is hateful and it is worthy of being hated. Sin ought not to be. It is in fact a virtue to hate evil and sin and we rightly imitate this attribute of God when we feel hatred against great evil, injustice, and sin. (Grudem, Systematic Theology, 206)

God has given us those who “bear the sword” and execute His judgment upon sin and injustice. This is but a preview of the full justice that God will eventually execute. As we cheer on those that brought justice to the Boston bombers—we are in fact cheering on the wrath of God.

Yet, grace gives us pause

I should be in that cop car. I should be the one of whom all the righteous clap as I’m escorted into hell. But I’m not. Grace stepped in. I will never face the wrath of God because it has been swallowed up in Jesus.

This reminds me that I don’t see things quite rightly yet. I do not see human sin in all of its ugliness. I do not yet see the grace of God in all of its fullness. But someday I will. Someday I will, through grace, clap as God’s justice is brought about.

Until that day I have a mixture of emotions and response. I marvel at the fact that I’m not in that cop car, that I have breath in my lungs, and grace poured out upon me. I go as a minister of reconciliation, telling the world that the wrath of God can be averted, that Christ has drank it to the dregs. I weep because people still grieve, justice isn’t fully accomplished, sin still has a say, and the next murderous outrage is still on the horizon. And yet I rejoice in hope, knowing that someday the Lord will set all things right.

Though I still don’t fully know how to worship and praise God for His wrath, I do know that I long for things to be made right. And with that I can only cry out, Maranatha!

Today in Blogworld 04.22.13

Dead Leaders Make Dead People

A remember that a ministers own spiritual well-being has a bearing on the people he leads.

The Boston Bombers Were Outside Their House

Here is an account of a couple believers who lived right next to the shootout with police and the Boston bombers.

The Pastor’s Justification: Interview with Jared Wilson

I’m excited to get Jared Wilson’s newest book, The Pastor’s Justification. Here Brandon Smith interviews him about this project.

Real Men In a Really Loud World

What is the identity of a real man? Our world is noisy in answering that question. Dan Sardinas urges us to answer that question through the gospel.

And you thought your city had a pothole problem:

Sunday, April 21, 2013

It All Comes Back to Jesus

I was reminded this morning of the VBS theme from a few years ago. All I remember was something about a boomerang express, a kangaroo, and the fact that it all comes back to Jesus.

I also remembered this quote from Christopher J.H. Wright:

“Ultimately all that will be there in the new, redeemed creation will be there  because of the cross.  And conversely, all that will not be there (suffering, tears, sin, Satan, sickness, oppression, corruption, decay and death) will not be there because they will have been defeated and destroyed by the cross.  That is the length, breadth, height and depth of God’s idea of redemption.  It is exceedingly good news.  It is the font of all our mission.

So it is my passionate conviction that holistic mission must have a holistic theology of the cross.  That includes the conviction that the cross must be as a central to our social engagement as it is to our evangelism.  There is no other power, no other resource, no other name through which we can offer the whole Gospel to the whole person and to the whole world than Jesus Christ crucified and risen.”  (Christopher J.H. Wright, The Mission of God, pages 315-316)

It really is all about the pre-eminent Christ.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Must I Endure?

Our church is tackling Colossians 1:15-23 this week. One of the questions that will come up in our Life Groups is how Colossians 1:23 relates to our eternal security in Jesus. Does our hope of “seeing God” rest on conditional promises? What does Paul mean in Colossians 1:23 if he says, “If indeed you…”?

There are at least four views to this question*:

The loss of salvation view:

An adherent of the loss of salvation view would take Paul’s warning here as absolutely legit and completely literal. Paul means what he says. If you continue in the faith then you will be ultimately saved and all of these promises are yours. If you do not continue in the faith then you will have lost your salvation. This is no mere hypothetical situation either. People have lost their salvation (1 Timothy 1:19 and 2 Timothy 4:10) Paul is serious in Colossians 1:23, if you do not endure to the end you will not see God, we cannot be certain that any believer will endure to the end; therefore we ought to be careful to heed this warning.

The loss of rewards view:

Adherents to this view will put a ton of weight on other places in Scripture which speak of the eternal security of the believer (like John 6:37-44 and 10:28-30). To say that one must do good works to enter into heaven, or one must persevere until the end to obtain eternal life, is contrary to the message of grace which permeates the whole New Testament. If salvation is truly by grace through faith, then works can play no role in the outcome.

The presentation in view in verse 22 is not speaking of our ultimate judgment; it is speaking of the believer standing before Jesus in what is known as the Bema Judgment. What is at stake is not salvation and entrance into the Kingdom. What Paul is saying in this text is that if the believer continues in the faith then he will hear a well done good and faithful servant from Jesus. If he does not continue then he will be stripped of his rewards but will not forfeit entrance into the Kingdom because that, as we have seen from the above verses is not possible; once you are saved you are always saved.

Test of genuineness view:

This view partially agrees with both the above views. It agrees that those that are truly saved cannot lose their salvation. But it also agrees that if you do not persevere to the end you will not be saved. Such a view will look at 1 John 2:19 as proof. The reason why anyone does not endure is because they were never genuinely saved in the first place. And so it is every time in Scripture that we see someone “fall away”. All true believers will be empowered by God and endure to the end and thus be saved, if someone appears to fall away it is because they were not saved in the first place.

Means of salvation view:

This view is very similar to the third view, but in places like Colossians 1:23 an adherent to this view would say that the test of genuineness view does not give full weight to what Paul is saying.

The error that you make is assuming that Colossians 1:21-23 should be understood retrospectively. What I mean by that is that you are assuming that Colossians is something we look back upon after we have already endured or fallen away. If you endure then you look back at Colossians and say, “see my faith was genuine”, or you look back after falling away and say, “well I guess it must have been gas”. The truth of the matter though, is that Colossians 1:21-23 is prospective. Paul is not saying this looking backwards, he is looking forward.

Therefore, “it is precisely by taking the warnings seriously that we avoid eternal destruction”. These warnings are the means that God uses to keep us continuing in the faith.


As you might have picked up my preferred view is the means of salvation view. I believe it does the most justice to the biblical text. It does justice to the texts that clearly show that we will endure to the end. Yet it also does justice to the texts that cry out “You must endure to the end”!

Must you endure to the end to be saved? Absolutely. And because of the work of Christ Jesus and the indwelling Holy Spirit those that are believers will endure to the end by heeding such warnings.


*This is adapted material from a previous sermon that I preached. As such my thought here is probably indebted to many resources. I know for sure that I’m indebted to Tom Schreiner in his book with A.B. Caneday, The Race Set Before Us.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Traded Everything for Love?

I stumbled across this photo last week and it captivated me. There is beauty in the simplicity of it.

Here is Jesus. Homeless. Tattered clothes. With the reason for his condition scrawled out on a dirty piece of cardboard: “Traded everything for love”.

The passerby would be left to wonder—what did this guy trade? How marvelous must this beauty be that he would make himself homeless to have her be his? What magnificent love must this man have…

When you fill in the details of the story with the gospel narrative the passerby would be even more astonished. To realize that the one he traded everything for isn’t some captivating beauty but an unfaithful harlot that has made herself haggardly from her rebellion. Now the passerby begins to grasp the depth of His love and the glory of His character.

What a phenomenal picture of the Story behind all stories. 

But is it true?

In one sense it is an absolutely beautiful and true picture of the incarnation. When he walked the earth he had no place to lay his head. He was as a homeless man. And all of this was because of love—love for His bride and Love for His Father.

I believe that the statement “Traded Everything for Love” comes from Philippians 2:6-8

…who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Love compelled Jesus to “take the form of a servant” by “taking upon himself human flesh”. Do you notice what is missing from Philippians 2, though? He didn’t “trade everything in”. Yes he “made himself nothing”. But he did not stop being God when He became man. This is the wonder of the incarnation. God became flesh but He didn’t cease being Deity.

This isn’t a City of Angels type of story. The pre-existent Son of God did not drop this identity and become a mere human. He remained the pre-existent Son of God but he took upon human flesh.

This is good news.

Our redemption is tied up in the fact that Jesus did not “trade everything” for love. The incarnation is only a means to the greater end of “reconciling all things to himself”, creating a people for himself, overturning the works of the devil, and ultimately restoring everything in the new heavens and the new earth. He doesn’t do this simply by becoming a man. He does this because He is the God-man.

So did Jesus “trade everything for love”? Kind of…but not really.

Today in Blogworld 04.19.13

Why Pastors Quit

Here are reasons that pastors quit. Along with some encouragement on each point.

The Light Does Shine in the Darkness

This is a moving story about a little baby that was almost aborted.

Jim Hamilton’s Moving Exhortation to Do Biblical Theology

Andy Naselli reflects on a chapter written by Dr. Hamilton. Be sure to also go here and watch the video.

Real Beauty

In response to the Dove Sketch ad, that is going viral, Tim Challies offers his thoughts on real beauty and areas of God’s grace in our lives.

A weak man’s testimony:

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Review of the Boy and the Ocean by Max Lucado

When you’re little everything looks big. Even as an adult there are some things that are breathtaking in their vastness. Max Lucado has captured this in his book, The Boy and the Ocean. Using the vastness of the ocean, the mountains, and the stars Lucado helps children (and adults) see that  God’s love is never ending.

The story is about a little boy that is captivated by the ocean. Then the mountains. Then the sky. It begins with the mother showing him how the ocean points to God’s love. Then dad joins in by showing him how the mountains point to God. At the end of the story the little boy has joined in proclaiming the depth of God’s love as he reflects upon the big sky.

The book is well written and the pictures are captivating. I’ve read it to my little boy (5) a couple of times and he loves it. It keeps his attention and the message of God’s love clearly gets across to him. My daughter (2) isn’t quite as entertained—the book is a little long for her at this point. But if your kid is around the ages of 3-7 this is a great book to help your child understand the depth of God’s love. It can even create conversation later as you take your child to look at the great things that God has created.

Isaiah wanted to help me review this book. His thoughts are below:

From Isaiah (5):

I really liked where the boy couldn’t see the end of the ocean. I also liked how they said everything was like God’s love. This book teached me how you can’t see the end of anything…like the ocean. And God’s love!! It helped me to see that God never ends and His love never ends. I just wanted to say this book is awesome! I loved all the pictures.

You can get the book here.

Why I’m Against Home-Owners Having Guns and Alarm Systems

I got a call from ADT the other day. They wanted me to buy an alarm system to protect my family from would-be intruders. I declined.

You see I’m totally against alarm systems. This includes the alarm system used by most of my friends back in Missouri, also known as the Smith & Wesson alarm system. (For those uninformed, that means that you protect your home with firearms).

I’m against both. Let me explain…

I think we really need to consider those that are forced to steal. For someone to break into my home and kidnap my children—they have to have had some bad stuff happen to them. Maybe they have made bad decisions in the past and it is now forcing them to do things that they don’t want—like kidnap kids or steal my television. It could even be possible that someone is forcing them to engage in this horrible act.

Now what happens if I have an alarm system or I use a gun to protect my family and property? When the alarm goes off this guy is going to get spooked. He might botch this and wind up hurting himself in the process. I don’t want to be responsible for that. Nor do I want to further perpetuate the effects of his bad decisions by having him be punished with jail time.

I want to take this a step further. I also think it is wrong for us to punish people who steal and kidnap children. Think of all the would-be-perpetrators that have died in prison. Or worse yet think of those that have died at the hands of someone they were trying to steal from. It’s not fair for them to lose their lives over a television set. Whether they lose their life in prison or at the hands of a gun-owner protecting his property. Think of what it must feel like to have to give up your freedoms because of one bad choice you made in the heat of the moment. It just doesn’t seem right.

Therefore, I believe that we should outlaw alarm systems and guns for home-owners. Furthermore, we should no longer make it illegal for people to kidnap our children or steal our stuff. It’s much safer that way.*

Why My Argument Doesn’t Work

The argument that I’ve just made is pretty ludicrous isn’t it? It’s silly because during the entire argument I’m not thinking about the safety of my children. I’m putting an emphasis upon the “suffering” of an adult that happens to get injured while attempting to harm my family. That’s foolishness. Certainly, we should protect our little ones over the guy that is trying to kidnap them.

So why do we still make the argument that abortion should be legal because women will die in bathtubs trying to perform their own abortions?

Not only is that statically dishonest it doesn’t make sense. Take this quote:

"One woman," Reagan writes, "described taking ergotrate, then castor oil, then squatting in scalding hot water, then drinking Everclear alcohol. When these methods failed, she hammered at her stomach with a meat pulverizer before going to an illegal abortionist."

We are supposed to respond to this by feeling sympathy for the woman. Which, might I add, is a correct response. But it’s not a sufficient response. We should also be upset that she has decided—yes, even in the case of rape—to resort to terminating the life of her child. Victim, yes. But she is also making herself a perpetrator. In the case of rape she has, sadly, chosen to perpetuate the violence done to her.

If we shift our eyes from the poor woman in the bathtub (and again it really ought to make us weep) to the unborn child in her stomach, then it doesn’t make sense to put the rights of the perpetrator (the pregnant mother) over that of the victim (her child).

Wait, you say…

Some that make the coat-hanger argument are saying, “Listen, I don’t want to see children aborted. But I also don’t want to see women die. If she is going to abort her child in a backstreet somewhere, I’d rather her do it in the hospital where it is safe. Why lose two lives instead of one?”

Even the most liberal statistics have the deaths for mothers at 5-10,000 deaths per year. That is horrendous. Each of these should cause us to weep. Consider this, though: Since 1973 there have been over 56 million legal abortions. If 10,000 mothers had died from 1973 to 2013 in back-street abortion attempts that would have been 400,000 would-be mothers.

So that means we have performed 56 million “safe” abortions to protect 400,000 mothers. That’s not 2-1. That is 140-1. For every mother that we have “saved” we have sacrificed 140 children. So my response to the “why lose two lives instead of one” is to say, “why lose 140 lives instead of one?”

If it’s a child in the mothers womb (and it is) then the coat-hanger argument simply doesn’t work…


*This entire section is not true. If you try to harm my wife or children I’m going Liam Neeson on you. I do have two cats that you are more than welcome to take, however.

Today in Blogworld 04.18.13

9 Things You Should Know About Female Body Image Issues

There is a video on this link that everyone needs to watch; especially if you are a woman.

R.A. Dickey on Hitting Rock Bottom

Great piece on 60 Minutes. I wonder, as did Challies, “what was left on the cutting room floor”.

Shai Linne Responds to Paul White Ministries

This is really good. In case you haven’t been following, Shai Linne has called out many false teachers in his track by the same name. Paul White was one of those that Shai accused of being a false teacher. Her son, Bradley Knight, responded with an open letter defense. The link above is Shai Linne’s response to Knight’s letter.  

The Humble Pope

A bold and good piece from Tim Challies on the humble pope.

I don’t really agree with the conclusion of this ad, but I give them serious props for creativity.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Stupidity of Adopting Cats and the Glory of Being Adopted

About a year ago my wife and I adopted two cats. Which, in my opinion, is stupid for at least two reasons.

First, they are cats. I haven’t checked the Hebrew of Genesis 3 but I think that somewhere in there it is implied that a cat is what convinced the serpent to deceive the first couple. I can’t prove that though.

Secondly, is it really adoption? I’m not raising these cats as my own children. They are cats. Though they might both occasionally poop on the floor the similarities mostly stop there. I won’t be buying clothes for the cats, I won’t shed a tear if they escape the house at night—in fact I encourage it, and I won’t put my children’s offspring in a box at Wal-Mart that says free to a good home.

Yet no matter how stupid the wording is, my wife and I have a paper that says we have adopted Alley-Cat and Sally-Cat. They were only six weeks old when we took them into our home. They were sisters from a litter of five other cats. As we picked these cats we tried to predict their future. Would they be prideful and stuck up, like most other cats? Would they be mean and twitchy? Would they play with our kids well?

As we looked over these five cats we decided upon Alley (who seemed ornery but cute) and Sally (who seemed a tad depressed but needy). We figured these cats would be decent pets. We convinced the folks at the humane society to give us a buy-one-get-one-free deal, and we took these cats home.

Our adoption

I’ve been giving some thought to the Lord’s adoption of us. It’s nothing like our “adoption” of these cats.

For one, he does intend to make us full-fledged children. “We are heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ”. This is astounding. To truly reflect this we would need to build a new room for the cats, give them their own beds, clothes, and the same amount of love and affection that we give to our children. They’d become more than cats. (Which I’m not going to do, by the way).

Secondly, unlike my wife and I, God is able to see our entire history. He knows all the times we are going to poop on the floor, scratch a kid in the face, pridefully ignore him, and think that we are more awesome than everyone else in the house. He knows every sin that we have committed, are committing, and will commit. And He—unlike us—feels the full weight of our treason.

If we had a crystal ball when we were trying to decide between these five cats, I know exactly how I would have chosen them. I would have chosen the good cats. Not these evil hell-spawns that we have residing in our house at present. Truth be told, I probably would have gotten a dog and had enough fodder from our crystal ball to convince my wife of the same.

This is not the case with the Lord.

I can’t fathom that He looks at all of my darkness—past, present, future—and says, “I’ll redeem that one”. Seriously? He knows all of my rebellion. All of the times that I’ve forsaken Him. All of the times that I’ve botched living the Christian life. The coldness of my love. The depth of my occasional doubt. The foolishness of my thinking and living. All of it. And he says, “I want this one”.


Feast on this from Matt Chandler:

Today in Blogworld 04.17.13

The problem with “mental illness”

Great words here from David Murray on the danger of minimizing mental illness and also maximizing mental illness. Be sure to read his follow-up post as well.

Gospel-Centered Manhood: Three Correctives

These are three truths that correct counterfeit notions of manhood, with a sweet Chuck Norris photo to boot.

Facebook Friends and Sin

I’ve almost stopped getting on Facebook all together. At times it pains me too much to see former students partying their lives away. It is also a place where the absolute lack of discernment for Christians is made evident. I’m glad for this article which helps me know how to respond.

How Sovereign is God?

Justin Taylor quotes Spurgeon and then compiles a ton of Scripture to back up the huge claim of Spurgeon.

I think we will train our church greeters in the art of giving a “BAM”

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

A Word From an Inadequate Preacher

All genuine preaching is rooted in a feeling of desperation. You wake up on Sunday morning and you can smell the smoke of hell on one side and feel the crisp breezes of heaven on the other. You go to your study and look down at your pitiful manuscript, and you kneel down and cry, ‘O God, this is so weak! Who do I think I am? What audacity to think that in three hours my words will be the odor of death to death and the fragrance of life to life (2 Cor. 2:16). My God, who is sufficient for these things?”  -John Piper, The Supremacy of God in Preaching, 41-42

If a pastor is not convinced that he is weak and inadequate for the task he is blind. Paul came to the Corinthians with fear and trembling. Our knees shouldn’t be more sturdy than Paul’s.


That’s not the whole story.

If I’m not careful my self-obsessed heart will take this truth and use it to turn the spotlight on me, the preacher. Not for my awesomeness of course; I’m Reformed, after all. I know that God is glorified in my weakness. And so, I’ll make sure everyone knows how weak and inadequate of a preacher I am. That’ll get me the thumbs up that I desire.

It is true that I’m weak and inadequate. But this shouldn’t be the truth that shines the brightest. If it does, then the clay gets the attention. There is a reason why Spurgeon ascended the stairs into his pulpit saying, “I believe in the Holy Spirit…I believe in the Holy Spirit…” and not, “I’m weak and inadequate…I’m weak and inadequate”.

A knowledge of my inadequacy and insufficiency in the pulpit is only a good and helpful truth if it is married to the incontrovertible truth that the Spirit is powerful and does shine forth His glory through insufficient jars of clay.

Therefore, I keep before me the knowledge that I’m weak, insufficient, and that my manuscript is usually quite pitiful. But I proclaim that pitiful manuscript with all the boldness and force that this weak and insufficient jar of clay can muster. I do this knowing that the Holy Spirit actually does accompany the preaching of His Word and He truly does delight in shining a light on Jesus.

Yeah, I’m weak and inadequate. But He’s not! And I want that to be the truth that drives every sermon that I preach.

Why I Almost Hope They Don’t Catch the Boston Bomber

The key word there is almost.

I do hope they catch the Boston bomber(s) and that whoever it may be is actually brought to justice. It’s okay to pray for justice. So long as we know what we are actually praying for.

But part of me hopes that they never catch the bomber. I say this because of the irresponsibility of our media and because of our growing culture of narcissism. At present we don’t know the identity of the bomber(s). We know nothing of his/her story. We can’t put a face to it. There are no stories asking, “What caused _____ to do this?”

Because of that our attention has to focus on the victims and the pain. On the morning after we feel the pain of a family that lost their eight-year-old son. A young man, full of life, eating ice cream one second, in eternity the next. In these moments we ask all the questions that pain causes us to ask. We grieve. We mourn. We hope. We try to make sense of shattered remains. We hurt.

Once the perpetrator is found our eyes will turn away from the victim to the person behind the attacks. We will know more about him than we know about that eight-year-old boy. His face will be plastered over every news station. He will go down in history. And our pain will turn to outrage.

Somewhere a teenager or a desperate narcissist of any age will view this perpetrator with a different set of eyes. He’ll begin seeing this perpetrator as successful, accomplishing the fame and attention that this failed narcissist would like to achieve himself. His eyes will not see the victims. His heart will not feel the pain. Mass murder, bombing, terror, will now become a means to an end; namely getting his face on every newspaper in America.

That’s why I almost hope they never catch the Boston bomber. This way we can’t make another “hero”. We won’t be able to quickly turn our hearts away from our pain or away from the victims; we will be forced to feel instead of pontificate.

Or maybe when they do find the perpetrator we’ll have the chutzpah to keep our eyes and attention where it belongs—on the victims, and not on a shameful person engaging in pathetic acts of terrorism.

Today in Blogworld 04.16.13

RIP Ragamuffin

Brennan Manning has died. This is a short memoir.

Love and the Inhumanity of Same-Sex Marriage

This is an excellent piece by Jonathan Leeman. When Leeman writes a lengthy article on a topic it is usually wise to give it a read. This is no exception.

11 Myths and Misperceptions about Suicide

There are some common axioms about suicide. Bruce Ray helps us see that some of these are patently false.

The shadow of secularization and the new dawn of the church.

Good word from Micah Fries. “I think the church should approach the future with some level of brevity. We should be aware of the challenges that are ahead of us, but we should not run in fear. The future can be bright, for all the reasons I laid out, and even more. Most of all, the future is bright because God is good, he is still sovereign and he loves his bride, the church. And this is a great thing!”

John Piper on regrets and retirement:

Monday, April 15, 2013

How Does a Teenager Share the Gospel with Her Unbelieving Parents?

One of the greatest joys (and at times pains) of working with teenagers is whenever students with unbelieving parents come to know Jesus. After only a short time of becoming followers of Jesus, these dear students begin aching for the lostness of their parents. And so they share the gospel with them.

And it gets really ugly.

The gospel is an offense. Period. But it’s perhaps even more of an offense when your arrogant 15 year old is telling her mom how wrong she is about life, the Bible, and her eternal soul. To her this new found “knowledge” doesn’t feel much different than her daughter trying to set her straight in a million other areas in life.

That’s when I get a teenager at my house at 12:30am because she’s convinced that her mom and dad aregoing to hell because they reject the gospel. My heart is grieved for this student. No matter how hard she tries she cannot get her mom to come to know Jesus. She wants to give eternal life to the one that gave her physical life. And so she weeps because mom and dad only gets angry with her when he shares the gospel.

So, how should a teenager share the gospel with her unbelieving parents?

If I am reading my Bible correctly faithful gospel proclamation includes both our life and our lips. It must be spoken (Romans 10) and it must be lived (1 Timothy 4). But that doesn’t have to mean that those two need to be totally balanced.

If you are on a mission trip to the Honduras and you will only see these people for about 10-15 minutes then it probably needs to look like this:


Your lifespan before these people is about as long as a moth in a refrigerator. It isn’t going to last very long. So while you can do little things in that 10-15 minutes to show the gospel, a larger portion of your time ought to be spent in speaking the gospel.

For a teenager it probably needs to look like this:


That means that you share the gospel more with your life and slide the proclamation in there whenever you can. Joyously doing chores might do more for your parents seeing Christ than you sharing John 3:16. That’s not to demean a teenager sharing Jesus from John 3:16. That is necessary and it needs to be done. But for a teenager your changed life will speak far louder than your new found theological words.

So, how does a teenager share the gospel with her unbelieving parents?

Joyously take out the trash in Jesus’ name.

Today in Blogworld 04.15.13

An Honest Response: “I love Jesus but hate Religion”

So to be blunt, to be offensive, to be “intolerant”.. You either love the biblical Jesus and his biblical religion, or you love the  Jesus and religion you’ve replaced them with. To balk at either Jesus or His religion is to engage in a slight of hand. The problem here is that you aren’t fooling anyone but yourself.

Repentance versus Defensiveness

There is a difference between these two. Gavin Ortlund spells them out nicely.

Lay Aside the Weight of Doubt

Here are a few practical ways to fight the sin of doubt.

Kermit Gosnell and the Gospel

Russell Moore weighs in on the atrocities of Kermit Gosnell. (Have I mentioned yet how excited I am that Dr. Moore is the new president of ERLC?)

Be sure to listen carefully to this creative ad by K-Mart:

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Knowing the Creep’s Name…Two Years Later

Our sermon this morning was on Romans 8:12-17. Tonight in our Life Groups we will talk even more about the beauty of adoption. All of this reminded me of something amazing the Lord was doing in my life a couple years ago.


Driving to class this morning I was rocking out to 100.5 Gen-X (Hopefully, it’s okay that I listen to secular music on my way to seminary).  One of my favorite songs from my teenage years came on, Creep by Radiohead:

When you were here before
Couldn't look you in the eye
You're just like an angel
Your skin makes me cry

You float like a feather
In a beautiful world
I wish I was special
You're so very special


But I 'm a creep
I 'm a weirdo
What the hell am I doing here?
I don't belong here

I don't care if it hurts
I want to have control
I want a perfect body
I want a perfect soul

I want you to notice
When I'm not around
You're so very special
I wish I was special


She's running out again
She's running out
She run, run, run run

Whatever makes you happy
Whatever you want
You're so very special
I wish I was special


In the original version of this song the word “very” is replaced by the F-bomb.  This is an angry song about a young man that has a crush on a girl but he really does not feel like he is good enough for her.  At the end of the day he wishes that he was special like her.  “I want you to notice when I’m not around” is perhaps the most telling lyric.  This young man feels insignificant and unnoticed.  He would sacrifice his own identity just to be someone that would be liked. 

This song is the cry of my generation.  At least it is the cry of my own heart.  Growing up I always felt this way.  Maybe it was the necessary result of being a short kid with big ears and glasses.  Maybe it has deeper familial issues at the core.  I feel this song.  Check that, I felt this song. 

Actually my wife and I had a conversation about this last night.  Since my identity is being rocked to the core right now—rewind about 6 months and you will see why—we have these conversations often. 

For most of my life I have had a deep desire to be noticed.  Not necessarily in a “look at me, I’m the center of attention” type of way.  More so in a, “Hi, Mike I’m glad that you exist” type of way.  For years I killed parts of me that were “unacceptable”.  I became whatever people wanted me to be.  “Whatever makes you happy, whatever you want”.

Thankfully, God is healing me.  Last night I wept after reflecting upon a different song.  It’s a song that has grabbed my attention before.  But last night I realized why it ministers to me so much:

I hope that this ministers to you.  I pray that the way the Lord is comforting me will be a comfort to you.  It’s my prayer that as the Lord continues to heal my brokenness that he may also use it. 

If you read through this and cannot relate then that’s awesome.  Please allow me to give you a ministry tip.  You don’t heal a “creep” by convincing him you think he’s special.  You heal a “creep” by letting him know that the One who lifts up the sun, hangs the stars, and holds the universe lovingly knows the number of his hairs.  That heals brokenness. 

Originally posted here.


Two years later I’m continuing to uncover even more about myself. And I’m finding that in every spot where there is brokenness the Lord is pushing through with His holiness and redemption.

All of this because I’m his adopted son. He won’t leave me reflecting my fallen identity. He won’t stop until I’m truly living in my new name.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Truths in the Midst of Brokenness

When I go through a period where my brokenness seems to shine brighter than my redemption, I try to remember these truths*:

  • He knows what I need (Matthew 6:8)…even when I haven’t a clue.
  • It is His character to generously give (James 1:5)…even when I’m most undeserving.
  • He didn’t spare His Son for me (Romans 8:32)…even though I didn’t ask Him to, or desire for Him to do this.
  • He has provided the Spirit to intercede on my behalf when I don’t have the words to pray (Romans 8:26)…and even when my emotions don’t know how to feel.
  • He promises we will lack no good thing (Psalm 34:9-10)…even though I cry out that I’m empty.
  • He knows my frame, he remembers that I’m dust (Psalm 103:14)…in the times when I feel lower than dirt or more confident than I ought.
  • He doesn’t break bruised reeds, or quench smoldering wicks (Matthew 12:20)…even if that is exactly what I would do.
  • No one can snatch me out of His hand (John 10:28-29)…even if I try to leap out of His grasp.
  • He is not ashamed to call me brother, or son (Hebrews 2:11, Romans 8:15) …even when I feel bastardly
  • He has brought me near by His blood and placed me into His family, His body, His church (Ephesians 2:11-22)…even when I’m the crazy uncle.

These are but a few of the truths that I cling to. It’s a great reminder that it little matters what I write on the other side of those periods. It is as Bunyan said, “I saw that it is not my good frame of heart that made my righteousness better, nor yet my bad frame that made my righteousness worse, for my righteousness IS Christ.”

I’m glad to have an anchor.


*These are worded in an individualistic way because I have found that to be most helpful. If I say “us, you, them” then I don’t personalize them and I assume that the promises are for someone else.

Friday, April 12, 2013

What to Say to “All-Religions-Are-Basically-the-Same” Dude

“All religions are basically the same” –Captain Humble and Peaceful

When some peace-loving dude “humbly” tells a believer that all religions are basically the same, the believer typically responds with wet pants. That claim scares many of us. It scares us for a couple of reasons. One, we don’t know all religions. This dude seems to have studied even Zoroastrianism. Secondly, this guy seems pretty sure of himself and he also seems like he really loves peace. I don’t want to be seen as some sort of arrogant, war-mongering, and hate-filled meanie pants.

So what do I do?

If I say, “no they aren’t” then I’m opening myself up to not only sound like a narrow-minded bigot, but an uninformed one to boot. After all, the most I know about Zoroastrianism is that Antonio Banderas played him in a movie. So how do I respond? Do I just nod my head and pray for the guy?

One of your fears can be calmed. You don’t have to know all religions to respond to this guy. You just have to know the one absolutely unique gospel. And when I say that I don’t mean the watered down hippie-Jesus version. I meant he God-becoming-man, who carried human sin to a Cross, and screamed over it “It is finished”!

Ask this confident chap share the gospel with you. Or ask him what the message of Christ is. Then, when he fumbles it—and he will fumble it, because no one who really knows the gospel will say that it’s like every other religion—then, you have an opportunity to share the unique claims of Jesus with him.

At this point when (if) you are accused of arrogance, you might lovingly point out his hypocrisy. After all isn’t it a tad arrogant to say that you’ve studied all religions, and you’ve gotten to the core of them, and have seen that they are all the same. Especially, when all these religions themselves proclaim, “No, we aren’t the same and that’s why we are fighting”. It’s just not be honest and frankly its demeaning because it is essentially calling every one with any religious spine at all a complete moron.

Your goal in sharing the gospel with this guy is to get him to actually have to deal with the unique claims of Jesus. Don’t let him hide behind the idea that Buddha, Mohammed, Zorro, Tom Cruise, Oprah, and Jesus all have the same claim on his life. Jesus makes a unique claim. Help this person understand that he either has to be willing to call Jesus a wrong-headed false teacher or surrender his life to Him. He can’t have it both ways and still have any shred of honesty.

Today in Blogworld 04.12.13

The God Who Finds Us

I’ve been battling darkness for the past few days. This was really helpful to me personally. “God will fulfill his own purpose in us. He will transfer our selfish gaze back to his selfless ways. He will provide us with joyful reassurance in our darkest times of doubt and wondering.”

My Biggest Blogging Mistake: “Holy Hip Hop”

I don’t remember reading the original articles, but this retraction was wonderful. Things like this warm my heart because it shows the work of the Spirit, even two years later. Awesome.

8 Reasons for the Media Blackout on Kermit Gosnell

You maybe haven’t heard of the atrocious actions of Kermit Gosnell. I know you haven’t if you only rely upon the secular media for your news. They haven’t said a word. And that is telling. Trevin Wax tells us 8 reasons why the silence.

An Alternative to “Meh”

Yes, I’m linking to two articles by David Murray. This is a great reminder. Responding to someone’s good news is an opportunity to reflect the goodness of God.

This is powerful:

Thursday, April 11, 2013

One Massive Reason I Believe in Eternal Security

I have to be honest. I think there are a few verses that proponents of eternal security use that cannot bear the weight of that doctrine. For example, Philippians 1:6.

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

Though I believe this text helps us see a general principle—that God finishes what He starts—I’m not confident that in this particular text that work that He has started is salvation. I actually think it has more to do with their partnership in the gospel (v5), which is quite possible speaking of their monetary help in advancing the gospel. In fact I believe Philippians is a call to continue the work of advancing the gospel, not so much a call to not abandon the gospel.

Now I could be wrong. And if it is talking about eternal security that’s no skin off my back because I believe the doctrine taught elsewhere. But I always get a little worried when we line up a number of texts (often out of context) to prove a doctrine. Actually those that do not believe in eternal security can pull a good number of verses out of their hat as well. That is why I like to take whole textual units and flows of thought and develop doctrine from that.

The beautiful logic of John 6:38-40

One such place is the sixth chapter of John. This chapter begins with a miracle and the crowds wanting to make Jesus their king. It ends with everyone but the disciples betraying him (and even in their midst is the great betrayer Judas Iscariot). In the middle of this chapter is a discussion about manna, the bread of life, and the eternal provision of Jesus.

The crowds got their fill for the day. Jesus knows that their attempts to crown him is only because “you ate your fill of the loaves”. They are satisfied with temporary provision. Jesus then contrasts this with a desire for that which will eternal satisfy—Himself. In verse 35 Jesus says, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst”. Note the context: eternal versus temporary.

The problem, outlined in verse 36, is that they aren’t coming to Jesus. Yet there is hope because “all that the Father gives” to Jesus will come to Jesus. And whenever anyone (highlight the anyone) comes to Jesus, this one will “never be cast out”. Jesus gives the reason why in verse 38-40. This is true because Jesus has come to do the will of the Father. What is the will of the Father?

And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.

Does Jesus always do the will of the Father? Yes.

Did Jesus fully accomplish the will of the Father? Yes.

What is the will of the Father, in this text? That he would lose nothing that was given to him by the Father.

Who are those that are given to Jesus? Those who look upon the Son, those that have come to Jesus.

Therefore, if Jesus loses any of us He does not accomplish the will of the Father. If Jesus does not accomplish the will of the Father what does this mean for His perfect righteousness?

This means that you and I are as eternally secure in the arms of Jesus as He is faithful to the Father. This is what he is saying to the crowd. Bread disappears. Even the heavenly manna disappeared after one day. It is not so with those who come to the bread of life. We will never ultimately go hungry, because the Good Shepherd will never let us go. Whoever comes to Jesus will be satisfied. Eternally.

Today in Blogworld 04.11.13

Southern Baptists and Spiritual Myopia

I should probably stay out of this one. But I do feel like this is a really good piece by Dave Miller. There are some really good points here. Good points from Ed Stetzer too.

Osteen’s Folly

I appreciated this piece from Marty Duren.

God’s Love Compels Us

Aaron Armstrong live-blogged The Gospel Coalition Conference. Here is an e-book that Aaron compiled with his notes.

I don’t know why I laughed so hard at this:

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Review of The Psalter Reclaimed

My two-year-old daughter loves  spaghetti. She will pound down an entire plate of the stuff. That is, if we cut the noodles up for her. It’s not that she’s too young to eat the noodles without choking--she’s got the slurping action mastered. But if all she has to deal with are really long noodles she will exhaust herself before she finishes her plate. So we cut the noodles up and she tears into them.

Some books are like chopping up spaghetti for a two-year-old. They are really good but might be a little exhausting for the average reader. It’s not that you’ll choke on it and not be able to understand it, it’s just that you might get so exhausted that you don’t get the full benefit of the book. More experienced readers need to read these types of books and know how to “chop them up” for others to enjoy. The Psalter Reclaimed is one of those books.

Gordon Wenham is a well-respected Old Testament scholar. What we have in The Psalter reclaimed is a collection of various lectures that Wenham gave from 1997-2010. Wenham looks at reading the Psalms canonically as well as messianically. There are also more practical chapters such as his chapter on praying the Psalms. Wenham also doesn’t shy away from the difficult imprecatory Psalms, devoting an entire chapter to thinking about how we ought to read them and use them in our day. Though tipping it’s hat to it’s more scholarly audience, the blurb on the back of the book summarizes it nicely:

[The Psalter Reclaimed] provides hermeneutical guidelines for interpreting the book—making accessible to us the transforming messages of the Psalms.

You can tell from the use of the phrase “hermeneutical guidelines” that the ‘us’ is probably a reference to more theologically experienced readers. Most of the chapters reflect the audiences in which they were given; namely, scholars and divinity students. It is not surprising then that a reader would need to be vaguely familiar with Old Testament scholarship.

Yet, this book does not read like a dry seminary lecture. It is a passionate plea for churches to recover the Psalms and use them for their original intent, as prayers to God. For that reason it is a book that needs to be read by everyone. Either chopped up by a seasoned reader or swallowed whole.

I should mention as well that Wenham’s treatment of the imprecatory Psalms is very helpful. For me that section would be worth the cost of the book. There are many gems throughout this book that the church needs to hear.

You can buy your copy here.


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