Friday, May 31, 2013

What Can We Learn From Voltaire?

Voltaire isn’t an evil robot from an 80’s cartoon, nor is he the bad guy from Harry Potter. Voltaire was an atheist that hated God and the Bible. Near the end of his life he claimed that within 100 hundred years Christianity would be stamped out and known only as a relic of history. Voltaire died in 1778. In God’s irony, within 25 years of Voltaire’s death his mansion housed the Geneva Bible Society. His former residence is now used to churn out Bibles.

Isn’t God amazing? Doesn’t this show us that God is sovereign and that His word will last for ever?

Yes to the first, no to the second. It doesn’t show us anything about God because the story isn’t true. First, Voltaire was a deist not an atheist. Second, there is no record of his having predicted that Christianity would be stamped out within 100 years. Now don’t misunderstand me—Voltaire was no follower of Jesus. Such a statement would not be surprising. But there is no record of his having said it.

Furthermore, it is not true that any of his houses were ever used for a Bible society. It’s a great sermon illustration. It leaves people in awe at the power of God. But it’s simply not historically accurate.

What is true is that the Hotel Gibbon which Voltaire often frequented became a depository of the Bible Society* in 1849. But that is it. Not quite as good of a sermon illustration. And so, like any good fishing story, the catch has gotten a little bigger over the years.

We ought to learn a couple lessons from this false story of Voltaire:

  1. Check your facts and stories. What is intended to be a “point for Jesus” ends up being a point for unbelievers. Christians look like blind people groping for anything to believe in. It’s okay that we look like idiots—after all the gospel is offensive and seen as foolish to an unbelieving mind. But we shouldn’t look like idiots because didn’t fact check.
  2. Let the Word of God be the anchor and the stories be the servants—not the other way around. The fact that this story is not true should not do anything to your faith other than to make you say, “ah man, that would have been a great sermon illustration”. The truth of God’s word is unchanging. If we find out these stories are untrue we have only lost a servant to our gospel proclamation—not it’s foundation.
  3. We will have an eternity filled with TRUE stories like this. God is in the process of rooting out of his kingdom all sin and unbelief and replacing it with passionate worshippers. Therefore, there will be in heaven a million true stories of light overcoming darkness. I can’t wait!


*Information take from here.

Today in Blogworld 05.31.13

Unity, Bad Theology, and the SBC: The Heart of the Problem

Dave Miller encourages Southern Baptists to have a solid theology of unity and to live it out.

Think Small

This is helpful advice for anyone.

Doubt Your Doubts

Lore Ferguson is back from her sabbatical. I’m glad.

A Statement From the Calvinism Advisory Committee

This will be presented at the SBC Annual Meeting. I find it a helpful statement.

I just preached on James 3. This is much better:

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Why Does God Permit Believers to Lose Peace?

When a believer loses his/her sense of peace it is a terrible thing. Many of souls have been crushed by this trial. This often leaves those on the outside looking in, as well as those going through the trial, wondering why a loving God would permit a believer to lose peace. William Bridge, in his excellent work A Lifting Up for the Downcast, gives six reasons why “permits his own people and dearest children to be discouraged, and their peace to be interrupted”:

  1. Because “so long as man has encouragement elsewhere, he does not encourage himself in the Lord his God”. Our peace is interrupted so that we might run to Him who is our greatest good.
  2. Because “the interruption of an ordinary blessing does raise it to an extraordinary”. We are at times discouraged so that we might further appreciate the graces we take for granted.
  3. Because “He would not have His children to love their nurse more than Himself.” In other words, so that we will not be ripped off by pursuing inferior lovers.
  4. So that “He might train them up unto more perfection”. “Because as [God’s] comforts do wean us from the world’s comforts, so we have need to be weaned again from these weaners.”
  5. Because “many times the children of God…grow secure, vain, frothy and wanton under their peace and comfort”.
  6. Because Christ is a great surgeon. “He sees that the comforts of His people sometimes are not right laid, and therefore, says He, though I desire this poor wounded soul may be quickly cured, yet because this comfort, this promise, this experience does not lie right, it must be taken off again”. The Lord would have us to be truly and deeply healed.

This book is a great resource for those that feel crushed and those that minister to those that do. Get it here.

Today in Blogworld 05.30.13

Should I Start a Grassroots Movement to Change My Church?

Kevin DeYoung says no. Read why.

Top 70 Online Resources on the Psalms

David Murray compiles another helpful list.

Brave Enough to Face Brokenness

I like this.

33 Reasons To Abstain from Porn

You shouldn’t need 33, but if you do…here you go.

This is great. Little dog emerges from rubble of OK tornado:

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Trembling Hands of an African Blasphemer

I found myself deeply moved earlier this week upon reading the diary of John Newton. Newton has become a dear friend of mine and there was something deeply moving about reading his diary, from his own pen, near the end of his life. Here is a selection:


That is barely legible. By this time Newton has almost totally lost his eye sight and his memory is quickly fading. If one reads his diary from the the 1770’s you see the diary of a man with good penmanship, able to express deep and poetic thoughts. It is everything but this in 1804.

Why bother with journaling when you are nearly blind?

The answer is found in piecing together the scribbling of Newton in the above selection. His first line reads: “Though I cannot write, I can pray and praise”. This was (I believe) his birthday. Towards the end of the his life he only wrote in this diary on special anniversaries: the anniversary of his physical birthday, his spiritual birthday, and his wedding anniversary. And every time Newton praises. He kept writing because he believed that while the lips of the “African blasphemer” could still move he was to praise the Lord for His goodness.

Secondly, Newton wrote in the above selection, “I hope some may be benefited by my lispings”. Until the day of his death Newton wanted to praise God and help people. Perhaps this is why some 200 years later an associate pastor in Indiana is still benefiting from his life and labors.

This is why I found myself deeply moved. I can picture Newton with faint eyes and trembling hands dipping his pen in ink because whatever energy he had left he wanted it to be spent on praising God and helping people. I want to be this type of pastor. This type of man.

May I never stop being enamored at what the Lord has done for me. If the Lord tarries and I’m granted old age, I pray that my trembling hands are used to praise God and help people.

Today in Blogworld 05.29.13

Don’t Just Put the Cookies on the Bottom Shelf

Solid preaching advice.

Spurgeon’s First Five Years in Ministry

This is a gold mine.

10 Ways to Squeeze the Juice Out of a Sermon

This isn’t for the preachers. This is for those listening. Here are ten ways to get the most out of hearing the Word preached.

The Saintly Sinners of Evangelicalism

He saves even saintly sinners.

A word to our graduates:

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Is It Okay to Vent?

“I feel like I am going to explode. I know that it is unhealthy to hold stuff in. So I just need to vent to someone. I don’t need advice, counsel, or anything—I just need to express all of my feelings.”

I’ve heard such statements numerous times. In fact I’ve heard something similar pouring from my own lips. Social media has given a new medium in which we can vent; namely Facebook. Just scroll down your news feed and within 15-20 posts you are likely to read some sort of complaining, whining, griping, or venting.

But is it biblical? Is it okay for us to vent to other people? Is it innocent for us to just get stuff off our chest via Facebook status updates?

What Scripture Says

There are several Proverbs that outline the difference between the speech of a fool and the speech of the wise. Proverbs 29:11 directly addresses our question: “A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back.” Only the full says everything that is on his heart. A wise person holds back and attempts to get clarity of thought and control of emotion before “letting it rip”.

Proverbs 18:2 relates as well: “A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion”. It is only a fool that says, “I don’t want to learn or receive counsel—I just want to express my opinion”.

The Scriptures are clear, venting to our fellow man is the way of the fool: whether this venting is in the form of typing out our feelings on Facebook, venting about someone else to a trusted friend, yelling at an imaginary person sitting in a chair in a counseling session, or letting someone know how you really feel about them.

Why Do We Vent?

Consider the reasons why we vent. Why are we tempted to go on Facebook and express our feelings? What is going on in our hearts that make our emotions so out of control? Likely it is because we have a good desire that is out of control. We vent because we feel mistreated. Justice is not being served. We vent because we want to bring about justice.

Occasionally we vent because we want empathy. We want others to feel for us and with us. We need people on our team. We feel justified when others surround us and tell us that our desire is good. And so we vent and rally the troops. We get people on our side against an enemy (whether real or perceived).

Why is this foolish? It is foolish because people are not our refuge. Yes, they can be a means in which God provides healing. But venting never provides the healing that we long for. In the case of venting, our bonding with another human is based upon aggression and not a humble trust in the Lord. Such a relationship is not healthy.

Venting never accomplishes what you want it to accomplish.

So what is one to do? You feel like you are going to explode. You’ve got to give expression to these feelings. You hurt. You are angry. You are anxious. Journaling might help but you still feel like you have to give expression to these feelings.

God-ward Venting

I am convinced that our amount of venting to our fellow man is directly proportional to our view of God. If we believe that God is sovereign and that He has the ability and intention to eradicate evil then we realize that “the anger of man does not accomplish the righteousness of God”. We don’t need to vent to make things happen. Furthermore, if we truly believe that God cares for us then we are more prone to “cast our anxieties upon him” because we believe that He actually listens, actually comforts, and actually cares.

You don’t have to let emotions bubble without expressing them. God has given us the Psalms for a reason. They are a guide to our God-ward venting. They help us cast our cares upon the Lord.


Is it okay to “vent”? Not to our fellow man. But it is biblical for us to cast all of our cares upon the Lord. If this comes in the form of a “vent” then so be it. But I wouldn’t expect the Lord to join in a pity party. He’s likely to deal with the inordinate desires that is causing the venting in the first place. And perhaps that is why we so often go to our fellow man. They provide a mock and temporary comfort.

But not the Lord.

He is after your heart. And that might mean that He will not give you a “like” on Facebook but He’ll provide comfort as He simultaneously addresses our idolatry problem.

Go to the Lord we must.

Today in Blogworld 05.28.13

12 Ways Pastors Went from Burnout to Vision

This is helpful.

The Way of Wisdom

Dr. Schreiner summarizes the book of Proverbs and its first chapter. It’s a little lengthy but worth the read.

How to Survive a Cultural Crisis

One of the rules of the internet is that when Mark Dever writes a piece you read it and then link to it.

If God is Sovereign, Why Is My Sanctification So Slow?

With help from John Newton, Justin Taylor provides an answer.

This has been circulating for a few days. Pretty funny:

Monday, May 27, 2013

Why I Wrote a Book on Suffering

My first book, Torn to Heal, has been released for almost a month now. I’ve had a few conversations with people as a result. One question seems to keep coming up. “Why did you write a book on suffering?”

A partial answer is that I wrote this book to myself. It’s not that I have suffered more than other people. I haven’t. But I’m also not ignorant of personal suffering. I have had my fair share of pain. There are wounds from my past that still seethe at times. Add to all of this that a black dog is perpetually chasing me and sometimes he catches me. Going through seasons of depression as a pastor has forced me to not only develop a theology of suffering but also to use it. 

For years I tried dealing with my pain through the superficial remedies often hailed by the church. I found myself as the bleeding woman who had “spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse”. Superficial answers don’t help in the face of deep suffering. My superficial answers couldn’t hide from the glaring words of Scripture. Nor would my inner turmoil be calmed.

While at a break point, I asked myself one question that changed everything. “What if this suffering isn’t solely from the hand of the devil, but is actually from a good God?”

I no longer had to run from verses like Philippians 1:29 that seems to view suffering as a gift of grace. But what would this mean for my battles with depression? What would it mean for the things that I’ve endured in the past? What if suffering is actually “a means that God uses to draw believers into greater conformity with Jesus Christ”? And not just “uses” as in “makes something beautiful out of a mess that Satan created”—but what if the Sovereign Creator actually orchestrated the mess as a God-ordained means of lasting joy?

That’s raw. That hurts.

And so I turned to the Psalms. And here I found that the Scriptures do not shy away from emotion. This is where I came up with “the gospel-driven path between dualism that acts as if God has lost control of his world and fatalism/stoicism that tires to bury our pain beneath an emotionless acceptance of whatever happens*.”

Neither dualism or stoicism helped me. And neither help the church. This leads to the full answer to why I wrote this book:

I want to see believers obey 1 Peter 4…Here Peter commands us to develop a Christ-exalting theology of suffering and then to not be shocked when we actually have to use it. My passion is that the church might learn to suffer well by modeling deep and abiding faith in God in the midst of suffering. I want to see a church that choosing suffering over ungodliness, a church that stares down the darkness of a lost world and says, ‘I’ll take the gospel to them,’ even if the only way to do that is to embrace difficulty, struggle, and suffering. (Torn to Heal, 55)

I believe this book can be very helpful to the church. One of the reasons that I chose Cruciform Press is because of the length of their books. This forced me to write a book on suffering that would be “concise and readable”. I believe folks that are currently in the furnace of affliction will be helped by this book. But I also believe you need this book even if you are not at present suffering—in fact you might want to read it even more in that season.

So I need your help. Here are four ways that you can help with this project.

  1. Buy the book. Read the book. Give it to others.
  2. Write an honest review on Amazon.
  3. If you have a blog, join the blog tour scheduled for June 10-14
  4. Get the word out. Tweet about the book. Share it on Facebook.


*That quote is from Dr. Jones’ endorsement on the back. I was very encouraged by his endorsement because it meant that I had been clear. He echoed perfectly my intentions for the book.

Today in Blogworld 05.27.13

7 (Plus One) Deadly Sins of a Church Website

75-90% of potential guests check out the church website first. Is your website attractive?

God’s Mercy in Messed Up Families

Why is the Bible loud on sinfully dysfunctional families and quiet on harmonious families?

Public responses to allegations of wrongdoing by your friends

Solid take.

Jonathan Edwards: Why Read Him?

Edwards if tough to read, I think. But he needs to be read. This article explains why.

With a little patience and savings you can drive a “free” car for life. Here is how:

According to his ability - Terry Buster

Matthew 25:14-30 - The parable of the stewards.

In this parable, Jesus tells the tale of a master who places certain stewards in charge of his finances.  The three men were given 5, 2, and 1 talents respectively (A talent was the monetary figure of the day) and were told to use it to bring profit to the estate.  The first two invested wisely and on the day of accounting demonstrated a competency verifying their master's trust.  The third man did nothing with his charge other than to dig a hole, hide the money, and blame his own laziness on the master.

How often do you and I read this parable and rush to the 'good stuff' at the end?  We celebrate the good stewards and point to the certain doom of the lazy man.  Then we think ourselves wise enough to assign places in the tale to people we know.  "He's a 2 talent guy....She's a 5 talent gal.....He's a lazy, do-nothing 1 talent bum."   Why do we rush past the master and the one key phrase which puts the whole tale into perspective?  The master entrusted his property to the servants "each according to his ability."

The master knew his servants, knew their abilities, and he trusted them to act wisely and prudently in his absence.  The master knew his servants.  He gave them responsibilities that he knew they could handle.  First and foremost, this parable is about the knowledge of God.  He knows us and knows our competencies, fears, weaknesses, and strengths.  This story is about the wisdom of God.  He knows how much responsibility to give us so that we can grow as men & women in His kingdom.   This tale is about the mercy of God.  The master knew the harsh view the third servant harbored regarding his personality.  Yet even knowing this, the master gave the servant one more opportunity to get beyond himself and find the joy of service.

What does God know about your abilities? Your circumstances?
What has God given you today to put to use in His kingdom work?
What mercy has shown you by giving you one more chance to get it right this time, even if getting it right is taking one small, meager step of faith?
What does God know?

Friday, May 24, 2013

Why Were Job’s Friends Rebuked?

Don’t be like Job’s friends.

I’ve said that quite a few times when encouraging people not to be miserable counselors to suffering people. In the face of a hurting and destitute Job—who at times was even suicidal—all these friends did was spout theological truths and tell Job that if he would repent then things would get better for him.

Finally in Job 42:7 we hear what we have been longing for throughout the entire book; namely, the rebuke of Job’s friends. The LORD said to Eliphaz, “My anger burns against you and against your two friends, for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.”

What did they say that was untrue?

The core of their theology was that God does not punish the righteous. Suffering comes because of discipline from the Almighty. “Behold, blessed is the one whom God reproves; therefore despise not the discipline of the Almighty. For he wounds, but he binds up; he shatters, but his hands heal.”

All suffering is a punishment for sin. All prosperity is a reward for righteousness. God is just and He does not punish the righteous. Therefore, Job must be sinning or else he would not be suffering. If he repents the Lord is gracious and He will heal and restore Job.

Before we dismiss their theology we should consider a key verse in the Old Testament. In Deuteronomy 28 the Lord outlines what will happen if the Israelites faithfully obey the Lord. “All these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you obey the voice of the LORD your God”. Prosperity is the reward for righteousness.

“But if you do not obey the voice of the LORD your God or be careful to do all his commandments and his statutes that I command you today, then all these curses shall come upon you and overtake you.” Suffering is the punishment for sin.

Job’s friends passed their Old Testament class in seminary. Sort of. They got the multiple choice questions correct but they blew it on the essay where they were to apply their theology.  The problem is that they take something that is true and offer it as the only explanation for Job’s suffering. This is where I get an axiom that I teach my students: good theology that is wrongly applied, stinks.

Proverbs 22:6

It is a general principle that if you “train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it”. Except sometimes they do. And the parents did everything they could to train up their child. They were good and godly parents just like Job was a righteous man. But for some reason their child departed from the faith.

Those that follow in the stead of Job’s friends will assume that a rebellious child must equal ungodly parents. It might. But it does not have to; assuming that it does will cause one to speak things that are untrue of God.

There are some things that are always true no matter the context; i.e. Jesus Christ is the only way to God. But there are some things that are generally true but shouldn’t be applied as if they are always true. The wise counselor won’t flatten truth the way Job’s friends do. Instead the wise counselor will hold the hand of suffering people as they, as Job, grope to find the One that is Truth and in whom is hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

Today in Blogworld 05.24.13

Statement from T4G on Mahaney

I’m going to be honest and say that I’m still not sure what to think about all of this. TGC has also posted a statement.

Is Your Church Ready for the Marriage Revolution?

Dr. Moore talks about getting your congregation ready for the “next fifty years of discipleship on marriage”.

Grace for Church Leaders

I found this comforting.

Jesus Doesn’t Think My Doubt is Cool

Great word from Stephen Altrogge.

If you’ve got some old spoons layin’ around and carry a sweet mustache you might be able to create your own Mumford Band. Here is how:

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Wanted: Guest Bloggers in June/July

If you look at the Borrowed Light archives you will notice that posting gets a little slow during the summer. I’m usually involved with week long missions and such, so I am not able to write as much. This year rather than slowing down the blog I thought that I would open it up to other bloggers.

I need about 7-10 posts from different bloggers to fill out the weeks from June 24—July 6th. Here are the ground rules:

  1. You need to be at least vaguely familiar with Borrowed Light’s audience and write accordingly.
  2. Your writing needs to be helpful. I’m not looking for controversial posts just writing that edifies the church and glorifies the Lord. My aim is to write in such a way that Jesus Christ is the only boast of this generation—you should write accordingly.
  3. I don’t want to do a ton of editing so it needs to be a polished article.
  4. I would prefer an original piece but it is not required.
  5. You must submit your guest posts to me by June 14th. (You can do so through emailing me here: mike [at] fbjasper [dot] org.

I look forward to hearing from you.

7 Tips from John Newton On Battling Depression

Depression isn’t something new. Contrary to popular belief, Christians in ages past were not ignorant to its reality. I love reading through how the Puritans and early evangelicals (like John Newton) thought through such things as depression.

In one letter to a Mrs. Coffin we get a fair picture of Newton’s counsel to the depressed. Mrs. Coffin was a pastors wife. She also seems to have battled depressive episodes.

Here was Newton’s counsel to her:

  1. Pray much. Think little.
  2. Avoid musing and reasoning by yourself. (You need to battle in community)
  3. Keep to the Word.
  4. Realize that this is a spiritual battle.
  5. Know that the “Lord keeps the key of comfort in his own hand”.
  6. Wait for the Lord.
  7. Take heart that your experience isn’t unChristian, in fact no Christian is exempt from conflict of soul.

I also find it interesting that Newton told Mrs. Coffin, “I believe much of your complain is constitutional”. In other words Newton thought that a good bit of her problem wasn’t sin as much as it was biology. His counsel would have been very similar to my own.

This selection was tweaked from a letter of Newton that I got from this book. The whole book is filled with gems like this.


If you would like a more detailed explanation of any of the points feel free to ask in the comments. I’ve read enough Newton that I can explain what he means by each of these points.

Today in Blogworld 05.23.13

Legalism or Love?

If you’re struggling with legalism, don’t fight it by quitting your quiet times.

OKC Before and After Pictures

This is stunning.

14 Characteristics of Theological Legalism

Grace is often eclipsed by theological legalism.

Never say no to a panda:

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

How I Disappointed Mr. T

Watch about a minute of this:

Hopefully you didn't watch much more than a minute. If you did you’re likely tearing through your house looking for scratch & sniff stickers, Hulk Hogan T-shirts, and stonewashing your jeans—anything to magically transfer you back to the wonderful world of the 80’s. The 80’s were amazing.

And also deadly.

Mr. T’s message here isn’t as bad as it could be. Actually Mr. T could be helpful as he says, “you don’t have to be famous to be somebody”. Unfortunately, that message was drowned out by the pervasive narcissism of the 80’s. Us children of the 80’s grew up hearing this type of stuff everywhere.

Over time, “be somebody” equated to “be famous”; and this contrary to Mr. T’s intentions. I thought of T after watching that Mark Driscoll* video that people were discussing last week. At some point in that video Driscoll mentioned a pastor that had been invited to the President’s prayer breakfast. And he said these words, “He’s somebody”. Immediately I thought of Mr. T’s song.

“Be somebody!”

Smokey the Bear came to my school when I was six and informed me that “only I could prevent forest fires”. Captain Planet told me that with his help I could be used to take pollution down to zero. But the most influential to me were Bo Jackson, Wayne Gretzky, and Michael Jordan. These three ProStars told me that I could be anything that I wanted to be if I set my mind towards it and worked really hard. I could be a somebody…just like them.

So this tiny kid with big ears from a small town in Missouri set out to become a professional baseball player. I worked hard. Practiced hours every night after school. Studied pitchers deliveries. I set my mind to it and I worked hard.

And I never even played one game of minor league baseball.

I was a nobody…

Then I got saved.

Maybe this will do it. I may not make it to the major leagues but I’ve discovered what really matters. If I’m a better follower of Jesus and a better pastor and writer and husband and daddy and all of these things, then maybe I’ll be somebody. So, I found my niche.

“This is how I’ll be somebody. I’m doing it Mr. T!”

And so I compete with other people in my niche. Forget those suckas out there in the world trying to be ball players and stuff. I’m doing what really matters. And I’m going to excel at this. I’ll sacrifice more than any of you guys. You want “radical” I’ve got your radical! And so I pursue being radical as a means to my ultimate end; namely, pleasing Mr. T.

Rather than actually being “gospel-centered” I turn being gospel-centered into a drive to “be somebody!” I’ll be the most gospely gospel-filled writer and pastor. I’ll be drenched in the gospel of being gospel-centered. And then I’ll “be somebody!”

Or maybe I’ll buck all those trends and chart out my own course. I’ll write something about how “radical” is just a fad and being gospel-centered is just a movement. And I’ll show my superiority by being above these movements and seeing right through them. And then I’ll “be somebody"!”

Inwardly I become restless. I despair when I’m not noticed, prideful if I am. Mr. T’s approval seems to be fickle. Maybe I’m somebody and maybe I’m not. And so my relationships start to suffer. People become a means to an end. Unity with other people is centered upon me and my desire to “be somebody!” And my preaching is only a means to show my awesomeness. I might even come across as humble. But that’s only to show that I’m somebody—a humble somebody—the bestest most humblest somebody’s of all the body’s that has ever been.

And I destroy churches and my own soul. Maybe I am a somebody, but it’s not a good somebody! Being somebody wrecks churches and souls.

The solution

You might think that the solution is to say, “I’m a somebody in Jesus”. I don’t think it is. That’s what got this whole mess started. I’m convinced that the only solution to no longer being a disciple of Mr. T is to be an actual disciple of Jesus. To really meditate on the Cross and be slain by it. I mean really slain. Not just slain so that I can parade myself around as one that has been slain. Really slain.

The solution is to fix our eyes on Jesus. His bigness. His power. His infinite worth. His love. His power. His humility. His everything. And so somehow my boasting slowly becomes in the Lord and not myself.

Be somebody?!?!?

No thanks! Jesus is the only Somebody. I’m just thankful for the grace to be included in His kingdom. No, I’m not a nobody. Nor am I a somebody. I’m just His. And that has me joyously content.

Sorry to disappoint you Mr. T!


*If you think this article is a creative way to talk about or critique Mark Driscoll you’ve missed the message. This article is about an epidemic within our culture that has invaded our church and is killing us. It’s about what is going on in my own soul. To think that this is somehow about Mark Driscoll shows the truthfulness of what I am saying—we view everything through the lens of celebrity.

Today in Blogworld 05.22.13

I am Holy

Micah Fries reflects on holiness.

Shepherding a Sick Wife

Kyle Worley’s wife has cystic fibrosis. He reflects upon the grace of shepherding a sick wife.

5 Ways to Grow

Challies outlines five ways we grow.

God is Not Glorified in Goofiness

I was scared by the title. I have a tendency to be goofy. But Aaron Armstrong means something different: “when we simply don’t do a good job out of a lack of effort, it’s sin.”

If you thought to yourself this morning, “I wonder how an etch-a-sketch is made”, congrats. Here it is:

God's Irony

I admit it. I love the various ironies of life especially when it comes to our tendency to think we have charge over our destiny.  Consider Pharaoh’s bravado as he issued genocidal orders to destroy a race of people.  His command?  “Every son this born the Hebrews you shall cast into the Nile, but you shall let every daughter live” (Exodus 1:22).  His concern was that there were to be too many Jews and these “immigrant slaves” would take over the land.  (Got to watch those immigrants very carefully.)

His solution was to destroy the Hebrews by killing off all the boys.  At first he wanted to kill them at birth (Can you say, “Kermit Gosnell” ?)  Then his solution was simply to cast them into the Nile.  Fast forward just a few verses to Exodus 2:3 and we see Moses’ mother building a small, water-proof, floating basket and ‘into the Nile it goes. The man who would be used of God to free the Hebrew slaves and bring down the power system of the pagan religious system of Egypt was ‘cast’ into the Nile.

All the human bravado and hubris in the world cannot stand up against God’s plan.  And with some frequency God simply moves by taking our words, our fears, and even our deeds and moving through them to accomplish His plans and purposes.  Be careful what you say, God may well use your words to discipline you while raising up a more obedient person/people to further the cause of His Kingdom.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Tornadoes and Theology

Yesterday a tornado devastated Moore, Oklahoma. Leaving 51 dead, with nearly half of that number being children. Events like this leave those effected with a myriad of questions and a flood of emotions. One article I read described survivors as in a zombie-like state.

What would you say to those grieving in Oklahoma?

Mostly nothing. There is a time and a season for everything. This is not the season to theologize. At present we weep with them. Job’s friends were good counselors until they opened their mouths and tried to give an answer to Job’s questions. In the midst of a sorrowing event, heeding James 1:19 is a necessity. Slow to speak and quick to hear.

Those directly affected by these storms will experience a range of emotions. These emotions will be expressed within a whole range of theological positions. Ranging from this to varying atheistic expressions. In times like this one of the best things that we can do is direct people to use the Psalms to give words to the emotions of their hearts.

And just be there. Give a shoulder to cry on or a shoulder to punch. There might be a time to teach and help with theology…that is probably not today.

But there are also those that are not directly effected by the Oklahoma tragedies. We grieve. We weep with them. We ask questions as well. And at times events like this trigger our own pain. But we are in a much different position in regards to teaching. Our emotions are not as raw. Thinking through events like this will assist us in times when we are the ones with tears streaming down our face, filled with raw emotion.

What do you say to those watching the events in Oklahoma?

In Torn to Heal, I present a bare bones biblical theology of suffering.

  1. God is not evil and does not do evil.
  2. God is executing his long-term plan to eradicate all evil.
  3. God is sovereign, and everything that happens comes from his hand (whether directly or indirectly).
  4. As autonomous human beings we are personally responsible for our own evil acts (that is, we cannot evade responsibility for our actions by claiming they
    were caused by God, Satan, circumstances, our past, our limitations, or other people).
  5. God ultimately does all things for his glory.
  6. God is ever working all things together for the greatest good of his adopted children (and this redounds to his glory).
  7. Ultimately, our greatest good is conformity to Christ, which gives us the capacity for an eternal enjoyment of God himself.

I respond to that biblical theology of suffering by saying this:

To be honest, not everything in this list makes me theologically comfortable. It’s hard for me to see how these pieces combine into a picture that is both complete and fully coherent. But that’s okay; the Bible was not written to make us theologically comfortable or satisfy our curiosity. The Scriptures exist for a far more important purpose—to point us to the living God who provides eternal comfort. This God, after all, is infinitely beyond our ability to fully comprehend. That’s one reason eternity will be endlessly revelatory and fascinating. So it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise that the God who is about the business of working out our redemption can, in our fallen and limited sensibilities, sometimes make us uncomfortable.

The truth is I don’t know specific answers to what God is doing in Moore, Oklahoma. As Samuel Rutherford once said from his prison cell, “I see not the other side of my cross, or what my Lord will bring out of it”. All we can say is that the Lord is good and the Lord is sovereign. Denying either of those is not helpful. I agree with Sam Storms that “it will not accomplish anything good to deny what Scripture so clearly asserts, that God is absolutely sovereign over all of nature”.

We must boldly assert everything that Scriptures say about suffering and evil and pain. Therefore we can say that God is sovereign and He is good. Somehow the events of Moore, Oklahoma will work together for the good of His children and to the furtherance of His glory. But we are not wise enough to connect the dots. Any pontificating about “why” this happened is likely foolish.

Someday we will no longer have tornados. Today we do. May we trust Him with the mystery that is in between.


One of the things that we can do in the “in-between” is give and serve. One of the best organizations as far as responding to disasters is the SBC Disaster Relief. You can donate here.

Today in Blogworld 05.21.13

Tornadoes, Tsunamis, and the Mystery of Suffering and Sovereignty

Sam Storms, who ministers near Oklahoma City, reflects on the tornadoes that hit Oklahoma yesterday. His view is very similar to my own.

The Goodness of God and the Reality of Evil

Dr. Mohler also reflects on the Oklahoma tornado. This is my favorite line: “Humility requires that we affirm all that the Bible teaches, and go no further.”

On Writing Well: Four Suggestions

With help from a few great writers, Justin Taylor gives us four suggestions on writing well.

7 Steps to Teach Theology in the Local Church

I especially appreciate his first point.

I’m pretty sure I would bust my face if I tried this:

Monday, May 20, 2013

An Unhealthy Focus in Much Christian Literature

“Have you stopped beating your wife?”
That question is the classic example of a loaded question. It is already assumed in the question that the respondent at some point in the past is guilty of having beaten his wife. The question itself begs for a “yes” or “no” answer. Either make the respondent guilty.

Many of the questions in Christian books, small group studies, and Sunday school material reads like this question. At risk of side-tracking discussion, I will cite one question from Multiply by Francis Chan:
“Take a minute to think about your past experience with studying the Bible. Which of the wrong motivations listed above are you guilty of? Can you think of any others?”
My only option is to admit guilt for one of the three. Could it be that God has rescued me from these? A question a few pages later says, “How do you need to adjust your approach to studying the Bible?” Could it be that I don’t need to adjust my approach? I know that we all probably need to adjust in small ways, but should it be assumed that I have wrong motivations in studying the Bible?

Listen, I am greatly benefiting from Chan’s book. It’s very helpful in many areas. I love the plan and it’s a great resource for doing discipleship. We will probably continue to use this. However, I am concerned about an unhealthy focus that this could instill. And this unhealthy focus seems to be in many books that are meant to help with discipleship.

Most material these days has a general feel that seems to come from the assumption that almost everyone and every church is blowing it in their Christian life. And let’s be honest—we do still have remaining sin and no church or person is perfect. There is plenty areas in which we aren’t matching up to what Christ has called us to.

Yet I wonder if such a focus might train disciples to think more about their failures than the work that Christ has already been wrought within us. I am not advocating erasing all of the questions that point to areas where we need growth. We need these questions. But we need another question added. We need to also ask, “In what way do you see God’s grace evidenced in your life?”

Let’s celebrate redemption at the same time we cry out for further rescue.

Today in Blogworld 05.20.13

God’s Mercy in Making Us Face the Impossible

An imaginative conversation shortly after Genesis 17:22 shows us God’s mercy.

John Piper is Not Anti-Seashell

This is a creative piece by Trevin Wax.

Parents, Do You Think Before Posting?

I’ve been thinking about this a good amount recently.

Tunnel Vision: The Personal Purgatory of Kevin Tunnell

This was an interesting and sad story. Has a ton of application though.

This is for all my readers that are facing a Chemistry final (or know somebody that is)

Friday, May 17, 2013

Review of Saving Eutychus

You’ve likely heard of Eutychus. He’s the guy that was sitting on a window sill and fell asleep during one of Paul’s lengthy sermons. Thankfully he was resuscitated and lived to tell the story. Sadly, Eutychus isn’t the only person that has fallen asleep during a sermon, he’s just the poor sap that got his narcoleptic fit recorded in the Scriptures.

People fall asleep every Sunday. Sometimes because of sleep deprivation throughout the week. At times because of the lighting. But more times than not because it’s the only fitting response to the preacher’s drone. It’s not that they are bored with the Word of God it’s just that the preacher hasn’t properly wielded the sword and captured their attention.

We can’t do anything about people falling asleep because they are exhausted. But we can do something about putting people to sleep because we are boring. Gary Millar and Phil Campbell have written Saving Eutychus to help people preach God’s word in such a way that you’ll have to fight to go to sleep instead of to stay awake.

What is a sermon that will keep people awake? A prayer-drenched expository sermon that passionately presents the Word of God as it is written. That is the way that I would sum up Millar and Campbell’s answer in Saving Eutychus.

The book begins with a call to prayer and then proceeds to help preachers understand the necessity of faithful expository preaching (one that is grounded by faithful biblical theology that points to Christ). Then there are a couple of sections that are discuss the delivery and preparation of the sermons. The book closes by challenging preachers to invite critique and actually gives a few examples of a sermon by one of the authors and a critique his counterpart.

If this isn’t your first book on preaching then there will be a good bit of this information that is not new. Many books argue for the necessity of expository preaching. More these days discuss the need for having every sermon point to Jesus and his gospel. Yet, few do so in such an engaging and accessible manner.

This is the type of book that any preacher would benefit from. If you’ve been preaching for fifty years or fifty minutes there are things here that you can learn from. Personally, I’ve been preaching in various capacities for about ten years now. There were many things in this book that challenged me and caused me to analyze a few areas in which I might be stuck in a rut.

I especially appreciated the inclusion of a recent sermon that Campbell’s preached. He intentioned to use “the sermon [he is] working on right now, in real time” instead of “[his] best-ever sermon”. That made it really helpful. Writing through the process of sermon prep and delivery will be a phenomenal help to many preachers (including me). Furthermore, the addition of Millar’s critique also helps.

The book has an authentic feeling to it that is not present in some preaching books. It makes the preacher feel as if what these guys are saying actually would be translatable into any local church context. They are not talking about anything that will make the everyday preacher assume that he needs to start taking seminary courses just to exposit God’s Word. (Though, I’m not saying that cannot be a tool to assist in that endeavor). Campbell and Millar speak as one common preacher speaking to another—and this helpful.

I’m grateful for this book and I would recommend it to any regular preacher of God’s Word.

You can purchase the book here. (You may also try here)

A Ridiculous News Story

Go read this article and be amazed….but come back!

Man Dead For 40 Minutes Brought Back to Life With New CPR Technique.

You should be amazed by that. People aren’t supposed to come back from the dead after being gone for so long. This is an amazing testament of God’s grace that we could advance in medicine so far that things like this can happen.

Through putting in a non-invasive cardiac support pump doctors are able to move blood throughout the body through manual compressions. It’s quite the ordeal but it is proving to be effective at saving a life even after being dead for 40 minutes.

Now go read John 11.

Lazarus had been in the tomb for four days. Dude was already buried and starting to stink. Then Jesus arrived.

With no medical equipment.

With no CPR.

With no techniques.

Only His voice.

“Lazarus, come out!!!”

And Lazarus walks out wearing grave clothes. I can see the headlines in the next mornings Bethany Gazette: Man Dead For 4 Days Brought Back to Life by Man’s Voice.

Yeah, be amazed! Especially since he promises to do it again someday…and this time worldwide!

Today in Blogworld 05.17.13

Love Letter to a Lesbian

Jackie Hill was once a lesbian. Here she talks about her deeper love of Christ.

Radical Christianity: A Call to Legalism or a Cause to Live?

Ed Stetzer enters the discussion on radical Christianity.

Embarrassing Moments in Ministry

Dave Miller shares a couple of his embarrassing moments in ministry and invites readers to do the same. Be sure to read the comments on this one.

9 Things You Should Know About Human Cloning

The title says it all.

In case you’ve ever wondered what a blind man considers attractive in a woman:

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Why Believers Have No Reason to Follow Chicken Little

You are likely familiar with the story of Chicken Little (or Henny Penny). A little chicken has an acorn fall on his head and starts to believe that the sky is falling. On his way to tell the king he incites fear in all of his other fowl friends, they join his quest to warn the king. Eventually they meet up with Foxy Loxy. He pretends to be on their team but uses their fear to get them into his lair were he eats every last one of them.

There are many Chicken Little’s in our world, and just as many Foxy Loxy’s that use fear to fill their stomachs. Sadly, many believers fall prey to this fear-mongering. When we follow Chicken Little on his quest we betray our bad theology.

Now some will say, “Mike, the sky really is falling. Look at our world. We really are living in perilous times. Chicken Little’s got a point. He sees it with his own eyes and if I’m being honest I see it with mine as well. We had better do something about this before it is too late!”

To this I say, “So what if Chicken Little is correct?” Responding in fear only reveals a lack of trust in the One that is on the throne.

The King is Sovereign Over History

In Revelation 5 you see that Jesus Christ is the only one that is able to open the scroll. This means that He is the only one that is sovereign over history. He holds history in His hand. He is sovereign over everything. There is not one speck of dust that falls outside of His sovereign rule. There is not one square inch of creation that He cannot cry out “this is mine”.

Barack Obama (or any Republican in his place) does not move history. Kim Jong Un does not move history. No world leader moves history. Those that reject Christ, persecute Christians, and even the Antichrist himself does not move history. Those that mock us and those that overturn godly principles in our nation do not move history. They are not on the throne. They do not determine our course. Jesus Christ does. Our fears, our failures, and our inadequacy also does not move history or stall history. Jesus stands over every bit of it.

If Jesus is sovereign over history, and He is, fear is ridiculous. Chicken Little serves a king that needs to be told the sky is falling. We serve the King that rules history…even when the sky starts to fall. Therefore we don’t need to join his quest to tell the King. The King already knows and He is orchestrating it all for His glory. (See Colossians 1)

What then? Passivity?

Our response to a falling sky shouldn’t be fear. But it also shouldn’t be passivity. The believers in Thessalonica had a case of the Chicken Little’s. They believed that they end was going to happen any day (or even that Christ had already returned). Their response to such news was to sit back and idly let Jesus come and set all things right. To this Paul says, “WRONG!”

But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. Therefore encourage on another and build one another up, just as you are doing.

The sky may be falling but the sovereign Lord of history means it for our good. There’s no need to go running to the King and telling Him that His universe is collapsing. He knows what is happening and He radically dedicated to your good and His glory. Trust Him.

And while you live out your life trusting Him, edify your fellow believers and share the gospel with those that are perishing. Not because we need them to keep the sky from falling but because Christ is in the business of rooting out of His world all sin and unbelief and replacing it with passionate worshippers. You want to be on that side of history. 

Some day the sky will fall (at least figuratively) but it will be at the King’s behest. Let’s live out our lives in obedience to the King and not follow Chicken Little when he tells us that the sky is falling. When he gives us his sobering news that the sky is falling and that he is going to tell the king, let’s stop him in his tracks. And let’s share how we know the King, and that He is very good and He is sovereign over history.

Yes, the sky is falling…and Jesus is very good.

Today in Blogworld 05.16.13

When I Hear God’s Voice

I love reading stories like this.

John Piper and Mark Driscoll Talked Me Off the Bridge

I also love hearing stories like this.

Worship Without Words

Can you worship without words? Bob Kauflin shows us the power of words.

Oh, I’ve got to get one of these:

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

What About That Guy?

“Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go…Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them…When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?” Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!”  (John 21:18-23, emphasis mine)

Peter has just been put on death row by Jesus. It’s an ominous prophecy that Peter will suffer a fate similar to Jesus. Upon hearing these words Peter’s eye falls upon John, the beloved disciple. To this, he points his finger towards John and asks Jesus, “what about this guy”?

Have you ever felt like Peter?

Here you are trying to make ends meet as a poorly paid factory worker. Some other dude (we’ll call him Jim) that seems to do the same amount of work as you (if not less) makes twice the amount that you do. You know that the Lord has you at this job to be a minister for him. You are thankful that he has provided this job, but when that other guy catches your eye you can’t help but ask, “what about Jim?”

You barely seem to be able to lift your head in the morning. You pray for rescue. You read your Bible as best as you can. You surround yourself with encouraging ladies at your church. You do about everything suggested to overcome this darkness, and yet it doesn’t seem to break. The other ladies at the church are doing the same things that you are and seem filled with laughter and mirth. “What about them?”

When we do not like the lot that the Lord has given us we are tempted to cast our eyes on the life of someone else. What about them?

To this the Lord responds just as he did with Peter, “If I want to pay Jim three times your salary, or cause the other ladies to explode with happiness, that is my prerogative, why do you care?…YOU FOLLOW ME!” Jesus isn’t asking Peter to live the life of John or even to concern himself with the life of John. He will never be accountable for living the life that John is called to live. But he will be accountable for his life. And that is why Jesus turns his focus back and says, you follow me.

If God calls you to suffer (whether through depression, an unjust salary, a physical malady, or anything else) it does very little good for you to look around and say, “What about them, Lord”? Fix your eyes on Jesus and be faithful no matter where he has you. He is the Lord over every sphere of your life. You and I are called to simply follow Him wherever he leads.

The grass may be greener in my neighbors yard but I’m responsible for mowing mine.

Today in Blogworld 05.15.13

Prayerlessness is Selfishness

This was convicting.

How Do We Discern the Spiritual Conversion of Children

This is helpful. My son is really close, if not already there. I’m praying that the Lord continues to work and gives Nikki and I wisdom in shepherding him.

Accusations of Legalism

Ray Ortlund is spot on here about an overused word.

Open Letter to Mark Driscoll

I usually don’t link to pieces like this, but I really appreciate what Frank Turk does in this one. If I can figure out how to do it, I would like to interact with this piece too.

Goats are all kinds of amazing:

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Jews Didn’t Have Coffee Mugs

Okay I cannot prove that the ancient Hebrews did not have coffee mugs. But I do know that if they did they would not put Bible verses on them the same way that we do.

If I paint Philippians 4:13 in eye black and go out and play a tremendous game of church league softball, you know the statement that I’m making. I’m saying “I can do all things [like kick your tail in softball] through him who strengthens me.” End quote.

That is not the case with the way that the New Testament writers would quote the Old Testament. When Jesus says from the Cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me” He is reciting a Psalm and calling to mind that entire Psalm. In the same way when Paul quotes Habakkuk 2:4 and says, “the righteous shall live by faith” he is thinking of the entire argument of Habakkuk.

This should revolutionize the way that we study our Bibles. When you read something in the New Testament (or even in the Old Testament) that has an allusion to a prior passage these guys aren’t just proof texting; they are proof-storying. They are thinking of the entire context of the passage that they are quoting.

What this means for Bible study (and for sermon prep for us preachers) is that when we discover a passage that has an earlier allusion we had better go back and pick up the entire argument of the passage cited. We do that because this is what the inspired author (say Paul) is doing when he is quoting it. He’s not just reminding us of that sweet passage on our coffee mug, he’s telling us a story.


The best example of this is probably Jesus’ use of Psalm 22 from the cross. Psalm 22 was a lament for the innocent sufferer. It perfectly fits Jesus’ situation. When He cries out “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” He is thinking of the entire Psalm. A Psalm which actually points to the vindication of the sufferer.

Does this mean that Jesus was not forsaken by the Father? Not necessarily. Or does this mean that Jesus does not feel the full weight of an innocent one enduring suffering? Absolutely not. If anyone could rightly cry out Psalm 22 it is Jesus. And he feels the full weight of every sentence. But we should remember that it’s not only the cry of dereliction (v1) that Jesus feels, but also the notes of hope that resound throughout the passage.

Jesus will be vindicated. He knows this. While he might feel abandoned—and the full weight of abandonment—He is also trusting in the God who vindicates the innocent. He knows the end of the story.

When he cries out Psalm 22:1 he isn’t doing that because he remembered that verse in AWANA and feels like that verse fits. Nor is Matthew putting it on his lips because he thinks it fulfills verse 1 of Psalm 22. Jesus is crying Psalm 22:1 (and Matthew frames his 27th chapter around that Psalm) because he is telling the story of the entire Psalm.


When you see a verse quoted don’t assume that they quoted verses the same way that we do. Consider the entire context of the Old Testament passage that is quoted. And pack all of that into the one verse that they are quoting. When someone that lived in the age of Jesus quoted a verse they were thinking of the entire passage and it’s argument. We should do the same.

Today in Blogworld 05.14.13

The Plastic Fruit of Online Living

This is a gold. And a danger that all of us that are online need to be aware of.

Church v. Parachurch

In my opinion parachurch ministries invade spaces that ought to be done by the church. I think they can be helpful (i.e. Desiring God) but I thin they also can replace devotion to the local church. I appreciate this thoughtful article by Dan Phillips.

12 Ways to Prepare Children for Times of Doubt

I know that my children will experience doubt. These are a few helpful points to consider when preparing them for these seasons of doubt.

Is Saving Virginity Until Marriage a Mistake?

This has become quite the interesting conversation…

I’m guessing that you have already seen this…but if not, enjoy:

Monday, May 13, 2013

A Preaching Lesson from Andy Griffith

Andy Griffith was a great story teller. Watch this if you don’t believe me:

Unless it comes natural, you may not want to adopt his southern drawl, but we preachers could learn something from the way that Andy could tell a story. Notice how he occasionally slips into a present tense as he tells the story. It’s terrible grammar but it captivates a listener.

Phil Campbell would agree:

Odd as it seems, translating narrative into the present tense makes a story seem real and immediate—it’s just like being there. Retell a biblical narrative with present tense verbs, and something refreshing happens. The same applies to illustrations. You can take your listeners back in time and put them right inside the action just by adjusting the tenses…they look, he whispers, he says. It’s alive! Keeping narratives in the past tense coats everything with dust.

For this and other helpful preaching tips consider picking up a copy of Saving Eutychus by Gary Millar and Phil Campbell.

Today in Blogworld 05.13.13

Interview with Russell Moore

Here is an interview that Daniel Darling did with Russell Moore last Friday. Have I mentioned yet that I’m excited that Dr. Moore is the new head of the ERLC?

How Introverted Pastors Love

As an introvert myself I benefited from this. There are other points of interest in this article as well.

We Can’t Stop the Crash, But We Can Pick Up the Pieces

I appreciate Dave Miller’s take on our cultural situation.

Does Abba Mean “Daddy”?

There goes a couple sermon illustrations…

This little dude has some serious chops:

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Happy Mother’s Day!

I bet this song was sang at many churches this morning:

To all you mama’s that are this awesome

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Friday, May 10, 2013

Review of The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert

Rosaria Champagne was a tenured professor at Syracuse University, a rising administrator, and a well-respected community activist. At the age of 28 she had declared herself a lesbian. She was heavily sought after by those advancing “radical leftist ideologies”. She despised Christians.

Rosaria Butterfield is a pastor’s wife and a homeschooling mother that is active in her Reformed Presbyterian church.

The gap between those two paragraphs is explained in The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert: An English Professor’s Journey Into Christian Faith. At the age of 36 Butterfield says, “Christ claimed me for himself and the life that i had known and loved came to a humiliating end”.

The book is only five chapters long and is nearly impossible to put down. The reader is immediately pulled into the story. Butterfield begins with her conversion and then moves on to how the Lord brought about a renewed view of human sexuality (which is very helpful by the way). In the middle of the book she shares about her church and the reasons why she landed in the Reformed Presbyterian denomination. The book closes with her discussing family and homeschooling.

My Take:

I don’t know that I can say it any better than Carl Trueman, “I cannot recommend this book highly enough. I do not agree with everything she says; but I did learn from everything she wrote. It deserves the widest possible readership”.

I appreciate how authentic this book is. Butterfield doesn’t tell a clean testimony. I like that. I love that she makes statements like this one, “I believe that the Lord is more grieved by the sins of my current life than by my past life as a lesbian”. If you think that you are getting a book that will be arsenal for your war against the homosexual agenda you are wrong. This book will rock you to the core. At least it should.

Upon completion of this book I had one overarching thought—wow, God can do anything! For that reason I would encourage anyone to buy this book. It will help your convictions grow as your view of God expands.

LifeWay has decided to promote this book in all their stores, which is a great decision. Run to your local LifeWay store and pick up a copy. Or if you don’t like running you can simply order it online.

An Unhealthy Focus on Weakness

My son is a pretty decent baseball player…for a five year old.

He’d rather me not have added those last five words. He wants to be, at the age of five, a better baseball player than the guys that he watches on television with his daddy*. But he’s not. And this makes him really angry and sometimes even makes him want to give up altogether.

When he falls to the ground and cries because he strikes out I want to pick him up and say, “Dude, you’re five. Suck it up, you’re gonna strike out.”

I think the Lord says something similar to me at times. “Dude, you’ve been plucked out of the fire. What did you expect? Suck it up, you’re going to blow it in your discipleship. You aren’t Jesus, you’re going to blow it at times in your ministry. Get over it!”

When I assume that I should have arrived by now, my pride is exposed. John Newton explains well:

Why then should you complain that you are not so tall, nor your branches so wide, nor your root so deep, in two years’ growth, as others who have been growing twenty or thirty years?…Do not let Satan impose a false humility upon you. Depend upon it there is more of self and self-righteousness in these complaints, than we are usually aware of. It is better to be thankful for what you have received than impatient because you have no more. If you can make yourself better, do it by all means; but if you cannot, wait simply the Lord’s time, at the Lord’s feet. If you heart is upright, you have only to attend to the means and precepts of grace.

An unhealthy focus on our depravity and weaknesses is unhealthy. Satan is more than happy to have us licking our wounds if it distracts us from finding true redemption and healing in Jesus. That is what Newton is saying here. Our duty is to run to Christ and be diligently engaged in the disciplines which put us in the path of grace. Whining about our lack of grace in an area does very little to help us.

Newton went on to say, “one look at the brazen serpent will do more than a month of looking at our own wounds”. Being focused on our rebellion, remaining sin, inadequacies, and personal brokenness is to foolishly stare at the conquered serpent instead of rejoicing in the conquering work of the One that represents the brazen serpent.

Diligently pursue Christ and be content with where he has you.


*Granted, since we watch the Kansas City Royals the bar is much lower and he is actually quite close to the talent level of some.

Today in Blogworld 05.10.13

A Note from Crossway President

If you are able in any way…help these guys out. Crossway is a great company that needs our help.

Shaping a Child’s Soul

Timothy Paul Jones shares why the task of shaping a child’s soul is way to important to hand over to professionals.

Journalist Covering Gosnell Becomes Pro-Life

What an amazing story! May we hear more stories like this one.

Dallas Willard: Radian Life, Radiant Death

Dallas Willard, author of the Divine Conspiracy and other books, died a couple days ago. Tom Nelson reflects on his life and death.

This is all kinds of awesome and I’m not sure why:

Thursday, May 9, 2013

How to Defend Your Faith Against Secularism

I’ve got a handful of young men that I have the opportunity to disciple. They are on the frontlines in their school. Every day they are sandwiched between cultural Catholicism and the godless presuppositions of secularism. I’m grateful that the Lord is working in the hearts of these young men. Recently they came to my office and asked if I could help them defend their faith.

How I’m going about doing this might seem counterintuitive. My philosophy comes from Charles Spurgeon:
“Defend the Bible? Would you defend a lion? Loose him; and let him go!”…The way to meet infidelity is to spread the Bible. The answer to every objection against the Bible is the Bible.
Rather than focusing on a host of current issues and answers to tough questions my goal will be to teach these students the Scriptures. I want unleash the lion. If these young men are captivated by the God of the Bible then I don’t need to worry about sticky questions destroying their faith.

Furthermore, if the Scriptures really are the means that God uses to bring about conversion I can have confidence that these young men will be used by God to influence their fellow students. They don’t need to enter into endless arguments that are really no more than a smoke screen for the true issue of human rebellion. I want them to know that the chief problem for scoffers isn’t an intellectual problem but a moral one.

Sure we’ll address issues like evolution, human sexuality, and everything else. But these will not happen with the Bible on defense. This will happen with the Bible on offense—unleashed to shake up our lives and draw us to King Jesus. Then humble young men, captivated by Jesus, will be equipped to share the risen Christ in the face of aggressive secularism.

Friends, we don’t need to spend an inordinate amount of time defending the Bible. Let’s simply have the Scriptures do it’s work in our own hearts and keep digging until the Lord rips to shreds every last remnant of sin and unbelief. And while the Lord is doing this let us humbly engage a culture with the unleashed Lion of the Tribe of Judah that is powerful enough to draw any man or woman to Himself no matter how obstinate.

Seeking God's Vindication

There are some passages of Scripture that certainly go against the grain of our 21st century sensibilities.  Some of the psalms certainly fall into that category. When the psalmist cries out to God for vindication, for vengeance, for the Lord to come down hard on “my enemies” there is an awkward, uneasy silence in the sanctuary.  Those words sound so harsh, so self-serving, so un-graceful to us in ways that cause us to step back.  Unfortunately, some believers read these psalms and instead of stepping back to consider what God is truly saying to us, they step away without learning from the Lord.  They choose to ignore the psalm or to twist and turn it around in such a manner as to interpret it as something less than what it is.

Psalm 7 begins with a confession that God is our refuge while seeking safety and and then calls on God for vindication.  Psalm 7:3-5: “O lord my God, if I have done this, if there is wrong in my hands, if I have repaid my friend with evil or plundered my enemy without cause, let the enemy pursue my soul and overtake it, and let him trample my life to the ground and lay my glory in the dust.”

David has a deep of understanding of who he is as a sinful man.  In his imperfection he knows his all-too-human tendency to see and feel the sins of others while possessing a blindness and insensitivity to his own sin, especially the sin against others.  David has the courage to ask God to ‘lay him low,’ to cause him to face his own sin.   For any child of God, this knowledge from God should lead to confession, repentance, and a fresh cleansing from the Lord.  David understands that we must look in the mirror of God’s Word before we address God’s work in dealing with the sins of others.  This a courageous act on his part.  Asking God to do whatever it takes in our lives for us to see and deal rightly with our sin is a dangerous thing.  God will hear this prayer, examine our hearts to see how sincere our prayer is, and get to work. While the end result is a fresh experience of God’s result, His work leading to that end will be painful.

You can see how God answered this prayer later in David’s life.  Read again the story of David, Bathsheeba, and Nathan the prophet (2 Samuel 11-12).  Read David’s confession in Psalm 51 in conjunction with what he seeks from God in Psalm 7.

When someone attacks, harms, and hurts us, may we have courage to ask God to open our eyes to our own lives and sin.  May we have the courage to ask God to do whatever it takes for us to understand not only our sin, but his grace and mercy.  May we only begin to pray in regard to our enemies after God has shown us our own lives.  Then and then only will we truly pray from a position of humility.  We may still pray for God’s righteousness and vengeance, but we will do so from a position of respect for God’s wisdom and His complete understanding of the circumstances and what must occur for “His will to be done on earth as it is in Heaven.”

Today in Blogworld 05.09.13

The 9 Words You Missed

Jon Acuff talks about the “comma of grace” and a few words that we might have missed in a narrative about Peter’s denial of Christ.

On Mother’s Day, Remember the Infertile

Great reminder from Russell Moore

9 Things You Should Know About Pornography and the Brain

If you think you can just look at a little porn and it not have an effect you are fooled. Here are 9 things you need to know about your brain on porn.

The Boundaries of Evangelicalism

Tim Challies, with a little help from Don Whitney, looks at mysticism as it relates to evangelicalism. Sadly the former has slipped into the latter.

This little dude didn’t want to go to church…but he’s a pretty good driver:

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

My Thoughts on James MacDonald’s “Resignation”

Last week James MacDonald resigned. Not as pastor or anything like that. He resigned his post as “fixer”:

No more setting people straight, helping others see the light. No more putting people on a program or convincing them to look in the mirror and see what they refuse to believe. Helping? Yes. Praying? For sure! Preaching? Always and with increased power, I pray. But fixing people individually? I’m done!

I first read MacDonald’s article after reading the response from Dan Phillips. Others on Twitter expressed concern over MacDonald’s words. Personally, I think this could serve to spur us on towards a helpful conversation.

The first time that I read through the article I was put off by what MacDonald was saying. I wondered if he was completely resigning from doing the messy stuff of pastoral ministry. It seemed to me that he was essentially saying, “I’m not going to be in the business of trying to help people anymore, nobody appreciates me anyways”. It sounded like an angry tirade.

Then I read it again and realized that MacDonald’s central point is that he is no longer going to try to fix people that don’t ask for it. Some of the anger that I had picked up was directed towards his old way of doing things. So now he is resolved to not offer counsel unless asked. As MacDonald says,

“Where the fixer is uninvited and the receiving heart is unreceptive, it’s far better to pull up and kneel down—interceding for a better reception, a more timely time, or a more worthy messenger.”

What I take from MacDonald is that he is going to stop initiating “fix you” conversations. He’s going to be more concerned about the things that he is called to do and less concerned about other people—unless they ask him for assistance.

Where I Agree

As I read through MacDonald’s post I think he actually has a solid point. We are prone to worry about taking the speck of dust out of our brothers eyes without looking at the log in our own. There is a certain type of person that goes about trying to fix everyone as if he/she is helping along the Holy Spirit. I believe MacDonald is saying that he no longer wants to be this guy.

This is good. We shouldn’t be that guy. If this is all MacDonald says, then I’m in agreement with him. I wish he would have been a little more careful with his words and tried making the point in a little less shocking way—but that’s forgivable. I know there have been times when I’ve let art get in the way of clarity.

Where I Might Disagree…

While I find some agreement with Macdonald, his post still causes me to be unsettled. There is some truth in saying “if people don’t want to change there is no use trying to help”. But it’s also an incomplete truth because God’s Word is more powerful than our foolish resistance. The powerful word of God is the means that God uses to “fix” people.  

As ministers of the Word of God occasionally we are called to bang our head against a wall that probably shouldn’t budge. We do so because we know that there is power in the Word of God. Worldly wisdom says that the heart of kings isn’t supposed to turn, yet Nathan boldly proclaimed truth to a King that didn’t want to face his sin. In the same way it’s a solid axiom that you cannot help people that do not want to help themselves. But isn’t the Word more powerful than this axiom?

We must proclaim God’s Word humbly and lovingly. Yes, as we attempt to restore those that are “caught in transgression” we must do it with a “spirit of gentleness” while also “keeping watch on ourselves”. But simply being prone to hypocrisy and having a tendency to botch “pulling specks out of our brothers eyes” doesn’t necessitate the pendulum needs to swing to silence.

Yes, there might be a time to “shake the dust off our feet” but that should not be our default position. And this is what still has me unsettled about MacDonald’s “resignation”. It seems as if his default position goes against the Scriptural admonitions to “reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching”. That charge doesn’t seem to be something reserved for a Sunday morning sermon. And if you keep reading in that passage in 2 Timothy he is charged to do those things in the context of those that “will not endure sound teaching”.

Now if MacDonald is simply saying that he will continue to exhort, reprove, and rebuke but not try to play the role of the Holy Spirit, I agree. And it’s a good point—that I believe he made somewhat poorly. But my concern is that in embracing something good (not thinking you are deity) MacDonald is adopting something that is not good (being silent when we ought to speak).

What are your thoughts? At one point do we “resign”? Can we?


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