Sunday, June 30, 2013

Did Moses Change God’s Mind?

One of the first articles I ever wrote was an attempt to answer this question: "In Exodus 32, did Moses change God's mind"? This morning we took on a similar question in our Tough Questions series. My answer today is about the same as it was in 2007:

Malachi 3:6 states, "For I the LORD do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob are no consumed." (ESV). Numbers 23:19 "God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he shouild change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?" These verses make clear that God does not change His mind. Psalm 33:11, 102:25-27; and Hebrews 6:17-18 speak of God’s unchangeable purposes.

So what do we make of Exodus 32 (or even Isaiah 38:1-6 or Jonah 3:4, 10)?

While God was giving Moses the 10 Commandments the people of Israel began getting a little restless, so they did what we all do--make our own gods. In verse 10, God meets the Israelites with anger. He is ready to consume every one of them save for Moses. Then Moses prays, focusing on the honor of God’s name, appeals to God’s faithfulness, and pleads with God to continue considering Israel as His people. In verse 14 we read, “And the LORD relented from the disaster that he had spoken of bringing on his people”.

When we read this we understand the word “relented” (KJV’s ‘repented’, NASB’s ‘changed his mind’, or NLT ‘withdrew his threat’) literally. Yet it is actually what we theologians call an anthropopathism. Which is a big word that simply means “giving God human emotions. From our perspective it appears that God ‘relents’ or ‘changes his mind’, but from God’s perspective He is appropriately dealing with changes in human behavior.

If men turn away from sin and repent God will forgive. There is little difference between God’s ‘changing’ in Exodus 32 and His ‘changing’ when a sinner turns and repents. Scripture states that one apart from Christ is “God’s enemy” and has “the wrath of God upon him”. Yet, as soon as a person “repents and believes in the Lord Jesus Christ” he is saved from the wrath to come. God’s view of a person is no longer that of enemy but of a friend. It is similar in this situation: Moses repents (as the representative head of the people), God responds to Moses’ repentance and forgives or ‘relents’.

So does God change His mind? Absolutely not. God is forever unchanging in His character and in His purposes. Yet as Wayne Grudem comments, "God does act and feel emotions, and he acts and feels differently in response to different situations".
That does not make God unchanging it merely makes Him living.

The real question is this, "Did Moses change God's mind (so as to catch God by surprise) or was Moses' intercessory prayer all a part of God's will and purpose to show His grace?"

Scripture clearly shows that God’s character does not change. He has the same settled disposition towards sin. When Moses prayed He did not change God’s mind. To hold to a doctrine which says, "Moses changed God's mind" is contrary to what God says in Scripture. He is unswerving in His character and purposes. Moses did not change the course of history, nor catch God off-guard by praying for the Israelites, just as the death of Christ was ordained from the foundation of world, so Moses' prayer was forever in God's plan.

Therefore, this unchanging God is mighty to save! If we had a changing God then our hope would be lost. If He can change in His affections for me (meaning: constantly in response to me--so as to say "I changed God's mind") then He can do so positively or negatively. What confidence do we have then in our salvation as well as in the God of our salvation?

Take heart, as God said in Malachi 3:6, his unchanging character and purpose is so that we are not consumed. If he could change then we would be consumed. Be comforted in the fact that God's purpose is set and He is able to save us to the uttermost. The blood of Christ is still sufficient and ALWAYS will be.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Marriage and Pruning

Today’s guest post is from my amazing wife Nikki Leake. Nikki is the wife of yours truly, the mommy to Isaiah (5)  and Hannah (2). She is also a very talented musician and gives vocal, piano, and guitar lessons at Hometown Music in Huntingburg, IN. Eventually, she’ll have some songs to share with us here at Borrowed Light.

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.” –Jeremiah 17:7-8

Recently,our family took a little jaunt to Hannibal, Mo; the home of my husband and I’s alma mater and many, many precious memories. We enjoyed the changing campus, and reminisced the days of our meeting and subsequent courtship. It was a special blessing to share our memories with our two young children.

One specific place my husband and I used to frequent was the HLG nature trail. We took our children down the winding trail in search of something very dear to us. For the longest time we had no success in finding our treasure. Our hearts dropped into our stomachs with the thought of not being able to share this very unique symbol with our children…until finally I heard those sweet words, “I found it!”

Overjoyed, I ran to where my husband was standing and my smile quickly faded. “Is that it? Are you sure?” was all I could muster. He was right. There it was, hunched over and choked beneath layers of intertwined trees, shrubs, and weeds.

You see, nearing the end of our year and a half long courtship, in order to demonstrate his hopes for our future together, my husband had planted a tree. A beautiful flowering Dogwood tree (sweet, huh?) He led me to the tree and read Jeremiah 17:8. It has been our hope that our marriage would reflect Jeremiah 17:8; rooted in Christ and fruitful in all seasons.

The last time that we had visited our special spot (a couple years ago) our tree was healthy and growing towards the sky with promise. Now, looking at our struggling tree, it didn’t take long for me to hear the Lord’s admonitions. As we pulled away all of the intruders to ensure the well-being of our tree, the potent and transforming symbolism struck me.

Our precious tree needed pruning.

This pruning experience seems easier in most relationships except marriage. Perhaps it is because we put so much of our identity in our marriages. Pruning hurts.

Yet, God has given us the high calling of reflecting Himself and His relationship with His Bride. If our marriages are to even faintly accomplish this goal, we must clear away the weeds and thorns that threaten to choke even the healthiest and happiest of marriages.

Reflecting upon the pruning that is often needed in marriages, I thought of five major culprits. Here are the five, followed by a Scripture passage that I have found helpful in battling them—these cut to the core of our hearts and motivations:

  1. Bitterness. But when you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive your sins, too.  Mark 11:25
  2. Selfishness. I command you to love each other in the same way that I love you.   And here is how to measure it -- the greatest love is shown when people lay down their lives for their friends. John 15:12
  3. Harshness. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Ephesians 4:32
  4. Self-preservation. Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience  Colossians 3:12
  5. Fleshly eyes: From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. 2 Corinthians 5:16a (Jesus loves our spouses more than we do. Am I seeing my spouse with the eyes and heart of God right now?)

Our marriages are definitely worth all of the time, energy, love, nurturing…and yes…pruning we can afford. They are one of the most powerful weapons that will ever be ours to wield. May we be found faithful with them.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Substance in a World Feasting on Silly Things

Today’s guest post comes from Lore Ferguson. Lore’s name is pronounced Lor-ee, but you can call her Lo. She grew up on the east coast, but transplanted to Dallas a few years ago—she’s not from Texas, but Texas wants her anyway (as the song goes). It was the Church that drove her away from Jesus and it was the Church that brought her back in, and there’s nothing she loves more on earth. She writes regularly for The Gospel Coalition, Project TGM,Deeper Church, and most regularly at her blog, Sayable. Lore is a covenant member at The Village Church in Flower Mound, Texas. You can follow her on twitter here:@loreferguson

Paul spoke some words to Timothy running rampant through my mind these days:

But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak [or silly] women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth. (II Timothy 3:1-9)

Oh. That's rough. Friends, hear me, that is rough.

I'm not harkening the last days or making an assessment on end times. But a lover of self? I am. Proud? I am. Ungrateful? Yes.

Unappeasable? Oh, my. Yes.

Having the appearance of godliness? If only you knew.

But this is the part that guts me inside out: these are the sort of people who creep into households and capture weak women, women who are burdened with sins and led astray by a myriad of passions, women who are hungry for knowledge and never satisfied by truth.

I pause and look around my home. My roommates have just gone to get dinner, leaving me at home for a few minutes of quiet. We are simple folk, with good solid books, a television that rarely gets turned on, no magazine subscriptions, and an old ipod speaker contraption. Our influences are few.

But what captures us the whole world over is an insatiable hunger, an unappeasable thirst, a voracious gnawing for knowledge. This was the lure of the fruit in Genesis 3: "You will be like God, knowing good and evil," and this is the lure still today, "Do this and you will know or be known. Believe this and you will know. Speak this and you will be known as one who knows."

And in the end it's just silliness. Or, as Solomon said, vanity of vanities. A breath, a vapor.

It might surprise you when I say this is not about how women are poor leaders and so I'll follow men instead. I'm not going to say it because I think some women make great leaders and some men make poor leaders.

But I will follow one man in full acknowledgement that I am prone to silly things. I am weak. I am inclined to thirst for an endless pursuit of knowledge than simple answers. I am unappeasable instead of satisfied. I am tempted by offers of fruits and godlikeness. Not because I am a woman, but because the strongest of women knows her deepest of weaknesses.

This isn't about following men because I am weak and need a man. I truly need one man and His name is Jesus Christ, and He was good and gracious enough to surround me with good leaders who are far stronger, far wiser, and far less distracted by silly things than I am. But still, He is my God and my sufficiency, my ever present help in time of need, my cupbearer and my King. He has taken the cup of wrath on my behalf and He has still reserved for me the choicest wine, the sweetest feast.

He alone satisfies my search for substance in a world captured by silly things.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Why Do We Return to Our Sin?

Today’s guest post comes from the pen of Nick Horton. Nick and his wife Amy, along with their 3.5 year old Gabriel, live in VA, where nick teaches middle and HS youth at FBC Woodstock, VA. He is also a deacon, loves to fish, works in IT, is an online student at Boyce college pursuing a call to ministry. He blogs at and you can follow him on Twitter @NickHorton

Why do we return to our sin? I don’t mean why do we keep doing it, though we all struggle with sin like Paul in Romans 7. I mean, why do we return to the guilt and shame over and over again? We rehearse dark moments, replay old wounds, almost as if we relish pouring salt in wounds long gone. Left unchecked we can spiral in to depression, justify dark moments, and convince ourselves that God can’t love someone like us.

I have my dark days, the same as anyone else; the days when my memory is a curse, and the Accuser is hard at work. It steals my joy and robs me of any passion for life. The assault on any sense of self worth is brutal and leaves me feeling as though I can be of no use to God.

Fear. Uncertainty. Doubt. Guilt. They’re hard to share at times, as other’s natural reactions to them are attempts to fix it. People want to alleviate suffering and negative feelings, either out of compassion or perhaps because they’re ill-equipped to weep with those who weep. We become cautious to share these dark nights of the soul as we don’t want more try harder/trust more. What do we do?

When I walk through these times, there are a few things I like to remind myself. These are things we can counsel other brothers and sisters with, after we have suffered with them. We have to listen well before we can begin to lovingly speak truth into their lives. Here are four truths I try to remember:

  1. “It is finished.” Jesus finished on the cross what we cannot do in life. He paid for the very sins we have trouble giving up. If he paid then and there for our sins, why then do we carry that burden still? Set it down, friend. Your elder Brother can carry that load.
  2. Hebrews 10. Read the whole thing. If you haven’t read it in a while, stop reading this, and go read it. God says it better than we ever could. Hebrews 10:12 says “But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God.” Why’d He sit down? He was done. Your sins are paid for. There is no need for you to hold tightly to the shame and condemnation of them, because…
  3. Romans 8:1 “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” When? Now. How much condemnation for what I’ve done? None. Let that wash over you. No condemnation for you in Christ. Fully accepted by God by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Fully loved. Which means…
  4. Romans 8:2 “For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.” We are free. Free to live. Free to fail. Free to abandon ourselves to following God without fear of guilt and condemnation for our imperfections. Free from slavery to the sin we now hate and struggle with and its guilt and shame. Free.

Don’t think that you’ve done something that cannot be forgiven. David was an adulterer and murderer, yet God called him a man after His own heart. Paul persecuted the church; he was a terrorist. He murdered Christians. He penned Romans 8:1 under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, fully forgiven and used by God. Our sins are not unknown to God. He knows us better than we know ourselves. He paid for our sins, not because we deserve it, but for the praise of His glorious grace.

God knows us. He loves us and has accepted us fully through the work of Jesus Christ. We can’t clean ourselves up. We come dirty and broken to Jesus. Let go of the sin you’ve been set free from and that He has paid for. Let that weight slide off your back. Take a breath of freedom. Taste the joy that is there for you. There is freedom and love and joy for you.

Child of God; rest. Stop crushing your heart with your own hand. Breathe. Breathe again. Quiet your soul before God. Recall what He has done for you. It is finished. Christ has sat down. There is NOW no condemnation for you. You have been set free from sin and death.

Now, go live.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

How to Create a Reading Plan

Today’s post comes from the pen of Joey Cochran. Joey is transitioning to be a pastor at Cross Community Chicago. He blogs regularly at Follow @joeycochran on twitter.

Every year I set goals for myself. Rarely do I evaluate those goals. Yesterday was the exception. Now that the year is half over I decided to evaluate some of my resolutions for the New Year. One of those resolutions involved reading. At the beginning of the year I set a number of goals concerning how much I wanted to read and what I wanted to read. Setting reading goals such as these are helpful in accomplishing the objective of being a more productive reader.

For most of us, finding time to read is the first challenge. The second challenge is prioritizing that time. The third challenge is making that time productive. I have found that the best way to do this is to set goals.

Here are some helpful parameters for your reading goals.

  1. Determine how much time you realistically have to read. There is no point in setting a lofty goal that you will not accomplish. If you actually don’t currently read much, you might want to set this parameter lower for your first year. Maybe make the goal that you will read 15-30 minutes daily. In the case of reading, it is best to have a daily routine. Reading weekly or just when you suddenly have leisure time just does not cut it. You can accomplish more by scheduling reading into your life.

  1. Determine when you are going to read. After you determine how much time you can spend reading, pick a time of day to read. I have a couple of times during the day that work for me. I try to make reading a priority after I accomplish daily administrative work. Then I try to read a little during lunch or just after lunch. Then I read in the evenings when I could be watching TV. Last, I typically read between 30-60 minutes before I fall asleep.

  1. Determine what you are going to read. Everyone has different reading priorities. You will have to determine your own. I can demonstrate an example of what your priorities for reading might be by offering myself as a case study. I love reading, so I do a lot of it. This may not be you, so don’t feel like you have to read this much. Likewise, others of you might be reading much more than me and in different genres. For instance, I am not currently reading a fiction book and it’s not part of my reading plan. This is actually a weakness in my current plan, but I have not found time to supplement my reading time with this valuable genre. The most important part is starting by reading a book that you will enjoy. Pick something that you will be excited about reading. Make sure you start with a page turner. This will help you in being productive!

Here’s how I prioritize my reading:

  • As a follower of Christ my first priority is to read God’s inspired Word, the Bible. God revealed Himself to humanity through this immeasurably valuable book. Reading the Bible should be my first priority.

  • Then I read for spiritual development. Usually, this is a book designed to encourage my heart and root it deeply in the gospel. This book is typically written by a pastor or church leader that has an active ministry today. I am currently reading Milton Vincent’s a Gospel Primer for Christians.

  • Third, I read a book for personal development. This book is meant to help you grow as a person. Perhaps that topic is leadership, interpersonal relations, or developing professional skills. Usually I pick this book based on what weaknesses or blemishes I see in myself. For instance, I just finished reading Dale Carnegie’s classic How to Win Friends and Influence People. No, I have friends. I just want to be a better one. I am now currently reading Platform by Michael Hyatt.

  • Fourth, I try to read a writing from the historic Christian faith. In other words, I read a book by a dead dude. The church is built on great minds that have had much to say about Christ and about the church. These voices should not be lost. We should capitalize on all that these men have to offer. Currently I am reading John Flavel’s Christ Altogether Lovely.

  • Finally, since I am a blogger, I read a book for review. I try to review a book every Monday on my blog. Currently I am reading Aliens in the Promise Land edited by Dr. Anthony Bradley.

  1. Determine to read. Now you have to focus on being productive. You have to buckle down and do the deed. For some of us this is harder than others. You might want to think about the environment. Do you read better in the quiet? Do you need white noise? Are people a distraction? I love to read in a café but then sometimes I get caught up in my surroundings. Deciding to read in a location that offers optimal focus is essential. Once you find the right environment keep yourself from distraction. Put your laptop away. Silence your phone. Keep your mind off other things. Sometimes we read words but think other thoughts. Maybe you might start thinking about a meeting later today. Or maybe you might think about other things on your to-do list. Make those thoughts wait for later. Now is the time to read!

Reading is a valuable discipline. We live in a world that is being re-awakened towards literacy. When TV came around, literature leisure took a nose dive. However, with the new technology of e-readers, reading as a discipline is experiencing resurgence. I hope you take advantage of this resurgence and enjoy the discipline of reading.

Monday, June 24, 2013

5 Reasons To Be a Member of a Local Church

Today’s guest post comes from the pen of Dave Jenkins. Dave is a Christian, husband to Sarah, freelance writer, avid golfer, and the Director of Servants of Grace Ministries. You can follow him on twitter at @DaveJJenkins or read more of his work at

The belief that professing Christians should gather together as members of a local Church is waning in many sectors of Christianity. Some feel that faith shouldn’t be “institutionalized” and should be a private matter between individuals, not something to be experienced in community.

Here are five reasons why I feel Christians should be members of a local church. This isn’t an exhaustive list, but these reasons give Christians a biblical framework to think through why they should be members of a local Church.

First, The Bible clearly teaches that God made a distinction between His people and the world (Lev 13:46; Number 5:3; Deut. 7:3).  Christ says that entering the Kingdom of God means being bound to the Church “on earth” (Matthew 16:16-19; 18:17-19). The New Testament refers to some people being inside the church and some people being outside the church. (1 Cor. 5:12-13). The church in Corinth consisted of a definite number of believers, such that Paul could speak of a punishment inflicted by the majority (2 Cor. 2:6). Not only does the New Testament speak of the reality of church membership, but its dozens of “one another” passages are written to local churches. The “one another” passages in the New Testament fill out our understanding of what church members should look like practically. Biblical church membership is important, because the church presents God’s witness to Himself in the world, and displays His glory. In the church’s membership, then non-Christians should see in the lives of God’s changed people that God is holy and gracious and that His gospel is powerful for saving and transforming sinners.

Second, the Epistles were all written to local churches. A brief sampling of Paul’s epistles make this abundantly clear:  1 Corinthians 1:1-2, “To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours:” 2 Corinthians 1:1-2, “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus  by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, To the church of God that is at Corinth, with all the saints who are in the whole of Achaia.” Philippians 1:1-2, “Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons.” Galatians 1:1-2, “Paul, an apostle—not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead— and all the brothers who are with me, To the churches of Galatia:” 1 Thessalonians 1:1-2, “Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, to the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace.”

Third, Christ saves Christians to live in community with other believers. Christ calls believers to local church membership not just for our spiritual growth, but also so that they may use their spiritual gifts in the context of the local Church.

Fourth, some people think that meeting together with other Christians is not important because the early Church only gathered in small groups in Acts 2:42-48. The problem with this view is ignores history. As the Church continued to grow, they gathered together in large gatherings. There were small group meetings but there were large gatherings. Regardless of if the local Church meets in a building or in a home it doesn’t matter. The Church is comprised of people who been regenerated by the work of the Spirit. The people of God are to gather to worship together in Spirit and Truth, to hear the preached Word, participate in communion, baptism, and then scatter to spread the Great Commission in their families, neighborhoods, cities and to the nations.

While many people have a problem with the Church the Bible clearly teaches that professing Christians are to be members of local Churches. While local Churches may have many issues, the Church itself is purchased by Christ and is therefore blameless. The members inside the Church are justified and yet sinners meaning they are made right with God through the blood of Jesus but still growing in Christ-like character and going forth in Christ’s name to their families, neighborhoods, cities and to the nations with the Gospel.

Finally, those who object the loudest to this kind of teaching think that they can be Christians and not be in the Church. From even from a cursory examination of the Scriptures- the lone-ranger view of being a Christian is not biblical. Christ saves Christians to live in community with other believers. Christ calls believers to membership in the local Church not only for their own spiritual growth but to use our spiritual gifts in the context of the local Church.

Christ calls other Christians to live in community with other Christians for the purpose of accountability, and spiritual growth. Christ calls Christians to live in community with other believers so they will grow in likeness to Jesus Christ. Christ calls Christians to live in community with other believers so that believers may minister in and through their local churches in order to reach one’s community, city, nation and the world with the Gospel.

In conclusion, Christ doesn’t save sinners so they will live in isolation or be lone-rangers—He saves them so that they will be in community with one another, speaking the truth in love to one another, “one anothering” each other, and displaying forth His character, and glory to a watching, but unbelieving world.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

IMPACT:Jasper Week

Last year our church began what we hope to be an annual missions endeavor. We call it IMPACT:Jasper. During the week of IMPACT a portion of our church family acts as a missions team (i.e. staying at the church every night of the week as a normal missions team would do). Another portion of our church family acts as a host church (i.e. providing the missions team with food, volunteers, and other helps).

The schedule this year looks like this:

Monday AM: Prayer Walking
Monday PM: Worship Service at the Riverwalk 
Tuesday AM: Service Project at mobile home area next to the church
Tuesday PM: Free Block Party at mobile home area next to the church
Wednesday AM: Nursing Home Ministry
Wednesday PM: Free Block Party at DuBois County Corrections
Thursday AM: Pampered Escape
Friday Afternoon: Free Community Closet

Two events that we are really targeting this year are our Pampered Escape event and the free Community Closet. For the Pampered Escape we are going to try to bless single moms. We will provide free babysitting services (showing a kids film in our sanctuary) while we give the moms free haircuts, pedicures, makeovers, and a free oil change for their car.

For our Community Closet we will be transforming our church into something similar to a Goodwill and giving away all the items for free. For the last few weeks our church members (and even some of their friends) have donated items to give away. Our church basement is now filled with items to give away.

We are excited for the opportunities that the Lord will be providing throughout this week to share the gospel of Jesus with our neighbors.

Pray for our church this week. Pray that we will continue to be a church united to enjoy God’s grace and extend His glory. Pray that we will have several opportunities to share the gospel with people—and the boldness to follow through on these chances.

For more info on our IMPACT:Jasper week you can go here.


This also means that I will not be blogging at Borrowed Light for the next two weeks. Immediately after IMPACT:Jasper my family will be going on vacation. I have asked several gifted writers to step in and fill the void. You will be blessed by their writing.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Torn to Heal’s Intended Audience

Every author writes for an intended audience. Or at least he/she should. Whenever I am training young men in preaching I tell them to preach with a rifle instead of a shotgun. Writing is the same. If you aim too broadly you might hit a good number of people but the impact will not be very deep.

When I sat down to write Torn to Heal I had to decide whether I wanted it to impact scholars/pastors or lay people. I chose to write the book on a popular level. One of the most encouraging blurbs on the back was written by David Murray:

“Torn to Heal is the most concise, readable, and helpful theology of suffering I’ve come across. The content, length, and tone is just perfect for those who are in the furnace of affliction screaming ‘Why’?”

I did not write Torn to Heal for scholars to debate suffering and evil. I wrote it for people in the furnace of affliction that need a helpful theology of suffering and they need it yesterday. I wrote this book because I want to help suffering people give glory to God in the midst of life’s difficulties.

I wanted to write a book that a pastor or counselor could give to somebody in the midst of suffering. Something that is short enough that they could read it in a day or two if they desired. And something that is simple enough and practical enough that almost anybody could easily read.

My hope is that this book gets into the hands of pastors/counselors and that from there the book gets into the hands of struggling people. I really do believe that this book can help people. But it cannot help people unless they get it into their hands. I’ve been praying from the beginning that the Lord would put the book into the hands of anyone that needs it. Ultimately, I pray that the Lord leads suffering people into His own hands for healing and redemption. If that happens through other means then I’m happy—but I do believe that this can be a means to that end.

One of the reasons that I published with Cruciform Press is because their books are inexpensive and can be purchased in bulk for a relatively inexpensive rate. If you are a pastor/counselor/bookstore person let me know and I will try to hook you up with a copy. You can read through it and decide whether or not your congregation would benefit from it.

Buy your copy of Torn to Heal today.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

How My Wife and I Are Changing Our Devotional Times

My wife and I are changing the way that we do devotions together. For one, we want to be more faithful in actually reading the Scriptures and praying through them. With two young children, ministry, and a host of other things we have had a difficulty blocking out time to spend together in the Word.

Secondly, we have developed an unhealthy pattern. We have a tendency to bond in negative things. This means that when we interact with the Scriptures we talk more about how we blow it than we rejoice in the provision of Christ to meet our weaknesses. I have not led well in making our devotions life-giving.

I want this to change.

For an undetermined amount of time we are going to study the Scriptures for the sole purpose of worshipping together. No questions. No focusing on our sins or successes. Simply worship. With every text we are going to make it our aim to feast on the beauty of God.

This practice is largely inspired by this quote by John Newton.

“I hope what you find in yourself by daily experience, will humble you—but not discourage you.

For if our Physician is almighty—our disease cannot be desperate. Our sins are many—but His mercies are more. Our sins are great—but His righteousness is greater. When our sins prevail, remember that we have an Advocate with the Father, who is able to pity, to pardon, and to save to the uttermost!

It is better to be admiring the compassion and fullness of grace which is in our Savior—than to dwell and pore too much upon our own poverty and vileness.”

Pray for us. Pray that the Lord would cause us to worship together, and that he would give us eyes to see Him.

Today in Blogworld 06.20.13

14 Free E-Books

Here are 14 free ebooks from the good people at Desiring God.

Jesus Is with Me to the End of the Age (and the  Week’s Ironing)

Jesus is not absent from our domestic lives as we serve his disciple-making purposes

My Camp, Your Camp, and Virtual Shunning

If we are in an age of the virtual church, then we are also in an age of virtual shunning.

Praying With Children

Challies reflects on a couple lessons we can learn from praying children.

This was from Father’s Day but it’s still funny today:

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Blogging as Manna

John Newton extracted this principle from the Israelite’s hoarding of manna:

The truths by which the soul is fed,
Must thus be had afresh;
For notions resting in the head,
Will only feed the flesh.

However true, they have no life,
Or unction to impart;
They breed the worms of pride and strife,
But cannot cheer the heart.

Nor can the best experience past,
The life of faith maintain;
The brightest hope will faint at last,
Unless supplied again.

We need a daily supply of grace. Newton firmly believed that with each new day we must encounter the God of grace anew. Otherwise we will wither. We cannot maintain a life of faith drawing on yesterday’s manna. Our God is a daily God.

Blogging is often used by God to bring us our daily manna.

If you aren’t aware of this (and at home with this) as a blogger you will get burned. 95% of what you write will disappear into the wasteland only a few hours after your write it. A few people will read it. Some will feast. Others will skip right over it looking for bread elsewhere. And then it’s gone.

If you write to be epic blogging will be a discouraging enterprise. For every article that has decent reach you will write a hundred more that only your mom will retweet. Such is the nature of manna. It seldom seems like much at the time but it is subtly sustaining people in their walk with Christ.

Therefore, write to give people daily grace. Be comfortable that at most you will only be used by God to sustain someone for the day.

Now there is one sense in which blogging is nothing like manna. In actuality what you write doesn’t appear into the ether. It gets swallowed up and stored somewhere in Al Gore’s basement—forever able to be accessed. In this sense what you write doesn’t get maggots and eventually disappear. It stays forever.

While it is true that our blog articles usually vanish from people’s minds this does not mean that we do not need to be careful and Christ-honoring with all of our words. What we say stays forever. And therefore we blog with an eternal perspective all the while knowing that the Lord is simply using us at times to provide daily grace.

Today in Blogworld 06.19.13

Should We Stop Saying “The Church Hurt Me”?

Thabiti says, “yes”, and I agree.

7 Disastrous Results of Letting Your Personal Fulfillment Drive Your Ministry

Sadly, “pastors often use ministry for their own personal fulfillment and success”. Eric McKiddie offers 7 results.

How to Ask for Forgiveness

This is helpful.

We Are A Kanye

Odd Thomas reflects on Kanye’s newest album and song “I Am A God”.

This can save you some time folding laundry (or help you if you get a job at a clothing store):

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

7 Reasons Preachers Should Spend Time Preaching to Teenagers

I have been preaching to teenagers for about ten years now. Truthfully, I’m probably more suited to teaching/preaching to adults that teens. I am not your typical youth pastor. But I love teens and I love preaching the gospel to them. I believe that my time spent with teenagers helps me to better preach to adults*.

Here are seven reasons why preachers should spend some time preaching to teenagers:

  1. It forces simplicity. In sermon prep I constantly ask myself if I can say something more simply. This helps me to give any audience the fruit of my labor and not the sweat.
  2. It helps with illustrations. I am terrible at illustrations. Working with teenagers has helped me to only be terrible and not abysmal.
  3. It prepares me for questions. Teens will ask silly questions. And teens will ask amazing questions. I consider inquisitive teenagers with every sermon I preach.
  4. It keeps me from assuming an audience. It has been said that people do not care how much you know until they know how much you care. This is very true with teenagers. You have to win their hearts before their ears. I never assume that I have an audience and this forces me to spend time thinking about a “hook” every week.
  5. It forces focus. When preaching through a difficult passage of Scripture it can be tempting to get lost in all the debates. Preaching to youth reminds me to focus on what really matters and save the intellectual debates for scholars.
  6. It is fun. When teenagers know that you love them they are quick to listen. Their questions and their vigor makes for a ton of fun.
  7. They respond and often awkwardly. Teenagers will often immediately respond to a sermon. And they often respond awkwardly. This forces me to be intentional in the way that I aim for response. I don’t ever assume that they will apply the sermon in a fitting way.

I would encourage every preacher of the gospel to spend some time preaching to teenagers—at least a few times every year. Few things will hone your preaching skills like ministering to teens.


*I want to say here that I do not—nor have I ever—viewed ministering to teenagers as a stepping stone to the “big show”. If you view preaching to teens as merely a means to an end they will see right through it, and frankly such a view is dishonoring to Jesus. Having said that, preaching to teens is great preparation for preaching to adults.

Today in Blogworld 06.18.13

When My Dad Loved Me at My Worst

Great story by Justin Holcomb.

3 Mistakes We Make When Talking about the Sovereignty of God

Ministering to youth often helps us think about the way we talk about weighty theological issues.

An Alternative to the TGC and T4G Statements about SGM

I could sign this one. Great job by David Murray.  

Why It’s Often Better to Say Less

This is interesting and helpful.

British guy does baseball commentary. This is funny to me:

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Today in Blogworld 06.13.13

How to Deal with 3 Kinds of Hate Mail

Thankfully, I haven’t yet had anything that I would call “hate mail”. But if you have this looks like solid advice.

Bold, Daring Audacity v. Pretty-Boy Preachers

This is short and to the point.

Last Known Photos of Famous People

I found this interesting and slightly chilling.

Stephen Colbert is Ruining America

Hmmm…this one makes me think.

Do you struggle to tell your dad, “I love you”? So does this guy:

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Today in Blogworld 06.12.13

Get Rid of These Six Things

I think following Tim’s advice here would be helpful. I’m just not sure that I can do it.

Should Christians Try to Legislate Their Morality?

This is an important question for us to be able to answer.

How Do We Rest in the Face of Horrible Calamity?

What happens to our emotions if we really believe in the sovereign wisdom and goodness of God in horrible persecution?

The Sufficiency of Scripture

I’m preaching on this topic on Sunday. I bet I use this a little.

I wish this weren’t true. He even calls out my “side-hugging”:

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

10 Books that Shaped My Theology of Suffering

In Torn to Heal I encourage readers to develop a robust theology of suffering and to not be surprised to have to use it. This language comes from Peter’s exhortation in 1 Peter 4. As I’ve sought to obey Peter’s exhortation I’ve found a few books very helpful in this quest.

Certainly the Scriptures are the most helpful. If our theology of suffering doesn’t match up to Scripture then it isn’t worth much. There have also been a few other books that have helped me greatly:

  1. D.A. Carson, How Long, O Lord? provides a biblical and theological framework for understanding suffering and evil. If you want a book that is a little more intellectual to help you think through issues related to human suffering then this is your book.
  2. Richard Sibbes, The Bruised Reed, absolutely broke me and healed me at the same time. Sibbes has a way of opening up wounds and then pouring the gospel in.
  3. Wesley Hill, Washed and Waiting, is the reflections of a man that is suffering and struggling with unwanted sexual desires. More than many others this book helped me see how the gospel not only heals us but it also afflicts our fallen inclinations.
  4. Randy Alcorn, The Goodness of God, is a helpful little book that really shines in giving anecdotes and illustrations to give life to a book like D.A. Carson’s. I owe a great deal to Carson in providing the framework for my theology of suffering. But I owe a great debt to Alcorn in helping me put words to that framework.
  5. John Piper, Desiring God, along with many other works from Piper were influential in laying a God-centered foundation of a theology of suffering
  6. Christopher J.H. Wright, The God I Don’t Understand, gave me permission to be comfortable with mystery and questions that remain unanswered.
  7. Samuel Rutherford, Letters of Rutherford, was used by God several years ago to awaken in me a desire to value Christ above comfort. Reading the passionate letters written from prison by this man of God caused me to question my own devotion to Christ.
  8. William Bridge, A Lifting Up for the Downcast, has been personally beneficial in my own battle with depression and discouragement. He not only diagnosis the reason for our depressive episodes but provides sweet counsel.
  9. David Murray, Christians Get Depressed Too, put words to my developing thoughts that things like suffering/depression can still be used for God’s glory.
  10. Robert M. McCheyne, Memoirs and Remains, modeled for me what humble brokenness looks like. His dedication to Jesus assisted me in thinking through the trials that come with mission and ministry.

If you want to develop a theology of suffering I would suggest getting these 10 books. (Of course I’d also be honored for you to give my book a read as well).

Today in Blogworld 06.11.13

10 Writing Tips From a Real-Life Editor

Greg Bailey shares 10 tips.

Fighting the Tyranny of Ministry Success

“So what do you do if your frustration level is rising because you do not see your service attendance, podcast numbers, or Twitter followers escalating as much as you’d like?”

8 Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me Before Seminary

These are good.

The Dangers of Online Christianity

“Social media can be a great way to glorify God. However, it can quickly become an addiction and feed our narcissism.”

What if you have all 31 of these?

Monday, June 10, 2013

Do We Need to Wait for the Spirit?

Let’s imagine that you are attempting to do an in-depth study on the book of Acts. Today you are going to tackle Acts 1:1-5. You find yourself studying and applying Acts 1:4;

And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father… –Acts 1:4

Clearly from this text we see that Jesus’ charge to his disciples—prior to his ascension and after his resurrection—was to stay in Jerusalem and wait for the Spirit before they took the gospel to the ends of the earth. So how do you apply this passage? What does this mean for the church of the 21st century?

The most obvious lesson for us to learn is that it is vital for us to wait on the Holy Spirit before doing things. The disciples needed the Spirit’s power before they were able to complete the mission of proclaiming the gospel in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. We too would be fool-hearted to launch into mission without the Spirit’s powerful presence.

The Problem

The biggest difficulty with the above interpretation is that what Luke has written here is meant to be descriptive and not prescriptive. He’s telling his readers what happened, not what his readers ought to do in response. In fact if you keep reading through Acts you will discover that the apostles did receive the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. And what is even more astounding is that when Gentiles become followers of Jesus they too receive the gift of the Spirit.

This means that the condition which Jesus mentioned in Acts 1:4 has already been fulfilled—always and forever. Therefore, believers do not need to sit around and wait for the “Spirit to come” before they engage in mission. He already has come.

The way, then, that we apply Acts 1:4 is to realize that the Spirit is vital to our mission. But we do not stop there. We celebrate the fact that Jesus has kept His promise and we have the indwelling Spirit. We have the Spirit that is needed to engage in the mission of Christ.

This isn’t permission to launch into out own missions, doing so upon a whim. This is permission to boldly engage in Christ-exalting mission because we know the Spirit is always present when Christ is exalted.

A Lesson

This little illustration shows why it is important to always read a text in its context; not only it’s immediate context but also read a text within it’s place in God’s unfolding story or redemption. If we fail to do this we will apply passages wrongly. We will find ourselves praying for things that God has already provided.

You and I don’t need to “wait on the Spirit” in the same way that the early apostles did. So let’s get busy.

Today in Blogworld 06.10.13

What’s in “The Look”?

“The one who looks with lust has placed himself at the very center of the universe and functionally believes that others exist for his pleasure.”

No Whiners

“Nothing good comes from feeling sorry for myself when people don’t like my ideas, or misjudge my motives, or forget all the good I’ve done in the past.”

Is She Up For This? Questions for a Potential Pastor’s Wife

This is an important article.

Lay Aside the Weight of Sluggishness

Spiritual sluggishness has its roots in doubt. Jon Bloom gives some advice for laying aside our sluggishness. 

This is cool:

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Painful Loss and Urgent Need for a Dear Brother & Sister in Christ

My friend Brian and his wife Kassie are hurting right now. A few days ago Kassie wrote in response to John 5:
We’ve had some dark days lately. Honestly, sometimes we just don’t even know if a pool of healing exists for us. But something we do know is that a lot of you are lifting us up, and we really appreciate that. Eventually God will give us the comfort we yearn for, and we thank you for your part in pleading for us. 
One of those “dark days” is that Brian & Kassie are grieving the loss of their unborn child. This loss will be especially trying for the couple (and their three young children) because they are in Spain, away from family, serving the Lord.

To compound their problems they are without a vehicle. Now that’s not quite as bleak as it sounds. They do have funds available from their ministry fund to reimburse their travelling expenses. But what is happening is that a good chunk of their expenses are being soaked up because they have to buy train tickets or rental cars (which are quite a bit more pricey than here in the US).

I told Brian that it’d be easier to inspire people to help them with a car if I could tell people that they had to use pack goats to transport their young children. While that, thankfully, isn’t the case, their work is significantly hindered by a lack of personal transportation. As Brian told me, “it is a stewardship issue”.

Personally, I believe it will be vital for their healing to be able to “get away” from the crowded streets of Granada occasionally. They can’t do this at present. This family needs our help. Brian and Kassie are people that really love the Lord, they are raising three sweet children, and are attempting to share the gospel in a very dark place in Granada, Spain.

There are two ways that you can help. First and foremost dedicate to praying for this family. Pray for healing. Pray for a resolution to their car situation. And pray that the Lord would use them to further His kingdom in Granada, Spain.

Secondly, you can give. This gift is NOT tax-deductible because it will be for personal property. They need about $6,000 to get a dependable car for a family of five. Think outside the box. Don’t ask “what can I spare?”, ask “What it will take to get them a car?”

You can send checks to:

New Life Church
427 S. Highway 71
Anderson, MO 64831

In the memo-line be certain to put Brian & Kassie Car Fund

Let’s figure out a way to bless this family with a car.

Friday, June 7, 2013

The Gentleness of Jesus

A couple days ago I shared a question that haunts men, young and old. Today, I want to tell you today about how gentle Jesus has been with me.


At a very early age I developed an unhealthy view of human sexuality. A whole combination of factors caused me to view sex as something that gave someone value and identity. Combine this with easily accessible pornography and the curiosity of young boys and I didn’t stand a chance.

At the age of 15 I committed what felt like the unpardonable sin. And I did it knowingly and willingly. I was not a victim of my circumstances. I knew that I was doing something wrong—but I didn’t care. What I desired more than the pleasure of God was the pleasure of creation. For me it had less to do with sex and more to do with identity and value. I had finally proven to myself, the world, and all my buddies that I wasn’t a loser.

I continued in this downward spiral for a couple of years. Then I was saved by Jesus.

On Being Chocolate Cake 

A flood of guilt washed over me. I sat through youth group lessons where we passed around a piece of chocolate cake where everybody would take a bite. At the end the leader would point to the disgusting looking, crumbled, and barely recognizable piece of cake and say—“who wants a bite now?” Nobody likes a chocolate cake once it has been passed around. In the same way nobody truly wants someone that has been “passed around”.

I was that chocolate cake.

As the gospel began taking root I learned that God starts over and rebuilds cakes. He makes me desirable again. What a relief. I was being built up into something beautiful; something desirable. I was a new creation. My past no longer had to haunt me. I wasn’t that half-eaten chocolate cake anymore. I was a new piece.

Then I fell again.

What now? Would Jesus rebuild that cake? Could I be made whole again? I struggled with all of these questions. And I struggled with them as I was going to school to prepare for ministry. I had a nagging sense of guilt and shame and worthlessness.

During this time I met my future wife. For the past year God had really been shaping me and changing my views of sexuality. I had grown leaps and bounds. But I still had the nagging guilt and the nagging questions. The goal in our relationship was purity. For the first time in my life I was in a relationship dedicated to godliness and purity in this area. I hoped to marry her.

One day in class all of my fears were confirmed. In an ethics class we were discussing sexuality. In that class the professor made this statement: “If you have engaged in sex outside of marriage you have forfeited every chance for a godly marriage!”

There it was. He had given voice to every fear that I had in my heart. I must have turned white as a ghost sitting in my chair, trying to hold back my sobbing. After what felt like an eternity in the purgatory of that Ethics class, we were finally dismissed. I ran back to my dorm room, feeling dirty, ashamed, and hopeless.


My only refuge felt like taking a shower. And there in the depths of that pain, Jesus welcomed me. The Spirit brought to my mind verses that I had memorized. “There is therefore now no condemnation for those that are in Christ Jesus…” “If any man is in Christ he is a new creation, behold the old has gone the new has come”… “If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness…”

I hadn’t forfeited any chance for a godly marriage. This was one of the most painful days of my life, but it was necessary. This was the day that I began actually believing that I was accepted. Had that professor not voiced that hellish view I doubt I would have been brave enough to confront those feelings below.

For the next several months I grew in understanding who I really am in Christ Jesus. The past seemed to lose its grip on me. During this time I married the girl that I supposedly had forfeited. In my case, true love didn’t wait—I blew it time and time again—but the Lord still provided for me the helpmate that he had created for me years before.

I’d be lying if I said that things from the past didn’t still occasionally haunt me, and those feelings of guilt and shame creep up from time to time. Like when I felt certain that the Lord would have my son be born with some sort of disease, just to teach me a lesson that sin has consequences. Jesus rescued me from those dumb thoughts as well.

It took years (maybe I should say it is taking years) for me to really feel and believe that I am deeply accepted and loved by Jesus. But I am and that truth is pretty firmly established in my heart.

End of story…right?

If you have stuck around—and I hope you have—this is actually where I show the gentleness of Jesus. It took about ten years for the Lord to uproot those feelings of guilt and shame from my past sin.

He began His gospel work by firmly planting my identity in Himself. By helping me see that I am forgiven…no matter what. That I am accepted by Him…no matter what. It took times of pain for him to accomplish this, but He has done it well. At times I’ve been brought to what felt like the pit only to be met with His loving acceptance.

Once he firmly established in my heart His love for me, THEN he began some deep gospel work. For almost ten years he didn’t really confront the idolatry in my heart. He very gently assured me of His love and care…

And then he started ripping me to shreds.

He started killing me. Rocking my worldview. Exposing my faulty identity. Taking it all away until I had nothing left. I had developed a view that I was sexually pure because I didn’t do the bad stuff. Through the Lord’s help I had conquered sexual immorality, pornography, and all of that. That is to be celebrated, but not rested upon. He kicked down this self-righteousness as well.

Purity isn’t simply not doing the bad stuff—it’s so much more. And here I began seeing that for ten years the Lord convinced me that He wants that tattered and broken and detestable chocolate cake. Once I became convinced of this the Lord gently began his work of throwing away that old cake and rebuilding something whole and new in its place.

The throwing away hurts. So does the rebuilding. But He has done it and is doing it. With the delicacy of a surgeon, the love of a Father, the gentleness of a Mother, the tenderness of a doting Husband, and the power of a resurrected Messiah, the Lord is making me whole.

Today in Blogworld 06.07.13

How Our Elders and Deacons Work Together

Articles like this are important for our church right now as we transition to an elder/deacon model.

6 Things We Need to Learn from Youth About Preaching

I’ve thought for awhile that future preachers ought to start by spending some time preaching the gospel to teens. Here are six lessons one could learn from doing that.

Confession as Idle, Lustful Babbling: 5 Errors

Here are 5 ways we might exploit and pervert the confessional act

22 Maps Showing How Different Americans Speak

Of course the soda/pop/coke divide was on there.

I’m not sure what is more amazing, that someone was able to do this or that someone actually took the time to do this:

Thursday, June 6, 2013

An Open Letter to @LifeWay

Dearest LifeWay,

I want to begin by saying that I am very pleased with LifeWay. Southern Baptists are blessed to be served by such a great organization. For the most part I believe that you are successful in your mission to be “the best provider of relevant, high quality, high value Christian products and services.”

I am writing you today to discuss one area of curriculum that I believe is lacking; namely, the gospel presentation for VBS. For as long as I can remember LifeWay has used the ABC’s as a gospel presentation. And every year there is a song encouraging kids to admit, believe, and confess.

As the parent of a little boy (5) and little girl (2) I deeply appreciate the simplicity of this gospel presentation. Such a gospel presentation is helpful for my son. The Lord is working on His little heart, and he largely understands the gospel message, but at times he is tripped up on the “what must I do to be saved” part. The ABC’s answer that question.

The ABC’s are a fair and biblical response to the question, “Brothers, what must I do to be saved”. For those asking this question it is helpful for them to even have a memorable song that lays out for them how someone becomes a Christian.

However, I believe the ABC’s by themselves are an inadequate whole gospel presentation. I understand that the "admitting” and “believing” attempts to help children see that they are sinners and that belief in Jesus is necessary. I appreciate this, but it seems forced and minimalistic.

When I share the gospel with children I front load it with gospel proclamation (i.e. God-Man-Christ or Creation-Fall-Redemption). I want children to know who God is, what He requires of us, what sin is and its consequences, and how Christ frees us from sin and restores us to God. That is the good news of the gospel. Admit, believe, and confess is not the gospel. It is the only fitting response to the gospel but is not the gospel itself.  When people understand the gospel and are then asking “what do I do to be saved” that is when I would share with them something like the ABC’s.

It seems that about every year the ABC’s lesson is during the middle of the week. It is assumed that in the material the gospel story will be presented throughout the week in the teaching segments. That is good. However, it reads as if everything is driving towards the response. This should be done. But only if the gospel message has been emphasized.

As it stands, only one part of the gospel—our necessary response—is presented as the gospel. When children and teachers think about the gospel message in VBS they naturally think of the ABC’s. That is what stands out in the VBS material. In my opinion that is backwards. Explaining to people the necessary response to the gospel isn’t the gospel and doesn’t have the promises of gospel power (Romans 1:16) attached to it.

My suggestion is that instead of emphasizing the ABC’s as presentation emphasize the gospel story and train leaders how to use the ABC’s to answer the response question. In other words transfer a Gospel Project method to your VBS literature.

I look forward to seeing how God continues to use LifeWay material for the furtherance of His kingdom.


Mike Leake


A good chunk of this letter is a tweak from this article.

Today in Blogworld 06.06.13

Singing to Silence the Enemy

I was blessed by reading this.

“Radical” Three Years Later

It’s been three years since Radical hit the shelves. David Platt reflects upon the last three years.

The 3 Worst Qualities of the Gospel-Centered Movement


Everything I Know About Pastoral Ministry I Learned Riding with Pastors

This article shows the importance of influence and also has several gems for our own use.

I found this interesting:

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The Question that Haunts Men, Young and Old

Somewhere an awkward boy is asked THE question. The question that causes every gawky young man to squirm and feel a little squeamish. It’s a question that will slowly shape his identity:

“You been gettin’ any…”

Here, with budding hormones raging, his sexual identity is slowly shaped. He learns the lesson: those that are “getting” sex are the ones of value. It is from these words that the inept lad will begin his quest to be everything but inept—he’ll be somebody and he will do it by means of sexual conquest.

The next time he gets the awkward question he can puff his chest and say, “yep, I’ve been gettin’ some”. Now he’s part of the “in” crowd. Inept no more, now he’s a man. Or so he thinks…

In Christ

At some point this awkward boy will be drawn into a relationship with Jesus. Through his new found love for the Lord he will discovery that his sexuality has to change. No more illicit sex. He will get tips for battling pornography and help with not having sex with his girlfriend.

Still the question remains in the background. “You been gettin’ any…” This time, though, with puffed chest he gives a negative answer. “Nope, I haven’t. I’ve been 45 days porn and sex free.” Yet, inwardly he is burning. He can’t wait to get a ring on his girlfriend’s finger so he can finally have an outlet.


He’ll get married. He’ll have children. His marriage will go through ups and downs. He will have times of being a good husband. Times of being a dolt. There will be times when the sex is vibrant and frequent—and others when he’s in a parched desert of sexual lack.

Eventually he and his dear wife will attend a marriage conference. Nervous laughs will fill the room as spouses talk about their differences in gender. Finally, the men and women will break apart and have individual sex talks. They’ll be transported back to junior high and the question will be asked again:

“You been gettin’ any?”

It won’t be that crass, of course. But it’s there. Underneath all the tips and pointers. This session will stand out for this man; who somewhere down deep is still that bumbling-hormone-raging-little boy. It will be in this session that he will learn how to change that sexual desert into a lively oasis.

He will go home and apply the principles. They’ll work for a season. And with puffed chest he’ll once again be able to answer that haunting question with a proud affirmative. That is until the facade wears off and his wife discovers that those romantic dinners are only a means to an end. The flames will flicker, the oasis will wither, and he’s back to being the awkward boy that has to sheepishly confess that “he’s not gettin’ any”.

Your Church

This little boy is in your church. He might be a pre-pubescent teen or he might be a fifty year old deacon. He is driven by this question. His identity is wrapped up in his sexuality.

Will your preaching and marriage conferences confront this false identity? Or will you foster it? Will you be bold enough to confront his idol? Will you tell him that his identity is to be found in Jesus Christ and not in his sexuality? Or will you give him tips to help him be a more successful idolater?

I pray that as churches navigate the choppy waters of 21st century sexuality we realize that our answer is in the calmed waters of a sovereign Messiah. It is He that gives identity. And until our identity (sexual and all) is firmly placed in Him we’ll struggle with jacked up sexuality.

I urge you don’t counsel this little boy with a list of do’s and don’t. Confront the question that is haunting his soul and show him how the conquering Lamb obliterates and exposes that question as a foolish foundation.

Today in Blogworld 06.05.13

The Toughest Conversation I’m Glad I Had

These types of conversations are very tough…but necessary.

Real Purity

Remembering that our purity is found in Christ.

When Two So-Called “Married” Women (or Men) Repent

This is already happening. 13 tips.

I Was a Pragmatist

Confessions of a formerly pragmatic pastor.

Well-played little dude, well-played:

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

The Ideal Disciple

Imagine Jesus standing before you. As your head moves towards the sound of His voice you are astonished to hear these words:

What do you want me to do for you?

Put yourself there. Hear his words to you. How would you answer that question?

In Mark 10, James and John answered that question by essentially saying, “make us epic”. In their case Jesus’ question was provoked by their demand, “we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you”. They respond by telling Jesus that they wanted to sit at the His right and left hand—having a special place of honor.

A blind beggar, named Bartimaeus, answered that question differently. He simply says, “Rabbi, let me recover my sight”. Whereas the sons of Thunder wanted to be epic, Bartimaeus simply wants to be normal.

The Ideal Disciple

I’m convinced that Mark has placed these two stories together to highlight Bartimaeus as an ideal disciple: one who is desperate and sees Jesus as his only refuge. When you don’t realize how utterly inadequate and miserable your condition is, you say dumb things like, “make me epic”. Or, “yeah, we can drink the cup of suffering—we’ve got what it takes, Jesus”. And then you go back and fight with the other disciples about who Jesus loves the most.

Not so with Bartimaeus. He is desperate. And this gospel account would have us notice that Jesus “stops” for the forlorn. When you read something like, “And Jesus stopped…” you ought to stop as well. His face is set like flint to Jerusalem. This narrative is on the heels of the triumphal entry. Stopping Jesus at this point is like stopping a jet cruising down the runway ready for flight—if it stops it is for a good reason.

God wants us to know that He stops for desperate people crying out for rescue.

Bartimaeus fits that bill. He is so desperate that a crowd full of people telling him to shut up doesn’t deter him. He must have Jesus. This blind beggar has recognized what so few people in Mark’s narrative could see—that Jesus Christ is the promised Messiah that is overturning the works of darkness. Rather than striving for a seat of honor in Jesus’ kingdom, blind Bartimaeus just wants a seat.

This narrative screams a question out to us: “which type of disciple are you?”

In reality I am as Bartimaeus; desperate, destitute, no hope to be found except in Jesus. But do I recognize it? Does my prayer life reflect the cries and panting of an impoverished beggar or the smug request of a fool that only sees Jesus as a means to being epic?

The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and so he is still asking today, “What do you want me to do for you?”

I pray that we answer as desperate Bartimaeus-type disciples.

Today in Blogworld 06.04.13

Desecration and Titillation

Do you love pornography enough to go to hell for it?

Emotion in the Pulpit

Erik Raymond gives us four thoughts on emotion in the pulpit.

8 Reasons to Read Christian Biography

I love Christian biography, I make an effort to always be reading one. Here are 8 reasons you should read biographies as well.

The Pornified Mind and the Glory of God

The more we feast on what is not real, the less we desire that which is.

This is a couple years old but it’s still great:


Monday, June 3, 2013

The Stooping Christ and Social Media

“…their nobles would not stoop to serve their Lord.” –Nehemiah 3:5

All of the returning exiles were rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. Everybody is wearing a tool belt and getting their hands dirty. Nobody is immune from serving…except for the nobles of the Tekoites. Not these guys. These guys are leaders. Leaders lead, they don’t stoop.

Nehemiah is already leading this gig, so the only position left along the wall is to strap on a tool belt and get to work. The nobles are obviously above doing such a menial job. They remind me of Michael Scott, from The Office.

In an early episode, a sensitivity trainer (Mr. Brown) has to come to the office because of an offensive Chris Rock joke that Michael retold. Mr. Brown very kindly puts the entire office through the training so as not to single out Michael. Towards the end of the episode we are informed that the only signature needed is that of Michael Scott, yet he refuses to sign. His reason?

“I can’t sign this because I didn’t learn anything. I could maybe sign something that says that I taught something”.

Michael Scott couldn’t stoop.

Jesus does.

One of the most astonishing claims of the Bible is that God Himself took upon human flesh. He not only “made himself nothing” by taking on human flesh, but he also “humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death”. And this was no ordinary death, this was “even death on a cross”. Jesus, the King of all kings, the most noble of all nobles, would stoop to any depth to serve the Father.

Do we?

There is a common theme that I observe on Twitter that bothers me. I fear that some pastors today are following the way of the Tekoite nobles instead of the way of Jesus. They appear to be more concerned with being epic than with stooping to serve.

Everyday Twitter dutifully informs me that I have new “followers”. Almost every day I am followed by a leader-man that is obviously destined to be epic. He’s got a rockin’ ministry name. His hair is amazing. His smile could win a beauty pageant. Everything about this guy screams out that he is put together. His bio reads something like this:

Pastor. Disciple of Jesus. A leader that leads other leaders to lead others into Awesomeness. I’m a leader. I encourage others. Check out my website:

I’m expected to follow Captain Awesome. When I don’t (and I seldom do) then I am quickly unfollowed. I’m not cheesed by them dropping me; I’ve learned to grow content with whatever audience the Lord gives me. But this pattern bothers me still.

For one, it bothers me because I see my own heart in these descriptions. I write so much against “being epic” because deep within me is a drive to be a difference maker. This is an idol that the Lord is uprooting from my heart. So, I’m sensitive to this.

Secondly, it makes me throw up in my mouth a little because it is so opposite the way of Jesus. Doing things like following a ton of people so as to get re-followed might be winning the social media game, but I’m convinced that it’s a wrong-hearted focus that looks more like a Tekoite noble than our humble Messiah. 

It is my prayer that we might use social media to help us become more like Christ and not less. I pray that pastors, ministers, and disciples of every ilk increasingly become more like Christ and less like nobles that refuse to stoop.

Today in Blogworld 06.03.13

Does God Like Making You Suffer?

Great words from Stephen Altrogge.

A Humble Plea for Church Revitalization

I’m with Thom Rainer on this one.

6 Pillars of a Christian View on Suffering

I relied heavily on D.A. Carson’s book, How Long O, Lord?, while working on my book. Here is a video an a synopsis of Carson’s view on suffering.

Heralding the Gospel in Our Jerusalem

Ever notice that it’s harder to share the gospel to your neighbor than it is to share the gospel with people while you are on a mission trip? Matt Chandler helps us to see why this is.

This is insane tornado footage. (You might want to mute your speakers because of some of the language):


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