Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Update on Pray For Your Wife: 31 Day Challenge

I am blown away by the positive response to our 31 Day Prayer Challenge. As of this writing we have 645 guys that are signed up to pray for their wife for 31 days. And that number keeps growing every minute.

I thought it might be beneficial to give everyone a quick rundown of how this will work.

Every Morning

Lord willing, every morning before 9am ET, I will post to the Facebook group a status including a verse, a short commentary, and a sample prayer. Your task will be to comment on that status with your own prayer or simply “like” the post as a means of accountability.

I’ve received input from several ladies (including my own wife) about some of the specific things that they would like prayer for. It’s amazing how similar these lists were. These lists and my own study of Scripture will inform what we pray for in these 31 days.

I also challenge you to pray for the other guys in this group. Rather than just praying a general prayer, I would encourage you to click on the link that reveals our group members. Pick 5-10 random people and pray specifically for these men that they would be the husbands that God calls them to be, and that He would find his lasting satisfaction in God.

Blog Followers

There have also been a few people that have indicated they would like to accept this prayer challenge but are not on Facebook. Have no fears. Simply follow Borrowed Light and I’ll post the verse, commentary, and sample prayer around 2:00pm ET every day. I cannot post it in the morning because of other articles that will post. (See here).

For your accountability you can simply comment on the blog post. I’ll commit to praying for those that comment…and if you see other guys commenting on the blog post be sure to pray for them as well.

Keep It Going

I would also encourage you to keep inviting your friends. I don’t think we can have too many guys praying for their wives.

Furthermore, I want to encourage you guys to interact with one another throughout this challenge. Feel free to post some of your struggles. Post answers to our prayers. And please give us even more specific prayers.

Let’s stand in awe of how God is going to change our hearts and work and move in our lives through His gift of prayer.


P.S. We now have 655 guys signed up…

There’s still time for you to be number 656. Sign up, today!

Jesus and Millennial Wants

There was an article that appeared a couple of times on my Facebook feed over the weekend. It’s an article by Rachel Held Evans on Why millennials are leaving the church. There is so much about this article that I celebrate. I appreciate her encouragement to drop the “church-as-performance” model. Furthermore, I think she’s largely correct about why millennials are leaving the church.

Yet at the same time that I celebrate much of the article I remain a tad befuddled. At one point the author states, “we millennials have highly sensitive BS meters, and we’re not easily impressed with consumerism or performances”. And she then makes the argument that “what millennials want is a change in substance”. After this she lists several things that this generation wants from church.

Her striking conclusion—the point that the whole article is driving towards—is that “we’re leaving the church because we don’t find Jesus there.” And that is what confuses me.

Why I’m befuddled

If what she means is that churches aren’t preaching Jesus then I think millennials ought to leave. But it isn’t the church that millennials are leaving its a social club with a cross hanging on the side of the building. Maybe a mass exodus out of social clubs calling themselves a church isn’t such a bad thing. 

But I don’t think that is the whole story. I wonder if maybe we millennials are the very thing that we say that we hate. On one hand we say that we want Jesus. But I wonder if it’s really Jesus that we want.

If what we really want is Jesus, then we ought to drop our “wants” and come running—not only to Jesus but to the messy church that he bought with His blood. Listen, the second that we come to Jesus with a list of our wants we’ve moved away from being a disciple and we’ve become a consumer. Which, again, is the very thing that Evans says millennials dislike about the church.

If you leave when you don’t like something that is the mentality of a consumer, not of a disciple.

Jesus and Millennial Wants

As I scan through the Gospels, I’m thinking about how Jesus responded to those that approached him as consumers. On one hand our Lord is always stooping. He reaches people where they are. And if this happens to be as a consumer—the Lord stoops and speaks to them on that level. But he always challenges them.

I think of the Rich Young Ruler that viewed Jesus as a good teacher that could nail down this question that has been nagging him. He left sorrowful because Jesus wasn’t a product to be consumed but a King to be followed.

I consider the throng of people that wanted to make Jesus a king because of his culinary skills. They left that day without their king because Jesus isn’t merely an earthly king to be hoisted onto a temporary throne, He’s the eternal ruler and sustainer of the universe.

I’m left to wonder whether or not millennials really want Jesus. Because if we do then we’re probably going to look more like Paul who gave himself to the church for the sake of Jesus’ sheep. And that doesn’t look much like leaving a church because it doesn’t look like what you want. It looks like staying, and pleading, and praying, and surrendering, and repenting, and changing, and growing, and messing up, and being involved in the yuck of church until the day Jesus returns and we’re all transformed.

So yeah, I’ve got to be honest and say I’m not really concerned with asking a group of millennials what they want out of church. I’ll talk. I’ll listen. But at the end of the day I hope that we both begin to ask what is it that Jesus wants out of the church. And I just bet it will be a little more than a fickle and consumerist commitment to the Bride of His affection.

Today in Blogworld 07.31.13

Is Your Child a Christian?

Brian Croft offers a few ways that you can try to answer that question.

6 Benefits to Daily Writing


7 Simple Fixes to Writing Mistakes That Make You Look Like an Amateur

I am an amateur so this helps.

How Jesus Exposed the Idol of Self-Glory

“Jesus exposed this idol in the hearts of a few men with a single question.”

The town in which I live (Jasper, Indiana) prides itself on it’s German heritage. So this makes me laugh:

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Pray For Your Wife: 31 Day Challenge

Last week I listed 7 Reasons Husbands Should Pray for Their Wives. It had a favorable response and so I thought that perhaps we should take this a step further.

Beginning on August 1st, I want to challenge guys to a 31 Day Challenge of praying for your wife every day. As I’ve thought about this what I believe I really need is to put a FACE on praying for my wife:

  • Focus—I need to know what specifically to pray for my wife or I’ll just keep praying the same things over and over again.
  • Accountability—I need a group of guys to keep me accountable and remind me daily to passionately pray for my wife.
  • Challenge—I need to be challenged to go deeper in the way that I pray for my wife. A community of other guys praying will help shape my prayers.
  • Encouragement—Sometimes we pray for things and God’s answer is slower than we like. We need encouragement to keep praying.

If you need these things too I want to invite you to join me in praying for your wife. Here are steps to take in joining with me:

First, join the 31 Day Pray For Your Wife Challenge Facebook group. It is a closed group so you’ll have to ask for an invite. If you have any problems email me ( mike [at] fbjasper [dot] org )

Secondly, get the word out. Every married guy needs to be praying for his wife. This is one way to encourage you to do just that. Retweet this post, like it on Facebook, do whatever you can to involve more and more guys. Brothers, we need a community like this to put a FACE on our prayers.

How Will it Work?

Every day I will post a particular focus for our prayers along with a sample prayer. You can comment with your own prayers, etc. Also you will be challenged to “like” that status if you prayed for your wife that day, as a means of accountability. My hope is that we create a little community where we can pray for our wives, share our concerns, pray for one another as husbands, etc.

I also would love to share testimonies of what the Lord does through our prayers for our wives.

Also if you are engaged, separated, or anything else that might make you think that you aren’t qualified to join this—fear not. You can even pray for your future spouse or the spouse that you are estranged from. Maybe the Lord will use this as a means to restore broken relationships.

Will you join us?

Today in Blogworld 07.30.13

What are the struggles of being a pastor’s wife?

Every pastor and every church member would do well to read this.

Celebrating the “Ordinary”

Kyle Worley invites us to celebrate faithful moms and dads.

STEP: A New Free Online Bible Resource

I played around with this a little bit. I think it could be helpful for some people. Give it a go.

The Kind of Churches We Need in the South

I think this is kind of an ad or primer to Engage:South, but it’s helpful nonetheless.

Apparently everything has to be epic these days…even city council meetings:

Monday, July 29, 2013

Putting Online Shepherding In Its Place

“Shepherd the flock of God that is among you…”

When Al Gore invented the internet* a new opportunity for “pastoring” was also invented. With a few strokes on my keyboard and a click of the mouse I can sit under teaching from all around the world. I can be “pastored” by a guy that I’ve never met and live in a “community” filled with people I’ve never actually seen. 

I believe God inspired Peter to add those little words, “that is among you”, for a reason. You cannot rightly “exercise oversight” if you’ve never actually sat across from a person. That is why Peter exhorts the elders to shepherd the flock that God has placed before them…not some other dudes flock, and not the one that is in your imaginary dream world. The flock that actually exists, right under your nose.

1 Peter 5:2 is an important word for those of us that have an online writing ministry. Our audience (oh, how I dislike that word), is not our flock. We aren’t their shepherd. They are not our sheep to tend. As much as I love the people that read this blog and appreciate their readership I have to remember that unless they are also members of FB Jasper, I’m not their primary under-shepherd.

Why do people seek online shepherds?

There are three major reasons that I believe people are drawn to an online “pastor” and community instead of the real thing.

The first reason is that there really are bad shepherds out there that are starving their sheep. Not everybody can just move to a new church—as some may not have a biblical shepherd for hundreds of miles. Hungry sheep desire food and so they go to the internet to be satiated.

Secondly, some sheep are discontented and shouldn’t be. Their pastor won’t be speaking at any conferences, writing any books, or much else that would make him a Christian celebrity. He loves Jesus, is as faithful as he knows how to be, but Joe Pewsitter isn’t satisfied with him or his teaching so he goes to the internet to listen to his favorite celebrity. He’d likes the way that Pastor Superstar preaches and teaches so he’ll follow him instead.

Lastly, it’s easier to hide. You can get what you want online. You don’t have to deal with the messy of actual relationships. If you don’t like what somebody says just click on another link. If you don’t want to be confronted on sin then don’t type your sin into a search engine. Just follow the speakers that you like, read the articles that agree with you, and keep yourself safe. You can’t do that in a real community.

What 1 Peter encourages me to do in response

As one of those online writers I feel that I have responsibility. If someone is following me because he/she is surrounded by unfaithful shepherds then I’m truly thankful to the Lord for using me to feed His sheep. At the same time I readily acknowledge that I’m not the ideal pastor for this person. I will encourage him/her to pray that God would give him/her a faithful shepherd. Either through changing the hear to the current pastor(s) or bringing new ones. I’m thankful that God uses me in the interim but I have to remember that is exactly what it is.

If somebody is following me simply because they are discontent with their pastor I need to be careful. That can really stroke my ego. I can go off thinking that I’m doing a better job than Pastor X at shepherding his flock. Even if that were true (and it probably isn’t) God has called someone else to be their shepherd. My responsibility is to help them love the shepherd(s) that God has given them.

I also need to be aware that people like the comfort of an online community and pastor over the real thing. This will help me to encourage people that I “counsel” online to actually pursue a local church.

If you have an online writing ministry you need to make certain that you keep it in it’s proper place. You are not a replacement pastor. You are a supplement, a help, a voice, to encourage people to love Jesus more. And as such you know that one of the best ways that people grow in loving Jesus more is by growing in their love for the under-shepherd(s) that God has already given to them.


*I’m sorry, I can’t stop making that joke no matter how old it gets.

Today in Blogworld 07.29.13

A Few Thoughts About Being Ordinary Christians

Tim Brister adds a few thoughts to the “radical” Christianity vs. “mundane” Christianity discussion. I’m still chewing on this one.

6 Principles for Interpreting Proverbs

This is helpful.

The Words That Once Preceded Amazing Grace

Timothy Paul Jones helps us to understand the historical context of Amazing Grace.

9 Reasons Why Church Leaders Struggle with Prayer

When Tim Challies linked to this about a week ago he simply said, “Convicting”. I echo that and add an “ouch”.

David Platt responds to “radical” criticism:

Friday, July 26, 2013

7 Reasons Husbands Should Pray for Their Wives

I’ve been thinking recently about my need to pray for my wife. And I don’t just mean a quick little prayer for her in the morning or at night; I mean intentional and devoted praying for my wife. As I’ve been thinking through this and trying to practice it, I’ve thought about a few reasons to pray for our wives. Here are seven:
  1. Prayer softens my heart towards her. I’m usually tender towards my wife. But I’m also a sinner—and sadly, I can have times of callousness. Prayer keeps my heart soft because it helps me see her more accurately.
  2. Prayer directs my heart towards her. I can get so wrapped up in my own business that I am blind to her needs. Prayer causes me to dedicate time to thinking about her struggles, successes, and needs.
  3. Prayer binds my heart to hers. When I pray for my wife I am invested in her. You show me a husband that is abusing his wife, disrespecting her, cheating on her, or something else, and I will show you a husband that has stopped praying for his wife. Prayer molds my heart to the heart of my wife.
  4. Prayer helps me celebrate her. Our wives are a gift to us. We husbands ignorantly forget that sometimes. Intentional times of thanksgiving for my wife reminds of what a gift she is to me.
  5. Prayer puts me in my place. I can be a selfish jerk. My mind and heart can go haywire and I can have prideful, fearful, bitter, and selfish thoughts towards my wife. It’s kind of hard to maintain that posture on your knees before a holy God.
  6. Prayer is how I fight for her. I’m called to fight for my wife’s joy in Christ. That, to our shame, is not something that often comes easily. Prayer is one of the ways that I fight for her joy in God. Bible study is not the only way that I can wash her in the water of the word. Praying Scripture over her is another way that I can do this.
  7. She needs it. My wife is a redeemed sinner that is being constantly renewed. She needs Jesus every moment. Not to mention that her task as a wife to me is daunting. Throw on top of this her calling as a mother to our two young children. She needs prayer.
Husbands, pray for your wives.

Today in Blogworld 07.26.13

Cigar Smoking and Grace For the Accountability-Holder

I like this perspective on accountability relationships.

Stop Boiling Jesus

“There is no simple reduction of Jesus. That’s why he’s worth following.”

Alone with My Thoughts

“What I and we all need to remember is that whether we are alone in the car or alone with our thoughts, there is no thought in the woods that no one hears.”

Sex in Leviticus

“The law in Leviticus, then, must not be isolated, stuck alongside shellfish, and mocked into irrelevance. It is one small piece of a much larger and consistent pattern of whole-Bible teaching about the gift and joy and purpose and disciplines of our sexuality.”

I probably shouldn’t laugh at this…but it’s pretty funny:

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Should I Still Mourn With Someone Whose Mourning Isn’t Based in Reality?

“Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.”

So what if the person’s weeping is unfounded? Or what if their rejoicing is foolishness? Am I still called to rejoice with them? To weep with them?

It’s pretty easy to say that if some guy is rejoicing because he just had an affair, I should not join in his cheer. Nor should I match the anguish of soul my daughter feels when she skins her knee. Rejoicing with those who rejoice and weeping with those who weep does not necessarily mean matching their emotion.

What I see Paul saying in this verse (and the surrounding context) is that believers ought to have a Christ-consumed heart for others. This means that my heart is so invested in your heart that I ache with you or rejoice with you. My joy is found in your joy. My tears fall when yours do. It is as if the hearts of believers are glued together by the Lord.

This also means that our hearts will be grieved and not glad when a believer rejoices in sin. And we might rejoice—perhaps as somber rejoicing—when the Lord causes a man to weep for his sin and it leads to repentance. Therefore, I say that we must have a Christ-consumed heart for others.

So what about depression?

When a person experiences a dark night of the soul and goes through a period of depression it feels like everything that you are thinking is legit. You feel sad and often do not even know why. There is nothing attached to it. No real reason to mourn. No real reason to be discouraged and faint of heart.

What should a fellow believer do in this case? Am I to mourn with the one that is mourning; even if their mourning is not based on reality?

Yes and No.

Consider Jesus Raising Lazarus

Jesus went to the tomb of Lazarus fully knowing that He would raise him from the dead. Death would not be the end of the story on this day. Even after Jesus proclaims, “Your brother will rise again”, there is still weeping and mourning all around him. It is weeping that is not based in reality.

The only tears that should fall at a resurrection are tears of joy. Yet, Mary and Martha and the others have not yet seen the resurrection of Lazarus. They’ve only heard it on Jesus’ lips. They believe him. Oh, how they believe him. But they still ache. They cannot help but mourn.

Now catch Jesus’ response to their sadness:

When Jesus saw [Mary] weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit, and greatly troubled…Jesus wept.

Jesus is mourning. But he’s not mourning in the same way that they are. He’s broken by all the sadness around him. He’s weeping because of the cold reality of death and the Fall. He feels it more than anyone else in history has felt it. He created beauty, and therefore he sees fully the harsh reality of life outside Eden. And he weeps.

Then he raises Lazarus from the dead.

Jesus’ weeping is filled with hope and trust. He knows fully that God will be glorified and death will not deal a blow on this day. And He knows that on a dark Friday a short time later, He will deal a decisive blow to death. It will lose its sting.

Their weeping was filled with confusion, darkness, questions, tainted faith, with little flickers of hope. And it is the same way with depressed believers. The mourning of depression is often a hopeless weeping. We dare not join in that. But weep we must.

We weep because depression is not yet conquered. We weep because they are weeping—no matter how distanced from reality. We mourn with them, fully knowing that some day our faith shall be sight and they—along with us—will never be detached from reality again. But we mourn because that’s a not yet.

Mourn we must. But when we are given the grace of sanity and clarity of sight we had better mourn with a hope-filled shout of “Maranatha!”

Today in Blogworld 7.25.13

Why Christian Growth Starts Strong but Then Goes So Slow

Archibald Alexander answers this question.

An Important but Neglected Distinction

There is a difference between being childish and childlike. Carl Trueman explains.

Should I Make My Child Apologize?

Even if they aren’t sincere? “Yes”, says Jen Wilkin. And I agree.

F-Shaped Pattern

How users read your content.

And you thought your house was small…

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Flaunting Our Bacon

Imagine that the apostle Paul has an iPhone with Instagram capabilities. Do you think he would send this out to all of his Jewish friends:

    “Eat this Jews!”

Because of the work of Christ people are now free to eat bacon. Yet, some early Christians had a difficult time making this transition. They grew up thinking that everything that came from a pig was dirty and defiled. In the same way some Gentiles had a difficult time eating food that had been previously offered to idols. Others believed they were free to do anything. 

This was Paul’s response to both:

For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel that I may share with them in its blessings.

You can ask several questions of this text and debate them all day. But one thing is clear. The gospel caused Paul to be absolutely “others” focused. It’s the same thing he said in Galatians 5. “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.”

I don’t see Paul sending an Instagram photo of him eating bacon so as to teach people a theology of freedom. He didn’t flaunt his freedom as a way of showing the supremacy of Christ. In fact truly free people don’t flaunt their freedom, they quietly enjoy it. When you are free—and really living in freedom—you aren’t focused on the freedom itself. In Christ our focus is now on our liberty to truly love and follow Christ and lovingly serve others.

And that’s what has me bothered by much of the behavior of my generation when it comes to Christian freedoms. We pretend like Jesus Christ died to make us free--and then we stick a period on that statement and move on. But there isn’t a period there. There is a comma. Jesus Christ died to make us free so that we can “through love serve one another”.

Listen, the last thing I want to do is give a list of rules. When we are talking about these Christian freedoms I don’t think “right/wrong” is the most helpful question. It’s usually an issue of wisdom and an issue of love. So I propose three questions to ask ourselves about our freedoms:

  1. Are you using your freedom to serve yourself or others? How so?
  2. Is your identity in Christ or in your “freedom”?
  3. Are you free to NOT engage in this freedom?  (Here you need to read this article by Patrick Schreiner which links to this helpful article by Brett McCracken.

There is more to be said on this, but I’ll leave it there for today…

Today in Blogworld 07.24.13

“All Things for Good.” Suffering Too?

“The Apostles do not downplay sin or suffering; they feel both deeply and painfully. However neither do they view them apart from the sovereign power and wisdom of God who is able to make the most and the best of our least and our worst.”

9 Things You Should Know About Social Media

These are mind-boggling stats.

The Most Frightening Prayer I Could Pray for My Children


Are You Free NOT to Drink?

This is very welcome pushback on the increasing acceptance by young evangelicals of alcoholic beverages.

Is it wrong to laugh at this?

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

When Obedience is Awkward

With all the power he could muster, he wrapped his tiny hands around daddy’s power drill/driver. He was given the task of screwing a couple of screws into the wall. He took both of his little hands and hoisted the monster up to the screw. It took him a couple of minutes to get it positioned…

Then he pulled the trigger.

He wasn’t expecting that much power. The drill spun itself out of the screw, and along the wall, leaving a healthy scratch. The little boy tried again. He labored and labored, until finally those screws were embedded into the now scratched up and mangled wall. 

Everything about the execution of this chore was awkward. And everything about it pleased the heart of this boy’s father.

Excellence, Excellence, Everywhere

I think about that little boy trying to use that power tool when I read things like this:

It’s important that we start and end with this: God demands excellence from us. And excellence is not about having more money, more staff, or more talent. Excellence is a choice. It’s setting a standard and living up to it. And our Creator wants a level of creativity in our churches and in our programs that is at the highest level. We are commanded and required to deliver. –Brad Lomenick

I’ve heard similar things before. And I think that I agree in part. We don’t want to have flippant attitudes toward worshipping the Lord. We want to give the Lord the best of us.

But let’s be honest, “the best of us” is always awkward. Living out the Christian life is not marked by excellence or victorious living. It’s marked by awkwardness. Beautiful, God-honoring, awkwardness.

And you and I need to be okay with that.

If we develop an attitude which says, “If it cannot be done perfectly then I don’t want to do it at all”, then we will never stumble our way through obeying Christ. Things like evangelism are awkward. Every step of the way. At least it is for me. At times awkwardness is our only option.

I’m not awesome. I’m awkward. That is why I delight in Psalm 103. “He knows our frame, He remembers that we are but dust…” I’m like that little boy wielding that power tool every time I get up to preach. Every time I husband, and father, and disciple. And I scratch lots of walls. I sometimes make a mess of things with my clumsy obedience. But I plan to keep going at it until I get that screw securely into the wall.

If you are inelegant in your exercise of grace, as I am, then you’ll be refreshed by this William Bridge quote:

…the Lord proclaims unto all His children, that what they lack in performance, he will make up in [compassion]. He proclaims this unto them, that He will require no more than He gives; He will give what He requires, and He will accept what He gives.

[Insert *sigh of relief* here]

Today in Blogworld 07.23.13

Christianity and “The Daily Show” Distortions

This should help Christians decide about whether or not to appear on shows like The Daily Show.

Church Should Be Like a Good U2 Song

Stephen Altrogge honors those that serve behind the scenes.

Thabiti On the Myth of Race

I too found this talk at T4G 2010 very helpful.

When You Are a Hammer

Great outlook by Challies. “When it comes to social media, we need to learn to use the hammer rather than be the hammer.”

I found this really funny:

Monday, July 22, 2013

Review of Interpreting the Pauline Letters by John D. Harvey

“Designed as a handbook for seminary and graduate students, the book provides a go-to guide that will also serve seminary-trained pastors, upper-level college students, and well-motivated lay people. As readers work through this handbook, they will begin to see and interpret the narrative writings as Paul intended them to be understood.”

That is a brief snippet from the back of John D. Harvey’s, Interpreting the Pauline Letters. I provide it here because it lets you know what type of books this is intended to be. It is not a book that you casually read on the bus home from work. This book is one that is better used as a resource for preachers and students as they work through a text of Scripture.

When I first read the title I immediately thought of Dr. Schreiner’s excellent work Interpreting the Pauline Epistles. Schreiner’s work is one that has been influential in shaping my reading of Paul’s letters. Therefore, I was anxious to see how Harvey’s work compared to Schreiner’s.

At present I am preaching through 1 Thessalonians and so I thought it would be beneficial to use this as a resource to see exactly how valuable it would be in preaching through a text.

As I picked up this book to begin my study of 1 Thessalonians I immediately noticed that a general index and a Scripture index is missing from the back. That would have been immediately helpful. In fact the absence of such an index makes this almost too time consuming to use as a preaching resource. I have to scan through the entire work to find things on 1 Thessalonians.

What I do find is helpful. There is a section on the major themes of each of Paul’s letters. Here I get help in placing the text in it’s historical context. (Here I think Harvey is a little more in depth than Schreiner). I notice also that there is a section on the structure of the passages. Here Harvey helps the reader layout the structure of a given passage. (I immediately note that Schreiner’s treatment tops Harvey in this section).

I really appreciate Harvey’s sixth chapter, here he gives valuable homiletical tips on interpreting and preaching/teaching through Paul’s letters. The seventh chapter is also helpful in that it gives a couple of examples of preparing and communicating a sermon from one of Paul’s epistles.

Overall, I’m not exceedingly helped in my study of 1 Thessalonians. I learn some background information but that is information I could find elsewhere. I like the help that Harvey gives on structure but I can find that in Schreiner. So what I find that I am left with, is a book that is good to read, helpful in shaping the way that I do exegesis, but ultimately not one that I will continue to consult.

A scripture index would have made this a much more valuable resource. As it stands it is a book that I will probably read through once and not consult much more. And that is sad, because there is valuable information in here. But without having a helpful index I doubt I will think to pull this book out when preparing a sermon. This is simply because I will have to almost re-read the entire book to glean a few salient points on the passage I am preaching. I can get most of this information out of a commentary.

In summary this book provides great content but is lacking in one very needful tool to make this book more accessible through all seasons.

It’s a great book for the beginning seminary student or motivated lay-person trying to learn how to better interpret passages of Scripture. For this reason it has value and I’d encourage you to purchase it. But sadly not as much value as it could have had if someone had taken the time to add 4-5 pages of an index.

Buy it here.

Knock, Knock. Who’s There?

I’ve decided to ask a few people to write occasional articles for me to use at Borrowed Light. Nick Horton is one of those fine souls to agree to do this. He blogs at you can follow him on Twitter @NickHorton

I walked towards the first door of the evening. My heart was beating a touch faster. My mouth was dry. I worried about what they would say. How would they take it? Would they shut the door in my face? Turn me down cold? Argue with me? I thought through what I was going to say. Prayed a quick prayer and then…

*knock knock knock*

The door opened. A young woman peered out at us, a bit suspiciously, it seemed.

“Hi, I’m Nick, we’re from First Baptist Church, right over there.” I turned and gestured toward the church, mostly visible a hundred yards away. “Do you have a few minutes to talk? We’re trying to get to know our neighbors.”

“Ok,” she said.

So began my first experience with door-to-door evangelism. Pastor decided we needed to get out of the church building and reach our neighborhood, and beyond that, our city. He was right. Often we retreat within the walls of the church as though it is some fort, a bastion against the world. Us versus them. Is this how it should be?

Christianity lives and dies on the sharing of news. “Gospel” means good news. We have the good news of Jesus Christ’s substitutionary sacrifice for sinners, and His resurrection and offer of eternal life for the same. We have the best news in the world! We have the very words of life; news that applies to everyone without exception.

Yet, we don’t often share it. Why?

Christ commanded that we go and make disciples. Can that happen without sharing the gospel? Paul said in Romans 10:14-15; “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent?” Indeed, how will they believe in Him whom they have not heard, if we don’t tell them?

There are many reasons we don’t share the good news. Lets lay our cards on the table and name just a few:

  1. Unbelief. This is really the root of many others. Somewhere in us there is unbelief in the promises of God, His truth, or perhaps His goodness. We are being disobedient. Evangelism is not only for the gifted. Christ made no such distinction in the great commission.
  2. Fear of man. I had this as I walked up to the first door, and still do. We’re afraid of what people will say, that we will be rejected. Perhaps we’re worried they won’t approve of us. Our focus, then, is on our performance. We’re worried we won’t do it right. We’re worried something we say will keep them from Christ. This is selfishness because it’s not about us. Yet, our fears and worries betray our self-centeredness. God draws sinners, not us. (John 6:44) This is not about how awesome we are, how many bible verses we know, or whether we’re the next Billy Graham. This is about God saving sinners using a message communicated by sinners.
  3. Laziness. There are many distractions in life. Technology, TV, movies. Endless gadgets and things to do. It’s not that you can’t ever do those things, but when will you make time to share the gospel? Which master holds sway over your heart?

There will likely never be a time when there isn’t some sense of nervousness, inadequacy, unbelief, rebellion, laziness, fear, or any other number of feelings seeking to derail sharing your faith. The very faith you share is the only thing God has given you to share. Meaning, armed only with our faith in God, we share His gospel.

This is by design. God has removed our performance from His success, which is incredibly freeing. Consider; all you are to do is release the word and leave the results to God. He is faithful. After all, we’re not seeking to win people to us. We’re seeking to win them to Christ.

One day a lady criticized D. L. Moody for his methods of evangelism in attempting to win people to the Lord. Moody’s reply was "I agree with you. I don’t like the way I do it either. Tell me, how do you do it?" The lady replied, "I don’t do it." Moody retorted, "Then I like my way of doing it better than your way of not doing it."

Today in Blogworld 07.22.13

The King in His Beauty; an Interview with Tom Schreiner

Dr. Schreiner is my favorite professor at SBTS. He has written a new book, The King in His Beauty. This is an interview with him about the book—which you can purchase here.

Predators in the Pew: Protecting Against Child Abuse in Your Church

Every church needs to take this seriously.

I haven’t got a chance to watch this yet, but I’m looking forward to it. The SBC 2013 Calvinism Advisory Committee:

9 Struggles of Being a Pastor’s Wife

Pastor’s for sure need to be aware of this…but so do congregations.

Packer: Too Many Churches in North America Are Playing the Number Game

Speaking of numbers…J.I. Packer turns 87 years young today.

SBC 2013 Calvinism Advisory Panel from CP SBC on Vimeo.

Friday, July 19, 2013

The Epic Head vs. Heart Showdown

“How far is heaven? Not far really. Just 18 inches, the distance from your head to your heart.”

I’ve heard variations of that statement quite a few times. I recently saw it in a witness tract, encouraging people to not only know about Jesus but to come to know Him personally. And that is a good and valid point. I appreciate that emphasis.

But I kind of wonder where the complimentary tract is to be found. You know the one that talks about having all heart and no brains. After all isn’t it true that a person can be very sincere in their beliefs--giving their whole heart to them--and still end up in hell because they very sincerely worshipped a pig-god named Steve?

In actuality that guy doesn’t exist*. The dude who sincerely worships a pig-god named Steve doesn’t do it because he’s an idiot. He worships a pig-god because he is a rebel. And in the same way the guy that intellectually understands the gospel but just can’t bridge that 18 inches—he’s a rebel too.

The Bible does not like to create a chasm between head and heart. We do.

And in our culture we like to pick heart over brains. We are as Os Guinness has noted like the Tin Woodman, in L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,

“Why didn’t you walk around the hole?” asked the Tin Woodman.

“I don’t know enough,” replied the Scarecrow cheerfully. “My head is
stuffed with straw, you know, and that is why I am going to Oz to ask
him for some brains.”

“Oh, I see,” said the Tin Woodman. “But, after all, brains are not the
best things in the world.”

“Have you any?” inquired the Scarecrow.

“No, my head is quite empty,” answered the Woodman. “But once I had
brains, and a heart also; so, having tried them both, I should much
rather have a heart….”

“All the same,” said the Scarecrow, “I shall ask for brains instead of
a heart; for a fool would not know what to do with a heart if he had

“I shall take the heart,” returned the Tin Woodman; “for brains do not
make one happy, and happiness is the best thing in the world.”

We have, says Guinness, made the Tin Woodman’s choice. And it’s a choice that the Scriptures do not make. The biblical picture is that head and heart are interdependent. One serves the other. We are whole people that are wholly redeemed by God.

If there is a chasm between your head and your heart it doesn’t really matter from which end you started the dig. If you’re all head then you need to repent of a cold and dead orthodoxy. After all Satan could ace every doctrine test a seminary through at him. But he doesn’t treasure truth—and it doesn’t cause him to break out into doxology.

So also if you are somehow “all heart” but don’t care much about digging out the Scriptures you are just as rebellious as the cold yet orthodox guy. The Bible says that it’s both/and.

Love and dig.

Dig and love.

We shouldn’t put friends like this in the boxing ring.


*Not the pig guy…he might exist.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

When You Feel Abandoned by God

It might seem strange counsel but I believe people that are often discouraged and prone to negative thinking need to hear things like this:

God has not abandoned any of us any more than he abandoned Job. He never abandons anyone on whom he has set his love; nor does Christ, the good shepherd, ever lose track of his sheep. It is as false as it is irreverent to accuse God of forgetting, or overlooking, or losing interest in, the state and needs of his own people. If you have been resigning yourself to the thought that God has left you high and dry, seek grace to be ashamed of yourself. Such unbelieving pessimism deeply dishonors our great God and Savior. (J.I. Packer, Knowing God, 88-89)

Doesn’t it feel like we’ve been abandoned at times, though? Doesn’t it feel as if we can pray Psalm 22: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me”?

Packer himself likely had times of feeling “left high and dry”. As he recalls in his latest work, Weakness is the Way, Packer was a “solitary and rather somber child”. He “had to wear at school, for ten years, a black aluminum patch covering a hole in [his] head…and hence was unable to play outdoor games.” This, Packer says, left him “feeling out of most of what mattered”. He likely felt Psalm 22;








Now to really feel Psalm 22 we have to feel it in its entirety. And that is what the above Packer quote is referencing. It’s right—and in fact quite like Christ—to express Psalm 22:1. But if you leave it there—without embracing the redemption of Psalm 22—you are accusing God of being less than He is.

Though we are the afflicted and we feel that in our bones, at the same time faith beckons us to cry out, “The afflicted shall eat and be satisfied.” Yes, this is true. I know it to be true because Jesus has fulfilled Psalm 22.

And because of this I know that the Great Shepherd will never abandon his sheep…including me. Even if I have engaged in the “unbelieving pessimism” that “deeply dishonors our great God and Savior”.

Jesus is just that great.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

A Photo That Changed My Life

It was an innocent enough picture, but it really shook me up.

There I was, iPad in hand, next to my then three year old son who was focused on playing with an iPod. Both of us with heads down; disengaged from each other and everyone else.

As I saw that photo I was crushed. “Dear God, no,” I prayed. I refuse to be a disengaged husband, father, friend, and disciple.

Once I saw that photo I vowed to change. No more will I be with people and have my nose in an electronic device—unless it’s for the sake of conversation or the meeting itself.

I fail at this at times. And sometimes it hits me how stupid it is that I’m playing some silly game, reading some pointless article, checking some insignificant news, or wasting away while I have life all around me.

This isn’t life no matter what Apple tries to tell you. This is not it, this is not what matters:

I believe that iPad’s and iPod’s can be helpful tools. They can help us actually serve people better. But if, as you see in this video, it directs our attention away from one another, they are deadly.

I often wonder if an iPad would be used by Caravaggio if he painted a modern day Narcissus. There we would be looking into a glass, seeing ourselves and everything that interests us, customized to our own liking.

I don’t want to be Narcissus. I want to look up and engage with people. Problem is, more often than not their heads are buried as well. I pray that we grow tired of looking at ourselves and keeping tabs on our own little worlds. And we actually start to look up again.

Maybe you are reading this right now on an electronic device. I want to encourage you to put down the iPad and vow not to spend your life staring into an electronic looking glass.

Look up.


I’d also encourage you to read this article by Justin Taylor (and the one he links to in that article).

Today in Blogworld 07.17.13

Is Jeremiah 17:9 True of the the Believer?

I absolutely love this article. A much needed corrective.

Where Do Prayers Come from in “The Valley of Vision”?

This is interesting.

Ministry Means War: 10 Lessons Seminary Never Taught Me


Can you worship even when the music stinks?

This is a heart probing question. Aaron Armstrong does a great job of helping us check our hearts on this.

Yeah, I’ve got to play this:

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

How to Tell If Your Grace is Weak or Counterfeit

I am guessing that many people have never actually read the Puritans. If they had they would not be able to maintain the view that Puritans are impractical men with their head in the clouds—helpful to nobody and a nuisance to all. These men were deeply helpful and excelled in soul care.

William Bridge is one of those Puritans. In his work, A Lifting up for the Downcast, Bridge gives seven differences between weak grace and counterfeit grace. If you are wondering how you can determine if your struggles reveal that you merely have counterfeit grace, Bridge hopes to open up for you the possibility that it is weak grace and not counterfeit*. Here are seven marks of weak, but true, grace.

  1. True grace, though weak, will not oppose more grace
  2. True grace loves examination; counterfeit grace likes to hide.
  3. True grace seeks to grow in knowledge of God
  4. True grace is engaged in the work of humiliation
  5. True, though weak, grace is always laying the foundation; counterfeit grace pursues another foundation.
  6. True grace is willing to learn from other people; counterfeit grace will not relish what is brought to him by the hand of another.
  7. True grace is very sensible of its own weakness

That fifth point is a little difficult to summarize. Listen to how Bridge expounded upon it:

[True grace] staggers at the promise, yet it goes to the promise; it doubts of Christ’s love, yet it runs to Christ; it stumbles, yet it keeps its way; it is ignorant of Christ, and not so forward in the knowledge of Christ as it should be, yet it lays the foundation, Hebrews 6:1. It is the fault of a weak Christian, that he is always laying the foundation, yet he is laying the foundation. (Bridge, 101)


*I have modernized Bridge’s language where necessary.

You can (and should) purchase Bridge’s work here.

Today in Blogworld 07.16.13 (Take 2)

Christianity, the World’s Most Falsifiable Religion

If you aren’t familiar with C Michael Patton, you need to be. This is an example of the terrific and helpful articles that he writes.

Different Types of American and English Puritans

Not all Puritans are the same.

Ordinary Christians and a Great Commission

I really think Tim Challies needs to write his book on ordinary Christianity. You can tell he’s dying to do it. Go ahead, Tim, write the thing! This article shows why he needs to write this book.

Rethinking Small Churches

I like the balance of this: “Bigger is not necessarily better, but neither is smaller necessarily better.”

I found this really interesting:

Today in Blogworld 07.16.13

10 Behavior Patterns of Inwardly-Focused Churches

These are ten dominant behavior patterns of members of churches that were identified as inwardly-focused.

How to Preach Like D.A. Carson Without Sounding Like Him

Many people have already linked to this, but in case you missed it, now is your chance.

Jesus Canceled Your Mommy Guilt Trip

Good word for mommies (and daddies too)

Simple, Practical Ways to Improve Your Preaching


This brings back memories:

Monday, July 15, 2013

How Jonathan Edwards Wrecked My Soul

That title is misleading. It needs to be more Edwardsean to be accurate. It should be titled How a Wrong-Headed Application of Jonathan Edwards Has Nearly Made Shipwreck of My Soul. Let me explain.

About seven years ago I read this Resolution of Jonathan Edwards:

5. Resolved, never to lose one moment of time; but improve it the most profitable way I possibly can.

Since that moment I have made it my ambition to not lose one moment of time for the glory of God. I have failed at this on numerous occasions. But one thing you could say about me is that I have been driven. I have been driven to take captive every moment in activity for God.

And it is wrecking my soul. Awe of God has been replaced by activity for God. I’m worn out and my joy in the Lord has faded. Activity for God, and even pursuing knowledge of Him, is not the same as savoring and treasuring Him.

What I failed to see is that Edwards’ prime resolution was this:

1. Resolved, that I will do whatsoever I think to be most to God’s glory, and my own good, profit and pleasure, in the whole of my duration, without any consideration of the time, whether now, or never so many myriad’s of ages hence. Resolved to do whatever I think to be my duty and most for the good and advantage of mankind in general. Resolved to do this, whatever difficulties I meet with, how many and how great soever.

For Edwards he wanted to take every moment captive to drink deeply of God. For me I wanted to take every moment captive to do stuff for God. There is a massive difference.

I wrote this on a notepad yesterday:

Maybe, smelling one rose and actually worshipping would do more for awe in my soul than a whole host of “doing great things for God”.

I’m slowly learning that the way to “improve every moment in the most profitable way I possibly can” is to find joy in God in whatever I am doing at any given moment. Edwards did not mean that we surrender joyous activity—like observing spiders—and get busy with “spiritual things” like Bible reading. What Edwards meant is that while we are doing things, like enjoying spider watching, we pursue joy in God. That’s how you improve a moment.

Last night I ate a bowl of grapes. They were really good. And I thought about how amazing it is that God would fill His creation with such tremendous things like grapes. And so I thanked God for giving us these little treasures. And I worshipped.

I think I’m learning.

Today in Blogworld 07.15.13

We Can’t All Be Panmillenial

You’ve probably heard the joke—maybe even told it—that your millenial position is “panmillennial” that you believe it will all pan out in the end. Matt Smethurst shows us why we can’t all take that position.

10 Things Every Christian Should Know About Islam

Articles like this are very helpful.

20 Strategies for Writing in Plain Language

As a blogger I constantly think about how I can make my articles more simple.

5 Common Mental Rules

Don’t be tricked by these heuristics. What is a heuristic you ask? “Heuristics are the quick, commonsense principles we apply to solve a problem or make a decision.”

Okay, it’s not the 4th of July anymore…but I liked this too much not to share it:

Friday, July 12, 2013

How Do You Know If You Were Supposed to Marry Your Spouse?

He looked as if he had accidentally been thrown into the dryer with a load of socks. His clothes were disheveled, his hair was unkempt and his eyes told the story of a man dizzied by life. Then he said it…

“I’m not sure that I’m supposed to be married to my wife”.

As I questioned his statement he gave a well-reasoned defense. He explained that he married his wife against the counsel of his parents, his pastor, and his Christian friends. They all reminded him that God’s Word says we are not to be unequally yoked to unbelievers. He ignored their counsel, went to Las Vegas, and eloped with the woman of his dreams.

His marriage was great for awhile. Then the fights started. Now he is miserable and he knows why. He believes that God has a plan for his life, a plan that is to give him hope and to cause him to prosper; a la Jeremiah 29:11.

Though there has been no infidelity, no abuse, no abandonment he believes that God honors his intention to divorce this woman that is making him miserable. He has prayed about it and believes that God has given him the stamp of approval because he began his marriage in sin—thus leaving God’s plan for his life. He reasons that the only way for him to get back on track is to divorce his wife; he cannot live another moment in sin.

So what do you tell him?


How do you know if you were supposed to be married to your spouse?

For the sake of full disclosure I need to tell you that I am happily married. I’ve never been in this guys situation. I have yet to be in a spot where I’m looking for a loophole and trying to get God’s approval to end my marriage. I love my wife deeply and if I found a loophole I would board it up.

But I have had to answer this question because of conversations similar to the one above. How do I know that God intended for me to marry my wife? How do I know that she is my “soul-mate” the one that God had planned for me?

My answer is simple. Are you ready for it…

I know that God intended for me to be married to my wife because…I’m married to my wife.

That’s it. No magic 8 ball. No twenty questions to determine if she is right for me. Once I said, “I do”, I forfeited the right to ask that question. Before our wedding- day I could ask questions of whether or not she is the right one for me. But after that day it’s out of the question.

If you are married you are called to love, serve, honor, and cherish your spouse. You don’t get to use God’s mysterious will as an out-clause.

Today in Blogworld 07.12.13

When “our” voice is silent

I thought this was a well-reasoned piece by Aaron Armstrong.

Twitter Etiquette

The internet would be a better place if people followed these rules.

7 Ways to Lead People Older than You

Seldom is a pastor or other leader the oldest person in a congregation (or even organization). Here are helpful tips for leading those older than you.


I love the title and the article. Is there too much gospel-talk these days?

This is crazy. This guy can’t stop laughing after his hip surgery. Be sure to turn on the closed captioning, or else it won’t be as funny:

(HT: Stephen Altrogge)

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Today in Blogworld 07.11.13

How Should You Explain the Same-Sex Marriage Debate to Your Children?

Good question. Great answer.

The Joy of Not Sinning

“I think it is a question every Christian would all like to ask God, given the opportunity. It is an honest question. A humble one, I hope. If you have the ability to immediately destroy and remove all of a Christian’s sin the very moment he puts his faith in Jesus Christ, why don’t you? Why didn’t you?”

Top 10 Ways to Step Up Your Writing Game

This is from a former editor of Essence magazine.

An Interview on Contextualizing Ecclesiology

This is lengthy but interesting. 9 Marks interviews a seasoned missionary on contextualization.

What would happen if Harry Caray was in The Lumineers? Now you know…

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

An Asterisk For Discouragement

“The saints and people of God have no true reason for their discouragements, whatever their condition be” –William Bridge

I wholeheartedly agree with that William Bridge quote…provided that I get to add an asterisk. And after this asterisk I like to put the words “except for mine”. You see, I agree in principle with what Bridge is saying. It’s really great advice for you and all of the stuff that you are dealing with. But it’s not totally true for me.

You see, I’m unique.

I am entitled to discouragement and sorrow. If you knew some of the things that I have been through you would understand that I am exempt from commands like “rejoice in the Lord always”. Discouragement is the only fitting response to the situations that I find myself in. It would be inhuman for me to not be discouraged.

I’m wondering if you want to claim an exemption too.

You’ve worked your tail off at your present job. You have given this company everything; long hours that you should have spent with your family, holidays working, not to mention the toll it takes on you physically and emotionally. When the possibility for a promotion comes around you are certain that the job will be yours.

It’s not.

You’ve been passed over. Some younger, less qualified, less dedicated guy gets the promotion. So you give up. You aren’t going to work as hard anymore and you send your resume to a rival company. You’re ticked off at God too. You had prayed for this—hardcore sweating and pleading type of praying—but apparently to no avail. You spiral into depression, discouragement, bitterness, and a host of other nasty words.

Do you get an asterisk?

What Discouragement Really Is

According to Bridge, we ought not be discouraged because we “have possession and interest in God Himself”. If you are a believer then you are in union with Jesus Christ. Discouragement is actually saying that God is not enough. It’s not simply a result of fatigue, circumstances, or having a bad frame. Those might be things that make discouragement an easy temptation to succumb to, but they are not the cause of despair; idolatry is.

In reality our discouragement is stupid and faithless. Discouragement is to wail over broken cisterns that we do not need. To have Christ is to have everything that we need.

Stop telling yourself that your suffering is unique and more significant than the redemption of Christ. You and I do not have a license to be discouraged. No matter how deep in the pit you descend, the Lord Jesus has sank further and redeemed it(see here).

Thankfully, Jesus even rescues and redeems those like you and I that have faithless episodes of discouragement. May we live out that redemption and stop pretending like that isn’t better than any other news you’ll receive today.


That William Bridge quote is from his book A Lifting Up for the Downcast, which is an excellent book that I would recommend to anyone battling depression or discouragement.

Today in Blogworld 07.10.13

How big dogs find a seat

This is funny.

Are You Killing People on Facebook?

Biblical admonitions about our words also apply to social media.

8 Ways Satan Keeps You From Worship

With help from Thomas Brooks, Tim Challies shows us the ways that Satan keeps us from worship.

Don’t Pack Too Much in Your Sermons

I think this is particularly tempting to those, like myself, that only preach about once per month.


Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Hope in the Shadowlands

Discouragers go about among men, and, by their gloomy, pessimistic words—they make life incalculably harder for them. They put out the lamps of cheer and hope which shine in men’s homes. They quench the very stars that burn in the sky above men’s heads. They take the gladness out of hearts. They see only the dark shadows of life, never the sunshine; and they prate wherever they go of gloom and doom. They never bring us a message of cheer. We are never stronger, braver, happier, or truer—for meeting them. –J.R. Miller, 1896

If you want to be Mr. Discourager you have plenty of material to work with.

We do, after all, live in what C.S. Lewis dubbed the Shadowlands. It is here that “the sun is always shining somewhere else. Round a bend in the road. Over the bough of a hill.” When you live in the Shadowlands it doesn’t take a work of grace to point out all of the dark shadows.

Grace sees beyond the shadow. Grace gives birth to hope. And hope sets its eye on the sunshine that is just over the horizon.

I want to be the guy that tells everyone, with a gleam in my eye, “Take heart, the sun is rising!” What value is there in pointing out dark shadows in a land of shadows? Nobody needs that preacher. What men and women need—what my own soul needs—is to be captivated by the hope of another land where the sun is always shining.

Take heart friends…we’ve only seen the cover and the title page. Some day we will “at last [begin] Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read:  which goes on forever:  in which every chapter is better than the one before.”

Today in Blogworld 07.09.13

6 Reasons Men Should Read More Stories than Men’s Books

Barnabas Piper recently tweeted, “If men read fewer books on manhood and more really good stories they’d be much better for it.” This article explains.

5 Quick Reasons to Manuscript Your Sermons

Even if you don’t carry a manuscript into the pulpit I think it’s valuable to still manuscript your sermon. Eric McKiddie agrees and shows 5 reasons why.

How the Bible Answers the question, “Where Is Your God?”

“I wish we could write about the sovereignty of God in a lull between calamities. But there is none.” This is how the Scriptures answer that question.

7 Possible Solutions to the Troubled Souls of Pastors

This is helpful.

If you’ve ever wanted to rebuke your churches sound guy…this might be a way to do it…or not:

Monday, July 8, 2013

The Gospel’s Root Work and Axe Work

Apparently one is not supposed to plant a Magnolia tree close to the house. As first-time home buyers my wife and I were not aware of this tip. We liked looking out our bedroom window and seeing the beautiful flowering magnolias. That is until our basement wall started to crack.

This past week—when I was supposed to be on vacation—I spent my evenings killing and uprooting a Magnolia tree. I decided to do this in a three stage process. Stage one is chopping down the tree and leaving a 3 foot stump*. Stage two is to dig a hole around the tree until I expose and then kill those dastardly roots. Stage three is to rent several horses, badgers, cattle, Sherpa's, and anything else I can find to pull the tree out of the hole.

While planning my lumberjacking festivities I started thinking a little about how this magnolia tree relates to sanctification. Specifically gospel-driven sanctification.

So, I’ve got this porn problem”

A young man is in my office confessing his struggle with pornography. I know that the fundamental answer to his problem is the gospel. I also know that there are a few root issues that are likely causing his struggles with pornography. As we dig deeper we are likely to discover that his identity is found in sexual conquest and not in Christ. Those things must be dealt with.

All that is true, but do you want to know what my first advice to this young man will be (especially if he is a believer)? I will tell him…

“Dude, you need to stop looking at porn. Right now. This instant”.

Sometimes you’ve got to kill the visible tree (porn addiction) before you can start digging out the roots (idolatry). I fear that sometimes, with all of our talk of gospel-motivated obedience, we miss something crucial; namely, actual obedience. I like the way Kevin DeYoung put it:

Without [the biblical emphasis of effort], we’ll be confused, wondering why sanctification isn’t automatically flowing from a heartfelt commitment to a gospel-drenched justification. We’ll be waiting around for enough faith to really ‘get the gospel’ when God wants us to get up and get to work (Phil 2:12-13). Because when it comes to growth in godliness, trusting does not put an end to trying. (Deyoung, The Hole in Our Holiness)

You aren’t denying the gospel by grabbing the axe of effort and chopping down the tree of lust. At this point you might not even be dealing with root issues or motivations, all you know is that porn is bringing guilt and pain and you want it to stop. Don’t overcomplicate sanctification, grab the axe and start chopping.

What if I just leave the stump?

The problem with this passive—though gospel-sounding—approach to sanctification is that it spends all of its time and effort on uncovering roots and never chops. You’ve got to kill sin when you see it.

The other end of the pendulum, the Pharisee, is just as deadly. The pharisaical approach to sanctification chops down the visible without dealing with the root system. I’m not an expert on trees but I believe it is correct that if I don’t also sever the roots they will continue to grow (maybe even eventually sprouting another tree out of my stump).

You cannot just chop down the tree, leave a stump, and assume that the job is done. You’ve got to dig and get to the root of the issue. Otherwise you might outwardly tackle your pornography problem but your misplaced identity will lead you to bow to some other god.

Here is my point. If you and I are sinning we need to grab an axe and deal with it. The gospel is what causes us to grab an axe and get to work. And the gospel also causes us to grab a shovel and start digging out roots. But we must never confuse the gospel’s axe work with gospel’s root work. They aren’t the same but they are both necessary to our sanctification.


*I should also mention that I did this with an axe and not a chainsaw. I tell you this just so you picture me as a true hardcore lumberjack…beard and all.

**In case you wonder why I would put a picture of an awkward guy awkwardly cutting down a big tree, it is intentional. Our attempts at grabbing an axe and hacking away at sin is often awkward and ugly. But it’s holy work.

Today in Blogworld 07.08.13

That title will be a tad misleading for the next few days. I have taken a brief writing sabbatical and as such I have not kept up. Yet there are many quality articles that I don’t want my readers to miss.

Love Is More Than a Choice

A helpful “pushback” on the popular slogan, “love is a choice”.

10 Reasons Good Christians Go Bad

This is really good. I’ve seen many of these.

7 Marks of a False Teacher

Our church looked at the dangers of the prosperity gospel, yesterday. This article might also be useful.

Why Passive-Aggressive Christian Leadership Must Go Away


I love videos like this:

Sunday, July 7, 2013

One Way The Prosperity Gospel is Dangerous

Today in our series on Tough Questions we asked “Is the prosperity gospel dangerous?”

Here is one way that it is dangerous: it messes up our view of pain and suffering.


If you are not familiar with the prosperity “gospel” turn on your television and watch TBN for about 15 minutes.  There you will be exposed to the damnable teaching that what the gospel is really about is securing our health, wealth, and happiness and our best life now.  Consider these words of Kenneth Copeland concerning Paul’s thorn in the flesh:

Paul's thorn in the flesh is a tradition that Satan has used to deceive and rob many people. Using it as an excuse, tradition says that God gets glory from sickness because the world sees how marvelously the Christian bears pain and agony. Tradition never adds up to the right answer - anyone knows that the world has all the pain and agony it can stand. The world wants a way out of sickness, not another way into it.

The typical mantra of these shiny watch-wearing, jet-flying, shysters is that God is in the business of blessing people.  If you want to see someone who is living in the favor of God you will not find it in a poor widow, a sickly orphan, or in a downcast soul.  You will find it in a first-class flyin’ preacher that spends his time helpin’ poor folk get their blessings by sowing their seed into his tailor-made suit pocket. 

Because of this belief Paul’s teaching on the thorn in the flesh is completely reversed.  Rather than Paul saying that he is glorying in an unremoved thorn and that the Lord’s grace is sufficient in the midst of hardship these prosperity teachers do a ton of gymnastics to get around what the text clearly says. 

Paul’s thorn

According to Copeland the thorn is an “evil angel”.  This isn’t any of God’s doing it’s all of the devil.  Pain, suffering, sickness, all of those things must not have anything to do with the work of God.  And according to Copeland “this evil angel was assigned to Paul for one reason—to stop the Word from being preached”.  Forget that Paul said it was “given me in the flesh” for the purpose of “keeping me from being too elated”. 

You see within the framework of the prosperity gospel God is not glorified in  our weakness.  God is glorified in our strength.  Or to put that another way the way that God receives glory is when my past is conquered and I live in victory.  If I am not living my best life now then I’m not giving God the glory that He deserves. 

Copeland even has the gall to say that Paul erred in pleading with God to take away the thorn.  As he says, “If you want results, do not ask God to deal with the devil for you…He instructs you to drive out the demons or evil spirits.”  Had Paul not pleaded with the Lord to remove it then he would have gotten the results that he desired. 

While you have a thorn in your flesh you aren’t able to glorify God as you ought because you are living in the devils defeat and not the Lord’s victory.  Therefore, you believe on what you want.  You unleash your faith on removing this thorn and you believe God for it.  You let go of it and you start believing God for victory. 

But what happens when “victory” doesn’t come?…

The Effect on Pain

The problem with this false teaching is that it tries to wipe away ever tear from our eye before we are living in the Redeemed Eden.  That sounds nice and some of these false teachers may very well have good intentions and believe every word of the garbage spewing out of their mouth.  Problem is, they sound more like Job’s miserable counselors than the counsel of the Lord.

What they are subtly communicating—and sadly I think many within the church have bought into this—is that God cannot use me until I have this thorn conquered.  I am a little less than acceptable until I get a grip on this depression.  Certainly people will rally around me and help me remove this thorn—that’s what Job’s friends did.  But what if this thorn is never going to be removed?  Am I supposed to hide this part of me?  Should I shoe my thorn?  Dare I walk with a limp? 

You see I’m becoming increasingly convinced that faith doesn’t look like a man living in success and victory in the Christian life, where everyday is better than the next.  I’m convinced that a better picture of faith is when a man is almost totally overcome by doubt, fear, anxiety but he still keeps a white-knuckled grip on the promise of future redemption.  I’m convinced that a better disciple is one who fixates his eyes on “things that are above” instead of trying to live his best life now. 

Of course we all want mountain moving faith but the faith as tiny as a mustard seed is just as miraculous.  So, why don’t we rejoice in feeble faith? Why don’t we celebrate those souls that are shamed and yet trusting, like Jesus does?  Can we celebrate a wound that isn’t yet healed?  Why do we have to wait for victory?  Why can we not dance with a limp? 

Maybe because we’ve bought into the lie that people with thorns are a little less than what it means to be a disciple.  And maybe we’ve made thorn removal the goal instead of dancing in grace. 


Originally posted here.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Jointly Enduring Struggles With Our Children

Today’s guest post comes from Jeremy Parks. Jeremy is a Texas native with North Carolina roots, works for IMB in South America. His wife and children tolerate his obsession with cooking, woodturning, and new ways to start campfires.  He blogs at SBC Voices.

One of the more difficult-to-teach attributes of Christian living is personal forgiveness. Divine forgiveness of human sin is fairly straightforward: God is gracious, loving, kind, etc, and uses those characteristics to set aside the guilt of our sin. Interpersonal forgiveness is a bit harder to see.

I’ve had times in my life when I was not the most gracious, forgiving person. I’ve worked at it quite deliberately, keeping in mind His graciousness towards me, keeping in mind that my offenders have also been manufactured in the image of God. Those more angst-filled years of my life serve as excellent discipleship fodder for my children, allowing me to draw on some pretty relevant material as I raise my children. In addition, I’ve been able to talk to my kids about how they can forgive others, mainly their siblings. I get to relate my struggles to theirs, and then to the Bible as we seek a solution for others’ bad behavior.

Recently, though, we’ve entered some new territory. For the first time, my kid and I are both angry about the same thing.

There’s been some bad behavior towards my son by a specific group; their identity is irrelevant. My son is pretty angry about having to tolerate this sort of thing, and gets pretty upset when we discuss it. I’m just as indignant, though my outrage is directed more towards the authority figure responsible for this group, the one who should be controlling and monitoring this group’s behavior.

My temptation has been to help my son deal with his emotions, then to address my own need for forgiveness privately. To this point, I’ve done exactly that. However, I think an aspect of raising my child properly is to walk through the forgiveness process together. In general, I try to be pretty open and transparent about the struggles we face as Christian, so why not go through the prayers for graciousness together? Why not learned together how to forgive and move on?

When he gets home from school today, we’ll start. Pray for us as we labor in this; the feelings run deep and will be hard to set aside in the absence of any sort of apology or statement of regret by those responsible.

And consider what struggles you could jointly endure with your kids. It might prepare them for the realities of life a little better.


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