Letters to a New Believer (For the Church)

letters-leadership

This year is my tenth as a Christian—in fact, if I remember correctly, the actual date is coming up in about three weeks, which is pretty neat to think about. Over the last 10 years, I’ve learned a LOT—mostly by making a lot of bone-headed mistakes. There’s so much I wish I’d known then, and so many things I wish someone would have told me…

So, that’s what I’m doing in a new series for For the Church, “Letters to a New Believer.” The first part is now up, which focuses on the dangers of rushing into leadership roles:

About a year or so into being a Christian, I did something absolutely, spectacularly dumb: I joined the men’s ministry leadership team at our church. Seriously, on a scale of dumb to really dumb, this was just the worst. It was such a bad idea.

Why did I think this was a good idea? And who on earth approved me for any of this?

Well, here’s the thing… It wasn’t just men’s ministry. As a brand-new baby Christian, I was not only trying to figure out the mess of my own life, I was facilitating in our children’s ministry. And within about a year of coming to faith, I was leading a small group. And…  Here’s the point: when I most needed to be sitting under someone’s leadership—to be learning, growing, and building the foundation of my faith—I was in a place where I was trying to do that for others. And it was bad—so bad. The Lord graciously prevented me from doing any serious damage to the faith of other believers (at least as far as I know), but wow, did I ever do a lot of damage to myself. I developed an extremely prideful attitude. I had a swagger that didn’t befit a Christian. I had delusions of grandeur that were just… wow.

Keep reading at For the Church.

Links I like (weekend edition)

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Kindle deals for Christian readers

Amazon’s Big Deal sale started yesterday, and there are a number of great books on sale including these four by Kevin DeYoung ($2.99 each):

Also on sale:

Today’s also the last day to take advantage of Crossway’s regular weekly deals:

9 Things Adult Daughters Want Their Mothers to Know

Gaye and Anna Clark:

Anna, like many young women, is a self-proclaimed Daddy’s girl. Throughout her life, he’d been the go-to parent for her. “I’m just like Dad,” she would explain. “Besides, Nathan is your favorite anyway.”

Ouch. I didn’t want to be accused of playing favorites. With my husband’s recent death, I held both my children closer than ever. How could I improve my relationship with my adult daughter and point her to Christ?

Recently, I asked Anna, now 22 and a senior at Covenant College, to give me nine things a mother needs to know about her adult daughter. So she and her friends crowded around a lunch table. Much of what they said, to me, looks a lot like the practical application of Ephesians 6.

God Moves

Kevin DeYoung continues his series “Hymns we should sing more often.”

Nashville timelapse

If you were wondering why I think Nashville is a pretty rad place to visit, this might help:

Why Not to Have a Woman Preach

Tom Schreiner weighs in on Andrew Wilson’s response to John Piper’s response to the question of whether or not women should preach in the Sunday morning worship gathering.

The Real Miracle

Nick Batzig:

A friend recently said to me, “I don’t deserve the life I have. Years ago I was wandering from God out in the far country and He saved me; He gave me a wife that I don’t deserve, children that I don’t deserve, a biblically faithful church and is now giving me opportunities to be used in His church. People are always talking about miracles, but this is the real miracle–that God would save us, redeem our lives and use us in His Kingdom.” I couldn’t agree more.

The best of April at Blogging Theologically

top-10

Let’s take a trip back in time and check out the top ten posts in April:

  1. What should the church expect as same-sex marriage moves forward? (April 2015)
  2. God Won’t Give You More Than You Can Handle (July 2009)
  3. Why aren’t unknown pastors headlining Christian conferences? (April 2015)
  4. 3 favorite teaching moments from #TGC15 (April 2015)
  5. What Does the Bible Really Teach About Homosexuality? (April 2015)
  6. God helps those who help themselves (July 2009)
  7. Six books every Christian should read on prayer (August 2014)
  8. Announcing my next book: Hannah’s Dilemma (April 2015)
  9. Preaching and Pragmatism (July 2011)
  10. 5 books every new Christian should read (March 2015)

And just for fun, here are five favorites written over the month:

  1. The answer to our worship problem
  2. What do you do when books attack? (a #bibliophileprobs poem)
  3. What do true teachers do?
  4. The only reasonable thing to do
  5. Don’t invite them to church this weekend

If you haven’t had a chance to already, I hope you’ll take a few minutes today to check out a few of these articles.

Links I like

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Kindle deals for Christian readers

Today is also $5 Friday at Ligonier, where you’ll find a number of great resources for sale, including:

  • Knowing God’s Will Teaching Series by R.C. Sproul (audio download)
  • Habakkuk: A Wrestler with God by Walter Chantry (Paperback)
  • God in Our Midst: The Tabernacle and Our Relationship with God by Daniel Hyde (Hardcover)
  • How the Gospel Brings Us All the Way Home by Derek Thomas (ePub)
  • Psalm 51 Teaching Series by R.C. Sproul (audio and video download)

$5 Friday ends at 11:59:59 tonight.

An Open Letter to Tom Brady

Jared Wilson gets his super-fan on, and I’m glad he did.

The Problem with Good Advice

Christina Fox:

The problem comes when our advice sounds no different from the advice a counselor from another religion or even no religion at all would give. If an atheist would suggest the same child-rearing techniques or a Buddhist the same stress-management strategies as we do, then there is something missing from our counsel. Even though truth is truth no matter who says it, the advice that followers of Christ give ought to point to the source of all truth.

Wanted: A Teaching Church

Daniel Hyde:

The Bible is the Word of God. All Bible-believing evangelical churches affirm this. In historic Protestantism, there is a theology of the Word that not only professes sola Scriptura but also professes the sufficiency of Scripture for all things concerning doctrine, worship, and godliness. What the church of the twenty-first century needs to be is a teaching church that plainly and powerfully proclaims the Word of God. Then the church will be equipped to fulfill its task in the world to worship and to witness to that world.

Beware the Idol of Self-Preservation

Michael Kelley:

Now let’s be clear, here – there are moments, many in fact, when you find yourself (as I do) in an over-committed situation, and for the health of your family and even your soul, you need to release some of those demands. But in those occasions, you are releasing some demands so you can fully give yourself to others. It’s not an escaping; it’s a re-aligning of yourself to make sure you are giving what limited resources you have to the most appropriate places.

Stating the Obvious in Worship

Dustin Rouse:

Pointing out what is plain to see is annoying, yet gospel truth and the worship it inspires is different. Gospel truth is only obvious to believers because the scales have been removed from our eyes. We see what once was obvious in the Garden of Eden – that our God is glorious.

When Christians say “I’m better than you”

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There are some things we can say about those who don’t believe in Jesus that are wholly true and appropriate. There are others, though, that are either just plain silly or impossibly evil. Recently, I found myself considering one of the latter, which goes something like this:

I cannot respect unbelievers—they reek to heaven! It is impossible for me to honor them in any way.

How would you respond to this (and be honest)? If you were teaching a Sunday School class or participating in a small group and someone said this, what would you do?

Most of us, I suspect, would like to say they would patiently ask, “Why not?” That they would investigate the statement and find out what’s behind it. Honestly, though, as much as I’d like to do that, I’d probably be more tempted to say words I’d need to repent of later. Why? Because this is one of the most ungodly things a Christian could say about an unbeliever—because it presumes that we are somehow better than unbelievers. 

And yet, this is not so. For we know that all human beings are made in the image and likeness of God, as Genesis 1 tells us. Though sin horribly mars it, though our relationship with God is severed and transformed from one of loving friendship to bitter enemies because of it, sin does not eradicate the image of God in us. Our morality, our capacity for love and goodness, our intelligence, our ability to comprehend spiritual realities (though terribly confused and misdirected)… these still exist and still testify of our being “like” God in some limited sense. And despite the strongest words possible being used to describe our sinful state and our rebellion against God, God has not reneged on the original “goodness” of humanity, at least in this sense. So we would be wise to remember that only a fool calls evil what God calls good. And what is saying something like this but foolishness?

But that’s not the only reason. This notion of being unable to respect unbelievers—of putting them solely in the category of sinners whose stench reaches the heavens and stokes the wrath of God—is a rejection of the grace of God in the gospel. Consider how Paul reminds the Corinthians in 1 Cor. 6:9-11:

Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.

Paul is very clear here: Sin is horribly offensive to God. It separates us. It prevents us from entering the kingdom. It damns us to hell. But Paul didn’t stop at writing about how swindlers won’t inherit the kingdom. He turned this judgment back around on his readers:

“And such were some of you.”

All these things that keep people out of the kingdom of God—they were those things! We were those things! We all know this is true, deep down inside. For we know that if anyone could really see into our hearts, they’d be terrified. Heck, if we actually seriously considered the stray thoughts and the darkness that lives inside of us, we’d probably be even more terrified. But Paul, even in rebuking the Corinthians (and us along with them), offers an encouragement.

But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (Emphasis mine)

So despite our unholiness; despite our sin and misdeeds; despite our constant rebellion… God in his mercy has washed us of these sins. He has rescued us though we were ungodly and deserving of death. The gospel was more than enough to rescue us from sin—should this not lead to great compassion for those who remain trapped in their sin?

When we say silly nonsense like we can’t respect unbelievers, we are forgetting (again), that we are no different. In fact, as Christians, we should always be developing a more mature understanding of God’s grace to us in the gospel. We see this in Paul’s writings as he progressively changes his definition of himself as he matures. He first goes from being the least of all the apostles in 1 Corinthians 15:9, to the least of all the saints in Ephesians 3:8, to finally the foremost of sinners in 1 Timothy 1:15!

Notice that this isn’t an upward progression—he doesn’t gradually feel better about himself as time goes on. Instead, God’s grace is forcing him to recognize his sin in greater detail. And it does the same to us. The longer we are believers, the longer we are in relationship with Jesus, the more we see how far we fall short. The more we should recognize that we are totally unworthy of God’s love, and yet God has poured out his love on us so lavishly. 

How dare we, then, condemn those who we should be seeking to reach? When we think of unbelievers as being unworthy of respect, we only have one recourse: repent and believe the gospel. For just as they are, so too were we.


Photo credit: Skley via photopin cc

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Kindle deals for Christian readers

I’m Glad Jesus Doesn’t Take Joel Osteen’s Advice

Me too.

I Have Cursed You

Tim Challies:

Never mind all that stuff about “words will never hurt me.” Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words…words hurt worse. Somehow a full-out beating hurts less than a tongue-lashing. After the bruises have faded, the words remain dug in like daggers. I know people who are still deeply wounded by brutal words launched at them years or even decades before.

How Pride Poisons the Soul

Sam Storms:

Of all that God hates, of all that is an abomination to him, what is first on the list? Haughty eyes, which is to say, prideful, arrogant eyes. Haughty eyes does not refer to how a person’s eyes look to others but how a person views himself and others. He views them as less than himself, as essentially worthless. He is arrogant and puffed up with his own sense of value.

To the Sons and Daughters of Divorce

Paul Maxwell:

Few things are more traumatic than a car accident — 2,000 pounds of steel and glass bending and scraping, with no respect for the limits or boundaries of the human body inside. There’s a path of healing that every victim of a serious accident must take.

Children with divorced parents have experienced a different kind of violent, traumatic collision. And every child of divorce must likewise walk a path of healing. It will, of course look different for different sons and daughters, but no one can deny that the emotional and relational bleeding needs attention, likely long after the papers are filed.

The Antidote to the Coming Persecution

Mike Leake:

Instead the type of persecution that I see playing out will be something similar to what the “scattered exiles” were facing in 1 Peter. The type of persecution that they faced wasn’t so much the beat you with rods, execute you, and throw  you into prison. There was persecution like that in the Roman empire but most of that type was local. Their persecution was more about social ostracization.

Links I like

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Kindle deals for Christian readers

Westminster Bookstore is also holding their annual minibooks sale with titles from New Growth Press, World Reformed Fellowship, CCEF, Harvest USA and Faith Biblical Counselling Ministries.

The Heresy of Indifference

Burk Parsons:

When people tell me they are into Jesus but not into doctrine, I tell them that if they are not into doctrine, they are, in fact, not into Jesus. We cannot know Jesus without knowing doctrine, and we cannot love God without knowing God, and the way we know God is by studying His Word. Doctrine comes from God, it teaches us about God, and by faith it leads us back to God in worship, service, and love. Indifference to doctrine is indifference to God, and indifference to God is indifference to our own eternity.

What the media isn’t telling you

Michael J. Kruger:

But, there is one main reason to be against same-sex marriage that the mainstream media simply won’t talk about.  And it is a reason I’ve mentioned numerous times on this website (e.g., see prior posts here and here), and that many others have also observed.

That reason is simply this: the logic being used to promote same-sex marriage could be used to support a variety of other sexually questionable forms of marriage.

How Millennials Can Be Happy Again

Sam Jones:

What if our cultural condition is caused not by knowing ourselves too poorly but by knowing ourselves too well and knowing love too poorly? What if Martyn Lloyd Jones and David Brooks are correct, and it’s not in listening to ourselves and following our own “inner light” that we find peace and happiness, but in being formed and defined by something greater than ourself?

What It Says that We Gather

Justin Taylor shares from James K.A. Smith’s Desiring the Kingdom.

What Small Churches Can Do

Joe Thorn:

You do not need to compete with other churches in town. Of course this is true of all Christ’s churches regardless of size, but while competition is alive and well among evangelical churches and institutions, it does a lot of harm in our smaller congregations. Even if we can’t match another church’s numbers we will try and find a way to out-perform them. There are a number of comparison games churches can play with one another but all of them stem from losing sight of Jesus’ gospel and mission for the church.

Truth is always timeless (and timely)

Truth

Sometimes I wonder why certain books and authors remain favorites over the course of decades or centuries. But the answer really isn’t that difficult to discern. Certain books are just as relevant today as they were when they were written because, though the trappings may change, the truth contained within hasn’t.

Truth is always timeless. It’s also timely.

This is especially true when we consider our ongoing debates about sexuality. Do conservative or traditional views of marriage, gender and sexuality hinder human flourishing and happiness? Is it repressive to believe that marriage is meant to be between one man and one woman? Is the way to be freed from this feeling of guilt and shame we feel to be more open and expressive?

Consider these words from C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity:

…you and I, for the last twenty years, have been fed all day long on good solid lies about sex. We have been told, till one is sick of hearing it, that sexual desire is in the same state as any of our other natural desires and that if only we abandon the silly Victorian idea of hushing it up, everything in the garden will be lovely. It is not true. The moment you look at the facts, and away from the propaganda, you see that it is not.

They tell you sex has become a mess because it was hushed up. But for the last twenty years it has not been. It has been chattered about all day long. Yet it is still a mess. If hushing up had been the cause of the trouble, ventilation would have set it right. But it has not…

Modern people are always saying “Sex is nothing to be ashamed of.” They may mean “There is nothing to be ashamed of in the fact that the human race reproduces itself in a certain way, nor in the fact that it gives pleasure.” If they mean that, they are right. Christianity says the same… But, of course, when people say, “Sex is nothing to be ashamed of,” they may mean “the state into which the sexual instinct has now got is nothing to be ashamed of.”

If they mean that, I think they are wrong.1

Lewis wrote about the hyper-sexualizing of society in his day with the same terms that are used today.

It’s funny, for all our talk of being sexually repressed as a society, anyone who has gone into a mall or turned on the TV or tried to eat a sandwich would likely say otherwise. Sex is inescapable in our culture. I can’t go to the mall without being exposed to 9 feet wide images of scantily clad ladies. Why?

Because there’s a sale on bras.

I can barely get through an entire movie aimed at my children without finding numerous suggestive jokes peppered into the dialogue. Why? Because we don’t want the adults to get bored.

But has our society gotten any better in the last twenty years of over-stimulation?

We are seeing more marriages and families than ever devastated by pornography, by adultery, by the idols of (temporary) personal happiness and immediate gratification. You can have bus signs advertising phone-sex lines, run billboards for adultery services, and create apps that facilitate it and one even blinks. We’re all well aware of the unprecedented transformation of western values regarding same-sex relationships, the redefinition of marriage, the irrelevancy of biological gender…

So Lewis’ words have never been more relevant. Their message is urgent. And the urgency grows the longer the message goes unheeded. Lewis’ point was that sexuality will continue to be confused the longer we attempt to define and redefine it to fit our current proclivities. We continue to feel ashamed because we are ashamed. This is the image of God within us at work against us.

And the solution is not to continue to lull our conscience into submission. That only leads to a greater sense of despair. Instead, the answer can be found only one way: by recognizing the truth. By heeding the message that Lewis wrote more than 60 years ago. By rediscovering the wisdom of generations past, and maybe even heeding their warnings. By embracing the truth—because truth is always timeless. And it is always timely.


A much earlier version of this post was published in 2009. But don’t read that one, because it’s terrible.

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Kindle deals for Christian readers

Gideons distribute their two billionth Bible

This is great news.

How to survive in a free-falling elevator

Now you know:

How to take Christ out of Christianity

This is tragic:

When I tell my socially progressive, atheist friends that I’m “culturally Christian,” they’re momentarily concerned that I have a latent preoccupation with guns and the Pledge of Allegiance. Using the term with devout believers gets me instructions that I just need to read more sophisticated theology to come around. I’ve tried hard to accept my fully secular identity, and at other times I’ve tried to read myself into theistic belief, going all the way through divinity school as part of the effort. Still, I remain unable to will myself into any belief in God or gods — but also unable to abandon my relationship to the Episcopalian faith into which I was born and to the ancient stories from which it came.

And though I am without a god, I am not alone.

Why Twitter is better than Facebook

Yep:

What Proximity is Worth

Brett McCracken:

It’s easier to find a tribe of like-minded kindred spirits online or at national conferences; much harder to make community work with the “hand you’ve been dealt” in physical proximity. As my pastor likes to say, it’s often harder to love and serve the guy across the street, the crotchety landlady, the awkward coworker, than it is to go on a mission trip to Myanmar or support a cause on the other side of the world. People who go to the ends of the earth or take up “radical” calls are to be commended, of course, but the “ordinary” calling of domestic faithfulness and commitment to community is never to be diminished. Augustine is right: We should show “special regard” for what and who is right in front of us.

Leaders stoop

Joey Cochran:

Here in Nehemiah 3, nestled in verse 5, we learn a lesson — an important lesson about biblical leadership. Real leaders stoop. In their stooping, they offer their submission as service to the Lord.

The way we show love to abusive leaders

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I’m generally not a fan of leadership conferences. While a lot of people really dig these sorts of events, they tend to not be my thing, either because they’re frustratingly free of mentions of Jesus, or they’re not terribly applicable for guys like me who don’t lead from the top.

This weekend one caught my eye, though. But it wasn’t because I was super-excited about the theme or anything like that. In fact, I had no idea it even existed until I learned of a surprise speaker delivering a message to the pastors in attendance. What caught my attention was this particular speaker was one who apparently remains unrepentant over a laundry list of misdeeds, including plagiarism, a domineering attitude and frequent use of abusive language.

That a church would grant an apparently unrepentant individual a position of authority—even as temporary a one as a conference speaker—is disturbing. And yet, for some reason, it’s altogether unsurprising.

And this, I think is what terrified me the most.

I wasn’t surprised.

Unfortunately, it seems to be all-too-common for Christians to allow those who have no business doing so—at least not according to any reasonable reading of 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 2—to exercise an authority out of line with their character. I was reminded of this even as our pastor preached from 2 Corinthians 11 this weekend, as Paul, dripping with sarcasm, continues a full-frontal assault on the false teachers who’d lead this confused group of believers astray.

Thinking back on the message, and re-reading the passage, I was particularly struck by verses 19-21:

For you gladly bear with fools, being wise yourselves! For you bear it if someone makes slaves of you, or devours you, or takes advantage of you, or puts on airs, or strikes you in the face. To my shame, I must say, we were too weak for that!

Does anyone else wince even a little when reading this?

Think about the people we listen to via podcasts and the blogs we frequent. Consider the Twitter feeds we follow and the books collecting dust on our shelves. Sadly, I suspect there are many names included there whose conduct would line up far more with what Paul describes than with that of an actual minister of the Word. People who take advantage and make slaves of us. People who put on airs—who have the appearance of godliness, but none of its power. Fakers, maligners of God’s word, if not in their words, then certainly in their conduct.

And what does Paul do here? He lovingly confronts the Corinthians with the deception. He is asking them, “Why do you put up with this evil? Why do you allow it to be done to you? Why do you welcome with open arms what ought to be purged from among you?”

Sometimes I wonder what Paul would say to us:

  • Would he rebuke us for allowing disqualified men to continue to speak and lead and have influence in the church?
  • Would he shudder to think that self-appointed men were taking on burdens for which they were not called nor gifted to bear?
  • Would he ask us why we would give cover for those who have abused God’s people for their own ends?

These are questions we need to be asking, whether we worship in healthy churches or (God forbid) in ones characterized by the behaviors Paul suggests in 2 Corinthians 11. And yet, it seems as though we are not.

Why?

Perhaps it’s because we are afraid to find out the answer. We value the gifts this or that person has, their sense of humor, their rhetorical flair… Yet, if their lives reveal them to be liars, or at a minimum those who do not practice what they preach, what business do they have being allowed to teach or influence anyone, anywhere, under any circumstances?

And worse, what does it say to those who suffer when we give them cover?

Does it reveal us to be people who are concerned with compassion and justice? Does it show us to be people concerned with the plight of the oppressed, the weary and those burdened by many sins?

We tolerate Jezebel, even as her victims cry out for justice.

Friends, this should never be.

The church is to be a place of great love and affection—for both perpetrators and victims of abuse. But how we express our love for the former is drastically different from how we do for the latter. When it comes to these phonies, we must acknowledge them for what they are: peddlers of God’s word. If a Christian leader refuses to acknowledge their sin, if they attempt to plead Jesus so as to exempt themselves from the need to ask forgiveness—we show love by saying “no.” We must not allow them a place to be heard until their business with Jesus and with those they have wronged has been dealt with. Only then can they be welcomed back as a brother or sister in Christ.

Just as we must never tolerate abusive behavior by a parent or a spouse—just as such evil should never be named among us—so too must evil of this sort never be allowed to gain a foothold. After all, an unrepentant Christian is no Christian at all. We know this is true, and it is well past time that we started acting like it.


Photo credit: Skley via photopin cc

Links I like

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Kindle deals for Christian readers

In honor of Mother’s Day next weekend, Crossway’s Kindle deals are focused on books for women:

Also on sale:

Cyprian’s prayer for perseverance through persecution

This is really great.

Would the Apostle Paul Listen to Lecrae?

Brandon Smith:

What we tend forget is that the hymns or chants we love were once themselves “modern” and sometimes controversial based on their tune, tempo, or similarity to “pagan” music forms. Our desire for older music is misguided because we forget that our music will one day be the “ancient” music some pine for. Age of the song should be disregarded.

Are We Hiding Behind Pulpits?

R.C. Sproul Jr:

Before we answer we have to confess that the ideology is not a direct assault on any of our most ancient creeds. Our Lord never spoke specifically against the peculiar sin that animated this small group. There may be a few obscure texts in the Bible that, indirectly it would seem, touch on the sin. But truth be told, one could preach through the whole Bible without ever having to actually name the twisted doctrine of this group.

Nothing Left to Hide

Jon Bloom:

We all know insincerity when we see it. Most of really don’t like it when we see it in others. And we roundly condemn misleading marketing by mendacious merchants.

But most of us also find it hard to fully live “without wax” ourselves. I know this by observation and experience. I know it mainly because I know me. I am a clay jar (2 Corinthians 4:7) — and one that is quite flawed. And my sin-nature is a mendacious marketing merchant. It does not want you or anyone else to see my defects. It wants to hide the defects behind a deceptive wax and sell you a better version of me than is real.

Nehemiah’s List

Michael Kelley:

I live by lists. In fact, I take so much joy in crossing things off a list that if I do something that’s not on my list, I’ll write it on there just for the sheer pleasure of crossing it off. It’s encouraging to me, then, when I look to Scripture and see other list-makers (maybe there’s a place for us in the kingdom of God, too).

Will we not declare this hope?

hope-for-all

One of the things that I really struggle with in communicating the truth of Christianity is making sure people understand there are no barriers to entry beyond one: Believing in Jesus. Recognizing our need for him. Trusting in his death to pay for our sins.

That’s it, the one barrier. For as Acts 2:21 says, “Everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

And that “everyone” is important because it really does mean “everyone”. Everyone who genuinely believes, every one of those people—regardless of age, ethnicity, intelligence, gender, you name it—”shall be saved.” There’s no hesitation in these words of Scripture, nor should there be in us to declare them, for as Martyn Lloyd-Jones wrote in Authentic Christianity, “Christianity is a message for all people.”

You will need to be very clever to understand the modern books about God, but thank God, you do not need to be clever to be a Christian. “The common people heard him gladly,” wrote Mark (12:37). “Not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called,” says the apostle Paul (1 Cor. 1:26). Rather, “God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty …and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are” (vv. 27-28). There is a hope for all who realize their need and cry out to Him. (31)

All who realize their need and cry out to him have a great hope—a hope that stretches back beyond human existence to before the foundations of the world (Ephesians 1:4). Will we not declare it then?

Links I like (weekend edition)

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Today’s the last day to take advantage of these deals from Crossway:

WTSBooks also has a great Mother’s Day sale going on right now. Be sure to check out the selection of books that are available.

Free Logos book of the month

This month’s free book for Logos users is The Lord and His Prayer by N. T. Wright. And over at ChristianAudio.com, they’re giving away Randy Singer’s The Advocate.

The Most Important Step In Becoming More Like Jesus Christ

Mark Altrogge:

We become like the One we behold in the Word. As we see him stretch out his hand in compassion to heal a leper, we see how we should be compassionate. When we see Jesus have mercy on the woman caught in adultery, we grow in mercy. As we observe Jesus resist the temptations of Satan to love the world, we learn to love the Lord our God as he did. As we gaze on Jesus hanging on the cross, and not revile his enemies but say, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do,” we learn to trust our heavenly father and forgive our enemies.

“I felt a hypocrite”

The National Post interviews Michael Coren on leaving Catholicism for (liberal) Anglicanism.

Dividends and Drawbacks of Small Groups

Nick Batzig:

During the first five years of church planting, we had one collective mid-week meeting at someone’s home. But as the church grew, the mid-week waxed and waned. One of the biggest mistakes I made was not moving to a small group structure when we were averaging 50-60 people in our worship services. Years ago, my pastoral assistant said to me, “For the church to get bigger it needs to get smaller.” Considering the fact that 75-80% of the people in a church will likely commit–to some degree or another–to a small group, we could have easily had 3 small groups 5 years. We missed the boat, so to speak.

Giveaway at Knowable Word

To celebrate their 500th post, Peter Krol’s giving away a copy of the ESV Reader’s Bible, as well as eBook editions of the book, Knowable Word (which you should really read).

What does it mean to be ‘inclusive’ like Jesus?

Derek Rishmawy:

Whether it’s the dynamics underlying much of the racial tensions built up and released in our cities, or the heated theological discourse on sexuality, we need to come to grips with the realities of inclusion and exclusion. Which is why I decided to recently revisit Miroslav Volf’s justly famous meditation on the subject Exclusion & Embrace: A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness, and Reconciliation. It’s a fascinating theological account of the issues of forgiveness, truth, justice, and, yes, exclusions that gains a particular poignancy set in the context of his wrestling with the exclusionary violence that destroyed his own home in the Balkans.

66 Shocking Clickbait Bible Headlines You Won’t Believe

Aaron Earls:

Clickbait headlines are the bane of social media, so I greatly appreciated the chance to mock them with the #ClickbaitBooks hashtag on Twitter. I made Buzzfeed style headlines for The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, The Lord of the Rings, 1984, and Where the Wild Things Are.

I knew I had to do clickbait for the books of the Bible. There’s no better way to show the absurdity of those headlines than by pairing them with something so polar opposite—Scripture.

New and noteworthy books

New-noteworthy-May15

One of my favorite times of the day, after coming home and greeting my family is seeing what mail has arrived. This is not because I love finding out how many bills there are each month, but because there’s often a new book waiting for me from one of the many Christian publishers out there. TGC , so here’s a quick look at a few of the most interesting in the latest batch:

Becoming Worldly Saints by Mike Wittmer (Zondervan)

This looks really great:

As “worldly saints,” created in the image of God, we are natural creatures with a supernatural purpose–to know and love God. Because we live in a world that is stained by the curse of sin, we must learn to embrace our nature as creatures created in the image of God while recognizing our desperate need for the grace that God offers to us in the gospel.

Writing in a devotional style that is theologically rich, biblically accurate, and aimed at ordinary readers, Mike Wittmer helps readers understand who they are, why they are here, and the importance of the story they tell themselves. In Becoming Worldly Saints, he gives an integrated vision that shows how we can be heavenly minded in a way that leads to earthly good, empowering believers to seize the abundant life God has for them.

Buy it at: Westminster Bookstore | Amazon

Saturate by Jeff Vanderstelt (Crossway)

Drawing on his experience as a pastor and church planter, Jeff Vanderstelt wants us to see that there’s more–much more–to the Christian life than sitting in a pew once a week. God has called his people to something bigger: a view of the Christian life that encompasses the ordinary, the extraordinary, and everything in between.

Buy it at: Westminster BookstoreAmazon

The Prodigal Church by Jared C. Wilson (Crossway)

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: when Jared Wilson writes on church ministry, I pay attention. So should you:

Pastors want to reach the lost with the good news of Jesus. However, we’ve too often assumed this requires loud music, flashy lights, and skinny jeans. In this gentle manifesto, Jared Wilson—a pastor who knows what it’s like to serve in a large attractional church—challenges pastors to reconsider their priorities when it comes to how they “do church” and reach people in their communities. Writing with the grace and kindness of a trusted friend, Wilson encourages pastors to reexamine the Bible’s teaching, not simply return to a traditional model for tradition’s sake. He then sets forth an alternative to both the attractional and the traditional models: an explicitly biblical approach that is gospel focused, grace based, and fruit oriented.

Buy it at: Westminster Bookstore | Amazon

Bonhoeffer’s Seminary Vision by Paul R. House (Crossway)

Anchored in a variety of influential lectures, personal letters, and major works such as The Cost of Discipleship and Life Together, this book attempts to recover a largely unexamined part of Bonhoeffer’s life, exploring his philosophy and practice of theological education in his original context. It then builds on this foundation to address the drift toward increasingly impersonal educational models in our own day, affirming the value of personal, face-to-face seminary education for the health of pastors and churches.

Buy it at: Westminster BookstoreAmazon

The Pastor’s Wife by Gloria Furman (Crossway)

This one is geared toward women, but Gloria’s writing is always worth reading:

In this encouraging and often humorous book, Gloria Furman offers pastors’ wives a breath of fresh air, reminding readers that Christ stands ready to help regardless of the circumstance—whether it’s late-night counseling sessions, unrealistic expectations about how they spend their time, or complaints about their husbands’ preaching.

Buy it at: Westminster Bookstore | Amazon

Living Without Worry by Timothy Lane (The Good Book Company)

This warm and pastoral book by Tim Lane helps readers to see when godly concern turns into sinful worry, and how scripture can be used to cast our concerns upon the Lord. Christians will discover how to replace anxiety with peace, freeing them to live life to the full.

Buy it at: Westminster Bookstore | Amazon

Honest Evangelism by Rico Tice (The Good Book Company)

I’ve only heard good things about this one so far:

Short, clear, realistic and humorous, this book will challenge you to be honest in your conversations about Jesus, help you to know how to talk about him, and thrill you that God can and will use ordinary people to change eternal destinies.

Buy it at: Westminster Bookstore | Amazon

Gospel Shaped Worship by Jared C. Wilson and Gospel Shaped Outreach by Erik Raymond (The Good Book Company)

I’m mentioning these together because they’re the first two parts of a five volume series based around the distinctives of The Gospel Coalition. I’ll be sharing more of my thoughts on these once I’ve given them a thorough review, but here’s what I can say after a cursory review of the leader’s guides: if you shared the Mortification of Spin podcast’s take on it, apologize to everyone on your social network.

Engaging with Muslims by John Klaassen (The Good Book Company)

This short book is designed to help both Christians and whole churches understand more about the variety of Muslims there are living in the West, and to reach out to them with the good news of the Gospel.

Buy it at: Westminster Bookstore | Amazon

The ISIS Crisis by John Dyer and Mark Tobey (Moody)

This is one of the books I’ve been looking forward to reading this year, so I’m glad it’s now in my hands.

ISIS—a name that inspires fear, a group that is gaining momentum. Horrors unheard of are plaguing the Middle East, and ISIS may be the responsible for the worst among them. And yet there is so much we don’t know about ISIS.… Drawing from history, current events, and biblical prophecy, they guide readers through the matrix of conflicts in the Middle East. Then they explore the role of ISIS in all of these matters. Finally, they encourage Christians to look to Jesus, the Prince of Peace.

Buy it at: Amazon