Jesus the Son of God by D.A. Carson


Jesus is the Son of God… but exactly do we mean when we say that?

The answer may not be as simple as we may think. After all, Jesus isn’t the only person in Scripture referred to as God’s son—Adam, is God’s son (Luke 3:38), Israel (corporately) is God’s son (Ex. 4:22), Solomon is God’s son (1 Chron. 28:6), the Israelites (individually) are “sons of God” (Deut. 32:8), as are peacemakers (Matt. 5:9) and even the angels, in some sense (Job 2:1).

“So in what way is Jesus’s sonship like, or unlike, any of these?” asks D.A. Carson in Jesus the Son of God: A Christological Title Often Overlooked, Sometimes Misunderstood, and Currently Disputed. “Why should we think of him as God’s only Son?” (Kindle location 84)

Carson knows there’s good reason to understand Jesus in this sense—after all, how we understand Christ drastically affects our understanding of the Christian faith. If we get Jesus wrong, everything else collapses. And, as Carson points out, this necessarily includes understanding his sonship.

Carson’s examination of this important title is focused on the following areas:

1. “Son of God” as a christological title
2. “Son of God” in select passages
3. “Jesus the Son of God” in Christian and Muslim contexts

In section one, Carson’s goal is to remind readers that in the Bible “‘son(s) of God’ can refer to a diverse range of beings” not simply the second person of the Trinity (location 369). Thus it carries with it a diverse range of meanings, all of which are only understood within their context. [Read more...]

Sound Doctrine by Bobby Jamieson


While “doctrine” is a dirty word in some circles, there are times when I wonder if it’s become a bit of a cliché in some of ours. Many of us in the “new Calvinist/YRR/whatever-you-want-to-call-this” movement love to talk about the importance of sound doctrine and why it matters. We have systematic theologies and commentaries, apologetics books and cultural critiques. But sometimes we forget to talk about what doctrine does in the life of the church, practically.

In Sound Doctrine: How a Church Grows in the Love and Holiness of God, Bobby Jamieson doesn’t give us another book on why doctrine is important. Instead, he reminds us how orthodoxy leads to a healthy church—one committed to the fulfilling of the Great Commission in the spirit of the great commandments.

Sound doctrine: for life in—and the life of—the church

Jamieson, assistant editor of 9Marks and managing editor of the 9Marks Journal, hooked me the moment I read his definition of sound doctrine: “Sound doctrine is a summary of the Bible’s teaching that is both faithful to the Bible and useful for life” (17).

How many other clear and helpful definitions of sound doctrine have you encountered—definitions that balance knowledge and practice? We understand the first easily enough, but when we neglect the second we tend to get into trouble. Application testifies to how firmly we actually hold to our beliefs, confirming the genuineness of our convictions or betraying the hypocrisy of our hearts. For example, what effect does how we treat one another have on the outside world? Does it attract or repel? Do people look at our congregations and really see a group of believers committed to one another? We’ve all heard stories of ugly church splits, divisiveness, pride, and cliquishness that leave people saying, “If that’s what a church is, I’m out.”

This is what sound doctrine lived out protects us from. It brings about greater unity when handled humbly. It increases our awe of the Lord and grows us in personal and corporate holiness. It drives our witness before the watching world and increases our love for one another. [Read more...]

Why Cities Matter by Stephen Um and Justin Buzzard

why-cities-matterHow should Christians approach cities?

Some approach the city as an enemy at worst or something to be exploited at best—its resources have value, but beyond that, it’s best left alone. Others give the qualities of a city little thought whatsoever, blending into its surrounding culture, but not really engaging it in a way that confronts its idols.

But is it possible to see the city as an opportunity for furthering the gospel?

Pastors Stephen T. Um and Justin Buzzard believe the answer is an emphatic yes. As the world becomes increasingly urbanized, Christians need to think rightly about the city—to recognize the power cities have to shape culture and spread ideas. Why Cities Matter is their effort to help Christians think biblically and strategically about the city and cultivate “a deep vision for a global movement of the gospel in cities” (20).

Um and Buzzard set themselves up with a tremendous challenge in Why Cities Matter. Over the course of six chapters, the authors explain:

  • the importance of cities (chapter one);
  • the characteristics of cities (chapter two);
  • what the Bible says about cities (chapter three);
  • the necessity of contextualization (chapter four);
  • the storyline of the city (chapter five); and
  • developing a ministry vision for the city (chapter six).

Among the most helpful aspects of these chapters is the breakdown of the makings of a city—that cities are centers of power, of culture and of worship. Cities represent safety, government and economic opportunity. They serve as the cultural engines for our nations and our world—their greatest export is ideas. And cities “are built upon the things from which humanity attempts to derive its ultimate significance” (32)—cities reveal what we worship.

This idea of worship, in fact, comes up again and again. Um and Buzzard show readers how worship impacts everything in a city—its history, its values, its hopes and dreams—and how only the gospel can truly change its story. [Read more...]

I Am a Church Member by Thom S. Rainer


Why do some people make a big deal about church membership—is it all that important? Does it really make a difference whether I sign a piece of paper or not? Do I get some sort of added perk?

These are the kinds of questions I’ve heard (and sometimes asked) whenever the subject of church membership has come up. Why do we ask them? I suspect it’s because most of us don’t understand the purpose and value of membership.

Then I read I Am a Church Member: Discovering the Attitude that Makes the Difference by Thom Rainer. As president of LifeWay Christian Resources and having served as a pastor, Rainer understands that a healthy church equals healthy church members. This new book offers and explains six commitments of church membership:

  1. I Will Be a Functioning Church Member
  2. I Will Be a Unifying Church Member
  3. I Will Not Let the Church Be About My Preferences and Desires
  4. I Will Pray for My Church Leaders
  5. I Will Lead My Family to Be Healthy Church Members
  6. I Will Treasure Church Membership as a Gift

The strength of this book will be immediately clear to its readers: Rainer is direct, confrontational of wrong attitudes, but extremely pastoral in his approach. He doesn’t take any of his points and shame the reader into some form of begrudging submission. Instead, he challenges us to examine ourselves as we read and commit to being true members of our local churches.

Take, for example, his approach to service. Often we have to cajole people into serving. We have multiple announcements about a particular gap—usually in kid’s ministry—where the need is clearly laid out.

Then, the next week, it’s laid out again. And again.

And again.

You get the idea.

Why does this kind of culture exist, where we have to repeatedly ask—and sometimes come close to beg—people to serve in what they consider their church home?

It’s because we don’t understand that a healthy church member is a functional one. “We who are church members are all supposed to function in the church,” he writes. “The concept of an inactive church member is an oxymoron. Biblically, no such church member really exists” (16).

One of the ongoing questions you should ask yourself and God in prayer is: “How can I best serve my church?” You should never ask yourself if you should be serving your church.

In every chapter, even the most active member will likely find something that stirs us to question how we view our roles in the church—are we building up or tearing down? Are we making church about “me” or are we striving to count others above ourselves, putting their needs and preferences ahead of our own? Do we see membership as a gift—and are we teaching our families to value it?

These are important questions and Rainer handles each one exceptionally well.

One thing you won’t find in I Am a Church Member? An appeal to any particular form of church governance. This is important because the relationship of membership to organizational structure (congregational vs elder-led) always needs to put a back seat to the essentials of what membership means. One can easily get so caught up in debates over what form of governance is “better” that we miss the point that structure is help to members’ growth in Christlikeness, not a hindrance.

Although extremely valuable for individual reading, I Am a Church Member is best read in the context of a small group discussion. The questions at the end of each chapter are thoughtful and open-ended enough that you can actually engage in some meaningful dialogue in a group context. Regardless of your role in the church, this is a book you want to read and engage with. If read carefully, it will stretch you in how you view church membership, and you’ll come out the other side better for it.

Title: I Am a Church Member: Discovering the Attitude that Makes the Difference
Author: Thom S. Rainer
Publisher: B&H Publishing Group

Buy it at: Amazon

Courtesy of B&H and Shelton Interactive, today I’m giving away two copies of I Am a Church Member by Thom Rainer. To enter, leave a comment and tell me why church membership matters to you and how this book might contribute to the culture of your church.

Bound Together by Chris Brauns

boundtogethercover1The place of community in the Christian life seems increasingly complicated for those of us living in the West. We don’t seem to really get it. Some seem to live as though they can do life as “just me and Jesus;” that our actions impact no one but ourselves and community is a nice-to-have, rather than an essential.

Chris Brauns wants to change that. In Bound Together, he shows us how all we are inextricably connected to one another (whether we like it or not) and all that entails for good and bad.

Brauns’ demonstrates this using what he calls the principle of the rope—”the simple truth that our lives, choices, and actions are linked to the lives, choices and actions of other people” (25). Understanding this principle is central, he argues, to truly grasping not only the Christian faith, but all of human history.

Think about all the different ways we’re affected by the decisions of others. You can probably come up with a list of ten things before you finish reading this, whether significant or fairly innocuous. That’s the principle of the rope in practice.

Scripturally we see this most explicitly shown in two places: The fall of man and redemption in Christ.

If we weren’t tied to Adam—if we were fully autonomous—then we would not be under his curse. We would be as free to sin or not sin as he was. And yet our experience clearly demonstrates this isn’t the case. Instead, we see that we are equally as sinful as Adam; that we choose to sin because of who we are; when Adam fell, he pulled us down with him. [Read more...]

The Boy and the Ocean by Max Lucado


If you’re a parent, you know how hard it can be to find good books for children.

Kid’s books tend to swing too far into the simplistic or go so far over the reader’s heads that they lose interest. Balancing isn’t easy, especially when you’re trying to write a story for little people on a big subject: the love of God.

In The Boy and the Ocean, Max Lucado offers a really sweet story of a mother and father describing the wondrousness of God’s love as they play in the ocean and climb mountains. Throughout the book, Lucado repeats this refrain:

God’s love is like the ocean… It’s always here. It’s always deep. It never ends. God’s love is special.

My middle daughter in particlar, Hannah, is quite fond of the book. She picked it up right away and asked to have it read to her daily for the better part of a week. The story is just right for a three-year-old’s comprehension level, so parents will be pleased with the book in that regard. And because Lucado writes with a distinctly poetic rhythm, our kids tend to be mesmerized when we read it.

Where the book really shines, though, is in the artwork. Illustrator T. Lively Fluharty’s art is stunning. We loved his work in The Barber Who Wanted to Pray and were thrilled to see it again in The Boy and the Ocean. Among our favorite spreads is the one that follows, where the boy sleeps “with the sound of the ocean in his ears”:


We love great art and Fluharty’s paintings alone make this book worth having in your family’s collection.

The story, like I said, is sweet—but that’s all it is. Where the book falls short, unsurprisingly, is giving a real sense how special, how deep, how unending God’s love really is.

While Lucado does a nice job with the “God’s love is deep like the ocean,” he doesn’t take the opportunity to say “and this is how God has shown us how deep his love truly is.” What you get is a half-truth in the book—one that parents are going to want to make sure they complete with their kids both during storytime and in the day-to-day.

In the end, there are a lot worse books you could get for your kids than The Boy and the Ocean. A gospel-driven book, this is not; but it is an opening to a gospel conversation with your kids. And if that’s what Lucado set out to do, then he’s succeeded admirably. If not, then I guess that says something else, doesn’t it?

Title: The Boy and the Ocean
Author: Max Lucado (illustrated by T. Lively Fluharty)
Publisher: Crossway (2013)

A much-needed kick in the teeth


One of the best books I read in early 2010 was Josh Harris’ Dug Down Deep. Back when I reviewed the book, I called out the last chapter, “A humble orthodoxy” as being worthy of being a book unto itself.

It seems others felt the same way.

Harris’ new book Humble Orthodoxy: Holding the Truth High Without Putting People Down was released just a couple weeks ago. The book revisits and expands on the content of that final chapter, showing how doctrinal humility affects our heart and attitudes, views of others and our relationship with God.

I read it on the way home from the Gospel Coalition National Conference and it was a much-needed kick in the teeth. Here’s one passage that particularly gripped me:

How can we be arrogant about a truth that is completely outside of anything we’ve done? If we had earned the gospel, we could be arrogant about it. If we had somehow created the truth, then we could copyright it and control other people’s access to it. But the truth is a gift from God to us. It has changed us only because he extended his mercy to us. How then can we not extend mercy to others?

Sound doctrine is vital. Godly example is essential. But they are not enough. Apart from humility of heart, we will be like the Pharisees and will use the truth as a stick to beat others over the head. And God will be dishonored in that. If we would honor God, we must represent truth humbly in our words, in our demeanor, and in our attitude.

I have a hard time remembering this lesson. Sometimes I suspect it’s because of insecurity. I’m not always as confident as I want to be, so the louder I get, the more right I must be.

Maybe some of you know what I’m talking about. Maybe.

But humility and orthodoxy are fast friends. One doesn’t really have one without the other. This is a lesson I need to be reminded of again and again. And God is gracious to provide the reminders at the right time.

Because the book is an expansion of Dug Down Deep‘s final chapter, some might be tempted to write it off as unnecessary.

Don’t do that. Humble Orthodoxy may not be a whole-cloth new work, but it serves as a great (short) heart check. Read this book; then go back and read it again.

Title: Humble Orthodoxy: Holding the Truth High Without Putting People Down
Author: Josh Harris with Eric Stanford
Publisher: Multnohmah (2013)

Buy it at: Westminster Books | Amazon

Crucifying Morality by R W Glenn


I remember the first sermon series I heard on the Beatitudes, the opening verses of the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5:2-11). The pastor spoke about every characteristic Jesus lists with great conviction—but something didn’t sit right. Every message followed the same basic pattern: each week one or two characteristics were described and then we were challenged to be more meek, be more pure in heart, work harder at making peace and so on.

The problem, I realized later, is this isn’t what Jesus was trying to tell us in the Beatitudes. This well meaning pastor was looking at these verses as commands—as imperatives to obey.

But Jesus didn’t give us these words as more rules to obey.

“The Beatitudes are not commands; they represent the profile of a Christian, the profile of someone who has already come to understand God’s grace and is growing in that understanding,” pastor and author R W Glenn explains in Crucifying Morality: The Gospel of the Beatitudes

This is why every approach to the Beatitudes that turns them into commandments to keep, mandates to fulfill, or imperatives to obey turns them into something contrary to what Jesus intended.

Over the book’s 10 short chapters, Glenn unpacks a vision of the Beatitudes that challenges the false ideas we may hold about these verses and points us to our only source of hope: the gospel.

Like Martyn Lloyd-Jones and D.A. Carson before him, Glenn understands that the gospel is at the heart of the Beatitudes. It’s really, really important that we get that.

But why?

Why does a gospel vision of the Beatitudes matter so much—especially when so many people are content to turn this passage into a checklist?

Simply, you can’t make sense of them without it.

The Beatitudes are a representation of the upside down world of the Kingdom of God. “Jesus says you are to be congratulated—sincerely congratulated—if you are the object of people’s scorn, ridicule, and violence, because you know that God’s blessing is on you,” Glenn writes. The idea of blessing coming from scorn… we don’t like that very much.

It’s not fun. But there it is; that’s “radical reality of the Beatitudes” as Glenn puts it.

The gospel, though, helps us make sense of this reality. In Christ, we see how scorn really does lead to blessing, how meekness leads to great inheritance and how our hunger and thirst for righteousness is satisfied.

But it’s more than this—a gospel vision of the Beatitudes protects us from their impossible standard.

“The Beatitudes are all about what happens to people when their hearts are gripped with the unmerited favor and undeserved acceptance of God,” Glenn writes. If you were to try to attain each characteristic with a checkbox mentality, where would it lead you?

You’d wind up little more than a blubbering puddle of yuck, crushed under the weight of your failure.

When looked at from this perspective—when we see the grace of God at work in the Beatitudes, when we recognize that they’re the characteristics of a renewed heart and mind in Christ—then we truly begin to see them as cause for rejoicing.

Crucifying Morality is a tremendously helpful book, whether you’re a new believer or a seasoned vet. We’re all prone to take the Beatitudes and moralize them or turn them into a rule book for “nice” living. But, as Glenn reminds us, “You cannot put the mind-altering, world-shattering nature of the Beatitudes into neat categories. Jesus won’t let you.”

Take these words to heart, give Crucifying Morality a careful read and work through it’s implications.

Title: Crucifying Morality: The Gospel of the Beatitudes
Author: R W Glenn
Publisher: Shepherd Press (2013)

Buy it at: Amazon

God’s Good Design by Claire Smith


Few issues are as polarizing as what the Bible says about men and women—especially in a world shaped by second- and third-wave feminism.

Feminism is part of “the cultural air we breathe”—it’s so ingrained into our society that it’s just a given. It’s the status quo, and no longer something to be questioned.

This presents a difficulty for Christians desiring to understand the world in light of the Bible. How do we read the Bible in both an intellectually honest and God-honoring way on this topic? Does the Bible show men and women as being completely the same (outside of physiological differences) or is there something fundamentally different about us?

Claire Smith wants us to see that, despite arguments to the contrary, men and women really are different—and that’s exactly the way God intended it. In God’s Good Design, Smith examines the critical texts surrounding gender roles, offering valuable insights into the debate over the responsibilities of men and women within the church and home.

Equal value, different roles

Throughout the book, Smith examines a number of crucial biblical texts dealing the role of women: 1 Timothy 2, 1 Corinthians 11 and 1 Corinthians 14 (women within the church) and Ephesians 5, 1 Peter 3, Genesis 1-3 and Proverbs 31 (women within the home). In these passages we find some of the most difficult words to women within the entire Bible:

  • That women are to be silent and to submit to their husbands.
  • That they’re not to teach but are to have character that wins an unbelieving husband over without a word.
  • That women are created to help men, not rule over them.

Smith’s examination of each passage reflects careful study both of the text at hand and the alternative viewpoints to the historical understanding of each passage. One brief example comes from Smith’s look at 1 Tim. 2, which includes one of the most head-exploding statements you you can read today:  [Read more...]

Stop Asking Jesus into Your Heart by JD Greear


How do you know if you’re really a Christian or not? Is there a way to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you’re really saved?

These are questions I’m sure we’ve all asked from time to time. But for many, there appears to be an almost fearful uncertainty about their salvation—a fear that they may have professed faith in Jesus, lived faithfully but then, at the end, find out they’re going to spend eternity in hell.

And so maybe they’re not “saved enough,” so they pray a prayer, maybe get baptized again, and are good until the next crisis of faith.

JD Greear, pastor of The Summit Church, knows what this is like. “If there were a Guinness Book of World Records record for ‘amounts of times having asked Jesus into your heart,’ I’m pretty sure I would hold it,” he says as he opens his new book, Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart. His early years were a seemingly endless cycle of pray a prayer, get baptized, be jazzed up for a while, have a crisis of faith and doubt his salvation and pray the prayer again.

He’s not alone in his experience. “The Enemy—one of whose names in Scripture is ‘the Deceiver’—loves to keep truly saved believers unsure of their salvation because he knows that if he does they’ll never experience the freedom, joy, and confidence that God wants them to have,” he writes. “But he also loves to keep those on their way to hell deluded into thinking they are on their way to heaven, their consciences immunized from Jesus’ pleas to repent” (Kindle location 236).

He wants genuine Christians to have confidence in their salvation—but he also wants those who have false assurance to understand the truth of their situation. These twin goals drive this short book.

But is certainty something we’re promised—does God want us to be sure that we’re saved? Yes, writes Greear: [Read more...]

Follow Me by David Platt


“Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” Jesus told Peter, Andrew, James and John (Matt. 4:19). This call, in many ways, is shocking. These were experienced fishermen—they had jobs, families, nets ready to burst with fish thanks to a miracle performed by Jesus (Luke 5:2-11).

Now they were being told by this relative stranger, “Leave everything and follow me.”

What did they do?

Immediately they left their nets and followed him.” (Matt 4:20)

There’s something powerful in this call—something that believers today, and particularly those of us in North America, may be missing.

A call to self-denial

This call to leave everything seems extreme, even silly. So we dismiss it, treating it as a call for the first disciples, but not something applicable to us today.

David Platt, pastor of The Church at Brook Hills, in Birmingham, Alabama, wants to correct that. “Somewhere along the way, amid varying cultural tides and popular church trends, it seems that we have minimized Jesus’ summons to total abandonment,” he writes in his new book, Follow Me (Kindle location 213).

Platt wants to help Christians recover this understanding of the call of Jesus—that becoming a Christian is not, as many have come believe, “acknowledging certain facts or saying certain words…. the call to follow Jesus is not simply an invitation to pray a prayer; it’s a summons to lose our lives” (location 214).

Put simply, Follow Me is about one thing: Recovering the understanding that the one who truly believes Christ obeys Him—and that necessarily calls us to make disciples. While it seems obvious, if we take a quick look around us, we clearly see it’s anything but.

Many of us are too busy chasing our best lives now to see that the life Jesus calls us to—the life of self-sacrifice—is so much better and more fulfilling than any pleasure this world can offer, even when it causes us grief. So we settle for a good show instead of good fruit. We tell people to “come and see,” rather than us “go and tell.” We have exchanged praying a prayer and one-time decisions for Christ for an all-encompassing view of true worship.

We, like the child in C.S. Lewis’ famous analogy, are far too easily pleased, making mud pies to enjoy a holiday by the sea. [Read more...]

Mapping the Origins Debate by Gerald Rau


“How did we get here?”

It seems like a fairly straightforward question, yet it’s pregnant with meaning because it requires us to consider some other questions:

  • How did the universe come start?
  • How did life begin?
  • How did the various kinds of life—most significantly humanity—come into being?

It’s no wonder, then, that such a seemingly simple question can get even the most laid back person hot under the collar. Indeed, this is too often what we see whenever the subject arises. But is it possible that, to some degree, each side is talking past the other?

Is our rhetoric getting in the way of honest debate and discussion?

Gerald Rau argues that this may indeed be the case—and his new book, Mapping the Origins Debate: Six Models of the Beginning of Everything, is an attempt to correct this error by first explaining the evidence for how life came to be, how each viewpoint interprets that evidence and attempting to show what difference how we interpret the data makes.

Presuppositions and interacting with evidence

The starting point for Rau is presuppositions. “Our worldview and philosophy shape the way we view that evidence from the first time we hear it,” He writes. “Each scientist is working from the perspective of one particular theory, which affects both data collection and interpretation.” (Kindle locations 189, 202)

This is the first significant point Rau addresses: no one is capable of coming to the evidence entirely objectively. Our worldview and its underlying philosophy—in short, our presuppositions—necessarily affect how we view the evidence surrounding the origins of everything. If our worldview is one in which there’s no possibility of the supernatural (naturalism), then we’re going to reject any notion that the universe could begin through anything but naturalistic means. Likewise, the young-earth creationist is more likely to look at the evidence as being proof of God’s direct involvement in the creation of all things.

But the difficulty this represents is that we wind up talking past one another almost all the time. We talk and talk, but we don’t understand because we’re not really speaking the same language.

This is important for us to acknowledge and Rau handles it with great care. Indeed, it’s clear that he’s read carefully the scholarly work of each model and so an attitude of congeniality comes through. He’s generally careful to avoid easy criticisms of any model, which is a breath of fresh air—after all, deconstructing each model isn’t his purpose, explaining them is (but more on that in a bit).

Theological awareness and scientific consistency

As Rau explains how each model in the origins debate interprets the evidence available to them, it’s clear that he’s aware of the theological concerns that come with each position. Every view holds a different relationship between religion and science; some see the two as entirely distinct or complementary domains of knowledge, and others as interacting or overlapping domains. This is yet another point that I’m thankful Rau addresses in this book, even if he only touches on theological concerns briefly. [Read more...]

A Year of Biblical Womanhood by Rachel Held Evans


I’m not sure what more needs to be said about Rachel Held Evans’ A Year of Biblical WomanhoodHundreds of reviews already appear on Amazon, dozens have been published on various blogs looking at the book from numerous angles… is there more that can really be said about it?

I hope so, or this is going to be a really short review.

One thing is certain: Evans struck a nerve with her critique of the so-called “biblical womanhood” movement. Taking a page out of A.J. Jacobs’ playbook, Evans determines to see what the hubbub is all about by setting forth on a grand experiment: following every command related to women in the Bible as closely as she possibly can for one year.

So over the course of a year she (among other things):

  • learns to cook (and finds out she kind of likes it);
  • camps out in her yard during her period;
  • holds up a sign letting people coming into town know her husband is awesome;
  • determines to become quiet and gentle in spirit (via centering prayer and mystic practices)
  • practices a month of solitude in church (while also visiting a Benedictine monastery and a Quaker worship gathering); and
  • sits on the roof of her house for part of a day.

These are just a few of the many aspects of her year of “biblical” womanhood described in the book. The question readers are left with after reading of her adventures is: Are they biblical at all? [Read more...]

Sensing Jesus


Ministry isn’t easy, if for no other reason than people are involved.

Instinctively we know this, and yet it seems like we expect pastors to be somehow above the messiness that comes with being human. And our fascination with celebrity doesn’t help this tendency. We want to be everywhere, do everything, know everything… We stretch ourselves so thin that there’s little of our humanity left.

Zack Eswine wants to help us recover our humanity—and his new book, Sensing Jesus: Life and Ministry as a Human Being, goes a long way to accomplishing that goal.

Divided into two parts, Sensing Jesus examines first the temptations plaguing those in ministry (and, honestly, all of us)—the desire to be everywhere-for-all, the know-it-all and the fix it all—before addressing the solutions to these issues, the recovery of our humanness in Jesus.

At their most basic level, these temptations represent an attempt to usurp God’s incommunicable attributes:

Only God is omnipresent—but we act like we are, trying to be everywhere at once for all people and becoming endlessly frustrated whenever we run up against our boundaries.

Only God is omnipotent—but we try to be, trying to fix all the problems in people’s lives without realizing God’s not intended us to do so.

Only God is omniscient—but we think we are, trying to provide every answer for all questions when sometimes God’s grace to us is most clearly displayed in us saying “I don’t know.”

“Which are you more tempted to pretend that you are: an everywhere-for-all, a fix-it-all, or a know-it-all?” Eswine asks. “What do you feel you will lose if you stop pretending in these ways and entrust yourself to Jesus?” (56) I can see all of these temptations in my life without looking too hard.

I love information and knowing things, and it frustrates me when I don’t know something. I like being able to solve problems, and not being able to (whether because of ability or responsibility) makes me twitchy.

But the desire to be everywhere is probably what I’ve seen is the most consistent problem for me (though my wife mentioned being a know-it-all is more of what she sees, which means she’s probably right). This is where I’ve noticed all too often that I need to be careful, simply because I’ll take on too many projects, try to do too many things, and either neglect the primary concerns in my life (God, marriage, family), or just go until I drop altogether.

Neither option leads to happiness or increased holiness though, does it? [Read more...]