“Quit it!” doesn’t cut it

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Paul writes that “all Scripture is … profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” The package of “reproof plus correction” is critical to our understanding of how the pastor contends for God’s people. To offer reproof means to confront error, declaring in no uncertain terms that some particular idea, attitude, or action is wrong. But reproof is insufficient in itself. Reproof identifies the problem but doesn’t clarify the solution. The “Don’t do that” must be followed by, “Instead, do this, and here’s why.”

Indeed, when Paul addressed the Corinthians in the face of their rampant failures to practice self-control, he didn’t stop at “Quit it!” or even merely “Now try this” and so promote mere morality. He began with reproof but then moved on to Christ-centered correction, calling them back to a holy and self-controlled life and pleading with them to recall the grace of Christ. Paul emphatically reminded the Corinthians that they were a people purchased by Christ, that God was at work among them, and that they were to live in light of that truth. He reproved them for their error, but then he also corrected it for the sake of Christ. Faithful pastoring and preaching must do likewise.

—adapted from Contend: Defending the Faith in a Fallen World (pp. 59-60)

Available now at: Westminster | Amazon | Cruciform Press

How much time does it take to write a book review?

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Book reviews are a strange animal. There’s a lot to consider:

  • How many words to use
  • How much summary is needed
  • How much commentary should you offer

…things like these.

But there’s one factor that, for me, is more important than any of the above: how much time should I spend between reading the book and writing the review.

The answer, of course, is it depends.

Some books require a great deal of time to properly process and critically evaluate. This is work that, very often, can’t be done while you’re reading the book. You need time to work through it all and make sure you’re not making a judgment in the heat of the moment (like when the author writes something that’s embarrassingly stupid, for example).

More important, though, is when you’re reading a great book—when you’re in the middle of it, your fired up, super-excited and ready to give a glowing recommendation. Maybe, though, it’s better to give it a few days, even a few weeks, breathing room.

See if the passion you felt for the book is still there.

See if you’ve done anything with the content you’ve read.

Let that temper what you write.

This is my normal practice for book reviews. I typically try to leave as much as four weeks between reading a book and reviewing it. I need to make sure I’m not just saying something’s great and life-changing, but am actually trying to apply the positive take-aways.

Truthfully, it’s rare that I review anything immediately after reading it. For me, it’s just unwise.

I want to be thoughtful and careful about what I say about a book, largely because I don’t want to mislead a reader. I also don’t want to have to go back and say, “Whoops I changed my mind” unless I really have to (and so far, I think there’s only one or two books I’ve reviewed where I’d probably change a few things about what I’ve said).

The Bible encourages us to be slow to speak, to restrain our lips (James 1:19; Prov. 10:19); this should be reflected in how we critically evaluate movies, books and articles. It’s always better to take a bit of time to think things through (and sometimes seek advice when needed). The results will always be worth it.

The most terrifying question you can ask a writer

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“Sooo, what’s your next book?”

I remember the first time I was asked this. It was just after Awaiting a Savior came out, and I’ll be honest—I loved it. I’m not sure why, but there was just something so cool about getting asked this. Suddenly I was a real-live author and people wanted to know what I was going to do next.

I didn’t realize how intimidating a question this could be.

See, at the time, I already had another idea for a book, one eventually realized in Contend. So it was cool to be able to say, “Well actually, I’ve got another book in the works already…”

Then the question started coming again.

Only there’s a small problem:

I have no idea what the next book is going to be.

It’s not that I don’t have ideas for different subjects—I’ve got a pile of half-started outlines. But it’s different this time. There seems to be this unexpected pressure that there is going to be a next book that isn’t necessarily coming from me (at least, I hope it isn’t), which can lead to a bit of anxiety:

  • “Should I be working on something now?”
  • “What if I can’t think of anything valuable to say every again?”
  • “What if I do pitch something and no one likes it? *WAAAAAAAH!*”

On and on the spiral goes…

I never realized how terrifying the question “what’s your next book” can be until my answer became, “I dunno.”

But in a weird way, I’m glad.

When you write the same kind of work all the time, it can get a bit stale if you’re not careful. Because our minds love routine, our work can become safe.

One of the things I realized after writing Contend is I need to try to do something different.

Like really, really different.

So I decided to try something new. I’m going to try my hand at a children’s book for my wife to illustrate.

She’s incredibly talented and turned down many of the “I can’t pay you now, but can promise you fame and fortune beyond your wildest dreams” offers from other prospective storybook authors. Yet for some reason, she didn’t turn down mine.

What will come of this project? Who knows. We might try to have it published, we might self-publish or it might just end up in a folder on our iMac at the house (that said, any publishers out there who want to talk about such a project, let me know). For me, this is a way to take the terror of not having an answer for what my next book is and turn it into an opportunity—and most importantly, to do something fun with my wife, who sacrificed a lot during the writing of both of my previous efforts.

No revealed truth may be invoked to extenuate sin

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This is something that we must not forget. Christ’s command means that we all should be devoting all our resources of ingenuity and enterprise to the task of making the gospel known in every possible way to every possible person. Unconcern and inaction with regard to evangelism are always, therefore, inexcusable. And the doctrine of divine sovereignty would be grossly misapplied if we should invoke it in such a way as to lessen the urgency, and immediacy, and priority, and binding constraint, of the evangelistic imperative. No revealed truth may be invoked to extenuate sin. God did not teach us the reality of his rule in order to give us an excuse for neglecting his orders.

J.I. Packer, Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God (Kindle edition)

A few books I want to read in 2013 (and think you should, too)

A habit I’ve gotten into is looking ahead to certain books I want to read in the coming year. Here are a few that have caught my eye:

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On the Grace of God by Justin Holcomb

The latest entry in Re:Lit’s “A Book You’ll Actually Read” series:

Packed with big truth, this little book on God’s grace can be read in roughly one hour, ensuring you’ll actually read it. Justin Holcomb, a pastor at Mars Hill Church in Seattle and executive director of the Resurgence, highlights Scripture’s recurring emphasis on humanity’s desperate need and God’s extravagant grace. Holcomb convincingly demonstrates that grace—most powerfully manifested in the person and work of Jesus Christ—is the foundational theme and primary message of the whole Bible. An appendix succinctly summarizes how God’s grace is evident in each book of the Bible.


The Pastor’s Justification: Applying the Work of Christ in Your Life and Ministry by Jared C. Wilson

Ministry can be brutal. Discouragement, frustration, and exhaustion are common experiences for all church leaders, often resulting in a lack of joy and a loss of focus. Aiming to encourage and strengthen pastors in particular, Jared Wilson helps readers rediscover the soul-satisfying gospel of grace as he creatively merges biblical exposition and personal confession. In addition to covering topics such as holiness, humility, and confidence, Wilson explores the nature of pastoral ministry through the lens of the five solas of the Reformation. Full of real-world examples from the author’s own life and ministry, this book reminds all pastors that their justification is not found in ministry success or audience approval, but rather in the finished work of Christ.


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The Promises of God: Discovering the One Who Keeps His Word by R.C. Sproul

What Promises Can You Believe? In The Promises of God, Dr. R. C. Sproul shows how God—the one true Promise Keeper—always keeps His promises. Drawing from his expansive theological background, Dr. Sproul addresses questions such as these:

  • How do we know that God will fulfill His promises to us?
  • What can we learn about God’s faithfulness as we wait for His promises to be fulfilled?
  • What was the agreement God the Father had with Jesus before the beginning of the world?
  • What does God’s covenant with Adam mean for us today?
  • What common covenant do atheists and other non-Christians participate in with God?
  • What does God’s covenant have to do with His forgiveness of our sins today?
  • Why did Jesus have to die to complete God’s covenant with us?

God’s promises throughout history are the foundation for your relationship with Him. Here you will see how and why He keeps His promises to you, from now through eternity.


Setting Our Affections upon Glory: Nine Sermons on the Gospel and the Church by Martyn Lloyd Jones

Martyn Lloyd-Jones stands as one of the preeminent preachers of the 20th century. An ardent opponent of liberalism and a defender of orthodoxy, “The Doctor’s” legacy is still being felt today throughout the Protestant world. This collection of 9 previously unpublished sermons, originally delivered during his final visit to the United States, challenges us to reevaluate the focus of our lives and the object of our affections. Covering topics such as prayer, evangelism, and the church, this timely anthology serves as a wakeup call to the church, exhorting all of us to remain faithful to the Word of God and fostering a spirit of renewed devotional fervor.


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Fight: A Christian Case for Non-Violence by Preston Sprinkle

The bold new book from New York Times best-selling author Preston Sprinkle is a tour de force that tackles the topic of violence and how Christians should respond.

In a unique narrative approach, Sprinkle begins by looking at how the story of God as a whole portrays violence and war, drawing conclusions that guide the reader through the rest of the book. With urgency and precision, he navigates hard questions and examines key approaches to violence, driving every answer back to Scripture. Ultimately, Sprinkle challenges the church to “walk in a manner worthy of our calling” and shape our lives on the example of Christ.

Fight: A Christian Case for Non-Violence is biblically rooted, theologically coherent, and prophetically challenging. It is a defining work that will stir discussions for years to come.


Follow Me: A Call to Die. A Call to Live. by David Platt

What did Jesus really mean when he said, “Follow Me”?

In this new book, David Platt, author of the New York Times bestselling book, Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream, contends that multitudes of people around the world culturally think they are Christians yet biblically are not followers of Christ.

Scores of men, women, and children have been told that becoming a follower of Jesus simply involves believing certain truths or saying certain words. As a result, churches today are filled with people who believe they are Christians . . . but aren’t. We want to be disciples as long as doing so does not intrude on our lifestyles, our preferences, our comforts, and even our religion.

Revealing a biblical picture of what it means to truly be a Christian, Follow Me explores the gravity of what we must forsake in this world, as well as the indescribable joy and deep satisfaction to be found when we live for Christ.

The call to follow Jesus is not simply an invitation to pray a prayer; it’s a summons to lose your life—and to find new life in him. This book will show you what such life actually looks like.


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Brass Heavens by Paul Tautges

Sometimes we’re tempted to wonder if God can hear us. After months or even years of praying over a particular person or situation, we look for evidence that God is getting our message or even paying attention, and we can’t find much. Why is that? Why do the heavens sometimes seem as hard and reflective as brass? Doesn’t God love us and care for us? Isn’t he all-powerful? What’s going on?

In “Brass Heavens” author, pastor, and biblical counselor Paul Tautges grounds prayer in the character of our Triune God whose very nature is to share generously His good gifts with His children. Upon that foundation, he then explores six reasons why at times God appears to go silent. As we examine these causes of unanswered prayer, we discover the biblical means by which we may open God’s ears to our voice once again.

God has a good and holy purpose for periods of silence. He wants to test our faith that we might see for ourselves just how weak and dependent we are on him for all good things. His goal is nothing less than to heighten our spiritual sensitivities in order to draw us into more intimate fellowship with him and more faithful obedience to him.


Supernatural Living for Natural People by Ray Ortlund, Jr.

Romans eight is a favourite of many Christians for it contains verse after verse of pure spiritual gold. It opens up to us peace with God, the ministries of the Spirit, the urgency of personal reformation, the glory of our eternal inheritance, the power of God’s goodness at work in our daily lives and the invincibility of his loving intentions toward us. In this thoughtful and perceptive book, Ray Ortlund delves deeply into Romans 8. Our appreciation and understanding of the chapter will be thoroughly revitalised.


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Recovering Classic Evangelicalism: Applying the Wisdom and Vision of Carl F. H. Henry by Gregory Alan Thornbury

The startling expansion of the evangelical movement has resulted in the lack of a coherent focus, common mission, and robust doctrinal core, and consequently the American church has struggled to effectively engage the modern world. Theologian and philosopher Gregory Alan Thornbury suggests that a renewed study of Carl F. H. Henry, one of the original architects of the modern evangelical movement, will help chart a new course for the next generation of evangelical theologians, pastors, and church leaders. The book explores topics such as the lost world of classic evangelicalism, epistemology, inerrancy, culture, institutions, and evangelism. Henry’s life and work are timelier than ever, providing crucial insights for a renewed vision of the church’s place in modern society.


Trent: What Happened at the Council by John W. O’Malley

The Council of Trent (1545–1563), the Catholic Church’s attempt to put its house in order in response to the Protestant Reformation, has long been praised and blamed for things it never did. Now, in this first full one-volume history in modern times, John W. O’Malley brings to life the volatile issues that pushed several Holy Roman emperors, kings and queens of France, and five popes—and all of Europe with them—repeatedly to the brink of disaster.

During the council’s eighteen years, war and threat of war among the key players, as well as the Ottoman Turks’ onslaught against Christendom, turned the council into a perilous enterprise. Its leaders declined to make a pronouncement on war against infidels, but Trent’s most glaring and ironic silence was on the authority of the papacy itself. The popes, who reigned as Italian monarchs while serving as pastors, did everything in their power to keep papal reform out of the council’s hands—and their power was considerable. O’Malley shows how the council pursued its contentious parallel agenda of reforming the Church while simultaneously asserting Catholic doctrine.

Like What Happened at Vatican II, O’Malley’s Trent: What Happened at the Council strips mythology from historical truth while providing a clear, concise, and fascinating account of a pivotal episode in Church history. In celebration of the 450th anniversary of the council’s closing, it sets the record straight about the much misunderstood failures and achievements of this critical moment in European history.

The Incarnation and becoming like little children

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Why would Jesus tell us to become like little children (Matt. 18:3)? Some use this as reason to say that children matter to God (which is true, although this text may not be the strongest to draw your argument from). Some look at it and remind us of the character of children—their propensity to love, trust and not be so darn cynical; their generally humble and teachable nature is what Jesus is getting at, they say (which again, is true).

But what adds power to this argument is the Incarnation, where Jesus—the One for whom, by whom and through whom all things exist, hold together and have their meaning (cf. Col. 1:16-17)—literally became a little child. Check out Doug Wilson’s take on it from God Rest Ye Merry:

…Jesus told us to become like little children. And what did He do in the Incarnation? He became a little child. The one, in short, who told us that we needed to be humbled, converted, and made like little children, was the same one who humbled Himself and took the form of a baby in the womb of a young maiden. Jesus told us to become like little children, but He did so as the one who had—in an utterly unique way—become a little child.

He, the eternal Word, the one who spoke the galaxies into existence, was willing to become a little baby boy who could do nothing with words except jabber, and in that jabbering, make glad his mother and earthly father. He, the source of all life and all nourishment for that life, was willing to be breastfed. He, the same one who had separated the night from the day, and had shaped the sun to rule the day, and the moon to rule the night, was willing to have his diapers changed for a year or so. It is not disrespectful to speak this way; for Christians, it is disrespectful not to. We believe in the Incarnation, in the Word made flesh. This is our glory; this is our salvation.

Jesus told us that in order to enter His kingdom, we would have to stoop. This is not surprising, because He was the one who stooped in a mystifying way in the creation of that kingdom. He stooped—the ultimate Word became a single cell, and then a cluster of cells, and then visibly a baby, although still less than a pound, and then a child who kicked his mother from inside, delighting her immeasurably. He became a little child, and then, years later, He told us to copy Him in this demeanor—to become little children.

Douglas Wilson, God Rest Ye Merry: Why Christmas is the Foundation for Everything (Kindle location 501)

Awful judgment and great hope

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[John's] prologue contains an awful word of judgment: He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him (vv 10-11). Jesus Himself spoke of this rejection He experienced, saying, “This is the condemnation, that the light has cone into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil” (3:19). Many years ago, I was interviewed by Dr. James Montgomery Boice for his radio program, and I had occasion to quote this verse. I attempted to quote the King James Version, which says, “Their deeds were evil,” but instead I said, “Their eeds were deevil.” That was the end of that interview, and as a result of it, even though it was long ago, I can hardly read that text without flinching. But we ought to flinch even when we read the words properly, for this verse tells us the world is exposed to the condemnation of God because people prefer the darkness to the light. They do not want to cone to the light, Jesus Christ, because their evil deeds will be exposed.

But John’s prologue also gives very good news: But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name (v. 12). This is the good news of the gospel, the great hope that John wants his readers to know John longs for them to believe in Jesus as the Christ.

R.C. Sproul, John: St Andrew’s Expositional Commentary (Kindle edition)

The amazing condescension of Christ

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O amazing condescension of the Lord Jesus Christ, to stoop to such low and poor things for our sake. What love is this, what great and wonderful love was here, that the Son of God should come into our world in so mean a condition, to deliver us from the sin and misery in which we were involved by our fall in our first parents! And as all that proceeded from the springs must be muddy, because the fountain was so, the Lord Jesus Christ came to take our natures upon him, to die a shameful, a painful and an accursed death for our sakes. He died for our sins and to bring us to God. He cleansed us by his blood from the guilt of sin, he satisfied for our imperfections. And now, my brethren, we have access unto him with boldness. He is a mediator between us and his offended Father.

George Whitefield, “The True Way of Keeping Christmas,” The Sermons of George Whitefield (Kindle Edition)

My Favorite Books of 2012

That season has come around once again, where top ten lists abound! As you know, reading is one the few hobbies I have, regularly reading well over 100 books a year. With that much reading, it’s no surprise that there’s a range of quality. Most are in that “good, but not earth-shattering” category, a few were so bad I’m not sure how they were even published… but a few were legitimately great. Here are the ones that made the cut this year:

10. Quiet by Susan Cain

A word of warning for those who tend to only read Christian books: this is not a book written by a Christian; therefore, you’re going to have to do some worldview identification and translation while reading this book (which is a healthy thing to get into the habit of). However, Cain’s insights into the “extrovert ideal” that dominates America and how introverts can thrive in it are much needed.

Buy it at: Amazon

9. Creature of the Word by Matt Chandler, Josh Patterson, and Eric Geiger / The Life of God in the Soul of the Church by Thabiti Anyabwile (tie)

Christian publishing had a number of hot topics this year. Among them is “church.” Of the contemporary books I’ve read on the subject this year, these two are the standouts. Both offer strong, balanced theological insights, while avoiding unnecessary prescriptiveness on secondary matters. This is a difficult balance to strike and I’m grateful for the combined wisdom of these authors.

My reviews: Creature of the Word | The Life of God in the Soul of the Church

Buy Creature of the Word at: Amazon | WTS Books

Buy The Life of God in the Soul of the Church at: Amazon | WTS Books

8. Glorious Ruin by Tullian Tchividjian

Suffering is an important subject for us all, as recent events in Newtown CT, have reminded us. There are a number of good (and some great) books on the subject, many doing the work of preventative medicine or giving a theological foundation. Tullian’s book is different. It’s one meant to encourage the reader who’s in the midst of suffering and trial (particularly of the sort they’ve got no control over), posing the question: What is God doing in the midst of suffering?

The answer he provides is simple, practical, and helpful for every reader: “For the life of the believer, one thing is beautifully and abundantly true: God’s chief concern in your suffering is to be with you and be himself for you” (26).

My review: The Gospel Coalition

Buy it at: Amazon | WTS Books

7. Excellence by Andreas Köstenberger

Most of you have likely not read this. You really should. Köstenberger’s examination of the scholarly virtue of excellence (which, by the way, is incredibly applicable to everyday life) will challenge the way you look at what it means to be excellent to the glory of God. Here’s a standout excerpt:

Far from being optional, excellence is in fact a divine mandate that applies to every aspect of our lives, for God himself is characterized by excellence. Mediocrity, sloppy workmanship, and a half-hearted effort do not bring glory to God or advance his kingdom.

Buy it at: Amazon | WTS Books

6. The Meaning of Marriage by Timothy and Kathy Keller / Friends and Lovers by Joel R. Beeke (tie)

Of all the many marriage and relationship books by folks affiliated with the Reformed Resurgence in America, these are by far the best. A key reason: Experience. Both were written by authors who’s marriages have seen long-term health and sustainability. While you likely won’t agree with everything written in either of them, both offer readers a great deal of practical, pastoral wisdom.  [Read more...]

Ministry readiness and spiritual maturity

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What do we mean by spiritual maturity? How do we determine whether or not someone’s at the right stage of maturity to contemplate pastoral ministry. A while back I was reading Paul Tripp’s book, Dangerous Calling, and found this enormously helpful:

We must be careful how we define ministry readiness and spiritual maturity. There is a danger of thinking that the well-educated and trained seminary graduate is ministry ready or to mistake ministry knowledge, busyness, and skill with personal spiritual maturity. Maturity is a vertical thing that will have a wide variety of horizontal expressions. Maturity is about relationship to God that results in wise and humble living. Maturity of love for Christ expresses itself in love for others. Thankfulness for the grace of Christ expresses itself in grace to others. Gratitude for the patience and forgiveness of Christ enables you to be patient and forgiving toward others. It is your own daily experience of the rescue of the gospel that gives you a passion for people to experience the same rescue.

—Paul Tripp, Dangerous Calling, p. 64 (Amazon | WTS Books)

Foolishness, the Internet, and Christian witness

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“No human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.” (James 3:8)

James knows it is inevitable that if we communicate in words, our words will eventually spread evil. This connection cannot be broken. The web tempts us to talk, and our tongues want to start jabbering. As a result, more people talk to more people more frequently, more easily, about more things than ever before. And so sin abounds (Prov. 10:19). If James is right, more talk means there is more evil emerging than ever before—more, also, of evil’s annoying little brother, foolishness.

To judge from how Christians behave on the Internet, you’d think there are scores of primary, sacred issues worthy of all-out battle with fellow believers in public, complete with schoolyard taunts and the imputation of evil motives. Junior bloggers set themselves up as the theology police, thrashing those with whom they disagree and doing so with relative impunity or even the encouragement of readers who seem hungry for controversy. In their wake come the blog commenters, hiding behind aliases while firing off ill-considered rants, seemingly unaware of the damage such behavior can do both within the church and the world at-large. Think about unbelievers assessing the reputation of Christ by the online behavior of those who call themselves his disciples!

Such foolishness is not what Jude meant when he called us to contend for the faith. When believers “bite and devour one another” (Gal. 6:15) in front of the entire world, we not only fail in our calling to contend, but we make it far easier for unbelievers to dismiss the gospel altogether.

— Contend: Defending the Faith in a Fallen World, p. 39, 40 (Amazon | WTS Books)

What is a “Christian” understanding of work?

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I’m reading Every Good Endeavor by Tim Keller (WTS | Amazon) at the moment and it’s such a refreshing look at the concept of work. As he works to provide readers with a healthy, biblical theology of work and its “very goodness” from the beginning of creation, he reminds us that work is “one of the ways we discover who we are, because it is through work that we come to understand our distinct abilities and gifts, a major component in our identities” (p. 38).

So author Dorothy Sayers could write, “What is the Christian understanding of work?. . . [It] is that work is not, primarily, a thing one does to live, but the thing one lives to do. It is, or it should be, the full expression of the worker’s faculties . . the medium in which he offers himself to God.”

In other words, a Christian understanding of work leads you to see your work as an act of worship.

How might our weeks look different if we grasped that concept? That rather than being a drudgery or a necessary evil, work is one of our chief expressions of worship and imaging our Creator?

I suspect many of us would find we might better be able to see the unique gifts and abilities God has given us at play in our daily routine, because we’d have a reason to exercise them with greater intensity.

We might even learn to like our jobs a little more, if for no other reason than because they offer us a chance to become more and more like our Creator and Redeemer.

What’s your view of work? Do you see it as a necessary evil or something you get to do?

Yes, you really are a theologian – act like one

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Too frequently I’ve heard Christians say things like, “I’m not a theologian,” or “maybe we should leave theology to the theologians.” Every time I hear it, I nearly blow my top.

Why does it bother me so much? Because it’s just not true.

One of the most dangerous lies we can ever believe is the one telling us “we’re not theologians” or “theology isn’t important.”

I’m not alone in feeling this way. I really appreciate the way R.C. Sproul voices his frustration about this in Knowing Scripture. There, he writes:

Countless times I have heard Christians say, “Why do I need to study doctrine or theology when all I need to know is Jesus?” My immediate reply is, “Who is Jesus?” As soon as we begin to answer this question, we are involved in doctrine and theology. No Christian can avoid theology. Every Christian is a theologian. Perhaps not a theologian in the technical or professional sense, but a theologian nevertheless. The issue for Christians is not whether we are going to be theologians but whether we are going to be good theologians. A good theologian is one who is instructed by God. (Kindle location 287)

You don’t have to be formally educated, but make no mistake, Christian: you are a theologian whether you want to admit it or not. Now act like one.

The powerful humility of prayer

Recently I’ve been reading Douglas Bond’s excellent The Mighty Weakness of John Knox. Here Bond offers a brief look at the life and impact of Knox’s ministry, with a special focus on his spiritual disciplines Knox was a powerful preacher, though he would often suggest otherwise. He was a gifted and insightful writer and theologian, despite never having completed his formal education.

But most significantly, he was a man who steadfastly relied on God’s enablement an empowerment through prayer. I love the way that Bond puts it here:

Humble Christian that Knox was, he knew his great need of divine enabling, so he both prayed and sought the prayer support of others, something men in the flesh rarely do. Americans, schooled in Emersonian self-reliance, find asking for prayer an awkward, maybe even unnecessary, task. . . . seeking prayer is a tacit admission that we are not capable in ourselves, that we are desperately needy, that the arm of flesh is weak and ineffectual. Men don’t like owning up to these realities, but prayer itself, and awareness of our need of it from others, requires an honest admission of the facts. Knox was one who owned up to the facts about himself. Because of his candid acknowledgment of his great need, he sought the aid of the God of the universe, and one way he sought it was through the prayers of fellow believers. Empowered by the Almighty, Knox became the single most significant force to be reckoned with in an entire country.

Reading of Knox’s keen awareness of his own shortcomings, his need for God to truly come to his aid, forced me to really look at how my own prayer life has been of late. Too often I’ve found my prayers to be perfunctory and cool, though I know this ought not be the case.

We have been dealing with some pretty serious health concerns at the Armstrong house of late, and that has been, like Bond’s assessment of Knox, a powerful impetus for me to ask God to strengthen my prayer life. But I don’t want to be satisfied with a healthy prayer life when everything’s going sideways. I want my prayer life to be equally strong and consistent when things are great – because that’s when I really need it most.