Where I’m going to school—and how you can help!

A few months ago I shared that I was thinking about going back to school. This wasn’t an easy thing to talk about—or even to think about and pray through! You know how people like to say, “If God’s in it, you’ll feel peace about the decision”?

Yeah, no. I’m pretty sure I’ve never experienced that. Ever.

But, I felt convicted that I needed to start going down this road. Honestly, there are way too many guys out there who are naturally pretty sharp and intuitive, but only rely on that, and wind up train wrecks as a result. And I’m not interested in being one of those.

Fast forward a few weeks to October and my last update(s) on this journey. By mid-October, I had completed the application process with a reputable seminary (this is important), and had been accepted as a student. And at the end of January, I will begin working on my Masters of Arts in Theological Studies at Covenant Theological Seminary.

To answer a couple of important questions:

  • Am I moving to Missouri? Nope. I’ll be learning via distance education.
  • Am I becoming a full-time student again? Nope; I’ll be continuing on with my current employer and working on my education on the side. It’ll take me a couple of extra years, but it’ll be worth it.

So, the journey is about to begin, and I’ve got a favor to ask:

Will you help me with paying for my tuition?

My family’s conviction is to avoid accumulating debt in going to school. The last time I was in school (a three-year diploma in graphic design), I paid for entirely with student loans. This time around, I can’t do that. For me, and for my wife, it would be wrong for us to do so.1 So, I need to raise about $28,000 to cover my tuition and incidentals.

And I would love it if you could help by giving five dollars to my campaign at YouCaring.com.

Five dollars might seem like a drop in the bucket. And maybe it is. I mean, it’s a comic book or a latté. But it’s often the seemingly little things make a huge difference. And if enough people gave this, my goal would be met in no time.

Would you partner with me and my family on this journey and give five dollars to help me pay for school?

What is evangelism?

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My latest article at ExploreGod.com:

I have a confession: I am quite possibly the world’s most timid evangelist. I don’t wake up in the morning thinking, Maybe I’ll get to share the gospel today! I know a few people like that—which is great—but that’s just not me. Not even a little.

When I really sit down and think about my hesitancy, though, I realize I’m being silly. Why should I be afraid to tell someone about the gospel? This is the “good news”—the greatest news anyone could ever hear, actually! Why wouldn’t I want to share all that I believe is offered—forgiveness, a relationship with God, eternal life—through Jesus’ death on the cross and resurrection from the grave? After all, as a Christian, I believe this is of “first importance.”

Some of my nervousness about sharing my faith comes from bad experiences I’ve had. I’ve tried telling non-Christian family members about Jesus. But rather than engage in the conversation, they simply nod and then ignore me. I’ve had people dismiss everything I say. I’ve been told that if I don’t lead at least five people to Christ every year, I’m not doing my duty as a Christian. I’ve even tested out the idea that we can share the gospel just by the way we live our lives—to no avail. In the end, I had neighbors who thought I was really nice, but they didn’t learn about Jesus at all.

And yet, I don’t use my timidity as an excuse for not sharing my faith. I can’t ignore that the Bible clearly says that we all are called to evangelize. In fact, I’m more confident than ever that I not only can but must share the good news with those around me.

So what’s changed? Why am I, a spectacular “failure” as an evangelist (to date, I don’t know if I’ve ever actually led a single person to Christ), not discouraged?

Because I finally learned what evangelism truly is—and the good news about its results.

Read the whole piece at ExploreGod.com – What is Evangelism?


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If I were celebrating Thanksgiving…

 

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Most of those who read my blog are probably getting ready to enjoy a lovely Thanksgiving meal, followed by a football game and, perhaps, a Star Wars trailer. Lord willing, you’re not preparing to camp out in front of a store because that’d be just wrong.

Today, I will not be eating turkey with all the trimmings, nor will I be enjoying some type of delicious pie. I will be eating normal food because I am Canadian. For us, it is not Thanksgiving (that happened back in October). It is merely Thursday.

There are times when I get envious of my friends in America. It’s not because I am not happy to be a Canadian (I’m just fine with that), or anything like that. But one of the things we don’t really do well here is celebrate. We don’t have a terribly strong national identity (at least among the current generation of Canadians), and we fail to take serious stock of our history. The thing we’re most confident of, it seems, is the fact that we have “free” healthcare (if by free you mean, paid for through your income taxes rather than an insurance policy).

So when I see how American friends seem to genuinely love their country, and celebrate their history (even if they sometimes creatively edit it), I get a twinge of jealousy. But that’s kind of silly, isn’t it?

But that’s the thing about envy. Paul Tripp writes,

Envy … assumes understanding that no one has. Envy not only assumes that you know more about that other person’s life than you could ever know, it assumes that you have a clearer understanding of what is best than God does. [It] causes you to forget God’s amazing rescuing, transforming, empowering, and delivering grace. You become so occupied with accounting for what you do not have that the enormous blessings of God’s grace—blessings that we could not have earned, achieved, or deserved—go unrecognized and uncelebrated. And because envy focuses more on what you want than it does on the life that God has called you to, it keeps you from paying attention to God’s commands and warnings, and therefore leaves you in moral danger. (New Morning Mercies, November 27)

This applies as much to our national identity as it does to our personal lives.

While some Canadians have developed a distinct identity of being not Americans, others look at America and say, “I want that.” They see a form of democracy that is unique in all the western world, and wonder what it would be like to live there (even if that democracy seems to exist more in theory than in practice these days). They look at our massive social safety net and laissez-faire attitude toward everything from politics to the value of a child’s life to the government’s ongoing attempts to warp children with pervy sex-ed curricula and wonder if it’s possible to get refugee status on account of crazy.

But when all we see is what’s wrong, or what we don’t have, and our focus is only on the greener grass on the other side, we’re looking at all the wrong things. While not turning a blind eye to the problems of our nation (and there are some seriously messed up things about it), running away or wishing we were somewhere else doesn’t change where God has placed us. We could go, but our problems would follow.

We’d find new things to be envious of.

So we need a different solution. “The only solution to envy is God’s rescuing grace—grace that turns self-centered sinners into joyful and contented worshipers of God.”

Where ingratitude shows up first

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I have a love/hate relationship with a lot of the character traits Christians should have. I love that they exist, but I hate how elusive they seem to be. Take humility, for example. This is one of the defining characteristics of a Christian: to pursue humility earnestly, embracing it as Christ did, who “though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped” (Philippians 2:6). But it’s one that seems to be rarely seen among Christians. Or at least in me, certainly.

But aside from humility, there’s another character trait that always seems to escape me: a thankful heart. This is one that comes and goes. There have been times where I say I’ve most definitely been characterized by gratitude. I believe it was a Tuesday.

And then there’s the rest of the time.

But it doesn’t happen all at once. Ungratefulness develops slowly. But where I first notice it is in my prayer life.

While reading Tim Keller’s Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God, I was hit hard by what he shares about the purpose of praise in the life of a believer—and the reality of what a lack of praise is:

Cosmic ingratitude is living in the illusion that you are spiritually self-sufficient. It is taking credit for something that was a gift. It is the belief that you know best how to live, that you have the power and ability to keep your life on the right path and protect yourself from danger. That is a delusion and a dangerous one. We did not create ourselves, and we can’t keep our lives going one second without his upholding power.… We have a problem with thanks and praise, and yet praise is the alpha prayer—the one kind of prayer that properly motivates, energizes, and shapes the others. (196-197)

It hurts, doesn’t it?

That’s really what a lack of thankfulness is. Cosmic ingratitude is the essence of sin. It’s a lack of desire to honor the One from whom all blessings flow. And this brings me back to my prayer life and how I see ungratefulness rear its head:

All I do is ask for stuff.

It’s just petition, petition, petition: the grown-up equivalent of CanIhaveapooldadCanIhaveapooldadCanIhaveapooldadCanIhaveapooldad?

It’s not that petitions are wrong, obviously. God wants us to ask Him for our daily bread—He wants us to bring our needs before Him—but if that’s the sum total of my prayer life, something’s broken.

What this boils down to is praise puts us in touch with reality. When we lack praise, we are living in a fantasy world. And I don’t want to live in a delusional fantasy world, one where God exists to meet my needs as though He were a cosmic butler.

Thankfully, we have a way out. And it’s simple: learn to praise Him because “praising him helps us enter the real world and enjoy him more fully” (203).

This is an area I’m slowly growing in. And it’s not fun because I have little people watching me grow in it (I’d much rather be good at it right now, y’know?). But it’s the kind of world I want to live in. The kind of prayer I want to offer. And the kind of habit I want to develop. What about you?


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The opportunity to influence through entertainment

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If the Internet had been as popular in 1994 as it is today, Roseanne would have broke it.

For those old enough to remember, Roseanne was a sitcom about fairly dysfunctional working class family that often tackled some pretty heavy topics including substance abuse, domestic violence and single parenthood. But one episode in particular stood out because it featured something completely shocking on television at the time: two women kissing as Roseanne (in an effort to prove she was still with it and/or hip, went to the local gay bar). It was one of the infamous “lesbian kiss episodes”, a  phenomenon found among a number of different television shows across genres over the last 25 years (the first was, apparently, an episode of L.A. Law in 1991).

The purpose of such episodes was simple:  normalize the behaviour. The more we are exposed to certain things, whether homosexual behaviour, promiscuity or shocking levels of violence, the more we become accustomed to them.

Pop culture has the power to normalize behaviours we might otherwise find unacceptable and leave us expecting them. This is why, in many television shows, we’ve moved from homosexuality being “shocking” to being normal, for example. Entertainment—books, movies, music—shape people’s views of the world (and anyone who denies it is deluded).

Often, the entertainment industry sells us a worldview based on the great Lie—one that fails to honor and give thanks to its Creator, or what Peter Jones describes as Oneism. And it truly is everywhere. To name but three:

  • Star Wars with its ideology based on multiple Eastern religious concepts, including Zoroastrianism, Buddhism and Hinduism.
  • Star Trek with its utopian atheistic naturalism.
  • Avatar with its worship of the Tree of Souls and strong environmentalist message.

But there’s so much more. Sitcoms like The New Normal and Modern Family normalize the same-sex family. Friends normalized modern promiscuity (and friends who actually kind of hate each other). The new My Little Pony show (one of my girls’ favorite cartoons) consistently reinforces the “all you need is to believe in yourself (and your friends)” message…

I think you get the point.

While there’s a lot that makes it tempting to throw out the TV, we should also be encouraged: the good news is just as entertainment can be used to influence people with the Lie, it can be used influence with the Truth.

This is what was attempted to do with Veggie Tales back in the day (although by the creator’s own admission, they wound up teaching kids to be good rather than know the One who is good). It’s what many of the men and women who make explicitly Christian-themed movies and music are also attempting to do (again, to varying results).

But it’s also why I’m grateful for musicians like Dustin Kensrue (best known as the lead singer of Thrice). Although post-Thrice, he’s begun recording music that’s more explicitly Christian in its themes and lyrics, such as his album The Water and the Blood, Kensrue also understand the opportunity he has to influence non-Christians among his audience by making great music. This is why you can see the fingerprints of his faith all his former band’s songs, sometimes subtly, sometimes overtly as in the case of this song:

This is something I’m grateful many Christians have, in recent years, really started to get. And it’s the kind of mindset I want to see more Christians embrace: whether we’re being explicit or subtle, producing entertainment that gets people thinking. That engages their hearts and minds with biblical concepts and truths. It may not be controversial enough to break the Internet, but it might begin to break a hardened heart.


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Five books to read near Christmas

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Yeah, I know. You probably don’t want to think about that word any more than I do right now. I mean, Christmas has so much baggage surrounding it that it’s hard to have much fun. But it’s coming (just a few weeks away, friends).

Despite how we might feel about travel, awkward conversations, and the risk of really loud toys entering our homes, there is so much for us to be thankful for in the season, particularly as we remember the significance of the birth of Christ.

In light of this, we’ve been working to develop traditions in our family to help us be mindful of this truth. And, because it’s us, many of those traditions happen to revolve around books. Here are a few recommendations for books worth reading as we lead up to Christmas, both for personal enjoyment and family use:

Peace by Steven J. Nichols

This is a stunningly beautiful devotional that Ligonier Ministries and Reformation Trust released last year. Peace offers readings for the Advent season (four Sundays and Christmas Eve), as well as hymns and carols, readings from Christian theologians throughout history (such as this one from Augustine), and most importantly reminds us of the “earth-shaking implications of Christ’s appearance.”

Buy it at: Amazon | Westminster Bookstore


God Rest Ye Merry by Douglas Wilson (read a review here)

Okay, yes, Wilson is not for everyone. Some find his writing style pretty off-putting (he’s clever and he knows it). But in this volume, Wilson deconstructs the many false reasons for the season, provides an answer to the all important question, “how then shall we shop,” and shares how Santa Claus may or may not have slapped Arius across the face at the Council of Nicaea.

Buy it at: Amazon


The Lightlings by R.C. Sproul

An Armstrong family favorite, The Lightlings weaves an allegorical tale of redemption, focusing specifically on the incarnation. “A race of tiny beings known as lightlings represent humanity as they pass through all the stages of the biblical drama creation, fall, and redemption. In the end, children will understand why some people fear light more than darkness, but why they need never fear darkness again.”

Buy it at: Amazon | Westminster Books


The Dawning of Indestructible Joy by John Piper

This is the latest Advent devotional written by John Piper (the 2013 edition, Good News of Great Joy, is also well worth revisiting). Piper offers short daily readings (25 in all), intended to guide us in experiencing the joy of Christ in this season. I particularly enjoy the fact that Piper doesn’t stick to traditional Christmas passages, leading off with Luke 19:10, and Jesus’ declaration that He came to seek and save the lost:

So Advent is a season for thinking about the mission of God to seek and to save lost people from the wrath to come. God raised him from the dead, “Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come” (1 Thess. 1:10). It’s a season for cherishing and worshiping this characteristic of God—that he is a searching and saving God, that he is a God on a mission, that he is not aloof or passive or indecisive. He is never in the maintenance mode, coasting or drifting. He is sending, pursuing, searching, saving. That’s the meaning of Advent

Buy it at: Amazon | iBooksDesiring God (free PDF download)


A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

This is one of the stories we’ve been waiting for a loooong time to share with the kids, and probably need to wait a while longer yet. I’ve long been a fan of Dickens, and am eager to share this classic tale of transformation with the kids as they get older.

Buy it at: Amazon | Westminster Bookstore

What are a few books you’d recommend reading for personal reflection or family enjoyment as we prepare for Christmas?


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On comparing space probes and hungry kids

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Last week, the big story in the news was the European Space Agency’s Philae probe landing on comet 67P. Some called the landing historic (which it is—landing a probe on a comet is pretty unprecedented). But others—notably many Christians—received the news with a fair bit more cynicism. In fact, more than a few times I read how some folks they couldn’t believe we would waste billions of dollars while millions of children around the world go hungry.

Where, oh, where are our priorities, people?!?

I get this reaction, in some ways. I mean, I work for an organization that helps these very children. I’ve met those children, and been in their homes. I actually have a half-decent sense of what their daily lives are like.

But I’ve gotta be honest: comparing space probes and the needs of hungry kids is kind of silly. And when I see it happen, especially when it’s folks who I know are actually quite intelligent and thoughtful, it’s disappointing. Here are three reasons why:

1. It’s fauxtrage. Most people who appear upset about this, and make this silly comparison, aren’t really all that upset. Remember #BringBackOurGirls? #TakeDownThatPost was more effective.

2. It’s naïvely simplistic. While lamenting the fact that billions of dollars were spent on this project, I saw many a mention of it only taking $400 million or so to eradicate world hunger. So shouldn’t that money have been used for that purpose? As if we just throw enough money at a problem and it’ll go away.

This suggestion (which tends to be most strongly advocated for in socialist-leaning nations such as mine) overlooks a significant problem: it’s not true. Without getting into a long treatise on the subject, we can’t forget that world hunger has more to do with explicit human sin (expressed in corrupt governments) and the natural outworking of the curse (work being fruitless toil) than a lack of money. Changing life for the poor starts with changing the hearts of people.

(And if you want the longer version, read Awaiting a Savior, if you’d be so kind.)

3. It’s demeaning to the people who work in that field (and the “poor” children who want to). Imagine you sponsor a child with an organization like Compassion, and that child wants to be an astronaut or an engineer when he grows up. So, he works really hard in school, and eventually, has an opportunity to go to university. There, he takes a degree in Aerospace Engineering, and graduates with honors. Finally, he gets his dream job, and starts working for a space agency, and eventually helps design a new probe or spacecraft. What would you say to him if his work were to be used in a similar scientific endeavor? Was he wrong to pursue his dream—and actually, by God’s grace, accomplish it?

What we fail to realize is that behind space exploration is not a faceless committee, but people. People who love what they do. People who are passionate about space and engineering and exploring the universe God has created and placed us in. To call their work a waste is demeaning, not only to them, but to the people who dream of doing it someday. (To say nothing of overlooking the fact that none of the money has been wasted—remember, people get paid to work in this industry, and some of them likely even give to charitable organizations!)

So how about this: when we’re concerned with what we perceive as wrong priorities in the world, we should ask ourselves two things:

1. What is it that prevents me from celebrating human achievement and marvelling at an element of God’s creation?

2. If I’m truly concerned about the needs of the poor, am I supporting organizations that are making a difference in their lives to the fullest of my desire and ability? 

When we do a little bit of heart checking, we usually find we’ve got less to be fauxtragey about.


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Five ways we live like we’re under the Old Covenant

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The Old Covenant is glorious, but the New Covenant is even moreso, Paul says in 2 Corinthians 3:7-11. It’s ministry is of death (since the Law’s power is to reveal our sin but not to save), where the New’s ministry is life and righteousness. It’s design is temporary, intended to give way to something permanent.

We know this to be true, at least intellectually—so why do we keep living as though we were still under the Old Covenant? And what does that look like?

During Sunday’s message at our church, Leo, one of our pastors, suggested five ways we live this way:

1. We do it literally. There is a growing movement that believes Jesus is the Messiah, that He truly died to atone for our sins and rose again… but also believe it important to worship on Saturdays (the Jewish Sabbath), celebrate the Old Testament festivals, be circumcised, and maintain a kosher diet. But does the New Testament give room for this? Yes and no. If it’s a desire to follow the model of Christ—for example, to eat as He ate during His earthly life, or to worship on the day He would have—it might be a grey area governed by Romans 14.

However, the difficulty is when those who practice such things move beyond merely following a model to working to earn our right standing before God. It’s easy to slip into that mindset very quickly, because our default mode is to try to earn our own salvation. But the ministry of the Old Covenant—including all its feasts and dietary laws—though it was glorious, was a ministry of death. It could not save.

2. We do it ceremonially. Others look to traditions, rituals, sacred sites and human mediators for our salvation. Now, it’s not that rituals and traditions are a bad thing; they can be quite helpful in help us in our experience of worship. But our salvation is not dependent upon their observance. And Roman Catholics might believe the Pope is the vicar of Christ and head of the church, but he is a mere man. We do not need to look to another person as our mediator between us and God. We have one in Christ, who doesn’t merely reflect God’s glory (as Moses did), but reveals it in Himself.

3. We do it dutifully. It’s so easy to turn our practice of spiritual disciplines—prayer, fasting, meditation, Bible reading, memorization, and so on—into a system of merit. Consider your reaction when you get behind on your Bible reading plan: do you do a cram session to get caught up, but don’t allow time for the text to work on you? Or do you roll with it and move forward, faithfully spending time in the Word despite the fact that you’re not going to make your deadline? (Can you tell I’m speaking to myself here?) But you are worth more than the number of verses you have memorized and how many times you’ve read through the Bible in a year. We study God’s Word to know God, not to earn anything from Him.

4. We do it doubtfully. This is one of the most sinister. A season of depression or a disappointment may grow into something deeper and deadlier than we could imaging, robbing us of all joy and leaving us in a place where we don’t believe God could possibly forgive us. But to this, God’s Word says to us that our great high priest—Jesus—is able to sympathize with us in our weakness. He knows our struggles as well as we do. He is acquainted with grief and sorrow.

5. We do it fearfully. Finally, some of us fall prey to a spirit of fear. We live in fear of the Devil, as though at any moment he is going to come after us. We live in fear of death, our foundation uncertain. We live in fear of hell, and so our faith becomes about not wanting to go there, rather than looking forward to spending eternity with Jesus. But Jesus knows His own, and not one will be lost, so we need not fear.

When you consider where you are in your walk with Christ, do you see yourself in any of these five categories?

But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. (2 Cor. 3:16-18)

Generational Lies; Timeless Truths

I never gave God much thought before becoming a Christian, unless it was to make fun of Christians. But what I did know didn’t really make sense when confronted by God’s character as revealed by God.

I was not alone in this. When you talk to people around us—both outside the church and within it—you quickly see that many have some strange ideas about God:

  • We treat Him like a divine butler whose existence is centered around making us happy.
  • We act as though God doesn’t matter or exist at all, until a loved one dies unexpectedly; then we ask how God could have let this happen.
  • We imagine God as being solely about love, and forgiving us is His job.

As we all become increasingly confused about who God is, and what He demands of us, it’s more necessary than ever for us to be able to understand what lies beneath the lies we believe and be ready to respond lovingly and clearly.

Generational Lies; Timeless Truths

That’s why I’m excited to be a part of TruthXchange’s 2015 Think Tank, “Generational Lies; Timeless Truths.” During this event, the speakers and participants will be discussing the lies we’ve passed on for generations, and respond with the unchanging and life-giving truth of Scripture. Speaking at the Think Tank are Peter Jones, Calvin Beisner, Joe Boot, Ted Hamilton, Rebecca Jones, Jeffrey Ventrella, Thaddeus Williams… and me.

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(And yes, Canadian friends, the idea of being on the same roster as Joe Boot is just as terrifying as you’d imagine.)

What will I be speaking on?

I’m speaking on a subject close to my heart: social justice. I love that there are so many young people—both Christian and non—who are fired up about helping those in need and making a difference in society. But that zeal needs to be built upon a solid foundation. So, in my session, I’ll be digging into the roots of the “deeds, not creeds” mindset and offering a look at how the gospel informs and transforms our desire to act on behalf of those in need.

When is it happening?

The Think Tank will be held February 3-5, 2015 in Escondido, CA at New Life Presbyterian Church. If you’re in the area, I hope you’ll make it out for what is sure to be a challenging and edifying few days. Register now at TruthXchange.com.

What my daughter reminded me about prayer

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Last night had one of those moments when I could clearly see the Holy Spirit at work. It wasn’t while I was reading my Bible, or during my own prayer time… it was at the dinner table. We sat down to have our delicious meal—leftover chili, lovingly prepared by Emily—and Abigail asked if she could pray tonight.

As cool as that was, it wasn’t where I saw the Spirit at work. It was in her prayer, a simple, honest, word between her and God. And as she prayed for our leftover chili that God provided, and that we would have a good night’s sleep so we could have fun and learn at the homeschool co-op, she also asked God to help me teach the older kids well.

Listening to her pray, I was reminded of three things:

1. We often make prayer more complicated than we need to. Her’s was so uncomplicated, but it felt weighty to listen and pray alongside her. This is an important reminder for me: that prayer doesn’t have to be complex. We don’t always have to deliberately hit all the marks of adoration, thanksgiving, confession, repentance, and petition. A simple prayer is just as powerful as a more complicated (or, rather, thorough) one.

2. I need to ask my family for prayer more often. After we finished praying, I was quick to thank Abigail for praying for me without having been asked, but I also confessed to her and to the family that this is something I really need to do more often. While I don’t need to introduce concepts or situations too complex for my children too understand, I can still ask for prayer. More than that, I want to do this more to help them understand that asking for prayer is a good thing. There’s nothing that is keeping me from asking, I just need to do it.

3. We are always modelling prayer to our children. Abigail rarely asks to take the lead in our family prayers. For her, that was pretty bold. And hearing her prayer reminded me of my own. I’m not particularly profound in prayer. I stumble over my words. I repeat myself occasionally. I have moments where I’m searching for what to say at all. And Abigail’s prayer had hints of those same things. She’s seen what’s been modelled, and is doing as her parents do.

We trust God when we trust His Word

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I’m doing something kind of dumb (again): reading too many books at one time. At the moment, I’m only seriously reading two, but still, I should know better. That being said, one of them happens to be Tim Keller’s latest, Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God(Which I think makes it cool, right?)

Regardless of the wisdom of my reading habits, there is a great deal of wisdom in this book. One of the things I absolutely love so far is Keller’s understanding of where we encounter God (which has massive implications for our prayer lives, but that’s another post) and how we know we can trust Him.

We often like to think of esoteric, mystical “whispers,” when we think of God speaking to us, or even speaking to us without words—impressions and that sort of thing. Yet, Keller reminds us that God’s words  (and thus God’s Word) also represent His active presence in the world. God acts through speaking:

“We humans may say, ‘Let there be light in this room,’ but then we have to flick a switch or light a candle. Our words need deeds to back them up and can fail to achieve their purposes. God’s words, however, cannot fail their purposes because, for God, speaking and acting are the same thing,” Keller explains. “To say that God’s word goes out to do something is the same as to say God has gone out to do something.… If God’s words are His personal, active presence, then to put your trust in God’s words is to put your trust in God” (53, 54).

This is why many Christians get so jittery when we see people playing a bit loosey-goosey with the Bible, whether with the meaning of a passage or how we should understand it. It’s not because we’re worshipping our Bibles, but because of whose Word it is and whose words are recorded there.1 We keep pushing back to the Bible because we know there is no other way to actually know who our God is in a truly personal, meaningful, relational way. We learn who God is from His Word. And we learn to trust Him by learning to trust His Word.

Why we become deaf to the warning cries

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Whenever a controversy erupts, you’ll always find a group of people who, when everyone else finally realizes there was a problem, are saying, “We’ve been saying it for years!”

And it’s true. They have been saying it for years. There’s no question about it. There have been many—many—people who were warning about Mark Driscoll, for example. Notably among them were John MacArthur and many of his followers such as the Team Pyro folks.

So why didn’t we listen?

I wonder if the reason is two-fold:

The first reason is many of us choose to not hear. Honestly, when a church leader appears to be being used by God in a pretty powerful way, it’s tempting to just shut down any negative criticism with a slightly patronizing, “But look how God is using him”. Which is completely stupid, of course, but it’s true. Many folks did this with Mark Driscoll (something I admitted to). Many did it with Rob Bell, too. Many still do it with Steven Furtick, and Perry Noble, and Joel Osteen, and TD Jakes, and…

We need to not just look to (dubious) fruit as a reason to excuse  un- or anti-Christian conduct, character or creeds. When there are warning signs, we need to pay attention and we need to take them seriously.

The second is that many of those voices raising alarm only raise alarm. I remember attending an event in 2011 during which the alarm was raised a great deal over the seep of paganism into the church. During the final Q&A session of the event, one of the attendees said something to the effect of, “We’ve heard a lot about the dark, and this has been a real wake-up call… but what about the light?”

The truth is, we need both light and heat1. The alarm needs to be raised over false teaching, abuses of power and actions and attitudes that bring reproach to the name of Christ—we need to offer reproof in those instances.

But we are also called to encourage, to build up and edify the body of Christ. There needs to be a balance, of the sort you see in the letters to the seven churches in Revelation. There, when addressing each church, Jesus offers specific commendation to five of the seven churches (Sardis and Laodicea being the two exceptions), before offering any rebuke. Jesus shone light on their sin, but also on their good works. If all we say is a constant stream of warning, we risk becoming clanging symbols that deafen those we wish to persuade.

Why don’t they report it?

26/365 - Such Shame

As more and more stories of women’s encounters with Canadian radio host/musician/producer Jian Ghomeshi have come to light (and sparked an investigation by police thanks to at least three women coming forward to file complaints), Emily and I have spent a great deal of time talking about this situation in specific, but assault in general. The other night, I asked:

Why aren’t more women reporting these types of crimes?

After thinking about it for quite a while, Emily gave her answer on the ride to church Sunday morning. She suggested that for some women, it’s a case of not thinking it counts. At least, not for them.

What Emily hit on right away is the lie sexual assault (and sexual predators) tells victims, A lie that says “this isn’t a big deal.” A lie that says:

  • It doesn’t “count” if it was (at least initially) consensual.
  • It doesn’t “count” if you were just being groomed.
  • It doesn’t “count” if you had one too many drinks.
  • It doesn’t “count” if you didn’t fight back.

And so, as the lie take root, victims pretend like nothing happened. Or that it wasn’t a big deal. Or that maybe they “deserved” whatever happened.

Predators continue to roam free, while their victims become trapped by their shame-induced silence.

I wonder how many women (and men, for that matter), would speak up if someone told them, “It counts”?

  • No matter how things started, it counts.
  • No matter how far things progressed, it counts.
  • No matter how much (or little) you drank, it counts.
  • No matter how much of a fight you put up, it counts.

“You did not ask for this. You should not be silenced. You are not worthless. You do not have to pretend like nothing happened. You are not damaged goods, forgotten or ignored by God, or ‘getting what you deserve.'” (Is It My Fault?, 21)

If we want victims to speak up, we need to help them see the truth. We need to help them see that when assault happens, it counts. Period.


photo credit: royalconstantinesociety via photopin cc

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Free audio and Logos deals

Christian Audio’s free audiobook of the month is The Attributes of God by A.W. Tozer. From Prussia with Love by Carol Purves is the free book of the month for Logos Bible Software. For 99¢, you can also get Clive Anderson’s Gunpowder, Treason and Plot. And finally on the Logos side of things, you can enter to win the 23-volume Day One Christian Biography collection, which includes titles such as 365 Days with Calvin, 365 Days with Wilberforce, A Reluctant Missionary, and 365 Days with Spurgeon (five volumes).

Where Hazy Repentance Goes to Die

Jonathan Parnell:

Mental agreement that Jesus is glorious is like affirming the statement that honey is sweet. As much as you might agree on paper, it still doesn’t stop you from eating other things. We can crunch on salty cashews without changing our minds about the honey. And we don’t necessarily feel like the cashews are something we need to forgo in order to eat more honey. To suggest we should would seem strange. If faith is all in our heads, repentance is still opaque.

Good intentions: Beware!

Important stuff from Ray Ortlund.

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Mars Hill has announced that the church will be dissolving effective January 1, 2015.

The Great Throbbing Verbs

Tim Challies:

So drama describes the actions, the verbs, or what God is doing. Doctrine describes the facts, the nouns, of who God is and what it means that he made us in his image. If you put the two together, you have the content of the Christian faith. I was thinking recently about the great “throbbing verbs of this unfolding drama,” and about this universe as the stage in which God is displaying himself and his glory. I was convicted that I think of the world this way too seldom, and was convicted that there is a lot of value in making this shift in thinking. After all, if this world is a stage, there are many implications.

Christian, stop using “OMG!”

Adam Ford raises an interesting point.

Pockets of Treasures

Lore Ferguson:

Tonight I sat on the far left side of the sanctuary, where I always sit when I’m home, and I hardly recognized anyone sitting around me. We are a big church, but a small service, and I still felt the ache of everyone moving forward but me.

I told someone tonight I feel like I’m a kid with a pile of treasures, none of them making sense, all of them seeming valuable, but no idea where they belong or when.

I thought I would grow out of this.

Does everyone feel like this?