A Personal/Professional Update and a Prayer Request

The last little while has been a bit of a whirlwind around the Armstrong house. We’re beginning to settle into life with a new baby (Hudson’s already outgrown newborn size clothes and diapers—awesome!). I’m starting to work out plans for getting the word out about my next book, Contend (the release date has been pushed back to August 1, incidentally). We’re going through some interesting changes in my day job… and there have been a couple of other changes that have happened along the way.

The first is one that I kind of subtly inserted into my review of Who Am I? last week—recently I took on an extremely part-time role with Cruciform Press, helping out primarily in social media and marketing. I’m very excited and grateful to be trying out this new opportunity and am praying that the work I do will be helpful and fruitful.

The other thing that’s changed is something to do with conference season. The last few weeks have seen a number of folks asking, “Who is going to T4G”? Well, up until about three weeks ago, I’d have said, “Not me.” Things have changed a bit, however, and I’m happy to say that I will also be there in a couple of weeks. I’m extremely excited about this for a number of reasons:

  1. I get to catch up with some friends while I’m in the area (some of whom don’t live that far away from me)
  2. Spending time with the Cruciform team
  3. The conference material is undoubtedly going to be terrific
  4. It’s another place I’ve never been (although I love being home, it’s a lot of fun to experience new places)
  5. Band of Bloggers! Yes, I will indeed be there and am looking forward to meeting some of you who might be as well

As you can imagine, with all this going on, there are a lot of balls up in the air. So, if you’re so inclined, I’d greatly appreciate your prayers in managing my time well so that I’m not squandering it needlessly and compromising my ability to do all that I’ve been charged to do well and to God’s glory.

Obedience to the Truth

Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart… (1 Pet. 1:22)

We are living in strange times in terms of how the church functions. We have been caught up with a fierce desire to find a way to relate to a culture that has been immunized to Christianity. We try to find new methods to reach the lost. The motivation is righteous, because we should have compassion for the lost. The danger comes when we ask the lost how they want to come into the kingdom of God, how they want to worship God, and how they want to hear God’s Word, and then tailor our method to their tastes and preferences. That is fatal. Sooner or later the church must come back to confidence in God’s way of doing God’s work, because the Bible does give us a blueprint for evangelism. It gives us a blueprint for reaching the lost and for generating spiritual growth among the people of God. The blueprint is not a matter of rocket science or Madison Avenue technology; it is a blueprint that God guarantees will not be fruitless. It is accomplished by the method of proclaiming the Word of God, which, as Peter says here, changes lives and purifies souls through the power of the Holy Spirit.

R.C. Sproul, 1 & 2 Peter: St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary, p. 50 (Kindle Edition)

Links I Like

Starbucks, Boycotts, and (Not) Buying Coffee: The Need for Theological Ethics

Matthew Anderson:

Moore’s case against boycotts is compelling, yet it raises more questions about the practice than it really answers.  While Moore grants he is not opposed to all boycotts by Christians, he has left little to no room for discerning which boycotts we should pursue.  Should Christians have, for instance, boycotted BP for their gross mismanagement of the clean-up efforts on the Gulf Coast?  Or if it turned out that Starbucks was sneaking venti cups of cash into the coffers of Planned Parenthood, would a boycott then be permissible?

What’s more, there is a harder question that Moore seems to answer in the final sentence of his piece:  whether Christians should buy Starbucks, even if they do not boycott Starbucks.

Theological Cool Kids

Will Adair:

Theological cool kids are Christians that have turned all their passion in to learning about God instead of living with God. They notice the sins of everyone else (especially spouses, other Christians, and coworkers) but are hard pressed to root out their own. They know what total depravity is in others but not themselves. I know I have the tendency to be one of those guys.

Cheap eBook

I reviewed this book a couple months back for those who are curious about it; it’s well worth spending $3 on.

Ecclesiastes

Listen to R.C. Sproul’s teaching series on Ecclesiastes for free at Ligonier.org.

Gospel-Centered Parenting

Will Walker:

The big picture of parenting is the big picture of the Bible because parenting is a depiction of the gospel. Consider the language Scripture uses to describe our relationship to God: Conversion is called being “born again” (John 3:3); our salvation is called an “inheritance” (1 Peter 1:3-4); God disciplines those He loves (Proverbs 3:11-12); we are called “children of God” (John 1:12, 3:1). Our father/child relationship to God is so significant that Sinclair Ferguson says, “This is the fundamental way for the Christian to think about himself: ‘I am a child of God and his people are my brothers and sisters.’” Parenting is a picture of the gospel: to us, to our kids, and to the world around us.

(You can also download the article in PDF format)

Book Review: The Meaning of Marriage by Tim Keller

Every so often, I find myself reading a great deal on one or two subjects. Most recently, it’s been marriage. Prior to October, I had (I think) one or two books on the subject in my library, total. Since then, that number’s grown dramatically, with each new addition bringing certain strengths and weaknesses to the table. But there’s been one thing that’s been consistent: the books written by couples whose marriages have been tested by trial and time have been a tremendous blessing to me. The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God by Tim and Kathy Keller is definitely among those.

Based on Tim Keller’s sermon series on Ephesians 5:22-33, The Meaning of Marriage provides a thorough and faithful look at the biblical foundations of, and the gospel’s implications on, marriage. And it truly is a breath of fresh air. So many books (even those written by Christians) offer an idealized view of marriage that’s incredibly appealing, but once you’re there, you’re terribly disappointed. Marriage becomes the search for the most compatible person, for “Mr. (or Ms.) Right,” for the mythical soulmate.

To borrow a phrase from one of Keller’s previous books, they’re looking for a counterfeit god. The extreme idealism of the modern view of compatibility, “Me-Marriage” as Keller calls it, ironically, “leads to deep pessimism that you will ever find the right person to marry,” he explains. “This is ironic. Older views of marriage are considered to be traditional and oppressive, while the newer view of ‘Me-Marriage’ seems so liberating. And yet it is the newer view that has led to a steep decline in marriage and to an oppressive sense of hopelessness with regard to it” (p. 34). [Read more...]

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When Parents Ask the Wrong Questions

Marc Cortez:

I was at a loss. Four years at a Bible college hadn’t prepared me to face the wrath of a frustrated father. But I still should have seen the next one coming.

“Where have you been through all this? Why didn’t you see this coming? What do we pay you for?”

Why do they always blame the youth pastor?

Should Christians Boycott Starbucks?

Russell Moore:

A boycott is a display of power, particularly of economic power. The boycott shows a corporation (or government or service provider) that the aggrieved party can hurt the company, by depriving it of revenue. The boycott, if it’s successful, eventually causes the powers-that-be to yield, conceding that they need the money of the boycott participants more than they need whatever cause they were supporting. It is a contest of who has more buying power, and thus is of more value to the company.

We lose that argument.

Why I Don’t Trust My Own “Scholarship”?

C. Michael Patton:

Who do I think I am teaching eternal truths when I can’t even remember the most basic everyday temporal happenings? If I don’t really trust my memory, can I trust my theological “scholarship”? So much of what I believe and teach is built upon stories, information, and “facts” that I don’t even really know are true as I can’t, for the most part, remember exactly where they came from. I have just said some things, told some stories, and relayed some information so many times that I don’t think about it anymore. For example, in class session 4 of The Theology Program, I talk about the rise of Modernism through the story of Rene Descartes (the “father of modernism”). I tell about his “Dutch oven” epiphany. I tell about how he would not come out of this oven until he found a legitimate (indeed, indubitable) source for his knowledge. Ironically, I don’t know where I first heard this story about the Dutch oven. I am not sure about the legitimacy (much less, indubitably) of my source! I am fairly certain that I did not make it up out of thin air, but the fact remains that I don’t really remember where it came from. But even if I could remember where it came from, say, for instance, from a book, encyclopedia, or biography, this would not guarantee that the person from whom I originally received this information was accurately remembering or representing his sources. Even if it was an autobiography I have no guarantee that Descartes himself remembered things correctly.

4 Things to Remember While in Seminary

Trevin Wax:

Now, anyone who has a passion for God should also want to have knowledge about God. But there’s a point where your theological study is no longer in service to your knowing God. It’s theology for its own sake. It’s theology in service of your grades, in service of your reputation, in service of your own intellectual curiosity. Whatever the case, if your learning about God is not driven by your desire to know God personally, your mind will expand but your soul will shrink. You’ll be consumed with ideas about God instead of God Himself.

Solomon’s Advice for Bloggers

A project I’m working on has had me spending some time in the Proverbs this weekend. The wise sayings recorded are a wonderful gift to us and deserve greater attention than I think I give them at times. In my reading the other night, I was stunned at the practical warnings about how we use our words and how they relate to particularly well to blogging:

  1. The one who conceals hatred has lying lips, and whoever utters slander is a fool. (Proverbs 10:18)
  2. When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent. (Proverbs 10:19)
  3. The tongue of the righteous is choice silver; the heart of the wicked is of little worth. (Proverbs 10:20)
  4. The lips of the righteous feed many, but fools die for lack of sense. (Proverbs 10:21)
  5. An evil man is ensnared by the transgression of his lips, but the righteous escapes from trouble. (Proverbs 12:13)
  6. From the fruit of his mouth a man is satisfied with good, and the work of a man’s hand comes back to him. (Proverbs 12:14)
  7. There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. (Proverbs 12:18)
  8. From the fruit of his mouth a man eats what is good, but the desire of the treacherous is for violence. (Proverbs 13:2)
  9. Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life; he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin. (Proverbs 13:3)
  10. The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouths of fools pour out folly. (Proverbs 15:2)
  11. A gentle tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit. (Proverbs 15:4)
  12. Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits. (Proverbs 18:21)
  13. Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble. (Proverbs 21:23)

With the first quarter of 2012 nearly gone, it might be wise for Christian bloggers to consider how well we measure up to this wise use of our words. The proverbs above exhort us to restraint, to choose carefully about what we will speak, to strive to be gentle and wise with our words. Those who are rash and senseless with their words, the Bible calls fools. While none of us are perfect and all of us miss the mark on one occasion or another, we must not take the message of these proverbs for granted. Instead, let’s spend some time today, tomorrow and this week considering how we can allow Solomon’s words to drive us to glorify Christ in our approach blogging and commenting.

Links I Like

An Agreement Between The Serpent and Jesus Christ

Joe Thorn:

Is Jesus really like a “serpent?” Not exactly. But he is like the bronze serpent lifted up by Moses. John Gill wrote some fantastic words on the “agreement between the serpent and Jesus Christ.” I have formatted it below and given subtitles, but the words are all Gill’s.

Why I Love Jesus but Reject Islam

Provocative (but enjoyable—if that’s the right term to use for this sort of thing) video:

[tentblogger-youtube 0X9c_LNwqtU]

Husbands, Love Your Wives More Than Seminary

It is ironic that I have seen seminary be the place where many have been disqualified from ministry. It is clear in Scripture that the Holy Spirit specifically appoints certain men as leaders by gifting them and putting it in their hearts to serve joyfully in the context of a local church (Acts 20:28; cf. 1 Tim 3:1ff). It’s a noble desire. It can be an all-consuming desire. But, with this desire comes the responsibility to humbly prioritize one’s life in such a way that prevents a subtle disregard for God’s written word. God has not commanded husbands to love seminary. He has commanded that we love our wives and strive to protect our marriages, even from something as noble as our ministry call. Take it from me. My projected graduation date was December 2010. I was one semester away from earning my M.Div. when I decided I needed to take my marriage seriously. It was too late at that point.

HT: JT

An Interview with Daniel B. Wallace on the New Testament Manuscripts

Justin Taylor:

What is “textual criticism?”

Textual criticism is the discipline that attempts to determine the original wording of any documents whose original no longer exists. There are other, secondary goals of textual criticism as well, but this is how it has been classically defined.

This discipline is needed for the New Testament, too, because the originals no longer exist and because there are several differences per chapter even between the two closest early manuscripts. All New Testament manuscripts differ from each other to some degree since all are handwritten manuscripts.

Do Not Neglect the Need to Reach All the Nations

It has been objected that there are multitudes in our own nation, and within our immediate spheres of action, who are as ignorant as the South-Sea savages, and that therefore we have work enough at home, without going into other countries. That there are thousands in our own land as far from God as possible, I readily grant, and that this ought to excite us to ten-fold diligence in our work, and in attempts to spread divine knowledge amongst them is a certain fact; but that it ought to supersede all attempts to spread the gospel in foreign parts seems to want proof. Our own countrymen have the means of grace, and may attend on the word preached if they choose it. They have the means of knowing the truth, and faithful ministers are placed in almost every part of the land, whose spheres of action might be much extended if their congregations were but more hearty and active in the cause: but with them the case is widely different, who have no Bible, no written language, (which many of them have not,) no ministers, no good civil government, nor any of those advantages which we have. Pity therefore, humanity, and much more Christianity, call loudly for every possible exertion to introduce the gospel amongst them.

William Carey, An Enquiry into the Obligations of Christians to Use Means for the Conversion of the Heathens (Kindle Edition)

Purge the Conscience of Dead Works

Our conscience must of necessity be first purged from dead works, that we may serve the living God. And this is done by actual remission of sin, procured by the blood of Christ, and manifested to our consciences, as appeared by Christ’s dying for this end (Heb. 9:14, 15; 10:1, 2, 4, 14, 17, 22). That conscience, by which we judge ourselves to be under the guilt of sin and the wrath of God, is accounted an evil conscience in Scripture, though it perform its office truly, because it is caused by the evil of sin, and will itself be a cause of our committing more sin, until it can judge us to be justified from all sin, and received in the favor of God. Love which is the end of the law must proceed from a good conscience, as well as from any other cleanness of heart (1 Tim. 1:5). David’s mouth could not be opened to show forth the praise of God until he was delivered from bloodguiltiness (Ps. 51:14, 15). This evil guilty conscience, by which we judge that God is our enemy and that His justice is against us to our everlasting condemnation by reason of our sins, strongly maintains and increases the dominion of sin and Satan in us, and works most mischievous effects in the soul against godliness, even to bring the soul to hate God and to wish there were no God, no heaven, no hell, so we might escape the punishment due to us. It so disaffects people towards God, that they cannot endure to think, or speak, or hear of Him and His law, but strive rather to put Him out of their minds by fleshly pleasures and worldly employments. And thus they are alienated from all true religion, only binding it and stopping the mouth of it. It produces zeal in many outside religious performances, and also false religion, idolatry and the most inhuman superstitions in the world.

Walter Marshall, The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification (Kindle Edition)

Links I Like (Weekend Edition)

Beware the Single Story

Amber Van Schooneveld:

There are many reasons we tell and retell single stories. Black and white is simply easier to write than grey – and it’s snappier too. Complexities muddle writing, whereas simplicity is vivid. The single story is dramatic, it is emotional, and it gets us hopping. It motivates us to just do something! The single story sells.

But the single story is also misleading. It is over-simplified. And ultimately it is an insult and a disrespect to those you’re trying to help.

Mad Men Returns

Mike Cosper:

Mad Men sometimes feels like the book of Ecclesiastes. It appears that these people have everything they could ever want, but social status, power, wealth, and glamorous sex lives don’t make any of them happy. Instead, their worlds unravel before our eyes. Each of Don’s conquests with work or women leave him more restless and lonesome. Peggy’s great sin in season one hangs over all of her achievements like a storm cloud. Pete Campbell’s insecurity drives him to attempt to live like Don or Roger Sterling, and each time he lives out those impulses, they break him. Men nearly worship Joan Harris, the redheaded bombshell, but she lives a miserable and isolated life.

Temptation Is Not Sin

Bill Mounce:

“Temptation” is being enticed to sin. You are walking along the path and someone bumps into you, they hurt you; and the thought flits through your head to respond in anger. That’s temptation. A person of the opposite gender walks by, and something inside you tells you to look him up and down; that’s temptation. Someone walking with you says something that hurts, and that same voice whispers that you should slander her reputation. That’s temptation. Let me cover three things about temptation.

A Hope That’s Greater Than ‘Getting Kony’

New Hope Uganda:

This video cost $0 to make. There is no kit for sale. No bracelet to wear. No poster to put up. There is no one to make famous. Charles is a former abducted child soldier who through the grace of God has chosen to forgive his captors rather than seek revenge. We believe that the weapon that will change the issue of Kony and the many children affected by his atrocities is the releasing power of forgiveness.

[tentblogger-youtube -pdNgQr-I6w]

HT: Julian

Should Christians “Name Names”?

Maybe it’s me, but the idea of “naming names”—calling out a specific pastor, teacher or author as promoting false doctrine and heresy—has increasingly felt awkward to me. Part of the reason, I suspect, is that I’ve seen very few examples of it done well. Generally, those naming names seem to be folks that Paul warns about in the pastoral epistles—men who love to stir up controversy and division who we should have nothing to do with (1 Tim. 6:4; Titus 3:10). They appear to jump on a video clip, a poor choice of words, or a seven year old blog post and go to town. This is why on any given day, you can find everyone from James MacDonald to John MacArthur declared heretics on the Internets. Frankly, it gets so ridiculous at times that I can completely understand why people would never want to say anything that would even suggest that someone might be a false teacher.

Yet, as I study the Scriptures, I find that I cannot go there. The authors of Scripture take false teaching very seriously and so must we. Indeed, throughout the New Testament, we see numerous examples of specific men named as false teachers—as traitors to the gospel.

Paul tells Timothy that Hymenaeus, Alexander and Philetus are among those who have made a shipwreck of their faith and swerved from the truth (1 Tim. 1:20; 2 Tim. 2:17-18). Their “irreverent babble,” he says, will spread like gangrene among God’s people. Their false teaching is like an infection that must be treated with the utmost seriousness and efficiency. Failure to do so will result in the infection spreading. The apostle John warned his readers of Diotrephes, “who likes to put himself first, [and] does not acknowledge our authority” (3 John 9). This man, who was apparently influential among John’s audience, refused to acknowledge the authority of apostolic teaching, becoming an authority unto himself (sounds familiar, doesn’t it). And Jesus himself warned of the Nicolaitans and their presence in Ephesus and Pergamum. He hated their works and commands those who hold to their teachings to repent or be caught on the wrong side when he would come to make war against them (Rev. 2:6; 15-16).

So if we look at these New Testament examples, we can say with reasonable confidence that the answer is yes—it is right and biblical for a pastor to warn against a specific teacher. But also notice that the answer isn’t quite as simple as we’d like it to be.

First, we must be careful to not declare a particular individual a false teacher unless the body of evidence warrants such a charge. Paul commanded Timothy that he should not “admit a charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses” (1 Tim. 5:19). This is good advice. In our context, that means that an out-of-context quote from six years ago cannot qualify as confirmation of a teacher being a heretic. However, if the body of evidence strongly points in a particular direction, then it may be prudent to openly condemn that teacher’s doctrine.

Second, while the biblical authors clearly treat false teaching and teachers with dreadful earnestness, it is always addressed within the context of a specific local church. When Paul warned Timothy of Hymenaeus, Alexander and Philetus, he was giving him warning of men who would impact Timothy’s ministry in Ephesus. He didn’t warn Titus of these men. John, likewise, wrote specifically to Gaius. And Jesus said nothing of the Nicolaitans in his messages to the church in Smyrna, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia or Laodicea. Their error didn’t directly affect these churches in the way that it did Ephesus (with their positive rejection) and Pergamum (with their foolish acceptance).

This is instructive for our own day. While there might be a very real threat to the gospel, it may not actually be relevant to our particular local church. If we know that a particular author is widely read among our congregations and we know that he or she holds views that are opposed to the gospel, then it is right to warn the congregation of their teaching. But to name a particular individual who has no influence within our churches may have more in common with gossip than contending for the faith.

Finally, we should always remember the goal of “naming names”. You’ll notice that I repeatedly advise condemning a person’s teaching, rather than the person. This is intentional and, I hope, biblical. While Paul names names, even saying he has handed them over to Satan, it is to that “they may learn not to blaspheme.” Jude likewise commands us to show “mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh” (Jude 23). Simply, the goal is to bring those who promote false doctrine to repentance, and not simply say “They’re traitors and blasphemers, may they burn in hell.”

While we must always be willing to call false teaching what it is—heresy—we ought to be thoughtful about how we express it in relation to the person propagating that teaching. Hate their teaching, hate the lies they spread, hate the mockery they make of the gospel—but do not transfer that hatred to the person. Rather, pray for them to come to repentance and if you have the means, plead with them personally to return to sound teaching.

So, is it appropriate for Christians to name names? Yes, if it is to the benefit of our congregations and that our desire is to see those false teachers return the fold as faithful followers of Jesus Christ.

Links I Like

The Pastor’s Wife Is a Pastor’s Wife

Gloria Furman begins a new series at the TGC blog:

I had heard all the rumors about pastor’s wives. They’re supposed to play the piano, lead prayer meetings, organize the Christmas play, supply a baby to be Baby Jesus for the Christmas play, and perhaps have several more kids to be shepherds and wisemen for the play, too. . . . I felt that my husband was very well suited to be a pastor for a congregation of people from more than 50 different nationalities. But me, be an international church pastor’s wife? I wasn’t so sure I fit the fabled job description.

Christianity in the Shadow of the Mosque

[tentblogger-vimeo 38875726]

HT: Dan Darling

$5 Friday at Ligonier

This week’s $5 Friday offerings at Ligonier.org include the Truth and Psalm 51 teaching series by R.C. Sproul and The Valley of Vision CD audiobook.

The Simple Message

Tim Challies:

Sometimes I need to be reminded of the power of the Bible, the simple power of the Bible. I need to be reminded that there have been so many people who have come to faith simply by reading God’s Word. There has been no preacher but the Author, no sermon but the pages of the Bible, and yet many a person has read and seen and understood and trusted and been transformed. No wonder that organizations labor to translate the Bible—or at least parts of the Bible—into every known language and to send these pages into all the world. Every Bible or piece of the Bible goes into the world as a missionary, taking hope, taking life, taking that oh-so-simple message.

Cheap eBook Alert

For the fiction lovers:

As part of my ongoing desire to read more broadly, I might even pick this up.

Book Review: Who Am I by Jerry Bridges

“Who am I?” It’s a question that every single one of us has likely asked at one time or another. And with good reason; understanding who we are—defining our identity—completely transforms how we act, think and speak. It is no wonder then, that we so many appeals within Scripture to our identity as being “in Christ.” We are to remember that we are new creations in Christ, made free in Christ, made alive in Christ, made wise in Christ… the list is (seemingly) endless.

Yet, many of us struggle to grasp the impact of what it means to be in Christ and, as a result, burden ourselves under condemnation and guilt, failing to live in the freedom that Christ offers. That’s the heart of Who Am I?: Identity in Christ by Jerry Bridges. Over its eight chapters, Bridges offers a concise look at the meaning and implications of being “in Christ.”

While our identity in Christ is the focus, it’s not the starting point of this book. Bridges wisely starts by reminding readers that, before we are in Christ, we are created beings. We are creatures, utterly dependent and accountable to God in every way. This truth is one that we desperately need to remember, particularly we who live in cultures that prize self-sufficiency above all things. On this point, Bridges writes:

Every so often I encounter one of those “self-made men,” the kind who might claim to have “pulled himself up by his own bootstraps.” He likes to tell you how he started from nothing and became successful. Some of you reading this book may have experienced that. But why did God bless your plans, why did God bless your efforts? What do you have that you did not receive? Every ability—mental ability or business ability, whether it’s in the fine arts or athletics or whatever it might be—it’s all a gift from God. We are utterly dependent upon him.

Reminders like this help us gain perspective—if we are indeed utterly dependent upon God, then we have no choice but to acknowledge that dependence. Anything less less would be blasphemy. The notion of being a “self-made man” (or woman) is ludicrous, given this perspective. [Read more...]

Links I Like

Missional Giving: A Conversation with Marty Duren (and free book)

Possibly the most important thing to come out of the missional conversation is the truth that all believers are missionaries in their country, culture, and context. This has contributed mightily to our exploration of cross-cultural mission work within our own cities and communities, leading us to embrace cultural distinctives rather than judging them. More and more, Christ’s followers see themselves, accurately, as missionaries.

This leads to a question: How should being a missionary affect our use of money?

When missionaries are sent into international contexts, there are expectations, both spoken and unspoken, that their lives will be sacrificial: lesser goods, lesser money, one car, less emphasis on possessions, and smaller houses. One well-known mission agency allows their missionaries to live only in homes up to 1,600 square feet in size. In virtually every instance, if a missionary demanded a U.S. sized home, multiple cars, a large yard, i.e., almost everything we as Americans expect, we would demand they either repent or come back home.

Why do we place expectations on missionaries we send to other countries but do not live according to the same expectations even though we are missionaries sent by God as well? How does the fact that we are in our home culture change the fact that we have the same gospel responsibility to our host culture as someone who travels to a new culture? It does not.

Marty’s book, The Generous Soul: An Introduction to Missional Giving, is available for $1.99 at Amazon (Kindle)—I just bought a copy and am really looking forward to digging in.

What Did You Expect DVD for $15

Paul Tripp’s What Did You Expect DVD is still on sale at WTS Books for $15 (75% savings). Stock up while you can!

Do People Who Commit Suicide Automatically Go to Hell

C. Michael Patton on a very controversial subject:

While I do not believe that all sin is equal in God’s sight, there is no biblical reason to say that there are some sins that destroy the grace of God and need special penance and others that don’t. To say that we cannot have unconfessed sin when we die is problematic in many ways. Biblically, Paul is clear that once we have faith in Christ we have been saved. This salvation is primarily from the ultimate penalty of our sin—eternal death. If we cannot truly be saved until we die with all sins confessed, then we cannot ever say that we are saved as Paul does. The best we can do is say we might be saved (i.e. if I die without any unconfessed sin). Salvation would always have to be spoken of as a contingent possibility, not a present reality. Yet Paul says to the Ephesians “By grace you have been saved” (Eph. 2:8). Christ says in John 6:24 “Whoever believes in mehas eternal life.” There is no contingency here. The question becomes, Do you really believe and will that belief persevere (another question, another time)?

On Constantly Taking Your Church’s Temperature

Jared C. Wilson:

That voice in your head that keeps rehearsing the disappointments and flaws of your church is not from the Lord. It is the accuser, helping you get to the “I have no need of you” forbidden in 1 Corinthians 12:21. We may have legitimate concerns about our church’s maturity, its repentance, its effectiveness, or its “personality,” and there is certainly a place for sharing concerns and criticisms, a biblical call to honest appraisal, and plenty of space for exhortation and rebuke, but many claiming to do these things have shifted to a legal measuring none of us really has the authority for.