The Backlist: The Top Ten Posts on Blogging Theologically

Let’s take a look back in time and see the most-read posts from January. Go check them out:

  1. Everyday Theology: God Won’t Give You More Than You Can Handle (July 2009)
  2. Book Review: Real Marriage by Mark and Grace Driscoll (December 2011)
  3. Marriage, Mystery and the Gospel in Real Marriage (January 2012)
  4. Critics, Criticism and Character (January 2012)
  5. John Piper on Mark Driscoll & John MacArthur (May 2009)
  6. Everyday Theology: God helps those who help themselves (July 2009)
  7. Kindle Deals for the Christian Reader (January) (January 2012)
  8. Book Review: Jesus + Nothing = Everything by Tullian Tchividjian (January 2012)
  9. He Descended into… Hell? (January 2012)
  10. The Dos and Don’ts of Book Reviews (or at least how I do them) (January 2011)
And just for fun, here’s the next 10:
  1. Book Review: Love Wins by Rob Bell (March 2011)
  2. 12 Books I Want to Read in 2012 (and Think You Should, Too) (December 2011)
  3. You Might Be Killing Your Ministry (And Not Even Know It) (January 2012)
  4. Why I’m Not Using a Reading Plan in 2012 (January 2012)
  5. Who Writes This? (page)
  6. Book Reviews (page)
  7. My Favorite Books of 2011 (December 2011)
  8. Why is Narnia Okay, But Not Princess and the Frog? (January 2012)
  9. Book Review: Education or Imitation by Curtis Allen (January 2012)
  10. Lessons from Nehemiah (page)

As is fairly typical, only about half of the top ten posts of the month were actually posted in January. There’s well over a thousand articles in the archives, so it’s good that they’re finding an audience, and really glad to see that with “The Dos and Don’ts of Book Reviews” in particular. The next ten is definitely heavier with recent content (again, pretty common). If you’ve not had a chance to read these, I hope you’ll take some time today to do so.

A Stupendous Theology

It is the fashion now to place the Sermon on the Mount in contrast with the rest of the New Testament. “We will have nothing to do with theology,” men say in effect, “we will have nothing to do with miracles, with atonement, or with heaven or with hell. For us the Golden Rule is a sufficient guide of life; in the simple principles of the Sermon on the Mount we discover a solution of all the problems of society.” It is indeed rather strange that men can speak in this way. Certainly it is rather derogatory to Jesus to assert that never except in one brief part of His recorded words did He say anything that is worth while.

But even in the Sermon on the Mount there is far more than some men suppose. Men say that it contains no theology; in reality it contains theology of the most stupendous kind. In particular, it contains the loftiest possible presentation of Jesus’ own Person. That presentation appears in the strange note of authority which pervades the whole discourse; it appears in the recurrent words, “But I say unto you.” Jesus plainly puts His own words on an equality with what He certainly regarded as the divine words of Scripture; He claimed the right to legislate for the Kingdom of God. Let it not be objected that this note of authority involves merely a prophetic consciousness in Jesus, a mere right to speak in God’s name as God’s Spirit might lead. For what prophet ever spoke in this way? The prophets said, “Thus saith the Lord,” but Jesus said, “I say.” We have no mere prophet here, no mere humble exponent of the will of God; but a stupendous Person speaking in a manner which for any other person would be abominable and absurd.

The same thing appears in the passage Matt. 7:21-23: “Not everyone who says to me Lord, Lord, shall enter into the Kingdom of Heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many shall say to me in that day: Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name, and in thy name cast out demons, and in thy name done many mighty works? And then I shall confess to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, ye that work lawlessness.’” This passage is in some respects a favorite with modern liberal teachers; for it is interpreted–falsely, it is true, yet plausibly–as meaning that all that a man needs to attain standing with God is an approximately right performance of his duties to his fellowmen, and not any assent to a creed or even any direct relation to Jesus. But have those who quote the passage 80 triumphantly in this way ever stopped to reflect upon the other side of the picture–upon the stupendous fact that in this same passage the eternal destinies of men are made dependent upon the word of Jesus ? Jesus here represents Himself as seated on the judgment-seat of all the earth, separating whom He will forever from the bliss that is involved in being present with Him. Could anything be further removed than such a Jesus from the humble teacher of righteousness appealed to by modern liberalism? Clearly it is impossible to escape from theology, even in the chosen precincts of the Sermon on the Mount. A stupendous theology, with Jesus’ own Person at the center of it, is the presupposition of the whole teaching.

Adapted from J. Gresham Machen, Christianity and Liberalism (Kindle Edition)

Take Every Opportunity

Just before Christmas, two Jehovah’s Witnesses who didn’t have strong English skills came to our door, hoping to win converts to their cause. They didn’t, obviously, but it was interesting to talk to them because it gave me an opportunity to start to witness to them. We talked briefly about the deity of Christ (I brought this up) and the personhood of the Holy Spirit (they brought this up) before they decided it might be better to come back another time.

To my surprise, they did indeed come back—this time with a friend who spoke English as his first language. Again, we went back into it. We spoke about a couple of about which we agreed—that the events of recent days—increased natural disasters, and so forth—would certainly suggest that the “beginning of the birth pains” of the new creation are upon us (cf. Matt. 24:8). The new guy initially stuck very close to the standard script, talking about how Abraham is the only man to ever be called a friend of God by God Himself and asking me what one must do to be right with God. I suspect he probably not expecting much of an answer beyond “be a good person.” My response was to trust in the finished work of Christ and proceeded to explain the gospel. He kept coming back to works (not as a response to grace) and then immediately jumping into their classist view of the new creation, that while some will dwell on the new earth, others—the 144,000—will dwell with God (who, incidentally, also won’t be making His home among all the redeemed).

Before too long, they went home since I think they could see they weren’t going to convince me, although I’m praying that the gospel would break forth in their hearts. The thing that strikes me as funny about this situation is that Emily and I frequently pray for boldness and opportunities to talk about Jesus. Evangelizing tends to be a bit of a struggle at times, mostly in that we can be a bit chicken. It’s only fitting then that God’s way of answering that prayer was to literally bring the lost to our front door.

If you’ve been praying that prayer—asking God for opportunities to share the gospel, to be a good witness, to evangelize—do you realize He’s answering that prayer, right now? Unless you live in a commune or in the woods, you’ve probably got neighbors who don’t know Jesus. If you don’t work at a Christian organization, you’ve probably got coworkers who don’t know Jesus. And if you live in a neighborhood like mine, you’ve got people who don’t know Jesus coming to your door to evangelize you. Do you realize that God is answering that prayer in some of the most over-the-top ridiculous ways possible? It’s not like praying that someone would give you a free car (although that happened one time)—this is about sharing the good news of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

While it’s always scary and I chicken out a LOT, it’s not hard to see that there really are opportunities all around us. The question is, will we take advantage of one?

The Joyless Pursuit of Being Right

If there’s one thing that recent events have shown, it’s that the more conservative elements of Christianity seem to have a lot of trouble getting along (especially those flying under the banner of “Reformed”). While many, I believe, genuinely seek to contend for the faith, many others seem to be content with just trying to be the rightest person in the room. The result is the proclamation of joyless “truth” that at best is, frankly, more likely to turn people away from God than draw them near.

Considering this problem, especially in light of the recent happenings with a pachyderm showing up in someone’s foyer, reminded me of one of my favorite passages in Jared Wilson’s book, Gospel Wakefulness:

A joyless Calvinist knows the mechanics of salvation (probably). But he is like a guy who knows the ins and outs fo a car engine and how the car runs. He can take it apart and put it back together. He knows what each part does and how it does it. A graceless Calvinist is like a guy who knows how a car works but has never driven through the countryside in the warm spring air with the top down and the wind blowing through his hair.

Gospel wakefulness changes theological pursuit. It reorients knowledge to become the means to knowing God, not knowing stuff. It exults in God, not merely in thoughts about God. True theology galvanizes our affections toward God, not toward theology. . . . What gospel wakefulness accomplishes, then, is the bringing of one’s heart to theological study, not just one’s mind. (Gospel Wakefulness, pp. 84-85)

These words should cause us to pause and consider our actions—are we seeking to glorify God in our response to situations we deem unbiblical or are we glorying in simply being right?

Book Review: Forever by Paul David Tripp

How often do you really think about eternity? While I hope that many of us would answer “quite regularly,” the way we live would certainly suggest that whatever thought we do give to eternity doesn’t really impact our lives. Why is this? Why have we forgotten this fundamental reality of the Christian faith? In his latest book, Forever: Why You Can’t Live Without ItPaul David Tripp argues that we may have succumbed to what he describes as “eternity amnesia,” and in this book’s 14 chapters, he seeks to remind us why we can’t ignore “forever.”

While there’s no strict division within the book, readers could roughly break Forever up into two (ish) parts. The first five chapters primarily lay the foundation for why a healthy view of eternity matters in the Christian life. Tripp’s work here is exceptional here as he identifies the issue and the solution. The problem, he says, is that while God has made us for eternity (Eccl. 3:11 says that God “has put eternity into man’s heart”), we have “functionally discarded the once widely held belief in an afterlife, a reality we cannot embrace without it influencing the way we live” (p. 22).

Without forever in the center of our thinking, our picture of life is like a jigsaw puzzle missing a central piece. You will simply not have an accurate view of the picture without the piece of the puzzle entitled “forever.”

This is a powerful—and, I believe accurate—assessment of the problem. We might give assent to the idea that there is an afterlife, yet we act as though it doesn’t make a difference. We live like now is all there is and it wrecks us as we struggle with unrealistic expectations, being too self-focused, asking too much of others, become controlling or fearful, question the goodness of God, live lives that are more disappointed than thankful, lack motivation and hope and often live as if life has no consequences (see pp. 24-26 for Tripp’s summaries of each of these symptoms of eternity amnesia). The result, he argues, is that we have become schizophrenic. “We are forever people who have quit believing in forever. . . . The forever-ism that is hardwired inside you collides with the now-ism that is everywhere around you, resulting in a lot of carnage” (pp. 26-27).

Chapters two through five unpack these ideas in greater detail, confronting readers repeatedly with the reality that having a healthy view of eternity leads to a different kind of mentality. It’s one that seeks not to pack everything into this life, but to prepare for the one that is to come (which, incidentally, does include enjoying the good gifts God has given us in creation). It helps us recognize the unnaturalness of death and recognize the consequences of sin and how the grace of God frees us from our “amnesia” to begin to live in light of eternity. Tripp’s addressing the consequences of sin is perhaps one of the strongest areas of the book. He writes: [Read more...]

Baby Dramarama

Have you ever noticed how it’s tempting to question God about what He’s doing? I think I’d be lying if I said I never did this, but it’s usually about something ridiculous or “small”—but when it comes to big issues, we tend to not freak out. I can’t recall having a “why, God, why” kind of moment when something big’s gone down. During Emily’s miscarriage and the aftermath three years ago, neither of us spent much time questioning God’s purposes, only asking Him to help us glorify Him. We didn’t as far as I can recall when we sold our home, despite seeing two strong offers fall apart literally at the last moment. And thankfully we didn’t when we found ourselves at the hospital once again last Thursday morning after Emily woke up having contractions.

We rushed our Abigail & Hannah to our friends’ Joe & Emily’s house for an impromptu playdate and zipped back over to the hospital to get Emily admitted. After about four-ish hours of monitoring in the birthing center’s triage section, they moved Emily into a delivery room (just in case) where she’d receive dedicated care. And she received wonderful care all around. The nurses and doctors were very helpful in explaining what they were doing and why, the potential complications of a premature birth (relatively minor at this stage in comparison to those of baby born at 27 weeks or less), and plans for long-term care if necessary. Part of this meant that Emily was permitted to come home on Friday afternoon and given orders to do pretty much nothing… which is quite possibly the worst thing you can do for someone who is very active and relaxes by doing things (crafting, sewing and, strangely, cleaning). Monday (today) we have a follow-up appointment at the hospital that includes an ultrasound to see how things look; if the doctor is not happy with what she sees, it could result in Emily being checked into the hospital for an undetermined period of time.

Through it all, we have and are praying—and asked friends, family and the larger body of Christ to join us in doing so—that the baby would be healthy and be “ready” for his debut, which is something we’ve been praying for all along. (Emily’s quipped that apparently God answered that prayer with a trip to the hospital and two steroid injections.) Today I wanted to thank you if you’d found out about this situation on Facebook or Twitter and joined us in prayer and ask you to please continue to do so. We’re not sure what the results of our follow-up visit with the doctor is going to be (it’s Sunday night as I write this), so by the time Monday afternoon comes around, Emily could be hanging out doing her normal routine at home or be enjoying the finest amenities offered in the Ontario healthcare system.

But there’s something else you can pray for as well. We want the baby to be healthy, yes. We want Emily to be healthy, yes. We’d prefer that Emily be able to stay home and go back to her normal routine, absolutely. But whatever decision is made, we want God to be glorified in our response. If there’s one thing that you could pray for above and beyond the immediate health needs of Emily and our soon to be born baby boy, it would be that.

Thanks any prayers you’ve given on our behalf thus far. I’m eagerly awaiting an opportunity to share more news soon!


And now for the update: Emily gets to stay home! She needs to take it easy, but the doctor was just fine with letting her come home and resume some of her normal routine. We’re currently looking into options to assist with the burden of the housework (some of which I’m doing, but there’s a lot I can’t do simply because I have a job), as well as doing some heavy-duty meal planning and advanced preparation for the coming week(s). The doctor is hoping that aside from regular appointments, we won’t have any visits to the hospital for the next month, at which point they’ll be just fine with seeing our baby boy delivered. So this is very good news and we are praising God for this!

Around the Interweb

Unity Based on Truth

Kevin DeYoung shares an excerpt from Turning Around the Mainline: How Renewal Movements Are Changing the Church by Thomas Oden:

Four modern ecumenical arguments in particular misfire, as shown by David Mills. They even make Christian disunity more likely. These four following arguments have prevailed in liberal ecumenism, each unintentionally eliciting disunity. Each is a mistake “if-then” correlation… All these attempts are alike in one way: they put unity ahead of truth.


Matt Chandler–”Why I’m A29″

Appreciated Matt Chandler’s explanation of the value of being part of the Acts 29 Network:

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Also Worth Reading:

Theology 1: The Doctrine of the Trinity in a Nutshell

The “H” Word: Carl Trueman offers his take on the Elephant Room hubbub—and as always, it’s blunt, but extremely insightful.

Theology 2: 17 Pure Speculation and/or Fringe Questions About Theology – Help Me Out

Christian Life: Should I Marry a Man with Pornography Struggles?

Preaching: 3 Reasons I Manuscript

Perseverance: Just Keep Going


In Case You Missed It

Here are a few of this week’s notable posts:

You Might Be Killing Your Ministry (And Not Even Know It)

Book Review: Education or Imitation by Curtis Allen

Your Work is Your Calling

John Polhill: The Dangerous Side of Being an Encourager

Creativity, Christianity, and Developing Your Personal Style

Octavius Winslow: Let the Personal Conflict Cease

Let the Personal Conflict Cease

The will of God is supreme. Be it His secret will, or be it His revealed will, its supremacy is acknowledged. In heaven, in earth, in hell, in all places, over all beings, and in all events, the scepter of the Divine will stretches its illimitable and supreme sovereignty. It is the paramount law of the universe. Every other will is subordinate to, and is controlled by, the will of Jehovah. Let those think of this and tremble who, erecting their little sovereignties, and setting up their puny wills in defiance of, and in opposition to, the supreme sovereignty of the universe, are seeking to be a law to themselves. The spectacle which you present to the eye of sinless intelligence is as appalling as your sin is monstrous. It was the opposition of man’s will to God’s which plunged the world in rebellion, crime, and woe. The insane and unequal conflict has been raging ever since, is raging now, keeping this world in a state of continued treason and rebellion against the government of Jehovah, and will continue so to keep it, until God’s will is done on earth as it is done in heaven.

On your part, let the personal conflict cease. Cease to oppose God’s will, speaking to you in His word, striving with you by His Spirit, and dealing with you in His providence, lest, haply, you be found to fight against Him to your total and eternal defeat. Seek, oh seek importunately, the aid of the Spirit to bend the iron sinew of your will in deep submission, patience, and love at His feet–made willing, in the day of His power, to yield a loving obedience, an unreserved surrender to the Lord to be His servant, His child forever. Oh, blissful moment when the conflict ceases, when the truce is proclaimed, and peace transpires between God and your soul! “O Lord, though You were angry with me, Your anger is turned away, and You comfort me.”

 Octavius Winslow, The Lord’s Prayer, as published in The Works of Octavius Winslow (Monergism Books, Kindle Edition)

The Dangerous Side of Being an Encourager

People like Barnabas are always needed in the church. They are peacemakers, the go-betweens who seek no glory for themselves but only seek to bring out the best in others. But “would-be” Barnabases of today need to hear a further lesson from this outstanding biblical figure. Barnabases want everyone to be happy, but sometimes it simply is not possible to please everyone without serious compromise of one’s basic convictions. Barnabas found that out later at Antioch when, in order to placate the conservative Jewish Christians “from James” (Jerusalem), he withdrew from table fellowship with those very Gentile-Christian converts we see him witnessing to so enthusiastically (Gal 2:11-13).

John Polhill, Acts (The New American Commentary Vol. 26), p 272

HT: A.W. Hall

Creativity, Christianity, and Developing Your Personal Style

I love this advice from C.S. Lewis:

The way for a person to develop a style is (a) to know exactly what he wants to say, and (b) to be sure he is saying exactly that. The reader, we must remember, does not start by knowing what we mean. If our words are ambiguous, our meaning will escape him. I sometimes think that writing is like driving sheep down a road. If there is any gate open to the left or the right the reader will most certainly go into it.

In another writing, Lewis expands on this advice:

(1) Always try to use the language so as to make quite clear what you mean and make sure your sentences couldn’t mean anything else. (2) Always prefer the plain direct word to the long, vague one. Don’t implement promises, but keep them. (3) Never use abstract nouns when concrete ones will do. If you mean ‘More people died’ don’t say ‘Mortality rose.’ (4) In writing, don’t use adjectives which merely tell us how you want us to feel about the things you are describing. I mean, instead of telling us the thing is ‘terrible,’ describe it so that we’ll be terrified. Don’t say it was ‘delightful’; make us say ‘delightful’ when we’ve read the description. You see, all those words (horrifying, wonderful, hideous, exquisite) are only like saying to your readers, ‘Please, will you do my job for me.’ (5) Don’t use words too big for the subject. Don’t say ‘infinitely’ when you mean ‘very’; otherwise you’ll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite.

(both quotes are as published in Excellence by Andreas Köstenberger)

This is probably the best advice I’ve seen lately for writers (aside from Stephen King’s). It’s elegant in its simplicity—which of course means its extremely difficult to put into practice. “Know what you want to say, and . . . [say] exactly that.” Use plain, simple language, be direct, don’t wax eloquent, be direct… Oh, that authors—especially those who are pastors—would take this to heart! There is little that is more frustrating to me than reading poorly crafted writing. Whether your work is overly technical and full of abstract language or simply trying too hard to create an emotional response in your readers, it’s not only forgettable, but it’s boring.

Köstenberger says it well, “There is nothing particularly Christian about dullness or lack of effort in presenting one’s message attractively and memorably. Creativity means appreciating God’s role as creator and sees creativity as a way to bring glory to God and to bring others to him.”

Let’s keep that in mind, shall we?

You Might Be Killing Your Ministry (And Not Even Know It)

What is the one thing that will kill your ministry faster than anything else?

Consider that question as you read. I frequently love to read Proverbs. Reading these principles of life and godliness often serves as a corrective for me as I work and pursue ministry. Something I mentioned a few weeks back was a tendency toward performancism—that is, a tendency to turn the gifts and abilities that God has given as the measure of my worth. So when I’m doing lots and being productive, then I’m great and God’s favor is upon me. When life starts to turn to a subtle shade of Milhouse, well…

As I look around the “celebrity pastor” scene, it seems I’m not alone. One pastor’s Twitter feed has turned into a commercial for his current book. Another shares on his blog how many baptisms his church has seen since its inception whenever criticism starts to come his way. A third’s staff mocks a blogger who voices concern about their boss’ theology. I could go on, but you get the idea and probably have your own experiences.

But this isn’t really a post about celebrity pastors. Other men like Mike Cosper and Thabiti Anyabwile have written on this in the past and I’d commend their work to you. Instead, let’s get back to the question I asked about two paragraphs ago—what will kill your ministry faster than anything else?

Pride. 

This should come as no surprise to anyone who has a passing familiarity with the Proverbs. There is nothing that kills effective ministry faster than pride (even if that ministry seems to be thriving on the outside). Consider the following:

  1. Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. (Prov. 16:18)
  2. Haughty eyes and a proud heart, the lamp of the wicked, are sin. (Prov. 21:4)
  3. “Scoffer” is the name of the arrogant, haughty man who acts with arrogant pride. (Prov. 21:24)
  4. The fear of the Lord is hatred of evil. Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate. (Prov. 8:13)
  5. When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom. (Prov. 11:12)
  6. Before destruction a man’s heart is haughty, but humility comes before honor. (Prov. 18:12)
  7. One’s pride will bring him low, but he who is lowly in spirit will obtain honor. (Prov. 29:23)

Seven times in these passages, God’s Word says the same thing:

  • Pride is an abomination.
  • It leads to destruction.
  • It brings disgrace.
  • It humiliates.
  • It is hated by God.

We dare not pass over these words quickly. If God truly hates pride this much, then we must consider our actions in the face of criticism and in light of success. If we follow the wisdom of Scripture we see that seeking celebrity will kill our ministries. Bad company will kill our ministries. And failing to listening to wise counsel will kill our ministries.

Do we get the picture, yet?

To be proud in ministry is to jeopardize our ministry—to risk God, in his loving kindness, humiliating us if we start foolishly believing that the number of people who show up matters, how many copies of our books are sold or that we’re above being corrected (even by nobodies who apparently attend Star Trek conventions and live in their moms’ basements). Brothers in ministry, let this never be said of you. Surround yourself with godly men who love you enough to tell you the truth, accept criticism well and fear God above all else. Wisdom and humility will save our ministries—pride will destroy them.

Book Review: Education or Imitation by Curtis Allen

What does it take to interpret Scripture correctly? Education? A seminary degree? Learning Greek and Hebrew? These are great and helpful things, but argues Curtis (Voice) Allen, they’re not the secret to becoming a good interpreter of Scripture. The secret is imitating Jesus. “Interpretation of Scripture, followed by right application, is the primary way that we are to be like God,” he writes in his new book, Education or Imitation?: Bible Interpretation for Dummies Like You and Me. “This is not an issue of education. It’s an issue of imitation” (p. 21). And through the book’s five short, but powerful chapters, Allen unpacks how “the call of imitation will walk hand in hand with interpretation” (p. 18).

Our problems with obedience begin not with a lack of education, but with bad interpretation. This has been mankind’s problem from the beginning, Allen argues, as he explains how Adam and Eve’s failure to rightly interpret God’s word led to their—and subsequently our—fall into sin.

“The first sin was an arrogance of interpretation,” he writes. “Ever since, mankind has suffered a continual plague of arrogance—the arrogance to act on our own view of what’s good and what isn’t. Adam and Eve chose to take upon themselves a false authority to interpret right from wrong. You and I regularly choose to act on the basis of that same false authority. In a way, we really have become like God, but it’s a cheap, shabby imitation” (p. 28).

By trusting in themselves that the serpent was right and that God was wrong, Adam and Eve took on an authority for themselves that they never truly had to begin with and the result was the interpretive chaos in which we now live. Our first parents’ folly is revisited throughout Scripture in the example of Saul who openly defied God’s command to devote everything to destruction in facing the Amalekites and ultimately in the ultimate earthly foes of Jesus, the Pharisees. The only way to correct our error? By interpreting as Jesus does.

This might seem like a “well, I should hope so,” kind of point, but consider how frequently we try to make the Bible about us, rather than about Jesus? What should I do in this or that situation, we often ask. Yet in doing so, argues Allen, we fail to imitate the primary interpreter of Scripture—who happens to be its primary object. “Jesus alone knows what all Scripture means because it is about him,” he writes (p. 44). Going deeper into this point, Allen draws a strong parallel between evangelism and discipleship, and interpretation and application. He explains: [Read more...]

Your Work is Your Calling

photo by Piotr Bizior

What’s the purpose of having a sense of calling? A sense of calling—understanding that God has put you where you are for His purposes—is important because some days, it’s the only thing that will stop you from going on a rampage or quitting and going to work at Starbucks (I hear the benefits are great, incidentally). A sense of calling is important, but we have to be careful that we don’t hyper-spiritualize the idea.

Even typing that seems odd, though. I mean, how can you over-spiritualize a sense of being called by God?

The answer is by limiting it to ministry.

Because I work in a ministry context and I’m around a lot of Christians every day, I see this happen a lot. Well-meaning people try to motivate their co-laborers by appealing to calling. “Anyone can have a job, but in this place, you need to be called,” they might say. Here’s where they’re right: To work in ministry and survive, you need to have a sense of calling. It doesn’t matter if it’s church or para-church ministry—if you are there running on your own steam, it will kill you. And, let’s be honest, your coworkers won’t want to work with you either.

But the same is true for “normal” work, too. As a Christian, you can’t do it and excel under your own power, not indefinitely. Perhaps that’s why I found this passage from Excellence so helpful (and yes, I am aware that I’ve been talking about this book a lot lately):

Every Christian, regardless of his or her particular job or career, should view that assignment as a special calling from God, a vocation. In that vocation, whether or not it is the job they would most like to have, believers are to pursue excellence in order to fulfill their calling effectively and to bring glory to God. Every duty we have as Christians must be discharged with all our strength, because ultimately we are serving God, not other people (Eph. 6:5–8; Col. 3:23)

Here’s the point and I hope it’s helpful as we start a new week: All work is inherently spiritual. You are called to your job because God has placed you there. And by virtue of this, you are called to do your work with excellence. It doesn’t matter if you work in a church, a coffee house or at home and regardless of how long your season in that place lasts—your work is your calling. Rejoice (even if your job isn’t your favorite)!

Around the Interweb

A Short, Free eBook on Abortion by John Piper

Desiring God is giving away a free eBook based on three sermons he’s preached on abortion. Here’s a sample from the book:

God is calling passive, inactive Christians today to engage our minds and hearts and hands in exposing the barren works of darkness. To be the conscience of our culture. To be the light of the world. To live in the great reality of being loved by God and adopted by God and forgiven by Christ (yes—for all the abortions that dozens of you have had), and be made children of the light. I call you to walk as children of light.


Is There Enough Teaching in the Church?

Good question from Kevin DeYoung:

I know this sounds like a crazy notion. I’m not 100% convinced myself. But I’ve begun to wonder if there might not be enough public teaching in today’s church.

That probably sounds nuts to many churchgoers, not to mention most pastors. Plenty of ministers already feel swamped with some combination of morning service, evening service, Sunday school, catechism, and midweek teaching, not to mention extra preps for weddings, funerals, and special events. I also realize I’m swimming up stream against the current of contemporary church thought which says the one thing we certainly have enough of is teaching. We are already stuffed full with Bible studies, services, small groups, conferences, and classes. The last thing we need is another opportunity to get our brains crammed with more information.


Ministry: Picking the Right People

Work: Myths of the Working Mom

Christian Living: Joe Thorn recommends some resources for discipling your children

Discernment: Making Necessary Distinctions

Interviews: Recently I was interviewed about getting published on the How to Be Awesome podcast and sat down to talk about Awaiting a Savior with Cory McKenna on The Cross Current radio show. Check them out.


In Case You Missed It

Here are a few of this week’s notable posts:

Book Review: Die Young by Hayley and Michael DiMarco

He Descended into… Hell?

Why is Narnia Okay, But Not Princess and the Frog?

R.C. Sproul: How Can We Love a Holy God?

Octavius Winslow: Beware of Him and Obey Him

The Non-Negotiables

In Defense of Neatniks