Updates and Endorsements

It’s been a pretty crazy week—lots of work going into the final touches on the book, LOTS of plates spinning at work, and a really cool opportunity that’s come up. So, I thought I’d give you all a quick update!

This week I received word that I’ll be heading to Phoenix to live-blog the 2011 Together for Adoption conference on October 21-22. I’m very excited to be joining Joe Thorn, Steve McCoy, Zach Nielsen, Lindsey Nobles, Noel Piper and a whole lot of other fantastic bloggers for this event. If you’re going to be there, I’d love to connect!

Speaking of Together for Adoption, Tim Chester and Dan Cruver (author/editor of Reclaiming Adoption) are delivering a pre-conference event called “Missional Church, Missional God, Missional Story.” Here’s more from the website:

Missional Church, Missional God, Missional Story
Tim Chester and Dan Cruver

Missional church is not simply the latest fad. It’s rooted in the trinitarian character of God and the story of the Bible. Explore the foundations for shaping life around gospel, community and mission along with practical application for church life and the implications for orphan care.

Registration: $75 Per Person

Learn more about this pre-conference event with Tim Chester.

I’m most likely going to be blogging at this pre-conference event as well—it looks fantastic.

On a personal note, today is my daughter Abigail’s first day of school. Please pray we won’t have a lot of tears (from me).

Finally, as I mentioned above, we’ve been hard at work putting the final touches on Awaiting a Savior (which releases October 1) and the book has already received a couple of terrific endorsements:

“In our highly activist, solutions-oriented generation, we easily think that we ourselves are the solution to the world’s social ills, particularly poverty. But the problem of poverty is the problem of sin and its solution lies in the heart of the Gospel. Aaron Armstrong brilliantly brings us back to Genesis and delivers a theologically robust vision for obeying the Scriptures command to help the poor while living in anxious anticipation of Christ’s coming Kingdom.”

Daniel Darling, Senior Pastor of Gages Lake Bible Church; author, iFaith: Connecting With God in the 21st Century

“Aaron Armstrong’s heart to minister to the least of these is on full display in this concise book about the opportunities and limitations of ministry to the poor. Challenging our own idolatry, our motivations, and our actions, Awaiting a Savior reorients our mercy ministry around the gospel, seeking to show how a life of love is the overflow of a grace-filled heart.”

Trevin Wax, editor of TGM (Theology, Gospel, Mission) and author of Counterfeit Gospels and Holy Subversion

I am very excited to share this book with you all—in some ways, October can’t come fast enough! Look for a few sneak peeks soon and more endorsements as they arrive.

Idolatry is Insanity

Discontentment is the result of misplaced worship. It’s the result of giving our heart to someone or something that should never have it. When we stake our happiness on anything other than God, we’re going to be miserable. Why? Because we were made to worship God and find all our joy in him. Creation worships God (Ps. 19). The angels worship God (Isa. 6). When we worship something other than God, we’re out of sync with the universe.

The Bible has a name for being out of sync with the universe. It’s called idolatry. We don’t use the word idolatry much today, except when quoting obscure lines from Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark. But idol worship is everywhere. Do you see Mr. Pinstripe Suit going into the office every Saturday morning? He worships his job. Or Mr. Heavy Machinery Operator with the bags under his eyes? He comes home from work, collapses on the couch, and drinks a case of beer. Every night. He worships alcohol and relaxation. Do you see the pastor who savors every “what a wonderful sermon, pastor!” and is crushed by criticism? He worships the applause of people.

Idolatry is loving anything more than God. Sometimes the thing we love is wicked, like pornography or drunkenness. Most of the time the thing we love is good, like sleep or work or intimacy with our spouse. The problem is when we love a good thing too much, when we love it more than God. Tim Keller says, “If anything becomes more fundamental than God to your happiness, meaning in life, and identity, then it is an idol.”

Idolatry is wicked. It is an exchange of the all-satisfying God for a person, job, boat, or promotion. It is loving the creation more than the Creator, even though the Creator is infinitely more beautiful, lovely, and worthy of affection. It’s as if we have a baseball-sized diamond in one hand and a mud-encrusted rock in the other, and we are forced to choose between the two. We spend several minutes studying both the diamond and the rock, holding each up to the light for closer examination. Then, shockingly, we toss the diamond aside. Idolatry is tossing aside God for a mud-spattered rock. This is infinitely belittling and insulting to God, as if something created could bring us more joy than the Creator of joy. It’s a loud statement to all the world that God can’t satisfy us and that we need something else.

In Jeremiah 2:12–13 (niv) God makes the following indictment of Israel: “‘Be appalled at this, O heavens, and shudder with great horror,’ declares the Lord. ‘My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.’” Idolatry is choosing muddy, briny, gag-inducing water over the fountain of living water. Idolatry is insanity.

Adapted from The Greener Grass Conspiracy: Finding Contentment on Your Side of the Fence by Stephen Altrogge (Kindle Edition)

Book Review: Licensed to Kill by Brian G. Hedges

Christians know we’re supposed to hate sin, but it doesn’t always seem like we actually do. Sometimes we treat sin like it’s an eccentric relative rather than an enemy. Other times we treat it as a pet that can be tamed. But sooner or later that crazy uncle is going to do something, well, crazy. Sooner or later the pet we’ve worked so hard to tame is going to turn on us. And when it does, it needs to be put to death. That’s why Brian Hedges wrote Licensed to Kill: A Field Manual for Mortifying Sin. In this book he offers readers “detailed instruction on surviving a dangerous assignment while in aggressive and hostile enemy territory”—the tools we need to not just pacify sin, but to kill it.

Each chapter addresses an important aspect of killing sin, explores what Scripture says about mortification and offers a series of application based questions. This format is incredibly helpful for readers as it allows us to not only gain the “head” knowledge we need to fight sin, but figure out how it impacts our hearts as well.

Perhaps the chapter I most appreciated/found most challenging was chapter three, “The Monster Within.” Here Hedges addresses indwelling sin, helping readers to understand that sin isn’t something that’s outside that you can catch like a cold—it’s part of who we are. “[S]omething inside me hates God… There is something in me that is anti-God, opposed to him in thought and intention, rebellious to the core,” he writes. “Something in me hates God even while I love him. I’m at war with myself” (pp. 33-34).

This is something that we have to get if we really want to understand why we continue to sin, even after we’ve been made new creations in Christ (cf. 2 Cor. 5:17). Even though we are being made new, we’ve been given new hearts, new minds, new desires, sin still remains. This is what, as Hedges rightly points out, the apostle Paul laments in Romans 7:14–25, culminating in his cry, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

But, following the apostle’s teaching, Hedges is also quick to offer hope—that although sin continues to be present in the body, its authority is broken. It has influence—sometimes strong influence—but no legitimate authority. And although this influence inevitably causes internal conflict, the grace of God is sufficient to allow us to whether the conflict (even when we stumble): [Read more...]

God, the Father Almighty, Maker of Heaven and Earth

Today’s post is by Dr. Brian Mattson, Senior Scholar of Public Theology for the Center For Cultural Leadership, continuing his series on The Apostles’ Creed. You can fan his Facebook page (Dr. Brian G. Mattson), follow him on Twitter (@BrianGMattson), and read his blog (www.drbrianmattson.com). 

The late Douglas Adams begins his book, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe (a sequel to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy), with these words:

The story thus far:

In the beginning the universe was created. This has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move.

Not only is this humorous in its fashion, but it is also a perfect expression of the pagan concept of creation. And the root of it is the notion that the dysfunction of the present world in which we live is “given” with creation itself. This is why all the ancient cosmogonies or origin myths held in common the view that creation was the result of strife of some sort, a battle between rival gods and so forth. According to paganism, creation was born under a bad moon.

No less was this the view of the heretical Gnostic sects in the early centuries. The church found itself contending with groups that emphatically denied that the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is the creator of the universe. Yes, they spoke of Jesus and his “Father,” but they did not identify this “Father” as the God of Genesis 1:1. Yahweh, the creator of heaven and earth, was a “demiurge,” an ignorant, low-level deity who basically made a “bad move” by creating the world of space, matter, and time. Jesus revealed, in fact, a god heretofore completely unknown, a “Father” above and beyond the creator of heaven and earth.

And so the Gnostics, following standard operating procedure for pagan worldviews, were among those whom, as Adams puts it, widely regarded creation as a “bad move.” The source of our problems and dysfunction is that we live in a world given to suffering, and the cause of that suffering is matter and time. Think of it: are we not betrayed by our bodies when we lust and envy? Are we not betrayed by time, as things continually change and our accomplishments seem so fleeting? Surely the “good” life must transcend this messy place, and our true home must be spiritual instead of material.

Was this only a challenge to the early church? By no means! Neo-paganism (Druidism, Wicca, Deep Ecology, etc.) believes that death is the natural state of affairs and that history is the continual cycle of birth, death, and rebirth. Buddhism and Hinduism believe that our “problem” is that we are caught up on an endless “wheel of existence,” the illusory world of matter and time. We must transcend our bodies and achieve “oneness” with the spiritual reality above and beyond us. [Read more...]

(Cheap) Christian E-Books for Your Kindle!

Every once in a while there are some phenomenal deals on eBooks for the Kindle. Here are a few I’ve found recently:

Under $5

Living in God’s Two Kingdoms by David VanDrunen

Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper

Jesus: The Only Way to God–Must You Hear the Gospel to be Saved? by John Piper

Justified by Faith Alone by R.C. Sproul

More Than a Carpenter by Josh & Sean McDowell

The Coffeehouse Chronicles Series by Josh McDowell & Dave Sterrett:

When the Darkness Will not Lift: Doing What We Can While We Wait for God – and Joy by John Piper

Basic Christianity by John Stott

Disciplines of a Godly Woman by Barbara Hughes

Preaching for God’s Glory by Alistair Begg

Stand: A Call for the Endurance of the Saints edited by John Piper & Justin Taylor

Oprah, Miracles, and the New Earth: A Critique by Erwin Lutzer

One Minute After You Die by Erwin Lutzer

Is God on America’s Side?: The Surprising Answer and How it Affects Our Future by Erwin Lutzer

When a Nation Forgets God by Erwin Lutzer

The Moody Classics Series

Under $7

The Essential Edwards Collection by Owen Strachan and Doug Sweeney:

Just Do Something: A Liberating Approach to Finding God’s Will or How to Make a Decision Without Dreams, Visions, Fleeces, Impressions, Open Doors, Random … Liver Shivers, Writing in the Sky, etc. by Kevin DeYoung (I reviewed this a couple years ago and it’s still one of my favorites to recommend to anyone looking for the answer to the question, “How can I know God’s will for my life”.)

The Moody Classics series:

Great Doctrines of the Bible (Three Volumes in One): God the Father, God the Son; God the Holy Spirit; The Church and the Last Things by Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Under $10

God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgment: A Biblical Theology by James Hamilton Jr.

Doctrine: What Christians Should Believe by Mark Driscoll & Gerry Breshears

Death by Love: Letters from the Cross by Mark Driscoll & Gerry Breshears

Vintage Jesus: Timeless Answers to Timely Questions by Mark Driscoll & Gerry Breshears

The St. Andrews Expositional Commentary Series by R.C. Sproul:

Desiring God, Revised Edition: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist by John Piper

There are some pretty fantastic books on this list, so if you’ve got a Kindle or the app for your mobile device or computer, you can’t go wrong ordering any or all of these titles!

What I Learned on My Summer Vacation

Well friends, it appears that I’m officially back to blogging after taking four weeks off in August. Thanks to all my guest bloggers, Chris Poblete, Amber Van Schooneveld, Eliza Huie, Brian Mattson, Matt Ford, Aron Utecht, Tina Williams, Chris Thomson, Don Barton & Dan Darling for bringing their a-game in order to allow me a bit of time away from the blog. (Incidentally, there was sadly a post by Don and one by Andy Catsimanes that were overlooked when I was doing my scheduling—look for both posts to appear this month.)

My time away was very helpful, but didn’t go quite the way I was expecting. Here’s a bit of what I learned during my summer vacation (and no, one of them was not jumping off a piece of wood):

1. My life gets too busy. I’d planned to, by and large, just enjoy a break from extracurricular writing for a few weeks. Instead, I found myself almost overwhelmed with work. My day job went crazy (as day jobs are want to do), we’ve been plowing through the final edits on Awaiting a Savior, we went away for a week… and then came back and moved. I’m generally a pretty high-capacity guy (the size of my work plate is fairly large), but I actually found that I’d maxed out last Monday & had to reschedule plans to see an advanced screening of Courageous so I could actually recover from moving.

2. TV is boring. When we were away, we had the opportunity to sample a bit of cable TV and I don’t think we found even a single thing that was actually worth watching (no reruns of Chuck, even).

3. Books continue to be awesome. While on my official vacation, I had the chance to read Why Johnny Can’t Preach and King Solomon: The Temptations of Money, Sex, and Power. Both are well worth your time. (Look for a review of King Solomon soon.)

4. Scheduling a move for the week after you get back from a week out of town is unbelievably foolish. It was also unfortunately unavoidable. Our vacation was schedule before we had sold our house and we had to be in our new place in time to register our oldest daughter for junior kindergarten.

5. My wife likes it when I take time off. While she’s incredibly supportive of all my ministry endeavors, she really wants me to take every August off from now on. So, as best as I’m able, that’s what I’m going to do.

6. Blogging is still fun. Despite the amount of work it takes at times, blogging is still a lot of fun and a valuable part of my overall ministry. Glad to be back!

So that’s what I learned during my summer vacation. What’s one thing you learned during your summer?

What I Deserve vs. What I Get

He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death.—Rev 2:11

There is nothing of which I am more deserving than the second death. There is nothing more fitting, more just, more righteous than that I should suffer forever in the lake of fire. And the only reason why I won’t is that Jesus has endured in himself the judgment it entails. Jesus has exhausted in his own person the wrath of God that I otherwise would have faced in the lake of fire.

As I reflect on that reality I can’t help but feel complete dismay at those who reject penal substitutionary atonement, or flippantly and blasphemously dismiss it as “cosmic child abuse.” What hope have we for deliverance from the second death if not the suffering of its pains, in our stead, by the Son of God? If I receive the crown of life, which I don’t deserve, in place of the lake of fire, which I do deserve, it can only be for one reason: Jesus Christ, by a marvelous and ineffable exchange, has died that I might live, has suffered that I might be set free, has for me faced and felt the wrath of God and absorbed it in himself. . . .

As for the Christians in Smyrna, no sweeter words were ever spoken than these. Tribulation was tolerable, knowing that the second death died in the death of Jesus. Slander and imprisonment, yes, even martyrdom, were but “light momentary affliction” when compared with the “eternal weight of glory” (2 Cor. 4:17) that is ours because Jesus died and rose again on our behalf.

Thinking about hell and the second death has immense practical benefits. . . . It is remarkable how tolerable otherwise intolerable things become when we see them in the light of the second death. Think often, then, of the pains of hell. Think often, I say, of the lake of fire. It puts mere earthly pain in perspective. It puts tribulation and poverty and slander and imprisonment and even death itself in their proper place. The collective discomfort of all such temporal experience is nothing in comparison with the eternal torment of the second death in the lake of fire.

The one who conquers, said Jesus, “will not be hurt by the second death.” Not even when Satan viciously accuses me of sins we all know I’ve committed? No, never, by no means ever will I be hurt by the second death. Not even when others remind me of how sinful I still am, falling short of the very standards I loudly preach and proclaim? No, never, by no means ever will I be hurt by the second death. Not even when my own soul screams in contempt at the depravity of my heart? No, never, by no means ever will I be hurt by the second death.

And that for one reason only: Jesus, in unfathomable mercy and grace, has suffered that hurt in my place.

So, be faithful, Christian man or woman. Rejoice, oh child of God. And give thanks that you will never, by no means ever, suffer harm from the second death!

 Adapted from Sam Storms, To the One Who Conquers: 50 Daily Meditations on the Seven Letters of Revelation 2-3, Kindle Edition

Around the Interweb

Those Tricksy Biblicists

Excellent article from Kevin DeYoung:

Several weeks ago I posted a critical review of Christian Smith’s new book The Bible Made Impossible: Why Biblicism Is Not a Truly Evangelical Reading of Scripture. Since then, Peter Leithart also posted a largely negative review. Joining the fray with a devastating rebuttal of Smith’s book is Robert Gundry’s excellent article in Books and Culture.

Not surprisingly, Christian Smith does not agree with these criticisms. His main rejoinder is that Gundry, Leithart, DeYoung have failed to deal with the main point of his book, namely, that pervasive interpretive pluralism (PIP) undermines biblicism. Responding to Leithart’s review, Smith contends that “his response essentially dodges rather than engages my book’s central argument.” Similarly, commenting on my blog, Smith argues, “Most problematically, DeYoung’s review in the end simply EVADES rather than resolves the central problem of PIP. He does not squarely address and answer the key challenge of my book, namely, that PIP shows biblicism, as a theory about scripture, to be impossible.” In the same vein he concludes: “So, what on first read appears to be a careful book review actually turns out to be scatter-shot and evasive. DeYoung is clearly quite caught up in trying to catch me in (alleged) inconsistencies, meanwhile he never actually responds to the central question of the book. Does that tell us anything?”

Read the rest.

Also worth reading

Fundraising: I’m making a trailer for my upcoming book – would you kindly help me raise the production costs?

Writing: The Joys and Frustrations of a Christian Biographer

Ministry: We’re Pastors and We’re Anxious

Words: Taming the Tongue

In case you missed it

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

Reformed & Reforming: 3 Questions with Carl Trueman

A.W. Pink: He Gives to All, But is Enriched by None

Book Review: If You Bite & Devour One Another by Alexander Strauch

The Apostles’ Creed: A Trailer

The Gift of Dead Mentors

Every Member a Minister?

The Backlist: The Top Ten Posts for August

He Gives to All, But is Enriched by None

God was under no constraint, no obligation, no necessity to create. That He chose to do so was purely a sovereign act on His part, caused by nothing outside Himself, determined by nothing but His own mere good pleasure; for He “worketh all things after the counsel of His own will” (Eph 1:11). That He did create was simply for His manifestative glory. Do some of our readers imagine that we have gone beyond what Scripture warrants? Then our appeal shall be to the Law and the Testimony: “Stand up and bless the LORD your God for ever and ever: and blessed be Thy glorious name, which is exalted above all blessing and praise” (Neh 9:5). God is no gainer even from our worship. He was in no need of that external glory of His grace which arises from His redeemed, for He is glorious enough in Himself without that. What was it that moved Him to predestinate His elect to the praise of the glory of His grace? It was, as Ephesians 1:5 tells us, “according to the good pleasure of His will…”

It is impossible to bring the Almighty under obligations to the creature; God gains nothing from us. . . . our obedience has profited God nothing. Nay, we go further; our Lord Jesus Christ added nothing to God in His essential being and glory, either by what He did or suffered. True, blessedly and gloriously true, He manifested the glory of God to us, but He added naught to God. He Himself expressly declares so, and there is no appeal from His words: “My goodness extendeth not to Thee” (Psa 16:2). The whole of that Psalm is a Psalm of Christ. Christ’s goodness or righteousness reached unto His saints in the earth (v.3), but God was high above and beyond it all. God only is “the Blessed One” (Mark 14:61, Greek).

It is perfectly true that God is both honored and dishonored by men; not in His essential being, but in His official character. It is equally true that God has been “glorified” by creation, by providence, and by redemption. This we do not and dare not dispute for a moment. But all of this has to do with His manifestative glory and the recognition of it by us. Yet had God so pleased He might have continued alone for all eternity, without making known His glory unto creatures. Whether He should do so or not was determined solely by His own will. He was perfectly blessed in Himself before the first creature was called into being. And what are all the creatures of His hands unto Him even now? Let Scripture again make answer: “Behold, the nations are as a drop of a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance: behold, He taketh up the isles as a very little thing. And Lebanon is not sufficient to burn, nor the beasts thereof sufficient for a burnt offering. All nations before Him are as nothing ; and they are counted to Him less than nothing, and vanity. To whom then will ye liken God? or what likeness will ye compare unto Him? (Isa 40:15-18). . . .

Such an One is to be revered, worshipped, adored. He is solitary in His majesty, unique in His excellency, peerless in His perfections. He sustains all, but is Himself independent of all. He gives to all, but is enriched by none.

Adapted from Arthur W. Pink, The Attributes of God (Kindle Edition)

The Backlist: The Top Ten Posts on Blogging Theologically

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

  1. Everyday Theology: God Won’t Give You More Than You Can Handle
  2. The Male Gossip
  3. His Name was Smeagol
  4. Everyday Theology: God helps those who help themselves
  5. John Piper on Mark Driscoll & John MacArthur
  6. Book Review: Love Wins by Rob Bell
  7. (Cheap) Christian E-Books for Your Kindle!
  8. When Doctrine Isn’t Enough
  9. Announcing My New Book: Awaiting a Savior
  10. Everyday Theology: Preach the Gospel always, if necessary use words

And just for fun, here’s the next ten:

  1. Book Review: Erasing Hell by Francis Chan and Preston Sprinkle
  2. When God Wants a Man
  3. Book Review: Radical Together by David Platt
  4. Is Seminary Necessary?
  5. A Tale of Two Fictions
  6. Tipping Sacred Cows
  7. The Surprising Depth of Idolatry
  8. Book Review: Did Adam and Eve Really Exist? by C. John Collins
  9. The Damage Done By the Dogmatism of Controversies
  10. Godly Fear, Amplified Grace

Being away from the blog for most of August allowed for some fantastic guest bloggers to lend a hand—and did their work ever shine! Amber’s post, The Male Gossip, was terrific (and I’m glad to see that it caught Tim Challies’ attention as well—the article caused a great deal of soul searching on my part and in some ways it’s nice to see that I wasn’t alone). I was also extremely grateful that you all seem to be as excited about my new book as I am! Brian Mattson’s series on the Apostles’ Creed has been a fun one to read so far (and will be continuing over the next few weeks!) and I really appreciated Godly Fear, Amplified Grace. Looking forward to writing a bit about what I learned through my time away. Thanks again for making all this month’s guests feel welcome!

That’s enough from me—now it’s your turn: If you have a blog, what were a couple of the highlights for you in the past month?

$5 Fridays at Ligonier

Every Friday, Ligonier Ministries offers a selection of excellent resources from R.C. Sproul, Joel R. Beeke, Sinclair Ferguson and many other gifted Bible teachers for $5 each. These resources are fantastic gift to believers seeking to dig deeper in their faith. There are some fantastic deals this week, so check them out:

What’s So Great about the Doctrines of Grace? by Richard D. Phillips (Hardcover)

In What’s So Great About the Doctrines of Grace?, the Rev. Richard D. “Rick” Phillips shows that “the doctrines of grace,” those theological tenets more popularly known as “the five points of Calvinism,” are comforting, faith-strengthening, and humbling teachings. In six short chapters, Rev. Phillips demonstrates conclusively from Scripture that this view of salvation exalts God and makes plain His great love for man, which drove Him to do all that was necessary to redeem a people for Himself.

The Bride of Christ by R.C. Sproul (Audio Download)

In this series, Dr. R.C. Sproul provides an overview of ecclesiology, the doctrine of the Church. Dr. Sproul explains how the truth of Scripture is the basis for Church unity and discusses the marks of a biblical Church.

In Christ Alone: Living the Gospel-Centered Life by Sinclair Ferguson (eBook Download)

Noted theologian, pastor, and educator Dr. Sinclair B. Ferguson explores aspects of the person and work of Jesus in his latest book, In Christ Alone: Living the Gospel-Centered Life. This collection of articles is designed to help believers gain a better understanding of their Savior and the Christian faith, and to live out that faith in their day-to-day lives. In Christ Alone is packed full of nuggets of Scriptural truth that will spark and fan the flames of the believer’s love for the Savior who is so beautiful in His person and so faithful in His work on behalf of His beloved sheep.

Ligonier’s $5 Friday sale runs until 8 a.m. Eastern Time Saturday morning.

Note: This is not a paid post, however, I am part of Ligonier’s affiliate program. As such, I earn a small commission from purchases made through these links.

Every Member a Minister?

Challenging conversation between Michael Horton, Tim Keller and Matt Chandler about the idea of “every member being a minister,” and whether it truly reflects Scripture and the best interests of the church:

[tentblogger-vimeo 24832288]

What’s your take: Does the idea that “every member is a minister” or “every sheep is a shepherd” free us to serve and express our gifts or does it hinder us in our service to others?


The Gift of Dead Mentors

“Have you ever read The Shack?” a pastor once asked me. At the time my wife, Emily, and I had experienced the loss of what would have been our second child and Emily’s near-death due to complications with the miscarriage, and this pastor—a very sweet, loving man—had come to offer us counsel and support.

“I have,” I replied, trying (and largely failing) not to cringe. “There’s nothing there that’s going to be of much encouragement.” As we talked, I explained my feelings on the book, my understanding of God’s purposes in suffering and how He had spent the previous year preparing me theologically to understand it experientially. One of the ways He did that was through my mentors—specifically the dead ones.

But let me back up for a moment. I became a Christian in 2005, back when everyone was still trying to do “church for people who aren’t into church.” I’d been a voracious reader my entire life to that point, so naturally I continued that trend by starting to read Christian books, picking up titles by authors such as Erwin McManus, Donald Miller and a few others who were popular at the time. These books were enjoyable, but just something felt… missing. It wasn’t that the quality of their writing was bad (Donald Miller, for example, is a frighteningly gifted writer) or that there wasn’t anything at all thought-provoking. But as I look back, I realize that there simply wasn’t enough “meat” there to satisfy this intellectual hunger I had. As time went on this feeling intensified.

Then, for reasons I still cannot explain, one day, I picked up a copy of 18 Words by J.I. Packer. And I was blown away as I read page after page of rich, helpful, practical theology. “This is what I’ve been looking for,” I thought. I didn’t realize there was better yet to come. [Read more...]

The Apostles’ Creed: A Trailer

Today’s guest blogger is Dr. Brian Mattson, Senior Scholar of Public Theology for the Center For Cultural Leadership. You can fan his Facebook page (Dr. Brian G. Mattson), follow him on Twitter ( @BrianGMattson), and read his blog (www.brianmattson.squarespace.com).

Before I launch into my series of meditations on the Creed, I think it helpful to first examine it as a whole. Seeing the broad sweep of things before attending to its details, looking at the big, blown-up illustrations on our map, will make our reflections more fruitful.

What follows, then, might be called: “The Apostles’ Creed: A Trailer.” This is just a teaser designed to whet the appetite, to show us that there is so much more in this simple creed than meets the eye. Reciting this creed in church can often feel so ho-hum, so boring. Actually, it is a beautiful piece of writing, almost like a piece of Baroque music. We only need ears to hear. It encompasses in succinct form the whole of God’s works: creation, redemption, and consummation. Here is my brief, stream-of-consciousness commentary on this ancient map, bequeathed to us by our spiritual fathers and mothers:

I believeCredo. A Latin term. Not “I suppose.” Not “I surmise.” Not “maybe.” Not “I hope.” I believe. Christian faith is not the result of a giant “leap.” It is the place from which we leap.

in God, the Father Almighty” God is our Father, our source, our benefactor, the one on whom we rely and depend, who cares for us, protects us, admonishes us, forgives us. He is all-mighty. There is nothing to thwart him, nothing to stand in his way, nothing that lives, moves or has its being outside of his absolutely sovereign will. He is not a demiurge, a bumbling, low-level divine being, but almighty, transcendent above all, the one to whom all else must give an account.

Maker of heaven and earth.” Heaven and earth. A Hebrew idiom meaning, everything. God created all things out of nothing. He is not a sculptor, who works with preexisting material; rather, he speaks and it comes into existence. He is not the creation itself. He is not part of the creation. The creation is not him, nor is it a part of him. God brought the universe into being, distinct from his own being. He was, is, and will forever be Creator, and everything else was, is, and always will be creature.

I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord” Jesus=Hebrew, Yeshua, “God saves.” Christ=Messiah, Anointed One, God’s “right hand” who acts for the salvation of his people. He is the only begotten Son, divine, eternal, always with the Father in eternity. But he is also our Lord, the exalted one, David’s Son, the inheritor of the eternal kingdom of a new heavens and a new earth. He is the Lord to whom every knee will bow and every tongue will one day, willingly or unwillingly, confess. [Read more...]