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Mummy mask may reveal oldest known gospel

A text that may be the oldest copy of a gospel known to exist — a fragment of the Gospel of Mark that was written during the first century, before the year 90 — is set to be published.

At present, the oldest surviving copies of the gospel texts date to the second century (the years 101 to 200).

This first-century gospel fragment was written on a sheet of papyrus that was later reused to create a mask that was worn by a mummy. Although the mummies of Egyptian pharaohs wore masks made of gold, ordinary people had to settle for masks made out of papyrus (or linen), paint and glue. Given how expensive papyrus was, people often had to reuse sheets that already had writing on them.

Be sure to also check out Denny Burk’s commentary on this story.

Only Two Religions: An Interview with Peter Jones

R.C. Sproul and Lee Webb interview Peter Jones to discuss the theme of his teaching series Only Two Religions. Together they discuss the fundamental religious convictions that drive modern culture, demonstrating that in the final analysis there can be only two religions—worship of the Creator or worship of creation.

The goodness of biblical manhood and womanhood

If you live in the Calgary area, be sure to register for this conference featuring Owen Strachan and Jodi Ware.

Why the Battle for Traditional Marriage Will Be Different than Fighting Roe v. Wade

Mike Leake:

Since 1973 the church has been fighting to end abortion. And though we don’t seem to be winning court or legal battles on this topic it does appear that our nation is becoming more pro-life than pro-choice.

Will the same thing happen with same-sex marriage? Will we be talking in 2057 about a decline in same-sex marriages? Will the cultural tide turn at that point?

I don’t have those answers, but I do know that our hope for traditional marriage will be a much different battle than our discussion over abortion.

A Solid Worldview Won’t Save My Kids

Stephen Altrogge:

Worldview is important, but it’s only one part of the equation. A biblical worldview helps a person think correctly. But we are not purely intellectual beings. We don’t operate solely based on ideas and thoughts. We are flesh and blood, with passions, desires, and longings. We feel things deeply and desire things strongly. Our intellects and desires are intricately interwoven, interacting with and informing each other.

What kids think of Teddy Ruxpin

Ouch:

Why you—yes, YOU!—need to come to TruthXchange 2015

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There are a lot—a LOT—of conferences you could go to every year. In all honesty, probably too many. But with all the options out there, how do you decide where to go?

One of my favorites to attend is the TruthXchange Think Tank, a conference I’ve been a part of as an attendee and now as a speaker for several years. Here are three reasons why I think you should come to this year’s Think Tank (that have nothing to do with beautiful southern California weather):

1. Its celebrity-free culture. I first learned of the ministry in 2010, when I attended a Resurgence conference in San Diego, and met its founder and executive director, Dr. Peter Jones. During the event, I was impressed that Dr. Jones didn’t do the thing you so often see with speakers: rather than being off hanging out with his fellow speakers, he was out in the foyer at the TruthXchange booth, interacting with the attendees.

When I attended my first Think Tank in 20111, I was impressed to learn this wasn’t just Dr. Jones’ personality, it was something he and the team have built into the culture of the ministry and these events. There isn’t that kind of strange celebrity vibe that you get at a lot of other events—the one that seems to create a peculiar division between the attendees and speakers (which, in many cases, I genuinely believe is unintentional). Instead, and perhaps it’s because it is a smaller group, or perhaps because the speakers really are just like the rest of us, everyone interacts with one another quite heavily, and it’s just really cool to see.

And if you don’t believe me, just remember: I am speaking at this year. Point proven.

2. It’s about the message. Related to the the previous point, one of the things I often see people lament about some conferences is the “I’m really looking forward to hearing [insert name here] speak” attitude that comes up. You see it everywhere—people go to T4G because they want to hear Mohler, Dever, or Piper. They go to TGC because they want to hear Keller, Carson, or Piper. People go to the Shepherd’s Conference because they want to hear MacArthur, DeYoung, or Piper.

And it’s not that these guys don’t care about their message (far from it!), nor is it wrong to appreciate them and their teaching. But at an event like this, the attendees aren’t there because they’re hoping to get a selfie with Chris Poblete and me. They’re coming because of the message.

3. The message really does change lives. Built upon the foundation of Romans 1:18-25, the fundamental message of TruthXchange’s ministry is helping Christians see the beauty of Two—to see, understand and celebrate the Creator-creation distinction, and how it makes the world make sense.

Does it get a bit heady sometimes? Sure. But when you begin to wrap your mind around the simple-yet-not concept that there are only two religions—Oneism (all is One) and Twoism (all is Two, or the biblical worldview)—when you begin to recognize how the failure to acknowledge God as God is playing out in our world, it helps you understand how to better engage the lost in our communities. And it also helps us to see the dangers within our own local churches, and encourage our fellow believers as we minister to others.

And that’s the important thing to grasp: this isn’t a message that’s for you—it’s for you to use to equip others. What I learned at TruthXchange was the foundation of what I was able to teach the teens in our homeschool co-op. And the great thing is the kids got it. And this was such a great blessing to me, not because it meant I did a sufficient job teaching, but because it means there’s a good chance they’re going to be able to use it in their own lives going forward.

And if those reasons aren’t good enough, remember: It’s California in February. If your backyard more closely resembles Hoth than anywhere hospitable for human life, that’s a pretty compelling reason right there.

This may or may not be my backyard right now.

This may or may not be my backyard right now.

So what are you waiting for? Get yourself registered now!

Generational Lies; Timeless Truths

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

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

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

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

Generational Lies; Timeless Truths

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

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

What will I be speaking on?

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

When is it happening?

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

Links I like

3 wrong assumptions church leaders make

Trevin Wax:

As a church leader, you’ve probably noticed that when your assumptions are incorrect, you’re more likely to implement plans that don’t go anywhere. Why? Because what we’ve assumed to be true about the people in our congregations isn’t in line with reality. So, we’re forced to go back to the drawing board to determine what went wrong.

Much of our angst could be resolved by correcting our assumptions.

Here are three wrong assumptions we often make.

Kindle deals for Christian readers (and free stuff, too!)

Amazon also has 110 books on sale for $3.99 or less from a variety of genres.

And a couple of great additions to your cheap and free audio and Logos libraries:

Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God by J.I. Packer is ChristianAudio’s free book of the month. Logos’ free book for May is 300 Quotes for Preachers from the Puritans. Along with it, you can get Study, Apply, Share: James—a resource for preparing and presenting sermons and coordinating your worship services—for 99¢.

20 Things I Wish I knew As A College Student

Paul Spears:

I don’t know if you are like me, but as I look back on my college years I wish someone would have pulled me aside and given me some tips on how best to pursue an education at the university. So I decided to put together a list called 20 things I wish someone told me while I was in college. This list is in no way exhaustive.

Get Saved From What? in today’s $5 Friday at Ligonier.org

Today you can get the ePub edition of Saved From What? by RC Sproul for $5 in today’s $5 Friday sale at Ligonier.org. Other items on sale:

  • How the Gospel Brings Us All the Way Home by Derek Thomas (ePub)
  • The Christian Mind conference messages (audio & video download)
  • Developing Christian Character teaching series by R.C. Sproul (audio and video download)

$5 Friday ends tonight at 11:59:59 PM Eastern.

The Conference No One Hosts is the One You Need to Attend

JD Payne:

No one schedules a conference called “The Things that did not Work.”

No one would want to come to that. No one would flock to hear a bunch of people talk about the shortfalls. We would not pay for that. Plus, we are not secure enough in our identity in Christ to talk about our “failures.” That means being vulnerable, transparent.

We want to know what works.

Squeezing the Fun Out of Sin

Mike Leake:

His hands are trembling and his eyes are watering as he reservedly plummets his spoon into another bite of this nasty concoction. It’s part soup, part meatloaf, and all the way disgusting. Truth be told nobody really knows what this garbage is but the miserable man knows that this is his only option to calm his raging stomach.

I guess I should say this gruel used to be his only option. A new cook has been hired and has now set before him a banquet of the tastiest morsels. He can say goodbye to the nasties and hello to this new delectable food.

Only he doesn’t. He has decided that he’d like to finish his bowl of half-meat.

“What a fool!”, you shout.

You are that man!

Links I like

Kindle deals for Christian readers

For a limited time, you can get the basic Kindle (with ads) for $49 and the Paperwhite for $99.

Although deals are pretty scarce at the moment, here are a few worth checking out:

10 Characteristics of Mr Controller

David Murray:

I’m trying to figure out how to distinguish between authority and authoritarianism. Any help you can give me would be much appreciated because while I think I can tell the difference, I’m finding it difficult to define the difference. I think I know it when I see it, but can I explain it to someone else? Not so easy.

But let me take a stab at this and please jump in with your own suggestions and corrections. I’ll begin with some broad definitions.

CBMW National Conference Media

A few hours prior to T4G, the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood held their first national conference, featuring messages from Kevin DeYoung, Ligon Duncan, David Platt, Russell Moore, Danny Akin and more. Here’s a look at DeYoung’s message:

Be sure to check out the rest here.

10 Ideas to Improve Giving in Your Church

Chuck Lawless:

Something’s amiss in the North American church when believers average giving about 2-3 percent of their income to the church each year. Such shallow giving limits our ministry possibilities and hinders our getting the gospel to the nations.

If you want to increase the giving in your congregation, consider these steps.

The Peter Pan Syndrome

Jeff Medders:

Do you remember Geoffrey the giraffe? What about the painfully catchy tune, their retail battle cry and hymn?

I don’t wanna grow up; I’m a Toys-R-Us kid.

If you learn one thing from this post: Never trust a giraffe.

Theology from a giraffe is never a good thing. From my limited experience, most talking animals are bad theologians: Barney, Chuck E. Cheese, Chester Cheetah, Geoffrey the Giraffe, and The Serpent in Eden. This theology from the 80s is, sadly, a still small voice echoing in the lives of professing adults. While the slinky has gone the way of the perm, refusing to grow up is still in stock.

Don’t Call Her “First Lady”

Thabiti Anyabwile:

“Big Tim” does it every time he sees her. It doesn’t matter if it’s at church, in the grocery store or at the little league game. Every time he sees my wife he smiles real big, bows his head ever so slightly and says, “Hey, First Lady! How you doing First Lady?”

I chuckle on the inside because I know Kristie is gritting her teeth. She doesn’t like the label—not one bit. I’m getting a good laugh out of the entire episode. Meanwhile Kristie gets this nails-on-the-chalkboard cringe in her soul. But she’s smooth as water. You’d never know she dislikes the label because she smiles that big country grin back and says, “I’m fine. How are you ‘Big Tim’?”

Links I like

Introducing Citizen’s Press

Yesterday, Alyssa Poblete (wife of my friend and fellow Cruciform Press author Chris Poblete) announced the launch of a new theology blog for women, Citizen’s Press. Here’s the low-down:

Citizen’s Press is an online magazine for Christian women. We believe that theology is important—both practical and essential for all of life. As such, it is our desire to encourage women to love the study of God’s Word and to connect them to resources and articles that help women apply good theology to everyday life.

This would be a great blog to add to your feed reader.

The Future of Protestantism

Tune into the livestream of The Future of Protestantism, a discussion with Peter Leithart, Fred Sanders and Carl Trueman tonight at 7 pm PDT. Should be very interesting.

Destroy a Church in 4 Simple Steps

Tim Challies:

A short time ago I learned of a church building in our neighborhood that was for sale. For years now Grace Fellowship Church has been looking for a building of our own, so we thought we should go and give it a look. This had once been a thriving congregation. Faithful Christians had given sacrificially to construct that building. They had consecrated it to the Lord and had worshipped there for many years. Yet now that building was deserted, decaying, and up for sale.

What happened? How did that church go from thriving to dying? How did it slide from healthy to sick to dead? I think I know. I think Paul tells us in his second letter to Timothy, the letter he wrote just days or weeks before his death. There, in chapter 4, he looks into the future, he sees a church being destroyed, and he warns us how it happens. It’s as straightforward as four simple steps.…Here are those four simple steps that lead to a church’s self-destruction.

Ian and Larissa: 2014 update

Three years ago we were introduced to Ian and Larissa Murray, a couple dealing with traumatic brain injury and how they processed that injury through their faith. Check out this update and news about their new book, Eight Twenty Eight: When Love Didn’t Give Up:

The Power Of Godly Example

Mark Altrogge:

Hypocrisy disillusions those who have listened to us and trusted us. Hypocrisy renders our words useless and empty. It makes our children cynical and undermines all we try to teach them. There’s nothing more empty than “Do what I say, not what I do.”

On the other hand, words backed by actions are powerful. Our actions can prove we really believe what we say and that others can believe us too. When we can say, “Do what I say AND what I do,” our words will have power and influence.

The Legacy I Want to Leave

John Piper:

This fall we plan to launch Look at the Book, a new online method of teaching the Bible. Look at the Book is an ongoing series of 5–8 minute video interactions with the Bible in which the camera is on the text, not the teacher. You will hear my voice and watch my pen work its way into the meaning of the text. I’ll point and circle and underline in the passage, all the while talking through how I’m seeing what I’m seeing.

Our main aim will be to create habits of mind and ways of seeing the Bible that help you find the riches of Scripture for yourselves. We really believe that serious Christians can see more wonders in God’s word than they ever thought they could. Look at the Book is our effort to bring that belief to life for you.

With this new dream — this invitation to come with me into the kitchen — we are transitioning our Desiring God National Conference into an ongoing series of regional, church-based Look at the Book events.

Should We Speak of Gay Christians?

Owen Strachan:

We must not make the common mistake, in addition, of thinking that Christians who experience some level of same-sex attraction are somehow consumed by their sexual desires. They must fight sin of many other kinds: pride, laziness, foolishness, anger, and so on, just as every follower of Christ must. Not every person with SSA is on the brink of a Sodom-like situation. Sometimes we’re heard in those tones, and that’s not helpful.

Links I like

10 Non-Spiritual But Shameless, Satirical and Memorable T4G Moments

Joey Cochran shares a few memorable moments from T4G:

Today, I sipped on Starbucks Oprah Chai — which is what they are called now, if you didn’t know — while I browsed through other’s Together for the Gospel reflections. Together for the Gospel, widely known as T4G, is a conference held every other year in Louisville Kentucky. I have gone to the last two, and they have been extremely edifying experiences. But edifying, does not mean a little fun was not had. And so without further ado, I give you 10 geeky, young, restless, reformed and stereotypical moments experienced at T4G.

Thabiti also provided a great rundown, too.

The 4 Stages of Writing and the 3 Mistakes We Make

Trevin Wax:

I recently came across the HBR Guide to Better Business Writing, a book that has a chapter on the four stages of the writing process. Reflecting on my experience writing blogs and non-fiction books, I recognized these stages even if I’d never consciously labeled them this way.

One of the best books on evangelism I’ve read

Mack Stiles has just released a new book in the 9Marks series, Evangelism: How the Whole Church Speaks of Jesus. Westminster Books is selling it for $9 each or $7 when you buy five or more copies.

Easter Kindle deals

Here are a couple of really good deals on two books on the resurrection of Jesus:

Why Waiting is Worth it

Pat Aldridge:

I’m writing this to help young, future leaders avoid the mistakes I made. When I was in Bible College and pursuing vocational ministry I was under the assumption that as soon as I had a degree, I’d have a job. I was more concerned with a career than knowing my Savior better. Once I had the degree, I started applying for positions.

God decided to make me wait… for 15 years.

Please Don’t Make My Funeral All About Me

Nancy Guthrie:

I just got home from another funeral. Seems we’ve gone to more than our share lately. And once again, as I left the church, I pled with those closest to me, “Please don’t make my funeral all about me.”

We were an hour and fifteen minutes in to today’s funeral before anyone read from the scriptures, and further in until there was a prayer. Resurrection wasn’t mentioned until the benediction. There were too many funny stories to tell about the deceased, too many recollections, too many good things to say about the things he accomplished to speak of what Christ has accomplished on his behalf.

My top 5 highlights from #T4G

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Last week, I travelled down to Louisville, Kentucky, for Together for the Gospel 2014, three days of heavy duty teaching, singing, and visiting with friends from around the continent who you only see at events such as these.

This was my second time at T4G, and it was a very different experience for me this time around.

I didn’t live-blog (sorry folks who were looking forward to it!). I didn’t take copious notes. I even missed a few sessions due to some other commitments (I’m catching up on those now!).

But, y’know something? It was probably the best conference experience I’ve ever had. Here are my top five moments:

1. People who are more than profile pics! These conferences are always a double-edged sword for introverts like me. I have to work really, really hard to be social as it’s tempting to curl up in a corner with a book and hide. But over the three days I was in Louisville, I got to see many older friends (Alex Leung, Chris Poblete, Pat Aldridge, Dave Jenkins, Derek Rishmawy, Dan Darling, Matt Capps, and Jonathan Howe among them) while meeting several folks for the first time who I’ve really enjoyed interacting with via Twitter like Matt Sims and (all-too-briefly) Mike Leake.

2. DeYoung brought it. Of the messages I was present for, Kevin DeYoung’s may well have been the standout moment of the entire conference. He offered a powerful exposition of Jesus’ view of the Bible—a defence of inerrancy that wasn’t intended to encourage mental assent, but delighted and devoted confidence in the Bible as the Word of God.

A few standout quotes:

  • “Is your chastened epistemology a sign of humility or that you’re hard of hearing?”
  • “If quoting Deuteronomy to the devil was enough for Jesus, it should be enough for us.”
  • “When we become proud of our doubts, we are guilty of the sin of unbelief.”

John MacArthur, a man not known for positive hyperbole, had this to say: “Not only is this one of the finest talks you’ve heard, it’s one of the finest you will ever hear.” Listen at T4G.org.

3. Listening to 7000+ (mostly) men sing. Loudly. Once again, Bob Kauflin led us all in singing praise to the Lord, and once again, it was the one of the best and most genuine times of singing I’ve been a part of. There was nothing showy, no lasers or smoke machines, just Kauflin and a piano. The attendees sang—and more importantly, they sang like they meant it.

(Worship leaders, there might be a lesson here…)

4. The gospel by Numbers. In what I’d definitely call as the close-second to DeYoung’s inerrancy message, Ligon Duncan showed us the gospel in a passage you wouldn’t have expected: Numbers 5:1-4. These verses, the defilement laws, “show that those who are unclean make everything they touch unclean,” but they also have a massive gap: there’s no way to be made clean in them. In the gap, they serve an essential purpose: to point us to the One who makes all things clean!

“Jesus is the One who makes all things unclean clean… All this he does so you can say when sharing the gospel, there’s nothing he cannot touch, nothing he cannot make clean…. so that we might become the righteousness of God.”

Isn’t that the kind of Jesus we want to tell people about?

5. The freedom to rest. Wednesday night I was completely bagged. I had a lot to do that day and was pretty wiped by the time 7:30 rolled around. So, rather than walking over to the Yum Center and catching Matt Chandler’s message, I did something new for me: I went to my room, wrote for a bit and relaxed for a couple of hours. Feeling the freedom to actually go and rest is new for me, and it’s something I’m really grateful for.

So those are probably my favorite moments of T4G 2014. Now, to get back to the normal routine and figure out where to put this big stack of books that came home with me!

Were you at T4G or did you listen online? What was a highlight moment for you?

Links I like

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The Evangelical War on Contraception

Matthew Lee Anderson:

If you haven’t heard, evangelicals are currently campaigning against contraception.

Oh, you haven’t? Well, I can’t blame you. After all, it was only two years ago when a evangelical theologian seriously proposed that churches should give out contraception to single Christians because that supposedly reduces abortions and evangelical attendees responded with a collective, “Um, sure, why not?!”

Desiring God Conference for Pastors

The Desiring God 2014 Conference for Pastors starts today. If, like me, you’re at home instead of in Minneapolis, you can watch live online at desiringgod.org/live.

Legalistic Relativists

R.C. Sproul Jr:

The appeal of ethical relativism is rather plain to see. If there is no right and wrong then I can’t be convicted of any wrong. Ethical relativism allows me to write my own law, to edit on the fly, to finish “I may do this . . .” with an unassailable “. . . because I want to.” Desire becomes its own justification. My will becomes my law.

This appeal, however, soon enough begins to dissipate if we have any interest at all in being coherent, consistent in our thinking. We quickly turn, “I may do this, because I want to” into “You may not do that, because I want to do this.” Consider, just as an example, sexual perversion. The problem, morally speaking, with sexual perversion is that it is an abomination to God. Ethical relativism, of course, bars God from the conversation. Therefore there is no reason by which we might condemn the practice. There is, to these folks, no transcendent moral standard by which we are all bound. We can do what we want, no matter how perverse. Which means, doesn’t it, that I can call sexual perversion an abomination to God? What, after all, is to stop me?

Free stuff for book lovers

Christian Audio’s free audiobook of the month is When Helping Hurts by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert. This is well worth the free. Ligonier has also made The Prayer of the Lord by R.C. Sproul free until Feb. 28. Finally, the Logos edition of Biblical Theology in the Life of the Church by Michael Lawrence is free until the end of February. Enjoy!

This looks fun!

In April, the next big superhero movie, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, will be released. Here’s a look:

Beware of Backdoor Legalism

Dan Darling:

Last week, during an apparent display of debauchery at the Grammy’s (I don’t usually watch award shows. It’s just not my thing. Other folks feel that way about NFL football, which I love). This caused award-winning singer, Natalie Grant to walk out. She was, from all accounts, not self-righteous or judgmental about it, but just posted a simple explanation about it on her Facebook page.

Of course, this action provoked conversation online, on Twitter and in blogs. Perhaps the most prominent reaction is Laura Turner, who clearly disagreed, writing in her blog for Religion News: “But reading about her decision to leave early and then publicize that decision sounded to me just like the self-righteousness of those people who couldn’t hear a swear word without their faith being threatened.” Now I respect Turner’s instincts here and I have those same ones myself. Christians have, at times, developed an isolationist bent, a sort of fundamentalism that rejects any thoughtful engagement with the world. This inward inpulse has often put us on the same side as the Pharisees who couldn’t entertain a Savior who hung out with the very people he came to save: the sinners, the needy, the sick.

10 Hot Tips For The Christian Life

Jeff Medders:

There is no secret to Christian growth. Paul actually despises any idea of some hidden, underhanded way of Christianity.… The gospel is an open statement of the truth: We need Jesus and Jesus gives us all that he is by faith in his person and work. No more hot tips, only more of Jesus. “Tips must decrease, he must increase.” The Christian life isn’t that complicated.

5 Things Everyone Needs When Going to a Conference

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I’m on the road for yet another conference, one where I’m very much looking forward to hearing the speakers, learning lots and spending time with a number of friends, old and new, who will be there. As I’ve become more of a regular attendee at these sorts of things, I’ve found that there are a few things that every person should really have on hand at a conference:

An eReader of some sort

This just makes the travel-time go so much more quickly. I bring my iPad pretty much everywhere with me and it’s so worth it, in part because it keeps my bags light (I like to have options when reading). Also, you’re probably going to be coming home with a whole whack of books (either from giveaways or purchases), so you’re going to need the room in your luggage. Which brings me to my next point…

Appropriate luggage

You’re almost certainly going to come home with more than you planned. Pack light and bring roomy luggage (this goes double for those flying).

A contact card (optional)

It’s a bit old-school, but a contact card (read: business card) is super helpful to have handy when you know you’re going to meet a bunch of people with whom you’ll want to keep in touch.

Comfortable shoes

Because you’re going to be on your feet a fair amount of the time, it’s wise to wear comfortable shoes. Even the best business casual slip-on gets unpleasant after a long day.

Oral B brush ups (and/or mints and gum)

Roaming around a conference for 10+ hours, drinking coffee… yeah. Take care to protect your breath.

Anything else you’d add to the list?


This post has been updated twice since it was first published in April, 2012.

photo credit: marfis75 via photopin cc

#TGC11 Day 2 Reflections

Emily and I took a few minutes last night to talk about some of the highlights of day 2 of the Gospel Coalition’s 2011 National Conference. Check out the video below for our thoughts:

 

And just a reminder—the Don’t Call It a Comeback giveaway is still on until Friday afternoon. If you’ve not entered already, now would be a great opportunity. Go here for more details.

Cultivating Private Prayer as a Pastor

On Tuesday, February 1, Dr. Joel Beeke spoke at the Desiring God 2011 Pastor’s Conference, “The Powerful Life of the Praying Pastor.” His topic: Cultivating Private Prayer as a Pastor. Though many visiting this site are not pastors, I hope you’ll find Dr. Beeke’s message beneficial to cultivating your own prayer life.

Video:

Audio: : (Download to listen later)

Below are the notes taken during Dr. Beeke’s session (courtesy of Desiring God):

It is always convicting to receive the assignment to speak on prayer to other pastors. And as I was writing the book that Dr. Piper referenced on prayer, I became increasingly convicted by the Puritans about how little I pray. So tonight, I am preaching first of all to myself. This topic is at the heart of revival of the church of Jesus Christ. My father told me when I was a teenager that the greatest problem of the church today is prayerless praying.

The sermons of the Reformers and Puritans are not that different than ours. We’re saying essentially the same thing. What was so different was their prayer lives. My aim is that we would truly pray in our prayers. So turn with me to Isaiah 64:6-9 and James 5:13-18.

True prayer is putting ourselves into our petitions, crying out to God Almighty and praying in our prayers. The problem is not that we don’t pray, but rather that seldom we truly prayerfully pray in our prayers. What is this praying? The primary exercise of faith. Private prayerful praying is the work of the triune God. It has more to do with God than with us. It is Heaven’s greatest weapon that we have at our disposal as a minister of the gospel. This kind of praying is supposed to be half of our vocation—giving ourselves to the Word and to prayer. [Read more…]

Ministry Idolatry

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During the Advance conference several years ago, Mark Driscoll spoke on the issue of ministry idolatry. During his session, he asked the audience to consider eleven forms this idolatry can take:

  1. Attendance idolatry: Does your joy change when your attendance does?
  2. Gift idolatry: Do you feel that God needs you and uses you because you are so skilled?
  3. Truth idolatry: Do you consider yourself more righteous than more simple Christians?
  4. Fruit idolatry: Do you point to your success as evidence of God’s approval of you?
  5. Method idolatry: Do you worship your method as your mediator?
  6. Tradition idolatry: What traditions are you upholding that are thwarting the forward progress of the gospel?
  7. Office idolatry: Are you motivated primarily by God’s glory or your title?
  8. Success idolatry: Is winning what motivates you at the deepest level?
  9. Ministry idolatry: Do you use the pressure of ministry to make you walk with God?
  10. Innovative idolatry: Does it matter to you that your ministry be considered unique?
  11. Leader idolatry: Who, other than Christ, are you imaging?

Looking back on this message in light of how Driscoll’s ministry has unfolded, I can’t help but think they represent an irony: A good warning unheeded by its messenger. He knew the dangers that faced him, clearly. And yet, based on what we see taking place before us, he either lacked self-awareness or voices willing to lovingly warn him with his own words.

Now, whether he does (or has) truly heard and repented, only the Lord can say, and time will tell. But whatever happens, reflecting on these questions should remind us to not view any church leader who falls in a “Lord, thank you I am not like that guy,” sort of way. Instead, they should make us consider how each of us would respond if our friends or we were to fall prey to our own weakness.

If a friend falls, will we encourage people to pray for him and his family (which is right to do), as well as to pray for those he’s wronged (which is equally right and necessary, as Matt Redmond has reminded us)? This is hard in some ways, because it requires us to challenge the idol of our preconceived notions and also the idol of “credibility” (and the danger, again, as Redmond has pointed out, is when we fail to speak out about glaring abuses we actually lose that which we sought to keep).

But were we to fall, would we desperately cling to what we believed made us successful, pointing to the apparent fruit of our ministry, even as it all falls apart? Or would we let it go, repenting of our sin and looking to Jesus as something greater than any success we might have had?

For me, perhaps because I’ve not had much success from many perspectives—my books aren’t bestsellers, my blog doesn’t pull in hundreds of thousands of readers each month and I rarely  preach at a church with more than 50 people in attendance—it’s pretty easy to hold the idea of success loosely. At least right now. And even as I try to figure out what to say next, I keep coming back to this: I really have no idea how I would respond. I don’t know what I’m blind to about myself.

Are any of us any different?


Note: this post was fully re-written in September 2014.

Cliff Notes from the Xchange

Recently I spent a few days in Escondido, California, basking in the mid-teen temperatures (sorry, folks, I still think Celsius when it comes to temperatures), enjoying the sunshine… and taking part in the TruthXchange 2011 Think Tank. The theme of the conference was One-ism: A Poison Pill for the Church?

Building on the messages from The Exchange Conference in 2010, the Think Tank addressed issues of the gospel, social justice, environmentalism, spirituality, missiology, gender, worship, education, eschatology, literature and epistemology (that is, thinking). While my full notes would be too intense (I’ve got something like 12,000 words worth), I wanted to share some highlights from the sessions I most appreciated.

The One-ist Gospel

Brian Mattson spoke on the One-ist gospel by examining Brian McLaren’s most recent book, A New Kind of Christianity, asking two key questions:

Is McLaren’s Christianity new—and is it really Christian at all?

The answer to both of these questions, says Mattson is no. McLaren’s new kind of Christianity is nothing more than classical Enlightenment liberalism. Mattson’s analysis suggests that the gospel put forth in this book (and by many like-minded thinkers within the Emergent stream of evangelicalism), is actually Universalism, which is necessarily Gnostic, not Christian.

In the Gnostic gospels, you’d run across a motif that runs through all of them; it’s not enough for the Gnostics to claim that the “violent, tribal deity” is a lesser God—they call Yahweh, the God of the Bible an ignorant God; “the bastard child deity of a screw-up.”

The explanation is elegant and simple. The God revealed in the Old Testament Scriptures claims to be the only God. He actually says “I am the only God and there is no other.” His ignorance is manifest in his claim of exclusivity.

On the one hand there’s a God who claims to be the only God, to whom all allegiance is owed. On the other, there’s a group of people saying, “no, this cannot be true because divine love is universal.”

The question is, how do they know?

They know because they are “Gnostic.” He can claim that he is the only God to whom all allegiance is owed, but they know better.

All claims to Universalism are claims to have access to spiritual knowledge beyond bounds of God’s revelation. It goes all the way back to the first temptation in the garden; his “new kind of Christianity” is actually the oldest kind of heresy. [Read more…]