Around the Interweb (01/03)

The Gospel Coalition Launches the For the Love of God blog

The Gospel Coalition has launched a new blog—one that’s not really a blog at all, but a free digital version of D.A. Carson’s two volume devotional For the Love of God. For the Love of God is designed to walk a person through the Bible in a year with commentary provided by Carson. For example, January 2 you would read Genesis 2; Matthew 2; Ezra 2; Acts 2 and Carson’s commentary on Genesis 2. An excerpt follows:

WHAT A STRANGE WAY, we might think, to end this account of Creation: “The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame” (Gen. 2:25). Hollywood would love it: what an excuse for sexual titillation if someone tries to place the scene on the big screen. We hurry on, chasing the narrative.

Yet the verse is strategically placed. It links the account of the creation of woman and the establishment of marriage (Gen 2:18-24) with the account of the Fall (Gen. 3). On the one hand, the Bible tells us that woman was taken from man, made by God to be “a helper suitable for him” (2:18), yet doubly one with him: she is bone of his bones and flesh of his flesh (2:24), the paradigm of marriages to come, of new homes and new families. On the other hand, in the next chapter we read of the Fall, the wretched rebellion that introduces death and the curse. Part of that account, as we glean from tomorrow’s reading, finds the man and the woman hiding from the presence of the Lord, because their rebellion opened their eyes to their nakedness (3:7, 10). Far from being unashamed, their instinct is to hide.

HT: Justin Taylor


In other news

Ed Stetzer shares some new research on how Protestant pastors spend their time

Michael Hyatt asks seven questions to consider about last year

John Piper shares 10 resolutions for mental health


In Case you missed it

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

My favorite books of 2009: Part 1 & part 2

A few books I’m looking forward to in 2010

A review of Spurgeon’s All of Grace

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones: Be Different from the World

Prayer for Matt Chandler

Update: An update from the Village Church on the pathology report that Matt and Lauren Chandler received yesterday:

Dear church,

In the first chapter of Philippians, the Apostle Paul writes that whatever imprisonments, beatings and trials he may have suffered, they all “serve to advance the gospel” of Jesus Christ. We implore you to keep the gospel of Christ as the main focus as we walk with Matt and Lauren through this trial.

On Tuesday, Dr. Barnett informed Matt and Lauren that the findings of the pathology report revealed a malignant brain tumor that was not encapsulated. The surgery to remove the tumor, the doctor said, was an extremely positive first step; however, because of the nature of the tumor, he was not able to remove all of it.

Matt, who is being released from the hospital today, is meeting with a neuro-oncologist this week to outline the next steps of the recovery process. There is a range of treatment possibilities but the exact course of action has not yet been determined. He will continue outpatient rehab.

The Lord is calling Matt and Lauren and The Village Church body to endure this trial. It will be a challenging road for Matt, his family and our church body. The gospel is our hope and the Lord is our strength. Matt and Lauren continue to find solace and hope in Christ. They weep facing this trial, but not as those without hope and perspective. The gospel clarifies their suffering and promises more of Christ through it all.

You have done a wonderful job respecting the family, and we ask that you continue to do this. They are processing all of this together and need you to give them precious space. Please do not visit them at their house unless personally invited by the Chandlers. The best way to serve the family is to continue to be faithful in prayer. Specifically, pray for the following:

  • Wisdom for all the coming decisions
  • Strength and peace to endure
  • The kids’ (Audrey, Reid and Norah) hearts; pray the Lord is merciful as they process and that their little hearts do not grow embittered
  • The Chandlers and The Village would suffer well because of the gospel and for the sake of Christ’s name

As you hurt and weep for the family, do not do it alone. Gather with your home group and with other believers in homes and pray together. This is a time to walk together with others and to endure this trial in community. If you wish, send cards and letters to Matt and Lauren at 2101 Justin Road, Flower Mound, TX 75028.

We will continue to keep you informed as new information is made available. Please be patient with the frequency of the updates. May God strengthen us all and may His glory shine brightly through this.

Please continue to pray for our brother, his family, and his church.

Yesterday he wrote on his Twitter account: “Path report is 2ndary at best…good report doesn’t mean much, bad report doesn’t mean anything…my days r numbered and nt by ths report.”

Collin Hansen recently wrote in CT about Chandler’s trials: “When the Pastor Suffers.”

HT: JT [Read more...]

Prayer for Pastors

It’s been a rough week for pastors.

Thursday, Pastor Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church in Seattle sent out a call to pray for Pastor Matt Chandler of The Village Church in Texas. Chandler suffered a seizure Thursday morning while at home; he hit his head when he suffered the seizure and was taken to the hospital by ambulance where doctors ran several tests. Thursday afternoon, he posted the following on Twitter:

Thanks for all the prayers…I have a small mass in my frontal lobe…[date] with the neurosurgeon early next week…I am His and confident.


Saturday night, Pastor Scott Thomas of the Acts 29 network sent out the following on Twitter:

My dear friend and Acts 29 planter Thomas Young tragically died last night. Hurting for his family and church.

The Sanctuary Fellowship, Pastor Young’s church, released at statement on their website:

As many of you reading this already know, last night Pastor Thomas was called to go home to be with his heavenly father. Erin and the children are physically ok and we ask that you fervently lift them up in prayer and surround them with love from our church family. We are grieved in this whole process. Many leaders from the Sanctuary Fellowship have been working hard since late Friday to minister to Erin and the children. Pastors and churches from across the country are calling, sending people to minister, and offering every kind of help possible. We are eternally grateful and count our Father faithful for all of it.

His last tweet:

God: He is so vast, that all our thoughts are lost in His immensity; so deep, that our pride is drowned in His infinity!

Amen.


The pastors and leaders of a small Chinese house church were unjustly imprisoned this week, according to the Examiner.com

In the article, China Aid President Bob Fu is quoted, saying:

“To punish an innocent house church leader for 7 years imprisonment is the most serious sentence since 2004 when the senior Henan house church leader pastor Zhang Rongliang received a similar length.” He added that, “We strongly condemn these unjust sentences, which are based on trumpeted charges. This case clearly shows the serious deteriorating situation of religious persecution in China. We call upon the Obama administration and international community to speak up unequivocally its concern about this case.”


And these are just the stories I’ve come across.

Please be in prayer for your pastor—and all pastors—today. Their calling is hard and too often thankless.

They and their families all need our support.

The regular Sunday Round-up resumes next week.

What do you appreciate about your pastor?

Recently, I’ve been thinking about how undervalued pastors can be.

Pastors have a hard job. A packed schedule of family obligations, weddings, funerals, couseling and all the other things that come with shepherding the flock God has entrusted to them.

On top of that, they have to deal with a disheartening number of books & speakers who suggest the office of elder/pastor is unbiblical. People taking offense to something they say (perhaps because it points out their sin or it’s a legitimately poor choice of words) and trash them, and on and on it goes…

It’s easy to see why Paul wrote, “Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching” (1 Tim 5:17, emphasis mine).

There’s the big issue: Elders who rule well (in short, leading people in the example of our ultimate leader, Jesus) are worthy of “double honor.” In the context of the passage, it is talking about financial compensation—but it’s also talking about respect.

And that’s something I wonder if we’d do well to think about for a few minutes.

What do you appreciate about your pastor?

Have you ever had an opportunity to think about it? Honestly, it’s not something that’s often at the top of my things to consider list, but it really is important.

But it’s really worth considering. [Read more...]

Sunday Shorts (11/15)

What Happens When…

What happens when all this happens in a small village in the smallest nation in Central America? With almost no government resources? Without insurance and a hospital nearby or a car to visit it? What happens then?

The Church happens.

We drove and drove today to Santa Maria Ostuma, a small village where Compassion International cares for about 200 children through one Compassion project.I wish Compassion International didn’t use the word “project” so often. I prefer the word “church.” Every Compassion project around the world is a local church. Compassion ministers to children and their families through churches because churches know and are trusted by their neighbors, they’re everywhere, and only churches – only Jesus – can meet both physical and spiritual needs. Compassion is about equipping churches to do just that.

HT: Shaun Groves


How to Make a “Successful” Pastor with a Six-Month Curriculum

For a long time, I have been convinced that I could take a person with a high school education, give him or her a six-month trade school training, and provide a pastor who would be satisfactory to any discriminating American congregation. The curriculum would consist of four courses.

Course I: Creative Plagiarism. I would put you in touch with a wide range of excellent and inspirational talks, show you how to alter them just enough to obscure their origins, and get you a reputation for wit and wisdom. Course II: Voice Control for Prayer and Counseling. We would develop your own distinct style of Holy Joe intonation, acquiring the skill in resonance and modulation that conveys and unmistakable aura of sanctity.

Course III: Efficient Office Management. There is nothing that parishioners admire more in their pastors than the capacity to run a tight ship administratively. If we return all phone calls within twenty-four hours, answer all the letters within a week, distributing enough carbons to key people so that they know we are on top of things, and have just the right amount of clutter on our desk—not too much, or we appear inefficient, not too little or we appear underemployed—we quickly get the reputation for efficiency that is far more important than anything that we actually do. 

Course IV: Image Projection. Here we would master the half-dozen well-known and easily implemented devices that that create the impression that we are terrifically busy and widely sought after for counsel by influential people in the community. A one-week refresher course each year would introduce new phrases that would convince our parishioners that we are bold innovators on the cutting edge of the megatrends and at the same time solidly rooted in all the traditional values of our sainted ancestors.

(I have been laughing for several years over this trade school training with which I plan to make my fortune. Recently, though, the joke has backfired on me. I keep seeing advertisements for institutes and workshops all over the country that invite pastors to sign up for this exact curriculum. The advertised course offerings are not quite as honestly labeled as mine, but the content appears to be identical—a curriculum that trains pastors to satisfy the current consumer tastes in religion. I’m not laughing anymore.)

Eugene Peterson, Working the Angles: The Shape of Pastoral Integrity, pp. 7-8 (as quoted by Matt Chandler in his SBTS chapel address)

HT: Justin Taylor


In Case You Missed It

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

The Seed of the Woman and the Seed of the Serpent: Succumbing, continuing the representation of George Whitefield’s classic sermon

Worshipping with the Preached Word, reflecting on how our pastor’s preaching affects our worship

They have Jesus. And He is everything, a collection of a few notable moments from this week’s Compassion Bloggers tour in El Salvador

What’s the One Thing, thinking about the cost of obedience

Sunday Shorts (11/01)

Don’t Waste Your Life: New Desktop Backgrounds

Desiring God has just released a slew of new desktop backgrounds over at Don’tWasteYourLife.com. Here’s a couple:

dwyl2-jesus-saves
Treasuring Christ Above All Things


Tim Challies: Sexual Detox

Last week, Tim Challies ran a thought-provoking and challenging series directed toward young men about sex and, in particular sexual detoxification. I’d highly recommend this series to any man (and woman for that matter) who struggles with, or has struggled with, issues of lust and pornography. It’s well worth your time.

Part 1: Pornifying the Marriage-Bed
Part 2: Breaking Free
Part 3: A Theology of Sex
Part 4: Detoxification
Part 5: Freedom
Recommended Resources


Tullian Tchividjian: How to Identify a Reliable Preacher

Tullian Tchvidjian shows us how we can identify a reliable preacher with five questions based on the five solas of the Reformation:

Question 5 (Sola Deo Gloria): Does the preacher exalt God above all? A reliable explainer will always lead you to marvel at God. A true carrier of God’s truth will always lead you to encounter the glory of God. A God-centered teacher is just that: God-centered. He will preach and teach in such a way that you find yourself hungering and thirsting for God. You will listen to sermon after sermon and walk away with grand impressions of Divine personality, not grand impressions of human personality.

HT: Trevin Wax

Ligonier Ministries’ Relaunching Ligonier.org

Ligonier Ministries has been hard at work revamping their online presence and the new site looks pretty snazzy. Very reminiscent of The Gospel Coalition and a few others.

Check it out for yourself.


In Case You Missed It

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

Where the Wild Things Are, working through my unsettled feelings toward the new movie

Called to Worship, reviewing Vernon Whaley’s book on developing a biblical foundation for worship

A Decisive Act: The 95 Theses, presenting the work that ultimately led to the Protestant Reformation

A Fallacious View of Providence, J.I. Packer on the root issue of two common objections to the Evangelical view of the inspiration of Scripture

Sunday Shorts (10/18)

Mark Driscoll: No ‘Best Case’ Way to Present God, but Many False Ways

Pastor Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church in Seattle joins the Washington Post’s On Faith Panelist blog. The subject of his first post? Jesus.

Q: What makes the best ‘case for God’ to a skeptic or non-believer, an open-minded seeker, and to a person of faith and Why?

Answer
Jesus.

Christianity is not first and foremost about a sacred place to pilgrimage to, a philosophical system to ponder, a moral code to live, a religious tradition to honor, or an impersonal god to experience. Rather, Christianity is about a person who claimed to be the only God and said he would prove his unprecedented claim by living without sin, dying for sinners, and conquering death through resurrection.

So, as Christians, our aim is not to convince people of some god in general, but to introduce them to Jesus in particular. And since he created us with the ability to communicate, think, love, and experience, Christians have always valued using every means by which the truth and love of Jesus can be revealed.

The entire article is well worth reading. The comments section on the other hand…

How God Called John Piper to Become a Pastor

October 14, 2009 marked the 30th anniversary of John Piper’s call to become a pastor. Justin Taylor, associate publisher at Crossway Books, blogger at Between Two Worlds, and longtime colleague of Piper’s, recounts the events leading up to his decision:

But during his sabbatical a new desire was emerging: “to see the word of God applied across a broader range of problems in people’s lives and a broader range of ages.” In other words, he increasing longed “to address a flock week after week and try to draw them in . . . to an experience of God that gives them more joy in him than they have in anything else and thus magnifies Christ.” And he found that in studying the majestic, free, and sovereign God of Romans 9 day after day his “analysis merged into worship.”

The decisive night of wrestling was on Monday, October 14, 1979—30 years ago today. His wife and two young sons were asleep. But Piper was up past midnight, writing in his journal, recording the direction God was irresistibly drawing him to.

The journal entry for that evening begins in this way:

I am closer tonight to actually deciding to resign at Bethel and take a pastorate than I have ever been. . . .

The urge is almost overwhelming. It takes this form: I am enthralled by the reality of God and the power of his Word to create authentic people.

In effect the Lord was saying to him:

I will not simply be analyzed; I will be adored.

I will not simply be pondered; I will be proclaimed.

My sovereignty is not simply to be scrutinized; it is to be heralded.

It is not grist for the mill of controversy; it is gospel for sinners who know that their only hope is the sovereign triumph of God’s grace over their rebellious will.

The calling to preach and pastor had become irresistible.

I, like many others, am grateful to God for how He’s used Piper to powerfully affect many thousands of men and women the world over. Thanks to Justin for this wonderful article.

In case you missed it

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

How Can a Good God Let Bad Things Happen, a review of Mark Tabb’s book on the question of suffering

D.A. Carson on the Kingdom of God, a video clip in which Carson addresses a biblical view of the Kingdom

Experiencing a Miracle, some thoughts on the miracle of salvation and regeneration

Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor by D.A. Carson

Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor by D.A. Carson

“Ordinary” pastors don’t usually get press. They don’t speak at conferences. They don’t write books. Their ministries are on the whole fairly average. They work hard, they faithfully serve the flock God has entrusted to them, and generally go unnoticed.

Tom Carson was, by all accounts, an ordinary pastor. Yet, he was a most extraordinary man.

Tom worked in the most difficult missions field in Canada (Quebec), striving to make in-roads for the Gospel with its Francophone population. Roman Catholicism has long been entrenched in Quebec, and is at the heart of many of the great divides between the French and English in our country (this subject is far too long to get into here, but there is an excellent primer on many of the cultural issues in Chapter 1 of the book; Canadian History books at your local library or bookstore will also be helpful in fleshing out the conflict). Protestant Christians in the 1930s through the 1950s faced a great deal of persecution, including the possibility of imprisonment for being a Protestant minister. Missionaries often gave up because they saw so little fruit and so much opposition. Yet these were the people to whom God chose Tom Carson to minister.

Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor, working in large part from the elder Carson’s journals, describes a man who sought to faithfully teach the Scriptures with honesty and integrity. Tom Carson was a man who loved Jesus and loved the Bible. He understood the importance of teaching sound doctrine. He was a man who understood the meaning of toil and sacrifice, working hard to fulfill his calling and be a good husband and father. It also shows a man plagued by deep insecurities about his abilities as a pastor, and who, because of those same insecurities, could not truly see the fruit of his ministry.

There are two things that stand out most vividly about the portrait of Tom Carson presented in this book. First, his humility: He never appears to have thought of himself more highly than he ought, nor did he become embittered by the success of future ministers. Even his role in the formation of the Fellowship of Evangelical Baptist Churches in Canada, he downplayed, with his son Don not even learning the details of his involvement until he was in seminary. He simply served faithfully and loved people well.

The second, his prayer life: Tom Carson understood what it meant to rely on the Lord, especially the salvation of those to whom he ministered. A poignant example appears on page 80:

I [D.A. Carson] went looking for Dad after the morning service to entice him to come and play the piano while the rest of us sang or played instruments. He was not where he usually was. I found him in his study, the door not quite closed. He was on his knees in front of his big chair, tears streaming down his face, as he interceded with God for the handful of people to whom he had just preached. I remember some of their names to this day.

I don’t pray like this. I don’t think I know anyone who does. I am inspired by Tom Carson’s example, and ashamed because of my failure.  Even now, looking back on those few sentences, I’m on the verge of tears.

I want to be a man like Tom Carson.

I wonder how Tom would feel about this book having been written: Would he have felt embarrassed? Honored? I don’t know. Regardless, I’m grateful that D.A. Carson has written this memoir and for showing us that there is much to be learned from so-called ordinary pastors like Tom Carson.


Out of the archives

On Commenting and Watch Blogging

I’ve been thinking about the subject of comment moderation and why I, in general, don’t use it. The big reason I tend to not moderate comments is I find it can (it doesn’t always) hinder conversation. But there are times when moderation is a good thing.

Occasionally, I get some feedback from what is generally referred to as a “watch blogger.” A watch blogger tends to dedicate their efforts to shooting those they don’t agree with, like a Mark Driscoll, CJ Mahaney, John MacArthur, Andy Stanley (I’m sure there’s at least one hater out there), Erwin McManus, Dan Kimball, or…

You get the idea.

I generally try to be sensitive to those kinds of things because:

  1. I tend to be hyper-critical by nature; and
  2. I don’t want to ever be known for what I’m against rather than what I am for.

Sometimes, folks labeled as watch bloggers aren’t. Sometimes they’re folks who have something legitimate to say, but are maybe not using the wisest choice of medium to get their message across. Perhaps they’re people who have been genuinely hurt by something a church, pastor or speaker has done, but don’t know the most appropriate way to address the situation. Perhaps their choice of words is lacking or rabid, undiscerning defenders of whoever they’re speaking against decide to make war in defense of their idol.

But there are other times when I get the impression that, in reality, those who are watch blogging are contentious people who may have experienced church discipline and rather than humbly repenting of their sin, have gone to war and are trying to build an army of supporters to do… well, I don’t know what exactly. [Read more...]