Links I like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Today is also $5 Friday at Ligonier, where you’ll find a whole bunch of great resources on sale, including:

  • Heroes of the Christian Faith teaching series by R.C. Sproul (audio download)
  • A Survey of Church History, Part 3: A.D. 1500-1620 teaching series by W. Robert Godfrey (DVD)
  • Mark by R.C. Sproul (ePub and MOBI)
  • Feed My Sheep: A Passionate Plea for Preaching by various authors (ePub and MOBI)
  • The Promises of God by R.C. Sproul (Hardcover)

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

And finally, be sure to check out this great deal on a new curriculum for middle schoolers at the Westminster Bookstore.

Jesus and Scripture

Andrew Wilson:

Post-evangelicals often present the options as (1) an infallible Bible and an infallible Church, or (2) a correctable Bible and a correctable Church. But if we were to present these options to Jesus or Paul or Moses – or Gregory, Augustine, Aquinas, Calvin, Wesley, Spurgeon and the rest – I suspect they would splutter in astonishment and tell us about option (3): an infallible Bible, and a correctable Church. That, surely, is the way to preserve divine authority and human humility; a word from God that never fails, and people that frequently do.

Today I stopped being afraid of the social media mob

Really appreciated this piece by Matthew Paul Turner.

The Worst Ever (Mis)Quotation Of The Bible?

David Murray, continuing his series reading through Joel Osteen’s Your Best Life Now:

The more we read and study the Bible, the more painful it becomes when we hear a verse quoted out of context and even used to advocate for the exact opposite of the verse in its context.

In reading through Joel Osteen’s book, Your Best Life Now, this pain is fairly constant. But the worst context-ripping and heart-rending example is Osteen’s use of Colossians 3:2 in Part 1: Enlarge Your Vision.

7 ways handwriting can save your brain

This is really interesting (HT: Aaron Earls)

All I really want

Red Rubber Studios did a great job on this new music video for Deni Gauthier:

What to Do When We’re Prayerless

Jon Bloom:

If prayer is the native language of faith and we’re struggling with prayerlessness, then the first thing we need to do is look for a faith problem. There’s a faith breakdown somewhere and until we get that fixed, our problem will remain.

How do we fix this?

 

Links I like

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Several volumes from Crossway’s Theologians on the Christian Life series are on sale for $3.99 each:

Want to get a sense of the series? Get Theologians on the Christian Life: On the Church for free. Also on sale:

And finally, four volumes in the Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary series are $2.99 each:

What kids around the world eat for breakfast

This is pretty interesting.

Making The Church A Safe Place For Mental Illness

Stephen Altrogge:

In some churches, there’s this weird taboo surrounding mental illness. Nobody ever talks about it or acknowledges that it’s real. If a guy is sunk into depression, we say he’s, “Going through a rough patch,” or, “Having a tough time,” or we don’t say anything at all. If someone has cancer, we pray that God will heal her. If someone has back surgery, we make meals for him. But when it comes to mental illness, we don’t know what to say or do. Everyone knows something is wrong but nobody actually talks about it.

Don’t fall prey to the Facebook hoax

Remember friends, the only one who looks silly is you. And all the people who copy and paste what you post.

5 Reasons to Pray for Other Churches

Eric Bancroft:

Most evangelical churches that are faithful to preach the gospel are eager to do God’s work. While they represent this in a variety of ways, it usually includes baseline expectations of evangelism and discipleship. They organize their meetings, hire their staff, train their volunteers, structure their programs, and build their buildings with these intentions in mind. If they have been at it for any length of time and God has blessed their labor, they have seen fruit. Lives have been impacted. Homes have been changed. Relationships have been deepened.

parsons-old kind of heretic

“Saying you’re a new kind of Christian with a new kind of Christianity is basically saying you’re an old kind of heretic.”
—Burk Parsons—

Links I like

large_5145995754

Book deals for Christian readers

First, here’s a look at a whole bunch of Kindle deals:

Christian Audio’s free audiobook for January is Charles Spurgeon’s classic devotional, Morning and Evening. January’s free book for Logos Bible Software is The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges: Genesis by Herbert Edward Ryle. You can also get A.T. Chapman’s Introduction to the Pentateuch for 99¢.

Finally, in today’s $5 Friday sale at Ligonier, you’ll find a bunch of great resources, including:

  • Five Things Every Christian Needs to Grow by R.C. Sproul (ePub)
  • Themes from Hebrews teaching series by R.C. Sproul (audio download)
  • Acts by R.C. Sproul (ePub)
  • Pillars of Grace by Steven Lawson (ePub)
  • Living for God’s Glory: An Introduction to Calvinism by Joel Beeke (ePub)

Predictions for 2015

Jonathan Howe has a few interesting ones here. I’m skeptical of the last one, though.

4 Reasons To Use Goodreads

Barnabas Piper:

It’s a new year, and that means lots of you have made resolutions, set goals, or planned ahead about what you’ll read this year. Of course the hardest part of any resolution or plan is following through. That’s why you should consider Goodreads. It’s not just another social media site; it’s a wonderful tool for any reader to discover new books and mark progress. Here are four features of Goodreads to help you meet your 2015 reading goals.

Lambs in the midst of wolves

Ray Ortlund:

There is a reason why the Lord said what he said in Luke 10:3.  Some people are wolf-ish.  They will never accept a minister of the gospel, because they do not love the Lord of the gospel.  They join our churches.  They even become leaders.  But their nature within is wolf-ish – hungry, cunning, attacking.

Some pastors reading this post are encircled by wolves.  My brother, here are three things to remember right now.

When We Grow Passionate in Prayer

Jonathan Parnell:

Every Christian wants a deeper life of prayer in this new year. Who, after the close of one year, looks back over the time in his closet and thinks, “Yeah, I’d better cut back on all the praying this next twelve months”? We all want to grow, to enjoy richer fellowship with God — the question, though, comes down to how we think it will happen. Might it mean that we pray more consistently? Absolutely. Might it mean that we intercede more for others? Most likely. Might it mean that our petitions are more passionate? Maybe, depending on what we mean by passionate praying.

Reflections On A Year With Richard Sibbes

Mike Leake:

When I started to read Richard Sibbes for this undertaking, I had a sinking feeling in my stomach. The way he used English was quite foreign! I had actually not read him before when I began, which made this pretty interesting. I had no preconceived ideas or biases for or against him. After reading his work for a full year, I came away with a few reflections.

Prayer by Timothy Keller

9780525954149

There’s no shortage of good books on prayer. Martin Luther’s Simple Way to Pray, Answers to Prayer by George Müller, CH Spurgeon’s The Pastor in Prayer, A Call to Pray by J.C. Ryle… These are some of the finest books on prayer I’ve read, and Christians would be doing themselves a disservice in not reading them.

While there are many wonderful classic books on prayer, I’ve noticed a severe lack of good modern books on the subject. Most modern books tend to fall into a couple of categories: wicked and stupid. The wicked ones accuse people who pray things like “if it’s Your will” of being cowards who are afraid to pray boldly. The stupid ones encourage us to pray like pagans.

And then Tim Keller went and wrote a book on prayer. Keller, “wicked,” and “stupid,” are words that do not belong together. And he only further proves this in Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God

Theology before practice

Keller offers us something different with Prayer—he doesn’t jump straight into the mechanics, but instead begins by helping readers understand prayer. He puts developing a right theology of prayer ahead of principles for its practice. This is important because most of us (likely) don’t have an articulated theology of prayer that goes beyond “I pray because I’m supposed to.”

While that’s true, there’s significantly more to it than that. Prayer, Keller explains, is both an instinct and a spiritual gift. “As an instinct, prayer is a response to our innate but fragmentary knowledge of God… As a gift of the Spirit, however, prayer becomes the continuation of a conversation God has started” (50). So, on an instinctual level, the “I’m supposed to” is correct—we just don’t understand why. This instinct is why prayer is a nearly universal phenomenon; regardless of their specific beliefs, nearly all humans have a concept of prayer, though the forms and purposes differ drastically.

But in describing prayer as a gift of the Spirit, Keller wants us to understand that prayer is both a conversation and encounter with God. It’s not “plunging into the abyss of unknowing and a state of wordless unconsciousness,” but something tethered to God’s Word, the place from which we learn of and hear from God. Thus, “if the goal of prayer is a real, personal connection with God, then it is only by immersion in the language of the Bible that we will learn to pray, perhaps as slowly as a child learns to speak” (55).

Keller’s continual emphasis on keeping prayer connected to the Bible is important, and something sorely lacking today. What he doesn’t advocate for is a type of rote “just pray what the Bible says,” but to pray through the Scriptures as Luther encourages in his teaching on the subject. To let the Word guide and shape our prayers.

Leaning on the wisdom of the past

Perhaps what I enjoy most about Prayer—beyond the simple, practical principles provided—is the fact that Keller doesn’t attempt to be original (which is what gets us all into so much trouble). Instead, he leans heavily on the wisdom of those who have gone before us—Augustine, Calvin, Luther, Owen, Edwards, Torrey, and, more recently, Lewis, Clowney, and Packer (with a dash of the Westminster Catechism thrown in for good measure).

Could one ask for better influences?

This is where the book’s strong emphasis on being tethered to the Word in prayer comes from. Augustine, the Reformers, the Puritans, and faithful modern saints understood this better than many of us do today. We tend to give a verbal hat tip, whereas they see the Scriptures as vitally important to our prayer life. Luther advocates for a spiritual riffing off of the Word in prayer—taking the words of, say, the Lord’s Prayer and making them our own. Calvin encourages us to hold a joyful fear of God in prayer; to always be reverential in our stance toward Him and pursue humility as we pray. And Clowney likewise suggests “prayer involves an honesty that has no real parallel in human relationships” (135)

We repeatedly come to this conclusion throughout the book: if prayer is both an instinct and a gift, we need to pray in light of what God has said about Himself—and about us.

Awe, intimacy, and struggle

All that being said, prayer is not “easy.” There are seasons when I have a very strong and healthy prayer life, but often it feels perfunctory and powerless. Often my own sinfulness, stubbornness, and even some insecurity are the cause. When the weight of the world feels as though its pressing down, it’s difficult to even know where to begin. When prayer feels forced and feeble, it’s hard to muster up the power to continually pursue it.

And yet, this is what God desires of us. He wants us to embrace the struggle. because “prayer is awe, intimacy, struggle—yet the way to reality. There is nothing more important, or harder, or richer, or more life-altering. There is absolutely nothing so great as prayer” (32).

As I read this book, I continually found myself surprised by how much I needed to underline; it’s rare to find a page in my copy where I don’t have a note, squiggle or marking of some sort because I was confronted or challenged by what I’d just read. And yet, I did not walk away from the book disheartened.

Keller’s message, far from the pray more harder of so many of the “wicked” and “stupid” books available today, challenges us, but reminds us of the grace of God. This is what I believe those struggle in their prayer life desperately need. They don’t need another book to beat them up. They need encouragement and guidance. This is what Prayer offers. It is rich in its theology, winsome in its approach and wise in its application. There may be few good modern books on prayer, but Prayer is one of them—and among the finest I’ve read of any era.


Title: Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God
Author: Timothy Keller
Publisher: Dutton (2014)

Buy it at: Westminster Bookstore | Amazon

Comfort for the persecuted

spurgeon

…the persecutor is in God’s hands. He cannot do more than God lets him, and if God permits him to annoy, you may cheerfully bear it. Next, remember, if you keep your conscience clear it is a great joy. Conscience is a little bird that sings more sweetly than any lark or nightingale. Rough answers outside need not trouble you while within there is the answer of a good conscience towards God. Injure your conscience and you lose that consolation; preserve it from evil and you must be happy. Remember that by patiently enduring and persevering you will have fellowship with the grandest spirits that ever lived. You cannot be a martyr and wear the blood-red crown in these days, but you can at least suffer as far as you are called to do: grace enabling you, you may have a share in the martyr’s honors. “Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.”

Remember, too, that if you have extraordinary troubles Jesus will be doubly near to you. This is the greatest comfort of all, for in all your afflictions he is afflicted. You will find his presence in the ordinances to be very delightful. Those stolen waters which he gives you in secret fellowship are very choice, those morsels which you get by stealth, how sweet they are! The old covenantors said they never worshipped God with so much joy as in the glens and among the hills when Claverhouse’s dragoons were after them. The living is very refreshing to the Lord’s hunted harts. His bosom is very soft and warm for those who are rejected of all men for his sake. He has a marvellous way of unveiling his face to those whose faces are covered with shame because of their love to him. Oh, be content, dear friends, to watch with your Lord.

Charles Spurgeon, A Word For the Persecuted

What my daughter reminded me about prayer

origin_3985490626

Last night had one of those moments when I could clearly see the Holy Spirit at work. It wasn’t while I was reading my Bible, or during my own prayer time… it was at the dinner table. We sat down to have our delicious meal—leftover chili, lovingly prepared by Emily—and Abigail asked if she could pray tonight.

As cool as that was, it wasn’t where I saw the Spirit at work. It was in her prayer, a simple, honest, word between her and God. And as she prayed for our leftover chili that God provided, and that we would have a good night’s sleep so we could have fun and learn at the homeschool co-op, she also asked God to help me teach the older kids well.

Listening to her pray, I was reminded of three things:

1. We often make prayer more complicated than we need to. Her’s was so uncomplicated, but it felt weighty to listen and pray alongside her. This is an important reminder for me: that prayer doesn’t have to be complex. We don’t always have to deliberately hit all the marks of adoration, thanksgiving, confession, repentance, and petition. A simple prayer is just as powerful as a more complicated (or, rather, thorough) one.

2. I need to ask my family for prayer more often. After we finished praying, I was quick to thank Abigail for praying for me without having been asked, but I also confessed to her and to the family that this is something I really need to do more often. While I don’t need to introduce concepts or situations too complex for my children too understand, I can still ask for prayer. More than that, I want to do this more to help them understand that asking for prayer is a good thing. There’s nothing that is keeping me from asking, I just need to do it.

3. We are always modelling prayer to our children. Abigail rarely asks to take the lead in our family prayers. For her, that was pretty bold. And hearing her prayer reminded me of my own. I’m not particularly profound in prayer. I stumble over my words. I repeat myself occasionally. I have moments where I’m searching for what to say at all. And Abigail’s prayer had hints of those same things. She’s seen what’s been modelled, and is doing as her parents do.

We trust God when we trust His Word

large_3935059442

I’m doing something kind of dumb (again): reading too many books at one time. At the moment, I’m only seriously reading two, but still, I should know better. That being said, one of them happens to be Tim Keller’s latest, Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God(Which I think makes it cool, right?)

Regardless of the wisdom of my reading habits, there is a great deal of wisdom in this book. One of the things I absolutely love so far is Keller’s understanding of where we encounter God (which has massive implications for our prayer lives, but that’s another post) and how we know we can trust Him.

We often like to think of esoteric, mystical “whispers,” when we think of God speaking to us, or even speaking to us without words—impressions and that sort of thing. Yet, Keller reminds us that God’s words  (and thus God’s Word) also represent His active presence in the world. God acts through speaking:

“We humans may say, ‘Let there be light in this room,’ but then we have to flick a switch or light a candle. Our words need deeds to back them up and can fail to achieve their purposes. God’s words, however, cannot fail their purposes because, for God, speaking and acting are the same thing,” Keller explains. “To say that God’s word goes out to do something is the same as to say God has gone out to do something.… If God’s words are His personal, active presence, then to put your trust in God’s words is to put your trust in God” (53, 54).

This is why many Christians get so jittery when we see people playing a bit loosey-goosey with the Bible, whether with the meaning of a passage or how we should understand it. It’s not because we’re worshipping our Bibles, but because of whose Word it is and whose words are recorded there.1 We keep pushing back to the Bible because we know there is no other way to actually know who our God is in a truly personal, meaningful, relational way. We learn who God is from His Word. And we learn to trust Him by learning to trust His Word.

The promise no one likes to talk about

Of all God’s promises, the one Christians like to talk about least is persecution. No less than 90 times1 in all but two books of the New Testament, Christians are promised one thing: Persecution will come. Just as we are assured of God’s love for us in Christ, just as we can be confident that our sins are fully paid for in the death of Christ, we can be sure that we will experience persecution for the sake of Christ.

Yet despite this promise, Christians in North America continue to find this idea foreign, although as time goes on and western culture sheds the last remaining vestiges of Christian influence, it’s becoming less so. In Canada and the United States, our trials tend to come on the legal front: Do Christians who own businesses have the right to refuse to provide services in situations that violate their consciences? Are graduates from a Christian university’s law school permitted to practice law?

These are the questions we are confronted with on a regular basis, and they are serious issues. However, what we might see as persecution is not what a believer in Syria or Iraq might experience. Here, our livelihoods are threatened. There, the threat is to their lives.

This is why the Church needs our prayers, not just on a day like the international day of prayer for the persecuted church, but every day. Christians—both here in North America, and around the world—need to pray for one another as we endure these trials in whatever shape they take. That we would truly believe that to live is Christ and to die is gain. And we would be willing to stand firm on the foundation of the gospel, as people certain that our lives are no longer ours, but Christ’s, and therefore He can do what He wants with them in order to bring Him glory.

Links I like

Free eBook: An Essential Guide to Christian Accountability

My friend Jacob Abshire’s put together a terrific free eBook discussing “the concept of teaming up to kill sin and practical ways to thrive in it.” Head over to Jacob’s blog to download your copy.

Steve Jobs on Leadership and the Idol of Approval

Eric Geiger:

Jony Ive is the senior vice president of design at Apple and is known as the great design mind behind the products at Apple. In a rare interview, Jony shares some lessons he learned from working with Steve Jobs. In the interview, he recounts a conversation with Steve where Steve rebukes him for leading to be approved, for wanting approval from his team more than anything else.

What Millennials Misunderstand About Marriage

Aaron Earls:

Millennials, perhaps more than any other generation, grew up with the reality of broken homes and divorced parents. But in their efforts to avoid those mistakes, they often go in the wrong direction and end up in the same situation.

In the NPR story, “For More Millennials, It’s Kids First, Maybe Marriage,” we meet Michelle Sheridan, her boyfriend Phillip Underwood, and their children. Their lives were characterized by scraping by with low income jobs and government assistance as well as having no real desire to get married.

Their reasoning continuing to live together without the rings sounds like many other millennials and the common misunderstandings they have about marriage. Here are four things Sheridan, Underwood and millennials in general miss about living together and getting married.

Faith To Keep Praying For Your Unsaved Children

Mark Altrogge:

Nothing concerns Christian parents more than the salvation of their children. And God is concerned even more than we are.

God created the institution of family to reflect his own desire and love for his family. He sent his Son to bring us into his family.  When God saves us he adopts us as his children. He becomes our heavenly Father. He loves us as his precious children and makes us joint-heirs with Christ. Scripture is filled with his promises to parents.

The “S” Word: Three Models of Submission

David Murray:

These words, especially the “S” word, sound horrendous to most modern ears and also to many Christian ears. That’s partly because most people’s idea of marriage comes from Hollywood. But it’s also partly because we may have had awful experiences or seen terrible examples of this biblical principle being abused.

That’s why it’s so important to begin any consideration of submission with the husband’s duty to be a Christ-like leader and a Christ-like lover in a complementary relationship, and also with confession and repentance over our past failures in these areas.

Laboring that Vancouver Might Reflect the Beauty of Christ

Alastair Sterne:

The city is crying out for renewal, yet it is also becoming more and more irreligious. Statistics Canada projects that by 2031, almost 33 percent of people living in Vancouver will not align themselves with any religion. And those who currently checkmark “no religion” in Vancouver already exceed any other metropolitan area in Canada. Religion, and Christianity in particular, has been relegated to the corridors of personal opinion. Religion is seen as deludedly useful for self-help but useless for anything else. People are welcome to believe whatever they wish, but they should not be so mistaken as to think their beliefs have any usefulness in the public sphere, or accuracy about how things really operate in the universe. This is deeply problematic because the issues that plague Vancouver find their ultimate resolution in the very place they’ve determined to be deluded and useless.

Links I like (weekend edition)

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Brittany Maynard, Rachel Held Evans, and Not Giving Up

Samuel James:

What Evans is too tired to do is the hard work of theology. Putting together the doctrine of God’s love and mercy with the doctrine of God’s sovereignty and righteous condemnation of sinners is too difficult. The paradox has created an irreparable dissonance within her spirituality. Rather than submitting to the view of Scripture that Jesus endorsed, and trusting in the goodness of the Spirit that illuminates the meaning of the Word, Evans believes she has to make a choice: Scripture or conscience, Bible or values, Joshua or Jesus.

A non-answer is an answer

Andrew Walker:

Let’s be very clear on that. It’s also a very vapid answer. What we’re seeing in many corners of evangelicalism is a pliability that makes Christianity an obsequious servant to whatever the reigning zeitgeist is. With non-answers like this, it isn’t Jesus who is sitting at the right hand of the Father. Culture is. Perhaps Hillsong would rather abide by a “Don’t Ask; Don’t Tell” policy on matters of orthodoxy. That’s their prerogative. But let’s be clear that this is not the route of faithfulness.

Sexuality and Silence

Andrew Wilson:

I’ve heard rumours of a silent trend beginning to take hold in some city churches in the UK and the US. I don’t just mean a trend that takes hold silently; presumably most trends do that. I mean a trend toward silence: a decision not to speak out on issues that are considered too sticky, controversial, divisive, culturally loaded, entangled, ethically complex, personally upsetting, emotive, likely to be reported on by the Guardian or the New York Times, uncharted, inflammatory, difficult, or containing traces of gluten. Since I do not attend a city church, but am a proud member of the backward bungalow bumpkin brigade, this is coming to me secondhand, and it may turn out to be a storm in the proverbial teacup, or even (for all I know) entirely fictional.

But let’s imagine that there were such things as well-written booklets which had been discontinued simply because they were about sexuality, and leaders who were avoiding making any public comments at all on controversial ethical issues, or churches whose lectionaries or sermon series were systematically avoiding passages which addressed pressing contemporary questions, presumably in the name of being winsome or wise or likeable or culturally sensitive, because of the number of Influencers and Powerful People in the area. Without knowing any of the behind-the-scenes discussions that had taken place—all well-intentioned, I’m sure—what would I say then?

Seven things.

How To REALLY Help Someone Change

Stephen Altrogge:

We tend to get this wonky, thoroughly unbiblical idea in our minds, that we can actually change people. That by the force of our will, we can move a person from ungodliness to godliness. We think that if we get sufficiently angry, they will see our point and change. They will feel the force of our anger, come under the cutting conviction of the Holy Spirit, and repent. Of course, this is complete nonsense. We know this both from Scripture and from experience.

The Healthy Elder Board Is a P.C. Elder Board

Thabiti Anyabwile:

The abbreviation “P.C.” has an almost universally negative connotation. We hear “P.C.” and we think “politically correct.” Being “P.C.” is synonymous with cultural capitulation, a kind of cowardice that refuses to call things what they are.

If that’s all the letters “P.C.” could stand for then we’d be right to suspect a “P.C. elder board” of unfaithfulness and ineffectiveness. But, thank God, there are other words for which “P.C.” can stand. And some of them actually help us define what a well-functioning eldership looks like. In general, I think we need “P.C.” elder teams. Here’s what I mean.

Five opportunities to glorify God in Mark Driscoll’s resignation

Pastor_Mark_Driscoll

So… Mark Driscoll resigned.

There’s a lot that could be said about this, and undoubtedly much will be. Some of it will be helpful, some of it will be… less so. Hopefully this will be the former, and not the latter.

In all honesty, I’m very glad that Driscoll is out of ministry. After years of controversy, and in recent months the unceasing barrage of issues coming to light—including plagiarism, financial mismanagement at Mars Hill and a pattern of abusive behavior—this needed to happen, for the good of the people who have been hurt, for the people at Mars Hill and for Driscoll himself.

And while, undoubtedly, there are going to be some who will read his resignation and point out some of the troubling aspects (including his not being found disqualified despite being disqualified by his “domineering style of leadership,” [1 Peter 5:3]), I would love to focus on five opportunities to glorify God arising from this:

The opportunity for Mars Hill Church

Mars Hill’s at a crossroads: if the church is all about Jesus, now’s the time to prove it. The best place to start? Honestly evaluating their structure.

The model they’ve been running on—with an outside board of accountability—simply doesn’t work, nor is it biblical. If they’re serious about getting healthy, they need to put in place a model of governance where every leader really is one vote at the table, and are held to account. They need to become autonomous churches with elders who are biblically qualified and capable of preaching the Word.

They need to not be what they’ve been for the better part of the last decade if they’re serious about getting healthy and continuing on with Jesus’ mission to make disciples of all the nations. If that can happen, I believe God will be glorified.

If not, then it’s time to turn off the lights and shut the doors.

The opportunity for Mark Driscoll

Mark Driscoll is also at a crossroads. The pattern of public behavior we’ve all witnessed over the last several months have shown us what can happen when a man with natural ability but lacking in spiritual maturity puts himself in a position of great authority. One cannot escape from such a scenario unscathed.

While he says he was not disqualified by the investigation (and really, did anyone expect him to be), one thing is unquestionably clear in all of this: he desperately needs help. Driscoll desperately needs to do some real soul searching and ask himself hard, honest questions: How did things get this bad? Is he seeing his own role in this drama correctly? What would God have him do going forward.

And although, I’m glad he says in his resignation that he and Grace will be receiving support and counsel from men and women across the country, he needs something else: to be a member in a local church. He needs to be under the authority of someone (or rather, multiple someones) for the first time in his adult life.

To be perfectly honest, my hope for Mark Driscoll is that he stays far away from the spotlight and far away from ministry for a long, long time. He’s got serious issues that need to be worked out. The best place for him to do that is as a member of a local church, not as a leader in one. If that can happen, I believe God will be glorified.

The opportunity for those injured

For those who have been injured over the years at Mars Hill, I’m not certain the news offers much comfort. Some, understandably, had hoped to see him disqualified and fired. Instead, he’s resigned of his own accord.

Regardless, he’s gone. Whether the church stands or falls remains to be seen. This is an opportunity to be at peace and heal, even if the way the end came about isn’t the way they’d hoped. If that can happen, I believe God will be glorified.

The opportunity for those on the sidelines

Finally, those of us on the sidelines have a number of choices to make. Some have made their reputations blogging about these sorts of controversies (to varying degrees of helpfulness). For these bloggers, their work is more or less done, at least as far as the negative side of these events is concerned. My hope for them is they’ll be able to focus on what is good and pure and true, and celebrate what God inevitably does out of this situation.

Some bloggers have chosen to be silent about these sorts of issues in general and this one in particular. Sometimes it’s for good reasons, such as not having anything to say or not wanting to be accused of chasing controversies. I don’t really have an issue with that. But my hope for all of us— particularly those of us who claim to be “gospel-centered”— would be an increased willingness to confront evil, especially when it appears in our own houses. We should be willing to decisively condemn such practices. If that can happen, I believe God will be glorified.

The final opportunity

Finally, we all have one final opportunity to glorify God in this, and that is to pray. We need to pray for God’s will to continue to be done in the lives of all who have been affected by the drama at Mars Hill Church over the last several months and years.

  • That those who have been injured would find peace.
  • That humility would reign in the hearts of the remaining leaders at Mars Hill as they choose how to move forward.
  • That God would truly break Mark Driscoll’s heart in a new way so he can be closer to God as he says he desires to be.
  • That we wouldn’t just wait for the next rockstar megachurch pastor to implode, but would pray that God would cut through the garbage they’ve surrounded themselves with.
  • That we would put our houses in order and not sacrifice people and mission on the altar of celebrity.

If we can pray for those things, I believe God will be glorified.

Links I like

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Also on sale:

The First Court of Controversy

Joey Cochran:

You never win in court unless you’re really not-guilty. And who in court is? Really, we’re all guilty of something. It just may not be what we’re actually on trial for. You’ll get what I’m getting at soon enough.

Mansfield’s a lot like Eden; it has all the makings of controversy: disagreement, differing perspectives, and someone wins. The black gown always wins. Though this was my first ticket, it wasn’t my first trial. Despite what you might think.

Cut

Lore Ferguson:

It has been a strange dichotomy for me. Before 2010 I lived most of my life perpetually mistrustful of God, with a brooding anger at him. Since 2010, though, his goodness and prevailing trustworthiness has been steadfast and immovable. I have never known anything like it and still am in awe of what a constant God he is when not encumbered by the caricatures and Sunday School stories we make him out to be like. 2014, though, has been a year where I have seen my glaring disappointments and failures front and center. If there were places of pride in my life and heart, places I thought on the brink of full sanctification, this year has wrecked every one of them.

 

Saeed Abedini’s Letter to His Daughter on Her 8th Birthday

Trevin Wax shares a very moving letter.

Be Yourself in Prayer

Stephen Miller:

Sometimes it seems as if many believers feel the need to alter who they are when they come to God in prayer, particularly when others are around. As if God will not hear them if they are themselves, they play characters, hoping to be more acceptable to God and others.

I have personally struggled over the years with what to say and how to say it when I pray. I’m in good company. Even the apostles asked Jesus to teach them to pray. And with kind, compassionate patience in his voice, he taught them to pray simply, humbly, confidently, according to God’s word, and for God’s glory.

You could sum up Jesus’s teaching into a few guiding principles.

How To Listen To Sermons

Jeff Medders:

Many Christians on Sunday mornings are hearing sermons, but they aren’t listening to them.

Hearing and listening aren’t the same thing.

I can hear music playing in the background and not be listening to its message.

I learned the difference working at Starbucks while going to Bible college. I could hear blenders, customers, music, cars, and coffee being ground—but it was vital that I listened to the orders coming through my headset. I could hear all kinds of things, but I was listening for one thing.

Listen to sermons. Do more than hear them.

The day ISIS got a little closer to home

MosulN-e1405906062407

Yesterday, we received an email from a member of our home school co-op asking for prayer for family members who are Christian workers in Northern Iraq. Their community has been lost to ISIS, and the UN’s peace-keeping forces have pulled out. These workers and the local believers are on their own, forced to choose between renouncing Christ or holding fast as children are murdered in front of them.

For weeks now, I’ve been reading of the ongoing struggles of our brothers and sisters in Syria and Iraq, and more or less quietly praying for ISIS to be stopped and for the resiliency of fellow believers there. But even then, it’s been at a distance.

This email brought this suffering a little closer to home.

We often fail to realize how closely connected we all are. We look at the world we live in—specifically our North American context—and assume the way we live is “normal.” The persecution of Christians in Iraq and Syria is a powerful wake-up call for us, if for no other reason than it reminds us that persecution is actually normal for Christians. It’s not something we read about in our Bible and think, “Gosh, I’m glad things are so much better now.” For many believers in over 100 nations, that’s life: beatings, wrongful imprisonment, verbal abuse, and martyrdom.

But because of the uniqueness of the West, we’re sheltered from these realities. Most of us don’t know anyone who has directly been persecuted. But we are probably only one or two degrees of separation from someone who has. And that should change the way we pay attention to such things. It’s closer to us than we realize. So we should care that the US has launched airstrikes against ISIS. We should want to pray for persecuted believers. And I know this is a novel concept, but we should actually pray, believing that God will be glorified in this.

Links I like

Kindle deals for Christian readers

The Profiles of Reformed Spirituality series is on sale for $1.99 each:

Also on sale:

Why Peter’s Idiocy Is So Helpful

Jeff Medders:

But here’s what I love about Peter, he always came back around. He never let shame rest on him. He always turned, repented, rethought his thoughts, and came back to following Jesus. What patience Jesus has for his sheep!

How to pray for and support persecuted Christians

Good thoughts here from Dave Jenkins.

I Want A “Do-Over”

Tullian Tchividjian:

In many ways, all of our striving under this performance idol is a grown-up re-creation of the adolescent playground cry: “I want a do-over!” Have you ever heard that? Watch children playing a game at a park like football or basketball. Maybe somebody messed up the opening kick. Maybe they weren’t sure the ball stayed in bounds or not. So somebody proclaims, “Do-over!” And they start over. They have to get it right. They want the bad play erased and replaced by the good play.

We’re still doing this into our adult years, trying to manage our lives in some bizarre system of spiritual checks and balances, trying to outweigh our bad plays with our “do-overs.”

“All the Law and the Prophets…” in a piece of fruit

Jared Totten:

We’re all familiar with the story. In fact, if you grew up in the church, you’re probably so familiar with the story that there’s no surprise, no suspense left in it. But Genesis 3 is an epic drama. The fate of the entire human race hanging in the balance as good and evil are paraded across this cosmic stage. It was Shakespearean before Shakespearean was cool.

And at the center of it all: fruit. Yep, skin and pulp and juice. A plum, a pear, maybe a pomegranate. We don’t know. There are some (quite serious) people out there who are certain it was a grape because wine comes from grapes and wine is the devil’s drink. I’ll leave that discussion for another time (perhaps after we share in the Communion table?).

But almost every person who has read that fateful chapter has at one time or another expressed the same frustration and confusion at the account of the fall:

“What’s the big deal with the fruit?!!”

Loyal To My Faults

Aaron Earls:

Often times, I will stick with something or someone long after they have proven they should not longer have my loyalty. The pain of giving up and changing is harder for me than dealing with the disappointment that comes from being loyal when you shouldn’t.

Maybe I fit the phrase “loyal to a fault,” but I know that I, along with many others, absolutely fit the phrase “loyal to my faults.”

Three Questions to Help Diagnose Possible Football Idolatry

I don’t know hardly anything about football, but this article from Kevin DeYoung is still helpful.