Book Review: The Deep Things of God by Fred Sanders

For many Christians today, the Trinity is a doctrine to which we give almost no thought. While we certainly affirm it as being true, we don’t really know how it makes a difference in our lives.

So it gets easier for us to start thinking that maybe it doesn’t matter. The seeming paradox of God being one, yet three is a huge stumbling block to many people looking at the Christian faith… and maybe it wouldn’t change anything if we just let it go.

Fred Sanders, associate professor of theology at Biola University’s Torrey Honors Institute, disagrees.

“Deep down it is evangelical Christians who most clearly witness to the fact that the personal salvation we experience is reconciliation with God the Father, carried out through God the Son, in the power of God the Holy Spirit,” he writes (p. 9).

But we’ve lost something as a movement; we’ve settled for a theological and spiritual shallowness, especially in regards to the Trinity. “Our beliefs and practices all presuppose the Trinity, but that presupposition has for too long been left unexpressed . . . and taken for granted rather than celebrated and taught” (p. 11).

That’s why he wrote The Deep Things of God: How the Trinity Changes Everything. In this book, Sanders hopes to reawaken an understanding of, and desire to celebrate, the deeply Trinitarian nature of Christianity.

Because the Trinity is so overwhelming in it’s otherness, it’s tempting for us to avoid even attempting to speak to it. But as Sanders writes, “We . . . should not let ourselves be trapped into thinking that everything depends on our ability to articulate the mystery of the triune God” (p. 36).

The reality is we are tacitly (implicitly) Trinitarian in innumerable ways. The Trinity serves as the encompassing framework for our thinking and confession. “It is the deep grammar of all the central Christian affirmations” (p. 48).

This implicit knowledge leads to explicit expression in salvation, spirituality, church life, prayer and Bible study. These are the realms to which Sanders focuses the majority of the book. [Read more…]

Working For Justice without Undermining Evangelism


It seems like everywhere you turn, people are asking the same question:

How do you work for justice without undermining evangelism?

Typically there are a couple of ways to answer the question. One camp suggests that we don’t need to evangelize until after the need has been met, if at all; that our focus should be eliminating extreme poverty or ending human trafficking. A cause is at the center instead of Christ.

The other tends to run to the opposite extreme, seeing any sort of social action as anathema to the Christian life.

Both extremes, obviously, are wrong. How, then, do you find a healthy, biblical middle-ground?

I’ve written about this a few times (here and here for example), but over at the Gospel Coalition last week, they examined the issue by posing the question to a number of wise pastors and theologians. Here’s a look at their insights:

Don Carson:

1. By doing evangelism. I know numerous groups that claim to be engaging in “holistic” ministry because they are helping the poor in Chicago or because they are digging wells in the Sahel, even though few if any of the workers have taken the time to explain to anyone who Jesus is and what he has done to reconcile us to God. Their ministry isn’t holistic; it’s halfistic, or quarteristic.

2. By being careful not to malign believers of an earlier generation. The popular buzz is that evangelicals before this generation focused all their energies on proclamation and little or nothing on deeds of mercy. Doubtless one can find sad examples of such reductionism, but the sweeping condescension toward our evangelical forbears is neither true nor kind…

3. By learning, with careful study of Scripture, just what the gospel is, becoming passionately excited about this gospel, and then distinguishing between the gospel and its entailments. The gospel is the good news of what God has done, especially in Christ Jesus, especially in his cross and resurrection; it is not what we do. Because it is news, it is to be proclaimed. But because it is powerful, it not only reconciles us to God, but transforms us, and that necessarily shapes our behavior, priorities, values, relationships with people, and much more. These are not optional extras for the extremely sanctified, but entailments of the gospel. To preach moral duty without the underlying power of the gospel is moralism that is both pathetic and powerless; to preach a watered-down gospel as that which tips us into the kingdom, to be followed by discipleship and deeds of mercy, is an anemic shadow of the robust gospel of the Bible; to preach the gospel and social justice as equivalent demands is to misunderstand how the Bible hangs together.

4. By truly loving people in Jesus’ name—our neighbors as ourselves, doing good to all people, especially those of the household of faith. That necessarily includes the alleviation of suffering, both temporal and eternal. Christians interested in alleviating only eternal suffering implicitly deny the place of love here and now; Christians who [fail] to proclaim the Christ of the gospel of the kingdom while they treat . . . suffering here and now show themselves not really to believe all that the Bible says about fleeing the wrath to come. In the end, it is a practical atheism and a failure in love.

Ray Ortlund: [Read more…]

Around the Interweb (10/24)

Missional Mothering

Great article by Jani Ortland over on The Resurgence:

Young mother, it seems like everyone wants something from you. And you’re probably already giving way more than you ever thought you could give. But even with all your giving, you might struggle with guilt—lingering, joy-drenching, energy-sapping guilt—that you should be doing more, giving more, accomplishing more.

Don’t waste that guilt. Pay attention to it. Use it. Take it out of the shadows and examine it in light of Scripture. Is this a godly grief that leads to repentance or a worldly grief that produces death (2 Cor. 7:10)? Is it life-giving or life-depleting? Ask yourself, does this bring fresh joy and peace to those nearest me, or does it add unnecessary stress and strain to my home?

Read the rest

In Other News

Ministry: Kevin DeYoung asks, “Does your theology make you crusty?

Humor: True and false apologies:

(via Challies)

Video: Mohler on reading:

In Case You Missed It

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

Reviewing Darrin Patrick’s Church Planter:

Mark Driscoll on a father’s need to model repentance

Who we are before God seeps out of us constantly

John Flavel on the parable of the wheat and the tares

John Flavel: The Wheat and the Tares

He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. And the servants of the master of the house came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?’ He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ So the servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’”

Matthew 13:24-30 (ESV)

It is Jerome’s observation, that wheat and tares are so much alike in their first springing up, that it is exceedingly difficult to distinguish one from the other. . . . The difference (saith he) between them, is either none at all, or wonderfully difficult to discern, which those words of Christ plainly confirm. Let them both alone till the harvest; thereby imitating both the difficulty of distinguishing the tares and wheat; as also the unwarrantable rashness of bold and hasty censures of men’s sincerity or hypocrisy, which is there shadowed by them.

How difficult soever it be to discern the difference betwixt wheat and tares, yet, doubtless, the eye of sense can much easier discriminate them, than the most quick and piercing eye of man can discern the difference betwixt special and common grace; for all saving grace in the saints have their counterfeits in hypocrites. There are similar works in these, which is a spiritual and very judicious eye may easily mistake for the saving and genuine effects of the sanctifying Spirit…

And this difference will yet be more subtle and undiscernible, if I should tell you, that as in so many things the hypocrite resembles the saint; so there are other things in which a real Christian may act too like a hypocrite. When we find a Pharoah confessing, a Herod practising, as well as hearing, a Judas preaching Christ, and an Alexander venturing his life for Paul; and on the other side, shall find a David condemning that in another which he practised himself, a Hezekiah glorifying in his riches, a Peter dissembling, and even all the disciples forsaking Christ in an hour of trouble and danger: O then! how hard is it for the eye of man to discern betwixt chaff and wheat? How many upright hearts are now censured, who God will clear? How many false hearts are now approved, whom God will condemn?

Men ordinarily have no clear convictive proofs, but only probable symptoms; which, at most, can beget but a conjectural knowledge of another’s state. And they that shall peremptorily judge either way, may possibly wrong the generation of the upright; or, on the other side, absolve and justify the wicked. And truly, considering what hath been said, it is no great wonder that dangerous mistakes are so frequently made in this matter. But though man cannot, the Lord both can and will, perfectly discriminate them…

He will have a day perfectly to sever the tares from the wheat, to melt off the varnish of the most resplendent and refined hypocrite, and to blow off the ashes of infirmities, which have covered and obscured the very sparks of sincerity in his people: he will make such a division as was never yet made in the world, how many divisions soever there have been in it. “And then shall men indeed return, and discern between the righteous and the wicked; betwixt him that serveth God, and him that serveth him not.” Meanwhile, my soul, thou canst not better employ thyself, whether thou be sound or unsound, than in making those reflections upon thyself.

John Flavel, Husbandry Spiritualized; or The Heavenly Use of Earthly Things in Which Husbandmen Are Directed, p. 95-97

Who We Are Before God Seeps Out Constantly

Richard Baxter, the Puritan pastor and theologian, counseled those seeking to serve in pastoral ministry with these words: “When your minds are in a holy, heavenly frame, your people are likely to partake of the fruits of it. Your prayers, and praises, and doctrine will be sweet and heavenly to them. They will most likely feel when you have been much with God: that which is most on your hearts, is like to be most in their ears.”

Baxter is reminding us of something that we often forget but that should be pretty obvious to us: our people can tell when we are close to God—and when we are not. It will come out in our sermons, our prayers, our leadership, and even our conversations. As Moses’ face shone to the Israelites after he had been with God, so our lives will radiate his presence when we have been with him. . . . Who we are before God seeps out of us constantly.

…”If we forbear taking food ourselves, we shall famish them; it will soon be visible in their leanness, and dull discharge of their several duties. If we let our love decline, we are not like to raise up theirs. If we abate our holy care and fear, it will appear in our preaching; if the matter show it not, the manner will. If we feed on unwholesome food, either errors or fruitless controversies, our hearers are like to fare the worse for it.”

Darrin Patrick, Church Planter, p. 61

Book Review: Church Planter by Darrin Patrick – The Mission

The Church needs godly men who are transformed by God’s message of salvation to carry out God’s mission in creation. In parts one and two of Church Planter, pastor and author Darrin Patrick examines the character and qualities of a man fit to lead the church and the message he proclaims.

“Men who are qualified, called, and armed with the gospel message are on a mission with Jesus, who came to seek and save the lost,” writes Patrick (p. 173).

Patrick concludes Church Planter by examining the Church’s mission to seek and save the lost as we seek to imitate Christ. Patrick breaks it down as follows:

The heart of mission is compassion. “[C]ompassion is the dominant emotion that the Gospel writers ascribed to Jesus. . . . As a Christian anytime you look at someone who is hurting, you will feel compassion, unless you make a choice to turn your head and harden your heart” (pp 174-175). It’s compassion that motivates mission; compassion for the lost drives us to share the good news of the gospel and to live in light of it in practical ways. “Compassion is the God-given emotion that enables us to be distracted from our own wants and focused on others’ needs” (p. 179).

The house of mission is the Church. It’s fairly common these days to take shots at the Church; to suggest that the Church isn’t getting the job done. However, as Patrick rightly asserts, “the local church is God’s eternal plan to both edify his people and evangelize the world” (p. 187). While there are a number of different models of how to “do church,” ultimately a local church that is on mission is one that is focused on Christ, on seeing people come to know and love Jesus. Members are disciples marked by a humble confidence. Confident but not judgemental; humble but not depressed (c.f. p. 191). A gospel-centered church is a reproducing church, making disciples and planting new churches.

The how of mission is contextualization. “We take the unchanging gospel into the ever-changing culture so that persons in a specific time and a specific culture can comprehend the truth of the gospel and be saved by it” (p. 207). While there are many who oppose the idea of contextualization, Patrick astutely points out that everyone contextualizes the gospel, the only question is to when.

The “hands” of mission is care. Jesus expects His followers to obey the revealed Word of God and that is summed up primarily as loving God and loving people. “Jesus . . . wants the church, the unified body of all believers, to strategically seek, reach, teach, and serve people” (p. 211).

The hope of mission is city transformation. Looking at Jeremiah 29:4-7, wherein God commands the Israelites in exile to build homes, plant gardens, have children and seek the welfare of Babylon, Patrick writes, “It seems to me that God is commanding his people to sink themselves deep into the fabric of that wicked city. . . . What would happen if we really tried to be like salt and light to the people living around us?” (pp. 227-228).

Part three of Church Planter is very strong, although not nearly as strong as the first two parts. The explanation & defense of contextualization is solid. The example of how his church is serving as the hands of Jesus in St. Louis is encouraging. The commitment to (and brief explanation of) the local church is wonderful. The need for Christians to be a part of their community, seeking its good for God’s glory is inspiring.

But as I read that final chapter, one statement in particular jumped out at me:

“It is strange the way many Christians give so much money every year to foreign mission efforts without ever considering the need to be a missionary right in their own neighborhoods” (p. 228).

I believe this actually hurts the argument that Patrick is trying to make in this chapter. He’s rightly arguing that we need to be acting as “salt and light” in our communities; to be engaged in our communities as problem solvers, rather than problem finders. To be “in the world but not of the world.” But he didn’t need to set it up as an either/or with foreign missions giving, especially when the stats indicate that approximately 2% of all giving goes to foreign missions (that’s not a lot—I’m pretty sure more money is spent on Starbucks every year).

Maybe it’s one of those instances where I’m reading something into the statement that’s not there, but I’ve seen it enough times from enough voices in the “missional” church movement that it really concerns me. We need to be missionaries at home, absolutely.

But.

We also must—must—do all we can to reach those who are outside our local sphere. We need to think locally and globally, to seek and save the lost wherever they might be. To become too narrow in our focus can cause our vision to become too small.

When all’s said and done, I do believe that Church Planter is an encouraging and inspiring work. Its insights are built upon the firm foundation of Scripture, making it a valuable resource to show people what it takes to be a church planter, showing us godly men who are shaped by God’s message for the sake of God’s mission.


Title: Church Planter: The Man, the Message, the Mission
Author: Darrin Patrick
Publisher: Crossway (2010)

 

Book Review: Church Planter by Darrin Patrick – The Message

We’re in the midst of a man crisis. The vast majority of males today are not men at all—they are “bans,” neither boys nor men who don’t know what it actually means to be a man.

And this is as true in the Church as it is in culture at large.

Guys in the church, especially, need godly men to show them the way. Men who are rescued from their sin by the gospel of Jesus Christ, who are called and qualified. Men who are skilled and dependent on the Holy Spirit; who are shepherds and determined.

“When these elements combine, the result is a man who is fit to carry the message of Jesus into the world,” writes Darrin Patrick (p. 103).

So what is the message we are to proclaim?

In part two of Church Planter, Patrick describes the message of the Church—the gospel—in all its provocative glory.

It is a historical message. The gospel is rooted in history. It is not the message of a historical figure that has been hijacked by his overzealous followers—it is grounded in fact. And these facts matter. It matters that Jesus was a real man. It matters that He really died on a cross. It matters that He literally, physically rose from death. It is the message of what God has done in history. “[T]he historicity of Christianity and the physicality of Jesus must be defended, because a Christianity not grounded in history is no Christianity at all.” (p. 114).

It is a salvation-accomplishing message. The gospel is the message of what God has done in history—and that is, first and foremost, Jesus coming to atone for the sins of mankind. Because God is so completely and utterly holy and righteous He cannot tolerate any evil. And the good news of the gospel is good news because Christ actually saves sinners. “God’s wrath toward sin is no longer aimed at those who trust Jesus as Lord. Instead all that was required for our salvation from sin has been accomplished by Jesus Christ” (p. 129).

It is a Christ-centered message. The gospel is not just the message about what Jesus has done—Jesus is the gospel. Jesus Himself declared that the whole of the Old Testament was about His life, death and resurrection. “It’s the central truth, the primary thread, the ‘Big E’ on the eye chart when it comes to understanding Scripture” (p. 134). We cannot understand the Bible without Christ being at the center of everything. Any message preached from the Bible without Christ at its center will be moralism, relativism, self-helpism or activism… but it “will not motivate people to love Christ, his people and his world” (p. 141).

It is a sin-exposing message. Today, the only unpardonable sin in our culture is to call anything “sin.” But when the true message of Scripture is proclaimed, sin will be exposed. “If there is no challenging of the sinful heart, there is no gospel preaching,” writes Patrick (p. 151).

It is an idol-shattering message. The sin Scripture’s most repeated and emphatic denunciations are reserved for is the sin of idolatry; indeed, it is the sin underneath most other sins. “All sin flows from valuing something more highly than we value God” (p. 160). But true gospel preaching forces us to confront our idols, to repent and turn away from them and toward Christ. It reveals to us the bad news that we’re even worse sinners than we thought. “However, the good news is better than we thought. Though in repentance we see that we are bigger sinners than we thought, through faith in the gospel we see that Jesus is a bigger Savior than we thought” (p. 168).

Part two of Church Planter, by and large, reminded me of how breathtaking the truth of the gospel is—and how breathtakingly ridiculous the gospel is if it’s not true. If the gospel isn’t historical, doesn’t accomplish anything without my involvement, is centered on anyone or anything but Christ, serves to prop up my sins and doesn’t lead me to turn from my idols and trust in Jesus, it’s of no use to me or anyone else.

But it is all of these things—and more! Reading these chapters once again reminded me of just how much I need this message in every aspect of my life.

One quick example: In my day job, it’s very easy to fall into the trap of what Patrick calls “activist” preaching—letting the cause become more important than Christ. But, in a particularly poignant passage, he writes:

Care for the poor, for example, is very important but it should not be divorced from Jesus Christ and the message of personal salvation that is connected with his life, death, and resurrection. We should work for the good of our cities, serve the poor, and fight injustice and oppression as a sign of the kingdom to come and as a sign we know the King. But Christ-centered preaching doesn’t forsake the personal nature of the gospel in order to simply focus on the corporate aspects of the gospel. Instead it provides the ultimate grounds and larger context for gospel-motivated mercy for the poor and oppressed. (p. 141)

This was both a strong encouragement to continue striving to place Christ at the center of everything that I write and a gentle warning of the temptations that exist for those of us who do work in social justice oriented organizations.

The message of the Church is nothing but salvation through faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ. It’s the message that makes the dead live. And it’s the message that drives the mission of the Church.


Next: The Mission


Title: Church Planter: The Man, the Message, the Mission
Author: Darrin Patrick
Publisher: Crossway (2010)

Book Review: Church Planter by Darrin Patrick – The Man

“[W]e have a cultural crisis and a theological one,” writes Darrin Patrick in Church Planter: The Man, the Message, the Mission. “We live in a world full of males who have prolonged their adolescence. They are neither boys nor men. They live, suspended as it were, between childhood and adulthood, between growing up and being grown-ups. . . . This kind of male is everywhere, including the church and even, frighteningly, vocational ministry.” (p. 9).

In short, we have a man crisis. Modern society shuns the traditional role of the man as the head of the home, the breadwinner and the spiritual leader of the family. Advertising and entertainment show the man as the oafish buffoon, Mom’s “other child.” Emasculated, men have abdicated their responsibilities and escaped into the fleeting pleasures of hobbies, video games and pornography.

They are neither men nor boys. They are are “Bans,” a hybrid of both a boy and man. They’re in our communities, our churches, our workplaces, and our families.

Ban needs godly men and women to show him there is more to life than he is currently experiencing. Ban needs to be more than just a male. He needs to be becoming God’s man who is being transformed by God’s gospel message and is wholeheartedly pursuing God’s mission. (p. 18)

That’s why Patrick, the pastor of The Journey Church in St. Louis and vice-president of the Acts 29 Church Planting Network, wrote Church Planter. In its pages, Patrick offers sound advice and biblical wisdom as he challenges prospective church planters, longtime pastors and the average churchman alike to be God’s man armed with God’s message and on God’s mission.

So what kind of man does it take to plant a church?

What kind of man does the church need to carry out its mission? What kind of man is needed to see lives transformed?

Patrick breaks down who that man is as follows:

He is a rescued man. He is, quite simply, a man who has indeed personally experienced forgiveness and acceptance from Jesus Christ. He must be growing in genuine love for God and people. When an unregenerate man (even one who is self-deceived) is given oversight of the church, both his well-being and the church’s are at risk. “[T]he church under such a pastor [one who is not truly a Christian] generally suffers spiritually, communally, and missionally, and it eventually withers and dies.” (p. 24)

He is a called man. Pastoral ministry is impossible for man on his own. He must be clearly called by God. Here, Patrick offers a three-fold way to discern the call: heart, head and skills. A heart-call is a deep inclination that says, “I must do this or I will die.” A head calling is asking the question, “How am I to specifically serve this church?” And a skills confirmation is the church examining and testing the gifts and character of the one who believes himself to be called.

He is a qualified man. He is a man growing in the character qualifications of a biblical elder as outlined in 1 Timothy 3:1-7. While the pastor/elder is specifically called to these qualifications, Patrick notes, “Almost all of what is required here of elders . . . is required of any believer elsewhere in Scripture. . . . Elders are not a higher class of Christians. . . . [They] are called to uniquely focus on and live out the virtues to which all Christians aspire.” (p. 45)

He is a dependent man. He is a man who solely depends on the power of the Holy Spirit for the success of his ministry. He knows that it’s not by his will that anything can be done and seeks to grow deeply in his dependence by cultivating his relationship with God.

He is a skilled man. He is a man who exhibits (in varying degrees) the three basic skills necessary for pastoring: leading, teaching and shepherding. Patrick examines these through the lens of the three-fold offices of Christ: Prophet, Priest and King. He explains:

Prophets are those pastors who guide, guard, protect and proclaim the truths of Scripture. They tend to ask questions like, “What does the text say?” and “Where is the church going?” (p. 69)

Priests lead the church by identifying and helping to meet people’s felt needs. They tend to ask the question “Who?” (p. 72)

Kings develop strategies for bringing the vision and mission of Christ-centered living to fruition. They tend to ask the question “How?” (p. 73)

He is a shepherding man. He is a man who cares for Jesus’ sheep, and is prepared to lay down his life to protect and nurture them.

He is a determined man. There are going to be seasons in every pastor’s ministry where it will be very tempting to “tap out” and give up. But, Patrick writes, “Pastoral ministry requires dogged, unyielding, determination, and determination can only come from one source—God himself.” (p. 94)

This first section of the book provides a compelling and captivating picture of what a godly man should look like—not simply a pastor or church planter. As I read through these pages, I had to stop and seek the answers to the questions that Patrick posed along the way:

Do I love people?

Am I (and others) seeing the fruit of the Spirit become increasingly characteristic of my life?

Is there a call on my life?

How am I wired in reflecting the spiritual offices of Christ?

Am I depending on the Holy Spirit or on sheer willpower and effort to get through?

These were really challenging questions to answer—but the clarity that came from wrestling with them is refreshing (especially in that I learned that yes, I do in fact love people!).

We do have a man crisis in our culture and in our churches—and the picture of a godly man presented here is much-needed. Already I’ve started using it as a discipling tool for younger men. Because many of us have not had an example of a godly man in our lives, we’re usually trying to make it up as we go along. This has certainly been the case for me. However, the book’s structure and insights allow for real and reliable self-examination, as well as examination by others. And this alone makes Church Planter a worthwhile investment.


Next: The Message


Title: Church Planter: The Man, the Message, the Mission
Author: Darrin Patrick
Publisher: Crossway (2010)

Charles Spurgeon: The Wheat and the Tares

“Gather the wheat into my barn.”

Then the purpose of the Son of man will be accomplished. He sowed good seed, and he shall have his barn filled with it at the last. Be not dispirited, Christ will not be disappointed. “He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied.” He went forth weeping, bearing precious seed, but he shall come again rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.

“Gather the wheat into my barn”: then Satan’s policy will be unsuccessful. The enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, hopeful that the false wheat would destroy our materially injure the true; but he failed in the end, for the wheat ripened and was ready to be gathered. Christ’s garner shall be filled; the tares shall not choke the wheat. The evil one will be put to shame.

In gathering in the wheat, good angels will be employed: “the angels are the reapers.” This casts special scorn upon the great evil angel. He sows the tares, and tries to destroy the harvest; and therefore the good angels are brought in to celebrate his defeat, and to rejoice together with their Lord in the success of the divine husbandry. Satan will make a poor profit out of his meddling; he shall be baulked in all his efforts, and so the threat shall be fulfilled, “Upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat”. . . .

[T]he tares and the wheat will grow together until the time of harvest shall come. It is a great sorrow of heart to some of the wheat to be growing side by side with tares. The ungodly are as thorns and briars to those who fear the Lord. . . . A man’s foes are often found within his own household; those who should have been his best helpers are often his worst hinderers: their conversation vexes and torments him. It is of little use to try to escape from them, for the tares are permitted in Gods providence to grow with the wheat, and they will do so until the end. Good men have emigrated to distant lands to found communities in which there should be none but saints, and alas! sinners have sprung up in their own families.

The attempt to weed the ungodly and heretical out of the settlement has led to persecution and other evils, and the whole plan has proved a failure. Others have shut themselves away in hermitages to avoid the temptations of the world, and so have hoped to win the victory by running away: this is not the way of wisdom. . . . [Read more…]

Preaching Between Two Worlds: Alistair Begg on Ecclesiastes 12

Back in September, Alistair Begg joined us at the Toronto Pastors’ Fellowship and shared the message, Preaching Between Two Worlds, from Ecclesiastes 12:

Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, “I have no pleasure in them”; before the sun and the light and the moon and the stars are darkened and the clouds return after the rain, in the day when the keepers of the house tremble, and the strong men are bent, and the grinders cease because they are few, and those who look through the windows are dimmed, and the doors on the street are shut—when the sound of the grinding is low, and one rises up at the sound of a bird, and all the daughters of song are brought low— they are afraid also of what is high, and terrors are in the way; the almond tree blossoms, the grasshopper drags itself along, and desire fails, because man is going to his eternal home, and the mourners go about the streets— before the silver cord is snapped, or the golden bowl is broken, or the pitcher is shattered at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern, and the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it. Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher; all is vanity.

Besides being wise, the Preacher also taught the people knowledge, weighing and studying and arranging many proverbs with great care. The Preacher sought to find words of delight, and uprightly he wrote words of truth.

The words of the wise are like goads, and like nails firmly fixed are the collected sayings; they are given by one Shepherd. My son, beware of anything beyond these. Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh.

The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.

Begg also engaged in an enlightening Q&A with Pastor Paul Martin.

Powerful messages for preachers and wannabe preachers in these videos.

Take some time to chew on them today as you go about your day.

Parachutes and Pineapples

Over the last few months, after every preaching engagement there’s been a mix of emotions. Pleasure that no one walked out. Relaxation because it’s all over for the day… and a strange sense of sadness.

I couldn’t quite put my finger on why for that last one until this weekend. See the thing is in all of these engagements where I’ve had the opportunity to minister with the Word, I’m in for the day—and then I’m gone again (until the next time, which might be months down the road).

What I realized this week is that I feel kind of sad that I don’t get to see what happens after I leave.

I don’t get to see people wrestling with applying the message to their lives. To see people grow and change and become more like Christ as a result (hopefully).

I want to be able to see the fruit

I was sharing this with a good friend of mine on Tuesday afternoon and he said, “It doesn’t take long to start to care about a congregation, does it?”

It really doesn’t. And this really surprised me because I didn’t expect it, I suppose. I didn’t anticipate feeling so deeply for people I don’t really know. And it kind of scares me, too, because it might mean something significant.

And it’s making me realize something else:

Parachutes are fun, but it might be nice to have some pineapples.

Sermon Audio: Bold Intercession

On October 10, 2010, I had the opportunity to preach at Gladstone Baptist Church in Gladstone, Ontario. Sunday’s message was preached from Genesis 18:16-33:

Then the men set out from there, and they looked down toward Sodom. And Abraham went with them to set them on their way. The LORD said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? For I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing righteousness and justice, so that the LORD may bring to Abraham what he has promised him.” Then the LORD said, “Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great and their sin is very grave, I will go down to see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry that has come to me. And if not, I will know.”

So the men turned from there and went toward Sodom, but Abraham still stood before the LORD. Then Abraham drew near and said, “Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city. Will you then sweep away the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous who are in it? Far be it from you to do such a thing, to put the righteous to death with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?” And the LORD said, “If I find at Sodom fifty righteous in the city, I will spare the whole place for their sake.”

Abraham answered and said, “Behold, I have undertaken to speak to the Lord, I who am but dust and ashes. Suppose five of the fifty righteous are lacking. Will you destroy the whole city for lack of five?” And he said, “I will not destroy it if I find forty-five there.” Again he spoke to him and said, “Suppose forty are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of forty I will not do it.” Then he said, “Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak. Suppose thirty are found there.” He answered, “I will not do it, if I find thirty there.” He said, “Behold, I have undertaken to speak to the Lord. Suppose twenty are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of twenty I will not destroy it.” Then he said, “Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak again but this once. Suppose ten are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of ten I will not destroy it.” And the LORD went his way, when he had finished speaking to Abraham, and Abraham returned to his place.

The original sermon notes follow: [Read more…]

Book Review: Transforming Church in Rural America by Shannon O’Dell

transforming-church-odell

What do you think of when you think about the rural church (if anything)?

Outdated methodology? Gradually decaying buildings? Rapidly aging congregations? Ineffective in reaching people for Christ?

This list might seem harsh, but more often than not, this is what many of us think of when we consider the rural church. And the reality is that it’s sadly true. Without a powerful revitalization of rural congregations, thousands of churches won’t make it through the next decade.

Shannon O’Dell, pastor of Brand New Church, believes that revitalization is possible—that the rural church can actually be an incredibly effective instrument for advancing the Kingdom of God. And in Transforming Church in Rural America, O’Dell shares this vision as he recounts how God did it in his own church.

O’Dell never wanted to be a rural pastor. His dreams were to pastor a big urban church, with a big urban congregation, budget and building. He didn’t want to be stuck in the sticks. But God called him there, to a small church of 31 people. In the years since he arrived, he’s seen people at their worst as he tipped a few sacred cows and at their best as God matured the men and women of this church for His glory.

When I read the first few pages, I wasn’t sure exactly what I was going to get. So I was quite pleased to find that the principles that O’Dell shares ultimately all center around the same thing: Making disciples.

“[The church grows] congregants rather than a congregation,” O’Dell writes (p. 105). “We build people, not organizations. If we build organizations, we will end up with buildings and programs that serve only themselves.” [Read more…]

Around the Interweb (10/10)

Can People Be Saved Apart from Hearing About Jesus?

Last week, JD Greear preached a message from Romans 10:14-17; as he anticipated, he’s been getting some pushback, specifically about whether or not people can come to faith apart from hearing about Jesus. Here’s an excerpt:

I have read just about all of the major dissenting views to the one I shared on Sunday. I just found them unconvincing, and their ideas more based on human reasoning (i.e. “this is what I think God should be like…” “this idea about God offends me,” etc) than deductive conclusions from Scriptural affirmations. I wanted(oh, how I wanted!) to believe in the escape-hatches and plan-B’s, but just could not find allowance for it in Scripture. What I preached this morning was my conscience, and the most faithful interpretation, in my judgment, of Paul’s thought in Romans. I think he builds up to a very weighty conclusion… namely, that they simply cannot believe unless they hear, and they cannot hear without a preacher, and there can be no preachers if we are not sent. Ultimately, this is what the whole argument is about. Can they believe apart from our being sent? I think Paul’s answer is unequivocally “no.”

Read the rest of JD’s response here

In Other News

Church: Tony Payne on how to think about about multi-site churches

Controversy: Albert Mohler—Yahoo, Yoga and Yours Truly

Spiritual Growth: Jared Wilson on discipleship on Christ’s terms

In Case You Missed It

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

A review of John MacArthur’s The Jesus You Can’t Ignore

John Newton’s hymn based on the parable of the wheat and the tares

Sermon audio from the message I preached at Gladstone Baptist Church on October 3, 2010.

Lessons I’m learning from listening to other preachers

Think Hard, Stay Humble—Francis Chan’s message from the 2010 Desiring God National Conference