Monthly Archives: July 2010

Evangelical Guilt in Evangelism–and How John 3 Helps

Do you struggle with guilt related to evangelism?  Do you feel like you do very little as a Christian to “draw” lost people?  I sometimes struggle with this feeling–and sometimes, it’s justified.  It’s a very healthy thing to examine one’s evangelistic witness, and to push oneself out of one’s comfort zone (read: the evangelical church/parachurch bubble, oftentimes) into the pathways and patterns of lost people.

But it is also possible to carry the weight of the lostness of the world on your back.  If so, here’s a helpful text from John 3:20-21:

For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.

Sometimes, we can think that we are repelling lost people by living a God-glorifying life.  In fact, this may be true.  People don’t want to be around the light when they live in darkness.  They want to stay in the darkness.  They are justly ashamed.  They hate the light.

This doesn’t give us a permanent excuse for not evangelizing lost people, of course.  Just as Jesus did, we need to pray and go into the darkness, to be where lost people are, to do what we can such that they can’t help but confront their sin and the cross of Christ.

But with that said, this text does hugely help to relieve false guilt.  It shows us that, fundamentally, we’re not doing something wrong by living a holy life–and by extension, not having lost sinners approach us.  We’re doing what is right.  We are emulating Jesus (however imperfectly).  People are lost, and it is not because of us.  People are lost because of their sin.  Perhaps that takes some of the weight of our shoulders, freeing us like a ship shedding cargo to launch into the darkness and attempt the joy-giving task of evangelizing those who need most the One they hate most.

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By the way, BrianD’s blog often has a great bunch of links to read through.  Here are several that caught my eye:

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The Essential Edwards Collection, Half Off (!)

Update: links fixed!

Some of you out there may remember the Essential Edwards Collection (Moody, 2010).  Doug Sweeney and I wrote it for Moody Books in order to make Jonathan Edwards and his treasure trove of theology and godly living accessible to a wide audience.

Nobody wants to read the blog of the guy who flogs his books, but I wanted to let interested folks know that Westminster Books is right now selling all five volumes for a 50% discount from the cover price ($44.95).  From today, Tuesday July 27th, through Monday, August 2nd, they will sell the books for $22.50, the equivalent of one free book relative to the current Amazon price.  We are thrilled at this feature and the opportunity it presents for folks to get the books on the cheap.  In fact, I’m so stirred, I’m thinking of writing a blog essay entitled “Jonathan Edwards on Free Books and Discount Opportunities.”

I include some basic info about the books below, including a couple of just-now-published videos that Sweeney and I shot to promote the books.

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The promotion:

–WTS Books is featuring the set online for a week starting Tuesday, July 27th, through August 2nd, a Monday

–They are selling it at 50% discount (!) ($22.50)

The videos:

http://tiny.cc/Edwards1 Sweeney and Strachan discuss the EEC

http://tiny.cc/Edwards2 Sweeney and Strachan discuss the EEC (revelry ensues)

Some feedback

-the Resurgence, the Blog That Rocks, just featured three posts on the series

-Collin Hansen listed them in his summer reading list

-David Dockery included them on his own reading list

-a USA Today columnist mentioned them following Collin’s piece

-World magazine just mentioned them as well (July 3, 2010)

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Salvation by Conversation–Or, How an Hour a Week Can Save Your Marriage

Mike McKinley posted a few days back at 9Marks on how pastors serve everyone but their wives.  That caught my attention.  Wow.  What a scary and damning reality.  It made me think of a helpful article by Biola theologian Rob Lister on husbands leading their wives in regular conversation on the state of their marriage.  This is by no means the solution to adultery; however, it could aid husbands in creating a strong “culture” for their marriage.  Some husbands just died a quiet death; stick with me.
 
Here’s Rob’s intro to his piece:
Thanks to Jiffy Lube, most of us know the drill by now: either do it yourself, or take your car in for a regular tune-up and oil change every three months or three thousand miles. Fail to maintain your vehicle in this fashion, and you run the risk of your engine locking up and stranding you on the side of the road somewhere in the middle of rush hour traffic.  How odd, then, that many of us would be so committed to the routine maintenance of our vehicles, and yet so often overlook the necessity of giving similar routine attention to our marriages. Clearly, one of the main purposes of marriage is to function as a means of grace in the sanctification of Christian couples. But, in order for marriage to function this way, we must be strategic, pro-active, and intentional.  With that in mind, I offer the following as one practical suggestion of something that Christian husbands may wish to consider as a tool to use in a more routine and intentional effort to lead their marriages for the glory of God.  In the simplest terms, this “tool” is a manageable list of questions that I have attempted to consolidate over the years for regular use in our marriage.
You should read the whole piece (and the whole JBMW in which it appeared).  I received similar advice from pastor Mike Bullmore of Crossway Community Church in Kenosha, Wisconsin.  Dr. Bullmore is a much-sought-after pastor who nonetheless has a strong marriage.  I sought to pick his brain a bit (because I hope to emulate him as one who serves his family first) and he recommended this:
  • weekly conversations with my wife to talk through our schedules and the health of our marriage and spiritual lives.  I am grateful that he did, as it helped this young and sinful husband-leader (the terms are synonymous) to begin to lead his wife in God-honoring ways.
As you can imagine, it’s easier to do this some weeks than others.  This has been, however, a catalyst for growth and holiness.  Praise God for this excellent advice.  If as men we’re married, then our discipleship under Christ takes a marital shape, meaning that so many of the spiritual challenges before us relate to the way we treat and care for our wives (same goes for women).  Our marriages are conducted not in a neutral zone, after all, but in a spiritual battlefield.  It is not too much to say that they hang between heaven and hell, and Satan goes after every covenant on a daily, even hourly basis. 
 
Chiming in on Mike’s post, I am guessing that one of the greatest influencers for the dissolution of marriages is the simple and inexcusable failure of many husbands to care for their marriages by planning and talking about weekly schedules (which hugely helps a wife in my limited experience), inviting conversation on existing sins and weaknesses, and taking time to encourage and strengthen their wives.  A weekly hourlong conversation–scary as this sounds to some less talkative men–might significantly help to alleviate the clouds of tension that can plague many marriages; a biannual getaway, with a chunk of time for fun, talking and relaxation, could only continue to bring health and vitality to marriages devoted to the glory of God and lived out in the laziness-killing, passivity-imploding, narcissism-destroying power of Jesus Christ. 
(I posted this first over at 9Marks.)

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Dancing in Minefields, Salvation Through Judgment, and the Immortal “Dad Life” Video

Check out a new video from the new Andrew Petersen album: “Dancing in the Minefields.”  Love the song, and especially the backing chorus.  (HT:JT)

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Have you heard about the new biblical theology by Jim Hamilton coming in November?  It looks like necessary reading.  Hamilton works book by book through the Bible examining the theme of God’s glory in salvation through judgment.  This will be a highly stimulating book for pastors, thinkers, and interested churchmen.  Here’s a helpful interview.

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Also, perusing Jim’s blog, I saw an interview with a former NBA player turned pastor.  If you’re like me, that’s a must-read…

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Have you seen the “Dad Life” video produced by Church on the Move (Tulsa) spoofing the “Swagger Wagon” campaign?  If not, you must.  I like the part where the guy spins 360 degrees in his chair with his arms in the air.  Classic.

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The Power and Peril of Journalism: Pulitzer’s “World” and Luce’s “Time”

I recently had the chance to dig into a couple of good books: Pulitzer: A Life in Politics, Print and Power (Harper, 2010) by James McGrath Morris and The Publisher: Henry Luce and His American Century (Knopf, 2010) by Alan Brinkley of Columbia University.  Both are notable texts by major publishing houses that tell important stories about the recent American past and the heights–and depths–of power.

I won’t attempt any kind of lengthy review here, but I will say that each biography tells a somewhat similar story: a young, ambitious man scrapes his way into journalism, dallies in politics, and ultimately becomes head of a publishing empire that allows him massive influence and brings him great pain.  In Pulitzer’s case, he was a Hungarian immigrant who went to St. Louis and eventually published the St. Louis Post-Dispatch before assuming ownership of the New York World, a mighty paper in its day.  In Luce’s case, he was the son of a left-leaning Presbyterian missionary to China who began Time magazine at a young age and quickly became a major success.

Both of these men married and had children, but neither of them cared much for family life.  They were each obsessed with power, specifically political power.  They wanted not only to chronicle the unfolding of history but to make it.  Each biography is difficult to read for this reason; discussion of each man’s children is scarce, just as each man was in the life of his children.  Neither man had a happy marriage; Luce destroyed his first marriage to marry the flamboyant Claire Boothe.  Both believed strongly in the political destiny of America and found in this cause their true religion.

Pulitzer and The Publisher are both well-written, enlightening, and generally nicely paced.  Neither work is strictly academic history; these are chronological works that purport to show the sweep of two grand lives.  There is thus limited engagement with other secondary sources and less of an argument than readers will find in more academic histories.  Some readers will bog down a bit in the commentary on each man’s work; some of Pulitzer’s battles with the government get tedious, while the exhaustive details of Luce’s policy on China wear one down after a while.  That said, the reader learns a great deal in each text; I had little knowledge, for example, of either the wild and woolly New York publishing world at the turn of the century or the conflicts between Communists and other parties in China near the midway mark of the twentieth century.

The books show the reader two major things, in my judgment.  First, publishing and journalism are powerful endeavors.  You read these texts and you realize that journalists, particularly leaders, have tremendous power to shape public opinion, exceeding, it seems, that possessed by most politicans.  Journalists don’t make the most money; they don’t enjoy the most fame; but they do shape the way people think on a daily basis.  Even in a day when traditional media outlets are on the decline, they still hold vast amounts of power, even as Pulitzer and Luce did.

Second, it is interesting to read these biographies of two such powerful and wealthy men, who despite all their accomplishments and earnings so clearly have little peace and happiness.  Those who would claim that people can find joy outside of Christ will find little evidence in biographical history.  You can be a person of power and influence, but in many cases it will cost you dearly.  You will have to give up on many of the pleasures God has created: marriage, children, congregational life, free time.  Pulitzer also relinquished standards of decency in his papers, pioneering “yellow journalism,” and ended up a hypochondriac and insomniac.  Luce blinded himself to weaknesses, whether his own or those of others, and had no true friends.  If this sounds like moralizing, it is in point of fact a direct finding from the biographies of Pulitzer, Luce, and many of their stratospheric peers.

You can’t help but read material like this and think of Jesus’ words in Matthew 16:26:

“For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?”

An excellent question which has only one answer.

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Culture Watch: Abortion on “Friday Night Lights”

Some out there have likely enjoyed the honest, well-made show “Friday Night Lights” on NBC.  According to an article entitled “On ‘Friday Night Lights,’ Abortion in a Small Town” by Ginia Bellafante in the New York Times, last night’s episode featured a teenage girl deciding to have an abortion.  I haven’t seen this episode of the show, but I thought this turn-of-events noteworthy–at least it is to me. 

Not knowing how things worked out on the show prevents me from saying more, but this is surely not a good thing–the only exception to this being a decision on the part of the show to reveal the wrenching, numbing, scarring effects of abortion.  It would in some senses surprise some if this was the case, and one wonders whether we will see more of a contemporary popular push to morally legitimize abortion.

Here’s what the Times says:

Initially resolved to end her pregnancy, Becky — played with a bracingly naïve righteousness by Madison Burge on “Friday Night Lights” on NBC — begins to doubt her choice. Is she seeking an abortion simply to counter her mother’s example? What if she were capable, caring and present as a parent? What if, as an emotionally wounded 10th grader without resources living in Dillon, Tex., with its pageant of grim futures, she could defy sociological prediction?

The tortured expression on Becky’s face tells us how profoundly she would like this to be so and yet how clearly she foresees the bleaker reality. “I can’t take care of a baby,” she tearfully tells Tami, matriarch to Dillon’s lost youth. “I can’t.”

With those words Becky decides to have an abortion.

Read the whole piece.

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New IXMarks: Pastoring Women

The new IXMarks eJournal is out, and it’s on pastoring women and honoring and understanding distinctiveness.  Below is a listing of the Journal’s contents.

I. Pastoring Women: Understanding And Honoring Distinctness

 Why Complementarianism Is Crucial to Discipleship  By Jonathan Leeman
If God created men and women differently, discipleship should not be one-size-fits-all. It should cultivate their differences.

Discipling Men vs. Discipling Women  By Deepak Reju
Practically speaking, how should a pastor disciple men and women differently? What kind of strategies and structures should he put in place?

How Pastors Can Equip Women for Ministry  By Bob Johnson
A seasoned pastor provides practical, down-to-earth counsel on training women for ministry.

The Genesis of Gender and Ecclesial Womanhood  By Owen Strachan
Strachan digs into the foundational texts on the differences between men and women in order to present a vision for ecclesial womanhood.


II. Women’s Ministry In the Local Church

Wanted: More Older Women Discipling Younger Women  By Susan Hunt
Titus 2 commands it. Younger women are hungry for it. The church as a whole will benefit from it. So where are the older women who will disciple younger women?

For the Young Mother: Ministry, Guilt, and Seasons of Life  By Jani Ortlund
Young mothers face enormous demands that consume all the energy they have. Here’s why they shouldn’t feel guilty for focusing on the home rather than outside ministry.

May Women Serve as Pastors?  By Thomas R. Schreiner
A trusted New Testament scholar takes on this contentious but crucial topic.

 
III. Resources For Today’s Biblical Women

Book Review: Radical Womanhood, by Carolyn McCulley  Reviewed by Kristin Jamieson

Book Review: Womanly Dominion: More Than a Gentle and Quiet Spirit, by Mark Chanski  Reviewed by Owen Strachan

 
IV. Audio Interviews

What is the Gospel? with Greg Gilbert and C.J. Mahaney
The gospel. The cross. The kingdom. The church. Greg Gilbert and C.J. Mahaney discuss all this and more. Posted on July 1, 2010

Biblical Theology in the Local Church with Michael Lawrence
Why is biblical theology essential for pastoral ministry? How do you do it? Find out in this roundtable discussion with Michael Lawrence, Tom Schreiner, and Jonathan Leeman.
Posted on June 1, 2010

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The “Abba” Cry and the Gospel of Adoption

I mentioned the current Russ Moore cover story in Christianity Today entitled “Abba Changes Everything: Why Every Christian Is Called to Rescue Orphans” (pp.18-22) a couple of days back.  The piece (now online here; thanks, JT) merits more extensive quotation, though you’ll need to read it to get the full drift.  Here are a few more lines worth pondering.

Adoption as mission:

“Adoption is also mission….Without the theological aspect, the growing Christian emphasis on orphan care too often seems like one more cause wristband for compassionate conservative evangelicals to wear until the trend dies down.” (p. 20)

What true love looks like:

“Love based on the preservation and protection of genetic material makes sense in a Darwinian–not a Christian–view of reality.” (p. 20)

The sole commonality of the gospel:

“What would happen if the world saw fewer “white churches” and “black churches,” fewer “blue-collar churches” and “white-collar churches,” and fewer baby boomer and emerging churches, and saw more churches whose members have little common except being saved by the gospel?” (p. 20)

Perhaps my favorite:

“The demonic rulers of the age hate orphans because they hate babies–and have from Pharoah to Moloch to Herod to the divorce culture to malaria to HIV/AIDS.  They hate foster care and orphan advocacy because these actions are icons of the gospel’s eternal reality.” (p. 21)

On how adoption and evangelism work together to create a missional culture:

“A conscience that’s burdened for orphans, rather than seared over in the quest for more stuff, will be burdened for spiritual orphans.  A church that learns to love beyond the borders of biology will learn to do mission outside the borders of geography.” (p. 22)

This one chills your blood:

“The universe around us is creepily silent–like an orphanage in which the children no longer believe they will be heard.  But if we listen with Galilean ears, we can hear the quiet desperation of thumbs being sucked, of cribs being rocked.  As we welcome orphans into our homes, we can show the orphaned universe what it means to belong to a God who welcomes the fatherless.” (p. 22)

This is a provocative, moving, and richly theological article.  It’s now online (you can also buy the latest issue of CT).

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Is President Obama the First Female President?

Don’t ask me.  Ask Kathleen Parker.  She just suggested so–in the Post, no less.  However you answer this question, it seems incontrovertible that men have adapted womanly traits and habits in just about every category–dress, speaking, physicality, you name it.  You have to hand it to Parker–she speaks her mind, with no quarter given to anyone.  I admire that.

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Stephen Witmer, a Massachusetts pastor with a PhD from Cambridge, writes on a “God-Centered Understanding of Sin” at Ref21.  An excellent piece worth the extensive reading.

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Kevin DeYoung “witticisms,” including the immortal term “squishitude.”  That is a neologism worth passing on.

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Old media?  New media?  David Brooks and Gail Collins discuss.

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How has John Roberts changed the culture of the Supreme Court?  Here’s how.

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James Boice, remembered. (HT: Challies)

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By the way, I don’t know if you get Christianity Today, but the new issue has a noteworthy piece by Russ Moore on adoption (not yet online).  Here’s one memorable line: “The adoption movement is challenging the impoverished hegemony of our carnal sameness, as more and more families in the church are starting to show fellow believers the meaning of unity in diversity.”  That’s a heavy-hitter.

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