A thought was clarified in my mind yesterday after a conversation with a good brother over breakfast. In our culture of consumerism and instant gratification, we can shop for churches like we shop for a new smartphone. Which one has the all the functions and style I’m looking for… this one… that one… no, how about this one? If the church doesn’t have what we’re looking for, we tend to move on to the next one.
There are things that are crucial for us to do this with in regard to church. For instance, when it comes to doctrine, if you find out the church you are visiting believes something contrary to the gospel, then you should get out of there. But often we shop for the next church because of some ministry that isn’t available. It seems as though we’re looking for a church that’s exactly what we want when we get there, like a church should have anticipated our desires before we ever met.
If you feel your eyes wanting to look for another church other than your current one (whether you’re visiting or a member) because it doesn’t have a ministry that you would be particularly blessed by or in which you were hoping to serve, then consider helping start that ministry instead of flying the coupe. It may be that your church never started such a ministry because they lacked leadership and support. Talk to your pastor(s) and see if this is a possibility, then pray and ask the Lord for wisdom as you think things through.
Being part of a gospel community means receiving God’s blessing through the ministry of your local church, but it also means being used by God to bless your local church. I hope thinking this way leads you to stay and start rather than leave and look.
Yesterday, as we were driving back from seeing my new nephew in Houston, I asked my wife to tell me a story. See, she had finished reading The Hiding Place just hours earlier and since I had always wanted to read it, but never got around to it, this seemed the perfect time to step into Holland during World War II with a family whose faith led them to love the needy at great cost. So, for the next two hours, my heart experienced hurt, challenge, encouragement, and twenty other emotions as my wife spun this yarn.
Along the way, my wife told me of a conversation she had with a friend about this book. Her friend had expressed how this book was different than the other books she had read about the Holocaust in that the descriptions of suffering, though real and extremely sad, were not written in explicit, gruesome detail. And, each scene of suffering (especially in the concentration camps) seemed to be setting up another scene wherein God’s grace and providence were revealed for the reader to see against the backdrop of loathsome circumstances.
This conversation was instructive to me. So often, in our choices of entertainment or our choices of conversation pieces, intrigue becomes a strong deciding factor. Intrigue being that quality in a book, movie, or experience that sparks curiosity or fascination. Do we let intrigue become an end in itself, as if the degree to which something grabs our interest is the mark of its value?
Many find the Holocaust to be intriguing, but the story of The Hiding Place makes certain that readers go beyond intrigue to the good and gracious God who is above all of the devastation in our sinful world (and yet who came into our sinful world to rescue us) . Church, let us strive to do the same. Let us not be content to read an intriguing story without remembering the God above the story and let us not be content to grab the attention of others without taking them beyond the curiosity to the God who has written the grand story.
I’ve mentioned in the past how I believe the church should take back the discipline of counseling. Simply put, we’ve all got problems and the Word of God has sufficient answers (more could be said about this, but that’ll be for another post). On top of that, his people have the power of the Holy Spirit working through them to be a help to each other in the darkest of troubles.
In helping biblical counselors to be better equipped for the task, I am excited about many of the resources available these days, one of which is a new book coming out March 1: Men Counseling Men: A Biblical Guide to the Major Issues Men Face edited by John D. Street with the foreword by John MacArthur.
I am particularly excited about this one, because our pastor, Dan Kirk, wrote the chapter on homosexuality. I got the privilege of helping him with some editing, and I must say that it is one of the most helpful things I’ve read on how the church can step up its ministry to men struggling with this issue.
The book is now available on Amazon for pre-order and you can view the table of contents. Some of the other issues the book covers are depression, anger, contentment, resolving conflict, the use of psychotropic drugs, the role of husband, the role of father, the role of grandfather, and more. Check it out and spread the word.
FYI – There is also a companion book that came out in 2010 titled, Women Counseling Women edited by Elyse Fitzpatrick.
About two weeks ago, I finished reading the letter to the Colossians in my morning meetings with God. As I was coming to its conclusion I considered chapter 4 verse 2: “Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.” The part that struck me, in particular, is Paul’s admonition to “be watchful in [prayer]”. What he means is similar to what Jesus said to his disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane: “Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation” (Mark 14:38). Being watchful in prayer means to use prayer as means of protecting yourself from the subtle, insidious attacks of sinful temptation.
We all have need for this kind of vigilance, but what if we have already fallen into temptation unaware. I mean, we know that our hearts are deceitful and desperately sick (Jeremiah 17:9), right? So what do we do then? I think watchfulness in prayer would have us pray for God to show us our blind spots. We all have them, things we think, say, or do that are dishonoring to God, but because they’ve either been part of our lives for so long or we’re around other people that do them too, we don’t recognize them.
Recently, my wife brought to my attention one of my blind spots, and honestly, I was a bit shocked. I thought I had been so diligent to search my heart and examine my practices, and yet this one wasn’t even on my radar.
Bottom line, I can’t trust me and you can’t trust you, but we can trust God, so we need to ask him to show us our blind spots and give us the grace to prevent other practices from becoming blind spots too. There may be sins in your life that are stealing your joy in Christ and because they are covered by blind spots, you can’t understand why you’re so sluggish to worship God and serve him eagerly. Let us use prayer for those temptations we have yet to fall into and the ones we’re already knee-deep in.
For the last few weeks I’ve been thoroughly enjoying Kevin DeYoung’s latest book, The Hole in Our Holiness. Among other values, it helps bring balance to the issue of how we change and grow into Christ-likeness. I have also found it tremendously quotable, using DeYoung for a number of status updates on Facebook.
Yesterday, as I was reading, I came across a section that very concisely lays out what the Christian response should be to sexual immorality. Certainly, more can be said on the issue, but this is an essential first step:
Don’t reason with sexual sin, just run. Don’t dabble. Don’t peruse. Don’t experiment. Don’t “find yourself”. Don’t test your resolve. Don’t mess around. Just flee.
With sexually-charged media becoming more and more accessible and mainstream, this exhortation is going to be more and more necessary for your spiritual life and the spiritual lives of those Christians in your community of faith. In fact, I suggest this be the first counsel you give to yourself and everybody else. Let’s flee first, then we’ll talk about how to battle sexual lust at its root.
When a person sees a bear approaching from a distance in the wild, he does not stop to consider the bear – “What might be at the base of the bear’s desires?”, “What if the bear is a friendly bear like Gentle Ben… he could just be misunderstood”, “Bear attacks can’t be as bad as the Forest Ranger said… that won’t happen to me.” – no, he just runs.
If you’re a reader of this blog, you know that one of the men God has used most in deepening my love for him has been John Piper (along with ever other reformed 20 or 30-something, right?). I don’t think I’m a fanboy, but I certainly appreciate the grace God has given him to produce books and sermons of such biblical precision. The first book of theology I read after my conversion in college was Desiring God and it resulted in a massive paradigm shift in my understanding of the Christian life.
Last month, I was blessed tremendously by Piper’s free Advent ebook, Good News of Great Joy, and so I went looking for any other free ebooks Desiring God Ministries may have made available. Here’s a list of those books. They are available in EPUB (formatted for iPad, iPhone, iPod, Sony Reader, and Nook), MOBI (formatted for Kindle applications), and PDF. Click on the name of the book and it will take you to the page where you can download it.