March 26, 2008

The Jonah Syndrome Signs Off

I didn't really expect this day to come this soon. But God has done so many amazing things, that I am truly grateful it has.

The Jonah Syndrome signs off 355 posts and over 15,000 hits after it's first post on October 1, 2006. I wrote my first post the day that the Desiring God National Conference on "The Supremacy Of Christ in a PostModern World" had ended. I based the title of the blog off my own personal experiences and in part influenced by the message that Tim Keller gave at that conference.

That was 18 months ago. WOW! A lot has changed since then. And now here I am fully engaged in the process of planting a church named Eternity and with that transition I have decided to also transition my blog. MY NEW BLOG can be found at:

For those of you who are subscribed via RSS or email, you shouldn't have to change anything, although I plan on posting the next couple of days over at the new site so check to make sure you are still receiving the feeds.

I will leave this blog site up as an archive so to speak for a long while. I have wrestled with whether or not to import my posts into my new site but I have opted for a clean transition.

The time posting on the Syndrome has been good. I've made my share of mistakes and learned a ton about what blogging should and should not be. I'm still so green. But I will also say it has been invaluable for me and would highly recommend it to anyone.

I'm looking forward to so many things in the coming months and God is doing something amazing. I hope you check back in frequently to see how the journey is going.

See you over at

March 24, 2008

A Great Weekend And Pending News

This past weekend was a great time for our family as we got to hang out with friends we hadn't seen in a long while. They live about 500 miles away and one of the things that I like about long car rides is the opportunity that it affords me to listen to sermons, really rap about stuff with my wife, catch up with old friends on the phone, play silly games with my boys in the backseat, and of course - observe church signs along the way.

Now, I'm not a big fan of church signs in general. I kinda share these guys philosophy. I think most of the time, they make Christians look stupid and retarded, as opposed to real and authentic. However, I saw one yesterday that I had to share the photo of.

I love it. And I would love to meet Pastor Greg.

It is so dis-heartening to see how many times we just don't think Jesus will get it done to reach a lost world. We think we have to come up with clever tricks. We think we have to "market" the church or worse, we feel we have to "market" Jesus. And in reality, I just find this sign a good reminder to always remember that the tomb is empty. That Jesus did win the victory. And that in the end, He'll build his church, not me.

It was a great weekend and one that jacked me up about being being a church planter. I am so excited about what I'm doing right now.

Along those lines, some big news coming up later today. Some major changes and steps forward being taken.

Stay tuned…

March 19, 2008

Father - I Want To Be That Kind Of Pastor

The last 24 hours have been to say the least exhilarating to me, encouraging, and at the same time have caused me to take pause.

I don't know why it is, but as each day passes and Eternity continues inching towards becoming a concrete reality as opposed to just a church of the mind, I begin to feel the weight of it a little more and a little more.

And that's what's supposed to happen. But as I drove back from two fantastic meetings yesterday in Jefferson City (both of which could propel Eternity forward in huge ways), I had the opportunity to re-listen to this message from John Piper that he gave at Text and Context. In this message he gave 16 points on how his preaching is shaped by God and then 16 ways his pastoral ministry has shaped his preaching. My favorite was:

6. The suffering of my people has a huge impact on my preaching. It has driven me to think and pray and write and preach about the sovereignty of God in suffering over and over again for the past 28 years.

You really need to listen to the whole thing but as I listened I thought back over the last day and just really felt God working within me to say "I Want That For Eternity", "I Want That For Myself"!

I don't want to be another average pastor. I don't want to just have an average church. I don't want to have an average time in Jefferson City. I want a Christ-exalting, God-glorifying, sacrificial-living, radically-generous, totally loving, excellence seeking church and I so want Eternity to be the vehicle by which God's grace is poured out on Jefferson City and is transformed by a Jesus that most people there have never known.

That's what I want. That's what I pray. Father - please make me that kind of planter. Make me that kind of man. Make us that kind of church.

March 18, 2008

Why Barnes & Noble Is A Very Dangerous Place

Last night, my wife and I had date night. Our boys are out on spring break and hanging with the grandparents, so we availed ourselves of the opportunity to enjoy an evening out.

We had a nice dinner, stopped at a hair cut place to purchase hair product, bought guitar strings, scheduled a pedicure, and then headed to the capstone of the evening - Barnes & Noble.

Now I will confess here, B&N is one of my favorite places in all the universe. I am a book junkie. I love reading. It's like a two year old walking into a McDonald's play place.

So I instantly ditched my wife and began browsing the thousands of choices that awaited me. I was informed that there was no time limit for me doing this, but that there was a dollar limit. So I was bummed right off the bat.

I checked out the new releases, the bargain tables, and made my way to the religion and spirituality sections. On a side note, as I was walking to the religion aisles, I passed three sections that were strategically placed together: Relationships - Sexuality - and Self Improvement. All towards the front of the store and all right next to the Starbucks café. There's a whole 'nother post to be written about that and its implications for me as a beginning church planter, but I'll save that for another day.

I arrive in the religion section and begin perusing the selections. And I'll tell you, before I left for the night, I was concerned, discouraged, and fired up all at the same time. Let me explain why.

I came to the conclusion last night that the word Christianity has no meaning anymore. Not because Jesus isn't the Savior and not because Jesus isn't supreme, but because we're calling everything under the sun Christian these days. I saw this book in the aisle along with this book by John Shelby Spong who has denied every core tenet of the Christian faith starting with the virgin birth and ending with the resurrection. I saw books from liberal Catholic scholars and liberal "New Christians" as Barnes and Noble labeled the table where their books resided.

It was all very disturbing and I said to my wife on more than one occasion that I was looking at books that if people believed and trusted what was written in the pages of them, that we were looking at doorways to hell. Plain and simple.

These were books that have absolutely distorted, redefined, repackaged, and reincarnated a Jesus that never existed. And the saddest part for me was to watch the numerous people who were picking these books up and buying them. I truly hurt for them. I wanted to rip the book out of their hand and warn them about the direction they were headed. I wanted to stop them from jumping off a cliff into a sea of stupidity that will never tell them who the Jesus revealed in the Bible is. I wanted to rescue them from the book they were going to read.

And it hit me: That's why I'm planting Eternity. Because we are in a world where the rough edges on Jesus have been shaved away so that He can be more marketable and palatable to the refined senses of the 21st century.

And I am so passionate about putting the rough edges back on Jesus. His bloody death, His awful suffering, His total humiliation, His victorious resurrection, His final and absolute defeat of all his enemies, His glory as reigning King, and His majesty as ruler of the Universe.

I learned a lot last night at the bookstore. More than I wanted to. But I saw very clearly how a bookstore reflects the battle that we must wage for the hearts and souls of a lost and hurting world.

I only bought one book last night. The title: "Authenticity".

March 14, 2008

How To Be And Encourager In A Discouraging World

Encouragement is hard to come by in life sometimes. We live in a world full of people marred by sin who are much better at seeing what's wrong with the world and the people in it than seeing the good that is happening all around them.

Our news media further this with making sure we are fed hours of the worst things happening on the planets. We are taught this as children because we rarely seize the opportunity to tell our kids when they've done something right, but we are awfully quick to point out when they are doing something wrong. We are taught this in church. When was the last time you truly heard a sermon encouraging you for the progress you have made in your faith?

I think we have this fear sometimes that if we encourage people, they will begin to think that they have arrived and therefore quit trying to progress. When in reality, I think the opposite is true. I think the more we discourage people, the more we cause them to lose hope and the more we stunt their progress. In trying to make them better, we make them far worse.

Why? Because I think it's easier to tell somebody what they've done wrong than it is to tell them what they've done right. Because when we tell someone the things they've done right, we may have to say words like "I appreciate you" or "I'm proud of you" or "I love you" or "I'm thankful for you" or "I couldn't have done it without you". As a general rule, we are poor encouragers. Terrible in many respects. When will we ever get tired of seeing the glass half-empty?

Recently, a guy named Jim Martin, who I have never met personally, but he is a fellow blogger came out with a series called "41 Things Encouragers Ought To Know". You need to read this, print it out, and stick it on every readable place in your home until you become a daily encourager to your family, your friends, your work, your church, and your world. What a difference it would make if we had Christians who were more interested in encouraging one another than grading one another. Anyway, you can read:

I'll also include a few of my favorites below. Be an encouragement to someone today.

7.  Know that an encourager tries to catch another person doing right and affirms that person.  (Don't worry, there will always be people around who are trying to catch people doing the wrong thing.)

9.  Know that an encourager avoids one of the most deadly responses that people can make: silence.  I wonder how many people have worked hard and made themselves vulnerable only to be met with a chilly silence by the people who matter most.

12.  An encourager builds instead of criticizes.  Yes, there are times when a person might have to express a real concern to another.  However, that is likely to be received much better if it is expressed in the context of a relationship built on encouragement.

13.  An encourager has a way of communicating value to another instead of communicating that the person is inadequate or "less than."

14.  An encourager never loses sight of what another is doing right.  Some people become so focused on another's failings that the person is left feeling hopeless.

20.  An encourager communicates hope.  Far too many people live in environments in which they are regularly reminded of the many, many reasons why they will probably fail.

28.  An encourager is very careful with humor.  Many, many people have been devastated by someone who then said, "I was only joking."  An encourager only uses humor that is self-deprecating or is in some way safe.

March 13, 2008

Do You See What I See?

I had a long conversation with a friend yesterday. And it was one of those conversations where you have a pretty good idea what the other person is thinking and what they are going to say, but you still have the conversation anyway. During the conversation, and after, I found myself thinking that I don't see things the way my friend sees them, but yet that would never change the fact that they're a close friend that I care about.

Which brings me to my question for today's post: When did we lose the ability to see things different ways, but still retain our friendship, love, and compassion for one another?

Are you experiencing this at work? Are you experiencing this with friends of your own? We are so prone to simply cast someone aside when they don't see something like we do. We want so much for people to see something "EXACTLY" the way we see it. We draw black and white lines around everything in life and then belittle or insult those who don't want to see the world the way we've drawn the lines.

We do this in church. We do this is politics. We do this education. We do this at work. We do this in just about every area of our life.

Am I saying that lines don't need to be drawn? No…the Bible tells us very clearly what the boundaries and lines of life are.

What I am asking is: Why can't we be more charitable and loving to those who don't see the picture the way we want them to see it?

Where have we lost the ability to love those with different viewpoints?

When have we quit loving our enemies?

When we quit following Jesus and start elevating our opinions above Jesus!

As I get older year by year, I'm beginning to grow in ways I never imagined. Ten years ago, I would never have spoken to my friend again because he just didn't "get it". I would have yelled and argued during the conversation. I would have wondered what was wrong with them.

But I'm beginning to very much understand that vengeance is not mine. It's God's, just like He said it was. I believe with all my heart in calling all men to repent. I believe with all my heart of rebuking those who are wayward and administering church discipline. I believe there are times where friendships must cease because of certain things.

But more times not, that is not the case and we just need to simply "agree to disagree" and still go fishing (or shopping if you're female) together. Too many times we throw a person out because of our disagreement with their views. We sacrifice a friend for an opinion. That leads to a very lonely and hostile life.

I love my friend. I disagree with my friend's views. But I love my friend. And I realize that I don't change people, God does. And while God is working on changing both of us, I want to be able to enjoy my friendship. I don't want to have to choose between my opinion and my friend.

And I don't think I have to.

March 12, 2008

Now You Can Be Part Of The Fun

The audio from the Text and Context conference in Seattle is now online. I want to take a little bit to say here that this was an absolutely life changing conference for me and these are the messages that God used to do that. In them, you will find extremely challenging statements and probably more than once find yourself with your head swimming.

They are not light. They are not easy. And as a general rule, they are directed at men who will are or will be leading a church. If you are on a church staff, wanting to be on a church staff, or looking at planting a church, you need to listen to these. I'll link to them in the order they were preached. Right click on the link to download the Mp3.

Putting Preachers In Their Place - Mark Driscoll
Pastoral Character And Loving People - CJ Mahaney (GOD ROCKED MY WORLD THROUGH THIS ONE)
Why I Trust The Scriptures - John Piper
Fear And Trembling In The Experience Economy - Jim Gilmore (THIS GUY IS BRILLIANT)
Preaching The Gospel From The Center Of the Evangelical World - Matt Chandler
How My Pastoral Ministry Shapes My Pulpit Ministry - John Piper
Vision Of A Church Planter - Matt Chandler
How Do I Distinguish Between the Gospel and false gospels - John Piper
Decoding The Future - The Phoniness - And The Shifting Sands - Jim Gilmore

Driscoll ended with a Q & A time that I don't see online anywhere. Hopefully that will be available sometime in the future. Take a listen, you won't be sorry you did!

March 11, 2008

Why Are Christianity And Acid In The Same Article?

We've recently being going through a series in our community groups here at LifePoint called "The Gospel Centered Life". Throughout that series, we have attempted to really get at the heart of what the Gospel is and how it impacts, transforms, and radically alters our lives. We've talked a lot about "religion" vs. "the gospel" and what the differences truly are.

And yesterday I read this sermon excerpt by Tim Keller via Monergism and it dovetailed so nicely that I wanted to share an excerpt:

This is saying, here is the way you can tell whether you are a Christian or just a moral person ... a Christian or a religious person. A real Christian is a person who says, "it is an absolute miracle that God's loves me. "It's just a miracle that I am a Christian." This is actually an acid test; let me just lay it on you here at the end. There are two kinds of people that go to church: there's religious people and real Christians. And the way you can tell the difference is that a Real Christian is somebody who sees everything that comes as a gift.  In other words a real Christian sees that you are totally in debt to God, but a religious person is someone who is working hard and making an effort and trying to be good, going to Bible studies and just saying "no" everywhere, and denying themselves a lot of pleasures, and so forth, and a religious person is someone who is trying to put God in their debt. That is the difference.  A religious person is someone who is trying to save themselves through their good works. A religious person is somebody who thinks they are putting God in their debt since they have tried so hard. A Christian is somebody who sees themselves as in God's debt. Here is the acid test: If you are a Christian you have a spirit of wonder that permeates your life. You are always saying "how miraculous", "how interplanetary", "how unreal". You are always looking at yourself and saying, "me a Christian ... incredible, miraculous, unbelievable, a joke!!! " but a person who is trying to put God in their debt - there is none of that spirit of wonder at all.

If there is one thing that God has been pounding into me the most lately is this. Am I a Christian who truly lives and understands that my assurance, my justification, my confidence, and my acceptance with God rests not on what I do or don't do, but rather what Jesus did and already has done? Do I live that way? Do I teach others to live that way?

Or am I just religious and standing apart from Jesus? You need to read the whole article.

March 10, 2008

Tim Keller vs. John Maxwell

Picture these two squaring off in the octagon! And tell me that wouldn't be hilarious.

Back when I was in college, I got involved in leadership in a variety of ways in everything from summer freshman orientations to residence life. Ever since then, I have in one capacity or another been drawn to being a leader. Whether it was being a volunteer leader of a sports ministry at my local church, or taking ownership and leadership of a region, or leading and guiding staff to grow a business, or teaching a Sunday school class or community group, I am wired to take the ball and run with it from a leadership perspective.

And again, I find myself in a position of leadership. This time, it will be leading a church plant named Eternity. And as I think about that and how I've grown as a leader, Tim Keller and John Maxwell came to mind. You see, ten years ago, I was reading every leadership book I could get my hands on. I've read:

21 Irrefutable Laws Of Leadership
Jesus The CEO
Lincoln On Leadership
Spiritual Leadership (Blackaby And Sanders)
The Servant Leader
Who Moved My Cheese
The Leaders Legacy
The Pillars Of Leadership

And many more! And here's what I found. None of them prepared me for being a leader. NONE! Am I saying that they were not useful? Not at all. What I am saying is that ultimately, they didn't do a thing to prepare me as a leader. Because they all focused on me. They focused on the checklist of things I needed to do to get people to follow me. They reduced leadership down to a set of "principles" and "laws" that get people to buy into you.

And then there is this quote by Tim Keller:

Most churches make the mistake of selecting as leaders the confident, the competent, and the successful. But what you most need in a leader is someone who has been broken by the knowledge of his or her sin, and even greater knowledge of Jesus' costly grace. The number one leaders in every church(ORGANIZATION emphasis mine) ought to be the people who repent the most fully without excuses, because you don't need any now; the most easily without bitterness; the most publicly and the most joyfully. They know their standing isn't based on their performance.

And it hit me. What has prepared me to be a leader has been Jesus. Jesus has prepared me through His word, through time in prayer with Him, through the thousands of sermons I have listened to, through the countless times He has placed bold and courageous friends in my life to call me to the carpet on my ignorance and my sin. Jesus has prepared me to do what I am doing now. And Jesus will help me to persevere through it. Jesus will be there to hold me when I fall over the coming years. Jesus will be there to rebuke me when I go astray. Jesus will be there to strengthen me, embolden me, and encourage me.

Jesus prepares you to be a leader. Not a book. And to the extent that you are aware of who Jesus is and who you are not will determine how ready you are to lead. So here's a quick suggestion:

Put the man made leadership laws down and get on your knees before Jesus and ask Him to break you and mold you. Man doesn't make a leader. Jesus breaks a leader.

March 07, 2008

I've Finished Listening To "You And You Alone"

A few weeks ago, Challies had an offer on his website to contact Pat and Joel Sczebel to receive the latest release from the Sovereign Grace music family.

I took them up on the offer and had Pat send me a copy of the CD (You And You Alone) free with the only condition being that I would talk about it on my blog.

I didn't know what to expect as I have never really dove into the music offerings from Sovereign Grace nor have I ever attended a service at a Sovereign Grace church. So it was a blank canvas.

First impressions are really good. To give you an idea, I'm more of a "words" man than a "music man" which means that I love old hymns and I hate "7-11" songs. For those of you who don't know what "7-11" songs are, they are songs where you sing 7 words 11 times. They drive me nuts.

The reason I like old hymns is not because I necessarily have a fetish for a pipe organ and stoic, non-moving worship. Ask anyone that stands around me on Sunday morning and they'll tell you how many times they have to duck or rearrange their sight line because my wingspan is in their way. Music moves me, but only when truth conveyed through music is present. I digress...

Hymns convey truth. They are theology put to music basically. They are Scripture brought alive to a melody. They convey truth not just feeling. They are primarily about God and not about man.

So I had a sneaking suspicion that this CD would be good because I know of SG's committment to Biblical truth and I suspect their music would be God centered as well. I was right. Here's the titles:

  • Trust In You
  • Over All
  • Yesterday, Today, And Forever
  • The Greatest Of All
  • In You
  • I Surrender All
  • You Are Good
  • Lord You Are Gracious
  • You Alone
  • Jesus, You Are Beautiful
Now, it is striking to note how many of those songs have "I" in the title. One! And it talks about surrendering thereby placing God as the center still. So even at a first glance of the titles, it's a hit already with me. Also, reusing some good hymn titles, another hit with me.

And then you listen to it, and it's solid stuff that you could do in your church and do well. And to that end, they have included the guitar and chord charts on the CD for your benefit. I'll have to say that listening to this took me back to my days at Hope Point Community Church in Spartanburg, SC listening to Josh Ridings lead worship. And those were good days.

This CD is a good mix of celebratory, confessional, and meditative rhythms. Which I like. I don't like worship CD's that have one beat and that's upbeat. So on variety and throwing unique sounds, it's a good one.

Pat and Joel Sczebel have done a great job on this project. I'm glad I got the CD and I would encourage you to order a copy and give to your worship leader as well.

March 06, 2008

Thank You Thomas Doolittle

If I say the word "Monergism" and that doesn't ring a bell with you, it should. It is, as far as I can tell, the most comprehensive site anywhere in the world on resources for growing in your walk with Jesus. You could hang out on this site for a lifetime and not even come close to digesting all the resources they have pointed you to.

So I'm looking through their RSS feed for yesterday and I came upon this link to a sermon by Thomas Doolittle. Who is Thomas Doolittle you ask? I have no idea. I did however come upon this brief paragraph over at this blog:

Thomas Doolittle (1630-1707) was an English Puritan pastor of the 17th century.  At his death, in 1707, at the age of 77, he was the last surviving pastor of the Great Ejection of 1662 (when more than 2,000 ministers were forcibly removed from their pastorates by the English government) to die.

Anyway, Thomas Doolittle over 300 years ago knew that the name of my church plant would be Eternity and he felt compelled to write an essay helping me share the vision of why the name Eternity is a great name. At least that's how I like to look at it J Here's an excerpt of the sermon I came across yesterday:

The reason moving believers to keep a steadfast eye upon things unseen, and to look off from things seen—is the eternal duration of the one, and the short continuance of the other: "While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen—because the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal." The good things in this world which are seen—as riches, pleasures, honors—are things of time, and only for time; therefore we are not much concerned whether we win or lose them: and the bad things in this life which are seen—as poverty, imprisonment, persecution—are at longest but for a short space; and therefore we are not much concerned whether we endure them, or are freed from them. But that which adds weight to the things in the other world now not seen by the men of this world, and draws our eyes toward them, and keeps them fixed thereon—is the eternity of them.

Are we pleading with our people in our churches to focus not on the things that are seen, but on the things that are unseen? Are we encouraging them to ponder forever? In short, are we pointing them towards Eternity?

March 05, 2008

I've Finished Reading "How To Help People Change"

I was given this book by a friend to read. Prior to reading it, I had never heard of Jay Adams or read any of his books. I had seen his name one time mentioned in another book I was reading on preaching, but other than that I was unfamiliar.

This is a good book. It's a quick read at 200 pages and you'll find yourself making good progress thorough it pretty easily.

The book is based off of 2 Timothy 3:14-17 where Adams sees the progression that Paul uses in that passage as the basic flow we should use in counseling folks. Before I get to that, this book is as much as defense of actually USING the Bible in counseling as it is a handbook on the process to use when using the Bible in counseling. Adams is unapologetic in the fact that in too many counseling circles the Bible has been abandoned altogether in favor of "newer" psychological methods etc.

And so I digress here with this little diatribe. If we aren't going to use the Bible to counsel someone, what exactly is the Bible for? Is it a good storybook? A good placeholder on the coffee table? A dust collector? If we're not going to use it for counsel, wisdom, discernment, etc when people come to us with their broken and hurting lives, when exactly are we going to use it?

Adams makes a much more impassioned plea for nouthetic counseling in the book and you really should read it but I agree whole heartedly that the Bible is sufficient, able, and complete in being able to deal with all peoples emotional, mental, spiritual, and life problems. There isn't one area that the Bible doesn't address and if we don't think we can go to the Word, then we have a defective view of God first and His Bible second.

Okay, moving on. The progression that Adams sees is this:

  1. Teaching
  2. Rebuking
  3. Correcting
  4. Disciplined Training In Righteousness

And he spends the entire book unpacking why this truly is the best process to follow along with various warnings, exhortations, and explanations for those who would be counseling others. If you think about how this process plays out, it really does make sense which isnt' surprising -- don't you think God would make sense sometimes?

Anywho, it's a good book and if you find yourself in a position where you are going to be counseling others on a routine basis, this must be an immediate read. But even if you're not an elder, pastor, or Christian counselor, you could benefit from reading this as I think it would equip you well in counseling friends who are going through hard times or who are having serious struggles.

March 04, 2008

The Pressure Was Intense

And with each passing moment you could feel the temperature in the room rise. On and on it went until it was finally down to two gladiators standing toe to toe ready to do battle. They stared each other down, each one answering the bell knowing that sooner or later the other would have to falter. And then it happened - one of them slipped and just like that it was over. And what seemed like an eternity came to a screeching halt.

No ladies and gentleman this was not a professional mixed martial arts fight. This was a second grade spelling bee. And the lad in the red shirt with a medal around his neck is my son. Although he didn't take home the title of champion, he did take home an award.

If you've never been to a 2nd grade spelling bee, I highly recommend you go. Make sure you get snacks and a drink first as it is likely to last far longer than you had anticipated. Also, bring tissues as it was heartbreaking to see some of the kids fall to pieces after mis-spelling words.

And one rant here: I think it's proposterous that once a kid starts spelling a word - that if they catch themselves spelling it wrongly that they can't go back and spell it correctly. As long as they catch themselves before the end of the word, they ought to be able to start over. What sort of communist world do we live in where little kids are given only half a chance to spell words correctly. But I digress.

Didn't, but, cage, done, ear, chair, key, clothes, learn, fine, book, born, boxes: All the words he spelled right. But then came the dreaded word that brought it to an end: FLOOR...

It was a good time. We poured salt in the winning family's drinks and secretly arranged for them not to be able to make the district spelling bee. My son now has the honor of representing his school in that because the winner was "UNABLE" to make it. Time for the boy to go on a strict regimen of spelling 200 words a night. We may feed him in between sessions but he's gonna have to do a lot better than bowing out on the word "floor".

I'm proud of him and all, but everyone knows these 2nd grade spelling bees are springboards to a bright future for your child. I only want the best for my boy. So it's time to get to work. Time to break out the dictionary and the book of Leviticus - that ought to challenge the spelling abilities.

March 03, 2008

I've Finished Reading "Vintage Jesus"

I received Driscoll's new book as a free gift for attending the Text and Context conference. Prior to receiving the book, I had read Challies review and had seen the uproar the book has caused, especially in some more conservative circles.

So I was interested to read this book for two reasons. First, because I had never actually read a Driscoll book. Second, to see if all the criticism and naysaying was warranted.

After reading it, I have to tell you that I really don't get what everyone's up in arms about. Not only is this book a solid book on Christology and an absolutely through defense of Jesus, it's just downright funny and I suspect is going to be a powerful book along with Keller's "The Reason For God" in helping many churches hand good books to non-believing Christians to introduce them to what Christianity truly is about, namely Jesus.

To give you an idea, one of the blurb writers for the book is J.I. Packer. Do you really think Packer would lend his good name to a book that he believed was heathen or out of bounds. And I think that's what's driving so many people nuts is that they want to paint Driscoll as some out of control freak show, but they can't figure out for the life of them why guys like Piper, Mahaney, Keller, and Dever are building and developing strong pastoral relationships with the guy.

There's a huge effort out there to discredit him, but the more that is pushed, the more he is embraced and pastored by the modern-day apostles of the church. I digress.

The book is 12 chapters, has all the right indices, and is really a good read. It's all about Jesus and the various aspects of Christology. Since it's a book taken from a sermon series, you would expect it to be the same engaging style Driscoll always has.

As a side note, I saw a different Mark Driscoll than I've listened to when I was in Seattle last week. The man, from my perspective, is changing and growing. And that was evident last week. As God continues to work in him and through Mars Hill, I think the best is still in front of them and I think Driscoll could become even more influential than he is right now.

Anywho, good book and I'll leave you with an excerpt that flat made me crack up on the plane home from Seattle:

At this time I was also going to a Catholic church with my parents and in Sunday school they started telling us about Jesus. As they explained Jesus, I wondered if maybe his mom, Mary, had actually given Jesus a lobotomy. The Jesus I was told about could easily have passed for one of the kids in the ghetto daycares near my house who were pumped so full of NyQuil they would sit quietly and drool on themselves while watching cartoons until their moms came to pick them up after work.....Worse still, this weird Jesus seemed to really like sheep. I never saw a picture of him with a baseball glove or other kids, but I did see him with a lot of sheep. Sometimes they even made us glue cotton balls to construction paper in an effort to make our own sheep so that we could apparently be as weird as Jesus. In short, Jesus seemed downright freakish, definitely not the kind of guy you'd want on your baseball team because he'd never have the guts to slide hard into second to break up a double play or throw inside to a batter to back him off the plate. Rather, he'd prefer to pick flowers in the outfield and daydream about fluffy sheep while praying for his enemies and keeping his emotions under control. (pg 41-42)
Driscoll then goes on to describe a very different Jesus that the Bible portrays. You have to read the book.

February 29, 2008

Text And Context (VI) - It's A Wrap

A great week came to a close yesterday as Jenni and I were assessed by three Acts29 church planters. It was a good experience as they asked tough questions but still showed their heart to help us succeed.

After our assessment, we went and had lunch at the Space Needle. If you've never done that, you need to sometime before you meet Jesus. It's a great time. We then began the long journey home which saw us crawl into our beds at 4:00 am this morning.

There are so many things that I will take away from this week and remember. The church planters that I met, the conversations I was blessed to have, the great preaching that we sat under, the hospitality of Mars Hill church, the beauty of Seattle, and the greatness of my wife.

Weeks like this don't happen very often. Maybe once in a lifetime. I'll always be grateful I got to experience it.

Photos and some other stuff still yet to come. But that's all for now...

February 28, 2008

Text And Context (V)

It's over. The conference portion at least. Once again, great roundups over at Justin Buzzard's blog. To be honest, my mind felt like Play-Dough today. I think you reach a point where there is just no more information - no matter how good it is - that you can absorb. And that's what it felt like today. With that said:

  • Jim Gilmore is absolutely amazing. He talked about his book Authenticity today and also did a good Q & A. When it becomes available, you have to download his audio and digest it.
  • The highlight of the day was Driscoll's Q & A, and then to have his wife Grace join him halfway through it was absolutely amazing. I'm going to offer some commentary here. Driscoll was different this week. He just was. And I think a great different. For those who think he's Satan in the flesh, you just have absolutely no idea what you're talking about. This guy is real. He loves his family. He loves Jesus. And he knows his stuff. There was an awesome spirit in the room as he did his session. You just had to be there.
  • Jeff Vanderstelt and Darrin Patrick wrapped up. It was good to hear. And they both have such unique angles from which they approached church planting. I think that's the strength of A29 - its diversity, its intelligence, and its Jesus obsession. These guys embody it.
  • Jenni and I did the tourist thing tonight in downtown Seattle. This is her first trip here so we checked out the fish market and then did dinner. That wouldn't seem like such a big deal except that 1) We had some conflict with two folks who thought homelessness and sitting in front of the Cheesecake factory begging people for food as soon as they step outside of the restaraunt was a good idea. 2) Seattle has to have the highest per capita rate of people walking around talking to themselves loudly. 3) Some sweet lady decided to stalk my wife and I for a few blocks asking for a dollar for the bus ..only problem is we told her around 150 times we had NO CASH on us. 4) *NOTE: THIS WAS SCARY AND SAD - not funny: we literally almost hit a blind lady who was standing in the middle of the street and disoriented yelling at the top of her lungs for someone to help her. It was a really scary moment and one I don't want to experience again.
  • Assessment is early. This is a big moment and I pray that God is glorified in all of the conversation and all of the questions.

We fly home on Thursday. So many things swirling in my head right now. More to come...

February 27, 2008

Text And Context (IV)

What a day! As I wake up this morning to share my thoughts (last night my brain was mush and there wouldn't have been much that was coherent), I'm SO JACKED UP NOW MORE THAN EVER to go plant Eternity.

Is it going to be hard? Yes! Will it be the absolute hardest thing anybody could ever do? Yes! Church planting is not for the faint of heart and neither is the proclamation of the great God we serve.

BUT, I'm ready to go NOW. What God has done here in Seattle has been nothing short of amazing and as you listen to Piper's messages by going here and here, you'll begin to know why I can't walk away and I'll never be able to walk away. No matter how hard it is, no matter what trials may come, I pray and know by the grace of God, I'll never be able to walk away.

And I pray for God's grace and mercy when the trials, suffering, and agony that always accompany church planting or preaching God's word come. I pray for the grace to endure it. I pray for the grace to feel the weight of it. But I pray for the grace to persevere through it. On the flip side, when the joy and the victory and the absolute radical transformations happen in people's lives, I pray for the grace to celebrate it and to glorify God in it.

Other thoughts (you can read more detailed notes about the speakers over at the Buzzard Blog):

  • I had a out of this world conversation with Jim Gilmore who spoke yesterday. Jim is the author of The Experience Economy and his presentation was nothing short of brilliant. And he's a really nice guy too. You gotta read this book and listen to his message from this conference.
  • Seattle is a cool city. Too bad you have to make Bill Gates money to live here.
  • Mark Driscoll is a passionate lover of Jesus - I don't care what the fundies say. And I'm not a Kool-Aid drinker by any stretch but to watch him interact with Piper last night at the Q&A was amazing.
  • I love my wife. I miss my boys. And I pray that I can be a good daddy to them.
  • I wish CJ Mahaney would have preached more than once at this conference.
  • Matt Chandler preached my opening sermon for my church plant. One of his points in his messages yesterday came out of Ecclesiastes and the text he used was "God has placed ETERNITY in the heart of EVERY man". It's a catchy little name for a church - don't you think?
  • I hope and pray that God uses me in a mighty way.
  • The Bible, The Bible, The Bible
  • Jesus, Jesus, Jesus
  • My assessment team coming up on Thursday is an awesome group of men. We had dinner last night as assessors and assessees. They asked good questions. But more than that they showed they cared about us. If you think about it, pray for me and Jenni, but also pray for Steev Inge, Trey Herweck, and Mike Rydman. They are guys who are in the battle and could use prayer.
  • Quote of the week and I'll leave today with this: John Piper to Mark Driscoll after insulting Mars Hill's worship band and Mark shooting back at Piper that he had just insulted his band: "You care about insulting people? What's going on here?" It was a classic moment and one that I'll remember forever....

More to come...

February 26, 2008

Text And Context (III)

For a full wrap-up of yesterday's events complete with pictures, you can visit Justin Buzzard's blog to see notes and pictures.

What I'm going to share is a few thoughts running through my head last night as I downloaded and processed yesterday:

  • Driscoll's message yesterday seemed to be more than just a sermon to this conference. If I heard it right, and I'm thinking that I did, he laid out the marker to say that he (along with others) are going to put for the definition for what a church is. He talked at length yesterday about how he would ask people what a church is and they would tell him they didn't know. That seemed to rankle him and with an upcoming book and yesterday's message, I think you're going to see him take on yet another HUGE task -- namely laying down the parameters for what constitutes a Christian church.
  • Along that note, he took George Barna to task yesterday. There were a lot of names he didn't mention, but he did mention Barna and with force.
  • For those who think Driscoll is not within the realm of "orthodox" Christianity, you really need to get your head screwed on tighter.
  • God (through CJ Mahaney) flat undid my whole world yesterday. I've always said one of the unspiritual gifts was to be able to size someone up and tell them what was wrong with them in the first thirty seconds I knew them. CJ, in the most loving way I've ever seen it done, not only called that unbiblical, but also stated you won't have a church for very long if you can't have a divine perspective. He preached out of the introduction to 1 Corinthians.
  • I've listened to a lot of CJ's messages, but to sit under his teaching live was amazing in that God brought him to this conference to talk to ME. Period. I was (and still am) so messed up I couldn't even think clearly. I was hoping God would do that to me this week. I just hate it when he does cause it hurts BAD.
  • The man (AKA Piper) spoke last night on why he trusts the Scriptures. I agree with Justin Buzzard, I'm going to have to listen to that one a few times to catch it all.
  • The highlight of Piper was watching him trying to find a word for "homeboy" or "homslice" or "homepick" and all he could come up with was "Trinity Partner"'ll have to listen to the audio to find out what I mean.
  • Any day you have Driscoll, Mahaney, and Piper on the same stage is a good day.
  • My wife is awesome. I love her. And I love being in Seattle with her. 10 great years. And I'm ready for 50 more if God wills.
  • I have more deep seeded passion now for planting Eternity than I did before I got here.
  • This city is beautiful.
  • Mars Hill doesn't look all that great from the outside. But it's an awesome place to be. These people get it.
  • Late night buses with 60+ people smell like a locker room. Please use deoderant when riding mass transportation.
  • God is amazing. I sense Him and am aware of His presence more this morning than I have been in a long time. That has everything to do with my sinful heart. Nothing to do with God.
  • More to come today. I love weeks like this.

February 25, 2008

Text And Context (II)

The first session of the morning was Biblical Stress Management by Dr. Steve Crain. It was a good session.

Dr. Crain really emphasized the point that stress is not a matter of whether you have stressors in your life or not, because we all do and we won't escape them until we die. But truly, stress (it's physical manifestations at least) are a direct result of how we choose to handle those stressors.

He outlined the differences between "distress" (bad) and "eustress" (good).. The first segment of his presentation was on the science of stress and the processes that your body goes through to deal with stressors. He talked about the different stages of stress and really drew a good connection between "distress" and "disease" as one directly leads to the other.

The second part of the presentation was on Biblical responses and approaches to stress. This was really good segment as we camped out mostly in the book of Philippians and substituted the word "stressors" for the words "circumstances" and "trials". I had never really looked at the book as a book on dealing with stress, but Crain drew some good things out and had a fresh approach to it.

The last segment, and by far the part that I'm the worst at, is the actual ways we can physically help how our body responds to stressors and lessen the effects of stressors on us. Things such as diet, exercise, etc. For those who know me, this was the part I probably most needed to hear but checked out on the quickest. :)

All in all, a good session that I was glad I woke up at 6:00 a.m. to get ready to come to. I couldn't help but feel like this was the undercard for what was to come. Driscoll takes the stage in 40 minutes. Don't forget that you can watch it live.

More to come later...

Text And Context (I)

We made it to Seattle and are staying literally in the shadow of the Space Needle...if you look closely on that webcam you may be able to see us walking around...

Flights were good and after a late night bite to eat, it was a good night's sleep...

I hope to blog the speakers today although it'll be streamed live on the web, so I may just give personal reflections. Either way, I think with Driscoll and Piper speaking today, it should be a good one...

More later..

February 24, 2008

A Week That’s Been A Long Time Coming

The journey that began almost eight months ago takes another significant step this week. It's boot camp week and with guys like Mahaney, Piper, and Driscoll as the drill sergeants, it promises to be a good one.

I'm excited for a lot of reasons:

  • Seattle is awesome. I spent a lot of time there in my days with Upward. It's a great city and one that I enjoy being in. If it didn't cost $300,000 for a shanty to live in, I might consider moving there.
  • It's going to be good to get away with my wife for a week and just immerse ourselves in this calling God has placed upon us.
  • It's a chance to stalk (in a totally non-threatening, non-offensive, non-creepy, very Christian way) John Piper. It's funny that a reformation of my heart that began with reading Desiring God some six years ago is going to continue as take another step towards planting Eternity.
  • If you had told me six years ago that this week would be happening, there's no way in the world I would have believed you. God can take you on the most unexpected of journeys. That's the fun part about being a Christian.
  • It's a chance to reflect and crystallize the call.
  • It's a chance eat some good food.
  • It's a chance to live another day.

It all starts with worship this morning at LifePoint. I'm thankful for this church, its leaders, and its people. It's great to be a part of.

Then on to Tulsa, DFW, and Seattle for a late night arrival. And tomorrow starts off with a session by Dr. Steve Crain on "Biblical Stress Management"… (I didn't think church planters had any of that)..

Watch this video for the thrust of the conference…more later…

February 21, 2008

T -3 And Counting

UPDATE: Tim Chester shared his thoughts on my question several hours before I ever posted - what's ironic is that I didn't know he had written the post until several hours after my his thoughts, they are provoking...

We're getting ever closer to what I pray will be a stellar week in the beautiful town of Seattle.

Here is what has been rattling around today:

If you were gonna start a church, and you were headed to that area by yourself (meaning no one was moving with you), how would you go about developing a core group?

  • Who would be the first people you would talk with?
  • What would your strategy be?
  • Would you simply just start walking down the street and telling people you're starting a church?
  • Would you visit other churches in the area?
  • Are there any other key people that you should make contact with?
  • Where would you begin?
I've been thinking about that question for a few months now and I'm have some ideas but I'm curious to hear other thoughts as well. I've read books, listened to sermons, had conversations and the like, but what should the battle plan be for the soldier that parachutes in?

February 20, 2008

It’s The Gospel Stupid (II)

Earlier this week, I shared some thoughts on Tony Payne's address at the Gospel Growth vs. Church Growth event. Today I want to look at the very next point he makes in that address and it is this:

Gospel growth as it happens in people's lives daily is long term and it's slow. The Christian life someone has said is like solar power in that it doesn't happen overnight but it does happen. And that's what it is like. It happens slowly and incrementally and the character of growth is that we demonstrate endurance and patience. It's a process. In other words it takes place over time. It moves on.

Now I know that doesn't sound earth shattering and Tony said the same thing, but just in the last 24 hours God has shown me how I really don't believe this or feel comfortable with this.

I want change in people to happen now. Immediately! Without delay. If it takes any longer than it absolutely has to, you're either A) Not getting it or B) Stupid.

I'm such an impulsive, inpatient, non-enduring person. I've had mentors tell me for a long time that life is not a sprint, it's a marathon. I've never wanted to hear them. But I'm having to listen now. Because I realize that as I plant Eternity, I'm going into this for the long haul. I have to be able to look long term with people. I can't judge whether they've "got it" in just a few weeks or days of knowing them. I have to project out over a much longer timespan to ponder how much God can transform them in 5, 10, or 25 or 50 years.

And what's even crazier is that I don't have to look any further than my own life to prove it. I may not be changing "rapidly" overnight not but I'm a much different man in so many respects at 30 than I was at 20. And I suspect if God should allow me to see 40, I could say the same thing 10 years from now.

But we are so short minded. We are so A.D.D. We don't want growth in people to take place over long periods of time. We want instant gratification. We want fast results. Unfortunately, the Gospel most of the time doesn't work that way.

And that is why I'm glad that the church plant will have the name that it does. ETERNITY. To always serve as a reminder that results may not be immediate. But given enough time, we see the sheer miracles the Gospel has caused.

February 18, 2008

It’s The Gospel Stupid

This weekend I came across a message given by Tony Payne at a recent event that 9Marks and Matthias Media held called "Gospel Growth vs. Church Growth"

It's a great message and you really should listen to the whole thing by right clicking here and downloading the MP3. There were several parts of the message that I'll blog about but the snippet I want to talk about today is:

Read Colossians Chapter 2, it's a terrible indictment of modern Christianity captivated by false religion and by experiential philosophy and by a different Jesus that isn't the Jesus who is preached to us in the apostolic word. And that's why Paul says it here. Don't be seduced by the latest ministry program that promises you a fail-safe secret, a new label, an extra step, a new experience, or dare I say it a second blessing. Don't be seduced by them. It's not about tricks or techniques. It's not about something different. It's about understanding and grasping the word of Christ more and more and more deeply so that it changes your heart and life….Gospel growth is not about moving on or going beyond Christ, we must remember that.

As I prepare to plant Eternity, this admonition is the one I want to grab a hold to most.

Too many churches today are looking for the "silver bullet". Their church is declining, in shambles, or in need of a massive overhaul and instead of correctly diagnosing the problem, they begin to look for the latest "evangelistic" para-church fad that's going to rescue their congregation from the abyss. They believe that it's because they haven't had the right program that things have gone wrong. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

Churches aren't faltering because they are using the wrong programs. They're failing because they've had the wrong focus. It doesn't matter how many programs you have at your church, it is all in vein if Jesus isn't the hero.

I recently heard a sermon where the pastor was preaching on a particular subject and it was your general "Seven principles to doing such and such". It was 15 (FIFTEEN) minutes in before the name of Jesus was ever mentioned and even then Jesus wasn't the focus, He was just a principle.

And this is happening all around our country and our world. We want to look to anything but Jesus. We want to make the Gospel "five verses and a prayer" and then move on to our eschatology eight balls because it's cool to speculate how many planes are going to fall out of the sky when the rapture happens. We've missed the point.

It is possible to be seduced by another Jesus that appears in the Bible. It's possible to be seduced by theology. If Jesus (and the Gospel) is not the focus of your theology and your programs, you're leading yourself and other people towards destruction.

The whole focus of the Bible is Jesus and it's crystal clear. But somehow, we've let Jesus get really fuzzy in our churches.

February 15, 2008

“It Don’t Take Long For A Halo

….to turn into a noose". Ok so I caved in again last night but I must say that it's the most my wife and I have laughed together on Valentine's day in a long time.

However, when I heard this line, I knew I was going to write about it.

Because it's true. You look at the last days and months, and think about all the examples that this is true of. Bobby Knight, Roger Clemens, Kelvin Sampson, Hillary Clinton, Mitt Romney, etc.

There are so many examples out there of folks who at one time or another were darlings and could do no wrong. But then, something changed. Was it the people around them? The rules around them? The culture around them? The authorities around them? What was it?

One thing is for sure, each situation is vastly different but one thing is consistently the same. They are all highly driven people with lofty goals and big ambitions. They put themselves out there, did things the way they thought they should be done, and then "let the chips fall where they man" so to speak. In short, they took risks. They ventured a lot. They went "all in".

And in life, sometimes the very thing that helps you build momentum, is the very thing that ultimately spells your downturn. For a lot of people, it's a big personality. Their charisma gains them a lot of friends and a following and along comes influence. And with influence comes responsibility.

And then, many times in moments of pride and bad discernment, they do something that because their big personality has put them in front, they are more readily exposed. And when you're exposed, and you make a mistake, there's nowhere to turn and hide. You're in full view of everyone.

And when the fall comes, there are inevitably the scoffers, the judges, the critics, and the morticians ready to bury them for falling and ready to heap scorn for their moments of failure.

But the question I want to ask and ponder a little more in this corner of blogdom is this:

What is worse? To stay in the recesses and never venture anything so that it's always others who are risking and taking chances. That's definitely the safe route. You'll never be exposed that way. You'll never know humiliation. You'll never know rejection. It's definitely a pragmatic choice. Or is it better to push "all in" and go for broke. Is it best to lay it all on the table and "let the chips fall where they may". That's definitely the most dangerous route. You're out there for the whole world to see. Every move. Every word. Every decision. And if you make a wrong one, it could cost you big time. It's rewarding. But it's risky. What should a person do?

Is the line "it is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all" really true? Do we really believe that?

And then, how does that fit in with The Gospel? What does Jesus have to say about this? Are we called as Christians to venture little? How is this issue OR Is this issue affecting the church today?


February 14, 2008

Go On With Your Bad Self

It's been a while since I've just purely linked to another blog post without adding much to it. But this one says a mouthful and says it better than I could.

It seems to me that pastors are shepherds: if there's malnutrition in the flock it may or may not be our fault, but it is most definitely our problem.

You have to read the rest of the article by Michael McKinley over at the 9Marks blog. The question is:
How many churches are out there where the sheep are receiving a steady diet of nothing that will truly sustain their souls?

February 13, 2008

I've Finished Reading "The Discipline Of Spiritual Discernment"

I wish this book had been around when I was 16. Of course, when I was that age, Tim Challies was probably that age as well so he wouldn't have much to say on the subject.

But now he has and this book is a good read for a lot of reasons. Number one, Challies really focuses on the fact that WE are responsible for our personal discernment. We should not be reliant on others to the hard discerning work for us. Ultimately we'll all stand before God and give an account for the choices we made and pawning it off on someone else simply will not do.

Second, Challies drives home the point that discernment must be based on truth. Not on our feelings, not on waiting on a divine magic eight ball to fall from the sky and tell us what we are to do. It's based on truth. I found the chapter on discernment of "God's will" really good. Tim makes the distinction that because there are two types of God's will, the one we waste most of our time trying to discern is typically the one God never chooses to revel to us. It's a helpful chapter that a lot of "mystics" really need to read.

Third, this is a good book because Challies pulls his insights from Scripture and bases them on truth. A lot of his influences have been the same as mine and they are the standard list of good solid reliable truth: MacArthur, Piper, Mahaney, Sproul, Ferguson, Harris et all. So you know he's reading the right people and being influenced in the day to day by people who have spent a lifetime discerning good and evil and movements and fads.

Fourth, this is a good book because Challies knows how to write. He does it every day at his blog ( and his book reflects his ability to keep the reader following along. I have to say that his illustrations and analogies at the start of the chapters were fascinating and appropriate. I enjoyed them and I've heard a lot of illustrations. He did a good job on that part of the book. Challies takes you through discernment and its':

  • Challenge
  • Definition
  • Heart
  • Truth
  • How it interacts with God's will
  • Gift as it relates to spiritual gifts
  • Dangers
  • Practices

Each chapter summarizes the key thoughts at the end of the chapter. There are helpful appendices and resources at the end of the book. He even throws in a study guide if you want to use the book as a group discussion topic.

It's 190+ pages and it's a good easy read. I whole heartedly recommend the book and think you'll get a lot out of it.

February 12, 2008

I've Finished Reading "Respectable Sins"

It's amazing how much reading you can get done during an ice storm with no power. I purchased this book a couple of weeks ago with a gift certificate to Amazon that I had received for Christmas.

I can't really remember off hand how I first heard about it but the title was what really intrigued me. I also wrote a little bit about it a few days ago.

I've read a few of Jerry Bridges' other works and have listened to a few of his messages and lectures via MP3. Other than that, I didn't know a whole lot about him. I have to say that after reading this book, I'm excited to listen and to read some more of his stuff.

If you look at the bio picture on the inside back jacket of the book, you'll see that Mr. Bridges appears to be in his fifties or sixties and I'm sure no one is going to confuse him with Mark Driscoll. And as you read this book, you'll definitely feel many times like it's your grandpa who is talking with you. He seems a little out of touch with 2008 America and his examples aren't really that poignant, but his words are extremely wise, pulled straight from Scripture, and should be heeded.

Bridges does a good job of getting at "the underbelly" so to speak of many things that plague Christian churches today and truly are the sins that are killing the church. He examines:

  • Ungodliness
  • Anxiety and Frustration
  • Discontentment
  • Unthankfulness
  • Pride
  • Selfishness
  • Lack Of Self-Control
  • Impatience And Irritability
  • Anger
  • Weeds Of Anger
  • Judgmentalism
  • Envy - Jealousy - And Related Sins
  • Sins Of The Tongue
  • Worldliness

All things that may not register high on the sin richter scale, but have definitely caused more disunity in churches than the gambling boats or adult video shops in town.

The book is 180+ pages and has 21 chapters so you're looking at about nine pages per chapter. It's a quick read and it's succinct and to the point. There's a brief notes section at the end but no general or Scripture index as they probably are not needed in this one. It's not so much exegesis as it is Bridges' thoughts on what He sees in the Scriptures and what he sees in the Christian practice.

This is a good one. And like I said, don't expect a lot of pop from the examples or illustrations Bridges' uses. But, the value of sitting next to your grandpa and having him share his thoughts on the world is invaluable and you'll get that feeling when you're done reading this book.

I would defnitely recommend it.

February 11, 2008

I’m Guessing That Peter, Paul, And Mary….

Didn't tell people about Jesus because they felt compelled to obey a commandment. I could be wrong, and one day I'll find out. But I have a hunch it wasn't the case.

So imagine my surprise when reading an article recently on evangelism that implored the necessity for all people to evangelize "Our culture that has descended into the deep pit of shameful immorality" and the article used the name of Jesus ZERO times. ZERO. None. Zilch. Nada. Niet. Goose Egg. Doughnut. Empty. To be fair, the word Lord was used ONCE. The word Christ was used ONCE. So it had that going for it.

So we're supposed to tell people about WHO? And we're supposed to do it WHY?

It doesn't take long to find multiple articles, essays, and speculations as to why conversions, baptisms, etc are DOWN in almost every major denomination in the United States. And not just DOWN, but PLUMMETING would be the more proper word to historic lows (or at least lows we haven't seen in almost fifty years).

And as sure as you can find those articles, the answer to fixing the problem almost always goes something like this:

"Now dadgonnit, get out there, fire up the folks sittin in your pews, tell em to start praying fer their neighbor and witnessin to em. But before you do that, tell em they got to start bein righteous and settin a good example for all them shamefully immoral people out there. We all know people ain't gonna come to Jesus if they think we're just a bunch of sinners too. So boys, strap it up, leave here on a mission, and for God's sake start winnin them souls to Jesus."

The one thing that kind of advice is devoid of is the true source of everything we do in the Christian life. Jesus himself.

And I wonder when we're gonna finally own up to the fact that maybe the reason evangelism is non-existent is because the majority of the people in our pews are lost and don't the first clue about who Jesus is. Just a thought.

Because when I think about Peter, Paul, and Mary (not the band mind you), I see people who were brought face to face with exactly who they were, and exactly who Jesus was. I see a people who were not "nominally" associated with a good teacher, but rather radically transformed by God become man. I see people who, by the grace of God, were made transformationally aware of the vast gulf that lie between them and their Creator.

And in that realization came the necessary leap from "have to" to "can't help but to do it". Most people in church are doing things because they feel they "have to". I think, personally, this is a very strong sign of a seriously defective faith in Jesus. Whereas we see in the earliest examples that they couldn't help but to do what they did.

The answer to our defective lives is not "try harder", "do more", "learn more", "organize it better" or "come up with cool acrostics for it". The answer to our defective lives is Jesus. A deepening, growing, thankful, humble, repentant life with Jesus.

Evangelism is not an act. It is a person. It is news that cannot help but be communicated. It is an announcement that cannot be muted. It is a transformation that cannot be dismissed.

And its power lies in the evidence, ethos, and expression of the one who proclaims it.

Instead of "trying harder" or setting numeric goals that are completely man made - maybe it's time for us to take stock of what we call a "Christian" these days and readjust the definition to a more Biblical, Jesus centered, cross-saturated, resurrection rejoicing, and eternity focused one. Maybe it's time for the Gospel to reclaim its rightful place in our lives, our homes, our pews, our preaching, our associations, our denominations, our states, our countries, and our world.

It may be time to really examine why Peter, Paul, and Mary did what they did. And I don't think it had anything to do with "because they were commanded to".

February 08, 2008

A Huge Confession

My conscience won't allow me to go on this morning without confessing right here on The Jonah Syndrome one of my biggest, deepest, and darkest secrets that I'm carrying around right now.

I've deliberated whether I should reveal this or not, wondering if the disclosure might be inappropriate, but I have to get it off my chest. I can't carry it around any more. Please forgive me if what I'm about to say causes you to look at me in a different light. I never meant to hurt anyone.

Last night, in my house, in front of my television --- I watched the first episode of Lipstick Jungle - a new show on NBC.

I didn't want to do it. I tried to look away. I even walked into the kitchen during commercials trying to convince myself not to go back and watch it. But I gave into the temptation. I watched a chick sitcom. And what's worse - I watched the whole hour.

What is happening to me? I'm already a Celine Dion fan. I read Penelope Trunk on a weekly basis. And now I'm watching a sitcom about three female executives in New York and their struggles to be both a wife, an employee, and themselves. Their struggle was so real.

Where can I turn for help? What should I do? Is there any sort of counseling out there that I can get? Can anyone point me in the right direction?

I think I'm still a man. But after last night I'm not quite sure.

Anywho, sorry for crying on your shoulder. I have to go - my cappuccino is getting cold. Pray for me today - I have a hair appointment and then a valentine's dinner tonight. I hear the decorations are going to be "to die for".

February 06, 2008

The Difference Between

Being the assistant coach and the head coach is the difference between suggestion and decision. -- Bob Knight (February 5th, 2008)

There are many people who don't care at all for Bob Knight. Many think he is a bully. Many think he has severe emotional problems. Many think he was a giant hypocrite.

Whatever you think of him, his graduation rates were higher than anyone in college basketball. He never had any NCAA rules violations. His former players (most of them) spoke very highly of him. He had the respect of his former coaches (most of them). And as he himself would say in an interview yesterday, he wasn't sure he had done it all right, but he had done it the way he thought things ought to be done.

And inherent in doing things the way you think they ought to be done is the willingness to accept the criticism, the judgments, the failures, and the summaries of your work.

As I get ready to plant a church, this principle of suggestion and decision is becoming clear to me and I haven't made any really hard decisions yet. But the little ones that I am having to make over the last few days have made for interesting moments.

I've found myself stopping and almost being paralyzed. I'm normally a fairly decisive person but here the last few days I've found myself standing still wondering "Is this the right decision?" or "What if I'm making a mistake?" "Is this going to be the best thing for Eternity?" etc etc…

And when Bob Knight came out with the line I quoted above, I thought that's it. That's what the difference is between going into an established church as an associate pastor or starting a church as a lead planter. That's the difference between working "at a ministry" and beginning a new ministry work. That's the difference between "attending a church" and "overseeing a church".

The head coach takes the arrows. The head coach fields the questions. The head coach puts his livelihood on the line. The head coach gets written negatively about in the papers. The head coach gets judged.

And as each day goes by and little by little pieces get put in place for Eternity, I begin to feel that weight just a little bit more.

Even though the church will be led by a plurality of elders. Even though it will be a team effort. Even though it will take the contributions and sacrifice of hundreds of people one day, there will still be one guy who believed God had called him to plant a church, and a lot of the decisions that I'm making now will either significantly help Eternity in the future. Or it will significantly hinder Eternity in the future.

My appreciation and respect for church planters and lead pastors is growing rapidly. My trust in myself is decreasing fast. My reliance on God and His wisdom is booming.

Because now I've begun something where I'm not just going to be making suggestions. I'm going to be making decisions.

There's a big difference.

February 05, 2008

Amen - Preach It Brother!

My wife's sister gave me a great Christmas present this year by giving me a gift certificate to Amazon. I love to read and am slowly becoming a bibliophile.

One of the books that I purchased with that gift was Jerry Bridge's most recent work "Respectable Sins". I'll do a complete book review here in the next couple days but one of his statements really resonated with me:

But on the whole, we appear to be more concerned about the sins of society than we are the sins of the saints. In fact, we often indulge in what I call the "respectable" sins or even "acceptable" sins without any sense of sin.

O-U-C-H! Wow! That's a 2X4 upside the head right there. You think about it though. It's absolutely true. There are so many churches on crusades against pornography, gambling, abortion, homosexuality, alcohol, stem-cell research etc. And please don't get me wrong, all of those things are societal sins and I'm not saying that we should quit praying that God would deliver people from them. Neither is Bridges.

But how many churches have you seen go on a crusade against:

  • The gossiping elderly women's group in their church
  • The men who care more about their golf swing than they do about leading their family spiritually
  • The church members who give Jesus less than one thought each day
  • The divisive church clique who wants to play the black sheep role and portray that they are being mistreated by the church
  • The wealthy church members who hang out with each other but show no hospitality to those less fortunate than they are

And the list could go on. When was the last time a church went on a crusade against that? And I'll ask this tough question to give you an idea of why I'm finding this book to ring very true:

When was the last time abortion split a church and destroyed the unity of the body? Conversely, when was the last time an un-forgiving, gossiping group of people split the church and destroyed the unity of the body?

Puts things in perspective doesn't. The societal sins are great. There's no doubt we live in a fallen world. But the secret world of our hearts and our tongues is far more deadly to our churches and to our Biblical communities than the adult book stores alongside the road.

And I think one of the major reasons a lot of people go on those crusades against societal ills is because it's easier to do that than to repent of the evils inside our hearts as members of a Biblical community.

It's easier to put the focus on what's wrong AROUND us rather than focusing on what's wrong WITHIN us.

It's safer to focus on IT instead of focusing on ME.

But if we don't repent of ME, we'll never make any headway against the sins of society.

The battle must begin in us first.

February 04, 2008


I don't have a lot in the tank today. I've long heard pastors say that their mind is mush on Monday and I would have to agree.

I preached yesterday at LifePoint on repentance. A heavy message to prepare for and I'm spent. If you wish, you can check it out by right clicking here and downloading the message.

February 03, 2008

I've Finished Reading "Shepherding A Child's Heart"

I actually bought this book at the conference bookstore in October of 2006 at the Desiring God National Conference. It sat on the shelf as a "have to read but don't have time right now" book for over a year.

I shouldn't have let it sit that long. And if you have kids, you need to get this book. It's a great page turner, and Tedd Tripp has a thorougly Gospel-centered approach to parenting.

As a matter of fact, it's Carson, Piper, Keller, Mahaney all put through a parenting filter. Tripp forces you to examine why do you what you do as a parent. He makes you very uncomfortable and quite frankly drives you to repentance when he begins to poke his finger into your discipline methods and the ways in which you guide your children. He forces you to examine your motives. He forces you to take a long term approach to parenting. And the good thing is, that no matter how old your child is (even if they're a late teenager) this is a great resource to help.

It's broken into two parts:

  1. Foundations For Biblical Childrearing
  2. Shepherding Through Stages Of Childhood.

So basically he walks you through the theology of parenting and then helps you make applications. The book has 18 chapter and is a little over 200 pages long so each chapter is about 10 pages. It's very digestible in small chunks but is one of those that is not a "read once and put on the shelf" kind of a book.

It's a very helpful tool in the day to day responsibility of raising children to glorify God. I'll say this. Any book that starts with the first question of the Westminster Catechism instead of the leather couch in some shrink's office gets my confidence as a book most Christian parents need to read.

It has no general index and a somewhat short Scripture index but I'm not sure that those would add a whole lot to this work. Overall, you have to read it. I recommend it whole heartedly and only do so if you're willing to repent as a parent. I'll leave as I usually do with a chunk from the book:

It is imperative to be clear on this issue. Parenting is not just providing good input. It is not just creating a constructive home atmosphere and positive interaction between a child and his parent. There is another dimension. The child is interacting with the living God. He is either worshiping and serving and growing in understanding of the implications of who God is, or he is seeking to make sense of life without a relationship with God.

February 01, 2008

Progress Report / Random Thoughts

It's February 1st already. I have had several folks ask me what's going on / how things are for the Backes family lately. I've also had several random thoughts running through my head but I can't seem to make a solid post out of just yet.

  • My prospectus for Eternity is making good progress. I've decided to go with a DVD instead of just bound paper. I wanted to bring to life the vision and the story God has laid upon me. The man who lead me to Jesus has graciously offered for free to do all the DVD work and video editing work.
  • It's a great thing to be able to involve and see those people who have been a part of my spiritual journey excited about the idea of me planting a church.
  • I've completed Phase 1 of the Acts29 application process and Phase 2 should be complete (except for boot camp) within the next 7 -10 days.
  • Based on what I'm reading about the Chicago boot camp, I'm getting even more jacked up about Seattle.
  • If anyone can arrange a personal introduction and conversation between me and John Piper in Seattle, I'll be your best friend, give you Starbucks cards, and immediately give you the "preferred friend" status in my life.
  • The look and feel for Eternity is being worked on as we speak. I'm jacked up to see the designs and logos this weekend.
  • Along that front, I have a feeler out about developing the web presence for Eternity. The person I have asked is wayyy more than capable. Now the question is: Was the price right?
  • I'm planning a move to a new blog address and a new blog feel in the near future as well. Blogger has served me well, but from everything I'm hearing, it may be time to get out of the kiddie pool and move to WordPress.
  • We had a great church planting quarterly this week at LifePoint. Lane Harrison rocks. He's so loving and kind. On a serious note, it was a great time of discussion as we talked about the pastor and his family. I was challenged beyond belief.
  • I'm finding out how much I need to repent. I'll talk more about this on Sunday at LifePoint.
  • I'm looking forward to another Acts29 quarterly in St. Louis here in the next couple weeks. Hanging around church planters always jacks me up to go be one.
  • My son turns 8 this weekend. I can't believe it. When I think back over the first eight years of his life, I realize how much I've missed. I'm not going to miss that much in the next eight.
  • I have an exciting dinner scheduled in Jefferson City next weekend with some folks who might be core group prospects for Eternity. I'll throw this out there, if you want to move to Jefferson City, get a job, and be a part of the core group of Eternity, you are always more than welcome.
  • For those of you who just thought "Why the heck would I want to move to Jefferson City?", I'll be glad to send you a copy of my prospectus when it's done.
  • You haven't lived life until you've done a bowling party with 15 eight year olds.
  • Oh yeah, there's a little game this weekend. My prediction: Patriots 49 - Giants 10

Have a nice weekend!

January 30, 2008

I've Finished Reading "Biblical Eldership"

I first heard about Strauch's book several years ago when I was attending a small Southern Baptist Church in South Carolina. The pastor was beginning to explore what it meant to move from committee lead structures to an elder lead structure for the church. From what I knew at the time, the book proved profitable for the group of men he pulled into the group to discuss the book, but seeing any change beyond simply what occurred in the study, especially in the structure of the church never happened to my knowledge.

It's situations like that and just an overall lack of understanding of the subject of eldership for which Alexander Strauch wrote this book. The reason it became of particular interest to me was because I envision and am committed to Eternity being lead by a plurality of elders and as such wanted to make sure I was as thoroughly versed from a Biblical standpoint as I could be. There are other works on the subject that I intend to read but I have a hard time believing they will top this one.

From the very beginning, Strauch makes an extremely strong defense why a plurality of elders is really the only Biblical option for church leadership. He cautions against the "pastor as superhero" model and also readily dismisses with exegesis of Scripture the idea of "ruling bodies or presbyteries" that govern multiple local churches at a higher level.

The book is broken into four parts:

  1. Biblical Eldership (The different facets of it)
  2. Defense Of Biblical Eldership (Strauch's personal defense)
  3. The Exposition Of Scripture (The Biblical texts that have led Strauch to his position)
  4. Related Topics (More operational and method related questions in regards to Elders)

The book is a 300+ pages and with it's attention to particular Biblical arguments is not (and really should not be) a fast read. It has a great Scripture index at the back and it will take a couple of passes to catch some of the finer arguments that Strauch is attempting to make. But this book is a must have for anyone leading a church. It's a great reference and in my opinion solid Exegesis of 1Timothy, Titus, and 1Peter as they relate to church governance and leadership.

Strauch's positions will most definitely fall within a complementarian camp and will very much line up with Piper and Grudem's summary of male leadership within the church.

You can't miss with this book. If you're a church planter, a pastor who sees where the structure of leadership in your church is falling short, or you've just come to wonder why so many of the newer churches are being led by people called "elders", this will be a good book for you.