Scattershot: Blogs, Articles, Interviews, etc. from Around the Internet

Scattershot ImageKevin DeYoung, Where Were You? 

Where were you on that fateful morning in 2001?

Tim Challies, Greetings From Heaven: A Modern History of Heaven Tourism

It’s unfortunate that a large majority of people get their views on heaven from fantastical stories, and not the Scriptures.

Francesco DAlessio, 11 Tools for Productive Individuals

Everyone wants to be more productive. Let these apps help. 

Kim Cash Tate, Three Ways We Fight for Our Family

There’s a battle for our families and we’ve got to put up a fight!

Denny Burk, ESPN’s “30 for 30” on President Bush’s “First Pitch”

Me being a baseball guy, I remember that moment like it was yesterday.

Ivan Mesa, Do You Know How We Got the Bible?

Very important question that very few people ask. You may be surprised. 

Denny Burk, VP Joe Biden talks grief and faith with Stephen Colbert on “The Late Show”

Rare interview with a politician who opens up about faith and tragedy. 

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Nuggets on Humility

Washing Disciples Feet ImageQuotes

“True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.” – C.S. Lewis.

“A humble sinner is in a better condition than a proud angel.” – Thomas Watson

“Pride is a sinner’s torment, but humility is a saint’s ornament.” – William Secker

“As long as you are proud you cannot know God. A proud man is always looking down on thing and people: and, of course, as long as you are looking down you cannot see something that is above you.” – C.S. Lewis

“Humility is a strange flower; it grows best in winter weather, and under storms of affliction.” – Samuel Rutherford

“Humility is the mother of giants. One sees great things from the valley; only small things from the peak.” – G.K. Chesterton

“True humility does not know that it is humble. If it did, it would be proud from the contemplation of so fine a virtue.” – Martin Luther

Books

Humility by Andrew Murray

Humility: True Greatness by C.J. Mahaney

Humility: The Forgotten Virtue by Wayne A. Mack

From Pride to Humility: A Biblical Perspective by Stuart Scott

Sources

A Puritan Golden Treasury by I.D.E. Thomas

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3 Ways to Overcome a “When/Then” Mindset

Waiting ImageOne of the driest times  in my Christian life was, ironically, when I was in seminary pursuing a Master of Divinity degree. During that time I slipped into a “When/Then” mindset. I started thinking things like this: when I finish my degree, then I will start serving in my church; when I finish my homework, then I will spend time with the Lord (guess what … that rarely happened.); and when I get out of school, then I will start trying to make a difference in my city.

Having a “When/Then” mindset can be devastating to your spiritual life and the work that  God wants to accomplish in and through you.

Interestingly, the Israelites were tempted to fall into this mindset when they were taken into exile in Babylon by King Nebuchadnezzar (607-586 B.C.). They were ripped away from their homes and taken to a pagan land. Some of the prophets of Israel told those in exile not to worry, because God was going to deliver them soon.

In other words, don’t get too comfy, don’t get too involved, and don’t put your roots down. Press pause on your life and when you go back home, then you can start your life again. The false prophets were wanting the Israelites to adopt a “When/Then” mindset. Unfortunately, that is not what God wanted. So Jeremiah, a true prophet, sends a letter to all the survivors in exile, the elders, the priests, the prophets, and all the common Israelites. This is what the letter said:

“Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare (Jeremiah 29:4-7). 

3 Ways to Overcome the “When/Then” Mindset

1.) Put down roots where you are (v.5-7)

Just as God told the Israelites to put their roots down and start their life in Babylon, God is telling many of us to do the same. Don’t wait for all your circumstances to be perfect, start your life! Even if you think you are where you are temporarily, don’t put your life on hold. Build relationships. Get married. Have kids. Live your life. Wherever you are, God has placed you there for a purpose.

2.) Pray for the peace and prosperity of the people around you (v.7b)

You may not like the city you’re in, or the people that God has put around you, but He has called you to love them by praying for their peace and prosperity. What would happen to our cities if Christians would stop waiting for the next stage in their life and start praying for the people around them, and the city that they live in.

Paul makes this point clear in 1 Tim 2:1-2 when he says,

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.

3.) Make your city a better place by serving (v. 7)

God did not want the Israelites to build walls and keep the big, bad Babylonians out. God wanted them to engage the city, serve the people, and help make the city a place that glorifies Him. He wants no less from us.

Until God calls us somewhere else, we need to get to work, serving and loving our neighbors. We need to stop waiting and start serving.

Conclusion

Have you developed a “When/Then” mindset? Are you waiting around for the ideal situation before you start to grow in your relationship with Christ and serve the people He has placed around you? Whether we like it or not, God has chosen to use us to be His change-agents, and if we develop a “When/Then” mindset, we will be deemed ineffective in His goal to change us, and our cities.

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Nuggets on Complacency

Quotation Mark ImageI’m a history guy, always have been. One of the things I love about reading history is finding nuggets of truth and wisdom communicated in a memorable way. Here’s some nuggets on complacency, which I think is one of the biggest problems in the life of the believer today:

” He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really co-operating with it.” – Martin Luther King

“He that is too secure is not safe.” – Thomas Fuller

“Complacency is the deadly enemy of spiritual progress.” – A.W. Tozer

“The calm which puts us to sleep may be more fatal than a storm which keeps us wide awake.” – William S. Plumer

“Keep me, Lord, from ever hardening down into the state of being just another average Christian.” – A. W. Tozer

For more quotes from church history see John Blanchard, The Complete Gathered Gold: A Treasury of Quotations for Christians.

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Welcome to the Internet

Internet ImageArticles, blogs, book reviews, etc. from around the internet.

Jena Lee Nardella, Lessons I Learned While Trying to Save the World.

Great reminder that pursuing big things for the Kingdom of God requires grit and perseverance. 

Trevin Wax, 3 Reasons We Get Scared of the Holy Spirit.

Why are we so afraid of the Holy Spirit? Trevin tells us.

Nicholas T. Batzig, Redeeming Our Reading.

Great reminder that the Scriptures should be the primary reading for believers.

Eric Geiger, Five Ways to Critique Without Crushing.

The difficult task of providing feedback.

Linda Manganello, The One Question Every College Girl Must Answer.

Excellent advice for girls entering college.

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We Become What We Behold

IMG_2985_framedI was the kid in class who said, “When I grow up I want to be a Major League Baseball player!” My teachers always smiled, probably thinking, “Yeah, right.”

My hero was Ken Griffey Jr. I had posters of him on my wall, I had his ’89 Upper Deck rookie card, and I even got to see him play against the Rangers when Seattle was in town. When it came to baseball, I tried to emulate him in every way.

Although I didn’t make it out of A-ball (if you know baseball, then you know what I’m talking about), and I didn’t have anywhere near the talent he had, trying to emulate him actually made me better at baseball. Watching and emulating greatness rubs off on people.

There is a similarity in the Christian life. God desires for us to  grow in holiness, but we need a model. We need someone to emulate. Paul hints at this in 2 Corinthians 3:18 when he says,

And we all with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

Our transformation as Christians is in direct proportion to our beholding the glory of Christ. The more we dwell on who He was and what He came to do, the more we will look like Him.

So how does this work?

1. There must be a starting point.

Everyone who is born into this world has a veil that covers their eyes so that they cannot see the truth. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:3-4 that the gospel has been veiled and that “the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”

The last thing the enemy wants  is for people to see the beauty of Christ and His sacrifice for our sins. So how is the veil removed? The answer is only through Christ (v.14). The moment you trust and believe in Christ for your salvation is the moment the renovation process begins. There must be a starting point.

2. You must see the glory of Christ.

The fact is, we become what we behold. Once your eyes are opened through faith, you now are able to see Him for who He really is. Meditating on and looking intently at the person and work of Christ will result in transformation. Paul says, “we are being transformed,” which means that  it is something that happens to us as we look at Christ.

3. Remember that it’s a process. 

This process of transformation is not an overnight event, it’s a lifelong process. Paul says we are “renewed day by day” (2 Cor. 4:16), and that we “are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another” (2 Cor. 3:18).

John Calvin says:

Observe, that the design of the gospel is this — that the image of God, which had been effaced by sin, may be stamped anew upon us, and that  the advancement of this restoration may be continually going forward in us during our whole life, because God makes his glory shine forth in us by little and little.

Oftentimes we grow frustrated at our lack of progress and we are tempted to quit. It’s in those moments that you have to remember it’s a marathon and not a sprint.

4. It requires Spirit-empowered effort.

The good news is, this is ultimately the work of the Spirit of God. John Piper says,

the Holy Spirit does not do His work apart from the gospel because his work is to open our eyes to see Christ … the work of the Holy Spirit in changing us is not to work directly on our bad habits but to make us admire Jesus Christ so much that sinful habits feel foreign and distasteful.

As the Spirit gives us clearer and clearer vision of the beauty of the gospel of Jesus Christ, we, little by little, become more like Christ. Apart from the Spirit there is not much we can do.

Conclusion

So whose beauty are you beholding? Where are you fixing your gaze? Is it on the glory of the gospel of Jesus Christ? He is the perfect image of the invisible God and it is only by gazing upon Him that we have any chance of being transformed into His image.

 

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Parachurch Ministries and the Local Church

TCU CampusThere are two parachurch ministries that  have had a major impact on my growth as a Christian Young Life and Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Within these ministries I found community, love and acceptance, godly mentors, and biblical teaching. I honestly don’t know where I would be if I didn’t get plugged into these ministries. 

That said, parachurch ministries can never take the place of the local church. These ministries are to support the local church and help them accomplish God’s mission for His people.

Here are wise words from Jon Saunders, the director of Spartan Christian Fellowship in East Lansing, MI, on the role of parachurch ministries alongside the local church:

To my parachurch friends, I know you affirm the importance of the local church on paper. This is a good start, but it needs to be more than an affirmation on paper. The default mode of undergraduate students will be to treat your parachurch ministry like church. You must go above and beyond to make sure your ministry funnels students into the church, not away from it.

Cut back on your campus calendar so there’s time for students to get involved in a church. Encourage them to serve in the nursery or volunteer in the youth group. Encourage families in your church to adopt a group of students for the year. There’s an endless list of possibilities, but you must work to make this happen. Since parachurch ministries are usually more efficient and polished than churches, you’ll need to convince students why inolvement with you alone isn’t enough.

After all, they’re not going to be with you forever. They’re going to graduate. To the degree, then, you help to anchor their discipleship in the place it will be for the rest of their lives—the local church—you serve them well.

Praise God for the numerous men and woman serving and discipling on our school campuses all over the the world. My prayer is that their ministries would continue to flourish, even as they direct their students into gospel-centered local churches.

See Jon Saunders, “The Place and Purpose of Parachurch Ministries”, for the full article.

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Leaders Who Last – Book Review

leaderswholastKraft, Dave. Leaders Who Last. Wheaton: Crossway, 2010. 155 pp. $14.99

Of the writing of leadership books, there is no end.  Both secular and Christian bookstores are filled with volumes on how to become a more effective leader.  Unfortunately, many of the Christian leadership books are more for the Christian businessman than the pastor.  What is lacking in leadership literature are books that address the pastor as a pastor, not a CEO.  This is what makes Dave Kraft’s book Leaders that Last so refreshing; there is an unashamed emphasis on leadership within the local church.

Definition of a Christian Leader

The goal of Kraft’s book is to exhort Christian leaders to finish the race.  He believes that far too many Christian churches are floundering because of pastors that do not know how to lead, and as a result, drop out of the race (22). Kraft defines a Christian leader as a “humble, God-dependent, team-playing, servant of God who is called by God to shepherd, develop, equip, and empower a specific group of believers to accomplish an agreed-upon vision from God” (25).  The rest of this book is spent expounding on the characteristics of this kind of leader.

Part One

The first five chapters look at the “foundations” of the leader.  Kraft uses the spoke to describe these different foundations.  These spokes consist of the leader’s power, his purpose, his passion, his priorities, and his pacing.  In the center of the spokes is the power of a leader.  The Christian leader has no power of his own, but all the power he has comes from his identity in Christ (29).  This being the case, it is important for the Christian leader to stay connected to Christ through the spiritual disciplines.  Kraft says that “great men and women of God are great because they enjoy exceptional intimacy with the Lord.  The failure to establish intimacy imposes a limit on genuine spiritual development and effectiveness” (34).  With power in the center of the wheel, the four spokes that are connected to the center are the leader’s purpose, passion, priorities, and pacing.  According to Kraft, one of the reasons that leaders quit the race is a lack of purpose. Once the leader has a clear purpose, or “spiritual focus,” he is fueled with passion and he is able to say no to the things that don’t align with his purposes.  With that being said, it is still important for the leader to go at a good pace.  Kraft believes that “most leaders travel too fast and attempt to do too much” (69).

Part Two

Part two of the book consists of the leader’s formation.  The formation of a Christian leader includes his calling, gifts, character, and growth.  These are the areas that the Christian leader must confirm and cultivate.  Kraft states that there are four spiritual calls; “the call to salvation, the call to discipleship, the call to service, and the call to leadership” (80).  Since this book is about finishing the race as a Christian leader he spends the bulk of this chapter on “persevering” in the call to leadership.  The next chapter is about the leader’s giftedness.  The leader, according to Kraft, can be gifted in many different areas, but must have what he calls “speaking gifts” (88-89).  In fact, Kraft goes so far as to say that “if a person’s gift mix is not predominantly in the speaking category, that person should not consider a major leadership roll” (89).  The last two chapters of part two have to do with character and growth.  A leader must not only have competence, but he must also have integrity.  One reason many leaders don’t finish the race is a failure in the area of integrity.  As Kraft states, “character will stand the test of time and hold up when the wind howls and the storm rages around you” (96).  Closely connected with character is a humble attitude that never stops asking questions and never stops seeking to learn new things.  Kraft believes that “one of the worst mistakes you can make as a leader is putting your life on cruise control” (105).

Part Three

Part three of the book consists of the Christian leader’s fruitfulness.  The fruitfulness of a leader has to do with his vision, his influence, and his legacy.  The leader must not be satisfied with the ways things are, but must be able to paint a “clear, challenging picture of the future of ministry as it can be and must be” (119).  In order for the leader to accomplish this vision he must assemble a team around him.  This team will help spread the leader’s vision.   Kraft says that “a leader influences many by investing in a few and letting those few influence the rest” (129).   These few that Kraft is talking about are the leader’s team.  The beauty of building this team of leaders is that it ensures the leader’s legacy.  The legacy of a leader is the reproducing of other leaders.  Kraft believes that “the top priority of a leader must be to invest in future leaders” (139).  He goes on to say that “the single greatest way to impact an organization is to focus on leadership development” (139).

Strengths

There are several strengths in this book.  First, it is rare that one finds a leadership book that is gospel-centered.  Kraft says that “leadership begins and ends with a clear understanding of the gospel and being rooted in the grace of Jesus Christ as a free gift” (29).  In other words, grace needs to be at the center of the Christian leader’s ministry.  Second, Kraft does a good job of combining traditional teachings on pastoral ministry like calling, character, and the importance of study, with more contemporary teachings on leadership like prioritizing, casting vision, and thinking about one’s legacy.  Often times leadership books emphasize one or the other.

This is an extremely helpful book that contributes significantly to the current conversation on Christian leadership.  Its gospel-centeredness and focus on both the inward and outward qualities of a leader will help the young Christian leader finish the race.