There is nothing my dog won’t do for food. There is no command she won’t obey when we are looking, and no rule she won’t break when we are looking away, if only she can get a bit of food in her belly. I guess it is hard to fault her since, as a Lab, every gene in her body drives her to gorge herself. It’s like Paul was writing about her and her breed when he said, ” Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things” (Philippians 3:19). Food is her idol, her god, the thing that will motivate her to do anything or everything.

I am no dog, but I, too, am hard-wired for something—for validation. Just as a dog will lie down or roll over or beg or bark on command to get a snausage—doesn’t she realize how pathetic she looks?—, there is not much I won’t do to receive validation, to have others affirm my self-worth according to my criteria. I want to feel special about myself, I want to feel big and important. And when I look for what makes me feel good about myself, I inevitably find my idols. The thing that validates me is the thing I worship, the thing that momentarily takes the place of God in my life.

Lately I have been pondering and listing those things—those things that make me feel so special that I will do irrational things and make poor decisions in order to have them or achieve them. It makes for a pretty ugly and embarrassing little note. I think most of them are best kept between myself and the Lord, but I will give you a couple of examples.

Distant travel validates me. I receive invitations to do a fair number of conferences or speaking engagements over the course of a year, and I make it a point to prayerfully consider each one of them, knowing that I can accept only a few. But I have learned that the farther away the destination, the better it makes me feel about myself. I don’t even know why it works this way, but I suppose I like the idea that people far away are interested in hearing me speak. It feeds my ego. This makes me tempted to accept speaking engagements that will come at the expense of my church and family, even if I can really make no unique contribution to the event, and even if it makes very little sense for me to be involved. I am tempted to accept the event for the worst of motives: for how it makes me feel about myself.

Big audiences at big conferences validate me. I hate to own this one, but it is true: A bigger audience makes me feel more important than a smaller audience. A big audience at a big conference makes me feel awfully good about myself while a small audience at a small conference (or, even worse, a small audience at a big conference) is the kind of thing that can cast me into self-doubt or even despair. Again, there is a temptation to accept an invitation on the basis of how many people will be at the event rather than on any better or more noble criteria.

The irony in these two examples is that I am the ultimate homebody—I find it difficult to be away from home for more than very short stints—, and I am intimidated by large crowds—I find it extremely stressful to be in front of people. Somehow the things that validate me are the things I naturally run away from. I love them and hate them all at once.

I should note that neither of these things is wrong. Traveling distances to preach or to encourage others can be good and noble. Turning down a small event to speak at a large event can be good and God-honoring. But it can also be pure idolatry, a way I look for others to receive what only God is meant to give.

I need to be aware of these things—each of those ugly things on my ugly list. And most of all, I need to remember what is mostly deeply true. There is nothing inherently wrong with wanting to have the approval of others, and especially to receive the affirmation of God. But the crucial fact is, I already have it through Christ. I am already accepted by God because of what Christ has done, and this acceptance is all I need. When I am at my best it means everything to me. But when I am at my worst, it means nothing.

Image credit: Shutterstock

There was a day when one of my fashion accessories talked back. It told me to take a hike. I had said something about it on Facebook or Twitter or snapped a picture of it for Instagram and it was none too pleased. It said it to me nicely enough, but the point was clear: cut it out.

I’ve been learning social media as I go. We all have. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and all the rest have added something new, something original, to the human experience. We are adapting as we go, learning how to use these things well and learning how not to use them badly. We learn by success and by failure. But we do learn over time. At least I hope we do.

When my children were young and very young, I enjoyed telling people about them through these social media channels. I enjoyed sharing their quirks and foibles, their little triumphs and their little follies. Sometimes I wrote about them and sometimes I snapped pictures of them. It was harmless, I thought. And mostly it was.

But I see it now: Some of these photos weren’t for you or for them—they were for me. My kids were accessories to me, a way of making me look good in your eyes or making me feel good about myself. I would only share the details of their lives and times that helped me in some way. I was using my kids as a kind of fashion accessory, what the dictionary defines as “a thing that can be added to something else in order to make it more useful, versatile, or attractive.” That was it! I was using my kids to somehow make myself more attractive. It was all about me.

But then that day came when I said something about one of them—nothing terrible, nothing humiliating, but something that would have been better to keep quiet. Later that day we went to church and someone brought it up. “Hey, your dad said on Twitter that …” or “I saw that Instragram of you in the …” Embarrassment ensued. Awardness. And later, a plea to dad to cut it out, to not use social media in this way again.

And it was then that I realized I had been treating my children as just an extension of myself. When they were babies it was easy enough to tell people about them, knowing they would never know or care what I said or who knew. But then they got a little bit older, and then a lot older. They made a transition into maturity and independence. They didn’t want to be my accessory anymore, to have me publicize what they had said or what they had done. And it was no longer fair of me to treat them that way. It’s not that I can’t say anything about them or share a picture of them, but that at some point it is only fair to ask their permission, to let them in on it, to make them equals, not accessories.

Parents, have an exit plan. Make the transition before they need to beg you to. We love to see pictures of your baby when he is born. We love to see pictures of your daughter when she takes her first steps. We love to hear about the ridiculous things they say when learning to form words and thoughts and ideas. But at some time they will be their own people and those cute things will become private things. Those cute pictures will be family pictures. At some point your kids may no longer find it fun.

 

31 Days of Purity

Through the month of March, I am inviting you to 31 Days of Purity—thirty-one days of thinking about and praying for sexual purity. Each day features a short passage of Scripture, a reflection on that passage, and a brief prayer. Here is day twenty-nine:

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:2)

Our bodies follow our minds. This is the consistent witness of Scripture, which always places mind before body. Throughout his life, the Christian is to be renewing his mind by the Word of God, to take it into captivity and bring it into conformity. As he does this, his words and his deeds, and even his thoughts, will necessarily follow.

If there is any area where we let our bodies dictate our thoughts and our actions, it is here in the context of sexual purity, in those times when the body seems to cry out in dissatisfaction. When we wallow in sexual sin, we fill our minds with what is impure, as if Philippians 4 commands us to think about whatever is false, whatever is deplorable, whatever is unfair, whatever is impure, whatever is ugly, whatever is critical, if there is any depravity, if there is anything worthy of rebuke, we think about these things. And, not surprisingly, our bodies follow our minds.

It is so much better to heed and to practice Philippians 4 which commands us to think about what is good and noble and pure. “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Philippians 4:8). Think about those things, brother, and let God transform your thoughts and your actions.

Father, I pray that you would do your work of mind-renewal within me. I know that my behavior follows my thoughts, so I pray that you would help me to think about those things that are true and beautiful. Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, I pray that you would help me to think about these things and to love thinking about these things.

What Now? Consider joining our 31 Days of Purity Facebook group. It is optional, but you will find it a good place to go for discussion and encouragement. (Note: that Facebook group is for men only; here is one for Women Supporting Men).

31 Days of Purity

Through the month of March, I am inviting you to 31 Days of Purity—thirty-one days of thinking about and praying for sexual purity. Each day features a short passage of Scripture, a reflection on that passage, and a brief prayer. Here is day twenty-three:

I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter, my great army, which I sent among you. (Joel 2:25, ESV)

A locust invasion brings devastation to the land. Here Joel gives us a picture of a land that was “the garden of Eden before them but behind them a desolate wilderness, and nothing escapes them.” (Joel 2:2) These locusts have brought total destruction, and the consequences of sexual impurity can be much the same. Sin has no intention of stopping its devastation. Just as with a mighty swarm of locusts, nothing escapes its destruction. Unless the Lord rescues us, our sin will be more devastating than a locust plague.

Thankfully, Jesus Christ has come to conquer the works of the devil. He has come to restore that which has been destroyed by sin. There might be consequences to your sin that cannot be fully restored this side of eternity. But we can rest assured that Christ is, indeed, making all things new. He promises that will restore completely. Therefore, let us thank him for his restoration and plead with him to restore in us the things that have been wrecked by impurity.

Father, I know that my sin has taken a toll on my life. Its effects touch every area of my being. There are things in my heart and mind that I wish could be forever blotted out. And there are areas in my life that have been decimated by my sin. You alone have the power to rebuild what I have destroyed. I know that ultimately you will restore everything and make all things new. I believe this and thank you for it. I pray today that your future redemption would touch the present. Restore what has been wrecked by my impurity for your name’s sake. 

What Now? Consider joining our 31 Days of Purity Facebook group. It is optional, but you will find it a good place to go for discussion and encouragement. (Note: that Facebook group is for men only; here is one for Women Supporting Men).

Todays devotional was prepared by Mike Leake. Mike is associate pastor of First Baptist Church of Jasper, IN. He and his wife, Nikki have 2 children (Isaiah and Hannah). Mike is the author of Torn to Heal and regularly blogs at mikeleake.net.

There are times I grow weary of good things. Things I love. Things I would not want to live without. Things that have the ability to make my heart beat a little bit faster and keep my mind racing when I ought to be asleep. They are good things, but somehow, through time or familiarity or neglect or something else, they begin to feel not so good. I wish it wasn’t this way, but it seems to be yet another cost of being a sinful person in a sinful world. Even the best things feel like bad things at times.

The Bible is one of God’s great gifts. Without it I would be hopelessly and utterly lost. I would not know who I am, who God is, or what he desires from me. That Bible is living and active, it is the very words of God recorded and preserved for me. Reading the Bible saved my soul and transformed my life. It gave me meaning and purpose and direction. And yet even it can seem so humdrum at times. Drab. Uninteresting. A chore. A duty. Even it can seem like a not-so-good thing.

There is no one on this earth I love more than my wife. She is one of God’s greatest gifts to me. I am deeply dependent upon her—I’ve been married to her for almost my entire adulthood—and really wouldn’t know how to go about life without her. I love her dearly. Yet at times, too many times, I can find myself growing frustrated with her. Short-tempered. Surly. Just plain angry. In those moments, or in those extended times, it’s like I’ve grown weary of the gift. For a time that good thing becomes a not-so-good thing.

Children. Vocation. Location. Everything I love, every good gift, can fade in time.

I have come to realize something about those times when I grow weary of good gifts: This weariness makes a statement about me, not the gift. The weariness is so often a direct result of my neglect. I have neglected to cherish the gift and honor the giver.

Kevin DeYoung says “The most effective means for bolstering our confidence in the Bible is to spend time in the Bible.” And in the same way, the most effective means for increasing our love for the Bible is to spend time in the Bible. To know it is to love it. When I don’t love it, it’s inevitably because I haven’t been spending time in it. There is no gift of God that returns commitment with apathy. No, the commitment returns confidence, love, respect, enjoyment, gratitude.

The most effective means for sustaining and increasing my love for my wife is to spend time with her. If and when I find myself growing weary of such a good gift, the problem is me, not her. The problem is inevitably my neglect. I have stopped spending time with her, pursuing her, enjoying her. I have stopped seeing her as God’s good and perfectly-chosen gift.

In a world like this, and in a sinner like me, even the best gifts lose their luster. Or they seem to. The gifts lose their luster when I neglect to honor the giver and to cherish the gift.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

 

Get More Done This Week

The law of entropy seems to apply to every area of life in this broken world. Without constant effort to the contrary, houses get dirty, gardens get overgrown, cars get rusty, habits get sloppy, children get unruly. If you leave it alone, whatever it is, it gets slower, not faster; sloppier, not neater; worse, not better.

Like everything else in the world, your ability to get things done is always spiralling toward chaos. If you allow yourself to coast for a few weeks, your life will get less orderly, not more orderly. Not only that, but you will soon find yourself neglecting the important tasks in order to focus on the urgent tasks. Before you know it, you’ll be off-focus and out of control.

Here are 8 ways to take control and get more done this week (and every week).

1. Plan Your Week

I know it’s a cliché but it really is true: if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. If you don’t plan your week, you will only ever be reactive, responding to whatever concerns and opportunities arise. To take control of your week, you need to plan your week. Take a few minutes on Sunday evening to plan out your entire week, from Monday morning to Sunday evening. You don’t need to have something planned for every minute of every day, but at the least you should plan your work week. If you are married, it is best to do this with your spouse so you can be sure you are properly accounting for appointments, evening activities, and any other commitments you may otherwise forget. Make sure everything that happens at a specific time is on your calendar and that you have set alerts or reminders. Make sure that everything you need to do is in your task-management system (whatever that system is). Get as much as possible out of your brain and into your system.

2. Block Your Time

As you begin to determine what time you will use to accomplish your tasks, block time to specific tasks instead of general tasks. This may be something you can do at the beginning of the week, or it may need to be a day-to-day kind of task. You will need to be adaptable here, but simply blocking your week into work, family and sleep won’t do it. As you plan time, assign particular tasks to particular times. Plan that block from 10 AM to 12 PM on Tuesday as not only “Office Time” but “Write Bible Study.” Plan that block from 3 PM to 5 PM on Tuesday as not only “Meeting” but “Meeting With Marketing Team.” Take into account the times you are at peak productivity and reserve those for your most mentally-demanding tasks. I am at my peak in the early morning hours, so that is when I tend to do my writing or sermon preparation. By mid-afternoon I am flat out of energy and creativity, so this is when I tend to do my maintenance tasks and other chores that are necessary but routine.

3. Manage Your Tasks

An essential element of productivity is the implementation of, and reliance upon, a system that will get the list of things you need to accomplish out of your brain and onto paper or into software. You need to create a system and then rely on it. As you plan your week, and as your week unfolds, you need to use this system to capture, organize, and manage your tasks. When you reach the office on Monday morning and see that time in your calendar blocked off for “Weekly Maintenance,” your task management software should have a list of all those tasks waiting for you. As you receive phone calls and emails, and as you sit in meetings, you will constantly be adding new tasks that need to be done. Rather than relying upon your memory, you need to get all of these into your system so you will remember them and execute them at the best time. I am heavily dependent upon Things, a Mac-based application that syncs seamlessly between my computers and my mobile devices. Wherever I am, I have it with me. I always input my tasks with a verb followed by a colon like “Write: Email to Francis” or “Plan: Sunday Evening Sermon”. This keeps me from using my to-do list as a place to store random thoughts and forces me to make every task an action.

4. Control Your Distractions

As you attempt to focus on what is most important this week, you will inevitably face distractions. Each of us faces unique distractions so each of us needs to learn to identify the ones that most apply to us. The most common distraction is email. Few things distract from real productivity more than constantly monitoring email. Learn to do your email in batches and do it no more than three or four times a day. At the very least, shut down your email once you have responded to what is in your inbox. (See my article 8 Email Mistakes You Make.) Another common distraction is social media or those web sites we unthinkingly visit when we have a spare moment or are just desperate to take our minds off the difficult tasks before us. I rely on Nanny for Google Chrome to keep me from my most distracting sites during my most productive hours. I call it “my outsourced self-control” and it saves me a lot of time.

5. Claim the Cracks

The cracks are those times between other things—the five or ten minutes sitting in the waiting room, the small piece of time between the two meetings, or even the commute to and from the office. Those cracks can easily add up to several hours a week. Instead of using that time in the waiting room to grab your phone and swipe through Facebook or Pinterest, use those moments knock out a couple of the quick tasks that you can complete in just three or four minutes. Instead of using your commute to listen to sports radio, claim it for phone calls or listening to a good book. I once knew a pastor who committed to praying behind the wheel, praying out loud from his prayer list while driving from one place to the next.

6. Track Your Time

I don’t recommend tracking yourself all the time, but every now and again, for a week or two, it can be very helpful to track your entire day or even just your workday from beginning to end. There are some excellent tools that help you do this very thing: Time Doctor is one I have been using recently. Toggl and RescueTime are similar. Through automation or semi-automation, they allow you to keep tabs on what you are doing throughout the day. By measuring your day you will be able to identify those times when you are most productive, those times you are least productive, and those times you are just wasting time. You may be surprised at what you learn about yourself and how many hours you dedicate to things that don’t really matter.

7. Learn to Say No

You are not truly managing your time well until you find yourself saying “no” to a lot of good opportunities. There are a lot of good things that aren’t the best things. There are a lot of good things you could do that you shouldn’t do because they will take you away from the most important things. Learn to confidently say “no” or “not now” to meetings, conference calls, invitations, and other opportunities.

8. Entrust It to the Lord

Finally, entrust it all to the Lord. The Lord may interrupt even your best-laid plans. While I believe there is great value in planning and preparation, God’s divine interruptions may be the most important part of your week. Knowing we serve a sovereign God allows us to prayerfully entrust it all to his hands, believing that whatever he does will be good. We can’t ever be so committed to a system or to a plan that we are unwilling or unable to break and change our plans to reorient ourselves toward the good things he provides for us to do. “Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand” (Proverbs 19:21). It is far better that way.

(While I implemented all of this prior to reading Matt Perman’s What’s Best Next, that book will certainly help you to use your time well and wisely to accomplish the most important tasks.)

I believe there is a Christian way to think about everything. Yes, everything. What the Bible does not address explicitly, it addresses implicitly; what it does not address directly, it address in principle. But in the end, the Bible has something to say about everything. One of the joys of reading Christian books is to see author after author address Christian thinking and Christian living in their area of passion of expertise. Over the past few years we’ve seen books on Christians and technology (by yours truly), Christians and work (by, among others, Greg Gilbert and Sebastian Traeger), Christians and marriage (Tim & Kathy Keller) and on and on.

What's Best Next
Click Cover To Purchase From Amazon

New to the market is Matt Perman’s What’s Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done. This is a book on productivity, on getting things done. But it’s more than that. It’s not only about getting things done, but about getting the best things done, and doing it all in the right way.

I have read widely in the area of productivity and best practices, and over the past years have developed systems that allow me to get a lot of things done without any part of my life crumbling under the pressure (so far, at least). Many of the systems I have adopted were inspired by the writings of unbelievers and I had to find ways of applying Christian thinking to them. And this is exactly what Perman does in What’s Best Next. Even though I have read many of these books and thought deeply about these issues, I still learned a lot from him. Perman takes the work of men like Peter Drucker, David Allen, Stephen Covey, Tim Ferris and many others, and examines them through the lens of Scripture. What is good he accepts, what is bad he rejects, and what is somewhere in-between he adapts.

At heart the book is about “getting things done and making ideas happen, with less friction and frustration, from a biblical perspective.” Perman aims to change the way we think about productivity and then to present a practical approach that will allow us to become more effective in life and to live with less stress and less frustration. This makes it a book for anyone who needs to get things done, but especially for those involved in knowledge work and the realm of ideas.

Perman begins by explaining that making God supreme in our productivity is of utmost importance. This is the foundation upon which everything else is built. He then introduces his concept of “gospel-driven productivity,” which is getting the right things done—the good works we are called to as believers.

The heart of the book is four parts, each composed of several chapters, in which Perman explains his DARE model of productivity: Define, Architect, Reduce, Execute. In the define step you will look at mission and vision to determine your roles and responsibilities and which should be prioritized. In the architect step you will create structure and routine that will allow you to properly balance each of these responsibilities. In the reduce step you will learn to get rid of those things that only distract from your core mission and will also learn the importance of delegation and automation. In the execute step you will learn the importance of planning your week, of managing workflow, and even of dealing with the never-ending deluge of email. The book closes with a couple of chapters on actually living out all of this.

On the negative side, the book is probably 60 or 80 pages longer than it needs to be, a fact that is tinged with irony since the book deals with productivity. Of course this length is a product of Perman’s logical step-by-step progression through the topic, something I find difficult to criticize. Still, I think the steps are a little bit smaller than they really need to be, making the book a little more intimidating and time-consuming than it ought to be.

On the plus side, there is nothing quite like this book. Perman teaches that true productivity is not getting more done, but getting the right things done—the things that serve others to the glory of God. He does not leave this as an idea for us to execute as we see fit, but provides a thoughtful, logical, do-able way of living so those first things really do remain first. This makes What’s Best Next a worthy investment of your money and, that most precious of resources, your time.

There is a lot to look forward to when the Lord returns and when we begin life anew in the new heaven and new earth. I guess you could say that infinite pleasures await there—pleasures that will know no end, because time will know no end. The greatest of all these pleasures will undoubtedly be the ability to be face-to-face with God at last, free from all traces of sin and evil. Of all heaven’s treasures, none offers more than this.

But heaven’s greatest pleasure is not it’s only pleasure. Lately I have been thinking about another joy that awaits—the joy of a very different relationship with time. When we are mortal, time is a finite resource. But when ten thousand years is as a day, and a day as ten thousand years, time will be infinite and we will be immortal. That will change everything.

I thought about this last week when I traveled to Grace College in Indiana to speak at a few of their chapel services. I had chosen to accept their invitation and was grateful for the opportunity—I enjoyed speaking to the students and I enjoyed getting to know a few of them. There are few things I like more than spending time with Christian college students. Yet in choosing to accept the invitation, I had to choose not to do other good things for those two days.

One of the most exasperating parts of life in this world is that I must constantly choose the good things not to do. So much of life is not the choice between good and bad, but between good and good. Even in the joy of doing one good thing, there is the sorrow of not being able to do another good thing. Three days spent in Indiana, is three days spent apart from my wife and my children. It is three days away from the people I love; I will never get those days back. I have been given perhaps 7,000 or 8,000 days with my children before they move out to begin life on their own, and in going away, I permanently traded away three of those precious days.

This is an inevitable result of being mortal. Each of us has a finite amount of time allotted to us in this world. We do not know how much time we have, but we do know that our time will come to an end. No matter how many years we have, one thing remains true: we will not do all the things we would like to do. Each of us will die with a million things left undone, a million dreams left unaccomplished, a million tasks still ongoing, a million things we could have done better. Each of us will die with some regrets about the way we used our time and the way we prioritized our opportunities and responsibilities. And all of this is true because we are sinful, we are mortal, and our time is finite.

But when we no longer sin, and when we no longer have to worry about the final heartbeat or the final ticking of the clock, and when we no longer have to grapple with the reality of our mortality, we will no longer need to be concerned with regrets—not in the same way we are here and now.

I have found freedom in this: Freedom to know that even though this life isn’t the way things were meant to be, it is the way things will inevitably be. I am to faithfully steward my time, to glorify God in the days he gives me. But all the while I have to keep in mind that I am finite and time is short and there must be difficult decisions and inevitable regrets. God has given me all the time I need to do what he has called me to.

And all the while heaven promises that there will always be another moment. And it promises that we will always use both this moment and that moment well, and without regrets. That will be a joy indeed.

From 2006 to 2012, PyroManiacs turned out almost-daily updates from the Post-Evangelical wasteland — usually to the fear and loathing of more-polite and more-irenic bloggers and readers. The results lurk in the archives of this blog in spite of the hope of many that Google will “accidentally” swallow these words and pictures whole.

This feature enters the murky depths of the archives to fish out the classic hits from the golden age of internet drubbings.


The following except was written by Frank back in August 2012. The topic was the importance of knowing God's Goodness in a concrete rather than theoretical way.

As usual, the comments are closed. 

Louis Berkhof says that the Goodness of God is one of three primary moral attributes of God – the other two being God’s Holiness, and God’s Righteousness.

We speak of something as good when it answers in all parts to the ideal. Hence in our ascription of goodness to God the fundamental idea is that He is in every way all that He as God should be, and therefore answers perfectly to the ideal expressed in the word “God.” He is good in the metaphysical sense of the word, absolute perfection and perfect bliss in Himself. …

But since God is good in Himself, He is also good for His creatures, and may therefore be called the fountain of all good, and is so represented in a variety of ways throughout the Bible. …

All the good things which the creatures enjoy in the present and expect in the future, flow to them out of this inexhaustible fountain. And not only that, but God is also the highest good for all His creatures, though in different degrees and according to the measure in which they answer to the purpose of their existence. (Systematic Theology, 70)

That’s quite a mouthful…the Psalmist takes a different approach. The Psalmist here tells us where our hope lies. And let’s be clear: the Psalmist, in Psalm 34, is hopeful.

TASTE AND SEE THAT THE LORD IS GOOD, he proclaims. He is actually a little more emphatic than that, because the Psalmist doesn’t just say “the Lord” here in proper reverence: he says instead, “TASTE AND SEE THAT JEHOVAH IS GOOD!” “TASTE AND SEE THAT YAHWEH IS GOOD!” That is: this is not God-in-Theory. This is not a system of understanding an ineffable and incomprehensible God. This is the God of Joshua, the God of Moses, and Joseph, and Jacob, and Isaac, and Abraham, and Noah. This is God who called Samuel by name and gave him explicit instruction to anoint David the King of Israel. This is God in Person, God in Fact, The God who has a living history of making promises, and keeping them.

And that’s the Psalmist’s trope here: Somehow, we have a God who is as real as a delicious meal. Somehow, we have to get our mouth ready to receive him. That’s actually what John Calvin says about this Psalm: “the Psalmist indirectly reproves men for their dullness in not perceiving the goodness of God, which ought to be to them more than a matter of simple knowledge. By the word taste he at once shows that they are without taste; … He, therefore, calls upon them to stir up their senses, and to bring a palate endued with some capacity of tasting, that God’s goodness may become known to them.”

Without overstating it, the Psalmist is saying that God is REAL – and that the primary way we know God is REAL is that He is knowably Good.

This is actually our problem, isn’t it? This is actually the problem that we as people face all the time. We have lousy taste. I’m not talking about the way we dress, or the colors we paint our homes or the way we decorate them, or even the kinds of jokes we tell. I’m talking about keeping our sensibilities on what God intends for this world. And when bad things happen – things which are inexplicably bad, things which, let’s face it, one Sunday school lesson cannot possibly explain – our bad taste tends to take over.

We forget the broad ways in which the fact that God is Good must anchor us.


John MacArthur-Mark DriscollNo doubt, many of you are aware of the recent controversy surrounding Pastor John MacArthur and Mark Driscoll regarding the Strange Fire Conference. For those who want more info, you can read (and see) about it here.

Recently, I read a blog post by Barnabas Piper entitled, “MacArthur v. Driscoll: It’s discouraging to young Christians like me.” I decided it was worth providing another perspective. I'm 33 now so I realize the “young christian” designation is slowly slipping away, but entertain me for the purposes of this article, please. Mr. Piper brings up several points in his article:

1. Piper states, “Sadly, though, it seems both are so bent on their own version of church or the agenda of their respective messages that they undermine the respect young people like me have (or ought to, or want to have).”

There are several things worth noting. Everyone has a standard to which they adhere to and use to discern what is right and wrong in terms of what they believe church should be. Some claim Scripture, others claim an Evangelical personality, some claim prosperity, while yet others claim integration with various religions such as Scientology or Islam. While I disagree with Driscoll on many levels, he has a version of his church which he is convicted about.  MacArthur has a standard as well. I don't believe it is wrong to have a standard or “version” of church. In fact, I would argue that the Bible teaches us to have one and to defend it vigorously (2 Tim. 1:13, 1 Cor. 15:2 among others).  Piper doesn't explicitly say that it is wrong to have a particular “version” or standard of church. I give him the benefit of the doubt in that I believe he would say that we should have one. My concern is, rather, when he decides to impose which standard both MacArthur and Driscoll (and possibly the rest of us) have to abide by. His standard or “version” is whether a standard “undermine(s) the respect young people like (him) have (or ought to, or want to have).” That, to me, is a real reason for concern. A man who has been in the Pastorate longer than Mr. Piper has been alive must make sure that his standard of doing church not only reinforces Piper's respect as a young person but also those of the young people like him? That is the Biblical standard apparently. Now, like I said, I'm 33. My wife is 26. Our close friends who go to various sound churches range from about 21 to 37. He isn't including us. We're “young,” yes, but we're the outsiders by default because we don't agree with his assessment. According to Piper, the “version” of church that must be adhered to, the only version, is that of the one that gets respect from him and his young friends. Not outsiders. Just him and his young friends. Sorry, Mr. Piper. No can do.

2. Piper states, “To young Christians, like me, John MacArthur is known much more for what he is opposed to than for what he believes in.” 

I hear this argument very often, and I am still puzzled by it. At face value, it seems that no one wants to be known more for what they are against than what they believe in.  Who wants to be known as a Negative Nancy? Not me.  I get it.  The question, however, isn't, “Is it bad to be known by what you are opposed to rather than what you are for?” but rather, “Can you be an advocate for something without people also knowing what you are against?” I would argue that if you truly believe there is this thing called “truth,” ie. there is a black and white, right and wrong, true and false on many various issues, then there is no possible way you can be known for what you advocate without others knowing what you are against. One of the best examples I've read of this in a while is a blog entitled… “MacArthur v. Driscoll: It’s discouraging to young Christians like me.” In it, the author spends the majority of his article telling us what he is against. Then, at the end, we learn what he is for. Surely, Mr. Piper appreciates the need to address what he is against in an effort to explain what he is for. This is one of the reasons I stay puzzled: Many of the very ones who place the burden upon our consciences to make us abstain in part or in whole from saying we are critical of something we believe is not Biblical, are in fact the self same persons who are being critical of being critical.

I get it. No one likes a Negative Nancy… but no one likes a Hypocritical Harry, either.

3. Piper states, “When younger Christians look to these prominent leaders, what do we see? We see discord between our shepherds and wedges being driven into the church over personal agendas and theological points that, while important, aren’t the heart of orthodoxy.” 

I think Piper addresses one of the biggest problems we have here in the Modern, Tech-Driven church. Because of technology we have access to many new preachers and speakers we would have never heard in our entire life were it not for technology. That is not a problem. In fact, that is blessing. I run a fairly popular Youtube site featuring many different preachers and speakers, and the feedback says that channel is a blessing to many. Because of the site, though, I do often run across people who have a problem discerning their local pastor from someone like Paul Washer, who is not their pastor. Piper says, “We see discord between our shepherds…” I actually see no discord between my shepherds. I am a deacon at Christ Reformed of Anaheim. My pastor is Dr. Kim Riddlebarger. My associate pastor is Andrew Compton. My assistant pastor is Chris Coleman. During this whole Strange Fire debacle, I saw no discord between them. Piper, however, says that “We see discord between our shepherds…” Is he a member of both Driscoll's and MacArthur's church? I do not see how he could make this claim aside from this being true. There is a reason why people go to Driscoll's churches and plants (even the ones within traveling distance to Grace Community Church (GCC) ) and don't go to GGC. There is also a reason why people from GCC don't go to Driscoll's church and plants. It's because they teach and believe different things. That is such an elementary point, I question the need to even make it, but maybe it needs to be stated more often during these times. They believe different things. Because of that, they have disagreements. Because they have disagreements that they believe are pretty serious, they don't fellowship together in a worship context. There's a reason I go to Christ Reformed and not Mariners down the street. I believe different things than them. Driscoll is a pastor of a local church. MacArthur is, too. They are not “our shepherds.” Shepherds? Yes. Shepherds we can learn a lot from? Yes. But “our shepherds?” Emphatically, no.

4. Piper states, “It hurts to see beliefs and agendas wielded like weapons.”

God states, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Heb. 4:12)

+1 God.

I don't doubt Piper's sincerity regarding what he wrote in this article. I doubt his sincerity toward the basic tenets of the Christian faith if this article is a glimpse into what he believes and practices.  For a Christian believer, many of the things he says he takes issue with are the very things that define us a Christians, namely love. That is, love in the Biblical sense of letting your yes be yes and your no be no, declaring right from wrong, and not allowing error in your or other people's lives if you can help it; not love in the sense of pretending like error doesn't exist so you can have “peace” at the expense of Christ. I'm not interested in that kind of “love,” and Christ wasn't, either.

Why MacArthur v. Driscoll is Encouraging to Young Christians Like Me

1. It Shows that Popularity Doesn't Matter to Everyone

Driscoll is one of the most famous “Reformed” pastors today (whether or not he is actually reformed is a topic for another time). That fact alone is a reason why many, many people will never consider critiquing anything he has said or will say. In fact, that holds true not only for Driscoll but many in Evangelicalism abroad. This conference, however, has encouraged me in the fact that substance does matter. What a person teaches and preaches from the pulpit does matter. They don't always get a pass because they sell a lot of books, are well liked, or popular. At the end of our age, there is the Judge, and He won't care about your temporal standing in the eyes of the rest of your fellow redeemed and non-redeemed sinners. It's always encouraging when you get a glimpse of that by way of a pastor speaking plainly about error regardless of who the person is making the error.

Another encouraging thing I've witnessed that would fall under this heading is hearing from a number of Driscoll supporters who watched the “confiscation” video and decided that Driscoll wasn't exactly the most truthful in his assessment of the situation. They could be honest with that fact even while saying that they support Driscoll and think MacArthur is less than desirable as a teacher. That was pretty encouraging. There are still the few faithful drones who will say a particular person is right no matter what they do, but I've witnessed personally, in this situation, popularity isn't the arbiter of truth for a lot of fellow believers, and that is encouraging.

Finally, I saw posts from several people… YOUNG PEOPLE (gasp) who knew the security at the event saying that the head of security is one of the most stand up guys they know. They backed him throughout the incident. They could have said, “Well, this girl I like at Thursday Night Youth Pizza Group is really into Driscoll, and if I say publicly I believe security cause I know his reputation and have seen the video, I will probably be ostracized a little.” Well, apparently that wasn't on the mind for the young people I saw post about the event who are affiliated with GCC or Master's in some way. In summary, it was very encouraging that truth matters more than popularity to many more young people than I previously thought before this episode took place.

2. I'm Reminded That, No Matter How Bleak it May Look at a Time, the Truth Eventually Wins Out

Exhibit A

Exhibit B

3. People Are Talking About Theology Again

Confession: I have perceived a lull in the recent couple years with my desire to read, discuss, and debate theology. It's not that I didn't care about those things during that time, it's just that I didn't have as much a desire to get myself immersed in it as I did at another season in my life. If situations presented themselves, great! But my desire to seek out those situations wasn't what it was about 5 years ago. A couple close friends of mine have also told me the same. That, however, has started to subside this year. I'm really curious to know if anyone else has experienced this as well. I'm assuming so. My Twitter Follow Feed isn't as theological as it once was. Regardless, it seems the Strange Fire Conference has awakened in many a desire to discuss Theology instead of Personality again. I must admit, hearing about which person put out a new record, which person is speaking at which conference, etc. has worn me out a bit in recent years. It's not that these things are bad, but it's just that discussing things like limited atonement and justification interest me a lot more than discussing who plays basketball and also believes in Jesus or who is hanging out with famous rappers these days, etc.

This whole MacArthur v. Driscoll ordeal has made it pretty clear who wants to talk about doctrine and theology and who wants to talk about themselves. MacArthur et al caused a guy to drive from Long Beach, CA (where Driscoll's conference was) to GCC (not a short drive) because MacArthur et al discussed theology. In return, Driscoll arrives, social media's his whole visit (including posting pictures of him praying in public for others and claiming security “confiscated” his books, etc.). He then posts a blog post called “See You in Seattle, Pastor John MacArthur?” About theology? No. It's about many things, but suffice it to say it's an open letter explaining his actions and asking MacArthur to come to Seattle to talk. Even Driscoll's new book is said to be about getting together for “love's sake” instead of defending the truth for God's sake according to this post (“Mark Driscoll is promoting his new book, in which he is calling out Christian leaders for being too confrontational and fostering too much infighting… “). Now, these things are fine in their own time (aside from that book synopsis), but my point is that, for the longest time, this is what the popular sites have been attempting to feed me aside from a faithful few. I want to discuss the eternal things more and not whether so and so is liked by so and so or whether this or that. MacArthur, from what I know, hasn't made it personal with Mark, but Mark has surely made it personal with MacArthur. Enough of that. I would prefer to hear Driscoll have his own “The Fire Conference” where he addresses MacArthur's cessationism if he has such a problem with that. All this other stuff is superfluous.

So, as a “young” person, it encourages me to see that theology matters… and lay people are talking about it a lot more than I've heard in recent times not just because of this conference or because of this incident, but certainly not in spite of either event.

4. There is a Clearer Distinction of Where People and Their Character Stand After This

Regardless of what side you come down (Driscoll v. MacArthur) you can't come out of this whole situation without having clearer view of, not only where other people stand on certain issues, but where you and me stand as well.

5. Fads Fade

This debacle has reminded me that eventually, when we're in heaven, we won't care about personality quirks, but we will care about truth v. error. Everyone there will. It's a given. Even some of the personalities mentioned in this article who are pretty well known for riding a fad or two, while still influential, aren't as prominent as they were just a few years ago.  So this event reminded me that fads eventually fade, but the truth remains the same no matter who the person is presenting it.