28 July 2014

Psalm 65

22 July 2014

Why Would We Be 'Ashamed of the Gospel'? (Rom. 1:16)

Bishop Handley Moule's answer:
What is there about this revelation of the heart of Eternal Love, this record of a Life equally divine and human, of a Death as majestic as it is infinitely pathetic, and then of a Resurrection out of death, to occasion shame?

For our part we believe the solution lies near the words sin, pardon, self-surrender.
The Gospel reveals the eternal Love, but under conditions which remind man that he has done his worst to forfeit it. It tells him of a peace and strength sublime and heavenly; but it asks him, in order to receive them, to kneel down in the dust and take them, unmerited, for nothing. . . .

Such views are deeply repellent to the soul that has not yet seen itself and God in the light of truth. Well then did Paul remember his old hatred and contempt when he presented Christ at Rome--imperial, overwhelming Rome. But then he looked again from them to Jesus Christ, and the temptation was beneath his feet, and the Gospel, everywhere, was upon his lips. 
--H. C. G. Moule, The Epistle to the Romans (London: Pickering & Inglis, 1894), 36-37

12 July 2014

Filled the Enemy with Madness

Gandalf and the Riders of Rohan descend upon the Orcs at the end of the battle of Helm's Deep--
Down leaped Shadowfax, like a deer that runs surefooted in the mountains. The White Rider was upon them, and the terror of his coming filled the enemy with madness. The wild men fell on their faces before him. The Orcs reeled and screamed and cast aside both sword and spear. Like a black smoke driven by a mounting wind they fled. Wailing they passed under the waiting shadow of the trees; and from that shadow none ever came again.
--J. R. R. Tolkien, The Two Towers, p. 529

06 July 2014

Four Years In

Four years ago today I started working at Crossway. So, four reasons I love this place.

1. A single-minded mission. Crossway exists for one purpose: to get the gospel out to the world through theologically responsible books and Bibles. That's why the back of my business card says "gospel-centered publishing." This mission is shared by all departments across the company and creates a wonderful dynamic and shared enthusiasm. As a company we exist for a reason that will matter forever.

2. My colleagues. What a remarkable group of human beings. I'm an introvert, but I love bobbing down the hall to chat with my colleagues. God has given us an amazing team of gifted men and women, so different in our temperaments and wiring, so united in what we are trying to do in the world through our work together. Under God, it is due to the president, Lane Dennis, and his wise leadership, along with a godly and shrewd board of directors.

3. Our history. The company was started on a $20 tithe by Clyde Dennis, Lane's father. Good News did tracts for forty years, then began books in the late 1970s, then the Bible in 2001. It's a nonprofit to this day. Key influencers along the way have been Francis Schaeffer, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, and J. I. Packer. All along, leadership has demonstrated a deliberate trust in the Lord and counting on him to carry forward the ministry to get the gospel out to the world. For all these reasons, I cherish our history.

4. Content-first publishing. If we don't make money, we shrink and eventually disappear. And of course we want to sell widely: if we really believe our books and Bibles will help people, the greater the sales the better. But we say no to book and Bible projects that might sell widely but compromise our doctrinal standards, and yes to projects that make an important contribution to the kingdom and the church even if we anticipate modest sales. I love that. Truth trumps the bottom line. Because of #1 above.

02 July 2014

Real Church

Confess your sins to one another . . . that you may be healed. -James 5:16

There's a strange idea I’m unlearning these days. Actually if I'm honest, I'm not yet unlearning it at all. But I'd like to. I need to. 

The strange idea is: church is for displaying the best about us, not revealing the worst about us.

The result is: burdened, burned out, suffocating Christians and church leaders.

We’ve all heard the stats about how pastors are leaving the ministry in droves, and how all the rest would like to but don’t have a medical or law or business degree to fall back on. Is it because they feel unable to exhale the carbon dioxide of their failures and inhale the oxygen of grace? Are we letting our leaders be human beings?

And church members. How many actually enjoy small group? Honestly—how many go not out of a sense of duty?

Someone gets wonderfully converted and we all rejoice, then promptly saddle them with spiritual disciplines to help them "grow." They’re not Christians two weeks before they feel like worse failures than they ever did as an unbeliever. Maybe they were dealing crack before conversion, but at least they didn’t feel hypocritical about it.

What if we let a new convert breathe in some grace for a while? Until--I don't know--they die?

What if the leaders in a church stepped off the cliff of face-saving into the mile-long freefall of humiliating honesty and found themselves floating into the delicious clouds of actual, real, for-sinners, grace

What if church discipline was used not to scare sinners but to kick out those who make sinners feel alienated, from God and from others?

It is terrifying to confess sin. But so is going into surgery. Surely the life that follows surgery is better than the misery of living diseased?

It feels like death to take the mask off. Not just pain, not merely embarrassment. Death. We feel as if we are shutting down in a profound, existential way. But perhaps it is just here that the odd theme running all through the New Testament about life through death will suddenly move from mental assent to felt experience.

James tells us to confess our sins to one another that we may be healed. I can stuff my sins inside and let the sickness fester; or I can confess, and be healed. Those are my two options. That's the opposite of how reality feels. Stuffing it in feels healthy, feels like survival. One more reason we need the Bible to correct our natural intuitions about human health.

Maybe revival is just another name for corporate relaxing. Calming down. Letting our guard down. Taking off the clothes of pretense because we're clothed in Jesus' righteousness. If we say we rejoice in the gospel but cannot get honest about how we're really doing with other Christians (not everyone, but a trusted few), the diagnosis is not that we need to add something horizontal to our vertical belief. The diagnosis is that we don't have the vertical belief.

It will need to be wisely chosen friends and counselors. Even then, they may not respond in grace. They may forget their own sin, and withdraw. So this is a risk. But it is the only path of healing. And there is one Friend who will always respond in wisdom and grace, who will never withdraw.

Anyhow, something I'd like to move into more deeply in days ahead, as I consider my own disbelief and strange reluctance to calm down into honesty.

The Silence of God