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January 2010

January 24, 2010

Yesterday I began reading Michael Emlet’s CrossTalk: Where Life and Scripture Meet. Just eight pages in I had to stop and reflect on this quote. Though targeted primarily at those who are in vocational ministry, I immediately saw its application even to my task as a father.


A temptation in ministry is to think that just because we prepared a Bible study, a sermon, or a discipleship appointment (or wrote a book like this!), we are deeply engaging with the God of the universe. But that’s not necessarily true. It’s easy in ministry to live more as a ‘pipe’ than a ‘reservoir.’ That is, it’s easy to live merely as a conduit to others of the transforming truths of God’s Word, rather than as a changed and transformed reservoir who overflows with lived-out gospel truth. You wouldn’t imagine cooking meal after meal for your family without sitting down to enjoy that nourishment, would you? To paraphrase James 1:22, let’s not merely be hearers or speakers or counselors of the Word, but doers, first and foremost.

January 23, 2010

Over at 10MillionWords I’ve been working hard, reading all of the New York Times bestsellers that have been on the list so far this year. Just yesterday I posted a review of one that I found particularly interesting because it deals with a topic that is innately theological. Committed by Elizabeth Gilbert is a book about marriage.

At the end of her bestselling book Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert fell in love with Felipe. Four years later she returns to tell their story. Having fallen in love with this Brazilian man, Gilbert began to build a life with him. But before long the Department of Homeland Security intervened, deporting Felipe for spending too much time in the United States despite not being a citizen. The only solution, the only way to gain his citizenship, was for the two of them to marry. Yet both of them, scarred from prior divorces, had no desire at all to marry. In fact, they had both sworn off marriage, vowing to remain together, but unfettered by that age-old institution.

“…I was not convinced that I knew very much more than ever about the realities of institutionalized companionship.” says Gilbert. “I had failed at marriage and thus I was terrified of marriage, but I’m not sure this made me an expert on marriage; this only made me an expert on failure and terror, and those particular fields are already crowded with experts. Yet destiny had intervened and was demanding marriage from me, and I’d learned enough from life’s experiences to understand that destiny’s interventions can sometimes be read as invitations for us to address and even surmount our biggest fears.” Yet the reality was that if she wanted to live her life with Felipe, she would have to marry him. “Within one year—like it or not, ready or not—I had to get married. That being the case, it seemed imperative that I focus my attention on unraveling the history of monogamous Western marriage in order to better understand my inherited assumptions, the shape of my family’s narrative, and my culturally specific catalogue of anxieties.”

This book, half travelogue and half sociology, follows her as she and Felipe travel through Asia while they wait for the U.S. government to grant him permission to enter America and get married. As she travels she researches marriage, trying to get to the bottom of what it is and why it is so fundamental to humanity. Committed is, then, a book about marriage. In its own way it is pro-marriage, I suppose, though only if we grant quite a wide understanding of what marriage is.

You can read the rest of the review at 10MillionWords


Here are a few other books I’ve reviewed recently:

January 22, 2010

With a new Friday I’ve got some new free stuff to give away. Here we go.

Andrew Case writes unique books, which is saying something when hundreds of thousands of new titles are being published each year. He writes books of prayers—prayers that are drawn almost entirely from Scripture. Each book is targeted to a very specific readership and contains prayers uniquely suited to that type of person. Today he would like to give you a couple of his books: Water of the Word and Prayers of an Excellent Wife.

January 22, 2010
Get Outta My Face!
Rick Horne’s book Get Outta My Face!—How to Reach Angry, Unmotivated Teens with Biblical Counsel is available today only for just $8 from the link above. I reviewed it here.
My Dad’s Message to Me on the Day He Died
Ray Ortlund shares his father’s final words for him.
How To Meditate on God’s Word
Stephen Altrogge: “According to our culture, meditation is the relaxation of the mind to the point where little or no thought occurs. But according to scripture, meditation is the increased focus of the mind with much deep thought occurring. The goal of secular meditation is to empty the mind, the goal of godly meditation is to fill the mind with God’s truth. To put it in a succinct definition, godly meditation is the practice of filling the mind with God’s word for the purpose of applying God’s word.” He offers some useful practical tips on meditation.
Can Joel Osteen Help You Pay Your Bills?
From CNN: “Joel Osteen strides into the former Compaq Center. Some 20,000 people are standing and singing. Purple lights softly pulse across the ceiling, and mist floats around two giant screens flashing words to the songs.”
Like an Electric Current
Kevin DeYoung: “ ‘Mugged by Ultrasound: Why So Many Abortion Workers Have Turned Pro-Life’, by David Daleiden and Jon Shields, is a gut-wrenching, disturbing, graphic account of the emotional trauma abortion wrecks on those who perform them.”
The Doctrine of Scripture
This interview, between Martin Downes and Greg Beale and dealing with the Doctrine of Scripture, is taken from Risking the Truth: Handling Error in the Church.
January 21, 2010

Today we continue in our readings in John Murray’s Redemption Accomplished and Applied. We are now eleven readings in with only three to go. I’ve said it before and I’m sure I’ll say it again, but this has without a doubt been one of my favorite classics to read together. I have learned a lot from it and have highlighted a huge percentage of the words. I know it’s a book I will return to often.

This week’s chapter deals with sanctification. Murray begins with a couple of presuppositions. Primarily, he wants to show the close relationship between sanctification and both calling and regeneration (both of which we’ve already discussed). “Sanctification,” he says, “is a work of God in us, and calling and regeneration are acts of God which have their immediate effects in us.” So these three are bound together in the fact that each of them is an inward act of change unlike, for example, justification or adoption which are instead changes of status about and outside of us. He would also have us know that sanctification particularly concerns the Holy Spirit who indwells the believer and who directs this work. And finally, he wants the reader to know that sanctification is a necessary work that will be present in the life of every believer. “Sin is dethroned in every person who is effectually called and regenerated. … The Holy Spirit is the controlling and directing agent in every regenerate person. Hence the fundamental principle, the governing disposition, the prevailing character of every regenerate person is holiness—he is ‘Spiritual’ and he delights in the law of the Lord after the inward man.” He says also, “He who died and rose again with Christ is freed from sin, and sin will not exercise the dominion.”

Murray turns next to the concern of sanctification, showing what it is that the Holy Spirit actually does in this ongoing act. “This deliverance from the power of sin secured by union with Christ and from the defilement of sin secured by regeneration does not eliminate all sin from the heart and life of the believer. … Sanctification is concerned precisely with this fact and it has as its aim the elimination of all sin and complete conformation to the image of God’s own son, to be holy as the Lord is holy.” He offers several considerations:

First, all sin in the believer is the contradiction of God’s holiness. It is “the contradiction of all [the believer is] as a regenerate person and son of God. It is the contradiction of God himself, after whose image he has been recreated.”

Second, the presence of sin in the believer involves conflict in his heart and life. “The more sanctified the person is, the more conformed he is to the image of his Savior, the more he must recoil against every lack of conformity to the holiness of God. The deeper his apprehension of the majesty of God, the greater the intensity of his love to God, the more persistent his yearning for the attainment of the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus, the more conscious will he be of the gravity of the sin which remains and the more poignant will be his detestation of it.”

Third, there must be a constant and increasing appreciation that though sin still remains it does not have the mastery. “There is a total difference between surviving sin and reigning sin, the regenerate in conflict with sin and the unregenerate complacent to sin. It is one thing for sin to live in us: it is another for us to live in sin. It is one thing for the enemy to occupy the capital; it is another for his defeated hosts to harass the garrisons of the kingdom.” He says also, “It is the concern of sanctification that sin be more and more mortified and holiness ingenerated and cultivated.”

Next, Murray discusses the agent of sanctification, showing that ultimately it is God who sanctifies and, specifically, the Holy Spirit. He shows that we must “realize our complete dependence upon the Holy Spirit. We must not forget, of course, that our activity is enlisted to the fullest extent in the process of our sanctification. But we must not rely upon our own strength of resolution or purpose.” Though we are active in sanctification, we are active only through the power of the Spirit.

Further, “it is as the Spirit of Christ and as the Spirit of him who raised up Christ from the dead that the Holy Spirit sanctifies.” We must not think of the Spirit’s work of sanctification apart from Christ’s work on the cross.

Finally, Murray looks to the means of sanctification, saying, “We must also take account of the fact that sanctification is a process that draws within its scope the conscious life of the believer. The sanctified are not passive or quiescent in this process. … God’s working in us is not suspended because we work, nor our working suspended because God works. Neither is the relation strictly one of co-operation as if God did his part and we did ours so that the conjunction or co-ordination of both produced the required results.” Rather, “the relation is that because God works we work. All working out of salvation on our part is the effect of God’s working in us, not the willing to the exclusion of the doing and not the doing to the exclusion of the willing, but both the willing and the doing.”

This is a lifelong struggle and one that involves the whole being. “The exhortations to action with which the Scripture is pervaded are all to the effect of reminding us that our whole being is intensely active in that process which has as its goal the predestinating purpose of God that we should be conformed to the image of his Son.”

Next Week
For next Thursday please read the next chapter—“Perseverance.”

Your Turn
The purpose of this program is to read classics together. So if there are things that stood out to you in this chapter, if there are questions you had, this is the time and place to have your say. Feel free to post a comment below or to link to your blog if you’ve chosen to write about this on your own site.

January 21, 2010
The Online Life of Kids
“The fact that children and teenagers now spend a good deal of their lives connected to electronic devices is hardly news. We are now accustomed to the knowledge that teenagers are seldom seen without wires in their years and a cell phone in the hand as they multitask their way through adolescence. Now, however, there is good reason to believe that these young people are far more connected than we have even imagined.”
Mark Driscoll on Haiti
Mark Driscoll took a brief trip to Haiti. USA Today talked to him about some of what he saw when he was there.
Talking to Your Kids About Marriage and Sex
Jay Younts, who writes for Shepherd Press, is beginning a series of blog posts dealing with how and when to talk to your children about sex. Topics will include: “when to talk about sex and what specifics should be covered at what age, what sexual attraction is, and abuses of God’s provision for sexual activity.”
Happy Helms
My sister Maryanne’s blog went quiet a year or two ago. Since then quite a few people wrote me to ask what had happened to it. Well, at long last it is back. You can find it (again) at happyhelms.com.
RHB’s Book Sale
RHB still has lots of overstock and other books to sell. They’re offering them for very good prices so get them while the getting’s good!
January 20, 2010

Last year I began a series of interviews called “Meet the Ministries.” This purpose of this series is to learn about some of the more prominent or more interesting ministries seeking to serve the church today. In the past this series has stopped at Grace to You and Desiring God and Acts 29. Today the series resumes with an interview with Fred Barthel, Director of Communications at Peacemaker Ministries.

How and when did Peacemaker Ministries begin?
Conflict is an issue in all our lives and churches—there’s no escaping it, even for Christians. (As it’s sometimes cheekily noted, “Wherever two or three are gathered, there will be conflict.”)

The same was true back in 1982, when Ken Sande was faced with a choice: enter a law firm as an associate attorney or create a local venue for providing biblically-based mediation and arbitration services. Thankfully, Ken chose the latter. He began helping Christians and their church leaders learn how to follow 1 Corinthians 6:1-8—resolving disputes within the local church rather than bringing lawsuits against one another.

Eventually, the small ministry expanded as more and more Christians learned how to resolve conflicts with goals of justice, personal reconciliation, and glorifying God. In a process from 1987 to 1993, Ken’s own organization merged with several other conciliation organizations and became what is now Peacemaker Ministries.

Why does Peacemaker Ministries exist? What are its chief goals and key emphases?
As Francis Schaeffer noted in The Mark of the Christian:

Jesus says, “By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one for another.” In the midst of the world, in the midst of our present dying culture, Jesus is giving a right to the world. Upon his authority he gives the world the right to judge whether you and I are born-again Christians on the basis of our observable love toward all Christians.

Isn’t this an amazing thought—that God has essentially given the world the right to judge whether the gospel is true based on how Christians get along with each other? Along these lines, it is our goal to help the bride of Christ become more lovely and beautiful in her unity so that a watching world will readily see that the gospel really is true.

Yes, we know we are a parachurch ministry. That means that our role is squarely one of a bridesmaid supporting and directing attention to the bride rather than being in competition with her. We want people to look at the church and say, “Wow! Look how they persevere with one another. Look how they love each other. How is that possible? I want to learn more … “

For this to happen, Christians must learn to be peacemakers. And so as a ministry, we desire to help create churches that are marked by peace and unity, even in the midst of real-life relational struggles.

More formally, our mission is to “equip and assist Christians and their churches to respond to conflict biblically”:

Equip - We don’t want to be viewed merely as “firefighters”—i.e., in case of conflict, break glass and call the “professional peacemakers.” We’d much prefer for all Christians to be equipped to respond well to conflict themselves (and to the extent possible, to stay out of destructive conflict in the first place).

Assist - Sometimes, though, we do play the “firefighter” role when a conflict is so serious or involves so many people that a family, business, or ministry requires outside help to resolve it. One of our divisions, the Institute for Christian Conciliation, offers a network of trained professionals to provide direct assistance to individuals and organizations through its conciliation services. After nearly thirty years helping Christians in conflict, we have experience assisting in almost every situation you can imagine: from family fights to congregational conflicts to multi-million dollar contract disputes (and everything in between).

Christians and their churches - Again, our passion for peacemaking goes beyond the individual Christian—we firmly believe that the church is God’s “Plan A” for building the Kingdom (and frankly, there is no plan B). We believe that peacemaking is an essential ministry of the local church, not a task reserved for professional mediators or lawyers. Therefore, we encourage Christians to take unresolved conflicts to their church families, which are called by God to restore peace by promoting biblical justice and reconciliation.

Respond to conflict biblically - As a ministry we want to be faithful to Scripture in all that we do and all that we encourage others to do. We believe that the Bible contains all of the promises and principles needed for true peacemaking. That means that God’s Word is totally authoritative and completely sufficient for all aspects of life, and his peacemaking commands and promises apply to every conflict a Christian can encounter.

How is Peacemaker Ministries a distinctly Christian ministry? How would it differ from a similar secular organization?
First of all, Christ is central to all that we do as a ministry. We believe that genuine peace between people cannot be found through a process or a set of skills; it can be found only through Jesus Christ. Therefore, we encourage people in conflict to believe the gospel, trust in Christ, and faithfully rely on his promises.

There’s a direct connection between the gospel and peacemaking—peacemaking is one clear snapshot of what the gospel looks like in all our lives. The greatest conflict in history—the one between God and man—was reconciled on the cross, and as a result there is hope for reconciliation in any other conflict. Even when we were still his enemies, God made peace with us through the death and resurrection of his Son.

If we truly believe this (and we do!), then it must make a difference in our relationships and how we deal with conflict. Since we have been reconciled with God, we can be reconciled with one another. Because God has forgiven us in Christ, we can forgive others. And because God has forgiven us in Christ, we can freely confess where we have sinned against others. This is a radically different way for Christians to relate to each other, and we at Peacemaker Ministries exist to help the church live this out.

Another key distinctive is one that I have already discussed, but it’s so important I’ll mention it again: we are devoted to the bride of Christ—the Church.

The final distinctive is that, unlike secular mediation-arbitration services, we not only address the substantive issues in a conflict, we also encourage people to deal with conflict at the heart level. James 4:1-3 teaches us that that destructive conflict comes from desires that battle within our hearts. For that reason, we don’t merely try to resolve surface issues. Yes, we can help with that contractual dispute. But we also strive to help Christians in conflict to find their fulfillment in Christ, renounce sinful desires and actions that have contributed to conflict, and seek genuine reconciliation with God and others.

How can Peacemaker serve the readers of this web site? In what circumstances might they want to get in touch with Peacemaker?
By all means, if you are facing a conflict and need some help that isn’t available locally, please contact our conciliation division. Or if you are interested in deepening your own peacemaking skills, then consider our training opportunities or come to our annual Peacemaker Conference (this fall it’s in Washington DC on the theme of forgiveness).

But probably what would serve most of you the best are our resources. If you’ve never read the The Peacemaker (by Ken Sande) before, I’d highly encourage you to do it. My wife often says that outside the Bible, it’s the one book that every Christian should read, and I agree. We also have several related books and small group studies that apply biblical peacemaking principles to pastors, women, children, missionary teams and more.

Our newest resource is one that we are particularly excited about—a DVD-based group study for church leaders called The Leadership Opportunity. Church leaders, just by virtue of their position, sit in the middle of conflict—whether in those times when tension surfaces in a leaders’ meeting, when managing a difficult change, or when an angry couple is sitting in their office. We’ve pulled together a practical resource to equip leaders in these difficult situations, encouraging leaders to truly live out the gospel in the many places where conflict and leadership intersect.

Who are the key leaders within the ministry?
Ken Sande is the founder and president, and he is surrounded by several experienced vice-presidents (Gary Friesen, Chip Zimmer, Tim Pollard, and David Schlachter).

How many employees does Peacemaker have?
Around 30 full/part time employees.

What is Peacemaker’s annual budget? How is the ministry financed and how do you ensure financial integrity?
Our 2009 budget was about $2.9 million. About 50-60% of our revenue comes from the generous donations of our supporters, while the remaining income comes from our resources, training, and conciliation services. We are a member of the ECFA (Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability) which carries with it all kinds of requirements to make sure we are above-board on everything financial (including an annual audit). With ECFA’s help, our donors can be certain that we are good stewards of the resources entrusted to us.

How do you expect Peacemaker will be different in ten years? Twenty years?
Lord willing, we will have closed our doors because churches will be doing such a good job themselves of dealing with conflicts that we won’t be needed anymore!

But if the Lord chooses not to do this, we want to continue transferring the ministry of peacemaking to the church. We would love to see thousands of churches establish dedicated peacemaking teams and develop a “culture of peace.” Such a culture is where members resolve most conflicts personally and privately, and releasing pastors from the “complaint loop.” It’s where marriages, friendships, and other relationships are strengthened and preserved, resulting in fewer divorces and a lower turnover of members, staff, and volunteers. Ministries and missions are more united and fruitful. And the gospel is lived out in relationships so that a church experiences the true blessings of peace and reconciliation. That’s our main goal in the coming years.

We are also excited to see is what the Lord will do overseas. God is already raising up people and organizations with a passion for reconciliation in key areas of South America, Africa, Australia, and Asia. We are partnering with the organization Overseas Council to bring biblical peacemaking into some of the most influential evangelical seminaries around the world—helping the next generation of leaders in the global church be prepared for conflict.

Christians overseas tend to have a big vision for what peacemaking can do beyond their personal lives and church families. They see the biblical principles directly applying to the political and cultural conflicts they face, and have great hope that the power of the gospel can transform entire communities and countries. We are grateful for the many ministry opportunities opening up around the globe, and we look forward to seeing what God does in the future.

How does Peacemaker work with other Christian ministries?
Our work doesn’t necessitate a great deal of collaboration, but we have close ties to a few ministries, including: the Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation (CCEF), Christian Legal Society, and as I mentioned above, Overseas Council. In addition, many other ministries and organizations have made use of our training, consulting, or conciliation services.

But, of course, our major partnership is with churches, and our primary desire is to work alongside denominations and churches for the benefit of the bride of Christ and the glory of God.

What are some of the ways Peacemaker Ministries has seen evidence of God’s hand of blessing?
God has given us a sacrificially dedicated staff and a committed and enthusiastic constituency, all with a passion for peacemaking.

We are also blessed by the enduring quality of Ken Sande’s book, The Peacemaker. It is a particular joy to us to see The Peacemaker translated into many languages to help our brothers and sisters in Christ around the world learn better how to live in unity with one another.

In addition ,we are consistently humbled to witness God’s work in the lives of those who are stuck in conflict. In situation after situation—often where there seems like no hope for reconciliation—we’ve seen God move people to humble themselves, confess, and forgive one another. It is such an honor to see the power of the gospel tangibly displayed in the restoration of broken relationships.

But the biggest blessing? That’s the one found in Matthew 5:9, where Jesus teaches that we get to be called sons of God when we are peacemakers. What a wonderful identity to have!

How can the readers of this web site serve and support Peacemaker Ministries?
Please pray for us and the work God has called us to do. Pray for encouragement, for it can be very wearying to deal with the ugly effects of Christians in conflict. Pray also for wisdom as we consider what God would have us accomplish this year with limited resources (like most churches and ministries, finances are tight in this tough economy).
Also, feel free to poke around our website (www.Peacemaker.net) and take a look at the resources, training, and services we provide.

But most importantly, if there’s just one thing you could do, we’d love for you to introduce these concepts to your own church and church leaders. In our desire to serve churches, we still need humble advocates for peacemaking within congregations. If that’s you, then we want to partner with you and see how the Lord might bless the peacemakers in your midst.

I really do appreciate this opportunity, and I thank you for taking the time to read this. And also, thanks to you, Tim, for all you do for the Kingdom through the written word. May God richly bless you all.

January 20, 2010
The most Abortion-Targeted Neighborhood in America
Here is a video of John Ensor in Los Angeles, laying out Heartbeat International’s life-saving vision for the urban centers of America.
Interview with R.C. Sproul
Alex Chediak interviews R.C. Sproul on his latest book Surprised by Suffering: The Role of Pain and Death in The Christian Life.
Public Passion vs Private Devotion
Francis Chan: “I wonder if the inconsistency in my walk with God has anything to do with the fact that I can lead a “successful” church in America without being in love with Jesus. I’m sure I could blame American church culture, my position, or a busy schedule for my lack of reverent intimacy. The truth, however, is that my sin and hypocrisy is a result of me.”
From Anne Frank to Stephanie Meyer
This article discusses how hard it is to get published today, especially for those authors who do not have agents. “It wasn’t supposed to be this way. The Web was supposed to be a great democratizer of media. Anyone with a Flip and Final Cut Pro could be a filmmaker; anyone with a blog a memoirist. But rather than empowering unknown artists, the Web is often considered by talent-seeking executives to be an unnavigable morass.”