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October 28, 2015

Justin TrudeauI went to Europe for just six days, and by the time I returned the Blue Jays had been turfed out of the playoffs and this guy had been elected as our Prime Minister. (I actually noticed that he was front-center on the cover of the German newspapers.) While I felt surprisingly little despair over the demise of my team, I couldn’t hold off some discouragement in seeing Trudeau and his Liberal Party of Canada sweep into power. He becomes Prime Minister at a time when Canadians are eager for change and when they are eager for someone to lead them into a liberal and licentious future—Trudeau, after all, made the legalization of marijuana one of his key campaign promises and told prospective members of parliament they were not welcome in his party if they are pro-life.

It was a sudden and interesting little realization that drew me out of my despair. I found myself pondering the well-known words of Psalm 146:3-4: “Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation. When his breath departs, he returns to the earth; on that very day his plans perish.” Here the psalmist admits our temptation to find hope in men, to put our trust in princes and presidents and prime ministers. We know better. We know the futility of trusting in men. But still we are prone to it. Still we do it.

And it struck me that there are two sides to this temptation. The temptation is not only to put my hope in politicians but to put my despair in them as well. I will be tempted not only to find too much joy in the election of the person I voted for, but also to sink too far into despair in the election of the person I did not. Either way, whether I soar too high or sink too low, I am declaring that I have put my trust in a man more than in God. I have forgotten that, ultimately, it is God who rules over and through earthly rulers.

The psalmist gets this. He gets it and pushes back by declaring that our hope is to always be anchored in God: “Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD his God.” In the rest of the psalm he explains why God and God alone is worthy of our confidence: He is the one who created the world, he is the one who formed humanity, he is the one who sustains all that exists, he is the one who keeps faith, who executes justice, who provides for our needs, who brings the wicked to ruin. He is the one who rules whether through good rulers or bad ones, through the ones I would have chosen and the ones I just can’t stand.

“The LORD will reign forever, your God, O Zion, to all generations. Praise the LORD” (Psalm 146:10)! Even while Justin Trudeau has the next 4 years to advance his agenda, it is the Lord who reigns.

I am now accepting (and encouraging) letters to the editor. This is an experimental feature meant to replace the comments section. If you would like to write a letter to the editor, you can do so here.

I Demand Justice
October 26, 2015

Last week I spent a few hours at Dachau, the infamous Nazi concentration camp. It stands today as a kind of monument to evil, a reminder of what humanity is capable of. It was sobering to walk the grounds, to view the barracks, to tour the museum, and to peer into the long rows of isolation cells. It was horrifying to see the pockmarked wall that was used as the backdrop for firing squads, to walk through a gas chamber, and to stare at the ovens that were once used to dispose of so many bodies. The things I had seen in movies and read about in books were right there in front of me. It was all so real.

As I walked back through the gates of Dachau and onto the streets of Munich, the cry of my heart was for justice. It is not right that so many people should have been rounded up and confined and killed in that camp (and in so many other camps like it). It is not right that people should have been executed for their unpopular political views, for their religion, for their ethnicity, or for all those other arbitrary reasons. It was wrong. Really, really wrong. The common experience when leaving a camp like that is to feel deep sorrow mixed with a deep desire for justice.

Justice exists to address evil. If there was no evil in this world there would be no need for justice. But evil does exist, and so justice must exist as well. The cry for justice is universal. There has never been a person who has not desired it at one time or another. This longing arises from the image of God within us. Rocks don’t want justice; animals don’t want it. We do. We long for justice because we bear the image of a just God.

As I walked out of Dachau I felt a deep longing for justice. I did not just want the kind of justice that would hand out a life sentence, but a cosmic justice, a complete justice, God’s own justice against the evildoers. A life sentence hardly pays the debt for a man who killed hundreds or thousands or millions.

But I had a deeper and more disturbing realization: If I want justice for them, I must also want justice for me. I can’t have it both ways. Either justice must exist for all crimes, or it must exist for no crimes. It must exist for those who violate God’s law in unusual and extreme ways and those who violate God’s law in the common and less remarkable ways. If there is to be justice for rapists and murderers and people who create concentration camps, there must also be justice for liars and lusters and gossips. If we want to live in a world where there is justice for war crimes, we must also live in a world where there is justice for heart crimes.

I like to be choosy about justice, to construct it in such a way that it falls on others but not on me. But what I realized as I walked out of Dachau is that if I want justice for them, I must also want it for me. If I want a world that is consistently rather than arbitrarily just, I must want justice for my own transgressions as well. And what cut through the gloom and gave me hope is that justice has been done and will be done. For those who are in Christ, the demands of justice have already been met by our Savior. For those who are not in Christ, the time of justice is looming. Justice will be done.

Letters to the Editor
October 25, 2015

A couple of months ago I made the decision to remove the comment section on my blog. I did so largely because comments can only succeed where there is good moderation, and I was increasingly unable to provide that. The fault, then, was not in the commenters, but in me. In lieu of comments I have decided to accept (and encourage) letters to the editor. Today I share some of the letters to the editor that have come in this week. I would invite those of you who read the blog regularly to consider reading these letters as a part of the back-and-forth between writer and readers.

General Comments

Uncle Tim I have started to read your blog and enjoy it. I like the format and what you talk about. Keep it up!
Joshua H, Woodstock GA

Tim: Thanks, Josh. See you at Christmas!

Comments on 7 Great Study Bibles

Tim, your Infographic on Study Bibles is excellent. To be able to see the most current Study Bibles side-by-side is very helpful for the Church. One more category that would prove very helpful in light of the current debate within evangelicalism would be: “Continuationistic and Cessationistic.” (Please excuse the “ic” on the end of each of those labels…but I’m trying to communicate tendencies or theological cover to the two continuum categories. I believe your infographic would show the following results. “Continuationistic”—NIV Zondervan Study Bible, ESV Study Bible. “Cessationistic”—MacArthur Study Bible, HCSB Study Bible, Reformation Study Bible, KJV Study Bible.
Jim N, Chesapeake, VA

Tim: I believe most of the Bibles take a neutral approach on that subject, like they do, for example, on the days of creation. Most of them present the options, but do not share their own preference. I expect there would be a few exceptions such as The MacArthur Study Bible.

Comments on A Quiz on Christ

Really good quiz and the flow and format of it was great. The usability and ease of operation that it provided are perfect. On another note - it’s shaking things up a bit and helping people to see that they are not as solid as they should be in their Christology. Well done and thanks.
Paul A, Oakley, CA


The Holy Spirit, as the Author of the Word, is completely precise in identifying Mary as the “Mother of Jesus,” in every instance. I have not yet read “Knowing Christ,” but for this reason the corresponding quiz question and its answer appear to be incorrect.
Tom R, Williamsville, NY


Hi Tim, a couple of the quiz questions I think would be served well to have greater clarification or precision. First, the question as to whether “Jesus” created the universe. I actually would not say that “Jesus” created the universe. The Son of God was not called Jesus when he created all things. It was not until his incarnation that he would be considered Jesus. It would be a little tighter if that was made more clear. Of course, Jesus is the Son of God. He is only one person. However, he didn’t receive that name until the incarnation. Second, the question of whether the Son of God “became a man.” I would rather say that the Son of God “added a human nature to himself” or “added humanity to himself” not that he became a man. It could easily be misunderstood that the Son of God transformed to no longer be the Son of God in order to be a man. Or I’m comfortable with the Son of God became “the God-man.” Anyways, those are a couple things I would change in the quiz for precision in wording in order to not confuse the theological implications. Thanks!
Michael S, Pleasant Hill, CA

Tim: I received a lot of feedback on this quiz and found that many people took issue with one or two of the questions. I may circle back to the quiz at some point, and especially to the questions which generated the greatest amount of feedback.

Comments on Commenting

I have enjoyed your blog for years and I’m disappointed in you disallowing comments. I have learned so much from commenters via your blog! Because of your comment section I have bought books by authors would not have otherwise heard of, read articles, purchased songs, and watched videos. More importantly, I have enjoyed the healthy debates in your comment section. I often have my faith and beliefs challenged by commenters who have wisdom and insight that I don’t!
Kara H, Melbourne, KY


First, let me acknowledge that your blog is one of five that I view everyday! The content is broad and often enlightening. For this I am grateful. I was disappointed when you made the decision to eliminate comments. In fact, I was irritated enough to write a letter to the editor when that became an option, I wisely erased it! Now, after reading some letters and your response, I am ready to engage your decision more clearly. Your response to L. Sanders, that your time can be better spent then moderating comments, seems to be inconsistent with blogging as a form of communication, regardless if others are doing so. To use social media to broaden your reach and then to the thoughts of those who you have reached is not worth your time seems a bit arrogant! I for one, continue to believe I have much to learn and you are a significant source of that teaching so this is not goodbye but an acknowledgement of disappointment.
Tim R, Zionsville, IN

Tim: Here is another subject I will write about in the future. I stand by the decision to close down comments even while regretting that it was necessary.

Comments on The Great Christ Comet

As a scientist, I’ve always been fascinated by astronomy as it relates to the Bible, such as the Star of Bethlehem. I definitely plan on buying and reading this book. I wonder..is there any reason to think that the Star of Bethlehem was a repeating, naturalistic phenomena versus a supernatural event? One reason I think this is relevant is because of modern end-times theology, which frequently points to impending astronomical phenomena that heralds the next eschatological event (such as the recent Blood Moons, for example), but have to date proved false. The people who make these foolish predictions are rightly mocked and discredited. Yet if the comet was naturalistic, and the shepherds somehow saw the signs in the heavens, to what extent should we also be diligent today to look for these signs? And what is the proper and sound means of doing so?
Greg H, Lawrenceville, NJ


I am intrigued by the star of Bethlehem. Looks like an intriguing book. But I don’t think it was a comet. I actually think it might have been an unusual constellation, such as Jupiter crowning Regulus in the constellation Leo. Check out this video for more. We’ve shown it at our church and it’s very well done: bethlehemstar.com.
Joe H, Chillicothe, IL

Tim: Joe was one of quite a few people to send me a link to bethlehemstar.com.


My small mind thinks maybe the star was a once in a life time creation that can’t be traced. But I trust the Bible that it existed, just like we can’t prove the Red Sea parted, but trust that the Bible said it did. That doesn’t make for good reading, but it’s easier to grasp.
Tim Y, North Ridgeville, OH

Thanks to all who sent in a letter to the editor. Keep it up!

Letters to the Editor
October 18, 2015

A couple of months ago I made the decision to remove the comment section on my blog. I did so largely because comments can only succeed where there is good moderation, and I was increasingly unable to provide that. The fault, then, was not in the commenters, but in me. After I removed the comments I learned that many other blogs and sites spanning all subjects and genres have done the same, and took this as a kind of confirmation. In lieu of comments I have decided to accept (and encourage) letters to the editor. Today I share some of the letters to the editor that have come in this week.

Comments on The Most Happily Multi-Ethnic Church I Know

Thank you for writing about your happily multi-ethnic church. It is an encouragement to know that the Gospel can bring diverse groups of people together. The diversity of the church I attend (Dartmouth Bible Church) is one of the things I love about it.
—John Z from New Bedford, MA


My family is in Toronto for a conference and we visited your church on Sunday. It was a blessing to us to worship with the nations at your church! My husband and I are church planters in Houston, TX. The vision the Lord has given us is to plant 50 multi ethnic churches over the next 20 years. We agree wholeheartedly that there is nothing so precious as when the church on earth reflects the glory of the nations worshipping in heaven. Thank you for being faithful to share with the nations in Toronto! May you continue to bear much fruit!
—Melanie B from Houston, TX


Tim, I am the vicar of an evangelical Anglican Church in a small rural town of 1800 people. Australia has a significant indigenous population which, due to a number of factors, is increasingly dysfunctional. It is a significant proportion of our town but absent in our two evangelical churches (the other is Presbyterian). My wife and I yearn for God to break down our church’s racism and for indigenous Australians to know Jesus. Your article struck a chord- we have no set policy except to proclaim the good news and to practice good news. God, in his goodness, has brought 7 indigenous Australians to church- up from 1 when we moved here 6 years ago. He is transforming people and we can see them coming to know him. It is slow but he is great and Jesus is wonderful in his saving lordship. Thank you for such a pertinent article and the great encouragement it was.
—Bernard G from Wee Waa, NSW Australia

Comments on What Does It Mean that God Is Jealous?

I’m not part of the reading group but was just quickly reading the piece, as the subject in an interesting one. I wanted to write in response to the first paragraph, as I would suggest that it is historically off-base. When the imaginations of men constructed gods in the ancient world love, mercy, patience, etc. were not at all the main characteristics attributed to their gods - the main or most important one was probably power. The gods were seen as a reflection of their own experience, good and bad, and the said characteristics were not commonly experienced (or at least felt to be experienced). The gods were actually almost an exact copy of themselves writ large, thus they were certainly perceived as having bad characteristics (though they wouldn’t have thought of it in exactly those terms). Thus a jealous God would not have been difficult for people in antiquity to imagine. Jealousy of the gods would have esp. been seen in cases where men became too great and aspired to god-like status; the gods would be jealous of their glory and topple them. We see an analogy to this in the OT (God tearing down the proud) but from a different divine motive. So, if I had to guess off hand, I would say the theme of God’s jealousy in the OT seems more like a subversion of divine jealousy - i.e. toward marital jealousy - that would have easily been associated with the divine in other terms.
Justin R from Winter Park, FL

Tim: I cannot speak for J.I. Packer whose words I was quoting, but I took him to mean that even the pagans who create a jealous god do so because of what God has made known about himself through creation and conscience. Even the Greek and Roman gods, who were full of jealousy, were created by humans with some basic God-given knowledge of the God who is.

Comments on 7 Great Study Bibles

Thank you very much for producing that very helpful infographic on Study Bibles. One question I have though is this: what is the difference between “reformed” and “evangelical”? In particular, what is the difference between “reformed” and “conservative evangelical”, as I have always assumed those two descriptors were virtually synonymous. I appreciate different people may have different definitions for the two terms, but I’d appreciate hearing your own thoughts on the matter.
B.J. S from Hong Kong

Tim: I was trying to distinguish between a conservative Evangelicalism that does not necessarily hold to a Reformed understanding of salvation and a conservative Evangelicalism that does. In this way I use “Reformed” as a subset of the broader term “Evangelical.”

General Comments

I’m sure that I probably just missed it, but I very recently noticed that a number of articles were devoid of comments, and now noticed this explanation of how to write letters instead of commenting that seems to imply that the comments section is fully gone. All that said to ask: If the comments section is indeed gone, and this letter format is replacing it…why was this done? I for one enjoyed the comments section in that I was encouraged, challenged, entertained, and enlightened by it at various times, and would like to know what warranted its end.
L. Sanders from Republic, MO

Tim: Successful comment sections depend upon close moderation. As I considered all the ways I could spend my time, I determined that moderating comments would have to be low on the list. I see more and more sites following a similar course of action, especially as discussion migrates to Facebook and other social media channels.


Tim, like you I am a baseball fan. You have shared about both your love for your hometown Toronto Blue Jays and of your friendship with Royals star Ben Zobrist. I was just wondering, who will you be rooting for in the ALCS? Shouldn’t a Christian choose friendship over our loyalty to a non-personal franchise?
—Clinton H from Stanton, NE

Tim: I once had dinner with Ben right after he struck out to end a game which Toronto won. I thoroughly enjoyed that moment. But, to be fair, he has heard me preach a pretty bad sermon. So I think we’ve got enough water under the bridge that I can temporarily cheer against his team even while hoping the best for his personal life.

Image credit: Shutterstock

The Most Happily Multi-Ethnic Church I Know
October 14, 2015

I love America and I love Americans. Some would say it is my duty, as a Canadian, to hold a grudge against America and its people. But I can’t help myself. I have traveled to most of the states, I have visited most of the key cities, and I have spent time in many of the small towns. I just plain love America.

Over the years I have often looked with sorrow at America’s enduring struggle with issues related to race and racism. I have tried to listen and to understand, though I know that as an outsider I will only ever have the barest understanding of the experience and issues. I have often wondered what, if anything, I can say. To this point I have said little.

But today I want to say something. I want to bring a word of encouragement to people in America who are growing discouraged by the situation there, and to people across the world who have little opportunity to experience people and cultures different from their own. I want to encourage you that the gospel has the power to bring unity through diversity. The gospel really can generate love and affection between people who, in any other situation, would remain apart. And I want to demonstrate this by telling you about the most diverse church I know—my own church, Grace Fellowship Church.

Grace Fellowship Church began as a suburban, middle-class church. Though all of the founding members were Caucasian, it had two great advantages that were bound to generate diversity. The first advantage was demographic. The church is in Toronto, a city in which more than half of the residents were born in a different country. You do not have to go looking for racial and ethnic diversity in this city. The second advantage was theological. The church was founded upon the gospel and committed to preaching the gospel, primarily through the mechanism of expository preaching.

I want to make it clear: The church never created a program to attract diverse people. There was no formal plan to reach into ethnic communities. The plan was to preach the Word and to let God give the increase. And he did. I wish you could see it, and see what God has done. I wish you could see the nations gathering here. Grace Fellowship has become a church that displays all the diversity of Toronto.

I wish you could meet Thushara, who grew up Buddhist, and his wife Shaida, who grew up Muslim. They met and fell in love in their native Sri Lanka. Forbidden by their families to marry, they eloped and immigrated to Canada where they heard the gospel and became Christians. Thushara now serves as a deacon and reads the Bible in our worship services. Shaida serves in the hospitality ministry. It is the rare Sunday when they do not have their home full to bursting with guests.

I wish you could meet Chelms and Esther. Chelms came from India to study at the University of Toronto and, since joining our church, has played guitar or bass nearly every Sunday. Esther’s work brought her to Toronto from her native Montreal. They married last summer in a ceremony that was a melding of French Canadian and Indian traditions (and which came soon after another wedding uniting another French Canadian woman to a Nigerian man).

I wish you could meet N & J and their beautiful little girl D. I cannot use their names because they are Kurds from a Middle Eastern country who travel home occasionally and whose lives would be in danger if their community learned that they have turned away from Islam to embrace Christ. He serves in the church and she volunteers today at a local pregnancy care centre, beginning outreach into Toronto’s Kurdish community.

I wish you could meet Gideon who was an exemplary intern this year, who led our summer evangelism program, who hopes and prays to be a pastor before long, and who has recently gotten engaged to be married. One of 30 or 40 Ghanian young adults in our congregation, he left the church he grew up in because he longed to be where he would hear the gospel and sit under expositional preaching.

I wish you could meet Chisso, a Chinese man with a Japanese name who grew up in Indonesia. Chisso loves sharing the gospel and does so with nearly everyone he meets, sometimes even setting up on Toronto’s busiest street corner. He recently completed his studies at Toronto Baptist Seminary and is currently being evaluated by a missions organization as he prepares to head overseas.

I wish you could meet Dorin who left Romania to move to Canada with his wife. Dorin has served our church as a deacon and in many other ways. He regularly returns to his home country to help disciple and care for that nation’s orphans.

I wish you could meet Diana who grew up in St. Vincent before immigrating to Canada when she was a teen. The first time she came to our church she prayed, “God, there are not many other people of color here. I’m asking you to bring more.” A few months ago she told our church how God had answered her prayer beyond all she could have imagined. In just a few weeks she will move to Scotland as a missionary with 20schemes and, again, be one of very few people of color in her new local church.

I wish you could meet Paul and Susan. Paul grew up in Toronto and moved to California to study at The Master’s College. It was in California that he met Susan, who hails from Indiana. When he graduated from The Master’s Seminary he returned to Toronto to serve as a pastor and, soon after, founded Grace Fellowship Church.

I wish you could meet Matt and Libby who were married last Saturday in a Ghanian/Portuguese wedding right in the heart of the city, the second Ghanian/Portuguese union our church has enjoyed recently. They began dating when they were in high school and are now living as husband and wife. (The food at the wedding was sublime—one table packed full of Portuguese food and the other packed full of Ghanian delicacies.)

I wish you could meet little Gabriel who looked up at his mom the other day and observed simply, “Dad’s white. You’re black. Emily and I are brown.” Though he’s only a toddler he sees it and he gets it. It’s beautiful.

We are not a perfect church and have not attained perfect unity. But we are learning and growing and experiencing so much grace. We are learning how to value and enjoy very different cultural preferences, very different traditions, and very different foods. We are learning how to appreciate people who are very different in such important ways, and to see those differences as good. We are learning to laugh at ourselves and with one another. We are learning to repent and apologize. We are learning to love.

I tell you all of this because I want you to believe that the gospel is capable of building unity even, and maybe especially, in the midst of diversity. And that makes the gospel look so good, so sweet, so real. When I consider America’s struggles I see an incredible opportunity for the church to prove the power of the gospel. God loves to display his power in gospel-focused communities of gospel-loving Christians. And he does. He is doing it right here. And I can fully believe he can do it there as well.

Image credit: Shutterstock

I am now accepting (and encouraging) letters to the editor. This is an experimental feature meant to replace the comments section. If you would like to write a letter to the editor, you can do so here.

Positive Purity
October 12, 2015

We live in a sexualized culture—a very, very sexualized culture. You already know that, of course. You can barely walk out your door or turn on a screen without seeing clear evidence of the fact. As Christians we are always in danger of being swept along with the current of the culture around us. For that reason I, like every other Christian, pursue sexual purity in my own heart and life. God calls us to nothing less. Thankfully, the Bible was written by people who also lived in sexualized cultures, and the wisdom they offer transcends the ages. (See, for example, Proverbs 7, 1 Thessalonians 4:3-4, 1 Peter 1:15, 1 Corinthians 6:12-20, John 4:16-18, and so on).

Sexual purity has two components to it: the turning away and the turning toward, the stopping of one kind of behavior and the beginning of another. I have seen in my own life that I am never far from making the focus of sexual purity all of those negative commands: Don’t do this, don’t behave that way, don’t carry on that habit. And I think we sometimes send the message that if you simply stop all of those evil behaviors you will be sexually pure. But sexual purity is also a positive command. In fact, I think we can say that it is foremost a positive command. Sexual purity isn’t just avoiding what is evil; it’s pursuing and enjoying what is good.

Sexual purity is not ultimately turning away from sin, but delighting in God’s gifts. The final purpose is not to stop pursuing the bad stuff, but to pursue and enjoy the good. Sexual purity is abstaining from immorality, forsaking the dirty novels, overcoming pornography, making that covenant with your eyes. These are all good and necessary. But sexual purity is so much more than that. It’s so much better than that. It’s so much more positive than that.

Sexual purity is pursuing your wife’s heart, mind, and body. Sexual purity is freely and joyfully making love to your husband. Sexual purity is relishing the memory of the last time and enjoying the anticipation of the next time. Sexual purity is teasing him about what’s to come. Sexual purity is allowing your eyes to linger and to feast upon her.

Husband, you aren’t sexually pure when you stop looking at porn, but when you love making love to your wife—when you treat her body with holiness and honor. Wife, you aren’t sexually pure when you forsake sexual temptation or sexual apathy, but when you participate in and enjoy sexual fulfillment with your husband.

Do you see it? Sexual purity is not ultimately about what to avoid, but what to pursue and what to enjoy. It’s about putting those old and ugly behaviors to death in order to free yourself to pursue the better ones. God wants to free you from sin so you can enjoy his gifts. God’s purity is a positive purity.

(A note for those who are single: God’s purity is a positive purity even for you who cannot enjoy the sexual relationship at this time. The commands to abstain from sexual immorality free you to the joy of obedience and to the blessings of obedience—the freedom experienced by Jesus who led a perfect and perfectly whole life without sex. I will write more about this on another occasion.)

October 05, 2015

I pray sometimes that God will make me humble. But inevitably I soon find myself feeling proud for asking God such a noble thing. It’s pathetic really. Embarrassing. I believe in humility. I believe that humility is the king of all virtues. But the sheer goodness of humility makes it especially tricky to pursue and my deep depravity makes it impossible to master.

Humility does not come naturally to me. It does not come naturally to any of us. But I have gone looking for it. I have gone looking for it in God’s Word and I have gone looking for it in God’s people. I am convinced it can be learned, and that’s because humility is not a feeling or an attitude—it’s action. You learn humility by seeing humility and then doing humility. Here are four observations I have made about learning this virtue.

To learn to be humble, find godly people who display humility and spend time with them. Observe them. Learn from them. Learn to behave like them. Learn how God made them humble. God calls us to Christian community in part so we have living, breathing examples of virtue in action. Seek out the humble people in your church and in your life, and make them your teachers.

To learn to be humble, volunteer for the lowliest of tasks. Do not ask to be up-front and in the public eye; ask to be in the back where you serve out-of-mind and out-of-sight. Every pastor has people show up at his church to tell how they can transform that church if only they can have access to the pulpit and the people. But in almost every case, they could better serve and transform the church by joyfully doing the lowest jobs where they will be seen by only Jesus. Almost every one of us will make more of a mark on the world by changing diapers and taking out trash than by preaching great sermons or writing great songs. The people who serve at the front of the room ought to be those who have first proven themselves at the back.

To learn to be humble, serve until it hurts. Maybe that’s not the right phrase, because serving doesn’t hurt. Not really. But prepare yourself to serve freely, willingly, and uncomplainingly. Serve in those times when life is busy and serve in those times when life is simple. Serve in those times you feel like it and in those times you don’t. Serve in those positions in which you receive gratitude and serve in those positions in which no one thinks to say a word. Serve and then serve some more. Learn humility as a lifestyle.

To learn to be humble, get to know Jesus. Most of all, this. It was Jesus who said, “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted” (Matthew 23:12). And it was Jesus who displayed that humility perfectly and completely. According to Jesus, you have the choice before you: Humble yourself, or be humbled. Lower yourself, or get lowered. If you elevate yourself, eventually you will get busted down. Why? Because God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. Know Jesus, and be like Jesus, the one man who perfectly exemplified the best of all virtues.

I am convinced that humility can be learned, and with God’s help I am determined to grow in it. I know that, until the day I go to be with Jesus, I will never be humble enough.

September 30, 2015

Christians know to expect suffering and persecution. The formula is simple: If the perfect and sinless Son of God suffered persecution, so too will his imperfect and sinful followers. We are to be people who live in the world, but not of the world. We are to live among unbelieving people, but to live in a very different way. When we do this we are never far from some kind of persecution.

Still, there are a couple of ways we can insure ourselves against suffering.

The first way to avoid persecution is to live outside the world, to seclude ourselves away from it. If we do that, we will not suffer. We will not suffer because we will never come into contact with people who would persecute us. Our isolation will keep us far from their thoughts. But there is a high cost: It will also keep our faith and our Savior far from their thoughts.

There is a second way: to live in the world but to remain like the world. If we live just like the people around us, we will not suffer because there is nothing in us that stands out, nothing worth persecuting. And all the while our worldliness will contradict whatever we claim to be true about our faith and our Savior.

I appreciate how John Stott frames this. He says, “The first group escapes persecution by withdrawing from the world, the second group by becoming assimilated to the world.” It is just that simple. But God does not call us to either of those two extremes. Instead, he calls us to be salt and light, to plant ourselves in the midst of a watching world and, right there, to live very different lives. Some will see, and hear, and be persuaded. Many more will see, be convicted, and persecute. But as Christians we simply need to expect it: Persecution comes to those who are faithful.