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Guest Bloggers

July 15, 2010

Today’s guest blogger is Frank Turk, he of Pyromaniancs fame. He shares what was meant to be a recorded conference message but has instead been relegated (reduced?) to a blog post.


Some of the massive throng of readers for this blog may know that I was nominated to speak at “theNines” this year — which is an on-line event where the speakers record 9 minutes of advice for people in ministry, and the event itself is free of change. Turns out that I have also been selected. Only the rules changed this year: instead of 9 minutes, we only get 6, and the topic has itself also changed significantly. Until there’s a public announcement about that, I’ll leave that to the chaps at Leadership Network and Catalyst to disambiguate the situation.

BUT: the changes leave me with a 9-minute talk that I drafted and now cannot use — until Tim e-mailed me yesterday and asked for a submission to help him keep his blog running for a couple of days while he’s away from his desk. So for all of you, here’s what I would have said if nothing else had changed:

First of all, to sort of throw a rock at my normal constituents, I want to strongly recommend Rick Warren’s video from last year about what the purpose of the local church is. That’s a great nine minutes on what the local church ought to be, and you should go back to the archives to watch that one again and again because he’s right.

There’s another side to what Pastor Warren said in that video, and I wanted to make that the focus of my brief time here: it’s the topic of “bigness”. See: a subtext of Pastor Warren’s talk is that a ministry is not really fruitful unless it’s big – because really: only a big church with big resources can do what Saddleback does on paper and in fact in the real world. You can’t send thousands of missionaries and planters unless you have tens of thousands supporting them – or at least as a base from which to draw all those people.

July 14, 2010

Today’s guest post comes to us from Stephen McGarvey. Stephen is editorial director of Salem Web Network (i.e. christianity.com, crosswalk.com, and so on). He tackles a subject that is near and dear to me—using discernment in real life.


Is there ever a time man can judge another man? I can’t find it in the Bible but my friend says it’s ok to judge false teachers. 

The question above arrived in my inbox a few days ago from one the readers of Christianity.com. This is an issue that arises regularly in our little editorial corner of the world.  Typically, however, the question isn’t phrased as mildly as this member of our audience put it. The more usual way this issue comes to our attention is from an incensed Facebook comment or reader feedback post that sounds more like:

How dare you condemn this fine Christian person whom I love and their film/book/movie/actions/etc? How can you call yourself a Christian and write something so negative?

There are certainly examples of the “negativity” to be found on the Christian websites I am responsible for as well as the sites of others who look to comment on life’s issues from the Christian perspective.

July 13, 2010

Today’s guest blogger is Ed Stetzer. That’s a name that is familiar to most of you, I’m sure. I recently spoke at an event with Ed and, having enjoyed his company, asked if he’d be willing to put together a guest post. And, as you’re about to see, he was kind enough to do so.


A lot of kids grow up wanting to be a rock star. These days the term “rock star” is applied much more liberally than the days of heavy metal. Athletes are rock stars, movie stars are rock stars, software designers are rock stars. The rock star aesthetic has been democratized.

You don’t even have to live a rock and roll lifestyle to be a rock star. These days even the most un-hip of occupations can achieve rock star appeal. Including pastors.

Somebody once said, “The Gospel came to the Greeks and the Greeks turned it into a philosophy. The Gospel came to the Romans and the Romans turned it into a system. The Gospel came to the Europeans and the Europeans turned it into a culture. The Gospel came to America and the Americans turned it into a business.” And business is booming. Millions of churchgoers file in to buildings each week, line up in rows like shelves at Walmart, and watch the stage. They come for one purpose: to see a show and hear a pastor.

This, by uncritical standards, is success. But while this phenomenon increases, I believe it can be damaging to the spiritual vitality of the American church.

July 12, 2010

Today’s guest blog comes courtesy of Matthew Smith. Matthew is a singer-songwriter from Nashville who takes old hymn lyrics and sets them to new music. He is a founding member of the Indelible Grace community, and tours full time, playing concerts of hymns at churches. I blogged here last week about his new song “Goodnight,” from his forthcoming album Watch The Rising Day. For this article I simply asked Matthew to writes about how he came to find such joy in setting old hymns to new music.


When I was in high school, I loved to sing. I sang in the shower. I sang in my room. I sang while walking down the hallways at school. I sang until people told me to shut up. (They seemed rude at the time, but in retrospect, they had a point. It was pretty annoying.) By the time I was sixteen, I figured out a way to sing in a more socially acceptable way. I learned how to play guitar.

Like many high school kids before and since who’ve learned to string together three guitar chords, I was soon recruited to lead the worship singing for my youth group’s weekly meetings. (Or forced myself upon the position— my memory fails me at this point.) After leading the music, I would sit down and hear a message, whose point was often that I needed to try harder. Try harder to be a “good witness” at school. Try harder to avoid temptation. Try harder to obey God.

Somehow, the idea of trying harder carried over to worship. My repertoire consisted of praise and worship songs (none of which had an F chord— I didn’t know how to play that one), mainly ones that talked about how much I wanted to worship God. I thought that if I tried harder, was sincere enough, and really meant it enough, that I would enter into a state of capital-w Worship. The world around me would fade away, I would lose my inhibitions, and I would achieve a spiritual state of being lost in worship.

But this state of spiritual ecstasy never arrived. And, in my mind, there was only one person to blame–me. I was a failed worshiper.

July 11, 2010

Today’s guest blogger is Danielle Evans. Like me, Danielle is a member of Grace Fellowship Church. Unlike me, Danielle is a graduate of Southern Seminary. When I asked if she would like to contribute a guest post, she decided to talk to Dr. Russell Moore to ask him a few questions about adoption. (You may also like to read my review of his book, Adopted for Life)


Dr. Russell Moore, author of Adopted For Life, shows why Christians are exhorted to take care of orphans and widows.   He has first hand experience with adoption, as he has adopted two of his sons, Benjamin and Timothy.  I had the opportunity to ask Dr. Moore a few questions regarding this important subject.

1.) Please share a little about your experience with adoption and how you and Maria decided to adopt.

July 10, 2010

Today’s guest blog comes courtesy of Chris Larson. Chris is responsible for the outreach and operations of Ligonier Ministries. And, as it happens, he is also a friend. Chris was kind enough to provide an article dealing with mercy.


Peter didn’t just blow it, he blew it badly. “Though they all fall away…I will never fall away” (Matt. 26:33). Peter’s resolution we admire for its confidence and bravery. But it is a statement relying on one’s own strength and it is doomed for shipwreck. A few hours go by and we find him alone and weeping (v. 75).

We can relate, can’t we? We’ve made promise after promise to the Lord, resolution after resolution, only to come to the end of ourselves. The sinking feeling churns in our stomach, our earlier words of bold resolve pour like fuel on the fire of guilt and self-condemnation.

Godly sorrow doesn’t remove the sting of sin’s consequence. Falling short of the glory of God every day in word, thought, and deed is the norm, not the exception (Rom. 3:23). We may be surprised when we blow it, but our sins do not surprise the omniscient, holy God.

So often we want to hide from the Lord when we sin. Yet after Peter’s very public failure, he doesn’t hide. He waits. Notice what Peter did when he heard it was Jesus on the beach. His exuberance leaps off the pages of the Bible when we read how he throws himself into the water and swims to shore (John 21:7).

July 09, 2010

Today’s guest blogger is a dear friend to Aileen and me and, as it happens, the granddaughter of Arnold Dallimore, whose biography of Spurgeon we only just began to read together. I asked Becky if she would be willing to share a few memories of her grandfather.


My grandpa was a man who could sleep anywhere. He was a small man with a big voice. He walked briskly, swinging his arms at his sides while he moved. He rarely left the house without his favourite red cap. He loved wonton soup. My grandpa always carried around two essential accessories: a shoe horn and a black, plastic comb. Each night, between seven and eight, he watched “Wheel of Fortune” and “Jeopardy” (which, I am confident, based on his at home performances, he could have won). My grandpa was a world renowned author, church planter, pastor, preacher, poet, great man of God… and, according to my kindergarten journal, my best friend.

My grandpa loved to tell stories. I spent many hours, snuggled tightly between him and my grandma in the front seat of their car, listening to stories about his childhood in London, Ontario, his tomato soup (made from ketchup and water) years at Seminary in Toronto and the years he spent building and growing Cottam Baptist Church. My favourite stories were those he told about his mother, Mabel. Legend has it, that upon hearing the news of her death, a streak of his hair turned from brown to white.

My grandpa loved a good bargain. He was what many would have considered poor his entire life. He often told me that he’d never had two nickels to rub together. He would not have known what life would have been like with a little bit of extra money. Despite that, my grandpa always dressed well and he would often share the story of how much a garment had cost him and where he had purchased it from. He had a brown “Neiman Marcus” sweater that he had purchased at a thrift store. Every time he wore that sweater, he would remind me that it had been an outstanding deal.

April 30, 2009

Today’s post comes courtesy of my good friend Ryan who offers some reflections on glorifying God through life’s trials. He wrote this article yesterday.


I am writing this from the waiting area at the Trillium Hospital in Toronto, while my beautiful wife is undergoing a procedure to help bring closure to the miscarriage we first learned about last week. While this isn’t our first miscarriage, it is the first since the healthy births of our two children, and was an unwelcome and unexpected shock.

In contrast to the joys of learning that you’re being blessed with a new baby, when you can’t wait to tell everyone you meet (strangers or friends!), learning that your child has died in the womb leaves you with the unfortunate and awkward task of notifying your family and friends of your loss. As with the joyful announcement, the news is first passed to your close family and friends - in our case, a few church elders and family - and then repeated to ever-widening circles.

The range of reactions is quite broad, and probably worth a whole post of its own. Some people cry with you, some engage in heartfelt conversation based on their own experience, some display anger, while others look uncomfortable and try to avoid further discussion. I’ve found the reaction offered by a person when confronted with bad news to be very telling about their own beliefs.

Outside of our immediate family, church family and friends, we also had to inform our friends on an online forum operated by my company. It’s a cozy group of about 4,000 people from a niche industry and has been in existence for nearly 7 years. Over that time many of us have grown close, even when we rarely meet in person. A few weeks earlier I had joyfully announced that we were expecting, after dutifully waiting through the customary first 10 weeks of pregnancy in silence “in case anything goes wrong” during that early time.

When news of our miscarriage broke on the forum, we were quickly offered dozens of messages of encouragement promising prayers, good thoughts and positive energy sent into the cosmic consciousness (whatever that means !?). Surprisingly, one friend posted a strongly worded message accusing the “supposed protector” of being a fraudulent god, not keeping up his responsibilities and unjustly abusing “good people.” The author concluded his post by asserting that if there is a “dark side” then he was on it, casting aside his faith.

By God’s grace, I was able to answer out of our sorrow encouraging our friend to trust in Almighty God.

Please don’t despair - we are not! In fact we’re taking great comfort in God’s care for our family. When our situation was in question, we prayed hard that God may save our child. When it became evident that this was not His will, we made the choice to trust in His sovereignty. As Job says, “Will we accept blessings from His hand, but not troubles?”

Remember, God never promised anyone a life of peace or rest on this earth. While we are in the fallen creation, life will be difficult -all the more so for those who follow Christ against the current of this world. But we also have the “peace that passes understanding” given by the Spirit. 

Every moment we live is a blessing, every child - even for the shortest time - reminds us of the God who gives life, and will lead us to life incorruptible.

My dear wife also replied:

I know that things such as these are hard for us to understand, but God is always good. I know it, trust it and cling to it in times like these. My God loves me and will never forsake me. 

God was gracious enough to take this little one home to himself. I can’t think of a better place for my child to be, but with the Saviour and creator.

My hope is in Him who created me. 

I pray that you would not harden you heart to the clear truth of the gospel. 

Much love to all,

Since that time, we have received more thank yous that I ever could have imagined, from believers who felt encouraged, emboldened or even rebuked by our public defense of God’s sovereignty and our declaration of faith in His goodness. By request, our message was also posted to my blog, used as an example in a recent sermon, and now you’re reading this on the world’s most popular Christian blog. I don’t say this to boast or claim for even the briefest second that I am anything worth commenting on - other than that the work of God in our family may be glorified and that His name might receive praise.

I know my heart - I know my pride, my self-justification, my propensity for anger. I know how I would have reacted to our miscarriage without the work of the indwelling Holy Spirit. Both Janis and I have commented repeatedly about the profound sense of peace we have experienced even through our tears and sadness. We have been blessed by the amazing love of Jesus’ people, as our church united around us in love and so many entered into our sorrow and shared our tears. This is remarkable love that gives testimony to the power of Jesus and that we are His.

It’s been said that we don’t pray to change things, we pray to change us. Prayer draws us closer to God, and we pray most effectively when we pray His will, especially as it is revealed in the scriptures. We have truly felt that “peace that passes understanding” even as we recalled God’s recorded faithfulness to the barren, helpless, sorrowful and humble throughout the Bible. Looking back on the past year I can see how God has been preparing us for this moment: sermon series on joy from Galatians and active faith from James last summer; series from Mark Driscoll on doctrine, Proverbs and Ecclesiastes that elevate my view from the temporary in this life to the God eternal; our pastor’s illuminating study of Jesus’ ministry and love in John; and a seemingly randomly selected sermon on glorifying God through trials from John 17 heard just 2 days before the loss of our child.

We serve an awesome God, and I’m amazingly blessed to know Him. When unbelievers claim it’s “unfair” for God to take our child, I can say it’s truly unfair for me even to be drawing breath as a sinful rebel against the holy God. Yet that God didn’t spare His own perfect Son, sending Jesus to die in my place. If the loss of our baby can be used to bring glory to that God in our lives then so be it, and may God be ever praised.