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April 24, 2012

This week’s Connected Kingdom podcast discusses with seminary, whether it is good and necessary and wise and all the rest. You won’t be surprised to learn that David Murray does the bulk of the speaking! You’ve got two options: You can read the transcript below or you can listen in by clicking on the audio player. If you listen in, you’ll be able to hear the two of us interact a little bit.

CKI have a hate-love relationship with Seminary.

When I was converted in my early twenties, and sensed an almost immediate sense of call to the ministry, I was looking at six years of training before I got near a congregation. (I’d gone straight from High School into Finance, because, I mean, who needs a degree to make a million dollars? Right!)

Six years? Three years at University, then three at Seminary? The world needs me,  the Church needs me, lost souls need me! Why do I need books, lectures, professors, etc?

I was ready to jump on to MV Logos and save the world. Yet, despite trying hard to find someone to confirm my vital stop-the-clock mission, every voice, without exception, told me to get some education and some theological training first. 

So with much reluctance and considerable resistance, I started the long, weary six-year plod through Glasgow University, then Seminary in Edinburgh.

Seminary Misery

Glasgow University taught me how to learn, and Seminary taught me what I needed to learn. At least, that was the theory. I’m afraid my Seminary years were a fairly miserable experience. Some of that was my own fault; but most of it wasn’t.

April 17, 2012

This week’s Connected Kingdom podcast deals with conferences, their strengths and weaknesses, and the ways in which I benefit from them. You’ve got two options: You can read the transcript below or you can listen in by clicking on the audio player. If you listen in, you’ll be able to hear the two of us interact a little bit.

CKI have had the privilege of attending an awful lot of conferences over the past few years. At first I went as a liveblogger, sitting through each session and tapping out a summary of what the speaker said. More recently I have gone as an attender or sometimes even as a speaker. I suppose this means that I’ve seen conferences from just about every angle.

I like conferences and I believe in their value. Of course, like every other good thing in life, they demand moderation. I have met genuine conference groupies, people who follow conferences like Deadheads follow the Grateful Dead. I have met pastors whose churches allow them to attend five major conferences each year. I can’t imagine how that can be healthy or financially-sustainable! But a conference or two a year can offer times of learning, refreshment and relationship that can benefit any Christian, whether a layperson or a pastor.

I believe there are several different ways you can benefit from a conference.

Teaching Value

The most obvious benefit of a conference is in the teaching. In the Christian world in general, and in this segment of the Christian world in particular, we have no shortage of great conferences featuring wonderful speakers. There are the usual suspects: Ligonier, Shepherd’s, Desiring God, Together for the Gospel, Gospel Coalition, and many others. Each one of them draws well-known, highly-skilled teachers and many thousands of attendees. Then there are, literally, hundreds of smaller events. There is no doubt: We are well-served by conferences.

March 27, 2012

This week’s Connected Kingdom podcast has David talking about workaholism, one of those sanctified sins that has infiltrated the church. You’ve got two options: You can read the transcript below or you can listen in by clicking on the audio player. If you listen in, you’ll be able to hear the two of us interact a little bit.

Connected KingdomHello, my name’s David, and I’m a recovering workaholic. And I say that with no sense of pride, even though workaholism is one of our society’s most “respected”, even admirable sins. In fact, perhaps one of the places it is most admired is in the church, and especially in the Christian ministry.

Few Christians put this sin in the same category as homosexuality or murder. Yet, workaholism has probably destroyed more souls, especially in Christian homes, and maybe especially in pastors’ and missionaries’ homes, than either of these sins. Many pastors spend their days denouncing this -ism, that –ism, and every other -ism, while seeking and accepting plaudits for their workaholism.


So how do you know if you are a workaholic? Workaholics Anonymous – yes, there is such an organization – provides 20 questions. They include:

  • Do you get more excited about your work than about family or anything else?
  • Do you take work with you to bed? On weekends? On vacation?
  • Do you believe that it is okay to work long hours if you love what you are doing?
  • Do you get irritated when people ask you to stop doing your work in order to do something else?
  • Have your long hours hurt your family or other relationships?

Does that sound like someone you know? Your pastor? You?

March 20, 2012

This week’s episode of the Connected Kingdom Podcast has me talking about fiction—the value of reading novels (and this at David’s  request). You’ve got two options: You can read the transcript below or you can listen in by clicking on the audio player. If you listen in, you’ll be able to hear the two of us interact a little bit.

Connected KingdomThere is power in story. Christians have long realized this and today, perhaps more than any other time in the history of the church, believers speak of the whole sweep of Christian theology as a story—a story that has its beginning in the Creation of the world and a story that will close with the consummation, with God renewing this world and raising us to join him in it. This is the story that will go on and on forever, the story of all stories. Jesus himself used story in powerful ways, sharing amazing and important truths through parables, short stories designed to both hide and reveal truth—to hide it from those who would not hear and to reveal it to those who longed for it. It is worth noting, of course, that much of the Bible comes in the form of story and that the bestselling Christian book apart from the Bible—The Pilgrim’s Progress—is a story.

I confess that I usually enjoy fiction only in short batches. Every year or two I will pick up a few novels—a few that have been nominated for a Pulitzer prize, perhaps, and I will read them through. They transport me to strange places and, more often than not, make me uncomfortable. But I almost always benefit from them. They give me a glimpse into someone else’s mind, someone else’s world or worldview. And as often as not they also tell me what other people, the people around me, are thinking or feeling, or what they will be thinking or feeling soon enough.

March 13, 2012

This week’s episode of the Connected Kingdom Podcast has David talking about typology in the Bible; if that sounds dry, it’s because you don’t understand it well enough! Understanding even just the basics of typology transforms the way you read the Old Testament. You’ve got two options: You can read the transcript below or you can listen in by clicking on the audio player. If you listen in, you’ll be able to hear the two of us interact a little bit.

Connected Kingdom“A picture is worth a thousand words.”


Pictures help us remember, understand, and look forward.

When we want to remember our wedding, we don’t get our diaries or journals out; we open the photo album. When we want to understand how a rocket works, we don’t get NASA’s instruction manual out; we look for some pictures. When we are looking forward to our vacation, we don’t look up Wikipedia; we look up Google images.

 “A picture is worth a thousand words.” It helps us remember better, it helps us understand better, and it helps us anticipate the future better.

That’s why God used so many pictures in the Old Testament. Vivid visuals like the Passover lamb, or the flood, or the Tabernacle helped Israel remember better, understand better, and look forward better.

March 06, 2012

This week’s episode of the Connected Kingdom Podcast (another of our new, shorter episodes) has me discussing the Christian life being safe—too safe. You’ve got two options: You can read the transcript below or you can listen in by clicking on the audio player.

Connected KingdomA couple of months ago I worked with a graphic designer to put together an infographic that would display the attributes of God. Putting it together was far more worship than work as I looked to the Bible to see what God tells us about himself, about who he is and what he’s like. Each one of those attributes is worthy of a study because each one is part of an answer to questions like this: Who is this God who has forgiven me for my sin? What is this God like?

February 21, 2012

This week’s podcast has David Murray answering my request to hear him speak on the subject of entitlement. You can read or listen to what he had to say. If you choose to listen to it, you can also hear me interact with him a little bit.

Jack Chambless is Professor of Economics at Valencia College. Every year he starts his class off by asking his students to write a 10 minute essay on what the American dream looks like to them, and what they want the federal government to do to help them achieve that dream. He describes this year’s results:

About 10% of the students said they wanted the government to leave them alone, not tax them too much, and let them regulate their own lives. But over 80% of the students said that the American Dream to them meant a house and a job and plenty of money for retirement, and vacations and things like this. But when it came to the part about the federal government 8 out of 10 students said they wanted free health care, they wanted the government to pay for their tuition. They want the government to pay for the down payment on their house. They expect the government “to give them a job.” Many of them said they wanted the government to tax wealthier individuals so that they would have an opportunity to have a better life.

Professor Chambless’ students belong to the “Entitlement Generation,” also known as the “Gimme Generation.” They think they can have and should have whatever they want, whenever they want, and from whomever they want it, while others pay for it.” Or more simply, as one Occupy Protestor painted on her placard, “Where’s my bailout?”

February 14, 2012

This week’s episode of the Connected Kingdom Podcast (another of our new, shorter episodes) has me discussing introversion. You’ve got two options: You can read the transcript below or you can listen in by clicking on the audio player.

I am an introvert. Whatever an introvert is, I know it is a description that applies to me. The classic definition of an introvert pretty much describes me to a T. The problem is that it’s not a label I am comfortable with.

We are taught today that there is a kind of binary distinction between people—some are introverts and some are extroverts. If you’ve ever taken a personality test or aptitude test, you have probably been diagnosed as one or the other. Or more likely, you’ve been told that you are somewhere along a single continuum that extends from the greatest introvert to the greatest extrovert. It is a line and all of us fall along it somewhere. When I was in the workforce there were a few occasions that I had to take the Myers-Brigg Type Indicator test and I was always shown to be pretty far along that scale. That’s just who I am. Or is it?

What people mean by this personality distinction is that some people are naturally shy and inward-focused while others are outgoing and other-focused. Some are introspective while others are assertive. Introverts tend to need to get away from people in order to rest and recharge; extroverts tend to need to get together with people in order to do the same. This kind of distinction impacts all of life, it describes each one of us in a really basic, foundational way. It’s an attempt to answer the question, Who am I?

But here is my concern: introvert is not a biblical word and, as far as I can see, not even a biblical concept. This doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily unbiblical or anti-biblical; just that it’s not a term the Bible uses to describe me, to describe the way I am, to describe my identity. It is a-biblical, unknown to the Bible. Yet it clearly describes some kind of a reality, that there are different kinds of personality.

February 07, 2012

This week’s episode of the Connected Kingdom Podcast (another of our new, shorter episodes) has David Murray answering a question I asked him last week: What’s it like to be ordinary? You can listen in or read along…

What would you say if one of your friends asked you, “David tell us what it’s like to be ordinary?”

Well I had the privilege of “enjoying” that experience last week. When offered the opportunity to challenge me to speak on a subject of his own choice, my friend Tim Challies said, “David, why don’t you tell us what it’s like to be ordinary.”

So that’s what springs into Tim’s mind when he thinks of me: “Ordinary.”

I mean it’s not a huge insult I suppose. He didn’t ask me to speak on being “Ugly” or being “Offensive” or being a “Fool.” But it’s not exactly the greatest compliment either is it?! “Ordinary”

OK, I didn’t expect him to ask me about being “Extraordinary” or “Super-intelligent” or “Tall, dark and handsome,” but I expected maybe something a bit more than “Ordinary.”

Maybe something like being “Loyal” or “Consistent” or “Reliable” or something like that. But “Ordinary!?”

January 31, 2012

At long last, David Murray and I are back with season 3 of The Connected Kingdom podcast. There’s a few changes this year, the most notable of which is that we are now including a [partial] transcript of the podcast. So you’ve now got the option to listen to it or read it. More information at the end…

Horatio Spafford was a man who knew pain and a man whose pain has left a powerful and lasting legacy to the church. A wealthy Chicago businessman, Spafford invested heavily in real estate and saw almost his entire fortune consumed in the Great Chicago Fire that swept the city in 1871. Far greater pain awaited him. In 1873 he decided that he and his family should enjoy a vacation. They decided to go to England since their dear friend D.L. Moody would be preaching there in the fall. Though business delayed his own departure, he sent his family on ahead. His wife Anna and their four daughters boarded the steamship Ville du Havre and set out for England. On November 22 another ship collided with that one and two hundred and twenty six people lost their lives, including all four of the Spafford girls. Upon arriving in England, Anna sent her husband a tragic telegram: “Saved alone.”

Spafford set out to England to be with his wife and during that crossing penned the hymn, “It Is Well With My Soul,” a powerful declaration of trust in the midst of tragedy.

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.

“When sorrows like sea billows roll.” It is a poignant metaphor, a simile really, that speaks of sorrow coming upon us like waves on a storm-tossed sea. The same sea billows that poured over the heads of his daughters, the waves that stole their lives, are now pressing hard against him, threatening to drown him in despair, to steal his soul. They are rising up above him, they are cresting and crashing down upon him, they are pulling him under and tossing him in the undertow. Yet he has more hope for his soul than his girls did for their lives. The Lord has taught him that all will be well. Whatever his lot, whatever the Lord decrees for him, he is able to say, “It is well with my soul.” What was the source of such comfort in trial? It was this: “Christ hath regarded my helpless estate / And hath shed His own blood for my soul.”