Warlocks and Mark Driscoll

Mark Driscoll is a man, preacher, and pastor who I appreciate. I am thankful for his preaching which I have benefitted from via podcast on occasion and I am thankful for his work in creating a growing church planting network (Acts 29).

But oftentimes, Driscoll makes my brow furrow and one eyebrow raise. The tweet/Facebook post above is a recent example. A few thoughts cane to mind when I first read it.

1) Warlocks? Yowza. I hope they have robes and/or a sweet cloak. Are they modern-day Jedis? Ok, on a serious note, I was a little surprised to hear about a man identifying himself as a male who practices magic arts. I was only a little surprised because I have been in a bookstore with books that focus on the etymology of angelic languages and so the weird and wacky (and likely dark and demonic) things people involve themselves in don't really surprise me. Nevertheless, you don't meet someone who dabbles in the "magic" and demonic every day.

2) Amen and hallelujah for God's powerful, saving grace that transforms dead men and frees captives from sin and death! New life and repentance is most definitely something to rejoice in. I don't want the glorious miracle of new birth and indelible love of God to be overshadowed in any way by my words here.

3) Here's my point of contention: Driscoll claims that God said to him, "This one is mine and I love him." Regardless of the mode of supposed communication from God, be it an audible voice or a "mental TV", I have an extremely hard time accepting this type of spirituality according to my understanding of Scripture. If God were to tell me who he loves and/or who he conversely does not love, this could create some real problems within the body of Christ. If we were able to hear God's voice in such a unique manner as Driscoll has described God communicating to himself in the past, then why aren't we all flocking to Seattle to find out who God loves? Wouldn't Christians who have a strong burden for a lost person they care for want to hear such words?

When a church leader makes these kind of statements, he is implicitly expressing a level of authority granted to him that may not be available to other Christians. I mean, I have never experienced God  communicating to me in such a way, so I should logically go and receive a word from God from those who God speaks to in such a unique manner.

The issue boils down to authority. If God is speaking to Christians in the manner that Driscoll describes, this elevates the recipient of this direct revelation to a greater level authority than the normal Christian who does not hear from God in this special way and effectually erodes the authority of Scripture and the normal, everyday means of grace that God has given to us in the precious gift of the complete, inspired Bible.

That said, it is very important for Christians to be careful what they say, especially those given responsibility and influence in the Church. The tiniest phrase can ignite a firestorm (James 3). We must carefully evaluate our words at all times and guard against irresponsible statements.

I guess that's all I have to say about that.

UPDATE: There was some clarification Driscoll put out on his original tweet. You can find it here. It seems I was wrong in interpreting what Driscoll was saying, but nevertheless I still have a big bone to pick about God directly speaking to people in this manner.


A Prayer Adapted from Psalm 102

Hear my prayer, O Lord, let my cry come to you!
Don’t hide from me when I am in distress!
Listen to me and answer me quickly when I call!

My days pass away like smoke – the time flies away from me.
I am heartsick and struck down; so very weak.
I lie awake at night; I am like one alone in the desert.
My tears mix with my food and drink,
Because you picked me up and threw me down.
O God, I am ruined if you are angry with me!
And my days fade away like an evening shadow.

My life is short, but you, O Yahweh, are enthroned forever.
Every generation remembers you.
You will rise up and take action – the time has come,
You will have pity on your people.
You will show us favor.
We are clinging to you, O God, our rock.
You build us up; you appear in the glory of Jesus.
You regard the prayer of the destitute and do not despise their prayer.

Let this be recorded for a generation to come,
So that a people yet to be created may praise the LORD:

You looked down from your holy throne in heaven,
To hear the groans of the prisoners,
To set free those who were doomed to die,
So that they may declare the name of Jesus,
And worship the Lord.

But God has broken my strength and shortened my life.

O my God, don’t cut my life even shorter,
You who live through all generations!

Long ago, you built the earth,
You made the skies and the galaxies with your hands.
The earth and the stars will die,
But you will remain.
You will change them like a change of clothes,
This creation will pass away.
But you are the same; your years have no end.

Our future dwells secure in you, Eternal God.
You hold together every generation.


The Greatest Female Hymn-Writer?

If you haven't heard of Anne Steele, an 18th century English hymn-writer, check out this post that the folks over at Cardiphonia just put up. I especially commend Kevin Twit's lectures to you.


A Hymn - Boundless Grace

    1039     C.M.    A. Steele
    “The grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant.” 1 Tim. 1. 14
    1    Lord, we adore thy boundless grace,
            The heights and depths unknown,
        Of pardon, life, and joy, and peace,
            In thy beloved Son.

    2    O wondrous gifts of love divine,
            Dear Source of every good;
        Jesus, in thee what glories shine!
            How rich thy flowing blood!

    3    Come, all ye pining, hungry poor,
            The Saviour’s bounty taste;
        Behold a never-failing store
            For every willing guest.

    4    Here shall your numerous wants receive
            A free, a full supply;
        He has unmeasured bliss to give,
            And joys that never die.

HT: Grace Gems


Potent Quotables (8/24)

I've been furiously working on studying for the next section of the CPA exam (Regulation, i.e. tax law) and co-creating a study guide on Mark to be used in small groups. I'm terribly excited for the University Church to launch at Syracuse University this Sunday! Looking forward to being involved deeply there. 

SU named No. 12 party school in nation - My alma mater proves itself to be quite raucous yet again. In certain environments, especially college ones, the effects of sin are abundantly clear. I can't wait to see the gospel take further root here in the hearts of men and women.

Global Leadership Summit – Bill Hybels - Hybels: "I’ve never known a single leader who regretted carrying out a tough calling." Regardless of your persuasion on seeker-sensitive types, you should be able to find encouragement here.

Stop Coddling the Super-Rich - Warren Buffet thinks the mega-rich should pay more taxes. (If you don't know, Buffet is quite mega-rich).

My favorite band, Thrice, just posted a lyric video to the song "Promises" on their new album Major/Minor, coming out in September. Dustin Kensrue again proves himself to be an excellent lyricist.

Thrice - Promises [Lyric Video]

Because God does not seek his own glory, but seeks the glory of others, because the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are all circling each other, glorifying each other, adoring each other, praising each other, serving each other, deferring to each other, because the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are giving glorifying love to one another, God is infinitely happy. - Tim Keller


What Is True Repentance?

My roommate and I are working on a small group study guide on Mark and I came across these words by Andrew Murray on Mark 1:15:
Repentance is not an actual victory over sin, but the soul has to bring every sin to the feet of the Lord Jesus, the great victor over sin, that He may take it away; and this cannot find place, except by faith which has acknowledged that He is faithful to forgive sin, and to cleanse from all unrighteousness.
Indeed, repentance is not merely a turning away from sin. It necessarily involves a turning to Jesus in faith. If we only turn from sin and fail to turn to God, this would, as Murray says, only "tend to self-righteousness". How often is that my predicament. An aversion to sin with scant affections for God. True repentance involves Christ. If Christ is not involved in our repentance, we are not repenting. If Christ is not the one to whom we turn, we only would turn from sin to sin, from sin to self, from sin to weakness. But if we turn from sin in faith that Jesus finished what he said he finished on the cross, we will find true repentance.

May we go to the cross of Christ all the days of our lives in true repentance. May God grant us this powerful repentance wed to forgiveness of sin in Jesus.


Singing to Build Up

Singing hymns is not just an opportunity for each of us, as individuals, to worship God in our own way.  It's an opportunity for the church, as a whole, to worship God together.
 Read the rest here at the 9Marks Blog. And sing tomorrow with all your voice, with all your soul. May the worthiness of God inspire our tongues to sing.


We Don't "Do" Church

Carl Trueman:
So often Christians can tend to think of the church worship service as something we do: we sing praise to God; we respond to the gospel; and we rejoice in our Saviour. Further, much discussion in the church focuses on what we need to be doing in order for church to be effective. Yet church is, first and foremost, something which God does.
Read the rest here.

The Antidote to Sexual Immorality

- TableTalk Magazine, Reading for August 19, 2011


Mark Driscoll, Cessationism, and Shenanigans

Some of you privy to the blogging realm of Christendom may be wondering: What in the world is going on with Mark Driscoll these days? What is cessationism? Who are these people freaking out? What's the deal? I've compiled a chronological host of links related to the shenanigans taking place. I hope they are informative. Please comment with more links if you have them.

7/25 - The Resurgence posts a talk by Driscoll given at a Resurgence conference recently. He details four movements within global Christianity now: Reformed theology, complementarian relationships, Spirit-filled lives, and missional churches.

8/2 - Frank Turk responds in an open letter to some comments Driscoll made in the aforementioned talk.

8/2 - A transcript of a portion of Driscoll's talk is provided.

8/7 - Clint Archer writes a fiery response to Driscoll at The Cripplegate.

8/11 - Nathan Busenitz elaborates on what cessationism is not at The Cripplegate.

8/15 - Phil Johnson writes about "Pornographic Divination" at Pyromaniacs.

8/17 - Doug Wilson chimes in.

8/18 - Phil Johnson and Dan Phillips respond to Doug.

8/18 - Doug Wilson chimes back.

8/18 - Possibly related: A second message by Driscoll on the original topic.


Christian Loners Will Die

"But this consideration is also very important, that the Lord hath so divided his manifold graces, that no one is to be content with one thing and with his own gifts, but every one has need of the help and aid of his brother. This, I say, is a bond which God hath appointed for retaining friendship among men, for they cannot live without mutual assistance. Thus it happens, that he who in many things seeks the aid of his brethren, ought to communicate to them more freely what he has received."
 - John Calvin, commenting on 1 Peter 4:10

The fact that we are directed to "serve one another" with the gifts we have received from God indicates that no single person possesses a totality of gifts from God. We are made for community. There's no way around it.

Can we open our hearts and hands in service to one another? Can we, "above all, keep loving one another earnestly"? We are called to do just that. If we don't we will wallow in our deficient selves - perhaps the worst fate that could befall us in our short time here on Earth.

Let's not be cold to one another and sink in the icy pool of self-centeredness. We have been given "God's varied grace" (1 Pt. 4:10). Let's be vessels who are always tipping over and pouring the grace given to them into others. For God's grace and the sake of the Church.


You Can't Reform The Dead

Jesus came to raise the dead. He did not come to teach the teachable; He did not come to improve the improvable; He did not come to reform the reformable. None of those things work.
- Robert Farrar Capon


Potent Quotables (8/12)

Had a fantastic day yesterday. Work, great time in Psalm 16, studied at Starbucks, cooked a great meal, and wrote a song. Looking forward to having lunch with a coworker tomorrow. Recently shared the gospel with her and I am eager to continue that conversation.

Is Internet Explorer For The Dumb? - This was a headline too good to pass up. Who knows how accurate the information is though. So, what browser do you use?
UPDATE: Looks like the story was a hoax. Oh, internet.

Signs - No, not the M. Night Shamalamadingdong movie. "When we come to know Jesus, we do so by joining Him in His mission. All followers of Christ are therefore missionaries. But what does that mean? It means that we are signs."

Ramadan: Praying for a Precious Sense of Emptiness - "It seems to me, therefore, that the way Jesus calls us to pray during Ramadan is that God would reveal to Muslims the emptiness of their worship. Jesus says they are not connecting with the true God. This is tragic. And it is more tragic when they think they are. Awakening to this emptiness would be a precious awakening."


What but Thy grace can foil the tempter's power? - Henry Lyte 


Potent Quotables (8/11)

I guess this is the introduction to a new feature of the blog - Potent Quotables. Here you will find a number of links to various things I found worth checking out. I hope you enjoy!

Should The Church Accountant Be The One Called The "Worship Pastor"? Dan Kimball: "What is intriguing is that as we primarily define worship as singing, in terms of sacrifice - singing doesn't cost us too much. We mentally and emotionally bring ascent to our thoughts as we sing and focus on God. But we aren't really sacrificing something. Are we?"

The Road to a Downgrade WSJ: "This is the road to fiscal perdition. The looming debt downgrade only confirms what everyone knows: Congress has made so many promises to so many Americans that there is no conceivable way those promises can be kept. Tax rates might have to rise to 60%, 70%, even 80% to raise the revenues to finance these promises, but that would be economically ruinous."

Are You Worth Dying For?  Josh Thiessen: " Let me clarify, you are not worth dying for. That is what makes the gospel such a beautiful thing."

Should You Support Campus Crusade Staff Now That the Name Is Changing? Piper: "Since Campus Crusade for Christ announced (and explained) that it will change its name to Cru, some donors have withdrawn support from Crusade staff. I am writing to say: That’s not a good reason to withdraw your support."

In light of recent clarifying events in London...


Never content with what it has, the unconverted heart always craves more. But the more it acquires, the less fulfillment it has. - S. Lawson

Feeling Far From God?

"When we sense a distance in our relationship to God, it is wise to ask ourselves if we are engaged in some persistent, impenitent sin that brings the Spirit grief." - Tabletalk, August 10, 2011
Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!
- Psalm 139:23-24


True Conversion

True conversion makes a marvellous change in the heart and life of every one who partakes of it. It brings a man off from all his old, fashionable, and delightful lusts, and from the common ways and vices of the world, to the will of God. It alters the mind, judgment, affections, way, and conversation of every one who has experienced it.
- Matthew Henry commenting on 1 Peter 4:1-2

And oh how delightful it is to be converted! To be permanently changed by God. To have "ceased from sin". To no longer be under the bondage of sin's cruel slavery. To be given divine strength to cast off our sinful desires. To be indwelt by God himself.

God's truth, sunk in our souls by the anchor of faith, is overwhelming. Let's live for our loving Father's will. For as the song goes, "We are changed not by the things we arrange, not by the works our hands have done. It's through your Son that we are changed!"


You can't do it

Not the labor of my hands
Can fulfill Thy law’s demands;
Could my zeal no respite know,
Could my tears forever flow,
All for sin could not atone;
Thou must save, and Thou alone.
- Augustus Toplady

You can't save yourself from your sins. You simply - and completely - lack the ability to stand before God as one acceptable to him. Thank our God for Jesus. Take some time and think about this. Even the good I do, which is little, can not save me. I am in the dark apart from God.

And then let the gospel build you up. Jesus alone is able to save me from my sins. He loves me and proved this when he died on that cross, where I should have died. "Fully atoned for" is now the banner under which I stand. Jesus came to save his people and this he accomplished. It is finished.
Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.
- Psalm 32:1


A child's prayer

Our Father in heaven, You are above all this world and You are our loving Father. We our your children. Impress our new and permanent identity on our souls - we are your kids. You gave us new life and caused us to be born again. And there's so much more! You gave us a perfect inheritance which is being saved for us in heaven. And that treasure is Yourself, for what else is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading? And there is still more. You made us co-heirs with our elder brother and savior Jesus.

Jesus, you suffered for us so that we wouldn't have to. You suffered to make us sons and daughters, heirs of your Father. You suffered to cancel our sin and break its power over us. We act foolishly and so often run after our sinful passions instead of the Father's will. We are sorry. Teach us that these things will only increase our sorrows.

We're coming back to You, O God! Help us live for your will and sink the gospel deep into our hearts. Give us the eyes of faith, to look to the unseen things, the wonderful things You have in store when we will be with You and You will be with us and we will dwell with God forever.

Our soul thirsts for You. Satisfy us with your love!
Through the Beloved Son, Jesus, amen.

When Satan tempts me to despair

When the devil throws our sins up to us and declares we deserve death and hell, we ought to speak thus: "I admit that I deserve death and hell. What of it? Does this mean that I shall be sentenced to eternal damnation? By no means. For I know One who suffered and made a satisfaction in my behalf. His name is Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Where he is, there I shall be also."
- Martin Luther


God's unchanging holiness

 Here's a mediation from one of the elders of Missio Church:

“These searched for their family records, but they could not find them and so were excluded from the priesthood as unclean. The governor ordered them not to eat any of the most sacred food until there was a priest ministering with the Urim and Thummim.” (Ezra 2:62-63)

God’s holiness was understood clearly and taken seriously by the governor of the returning exiles in Ezra.  Even a hint of impurity barred people from standing in God’s presence.  They could not be a part of the priesthood if there was any question regarding their identity.  

God’s holiness has not changed.  He is the same God.  He is still jealous for his glory.  Yet we are called “a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God” by Peter in spite of our countless offences against this perfect God.  

What’s the difference?  We stand as beneficiaries of the person and work of Jesus.  Our spiritual sacrifices are acceptable to God only because of Christ.  May this profoundly shape the way we live and worship.


Jesus' activity in my life

Recently, on my Tumblr blog, someone asked me this:
What is Jesus doing in the life of Trevor today?
I was glad to give an answer to a good question; I've always been leery of giving anonymous internet users the ability to ask me things. Here's my response:
Jesus is working in my life in thousands of ways, but I am only able to discern one or two. And for that I am thankful. “A thousand things are happening in this one thing.”
I was reading 1 Peter 3 yesterday in my study through one of the more difficult passages I’ve come across in Scripture (3:18-22) and I was taught a few things:
  1. God’s patience with sinners is off-the-charts. (“when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah” is but one example)
  2. Jesus is very much like the ark of Noah for all who believe in him; it delivers us from the waters of God’s wrath.
  3. I am safe in Jesus, through his death and resurrection, from all wrath of God. Anything “bad” I experience is not God’s punitive wrath.
Separate from that, I was outside in a park on my lunch break reading when a young man (probably around my age) saw me reading the Bible and he asked if I read the whole thing and how long it took and then shared his frustrations with trying to understand the Bible when he has read it in the past. I told him that it is helpful to ask the Bible questions, like, “What does this passage say about God? What does it tell me about Jesus? What should my response to this passage be?” I never caught his name, but I prayed for him then and there. I can guarantee if you sit out in a public park in downtown Syracuse, you will find someone to converse with. Also, I regretted not having some evangelistic literature with me when the man was speaking to me. I should spend more time outside. The fields are so ripe.


The aim of worship

God is the one we want to impress, the one we most want to honor. Our first aim must not be to win over the culture or appeal to the unregenerate. Worship is for the Worthy One.
- Kevin DeYoung

Our worship, corporate worship being the focus here, is meant for God. Any ideology that approaches our activities of worship with man as the focus has begun to lose their footing on a slippery slope of sub-biblical methodology. Our worship is for God alone. If our worship has the unregenerate man as it's focus, we have become humanistic and are performing a mere show of religious pomp. Worship the worthy one (Rev. 5:5-14).


Why should we suffer?

Now, if Christ was not exempted from sufferings, why should Christians expect it? If he suffered, to expiate sins, why should not we be content when our sufferings are only for trial and correction, but not for expiation? If he, though perfectly just, why should not we, who are all criminals? If he once suffered, and then entered into glory, shall not we be patient under trouble, since it will be but a little time and we shall follow him to glory? If he suffered, to bring us to God, shall not we submit to difficulties, since they are of so much use to quicken us in our return to God, and in the performance of our duty to him?
- Matthew Henry commenting on 1 Peter 3:18


Book Review: True North

I stumbled across a tweet somewhere on the tangled nest that is Twitter a few months ago where I learned that Kregel, a publishing company, had a program where they gave books away to those who agreed to post a review of the book on their blog. I opted in, chose a book, and here I am writing this review.

The book I chose to receive and review was True North, by Gary and Lisa Heim. Gary and Lisa are Christian counselors who have been in practice many years and the book definitely reflects this. I had never heard of the authors before nor was I even very familiar with Kregel, but their book's subject was most appealing to me out of the choices I had, so I chose True North. It turned out to be a very good decision, and not just because I have a somewhat inordinate affection for books.

If you asked me, "What did this book teach you?" I would tell you this: 

Through life, we experience groaning; we experience the longing of desire. When we are confronted with one of life's many frustrations, we groan. We can go in two directions with our groaning: north or south. We can go south, begin to grumble in discontent, believe the lie that God is not enough for us, and seek the fulfillment of our desire in idols or we can go north, identify the lie that says we need something other than God to be satisfied, reject that lie, find satisfaction in God, and then spread our joy in God with others in generous, sacrificial giving. Experience groaning again and repeat.

The authors summarized their book well with this diagram:

Their stated purpose of the book is, "to stir and stoke the fire of your heart's affections for Jesus Christ" (p.24). I have found that this book accomplishes its purpose well. While it focuses largely on instruction on how we can face our groaning and the frustrations of life, the instruction Gary and Lisa give, heeded well, will certainly lead the reader to become a greater lover of Jesus and their fellow man. Here's a few poignant excerpts from the book that stirred my affections:
"Whether the daily problems I'm facing are big or small, I'm learning to stop and prayerfully ask myself questions like these: Do I believe God is sovereign and in control in this painful moment? Do I believe he is good right now, that his love is enough to sustain me no matter what happens? Do I believe God has a good purpose for allowing that car to go slow in front of me, for allowing Lisa to get up from the table and leave? Will I remember God, surrender and submit to him right now, and stop grumbling? Will I stop going south into anger and unbelief and pray for help to go north to Jesus so I can love God and love people from my heart?" (p. 35)
"Frustration and locked doors are gifts from God. They are God's agents of change. Disappointments, annoying people, and difficult circumstances are all used by God to surface the lies we believe." (p. 127)
"Godly grief is sorrow mixed with faith. Grumbling, on the other hand, feels the pain of broken dreams and raises a fist at God. It's sorrow mixed with unbelief." (p. 132)
"You never really see your own folly until you see it in writing." (p. 167)
"[Truth] transforms us when we trust in God's love enough to take the risk of being fully honest and emotionally naked with him; letting him see all our brokenness, sin, and failure. We must linger with him in prayer and confession, allowing him to look deep into our eyes. We must not pull back in shame or try harder to shape up in order to earn his love. In those vulnerable and intimate moments, we have the opportunity to receive and experience God's love." (p. 172)
"We can't become wholehearted followers of Jesus while hiding secrets and cowering in fear or shame." (p. 200)
"We long for safe friends who are not demanding. We long for friendships where we share deep belly laughs around good food at our favorite restaurant. We yearn for good people with whom we can be ourselves, having no need to pretend. But it's easy to have friends who are just fun, convenient, and comfortable. That poses a problem. There's no risk and little chance of growth. People who are hungry for God long for something more than safety and good times." (p. 232)
Gary and Lisa quote a number of helpful people throughout the book, such as John Piper (the authors reiterate Piper's thesis of christian hedonism in their own words at one point), C.S. Lewis, Francis Schaeffer, A.W. Tozer, John Ortberg, and Larry Crabb (who wrote the foreword). If you are wondering about the author's commitment to orthodox, biblical Christianity, then fear not. They are solid. I particularly liked their thoughts on how God's word changes us (starts at p. 217). The only thing that made me scratch my head and feel a little disconnect was their usage of the phrase "still, small voice." I can't find the passage where they used such language (sorry), but my point is that I think more clear language could be used instead of that cliche term which carries some strange baggage with it (a.k.a. the "God told me so syndrome").

One interesting thing was that this book heavily uses the New Living Translation (NLT) of the Bible and to a lesser extent The Message by Eugene Peterson. I had not been a huge fan of these two biblical sources before but I have come to appreciate them more through this book, especially the NLT. I might pick a copy up.

To conclude, I recommend True North for your reading pleasure and edification. It presents a biblical, God-honoring framework that can help you address frustrations and direct you to worship God in how you live life. This is very much a whole life book - you can apply something from this book to every day of your life. Oh, and it has wonderful end-of-chapter discussion/reflection questions!


Immediate grace

Times of quiet prayer are often the times when my soul tastes the sweetest communion with Christ. And though it is pleasant to find a silent atmosphere in which to pray, it is a greater pleasure to shatter that silence with prayers transforming into the praise of my lips.

Where do you find the sweetest, experiential, and immediate connections with our gracious Lord?

You have said, "Seek my face." My heart says to you, "Your face, LORD, do I seek." - Psalm 27:8


Homosexuality and the gospel

The normalization of homosexuality simply cannot be accepted by anyone committed to biblical Christianity. The new secular orthodoxy demands that Christians abandon the clear teachings of Scripture, and Christians must understand that the sinfulness of all homosexual behaviors is not only a matter of biblical authority, but also of the Gospel. To deny that sin is sin is to deny our need for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Christians cannot accept any teaching that minimizes sin, for it is the knowledge of our sin that points us to our need for atonement, salvation, and the forgiveness of that sin through the cross of Jesus Christ.

- Albert Mohler, "Reparative Therapy, Homosexuality, and the Gospel of Jesus"


Gospel work and secular work

Gospel work has a unique significance in God’s plans for the world. We don’t make disciples of Jesus by building better bridges, but by prayerfully bringing the word of God to people. And this is the duty, joy and privilege of every disciple, in whatever circumstance of life they find themselves. Secular work is valuable and good, and must not be despised or downgraded. But it is not the centre or purpose of our lives, nor the means by which God will save the world.
 - Colin Marshal and Tony Payne, The Trellis and the Vine, (Kingsford NSW: Matthias Media, 2009), p. 139


Never-ending Peace

God shall be our life and the length of our days, and that will be indeed long life, with an addition. But, because length of days may possibly become a burden and a trouble, it is promised, (2.) That it shall prove the way to be easy too, so that even the days of old age shall not be evil days, but days in which thou shalt have pleasure: Peace shall they be continually adding to thee. As grace increases, peace shall increase; and of the increase of Christ's government and peace, in the heart as well as in the world, there shall be no end. Great and growing peace have those that love the law.

- Matthew Henry commenting on Proverbs 3:1-4 (bold added)


8 Things Jesus Does For Us

As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 2:4-5)

Look at what is said of Jesus in this passage:

-As you come to him
We can actually approach Jesus. We, depraved and unclean sinners, can approach Jesus for personal fellowship, communion, love, unity, help, and joy.

-a living stone
Jesus is alive. He is the cornerstone and foundation of the spiritual house of his people, the Church. Jesus is alive! This cornerstone will never crumble.

-rejected by men
As in the time of his life on Earth, he is still rejected by men. Mankind inherently wants nothing to do with Jesus. His words and very being make sinners bristle with hate. We don't come to him for love, forgiveness, and acceptance naturally.

-in the sight of God chosen and precious
Though rejected by men, Jesus is perfectly loved by God his Father. Jesus alone is the chosen vessel of God sent to save his people. Jesus is infinitely precious. God recognizes this and loves him accordingly. We constantly fail to grasp the preciousness of Jesus and love him with the vigor that he is worthy of. The commandment to "love God" makes the most sense viewed in light of the preciousness of Jesus, who is God.

-you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house
When we come to Jesus simply to be with him, hear from him, and receive his help, we are built up. We are spiritually fortified, made into strong people with vibrant spirits. We are built together in community. God is a master builder who brings the living stones of men and women into a community, into a corporate structure that has a purpose. This building of people is greater than the individual parts. A single stone can fulfill no real purpose, but when myriads of stones are built together, they form a structure that can be used by God.

-to be a holy priesthood
Jesus is building up a plethora of priests - those who serve God and point others to God. This new breed of servants are made holy by God himself. As the high priest could only enter into the inner room of the tabernacle/temple once a year after completing all the appointed sacrifices, now the new priests of God can enter into the holy place of God's presence at any time because the greater and final Lamb has been sacrificed once for all, opening access to the dwelling place of God for the new priests. Every Christian is made a priest by Jesus, who grants full and unhindered access to God through the sacrifice of his life. The Christian needs no man to stand between him and God to mediate for he himself has been made a priest.

-to offer spiritual sacrifices
God grants us the privilege and service of offering spiritual sacrifices to himself. What are these spiritual things but our very lives and bodies (Rom. 12:1-2)? To offer our very being to God is a great privilege indeed, akin to the honor a lowly servant may experience in his service to the king, or like the affection between a willing and loving bondservant and his master (Deut. 15:16-17).

-acceptable to God through Jesus Christ
The only sacrifice of our life that is acceptable to God is the one that is made holy through Jesus Christ. We are the blemished and defect-ridden sheep of the flock but Jesus is the spotless Lamb of God. Even though our sacrifices to God are impure of themselves, they are made holy by the pure sacrifice of Jesus.

I'm thrilled with Jesus and all he does for us. Aren't you too?

10 Resolutions for Mental Health

1. At least once every day I shall look steadily up at the sky and remember that I, a consciousness with a conscience, am on a planet traveling in space with wonderfully mysterious things above and about me.

2. Instead of the accustomed idea of a mindless and endless evolutionary change to which we can neither add nor subtract, I shall suppose the universe guided by an Intelligence which, as Aristotle said of Greek drama, requires a beginning, a middle, and an end. I think this will save me from the cynicism expressed by Bertrand Russell before his death when he said: "There is darkness without, and when I die there will be darkness within. There is no splendor, no vastness anywhere, only triviality for a moment, and then nothing."

3. I shall not fall into the falsehood that this day, or any day, is merely another ambiguous and plodding twenty-four hours, but rather a unique event, filled, if I so wish, with worthy potentialities. I shall not be fool enough to suppose that trouble and pain are wholly evil parentheses in my existence, but just as likely ladders to be climbed toward moral and spiritual manhood.

4. I shall not turn my life into a thin, straight line which prefers abstractions to reality. I shall know what I am doing when I abstract, which of course I shall often have to do.

5. I shall not demean my own uniqueness by envy of others. I shall stop boring into myself to discover what psychological or social categories I might belong to. Mostly I shall simply forget about myself and do my work.

6. I shall open my eyes and ears. Once every day I shall simply stare at a tree, a flower, a cloud, or a person. I shall not then be concerned at all to ask what they are but simply be glad that they are. I shall joyfully allow them the mystery of what Lewis calls their "divine, magical, terrifying and ecstatic" existence.

7. I shall sometimes look back at the freshness of vision I had in childhood and try, at least for a little while, to be, in the words of Lewis Carroll, the "child of the pure unclouded brow, and dreaming eyes of wonder."

8. I shall follow Darwin's advice and turn frequently to imaginative things such as good literature and good music, preferably, as Lewis suggests, an old book and timeless music.

9. I shall not allow the devilish onrush of this century to usurp all my energies but will instead, as Charles Williams suggested, "fulfill the moment as the moment." I shall try to live well just now because the only time that exists is now.

10. Even if I turn out to be wrong, I shall bet my life on the assumption that this world is not idiotic, neither run by an absentee landlord, but that today, this very day, some stroke is being added to the cosmic canvas that in due course I shall understand with joy as a stroke made by the architect who calls himself Alpha and Omega.

 - Dr. Clyde Kilby

(Taken shamelessly from Desiring God)


Peru: The Gospel Continues to Spread

Most of the remaining $600 I needed has been provided. Praise be to God who always provides. If you would still like to give, teams will be returning to Peru in the future, so please contact me. For now, I am taking down the Paypal link below.

Blog readers, Twitter followers, Facebook friends, brothers and sisters,

The purpose of this post is this: to present you with an opportunity to partner with your fellow worker in the Gospel for the spread of the good news of Jesus Christ. Let me give you a brief history of my connections with Peru.
I traveled to the nation of Peru in 2007 (2 weeks) and 2008 (2 months). This year, from June 28-July 13 I will return to Peru. In 2007 I and others traveled to a small village called Huancapi and in 2008 a team stayed in a village in a different region: Laramate. Laramate and the surrounding towns have been “adopted” by a consortium of Baptist churches in the Central New York region. The team I was on in 2008 was among the first groups to visit Laramate and establish significant connections there. At the end of our stay in 2008, we recorded around 50 confessions of faith in Christ. In the time since my return from Peru, I have not had the chance to gain much information regarding the spiritual state of the people in Laramate. Multiple teams have visited Laramate since my departure in 2008. I am not sure how much fruit has been borne to God’s glory, simply due to lack of information. That said, I am eager to return and see how the Spirit has been moving in Laramate and also eager to proclaim the gospel and encourage the saints in Laramate.
When I soon return to Peru our team will continue the primary work we have done before: engage the people there in conversation and relationship and plant seeds of gospel teaching in their lives. We have previously done this through one on one meetings and Bible studies, often walking through the gospel of John.
Having now explained the trip and some background, I could tell you all the biblical reasons to give financially and pray for this endeavor, but I trust that you are familiar with those passages and teachings. More than anything, I want to give you a chance to:

1. Partner with me in spreading the gospel
2. Express generosity and pray with impudence (Luke 11:8)

That said, I plead for your prayers for the people of Laramate and the visiting missionaries more than anything. I am convinced that God moves when we petition him with our prayers in a shameless and frequent manner (Luke 11:5-8). Please pray frequently.

I forgot to mention this in the original post, but I am bringing a small library in Spanish from Desiring God set to present as a gift to a seminary in a city near Laramate. I am friends with the director of the seminary and I am really looking forward to surprising him with this gift.

The nitty-gritty:
 - Any questions? Please email me (trevormarsteller at gmail dot com). If you would like to talk with me, I can arrange a Skype call.
 - At present I am unsure of the ability to use these donations via Paypal as a tax-writeoff. If you have questions about this, I can dig into it further.
 - Paypal charges some fees for using their services (2.9% per transaction + $.30). I will personally add money to the Peru fund to make up for these charges.


New Blog Schedule

Hey everyone, I have been thinking lately that I would like to be a better blogger in many ways so I am going to be stepping back from writing for a while (and posting random things) in the interest of getting a plan together for writing well. I imagine this will look like 1-2 thought out original posts per week from myself and then sporadic links to other blogs throughout the week.

So, until the new schedule takes effect, the "Daily Gospel" posts will become less, well, daily. (Don't stop beating the gospel into your head though!)

If you would like to read my thoughts on any specific topic, please leave a comment. I would be more than glad to accommodate any requests I receive.


Daily Gospel: Jesus is the Bread

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.
(John 6:35 ESV)
The longings we experience reflect the true essence of our being. "They are who we are," says Gary Heim in True North. The child's cry to be held close, the heavy heart of a wife longing for her husband, the vacuous human heart seeking satisfaction in something. We are beings of desire, longing, and yearning.

Have you considered what Jesus is saying about himself? He says to the crowds seeking a king, seeking a daily meal, that he is the food for the human soul. Jesus says that there is life emanating from his own being - true soul food. If Jesus is the bread of life, what can we say of all other "breads" we fill the stomachs of our soul with? Can they permanently eliminate our soul's hunger and thirst? No, not  eliminate, but can the breads of life satisfy?

And all that Jesus is he is for us, for free. Let us go to the Bread of God and eat, for this brings him great glory.


Daily Gospel: Call and Response

For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon you. Give ear, O LORD, to my prayer; listen to my plea for grace. In the day of my trouble I call upon you, for you answer me.
 - Psalm 86:5-7

Call upon God, receive his bountiful, steadfast love.
Plead for grace, he answers.

It's quite simple, you see.


Daily Gospel: A Debtor To Mercy Alone

A debtor to mercy alone,
Of covenant mercy I sing,
Nor fear, with God's righteousness on,
My person and off'rings to bring.
The terrors of law and of God
With me can have nothing to do;
My Savior's obedience and blood
Hide all my transgressions from view.The work which His goodness began,

The arm of His strength will complete;
His promise is Yea and Amen,
And never was forfeited yet.
Things future, nor things that are now,
Not all things below or above,
Can make Him His purpose forego,
Or sever my soul from His love.My name from the palms of His hands

Eternity will not erase;
Imprest on His heart, it remains
In marks of indelible grace.
Yes! I to the end shall endure,
As sure as the earnest is giv'n;
More happy, but not more secure,
When all earthly ties have been riv'n.
 - Augustus Toplady


Daily Gospel: Approach My Soul, The Mercy Seat

Approach my soul, the mercy seat
Where Holy One and helpless meet
There fall before my Judgesʼ feet
Thy promise is my only plea, O God

Send wings to lift the clutch of sin
You who dwell between the cherubim
From war without and fear within
Relieve the grief from the shoulders of crumbling men

O God –
Pour out your mercy to me
My God,
Oh what striking love to bleed.

Fashion my heart in your alchemy
With the brass to front the devilʼs purgery
And surefire grace my Jesus speaks
I must. I will. I do believe. Oh Lord.
 - Jamie Barnes / John Newton

Help Out A Great Ministry

One of my favorite ministries, Desiring God, needs about $200,000 to meet their budget. Would you consider giving to help them? If you know anything about this ministry, you know it is dead-set on glorifying God, and for that they are certainly worthy of assistance - in joyful giving!

Here are some stats on their website from their most recent fiscal year:
3.6 million website visitors (up 31% previous YTD)

25% of website visits now coming from outside the US (232 countries & territories)
409,000 books distributed
850 translated online resources now available in over 40 languages
4 new language DG websites released (Chinese, Czech, Spanish, Swahili)


Daily Gospel: God's "Yes" to us in Christ

In Galatians 3:29 (RSV) Paul wrote, "If you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise" (see Ephesians 3:6; Galatians 3:14, 22; Hebrews 9:15). All the promises of God for the good of his people are in Christ. He confirms them and secures them and purchases them for all who "are Christ's" - for all who believe and belong to him (Galatians 3:22). Every sinner who comes to God in Christ, with all his needs, finds God coming to him in Christ, with all his promises. When a sinful person meets the holy God in Christ what he hears is Yes. God, do you love me? Yes. Will you forgive me? Yes. Will you accept me? Yes. Will you help me change? Yes. Will you give me power to serve you? Yes. Will you keep me? Yes. Will you show me your glory? Yes.
 - John Piper, Future Grace, p. 105


A Mighty Fortress

Writing a brief article on this great hymn for Missio Church. Keep your eyes peeled...


Daily Gospel: John Newton on Indwelling Sin

The depravity of the heart — which impedes us when we would do good, and pollutes our best intended services with evil. We have cause, upon this account, to walk softly all our days; yet we need not sorrow as those who have no hope. The Lord has provided his people relief under those complaints, and teaches us to draw improvement from them. If the evils we feel were not capable of being overruled for good — He would not permit them to remain in us. This we may infer from his hatred to sin — and the love which He bears to his people.
As to the remedy, neither our state nor his honor are affected by the workings of indwelling sin — in the hearts of those whom He has taught to wrestle, strive, and mourn, on account of what they feel. Though sin wars in us — it shall not reign in us. And though it breaks our peace — it cannot separate from his love. Nor is it inconsistent with his holiness, and perfection, to manifest his favor to such poor defiled creatures, or to admit them to communion with himself; for they are not considered as in themselves — but as one with Jesus, to whom they have fled for refuge, and by whom they live a life of faith.
They are accepted in the Beloved. They act from a principle of love. They aim at no less than his glory. Their habitual desires are supremely fixed upon himself. There is a difference in kind between the feeblest efforts of faith in a real believer, while he is covered with shame at the thoughts of his sins — and the highest and most splendid attainments of those who are wise in their own eyes and prudent in their own sight.
Nor shall this conflict remain long, or the enemy finally prevail over them. They are supported by almighty power — and led on to certain victory. They shall not always be — as they are now; yet a little while, and they shall be freed from this vile body, which, like the leprous house, is incurably contaminated, and must be entirely taken down. Then they shall see Jesus as He is, and be like him, and with him forever.
 - John Newton, Indwelling Sin and Believer

Via Ben Terry


Daily Gospel: God Leads Sinners

Good and upright is the LORD;
        therefore he instructs sinners in the way.
    He leads the humble in what is right,
        and teaches the humble his way.
    All the paths of the LORD are steadfast love and faithfulness,
        for those who keep his covenant and his testimonies.
    For your name's sake, O LORD,
        pardon my guilt, for it is great.
    Who is the man who fears the LORD?
        Him will he instruct in the way that he should choose.
    His soul shall abide in well-being,
        and his offspring shall inherit the land.
    The friendship of the LORD is for those who fear him,
        and he makes known to them his covenant.
 - Psalm 25:8-14

A few things:
  • God instructs sinners in the way of life, the way of righteousness, God's path. Does this not manifest his goodness, that one who is holy and perfect would teach and lead the dirty and guilty?
  • Being humiliated does not equal being humbled. The humble man realizes his sorry estate apart from God and then flees to God for direction, help, and forgiveness from the guilt of sin.
  • All the paths of the LORD are "love and faithfulness". All of them. He will never stray into sin and thus man can never bring a valid charge against him.
  • It is immeasurably freeing to petition God to forgive our sins for his name's sake. This is a recurring theme in the Bible. God's people ask him to wash away their sins on account of the mercy that God is known for showing. It is indeed proper to ask God to forgive us so that he will forever prove himself to be merciful and loving.
  • God's friendship is for those who fear him. The fear of the LORD (a topic worthy of many more posts) is the proper framework in which man relates to God. The man who knows God fears him and so God unites the man to himself in an everlasting covenant and calls the God-fearer his friend.


Looking Down On Sinners

I came across this in the daily Bible study on Ephesians 2:11 in TableTalk magazine:
Paul reminds the Gentiles of their desperate situation before Christ came and shows them that they have no reason to look down upon the Jews. We, too, should remember how far off we were from God before Jesus so that we never haughtily look down upon those who do not know the Savior. We are not inherently better than those who are outside the covenant community, but have as much need of the gospel as they do.
Here is an excerpt of what I wrote this morning in response to this verse/commentary:

I am not in any way better than my friends, acquaintances, coworkers, and family members who do not know Jesus. I need the gospel just as much as they do. Be careful not to elevate yourself in pride. How does pride manifest itself in this manner in my life?
 - When I think that God doesn’t care for and love my lost friends/coworkers. He does love them. But in what manner does he love them? He sent Jesus as a full and open offer of redemption and grace, free of any meritorious works on our part. God sent Jesus for sinners and we are all sinners. Many will reject Jesus, few will he save.
 - When I think that God is unable to save them. When I am rightly disgusted by the sins of the lost, I may quickly jump to the conclusion that they are irredeemable. This betrays God’s grace shown to me and all others who he has saved.