A common mistake is to value Jesus primarily for the good he can do for us - and he does offer us more good than anything in the universe - rather than valuing him as the ultimate good himself. So we ask him to make us happy, rather than finding our happiness in him. We ask him to give us a fulfilled life, rather than finding our fullness in him. We ask him to give us strength, rather than finding our strength in him. If we're looking to Jesus to give us happiness, fulfillment and strength on our terms, we'll always come up short - and feel as though Jesus has let us down. If we go to Jesus for Jesus, we'll be more happy, fulfilled and strong than we could ever imagine. The difference is subtle, but couldn't be more important. Bask in his beams and you will not lack on any account. Seek him for other things and you'll always find yourself lacking. All that you long for can be traced back to him. I love how Charles Spurgeon put this in his Lectures to my Students...Read More
This morning we kicked-off a new two-year residency for developing eight potential pastors and church planters within our church. Our hope is to raise-up local elders, church planters and leaders for planting teams - domestically and internationally. We're beginning with a study of Charles Spurgeon's Lectures to My Students as a launch pad for discussing personal spiritual vitality. This week we covered "The Minister's Self-Watch", "The Call to Ministry", "The Preacher's Private Prayer" and "The Minister's Ordinary Conversation." Whether you are currently serving as a pastor, or working through a call to it, you should read this book - and then revisit it regularly. If you want to learn more about rolling out something similar at your church, I encourage you to connect with these guys. Here's a sample of Spurgeon's urgent call to a diligent self-watch.Read More
This week I have been thinking a lot about the relationship between praise and joy. Have you noticed that we, as humans, love to praise? We were built for it. Praise is the outcome of what, or who, we enjoy. It is the eruption, and completion, that inevitably results in response to the joy we experience in someone or something. In other words, our joy and our praise are directly related; we praise what we enjoy and enjoy what we praise. God calls for our praise, not as a detached, isolated act, but because he is the most-to-be-enjoyed of all things we enjoy. Do you enjoy him? The best measure is your praise of him. I love how CS Lewis brings this point to life...Read More
I am devoting a significant portion of my allotted reading this year to CS Lewis. You may have noticed an inordinate number of references and quotes by Lewis, from me, over the last 12 months and that is why. Though not a theologian, he was a brilliant thinker and a genius at taking profound truths and (literally) making them accessible to children. Like us, he too lived in a world of war, urbanization, increasing secularization and unbelief (popular and academic) in regards to the truthfulness of Christianity. Though imperfect, and oddly eccentric, we still have much to learn from him. Most recently I completed reading The World's Last Night and Other Essays, one of which was on the Efficacy of Prayer. Here's a sample:
“Simply to say prayers is not to pray; otherwise a team of properly trained parrots would serve as well as men....The very question “Does prayer work?” puts us in the wrong frame of mind from the outset. “Work”: as if it were magic, or a machine - something that functions automatically. Prayer is either a sheer illusion or a personal contact between embryonic, incomplete persons (ourselves) and the utterly concrete Person. Prayer in the sense of petition, asking for things, is a small part of it; confession and penitence are its threshold, adoration its sanctuary, the presence and vision and enjoyment of God its bread and wine.”
This is the best page of writing I've read in the last two weeks, so I thought I would share it here due to its clarity, insightfulness and wisdom. Lewis is such a help when it comes to taking seemingly complex matters and reframing them in ways that leave the reader wondering why he had not seen such things before. In his essay, On Obstinacy in Belief, he devotes a section to tackling the common objection that the type of faith (or trust) required by Christianity is simple-minded, naive and un-intelligent. His response is worth reading and considering.Read More
Over our most recent family vacation I spent some time reviewing a number of books I read earlier this year on pastoral ministry. (I try to make a practice of periodically revisiting those I find to be particularly helpful.) One of those was Sensing Jesus, by Zack Eswine. You can read about that here. Another wasDangerous Calling, by Paul Tripp. Though Tripp's book is directed specifically to pastors, it is a must-read for any one involved in (or considering) ministry leadership. We have already made it part of the required study for our pastor and church planter training. The beauty of the book is its simple, straightforward focus on the gospel and its practical implications in life and ministry. You could call it gospel-licious. Here are a handful of my favorite quotes.Read More
I am currently working my way through CS Lewis' sci-fi trilogy (Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra and That Hideous Strength). Though I'm not a big sci-fi fan (admittedly, I haven't been exposed to much), I am of Lewis. The series is filled with his usual brilliant wit and colorful turn of phrase. I came across the following quote this week and have been thinking about it ever since. In this particular scene, the main character is explaining the reason for which he was selected for the task at hand. Surely his reply explains why any of us are selected for anything. I am certain Lewis is right here and, one day, we will laugh at any seriousness with which we treated ourselves.