Monthly Archives: October 2012

Learning it’s ok to be me

Last night, I spoke to the men and women who attend First Central Baptist Church’s Celebrate Recovery program. I shared how God used 2 Corinthians 3:5-6 to teach me I no longer needed to wrestle with feelings of inadequacy.


For much of my life, I wanted to be someone else. Growing up, I always wanted to be my brother, Paul. He was 14 months older and six inches taller than me. He was musical, athletic, and outgoing. In college, I wanted to be like my friend, Mike. He was popular, friendly, and drove a cool sports car. In grad school, I wanted to be like one of my mentors, John. He was a gifted writer, popular speaker, and very creative. Then I wanted to be like Phil, a gifted teacher. I spent 14 years working with a gifted administrator and leader, Tim, and wanted to be like him as well. I wanted to be like these men because I didn’t think I was good enough.

Adding to my struggles were the people who told me I wasn’t good enough. Tony said I would never make it in ministry because I didn’t have a pastor’s heart. The church I grew up in did not want to ordain me because they didn’t consider Christian Education to be real ministry. When I was working on my doctorate, the dean of the seminary said I would never complete the program because I didn’t have what it took to do doctoral work. (Tony and the Dean later apologized and admitted they were wrong and misjudged me.)

As I have cataloged on previous occasions, I was fired from my first ministry. While I had not done anything wrong, neither had I done enough right and the church wanted to make a change. They told me I wasn’t a leader, but left me to figure out what that meant and how to correct the flaw.

Two years ago, I lost all my hair due to illness and stress. Today, I don’t recognize myself when I look in the mirror.

For much of my life, I wanted to be someone else. I wanted my brother’s height and musical ability; Mike’s popularity and sports car; John’s ability to write; Kent’s ability to preach; Phil’s ability to connect with an audience; Tim’s ability to plan; and my own hair.

I never felt I was good enough. I was told I wasn’t good enough. I was fired because I wasn’t good enough. I felt like God made a mistake in how he wired me.

In 2001, I was introduced to 2 Corinthians 3:5-6.

Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God, who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

The NASB uses the word, “adequate”; the NIV uses “competent”; and the ESV uses “sufficient.”

There are three key phrases in these verses that helped change my perspective about myself. The first one is, “Not that we are adequate.” People were correct. I don’t have the natural ability to accomplish anything. I’m not enough.

The second phrase that helped me is, “our adequacy is from God.” God has given me exactly what I need to be successful in life and ministry.

The third phrase that changed my perspective is, “who also made us adequate.” In addition to giving me what I need, God has made me adequate. God said, “You are enough. You are sufficient. You are competent. You are adequate. I didn’t make a mistake.”

For the first time, I realized it was ok to be me. I didn’t have to be someone else.

I still struggle with insecurity at times. But I know those are the lies of the enemy. And I have to remind myself what God said about me. He made me adequate and has given me what I need to be successful in life and ministry.

Whatever challenge you are facing tonight, (1) Admit that you are not adequate. You don’t have the skills, resources, ability to change your situation. (2) Trust God to give you the resources you need. He can give you enough grace and strength to succeed. (3) Trust God to make you adequate.


Is war between Israel and Iran imminent?

Book Review: Israel at war: Inside the nuclear showdown with Iran, by Joel C. Rosenberg

Is war between Israel and Iran imminent? Was Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu correct when he told the U.N. that Iran would have nuclear weapons by next spring? Is the crisis in the Middle East heading to a point of no return? Have the major players already crossed that line?

Author Joel C. Rosenberg tackles these tough questions in his latest offering, Israel at war: Inside the nuclear showdown with Iran. Published as an e-book, it reads like a cross between front page headlines and Bible study. Like all of Rosenberg’s books, this one is well researched and documented. Because it is so current, it comes across like a State Department briefing. The reader has the same information government official hold in their hands.

Reading through the book, you have the sense that the tension in the Middle East is heading towards an imminent clash. War seems to be a foregone conclusion. However, Rosenberg injects a note of optimism by closing the book with several Bible passages from Ezekiel. While the human actors and governments are busy rattling their sabers and shouting their rhetoric, God is ultimately still on his throne. Nothing will proceed until he gives the ok.

While I enjoyed the book and was challenged by it, I was disappointed in the quality of the e‑book. There were several errors in the formatting. It gave the appearance of being written quickly and rushed into publication. While the headlines are changing rapidly, the publisher could have taken more time to ensure the formatting and layout did not become a distraction and hindrance to the reader.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the Tyndale Blog Network book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

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Posted by on October 25, 2012 in Books


#TGCNE12 – Breakout 2

“We dare not despair” was taught by Collin Hansen

Revival in Scripture

Remember – Joshua 24

Rejoice – 2 Samuel 6 – don’t expect everything to go well in revival

Repent – 2 Chronicles 34

Resolve – Acts 2 – spread the revival through evangelism and sharing

Do what Scripture commands—preach, pray, sing, serve, love

Be the church

In revival, we don’t seek extraordinary experience, we seek an extraordinary God

You can’t have a revival without a recovery of Scripture and a remembrance of what God has done.

Nostalgia is deadly to the faith; thinking the past was perfect.

If God can work in 18th century NE, he can work in any time


Heaven was on the minds of everyone

God blesses us with revival in sudden, unexpected ways. Revival often ends in the same way. Attacks come during revival.

Lasting effectiveness of 1st Great Awakening—increased evangelism to Native Americans; helped create America; renewed preaching to African-Americans

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Posted by on October 25, 2012 in Church, Scripture, The Gospel Coalition


#TGCNE12 – Breakout 1

“Perspectives on ministry in New England” was a panel discussion with four pastors.

How can you contextualize the gospel for your area?

Slow down, listen, learn before changing things

What barriers do you have to overcome to share the gospel?

Fear of man is the chief idolatry of our day

How do you disciple?

Revitalize SS, small groups, community, intentional groups

School of Christian Formation

“A true New Englander always sits with his back to the wall because he doesn’t trust anyone.”.

Church planting

The runway is long. Planters need mentoring, support. We must be careful and do it well.

Reach the community through children’s ministry

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Posted by on October 25, 2012 in Church, Scripture, The Gospel Coalition


#TGCNE12 – D. A. Carson

During plenary session 3, D. A. Carson spoke on “The gospel shape of Scripture.”

The gospel is news, and what you do with news is announce it. That’s why there is so much emphasis on preaching, teaching and witness in Scripture.

Carson painted a panorama of Scripture to show how Scripture is permeated with the gospel.

You can’t set the synoptic kingdom of God against Paul’s soteriological kingdom. The kingdom is always about the cross.

When you say everything is the gospel, you begin to lose the gospel.

During the final session, Carson spoke on “The gospel shaped mission.”

He did an exposition of Revelation 12. In his presentation, he took a reformed/covenant approach to his interpretation—“The woman represents the messianic community. The focus in this chapter is on the covenant people of God; the church.” (In other words, the church replaces Israel.) He also took an allegorical interpretation of the 1260 days saying it was symbolic of the Maccabean revolt.

Will the world get worse or better before Jesus returns? Look at the parable of the wheat and the weeds. Both will grow until the end. There will be periods of revival and well as times of persecution.

We need to face the fact that we face the devil himself. He is antagonistic because he knows he is defeated.

We need to analyze our situation biblically and theologically. We must recognize and use the weapons that God has given us.


Posted by on October 24, 2012 in Scripture, The Gospel Coalition, Theology


#TGCNE12 – John Piper

During the plenary session 2, Pastor John Piper spoke on “The gospel-shaped mind.”

The gospel shapes a life through worship.

God created you with a mind and a heart. The mind serves the heart and it results in a white hot affection for God.

(Taking notes on Piper is like reading his books. He is deep and thought provoking, but he talks so fast and doesn’t’ repeat himself. Thus you only catch portions. Unlike his books, you can’t reread to make sure you understand. That being said, he is animated in his delivery and passionate about God, both of which keep the listener engaged.)

See Luke’s version of the great commandment

Use your mind to stoke your passion for God in the heart

Submit your mind objectively to the truth, not subjectively

The mind is then released from self-exalted pursuits

This forces the mind to serve the heart

During the plenary session 4, Piper spoke on “The gospel-shaped heart.”

(In his intro, Piper did a good job synthesizing the different speakers and their topics and drawing a cohesive theme throughout the conference.)

In answering the question, “what is the gospel?” Piper said that the gospel is:

A plan – this involves predestination and God’s foreknowledge

An event – Christ died for us

An achievement – propitiation through substitution

A free offer for faith – Romans 3:28

An achievement applied to you – Acts 10:48; forgiveness

Gets us God – 1 Peter 3:18; God gives us the gift of himself

We are freed from guilt, fitted for joy, and fulfilled in God. The gospel frees the heart from the misery of guilt. The heart is then fitted for a new range of affections. The heart is shaped by what is fulfilled in Jesus.

What is meant by affections? Not bodily emotions, but spiritual affections

Why would the mind serve the heart? John 8:32

Shouldn’t action be included in the goal? The facets of behavior come out of the heart

How does this all relate to the glory of God? You glorify what you are satisfied in. White hot affection is as far from lukewarm as can be.

Keys to successful ministry as a pastor

Pursue your joy in God, even if it costs you your life

Hebrews 13:17 – be happy in the delights of ministry—our people rely on us

2 Corinthians 1:24 – our mission is to come alongside people to work for their joy. In preaching, we spread a banquet for people, who respond with “Ahh!”—worship.

If we follow Scripture, people will be protected from (1) dead orthodoxy or plastic pragmatism; and (2) anti-intellectualism or charismatic excesses.

Philippians 1:20-21

If you want to magnify God, then treasure him more than all that life can give and all that death can take.


Posted by on October 23, 2012 in Scripture, The Gospel Coalition, Theology


#TGCNE12 – Pastor Tim Keller

During the pre-conference session, Pastor Tim Keller spoke on the topic of “The gospel shaped ministry.” He began by asking the question, “How can the church have a missionary encounter with western culture?” I believe he was referencing work done by Bishop Leslie Newbegin (?). Keller said that the church that is effective must be a different kind of community. It must be a:

Contrasting community—it must show the world a different way of living

Servant community—it must do more than just evangelism

Non-divisive, unifying community—while we are to be different from the world, we are not necessarily different from other believers

Lay-launching community—individual Christians must carry the message. Because of this, the average believer must become more theologically astute. (This resonates what I believe about the need for church-based theological education.)

Suffering community—outside of the west, suffering is one of the keys to the health and growth of the church

Prophetic community—the key must be a community of the word. This is the key to its health and growth. Without this sixth characteristic, the church is no different from any other organization.

In a blue collar community, your pastoring sets up your preaching; in a white collar community, your preaching sets up your pasturing.

The gospel is news, not advice.

Christianity is a message that if believed, leads to a new way of life.

You have to say something, not just do something. If doctrine doesn’t matter, if you just live, you convey that if you live a certain way, you can be a Christian. This leads to a doctrine of justification by works.

“We celebrate being people of the word, but we appear to be enamored by everything but the word” David Wells

During the first session of the conference, Keller spoke on “The gospel-shaped life.” He focused on four basic questions:

What is the gospel?

The gospel is news, not advice. Advice provides counsel.. News is something you must respond to. Advice says, “Here’s how to find God.” Jesus said, “I’m God, come to find you.”

Does the gospel shape a life?

Many say the law shapes a life, not the gospel. The gospel shapes us and gives us a new motivation.

What does a gospel shaped life look like?

1 Corinthians 6:19, “You are not your own, you are bought with a price.”

Christianity fulfills you but humbles you at the same time.

We are citizens of the city of God, but we should also be the best citizens of the city of man.

Unless you let the gospel go deep, you turn your cultural choices into moral absolutes.

How does the gospel shape a life?

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Posted by on October 22, 2012 in Scripture, The Gospel Coalition, Theology