Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Stevie Johnson: A man just like you and me

Recently, NFL wide-receiver Stevie Johnson ran a deep post corner route and dropped what would have been a game-winning touchdown pass thrown by his quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. It was the kind of catch that Johnson could make in his sleep, but this time around he didn't make the catch despite the fact that he was wide awake, not to mention wide open. The nearest defender was five feet away (and in the NFL if a defender is five feet away on a deep ball, he might as well be a mile away). He caught the ball for a brief second and then all of a sudden the ball seemed to just squirt away from him.

Johnson sat dejected in the end-zone. I can't imagine what was going on in his head as he sat there thinking whatever he was thinking. Actually, that's a lie, I know exactly what he was thinking. Johnson let the whole world (or at least those of us on Twitter) know exactly what he was thinking while he sat there. After the game, Johnson "tweeted" this: "I PRAISE YOU 24/7!!!!!! AND THIS HOW YOU DO ME!!!!! YOU EXPECT ME TO LEARN FROM THIS??? HOW???!!! ILL NEVER FORGET THIS!! EVER!!! THX THO..."

As you can imagine, and as you've probably already heard, many Christians and non-Christians alike are all over this guy for his Twitter to God. Now, some people see a huge problem with his tweet and I'm sure somebody out there has even said something like, "He's an idiot, You can think that kind of thing but you should never say it, let alone put it on Twitter, Facebook or MySpace (does anyone still use MySpace?). But I would like to put some things into perspective for you...

First of all, this guy is just being honest and transparent with God (to a fault). This is something more Christians should do. Most of us just stuff these things deep or drop the Christian F-Word and act like everything is okay. The Christian F-Word, by the way, is: Fine.

"I'm fine. How are you?"
"That's good. I fine."

No you're not! Come on! How many times have you said "I'm fine" when you weren't "fine" by any stretch of the imagination. Life sucks sometimes...why can't we be honest and say, "Hey, things are awful right now and I'm doing...well, I suck too"?

Johnson did something that would be healthy for all of us to do. Yeah sure, his heart was postured poorly toward God, but so is yours every once is a while...but are you ever honest about it? Johnson had a very bad moment and he had a very open conversation with God about it. Was it wise to have that via Twitter? No. Because now his thoughts will be out there for all to see until the internet is no more. But it could be worse...

Think about it for a second. Eventually, all the Tweets and Facebook Status Updates will be forgotten and they will end up as dust or ash in eternity. But the Word of the Lord is forever (1 Peter 1:25). I have no doubt that His written Word (the Bible) is apart of that package deal. So this could mean, that while Stevie Johnson's Tweet of Anger will last a long time, the questions and statements of other men (who have their moments of frustration with God quoted in the Bible) will be around long after Johnson's disappear along with Twitter and Facebook.

Jeremiah, for example, is quoted for all of eternity as he tells God that God has seduced him into serving God. Jeremiah would do exactly what God told him to do and almost always catch a beat down for it from the audience. That's way worse than dropping at catch when you play for the Buffalo Bills but his words will be immortalized!

Think about Job and the things that he said! Think about all of his idiot friends that "advised" him during is suffering. Their words live on thousands of years later for all of us to see how ridiculous they were! God even showed up in the middle of their conversation to clarify how dumb their words were.

David, the schizophrenic shepherd-warrior-king-poet can't seem to make up his mind! One minute he's talking to God as if they were sharing a gourmet parfait in the botanical gardens and the next he's crying out, "Where are you? God you've abandoned me! Whyyyyyyyy?!"

And in the New Testament we see that even the disciples, the guys who walked with Jesus Christ (i.e. God in the Flesh), are also pretty lame at times. James and John had their mom asked Jesus embarrassing questions, Peter constantly sticks his foot in his mouth, and three clowns are "The Inner Three" for goodness sake!

The point is, we've all blamed God for things or been wrongfully angry toward Him. We've all blasphemed and said stupid things to God or about God. Stevie Johnson just happened to do it on Twitter and get all over the media air waves for it too. When all is said and done, it could be worse. The bright side is that Johnson's outburst could have been captured in the Word rather than in the media and on the internet. Get off of the man's're just like him, and if you're honest, you'll admit it.

Book Review: "The Gospel & Personal Evangelism"

Title: The Gospel & Personal Evangelism
Sub-title: (not applicable)
Author: Mark Dever
Publisher: Crossway
Book Type: Evangelism (Christian Living)
Page Length: 124
Chapters: Foreword (by CJ Mahaney), Introduction, 7 Chapters, Conclusion
SRP: $9.99
Suggested Audience: All Christians, all ages.

Strengths: This book is short, so those of you that feel like you have the attention span of Dory from Finding Nemo, you have no excuses to not finish this book if you dare to pick it up. This book is organized well and it is by no means boring. If you have any desire to learn about evangelism or live out a life of evangelism, you will like this book.

Weaknesses: I feel like every time I write a book review I end up writing this, “I don’t think this book has any weaknesses.” And, honestly, I don’t feel badly about that fact because most books that I read are really good. I don’t usually pick up a book if I have a feeling that a book is going to be a bad read. With that said, this book hits the target that Dever was aiming for when he wrote it.

My thoughts: I love this book. I feel like it’s the unofficial sequel to Greg Gilbert’s “What is the Gospel?” and that is not too much of stretch considering that Greg Gilbert is a pastor at Capitol Hill Baptist Church just like Mark Dever. So my theory is that Gilbert wrote his book to establish what the gospel is and to clear up what the gospel is not. Then, Dever came along behind him and wrote “The Gospel & Personal Evangelism” to show us how to respond to the gospel of Jesus in light of what the Bible shows it (the gospel) to be. The problem with that theory is that Dever published his book first, so maybe Gilbert wanted to clarify the gospel for readers so they could better understand the gospel before moving on to Dever’s book about how the gospel demands that we live out personal evangelism. But I digress…

Dever’s book boldly declares what a Christian’s biblical response to the power of the gospel should be. Chapter by chapter he answers the various Who, How, What and Why questions of the gospel and personal evangelism. His methodical, systematic, and academic approach is make so personal by his writing that you don’t feel like a professor is teaching you from a chalk board, you feel like you’re being discipled in personal evangelism by a guy who loves Jesus and cares about you the reader.

Notable quotes: “My blindness to God’s provision is voluntary. I don’t consider the reality and finality of death, judgment, and hell.”

“In biblical evangelism, we don’t impose anything. In fact, we really can’t. According to the Bible, evangelism is simply telling the good news. It’s not making sure that the other person responds correctly. I wish we could, but according to the Bible, this is not something we can do.”

“Interrupting someone in the process of deciding to follow Christ can actually help him.”

“You may not remember a time when you didn’t follow Christ. But the Bible tells us that we are all by nature at enmity with God. And at some point, our hearts came alive to God and our wills bent to his. We were converted. That’s what we want to see as a result of our evangelism.”

“God is glorified in being known.”

“If you think that the gospel is all about what we can do, that the practice of it is optional, and that conversion is simply something that anyone can choose at any time, then I’m concerned that you’ll think of evangelism as nothing more than a sales job where the prospect is to be won over to sign on the dotted line by praying a prayer, followed by an assurance that he is the proud owner of salvation.”

“The Christian call to evangelism is not simply a call to persuade people to make decisions, but rather to proclaim to them the good news of salvation in Christ, to call them to repentance, and to give God the glory for regeneration and conversion.”

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Condition of Man: Part Two

"And you were dead in your trespasses and sins..." -Ephesians 2:1

Some months ago I concluded a blog entitled "The Condition of Man: Part One" by stating that man was spiritually dead. I mentioned the fact that Jesus is standing at the spiritual door of mankind and He is knocking while He waits for us to answer. The question I asked was this: "What is the condition of the man on the other side of the door?"

My thesis is that mankind is in no condition to make spiritual decisions to follow Jesus unless some outside force first changes their hopeless condition. I claimed that the first evidence to support my thesis was the Biblical idea that the man on the other side of the door is spiritually dead and therefore unable to answer the door at which Jesus stands and knocks. To live, he must answer the door and to answer the door he must be made alive.

In the same way, a dead man can't drink water unless he first becomes alive. If he must drink water to become alive, then he will remain dead because a dead man can't drink water. Someone else can pour water down a corpse's throat but that's not drinking, that's just pouring water into a dead man's mouth. For that dead man to drink, he must first live again.

In Ephesians, the Apostle Paul writes some amazing things about who God is and who we are in light of God being who He is. One of the passages that is amazing is Ephesians 2:1-10 which says in verse one that we (Christians) were dead (spiritually) and we were headed for a big heaping dose of God's nasty, righteous, good, just wrath and that non-believers are still on the path for it. Verse 5 seems to clearly state that for some reason God gave us life even when we were dead and unable to do anything to please him (Romans 8:7-8).

Paul writes something similar to the Church at Colossae:
"And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses..."

There's no doubt that Paul believes there is something spiritually dead about us. If you read Romans 8 you get this picture that the physical state of a man will line up with the spiritual state of him as well. If I live by the flesh, my physical body and soul will go the way of the flesh which is death. The Spirit is life and peace, so if I live this life by, in, and through the Spirit, I will live spiritually and live once again physically when resurrected by Christ. That is an overwhelming theme in the writings of Paul. My physical life in the flesh will line up with the posture of my soul.

So, if we are dead spiritually, what can we on our own merit and under our own power do to change the state our spiritual condition? The answer is: nothing. When was the last time you saw a corpse do anything but decompose? The only time truly dead things come to life again is by the power of an eternal force. So in the case of spiritual deadness, what external force intervenes for the corpse on the other side of the door upon which Jesus knocks? The corpse must come to life for it to answer the door and inviting Jesus in. But we've established, at the cost of me sounding redundant, that life won't happen apart from an outside granting life.

So the conclusion is: Man is dead spiritually and there's nothing we can do about it. But that's just the beginning of our problems. Because even if the spiritual corpse comes to life, the now living corpse is hostile toward the one who stands at the door and knocks. The key word in that verse is "hostile."

Hostile: "Of an enemy, pertaining to an enemy, or characteristic of an enemy; opposed in feeling, action, or character; not friendly, not warm, not generous, not hospitable."

We've got a huge problem: The God of the Universe is standing at our door...and we hate him.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Thoughts on Grace

I've grown up a lot in the past three years. Which is to be expected. I was 21 and now I'm 24. We could only hope I'd grow at least a little I guess. But I think my understanding of Grace has had a lot to do with it.

For a long time, I've known academically and intellectually what Grace is, but it was only after becoming a Christian that I knew of Grace in the sense that my knowledge of it and experience of it collided into something that was very personal. But lately, I've seen in my own life how little I understand it even now. I mean, I've grown leaps and bounds in Grace. I'll never forget the time Jake Peterman and I were talking about a guy who we felt deserved the wrath of God and Divine justice (who doesn't right?) and I said, "We just gotta show him a little grace."

We were walking on campus when I said that and Jake just stopped. He was in shock that he was hearing those words from my mouth. I was too, I suppose. But that's what happens when you're being transformed. You start to become unrecognizable when compared to the person you were before Christ.

But, somewhere along the road, I've become numb to Grace. I've once again become so Truth heavy that I've forgotten Grace. I'm a little Grace retarded. I don't say that to be funny. It's pretty serious, actually. When you find yourself thinking that God loves some future version of you rather than understanding the fact that God, because of Grace, loves you right now, right where you are...even though you're a jacked up, messed up, screw up. Grace is Grace because you can't do anything to alter your position. Grace is unmerited.

Lately, I've found myself thinking thoughts about how God will be pleased and love me more when I reach certain spiritual goals and levels. It's so weird to operate in a way that mentally, intellectually, and academically you know is just absolutely crazy. It's actually quite insane. it's like driving on the left side of the road while muttering, "Drive on the right dummy, driving on the left is crazy, driving on the left is wrong, driving on the left ends badly, driving on the left is a terrible idea."

But...that's where I've been lately. I've been in this ridiculous cycle of "let me clean up my act and then God will be approachable again. Lemme fix myself so I can go back to Jesus and hangout again." How dumb is that? Yeah, I's pretty dumb in light of Grace. Don't get me wrong, I am well aware of Romans 6. But if I try to run from God until I can get myself clean first, I'll be running forever--because it will never happen.

Grace it what allows me to approach God and cry out, "Look I really suck at this whole life thing and if you don't do something in me, I'm never going to be able to make it. You've told me to pick up my cross and follow you, but if my heart doesn't continue to be transformed by you, I'm never going to hold up under the weight of discipleship and sanctification."

Oh God, thank you for Grace. Thank you that it's free and unmerited. That you that Grace means I'm yours right now. Thank you that you don't just love some version of me that's 20 years away. Thank you that you love me right now.

It's because of Grace that I'm confident that God will continue to show me and remind of His Grace throughout my journey. I'm quite sure this won't be the last season of life in which I'll find myself not walking in light of Grace...because I am so prone to wander and discard my understanding of Grace. What a tragedy it is to lose sight of such a beautiful thing like Grace.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Book Review: "Let the Nations Be Glad"

Title: Let the Nations Be Glad!
The Supremacy of God in Missions
Author: Dr. John Piper
Publisher: Baker Academic
Book Type: Mission/Theology
Page Length: 280
Chapters: Preface, Acknowledgements, Introduction, 7 Chapters, Conclusion, Afterword
SRP: $15.99
Suggested Audience: All Christians who plan on being involved with missions in any way (sending or going), which Biblically, should be all Christians everywhere.

Strengths: It's meaty. It's deep. It's weighty. I love this book. Piper is just so good at exposing the realities of your soul and this book will rip open the corner of your heart labeled "missions." It will leave you thinking every time you put it down. It's so grounded in Scripture. Almost every page is covered with God's Word.

Weaknesses: This book isn't weak. People are. You will feel faint of heart throughout this book, but it's not because this book has weaknesses, it's because we as humans suck and we need grace from Jesus...even if we hope to finish this book.

My thoughts: Read this book with a group or you'll never finish it. Watch the DVDs/video sermons that go with it if you can. I love Piper and this book is pure gold for anyone that loves Jesus and missions to the world. I read this book with a group of people that I love very much while we were doing ministry in New Zealand. This book pushed us all toward Jesus and the lost around us. Read this book. Think. Pray. Journal. Wrestle. Chew. Press in. Go out. Pray some more and then start reading again. Do that and you'll feel your heart ignited to worship this awesome God in whom the Nations are glad.

Notable quotes: "The most passionate heart for the glorification of God is God's heart. God's ultimate goal is to uphold and display the glory of his name."
"Life is war because the maintenance of our faith and the laying hold on eternal life is a constant fight."
"Life is war. Paul assumes this..."
"The point rather is that as long as the Lord has not returned, there must be more people groups to reach, and we should keep on reaching them."

Thursday, September 16, 2010

"God willing...I shall return."

Today is my last full day in Dunedin, New Zealand. I feel like there’s a Hobbit stepping on my sternum. Like, I feel a tiny weight in and on my chest right now. It’s pretty weird and all I can do is chalk it up to the love and burden I have for this place and these people. It’s been pretty life changing being here for 11 weeks.

As a ministry team, we’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: we’re all completely at the mercy of God for everything. We are totally dependent on Him to move in men to meet with us. We’re totally dependent on Him to grow the seed that we’ve planted and watered. We’re totally dependent on God to save. We can’t “lead people in prayers.” We can’t convince them to “get saved.” We can’t articulate the Gospel so well that their eyes get opened. And on and on I could go.

All we can do is faithfully live out and share the gospel, and pray that God does something supernatural. All we can do is live faithfully and hope God does something incredible, because even if we live faithfully according to His word, He can still tarry and withhold His loving hand from those with whom we labor—He owes men nothing (Romans 9 and 11). But praise God that He takes great pleasure in the salvation of men. For His Glory, he calls men and women out of spiritual death and into life with Him.

I don’t know much, but if He chooses to save the guys I’ve labored with, I’m going to go be an absolute, over-joyed mess. I will probably cry in a way I’ve never cried before. I’ll dance in a way I’ve never danced before. I’ll laugh in a way I’ve never laughed before. My hope is in Christ alone, but a deep-heart felt prayer is for the salvation of these dudes here at this university.

I told Megan the other day that this place has cut me deep. I feel the weight of this country’s desperate need for Christ and this place has helped me sense my own continual need for Jesus as well. A question that haunts me (in a good way) is: “Why me? Why did He save me?” I mean, he could have left me alone in my sin and allowed it to destroy me. But, he didn’t. He saved me. I see this country’s apathy—most of them just don’t care about Christ at all. But, I care and I want them to know Jesus. God willing, I’m coming back here. I’m coming back to this place if He’ll let me.

Tomorrow, I am leaving New Zealand. Tomorrow, I will rejoice in who Christ is and what He is doing in New Zealand. Tomorrow, I will have clear eyes. Tomorrow, I will have a full heart. Tomorrow, I will say, “God willing, I shall return.”

-Nate Xanders

Friday, September 3, 2010

The Supremacy of Christ in Carpentry and Patience

When everyone abandoned me here—I mean, when everyone left for the States, I had to break down all of our bunk beds and stuff. Then Josh informed me that we would build a shelf in the shed/garage so we could store the mattresses and broken down bunk pieces. So we started doing this little project and about four hours later we (and when I say we, I mean Josh, because I knew from the start this would take forever) realized how deep we were into this thing. So we kept at it and with about an hour worth of work left, Josh looked down at his watch and said, “Well, time to go home.”

I’m still blown away by the fact that we were so close and he called it a night. So a week later, here I was by myself looking at this cluttered shed. And I finished the carpentry alone. As I was cutting the wood and nailing it into place, I thought about how amazing it is that Christ spent years and years as a carpenter and never sinned. It’s such a frustrating task. Cutting wood in that shed just warred against me—and that’s what Jesus did for a living. He was a carpenter. The tools he had to work with were archaic compared to my power saw and drill. Now, I would argue that He, as the God of the universe, had a “slight” carpentry advantage, since He did it professionally for over two decades and, oh I don’t know, made all the trees by speaking them into existence and then holding them in place by the power of His word. I’m just saying, I don’t think Jesus ever cut the wood incorrectly—but that’s complete conjecture, I know. None of that is really the point.

One thing is for sure, I don’t think I have the patience to do carpentry six days a week for over 20 years. But Jesus did. Carpentry takes unbelievable patience. And we know that Christ is perfectly patient. As I thought about Christ as a carpenter, I couldn’t help but think of His patience as Savior and Lord. I thought about His unreal patience with me and with us. My prayer is that His patience with these guys here in Dunedin would be displayed to them. Our prayer should be that they would come to Christ and taste His mercy, His grace, His love, and His patience—just as we have.

Please pray for Hugh, Team Duff and Team Studholme as I labor with them. They have all returned from their semester break and today I get to hangout with these guys. Hugh has been reading “The Case for Christ” by Lee Strobel and is really enjoying it. Team Duff is still reading John and still asking great questions—please pray that I would ask great questions as well. Join me in praying that God would reveal Himself to them and display His supremacy and His supreme patience to them.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

We Are Created for Community

I like to think about the Creation story in Genesis. It’s pretty crazy. I mean, when we read it through fresh lenses and just observe it as if we haven’t heard it a million times before, it rings true just like it always has; but there are some really cool things in the first two chapters of the Bible. The story of Creation goes a little something like this:

God is. The story begins with God and His eternal, infinite existence. So, there He is—just doing God things...because He’s God. The Triune God of the soon to be universe is just fellowshipping with Himself—just kicking it—in His triune nature. God is three in one and one in three—there is this Godhead community. Then the Godhead decides to start creating stuff from nothing. He creates and says, “It’s good.” He creates some more and says, “It’s good.” Then He does some more and says again, “It’s good.” He does this seven times: creates and declares His creation to be good.

But then He says something interesting. God says, “It is NOT good...” Well, what is He talking about? He finishes the sentence by declaring that it is not good for man to be alone. This is really cool. Adam is there in the garden surrounded by animals of all kinds—and yet God says man is alone. He designed us for community with Him and for community with others. He declares this at the very beginning of the story. He created man and it was good—but it wasn’t done yet. God’s plan was always community.

I think I’ve always understood this to be true—academically. But I think CCP has grown me in the depth of being really acquainted with this truth. I miss my CCP teammates. There is no debating it. Community and fellowship with them deeply blessed and enriched my life. But praise God because I have found sweet fellowship with Kiwi believers here in New Zealand. Even though university has the week off, and all the students have left for the holiday, there is a remnant that is still here in Dunedin. It brings me great joy to know that the Father ordained that this week in my life should be laden with the fellowship of believers.

There are men here that ferociously love Christ and I am so thankful to be around them. I think this stirs my heart to worship because they are living proof that God is making good on His promise to save and transform peoples from every tribe, tongue, and nation. Let our prayer be that God would bring more and more Kiwis into our community—that He would save men and women and bring them into sweet fellowship with Himself and also, us.

-Nate Xanders

“If you really believed in an omnipresent God, you would operate as if you were never alone and without community and fellowship.” –Dr. Del Tackett

Friday, August 13, 2010

And Then There Was One

On July 6th, twelve Americans arrived in New Zealand as the Cross Cultural Team. Seven weeks later, on August 20th at approximately 9:38am New Zealand Standard Time, eleven members of Cross Cultural Team got on a plane to begin the 30+ hour journey to Nashville, Tennessee, USA. But one team member was left behind. The twelfth and final member watched as the plane pulled away from the terminal at the Dunedin airport. There were 12...and then there was one.

Calm down, they left me here on purpose—nobody panic. Yes, the rumors are true. You read Zach’s blog entry correctly. I (Nate Xanders) am still here and it wasn’t a mistake. Well—I mean them leaving me here wasn’t accidental...only time will tell if it was a bad idea or not. I’m kidding. It’s not like being left on the other side of the planet all alone is a big deal or anything. And living all alone in this big, old, dark, cold house is a cake walk. Sure, I almost peed my pajamas last night because of how terrifyingly empty this house is at 2am, but it’s all for the sake of the gospel big deal. I’m just joking; it’s really not that bad. But seriously, it’s hard to fill such a large humor void left by the departure of Sean Stallings and Megan Sparks. It’s like a laughter vacuum has been created here in Dunedin and now the whole town has no idea why they’re so sad.

On a happy note, I won’t have to do any grocery shopping during my extra month here. There’s enough food here to last me a good six weeks. If we had left the other Nate here, he’d have enough food for about 10 days. Thank you to all the girls for buying way more food that you could have ever eaten. I think I could eat Weet-Bix three times a day and never run out. Sam...that flounder you bought...what were you thinking?

Buying way to much at Pak n’ Save = CCP Fail
Leaving it all to Nate = CCP Win

Also, you guys have no idea how much work they did getting this house ready for us. It’s crazy—and now I’m helping put it all back the way it was before. It’s pretty encouraging to see the church’s vision for this house. I hope CCP 2011 will grasp the weight of Grace Bible Church’s dedication to this ministry. I think we all know how greatly they served us this summer (winter here in the southern hemisphere).

I’d like to give each of you my thoughts about you over the past 48 hours as I have missed you all very much.

Megan and Liz: your bunk bed refused to come down. It is rebelling against the fact that you’re no longer here in the house. I think you two should fly back so you can take it down yourselves.

Nate F.: All our apples still smell like your stinky tea. Thanks for nothing. But hey, I still love you brother and can’t wait to fellowship with you soon.

Fennell: I miss you snoring right above me in the top bunk. Something about it was soothing. Every time I hangout with Hugh I think about how encouraged I am by you.

Kyle: Kyyyyle! When stuff goes bad around the house, I have no one to blame. When stuff goes bad around the house, there’s no one to fix it. Also, I miss our conversations...and when I say conversations, I mean you talking to me in your sleep and me telling you, “Shut up, Kyle!”

Sam: Once again...the’re killing me. The whole kitchen smells like fish now. You owe me (and Zach) one “Blood Brother” and/or a “Christ Receiveth Sinful Men.”

Kendall: Skew! Skew! “Grow up Kendall.”

Sean: Finances took Josh like a million years—and it was just me. Thanks for serving us this summer and being the goofiest dude on the planet. I dig you and everything about you.

Girls: Your shower is like a phone booth—for oompa-loompas. It is really that small—like, I’m amazed. But thanks for leaving me all the girly soaps and stuff. I smell great—like flowers, bubbles and the stuff that dreams are made of.

Megan: Since you left I figured someone would need to take your place at spilling food everywhere. I got tuna, egg yolk, apple juice, and milk all over the kitchen in 24 hours.

ZNR: I found some boxer briefs with your initials on them. Thanks for being a great CCP team-leader. I appreciate you and all you did for us as a team.

I love you all. Please pray for me and continue to contact via email and Facebook. I treasure your encouragement and prayerful intercessions on my behalf.

My friends have left me alone on the other side of the planet and yet I will praise God for He, and not my friends, is my rock and my salvation. He is my fortress and I will not be shaken.

-Nate Xanders

Monday, August 2, 2010

Rightly Placed Hope Frees Us to Love Well

This summer during my quiet times I have been doing most of my reading in the letters of Paul. Because of my particular aptitude and personality, I really like the truly meaty theological selections from his writings. The truth is this: when I read through his letters, I usually just read all the other stuff as quickly as possible just so I can get to the passages that are my favorites. This is a really worthless way to read scripture. I already know what those favorite passages say and I know what they’re communicating doctrinally and theologically, but I don’t often stop to meditate on the other stuff that is just as important—if not, more important for me to read and implement into my life. I give you Colossians 1 as Exhibit A.

I think Colossians 1:13-23 is one of the greatest passages of scripture that Paul ever wrote (and for goodness sake, he wrote 16 unbelievable chapters in Romans). But as I began to read Paul’s letters this summer, I decided to really, really read all of the text and try as best I could to absorb it all. As I took this approach, I didn’t even make it past verse 4 in Colossians before something new really jumped off the page. Colossians 1:4-5 tells us that the Christians inColossae have love for all the saints, because they have placed their hope in heaven. Paul seems to suggest in the next sentence that loving others is a basic part of the gospel. I believe it was Tim Keller who explained that love isn’t really love until it costs you something—love by definition requires sacrifice. For instance, to love well this summer, we’ve had to sacrifice. Because let’s face it: there are 12 of us and that’s a lot of sinners saved by grace to stuff into one house. But, I think it’s shown us all where our hope is. If that hasn’t shown us, then evangelizing and building relationships with the lost has for sure.

I think that’s the biggest lesson the Spirit shone on my soul as I read Colossians 1 the other day. I felt like Spirit was whispering, “Nate, they’ll never know the Supremacy of Christ from Colossians chapter one if someone doesn’t love them sacrificially.” It’s true. Relationships are a mess of sacrifice, but they’re a mess worth making—especially if my hope isn’t found in the relationships, but rather in Christ. Jesus didn’t make a great sacrifice so that we as believers could avoid sacrifice—his sacrifice enables our sacrifice for the kingdom and for people. The past couple weeks, it has been really hard to get lost students to call us back, text us back, or even come out to get free food. I’ve never encountered this much of this in the States and it’s been challenging. I have been encouraged by our team though. Our rightly placed hope frees us to love well. These guys (and girls) lay it out there day in and day out. They desire so much to love people well and to sacrifice comfort, sleep, feelings, emotions, pride, and even physical well-being to reach the lost. I count myself richly blessed to be with this team.

If you read this, please pray that we would look to make more and more sacrifices to love the lost in Dunedin. Please pray that God would move in us to be aggressive with our love and that He would move in them to respond. Thanks for reading and thanks for praying. Thanks for loving us.

-Nate X.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Head colds, ministry, and the Sovereignty of God

Well, it has been an interesting two weeks and right now a couple of us have what I can only describe as the Kiwi brand of the common cold. God is good and He is providing strength and energy to see us though it. I can’t remember the last time I felt this energetic while having a cold bug. I’m typically pretty worthless when I'm sick. I’m usually the guy who crawls into a hole and hides until I’m all better, but that hasn’t been necessary. The other guys (or as we say here: “blokes”) on CCP are all really encouraging and challenging to be around and they have been God’s chosen vehicle to energize me as they spur me on to love and good deeds.

Pray with us as we pray for physical wellness. My hope is that we will all get well soon but more importantly, my prayer is that God alone would be enough. My prayer is that He would be satisfying and sustaining above all else. "Jesus minus everything equals salvation. Christ plus nothing else equals satisfaction." God will teach us great things about Himself as we rely on Him for energy and strength. Our head colds in New Zealand are nothing compared to the sacrifices made by saints world-wide. The suffering of those saints pales in comparison to the cross of Christ. Our team will be just fine.

I got the opportunity to meet some Kiwi students last week and managed to get their phone numbers so we could meet up and chat some more. The first student I really got to meet on campus while we were doing some outreach was a guy named Tom. Tom is a really funny guy. I’m hoping that we will get the chance have lunch with Tom and his friends this Friday. A first year student named Josh Cole invited me and some of the guys to come hangout with him and his friends at The Cook which is a local tavern. God opened up some doors during that time for future conversations and my ministry partner (Sean Stallings) and I hope to hangout with Josh and his friend Brian this week. I met another first year named Peter and he invited Kyle Morris and me to play rugby on Saturday with his college (dorm hall). He and his hall mate Nathan will be seeing more of us in the next week. Please pray for Kyle and me as we get ready to play rugby and connect with another dozen or so students.

In and over all of these relationships that we are building, God is Sovereign. And the Devil is powerless to stop what God wills.

-Nate X.

“In the end, the gates of hell couldn’t shut us down.” -Lecrae Moore

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Book Review: "Unfashionable"

Title: Unfashionable
Sub-title: Making a difference in the world by being different
Author: Tullian Tchividjian
Publisher: Multnomah
Book Type: Christian Living
Page Length: 196
Chapters: 17 chapters, Foreword, Introduction, Acknowledgments
SRP: $17.99
Suggested Audience: Christians who want live a life that looks different than the lost world around them.

Strengths: The back half of the book finishes extremely well. Tchividjian closes strong and saves the best for last in this book. This book is a great follow up book to a Crazy Love (Francis Chan) or a Don’t Waste Your Life (Dr. John Piper) kind of book. It’s a well-written book from a PCA pastor but it doesn’t have the overly robotic or formal academic feel of a Presbyterian author. Tchividjian does keep this book extremely theologically sound by not trying so desperately to play at our heart strings and inspire us that he leaves his foundation in search of something else. As a PCA guy, this is quite a breath of fresh air.

Weaknesses: This book starts slow and I found myself wading through the first half and having to really muscle through it. I actually put it down for a while and picked it back up again. I have had multiple people agree with me on this without even bringing it up to them before hand.

My thoughts: I enjoyed it. This book gives us a glance of what it looks like to be a Christian but it does so from 30,000 feet looking down. Meaning, it invites us to view how God sees believers existing and transforming and living among those who know not Christ at all. It gets us out of this goofy mindset where we compare ourselves to others rather than Christ. This book will build your character and challenge you in many facets.

Notable quotes: “Your citizenship has changed.”
“The kingdom is already here in true form, but it is not yet in its full form.”
“...Christians are called to be unfashionable by being mission-minded, not tribal-minded like everyone else.”
“In the Bible, however, the word for church literally means “the called-out ones...”
“We must choose to speak redemptively.”

Monday, June 21, 2010

Book Review: "Finally Alive"

Title: Finally Alive
Sub-title: What Happens When We Are Born Again
Author: John Piper
Publisher: Christian Focus
Book Type: Theology
Page Length: 203
Chapters: Introduction, 15 chapters, Conclusion
SRP: $14.99
Suggested Audience: Believers who want to better understand Biblical regeneration.

Strengths: Very clear, very thorough and yet very tight and clean. It’s deep without being deep for the sake of being deep and it’s weighty without being made weighty in an attempt to add academic prowess to the book. It is broken up into parts, chapters, and sections so it’s easy to read and it never gets to run together which is great because it is such a weighty book.

Weaknesses: I don’t really see any weaknesses in this book. It’s well written and it is very clear on a very important doctrine. Piper is a great writer and a great reformed theologian so it’s no surprise how strong this book is.

My thoughts: If you’re of the Arminian theological camp then you’ll hate this book unless God really just opens your eyes to the truth Piper is conveying in these pages. If you’re a Calvinist, you’ll love this book. I love this book. I will recommend it to anyone that wants to read more about regeneration and what the Bible has to say about new birth. This is not my favorite Piper book, but it will be very difficult for another author to write a book on regeneration that I like more than Finally Alive.

Notable quotes: “The instant God gives new life, we do the living. The instant the Spirit produces faith, we do the believing.”
“My nature is my deepest personal problem.”
“Love doesn’t think possessively. Love knows everything belongs to God.”
“So the way God brings about the new birth in dead, unbelieving hearts is by the gospel, the good news.”

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

"The Condition of Man: Part One"

It’s no secret that I am reformed in my theology. I’m not a hyper-Calvinist by any means because I believe that God’s Sovereignty over all things is NOT an excuse to sit on our hands and disobey the Great Commission. You’ve got to point to something far greater and far bigger than reformed theology if you want to kill missions. I’m a reformed, gospel-sharing, evangelical believer in Sovereign Grace and I don’t ever apologize for it.

However, I do hate the word “Calvinism” and all its’ derivatives. It’s such a divisive word—especially in the southern church culture. Most southern church folk know nothing about John Calvin and Calvinism. They simply hear Calvinism and identify it as heresy. Why? Because that’s what they "heard from somebody one time"...and most people aren’t responsible enough to recognize that whenever a bunch of people follow some guy's teachings without ever actually studying or researching truth/the Bible for themselves, then they are, in fact, not in a church, but rather a cult. Cults are fun that way. One guy talks and everybody listens without any independent thought or Biblical corroboration ever entering the picture. Then all of a sudden the FBI is all over the place wondering why they’ve got a thousand dead bodies dressed in white robes with red Kool-Aid mustaches—but that’s another blog for another day.

So what’s my point?

In my conversations with those that hold theological view points that are completely opposite of my own, I always come to find that the root of the disagreement is our opposing views on the condition of mankind. If we don’t agree on how tragically hopeless mankind is, then we will not agree on the relationship between mankind and the Godhead and therefore will not agree on the role that the Triune Godhead plays in salvation. If I say a Mack truck will crush us and you treat it like a little, yellow Tonka toy then clearly we have a problem—clearly there is a disconnect in communication, philosophy, and theology.

So this will be the first of many in a series called “The Condition of Man.” The verse that many people love to pull out of the air in Sovereign grace arguments and conversations is Revelation 3:20, which in the ESV (like I said, I’m reformed) says: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.” I still can’t figure out why they throw this verse in my face. This verse damages their case. Sure it says “anyone” (they love that word) but that doesn’t mean that “everyone” can or will open the door. It baffles me as a thinker that someone could see this verse and say “See! Anyone that wants to choose Jesus can freely choose Christ whenever they want!”

The word “If” in the middle of that’s a really, really big “if.” Let me paint this picture. Jesus is on the outside of a door and the man is on the other side of the door in a house, cabin, hut or whatever. Jesus knocks on the door and apparently He is saying something, because the verse says “hears my voice.” The man on the inside of the building is on the other side of the door and he has to move from wherever he is before Jesus knocks to the door and open it for Jesus to come in. This is a picture of salvation. Eating with Jesus symbolizes relationship and closeness. It is important to understand that at the end of it all when Jesus comes back (according to Revelation) the followers of Christ (real Christians) will eat with Christ in celebration of Him and victory over sin and death while those who are not believers will NOT be anywhere near the party—they will be in hell, separated from Christ. Believe me when I say that I write that with a heavy heart.

So the guy that gets up and answers the door that Jesus knocks on—he’s in. The man who, for whatever reason, does not answer the door—he’s condemned. So answering this symbolic, spiritual door is necessary for salvation.’s my question and also my point: What is the condition of the man on the other side of door? Let’s see what the Bible says about man’s condition. I promise that when this series is done, we will see that the Bible makes it really clear that mankind is hopeless and helpless. We are utterly and totally depraved and have total inability to do anything for ourselves spiritually before Christ saves us.

So here’s a little preview of point one: The man on the other side of the spiritual door is spiritually dead.

So believe me when I say that the dead man on the other side of the spiritual door has zero chance of reaching that door on the basis of his own merits and abilities. And by the way, his deadness is only the beginning of his problems—it gets much, much worse. So far, this is all turning out quite gleeful and chipper...isn’t it?

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Book Review: "Counterfeit Gods"

Title: Counterfeit Gods
Sub-title: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope That Matters
Author: Timothy Keller
Publisher: Dutton
Book Type: Christian Living
Page Length: 177 (210)
Chapters: Intro, Seven chapters, Notes, Acknowledgments
SRP: $19.95
Suggested Audience: Anyone struggling with the idolatry of money, power, and sex.

Strengths: It’s not incredibly long and it doesn’t skimp over necessities to maintain its brevity. This book addresses the American idols at the top of the idolatry list. Sex, Money and Power are all exposed as the counterfeit gods they are. The big three topple underneath the weight of Christ’s supremacy and Keller displays this clearly with his words in this book. This book hits hard and hits quick and you won’t want to put it down if you have any desire to kill sin and be rid of counterfeit gods that threaten to grab your attention away from Jesus.

Weaknesses: It’s a little pricey. It’s worth $20 but I’d recommend finding it on Amazon.

My thoughts: I finish Keller books pretty quickly, not because they are easy to read or really chipper and nice—he writes as if he was high-kicking his readers in the face with love, grace and harsh, residual truth. He is a great writer and communicator. I never feel comfortable when I read a Keller book and this one is no different. He addresses issues of my heart and he loves us as readers well enough to tell us the truth and display the grace of Jesus and his supremacy over stuff and idols.

Notable quotes:
“If anything becomes more fundamental than God to your happiness, meaning in life, and identity, then it is an idol.”
“There is only one way to change at the heart level and that is through faith in the gospel.”
“He had just learned that this God is not an extension of culture, but a transformer of culture, not a controllable but a Sovereign Lord.”
“Rejoicing and repentance must go together. Repentance without rejoicing will lead to despair. Rejoicing without repentance is shallow and will only provide passing inspiration instead of deep change.”
“You cannot get relief simply by figuring out your idols intellectually. You have to actually get the peace that Jesus gives, and that only comes as you worship.”

Friday, March 19, 2010

Book Review: "The Prodigal God."

Title: The Prodigal God
Sub-title: Recovering the Heart of the Christian Faith
Author: Timothy Keller
Publisher: Dutton
Book Type: Christian Living
Page Length: 135
Chapters: Introduction, “The Parable,” 7 Chapters, Acknowledgements, Notes
SRP: $19.95
Suggested Audience: I recommend this book to everyone who wants to know themselves loved greatly and recklessly by a Prodigal God.

Strengths: Keller is brilliant at communicating God’s love and grace for us. He clearly communicates how “reckless” God is in pouring His love out on us as He runs to meet us and take us into His house. The word prodigal means “recklessly extravagant or having spent everything.” Well, God is reckless in how He loves us and He has spent everything, even His life as Jesus, on us! The book is short and sweet—meat and potatoes all the way through. Keller quotes notable people that are relevant to people who will read this book. This book implicitly and yet, clearly displays how pastors in all denominations have been miss-teaching and miss-preaching parables—mainly the Parable of the Prodigal Son. They’ve been doing this for years and Keller makes the reader of this book aware of this and he reframes the parable for us and contextualizes the parable for us in a fresh and yet orthodox and biblical way.

Weaknesses: I really don’t see any weaknesses in this book over than it’s a little pricey, but well worth it if you get it from Amazon used rather than in the store new. It’s beautifully written.

My thoughts: Keller actually writes a better version of Chan’s “Crazy Love” but it’s just called “Prodigal God” and it’s twice as expensive and in a sweet orange-gold hardback. It’s also shorter. If Keller releases a paperback and sells it for $12 he could sell a bunch in the cheap PB. I recommend this book. If you can get Crazy Love by Francis Chan or Prodigal God by Tim Keller for the same price—like, if you had to or you could choose between the two...I would get Prodigal, instead of getting Crazy. Don’t get me wrong—I dig Chan and his books—but Keller’s book is better. Not by much mind you, but it is better. I’ll put it this way: if Crazy Love by Francis Chan and Prodigal God by Keller got into an octagon together to duke it out in the cage, Prodigal God would wear the belt at the end of the night. Hands down.

Notable quotes:
“When Christianity first arose in the world it was not called a religion. It was the non-religion...Romans called them atheists.”
“So there is not just one lost son in this parable—there are two.”
“The gospel of Jesus is not religion or irreligion, morality or immorality, moralism or relativism, conservatism or is something else all together.”
“He not only loves the wild-living, free-spirited people, but also hardened religious people.”
“As one of my teachers in seminary put it, the main barrier between Pharisees and God is ‘not their sins, but their damnable good works’.”
“The point of the parable is that forgiveness always involves a price—someone has to pay.”
“Jesus’s miracles were not so much violations of the natural order, but a restoration of the natural order.”
“Religion operates on the principle of ‘I obey—therefore I am accepted by God.’ The basic operating principle of the gospel is ‘I am accepted by god through the world of Jesus Christ—therefore I obey’.”

Sunday, March 14, 2010

March 14th, 2010

The Supremacy of Jesus Christ is so overwhelming. Today for me was a day that just overwhelmed me. I preached on the supremacy of Christ for 90 minutes over two sermons today, and he, like he has for the last 3 weeks, revealed to me just how unbelievable and gracious he truly is. He stands over my life and declares “Mine!” He stands over your life and declares “Mine!”

He stands over my life and declares "Preach the will cost you your life, but preach as if you do not care, for I am Jesus the Christ and I am supreme over all! I am more satisfying than life and ministry and preaching and comfort and stuff."

He declares his authority and supremacy over all things...even the salvation of men and women.

When Christ is so overwhelming that you just don’t care that you’re almost crying while checking your email in public...that is a great day. When he’s so evident in your life that you’re tempted to just start walking to Nashville so you can get on a plane for Haiti...that is a beautiful day.

I want to hold my life cheap and fling my life away for him. I want to be reckless with my life for the sake of Christ and his glorious kingdom. I want so desperately to not be like the world. Oh, Jesus come quickly for us, for your people. Oh, God may my generation throw it all away for your name: their college, their job, their life! May they see those things as instruments for glorifying you rather than seeking them as ultimate.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Book Review: "Forgotten God"

Title: Forgotten God
Sub-title: Reversing Our Tragic neglect of the Holy Spirit
Author: Francis Chan
Publisher: David C. Cook
Book Type: Christian Living
Page Length: 186
Chapters: Introduction, Book cover explanation, 7 chapters, Afterword, Notes About the Co-author, Chapter One from Crazy Love.
SRP: $14.99
Suggested Audience: Anybody

Strengths: It’s Chan, he’s a good communicator and he loves people so he writes that way. This is easy to read but it will challenge you. It wets the appetite for further study on the Holy Spirit without overwhelming you with theology and doctrine that is so deep that only certain people can dive right in. It’s not a long drawn out book—he says what he needs to in seven chapters without making each chapter a long run-on of repetition. I would have liked more chapters, but this is a Chan book, not a Spurgeon, Calvin, Augustine or Piper book. Chan is the best at what he does so don’t expect this book to be his attempt at writing like others—and really...would we want him to even do that? No.

Weaknesses: He quotes Tozer a lot, which is good, but Tozer’s book on the Holy Spirit is deeper and weightier. This book fails to really dive deep—it’s merely just an appetizer when it could have been an appetizer, a drink, a salad, and the pre-meal bread that every restaurant has. To be honest, I’m hungry right now, so that’s probably why I just made the food reference. Sorry.

My thoughts:
I like this book a lot. As a Presbytist/Baptiterian (I’m both PCA and SBC in denomination which makes me a mutt) the Holy Spirit is in those two cultures tends to make most people nervous. We seem to be scared to talk about Him. The Spirit is seen as the black sheep uncle in the Triune Godhead to many Baptists and Presbyterians. This book will wet the appetite of any Christian who wrongly sees the Spirit as tertiary (secondary) rather than co-equal with Jesus and the Father. It will also make many people who are really excited about the Spirit, (i.e. the Pentecostals and charismatics who tend to focus on the Spirit more than Jesus or the Father) to perhaps refocus on what He biblically is and is not. Both the far right and far left Christians in the matter of who He (Spirit) is will be challenged to actually exam Him and re-think what they have been taught. My favorite part about the entire book is the 3rd chapter called “Theology of the Holy Spirit 101.” It is so clean-cut, concise and smooth and this chapter is probably my favorite chapter in almost any book I’ve read.

Notable quotes:
“When it comes to the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, I don’t want to get caught up in abstract and nebulous distinctions. I want to focus on the theological issues that shape our faith and behavior.”

Book Review: "Atheism Remix"

Title: Atheism Remix
Sub-title: A Christian Confronts the New Atheists
Author: R. Albert Mohler Jr.
Publisher: Crossway
Book Type: Christian Living
Page Length: 108
Chapters: Introduction and Four Chapters
SRP: $15.99
Suggested Audience: People who want a brief overview of the current theism/Christianity v. atheism battle raging in the intellectual community.

Strengths: This is a short book. Most books that discuss what Mohler dives into are at least 300 pages but this is a 100 page overview of the conversation that somewhat summarizes the key players in the conversation rather than addressing the conversation key points and countering them or affirming them. Mohler is a smart guy and he writes well. You’ll blow through this book if you have any interest in apologetics.

Weaknesses: It’s not really engaging the conversation in a weighty way and the issues are weighty so if the reader is looking to really dive deep then they will feel let down, but that’s not really Mohler’s fault. It’s not really a weakness of the book, but rather a weakness of the reader—why in the world would you think that you could dive into a weighty book about atheism and Christianity’s conflict driven relationship when the book is less than 110 pages? That’s a potential readers’ mistake, really—not so much a weakness of the book or the author.

My thoughts:
I have always been drawn to apologetics and the intellectual conversation taking place in 2010. I would not spend money on this book if you have no interest in apologetics. It’s a hardback, it probably could have been a paperback but it’s not so I love it. If you’re a Mohler fan or a potential seminary student at Southern, this might need to be in your personal library.

Notable quotes:
“Atheism is not a new concept.”

“The New Atheists are, in their own way, evangelistic in intent and ambitious hope.”

“Evangelical Christianity simply cannot surrender biblical authority...”

Book Review: "Crazy Love"

Title: Crazy Love
Sub-title: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God.
Author: Francis Chan
Publisher: David C. Cook
Book Type: Christian Living
Page Length: 205
Chapters: Foreword, Preface, 10 chapters, Notes, About the Co-author, Chapter Six from Forgotten God.
SRP: $14.99
Suggested Audience: Christians who want a glimpse of God’s Crazy Love for us.

Strengths: This is not a long book. It’s got some weight and some depth but it’s doesn’t overwhelm you with big words or heavy intellectual writing. Chan loves people and he writes as if he’s inviting you into being overwhelmed by our God. This is a wildly popular book right now, so reading this book will allow someone to engage most young adults/students in the Christian community. This book does well in small groups, seeker friendly groups, and discipleship groups. This book has a DVD/youtube video intro for each chapter.

Weaknesses: Chan doesn’t clarify or flesh out some of the divine tensions that we as Christians live in. For instance, how do we live open handedly with our money and yet live responsible financial lives of good stewardship with our funds? If I go and give all of my money and resources away, I will not be able to provide anything for my family when God has called me as a man to do so. Chan seems to forget that tension when he starts challenging readers. He would agree with the tension, but he writes as if there isn’t one when perhaps he didn’t mean for it to read that way.

My thoughts: I like this one. I think if you’re a Christian under 30 you should probably read this book. You can definitely get it for cheaper than $15. I’ve seen it new for as little as $9. You can get it used on Amazon for around six or seven dollars sometimes. Certain chapters just challenge you socks off. Chan models for his readers and his church what it looks like to give more away and seek God so as to be overwhelmed by Him. Read this book. Buy it for people you know. Love them enough to talk with them about it.

Notable quotes:
“The point of your life is to point to Him.” “Are we in love with God or just His stuff?” “Jesus’ call to commitment is clear: He wants all or nothing. The thought of a person calling himself a “Christian” without being a devoted follower of Christ is absurd.” “You could follow him straight up a hill to be crucified.” “Lukewarm utterly disgusting to God.”

Book Review: "The Cross-Centered Life"

Title: The Cross Centered Life
Sub-title: Keeping the Gospel the Main Thing
Author: C.J. Mahaney
Publisher: Multnomah
Book Type: Christian Living
Page Length: 89
Chapters: Seven
SRP: $9.99
Suggested Audience: New Christians, Christians that needs a reminder about “the main thing” at the center of our faith, or Christians disciplining small groups of Christians.

Strengths: This book is brief and basic. It is meat and potatoes. There is no filler. It’s just seven chapters of Christianity 101. Mahaney writes this so well that powerhouse writers like John Piper, Jerry Bridges, and Josh Harris all recommend this book and suggest it to you to read. You could read this book in a week by yourself or seven weeks with a small group. Discussion flows easily from this read.

Weaknesses: I can’t really see any weaknesses in this book other than the fact that it is a hardback when it could be a really cheap paperback, but I actually prefer hardbacks. So I am really just thinking about the financial tight wads out there when I call this a “weakness” because I’m actually a book snob who really likes hardbacks. If you read this book to dive deep into serious intellectual thought, this book will be insufficient for you.

My thoughts: I liked this book. My roommate recommended it, so I read it and led a younger Christian through it over the course of six weeks. It’s easy, basic stuff. If you’re looking to read a book as a small group, whether you’re leading it or discipling the others in the group and going really deep with them personally, I recommend this book. If you can’t quite muscle through big books by Piper or Driscoll and maybe even Jerry Bridges’ books are too heavy for you at the moment, I would read The Cross Centered Life by Mahaney and then follow it up with Living the Cross Centered Life when you’re done. Find this on Amazon used for as low as $4 or just drop $10 at your local book store.

The More I read by Mahaney, and the more I read about him, the more excited I am about this book. Mahaney really is an unbeliever gift to both the present and future of Church goers...leaders, laymen and pastors alike.

Notable quotes: “But I find it surprising that any loving person would withhold this truth [the gospel of Jesus] from another person they love.”

“Don’t buy the lie that cultivating condemnation and wallowing in your shame is somehow pleasing to God, or that a constant, low-grade guilt will somehow promote holiness and spiritual maturity.”

“The Christian who desires to live a cross centered life will regularly face his or her own depravity and the seriousness of personal sin, squarely and unflinchingly. It’s a reality.”

“Let this day be governed by this one defining truth.”

Friday, February 26, 2010

"An Unworthy Servant"

As I was reading last night, Piper once again managed to ninja my brain as he pointed me to meditate on God's Word. Luke 17 could not have come at a better time. I am continually blown away at how God tosses the right scripture into my lap day in and day out.

Lately, I've been doing a lot of "itinerant" preaching in Tennessee and Florida. I'll be preaching twice next week and twice more March 14th. The problem with preaching the gospel at age 23, or any age really, is that inevitably, at least a dozen people will praise you for how well you did or how much they liked your "talk."

The problem compounds itself when you're articulate and self-aware...when you know it was a good "talk." (However, People in the south will tell you "good game" or "great talk" even if you were absolutely terrible. It's a politeness thing I think.)

So I began to struggle and wrestle with how to respond. Saying "thanks" or "hey, I appreciate it" to someone praising me for doing what I'm supposed to do anyway, what I'm called to do, is just kind of weird to me. Knowing my aptitude for pride, arrogance, and thoughts of self-worth, I immediately began to wonder: "What am I going to do about this? How can I deflect praise from me and yet lovingly show them that Christ is supreme...that HE did a good job, not me. How can I begin to actively avoid thinking for even a second that what I have done is worthy or good?"

In all honesty, I was clueless where to find the answer in God's Word, but He is a good Father and He knew what I needed. So before the foundation of the universe, God said, "I will remind him he is an unworthy servant. I will remind him that it is by grace that he is in my debt, and that I am NOT in his debt. I will remind him of these things because it's what he needs to know, and I will give him the heart to want to know it so very desperately."

So I hope that when you give a talk, share a testimony or doing anything that may garner approval or praise from men for yourself in the name of Christ, meditate on this: "Will any one of you who has a servant plowing or keeping sheep say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and recline at table’? Will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, and dress properly, and serve me while I eat and drink, and afterward you will eat and drink’? Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’”

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Book Review: "Pierced by the Word."

Title: Pierced by the Word
Sub-title: Thirty-One Meditations for Your Soul
Author: John Piper
Publisher: Multnomah Books
Book Type: Devotional
Page Length: 139
Chapters: 31 plus Intro and Desiring God Resources Page
SRP: $12.99
Suggested Audience: Men (or women) 16 and older, who want to be pierced by the Word.

Strengths: It’s written by John Piper. He is a brilliant man and incredible writer. But Piper is a man who knows what it means to meet with Jesus and be pierced by His Word. A man who doesn’t love people and does not meet with Jesus and meditate on the Risen Christ as ultimate is not qualified to lead you in his devotional book. Piper loves Christ and people. The chapters are short and unbelievably piercing. They lead you to the word rather than away from it in attempt to be replacemental rather than supplemental. Piper leads the reader in prayer at the end of each chapter. Most authors would have to force the prayers he pens. But Piper is so genuine and theocentrically, hedonistically in love with Jesus that the prayers themselves pierce you and make you think.

Weaknesses: This is a devotional book so the temptation will be this: I’m going to power through today’s chapter quickly and never dive into the deep waters of the word Piper wants me to swim and drink deeply. Don’t do this. For you will miss out on so much depth!

My thoughts: It’s only day 24, but I would recommend this book to anyone that feels like their walk and daily devotions needs a change of pace. Sometimes we get so caught up in reading this book and that book, that we forget about THE Book. Piper draws us back to the Word, the Cross and the Savior.

Notable quotes: “I love the word of God. I don’t say it lightly. It is a terrible thing. ‘The voice of the Lord...strips the forest bare!’ By His Word, God created the universe...So I tremble before the Word of God.”