How to Disarm an Angry Person

It is the most difficult of maneuvers. There are no guarantees of success. And the stakes are high. But we have no choice: we must learn how to do it.

How do you disarm an angry person?

The angry person could be a child, parent, spouse, friend, neighbor or counselee. And, of course, we could use a little disarming ourselves sometimes.

To read the rest of this post from CCEF click: Disarm

Revival: The Restoration of the Holy Spirit to This Place

To understand aright what this teaching of the Spirit is, there are three things we must specially remember:

 The first, that it is all from within. It is by influencing, by renewing, by purifying the life, that the Spirit gives the experimental knowledge of God’s truth. Out of the light of life, wrought within our feeling and willing and acting, spiritual wisdom and understanding is born.

The second, that this power and energy of the Spirit is given on one condition — that of entire possession. As a teacher can not teach unless he has the undivided attention of his pupil, the Holy Spirit demands the entire control of the life. A great deal of prayer for the teaching or the filling of the Spirit is vain, because the seeker is not faithful in obedience to that measure of the Spirit which he already has. The Spirit claims our whole being.

And the third essential element in the teaching is that it is only communicated and to be received by faith. The movings of the Spirit cannot be known or felt until we begin to act. It is when, while feeling our weakness, we believe in the hidden presence and power within us and begin to act, that his guidance and strength are known. Faith in his indwelling and most certain leading, much faith in the Father who works by the Spirit, unceasing faith in the Lord Jesus, in union with whom we have the Spirit flowing through us — this faith will receive the fullness of the Spirit. This is the revival we must seek for, the restoration of the Holy Spirit to his place as the inward teacher, having complete possession and control of heart and life.

Excerpted from Andrew Murray‘s  Coming Revival

Being a Transforming Presence

As followers of Jesus it is as imperative for us to fight every inclination toward dualism as it is to fight against legalism.  While legalism is widely recognized as relating wrongly to the Law, the error of dualism is not as widely acknowledged in our Evangelical circles.

Simply put, dualism is like split vision, seeing things only as either spiritual or secular.  All things are spiritual.

Walt Mueller reminds us that there are two kinds of dualism common in the church:

  1. Escape – When personal salvation is viewed as an escape from the world into the church, and that the world around us is then to be avoided.
  2. Segregated Spheres – Believing God is only concerned about the spiritual dimension of our lives, we dedicate our spiritual lives to the Lord, but then are shaped by the world in our professional and social lives.

Jacques Ellul offers this critique:

This dissociation of our life into two spheres: the one “spiritual” where we can be “perfect”; and the other material and unimportant, where we behave like other people; is one of the reasons why the Churches have so little influence on the world… All we can say is: That is the exact opposite of what Jesus Christ wills for us, and of that which he came to do.

Here are three teachings of Jesus that should remind us that God intends for his people to engage the culture around us.  We are not to avoid it. We are to attack it stealthily.

Matthew 5.13 – Salt of the Earth

Matthew 5.14 – Light of the World

Matthew 10.16 – Sheep among Wolves

The Presence of the Kingdom

Jacques Ellul offers a profound insight about how we, as Christians, are to adopt as a priority an Incarnational approach to ministry.   Incarnational  ministry literally means: In the flesh.  It means going where people are, and understanding their real situations, rather than primarily trying to draw them to us with various forms of entertainment and shallow promises.  The Incarnational approach allows us to infiltrate the cultures of the world, and the sub-cultures of our community, to become agents of transformation.

Reflect for a little while about what Ellul writes:

The will of the world is always a will to death, a will to suicide. We must not accept this suicide, and we must so act that it cannot take place. So we must know what is the actual form of the world’s will to suicide in order that we may oppose it, in order that we might know how, and in what direction, we ought to direct our efforts.

The world is neither capable of preserving itself, nor is it capable of finding remedies for its spiritual situation (which control the rest). It carries the weight of sin, it is the realm of Satan which leads it towards separation from God, and consequently towards death. That is all it is able to do.

Thus it is not for us to construct the City of God, to build up an “order of God” within this world, without taking any notice of its suicidal tendencies.  Our concern should be to place oursleves at the very point where this suicidal desire is most active, in the actual form it adopts, and to see how God’s will of preservation can act in this given situation.

If we want to avoid being completely abstract, we are then obliged to understand the depth, and the spiritual reality of the moral tendency of this world; It is to this that we ought to direct all our efforts, and not to the false problems which the world raises, or to an unfortunate application of an “order of God”  which has become abstract… Thus it is always by placing himself at this point of contact that the Christian can be truly “present” in the world, and can carry on effective social or political work, by the grace of God.

~ from The Presence of the Kingdom

Elect or Elite?

A few years ago, soon after coming to Bristol, I was asked by a godly woman in our church: “What does it mean to be Reformed?”

She had been talking with someone from another church who had snidely claimed that their church did not associate with our church because we were not Reformed enough.

What arrogance!

My response to the inquiring woman was that we were not a TR church (Thoroughly Reformed), but we want to be a HR church (Humbly Reformed).  What’s the difference? Not substance.  Attitude.

Elliot Grudem offers a wonderful encouragement to cultivate an HR attitude, in an article from the Acts 29 Network blog: Elect or Elite? Why Arrogance Has No Place in Reformed Theology. Below is an edited version of Grudem’s message.  To read the original, or to hear the audio message delivered at an Acts 29 Bootcamp, click the link.


Keller, Calvin, Predestination – BINGO!

When I was in seminary, my friends and I would occasionally play bingo during the classes: what we’d do is write the names of people in our class in the bingo squares, and if that person spoke in class, you got that square – and if you got all the squares in a row then you got ‘bingo.’ We’d always make sure we filled our squares with a couple of ringers that we knew we could get to talk by tipping off their hot-button issues. So if you needed the ringer’s name, you’d ask a questions like, “can someone please tell me what this has to do with homeschooling?” and you knew that individual would ask the next question – and – BINGO!

We do something similar in Reformed circles.  We have our key names and key phrases that fill our “bingo board” in our minds. And if people mention Keller and Calvin, and “the gospel” two or three times, if they say “predestination” then we think they’re orthodox.

And if they miss those things – the key phrases and names that make up what we think it means to be Reformed – then we say they’re not Reformed, they’re not “gospel-centered,” they’re not orthodox, regardless of what they have really said.

Are We Elect or Elite?

We can rely on our theology too much, thinking that our theological precision is the key to our church’s growth rather than the Holy Spirit. We can fall into phrase-righteousness or name-righteousness thinking that a sermon is heretical if it sounds more like it came from the book of James than from one of Paul’s epistles. We can begin to think that the reason our church is small is because we’re right. And we’re the only one in town that’s truly preaching the truth. We can become theological snobs believing that we and our two or three heroes have a corner on right theology. Or that the Holy Spirit stopped speaking to the church on May 27, 1564 – the day that Calvin died.

We have a word for people like that, don’t we? The word is proud.

But unfortunately in our circles we tend to see this type of pride, especially among those who have just discovered the truths of the Reformed tradition.  It doesn’t take much to move from elect to elite.

But it shouldn’t be that way.

What Does it mean to be Humbly Reformed?

To be Reformed one does have to hold to a Reformed soteriology.  But if we’re not talking Reformed Bingo phrase-dropping, what do we mean by that?

J.I. Packer sums it up: “To Calvinism there is really only one point to be made in the field of soteriology: the point that God saves sinners.”

Packer is saying that salvation is entirely of the Lord, and sinners have nothing to do with their salvation. That God saves you out of his own good pleasure as an act of his delight. Sinners do not save themselves in any sense at all. Every step is an act of grace. Salvation is entirely an act of God.

What room does this gospel of grace leave you to boast? What room does it leave you for self-promotion? What need do you have to prove yourself to God and others? If what Paul writes is true, you have none.

If you really understand this gospel, this message that “God saves sinners,” and really understand Reformed soteriology, then you should be known for your humility, not your pride. You know that everything you have is a gift of grace.

And the Answer Is…

John Frame is the Chuck Norris of Systematic Theology, and he also is one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet. Once I heard him ask a question of a man when I was with him during a mock ordination exam. I don’t remember what Frame’s question was but the student took a long time before giving a faltering answer. And Frame laughed and said “that is the best answer I have ever heard in any type of theology exam.”

What was the student’s answer to the question? “I don’t know.”

When’s the last time you answered a question like that? Are you really that good? Are there secret things that belong to the Lord? Or is it, like, the Lord and you? How long has it been since you answered a question with ‘I don’t know’?


By the way, when I was in seminary my friend David Zavadil and I also played BINGO during classes.  We became somewhat infamous for it.  I guess our tradition lived on… and spread.

Practical Importance of Doctrine

If there was one thing I could impart to the members of our church, or to other pastors, it would be an appreciation for the practical importance of doctrine.  I think it was R.C. Sproul who pointed out: “We are all theologians… the question is whether we are good theologians.”

Sprouls’ point is valid.  Everything we think, feel, and do is rooted in what we think about God.  Some may not give this conscious attention. Some even repress it or deny it, but then this a-theism is what they think or feel about God, and these folks will act accordingly.

I suppose that many are turned off by the very idea of doctrine because it has been abused so frequently. I imagine others have been guilty of taking these awesome truths and boring folks with them – something I am sure I share a guilt in.  But the inadequacies of a teacher should not turn people away from seeking to know God better by knowing about God, any more than a bad meal or a bad cook should make people turn away from food.

In this brief video, pastor/theologian Tim Keller offers a few simple insights about the practical importance of doctrine.  Even if you are a skeptic, give what Tim says at least a few moments thought.

Chicken Soup for My Soul

Feeling a little bit in a funk recently, as if I am failing in some way but I am not sure what… I have been reflecting upon the beautiful words of Psalm 143:

[1] Hear my prayer, O LORD;
give ear to my pleas for mercy!
In your faithfulness answer me, in your righteousness!
[2] Enter not into judgment with your servant,
for no one living is righteous before you.

[3] For the enemy has pursued my soul;
he has crushed my life to the ground;
he has made me sit in darkness like those long dead.
[4] Therefore my spirit faints within me;
my heart within me is appalled.

[5] I remember the days of old;
I meditate on all that you have done;
I ponder the work of your hands.
[6] I stretch out my hands to you;
my soul thirsts for you like a parched land. Selah

[7] Answer me quickly, O LORD!
My spirit fails!
Hide not your face from me,
lest I be like those who go down to the pit.
[8] Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love,
for in you I trust.
Make me know the way I should go,
for to you I lift up my soul.

[9] Deliver me from my enemies, O LORD!
I have fled to you for refuge!
[10] Teach me to do your will,
for you are my God!
Let your good Spirit lead me
on level ground!

[11] For your name’s sake, O LORD, preserve my life!
In your righteousness bring my soul out of trouble!
[12] And in your steadfast love you will cut off my enemies,
and you will destroy all the adversaries of my soul,
for I am your servant.

Psalm 143 – ESV

Satan Does Not Want You to See

Here are more keen thoughts by WeakDave:

Satan doesn’t want you to see,the danger of living in this world.  He wants you going through your day with your dukes down, as though you have nothing to fear.

He doesn’t want you to see how impossible it is to live as you were created to live – dependently.

He wants you minimizing the law, dumbing it down to where the Christian life is do-able and possible because you are a mature, responsible, sensible, adult follower of Jesus.

He doesn’t want you to recognize how pervasive and subtle the message of self-confidence is, whether you are watching TV, online, in church, or just driving down the road.

He wants you feeling good about yourself as your reason for living; your performance/decisions/reputation/righteousness.

He wants you distracted from fixing your eyes and thoughts on Jesus, and instead wants you self-absorbed.  Even your sacrifice for others, he will use to nurture a sense of worthiness in you.

He doesn’t want you asking for intervention from on High: to be freshly convicted of your sin of independence.

And once you recognize the problem, he wants you striving to abide in Jesus, instead of confessing your unbelief, your dissatisfaction with Jesus and His righteousness.

–StrongDave, needing prayer to function more as a Jesus-dependent, so the nonbelievers around him will be wowed and want the joy and peace that has nothing to do with circumstances (please pray now)

Different Worlds

While I’ve long known it, recently I’ve finding the following quote to be painfully all too true:

Following Jesus today requires you to practice the same single-minded non-conformity. And it will produce the same effect in your life that it did with Jesus.  If you truly follow Jesus, in addition to enjoying a most excellent adventure, you will likely end up seeming too Christian for many of your pagan friends and too pagan for many of your Christian friends.  When you truly follow Jesus, you’ll spend considerable time in the world like he did, and as a result, many of your religious friends will think you’re too irreligious. On the other hand, many of your irreligious friends will find it odd that you are so focused on the spiritual.  Thus, you end up seeming both too Christian AND too pagan.

~ Dick Staub, Too Christian, Too Pagan

Distinct, Not Separated

John Stott offers a reminder of the task and the tension we, as Christians, must continually navigate when he uses the phrase:

“spiritually distinct, but NOT socially segregated.”

And here is a quote expanding this perspective:

Your business and mine as Christian people is to be in the midst of this world and its affairs, and still remain true and loyal to God, and be kept from evil.  …The task of the Christian is to be right in the midst of this world and its affairs in order that he may do the work of evangelism, spreading the gospel and the Kingdom of God, while the whole time, keeping himself un-spotted from the world.

~Martyn Lloyd-Jones, from Safe in the World