You Can Change

I started reading You Can Change by Tim Chester of The Crowded House.  It is different from most books about transformation and personal growth because Chester roots everything in the dual truths of the Christian’s new identities and the power of the gospel. 

This video is Tim’s introduction and explanation of the book.

Here is what a couple others are saying about You Can Change:

A book about Christian growth that is neither quietistic nor moralistic is rare. A book that is truly practical is even rarer. Tim Chester’s new volume falls into both categories and therefore fills a gap.  ~ Tim Keller

There are few books that are shockingly honest, carefully theological, and gloriously hopeful all at the same time. Tim Chester’s book, You Can Change, is all of these and more. He skilfully uses the deepest insights of the theology of the Word as a lens to help you understand yourself and the way of change, and, in so doing, helps you to experience practically what you thought you already knew. The carefully crafted personal ‘reflection’ and ‘change project’ sections are worth the price of the book by themselves. It is wonderful to be reminded that you and I are not stuck, and it’s comforting to be guided by someone who knows well the road from where we are to where we need to be. ~ Paul Tripp

Be Gentle With Me

I think it was Mark Galli who wrote:

The prophets of the Old Testament were concerned about one thing… and it was not people’s feelings.

I am encouraged by that insight.  Despite their directness and sometimes crassness, there can be no doubt they were called by God, and used by God for the advancement of God’s purpose.

Not only am I encouraged by this, I am comforted.  For among my many weaknesses, one of  the most apparent is an often seemingly too strong personality.  It is not intentional.  But more than a few people later told me that for some reason they at first wondered if I was approachable; that they initially felt intimidated.  (Obviously they got over it, else they would never have told me something like that!)  This is not the perception of everyone, probably not even most.  But over the years I have heard this refrain enough to take note.  It is not an image I want to project.

I pray that the fruit of gentleness would continually grow in me – and that it would somehow be more evident. While many who know me have encouraged me by commenting on my kindness, I want that kindness to be accompanied by gentleness.  I envy those folks who ooze gentleness and approachability.

I have wondered, though, about some who seem to be gifted with gentleness.  Some  whom I have encountered are indeed gentle in their demeanor – far more than I.  Yet beneath their surface something is missing. Deep down they may be self-absorbed and uncaring – at least not caring enough to put themselves out much.

What I have also wondered is about the difference between being gentle and being timid.  Some appear to be gentle when in fact they are merely timid.

Here is what I suspect may be the difference:

  • Gentleness is motivated by love for another.  It is sacrificial.
  • Timidity is generated by a love for self.   It is a fear of being rejected.  It is self-preservation.

I am not sure I can always tell the difference, but I think the difference is important. The appearance of gentleness, when it is really a mask for timidity, is not a spiritual fruit.  Given that understanding, I think I prefer being kind yet sometimes misunderstood, to being insecure yet credited as something else.  After all, the Lord searches the heart.

Still, I know that this distinction is no substitute for growing in the fruit of gentleness.  I am a work in progress.  I cling to the promise that “He who began a good work in you will see it through the end.”  (Philippians 1.6) This gives me hope that one day more people will perceive me to be gentle. In the mean time, perhaps I can take some solace from C.S. Lewis’ metaphorical portrayal of our gentle King in the form of Aslan:

Lucy: A lion?! I think I should be afraid to meet a lion. Is he safe?

Mr Tumnus:  Safe! Heavens no!  But he is good.

6 Foundation Points for the Church

According to Dann Spader and Gary Mayes there are six foundational aspects of ministry crucial to cultivate an environment for (healthy) church growth.  While the culture has changed quite a bit in the twenty years since Spader & Mayes published their thoughts, their points are still valid.

1. Create an atmosphere of love

Jesus’ insight, “By this will all men know that [we] love one another,” (John 13:35) has never been more true.

2. Build a relational ministry

Building relationships with people was an intentional, aggressive agenda for Christ. “He spent time with his disciples” (John 3:22). He lived by the principle that people respond when we reach out to them.

3. Communicate Christ clearly

In a world that knows only caricatures of Christ, people need to know him as he really is. We must present him and his message of life and grace as he gave it, so that people might build a real relationship with the living Savior.

4. Build a healthy ministry image

What kind of vision do the people in your ministry have for the work to which God has called them? How confident are they in his ability to accomplish the task he has entrusted to them? Cohesiveness, commitment to the cause, receptivity to change, and teachability are all related to a healthy group image.

5. Mobilize a prayer base

Our task is to effect spiritual life change. This kind of spiritual work is not accomplished by human means. As we move into the arena of prayer, God moves into the arena of our lives.

6. Communicate the Word

Research has shown that even our most regular church-goers have some biblical illiteracy. We continually need to evaluate our teaching to insure God’s Word is being taught accurately

Again, while I believe all these points are valid they are not equally important. Nor is this list sufficient.

I think I would appreciate them more if they were reordered.  In particular #4 may be a practical truth but I would put it last.  In fact, I suspect #4 would be best described as a consequence of faithfully and effectively doing the other five.  To list it higher, even as high as the authors do, suggests that marketing and branding is more important to the health and success of the church than prayer and biblical literacy among the church members.  But then one must remember that when these authors wrote this book Marketing the Church was the “new” rage, so the these guys are in places merely reflecting their times.

That said, I suspect the absence of #4 in a congregation may serve as a caution flag.  If #4, as it is described above, is absent it may be like a warning light on a dashboard that tells us to “Check Engine”. Something is amiss: One or more of the other points are not functioning properly in a particular body.

These insights were originally published in in the book Growing a Healthy Church.  

Prevailing Prayer

Prevailing prayer that draws us near to God, shapes our hearts to be more like Christ’s, and seeks the power of God to strengthen us and sustain us in faith, to sanctify us to think and act more like Jesus, and to intercede on behalf of friends, neighbors, and our culture.

Parental Blindspots

NOTE: This is an excerpt from a longer article found at  My Thanks to The Aquila Report for posting this edited version. 
The video above is to add some humor and to lighten things up. Lest anyone think I have aversions to homeschooling, I want it to be known that we homeschooled one of our children for two years. We have no doubt that his experience was crucial to the successes he has subsequently experienced in the classroom, on the football field, socially, and I suspect spiritually.
It should be noted that while this post addresses issues that have arisen in Homeschool families, these problems are not limited to Homeschoolers. The author has recognized spiritaul problems and idols that transcend school choice.  We all would do well to become aware of the subtle blindspots that occur whenever we functionally trust in a “thing” in addition to – or even more than – our Creator-Redeemer.
Those who have the most power to influence our hearts are those to whom we are drawn: those who succeed with our values (which is what a hero is), those who can benefit us, those who make us feel valuable, and those who have earned our respect.  If our children grow up motivated only by fear of consequence, they will eventually get away with what they can whenever we are not around (Ephesians 6.6). 
In the last couple of years, I have heard from multitudes of troubled homeschool parents around the country, a good many of whom were leaders. These parents have graduated their first batch of kids, only to discover that their children didn’t turn out the way they thought they would. Many of these children were model homeschoolers while growing up, but sometime after their 18th birthday they began to reveal that they didn’t hold to their parents’ values.
Some of these young people grew up and left home in defiance of their parents. Others got married against their parents’ wishes, and still others got involved with drugs, alcohol, and immorality. I have even heard of several exemplary young men who no longer even believe in God. My own adult children have gone through struggles I never guessed they would face.
Most of these parents remain stunned by their children’s choices, because they were fully confident their approach to parenting was going to prevent any such rebellion.
After several years of examining what went wrong in our own home and in the homes of so many conscientious parents, God has opened our eyes to a number of critical blind spots common to homeschoolers and other family-minded people.

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

In the Preface to Joe Thorn‘s book, Note to Self, Sam Storms penned a paragraph that strikes at the heart of the difference between those with a vital Chrisian faith, and those who show little if any hint of actually being a follower of Jesus Christ.  Here is what Storms says about the functional place of Scripture in the life of a Believer:

Merely affirming the Bible is inspired accomplishes very little.  Asserting it’s authority isn’t much better.  The inspiration and authority of the Scriptures are of value to us only so far as we change our beliefs to conform to its principles and alter our behavior to coincide with its imperatives.  The Bible is meant to govern our lives, to fashion our choices, to challenge our cherished traditions, and ultimately make us more like Jesus.

The question for each of us, then, is whether the Bible actually functions in this way.

  • Do we submit to its dictates?
  • Do we put our confidence in its promises?
  • Do we stop living in a certain way in response to its counsel?
  • Do we embrace particular truths on its authority?
  • Do we set aside traditional practices that conflict with its instruction?

In other words, for the Bible to be of value to us it must actually function to shape how we think, feel, and act, as well as what we believe, value, and teach.

I think Storms nails it here; hits it square on its head.

A number of dialogues I have recently had broached the subject of the differences of maturity levels between professing Christians. What Storms addresses is one of the most vital dynamics that explain the differences.  In fact, since we who believe have all been given the same Spirit, perhaps the differences in the way we approach and apprehend the Scripture may be THE most important explanation for such differences.

Some see the Scriptures as they are to be seen, as a revelation of what is good and a mirror to show us what needs addressing in our lives, which in turn drives us to the Cross, where the power of transformation rests.  Here they find the promises of God to be true: He is making us beautiful, to become a Bride for the King.

Others also see the Scriptures as a mirror. But, for these folks, this mirror is more like the one used by that witch in the story Snow White, who declared: “Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest one of all?”  All she wanted was to hear how good she was; how much better she was than others. Sadly some people look to the mirror of Scripture only willing to see whatever appears to validate them.  Failing to see, by the mirror, the ugly-fying effects of sin in their hearts and lives, they see no real need to return to the Cross.  Thus they seem to never be changed.  They never become truly beautiful.

Effect of Coming Empty Handed

“As we come to Christ…empty-handed, claiming no merit of our own, but clinging by faith to His blood and righteousness, we are justified. We pass immediately from a state of condemnation and spiritual death to a state of pardon, acceptance, and the sure hope of eternal life. Our sins are blotted out, and we are “clothed” with the righteousness of Jesus Christ.

In our standing before God, we will never be more righteous, even in heaven, than we were the day we trusted Christ, or we are now.

Obviously in our daily experience we fall far short of the perfect righteousness God requires. But because He has imputed to us the perfect righteousness of His Son, He now sees us as being just as righteous as Christ Himself,”

 ~ Jerry Bridges, The Gospel for Real Life

Lessons from The Externally Focused Church


 Although everyone outside the Church is a potential ministry focus, the Externally Focused  Church moves intentionally toward two groups:

  1. Those on the margins
  2. The City

– from Externally Focused Church 

These are important points to remember when designing an outreach strategy for the local church.  The first, people on the margins of society, probably needs no explanation.  The second, while in some ways obvious, may be helpful to explain, at least a little. 

The focus on the city does not necessarily mean our focus must be on the mega metropolitan areas throughout the country and around the world.  While no doubt those places are important, when you think of “city” think simply of “places where people gather”.  Externally Focused Churches work to benefit the common good more than create places to which Christians withdraw from others.  (Jeremiah 29.7)

Introduction to Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals

I have benefitted tremendously from the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, from the depth and richness of the writings and the broadcasts of several of the members.  So I thought I would post this introductory video for anyone who may not be familiar with this network.

Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals is a cross denominational organization in which members from several Christian traditions come together united by their common commitment to the the gospel.  These guys (and ladies) genuinely reflect Paul’s words: “I am not ashamed of the gospel.”  (Romans 1.16)

Each of the members also comes from a tradition that has a recorded summary of their faith, expressed in various confessions of faith. These doctrinal statements vary on some secondary points, but each offers a wonderfully unique perspective on the gospel, and on the Christian faith.

The goal of the Alliance is to work toward a Second Reformation, or rather to work for a continued reformation of the church; to constantly see Christ’s Church more and more conformed to God’s revelation in the Scripture. 

Check out these Alliance links: