Should I Quit the Job I Love to Be an Overseas Missionary?

My wife and I have always been open to God calling us to be missionaries overseas. An opportunity has presented itself in a country with few gospel laborers, and it seems like it could be a great fit. We both love our jobs, however, and we truly believe we are serving God in them. God clearly called us to these jobs, and he has blessed us and others in them. How do we discern whether God is calling us to go or calling us to stay? This is a wonderful question, and it warms my soul that you’re considering how to be maximally effective for the gospel. From your openness to God’s prompting, it appears you are approaching your vocation with open hands and an open heart. This is the posture befitting an ambassador for Christ (2 Cor. 5:20). I agree wholeheartedly that you are called to your current jobs. Do you know how I know that? Because they are the jobs you have, and God is sovereign. As an ambassador, you have been placed in your situation by God himself to make an appeal for Christ, and if you see your jobs as opportunities to serve God, you are faithfully embracing your current calling (Col. 3:23). Unremarkable, daily obedience in your jobs is powerful worship. Remain faithful where you are for as long as you are there, and invest deeply in those around you. As you consider another path, here are some things to keep in mind. For Such a Time as This In the book of Esther, the Jews are doomed. An edict has gone out to exterminate every Jewish person in Ahasueres’s kingdom. Queen Esther, a Jew, is called on by her cousin Mordecai to do something. He tells Esther: Do not think to yourself that in… Read More

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A Lost Screwtape Letter (Dated in December)

NOTE: I am not at liberty to say how the correspondence below fell into my hands, but it appears to be a lost letter written by that experienced devil, Screwtape, to his novice nephew, Wormwood, who is still learning the diabolical tricks of being a demon. It was dated in December (but the year is unknown). My dear Wormwood, I received your latest letter in which you expressed a number of fears over your patient’s celebration of those seasons of the year that Christians call Advent and Christmas (and to which Our Father Below only refers to, usually in disgust, as The Invasion). I must admit, Wormwood, I could not help but laugh at how fearful you seemed at this prospect. Not that these particular seasons shouldn’t strike fear in every young fiend like yourself when rightly understood, but therein lies our advantage when it comes to so many Christians. There is much they misunderstand or never consider at all. Devil forbid they ever grasp the real implications of these seasons. So since you asked how best to handle this current (and I believe you called it dreaded), situation, let me offer three heinous suggestions that even those in Hell’s High Command would not question. If you can succeed in the first two, the third may not even be necessary. But if worst comes to worst, the third suggestion is always at your disposal, and it is effective, because it gives your patient the illusion he’s celebrating these seasons when in fact you’re helping him miss the point. First, try keeping the patient sufficiently distracted. This is important, Wormwood, because the Enemy wants him to ponder and meditate on that awful truth (I shudder even to write it), the incarnation. You must do all you can to prevent this from happening—and distraction is one of your deadliest weapons during… Read More

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FMBRF: “My name is Legion”

Mark 5:9 (ESV) — 9 And Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” He replied, “My name is Legion, for we are many.” FMBRF stands for Friday Morning Bible Reading Fellowship. Under the leadership of Mike Holbein, a small band of men gather at ECF most Friday mornings @ 7 am to just read the Bible out loud to one another for about an hour. It is a precious time. And this morning, among some others, we read from Luke 8, Matthew 8 & Mark 5 each of which contains the account of Jesus delivering the 2 demoniacs in Gadera. When the demons inhabiting the one man were confronted by Jesus they replied: “My name is Legion, for we are many.” And while we might think our own condition is quite different than this poor man, this startling example reminds us forcefully that our sin is not simple and one stranded, but complex. It can be a very deceptive thing for us to believe that the whole of our difficulty as Christians may lie in this or that particular sin. But that is not the case. Sin is complex. Our sins are interrelated – and no one sin stands alone without being tied to other sins. It is why we cannot imagine “if I could just conquer this one thing or that, then all would be well.” We do not just sin – we are sin-FUL. We think sinful thoughts, commit sinful acts, hold sinful attitudes, respond sinfully to slights, pressures and difficulties, rebel against the Word we know and the Spirit’s persistent inward prompting to holiness. Galatians 5 contains that brief catalog of the “works of the flesh”: “sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like… Read More

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What’s the Relationship Between Evangelicalism and the Oxford Movement?

The recent publication of The Oxford Handbook to the Oxford Movement, a comprehensive single-volume guide to this 19th-century party and ideology, has revived a discussion which is now well over a century old. That discussion centers upon the question of what was the original and ongoing relationship between existing evangelical Protestantism and the emerging Oxford, or Tractarian Movement. The Oxford Handbook renews consideration of whether evangelical Protestantism in its Church of England expression was not a formative or contributing factor in the rise of the other movement which radiated outward from Oxford after 1833. What might seem at first glance to be a rather arcane inquiry about the descent of this movement is in fact anything but that. At stake is the important question of what possible affinity and relationship might be possible between the two movements as they continue to exist down to the present. This essay will explore the contested question of interrelationship and draw out some implications of this issue for the present day. The Two Movements The “Oxford Movement” was an anti-Erastian tendency within the Church of England, begun in 1833. In response to Parliament’s readiness to reduce by half the number of dioceses in the Protestant Church of Ireland and to abolish traditional confessional “tests” for those seeking to enroll in England’s universities, the movement set about publishing 90 pamphlets (“Tracts” they were called) exalting the spiritual independence of their national church via an alleged apostolic succession of bishops. Principal persons in this movement also promoted doctrinal and liturgical emphases closely associated with the era of Archbishop William Laud (1573–1645) and with various divines dating from the Restoration-era Church of England. Nineteenth-century Tractarian writers were widely construed as maneuvering towards a closer Anglican conformity with Roman Catholicism. After the departure of John Henry Newman and… Read More

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What Does God Think of Women?

“In the middle of our relentless digging into God’s Word together, we absolutely do need to stop regularly and talk about gender-related issues. We need to understand and be able to articulate clearly what we believe about these things and why, according to God’s Word—not as a system of rules that we ascribe to, not as a grid through which we see everything else, but as a fundamental affirmation of God’s goodness to the human beings he created. As the culture around us changes rapidly—so rapidly, in fact, it’s hard to keep track of—we believers have a huge opportunity not only to teach well the young ones growing up among us, but also to bear witness before a world that desperately needs to know the goodness of our Redeemer. And that goodness shines forth powerfully from his good creation of his image-bearers as male and female.” — Kathleen Nielson Date: June 15, 2018 Event: TGC 2019 National Conference, Indianapolis, Indiana Listen to this episode of The Gospel Coalition Podcast. Find more audio and video from the 2018 Women’s Conference on the conference media page. Related: Visit TGC The Gospel Coalition US

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Margin notes: A “united” heart

Psalm 86:1–17 (ESV) — 1 Incline your ear, O LORD, and answer me, for I am poor and needy. 2 Preserve my life, for I am godly; save your servant, who trusts in you—you are my God. 3 Be gracious to me, O Lord, for to you do I cry all the day. 4 Gladden the soul of your servant, for to you, O Lord, do I lift up my soul. 5 For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon you. 6 Give ear, O LORD, to my prayer; listen to my plea for grace. 7 In the day of my trouble I call upon you, for you answer me. 8 There is none like you among the gods, O Lord, nor are there any works like yours. 9 All the nations you have made shall come and worship before you, O Lord, and shall glorify your name. 10 For you are great and do wondrous things; you alone are God. 11 Teach me your way, O LORD, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name. 12 I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart, and I will glorify your name forever. 13 For great is your steadfast love toward me; you have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol. 14 O God, insolent men have risen up against me; a band of ruthless men seeks my life, and they do not set you before them. 15 But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. 16 Turn to me and be gracious to me; give your strength to your servant, and save the son of your maidservant.… Read More

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Apatheism: Stronger Challenge to Evangelism Than Atheism Is

I’m sure you’ve experienced it before—that passionless, detached “meh” you receive in response after asking someone questions about their belief in God. Those crucial questions to philosophy, faith, and the meaning of life, which you ponder and return to over and again, are dismissed with the kind of disinterest typically experienced by a policy specialist at the IRS when they explain what they do for a living. As a committed believer, you happily engage someone with the kind of dialogue that stirs your mind to explore the most significant questions human beings can ask. But, to your surprise, the person is wholly indifferent to the topic. You ask, “Do you believe in God?” And they respond with a deflating grin and shrug-of-the-shoulders reminiscent of The Office’s Jim Halpert deadpanning Camera 2 after his buffoon manager, Michael Scott, asked him a ridiculous question. Sometimes, the disinterest comes from the kind of person you would expect—an agnostic who, after years of oscillating between religious and areligious beliefs, has finally thrown their hands in the air and given up. Other times, the disinterest comes from the kind of person you would least expect—a self-described religious person who, for one reason or another, is utterly indifferent to the very foundations upon which their worldview was constructed. Either way, the result is the same. In our culture, there seems to be a growing apathy toward theism. In conjunction with declining religious service attendance and the rising of the religiously unaffiliated has come a new challenge to evangelism. It is no longer the pugnacious New Atheism at center stage, but something far less passionate—apatheism. This nonchalant attitude toward God is more challenging to evangelism than religious pluralism, agnosticism, and atheism. For this reason, the phenomenon should be taken seriously. Evangelicals ought to examine and understand it… Read More

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Margin notes: When God says “no” to a good thing

Psalm 84:11–12 (ESV) — 11 For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly. 12 O LORD of hosts, blessed is the one who trusts in you! One of the mightiest weapons the Believer has against sin and temptation, is the firm conviction that “no good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly.” Now we must be clear here, the text does NOT say, everything which is simply good in and of itself is to be ours. Providence will teach us well that there are many things inherently good, which nevertheless a Believer might find themselves bereft of. Freedom is something we might consider a universal good. But when the issue of slavery comes up in the New Testament for instance, we find that some Believers were in fact slaves, and that God called them to behave in certain ways in that circumstance. Would we not be right then in saying that in such cases – God had indeed withheld something good from one walking uprightly? Or, might we posit that if a Believer is a slave, that itself indicates they are NOT walking uprightly? We must answer no to both of those inquiries as nakedly stated. Why? Because our God in His infinite wisdom and unfathomable love, knows what is best for each of us individually in terms of giving us the maximum opportunity to grow in grace and the image of Christ. And when that goal requires that something “good” be withheld, given the usefulness of that withholding for our spiritual, ultimate and eternal good. He does indeed at times withhold some things which are natively “good” when they might mean some temporary happiness, but would be contrary to… Read More

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The 7 Most Important Religious Liberty Cases of the Decade

Religious freedom is a right, given by God and guaranteed by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, that allows individual people or groups to practice a religion—or to practice no religion at all—both in private and also in public with a minimal amount of interference from the local, state, or federal government. The Constitution and other federal and state laws protect this right to determine both what we believe and, in a more limited sense, how we act on those beliefs. Despite this being our first freedom, challenges to the right of individuals and organizations to practice this liberty arose frequently over the past decade. Here are seven of the most important cases involving religious freedom from 2010 to 2019: The Case: Christian Legal Society v. Martinez (2010) What It Was About: The Christian Legal Society filed a lawsuit after the University of California’s Hastings College of Law denied official recognition to the organization. The school refused to recognize the Christian group because it requires its voting members and officers to abide by an extensive, faith-based pledge that includes a prohibition on all premarital and extramarital sex. The Supreme Court ruled that a public college does not abridge the First Amendment by declining to acknowledge a student group that refuses to permit all students to join the group, in accordance with state law. Why It Matters: In a dissenting opinion, four conservative justices called the decision “deeply disappointing” and a “serious setback for freedom of expression in this country.” In his dissent, Justice Samuel Alito wrote, “Brushing aside inconvenient precedent, the Court arms public educational institutions with a handy weapon for suppressing the speech of unpopular groups. . . . I can only hope that this decision will turn out to be an aberration.” The Case:  Burwell v. Hobby Lobby… Read More

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Margin notes: Not forsaking steadfast love and faithfulness

Proverbs 3:1–6 (ESV) — 1 My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments, 2 for length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you. 3 Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart. 4 So you will find favor and good success in the sight of God and man. 5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. 6 In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. I so love coming back to this passage in my regular reading. I love being reminded to “keep” this commandment – to not let “steadfast love and faithfulness” be forsaken. The idea here may be, to be sure to be a loving and faithful person. That may be. But I am more inclined to think of it in terms of resting in the love and faithfulness of our God. The one who rests content here, who lavishes in knowing these graces are poured out upon them, will live a life far different than those languishing in the hopelessness that captures so many. It is a pre-echo of “keep yourselves in the love of God.” It is a call to never let the wonder, the mystery, and glory, the reality of God’s steadfast love and faithfulness toward you ever escape your consciousness. When we imagine His love to be vacillating or indistinct – or when we doubt the absolute certainty of His commitment to see all of His promises to come to pass – faith suffers its most devastating blows. We MUST see our God as constitutionally incapable of any of the defects of human love. In… Read More

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Protestant Relics and the Graves of Whitefield and Edwards

Evangelicals have always had a complicated relationship with the graves and relics of their heroes. On one hand, the heritage of the Reformation made them wary of Catholic excesses regarding religious devotions and relics. On the other, evangelical heroes including George Whitefield and Jonathan Edwards have drawn a steady stream of visitors to their graves and other historical sites. Merely knowing about these evangelical “icons” was not enough for some; physical proximity to the places they preached, or even to their buried bodies, was even better. I was recently reading a chapter from Keith Beutler‘s forthcoming University of Virginia Press book on Americans’ memory of the Founders in the early republic, and he was noting evangelicals’ attraction to relics associated with the major Founders, especially George Washington. He discussed evangelicals’ regular pilgrimages to George Whitefield’s tomb in Newburyport, Massachusetts, which I also discuss at length in my biography of Whitefield. I write: For evangelicals Whitefield’s grave became a place of pilgrimage for thousands of admirers in the centuries after his death. The prominent Methodist itinerant Jesse Lee visited the tomb in 1790 . . . Lee opened the coffin, offering a clinical account of the body’s condition: “They discovered his ears, hair, and a part of his nose had fallen off. His face was nearly in the common shape, though much contracted, and appeared quite destitute of moisture, and very hard. His teeth were white, and fast in their sockets. His breast bone had parted, and his bowels disrobed. His wig and clothes, in which he was buried, still remained; and were quite hard to tear. His flesh was black; and, as might be supposed, destitute of comeliness.” Lee took “a small relic of the gown in which he was buried; and prayed that he might be endued with the… Read More

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Appoint Elders—But Not Too Quickly

Since helping plant our church in 2011, I’ve been continually amazed at the beauty of the biblical eldership process. In the beginning, our “leadership team” was a gaggle of inexperienced dudes with more passion than experience. I praise God that our lead pastor chose to wait to install us as elders. An elder board of imperfect but Christ-loving men is dangerous (in a good way) as they seek to take new ground for God’s kingdom. God’s design for church polity is a hedge of protection and a catalyst to promote flourishing. It’s a lot of work to appoint and maintain a healthy elder board, but it’s worth it. It isn’t mere accountability that makes biblical eldership so helpful. It’s the passion in diversity of perspectives, the potency of prayer for the church, and the power of God’s Spirit working through imperfect men to glorify the perfect Christ. Unsurprisingly, God’s plan for church governance is effective and powerful. And yet, we must be careful. Planting a church without healthy elders is like stepping on the gas pedal while throwing the steering wheel out the window. High Stakes Appointing elders is not like appointing board members. A church is not less than an organization, but it is more. Elders lead the blood-bought bride of Jesus Christ. While businesses play an important role in culture-making and providing for people, churches are primarily concerned with eternal destinies. “Hire slowly, fire quickly” is a fine adage in the business world, but it’s unfit for church governance. Once an elder is installed, he is spiritually tied to the church. Removing him quickly will strain the body and violate trust. Planting a church without healthy elders is like stepping on the gas pedal while throwing the steering wheel out the window. The downfall of a leader is always… Read More

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