An Expanded Vision for Worship


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Last week Kevin DeYoung sent out a tweet that I haven’t been able to stop thinking about. Most recently it came to mind during worship at church on Sunday. The tweet in question was this:

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For those that don’t know, I’ve led worship for college ministries for the past six years and worship is a passion of mine. I’ve always tried to pick the songs I led with care and attentiveness to what those in the group might need and where the Holy Spirit might be leading.

This tweet crashed into me like a load of bricks. I was alternating between tearing up at the beautiful picture of praises lifted up in desperate faith around a hospital bed and searching my memory for what songs that I’d led over the years might fit this description to a conviction to lead differently in the future whenever opportunities present themselves.

Because, you see, all leadership involves vision (or a lack thereof).  post-tbird And while leading worship has the big, grand object of leading a people into an encounter with the Almighty God in a specific moment, we shouldn’t neglect practical considerations and vision of teaching and equipping either.

Worship leaders, pastors, parents: are we equipping people to worship alone in the valleys as well as gathered together in the mountaintops? Are we equipping people to encounter and worship God in the quiet, desperate moments beside sick loved ones where there’s no guitar within reach and no powerpoint as well as during loud, full-band celebration services? I pray that we all are and that it starts with me.

 

What songs that your family or church taught and sings fit this description? Are they all hymns or are there contemporary songs that fit the bill too? Sound off in the comments-I’d love to discuss and develop this more!
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Monday Morning Music: You Make My Dreams Come True


A week ago (7/21) was Lauren and my first anniversary! It’s insanely crazy to think we’ve been married over a year now! And insanely wonderful. I was looking back through my journal this week and rediscovered that the day following our wedding (as we headed for our honeymoon), I had “You Make My Dreams Come True” by Hall & Oats stuck in my head. Because she did and does 🙂 So here it is to start your Monday off right!

Golden Gate Bound


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Lauren and I the weekend we got engaged

In my inaugural post here I shared that “I currently find myself at the end of one particular season of life and at the beginning of another. The particulars are still in flux and I’ll share them at a later point.” That was just over two months ago and I haven’t followed up on that promise…yet. So without further ado…

I have recently been accepted as a student at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, which is in the North Bay Area. Classes begin next month and Lauren and I will move out that direction and live on campus. Going to seminary has been something I’ve always thought of as a possibility for myself but the timing has never been right and I’d never felt God leading that direction. However, those factors have changed recently and we’ve seen God redirect us towards this via a variety of circumstances (not all of them “easy” or “fun”).

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Lauren and I are excited about this next phase of our lives. Although the unknown is seriously scary and the road that’s led here has not been all smooth sailing, the fact that we can look to God through it all is a constant encouragement and refuge for us.

A verse that’s been especially encouraging to me lately is Psalm 37:3, which says:

Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.

Wherever He has put you or is bringing you: trust him. Do good, dwell there, and be faithful. He’s worthy of our trust.

For those of you who have followed us as we’ve ministered to college students with The Navigators, this move was the subject of our most recent (and most likely last) newsletter, which you can read here if you did not receive one. -> Summer 2014

FREEsources: “Glorious Ruin” by Tullian Tchividjian


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Tullian Tchividjian’s book “Glorious Ruin” is FREE today (6/21) for Kindle, Nook, and many other e-reader devices. Just follow the link and pick out your preferred retailer and boom-you’ve got a free book!

From the publisher:

In this world, one thing is certain: Everybody hurts. Suffering may take the form of tragedy, heartbreak, or addiction. Or it could be something more mundane (but no less real) like resentment, loneliness, or disappointment. But there’s unfortunately no such thing as a painless life. In Glorious Ruin, best-selling author Tullian Tchividjian takes an honest and refreshing look at the reality of suffering, the ways we tie ourselves in knots trying to deal with it, and the comfort of the gospel for those who can’t seem to fix themselves—or others.

This is not so much a book about Why God allows suffering or even How we should approach suffering—it is a book about the tremendously liberating and gloriously counterintuitive truth of a God who suffers with you and for you. It is a book, in other words, about the kind of hope that takes the shape of a cross.

Via David C Cook Ebooks

Book Review Roundup: July 2014


I was going to write separate reviews for two or three of these books but decided to combine them into one post and also throw in a few extra (but shorter) reviews that I might not have included otherwise. 

17675008Encounters with Jesus by Tim Keller (4 stars)

Keller has become a warm, familiar voice to me over the past few years as I’ve read many of his books and listened to a good number of his sermons. One of his more recent offerings, “Encounters with Jesus” is to the heart what “The Reason for God” is for the mind. For those familiar with Navigator terminology, it’s like sitting down across the table from Keller and him leading an Investigative Bible Discussion with you. The book focuses on encounters Jesus has in the Gospels with several individuals and teases out theological principles, questions, and answers from these encounters, all the while revealing more and more of the character of this Jesus.

The first five chapters focus on the book of John and the last five on events from the other Gospels. Keller’s conversational prose is very easy to read and his gentle but firm counsel proves a reliable guide for the reader who is honestly skeptical (that is, actually interested in addressing doubts and not just looking to dismiss them).

Highly recommended whether you’re meeting looking to meet Jesus for the first time or perhaps looking to be reintroduced in one way or another.

The Hole in our Holiness by Kevin DeYoung (4 stars) 148972402

I read this book mainly because of a lot that I’d been hearing about various leaders and pastors having some conflict about the role and purpose of sanctification in believers’ lives. Tullian Tchividjian represents the “Grace, grace, and more grace!” side of the spectrum and I read his book One Way Love recently (which I reviewed here). While not denying or downplaying the role of grace, Kevin DeYoung is on the other end of the spectrum in the “debate.”

It’s unavoidable that I ended up comparing this book to One Way Love from start to finish. The verdict? This is the better book. Now, that’s not to say that Tullian’s book is bad. This is just a superior book. DeYoung is both humorous and humble throughout the book, showing in page after page that is dripping with Scripture what it looks like to pursue holiness not in order to somehow earn salvation but as a result of union with Christ.

In one sentence, he sums up New Testament ethics as: “Be who you are.”  That is, you are holy positionally because of Christ’s imputed righteousness. Now pursue that holiness each and every day.

An enjoyable and yet convicting/exhorting read.

 

The-Kneeling-ChristianThe Kneeling Christian (2 stars)

I had this book recommended to me by a few folks and was available as a free pdf online so I slotted it into my “to read” list. Among the many, many areas where I could grow in my Christian walk, prayer stands out as one that I feel I need the most help in. And so I eagerly dove into this book…but petered out pretty quick. I mainly finished it just to finish it. It was probably a combination of the style and approach of the book. Additionally, there were a few things that the author suggested about prayer that I wasn’t sure I agreed with that seemed to suggest that every time a prayer is unanswered it must be because of some fault within the prayer. Seemed like echoes of Job’s friends to me.

Now, to be fair, there were many more quotes that I actually liked a lot than ones I disagreed with. But there was enough about the book that I didn’t enjoy or connect with for me to only rate it “okay” (i.e. 2 stars).

Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery by Eric Metaxas (5 stars)amazing-grace

The only time I had heard of William Wilberforce before reading this book was hearing a story about how when he became a Christian he felt the only way to serve Christ was to become a pastor. He went to John Newton, known for composing the hymn “Amazing Grace,”  for advice. But instead of affirming his perceived “call” to the pastorate, Newton challenged Wilberforce to remain where he was–an incredibly influential position in the British Parliament–and use that position to glorify God and benefit his fellow man.

And use that position and influence he did. Wilberforce was one of the main, if not THE main, drivers in the campaign to abolish the slave trade in England. Metaxas, the author of Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy, argues that Wilberforce “overturned not just European civilization’s view of slavery but its view of almost everything in the human sphere…it was nothing less than a fundamental and important shift in human consciousness” (p. xv). In other words, Wilberforce is responsible for shaping the character of Western civilization! If you believe that every human being is fundamentally equal to and has the same rights as every other human being, you owe it to Wilberforce’s Christian faith and his influence on society.

That is a massive claim, especially for someone that most of us have probably never heard of. But Metaxas supports this claim and reintroduces Wilberforce to a modern-day audience. It’s a heroic story about an amazingly humble and incredibly influential individual that is masterfully told by Metaxas. I can’t recommend this book highly enough!

 What are you currently reading? Any suggestions or thoughts on these books I’ve just finished?

Book Review: One Way Love


one-way-love-book It wasn’t until his recent exit from The Gospel Coalition that I started paying attention to Tullian Tchividjian. I’d heard his name before, read some of his blogs, and knew he was one of Billy Graham’s grandsons, but I couldn’t tell you much about him or what made him distinctive. But when he got caught up in the middle of a bit of controversy with TGC, I decided to start paying closer attention. There’s a bit of a debate/discussion in the Church right now over sanctification: what should the believer’s approach to it be, how should we preach on it, where does the power and motivation come from, etc. On the one hand you have folks who emphasize our own effort partnering with God in the process. On the other (and this is the camp Tchividjian is in), you have those whose sole focus is God’s grace-any effort on our part cannot be really mandated or exhorted but rather must come solely as a response to God’s grace. I personally think both sides are looking at the same coin and arguing that what they see on their side is more important. In other words, they are more similar than they would care to admit. But I had more of an outsider’s perspective on it than anything-I wasn’t up to date on what each side had said in the past and what they really believed. This is the lens that I read “One Way Love” through-what does Tullian say about the role of grace in our lives once we’ve trusted Christ with our life and salvation? But that’s not the only answer that I got in the process. First, the Pros of the book:

  • Tullian shares much of his personal story throughout the book. To say that he identifies with the Prodigal Son is an understatement. I hugely appreciated his humility and vulnerability-not many believers, let alone pastors, would feel comfortable being so open about where they’ve come from.
  • Tullian’s writing style is conversational and warm-he’s not writing from some distant ivory tower or insecurely lashing out at his critics, but rather sharing his life and beliefs. It’s easy to identify with and to like Tullian.
  • Tullian uses many great sources to add to or flesh out some of his points. Tim Keller, Jerry Bridges, Brennan Manning, and Paul M.F. Zahl are just a few of those he references. You get the feeling that Tullian’s done his homework in researching what others have to say about grace and its role in our lives.
  • Tullian champions grace. You can’t read too much of the book without his passion and love for the grace of God dripping off the page. This is a very good and refreshing thing.

There are, however, some Cons to the book:

  • The book’s structure. Tullian says in the beginning that the book is adapted from a series of sermons…and it shows. It’s not a major flaw, but there are definitely ways where the book might have worked better if it had been designed as a book from the beginning. The book can be a tad repetitive at times.
  • Tullian seems to generalizes those who are on the other side of the sanctification divide. This is, to an extent, unavoidable. But I couldn’t help but think several times “Do people really preach that way? Do people really teach that way?” I know Tullian has a lot of personal experience here that I don’t…but I don’t feel he backed up some of the claims he made about the “opponents of grace alone.”

In summary: I enjoyed “One Way Love” and had some definite personal takeaways. His descriptions of what unconditional grace looks like in marriage and relationships in general were especially convicting and inspiring. My eyes were opened to just how conditional my love often is and I was reminded of my constant need of grace.  post-tbird I also thought his discussion in Chapter 10 of how total depravity affects Christians both before and after conversion to be very interesting (and worth some more thought). As Tullian says, “We never outgrow our need for grace–ever” (p 219). post-tbird  This book is an excellent reminder of that, wherever we are on our journey of faith.

Why Joy is Fleeting


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The settled happiness and security which we all desire, God withholds from us by the very nature of the world: but joy, pleasure, and merriment, he has scattered broadcast. We are never safe, but we have plenty of fun, and some ecstasy. It is not hard to see why. The security we crave would teach us to rest our hearts in this world and oppose an obstacle to our return to God: a few moments of happy love, a landscape, a symphony, a merry meeting with our friends, a bathe or a football match, have no such tendency. Our Father refreshes us on the journey with some pleasant inns, but will not encourage us to mistake them for home. -C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain

 

Fellow Pilgrims, we are not home yet.

 

Book Review: Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret


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I often think that God must have been looking for someone small enough and weak enough for Him to use, and that He found me. -Hudson Taylor

This week I finished reading Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret. I’ve been reading more biographies lately, specifically of missionaries and other great men of faith. My interest was piqued when I read Eric Metaxas’ Bonhoeffer but didn’t really become a priority until reading  Shadow of the Almighty by Elisabeth Elliot, which I briefly reviewed on Goodreads. I was deeply impacted by both of these men’s heart to know God, approach to life, and lasting legacy. And so I turned my attention to the life of Hudson Taylor.

I’ll confess right now that I didn’t know much about Hudson Taylor himself or the geopolitical and spiritual history of China in the 19th Century before reading this book. In that sense, the book was hugely educational and informative for me. I feel that I have a much better sense of Hudson Taylor’s life, beliefs, and impact, as well as a more complete knowledge of Chinese history (especially as it relates to Chinese believers).

The book was written by one of Hudson Taylor’s sons and daughter-in-law around 1932 and recounts all of his life, from his upbringing and conversion to his death. This lends a few advantages and disadvantages to the book. In the pros column I would say that the book’s comprehensive scope gives a wonderful picture of just how far God took Taylor and the amazing things he used him for. As the decades passed, Hudson Taylor’s belief in what God was able to accomplish continually grew until he was trusting God for answers to prayers that would frankly seem ridiculous without the innumerable assurance of God’s faithfulness he received. In this way, the book functions as a guide to understanding how Hudson Taylor could believe God and an invitation to the reader to trust in the same way.

The other side of the coin is that the book’s scope is just entirely too large to give a detailed account of everything it mentions. Many times it will sum up a missionary journey, a series of events, or even a few years in a few short sentences. In several instances, I found myself wanting more details, more substance, and more meat on the bones of the narrative.

But the authors’ concern is not so much detailing every single occurrence of Hudson Taylor’s ministry as in revealing the heart of the man himself. What was his spiritual secret that enabled him to accomplish all the amazing things he did? What drove him to push ever-deeper into inland China to reach the unreached?

In his own words, Taylor answers that question with a name: Jesus.

What, can Jesus meet my need? Yes, and more than meet it. No matter how intricate my path, how difficult my service; no matter how sad my bereavement, how far away my loved ones; no matter how helpless I am, how deep are my soul-yearnings–Jesus can meet all, and more than meet.

And that is the book’s greatest aspect: a view into a heart blazing for Christ and burdened to share the gospel with the unreached. In 1 Corinthians 11:1, Paul gives the Corinthian church one of the simplest pictures of discipleship and growth in Christ when he tells them, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.”

Hudson Taylor was a man who loved and imitated Christ well. Tweet this May books like this encourage and embolden us to imitate him and others like him who, in the midst of all their human failings and shortcomings, fell deeply in love with Christ and pursued him with all they had.

 

What’s a biography that you’ve read lately? What’s a story you’ve heard that inspired or helped you in your pursuit of Christ?