Burk Parsons on Communion

The Lord’s Supper isn’t a funeral dirge of morbid introspective guilt-motivated mourning but a joyful Jesus-focused feast of celebration.

Burk Parsons

Wayne Grudem on significance

To be significant to God is to be significant in the most ultimate sense. No greater personal significance can be imagined.

Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Theology (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 163.

Book Review: Thirsting for God

Thirsting for God by Gary Thomas

Thirsting for God: Spiritual Refreshment for the Sacred Journey is the first Gary Thomas book I read and I have to say that in a world of “cutting-edge ministry techniques” and “ground-breaking theology” I found his retrospective approach to be very, very refreshing. For some time now, I’ve had the idea in the back of my head that it would be very beneficial to read some of the Puritans, some of the Reformers, some of the Middle Age classics, or perhaps even some of the early church fathers; but I’ve always been too busy reading things that were written within my lifetime.

However, after seeing the rich depth that the last two millennia worth of brothers and sisters in Christ have to offer us, I feel as though I’ve been eating a lot of Applebee’s and Red Lobster while a genuine, gourmet feast awaits me. At the end of Thirsting for God, there’s a helpful list of suggested reading that spans many centuries. I plan on reading a handful—if not all, eventually—of them within the next few years. I have decided to make a pattern from now on of alternating my contemporary, modern reading with the classics. Or, at the very least, I want to knock out one classic a year.

Perhaps the most helpful part was Gary’s comparison of our modern attitudes verses those of Christians past. One great example is where he criticizes the modern misconception that many modern Christians “work too hard” and “just don’t rest in grace” (pg. 275). He then turns that notion on its head by comparing modern devotion to devotion of the past; there simply is no comparison. Modern Christians–myself included–have spread ourselves too thin and leave very little of ourselves for the Lord. Far too often, He gets the leftovers of our lives; He gets what we haven’t invested in our careers and hobbies. Comparing that to some of the ascetic practices of the past makes me wonder how devoted I am. This is a humbling yet simultaneously inspiring realization.

Two other areas that encouraged me were his discussion of the dark night of the soul and his discussion of a Christian view of death. The dark night of the soul is a topic that is rarely, if ever, addressed today. I’ve never heard a sermon on it and have only read about it in obscure places. I’ve never seen an article about it in Relevant, Christianity Today, or on any blog. In short, the dark night of the soul is a stage of Christian growth  where God strips away some of the joys of following Him to test our devotion. It’s essentially a gut check, and at the end of this dark night, we emerge to realize that we don’t cherish the feelings that come from knowing God, but we instead cherish Him alone. This was common knowledge to Christians of the past.

The second area—death—was reassuring because, until I read Gary’s explanation of how past Christians have viewed death, I thought I had a morbid preoccupation or even and obsession with my mortality! I literally think about my death every single day. I try to live my life in light of my deathbed. What will I wish I had done? What will I wish I had done less of? (For example, on my deathbed, I will not wish I had spent more time on Facebook.) How can I live my life in a way that makes sense in light of eternity? My greatest desire it so be able to quote Second Timothy 4:7 on my deathbed; I believe it is impossible to do that unless I intentionally live towards that end. I hope to leave a legacy that God will use to bring much glory to His name, and I know that can only happen if I make every effort to live this life with the fullest dedication to God’s glory. Therefore, I found great comfort from reading Gary’s chapters about death.

Overall, this book has inspired me to plumb the depths of the great classics of Christianity so that I may gain a greater perspective of what it means to live for Christ in this world. It has about 40 chapters, they’re all short, so I would recommend it as a great devotional book.

What is the purpose of Spiritual Gifts?

I think there are two purposes that Scripture reveals for Spiritual Gifts. In fact, these two reasons complement one another because it’s unlikely you’ll be able to have one without the other for very long. They are:

  1. Building
  2. Uniting

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, (Ephesians 4:11, 12)

Building up the Body is listed as the reason that Christ has empowered some people to be apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds, and teachers. Another way you could translate this verse would be to say that he equipped them “for the purpose of building up the Body of Christ.” In other words, we weren’t given spiritual gifts to use them on ourselves. In fact, that idea is completely out of the question. For example, imagine a soldier whose been trained, conditioned, equipped with all his gear. The times comes for him to deploy, but instead of going to war he takes all his training and equipment and goes on a hunting trip. It’s the same way for anyone who has been granted a spiritual gift and merely uses it for their own benefit. Not only are they being selfish, they are squandering their gift on themselves when it should be used for building up the entire Church. Instead of benefitting ourselves, our spiritual gifts should be benefitting dozens–if not hundreds–of people. I should add here that when I say “building up the body” I mean both outward and upward. We should be building out–which is why there are apostles, prophets, and evangelists–and we should be building up–which is why there are shepherds and teachers. But, beware of creating an atmosphere of competition to see who has the superior spiritual gifts. This leads to division, which is antithetical to the second purpose of spiritual gifts.

…until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ… (Ephesians 4:13)

When each part is working properly, per Ephesians 4:16, the body will “build itself up in love.” The spiritual gifts are meant to build the body up, and part of being built up is being unified. Jesus said that no group which is divided against itself can stand (Mark 3:24, Matthew 12:25). This applies to the Church. If spiritual gifts are not being used properly–for example, if they are being used out of pride, selfishness, etc.–then they will inevitably be used by the Destroyer to slowly and subtly dissolve unity. Think about it, when Paul wrote that “when each part is working properly [it] makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love (Ephesians 4:16)” he must have surely known the opposite was true. When each part is not working properly it prevents the body from growing, which means that it will destroy itself in hatred.

So what does this mean? First, it means we are called to use our spiritual gifts. Part of “working properly” is working; in other words, if you’re not serving you are not properly using your spiritual gifts, period. Second, everyone has spiritual gifts. Not all spiritual gifts are equally flashy, but all people are given spiritual gifts which means that all people are necessary if we are to reach full maturity. Finally, as we use our spiritual gifts, we must constantly check our hearts and our motives. If we are using our spiritual gifts for anything beyond building and uniting the body, we must do the hard work of checking our hearts and repenting where necessary. So I encourage you to examine where God has given you both gifts and passion. Be open to serving in several different capacities before you decide you’ve found out exactly where you fit in the Body. And remember to do all things in a manner that builds and unites the Church.

Laurie Beth Jones explains why you need a purpose statement

“A purpose statement is, in essence, a written down reason for being. Jesus’ mission helped him decide how to act, what to do, and even what to say when challenging situations arose. Clarity is power: once you’re clear about what you were put here to do then ‘jobs’ become only a means towards accomplishing your mission, not an end in themselves.”

Laurie Beth Jones

My favorite Greek word

I think I’ve found my favorite Greek word. It’s a special word that we don’t really have an English equivalent for, which is a shame because it’s only used four times in the New Testament and it’s only used to describe Jesus (Acts 3:15, 5:13, Hebrews 2:10, 12:12). The word is archegos (pronounced ar-khay-gos’) and it is usually translated as “founder,” “author,” or “leader” but it means much more than that.

Consider, for example, Romulus the legendary founder of Rome. An ancient empire was named after him because he was the one who founded it. In the same way, Christianity is named after Christ because it is contingent upon his life, death, and resurrection. We follow Christ and are therefore called Christians.

But this word is also used to describe someone who begins something that is the first in a series; a series which is meant to be repeated. In Romans 8:15-17, we’re told that we’ve been adopted into a family and have become fellow heirs of suffering and glory with Christ. Later, in Romans 8:29, Jesus is described as the firstborn of many brothers. Jesus, as our archegos, has set a pattern for us that we can repeat because of his death and resurrection and by the power of the Holy Spirit . In the same way that everyone who completes a marathon follows the pattern of the first marathon, we, by following the pattern of Christ, have the privilege of being called Christians.

Finally, this word is use for someone who is a leader, prince, or ruler. The archegos has a special, preeminent position. Jesus, in Colossians 1:18, is described as preeminent in everything! Philippians 2:10-11 is clear that every knee will bow and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. Every knee will bow, whether as friend or foe. Jesus Christ is our righteous ruler and we will have the joy of worshiping Him for all eternity.

Jesus is the way, paves the way, and shows the way to the Father. He is our archegos.

John Piper on faith that escapes suffering

The common feature of the faith that escapes suffering and the faith that endures suffering is this: Both of them involve believing that God himself is better than what life can give to you now, and better than what death can take from you later.

John Piper, What Does It Mean to Live by Faith in the Service of the Fatherless? (Christian Alliance for Orphans, Summit VI: Minneapolis)

John Piper on the Death of Christ

The death of Christ is the wisdom of God by which the love of God saves sinners from the wrath of God, all the while upholding and demonstrating the righteousness of God in Christ.

John Piper, Desiring God, Revised Edition: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist (Colorado Springs: Multnohmah, 2011), 61-62.