Quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger — what I learned from the strange behavior following “Strange Fire.”

I know. I know. . . yet another blog on what took place at the “strange fire” conference. I’ve probably read one too many articles this week as well. I had an internal debate on whether or not to even write and add to something that has most likely been over-exaggerated-contemplated-instigated- you name it. But what I learned from the strange behavior following the “strange fire” conference actually has nothing to do with Driscoll, MacDonald, MacArthur, Johnson, insert your favorite Christian here. It has nothing to do with the cessationist vs. continuationist conversation either.

What I learned had more to do with the aftermath of the incident and a tendency that I’ve seen in the believing community; one that I think is destructive and un-Christlike. It’s this — an inclination to live hasty and defensive.  In my experience, defensive living typically stems not from confidence in God or in the truth, but rather, from confidence in the making, confidence that is not fully developed, confidence in a truth that requires the expense of grace. We may have to come to grips with the fact that truth without grace is not really truth and grace without truth is not really grace. More than that, defensive living leads to slow hearing and fast speaking.

Defensive living leads to hasty comments like “Mark Driscoll is a wolf in sheep’s clothing’” Or, on the other side, “Blessed are the persecuted, Mark. Keep standing for the truth.”

Even a cursory glance at Mark Driscoll’s doctrine and ministry will show that he is not what the Bible describes as a wolf in sheep’s clothing. And, conversely, I’d challenge anyone playing the martyr card to ask an Egyptian Christian if Mark Driscoll is being persecuted for righteousness sake.

I’m not saying we should live and hide above the fray, running from every type of intellectual argument surrounding the truth. That is equally wrong. I appreciate the debate regarding the ministry of the Holy Spirit in our lives. I think it is incredibly important, and I think that people need to study the work of the Holy Spirit in Scripture, develop a conviction, and live accordingly. The importance of truth can hardly be over-stated. I’m not denying that. Always retreating to the safe “middle-ground” where there is no dissention is also dangerous. But, that’s not my point here.

My point here is that there’s a difference between being “ready to make a defense” (1 Pet. 3:15) and living on the defense. Spirit-filled conviction leads to empathy not anger. “Be prepared” is harmful rather than helpful if “with gentleness and respect” is neglected. I’m convinced that too many Christians are living in “bite-back” mode. The more confident you are in the truth, the less defensive you will need to be, the more willing to show grace you will become. You’ll be quicker to hear, slower to speak, and slower to anger (to both believers and non-believers alike). Even when you whole-heartedly disagree, you’ll do so with an innate measure of respect, realizing that is a soul that you converse with.

Just take a reflective look at Christ’s ministry. No one in the history of the world was ever more sure of the truth and no one was ever more relaxed, humble, gentle, and sympathetic to the repentant and open heart.

“Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.” (James 1:19)

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A Tough Pill For The People-Pleaser In Me


The one who would be like God must be ready and willing to be hurt by people – a tough pill for the people-pleaser in me to swallow. Still, there’s no way to eliminate rejection from a Roman cross. The fruits of the Spirit will offend both the conservative and the liberal in there time. A fountain of grace and truth cannot help but splash on the sensitivities of society. Inevitably, your grace will be too gracious for the religionist and your convictions too deep for the dissolute. When you make your bed in the culture’s filth you will be called unclean, and when you openly rebuke ungodliness you will be labeled narrow-minded. You will simultaneously be pegged as the drunkard and the prude, wearing, at various times, both the dishonorable badges of legalism and licentiousness.

Just remember one thing: you’re in good company — Jesus – the friend of sinners, no friend of sin

Just as the twelve large jars of water, poured out on Mt. Carmel, were licked up in an instant when the fire of the Lord fell upon the sacrifice (1 Kings 18), so the waters of discouragement, misrepresentation, and rejection will in no way quench the love and fire present in the children of the burning heart! They will go on following in the footsteps of the great Nazarene because they understand all too well what Spurgeon put so eloquently, “As for me, I brave the sneer of men because I fear the frown of my Lord.”

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A passage, a quote, and a video

1. Psalm 148

2. I believe that every particle of dust that dances in the sunbeam does not move an atom more or less than God wishes, that every particle of spray that dashes against the steamboat has its orbit as well as the sun in the heavens, that the chaff from the hand of the winnower is steered as surely as the stars in their courses, that the creeping of an aphis over a rosebud is as much fixed as the march of the devastating pestilence, and the fall of sere leaves from the poplar is as fully ordained as the tumbling of an avalanche. He who believes in God must believe this truth. (Spurgeon)


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Connection = Isolation


Tozer and Bonhoeffer both touched on this far before the technological era.

“The abrasive action of society has taken the character out of many a man and has reduced him to be just one more thin, shiny dime among all the dimes of the world, shiny from much use and many contacts. He has lost his milling, his design. He has lost all of his proper characteristics….I am not impressed by the active, frenetic soul-winner who has to get out where the action is and ‘make some contacts for Jesus!’ Brother, just get alone with Jesus for a while; let your knees make contact with the ground and do not be afraid or ashamed to stay there for a while.” (Tozer, 121-122)

“Let him who cannot be alone beware of community… Let him who is not in community beware of being alone… Each by itself has profound perils and pitfalls. One who wants fellowship without solitude plunges into the void of words and feelings, and the one who seeks solitude without fellowship perishes in the abyss of vanity, self-infatuation and despair.” (Bonhoeffer, Life Together)

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Books of 2012

Personal Choices:


Thoughts for Young Men* (J.C. Ryle)

Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist (John Piper)

Basic Christianity (John Stott)

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption (Laura Hillenbrand)

Hudson Taylor: An autobiography of a man who brought the gospel to China. (J. Hudson Taylor)

Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus: How the jewishness of Jesus can transform your faith (Ann Spangler & Lois Tverberg)

The Pursuit of Holiness (Jerry Bridges)

For School:

The Struggle to Understand Isaiah as Christian Scripture (Brevard S. Childs)

Old Testament Theology (Gerhard Von Rad)

How to Keep Your Church Out of Court (Stephen P. Chawaga)

Stories From Ancient Canaan (Michael D. Coogan & Mark S. Smith)

Salvation and Sovereignty: A molinist approach (Kenneth Keathley)

The Cross and Salvation: The doctrine of salvation (Bruce Demarest)

The Gospel According to Jesus: What is authentic faith? (John F. MacArthur)

Absolutely Free! A Biblical Reply to Lordship Salvation (Zane C. Hodges)


* = Reread

Looking forward to the books of 2013!

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The Fight For Joy

In Ephesians 4:17-24, Paul is speaking about the Christian life, the life of faith. He tells us to “put off the old self, which belongs to your former manner of life, and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (v. 22-23). Why put off the old self? Verses 4:17-19 tells us that the practices of the old man: 1. darken our understanding, 2. alienate us from the life of God, and 3. make our hearts hard and callous. Simply put, the old-self rips the joy out of life. Its practices wage war against the soul by elevating the temporary over the eternal, the worldly over the godly. If we are to have lasting joy that is not just circumstantial, we must make war on the things that keep us from valuing Jesus above all. We must fight against the things (even the “good” things) that stand in the way of the treasure above all treasures! Just like the merchant that found a pearl of great value and sold everything he had to buy it, so we must also rid ourselves of all the pearls of lesser value in order to experience the superior pleasure that comes from the pearl of great value (Matt. 13:45-46). The fight of faith is a fight to keep Christ first. And, since man was created to “glorify God and enjoy Him forever,” the fight of faith is a fight for joy in God. Why put on the new self, righteousness and holiness? Because that’s how we learned Jesus (v. 21) and the truth is in Jesus (v. 21). The new self draws us ever closer to the image and likeness of Jesus our Lord, the Son of God, the ever-flowing, eternal fountain of joy. Fight for that joy!

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