Saturday Links

Links for your weekend reading:

He Will Hold Me Fast

Yesterday, I began to tell you about cancer's toll on my body and soul. Today, I want to tell you more about God's work in my soul, even in the most tempestuous times.

5 Benefits Of Having A Challenging Teen

God causes all things – even a teenager’s sin – to work together for our good. Here are 5 ways.

20 Ways to Be Refreshing in the Local Church

How do you refresh the hearts of the saints? Here are twenty practical ways.

When Leaders Are Too Individualistic

A leader needs to accomplish more than he did as an individual contributor, not less. And that’s the precise reason he needs to stop acting like an individual contributor.

Advice to Young Pastors from David Powlison, Danny Akin, Tim Keller

In addition to knowing Scripture and sound doctrine, what should young pastors today be studying? Is your answer any different from what you would’ve recommended 20 years ago, or even 10 years ago?

Four Reasons Why Some Preachers Get Better and Others Don't

If someone has a burning calling, teachable spirit, passionate heart, and reckless abandon to pay the price to preach well, then not even the limitation of his own background, personality, or natural talents will keep him from preaching the Word of God with power.

How To Simplify Your Life In 5 Minutes A Day

Below are five simple ways to simplify your life so you can focus on what is most essential.

Three Avenues to Joy

When I look back at what I’ve experienced in church planting these past two or so years, three joys stand out:

  1. The joy of risk — There’s something joyful about sticking your neck out and risking for the sake of the kingdom. It’s far more joyful than playing it safe. I don’t think I’d want to go back.
  2. The joy of evangelism — My best friends are increasingly outside of the church. I am intentionally cultivating relationships in my community and being present in my neighborhood.
  3. The joy of reliance — I am learning new levels of dependence on God. I am also much more aware of my reliance on other people for prayer support, as well as practical support.

If you want to ask me what I love about church planting, these three joys would rank near the top.

Here’s the thing: you don’t need to be a church planter to experience these three joys. Sadly, I pastored many years without experiencing them as much as I am now, but they where there for the taking.

Risk. Evangelize. Rely. I’m finding that these are three avenues of joy available to all of us for the asking.

God Wants Us to Want

I used to think that God was happy with our grudging obedience. Do the right thing, grit your teeth, and everything is good with God. I’ve been increasingly learning that God doesn’t want us to do the right thing so much as he wants us to want to do the right thing. Big difference.

Two examples:

Peter writes to elders in churches that are experiencing some suffering. “Shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight,” he writes, “not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you” (1 Peter 5:2). There’s a world of difference between elders who serve because they have to, and elders who serve because they want to. God, Peter says, desires the latter. God wants elders who want to serve him, even under the pressure of suffering.

Paul writes to the Corinthians to ask for money for the poor Christians in Jerusalem. He doesn’t tell them to dig deep until it hurts. “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7). There it is again, something to avoid: compulsion. God wants our willingness, our eagerness, and our cheerfulness.

C.S. Lewis was insightful when he wrote:

A perfect man would never act from a sense of duty; he’d always want the right thing more than the wrong one. Duty is only a substitute for love (of God and other people) like a crutch which is a substitute for a leg. Most of us need the crutch at times; but of course it is idiotic to use the crutch when our own legs (our own loves, tastes, habits, etc) can do the journey on their own.

The perfect man or woman acts not out of duty, but of delight. We're all in process, but this is God’s desire for us.

God wants to change us not at the level of our obedience, but at the level of our affections. God wants us to want.

Saturday Links

Links for your weekend reading:

Be Yourself in Prayer

Prayer is naturally one of the most spiritual things we can do as believers, so we don’t need to add anything extra to over-spiritualize it. We can simply come as deeply joyful sons and daughters with reverent awe that we have been rescued by a God who loves us and hears us.

Why Your Church Is Closer to Planting Than You Probably Think

I want to help us understand that church planting involves a series of small steps that are not beyond the grasp of churches.

Becoming an Influential Leader

These principles are important, even if you are not in a formal leadership role in your organization, because leading where you are involves more than just doing your work.

5 Good Words of Pastoral Advice That Stuck

I’ve heard a lot of good words on ministry and ministry life, and while a lot has been good, a few choice bits of wisdom have stuck with me since I heard them. Here are just five.

The Importance of Being a Pastor/Theologian

I believe that there are several reasons why God uses pastor/theologians in special ways. Here are my five theoretical observations.

Why Did God Allow Satan to Harm Job and His Family?

So what should we say in response to the question, “Why did God allow Satan to harm Job”?

Sexuality and Silence

I’ve heard rumors of a silent trend beginning to take hold in some city churches I mean a trend towards silence. Without knowing any of the behind-the-scenes discussions that had taken place, what would I say?

Thoughts on Sexual Temptation

“Many people have asked me if I have ever looked at pornography,” writes William Struthers in his book Wired for Intimacy. “When I tell them that I find many things on television or on newsstands pornographic, they frown…Yes, I have viewed pornography because it is everywhere. You cannot get away from it; if you don’t view it intentionally, you will unintentionally.”

Here are ten thoughts on living in a world of sexual temptation as guys:

One: Porn is everywhere. Struthers is right. The reason why his statement is so shocking is that we’ve become desensitized to the amount of explicit material present we see everyday.

Two: Society is conflicted about this. One recent article on the leaked Jennifer Lawrence nude photos illustrates this. To the extent that we buy into culture’s views on sex, we will be conflicted and confused as well.

Three: Sexual temptation for men is a given. It’s safe to say that if you are a male, you will face sexual temptation. This isn’t to say that you are actively succumbing to that temptation, but it’s safe to say that it's a battle. We shouldn't be surprised.

Four: Sexual temptation is powerful, but it often goes deeper than we realize. It’s not just about the sex. It’s usually a sign that something else is off. The acronym HALT is helpful: temptation can be acute when we’re hungry, angry, lonely, or tired. “In the middle of trouble, when you are in the heat of the battle, you will run somewhere for refuge. You will run somewhere for rest, comfort, peace, encouragement, wisdom, healing, and strength…” (Paul David Tripp, Dangerous Calling). Many men run to sex for refuge.

Five: Pastors aren’t exempt. As Tripp wrote in Dangerous Calling, pastors are nothing more than people in the midst of their own sanctification.

Six: Most men struggle alone. Men feel a deep sense of shame about their struggle with this temptation, and therefore keep it private. The problem: we cannot find a private solution to this private problem.

Seven: Secrecy and shame are one of Satan’s greatest tools to keep us in bondage to sexual sin. Sin is like mushrooms: it grows in the dark.

Eight: When men reach out for help, they often reach out too late — after the temptation, and not in the middle of it.

Nine: Shame is lifted when we encounter God’s grace. “The gospel declares that there is nothing that could ever be uncovered about you and me that hasn’t already been covered” (Tripp).

Ten: The key to this struggle is not willpower, but a radical encounter with God’s grace in community. There are many practical steps to take, but they begin with ceasing to struggle in secrecy and in your own power. “The tide will begin to turn in your struggle against pornography when you begin to grasp forgiving grace and transforming grace, as you learn to repent,” writes Heath Lambert in Finally Free: Fighting for Purity with the Power of Grace. He writes:

A living, breathing relationship with the Savior of the world will drive porn out of your life quicker than anything else. When you turn your eyes to Jesus, there isn't room for anything else in your heart because he fills it up. When you open the blinds of a pitch-black room, the sunlight drives away the darkness.

There are many good books on this subject. Finally Free and Samson and the Pirate Monks are ones I highly recommend. I also hear good things about Wired for Intimacy.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this important topic.