A Prayer by John Stott

I'm indebted to John Stott for all that he's taught me through his books. The prayer in his short but excellent little book Your Mind Matters: The Place of the Mind in the Christian Life grabbed me over 20 years ago and is my prayer today as well:

I pray earnestly that God will raise up today a new generation of Christian apologists or Christian communicators, who will combine an absolute loyalty to the biblical gospel and an unwavering confidence in the power of the Spirit with a deep and sensitive understanding of the contemporary alternatives to the gospel; who will relate the one to the other with freshness, authority, and relevance; and who will use their minds to reach other minds for Christ.

Update: I posted this quote from Stott shortly after the news came out that he had passed away.

God and NEXUS

I saw the ads for the NEXUS trusted traveler program. Apply for a card, pay a fee, attend a brief interview, and bam! You're across the border in no time. As someone who crosses the border fairly often, it sounded good. I pictured laughing as I zoomed by the line-ups at the border, or checking in at the airport minutes before my flight.

I applied, and was conditionally accepted. I had just one step left: an interview at the airport with Canadian and American agents. I showed up at my interview time.

I was a few minutes early, so I played around with the practice unit that teaches you how to get your eyes scanned. No problem. I've seen this in the movies. I pressed the appropriate buttons. It told me, loudly, to stand father away. I did. It told me to stand back some more. I did. It told me that it still couldn't find my retinas. I decided to sit down instead.

My name was called. "Did you bring your conditional acceptance letter?" On the way to the interview, I glanced at the notes telling me what to bring and realized that I'd forgotten this required letter. "No," I said. Things weren't going well.

The interview process involves a lot of waiting, and a lot of listening to other people. I heard people asking questions. "You're not getting off to a good start!" I heard one agent yell at someone else. I heard a woman give her maiden name. "What?" the agent said. "You never gave us that name on the application. What else are you hiding from me?" Another woman came in to submit her change of address. I heard an agent yell at her for not coming in soon enough.

I tend to become compliant in situations like this, unlike my brother, for instance, who would have started waving his arms and asking to speak to a supervisor. I was pretty sure NEXUS has an office for people they don't like, and I didn't want to see it.

I made it through most of the interview. As I was nearing the end, an agent asked me what I knew about the program. "You guys don't mess around," I said. He nodded, and told me that it's a zero tolerance program. One slip up and I'm out. We finished, and he gave me brochures to read. On Monday I received my NEXUS card, which I proudly carry in my wallet. I'm sure it's going to save me some time. And it's kind of cool.

I know preachers tend to over-spiritualize things, but I began thinking this week about if God ran things like NEXUS. I'm pretty sure that if God ran things this way, I'd forget important documents. I'd never manage to get the stupid retina scans working right. I'd be terrified of slipping up and falling short of the zero tolerance policy.

I was thinking about how glad I am that God's standards are lower, but then I realized they aren't. God's standards are even higher. The only difference is that the requirements have been met on my behalf by someone else. The gospel is the ultimate trusted traveler program with a zero tolerance policy, but because Christ has met those requirements, my noncompliance doesn't get me kicked out. That's pretty incredible.

As I say, preachers read too much into things. But every time I use my NEXUS card, I'm going to think about how God runs a tighter ship than NEXUS, but how grace has made a way for my approval.

A Pastor Who Reads His Journals

I'm guest blogging for Trevin Wax today. Trevin is one of my favorite bloggers, so it's a privilege to be able to post there.

When our doctor moved, we could have followed her. Instead, we stayed with the new doctor that took her place. A friend of mine said this about the new doctor: “He’s a doctor who reads his journals.” I like that. I want a doctor who goes home at night and continues to read and learn.

I can imagine that there are days that the doctor would rather watch a game than read another journal. Maybe he does some days. I can also imagine that there are competing journals for doctors with articles about “Ten Skills for Growing Your Practice” and “Team Dynamics.” But I’m glad that my doctor reads articles about chronic Achilles tendinopathy and Enteric fever. I want a doctor who reads his journals.

Pastors, like doctors, face the temptation not to study. There’s little short-term payoff for study. Nobody in my church is begging me to read Calvin’s Institutes or John Frame’s The Doctrine of the Word of God. In fact, they roll their eyes if I talk about these books too much. They have no idea how much they need me to read them.

Read the rest.