depression 2

When I started to write about depression, I just figured on it being a one shot deal but I have a number of biblical strategies for posts to come on my white board in order to well fight depression…so there may be a few more. There’s a lot of things that can send us swirling…job situations, family situations, church situations, relational situations…and the list goes on.

Last time I mentioned our need to have an accurate view of God but we also need to have an accurate view of ourselves. When we think of ourselves biblically, we will be less likely to be down in the dumps. Depression will be less likely to get to us. If we have come to faith in Christ, we are in a good place to come out of our downward spin.

There’s been a number of authors who have written about our identity in Christ. A couple of the newer books that come to mind include a little book by Jerry Bridges called “Who Am I?”.  Another author, Tim Challies, hits on it in one of the chapters in his book “Visual Theology”. So what I want to do is simply remind you and remind me of who we are in Christ.

The believer is in Christ. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. (1 Corinthians 15:22 ESV)

The believer is justified. There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1 ESV)

The believer is adopted. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, (John 1:12 ESV)

The believer is secure. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, [39] nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39 ESV)

The believer is free. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. [6] We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. (Romans 6:5-6 ESV)

The believer is unfinished. And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. (Philippians 1:6 ESV)

Now it would be easy to just read through the list and say yeh, yeh, I know, I know…but we shouldn’t stop there. We need to meditate on these truths… to linger over them…to think about them in our head…to chew on them.

If you got home from work and cooked up some ground beef and threw some spaghetti sauce on it, it’d be fine but if you let your ground beef sit in the sauce all day, the beef would take on the taste of the sauce. Our brains are like the meat and the Word is like the sauce. We need to let our minds do the same thing with the truth of God’s Word. That’s why Scripture tells us to marinate our minds in His Word.

Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
[2] but his delight is in the law of the LORD,
and on his law he meditates day and night.
[3] He is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.
(Psalm 1:1-3 ESV)

As we linger over our identity in Christ and see who we are as children of God and as members of His family, the fruit of the Spirit will flow out of that. The pic is of a tree planted by streams of water, producing fruit. Be encouraged in your depression because the Word is our lifeline. Amen? We need to keep preaching the gospel to ourselves about our new identity in Christ.

If you’re not a child of God, your despair can lead you to faith. Psalm 1 goes on to describe a nasty end to the unbeliever.

[4] The wicked are not so,
but are like chaff that the wind drives away.
[5] Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
[6] for the LORD knows the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish.
(Psalm 1:4-6 ESV)

The Bible tells us that we are born far away from the holy God because of our sin…but Jesus Christ came riding in on a rescue mission when He wrapped Himself in human skin and walked planet earth. He lived the perfect life and died a sinner’s death in the place of those who would put their faith in Him. When we turn from our sin (repent) and turn to God (belief or faith) we become part of His family (Mark 1:15). And that my friends can turn the darkest of depressions into the highest of joys!

When we spin out of depression it brings great good to us but more importantly, great glory to One who saved us!

 

 

depression

Have you ever had one of those days that you were looking for a ledge to climb out onto?

I’m reminded of Elijah who had just come off a spiritual peak and then came the crash and burn and he was looking for a ledge. Jezebel had made some threats to him and he ran away crying like a little school girl. (You can read his story in 1 King 17-19.) I think of the Apostle Paul in his most personal letter of 2 Corinthians. In the opening verses he begins from the pit:

[8] For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself.
(2 Corinthians 1:8 ESV)

Was he looking for a ledge? We don’t know, but he was pretty down. He was lower than a rattlesnake’s belly.

I don’t mean to make light of depression…I sometimes battle with it or something like it. I’m not sure what to call it. There is some depression in my family so I really shouldn’t be that surprised. I can have really really big highs and some crushing lows. I’m encouraged to know that one of the best of the best, Charles Spurgeon, dealt with depression.

Now here are some unhelpful solutions:

  1. Some suggest that retail therapy is the answer. Dropping major coin on a new convertible or some pocket change on an iTunes download may cheer you up for a short, but let me tell you, the feelings will still be there when the shine of the new whatever wears off.
  2. I’ve tried binging on food. Most people either have a salty weakness or they’re a sweet freak. I have a double whammy because I can eat myself to the bottom of a bag or chips or enjoy spoon after spoon from PC’s Crackle Whatever Ice Cream over the sink. But at the end of the day, it doesn’t solve any problems and if you do it too much your pants may fit a little tighter and your shirt a little snugger.
  3. Shot gun an energy drink. I’ve never tried this. I watched a co-worker do this one time with a Red Bull. (Well, it really wasn’t shot gunning. A true shot gun involves putting a hole near the bottom of one side of the can, putting your mouth over the hole, lifting the can upright, and then pulling the tab and the liquid gushing into your mouth…really, really fast. You’ll feel bloated for the next hour. We shot gunned Cokes in high school.) I’ve never done it with an energy drink and don’t intend to. You’ll have a short term buzz and feel bloated but the blahs will still be there.

I could go on with the list and I know the last one may have seemed a little silly for you but we try lots of things to ease the pain. We’re looking for relief. We’re looking for hope. We’re looking for peace amid the pain and we sometimes forget to look up.

Psalm 42 shows a guy panting and desperate for God. He was thirsting for God. He’d been crying and he looks back to sweeter times when he was leading the gang to church. He was the one who sang the loudest and the longest. But it seems that he had forgotten God. But he keeps going back to the phrase ‘hope in God.’ Psalm 42 carries over to 43 and he ends that Psalm with the same words:

[5] Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation and my God.
(Psalm 43:5 ESV)

I mentioned the Apostle Paul’s despair in 2 Corinthians but I didn’t mention the verse that followed:

[9] Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. (2 Corinthians 1:9 ESV)

I know when I am in the dumps that I am usually believing my feelings which can be so far from the truth and usually my feelings don’t include an accurate picture of God. They usually include a smaller, punier image that is so far removed from the reality of the One who saved my soul.

So how does a person hope in God or how does a person rely on God? I’d suggest that we rely on Him by reminding ourselves of His true identity. We want to see Him more accurately than we do when we’re in our funk. So I want to leave you with a few verses that have been helpful for me during the dark nights of my soul. The Bible is chucked full of hope-giving, mind-altering, soul-affirming verses like what follows:

[3] Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, [4] even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him… (Ephesians 1:3-4 ESV)

[15] He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. [16] For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. (Colossians 1:15-16 ESV)

[8] For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.
[9] For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
(Isaiah 55:8-9 ESV)

I may not have included your favourite verses. I didn’t even include mine,  other than the first one. I just jotted down some of the ones that came to mind. They’ve been encouraging to my soul. I hope that these verses or ones like them can be used for helping you get a death-grip on depression.

 

 

 

 

 

backflips

I had heard about Echo Dale a couple of months ago but finally got there three weeks back. It reminds me of Springwater back in my ol stomping grounds. It’s a small man-made lake that I enjoyed on a Saturday. The sun was great, it wasn’t particularly crowded, so I grabbed my new beach chair and drank in the heat. I took Bonita and the girls there when they were out for a visit and we found a good spot pretty close to the lifeguard chair.

A young guy swaggered up and started chatting up the lifeguard. He seemed to kinda like her and I heard bits of the conversation and he said something like ‘I can do a backflip.’ And he proceeded to do it right from the ground. He started on his feet, did the flip, and then landed on his feet…right before my eyes. (I would need a wrestling ring to do that kind of thing! Sure…) Anyway, I was impressed, but the lifeguard…not so much. He asked her out that evening and I couldn’t hear her response but her body language was a definite ‘thumbs down’. He walked away strutless.

I wonder how many of us try to do backflips to impress Jesus? We may work really hard at sharing our faith or consistency in Bible reading or kindness or involvement in the church body to gain a couple more brownie points with our King. We may be tempted to try really hard at being good to impress Jesus about our commitment to Him.

The gang from Galatia had a history of doing this kinda thing. Paul said they had turned to a different gospel: really a false gospel. Works were involved in their false gospel and Paul told them that anyone who brought this foreign gospel, should be eternally condemned and then he repeated himself for emphasis sake right in the first chapter. It was a strong warning right out of the gate.

It is so easy to move from salvation by grace to salvation by grace sprinkled with good works.  We are tempted to sing, ‘We owe…we owe…so off to work we go’ but we can never pay the debt off. The price of our sin is too high and our wallets are too flat. Only the precious blood of the Perfect Saviour could pay off the debt…and keep the debt payed off.

Paul asks a rhetorical question when he writes: Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? (Galatians 3:2 ESV)

The answer is crystal clear: hearing with faith. We didn’t do good stuff to earn anything because only the work of the Perfect God-man on the old rugged timbers could pay the debt. We don’t do spiritual backflips to be accepted, to be more accepted, or to stay accepted. We are accepted by grace through faith. (Ephesians 2:8). Period.

I don’t know about you, but when I blow it big time, I put my hand to the plough trying to regain God’s acceptance by working really hard. I want to work my way back. What I need to do is come to Him in repentance and faith and accept His grace…accept His forgiveness. I also need to be mindful of that relationship that will never change (Philippians 1:6, Hebrews 13:4, Jude :24-25).

Paul Washer has said, ‘I have given God countless reasons not to love me [as His child]. None of them has been strong enough to change Him.’

Backflips may be found in the high school gym, at the Olympics, or on the beach to impress a pretty girl, but doing them to try and gain or regain God’s favour or to stay in God’s family is not to be the thinking of a blood bought believer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

mark #3 – the gospel

gospel

I will be perfectly honest here. If you asked me point blank how a person becomes a Christian in my early years of ministry I’m not sure I could give you the specifics. I might have stumbled through the bridge diagram with an unbeliever and I might lead them in a prayer but looking back I’m not necessarily sure if I had it nailed down. I may have talked about the experience of conversion but may not have been able to point out chapter and verse in how a person is rescued from God’s wrath.  

There was a boxed church program a number of years ago that I used as a young pastor and something struck a chord in me when a prayer of faith was said and encouraged to be repeated from the video. It seemed a little fluffy. I can’t remember what exactly was said but it seemed a little light…a little cheap…and it lacked weight.

There was a guy in one of the communities I lived in who had made a profession of faith as a teenager but there was absolutely no evidence at all. In fact he asked one of the guys at our church regularly about God and Christianity from time to time like he didn’t know a thing about it. There was a dear Christian lady that was absolutely convicted that he was saved. It may have been that she was pretty close to this young guy and proximity may have blurred her judgement about his spiritual status… maybe it was wishful thinking.  

 The reality is that if we have a God who is powerful enough to save us, and we do, He is also powerful enough to change us. In fact if He does save us, He will change us…guaranteed (Philippians 1:6). The believer has access to the same power that brought Christ back from the grave but how many have professed salvation and walked away?

The third mark of churches growing towards health is the gospel. In our churches we all get some things wrong, our hope is that they are the less important things. We need to keep checking our practices to see if they line up with the Word…but we can’t get the gospel wrong. It is the foundation to what we believe. The gospel is the incredible news about what Jesus Christ has done to reconcile sinners to a holy God. So here’s my best presentation of the gospel in a few short paragraphs. It’s not new with me but it’s a pretty good presentation that I have used again and again to keep things clear.  

God is holy and this means ‘set apart.’ There was a big thud, a crash and burn, a fall in the garden of Eden when the first couple sinned. Because of that sin, there was a barrier that went up between them and God (Genesis 3, Romans 3:23). Sin broke that relationship and every person ever born since has been born enemies of God and deserving of His wrath…in this lifetime and in the next.  

Man is born far away from God, because of our sin. The first couple’s sin was passed on to us and our sin has put a Grand Canyon-like gap between us and God (Romans 5:12). Man has done lots of things to try and get to God. ‘If I don’t cheat on my taxes…if I don’t cheat on my wife…if I’m a good parent…if I give to charities at Christmas time…if I’m kind to my co-workers….but doing good stuff will never make us acceptable to God. Our good works have no merit. The price of our sin was too high. We are in dire straights on our own and that’s where Christ came in.  

Jesus Christ came as a Mediator between us and the Father. He was the virgin-born, sinless, Son of God, second member of the Trinity, God-man. He died on a wooden cross and rose again three days later. He took the wrath of God on His shoulders that people deserve. The sinless in the place of the sin-saturated, the sin-stained, the sin-soaked. He was our substitute…Jesus in my place. (1 Timothy 2:5, Romans 5:9, 1 Thessalonians 5:9)

A response is what this ear-screaming good news needs.  We need to repent and believe (Mark 1:15). By God’s grace we need to turn from our sin (repentance) and turn to God (belief or faith).

Repentance and belief go together. They are two sides to the same coin and you can’t have the one without the other.  Another way to say it is that you can’t have Jesus as Saviour (belief) without having Him as Lord (repentance). Sometimes the gospel has not been presented fully and called people to believe but not repent…but if belief is genuine there will be repentance… and turning to God and turning from sin will become the rhythm of the believer’s life from their day of salvation forward. The local church body is the place where we’ll spur one another on to repentance and belief…we call that discipleship…and that’s another post down the road.

Some of us are simply fearful that people will not respond if we make the gospel ‘too hard’ but if people respond to an inaccurate presentation of the gospel they are just unbelievers who think they are believers, and are not…and that’s just plain sad. If we are simply faithful in our job of getting the gospel right, our job is done. We can’t make anyone repent and believe. Results are so not our department…they are strictly in Almighty God’s all capable hands.

So let’s just pray for unbelievers, preach the gospel straight, and then see what God does with it…in His time.   

mark 2 – biblical theology

grudem-christianbeliefs

I asked a small group of people, not too long ago, what characteristics of God are overemphasized in our culture. You can likely guess the answers:

God is loving

God is faithful

God is kind

God is merciful

God is patient

All of these things are absolutely true, but if we stop at these attributes, these characteristics, we have an incomplete picture of God. We have a pic of our glorious God fashioned by our culture and not by the Bible…and that’s not a good place to be. It really doesn’t matter what we think God is like unless it’s shaped in our minds by the Word.

A few years ago a rock star preacher had a quote that I really liked that hit on the cultural idea of God but also is pretty bang on in his description of the biblical God. Here’s the quote:

‘You have been told that God is a loving, gracious, merciful, kind, compassionate, wonderful, and good sky fairy who runs a day care in the sky and has a bucket of suckers for everyone because we’re all good people. That is a lie… God looks down and says ‘I hate you, you are my enemy, and I will crush you,’ and we say that is deserved, right and just, and then God says ‘Because of Jesus I will love you and forgive you.’ This is a miracle.’

We are at mark #2 in a series of posts on churches growing towards spiritual health and this mark is biblical theology. Have you ever read a book from a Christian book store or that you picked up at christianbooks.com and things seemed off target? Or maybe you watched a Christian movie that all your friends were talking about and things didn’t seem quite right? Or maybe you listened to a song on a Christian radio station and some of the things you heard were part truths or kinda right but after you heard it, something seemed wrong?  That’s often because in order for products to sell, certain characteristics of God are pumped and some are tossed to the side.

I have a file that has many of God’s attributes on it that I downloaded from challies.com a few years ago and I still pull it out from time to time to check if I’m getting the right picture of God in my head. Let me hit on a few of the attributes of God that you may not have thought about recently.

God is a holy God. He is separated from sin and is committed to His own honour.

The word beauty describes Him. That word sums up all of all His qualities in one word. We sang about His beauty at church on Sunday morning.

God is free. He does whatever He pleases all the time and He is not our butler or our waiter.

God is jealous and that doesn’t make Him an egomaniac. He is always seeking to protect His own honour.

God is wrathful. He intensely hates all sin…more than we know.

We could talk about His eternality…His immutability…His knowledge…His omnipotence…His omnipresence…His perfection…His righteousness...His unity…and we could keep on going.

What sometimes happens is that we read books and passages and listen to sermons that focus on the attributes of God that we like and avoid the ones that we are not interested in or don’t like…and that gives us a faulty picture.

You’ve heard the story of the blind guys and the elephant. One touches the belly and thinks it’s a wall. One grabs his ear and thinks it’s a fan. One thinks the tail is a rope. And they each grab a part of the elephant and are a long way off when they try and describe what the elephant is. We can do that as we think about God.

So how do we give a better biblical picture of God? It takes persistence and patience in so many ways. First, find a church that preaches expositionally (see last week’s post) and stay with them and you will see all the characteristics of God as you cover books verse by verse and chapter by chapter or find a preacher on-line that preaches that way. Secondly, read the Bible verse by verse. I’m not suggesting starting in Genesis and slogging right through to Revelation because I know many lose their steam by Leviticus and run out of gas in Numbers. What I am suggesting is finding a plan where you can cover all of the books of the Bible in at least a year. Thirdly, I’d suggest picking up a book like Wayne Grudem’s ‘Systematic Theology’ or if you’re a novice in this department, I recommend Grudem and Grudem’s ‘Christian Beliefs’, a little book that he wrote with his son.

If you follow through on these steps, over time your ideas about God will be shaped more and more by the Word and less by our culture. Slowly, verse by verse, chapter by chapter, book by book, year after year, your mind will be better in tune with God’s characteristics. We will never arrive in our understand of God in this lifetime (I’ve still got lots to learn) but our perspective on Him will become more accurate and we will be better able to worship Him more with our minds…and with our hearts…but that’s another post for another time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

mark 1 – expositional preaching

There was a good book that was on sale a couple of weeks back for a buck ninety-nine on Kindle. It’s called ‘The Most Misused Verses in the Bible’. It included chapters on the following verses:

[13] I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:13 ESV)

[7:1] “Judge not, that you be not judged. (Matthew 7:1 ESV)

[11] For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope(Jeremiah 29:11 ESV)

[20] For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”
(Matthew 18:20 ESV)

Those are a few verses that you may have taken out of context…I know I have. I remember being tossed on a sea biscuit that was pulled behind my father-in-law’s boat and I repeated Philippians 4:13 over and over again. Afterwards, I told him the verse I had been quoting and he said he thought I was taking it out of context. I didn’t really like his answer but he was absolutely right! Expositional preaching helps us fight against extracting verses from the context to claim them to mean something that they don’t.

I’m launching into a series of posts on what some marks are common for churches moving towards health and expositional preaching is the foundational one. All the other marks that we look at like a biblical view of conversion, a biblical view of church leadership, and a biblical view of discipleship and church discipline all flow out of expositional preaching. It’s the biggie and if you and I can get this one under our belts, all the other ones will fall into place, if not today, eventually they will, over time.

The key thing about expositional preaching is that the preacher makes the key point of the text to be the key point of the sermon. The preacher starts in :1 chapter 1 of a book and continues on ’til the final verse. It’s not rocket science. When those who are called to preach and teach realize that there are going to be judged more strictly by God (James 3:1), they’ll want to get their teaching and preaching as close to the bullseye as possible and expositional preaching helps us do that. We want to say what the Spirit of God was saying when men wrote what the Spirit prompted them to write when the Bible was first recorded. We’re less concerned about being creative or having all of our points start with the same letter but we want to say what God is saying in the text. We want our teaching to expose the people of God to the Word of God.

Ezra had a high view of Scripture.

 [8] They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading. (Nehemiah 8:8 ESV)

So did Josiah.

[30] And the king went up to the house of the LORD, with all the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem and the priests and the Levites, all the people both great and small. And he read in their hearing all the words of the Book of the Covenant that had been found in the house of the LORD.
(2 Chronicles 34:30 ESV)

And Moses did too.

[19] Now obey my voice; I will give you advice, and God be with you! You shall represent the people before God and bring their cases to God, [20] and you shall warn them about the statutes and the laws, and make them know the way in which they must walk and what they must do. (Exodus 18:19-20 ESV)

I’ve heard parts of sermon series on-line revolving around the hip, the shiny, the temporary, the dorky, and the faddish. Sermon series around board games, 50 shades of something-or-other, and the latest ‘Christian’ movie. There is no doubt in my mind that most pastors have good intentions when they assemble a sermon series like these. They want to gain an ear so they find something popular culturally and run with it.

But Jesus said that man lives on every word that comes from the mouth of God (Matthew 4:4) so preachers want to do all they can to cover as much of the Word as they can deeply, over time. When Jesus prayed He wanted us to be sanctified with the truth from the Word (John 17:17) and it would be wrong to shield our people from words that are foundational for their growth even if they might sting for a while.

What if pastors put their heads down and ignored the trends and continued to preach the Word of God, verse by verse, chapter by chapter, book by book, year after year? What would happen if we gave up on the novel and stuck to the Word of God? What if God’s people never settled for something other than the Word of God faithfully taught?

I believe that as pastors faithfully exposit the Scriptures that the people will grow…faith comes from hearing (Romans 10:17). You may not pack the place, you may have people leave, and you may have people who sit on the pew frustrated…but as they taste the pure Word of God being preached faithfully week after week, they’ll gain an appetite for it over time. As they keep hearing the Word, they’ll glory in the gospel, they’ll conform to the image of Christ, and they’ll be more apt to share their faith as they’re awed by the Saviour.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

summer reading and blogging

IMG_0642

I’ve come across a number of bloggers and authors over the last little while who have mentioned their summer reading plans. Some are of the lighter fiction nature. (I have a John Grisham book that I still haven’t got around to reading…but some will say that all of his books are the same, anyway). Some of the lists also include some of the meatier writings. The theological books have had such a long term impact on my life and I keep them on my shelf so I can go bring them out for reference from time to time.

Let me give you a list of books that I have been most helped by over the last few years and give you a brief description of each one.

Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem – It is a twelve hundred pager that I picked up over ten years ago because it was promoted at a pastor’s conference. It was 40 bucks at the time but it was well worth it. I have a copy on my tablet and my daughters each got a copy when they graduated grade eight. It includes a clear and joyful presentation of all of the key doctrines of the Christian faith. The edges of mine are worn from constant use. I doubt that I go a month without turning back to it.

Ashamed of the Gospel by John MacArthur – This freebie came to me during a time when some people I knew were trying to improve on the glorious gospel of the Bible (If you didn’t know, you can’t). It pointed out some spiritual wobbling in my teaching and preaching, and it set me straight.

Unpacking Forgiveness by Chris Brauns – This is a tool that gives you a thoroughly biblical, and complete understanding of the concept of forgiveness and some practical steps in how to walk it out. And to quote a line from ‘The Princess Bride’ and applying it to the word forgiveness: ‘You keep using that word, I do not think it means what you think it means”.  It is a word that often gets thrown around cheaply and we need a better understanding through the lens of Scripture. I’ve read it more than once…and I rarely do that with a book.

The Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul – God is not our buddy and we have lost the holy other-ness of God. R..C.’s description of his encounter with a holy God in chapter one is worth the price of the book. Sproul puts God in His glorious place and us in our humble place…where we both belong. I’ve read it, taught from it, studied it on-line, and I found it in the church library yesterday and started reading it again. I need this.

The Prodigal Church by Jared Wilson – I came across Jared Wilson’s blog a number of years ago. He was a small church pastor at the time and appreciated his blog and books for that fact. He is also a guy who says what he says, well. From a writers standpoint, I appreciate that. This book does an evaluation of the North American church and asks some good probing questions about it, in light of Scripture.

Famine in the Land by Steve Lawson – Spurgeon said ‘A time will come when instead of shepherds feeding the sheep, the church will have clowns entertaining the goats.’ Lawson’s writings are essentially a little book about that quote. It’s confrontational about the spiritual food that pastors are prepping for the flock of God. It challenges pastor and members to settle for nothing less that the Word of God explained.

9 Marks of a Healthy Church – This first edition of Mark Dever’s book first came out in 2004. I think I picked it up around that time and have not put it down. I have thought through the 9 marks and continue to think through them. I have tried to apply them to every church I’ve served at, whether as a pastor or as a member. It’s not rocket science and it’s not sexy but it’s a deliberate call back to some simple, key biblical marks that many a drifting local church has forgotten.

I wrote on the nine marks shortly after my blog began two years ago. Some groups in our church are working through these principles throughout the summer time and the plan is to offer this teaching in the small group setting in the Fall. I plan on walking through each one of the nine principles in blog form over the next 9 weeks (or ten or eleven!!).

The North American church is adrift. We have bought into the shiny, the temporary, the faddish, the goofy, and the manipulative. This book has done wonders for getting my head back in the game of what a healthy, biblical church looks like.

In light of that, I encourage you to join me for the next nine posts. It may affirm what you already believe. It may remind you of what you once believed and need to re-believe. It also may blow the whistle because you’re offside about your beliefs and practices relating to the local church.