Wisdom from Proverbs

Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment. 

–Proverbs 18:1

People who isolate themselves often do so because of some rejection or offense, or perceived rejection or offense, they have experienced. Think of those estranged from family members, from friends, or from the church. Feeling hurt and sad makes us want to go it alone, to forsake the cost of connection because connection to anyone or anything risks the potential of pain and loss. You can’t even buy a goldfish without the possibility it will die unexpectedly.

When we are hurt and turn inwards to isolation, it feels safe and protected. What can hurt us when we’re alone? Who can question our wisdom when there are no contradicting opinions? It seems wise and conservative. But Solomon points out it’s nothing of the kind. It’s actually a bold rebellion against sound judgment. When you make decisions with no one’s input but your own, chances are your selfish desires are driving. No man is an island, and the one who thinks he is will be more convinced of his own wisdom even as he sets himself against the very thing.

As he says elsewhere, in a multitude of counsellors there is safety.

On the Mars Hill Meltdown

Mars Hill Church announced on Friday that it will dissolve and the 13 remaining campuses will either become particular churches or close. This is great news because, as the announcement states, ministry will be local–local decisions, local missions.

Where else would ministry take place? Can you worship globally? Well, you can bless someone on the other side of the world through your local worship, but only if that worship actually occurs where you are. Howdy, neighbor. But when the local church is controlled by central headquarters, and that authority is concentrated among three guys, your local impact is hamstrung.

There is nothing wrong with a mega church, but where you have a mega church, you better have mega elders. Paul appointed elders in every church, and he told Titus to do the same (Acts 14:23; Titus 1:5). This really ought to be the bottleneck of church growth. It’s not hard to get a lot of people in the building–dude, did you hear the band? But it takes time to develop elders–disciples who make disciples. God can grow men up quickly, but that timetable isn’t attached to the logistics of the next campus.

An elder “watch[es] over your souls, as those who will have to give an account” (Heb. 13:17). He’s not so much a bookkeeper, board-member, or vision-setter, though all those things are good in their place. He’s a shepherd who knows the sheep by name. How do we know this? Because an account will be given, and souls are counted for by ones. When Jesus asks you to tell him about Johnny, you better know who Johnny is.

A friend of mine who understands church leadership met with Driscoll when the church was first blowing up, I think when it was around 800 people. At that time there were three elders. It became apparent that my friend’s idea of what an elder does, and what Driscoll thought one does were worlds apart. He was really encouraged by the growth, whereas he should have been terrified.

There is currently a pig-pile building on top of Driscoll and all sorts of rotten fruit flying his direction. I don’t want any part of that and am grateful for his years of ministry and am disappointed at the loss of such an incredible preacher in Seattle. Anyone who doesn’t feel that loss should revisit Philippians 1:15-18 until they do: “Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.”

It would be a good time for Mark to become presbyterian and submit to godly leaders, but the same call goes out to all Christians. “Remember your leaders, those who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith” (Heb. 13:7). The most important thing about your church isn’t the programs or buildings or whether all your chums are there. The question is do they have qualified leadership, and can I know those leaders in order to imitate their faith and way of life?

Many who had bad experiences in the church struggle to connect again. It’s easy to be critical of the church. It’s easy to replace it with your friends, your small group, your bonfire and busy weekend, with individual daily devotions or whatever thing keeps you on spiritual life-support. But Jesus gave us Word and Sacrament in the local church that gathers on the Lord’s Day to worship Him and serve one another. May every former Mars Hill campus surge with life and the lost sheep of house of the new Israel be found.

Deeper than Tears

“Any alleged Christianity which fails to express itself in gaiety, at some point, is clearly spurious. The Christian is gay, not because he is blind to injustice and suffering, but because he is convinced that these, in the light of the divine sovereignty, are never ultimate. He is convinced that the unshakable purpose in the divine rule in all things, whether of heaven or earth (Eph. 1:10). Though he can be sad, and often is perplexed, he is never really worried. The well-known humor of the Christian is not a way of denying the tears, but rather a way of affirming something which is deeper than tears.”

-Elton Trueblood

No Such “Thing” as Grace

This by way of Tony Reinke:

“There is nothing between the person of the Lord Jesus and the person of the believer as that union and communion develops and grows. I think this is a very important thing for us to grasp. Let me put it the way I sometimes put it: The union with Christ we have is not that we somehow or another share His grace. Because – follow me carefully – there actually is no ‘thing’ as grace. That actually is a Medieval Roman Catholic teaching. There is a ‘thing’ called grace that can be separated from the person of Jesus Christ. It is something Jesus Christ won on the Cross and He can bestow it on you. And there are at least seven ways it can be bestowed on you and they all, as it happens, turn out to be in the hands of the church. And you can have this kind of grace, and this kind of grace, and this kind of grace … There is no such ‘thing’ as grace! Grace is not some appendage to His being. Nor is it some substance that flows from us: ‘Let me give you grace.’ All there is is the Lord Jesus Himself. And so when Jesus speaks about us abiding in Him and He abiding in us – however mysterious it may be, mystical in that sense – it is a personal union. Do not let us fail because of the abuse of expressions. Do not let us fail to understand that, at the end of the day, actually Christianity is Christ because there isn’t anything else. There is no atonement that somehow can be detached from who the Lord Jesus is. There is no grace that can be attached to you transferred from Him. All there is is Christ and your soul.”

-Sinclair Ferguson on John 15 at the Banner of Truth Ministers’ Conference in Grantham, PA this Spring.

All Hat, No Cattle

Sin is a punishment as well as a disease. It is false pleasure, and what truer misery is there than false joy? It is like the pleasure of the man who receives much money, but it is all counterfeit, or the pleasure of the man who dreams of a feast and awakes so hungry and vexed that he could eat his dream. For this reason sin should be doubly hated, because it is ugly and false, because it defiles and mocks.

–Ralph Venning, The Sinfulness of Sin, p. 209-10

God the Reality, not an abstraction

“What do we have today? We have the god of the philosophers, and the god of the philosophers is not the sovereign, transcendent, living God, he is an abstraction. . . .  God is not a philosophic concept. God is, and he alone is. He is life, and the author of all life and being. And they argue about him with their pipes in their mouths, and talk about him as if he is a term that they can handle and bandy about. You will never have revival in such conditions. God, I say, is not an abstaction, someone to be aruged with, and fitted into our schemes. Philosophy has always been the curse in the life of the Church, and it is the curse today.”

–Martin Lloyd-Jones

To Another Generation

One temptation of middle and old age is be frustrated with not being able to do what you once could. Even in middle adulthood, our joints creak, our bodies begin to weaken and things don’t work as well as they used to. But more than the physical, people miss the opportunities that have passed–career, family, and on and on. The older we get and the faster life goes, the more we wish we had another opportunity to do or redo the things from the past.

So what is the point of playing the back nine when it seems like every hole is harder and our game duller? The Psalmist writes:

17 O God, from my youth you have taught me,
    and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds.
18 So even to old age and gray hairs,
    O God, do not forsake me,
until I proclaim your might to another generation,
    your power to all those to come.
19 Your righteousness, O God,
    reaches the high heavens.
You who have done great things,
    O God, who is like you?
20 You who have made me see many troubles and calamities
    will revive me again;
from the depths of the earth
    you will bring me up again.
21 You will increase my greatness
    and comfort me again.

-Psalm 71:17-21

He sees the gifts of God still work after decades–from youth God taught him, and he still proclaims His deeds. And what is his hope? To keep doing it, to live long enough to “proclaim your might to another generation” (v18). We are used to hearing about the generation gap, the relational distance between parents and children. But it takes two to drop the baton–the one handing it and the one taking it.

The Psalmist is talking about the hand-off, and he is eager to be around, through all his troubles, with grey, and probably less, hair. His vision is to be faithful and full of hope and to leave that to the young of another generation. This is the greatest inheritance one can hope to leave. From this perspective, old age isn’t our decline but our biggest harvest. The one who sows sparingly will reap the same, but the one who sows abundantly over a lifetime goes out with a bang.

All Things to All People

“If we are to deal with people where they are (whether they can express their position in a sophisticated way or not), we have got to have enough genuine love for them and concern, as a human being, that we would take seriously what they are preoccupied with. We tend to give a person a prepackaged answer instead of having the compassion of Christ, which is to take the person where they are and actually step into their world in order to talk in a  meaningful way to them. And if that world is that of the Philippian jailer, good; if it is that of the one who believes truth is truth, good; but if it is the person who is lost in relativity, we can give them the Christian answers there as well.”

Francis Schaeffer, The God Who is There