Wednesday, January 29, 2014

A Short Note from Doug & Margaret Nichols

1. Living to the Glory of God! Margaret and I would appreciate prayer as we work on our schedule for this year and take care of much paper and legal work (as well as much writing and sermon study) over the next several weeks. This Sunday I speak at Living Hope Bible Church in Issaquah, WA, and would value your prayer.

Perhaps you can join us as I speak on "Five Steps to Living to the Glory of God in 2014 and Beyond!"

2. The following is taken from Morning and Evening, by Charles H. Spurgeon (revised and edited by Alistair Begg, and slightly adapted by Doug Nichols)

“And from His fullness we have all received.” – John 1:16

"These words tell us that there is a fullness of Christ. There is a fullness of essential Deity, for “in Him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily” (Col. 2:9). There is a fullness of perfect personhood, for in Him, bodily, that Godhead was revealed. There is a fullness of atoning efficacy in His blood, for “the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 Jn. 1:7). There is a fullness of justifying righteousness in His life, for “there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1). There is a fullness of divine prevalence in His plea, for “He is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them” (Heb. 7:25). There is a fullness of victory in His death, for through death He destroyed him that had the power of death–that is, the devil. There is a fullness of efficacy in His resurrection from the dead, for by it “He has caused us to be born again to a living hope” (1 Pet. 1:3). There is a fullness of triumph in His ascension, for “when He ascended on high He led a host of captives, and He gave gifts to men” (Eph. 4:8).

"There is a fullness of blessings of every sort and shape; a fullness of grace to pardon, of grace to regenerate, of grace to sanctify, of grace to preserve, and of grace to perfect. There is a fullness at all times; a fullness of comfort in affliction, a fullness of guidance in prosperity. A fullness of every divine attribute–of wisdom, of power, of love; a fullness that it is impossible to completely explore, “For in Him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell” (Col. 1:19). What a glorious fullness for all to receive! Come, believer, and get all your need supplied; ask largely, and you will receive largely, for this “fullness” is inexhaustible, and is abundantly available in Jesus who is Immanuel - God with us!"

Monday, January 27, 2014

Family Packs and Ships 290 Study Bibles to the Philippines

God recently provided funds to ship 290 Life Application Study Bibles (LASBs) for needy pastors and Christian workers in the Philippines. Each $60 Study Bible was purchased, packed and shipped for only $14 each! This Study Bible is provided for pastors as they complete a three-hour seminar on the use of the Bible. These Bibles were packed by volunteers Doug and Kim Craig and children in Seattle in five large heavy boxes toward the goal of 6000 Bibles this year. Perhaps you would consider helping with $14 for one LASB study bible or even $770 to ship a box of 55 (value of $3300). As the Lord leads this would make an excellent missions project for your family, Bible study, Sunday School class or church.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Jet Lag Bad but The Lord is Good!

Margaret and I have recently returned from two months of ministry in the Philippines. Soon after arrival in Seattle, I was asked to travel and speak in church missions service near San Diego, California. I managed to stay awake, by God's grace, during a full Sunday of meetings. Tomorrow we drive to Vancouver, BC, Canada, for their annual Missions Fest attended by up to 30,000 people over the weekend. Margaret and I enjoy reading Charles Spurgeon's Morning Devotional.

Let me share from this morning Jan 23 (slightly adapted):
"I have exalted one chosen out of the people." --Psalm 89:19 
"Why was Christ chosen out of the people?  Was it not that He might be able to be our brother, in the tie of kindred blood? Oh, what relationship there is between Christ and the believer! The believer can say, ‘I have a Brother in heaven; I may be poor, but I have a Brother who is rich, and is a King, and will He allow me to be in need while He is on His throne? Oh, no! He loves me; He is my Brother.’ Believer, wear this thought, like a necklace of diamonds, around the neck of your memory. He is a Brother born for adversity, treat Him as such.

"Christ was also chosen out of the people that He might know our needs and sympathize with us. ‘He was tempted in all points like as we are, yet without sin.’ In all our sorrows we have His sympathy. Temptation, pain, disappointment, weakness, weariness, poverty--He knows them all, for He has experienced all. Remember this, Christian, and let it comfort you. However difficult and painful your road, it is marked by the footsteps of thy Savior; and even when you reach the dark valley of the shadow of death, and the deep waters of the swelling Jordan, you wilt find His footprints there. In all places wherever we go, He has been our forerunner; each burden we have to carry, has once been laid on the shoulders of Immanuel. So take courage!"

I trust this encourages you today!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Spurgeon's Standards for Conversion and Membership

by Jeremy Walker

Spurgeon was adamant that the door to the church be well-guarded, and had a carefully-developed system whereby converts applying for membership were graciously but robustly assessed by elders, himself, and the whole congregation. He did not rush people into professions of faith, baptism and church membership (indeed, he had some distaste for the inquiry room as potentially exerting a pressure beyond that of the Holy Spirit's work on the heart of a sinner).

At two separate points in the book, Nettles shows how - at times of particular evangelistic endeavour, as well as during the more regular procedures of church life - the saints were encouraged to make a thoughtful and scriptural assessment of a man's standing with God and prospective relationship with the local church.

With regard to conversion, counselors of inquirers looked for three pivotal evidences of true conversion. One focused on the nature of the individual's perception of his sin and dependence on the work of Christ. Did the inquirer seem to have a clear and distinct and abiding sense of the seriousness of his offense toward God, a healthy remorse for that sin, a desire to turn from it and cease such offensive behavior toward God; did he also recognize that God was willing to receive him through the atonement made by Christ and through that alone? Second, did the present determination of the person's soul indicate a clear intention to live for Christ and overcome the opposing forces of the world; did he feel the urgency of seeing others escape from the wrath to come? Three, with a full knowledge of his own unworthiness and his full dependence on God, did the person have some knowledge of the doctrines of grace and that mercy was the fountain from which his salvation flowed? 

Then, with a great deal of common ground, here is the expectation for church membership:

Arnold Dallimore's examination of this book [called the Inquirers {sic} Books, in which interviewing elders recorded their comments] showed that the entire interview process centered on the determination of three things. One, is there clear evidence of dependence on Christ for salvation? This involved a clear and felt knowledge of sin and a deep sense of the necessity of the cross. Two, does the candidate exhibit a noticeable change of character including a desire for pleasing God and a desire for others to believe the gospel? Three, is there some understanding of, with a submission to, the doctrines of grace? The only effective antithesis to merit salvation, in Spurgeon's view, was a knowledge of utter dependence on divine mercy. 

Perhaps, in our day, we are not always sure what we should be looking for in the heart and life of men and women who profess faith in the Lord Jesus. Far too many churches, perhaps feeling the pressure of numbers or some other force, are inclined to drop their standards or blur their distinctions, if they have them in the first place. In the face of that, these standards seem to me to be thoroughly biblical, genuinely gracious, and appropriately robust. They combine doctrinal understanding, experimental religion, and principled obedience - a religion of head, heart and hand, if you will. If more congregations embraced a righteous assessment of this sort with regard to professing converts and applicants for membership, I am persuaded that they would be spiritually healthier places than they too often are.

How to Read the Whole Bible in 2014

By Justin Taylor 
Do you want to read the whole Bible?

The average person reads 200 to 250 words per minute; there are about 775,000 words in the Bible; therefore it takes less than 10 minutes a day to read the whole Bible in a year.

(For those who like details, there’s a webpage devoted to how long it takes to read each book of the Bible [2]. And if you want a simple handout that has every Bible book with a place to put a check next to every chapter, gohere [3].)

Audio Bibles are usually about 75 hours long, so you can listen to it in just over 12 minutes a day.
But the point is not merely to read the whole thing to say you’ve done it or to check it off a list. The Bible itself never commands that we read the Bible through in a year. What is commends is knowing the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27) and meditating or storing or ruminating upon God’s self-disclosure to us in written form (Deut. 6:7; 32:46; Ps. 119:11, 15, 23, 93, 99; 143:5).

As Joel Beeke writes [4]:
As oil lubricates an engine, so meditation facilitates the diligent use of means of grace (reading of Scripture, hearing sermons, prayer, and all other ordinances of Christ), deepens the marks of grace (repentance, faith, humility), and strengthens one’s relationships to others (love to God, to fellow Christians, to one’s neighbors at large).

Thomas Watson put it like this: “A Christian without meditation is like a solider without arms, or a workman without tools. Without meditation the truths of God will not stay with us; the heart is hard, and the memory is slippery, and without meditation all is lost.”

So reading the Bible cover to cover is a great way to facilitate meditation upon the whole counsel of God.

But a simple resolution to do this is often an insufficient. Most of us need a more proactive plan [5].

One option is to get a Bible that has a plan as part of its design. For example, Crossway offers the ESV Daily Reading Bible [6] (based on the popular M’Cheyne reading plan—read through the OT once and the NT and Psalms twice) or the One-Year Bible in the ESV[7] (whole Bible once in 364 readings). [For multiple bindings of the ESV Daily Reading Bible, go here [1].]

Stephen Witmer explains [8] the weaknesses of typical plans and offers some advice on reading the Bible together with others—as well as offering his own new two-year plan [9]. (“In my opinion, it is better to read the whole Bible through carefully one time in two years than hastily in one year.”) His plan has you read through one book of the Bible at a time (along with a daily reading from the Psalms or Proverbs). At the end of two years you will have read through the Psalms and Proverbs four times and the rest of the Bible once.

The Gospel Coalition’s For the Love of God Blog [10] (which you can subscribe to via email [11], but is now also available as a free app [12]) takes you through the M’Cheyne reading plan, with a meditation each day by D. A. Carson related to one of the readings. M’Cheyne’s plan has you read shorter selections from four different places in the Bible each day.

Jason DeRouchie, the editor of the new and highly recommended What the Old Testament Authors Really Cared About: A Survey of Jesus’ Bible [13], offers his KINGDOM Bible Reading Plan [14], which has the following distinctives:
  • Proportionate weight is given to the Old and New Testaments in view of their relative length, the Old receiving three readings per day and the New getting one reading per day.
  • The Old Testament readings follow the arrangement of Jesus’ Bible (Luke 24:44—Law, Prophets, Writings), with one reading coming from each portion per day.
  • In a single year, one reads through Psalms twice and all other biblical books once; the second reading of Psalms (highlighted in gray) supplements the readings through the Law (Genesis-Deuteronomy).
  • Only twenty-five readings are slated per month in order to provide more flexibility in daily devotions.
  • The plan can be started at any time of the year, and if four readings per day are too much, the plan can simply be stretched to two or more years (reading from one, two, or three columns per day).
Trent Hunter’s “The Bible-Eater Plan [15]” is an innovative new approach that has you reading whole chapters, along with quarterly attention to specific books. The plan especially highlights OT chapters that are crucial to the storyline of Scripture and redemptive fulfillment in Christ.
For those who would benefit from a realistic “discipline + grace” approach, consider “The Bible Reading Plan for Shirkers and Slackers [16].” It takes away the pressure (and guilt) of “keeping up” with the entire Bible in one year. You get variety within the week by alternating genres by day, but also continuity by sticking with one genre each day. Here’s the basic idea:

Sundays: Poetry
Mondays: Pentateuch (Genesis through Deuteronomy)
Tuesdays: Old Testament history
Wednesdays: Old Testament history
Thursdays: Old Testament prophets
Fridays: New Testament history
Saturdays: New Testament epistles (letters) 

Friday, January 17, 2014

Why Rock Star Worship Leaders Are Getting Fired

by Don Chapman

Unpacking a worship trend.

Some megachurches have been hiring rock star worship leaders (henceforth referred to in this article as RSWLs) and are finding out they’re not all they’re cracked up to be.

A megachurch is a unique breeding ground for a RSWL—he probably couldn’t survive in a smaller ministry. A typical church music director is a busy guy or girl who schedules volunteers, conducts rehearsals, writes charts, arranges music, and plans Christmas and Easter events. Some megachurch RSWLs surprisingly can’t even read music, let alone create a chord chart.

So why are they hired?

They often don’t have musical training or organization skills, but they look and sound good on stage. This will blow some of your minds—I know of one RSWL who makes about 100K a year by going to a weekly staff meeting and picking out six songs for the praise set.

That’s it.

He has a full staff who does his work for him—making charts and tracks, scheduling volunteers, and even leading rehearsals. This type of RSWL could only exist at a megachurch—he’d be helpless if he had to do everything himself in a smaller ministry.

The RSWL unfortunately tends to inherit bad habits from his secular counterparts.

A famous rock star making millions from his music can afford to be self-absorbed and narcissistic—it even enhances his mystique. Narcissism doesn’t go over so well in a church, and people start resenting the guy. A Google search on the subject showed me it’s a growing topic among fed-up churchgoers.

Here are some thoughts I found on a blog by a disgusted person about their RSWL that sum up what congregations are thinking:

Worship leaders are like reality TV stars: They’re regular people with a disproportionate sense of self because people are looking at them. They’re rock stars without the fame or talent … or money (all things that redeem rock star behavior). But ultimately, it’s the disparity that kills me. So many of them are spiritually/emotionally/socially immature, but just because they can sing, they’re placed on this ridiculous pedestal.

One megachurch claims their narcissistic RSWL is to blame for an attendance drop of almost one-third (at least until they fired the guy—attendance is on the way up again).

One RSWL candidly told me he approaches ministry much like a CEO runs a company—you never fraternize with your employees (i.e., hang out with your praise band members after rehearsal when they all go out for pizza).

I could go on and on with RSWL horror stories (I know a lot of churches), so it was no surprise that over the past few months I’ve started noticing a rash of RSWL firings in the megachurch world (In polite company, this is referred to as, “We’ve decided to part ways due to philosophical differences.”)
In most cases, it looks like the RSWL’s shenanigans have come to a head and the church has said “enough.”
My suspicions of this firing trend were recently confirmed.

A friend of mine is using a church job-placement agency to find a worship leader position for himself. The representative mentioned they’ve never had so many worship leader job openings. When asked why, the representative explained that churches are finding the performance worship leader thing isn’t working out so well. It seems congregations are tired of being performed to, instead of led in worship.

The job my friend found is with a megachurch who just fired their own RSWL. This guy hopped around stage during worship, trying to drum up enthusiasm like any good rock star would in concert.

As my friend looked at the RSWL’s set list from the past six weeks, he noticed not a single song was repeated. Typical RSWL behavior—they’re performing worship songs, not leading them.

One big reason my friend’s church fired their RSWL was that they were concerned their congregation wasn’t worshipping during the music. Of course they weren’t—they didn’t know any of the songs!

Bottom Line: If you’re interested in a full-time worship leading job at a megachurch, now may be a great time to start looking. If a church was willing to pay 100K a year for someone who simply smiled, sang and strummed on Sundays, just think of what they’d pay a down-to-earth and skilled worship leader who knows how to work for a living.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Would You Join Your Ministry or Mission Again?

It was interesting to read the article below, "Would You Buy From Your Company?"

Sometimes we should ask the questions of the mission or ministry we are in. i.e. how are we doing on kindness, politeness, hospitality, basic care of the team, answering the phone, returning emails and phone calls, "thank yous" for support, neatness, financial and lifestyle integrity, effective communication, zeal and passion for ministry of its leaders? These and other questions are good to ask from time to time, especially as we are representing the gospel and our Savior in the great task He has called us!

"Would You Buy From Your Company?" by Barbara Giamanco

“Pretend YOU are the potential customer. Go through every step of the buyer process just as the buyer would. Pick your website apart. Carefully review your social media marketing messages. Make a call to the sales department and experience what it feels like to have features, benefits and a product demo pushed on you. Reach out to customer service with a problem – by phone, on Twitter or Facebook. How was the problem handled? What was the response time?”

Once you have done these things, rate the experience. Would you buy from your company? If your answer isn’t a resounding ‘hell yeah, that was awesome,’ then you need to stop and roll up those sleeves… you have work to do!”

Great advice, and hopefully executives will be inspired to follow through on Barbara’s recommendation.

Doing so will allow executives to answer three extremely important questions:

Are sales, marketing and customer support truly aligned?

View these departments as a 3-legged stool that provides the foundation for your company’s success. If any one of these legs is broken, or even wobbly, your sales goals and business growth might fall flat. In today’s connected economy, your typical B2B buyer will have completed their research on your product or service before contacting companies for further information.

According to Peppers & Roberts Group, 81% of companies with strong customer experience skills outperform their competition.

CEOs that build processes, technology and culture around the experience buyers want and value outperform their peers. This starts by aligning sales and marketing, not by resolving issues between each other, as in the old blame-game business model, but by resolving differences between your team and the customer.

What are your biggest opportunities to improve the experience for your buyers?

We have entered the era of the ‘Church of the Customer,’ popularized by Jackie Huba on her award-winning blog. Essentially, people trust people not products. Research shows that buyers prioritize relationships and trust over product and price. Today, we need to earn the right to conduct business with a buyer by creating and delivering buying experiences that cultivate trust, loyalty and advocacy.
Does your social business strategy consider the “new” customer lifecycle from beginning to end?
There’s been a fundamental shift in customer behavior and the overall buying process.
Today’s decision makers can learn detailed information about several aspects of your company prior to ever contacting you. This can also mean that bloated, over the top marketing messages have lost their effectiveness.
Social selling requires a deep intelligence regarding the customer journey you can only acquire by listening and engaging along the way. Focus on being the best helper because that’s truly what most of your buyers want. They don’t want a salesperson, they want a solution facilitator.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Sad Reality of the Disregard for Truth, Even Among Church Leadership

I once flew across the country to not preach at a church that had invited me to speak at their morning service.

After leaving my hotel, I rode with a prominent Christian leader to the church. I knew this man had been accused by the media of misrepresenting certain key details on his résumé, so I asked him about the charges.

He admitted saying and writing some things that weren’t true—but it didn’t seem to bother him. I told him, calmly, that I thought he should repent and publicly ask forgiveness for his dishonesty. He said nothing and we rode to the church in silence.

A few minutes after we arrived, I was escorted to the office of the senior pastor, where we were scheduled to pray together before I preached in the service. When I stepped in, the pastor slammed the door behind me. I was surprised to see his face turning scarlet, his veins bulging. He poked his finger at me. “No way will I let you preach from my pulpit!” he thundered.

Then out of the corner of my eye, I saw the man I had just confronted. The pastor told me I’d had no right to question our brother’s integrity. The pastor was fully aware of the man’s reputation but thought it none of my business. We left the office, the pastor still seething.

As the service began, the pastor took the microphone, his voice now sweet and “spiritual.” He introduced the man I had confronted. This man conducted the offering, chal­lenging the people to give generously. The pastor then addressed the church, telling them he felt “the Holy Spirit’s leading” to dedicate the service to sharing and healing. 

Therefore, regrettably, there wouldn’t be time to hear from the scheduled guest speaker—me.

On the long flight home, I marveled at how Christian leaders—who should be guardians of God’s truth—could have such a blatant disregard for truth.

This isn’t a new problem. “‘Do not let the prophets... deceive you. Do not listen to the dreams you encourage them to have. They are prophesying lies to you in my name. I have not sent them,’ declares the LORD” (Jeremiah 29:8–9).

You see, a speaker can be popular, a sermon can be greatly loved, a book can be a bestseller in Christian book­stores—and still be full of lies.

As followers of Christ, we are to walk in the truth (3 John 3), love the truth and believe the truth (2 Thessalonians 2:10,12). We are to speak the truth, in contrast to “the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming” (Ephesians 4:14). 

We’re to speak the truth “in love” (Ephesians 4:32).

When we fail to tell the truth, we fail to represent Jesus, who is the Truth.

Randy Alcorn

Friday, January 10, 2014

Do You Know What Your Missionaries Actually Teach?!

By Sean DeMars | 1.8.2014

Stop sending prosperity-preaching missionaries to the jungles of Peru. They’re killing the villages here. Your missionaries are spending tens of thousands of dollars, traveling across land and sea, invading and settling into new cultures, and it’s all for nothing. They’re doing more harm than good.
Your short-term and long-term missionaries are bringing death to Peru in the form of the prosperity gospel and word of faith teachings. Men and women are coming down here and telling these people that they’re poor because of sin and doubt. They’re telling the people to speak positive and claim success and health. These missionaries are telling people that they can be rich and live like the patriarchs of the Bible, blessed by the hand of God because of their faith and unshakable holiness.
Do you know how these people are living? They’re drinking river water that is forty percent mud and one hundred percent laden with parasites. They’re living on bananas and roots. It’s a two-day boat ride to the nearest doctor, and the great majority of these people can’t afford boat tickets. Nor can they afford the doctor visit if they could manage to get there. These people have Bibles that they don’t understand because many of them can’t read, and they are isolated from anything that even remotely resembles theological training.
And here you are, Deacon of Missions, and you’ve just agreed to sponsor missionary “X.” Have you talked with him about where he stands doctrinally? Does he believe the prosperity gospel? Is he sympathetic to it? Is he able to rightly divide the word of truth? Is he one approved by a local church that really believes in 2 Timothy 2:15? This person is about to travel the world to make a disciple. Do you know if that’s going to be a good thing, or something to be mourned (Matt 23:15)?
This guy has a great slideshow presentation, a firm handshake, and he can hold the room like a professional. You decide to help him get to the jungles of Peru. As soon as his boots hit the ground he’s doing a whole bunch of stuff that will look great in his newsletters. Toys for the kids. A new short-term missions team is coming down every month. Buildings are being built, Bibles are being given away, and the slide show reel is growing every day.
Oh, by the way, he’s preaching a false gospel. He’s hurting people eternally. He’s doing all kinds of cool, fun, and really Christian stuff for the few hundred people living in this village. But he’s hurting them. In eternal perspective, he is guiding them along the path to nothing but pain and sadness. And he’s able to do it because you send him a big fat check every month. You’re responsible.
Of course, it’s not all your fault, but you are responsible for what you do with your money. Stewardship is the word typically used here. You are accountable for the way you spend that money. You pool those resources, and you are using it to send a false prophet to the jungles of Peru. Or to the caves of Pakistan. Or to the deserts of western Africa.
America is exporting a false gospel that is putting people on the A Train to an eternity of suffering, and you are part of the problem. Stop it. Stop sending wolves in sheep’s clothing. Stop supporting them. Exercise discernment. You’ve supported over two hundred missionaries in the last fourteen years? Great! But what if fifty of them have been ravaging the people you sent them to?
Of course, many churches are careful and discerning about which missionaries they support. I’m grateful for them and I pray God would raise up many more. If that’s your church, pray that God would keep you vigilant. And pray that your sister churches would have the courage and conviction to send prosperity-preaching missionaries to the bench instead of the field.  
This isn’t hypothetical. I’ve seen it. In my short time here in the jungles of Peru, I have seen case after case of “Who told this guy he could be a missionary?” I’ve seen the people hurt. I’ve seen the churches hurt. I’ve seen the smiles turn to frowns and the tears of joy turn into tears of pain. I’ve had to rebuke and fight to crowd out the false gospel with the true and beautiful one. I never imagined that our team’s greatest struggle would be fighting to undo all the damage done by other missionaries.
To be honest, “Jesus never promised to make us rich, he promised us he would save us from our sin, and that’s enough!” doesn’t really have the same ring to it. It’s hard to get people to rally around that after they’ve been sold a stadium worth of fool’s gold.
Maybe you’re sitting there with your arms crossed, feeling assured that I’m not talking to you. Your church is reformed. It’s gotta be “those guys” who are responsible for this, right?
Wrong. It’s not just mainline or Pentecostal or word-of-faith or evangellyfish churches that are responsible for this. It’s reformed churches, too. To borrow something from one of my teammates: “That church is reformed, but many of their members feel just as comfortable listening to Joel Osteen as to John MacArthur.” It’s not just “them.” Reformed churches are allowing these teachings to exist within their own four walls, and they are also supporting missionaries who believe and teach such things. 
Missions exists because we want to see people eternally happy in the presence of God forever. Let that be your guiding light. Are the people you support working for that? Are they going to help people be eternally happy in Christ? If not, let me encourage you to gently and humbly refuse to support them. Remember, your faithfulness to the Great Commission will not be measured by dollars spent, Bibles given, or hands raised at an altar call. The measure of faithfulness will be an eternal one.
The gospel is beautiful, brothers. It’s the only hope any of us have. Please treat it that way. Love it, protect it, and guard it. And for the love of all things good and holy, please stop sending missionaries to my backyard if they don’t.
Sean DeMars is currently serving the peoples of Peru by preaching, teaching, and living God’s Word. He is a husband, an artist, and quite possibly the worst missionary ever. He and his wife were sent out by Decatur Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Decatur, Alabama. 

Tuesday, January 7, 2014


by Maggie Paulus 

When I was just a little girl, like a wee little thing, I had a different mom and dad. And they were kind to me, but they had hurts and they had addictions and they didn't know how to take care of themselves, much less a wee girl and her little brother.

I mean, they tried. They hung on to us for several years, but things kept slipping and they kept falling and failing and they mustered up what strength they could, but they just couldn't make it work and they couldn't make it right. And so the policemen came over and over again, and took us away and my mama cried in the back of that police car, hands cuffed, and she told me that she loved me. And I knew in my little heart, as I looked up at her, tears streaming and mascara running, I knew that she really did love me. She just couldn't make it work.

And I still remember my daddy's face, another time, when the police finally caught up with him, and took his drugs and took his booze and took us kids. And even though I was just a little thing, legs not even long enough to dangle from the seat, I knew deep inside that he was in trouble and that he couldn't make it right. 

And I cried for them because every little girl wants her mommy and needs her daddy, but they were gone, again, and I felt lost. And the social workers took us to some foster homes, lots of times they took us, but we were never safe. (Did you know bad guys can live in foster homes?) I lay in bed at night wishing they would go away. And I was just a little thing.

But, one day something beautiful happened. Something strange. The social workers came and got us and put our stuff in a brown paper bag and we met a different mom and dad. And they said they wanted us. Like, forever. And we could live with them and never go away. And I really liked the idea, but I didn't know what it really meant to trust, so deep inside I didn't believe them. Not yet. 

So, we came to our new home, and I had a big brother and a big sister and from the get-go they loved us and they never made us feel afraid. And my mom and dad told me how they had prayed for us, because God had put it on their heart to, and so they asked Him to show them where we were and what to do. And one day my mama walked into that government office, saw our picture and knew right away. And she told that social worker that we were her kids. And the lady disagreed and tried to protest and said it wasn't possible, but my mama knew about the God of all the impossibles, and so it wasn't long before we came home. For good. And time passed and no one ever took us away, so I believed. 

And as days have turned to months which have turned to years, I still believe. I believe in that God of all the impossibles. And I've come to find that He's the One who rescues and He redeems, but He uses our hands and our feet. And He whispers His rescue plan into our hearts and hopes that we'll obey.

And this same God has healed those wounds from a mama and a daddy who just couldn't make it work and couldn't make it right. Because He gave me another mama and daddy who didn't have it altogether, but who depended on the only One who does. And people say that time heals all wounds, but I think it's love. 

And every day I'm thankful that I've been rescued and that my life has been redeemed by the God who can make beauty from a mess. And I'm thankful for a family who became His hands and feet to reach out with a love that heals—reached out to the likes of me. When I was just a little thing.
(Thank you, Ma and Pa—a million times, and with tears, thank you.)

And thank You, Jesus, for always coming for me, for scooping me up and bringing me home. And thank You for how you take the bad and the ugly and the messed up in this world and You make it beautiful. You are good. You are so good. Amen.

Monday, January 6, 2014

When Unclothed Is Unfitting: Thoughts on Selling with Sex

by John Piper

Jonathan Edwards once said that godly people can, as it were, smell the depravity of an act before they can explain why it evil. There is a spiritual sense that something is amiss. It does not fit in a world permeated with God.

Ephesians 5:3 says that some things "are not fitting" among saints." "Fitting-ness" is not always easy to justify with arguments. You discern it before you can defend it. That's good, because we have to make hundreds of choices every day with no time for extended reflection.

But from time to time we need to pause and give rational, biblical expression why something is not fitting. Some years ago I came to that point when, week after week, a local newspaper put scantily clad women on the second page of Section A in order to sell underclothes. I wrote a letter to the paper with nine reasons why they should stop using this kind of advertising.

Perhaps my reflections will help you deal with the hundreds of abuses of God's good gift of sexuality in our culture. Here is what I wrote.

As a 14-year subscriber and reader of the [name of paper omitted], I am writing to express the persuasion that your sexually explicit ads that often turn up in Section A are increasingly offensive and socially irresponsible. I mean that the effectiveness of catching people's attention by picturing a woman in her underclothes does not justify the ads. The detrimental effects of such mercenary misuse of the female body are not insignificant. The harm I have in mind is described in the following nine persuasions.

1. This woman could not go out in public dressed like that without being shamed or being mentally aberrant. Yet you thrust her out, even in front of those of us who feel shame for her.

2. This portrayal of a woman sitting in her underclothes at a table with a cup of tea disposes men to think of women not as persons but mainly in terms of their bodies. It stimulates young boys to dwell on unclothed women's bodies and thus lames their ability to deal with women as dignified persons. I have four sons.

3. The ad stimulates sexual desire which in thousands of men has no legitimate or wholesome outlet through marriage. In other words, it feeds a corporate, community lust that bears no good fruit outside marriage, but in fact many ills.

4. The ad makes sensibilities callous so that fewer and fewer offenses against good taste feel unacceptable, which spells the collapse of precious and delicate aspects of personhood and relationships.

5. The ad makes thousands of women subconsciously measure their attractiveness and worth by the standard of rarefied, unrealistic models, leading to an unhealthy and discouraging preoccupation with outward looks.

6. The ad feeds the prurient fantasies of ordinary men, lodging a sexual image in their minds for the day which can rob them of the ability to think about things greater and nobler than skin.

7. The ad condones the proclivity of males to mentally unclothe women by reminding them what they would see if they did, and by suggesting that there are women who want to be publicly unclothed in this way. This reminder and this suggestion support habits and stereotypes that weaken personal virtue and jeopardize decorous relationships.

8. The ad encourages young girls to put excessive focus on their bodies and how they will be looked at, adding to the epidemic of depression and eating disorders.

9. The ad contributes to dissatisfaction in men whose wives can't produce that body and thus adds to the instability of marriages and homes.

I realize that the bottom line is big bucks for page two, and lots of attention for [name of department store omitted]. But please know that at least one assessment of your standards of fitness for print is that it is part of a tragic loss of modesty and decency that may, for now, feel like mature liberation, but in generations to come will reap a whirlwind of misery for all of us.

From John Piper, A Godward Life, published by Multnomah Books. By John Piper. © Desiring God. Website: