Have you ever been to bookstore that is housed in a former manure silo? To all you book fiends (which includes myself), feast your eyes on this…
I thought there were limits to how many books a person could practically own. I now see that the possibilities are unending. That may be bad news for my wife.
I have been reading Edmund Clowney’s book Called to the Ministry for several weeks now. Though it is a small book, I have had little time to dive into it. As I have slowly worked through it, I have found numerous little gems. Anyone who knows me has endured several discussions on the topic of calling. I believe this word and concept has been stretched significantly. Some people use “calling” and “the will of God” interchangeably. I find this synonomous usage to be problematic on several levels. What does “calling” refer to? How broadly should it be applied?
Clowney takes the first half of the book to establish the Christian’s primary calling to God. A person cannot consider calling on any level prior to or outside of the preeminent calling to God himself. God calls people to faith in Him through repentance and belief in Jesus Christ first and foremost. Clowney establishes this point quite well.
In particular, I found the following passage to be both sobering and convicting. Speaking of our calling to service, Clowney says:
What opportunities do you perceive? The first doors are in the room where you are. The has given you a certain set of present circumstances. Paul refers to this as a man’s “calling” (I Cor. 7:17). Like the heritage of an Israelite in the land, it is the “lot” or “portion” that the Lord gives you today. Here you must begin; indeed, here you must be willing to remain until other doors of opportunity are perceived and opened. The surest way to miss future opportunities is to ignore present ones. Perhaps this lesson is hardest to learn for those who are preparing for future service. Since education has gained such importance in our culture, young people often spend years being educated before any purpose in their education becomes apparent.
Meaningless course-taking becomes a way of life, more real than the vaguely conceived future, but yet not life in earnest. To conclude that the major decisions affecting the course of life must be made under such circumstances can be depressing indeed. It is heartening to remember the promises of God’s faithfulness, but action is needed, too. In the student’s calling, there are today’s opportunities which God sets before us to prepare us for those of tomorrow. In the lonely student you befriend, the confused roommate you encourage, the article for the college paper that you write, or the Sunday School class you teach may lie the key to your future. It is in the service that you render whether in the classroom orout of it that your gifts are proved and manifested.
But you must seize the opportunity in the soberness of wisdom and the zeal of love.
Though Clowney uses students as an example, I believe these words apply to many of us. Too often we can be caught looking past our present circumstances by putting our hope and worth in future “realities.” We can treat everything leading up to that point as a stepping stone, a means to an end. However, let us always consider how we might serve God in the present. Let us not look past the opportunities and needs of the many people who cross our paths on a daily basis.
After a short break, Challies monthly giveaway has returned. This month’s prizes are stellar. Tim Challies is giving away all kinds of books around the theme of the Puritans. Here’s how it all breaks down:
3rd prize: the Profiles in Reformed Spirituality series
- “AConsuming Fire”: The Piety of Alexander Whyte of Free St. George’s
- “A Sweet Flame”: Piety in the Letters of Jonathan Edwards
- “Dedicated to the Service of the Temple”: Piety, Persecution, and Ministry in the Writings of Hercules Collins
- “ChristIs All”: The Piety of Horatius Bonar
2nd prize: Soli Deo Gloria selections
- Freedom of the Will, by Jonathan Edwards
- Excellency of a Gracious Spirit, by Jeremiah Burroughs
- Keeping the Heart, by John Flavel
- Parable of the Ten Virgins, by Thomas Shephard
- Plus the books in the 3rd prize package
1st prize: new and bestselling RHB titles
- God with Us: Knowing the Mystery of Who Jesus Is, by Daniel R. Hyde.
- Reformation Heroes: An Illustrated Overview, by Diana Kleyn and Joel R. Beeke.
- Meet the Puritans: with a Guide to Modern Reprints, by Joel R. Beeke and Randall J. Pederson.
- Plus the books in the 2nd and 3rd prize packages
Needless to say, this is a big giveaway. And there are few things better than receiving a big stack of free books. All you have to do is enter your name and you are eligible to win. So what are you waiting for?! Simply click on the picture or hyperlink above, enter your name and email address, subscribe to the email list (this is how you are notified whether you win or not), and you are golden. Plus, you can receive your own referral ID so that others can sign up through you and you receive another entry in the contest.
Of all the giveaways thus far, this is by far my favorite. So help me and help yourself by signing up now.
Myself and a few guys from church have started getting together every Thursday night to discuss a book we are reading together called The Cross He Bore by Frederick Leahy. I have read several good recommendations for this little treasure and so far it has not disappointed. We are reading two chapters per week and are currently reading chapter 4 and 5 for this coming Thursday. Though we are already two weeks into the reading, we would love to have others across the web reading along with us if you are so interested. The chapters are short so you can catch up quickly. If you have already read the book, feel free to stop by True Koinonia as we take our discussion to the internet. I’m about a week behind our reading with the posts but you can head over there now to catch some thoughts and discussion on chapter 1.
The idea of striving for goodness above greatness is uncommon in our era. Greatness is propped up in our society while goodness is rarely recognized, at least in its most common form. The difference between goodness and greatness might also be stated as the distinction between inward character and outward appearance. Which is more important?
Tozer’s answer (see Part 1) is clear. It depends on who’s praise we long after and value most. Whether we refer to the medieval, enlightenment, or post-liberal/post-Christian/post-everything world, men and women of all types have sought to make their name known. As children and teenagers, we desire to excel in sports and academics to win the praise of our peers, coaches, teachers, and even our parents. We want to be known and remembered for all the great things we have done. And adults do not outgrow this “childish” ambition. We are told by the culture, especially the American culture, that the world revolves around us. Each person is the most important person in the world. It is strange and perplexing that we would buy into such a notion considering that one person being the most important would relegate us all to second place and beyond.
As I write this post I find myself guilty on many accounts. Speaking from experience, I believe there is so much pressure in today’s world to be unique. We are told that all of us need to be trendsetters blazing a trail of revolutionary ideas and thoughts for a brave new world. Even in ministry circles, talk often consists of the next great trend in ministry and the person who is leading the way. Then we immediately feel the pressure to not only come up with something “better,” but to also be recognized for our contributions to the history of Christianity. Again, my mind has wondered onto such thoughts and I have mentally buckled under the pressure of creating the next exploding church or writing volumes on Christian faith that would live on hundreds of years later. And so, Tozer’s words in the first chapter are sobering, convicting, and timely. “Greatness will count for nothing in the day of judgment.” Who cares what others will think of us or our ministries. Of course, balance is a word we should often remember. There is nothing inherently wrong with doing something new or different. I am thankful for Mark Driscoll and others like him who don’t necessarily fit the typical mold of a pastor. Their churches are different based on their context. Context is an important word when speaking of many things, particularly ministry. A church in Seattle may look very different from a church in Nashville. And that’s ok. There is nothing wrong with that as long as each church holds to sound doctrine, to the gospel. It’s not about the size of the church or how many books the pastor has written. What counts is faithfulness to Jesus Christ and the good news. As Tozer says, “Goodness will be rewarded before the eyes of all.” It is more important to be good than great. It is more important to be faithful to Christ and his gospel than to attract masses of people with a gospel devoid of Jesus. It is more important that people know the name of Jesus than the name of Jeff.
I urge you then to join me in pursuing goodness in the face of increasing pressure to be great. In a world intoxicated with the idea of worldly ascension and recognition, exemplify the heart and mind of a servant. Submit yourself to Christ and desire to please him above men. Leave your pride behind and chase after humility. Care less about being known and more about how you can serve others.
Surely by now most everyone is familiar with this year’s holiday blockbuster movie The Golden Compass. If you are even the least bit connected to any form of popular media, you are aware of the ruckus this movie has stirred up especially amongst the Christian community. All of the fuss can be traced back to comments made by the author of the book trilogy Philip Pullman. In February 2001, the Washington Post interviewed Pullman and ran an article discussing His Dark Materials. Responding to comparisons to The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis, Pullman was quoted as saying, “I’m trying to undermine the basis of Christian belief. Mr. Lewis would think I was doing the Devil’s work.“ There is no doubt that a statement like this would surely stir up a little controversy. Many concerned Christians from public figures to the average layperson have been seeking the answer the question of whether or not this movie (and the books for that matter) is suitable for our young, impressionable children. I am quite sure there have been many groups “creatively” designing their picket signs. Though I almost always cringe at the sight of Christian picketers, I do believe a level of discretion is wise when dealing with movies, music, and other forms of popular media. So the blogs have been hot with discussion on the movie and books.
After attending an advance screening of the film, Al Mohler wrote a brief commentary on the attractions and dangers of the movie and books.
The guys at Reformation 21 have been engaged in some intriguing discussion and bantering over this topic. Carl Trueman kicked things off with some words of wisdom for our boycotting Catholic friends and then proclaiming his puzzlement at all the “hoo-hah” surrounding this movie and giving an interesting critique of C.S. Lewis regarding the use of Narnia to defend against Dark Materials. Things took off from there. To follow the entire conversation, start on this page with Trueman’s post called Catholic League and Pullman and follow the discussion up the page onto the next page.
And just yesterday Adam Parker was sent on assignment to review the movie.
I am sure there is plenty more discussion around the blogosphere and other places. This should be enough to get you thinking about it. As far as my opinion goes, having not seen the movie or read the books, I think discernment is always advised in such matters. Pullman’s explicit comments should raise concerns about the agenda of such a book. At the very least, we should be concerned with the worldview it promotes. However, I plan to see the movie. And if Adam’s perspective holds to be true, then with caution we can enjoy it for the fantasy story that it is.