I’d rather be a godly administrator than an ungodly minister

You spend your week filing papers, printing reports, chasing up bad debts, putting stamps on envelopes. Then you go to church on Sunday and you see a man leading hundreds in worship and prayer, and preaching inspiring sermons. It’s pretty obvious who’s pleasing God most isn’t it?

Is it?

Not so fast.

God looks on the heart and not the outward appearance.

What does He see there?

The Administrator’s Heart
Well, he sees that you start your day with prayer as you go to the office. You ask Him to protect you in your travels. You praise Him for safely navigating you through the rush hour.

You sit at your desk and begin the mindless filing, but as you do so, you are praying for family and friends.

You are interrupted by a boring colleague, but you cheerfully bear with him, listen to His moaning, try to cheer him up, and send him away with a bit of a spring in his step.

You sit down for coffee break, and bow your head for a few seconds of thanksgiving.

You pray for the Lord’s help to make that difficult phone call to a bad debtor. He yells and screams at you again, but you sense the Lord’s help as He gives you patience, self-control, gentleness, and peace. Slowly, your soft answer turns away wrath, and a few days later, the long-promised check appears.

Later in the day, you are putting the stamps on the mail, and praying for the Lord’s blessing on the day’s work, that the company would prosper, and that God would give harmony among the workers.

You leave work thanking God for His help throughout the day, thanking Him for a steady income, and asking God to bless your witness.

Then God looks at the pastor in his office.

The Minister’s Heart
There’s certainly a lot of hustle and bustle there. He’s reading furiously and typing even more furiously. He lost a couple of hours aimlessly surfing the Internet this morning, and a few more hours in a heated online debate about the millennium. Now he’s up against the clock as he tries to get a sermon together. But he’s done it many times before. He knows the websites to look at, he’s a skilled cutter-and-paster, and by the end of the day he’s got a fairly polished sermon constructed. He picks the songs he knows that everyone likes, and assures himself that after all these years in the ministry, he can easily lead the worship. Now back to the TV.

And sure enough, Sunday comes, he struts his stuff, everybody praises him, and he goes home, not to fall on his knees, but to start reading that latest book from Amazon.

Not one prayer. Not one contact with heaven. Not one act of dependence. Not one thanksgiving. Not one call to God.

Who’s pleasing God?
Now, you tell me, who’s pleasing God?

You do all that you do each day and no one praises you or encourages you or thinks you are particularly godly. The pastor comes and does his thing and everyone swoons. You go back to work on Monday without all that encouragement and affirmation, yet you patiently persevere in your calling.

Now, you tell me, who’s pleasing God?

If you do your work in dependence upon God, looking to Him alone for guidance, protection, strength, and blessing, you are doing your job with more faith than some men in pulpits!

If we preach about faith without faith, it is impossible to please God (Heb. 11:6). But if we file papers in faith, drive trucks in faith, paint walls in faith, and dust the house in faith, God not only delights in us but rewards us too (Heb. 11:6).

Check out

Better than the Beginning
Here’s a podcast interview with Rich Barcellos about his new book on creation. Here’s my endorsement of the book: “Although many Christians have been been engaged in a life-or-death battle to defend the truth of creation against evolutionary attacks coming from inside and outside the church, there has been little exploration of the doctrine of creation in all it’s glorious height, depth, width, and length. Richard Barcellos has begun to remedy this neglect with a God-glorifying, soul-edifying, life-transforming survey of this majestic and practical subject.”

Lauren Chandler on Treasuring the Gospel in your Home
I’ve been so looking forward to Gloria Furman’s new book.

Stewards of Wealth Streams
Four Silicon Valley residents who are wielding their region’s capital for good.

You can’t pack everything into a sermon
But it doesn’t stop us trying.

With mental illness in the family, you don’t get lasagne
No cards. No visits. No fruit baskets. No flowers. No casseroles.

Troubled Minds: Mental Illness and the Church’s Mission
I’ve just finished Amy Simpson’s new book and would thoroughly recommend it to anyone wanting to get a better understanding of and compassion for those who suffer with mental illness. Here’s the deeply moving trailer for the book.

A Medical Test for Mental Illness

One of the greatest frustrations for people with mental illness, and for those who care for them, is the lack of a medical test to confirm that they are sick. You have a broken arm? You get an X-ray. Kidney stones? You get an IVP. Diabetes? You take a blood test. But with depression, schizophrenia, etc., there’s nothing. Nothing!

All the sufferer can do is describe symptoms and hope that the doctor or psychiatrist can pull it all together and make it fit under one or other category and prescribe suitable treatment. The sufferer can’t go home with an ultrasound, an X-ray, or a lab result and say, “See, here it is.” There’s nothing to see, hear, smell, touch, or taste.

Therefore it’s all imaginary, isn’t it.

Sometimes the sufferer feels that. For sure, many around them think that. And way too many Christians default to that. It’s like the ignorance and skepticism surrounding epilepsy only a few generations ago.

“You’re just imagining it”
I’ve heard it so many times, “Until there’s a test, we can’t assume it exists.” “If they can produce a test, we’ll call it an illness.” Few people will come right out and say, “You’re just imagining it.” But it’s often implied and sufferers often sense it, only adding to their pain. As Charles Spurgeon said:

It is all very well for those who are in robust health and full of spirits to blame those whose lives are sicklied or covered with the pale cast of melancholy, but the [malady] is as real as a gaping wound, and all the more hard to bear because it lies so much in the re­gion of the soul that to the inexperienced it appears to be a mere matter of fancy and diseased imagination. Reader, never ridicule the nervous and hypochondrichal, their pain is real; though much of the [malady] lies in the imagination it is not imaginary

I’m sure Spurgeon wished there was a test, something to silence the skeptical whispers and doubting expressions.

Thankfully, for present sufferers, the day has arrived. There is a test. Proof of mental illness exists. Yes, real physical proof. Watch the video at the end of this post for more details, as well as some other incredible examples of what God has enabled scientists and doctors to do for those who suffer with other neurological diseases like Parkinson’s and dystonia. In the meantime, have a look at this screenshot.

The red area cg25 is the sadness center of the brain and it’s red hot. The “cold” or “underactive” blue areas are concerned with drive, motivation, decision making, etc.

Skeptical resistance
The skeptics, of course, will not give up easily. It’s not easy to to climb down from the “moral” or “biblical” high ground. Reputations are at stake. Perhaps even whole ministries are at stake. They’ll say, “Oh, it’s just Big Pharma’s latest evil con.” Or, “OK, it looks like there may be physical evidence of brain abnormality, but it was the person’s sin that caused it.”

Let’s just take that last objection for a moment. And let’s just assume that, at least in some cases, it was a person’s personal decisions, their sinful choices, that resulted in them being schizophrenic or depressed. Perhaps they experimented with certain drugs in their late teens and, like so many in their mid-twenties, they are now hearing voices and experiencing psychotic episodes. Or perhaps they had a bad experience, a sad loss in their lives, but instead of turning to God and His means of grace, they stopped reading their Bible, stopped praying, and stopped going to church, and now – no surprise – they are seriously depressed. They are now suffering the mental, emotional, and even physical consequences of their sinful choices. The PET scan will show up physical abnormalities, but it was their sin that caused it.

Alcoholics and workaholics
Well, what do we do with alcoholics who have diseased livers, or workaholics with diseased hearts, or with speedaholics who’ve totalled themselves and their car yet again. We treat both the physical and spiritual aspects of their disease or injury, don’t we. With sympathy and compassion. Why should sin-caused mental illness be any different?

But just as people can get liver disease who never touched a drop of whisky, and just as people can get heart disease who never worked an hour past 9-5, and just as the safest drivers end up paralyzed in car wrecks, so people can get brain abnormalities and resulting mental illness through no fault of their own. Why then do we treat them so differently, so suspiciously, so judgmentally?

Sure, the PET scans at the moment are prohibitively expensive for most, and many medical treatments for mental illness are still at early and primitive stages of development. However, such tests will accelerate the improvement of medications.

And if even such tests would generate a more sympathetic and holistic approach to mental illness among Christians, the healing effects would be immeasurable.

(RSS and email subscribers click here to see video)

Previous posts in this series

Double Dangers: Maximizing and Minimizing Mental Illness
The problem with “mental illness”
Pastoral thoughts on depression
Mental illness and suicide: the Church awakes
7 Questions about suicide and Christians

My New Book: Jesus on Every Page

This August my new book on Christ in the Old Testament will be published by Thomas Nelson (RSS and email subscribers click here to see book cover).

Jesus on Every Page was born out of a passion to help Christians recover the importance of the Old Testament by rediscovering Christ in the Old Testament.

Although I hope the book will be of great help to pastors and teachers, I’ve written it at a popular level to increase accessibility. Each of the chapters provides numerous practical tools and clear step-by-step guides to mentor and encourage the reader in a quest to seek and enjoy Christ in the Old Testament.

There are many people to thank for getting this book to this stage. But special thanks are due to Crosland Stuart and D.J. Snell at Legacy, and also to Joel Miller at Thomas Nelson for his faith in this project.

Look out for more details in the coming months, including a special launch offer.

Check out

How entrepreneurs come up with great ideas
Start by looking at what’s bugging you.

We are a deeply needy people
Timmy Brister: “The diversity of spiritual gifts reveals the incredible depth of our need.”

Preparing College Students for Graduation
Kevin DeYoung with the ABC’s of preparing students for the real world.

5 Ways to Grow as a Homemaker
Plus 97 resources!

Why the doctrine of the atonement matters to the poor
Mez: “There can be a misapprehension in some circles about how we minister to the poor effectively. I was at a conference recently and the discussion centred around handing out food and other necessities.”

A prayer about the law becoming sweeter than honey
Beautiful balance.

A Center-of-the-Gospel Book for the Gospel-Centered

Anthony Carter. Blood Work: How the Blood of Christ Accomplishes our Salvation. Orlando: Reformation Trust, 2013. 139 pp. $15.00.

The gospel-centered movement has helped innumerable churches and Christians to aim at the right target. Turning away from the easier targets of moralism, legalism, and activism, many are now taking aim at the more difficult—though more rewarding—target of the gospel.

Multiple books, conferences, sermons, blog posts, and songs have rained a shower of arrows towards this newly popular target. However, not so many hit the gospel bulls-eye of the blood of Christ. To be sure, there are vast quantities of arrows in the second ring, justification, and that’s wonderful. As we move outward, we also find many arrows in the election ring, the adoption ring, the regeneration ring, the sanctification ring, the discipleship ring, and the worship ring.

But for all our hitting the gospel target in general, we’re not hitting the red bulls-eye as often as we ought. The bulls-eye is the atonement, the blood of Christ, which is too often simply assumed, spoken of in shallow clichés, or left largely undeveloped. Perhaps it’s even a bit embarrassing? Yes, there are a few days around Easter when the doctrine of the atonement is brushed off and the suffering and dying of Jesus is mentioned more often. But even then, we often speak in hackneyed terms, repeating mantras and stock phrases without really plunging into its depths.

Double Quiver

Enter Anthony Carter with a double quiver full of arrows, laser-targeted on the blood of Christ and all that it means. I don’t think he mentions “gospel-centered” in the book and yet he perhaps gets us closer to the center of the good news than some other books in that genre.

Yes, Carter discusses election, justification, redemption, and sanctification, but always in connection with Christ’s blood. In fact, I was surprised by how many Scripture references there are to this precious blood—nearly three times as many as Christ’s “cross” and five times as many as his “death.” But I was doubly surprised by how Carter highlighted the way every major doctrine in Scripture is connected to Christ’s blood: propitiation, justification, redemption, reconciliation, sanctification, election, and so forth.

Moreover, I appreciated Carter’s clarity when it came to the typological role of the sacrificial system in helping Old Testament believers look “through” the animal sacrifices to the ultimate Sacrifice: “When Abel came with the offering of blood he was believing God and was looking forward to the provision of a deliverer” (8). Again, in connection with the Passover: “Israel always longed for an unblemished male lamb who would take away sin once and for all” (12). No mixture of law, grace, and general theism here, but simply saving faith in the coming Christ.

Blood Work brims with memorable facts, illustrations, and quotations that bring out one or more dimensions of the blood of Jesus and all it accomplishes for us. Carter calls the book “a celebration of the life-giving, soul-blessing, power-enduing blood of Jesus.” That’s certainly the tone, as it beautifully interweaves theology with doxology. I was amazed by the number of songs that, he points out, celebrate Christ’s blood.

This is also a practical book, demonstrating how the Bible presents the blood of Jesus not just as our source of pardon but also our source of purity. It cleanses not just our consciences but also our hearts, shaping our relationship with God and with others.

And the practical power of Christ’s blood isn’t just in the removal of sin and guilt, but in the positive realities of peace, freedom, and spiritual growth. It doesn’t simply take away death, it imparts and maintains life. We need the atonement not just to save our souls initially but also to nourish and grow them in the long run.

The Big Question

As I read and reread the book, one question kept challenging me: Why is the blood-red center of the gospel so often on the periphery of our thoughts, words, and ministries?

Is it a fear of being associated with crude and superstitious uses of “blood” terminology? I’ve certainly been in some circles where “the blood of Christ” was employed more like a magic spell, with little theological content. Carter helps us avoid this pitfall, as he observes: “It’s not the red liquid so much as what it represents—the last act in the tragedy of Christ life.”

Is it fear or shame? We live in sophisticated and cultured times. Do we really want to be talking about a blood-bought salvation among such educated and refined people? Has the Devil blinded us to the centrality and vitality of Christ’s atonement? At times I’ve realized many months have passed since I preached on the death and resurrection of Jesus.

Is it a failure to connect doctrine to the person of Christ? It’s easy to preach a series on justification, sanctification, or election and hardly mention the bruised and bloodied Christ that makes the doctrines possible.

Is our neglect simply ignorance? We simply don’t realize what width, depth, and length there is to the atonement. We stay in the simple shallows of the usual clichés and stock phrases, failing to explore its undiscovered scriptural depths.

Often we just assume everybody knows and so we move on to “higher” things. But there’s nothing higher and not everybody knows. And as even those who do know need reminding, God instituted a specific sacrament—the Lord’s Supper.

Whatever the reason for our neglect of Jesus’ blood, Carter gives us 13 chapters of reasons to refocus our aim on this gospel bulls-eye. Although a relatively short book, Blood Work opens up many dimensions of Christ’s atonement for further and deeper exploration. This is a center-of-the-gospel book for the gospel-centered.

This review was first published at The Gospel Coalition Book Reviews Website.