True Love Hurts

Sometimes parents have to take extremely difficult decisions that cause pain for us and for those whom we love.

But if love never hurts, it’s not true love.

Painless love is not love for others, but love for self.

Love pains produce love gains.

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The Prodigal Son(s) and Church Discipline
Some sobering words from Scotty Smith: “Although I have tons of great stories— grace stories of conversions and renewals— I don’t have many church-discipline stories about which I’m really excited.”

How to become a morning person
As a wise man said, “There’s gold in the teeth of the morning.”

How should Seminaries Train Pastors to Counsel
Original thinking and practical solutions.

The Writing Pastor: An Essay on Spiritual Formation
Nothing has helped my own spiritual life and ministry more in the past few years than getting the writing bug.

An eBay for Professors to Sell College Courses Direct to Students
Somehow I don’t think there will be much demand for OT Exegesis courses.

Largest Iceberg Break-up Ever Caught on Camera
Awesome! (0.46-50). You will want to hit “mute” at 0.46-0.50 to avoid some profanity.

An Unparalyzed Faith

Here’s how Tim Challies describes this week’s episode of the Connected Kingdom. Download here.

Robert Shelby’s boys saved his life. On July 3 Shelby, a pastor in Baton Rouge, was teaching them how to swim when he dove a little too deep and slammed his head into the bottom of the pool, breaking his C-5 vertebra. Unable to move, unable to swim, he was helpless to save himself. For a few moments he hovered between life and death until his young sons realized that something was amiss. They dragged him from the pool, performed CPR and saved his life.

Last week we spoke to Robert about his accident and about life in the aftermath. He is now adjusting to life with quadriplegia (and do note as you listen to the interview that one of the effects of his condition is that it keeps his voice from being as expressive as it once was) and hoping to soon return to the pulpit.

Here is a link to the Shelby Family Fund, and this is a link to a newspaper report about what happened.

If you would like to give us feedback or join in the discussion, go ahead and look up our Facebook Group or leave a comment right here. You will always be able to find the most recent episode here on the blog. If you would like to subscribe via iTunes, you can do that here or if you want to subscribe with another audio player, you can try this RSS link.

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The self-righteous wife
This could help a lot of marriages get off to a better start.

The #1 mistake career people make
I don’t like calling the ministry a career. But pastors can fall into this mistake as well as non-pastors.

Eyes Wide Open
Tony Reinke interviews Steve DeWitt, author of Eyes Wide Open. Tony named this his Book of the Year, and I happen to agree with him.

Angels: Friends of the Faithful
Joel Miller does an Elisha and opens our eyes to the heavenly hosts around us.

Britney Exline, Nation’s Youngest African American Engineer
Here’s a good news story to inspire you.

A bath without water
And here’s another great story, this time from South Africa.  [Video]

Tullian keeps digging

I’ve tried very hard to be diplomatic and restrained in my criticisms of Tullian Tchividjian’s writing (here and here). I’ve tried to communicate genuine appreciation for his books while also expressing my deep concerns. I’ve watched others  gently and wisely caution him about the theological trajectory he is on, and yet he seems to just keep on digging deeper and going further. I’ve watched with growing anxiety as his imbalanced and confusing theology gains popularity. But there comes a time when we have to move from concern to alarm.

Yesterday’s blog post God doesn’t need your good works, but your neighbor does pushed me over that edge.

Using truth to eliminate truth
The headline, like much of the blog post contains truth. However Tullian uses that truth to eliminate another truth, a vitally important one. Of course God doesn’t need our good works. But Tullian uses that truth to argue that God is not interested in them, pleased by them, and nor does he respond to them.

Let’s start with this statement:

Forever freed from our need to pay God back or secure God’s love and acceptance, we are now free to love and serve others.

Yes we are freed from our need to pay God back or secure God’s love and acceptance. But please don’t use that truth as a proof that the Christian has no concern to show his love for God by worshipful and grateful service, or to deny that God’s revelation of His love to us, and our experience of it, can and does change depending on our love-stoked obedience (John 14:21, 23).

In a similar vein, he says:

Passive righteousness tells us that God does not need our good works. Active righteousness tells us that our neighbor does. The aim and direction of good works are horizontal, not vertical.

Again I don’t know who Tullian’s arguing with in the first two sentences here. But the third sentence certainly does not follow logically or biblically.

By God’s grace we can do good works of Christian service to others which ALSO please God as sweet-smelling sacrifices:

I am full, having received from Epaphroditus the things sent from you, a sweet-smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God (Phil. 4:16).

But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased (Heb. 13:16).

Now may the God of peace…make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen (Heb. 13:21).

In other words our works on a horizontal level also impact our vertical relationship with God. Our creature to creature relationships influence our creature-Creator relationship.

Worrying pattern
Here’s the worrying pattern I see in Tullian’s theology.

In Jesus + Nothing = Everything, Tullian worked hard to remove any moral or ethical link between our obedience and God’s blessing.

In Glorious Ruin, Tullian labored to sever any moral or ethical link between our sin and our suffering.

In this latest blog post, Tullian is endeavoring to sever any moral or ethical link between our works for others and our relationship with God.

I keep hoping it’s simply confusion, that he’s unwittingly confusing our unchangeable legal standing with God and our changeable spiritual experience of God’s loving fellowship. But he’s a clever guy with a really sharp mind, and it’s hard to understand that after all he’s read from his concerned friends, that he still won’t accept the difference between:

(i) the believer’s unchangeable and unconditional status as God’s adopted son through justification, and

(ii) the believer’s conditional and therefore changeable experience and enjoyment of God’s fatherly love (see more on that subject here).

His confusion or conflation is really summed up in this paragraph:

Any talk of sanctification which gives the impression that our efforts secure more of God’s love, itself needs to be mortified. We must always remind Christian’s that the good works which necessarily flow from faith are not part of a transaction with God–they are for others.

Again, using words like “secure” and “transaction” create a distracting and plausible cover for the (unintentional) undermining of John 14:21 and 23, which clearly state that love-motivated obedience does result in greater revelations and experiences of God’s love. Maybe Tullian could help me see if I (and many others) have misunderstood these verses.

Brotherly correction
If I was in Tullian’s shoes, I hope by now I’d have stopped digging any deeper and say: “Look guys, you know that I’ve been motivated by a desire to exalt Christ, liberate sinners, and benefit the church. But in my passion for these great aims, I’ve sometimes allowed myself to conflate distinct truths, ignore important truths, and portray an imbalanced Christian ethic.”

And I think I know enough of Tullian’s concerned friends to be confident that they would respond: “Brother Tullian, we’ve all made mistakes in our ministries and we’ll make many more. We appreciate how you’ve helped us to get much greater passion and precision in certain areas of Gospel truth. We’re glad we’ve been able to help you in a similar way. Now let’s move forwards together, striving for biblical accuracy and balance, and serve our glorious God of grace for the eternal benefit of many, many souls.”