Month: June 2006

Missional Conversation: Speaking With the Gospel in Your Heart

Missional prayer leads to conversational mission. As Tom Nelson has said, it isn’t sufficient to stand on a shovel and pray for a hole. The gospel of Christ and the Christ of the gospel do not call us to prayer and inaction. He calls us to prayer and mission. Prayer and mission go hand in hand and are not optional; they are essential. Paul tells us to conduct ourselves with wisdom towards outsiders. What wisdom? The wisdom is living like Christ, living redemptively. In Christ are hidden all the riches of wisdom and knowledge. Who are the outsiders? The outsiders are the Gentiles, the nations, those outside the temple-city of Zion that God has called us to pray for and converse with. They are your co-workers and your neighbors, your family and your friends. How do we make the most of our time? This could be translated “redeem the time.” We redeem the time with our seasoned speech, our words of witness, with our conversations. This brings to mind Col 4.4-7:

pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison – 4 that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak. Conduct yourselves wisely toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.

When Paul requested prayer for a door for the word, he also asked that he would speak clearly. He could have used any word to describe this witness—proclaim, preach, announce, declare—but he chose conversational words: speak, answer, speech. Preaching is just one way for the gospel to be communicated. Conversation is an equally important way. We need to speak the mystery of Christ in the vernacular of the culture. This means we need to know Christ and live Christ, to think theologically and live redemptively. We are to do so with grace, which does not mean you should memorize pat apologetic answers. We are to consider each person, which does not mean win the argument, lose the person. Instead, we need to engage in missional conversation, conversation that lovingly and relevantly presents the gospel and looks to God to open the door of the heart. David Powlison says we should do three things in conversation: 1) listen to others’ stories 2) empathize with their story and 3) redemptively retell their story.

A number of weeks ago, I walked into the Sportsman to get my haircut by Marlene. As she was cutting, we began talking.(I have known Marlene for several years, and as far as I can tell, she is not a disciple of Christ.) I looked for an opportunity to listen and to love, to find a place in the conversation where the gospel could speak…and the door opened. After some conversation about God and life, she shared: “I second guessed God this week.” So I asked her how. She told be about a highway patrolman who died last week, leaving a wife and seven kids behind. “That’s terrible, awful,” I said. “Where did it happen?” “Why?” she asked. “Why does he allow stuff like that?” I replied by telling her that was a good question, a difficult question. I asked he if she knew how the car wreck happened. She didn’t. I told her that God does care about that kind of stuff, but so does Satan. Satan wants it to happen and causes suffering. But, I said, he won’t forever because God has promised to right all wrongs, to secure justice forever; it’s just a matter of time. I continued, “The world is fallen; it’s a screwed up place. There’s all kinds of crap. But Satan isn’t the only problem. We’re also the problem. People are responsible for what they do—drugs, rape, and alcohol if it was involved in the accident. Stuff like this accident reminds us of our need for redemption. The world isn’t as it should be, but that’s why Jesus died, to set it all straight. She just listened. I continue to pray. God calls us to missional prayer and conversational mission. In fact, missional prayer will always lead to conversational mission.

Just Back from Vacation with Jonathan Edwards

I’ve been out of the blogosphere for a few days since we were on vacation. I had a incredibly relaxing and edifying time with my wife, son, parents and Jonathan Edwards.

We spent a few days in the Stockbridge area, nestled in the Berkshire mountains of Western Mass. After being dismissed from his Northampton church, Jonathan Edwards spent ten years in Stockbridge, where he wrote Freedom of the Will, Original Sin, and the Nature of Virtue, prior to his short-lived presidency at Princeton.

We also made our way to Northampton, where Edwards preached for twenty-one years. The town has changed significantly, very little evidence of Edwards or his legacy remain (though Edwards scholar, Richard Lovelace lives there). We did have the privilege of standing on a step preserved from Edwards’ church, but apart from that the church is no longer standing.

Perhaps it is fitting to wrap up with a quote from Edwards. Commenting on the centrality of Christ to all things, in creation and consummation, he writes:

“God had a design before the foundation of the world of gathering all things to himself. Since all things are of him and through him, so he intended they should be to him and also of uniting all chosen creatures one to another in one society in perfect union, one unto another. When he made the world, it was with this purpose. When he made heaven and made the angels in it, it was with this design. When he made this lower world and made man in it, it was with this design. His Son was the person pitched upon and chosen of God, by whom and in whom this great event should be brought about. He was to be the head of the union, that all might be united in him and by him to himself. Therefore, God created all things by Jesus Christ (Eph 3.9-11).”

Taken from his sermon, Jesus Christ is the Great Mediator and Head of Union in Whom All Elect Creatures in Heaven and Earth Are United to God and to One Another

How Do Husband's Love Thier Wives? Insight from David Gray

Here’s some insight on love, partially gleaned from David Gray, that I shared with my church recently.

The love your husbands are to give you is not lollipop love, all sweetness and no substance. Love isn’t romance—dates, dinner, dancing, and dressing up. Love isn’t gifts—roses, rings, sewing machines, and new shoes. It isn’t the scripted words of David Decoveny (?), Brad Pitt, or Mel Gibson. God and your husband offer much more than romance, gifts, and scripts.

David Gray, perhaps the 21st century James Taylor, is an incredible song-writer and musician. His latest album, Life in Slow Motion, contains a song that articulates exactly what love is without God.

“Ain’t No Love” goes:

Maybe that it would do me good
If I believed there were a god
Cut in the starry firmament
But as it is that’s just a lie
And I’m here eating up the boredom
On an island of cement
Give me your ecstasy I’ll feel it
Open window and I’ll steal it
Baby like it’s heaven sent

This ain’t no love that’s guiding me
This ain’t no love that’s guiding me

Some days i’m bursting at the seams
with all my half remembered dreams
and then it shoots me down again
i feel the dampness as it creeps
I hear you coughing in your sleep
beneath a broken window pane
tomorrow girl i’ll buy you chips
a lollipop to stain your lips
and it’ll all be right as rain

This ain’t no love that’s guiding me

In case you dont know it, David Gray is an atheist, an honest atheist as far as I can tell. His brutal honesty exposes love for what it is apart from God. If our wives are not made in the image of God and loved with the love of Christ, they are reduced to relational, sexual, and emotional objects, wells for male “ecstasy.” No sacrifice, just satisfaction. No substance, just sweetness—-lollipop love.

But, in Jesus, love is more than romance, gifts, and scripts, than buying chips and lollipops for the one you love. More than a relational, emotional, or sexual hight. In Christ, there’s more than lollipop love.

It has been said that love is as strong as death. So it was with Christ. His love led to his death. Your love for your wife should be that strong. Death to your perceived rights and desires in order to promote the holiness and happiness of your wife. Death to your right to not do the dishes because you worked all day. Death to your desire to not change another diaper. Death to your spiritual sloth which makes excuses to not pray with and for your wife. Death to your desire to be right, to win the argument, to hurt her with harsh and angry words. Self-dying love gives life.

We can give life–love–to our wives by loving them according to their love language. Stay with me. Do you know how to love your wife? What communicates love to her? Time, Gift, Service, Communication, Touch? All of these are important for everyone, whether they acknowledge it or not, but some tend to communicate love more strongly than others. My wife likes to receive gift love. Early in marriage I confused this with money love. Robie does not feel love from gifts based on how much they cost, but on the fact that I took the time, thought and energy to think of her and express it concretely. I give her love she can hold when I buy her something. It took me a while to catch onto this. And its not my natural inclination to buy Robie something. Gift love is not my love language, so I don’t naturally think this way. Plus, I tend to be pretty cheap, unless of course, it comes to buying a computer. Early on I thought it my duty to “protect” her from materialism. That’s not what was going on. The point is that love thinks the way others think. We get into our wives’ mindset, we know them, we affectionately study them. Peter says it like this: “husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way….” (1 Pet 3.7). Literally, live with them according to knowledge. Study, know and love your wife. Husbands, love your wives.

Mohler and Patterson Debate and Discuss Calvinism and Mission

This week, at the 2006 SBC Pastors Conference, Al Mohler (Southern Seminary) and Paige Patterson (Southwestern Seminary) debated and discussed the implications of Calvinism for mission. See Thabiti’s blog for a rough transcript.

This is refreshingly informative and winsome, unlike many theological debates. Here are two interesting quotes:

“I cannot subscribe to Calvinism because I am a Baptist. As Richard Muller in his article, “How many points?” (1993 Calvin Journal), points out, Calvinism is a system and Baptists are inconsistent for not buying into the entire system of Calvinism including church-state relations and infant baptism.”

“I’ve said it before, there are two impossible persons. The person who doesn’t wish to respond but is drawn to Christ against his will, and those who wish to respond but can’t.”