Songs for a Time of Grief

Great American theologian Jonathan Edwards once explained the purpose of music and song for the Christian in this way:

“And the duty of singing praises to God seems to be appointed wholly to excite and express religious affections. No other reason can be assigned why we should express ourselves to God in verse, rather than in prose, and do it with music but only, that such is our nature and frame, that these things have a tendency to move our affections.”

The affections that Edwards speaks of are not just emotions and feelings, but the ‘vigorous and sensible exercise of the inclination and will of the soul’, or put another way: the affections are what drive what we do. Thus ‘song’, for Edwards, is given by God as a tool to move our whole persons towards being in awe, worshipping, and faithfully trusting God.

And I can think of no other time that we need this more than in our grief and sorrow.

With this in mind, here are some suggested songs for times of grief and sorrow:

Still, My Soul, Be Still

“God, You are my God
And I will trust in You and not be shaken
Lord of peace renew
A steadfast spirit within me
To rest in You alone”

 

It Is Not Death To Die

“It is not death to die
To leave this weary road
And join the saints who dwell on high
Who’ve found their home with God
It is not death to close
The eyes long dimmed by tears
And wake in joy before Your throne
Delivered from our fears”

 

I Have A Shelter

“O Jesus, I will hide in You
My place of peace and solace
No trial is deeper than Your love
That comforts all my sorrows”

 

Valley of Vision

“Let me find Your grace in the valley
Let me find Your life in my death
Let me find Your joy in my sorrow
Your wealth in my need
That You’re near with every breath
In the valley”

 

To Live is Christ

“And though we grieve for those we love
Who fall asleep in Christ
We know they’ll see the Savior’s face
And gaze into His eyes
So now we grieve, yet we don’t grieve
As those who have no hope
For just as Jesus rose again
He’ll raise His own”

 

It Is Well With My Soul

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.

Is ‘Pokémon Go’ demonic?

Confession: it’s been just over a month now since I installed and starting playing the Pokémon Go smartphone app/game. It’s been an interesting time—with lots of light hearted moments shared with my kids as we’ve high-fived a good catch, and shared the loss of a Pokémon which has escaped my Pokéball and escaped in a puff of cloud.

Over the month that I have been playing I’ve also noticed that the game has had a fairly polarising effect on people. It seems you either love it or hate it! I can understand those who love it—it’s a fun game, it’s a novel take on social interaction and engagement, it’s helped me get outside and walking (!), and I’ve heard many couples enjoying time out together on ’Poké-dates’.

Those who dislike it range from those who find the game (and its users) a mere annoyance (since so many people in public seem glued to their phones), to those who find the game demonic! I’ve been asked enough by parents what I think about this game, so here’s my take on the concerns that some have.

Animism

Starting from the most serious concerns, I have read a few websites and blog posts which have made the claim that the game promotes animism (a belief personal spiritual beings and impersonal spiritual forces have power over human affairs, and consequently, that human beings must discover what beings and forces are influencing them in order to determine future action and, frequently, to manipulate their power).  While there are shades of truth about this, I consider these arguments to be over-reach and over-reaction.

The very light shade of truth is that Pokémon Go, like the Pokémon games before it, does involve capturing mythical beasts and using/controlling them as their trainer to battle other Pokémon (and their trainers) on your behalf. And that’s about where the similarities between animism and Pokémon Go end.

Concerns that the game promotes Animism in some subtle form of spiritual deception is massive overreach: accusing the game of doing something that it very clearly is not.

First, there is no storyline or narrative within the game that promotes animistic concepts. There is no commentary or subtle hints in this direction either. While the game itself does use elements of manipulating these beings known as ‘Pocket-monsters’ there is nothing within the game which makes any spiritual connection to the users’ activity.

The other day my wife sent me video of our 4 year old son playing with Iron Man and Captain America action figures. Even without seeing the movie, he picked up the two toys and ‘battled’ them together (and of course one lost… but why did it have to be Cap?! #TeamCap). I think there is little intrinsic difference between Pokémon Go users battling their Pokémon in a gym and what my son did with those two toy figurines. At the end of the day both Pokémon Go user and my son walk away having ‘played’, and little else.

Second, to say that the game is influencing the minds of young adults towards accepting animism is to give undue influence to the medium. Put simply: it’s a game. Most normal people can discern the difference between what takes place within a fictional world/universe of a game and real life.

There’s a great story from Star Wars actor Ewan McGregor (who plays a young Obi-Wan Kenobi in the Stars Wars prequels) who tells how cute it is when kids come up to him and ask how they can join the Jedi Academy. But McGregor says he gets really annoyed when adults come up to him and ask the same thing – because he knows, and we know, that it’s silly that an adult would think that something like the Force and the Jedi Academy from Star Wars exists in real life.

Third, Pokémon Go is not pitched at young children. In fact, it’s near impossible for young children to play it. You need a mobile device, and the game requires you to be out and about, walking around trying to find wild Pokémon. Parents are not going to be walking around constantly with their kids every time they want to play it. Ain’t no(parent) got time for that!

Rather, the vast majority of Pokémon Go users are young adults. Young adults who should know enough to discern between the fictional game world and real life.

Evolution

Another major concern is that the game teaches and promotes ‘evolution’.

Does it? In a nutshell: no. Yes, part of the game involves ‘evolving’ Pokémon to a higher and more powerful form but there are critical differences between this in-game evolution and the Darwinian Evolution that many Christians are often so fearful of.

First, the type of evolution that occurs within the game involves mystical/magical transformations: the Pokémon rises into the air in a brilliant ball of light and then *poof*, out comes the new evolved Pokémon. Check out the video below for what it looks like in game.

I hope from that video that it’s obvious this can hardly be seen as promoting Darwinian Evolution.

Second, the irony of evolution in Pokémon Go is that is requires an intelligent being (the user) to make a ‘sovereign’ and free choice over the type and timing of the evolution, and then to push the ‘evolution’ button. Darwinian Evolution by definition rejects the involvement of any intelligent being controlling the process of evolution.

But seriously, young adults (ie. teenagers) are more likely to be influenced by Darwinian Evolution by doing their studies in High School Science than they are going to be playing Pokémon Go. I make no comment on whether studying evolution in school is a good or bad thing – I’m just saying that fears that Pokémon Go promotes evolution are woefully overstated.

The real concern

When I got sent articles and posts about the so-called dangers of Pokémon Go promoting animism and evolution I was annoyed. It annoyed me that the writers didn’t engage with the game itself to test whether their fears and concerns were genuine. But it annoyed me the most that these overstated fears cloud out real and genuine concerns regarding the game.

In 1 Corinthians 10:23 Paul quotes what may have been a common Corinthian catchphrase ‘All things are lawful’. It seems that some in the church were using the catch phrase based on their inadequate understanding of the gospel – “Jesus has set us free from condemnation, so all things are now lawful for us to do!” That’s my guess.

So Paul writes back that this catch phrase is only partially correct – “All things are lawful, sure, BUT not all things are helpful.”

There are some things in life which are neutral at best. Neither good nor bad. Some are free to participate in these things – but for some it might not be so good to do so.

In relation to Pokémon Go I think there are three ways in which it can be unhelpful.

Lack of Self-Control

The first area concerns self-control.

I’m cautious about using the word ‘addicted’ to describe how some play the game so often. Addiction is medical term with a distinct medical definition, and every time we use the word wrongly we cheapen the effects of real addiction.

Lack of self-control is, I think, a better way of looking at this issue. Those who play it constantly, talk about it constantly, and are often disengaged and staring at their phones. One parent shared this concern with me that he would not let his two daughters play the game because they have a habit of lack of self-control when it comes to these things in general – a constant preoccupation with these sorts of games: hours on end, day after day. I get that, that’s a real and genuine concern that I see not only in others but also in myself.

The gospel trains us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in the present age (Titus 2:12). A preoccupation with this game, which I think is a common danger of it, is not helpful.

Idolatry

One of the main features of the game which compels users on (since it lacks any narrative to compel users on) is the idea of levelling up in order to catch more distinct and rarer Pokémon. Levelling up in order to be ‘the very best, like no one ever was’ because  you ‘gotta catch ‘em all’ is a key mark of the Pokémon experience.

But when we begin wrapping our identity and status around what level we are, what our highest combat power Pokémon is, how many Gyms we own or have taken, then we verge into the danger area of idolatry.

In Mark Driscoll and Gerry Breshear’s book ‘Vintage Jesus’ they provide a list of questions to help identify our idols (also known as our functional saviours):

  1. What am I most afraid of?
  2. What do I long for most passionately?
  3. Where do I run for comfort?
  4. What do I complain about the most?
  5. What angers me most?
  6. What makes me happiest?
  7. How do I explain myself to other people?
  8. What has caused me to be angry with God?
  9. What do I brag about?
  10. What do I want to have more than anything else?
  11. What do I sacrifice the most for in my life?
  12. If I could change one thing in my life what would that be?
  13. Whose approval am I seeking?
  14. What do I want to control/master?
  15. What comfort do I treasure the most?

In answering these questions you can see how our rank on Pokémon Go could act as an idol in our lives.

Distraction

I honestly think this is probably the biggest danger that Pokémon Go users face. Not because I think ‘there are better things to be doing with your time’ – there are heaps of other time consuming, and more expensive, hobbies that get less criticism than Pokémon Go has in the past month.

No, the biggest concern I have for any Christian playing Pokémon Go is that we’ll have good reasons for playing it, but end up distracted by the game itself. Using this game to connect with non-Christian friends and go out on outings is great; spending all your time with your friends glued to your phone, not great.  Using this game as a connection point for conversations, perfectly fine; spending all your time talking about this, not fine.

And there is one further pointed danger. The truly demonic is all of this is not the so-called animism or the evolution promotion. The truly demonic is to take our eyes off eternal realities and fix them on earthly cares, concerns, and distractions.

Matt Chandler explains this problem the best in this short 2.5 min clip:

The biggest potential danger with Pokémon Go is that it gives us a big enough distraction from our boredom that we will miss that we have been called to bigger and greater things in the gospel.

Conclusion

I think Pokémon Go is a pretty fun game. It’s got me out and about walking with the kids – which has been good for my health. It’s been a point of connection in my youth ministry as I use it to start conversations with teens before moving onto what else is happening in their lives. I know couples who have been able to enjoy time out together on Poke-dates.

Does Pokémon Go teach and promote animism and evolution? Hardly. Can Pokémon Go potentially stumble us into a lack of self-control, idolatry, and distraction from eternal matters? Potentially.

Basically there are helpful and unhelpful ways of enjoying this game.

 

P.S

I was forwarded a document from an Asian church which basically decried the game as demonic. To be honest I found it ironic: I find the preoccupation with academic excellence in our Asian circles to be much more demonic, and potentially eternally damning, than a phone game. I’ve seen more youth fall away pursuing academic excellence than I have seen youth fall away because of computer games.

Census – What to put if you’re not part of a denomination?

Census night is upon us, and there’s been some confusion as to what to put for those of us who are non-denominational. Our church, SLE Church, doesn’t have a particular denomination and a few of our members have been wondering how to mark the census form appropriately.

Here’s my simple take: Fill in the ‘Other’ category and simply put ‘Christian’.

Part of the reason for this is that this is simply the truth. Our church is neither Baptist, nor Anglican nor any of the other options available. And while many of us (including your pastors) have a particular theological position within Christendom (ie Reformed Evangelical) it’s not overly helpful to place this down. Here’s why: the purposes for which the data is used.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics most of the date is often used by governments to sort out planning and administration. The more that people simply put down ‘Christian’ the larger that population becomes. If you put down ‘Reformed Evangelical’ in the eyes of the ABS the population of ‘Christian’ decreases. If you’ve already done that, no sweat. Next time around we’ll know what to do :)

On what you should put down for your children, well Michael Jensen has a nice op-ed piece in the Sydney Morning Herald. That’s really up to you what you put down, and I think the aim is to be honest.

What are your thoughts on what to put down and why? Put them in the comments below.

Nerdwriter

I’ve often heard the criticism that much of cinema and movies in general are just a huge waste of time. And to be fair, there’s lots of movies out there that fit this criticism perfectly – and you know, plenty of films and movies I’ve seen have been just that.

But this is not to say that all movies should be painted with that brush. Enter The Nerdwriter.

The Nerdwriter has fast become one of my most watched youtube channels. He’s got some highly perceptive comments to make on a number of topics, but it’s his videos about movies which have really captured my attention. With thoughtful commentary Evan Puschak provides key insights into the purpose of the artistry involved.

Here are some of my favourite examples:

How composer Howard Shore develops the musical themes for the ‘Lord of the Rings’ movies, and also how music plays such an important part in the experience of a film:

 

How director Alfonso Cuarón‘s direction in the third movie of the Harry Potter series (The Prisoner of Azkaban) is not only brilliant, but also highlights how ‘cinematic illiterate’ a number of us are:

 

And this one giving an insightful comment on why ‘Man of Steel’ and ‘Batman vs Superman’ just really didn’t hit the mark (hint – it’s go to do with director Zack Snyder’s obsession with movie moments at the expense of scenes):

 

But it’s not all about movies over at his channel. He also has some insight into culture in general, in particular I appreciated this take on one reason why Donald Trump has gained so much popularity:

Now, I want to appreciate these clips not only for bringing the insight that they do, but to also elevate Christian thinking on art in general. I’m hoping over the next few posts to do just that, but we’ll see how time goes.

Refiner’s fire

A wonderful little quote from Iain Duguid’s Daniel commentary on the nature of trials and how they refine us – I found it an insightful reminder that the fire refines what should already be there:

We need to be careful at this point, however. There is nothing intrinsically purifying about fiery trials in themselves, and we should not seek them for their own sake. The refiner’s fire does not create the pure metal, it simply reveals it. If you put metallic ore into the crucible, the pure metal will sink to the bottom and you can remove the slag from the top. However, if what you put into the crucible is dross to begin with, you will get out nothing but dross. The fire simply reveals the true nature of the material being refined. So too in Daniel 12:10, when those who are wise go through trials, they are ‘purified, made spotless and refined’ by them; yet in the same circumstances, the wicked continue to be wicked. Trials thus serve to reveal the difference between the wise and the wicked. As the apostle Peter reminds us, the key purpose of our trials: so that “your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed.” (1 Peter 1:7). In a mysterious way, the trials that we face – trials that come from the fallenness and brokenness of this world – refine our faith and demonstrate its genuineness, making us more fit for the presence of God.

Iain M. Duguid, Daniel (Reformed Expository Commentary), p218-219

The Precious Blood

From the Valley of Vision – a wonderful collection of Puritan prayers edited by Arthur Bennett. I’ve transcribed it into slightly more modern English as some of the original old English phrases I believe can be misunderstood.

One common danger in the Christian life is to devalue, become calloused, or increasingly immune to the weight of what Christ accomplished on the cross. This prayer is a wonderful prayer of self reflection – to remember the heinous depth of our sin, and the correspondingly glorious goodness of Jesus’ sacrifice.

May it be an encouragement to us all this Easter.

 

Blessed Lord Jesus,

Before your cross I kneel and see
the heinousness of my sin,
my iniquity that caused you to be
‘made a curse’,
the evil that excites the severity of divine wrath.

Show me the enormity of my guilt by
the crown of thorns,
the pierced hands and feet,
the bruised body,
the dying cries.

Your blood is the blood of incarnate God,
its worth infinite, its value beyond all thought.
Infinite must be the evil and guilt
that demands such a price.

Sin is my condition, my monster, my foe, my viper,
born in my birth,
alive in my life,
strong in my character,
dominating my faculties
following me as a shadow,
intermingling with my every thought,
my chain that holds me captive in the empire of my soul.

Sinner that I am, why should the sun give me light,
the air supply breath,
the earth bear my treat,
its fruit nourish me,
its creatures serve my ends?

Yet, Your compassion yearn over me,
your heart hastens to my rescue,
your love endured my curse,
your mercy bore my deserved stripes.

Let me walk humbly in the lowest depths of humility,
bathed in your blood
tender of conscience,
triumphing gloriously as an heir of salvation.

 

Here is the Sovereign Grace rendition:

Daniel 2, Nebuchadnezzar and the Golden Head

Daniel - Between Two Worlds (Facebook Banner)1

We’ve just started a sermon series in the book of Daniel at SLE Church. I’m up to preach Daniel 2, Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of the big statue that gets smashed by a God-carved rock.

There’s quite a lot of detail in the narrative that I probably won’t have time to cover. For instance the creation imagery used of Nebuchadnezzar in verses 37-38:

[37] You, O king, the king of kings, to whom the God of heaven has given the kingdom, the power, and the might, and the glory, [38] and into whose hand he has given, wherever they dwell, the children of man, the beasts of the field, and the birds of the heavens, making you rule over them all—you are the head of gold. (Daniel 2:37-38 ESV)

The careful reader will pick up very quickly that Daniel is comparing Nebuchadnezzar with Adam. This little comment from Iain Duguid’s fine commentary is helpful in explaining what’s going on:

So what, according to Daniel 2, does this dream seek to teach us? First, it shows that God gives every earthly kingdom its glory and power: they do not come from their own strength. God gave Nebuchadnezzar his unparalleled sovereignty, power, strength, and glory (Dan 2:37). In fact, the height of Nebuchadnezzar’s authority is underlined by the creation language used to describe it: like Adam, he has been given authority not only over people, but over nature itself, so that the beasts of the field and the birds of the air are placed in his hands (2:38). Yet the same creation imagery also underlines the dependent and transient nature of his position: like Adam, if he sins, he too can be cast down from his exalted position. Even if he is history’s head of gold, he can still be brought down to the dust. To use the language of Daniel’s prayer, the same God who set him up as king can also depose him (2:21).

And we see just that in chapter 4.

What to do with the non-Christians in Bible Study

Bible Study

Every so often at our church we have a small but sizeable number of non-Christians in a fellowship group. At this point the question becomes whether a dedicated non-Christian group should be formed within the larger group.

While I believe some form of Christianity Explained/Explored/Introducing God type of group needs to be provided (and there are other good resources to go through), I believe it should supplement the week-to-week bible study group fellowship. This, of course, is a big sacrifice resource wise – but for a group of keen non-Christians I pray that we’ll all see this as a sacrifice worth investing in.

For me, there are three compelling reasons to include non-Christians in regular bible study.

1. It demystifies the Bible

I remember clearly one of the misconceptions I had about the bible before becoming a Christian was how to read and understand the bible. To me it was some spiritual book in which I had to vaguely wait to for some spiritual answer to leap off the page. When you consider some of the language used to describe the bible it probably doesn’t help: Word of God; Holy Bible; Scripture; Sacred Writings…

So it came as a relative surprise that this wasn’t the case. Instead, week after week, I was shown that the bible isn’t that strange after all – sure there are some strange stories and contexts a lot of us are not familiar with, but at the heart was a simple comprehension exercise. Yes, there are certainly applications to be made, and to be done so by reliance on the Spirit – but sitting down to understand the bible wasn’t out of my reach.

What I later learned as the perspicuity of scripture (the clarity of bible texts before us) I encountered as a non-Christian in regular bible study

2.  It should hopefully show how the bible is one united story

Biblical literacy in our world is at an all-time low. But this isn’t just an issue for non-Christians, it’s also an issue within the church as well. Understanding how the whole bible fits together telling one united story is not familiar to many.

Regular weekly bible studies should not only be exploring the content of the passages before us but also helping us to plug them into the bigger picture. Whether we’re in Deuteronomy, Ecclesiastes, Romans or Revelation, we should be seeing the unfolding story of the gospel of Jesus and its implications for us today.

And not only is this beneficial for Christians, but also non-Christians sitting in on studies.

[Here of course I need to mention that when I speak of bible study I’m assuming the historical-grammatical expository method of studying the bible: verse by verse, chapter by chapter, book by book. Each phrase within the context of its sentence, each sentence within the context of its paragraph, each paragraph within the context of its book and each book within the context of the larger story of the bible. Click here for an explanation of why the expository method of teaching/learning the bible is one of the best.]

3.  It provides a witness/testimony of Christians submitting to the word and encouraging each other

Here is probably one of the most powerful things I witnessed as a non-Christian coming to bible studies regularly. I saw other Christians (who I discovered to my relief that they weren’t all that strange!) learning together and sitting in submission to God’s Word to them. I also saw Christians humbling themselves, confessing their struggles, and encouraging each other. Sure it wasn’t perfect, but it was certainly eye-opening and wonderful to see.

It presented to me a wonderfully attractive community to be a part of. It wasn’t perfect, but in their imperfection they were striving to be humble, loving, and caring for each other.

 

So there’s three reasons why I think it’s great that non-Christians should join our bible studies on top of any Christianity explained type of course. That said, there are a few thoughts to keep in mind while doing so:

First, be careful to avoid Christianese – terms and jargon used by Christians that only Christians understand. Take the time to explain and explore Christian concepts and words that come up in bible study. This is one of the beauties of bible study as opposed to sermons, there is time to explain and explore things. It’ll not only benefit the non-Christian but also younger Christians who may also not understand, and give a chance for older Christians to explain clearly what jargon they use.

Second, take the time to set things in the biblical timeline context. I’m about to start a bible study series in the book of Daniel. The historical setting of Daniel is not going to be familiar with a lot of Christians, let alone non-Christians. I’m aiming to do this through some games and a visual map of the bible’s timeline – and I plan to do this regularly over our 8 week study.

Finally, remember that the implications/applications for non-Christians must first stop at the gospel. A study, for example in Ephesians 4:17-32 will have all sorts of practical outworkings for the Christian: put away falsehood and speak the truth (v25), do not steal but do honest work (v28), be kind to each other and forgive each other (v32). However, if a non-Christian is simply told to do these things then the impression they walk away with of Christianity is that it is simply a works-based religion. The bible study leader needs to be careful that applications are not simply left there – but remind the entire group clearly and repeatedly that these are gospel outworking’s for a gospel-transformed life. This is good not only for the non-Christian but also the legalist (who needs to be gently rebuked for relying on their works for salvation) and the less mature in faith (who needs to be gently encouraged to see how the gospel works in all areas of life).

So there are my thoughts. What about you? What have benefits and potential hurdles have you found in inviting non-Christians into bible study?

 

Paul Tripp – Awe [quote]

I’m reading through this book at the moment – it’s a fantastic read so far. Here’s an awesome quote about ministry’s primary goal:

“One generation shall commend your works to another.” (Psalm 145:4)

That was exactly what I needed. It immediately hit me that every moment of ministry must contribute to this goal. Whether it’s the worship service, the children’s lesson, the small group, or the sermon itself, each must share the central goal of holding the awesome glory of the works of the Lord before his people once again. God intends every moment of ministry to inspire awe of himself in his people. This must happen again and again and again. Why? Because we so easily become awe amnesiacs. We live between the ‘already’ – Christ’s completed and inaugurated work – and the ‘not yet’ – the coming culmination of God’s work of redemption. And since life in this period is one big war over awe, the present generation of ministry people must give the next generation their awe of God.

 

Mark Driscoll is… back soon

It’s been confirmed by the Driscoll’s themselves that they will be starting a new church plant within the next few months in Phoenix, Arizona. Those who have read this blog from the very beginning know that I have had some affection for the work and ministry of Driscoll and Mars Hill. I haven’t blogged too much on what’s happened in recent years, I’ve been more following along with my own concerns but not wishing to put them out there on this site. There’s plenty of others – well written, and awfully written – who have discussed the details of what’s happened much more.

The purpose of this post is to post up a few relevant videos I’ve come across to help shape our perspective on Driscoll himself.

First there’s this two part video – an interview with Brian Houston – with some reflections from the Driscolls and I think some hard hitting questions from Houston:

Say what you will about all that’s happened, I see in these videos a repentant and humbled man. Does this mean I think he should jump back into ministry? I don’t know. And actually, that answer itself says a lot.

The next video is some reflections from John Piper. There’s lots to be said about the ‘he said/she said’ on the details of all that has happened – what Piper strikes at helpfully is the larger bigger picture.

Some points from Piper worth repeating:

  • What has happened to Driscoll and Mars Hill is not unique. Lay people and pastors every day bring reproach upon the gospel. Who has not let Jesus down? Take care of the logs in our eye before we try to point out the specks in others. Ironically, we’re often so quick to notice the logs in other people’s eyes…
  • What has happened to Driscoll and Mars Hill is a colossal blow to relationships, Christianity, reformed theology, complementarianism…etc. It’s been a big victory for Satan. But the general – Jesus – is not shaken and out of control.
  • In the wake of everything that has happened – and the possible contempt that some may feel about this new church-plant announcement – don’t walk away from Jesus or the church. The choice of Jesus over the church is a choice of your opinion over the bible – you cannot have Jesus without the church.

So, what should we make of it all? To be honest I don’t really know. I’m about to preach on 2 Peter 2 and false teachers, and for Peter one of the hallmarks of a false teacher is not just their doctrine but their lives. How they live – in sensuality and following their own fleshly desires while leading others astray. I do believe there were some concerning aspects of Driscoll’s ministry at Mars Hill, but the elders report which came in late 2014 was that while Driscoll had some personality issues to work through he had not committed anything serious enough to disqualify him from ministry. I want to read that carefully and cautiously, but I also want to trust that the eldership of a church could not have gotten it totally wrong.

So I want to encourage caution and prayer. Things went bad once. If they go bad again then we’re seeing really bad fruit that comes from a really bad place. And I sincerely pray that it will not come to that again – not just for their sake but also for the sake of the gospel. So be cautious about the books that Driscoll publishes and the sermons that he preaches. I’m on the other side of the planet and my interest in Driscoll is an interest that wants to see the Gospel win. I want this church to grow well because I want to see the Gospel shine.

To that end pray that this new ministry will be fruitful, and that it will be marked by humility and repentance of such a kind that it will rebound to the glory of God.