Issue #48

Grieving a National Tragedy, How You Can Help, the Rise and Fall of Mars Hill, and More...

Issue #48
Photo by Robert Anasch / Unsplash

Join me in praying Psalm 56 with our brothers and sisters in Ukraine (seen in the image above):

O God, have mercy on me,
   for people are hounding me.
   My foes attack me all day long.
I am constantly hounded by those who slander me,
   and many are boldly attacking me.
But when I am afraid,
   I will put my trust in you.
I praise God for what he has promised.
   I trust in God, so why should I be afraid?
   What can mere mortals do to me?

They are always twisting what I say;
   they spend their days plotting to harm me.
They come together to spy on me—
   watching my every step, eager to kill me.
Don’t let them get away with their wickedness;
   in your anger, O God, bring them down.

You keep track of all my sorrows.
   You have collected all my tears in your bottle.
   You have recorded each one in your book.
— Psalm 56:1–8 (NLT)

Weep with Those Who Weep 😢

A Liturgy for Grieving a National Tragedy | Douglas McKelvey 📃 →

I invite you to join as a family and read this liturgy together in support of Ukraine. If you do not have a family, join with your local church family, or pray alone, but know that the great cloud of witnesses surrounds you and joins in prayer.

Ukraine Has Been Invaded by Russia — Here’s What We Know and How You Can Help | Emily Brown 📃 →

There are already organizations on the ground who are in Ukraine and need help and support — through prayers, finances and man-power — to help Ukrainians affected by Russia’s attacks. Ukrainians have already put together a list of resources on how foreigners can help. You can see their full list here.

Some organizations already that need assistance include:

Mission Eurasia, which provides education and outreach materials for young Ukrainian leaders.

United Help Ukraine, which gathers and distributes medical supplies and humanitarian aid to those injured in the war in Ukraine.

Voices of Children, which gives psychological and psychosocial support to children who suffered as a result of war operations.

Ukraine Christian Ministries, which provides medical and material needs to Ukrainians.

Understanding the Ukraine Invasion from a Christian Perspective (2022) | Cameron Bertuzzi and Dr. Dustin Crummett 📽 →

In this video, Dr. Dustin Crummett joins me to discuss the reprehensible Russian invasion of Ukraine. We discuss the motive behind the invasion, where it might go next, and how we should think about it from a Christian perspective.
Understanding the Ukraine Invasion from a Christian Perspective | Capturing Christianity Youtube
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Living This Christian Life 🤴👸

The Hardest Season of All: How to Fight for Joy in Winter | Josh Squires 📃 →

As I walked briskly through downtown on a cold January morning, I asked my friend, a family lawyer, a typical small-talk question: “How are things at work?”

“It’s our busiest time of year,” he responded, “so I’m currently getting crushed.”

“Really?” I said. “That surprises me.”

“The week kids return to school following the holiday break, our office gets hammered with divorce inquiries,” he said glumly.

Initially, I was shocked. Yet as I thought more, I realized his experience as a family lawyer matched my own as a counselor and pastor. My email inbox, text messages, and voicemail go crazy in the days and weeks following the new year. Before you know it, if someone wants a counseling appointment, they are being booked into the spring.

Squires goes on to list five reasons that people leave the holidays, a time which is supposed to be filled with joy, hope, and family, is instead so full of disappointment, depression, and frustration.

But he doesn’t end there. He also shows us—through the scriptures—five things that can help us walk through the winter months with joy.

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Listen and Learn 🎧

Who Was the Apostle Paul and Why Does He Still Matter? | N.T. Wright 🎧 →

This podcast is a recording of a lecture that famous New Testament scholar Tom Wright gave in 2018 based on his book Paul: A Biography (linked below).

The title says it all. Wright gives an overview of who Paul was, his importance for the time, and his importance for today. There are many strains of thought that we should discard Paul and focus on the teachings of Jesus. To an extent, I understand that, as I do think that some Christians have overly focussed on the sweeping theology of Paul to the neglect of the Gospels. But short of Jesus, no human being has shaped history as Paul has. To ignore, discard, or neglect him is a mistake.

Who was the Apostle Paul and why does he still matter | Ask NT Wright Anything

Read and Reflect 📖

The Tragedy of Dumbing Down Christianity | Ethan Renoe 📃 →

The other day, a friend of mine said he sees no merit in understanding Calvinism or Arminianism because he just wants to love God and love people. And it seems that the ball stops there for most Christians today. No need to know any more than that.

I would go so far as to say that there is even a fear in evangelical Christianity of knowledge. In my experience, this fear comes from one of two sources: People are scared that if they come to know too much, they’ll be like the Pharisees and will just become haughty and judgmental to others, thus weakening their love for God; or they’re afraid that they’ll learn too much and go off the deep end of liberalism and swim in the risky waters of universalism and other heresies.

We have replaced rich, robust theology in the Church with emotional music and constant reminders that “God is love and loves you and He’s your personal Savior and loves your soul …” These words are great at bringing outsiders through the doors (because they’re true by and large) but poor at growing believers into mature witnesses with rich understanding of the deep things of God.

I have found the opposite to be very true. I have found that the more I learn about God, His Word and theology which describes Him, the more I can love and worship Him, because now there is that much more to adore and be amazed by. If my ability to worship God is a fire, learning more about Him only adds more wood to the blaze. After all, if you really loved God, wouldn’t you want to learn as much about Him as possible?

Emotion has its importance in the Christian life. Dr. John Piper is well known for his concept of “Christian Hedonism”: that God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him. But that’s different from an emotional high, and much of American Christianity seems concerned with the pursuit of that emotional high.

Renoe is making the counter-point that theology isn’t just for “some Christians.” All Christians are called to learn truth about God. That doesn’t have to be pure theology. Scripture tells us a story using poetry, history, letters, and more. There’s a place for pure theological learning, but that’s memorizing scripture, learning about the Bible’s themes and more are all good ways to learn about Christian truth.

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Best with a Cup of Tea ☕️

The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill | Mike Cosper 🎧 →

Hosted by Mike Cosper, this podcast takes you inside the story of Mars Hill Church in Seattle – from its founding as part of one of the largest church planting movements in American history to its very public dissolution—and the aftermath that followed. You’ll hear from people who lived this story, experiencing the triumphs and losses of Mars Hill, knowing it as both an amazing, life-transforming work of God and as a dangerous, abusive environment. The issues that plague Mars Hill and its founder, Mark Driscoll — dangers like money, celebrity, youth, scandal, and power—aren’t unique, and only by looking closely at what happened in Seattle will we be able to see ourselves.

I know I’m behind the curve on this podcast, and many of you have probably already heard it. I wanted to wait to share it until I listened to every episode so I could share a few thoughts.

This podcast is a must-listen for evangelical Christians. Driscoll was one of the front-line members of evangelical Christianity in the 2000s and early 2010s until the final collapse in 2015. The collapse of his church was big news at the time and Cosper has dug into both what made Mars Hill so attractive as a church, the problems it faced, why it collapsed, and the aftermath effect on the people who placed their lives in the church.

Cosper does a good job of showing the good and bad of the church, both why it was attractive to people and helped people, and why, ultimately, that made the aftermath so much worse. Evangelical Christians have long been attracted to celebrity and strength. Driscoll embodied the latter and became the former. But celebrity and strength are not gentleness and lowliness. Fame and power are not virtues.

This is a moment of reflection for conservative Christians. Why are we so attached to power and celebrity? If given the choice, will you go to a church with a charismatic, powerful preacher whose life you don’t know, or to a church with a humble and gentle character but isn’t the most charismatic person? Would you choose a church with large programs and a wonderful stage, or a church with people pursuing Christ through studies of the Word, acts of justice, mercy, and evangelism?

I've embedded the first episode below.

Who Killed Mars Hill? | The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill Podcast

Keep Your Mind on Things Above

I will be praying for you this week.

And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.

— Matthew 6:27–29 (CSB)

Joel Fischer