Puritan Help for 21st Century Conflict (Part 3)

See Puritan Help for 21st Century Conflict (Part 2). The following excerpts on how to cultivate peace and deal with conflict are from Richard Baxter’s A Christian Directory.

9. Buy Peace

Buy peace at the price of any thing which is not better than it.

You must often part with your right for peace, and to put up wrongs in word or deed. Money must not be thought  too dear to buy it, when the loss of it will be worse than the loss of money….

He is no friend of peace, that will no have it except when it is cheap.

10.  Watch Your Criticism

Avoid censoriousness [i.e. the tendency to be overly critical] which is the judging of people or matters that you have no call to meddle with, and the making of matters worse than sufficient proof will warrant you.

Censorious persons are the great dividers of the church, and everywhere adversaries to peace while they open their mouths wide against their neighbors, to make the worst of all that they say and do, and  thus sow the seeds of discord amongst all.

11. Be Upfront

Neither talk against people behind their backs, nor patiently hearken to them that use it.

If you have anything to say against your neighbor, tell it to him in a friendly manner to his face, that he may be the better for it. If you tell it only to another, to make him odious, to listen to backbiters that defame people secretly, you show that your business is not to do good, but to diminish love and peace.

12. Emphasize the Good

Speak more of the good than of the evil which is in others.

There are none so bad as to have no good in them. Why don’t you mention that which is more useful to the hearer than to hear of someone’s faults?

13. Know Your Neighbor

Don’t be strangers, but instead be lovingly familiar with your neighbors.

Among any honest, well-meaning persons, familiarity is a great reconciler.

It is nearness that must make them friends.

14. (Don’t) Keep Your Distance

Come as near  to them as you can. Don’t run away from them, lest you run towards the opposite extreme.

15. Be Flexible

Don’t be overly stiff in your own opinions, as those that can yield in nothing to another. Nor yet so facile and yielding as to betray or lose the truth.

It greatly pleases a proud person’s mind when you seem to be convinced by him, and to change your mind because of his arguments, or to be much informed and edified by him. But when you deny this honor to his understanding, and contradict him, and stiffly maintain your opinion against him, you displease and lose him.

A wise person should gladly learn of any that can teach him more, and should most easily, more than anyone else, let go of an error. And he will be most thankful to anyone that will increase his knowledge–not only in errors to change one’s mind, but in small and indifferent things to submit to silence, is typical of a modest, peaceable person.

16. Wage War

Impiis me diis ecclesiae paci condulere, was one of the three means which Luther foretold would cast out the gospel. [And if you can translate that into Latin, have at it!]

**Monday’s post: Preparing for Advent

How I Endorsed a Book by Tim Keller

I didn’t think my first published endorsement for a major author’s book would be so anti-climactic.

A friend recently texted me a picture of the first page of Tim Keller’s book Jesus the King (formerly titled King’s Cross). He was 41BABD+esQL._AA200_-3surprised to find, sandwiched between the esteemed Kirkus Reviews and The Gospel Coalition’s Collin Hansen, an endorsement from me.

Yes, really.

Here’s the published blurb:

Keller engages the reader with astute pastoral application, littered with excellent sermon illustrations….[Jesus the King] finds Keller in familiar territory: producing another great book, leaving readers from atheist to Christian grappling with the nature and implications of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

You can read the Amazon sample here, just go to the second page.

How did this happen?

I originally wrote this piece during my time at Desiring God over two and a half years ago. King’s Cross was republished this Spring and retitled Jesus the King. So the book’s publisher just used the review from 2011 for the book’s 2013 relaunch.

Four pressing questions:

  1. Why didn’t anyone verify if I’m still employed with Desiring God (which, from a publishing perspective, was likely a key draw) before they include my endorsement of a New York Times bestselling author (for his book The Reason for God)? Do they have any idea what I’m up to nowadays? Heck, I could be Rob Bell’s ghostwriter. Mind you, I’m not, and never will (nor want to) be. But if I were, now that would make things interesting.
  2. Wouldn’t the publisher (a division of Penguin) notify me, or even ask my permission (as if I’d decline) to include me as Keller’s endorser?
  3. If I contacted the publisher and asked for a case of Jesus the King gratis would they oblige? Or even a box of cheap chocolates? (Imported, please. And dark, not milk.)
  4. Can I then take said copies of Jesus the King, autograph my endorsement, and sell them at inflated prices on eBay? Or maybe give them away as Christmas presents for distant relatives? Better yet: the publisher could arrange a belated ambitious PR gig for Keller and me: “Announcing Jesus the King 2013 National Book Tour Featuring Tim Keller and Unknown Endorser!”

Don’t get me wrong. I deeply appreciate Tim Keller’s ministry, and I love Jesus the King. And discovering that I was one of three endorsements for it is a huge honor for me. It’s just that, well, I would have appreciated a heads up.

Maybe next time.

You Need a (Good) Hymnal. Here’s Why (And One to Recommend).

John Witvliet, director of the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, recently wrote an excellent article titled, “Ten Reasons Why Hymnals Have a Future.” Here are his reasons, in no particular order:

  1. Hymnals are especially well suited to good group singing of many kinds of songs (though not all).
  2. Hymnals are portable.
  3. Hymnals are splendid for home piano or keyboard devotional playing.
  4.  Hymnals are an efficient one-stop worship planning resource.
  5. Hymnals make it relatively easy to stumble on and fall in love with good music you never thought you would like.
  6. Well-designed hymnals offer a vision of a balanced thematic diet.
  7. Hymnals help connect songs with elements of worship.
  8. Hymnals give people access to a “cultural memory bank” that many desperately want.
  9. Hymnals can be appealing to seekers.
  10. A hymnal can be a surprisingly effective catechism for both brand-new and lifelong Christians.

You can read the full article here.

On a related note, I’m quite enthusiastic about the particular hymnal Witvliet mentions, i.e. Lift Up Your 400400Hearts (hereafter LUYH). Before the article was published, I purchased over 20 copies (for small group use, devotional reading, family members, etc.). It’s not a perfect hymnal, but it gets many critical things Witvliet mentions in the article right.

I’ve been quite familiar with the Trinity Hymnal for years, and almost pulled the trigger on buying multiple copies. But when I received word that LUYH was under production some time ago, and upon reviewing a preview copy, I’m glad I went with it instead of the Trinity Hymnal (as much as I appreciate the latter).

If you don’t own a hymnal, or need to acquire a quality hymnal, LUYH is an excellent choice. (Even if the word “hymnal” sounds irrelevant, archaic, and makes you twitch.)

Announcing The Christward Collective Initiative

The Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals (a name that admittedly doesn’t sing like The Gospel Coalition, does it?) just announced fusion_tranquil_christward_logoThe Christward Collective, a sort of portal they describe as,

an attempt to help introduce the reader to various aspects of theology, together with the experiential benefits that ought to flow from them. Whether systematic, biblical, exegetical, historical or pastoral theology, we are seeking to help further equip believers for growth in their relationship with Christ and other believers. In short, we long for all believers to care deeply about theology and to see the ‘cash value’ of diligently pursuing such study. This site is a place where ‘doctrine and life meet.’

There are some solid guys contributing to it, and so I heartily commend it.

“Total Church” and “Everyday Church” Book Deal

Two great books on church, mission, community, and the Gospel are on sale for a paltry $1.99 (e-book format) till August 6:ref=sr_1_1

While both are excellent, Total Church (which was published first) is essential reading, while Everyday Church is more “how to put it all together.”

Steve Timmis and Tim Chester, the books’ co-authors, are experienced practitioners of a church planting group in England.  Both books are robust with biblically/theologically sound content.

Whether you’re a pastor/elder, aspiring church planter, small group leader, or anyone with any degree of influence in a local church, pony up the $4.00 for some great reading on minimal church centered on the Gospel.41pfFuqsViL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA278_PIkin4,BottomRight,-67,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_

N.T. Wright’s book Surprised by Hope for $1.99

N.T. Wright’s stellar book Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church (hereafter SBH) is only $1.99 (e-book only).

Yes, stop ref=sr_1_4rubbing your eyes, you read that right.

If you haven’t yet read Wright and are wondering where to begin (or even, “what’s the big deal about Wright anyway?”), SBH is a great place to start. Largely drawn and reworked from his heftier tome Resurrection of the Son of God, SBH is wonderfully accessible and equally readable.

Have you ever asked:

What’s the big deal about Jesus’ resurrection?

How do I live every day in light of Jesus’ resurrection?

What will happen to me, i.e. body and soul, when I die? Exactly what am I waiting for, anyway?

And how should I live in the meantime?

Yes? Then stop reading this and buy the book! (You can thank me later.)

Using Keller’s The Reason for God for Group Discussion

Since Tim Keller’s superb book The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism (hereafter RFG) was published in 2008, I’ve used it to lead several discussion groupsImage. Attendees were mostly professing atheists, skeptics, and de-churched (and even two Muslims). I’m exploring starting another discussion group in Minneapolis, so I’m dusting off my well-worn copy and getting reacquainted with it.

How did I lead such a group? How can you lead a group?

Here are seven practical pointers to get you started:

  1. Read (and re-read) the Book–As you’ll be leading the discussion, you’ll need to be thoroughly conversant with Keller’s arguments. Read it carefully, pencil in hand for underlining and note-taking. Become so familiar with the book that you’re three steps ahead of everyone else. This isn’t to display one-upmanship. Rather, it’s to demonstrate you’re competent to facilitate a fluid discussion. Know the book.
  2. Give it Away--Don’t even think of making people buy their own copy. Here’s a rule of thumb: Buy as many copies you think you’ll need, and even then ensure you have several to spare. You don’t want an unexpected newcomer joining you in week 5 of the discussion empty-handed, sharing a book with a stranger. He likely won’t be back the following week.
  3. Download the Discussion GuideRedeemer City to City, a ministry arm of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in NY, created a separate website for RFG, including a video trailer, discussion guide, and reviews. Download the reader’s guide and use it as a springboard for discussion, modifying it as necessary for your context.
  4. Choose Christians Carefully–Don’t open up your group to all of your Christian friends, no matter how well intended. Why not? Otherwise your group will be mostly composed of Christians. (And why would you want to do that?) Instead, carefully choose who you think might be a good addition to the group. Consider who’s eager to learn how to share their faith? Who loves people who don’t know Jesus? Conversely, consider who might hijack your group? Or  scare everyone away? Or be argumentative and divisive? (Don’t say I didn’t warn you!) Yes, the book is also aimed at Christians who need to better learn to struggle with and express how doubt intersects with faith. A healthy ratio of group participants is a third Christian, two-thirds everyone else.
  5. Choose Place Wisely–Where do the people you’d like to be in you group meet during the week? Where’s a great third space to conduct a discussion group that’s neutral, high traffic, non-threatening? Previously I’ve chosen a public library and several coffee houses. The next place I’m considering is a well-known hipster bike shop with a well used cafe in a central part of the neighborhood. Conversely, where shouldn’t you meet? A church building is the death knell, as is an overly quiet place not conducive for lively discussion.
  6. Use MeetupMeetup is a great place to post your group. There’s a nominal fee, but it’s the best place I know (especially in larger cities) to promote your group and reach your target audience. Some categories I used to promote my group were atheist, skeptic, seeker, Jesus, agnostic, religion, Christian, God, spiritual, etc. Anyone on the group interested in those things will automatically be notified of the new group. People then contact you via e-mail for more information.
  7. Pray–After all the prep work has been done, it’s all in God’s hands. Forge ahead and be prepared for an interesting journey!

The Anti-Sexy Small Group

The church my family and I attend is a recent church plant. It has a large number of college students and younger professionals. There are few older people (i.e. 40 years old and above). There’s a balance of single and younger married couples. A fair amount of the congregants didn’t grow up in a church context, so church life is fairly new to them.

It is in this varied context where I have been leading a small group for almost a year. Every week (with nary a break) we meet over a nice meal and drink, and launch into lively discussion. Recently, someone likened our group to the United Nations, as it is very racially and ethnically diverse. It really is interesting to behold.

Now, you might think we are doing something novel, something exciting, something, well, sexy, to draw a younger hip crowd. And I wouldn’t blame you for thinking such things.

But you’d be wrong.

So what are we reading and discussing each week that draws a diverse yet committed crowd of people (Christians and otherwise)?

This book.

And the book we read and discussed before that? This one.

(Sexy, huh?)