Monthly Archives: May 2011





Jared C. Wilson|11:58 am CT

Abide Leader Kit Winners

The two winners in the random drawing for those who supported Emma via PayPal last week are:
Jen C.
Lore F.

Emails were sent this morning asking for your shipping addresses.

Thanks to everybody who gave, and please know you can continue to do so. You just have to do it totally out of the goodness of your heart now, not for a chance to win a free book. ;-)






Jared C. Wilson|1:18 pm CT

Do We Need All These Books on the Gospel?

Dane Ortlund writes at the Crossway Blog:

After all, after 2,000 years, don’t we know by now what the gospel is? Haven’t we “been-there-done-that”? Why do we need one book after another on the same old topic?

1. Because the gospel is “of first importance” (1 Cor 15:3). In describing his ministry—a ministry that communicated “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27)—Paul described it as testifying “to the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24).

2. Because you’re going to roll out of bed tomorrow a functional Pharisee. The instincts beneath your instincts, the impulses way down deep inside you, are law, not gospel. A good night’s sleep, not a heretical sermon, is all it takes to forget the gospel of grace.

3. Because the gospel is disputed and debated today. What is the gospel? What are the implications of the gospel? What is the relationship between the gospel and the kingdom of God? How does the gospel relate to growth in godliness? What is the connection between the gospel and community? These questions need answers from different people, with different voices and different backgrounds, who love the same gospel.

4. Because the church is always one generation away from losing the gospel. Every generation must rediscover the glories of free grace for itself.

5. Because for every book exulting in or explaining or defending the gospel, a hundred more roll off the press which, wittingly or unwittingly, distract us from that which is of first importance.

6. Because the gospel is the central message of the entire Bible. Jesus said that even Moses was writing, ultimately, about him (John 5:46). The last verse of the Bible sums up the core message of the Bible: “The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen” (Rev. 22:21).

The gospel is the scandalous news that through the death and resurrection of Jesus, our disobedience cannot dent God’s approval of us and our obedience cannot help God’s approval of us, as we look in trusting faith to Christ. And the priority of this gospel, the functional need of the gospel, the contesting of the gospel, the retaining of the gospel, the constant sidelining of the gospel, and the unified biblical testimony to the gospel all unite to say—yes, we need more books on this gospel.






Jared C. Wilson|6:18 pm CT

What Do You See When You Look at the Church?






Jared C. Wilson|1:30 pm CT

Men in Cars

One thing I have noticed at the food pantry where I volunteer is that nine times out of ten a woman comes in to receive food, her male significant other waits in the car. I know this because he and I make awkward eye contact when I help the ladies carry groceries to the car.

I have mixed feelings about this arrangement. Part of me understands why they’d wait outside. It could be that they don’t figure “getting groceries” is their area. It is also a particularly male dysfunction to want to avoid asking for help. There is perhaps the shame of acknowledging they couldn’t provide for their family. I remember the heartbreaking scene in Cinderella Man when James Braddock finally breaks down to ask friends for a handout. He is a proud man who only goes there as a last resort — and when he violates his own conscience and receives government assistance he promises to pay every penny back, and does — and therein lies a good sort of pride.

But is it really a good sort of pride?

What these men are essentially saying is that they would rather their wife or girlfriend experience the embarrassment of asking for help, they would rather that she answer the personal questions required in the assistance office (How many people in the family? Does anyone have employment? What are your monthly bills? etc.), they would rather she carry the often-numerous bags of groceries by herself to the car. (Typically I carry bags for a woman with a kid or two who has accompanied her inside to a waiting car outside with the trunk open and a man behind the wheel.)

I was reminded of this recently when one of our church members related a sad scenario at an abortion clinic last week. She and her husband were there joining a monthly protest, when a car pulled into the parking lot. A young woman she figured was about sixteen or seventeen got out of the car and went inside. An older man my friend assumed was her dad — although certainly he could have been someone else — waited in the car.

Who knows what this young girl went into the facility for. Could have been for information on birth control or sex ed. It’s not known she was going in for an abortion. And maybe that guy wasn’t her dad, but just a “ride.”

Still. I picture a teenage girl entering a place like that while her male guardian, even if just for the moment, cannot be bothered to even go in with her. And this image seems so . . . emblematic.

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.
– Ephesians 5:25-27

Men are supposed to protect women, guard their bodies and hearts. Men are supposed to take the hits for them, not use them as shields. Men are supposed to be “at point,” not in the rear guard. Men are supposed to be doing what they can to present their wives to Christ as clean as possible.

Dudes, let’s get out of the car.






Jared C. Wilson|1:02 pm CT

How to Ask a Question Well During a Q&A Time

We’ve all been there, probably. The seating is full, the speaker we all came to hear has given a good talk, and now he or she is going to take questions from the audience. Hands are raised, people are called on.

And one or more of those chosen to ask a question spends way too much time trying to:
a) Impress the speaker with the depth of his or her knowledge of the speaker’s work
b) Impress the speaker and the audience with a recitation of his or her experience, background, or accomplishments
c) Give all sorts of set-up and context for a question that really doesn’t need it.

We ought to be gracious in thinking of these “Me Monster” interlocutors, but they ought to be gracious with the rest of those present, as well. :-)

Is this person you? Do you know that the more time you take not asking a question during your moment can be a manifestation of self-centeredness? Not to mention that it robs other people of being able to ask questions too. The longer you take, the less time there is for others.

So how do you ask a question during a Q&A time?

1. Skip the autobiography unless a concise personal note gives needed context for your question.
2. Skip adulation of the speaker unless you can offer a short “thank you for speaking here today.”
3. Just ask a question.

If the speaker needs more details or context, he or she can ask for them.







Jared C. Wilson|2:23 pm CT

No Further Than Our Fathers

And now, O sons, listen to me,and do not depart from the words of my mouth.
– Proverbs 5:7

As we cling doggedly to the theology our fathers fought for and passed down to us in good faith, the doctrinal dilettantes of the day nag, “What ever happened to semper reformanda?”, positing evolving boundaries, a flexible orthodoxy, working on the assumption that our position in history gives us a better understanding of what the Bible really says.

The way we play with the shape of evangelical theology today arises from straight-up chronological snobbery.

In the New York Times last month we find this historical item related to the recent tsunami and devastation in Japan:

The stone tablet has stood on this forested hillside since before they were born, but the villagers have faithfully obeyed the stark warning carved on its weathered face: “Do not build your homes below this point!”

Residents say this injunction from their ancestors kept their tiny village of 11 households safely out of reach of the deadly tsunami last month that wiped out hundreds of miles of Japanese coast and rose to record heights near here. The waves stopped just 300 feet below the stone.

“They knew the horrors of tsunamis, so they erected that stone to warn us,” said Tamishige Kimura, 64, the village leader of Aneyoshi.

Hundreds of so-called tsunami stones, some more than six centuries old, dot the coast of Japan, silent testimony to the past destruction that these lethal waves have frequented upon this earthquake-prone nation. But modern Japan, confident that advanced technology and higher seawalls would protect vulnerable areas, came to forget or ignore these ancient warnings, dooming it to repeat bitter experiences when the recent tsunami struck.

Their ancestors knew what they were talking about. They had learned the hard way. And they erected markers: Don’t build past this point. But we post-postmoderns are arrogant. We know better. We are smarter, more enlightened. And we have to accommodate more and more people. So we ignore the markers. We want to grow!

We must be reminded that semper reformanda does not mean “always morphing.” It does not mean that the faith is ever changing, progressing into something better. In many respects, to be always reforming is to be always returning to the gospel. It is to be continually sloughing off the baggage of doctrinal add-ons and distractions, cutting out the ever-rising innovations, theological and otherwise. To be always reforming is to keep going back to the ancient markers in the face of constant temptation and taunting from those who’d have us play with heterodoxy ever-newly. Let us keep contending, keep trusting, keep returning.

Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you.
– 2 Timothy 1:13-14






Jared C. Wilson|1:40 pm CT

Help a Vermonter Go to Uganda, Win an Abide Leader Kit

This is Emma. She is awesome.

Emma goes to our church and we are very proud of her, because she was recently selected to join a Samaritan’s Purse/Operation Christmas Child “SPY” team on a mission trip to Uganda this summer.

In Uganda, Emma’s team will conduct six Operation Christmas Child shoebox distributions throughout the country. They will also work with the Samaritan’s Purse project office on two projects:

Livestock Programs
After families are given an animal, they are required to reimburse Samaritan’s Purse with the animal’s offspring, allowing us to distribute animals to new beneficiaries. All families receive basic training in improved livestock production.

Household Water Program
Poor access to safe drinking water and a limited knowledge of hygiene and sanitation can negatively impact health. Bio-sand filters, shallow well protection, and rainwater harvesting used in conjunction with education and training has improved the quality of life in many villages in the Kamwenge district.

Emma needs to raise around $4,000 for this trip. Our church is paying the bulk of this expense, but due to some recent medical expenses, Emma’s family is in need of help raising the remainder of the money needed. So she’s fundraising. And this is where me and you come in. I want to help her raise money by giving you the opportunity to help her receive money. :-)

If you’d like to contribute to Emma’s trip to Uganda, you can make a donation of any size via PayPal using our church’s email address: MSCChurch AT gmail DOT com
Please indicate in the note portion “For Emma.”

And if you give $25 or more to Emma via PayPal by next Monday (the 30th), you will automatically be entered to win an Abide Leader Kit ($70 value). I’m gonna give 2 kits away, so your odds of winning are good. Winners will be randomly selected and will be contacted on the 30th or shortly thereafter by email. (Note: If you’ve already given via PayPal, you are already entered for the drawing.)

The Abide Leader Kit includes:
- copy of the book Abide
- Enhanced CD (Includes: Leader Guide with step-by-step guide to leading discussion, including insightful questions that will help encourage authentic community; Articles from Biblical Illustrator to help you dig deeper; 5 songs off the Abide Playlist; and more.)
- DVD (Includes: Video sessions and promo segment)

If you’d prefer to snail mail a check, you’ll miss out on the drawing, but can do it anyway to:
Middletown Springs Community Church
PO Box 1187
Middletown Springs, VT 05757
(please write in the Memo field “For Emma”)

All contributions to Middletown Springs Community Church are tax deductible.






Jared C. Wilson|1:36 pm CT

Shaping a FORGE Talk

Three fellows from other area churches and I share the leadership of a local ministry to young adults and college students called Forge. On the fourth Saturday of each month, we gather in a downtown Rutland venue to worship in song and teaching. The four of us rotate speaking duties, and recently we decided to more formally draft criteria to help us compose our messages and then review each message as a group in our subsequent leadership team meetings.

I thought some of my readers might find this interesting or helpful, so with the Forge team’s permission, here is the criteria Forge speakers must keep in mind in crafting our talks and by which we will be critiqued.

Was there a biblical text as the foundation of the talk?
How well did the talk understand or explain the text?

Because Forge is not meant to be a church — but to aid the local churches in encouraging and edifying their young people — we do not expect the talks to necessarily resemble sermons, expository or otherwise. Nevertheless, we want every talk to be grounded in the word of God and reflective of a response to God’s revelation. God has all the best ideas, anyway.

Was Jesus the star of the talk?

Christ-centered teaching is part of Forge’s tagline, and we want to make sure that he is proclaimed, not just mentioned. We have agreed that the best way to encourage young adults is not primarily through inspirational thoughts or spiritual pick-me-ups but through reminding them of the good news of God’s grace. And this means Jesus has to be the focus.

Did the talk treat the listeners as partners in ministry and mission?
Was the feel of the talk “me over you” or “us together”?

We want to promote a distinct sense that we are all in this together. Young adults and college students in our area already have a general sense of being on the fringes of what the churches are doing and what the churches are all about. We want to impart ownership more and more to them, so that Forge is not about consuming and spectating, but about joining together to see what God will do through all of us in the state of Vermont.

Was the talk reflective of and/or were the discussion questions afterward conducive to authenticity, brokenness, and transparency?

Every Forge gathering includes built-in group discussion times. In these times groups of 3-6 discuss not just the information given in the talk but how it might apply to them personally. We want to foster real community among the area’s young adults, because it is sorely lacking and desperately desired. So we want our talks to either reflect a speaker’s place of brokenness or authenticity (either by way of testimony or demeanor) or we want the discussion time after to include questions designed to help attendees gradually let down their guards and put themselves at gospel risk with each other. Or both.

Was the talk good?
Was it presented clearly and confidently?

This is an interesting criterion, because in it we must avoid the temptation to critique based on style or taste. Because we are not bound to a traditional sermon model, each of our four speakers is free to present in a way they find appropriate for the occasion. So one other guy and I probably had the talks most resembling an expository message, although his was shorter (on purpose) and mine was longer (on purpose). Another guy’s talk was more topical and conversational and included photo illustrations projected on the screen. Another guy’s talk was a quick devotional thought on a verse that was meant to be a discussion starter for more intensive group interaction. So we don’t critique based on model, but on execution. Was the talk listenable? Was it understandable? Was it effective at what it aimed to do?






Jared C. Wilson|1:46 am CT

Oh, for the Spirit’s Mighty Rush!

“We seek not for extraordinary excitements, those spurious attendants of genuine revivals, but we do seek for the pouring-out of the Spirit of God. There is a secret operation which we do not understand; it is like the wind, we know not whence it cometh nor whither it goeth; yet, though we understand it not, we can and do perceive its divine effect. It is this breath of Heaven which we want. The Spirit is blowing upon our churches now with his genial breath, but it is as a soft evening gale. Oh, that there would come a mighty rushing wind that should carry everything before it, so that even the dry bones of the Valley of Vision might be filled with life and be made to stand up before the Lord, an exceeding great army. This is the lack of the times, the grand want of our country. May this come as a blessing from the Most High.”

– C. H. Spurgeon, in Lectures Delivered Before The Young Men’s Christian Association in Exeter Hall From November 1858 to February 1859

When will the Spirit gust in revival power? We don’t know. But maybe today.






Jared C. Wilson|11:51 pm CT

That’s What’s Up

From our dinner table conversation tonight.

Dad: (seeing Mom looking at the clock) Are you seeing if the rapture happened? I think it’s past 6 p.m.

Mom: No.

Grace, 7: What’s the rapture?

Macy, 9: The rapture isn’t happening today.

Grace: What’s the rapture?

Macy: It’s when Jesus comes back.

Grace: Oh. Yeah, I don’t think that’s happening today.

Mom: Would you be ready if Jesus did come back today?

Grace: That would be like the end of the world.

Mom: No, that would be the beginning of it!

I love my ladies.