A Startling New Find?

News came out a couple days ago that an archaeologist is claiming to have discovered the tomb of Philip, one of The Twelve. Here is part of the report from "Tomb of St. Philip the Apostle Discovered in Turkey" (FoxNews.com):
Archeologists may have discovered the tomb of one of Christ’s Twelve Disciples. Tradition says that St. Philip was martyred in the Hierapolis in present day Turkey and that’s where they found what appears to be his tomb in the ruins of an ancient church. From a Turkish newspaper:

An Italian professor has announced the apparent discovery of the tomb of St. Philip, one of Jesus Christ’s apostles, at the ancient city of Hierapolis in the Aegean province of Denizli.

The discovery of the grave of the biblical saint, who was killed by the Romans 2,000 years ago, will attract immense attention around the world, said Francesco D’Andria. St. Philip, one of the 12 apostles, came to Hierapolis 2,000 years ago to spread the Christianity before being killed by the Romans, the professor said.

D’Andria has been leading archeological excavations at the ancient city for 32 years.

“Until recently, we thought the grave of St. Philip was on Martyrs’ Hill, but we discovered no traces of him in the geophysical research conducted in that area. A month ago, we discovered the remnants of an unknown church, 40 meters away from the St. Philip Church on Martyrs’ Hill. And in that church we discovered the grave of St. Philip,” said D’Andria.

D’Andria and his team have not opened the grave but are planning to do so soon.
If the find turns out to be authentic, it is an amazing discovery--the possible remains of a man who actually walked with Jesus. Obviously, it could turn out to be nothing, but it is worth following.

Words Matter

A Fond Memory

John R. W. Stott was "promoted to glory" yesterday, at the age of 90.

I met this great preacher and godly man some thirty-five years ago, at Urbana '76. I was seated alone at a breakfast table, and a dignified man approached my table with his tray and asked if he could join me. I said "Sure," and then glanced at his nametag, which read "John R. W. Stott." I had breakfast with John R. W. Stott! I have no idea what we talked about! I probably couldn't have told you even five minutes later. But it is a fond memory of a gracious man who condescended to join an eighteen-year-old kid for breakfast.

THE Christianity Today website provides more information:
John Stott died today at 3:15 London time (about 9:15 a.m. CST), according to John Stott Ministries President Benjamin Homan. Homan said that Stott’s death came after complications related to old age and that he has been in discomfort for the last several weeks. Family and close friends gathered with Stott today as they listened to Handel’s Messiah. Homan said that John Stott Ministries has been preparing for his death for the past 15 years. “I think he set an impeccable example for leaders of ministries of handing things over to other leaders,” Homan said. “He imparted to many a love for the global church and imparted a passion for biblical fidelity and a love for the Savior.” This story will be updated as more information becomes available.
Earth is immeasurably poorer today.

Conflict, Peace, and Honesty

I quote pretty often from Ray Ortlund's excellent blog. Because he's just that good, that often. Here is another example:
Diogenes looked for an honest man. May he find that honesty in us.

Honesty compels us to remember certain things in moments of conflict:

1. There is a difference between an accusation and a fact. An accusation is easy to launch, and it can have huge impact, even when it doesn’t deserve to. A fact can be hard to establish, and can carry little weight, though it deserves to. Honesty compels us to discipline our emotions and tongues.

2. It doesn’t matter how many times an accusation is repeated and repeated and repeated. Repetition does not prove anything. Honesty compels us to remember that repetition does risk multiple sins of gossip.

3. There is a difference between a sin and the general effects of sin on us all.

A sin is a clear violation of the Bible, chapter and verse. An act that is truly sinful – not just a disappointment to me but an offense to God – warrants discipline in some cases. But “love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8). Honesty compels us to hold back before we go so far as to accuse anyone of a sin. Is it a sin? Really? In God’s sight?

The general effects of sin are the misunderstandings and disconnects common among us. They don’t deserve mention, even in our thoughts. Honesty compels us to admit that the irritation might be due to a flaw within ourselves.

May the peace of Christ rule in our hearts (Colossians 3:15). After all, something will.

Prepare to Be Inspired

This video is making the rounds of the interwebs...because it's so awesome. As a Shakespeare fan, an advocate of the spoken word, and a Droopy Dog afficionado, I present to you Jim Meskimen performs Clarence’s speech from William Shakespeare’s Richard III as a number of different celebrities, many of them perfectly chosen for the specific lines.

Two Types of Thinkers

Wow, is this post from Michael Hyatt (one of my favorite bloggers) true--and challenging. I've seen both kinds of thinkers he writes about. I AM both types:
Over the years, I have noticed that there are two kinds of thinking. One kind leads to success, joy, and fulfillment. The other leads to failure, fear, and discontent. “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he” (Proverbs 23:7 NKJV).

My friend, Robert Smith, is a great example of the first. He is one of the most generous people I know. He always greets me with a big smile, a hug, and an encouraging word. I always leave his presence energized, feeling great about being me.

And I have noticed that he is like this with everyone. He treats employees, vendors, booking agents, publishers, and everyone else as if they were his best customers. He routinely invests in their success. It comes back to him in a thousand ways.

Robert is my best example of an abundance thinker.

One of my former clients, Charlie (not his real name), is just the opposite. He exhibits a hoarding mentality. He never picks up the check, even if he asks you to lunch. He constantly complains—about everything. I haven’t seen him in years, but when I did, I always left his presence drained and diminished.

It turns out that he, too, was like this with everyone. His employees—and even family members—rolled their eyes when you mentioned his name. They lived in constant fear that their livelihood and well-being were at risk. Interestingly, the success he craved seemed to elude him.

Charlie is my best example of a scarcity thinker.

The question is this: Which type of thinker are you? Maybe it’s time to do some honest self-evaluation. Better yet, ask those closest to you.

As I was running this morning, I noted eight characteristics of abundance thinkers:
  1. They believe there is always more where that came from.
  2. They are happy to share their knowledge, contacts, and compassion with others.
  3. They default to trust and build rapport easily.
  4. They welcome competition, believing it makes the pie bigger and them better.
  5. They ask themselves, How can I give more than is expected?
  6. They are optimistic about the future, believing the best is yet to come.
  7. They think big, embracing risk.
  8. They are thankful and confident.
I also noted eight characteristics of scarcity thinkers:
  1. They believe there will never be enough.
  2. They are stingy with their knowledge, contacts, and compassion.
  3. They default to suspicion and find it difficult to build rapport.
  4. They resent competition, believing it makes the pie smaller and them weaker.
  5. They ask themselves, How can I get by with less than is expected?
  6. They are pessimistic about the future, believing that tough times are ahead.
  7. They think small, avoiding risk.
  8. They are entitled and fearful.
The truth is that, for most of us, we are not either / or. We are a little of both. I certainly want to grow as an abundance thinker. Reviewing these characteristics has given me some clarity. How about you?

What's in a Name?

So, Campus Crusade for Christ has announced a plan to change the name of the global parachurch ministry to "Cru." Which got me thinking (always a dangerous proposition). This may start a trend. A tidal wave, perhaps, of Christian organizations changing their names in similar fashion. So I thought I'd jump ahead of the curve and make some nominations (you're welcome):

Old name: The Southern Baptist Convention
New name: SoBaps

Old name: The United Methodist Church
New name: The Meth Church

Old name: The Salvation Army
New name: The Sal

Old name: The Episcopal Church
New name: EpiC

Old name: The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America
New name: Greex

Old name: The Presbyterian Church
New name: The Prez

Old name: The Assemblies of God
New name:(Never mind...not touching that one)

Old name: Seventh-Day Adventist
New name: 7

Old name: Church of the Nazarene
New name: The Naz

Old name: Church of the Brethren
New name: Bros

Some of the above (like The Prez and The Naz) have actually been used within the organization. Others are so inspired, I should charge a fee.

And, of course, the list is nowhere near exhaustive. You may have some to add. So bring it on!

Bad Culture Eats Good Vision

In this characteristically excellent post from Ron Edmondson's blog, he relays an important message (and, just to be clear, he uses the word "culture" to refer to the pervasive culture or ethos of a church, company, or organization):
Bad culture eats good vision…

I don’t know who said it first. I’ve heard it several times. I’d love to give credit for it’s author, but I just don’t know.

I do know the phrase helps shape my thoughts as a leader…

Bad culture eats good vision…

You can have the greatest vision…

You can have an incredible plan…

You can be cleverly strategic…

You can have the best of intentions…


Bad culture eats good vision…

Every time….

Display seeds of dishonesty…

Spread some gossip…

Throw a little laziness in the equation…

Embrace complacency…

Have a controlling leader…

Let momentum dwindle…

Resist change…

Name the bad culture…

It will eat a hearty meal on your vision…

You know why?


Bad culture eats good vision…

I love whoever said that…

It almost seems to make culture as important as vision…

Moral of this story: Always build and maintain a healthy culture so you can protect your vision…

iPad Devotional Apps

A dear friend recently emailed to ask what devotional and Bible-reading tools I use on my iPad. I thought it'd be worthwhile to share my response, and ask for more from readers of the Desperate Pastor. Here's what I said:
If you don't already have a kindle app, download it (free). I have used several devotional things on it (The Divine Hours Pocket Edition (paid) when I travel, plus this year I'm using the Message Solo New Testament (free...at least it was) for my Bible reading) .

Also, there's a free app called "Daily Help" that gives you morning and evening readings from Spurgeon. I used it last year.

Plus, if you subscribe to the RSS feed of the "Books on the Knob" blog, you'll stay current on free books being offered via Kindle, Nook, etc. (However, be warned that while they feature Christian books often, they also mention LGBT and sensual romances).

Also, the YouVersion Bible (from LifeChurch in OKC) is a free multi-translation Bible app. And you can Google the following Bibles that are free on Kindle: ESV and HCB (Holman Christian Bible).
So what about you? What devotional apps (free or paid) have you used on your iPad?

Malice Needs Nothing to Live On

A clear and forceful reminder comes by way of Ray Ortlund's excellent blog:
“Malice needs nothing to live on; it can feed on itself. A contentious spirit will find something to quarrel about. A faultfinder will find occasion to accuse a Christian even if his life is as chaste as an icicle and pure as snow. A man of ill will does not hesitate to attack, even if the object of his hatred be a prophet or the very Son of God Himself. If John comes fasting, he says he has a devil; if Christ comes eating and drinking, he says He is a winebibber and a glutton. Good men are made to appear evil by the simple trick of dredging up from his own heart the evil that is there and attributing it to them.”

A. W. Tozer, We Travel An Appointed Way (Camp Hill, 1988), page 82.

When negativity about someone else pours out of our mouths, could we be exposing, without realizing it, our own evil? If that irony dawns on us, we are ready to hear the gospel at a deeper level. We are ready to see God’s wrath unleashed not against the person we despise, nor against us, but against Christ on the cross. And then we are ready to become humble about ourselves and merciful toward the other sinner.

Most Risky Profession

Mark Galli, writing on the Christianity Today site, posted this excellent article, subtitled "Why You Need to Pray for Your Pastor." Here's the first three paragraphs, but you should read the whole thing:
It's refreshing news to hear of pastors taking a leave of absence not over sexual or financial misconduct, but over pride. Such was the case with John Piper last year, and this week with C. J. Mahaney. Mahaney has been president of the church planting network Sovereign Grace Ministries, which according to its website now includes "about 95 churches," mostly on the East Coast. He is the founder of the megachurch Covenant Life Church, which he handed over to Joshua Harris after pastoring there for 27 years. He is also one of the leaders of the Together for the Gospel Conferences, and one of the most popular speakers in the neo-Reformed circuit.

The story behind his leave of absence is still unraveling. But he has publicly acknowledged that he has succumbed to "various expressions of pride, unentreatability, deceit, sinful judgment, and hypocrisy."

It's an interesting list of sins—ones that pastors all over America commit week in and week out. This is not to excuse Mahaney or to take such sins lightly. It is to suggest that the state of the modern American pastorate has been shaped so that these sins—especially pride and hypocrisy—are impossible to escape. For this reason, our pastors need not our condemnation, but our prayers. They are in a profession that is about as morally risky as they come.
As I said, read the whole thing. It's worth it.

The Reason Why

Nearly a hundred years ago, businessman Robert A. Laidlaw wrote and published a small book, The Reason Why (Faith Makes Sense), for distribution to his employees. His purpose in writing was to explain his conviction that the Christian faith was utterly reasonable. Before long, an astounding fifty million copies of the slim volume were printed.

Laidlaw's bestseller has now been updated and expanded with a new release this year from Tyndale House Publishers. Author and apologist Mark Mittelberg (with a foreword by Ken Blanchard), pulls off an impressive feat in improving on a classic. The chapter titles lay out the logical flow and conversational tone of the book:
  • Matters of Faith Really Matter
  • Is There a God?
  • Can the Bible Be Trusted?
  • Are We Accountable to God?
  • Who Was Jesus and What Was His Purpose?
  • Is Divine Forgiveness Available?
  • What Do I Need to Do?
  • My Decision
  • Next Steps
A "postscript," entitled, "The Soldier's Choice," presents a compelling conclusion that combines with the rest of the book's content to make this a powerful tool for leading skeptics and seekers to an encounter with the living Christ.


(Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher, for review purposes. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”)

The Blessing of Compline

Around the table at a recent speaking engagement in Michigan, the lunchtime conversation turned to prayer, and somehow I found myself sharing with three other men my daily habit of morning and evening prayers, and more specifically the blessing I find in Compline (the last of the seven prayer "offices" observed in fixed-hour prayer).

I have incorporated Compline into my daily routine since my first prayer retreat at the Abbey of Gethsemani, a Trappist monastery in Kentucky. When people ask me, "What's Compline?" I'll usually explain it's "bedtime prayers." But it's more than that. It's not only the time of prayer I observe before going to bed, but a purposefully designed liturgy that has turned into a tremendous blessing for me.

One of the blessings of Compline, perhaps the most basic, is that it helps my mind prepare for rest. Psychologically, at least, this nightly practice is a little like many other details of bedtime routine: locking the doors, turning out lights, brushing teeth, etc. On a solely natural level, Compline tells my body and mind that bedtime is approaching.

But there's much more to it. The opening words of Compline--"May the Lord Almighty grant me and those I love a peaceful night and a perfect end"--are a doorway into rest for me. These words cue my spirit that rest is coming soon. The confession and plea for forgiveness that soon follows cleanses my conscience and prepares me to bed down in purity and peace.

Also, while I only sometimes chant (in the Gregorian fashion) my morning prayers, I always chant the psalms and prayers of Compline. I think this is because the quiet, meditative nature of chant is the perfect way to end the day. The chant slows down my racing mind. It helps me to welcome the Word of God into my head and heart in the last moments of the day, and often (partly because of the music of the chant) helps it to lodge there.

The actual words of Compline also bless me before bedtime. As someone who has long had trouble falling asleep, sometimes tossing and turning for hours, my sleep routines have changed drastically in recent years, and I think it's partly due to the words and thoughts with which I fill my mind before retiring, such as, "Into your hands do I commend my spirit....keep me as the apple of your eye and hide me under the shadow of your wings" and "Lord, you now have set your servant free to go in peace..."

Compline also helps me commit my loved ones and others--and the world, in fact--to God's care before I close my eyes in sleep. No matter how concerned I may be for someone, the wonderful words of Augustine's prayer (which I will amplify with the word, "especially," followed by specific names) enable me to cast all my cares on him who cares for me: "Watch, dear Lord, with those who wake, or watch, or weep tonight, and give your angels charge over those who sleep. Tend your sick ones, Lord Christ. Rest your weary ones, bless your dying ones, soothe your suffering ones, shield your joyous ones, and all for your love's sake, amen." It's a critical and complete exercise in intercession and in trust before I go to bed.

Finally, I think the strange melody and fitting words of the Compline Hymn ("Lord, save us, save us while we are awake; protect us while we are asleep, that we may keep our watch with Christ, and when we sleep, rest in his peace"), along with the Gloria ("Glory to the Father, to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit..."), have come to affect my mind and spirit a little like a loving parent tucking me into the covers and planting a gentle kiss on my forehead. It punctuates my day. It draws the curtains and turns out the lights on all the activity of the day. It benedicts.

And I know that doesn't even exhaust the blessings of Compline. I am also confident that my nightly habit has saved me hundreds of dollars in sleep aids and thousands of hours in tossing and turning. And, most of all, it nightly draws me into the arms of God, a blessing that becomes dearer every day.

An Exception to Every Rule

I came across this delightful graphic recently. Oddly enough, it dovetails nicely with my post yesterday, "Sex, Money and the Church."

Coming Soon: GodQuest

I'm excited to tell you about a major new all-church campaign in which I had the privilege of being involved.

It's called GodQuest, and it's a new six-week church series and small group study that will help answer the questions of seekers and help followers of Jesus develop a solid Biblical foundation for their faith. And it is an excellent resource for outreach to your community, offering powerful truths and compelling evidences for faith in Christ, along with a myriad of gorgeous promotional materials.

I can PERSONALLY vouch for the novel, The Quest, and the six sermons included in the church resources for the campaign. The small group study features powerful video teaching from my friend Sean McDowell, along with video testimonies and lessons from Lee Strobel, Josh McDowell, and others. It can be used for:

Sunday Morning Sermon Series
Adult Small Groups or Sunday School Classes
Youth Group Study or Sunday School Classes
New Believer's Class
Seeker Foundations Class

Go here to find out more, see all the available products and resources, and pre-order materials (most products will be shipping late this month).

There is also a great Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/TheGodQuest, where you can comment and stay up-to-date as people experience this life-changing journey.

Sex, Money, and the Church

I've seen it repeatedly in more than thirty years of public ministry: there are two sins that will compromise and probably utterly ruin a pastor's ministry. They are often so serious that a man or woman who falls in one of these two ways will be unable to recover or return to ministry. They are, of course, sexual sin and financial sin (such as embezzlement).

Over the years, I've taken steps to guard myself against both, knowing that these are the most common ways our Enemy brings down otherwise good pastors. But only recently have I pondered why those sins are so ruinous to those in ministry. A pastor or elder can sin in many other ways and their sins may be excused, overlooked--certainly forgiven. Church leaders may exhibit hypocrisy, arrogance, self-righteousness, resentment, bitterness, rage, and dishonesty without being disqualified from ministry. Gossip, grudge-holding, and greed are generally responded to with patience and tolerance. After all, we are all sinners in need of the grace of God and the forgiveness of all.

But not in the areas of sex or money. Those sins (or even the mere suspicion or rumor of such) are commonly elevated above all others in the church, and perhaps more so among evangelical or fundamentalist churches. And, now that I think about it, it's not hard to discern why that may be.

Money and sex are the most prevalent idols in our culture...and in the culture of the American church. Just as preachers tend to preach against their own pet sins, so the church in general (and church leaders in particular) tend to lose all sense of perspective or proportion when sex or money enters into consideration. We will respond quickly, even viciously, to the slightest whiff of impropriety in those areas while winking at leaders' sins in other areas.

I heard recently about a capable, godly pastor of great accomplishment who thought it prudent to report to his church's elder board that a woman in the church had made a pass at him. He had not reciprocated, he had not sinned, he had not even come close to improper behavior. But a key elder nevertheless took the offensive and eventually drove this pastor out of the church.

It is not hard to believe that those events reveal more about the elder's spiritual state than the pastor's.

And so it will be with us. I'm not suggesting that we should wink at any sin. But we must not tolerate idols in our lives--and in our churches and culture--and especially when they lead us to condemn some sins and not others, and uncharitably judge our brothers and sisters. Because that itself is sin. And also because, in so doing, we will reveal more about our spiritual state than anyone else's.

Oh, No, They Didn't!

There had to have been multiple opportunities for someone to say to these folks, "Uh, I don't think that banner says what you want it to say." The word "beach" is one thing; "bee-ach" is a whole other thing.

Characteristics of a Good Leader

Ron Edmondson offers the following list, which he says is not intended to compete with the biblical lists of qualifications for church leadership, but more as addressing how a good leader functions when in leadership. It's worth remembering, and repeating.
10 characteristics of a good leader: (in my opinion)

1. Recognizes the value in other people, so continually invests in others

2. Shares information with those in the organization.

3. Has above average character

4. Uses their influence for the good of others

5. Is skillful and competent

6. Not afraid for others to succeed (even greater than their own success)

7. Serves others expecting nothing in return.

8. Continues to learn

9. Remains accessible, approachable, and accountable to others

10. Is visionary: Thinks for the organization beyond today.
Go to the link above to read an expanded version of the list, in which he elaborates on each characteristic.

On Punctuality at Church Meetings

From the fun (and very English) Cartoon Church site comes this accurate and very helpful categorization of the various level of punctuality on display whenever a church meeting takes place:

For Pastors Who Are Feeling Disapproval From Others

Bob Glenn offers a helpful perspective for pastors on the "Red Meat for the Soul" blog:
One of the occupational hazards of pastoral ministry is that you are often the subject of people's destructive criticism, gossip, slander, misrepresentation, foolish inferences, ignorant speculations, and the like. And any pastor who's being honest with himself - even a hard-nosed guy like me - will admit that the hurtful things people say are just that - hurtful. They hurt.

How do you heal the hurt? How do you prevent the hurt from festering, from becoming a root of bitterness toward your enemies?

The answer is to remember this: you are far worse than your enemies make you out to be! They don't know the half of it.

Now they may not be correct or truthful in what they are saying about you, but you (and your spouse) could tell them things about yourself that would make their mouths hang open in shock and disbelief. You could tell them things about yourself that would make their petty criticisms pale in comparison. After all, what is wrong with you is so wrong, that it took the one perfect person who ever lived to die for you and suffer God's wrath for you.

Now I know that this may not seem all that encouraging - in fact, you might think that it would only make matters worse. You're already wounded. Why pour salt into the wound?

And let me say that it would be very discouraging if you stopped with bringing to mind what a mess you are. So don't stop short. Go farther. Go all the way to the cross and realize that even though you are far worse than your enemies think you are, Jesus went to the cross willingly. He was not reluctant to die for you: "No one takes my life away from me, but I lay it down of my own accord" (John 10:18)! Even though you are a million times worse than any of your enemies know, Jesus does know, and he loves you anyway. The cross proves it.

The late Jack Miller used to put it this way: "Cheer up! You're worse than you think." In a strange way, this does put a smile on my face. As bad as people may think I am, I'm worse than they think, even worse than I think, but Jesus knows me fully and loves me so much that he went to the cross in my place.
Put another way, when others disapprove you based on uncharitable judgments, rely instead on Jesus, who accepts you on the basis not of YOUR righteousness but of his.

Translating the Bible

Andy Naselli's blog features a fascinating take on Bible translation difficulties and sensitivities. He titles the post, "The Importance of Dignified Translations." But I'm not sure that point comes across very well. To me, the post makes the point that it would be best to translate (or paraphrase) so as to let the Word of God say what it says as accurately as possible, regardless of our cultural (or "religious," aka "self-righteous") sensibilities. Check it out and see what you think.

Happy Fourth

Happy Fourth of July from all the staff, interns, and volunteers here at the Desperate Pastor Blog.

Blogging has been light the last ten days or so, as I have been on vacation with the best wife, kids, and grandkids in the whole world (which is where the photo above comes from; my son-in-law Kevin took it at Mission Lighthouse in Old Mission Peninsula, Michigan).

I plan to resume regular postings tomorrow, though upcoming speaking engagements in Atlanta and Montrose PA may affect the timing of posts.