Review: Death by Love

Death by Love: Letters from the Cross
by Mark Driscoll & Gerry Breshears

Jesus died on the cross to take away your sins. If you are Christian, this is a truth you hold close to your heart, because it is the ultimate comfort. Yet the cross is so much richer than that. In this book, Mark Driscoll and Gerry Breshears explore various aspects of Jesus dying for you, examining it as though it were a multi-faceted gem. Every chapter, Driscoll introduces a person he knows, outlines their problem, and then in a letter to them shows how the cross is the answer to their problem. Then, Gerry Breshears steps in after each letter to answer some of the more technical questions about the theology examined in each chapter.

In general, this book is solid. Every chapter looks at the cross of Christ using a different theological picture: justification, redemption, propitiation, atonement, reconciliation… the list goes on. What makes this book excel though is that it’s not a dry theological text; every chapter begins with a real person struggling in real ways, and Driscoll excels in showing how the cross is the answer to what they need. (more…)

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Llama


Don’t send the police to my house.”

And so began the slide today. For once it didn’t strike at the hand of a member. For once it didn’t come from a leader of the church displeased with something God is blessing, or displeased that God isn’t blessing the way they want, or some such nonsense. Instead, it came from a prospect that, well, if you read this blog this past Monday, you can probably already guess at.

We had texted through the week, though I’d not seen anyone from the family. And then this text today.

And the slide began.

We texted back and forth, and it wasn’t… it wasn’t what I wanted. I asked to meet face to face. They refused. Only texting.

Sometimes texting is a real blessing, and other times it is a mask to hide behind.

And it got to the point that… sigh.

Sometimes depression just plain sucks. Actually, most of the time depression just plain sucks. There aren’t many times I can imagine it being awesome.

So as the afternoon edged into this evening and I got ready for evening church, I was thinking about a church I’d heard of just today that would soon be calling a new pastor. Boy, it would be nice to start over, wouldn’t it? To take all the lessons I’ve learned the hard way the last five years and chuck all the bad and start over?

My daughter dogged me as I set up the room for evening worship. She was happy, and her joy kept me from sliding perilously over the edge into pure glum.

But the texting conversation continued. And kept pulling down, down down. Family is angry. And apparently the dam let loose today. It’s my fault. I embarrassed them. I alerted the whole world to all their problems. They never want to see me again and refuse to ever talk to another church.

And then it was time for worship.

Well… it helped. It gave voice to my sorrow. We got to talk some about depression, and how God comes to us in our depression. And I got to say something I often need to hear:

When we face depression, our emotions tell us that it will never, ever get better. Those emotions are wrong. Because there will be a last tear. There will be a last bullet. There will be a last time a family is shattered, a last time there is shame. And after that… there is joy. Because Jesus faced all our pain for us. Our darkness will end, because he faced darkness for us. And what comes after is only light.”

So by the time worship ended… I was ok. Not great, but ok.

But we had two guests in worship tonight. Two teen girls I’d arranged (along with other teens of both genders, but these are the two that came tonight) – two teen girls I’d arranged to come, participate in worship and then evaluate afterward over ice cream – my treat. And so we went out to DQ after everyone else had departed from the church.

And they chattered away. And told me about things they liked, things that didn’t work, suggestions…

…and it was fun. Just to listen to them talk. These are two young women I know and serve through our teen center. They laughed and giggled and told secrets as I ate my mini Blizzard. And they talked about seeing llamas today at a petting zoo.

On the way home, I played them a song by one of my favorite bands: “Let Me Be Your Llama.” And by the time I dropped them off, both of them were belting it out at the top of their lungs.

And by the time I got home… yeah. Happy.

So in my ministry, I pissed a family off. For doing the right thing. And I have suffered for it – if not “in fact,” then in my heart. I may never see them again. I pray more opportunity to serve them with the Gospel, but… well, that’s not up to me.

And then God does this. He finds two young women that delighted in tonight’s service. “I like that you asked for opinions, so we didn’t have to worry about being wrong. And then you used that to teach us about God. I like that you joke around, but then you use it to tell us about Jesus.”

And then singing about llamas at the top of their lungs.

He allows me to feel pain. He allows me to feel the cross. He allows me to suffer for serving him. And then he brings me joy from another source entirely.

Father, keep going. You told me that I must bear the cross. Teach it to me. But Lord, please, bring me your joy as well. Teach me to love those you give me, even in pain. Show me how much you love me, and grow me in trusting you. Because you know what you’re doing, even and especially as you teach me to bear the cross. Make more and ever more your servant.

In the Shadow of the Wave

I’m done. I’m sick and tired of fighting.

It’s not a mental thing. It’s not conscious thought. It’s not even emotion in the way I normally experience emotions. In some ways it’s like a color lens put over a camera. Except the camera isn’t how I see things or even how I process things; it’s a lens over my heart. And that lens is futility.

I know better. I see God doing amazing things. He has accomplished so much in the hearts of his people, ruling in his kingdom of grace.

It doesn’t matter what I know. The lens doesn’t cover my intellect.

The week has been fine. Better than fine. A breath of fresh air after a month of hectic, frantic activity: Several big evangelism events. A preaching symposium. A funeral. A rally. A few people in the hospital. Visits from friends. And this week, finally, some rest.

Yes, a few days were busy. Tuesday in particular I was with people all day long. I lose energy with people, even people I love. I need alone time. That’s not the cry of some pathetic child looking for attention; I recharge in solitude. So at the end of that day, when I was down, when the lens of futility revealed that nothing mattered, I knew I simply needed time alone.

But the lens has remained, and I see everything through the lens of futility. (more…)

Cover up the Cross

John 17:1-5 17      After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed:

“Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. 2 For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. 3 Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. 4 I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do. 5 And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.


Cover the cross.


It’s one thing to cheer for an underdog, but to cheer for someone who’s already lost? Now that’s stupid. Who cheers for a loser? How many people, when selecting for their fantasy football leagues, pick the biggest losers? How many people long to fail at their heart’s desire?  How many parents look at their children and think, “I hope that my beloved child marries a loser.” It’s dumb. No one wants to be associated with a loser.

So why do we have these? Why do we put up crosses in front of our churches? In our homes? Why do we wear them? All a cross is is a reminder of the biggest loser in history. It’s a reminder of a guy who dreamed big but ultimately died without glory. (more…)

It’s Not Me.

I haven't done this yet, but it is a constant fear.

Last week, a couple of people called me out. I was taking something personally that I shouldn’t take personally. And it’s true: Especially when I’m meeting someone for the first time, when they reject my invitation to come to church, it’s not me they’re rejecting. They’re rejecting Christ. (Assuming that their reason for rejecting isn’t that they have found and regularly worship at a different church home.)

Why should I be offended? Even if they hurl invective at me (which has happened rarely, thankfully), it’s not as if I’m the one who they’re hurting.

Jesus spoke pretty plainly in the Gospel lesson this past Sunday: “All men will hate you on account of me.” (Sermon to be posted soon!) Why should I expect any different? When Christ speaks through me, people will hate me. Not merely dislike or avoid; this is hate. And they will be hating me —

— but they’ll be doing it because of Christ. And, really, let’s look at Jesus’ life. He never did anything wrong. He reached out in love. He wanted to save a dying race. And what was the response? They murdered the Lord of Life.

Why should I expect any different? (more…)