Archive for April, 2010

Apr 19

Getting to Know Randy Alcorn

2010 | by Ryan Kelly | Category: Clarus 10,Quote

Over the next week or so, we’ll be posting different articles, quotes, interviews, and talks by our two guest speakers for the Clarus ’10 conference — Wayne Grudem and Randy Alcorn. We hope these whet the taste buds of those planning on being with us, and (unashamedly) entice those of you who haven’t yet purchased tickets to come.

We start here with a pretty personal interview that did with Randy back in 2004:

Question: What kind of testimony to your faith are you demonstrating in your book, Heaven? Is your goal to demonstrate your faith in your writing? Do you seek to do this in your fiction also?

Answer: I’ve written 17 nonfiction books and seven novels. The novels, while different in style from nonfiction, are nonetheless touched by a biblical worldview and can reach some people who won’t be reached by nonfiction. (Fiction can have a Trojan Horse effect, where it moves inside the mind when the reader’s defenses are down.)

I hope to shift readers to a more biblical perspective, partially by showing the positive consequences of right thinking and choices, and the negative consequences of wrong thinking and choices.

Everything I write is to further an eternal perspective: “We look not at the things which are seen, but the things which are unseen; for the things that are seen are temporary, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (2 Cor. 4:18).

My book Heaven is in some ways the most important book I’ve written, and certainly it is the most direct and thorough treatment of the biblical subject of Heaven. I emphasize looking forward to the New Earth, as 2 Peter 3:13 tells us we’re supposed to be doing…but which, due to our misconceptions about Heaven as a nonmaterial realm where we’ll live in a disembodied state, we don’t. We’re made to live as physical beings, not just spiritual, and on a real earth, which is exactly what the Bible says we’ll do after the resurrection, and after the millennium. Somehow we’ve failed to grasp this clear biblical teaching, and our view of eternal life has been distorted and impoverished.

Question: When did you come to a saving knowledge of Jesus? Where are you today in your walk? Is your faith an important part of what you do?

Answer: I was raised in an unbelieving home, and came to Christ as a high school student. My walk with Christ is more important to me than anything, and by his grace I have enjoyed the presence of Jesus ever since high school. That he would use me, with all my faults and weaknesses, is a testimony to his kindness and power. My faith in Christ is central to my writing and—I hope—to every part of my life.

Question: Tell us about your church experiences, how you grew up (or maybe didn’t grow up) in the church, where you attend now, your involvement in your local assembly, etc.

Answer: I grew up without Christ and without the church. When I was in high school I attended a church for the wrong reason—to see a girl I’d met. But God can use even our wrong motives for his right purposes. (In fact, years later that girl became my wife!) At that church and in the youth group there, I heard the gospel for the first time, and after a few months or so of attending, I was reading the Bible regularly, at home in my bedroom. It fascinated me, and it had the ring of truth. One day I realized I believed what it said about Jesus and everything else. I dropped to my knees, by myself in our basement, confessed my sins and gave my life to Christ. I have never once regretted it.

Nanci’s my best friend and wife. We’re part of Good Shepherd Community Church (, where I was a pastor for thirteen years, before the Lord directed me into full-time writing. One of our sons-in-law is now our church’s college pastor, and our daughter helps him in ministry. The other is a Jr. High teacher, and our younger daughter, his wife, is an emergency room nurse. We’re proud of both our daughters and both our sons, and it’s wonderful to have them close by.

Question: Tell us about your current church family/fellowship. How does it influence your work?

Answer: We love our church and it regularly and significantly influences our lives. We’ve led a small group Bible study in our neighborhood, coming out of our church ministry. We’ve been involved in many Bible study groups over the years. Nanci leads a women’s Bible study, I often teach different classes and occasionally preach, and we both mentor young people. I direct a parachurch ministry, but the local church is where it’s at.

Question: Who are your spiritual mentors? Your professional mentors?

Answer: My first youth pastor, Paul Siwick and my second, Stu Weber, both had a great influence on me. Stu and I were the original pastors of our church, where he still serves as lead pastor. Steve Keels, another of my pastors who was in the college group I led many years ago, is my closest friend besides Jesus and Nanci. Steve and I talk honestly and check on each other’s spiritual lives. Stu, Steve, and I meet on Wednesday mornings for Bible study, fellowship and prayer, and it’s a highlight of my week. I guess I don’t have a professional mentor per se. But I have sat at the feet of many great thinkers, writers, and God-lovers, including C. S. Lewis, Francis Schaeffer, A. W. Tozer, and John Piper.

Question: Discuss your calling/mission—as a writer, and as a Christian.

Answer: My calling is first to find my purpose and joy in Christ, and second to transfer that purpose and joy to others. I want my life and writing to be full of what Jesus came full of—grace and truth. My desire is that He would so permeate my life as to flow over to others and draw them toward Him. My life calling and my calling as a writer are the same. I want my imagination to be baptized by and grounded in God’s Word, which has a power and authority my own words don’t have. (He says His Word won’t return to Him without accomplishing their intended purpose—if my words are to make an eternal impact, they must conform to His.)

Question: What are your Scripture reading habits?

Answer: I seek to spend time each morning in Scripture, though occasionally that time comes later in the day. Throughout most days I open my Bible periodically, to reference and meditate. Sometimes I use a Bible program to search for and study a certain text, etc.

Question: What books have most influenced your work?

Answer: Nonfiction: The Knowledge of the Holy by A. W. Tozer, Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis, Knowing God by J. I. Packer, Desiring God by John Piper, He Is There And He Is Not Silent by Francis Schaeffer.

Fiction: The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis, The Lord of the Rings trilogy by J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis’s Space trilogy, especially Perelandra, The Singer trilogy (including The Song and The Finale) by Calvin Miller.

Question: Do you read secular fiction at all? If so, who are your favorite authors, and why?

Answer: I’ve read and enjoyed John Grisham. My tastes are eclectic, but I have a special love for Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories, and the Nero Wolfe mysteries by Rex Stout. I’ve read or listened on audio to most of the forty-seven Nero Wolfe books. I sort of pay tribute to these books in my new novel Deception, which is due out in March.

Question: What are your other media habits—television, movies, music, etc.?

Answer: Nanci and I enjoy good movies, but finding ones that don’t violate biblical principles is difficult. We do almost all our movie renting through companies that provide filtering of profanity and sexually inappropriate scenes removed. We like the old Sherlock Holmes series with Jeremy Brett, and the A&E Nero Wolfe programs (with one notable exception that was blatantly immoral). I’m an old science fiction fan, so “Star Trek,” “Stargate” and Star Wars are appealing, and as long as you filter out their worldviews, they can teach some valuable lessons in an enjoyable way. I’m glad we don’t have cable TV, or I’d be tempted to watch the SciFi channel too much!

Our most regular television event is football, and our whole family gathers for Sunday night football each week. Nanci is a great football fan, and we’ve been able to meet players and go to games when I’ve been asked to speak in NFL pre-game chapels. That’s been a lot of fun.

Question: Do you and your family have any special faith-based traditions?

Answer: We enjoy a number of things centered on Thanksgiving and Christmas, including sharing times where each family member expresses his or her gratitude for God’s faithfulness over the previous years.

Question: Tell us about your prayer life and habits.

Answer: It has always been difficult for me to spend great lengths of time in prayer, and sometimes it’s been a cause of discouragement. On the other hand, God has graciously taught me about prayer and dependence on him throughout the day. I often get on my knees for brief periods in my office throughout the day. I pray as I hear of needs. Nanci and I stop and pray together various times throughout the day. I ask God to help me see prayer as an adventure in which I come into his presence and behold Him, and become so absorbed with Him that I don’t want to do anything else. I’ve had tastes of that, but long for more.

I often think about how wonderful it will be on the New Earth, as resurrected beings, to see God’s face, to consciously delight in everything around me as a direct extension of God’s magnificence. I will never have to guard my eyes, restrain my thoughts, question my motives, or wonder what else I need to confess. In short, I’ll be free of my sin-tainted self, and fully free to be the Christ-empowered righteous self God designed me to be, in continual conscious recognition of Him. This is at the heart of prayer, I think, and I ask God to help me taste that not only in the short sessions throughout the day, but in longer prayer times as well.

Question: Describe what you believe is the role of writing in the Christian life.

Answer: God is an author. The universe itself is his book. Each person is a chapter. History really is his story. Christ is the Word, the very essence of God, and expression of God. We are created in God’s image, and made to be sub-creators, authors who create and weave together both nonfiction and marvelous stories on which our imaginations can soar. When we write and read such works, He is pleased. As an author, I am very aware that I’m a steward of words, and I labor to get them right.

Books and bookstores have had an enormous influence on my own life. My first youth pastor did me a huge favor—he gave me a key to his office, so I could go in any time and read his books, hundreds of them. I read everything I could get my hands on. There was an elderly couple in our church, named Bill and Martha Kuntz. They had a Christian bookstore in their house in Gresham, Oregon, my hometown. I would go there several days a week, for hours at a time. They would point out books for me to read. They introduced me to Lewis, Schaeffer, and Tozer, and books such as Tortured for Christ, God’s Smuggler, Through Gates of Splendor, and The Cross and the Switchblade.

Over the years I bought and read portions or all of thousands of good books, many of which are now in our church library. I cannot divorce God’s works of grace in my life from good books. In my book Heaven, I talk about books the Bible says are now in Heaven, and I give arguments for believing other books will be written and read on the New Earth.

Question: Tell us about one or more of your favorite encounters with readers.

Answer: I met a young man who told me he was going to commit suicide. Then God put one of my novels into his hands and he read it, and the Lord turned his life around. Another man told me that his wife was also suicidal, and she too had her life changed by reading one of my nonfiction books. One of the most touching things I’ve experienced is receiving videos of memorial services where my books have been read from and passed out. Some have been teenagers, and their photos are enclosed with notes from their parents saying something like, “Deadline and Edge of Eternity and Safely Home were his favorite books.” I can’t wait to meet these people in Heaven.

Question: Would you share a story about someone you’ve brought to Christ or share how your writing has helped someone?

Answer: God has graciously given me many of these stories, but here’s a short one. Once on a flight back from the East Coast I engaged a young man in conversation who said he was of Persian descent. He was coming out to attend the University of Oregon, a school not known for its Christian commitment. I spoke briefly of my faith in Christ, and then gave him one of my novels, Deadline. I prayed for him for a few weeks and then didn’t think much more about him.

Five years later, just a few years ago now, I was speaking in a church somewhere and a young woman came up to me and asked if I remembered this young man. I did. She said, “He said he never contacted you to tell you this, but when he got to college he sat down and read your novel cover to cover. And when the skeptic in the book finally confessed his sins and gave his life to Christ, this young man prayed along with him.” Then she told me, to my surprise and delight, “I want you to know, this is the most godly man I’ve ever met.”

I have the privilege of daily receiving letters from people—prisoners, pastors, homemakers, business CEOs, students, teenagers—who tell me they’ve been changed by reading one or more of my books. But in eternity it will be great to hear more stories, and great for me to come to innumerable people who’ve written books—and done far more important things—that have shaped me. I look forward to saying “Thank you,” then having a great discussion over the best dinner we’ve ever tasted!

Apr 19

Confession: Killing Sin and Creating Fellowship

2010 | by Parker Landis | Category: Books,Gospel,Quote,Sermon Follow-Up,The Church

Yesterday, Zach preached on John 3:19-21 about the need for Christians to “come into the light” by confessing their sins to each other.  The following quotes from Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s, Life Together powerfully illustrate the importance of confession in breaking the power of sin and creating real fellowship among believers.  The final chapter, from which the quotes below are excerpted, is worth the price of the book alone.

He who is alone with his sin is utterly alone. It may be that Christians, not withstanding corporate worship, common prayer, and all their fellowship in service, may still be left to their loneliness. The final breakthrough to fellowship does not occur, because, though they have fellowship with one another as believers and as devout people, they do not have fellowship as the undevout, as sinners. The pious fellowship permits no one to be a sinner. So everyone must conceal his sin from himself and from the fellowship. We dare not be sinners. Many Christians are unthinkably horrified when a real sinner is suddenly discovered among the righteous. So we remain alone with our sin, living in lies and hypocrisy. The fact is that we are sinners! (p. 110)

In confession a man breaks through to certainty.  Why is it that it is often easier for us to confess our sins to God than to a brother? God is holy and sinless, He is a just judge of evil and the enemy of all disobedience.  But a brother is sinful as we are.  He knows from his own experience the dark night of secret sin.  Why should we not find it easier to go to a brother than to the holy God? We must ask ourselves whether we have not often been deceiving ourselves with our confession of sin to God, whether we have not rather been confessing our sins to ourselves and also granting ourselves absolution. And is not the reason perhaps for our countless relapses and the feebleness of our Christian obedience to be found precisely in the fact that we are living on self-forgiveness and not a real forgiveness?  Self-forgiveness can never lead to a breach with sin.

Who can give us the certainty that, in the confession and forgiveness of our sins, we are not dealing with ourselves, but with the living God?  God gives us this certainty through our brother.  Our brother breaks the circle of self-deception.  A man who confesses his sin in the presence of a brother knows that he is no longer alone with himself; he experiences the presence of God in the reality of the other person. As long as I am by myself in the confession of my sins everything remains in the dark, but in the presence of a brother the sin has to be brought into the light.  But since the sin must come to light some time, it is better that it happens today between me and my brother, rather than on the last day in the piercing light of the final judgment. It is a mercy that we can confess our sins  to a brother. Such grace spares us the terrors of the last judgment. (pp. 115-16)

In confession the break-through to community takes place.  Sin demands to have a man by himself.  It withdraws him from the community.  The more isolated a person is, the more destructive will be the power of sin over him, and the more deeply he becomes involved in it, the more disastrous is his isolation.  Sin wants to remain unknown.  It shuns the light.  In the darkness of the unexpressed it poisons the whole being of a person.  This can happen even in the midst of a pious community…

The expressed, acknowledged sin has lost all its power. It has been revealed and judged as sin. It can no longer tear the fellowship asunder.  Now the fellowship bears the sin of the brother.  He is no longer alone with his evil for he has cast off his sin in confession and handed it over to God… Now he stands in the fellowship of sinners who live by the grace of God in the cross of Jesus Christ. (pp. 112-13)

Apr 15

The Pharisee and the Tax-Collector

2010 | by Ryan Kelly | Category: Books,Gospel,Quote,Recommended Link,Sermon Follow-Up

On Sunday, we looked at Luke 18:9-14 — the parable of the Pharisee and the tax-collector.

I think this parable best exemplifies Jesus’ message, specifically as that message comes to us through Luke. Like we said on Sunday (and have said many times before), in Luke the “righteous” are the so-called righteous — those who think themselves to be righteous even though they aren’t (none are). The “sinners” in Luke are the famously sinful — those who know themselves to be sinners, partly because society constantly reminds them that they are sinners and are in trouble. In Luke, the “righteous” really are sinners — not least because their self-righteousness, self-deception, and works-pride are sin. The “sinners,” however, can be made righteous by grace in Christ through faith.

Let me encourage continued thought and prayer on this parable, its teaching, and its implications. Here are some ways to do that.

At Together for the Gospel this week, John Piper’s message spent time on this parable as he examined the broader question of whether Jesus and Paul had different “gospels.” He concludes that Jesus’ gospel is also Paul’s, and then follows that up with these imiplications:

  • Nothing We Do Is Basis for God’s Acceptance
  • Our Standing with God Is Based on Jesus, Not Us
  • Transformation Is the Fruit, Not Root, of Justification
  • All Our Goodness Is Evidence and Confirmation, Not Grounds
  • The Gospel Is for Every Person and Every People
  • Jesus Gets the Full Glory

John Bunyan has a 128 page book on this parable. The full text is available for free on Google Books. I used a couple of gems from it in Sunday’s message:

  • “The Pharisee’s whole righteousness was sinful.”
  • “Godly men are afraid of their own righteousness.”
  • “We must be made righteous before we can do righteousness.”

Spurgeon preached several messages on this parable, but (I believe) only one is available online. What a great title: “Too Good to be Saved!

Tim Keller’s message on this parable is devastatingly good. Unfortunately, many of Keller’s sermons aren’t free, but this one is. Download it and listen. Then download and/or read everything else from Keller you can get your hands on. For instance, here is Keller, in The Prodigal God, explaining the same message — how we must repent not only of our bad works but also our good works:

What must we do, then, to be saved? To find God we must repent of the things we have done wrong, but if that is all you do, you may remain just an elder brother. To truly become a Christian we must also repent of the reasons we ever did anything right. Pharisees only repent of their sins, but Christians repent for the very roots of their righteousness, too. We must learn how to repent of the sin under all our other sins and under all our righteousness – the sin of seeking to be our own Savior and Lord. We must admit that we’ve put our ultimate hope in both our wrongdoing and right doing we have been seeking to get around God or get control of God in order to get hold of those things.

It is only when you see the desire to be your own Savior and Lord—lying beneath both your sins and your moral goodness—that you are on the verge of becoming a Christian indeed. When you realize that the antidote to being bad is not just being good, you are on the brink. If you follow through, it will change everything—how you relate to God, self, others, the world, your work, you sins, your virtue. It’s called the new birth because its so radical.

Is this a new concept for you? Maybe check out the three hour Saturday Seminar that DSC did some years back, “The Gospel for Christians.”

Fighting my Pharisaical self-righteousness with you until Jesus returns.

Apr 13

Clarus ’10: Between Heaven and Earth – Schedule

2010 | by Parker Landis | Category: Clarus 10

Friday, April 30

6:15 PM – 6:30 PM Singing

6:30 PM – 6:45 PM Welcome and Introduction

6:45 PM – 7:45 PM Session 1 with Wayne Grudem
"Business for the Glory of God: The Bible’s Teaching on the Moral Goodness of Business"

7:45 PM – 8:00 PM Break/Singing

8:00 PM – 9:00 PM Session 2 with Randy Alcorn
"The God Who Brings Good Out of Bad: Suffering, Evil and the Promise of Heaven"

Saturday, May 1

8:45 AM – 9:00 AM Singing

9:00 AM – 10:15 AM Session 3 with Wayne Grudem
"Business Ethics: Working, Buying and Selling according to God’s Moral Standards"

10:15 AM – 10:30 AM Break/Singing

10:30 AM – 11:30 AM Session 4 with Randy Alcorn
"Investing in Eternity: Financial Stewardship and Eternal Rewards"

11:30 AM – 1:30 PM Break for Lunch

1:30 PM – 3:00 PM Panel Discussion

3:00 PM – 6:45 PM Afternoon Break

6:45 PM – 7:00 PM Singing

7:00 PM – 8:15 PM Session 5 with Wayne Grudem
"The Bible’s Solution to World Poverty: 50 Factors within Nations That Determine Their Wealth or Poverty"

8:15 PM – 9:00 PM Panel Discussion

Sunday, May 2

9:00 AM – 10:15 AM Corporate Worship with Wayne Grudem Preaching
"Keep Your Heart with All Vigilance (Proverbs 4:23)"

10:45 AM – 12:00 PM Corporate Worship with Wayne Grudem Preaching
"Keep Your Heart with All Vigilance (Proverbs 4:23)"

Click here to purchase your tickets.