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Book Review: Get Outta My Face, by Rick Horne

  • Shepherd Press
  • 192 pp.
  • January 2009

As a high school English and World History teacher, Rick Horne’s Get Outta My Face: How to Reach Angry, Unmotivated Teens with Biblical Counsel is a welcome book. Horne has every right in the world to write a book based on his own authority–a doctorate from Westminster East, 30 years of counseling teens, five adult children–yet this is a book based on the Bible’s authority alone.

Horne begins by defining the problem beneath every teen’s problem–that their desires and actions are corrupted by sin. He helps readers see that beneath all behavioral issues are heart issues, and he stresses the importance of identifying those issues. Yet, at the same time, these teens are made in the image of God, which means that beneath their corrupted actions are “wise wants.” And so, Horne begins Get Outta My Face by calling would-be counseling to humility–in the teen, we see our same sin-corrupted yet image-bearing selves.

The rest of the book is about opening a bridge of communication with your teen, pointing out the natural consequences of his/her actions, affirming the wise wants beneath your teens actions, and creating small, manageable steps toward changes that your teen wants. If you’ve worked with a disgruntled teen before, then you know how valuable some guidance on doing these things might be!

And finally, Horne points us toward the only true change-maker in the world: the cross. By building bridges to our teens, we can show them how the gospel changes everything in our lives.

Buy it at Amazon. (For the sake of transparency, this is an affiliate link, so I do receive a tiny percentage of any purchases made through the link.)

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. 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 Commision’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Martin Luther on the Cross

The news that brings joy–the Gospel–is out of this world, because, the more you explore it, the more you are simultaneously taken in two directions:

1. Into the knowledge of how loved you are by God.

2. Into the knowledge of how terrible you are.

I want you to know that both of those things are equally important in the Gospel. However, since our culture tends to major on how loved we are and minor on how bad we are, I thought these words from Martin Luther might be helpful:

You must be overwhelmed by the frightful wrath of God who so hated sin that he spared not his only begotten Son…. Take this to heart and doubt not that you are the one who killed Christ. Your sins certainly did, and when you see the nails driven through his hands, be sure that you are pounding, and when the thorns pierce his brow, know that they are your evil thoughts.

–Martin Luther

(I came across this quote in Tim Chester’s book Closing the Window: Steps to Living Porn Free, which I would highly recommend to everyone and anyone as the best book I’ve yet read on the topic)

How the Gospel Makes Any Job a Joy-filled One

One day as I was walking to my car after a long day of work, I smiled and thanked God. It had been a good day. Despite the challenges and frustrations that had inevitably come, God had given me the grace to talk problems through with Him, to seek Him for help, and to pray for students. Because of the closeness that this gave me with Him, my day was exciting–not because of the content of my work (for example, I spent nearly an hour filling in bubbles on Scantrons)–but because of the One with whom I shared it.

This isn’t a pat on the back anecdote. During the day, I sinned repeatedly–I harbored anger against students, avoided numerous unpleasant tasks, complained in my heart, wasted countless minutes on worrying or inbox-tidying… and that was before lunch! No, the fellowship I enjoyed with God at work had nothing to do with me. Were it up to my performance, I would be alone at my job completely, and I would only be able to find satisfaction in my work when everything was going my way. As a public school teacher, that would mean I would almost never find satisfaction in my work! I’m sure you can relate regardless of your occupation.

So why do I get unlimited access to my Maker, whom I habitually turn away from in my heart? Why am I able to be filled with joy in my job, no matter how bad it gets?

There was once a man–Jesus–who did his job in perfect obedience to God. He held a secular job as a carpenter and a service-oriented job as a travelling teacher and healer. Despite the constant temptations each day to ignore God, this worker never forgot about Him. But then, at the pinnacle of his career, this worker was given an impossible assignment. It meant losing his reputation, his friends, his family, his comfort, and his body–and, worst of all, it meant losing his connection to God.

Ever obedient, Jesus took the assignment. On the cross, he cried, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:45-46), because he was literally being cut off from God–his connection with God was being severed; his ability to be filled with joy was smashed; the eternal joy of being a part of the Trinity was being torn from Him.

Because of this, no matter how bad my job gets–if they take away my benefits, take away my raises, cut my salary, give me the worst classes filled with the most unruly students for the rest of my career, move me to the basement, sue me, accuse me, slander me, spite me, betray me–God will never leave me. Because Jesus lost him, I will never lose access to Him. Because Jesus was cast out of His presence, He will always be present for me.

This is one way that the Gospel completely changes how we look at our work. This is why we can no longer partake in idle complaining about our jobs. We should always seek to improve the places at which we work, but never with complaining hearts. The Lord we follow got the worst work assignment in the world, and he took it for us. Now we can go to our jobs with an unshakable joy that no circumstances can touch.

Book Review: King’s Cross, by Tim Keller

Recommended. A Gospel-centered, insightful look at the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus in the book of Mark.

In a book trailer at TimothyKeller.com, Keller says he wrote King’s Cross: The Story of the World in the Life of Jesus “for people who are exploring Christianity from a distance and for seasoned professional ministers, and for everyone in between–to help them take a closer look at the surprising truth and power and beauty of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” If that’s the case, he has hit his mark. Keller’s style of writing is like his preaching: accessible and respectful of the skeptic and challenging and reinvigorating for the seasoned Christian.

What I like best about this book is how it takes familiar passages from Mark–for example, Jesus’ baptism, or Jesus’ healing of the paralytic, or Jesus’ calming of the storm, or Jesus’ crucifixion itself–then casts them in a fresh light, showing their contemporary relevance to our everyday lives, and then poignantly finding the “thread” within them that, when followed, leads to the Gospel. Keller’s writing portrays Jesus as a God-man who ministers with authority and wisdom, whose identity is eternally rooted in the “dance” of the Trinity, yet for whom the cross ever weighs on his heart and thoughts. The book’s structure helps illustrate this: the first half (“The King”) illustrates Jesus’ identity, and the second half (“The Cross”) explores Jesus’ purpose.

Keller’s chapter on the cross (“The End,” which precedes “The Beginning”) is perhaps the crown jewel of this book, though that distinction is difficult to make. Keller’s treatment of the cross isn’t focused on gory physical details, but rather on the infinitely worse torment of Jesus’ separation from God. If you are like many Christians who scratch their heads at Jesus’s words, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”, you will walk away from this chapter stunned into worship.

The appeal of this book for professional ministers or sermon lovers will be that each chapter is culled from Tim Keller’s sermons, complete with excellent illustrations (ranging from a George MacDonald’s children’s tale to rare glimpses into Keller’s personal life), helpful definitions of commonly used (but oft misunderstood) words (like “gospel” and “religion”), and wise applications if each discussed passage. If you are a pastor seeking to approach the gospels in a way that communicates to contemporary audiences without abandoning Christ-centric teaching, you’ll want to pick up a copy of this book.

This isn’t a book where there is a little something in it for everyone–rather, it is filled with encouraging, love-spurring, worship-prompting, life-changing explication of the Gospel. It makes real what God has come and done for us. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Tim Keller Sermon Notes — Series: The Necessity of Belief — Sermon # 5: The Meaning of the City

This sermon was preached on October 5, 2003.

The teaching is based on Jeremiah 29:4-14

Please note that these sermon notes are provided only to encourage, and that any or all parts of the notes may contain errors or omissions, due entirely to the note-taker. Full audio of the sermon may be found at the Redeemer Sermon Store.

You can also find this particular sermon at Redeemer’s Free Sermon Resource, located here.

Intro:

We’re looking at the book of Jeremiah because Jeremiah’s times were quite a bit like ours. The great Babylonian power had come to Israel, invaded, and taken Israel as exiles of Bablyon. In Babylon, they found a huge, hostile, brutal city filled with all of these different people groups with radically different visions of nature, morality, and the nature of the world. How do you respond to a fragmented society?

We live in a society so that it’s getting so that most people in our society feel like exiles. For example, liberals feel like this country is becoming so conservative that they’re pulling their hair out. Yet, at the same time, conservatives are pulling their hair out because they feel that this country is becoming so liberal. That’s a fact. But how can that be? How can both liberals and conservatives feel like exiles? The answer is that we live in a fragmented society where there is no consensus about what is right and what is wrong — this is very much like the city the Jewish exiles entered into. So here’s the question: how do you respond to that kind of society? The answer of God to the exiles is astounding.

If you think you’ve heard me preach on Jeremiah 29, you’re wrong! I’ve never preached on it, but I’m always referring to it. Jeremiah 29 is one of the most important texts to Redeemer’s history.

Outline: How do you respond to a fragmented society? How do you relate to the city?

I. The wrong way

II. God’s way

III. How to get the power to do it

I. The Wrong Ways

  • The Babylonian Agenda:
    • The Babylonians were experts at dealing with uncooperative nations:
      • Expel them / drive them out: The Babylonians found that if you did this, they came back madder than before
      • Subjugation: You don’t drive them out, you push them down; you enslave them. The problem with this is that they keep having these uprisings madder than ever.
      • Assimilation: Here the Babylonians found what they were looking for. They said, “You can live with us, you can have the best jobs, as long as you live like us.
        • Ex: Daniel
        • Within a couple generations, a people group is gone, their distinctiveness is worn away.
        • v. 6 “Increase there, do not decrease.” Assimilation sought to have them decrease.
    • Tribalism: v. 8 “God says, ‘Don’t listen to the other prophets — they’re telling you things I didn’t tell them to tell you!'”
      • Assimilation means that I go into the city and engage it for my own power and wealth.
      • Tribalism means that I smile at the city on the outside, but inside I disdain it. I exploit it.

II. God’s Way

  • v. 5-7 — Build homes! Move in! Build gardens! Increase! And seek the peace and prosperity of Babylon. This was a city whose hands were dripping with the blood of Israel’s people!
  • This must have been utterly astounding for God’s children to hear. He wanted them not just to engage the city as a tribe, but he wanted them to seek the shalom of the city! The peace and prosperity of it! He wanted them to pray for it!
  • St. Augusten, The City of God: He says that the whole Bible is basically a tale of two cities — the city of man and the city of God.
    • People go into the human city to make a name for themselves, to get a self, to get power and achievement, “then I’ll know I’m somebody.”
      • This makes it a place of exhaustion: they go into the city needing to get — love, power, recognition, a resume
      • This makes it a place of oppression: we’re working so hard to get up the ladder that we’re willing to step on people
    • In contrast, the city of God works not on the basis of pride, but of peace; not on the basis of human effort, but on God’s grace
      • This makes it not a place of exhaustion, because the people enter it looking to give, not looking to get, because they already know who they are. It’s a place of joy.
      • This makes it not a place of oppression, but a place of justice.
    • City of Man: Your life to benefit me; City of God: My life to benefit you
    • Very often these cities are referred to as Jerusalem and Babylon
  • So, we live in the city of man, right? Someday God will come and destroy the city of man.
  • Up until Jeremiah, everyone thought that was how it was. Then, all of a sudden, God says, “Move into Babylon and seek its peace.” But that makes no sense! I thought God was going to destroy the city!?”
    • Matt 5: Jesus says to his disciples, “You are a city on a hill! Let your light shine before men.” The good deeds Jesus is talking about are living and service.
  • Every city is two cities. The city of God is a mini-city in every city, they are an alternate city in every city, in which they take sex, money, and power, and instead of using them for exploitation and pride, they use them in life giving ways.
  • The way you bear witness in the earthly city to God’s city, is that you don’t go in there to work for your sake (assimilation), don’t work their for your tribe’s sake (disdain), work in the city for the city’s sake.
  • St. Augustine says that the minute you’re born again you get dual citizenship in these two cities.
  • Citizens of the city of God are the very best citizens of their earthly cities. They don’t move in to make themselves or their group stronger, they move their for the city’s sake.
  • When Jeremiah talks about shalom, it’s worth thinking. “Peace” isn’t strong enough. Shalom means total flourishing in every dimension: socially, economically, spiritually, physically. God is saying that if you are a child of God this has got to be your attitude toward the earthly city in which you reside.
    • You’re working for the social peace of your city, helping the different racial groups get along.
    • You’re working for the economic shalom of the city, not having a career just to advance yourself or your cause, but to bring everyone in the city up, to seek the prosperity of everyone in it. If you don’t feel that way about New York City, you’re not thinking out the implications of this passage.
  • God is saying don’t lose your difference in the city, but at the same time don’t guard jealously your difference in the city. He’s saying, “Use your difference to serve the city!” Your difference is that you belong to the one true God — use that to serve them.
  • Rodney Stark, The Rise of Christianity, describes early centuries of Christianity and the plagues that occurred in many cities…
    • If you live in a city for yourself or your tribe, you get out when bad things happen — you don’t want to die!
    • But that’s not what the Christians did in early Christianity. They lost their lives happily for the sake of their neighbors.
    • Stark is trying to figure out how this one little religious group of Christians eventually shaped an entire empire.
      • When the dying pagans recovered from the plagues, they were faced with the question, “Wait, what are you here for?”
      • The Christians said, “We’re not here for money, we’re not here to make a name for ourselves, we don’t need money, we don’t need acceptance, we don’t even need to live!”
      • As a result, the Christian gospel captured the imaginations of the people. Christianity did not capture their imaginations by trying to take over or trying to get their people into office! They got power by not trying to get power.

III. The Power — How can it be that Christians did this?

  • Centuries after Jeremiah, Jesus entered Jerusalem, the city of God — and he gets executed and thrown out. You never executed anybody inside the holy city, because it was necessary to send them out to die, because it was symbolic of the consequence of sin; you lose the community, you lose the blessing, because you’re thrown out.
  • It wasn’t a symbol of Jesus; it was a reality. Hebrews 13:12-14.
  • On the cross, Jesus was cosmically thrown out so that you and I could be brought in. Sin deserves to be thrown out of the city, but Jesus Christ took it for us, so that when you believe in Jesus, you become automatically enrolled in the city of God–and that makes us salt and light in the city that is.
  • Why? Because if you know who you are, you move back into the earthly city not needing anymore and being ready to give.
  • Frank Sinatra was wrong; he said that if you can make it in New York, you can make it anywhere. But Jesus gives you something better. There is a mansion in the truly greatest city in the universe, there is applause, acclaim, a ticker-tape parade waiting for you. If you know that, you can move out into the city with poise!
  • Michael Foucalt, the post-modern theorist, says that we create and bolster a self through the exclusion of the Other. E.g., If I feel good about myself because I’m a hard worker, I have to despise people who are lazy.
  • But what if you’re identity is in Christ? What if it’s not in being a good Christian who goes to church and reads the Bible, but in Christ? Because Jesus Christ, when I was doing all the wrong things he died for me! If that’s the basis for my whole life, then how do I look out at the city filled with people who are doing the wrong things? I love them! Because Jesus dying on the cross was dying for them, and for me.
  • Here in NYC, there is a saying that you need to get rid of your idea that there’s one truth. If you believe that, I’ll accept you; if not, I won’t. You’ve got to assimilate to be accepted. But Jesus gives you a resource for that, because he died for people who didn’t believe in him. Christianity gives you the power to love people who don’t believe like you do, who are not like you.
  • Do you see this? Do you understand it?
  • Jesus lost the city that was, so that you and I can be citizens of the city that is to come.

Practical Applications:

  1. Live in the city: when Paul wanted to capture a region, he went to the city, because he knew that if you captured the city you captured the region. The way to capture the imagination of the United States is to capture the imagination of its cities. The Bible says history began in a garden, but it will end in a city. What does Revelation say: I see the suburb of God coming down? No, it’s a city coming down! A diverse, artistic, energetic city. If you hate the city, I don’t know what you’re going to do with the New Jerusalem. When we all get to the New Jerusalem, you’re going to have to show people how to use the subways.
  2. Don’t live in the city selfishly: If you are so driven by your ego or your family expectations, if you’re working so hard in your career that you’re not thinking of the poor, then you have to wonder if you’re really living for the city, or are you just using it. If you’re just using it, you having come to grips with your identity in Christ. God won you over not by taking power, but by losing it. He won you not with a sword in his hand, but with nails in them. That’s why the hymn goes like this:

Not with swords loud clashing nor roll of stirring drums,

but with deeds of loving mercy the heavenly kingdom comes.

J. I. Packer on the Incarnation

We see now what it meant for the Son of God to empty himself and become poor. It meant laying aside of glory; a voluntary restraint of power; an acceptance of hardship, isolation, ill-treatment, malice and misunderstanding; finally, a death that involved such agony–spiritual even more than physical–that his mind nearly broke under the prospect of it. (See Lk 12:50 and the Gethsemane story.) It meant love to the uttermost for unlovely human beings, that they through his poverty might become rich. The Christmas message is that there is hope for a ruined humanity–hope of pardon, hope of peace with God, hope of glory–because at the Father’s will Jesus Christ became poor and was born in a stable so that thirty years later he might hang on a cross. It is the most wonderful message that the world has ever heard, or will hear.

–J. I. Packer, Knowing God, p. 63