Tag Archives: Timothy Keller

Living by What “Seems Right”

There have been certain sins throughout history which have been so wickedly horrific that I’m quite certain the vast majority of people today would not even consider committing them. For instance, can you imagine sacrificing your daughter to an idol by burning her alive? Of course not, and neither could the Israelites when they first entered the Promised Land. And yet, a few hundred years passed, and sure enough…

“When you present your gifts and offer up your children in fire, you defile yourselves with all your idols to this day. And shall I be inquired of by you, O house of Israel? As I live, declares the Lord God, I will not be inquired of by you.” Ezekiel 20:31 (ESV)

Such is the shaping power of culture. What was at one time absolutely impossible to imagine…became reality. Sacrificing a child suddenly “seemed the right thing” to do, simply because it was the cultural norm.

God’s Response

What’s fascinating to note in Ezekiel 20 is God’s response to this wickedness. He said they would not be able to “inquire” of Him. In other words, no relationship. And so it was that idolatry, introduced through exposure to a wicked culture, destroyed any meaningful relationship they had with the One True God.

What We Lose by Adopting Cultural Beliefs

Of course, the same thing happens in our culture, only with different issues. The people of God today constantly find themselves under pressure to modify their beliefs and practices toward what “seems right”. But what I have realized recently is that adopting these cultural beliefs and practices has an unintended consequence: the loss of a vital relationship with God. We can no longer inquire of Him. This makes sense considering Israel’s experience under Ezekiel, but also because in order to adopt many cultural beliefs, one must reject Scripture, which is, of course, God’s Word to us. How can I have a vital relationship with someone who does not speak to me?

The Stepford Wives…the Stepford God

The lesson here is clear: while we will all be shaped to some degree by culture, we must be sure to let God’s Word have the final say (Romans 12:2).  Along these lines, one of my favorite Tim Keller illustrations comes from his book, The Reason for God:

“If we let our unexamined beliefs undermine our confidence in the Bible, the cost may be greater than we think.

“If you don’t trust the Bible enough to let it challenge and correct your thinking, how could you ever have a personal relationship with God? In any truly personal relationship, the other person has to be able to contradict you. For example, if a wife is not allowed to contradict her husband, they won’t have an intimate relationship. Remember the (two!) movies The Stepford Wives? The husbands of Stepford, Connecticut, decide to have their wives turned into robots who never cross the wills of their husbands. A Stepford wife was wonderfully compliant and beautiful, but no one would describe such a marriage as intimate or personal.

“Now, what happens if you eliminate anything from the Bible that offends your sensibility and crosses your will? If you pick and choose what you want to believe and reject the rest, how will you ever have a God who can contradict you? You won’t! You’ll have a Stepford God! A God, essentially, of your own making, and not a God with whom you can have a relationship and genuine interaction. Only if your God can say things that outrage you and make you struggle (as in a real friendship or marriage!) will you know that you have gotten hold of a real God and not a figment of your imagination.”

– Keller, Timothy. The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism

Therefore, only a real relationship with God can save us from being wrongly shaped by culture and what “seems right”. And not surprisingly, such a relationship with God only comes from a thorough commitment to Scripture as authoritative.

For as the history of the Israelites teaches us, if we abandon God’s Word, the fire is never far away.


Posted by on September 20, 2016 in Uncategorized


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Ten Books I’m Reading (or Recently Read)

libraryWe’re redoing our church library and the pastoral staff was asked to compile a list of books we’re reading to make a nice section of recommendations for the church. Here’s what I came up with…

Knowing God by J.I. Packer

I read this for a Sunday school class back in my college days and recently started it over. It’s a classic for a reason, as Packer, an Anglican, provides a glorious overview of the Christian faith. The back cover is full of recommendations from a who’s who of 20th century Christianity. If you’ve never been exposed to this gem, don’t wait any longer.

Eat Move Sleep by Tom Rath

I “read” (listened to) this on our recent 6,100 mile road trip. Rath, the bestselling author of Strengthfinders 2.0, packs his book full of research based facts to motivate you to eat better, exercise more, and sleep well. It’s amazing how your quality of life improves as you put all three together. Each of the 30 chapters has a tip based on research regarding each of the three areas to help you be the best you can be.

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

This Pulitzer-prize-winning book tells the tale of a father and son traveling south together in a post-apocalyptic world. So far, it is a lesson in loving a child, and McCarthy’s writing deserves the praise it receives.

Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus by Nabeel Qureshi

Diane and I listened to this testimonial whenever Annie was otherwise engaged on our big trip. It’s one of those books that manages to be informative and delightful all at once. Qureshi was raised in the west but in a devout Muslim family. The book takes a nice tone as he honors his parents and his childhood faith, giving us all reason to pause and wonder whether we are taking Christianity as seriously as his parents took Islam. If you want to understand what it means to leave the life of a Muslim to embrace Christ, start here.

Salt Sugar Fat by Michael Moss

Do you see a pattern? Yes, I’m thinking about health (which doesn’t necessarily mean I’m doing anything about it!) This book tells the story of how Americans have gained on average (I forget the statistic exactly) 25 lbs. over the last few decades. How? Two words: processed foods. If you are looking for motivation to put down the Cheetos and turn away from the lunchables, pop-tarts, and cold cuts, pick this one up.

Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan

Another “listen” on the road trip, but this one we played for all of us. And we loved it! It’s a novel for everyone, telling four different stories of four children and the various injustices they encounter and seek to overcome in life…and the music that helps them through. The author ties the stories together beautifully at the end. I had a serious lump in my throat. Read this one (or listen to it – a lovely musical score goes along with the audio version) with the whole family.

What is an Evangelical? by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Along with Seeking Allah…, I read this book in light of the recent controversy at Wheaton College (where Josh and Elisabeth attend). It was at this august Evangelical institution that a Political Science Professor said in December 2015 that Muslims and Christians worship the same God. They don’t…but that question has never received more attention than it did in the last few months. This is a short read, and Lloyd-Jones defines an evangelical in three chapters, recognizing that true Christianity exists outside of evangelicalism, but wisely pointing out that if you reject evangelicalism, you may be going to heaven, but you probably won’t take anyone with you. After all, the “Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:10) In Lloyd-Jones’ words, apart from an evangelical faith, Christianity loses its “converting influence.” I doubt he would consider the (now former) Wheaton professor to fill the bill.

Generous Justice by Timothy Keller

Redeemer church in Manhattan, pastored by Keller, is known not only as a church that proclaims the gospel, but as a fellowship that is “for the city”, caring for the “least of these”. Keller lays out the strong biblical case to be a people who live for the poor and needy and spread “shalom” wherever we go.

The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown

The sport of crew (a.k.a. rowing) takes center stage in this engrossing true tale of 9 college kids going for gold against Hitler’s best in the 1936 Berlin Olympics. I’m a sucker for a World War 2 story, and though this isn’t quite that, it’s close, and I delighted in the story. I’m not the only one. Though it was only published in 2013, it is one of the all time top twenty best-selling non-fiction books at Amazon.

Prayer by Timothy Keller

Those who know me well are not surprised to find two Keller books on this list. He’s a modern day C.S. Lewis, and if my layman predictions are right, he will still be read 100 years from now. If you want to give your prayer life a shot in the arm, apparently Timothy Keller practices what he preaches, and he is an faithful guide. His spirit throughout is humble and yet informative.




Posted by on March 8, 2016 in Uncategorized


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The “Self-Esteem” Problem…Solved

51eREIpo6pL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-v3-big,TopRight,0,-55_SX278_SY278_PIkin4,BottomRight,1,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_“…I do not even judge myself.” 1 Corinthians 4:3 (ESV)

In his very short work, The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness, Tim Keller offers a wonderful insight on the question of self-esteem from his study of 1 Corinthians chapter 4…

“If someone has a problem with low self-esteem we, in our modern world, seem to have only one way of dealing with it. That is remedying it with high self-esteem. We tell someone that they need to see that they are a great person, they need to see how wonderful they are. We tell them to look at all the great things they have accomplished. We tell them they just need to stop worrying about what people say about them. We tell them they need to set their own standards and accomplish them – and then make their own evaluation of themselves.

“Paul’s approach could not be more different. He cares very little if he is judged by the Corinthians or by any human court. And then he goes one step further: he will not even judge himself. It is as if he says, ‘I don’t care what you think – but I don’t care what I think. I have a very low opinion of your opinion of me – but I have a very low opinion of my opinion of me.’ The fact that he has a clear conscience makes no difference. Look carefully at what he says in verse 4. ‘My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent.’

“What would Paul say to those who tell him to set his own standards? He would say it is a trap. A trap he will not fall into. You see, it is a trap to say that we should not worry about everyone else’s standards, just set our own. That’s not an answer. Boosting our self-esteem by living up to our own standards or someone else’s sounds like a great solution. But it does not deliver. It cannot deliver. I cannot live up to my parents’ standards – and that makes me feel terrible. I cannot live up to your standards – and that makes me feel terrible. I cannot live up to society’s standards. Perhaps the solution is to set my own standards? But I cannot keep them either – and that makes me feel terrible, unless I set incredibly low standards. Are low standards a solution? Not at all. That makes me feel terrible because I realize I am the type of person who has low standards. Trying to boost our self-esteem by trying to live up to our own standards or someone else’s is a trap. It is not an answer.

“When he says that he does not let the Corinthians judge him nor will he judge himself, he is saying that he knows about his sins but he does not connect them to himself and his identity. His sins and his identity are not connected. He refuses to play that game. He does not see a sin and let it destroy his sense of identity. He will not make a connection. Neither does he see an accomplishment and congratulate himself. He sees all kinds of sins in himself – and all kinds of accomplishments too – but he refuses to connect them with himself or his identity.”

Keller, Timothy (2013-12-06). The Freedom of Self Forgetfulness  10Publishing. Kindle Edition.

You won’t be surprised to find that Keller’s ultimate answer is in the gospel, but how he gets there is a treat.  I highly recommend picking up a copy of this short work.  It’s transformative.


For Monday, May 11: 1 Corinthians 5

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Posted by on May 8, 2015 in Uncategorized


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