Posts Tagged tim keller

“If I have you by the hand, death is nothing but sleep.” -Jesus

Tim Keller, King’s Cross: The Story of the World in the Life of Jesus, pp. 67-69, commenting on Mark 5:38-42:

Jesus saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. And when he had entered, he said to them, “Why are you making a commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but sleeping.” And they laughed at him. But he put them all outside and took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him and went in where the child was. Taking her by the hand he said to her, “Talitha cumi,” which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise.” And immediately the girl got up and began walking (for she was twelve years of age), and they were immediately overcome with amazement.

Do you think it is odd that when Jesus arrives at Jairus’s house he says that the girl is just sleeping? The parallel account of this story in Matthew and Luke’s Gospels make it clear that Jesus understands she’s dead. She’s not mostly dead; she’s all dead. Then why does he make that reference to sleep?

The answer is in what Jesus does next.

Remember, Jesus sits down beside the girl, takes her by the hand, and says two things to her.

The first is talitha. Literally, it means “little girl,” but that does not get across the sense of what he’s saying. This is a pet name, a diminutive term of endearment. Since this is a diminutive that a mother would use with a little girl, probably the best translation is “honey.”

The second thing Jesus says to her is koum, which means “arise.” Not “be resurrected”: it just means “get up.” Jesus id doing exactly what this child’s parents might do on a sunny morning. He sits down, takes her hand, and says, “Honey, it’s time to get up.” And she does.

Jesus is facing facing the most implacable, inexorable enemy of the human race and such is his power that he holds this child by the hand and gently lifts her right up through it. “Honey, get up.”

Jesus is saying by his actions, “If I have you by the hand, death itself is nothing but sleep.” . . .

. . . There’s nothing more frightening for a little child than to lose the hand of the parent in a crowd or in the dark, but that is nothing compared with Jesus’s own loss.

He lost his Father’s hand on the cross.

He went into the tomb so we can be raised out of it.

He lost hold of his Father’s hand so we could know that once he has us by the hand, he will never, ever forsake us.

HT: Justin Taylor

Click here for additional resources by Tim Keller.

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24 Resources on Gospel-Centeredness

One of the core values of Second Mile Church — and one of the truths that has been most explosively alive in my life and in the life of our leadership — has been “gospel-centeredness.” This statement (which probably originated with Tim Keller) gets to the heart of this idea most succinctly: “The gospel is not just the A-B-C’s of Christianity but the A-to-Z of Christianity.”

Timmy Brister has put together a “Gospel-Centered Reader,” with tons of links to helpful audio and articles about this truth of gospel-centeredness.

So, whether you (a) already are growing in a deeper sense of what it means to be gospel-centered or (b) keep hearing the phrase but don’t know what it means, go check out this reader.

Also, be sure to check out our church website’s page on the gospel. It gives a straightforward look at how we value this key truth.

HT: Dustin Neeley




Size Matters

One of the most interesting things to study as a leader in a growing church is how we are impacted by the changing size of the church. A helpful resource along these lines has been Tim Keller’s paper, “Leadership and Church Size Dynamics: How Strategy Changes with Growth.”

Keller makes a few important observations:

  • Every church has a culture that goes with its size and which must be accepted. Most people tend to prefer a certain size culture, and unfortunately, many give their favorite size culture a moral status and treat other size categories as spiritually and morally inferior.
  • There is no “best size” for a church. Each size presents great difficulties and also many opportunities for ministry that churches of other sizes cannot undertake (at least not as well). Only together can churches of all sizes be all that Christ wants the church to be.
  • One of the most common reasons for pastoral leadership mistakes is blindness to the significance of church size. Size has an enormous impact on how a church functions. There is a “size culture” that profoundly affects how decisions are made, how relationships flow, how effectiveness is evaluated, and what ministers, staff, and lay leaders do… We tend to think of the chief differences between churches mainly in denominational or theological terms, but that underestimates the impact of size on how a church operates…A large church is not simply a bigger version of a small church. The difference in communication, community formation, and decision-making processes are so great that the leadership skills required in each are of almost completely different orders.

The rest of the article explains some of the realities of different sized churches as well as the transitions that have to be made as churches grow. It’s a fascinating read, especially if (like me) you are interested in organizational dynamics.

What’s your experience? What changes have you experienced in growing churches? Were the results good or bad?



Set Your Mind on Christ Challenge – Day 4

How’s it going? You hanging with us in the challenge? It has been a lot to read, but it has also been so refreshing to be washed over with God’s word. Below you’ll find some of my thoughts and observations on Luke 12-16. The comments so far have been great, so keep them coming. Also, here are a few resources that might help you go deeper into a few different aspects of today’s reading:


  • Jesus makes it so abundantly clear that having a good relationship with God is the most important thing a person could have (12:5, 8, 21).
  • Jesus says that our life is more than the abundance of possessions (12:15).
  • Jesus says that the times that we might be most worried about our finances is the time that we should be generous and trust God (12:22-34).
  • The more you know, the more God expects of you (12:47).
  • Human and natural disasters should serve as warnings that we need to repent (13:2-5).
  • The Sabbath was designed for healthful, life-giving rest, not restriction (13:16; 14:5).
  • People from all over the world will be saved (13:29), but the door into the kingdom is narrow (13:24).
  • Jesus-centered living is humble (14:11) and wildly generous (14:12-14).
  • The things that keep us from Jesus are not always the bad things, but the ordinary good things — like land, oxen, and a wife — that we love more than him (14:18-20).
    • About this, John Piper has written: “The greatest enemy of hunger for God is not poison but apple pie. It is not the banquet of the wicked that dulls our appetite for Heaven, but endless nibbling at the table of the world. It is not the X-rated video, but the prime-time dribble of triviality we drink in every night. For all the ill that Satan can do, when God describes what keeps us from the banquet table of his love, it is a piece of land, a yoke of oxen, and a wife (Luke 14:18-20). The greatest adversary of love to God is not his enemies but his gifts. And the most deadly appetites are not for the poison of evil, but for the simple pleasures of earth. For when these replace an appetite for God himself, the idolatry is scarcely recognizable, and almost incurable…“The pleasures of this life” … are not evil in themselves. These are not vices. These are gifts of God. They are your basic meat and potatoes and coffee and gardening and reading and decorating and traveling and investing and TV-watching and Internet-surfing and shopping and exercising and collecting and talking. And all of them can become deadly substitutes for God.” (John Piper, Hunger for God, 14-15)
  • Following Jesus is costly and the decision to follow him should be taken seriously (14:25-33).
  • God is seeking after those things that are lost, and has great joy when they’re found (ch. 15).
  • God seeks after the rebellious younger brothers and the self-righteous elder brothers, both of whom are alienated from his heart (15:20-32). Listen to Tim Keller preach about this here.
  • Jesus says you can’t serve two masters (16:13).
  • Hell is serious business (16:19-31).

How would I be different if this truth were explosively alive in my innermost being?

  • There is a new level of gravity and life-or-death seriousness that marks Jesus’ teaching in this passage. If that truth were explosively alive in my innermost being, I would take sin more seriously in my own life, more boldly share the gospel with those far from God, fearlessly challenge those who claim to know Christ but don’t have much fruit to show for it, and see people with the compassion that God has for them. That really would be a way of thinking that would be setting my mind on Christ.

What about you? How is God using this passage in your life? Questions or Comments?

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Keller Introduction to Counterfeit Gods

The introduction is now online for Tim Keller’s next book, Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope that Matters. It will be published in October 2009.

This introduction is absolutely worth reading. Like his most recent book, The Prodigal God, this one should be very helpful.

HT: Justin Taylor


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Kingdom-Centered Prayer

This past Sunday, the Schmersahls shared about their summer Community Group and some of what they learned about Kingdom-Centered Prayer. Below is an excerpt from the study guide that they used (just a $5.00 download), written by Tim Keller.


Biblically and historically, the one non-negotiable, universal ingredient in times of spiritual renewal is corporate, prevailing, intensive, kingdom-centered prayer. What is that?

It is focused on God’s presence and kingdom. In Outgrowing the Ingrown Church, Jack Miller talks about the difference between “maintenance prayer” and “frontline” prayer meetings. Maintenance prayer meetings are short, mechanical, and totally focused on physical needs inside the church. But frontline prayer has three basic traits:

1) A request for grace to confess sins and humble ourselves;
2) a compassion and zeal for the flourishing of the church; and
3) a yearning to know God, to see his face, to see his glory.

It is quite clear whether these traits are present when listening to a prayer meeting. Most interesting is to study biblical prayers for revival, such as in Acts 4, or Exodus 33, or Nehemiah 1, where these three elements are easy to see. Notice in Acts 4, for example, that the disciples, whose lives had been threatened, did not ask for protection for themselves and their families, but only boldness to keep preaching!

It is bold and specific. The history of revivals shows one or a few or many who take the lead in praying fervently for renewal. Their pattern is Moses (Exodus 33), who pitched a tabernacle outside Israel’s camp where he and others prayed for God’s presence and to see his glory. Such prayer need not (indeed, usually does not) begin as an organized church program. Rather it is a  private field of strong exertion and even agony for the leaders. The characteristics of this kind of prayer include:

a) Pacesetters in prayer who spend time in self-examination. Without a strong understanding of grace, this can be morbid and depressing. But in the context of the gospel, it is purifying and strengthening. They “take off their ornaments” (Ex. 33:1-6). They examine their hearts for idols and set them aside.

b) They then begin to make the big request — a sight of the glory of God. That includes asking:

1) for a personal experience of the glory and presence of God (“that I may know you” [Ex. 33:13]),
2) for the people’s experience of the glory of God (v.15), and
3) that the world might see the glory of God through his people (v.16). Moses asks that God’s presence would be obvious to all: “What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?”

This is a prayer that the world would be awed and amazed by a show of God’s power and radiance in the church; that it would truly become the new humanity that is a sign of the future kingdom.

It is prevailing and corporate. By this we mean simply that prayer should be constant, not sporadic and brief. Why? Are we to think that God wants to see us grovel? Why do we not simply put in our request in and wait? But sporadic, brief prayer shows a lack of dependence, a self-sufficiency; and thus we have not built an altar that God can honor with his fire. We must pray without ceasing, pray long, pray hard. We will find that the very process is bringing about that which we are asking for — to have our hard hearts melted, to tear down barriers, to have the glory of God break through.

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5 Church Leaders Who Have Impacted My Life & Ministry

I’m so thankful for the many great influences that the Lord has put around me at key stages in my life. He has constantly provided key mentors at key moments — real-life people who invest and care. But he’s also provided a number of “distance mentors,” most of whom I’ve never met in person and all of whom I won’t have a personal relationship with. Nonetheless, these are good leaders who have helped me learn important lessons that have shaped my ministry and leadership. Here are five that I’m particularly thankful for:

1. John Piper

Piper is the pastor of preaching and vision at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, MN and the key resource behind DesiringGod. His writing and preaching have formed me in deep and powerful ways. Nobody articulates a passion for the supremacy of God better than him and it’s contagious. If I have any heart for the sovereignty of God, reformed theology, or a tender-hearted compassion for the hurting it’s owing greatly to Piper’s ministry. You can get 25+ years of Piper resources here and follow him on Twitter here (this is worth having a Twitter account all by itself).

2. Tim Keller

Keller is the founding and senior minister at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan, NY. Keller’s richest gift to me has been his understanding and articulation of the gospel. His ability to connect everything in the Scripture to the gospel is profound and instructive for any young preacher. Additionally, Keller has great perspectives on understanding and engaging culture, as well as church planting. You can get a bunch of free audio and written resources here.

3. Andy Stanley

Stanley is the founding pastor of NorthPoint Community Church in Alpharetta, GA. The son of well-known preacher Charles Stanley, he has blazed a trail in his own right. The key lessons I’ve learned from him have been 1) the importance of creating relevant ministry environments that engage people where they’re at, 2) the importance of communicating one point with clarity, passion, and creativity, and 3) a variety of leadership lessons. When it comes to their preaching, Stanley and Piper could not be more different, and I’ve learned great things about communicating the gospel from both of them. You can listen to Stanley’s sermons here, his Leadership Podcast here, and his 7 Practices of Effective Ministry here.

4. James MacDonald

James MacDonald is the founding pastor of Harvest Bible Chapel in Rolling Meadows, IL and can be heard all over the place through his Walk in the Word radio ministry. It’s only been in the last year that I’ve really begun to listen to him, and almost everything he says and does communicates one idea: “The Bible is sufficient.” MacDonald loves God’s word and preaches it with passion, clarity, and conviction. I often find myself listening to him on Friday and Saturday just because he stokes my passion for God and his word as I prepare my heart to preach. You can listen to his radio podcast here, read his blog here, or listen to his Straight Up Conference messages here.

5. Nelson Searcy

Nelson Searcy is the founding pastor of The Journey Church, also in Manhattan, NYC and the founder of Church Leader Insights. Formerly a key staff person with Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven ministry, Searcy is a master of church systems. He has been helpful for me as we worked through key strategies related to planting Second Mile and as we developed our first impressions, follow up, and community group ministries. He’s a former engineer and brings that kind of systematic thinking into the church in a way that I find helpful. Though I would guess we would differ on certain theological convictions, we share a common desire to see people love Jesus, and Searcy’s ideas have been very helpful.You can listen to his Church Leader Insights podcast here.

This list reminds me that even the most admired people are really only good at a few things. Thus, it’s crucial to be able to learn different things from different people — even those whom you would not agree with on all doctrinal or philosophical points.

Who have you learned from and what did you learn?

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Don’t-Miss Resource: The Gospel & Idolatry

Tim Keller has really helped me develop a deeper understanding of the gospel and of idolatry. In this masterful message from the recent Gospel Coalition, he unpacks how Paul confronted the idols of his day with the gospel.

Click here for the audio.

Click here to watch the video.

Click here to download all the audio for free in iTunes.

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All of Life is Repentance

In last Sunday’s sermon, we focused quite a bit on the need for ongoing repentance. This is the idea that we don’t just turn from our sin one time, but that the life of the follower of Jesus is a life of constant turning. With that in mind, I want to recommend a brief, helpful article by Tim Keller entitled “All of Life is Repentance.” It’s worth reading, re-reading, and really trying to work into the fabric of your life.




Don’t you want the resurrection to be true?

In his marvelous book, The Reason for God, Tim Keller writes:

Each year at Easter I get to preach on the Resurrection. In my sermon I always say to my skeptical, secular friends that, even if they can’t believe in the resurrection, they should want it to be true. Most of them care deeply about justice for the poor, alleviating hunger and disease, and caring for the environment. Yet many of them believe that the material world was caused by accident and that the world and everything in it will eventually simply burn up in the death of the sun. They find it discouraging that so few people care about justice without realizing that their own worldview undermines any motivation to make the world a better place. Why sacrifice for the needs of others if in the end nothing we do will make any difference? If the resurrection of Jesus happened, however, that means there’s infinite hope and reason to pour ourselves out for the needs of the world.

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