Saturday, August 30, 2014

College Football Season is Here

Go Cards!


All Around the Web - August 30, 2014

Tom Nettles - Why Your Next Pastor Should Be a Calvinist
Southern Baptists inherited the most compelling aspects of all the Baptist Calvinists that preceded them. James P. Boyce summarized this well. He encouraged every preacher to get theological education in some way, even if it could not be at the Seminary in Greenville, South Carolina. If no other means were available, he advised, “work at it yourself.” The fathers of the convention did this, Boyce claimed; “They familiarized themselves with the Bible, and Gill and Andrew Fuller, and they made good and effective preachers. God is able to raise up others like them.”[1] But this is the very difficulty that we face at this moment in Southern Baptist history. God indeed is raising up others like them, that is, like the fathers. Whether self-educated or seminary-educated, Boyce and all his contemporaries viewed a Bible theology that reflected a blend of Gill and Fuller as normal and expected. Churches should have no other kind of pastor. Today, however, some Southern Baptists are warning the churches against them. This is a mammoth historical irony that many find difficult to appreciate.

The Charleston Association in its adoption of the 1689 Confession and in the preaching of such men as Oliver Hart, Richard Furman, Basil Manly, Sr., bequeathed the theology of the fathers to James P. Boyce.

Eric MetaxasBringing Humans to Market
Last spring, a start-up company in Germany announced a new app that promises to simplify a growing aspect of urban German life: legalized prostitution.

The app operates on the same principles as those that recommend restaurants or help you find live music: you tell it what you’re in the mood for and it uses your smartphone’s location services to tell you what’s available nearby.

The app was one of the examples cited in the August 9 cover story of The Economist about “how technology is transforming the world’s oldest profession.”

The Economist waxes enthusiastic over the ways that “specialist websites and apps are allowing information to flow between buyer and seller, making it easier to strike mutually satisfactory deals.”

Joe Carter - 9 Things You Should Know About Rabbinic Judaism
Aside from knowing that we share some of the same religious texts, most Christians today are completely unfamiliar with the “modern” forms of Judaism (forms that go back almost 2,000 years). To close a small portion of the knowledge gap about our religious Jewish neighbors, here are nine things you should know Rabbinic Judaism.

1. In Judaism, a rabbi is a teacher of the Torah. Rabbinic Judaism, which is based on the “dual Torah,” was formulated in the 2nd century, making the religion, in terms of defining texts, younger than Christianity. By the 6th century it had become the dominant type of Judaism and is the foundation of all forms of Judaism practiced today. The three main branches of Rabbinic Judaism in North America are Reform, Conservative, and Orthodox.

Thom Rainer - Words of Advice for Young Church Leaders
  1. Always be a learner. Degrees don’t signal an end to learning. The world keeps changing, and none of us knows everything. An unwillingness to learn is intellectual arrogance.
  2. Learn the stories of your people. Everybody has a story, including that church member who frustrates you. Learn to ask about those stories. Listen well. Show genuine interest in the people God has placed in your care.
  3. Love the grandparents in your church. Sure, maybe they don’t like change – but you probably won’t either when you reach their age. You need their life wisdom today.
  4. Love the children in your church. From their early preschool years, children will choose their heroes. Be one of them.
  5. Be patient. Follow Jesus’ lead as He made disciples – teach, listen, re-direct as needed, teach again . . . and trust the Father to change your congregation. Impatient church leadership is usually discouraged leadership.
  6. Laugh. A lot. Today, the situation you face may seem unbearable. I assure you, though, that some of today’s events will be comical in the future. Learn to laugh today with godly joy.
  7. Invest in at least three people. Lead your whole congregation, but pour yourself into at least three people – a non-believer you’re trying to reach, a new believer you’re equipping, and an older believer you’re encouraging.
  8. As much as possible, don’t do ministry alone. Train somebody as you counsel, visit, and evangelize. Involving somebody else takes more time, but your congregation will be stronger in the long run.
  9. Be willing to apologize. You are not always right. None of us is. You will make mistakes. You will hurt people, even unintentionally. Learn to say with integrity: “I’m sorry. Please forgive me.”
  10. Don’t forget your spouse and children. Your spouse should not learn from others important information about church events. Your children should not wonder why you’re always away from home. Make your family part of your team.
  11. Adore the church. The apostle Paul thanked God for the Corinthians and expressed his deep love for them (1 Cor. 1:4, 16:24) – all the while saying to them, “You’re an absolute mess.”  That mess is still God’s church. Love them.
  12. Don’t be afraid of numbers. You can evaluate numbers without idolizing them. If your church is seeing no one turn to Christ and few believers growing in their faith, those numbers ought to challenge and motivate you.
  13. Be accountable to somebody. Seek an older leader to pour into your life – and don’t give up until you find that person. Give permission to ask about your Bible study, your prayer life, your godliness, and your evangelism.
  14. Beware of “lostness apathy.” When your heart no longer breaks over non-believers, it’s time to repent. A lack of concern over the lost is sin.
  15. Keep up with the news. You need to know what’s going on in the world. Your commitment to the Great Commission demands it.
  16. Work hard. Frankly, we need no more lazy church leaders. Work every day as if you will answer to God for the way you care for the souls of people . . . because you will.
  17. Seek financial guidance. Taxation on ministry salary can be confusing. Your contributions toward retirement income should begin now. Get some input from someone who knows this world.
  18. Keep records. Years from now, you will wish you had records of the baptisms, weddings, and funerals you performed. I know, because my mentor told me to do the same – and I didn’t listen.
  19. Plan now to end your ministry well. Nobody ends ministry well by accident. In fact, the decisions you make today will affect whether you end well in the decades to come. Don’t be stupid.
  20. Thank God. I have NO idea why God allows me to be a leader in His church. He does, though, and I get to do something that affects eternity. So do you. Be grateful.

Everyday Theology - Breaking the Silence: When Christian Leaders Speak Openly about Depression
There is still a stigma around depression that silences many Christian voices and prevents them from letting anyone know about their painful, personal struggles. A stigma that destroys people by making them suffer alone.

In his presidential speech at Wheaton College’s convocation ceremony this year, Dr. Phil Ryken pushed back. And he did so by sharing honestly and transparently about his own struggles with depression last spring, struggles serious enough that he said at one point that he thought he was “losing the will to live.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Christianity and the Small Screen: NBC's "Crisis"

What would you do to protect your child? Would you kill others? Would you kill yourself? Would you risk national security? Would you threaten a global war?

What would you do to protect your child?

That is the question which permeates the short-lived NBC show Crisis which was canceled after just fifteen episodes. Fortunately, the writers were still able to bring the series to the end making it more like a mini-series.

The plot of the story centers around a kidnapping of dozens of high school students in Washington DC. The students are children of America's privileged including the first son himself. The criminals want absolution for a crime they have been falsely accused of committing. Their plan is elaborate, detailed, and risky, but the criminals are desperate for a clean record.

The plot thickens when the kidnappers contact the parents of the children and threaten to kill their students if they do not give into the demands. Most of the parents do exactly what the kidnappers demand risking their lives and even national security.

One parent fails to follow through with the kidnappers request. She is told to plant a virus in America that shuts down the electric grid. Washing DC comes to a stand still preventing the FBI and Secret Service from finding the mansion where the kids are being held. This is an act of war as the parent is a spy from China. So though she goes through with it, she aborts the mission before the timeline the kidnappers give her. As a result, her son is shot in the back.

By the end of the story, the children are saved except for one: the child of the main kidnapper. The tables now turn. What will he do - the one so often on the other side of the phone making demands - to get his child back?

My wife and I found the story fascinating and were disappointed that it ended so abruptly. It is clear that the writers had a lot of tricks up their sleeve and did not have the chance to show them. Nevertheless, we were pleased that the story had a satisfying conclusion. Often such shows (like Revolution) conclude anticipating future episodes and the audience is left with a cliff hanger.

With that said, the question raised at the beginning continues to echo in my mind. What would you do for your child? Anything? Anything?

For the general viewer, the question is a frightful one. Of course most of us would do anything to save our child. One parent straps a bomb around their waste while another tries to kidnap a man. One parent, the President of the United States, must refuse to negotiate with terrorists thus his son is almost murdered on a live feed directed to the White House.

But for the Christian, this narrative ought to remind us of another story. What would you do to protect your child is the wrong question for the Christian. The story of Christianity asks the opposite question. What would a Son do for the glory of the Father? Would He willingly die? The answer is an emphatic yes as Jesus, the Son of God the Father, puts on flesh and dies upon the cross for sinners like us.

And make no mistake, we are worse than criminals. It is no accident that Jesus bares the cross of a notorious criminal (Barabbas) in order to set us free.

In the end, I ask myself which story is more beautiful - the undying love of a parent toward their child or the dying love of a Son for His Father and, even more unbelievable, the Son's redemptive love for those who war against Him.

Here is a trailer for the show:

"The Jesus Inquest" by Charles Foster: A Review

The Jesus Inquest: The Case For and Against the Resurrection of the Christ
If the resurrection is proven to be a hoax, then Christianity falls.  Though liberals have tried to redefine the faith stripping it of any substance, the fundamental truth remains:  if Jesus did not die in our place for our sins and then was raised from the dead, our faith is in vain.  And Scripture affirms as much.  No other religion is really like this.  Christianity, then, is inherently a historical religion that is based on historical events.  If Jesus is still dead, then so is the religion named after Him.

One can see why modern debates over the historicity of the resurrection are so strong and frequent.  Books -  countless books - have been written on the subject covering virtually every aspect of the debate.  Non-Christians reject the resurrection.  All of them do.  Why?  Because of the resurrection happened, then Jesus is who He said He is.  And few are willing to pick up their cross and follow Christ.  On the other hand, orthodox Christians uphold that Jesus really did rise from the dead and thus call on everyone, everywhere to repent.

One helpful book that sorts through the debate is The Jesus Inquest: The Case For and Against the Resurrection of the Christ by Charles Foster.  The author is not a theologian, but a trained barrister and approaches the subject from that perspective.  This is both a compliment and a critic as we will see.  The book is set up to present, without bias as much as possible, both sides of the argument.  Each chapter deals with a major issue of contention regarding the resurrection.  For example, the author presents the argument over the death of Jesus (He can't rise unless He first dies right?), the burial of Jesus (how do we know He was actually buried as the Gospels say He was, couldn't He have been thrown into a pit and eaten by wild animals?), and of course the empty tomb.  The author honestly seeks to present all of the major issues (there's no way he can be exhaustive here).

Each chapter begins with the non-Christian view labeled X.  X makes the case that the sources are tainted,  inaccurate, and contradictory, and that ultimately Jesus was not raised.  After their case is made, the author then presents the Christian case labeled Y.  Y then goes point by point made by X and defends the argument for the resurrection.

I liked this approach but it is fraught with danger.  For one, the book oftentimes reads as if X was on offense and Y was on defense.  This is simply the limits of a book like this.  Each chapter needs to go back and forth and that is simply not possible.  I say that the book oftentimes reads like this because it doesn't always read like this.  The tone of Y isn't always defensive, but is sometimes offensive.  The author writes in a way that doesn't make Y look timid or weak but can rather stand strongly behind their argument which is full of evidence itself.  However, rarely did Y raise new arguments.  They almost always had the same headings as X and made Y appear defensive.  I believe that X is forced to defend some of their unstantiated views as much as Y's claim that Jesus was raised from the dead.

That is what I found interesting about the book and what is helpful about this approach to this subject.  It is amazing the hypocrisy of X.  X frequently argues that the Bible is contradictory, the Gospel writers are bad historians with evil motives and intentions who freely doctor the facts to fit their agenda's, and that we simply can't trust them.  And then they turn around and use the Gospels as the launching pad to make some of the wildest claims which have less historical proof to them.

For example, X raises the possibility that Jesus survived the cross and eventually escaped to India, France, or where ever.  To make this case, X relies on both the Bible and wild conspiracy books (like DaVinci Code and Holy Blood, Holy Grail Illustrated Edition: The Secret History of Jesus, the Shocking Legacy of the Grail) plus ancient documents that have less credibility than the Bible.  The Gnostic Gospels are more mythical than the canonical Gospels and yet many who reject Christianity on the grounds of the Gospel's historical problems run to these other writings which are clearly unhistorical.  X does this throughout the book.

Furthermore, X seems to make up wild conspiracy theories (leaning on "evidence" in the Gospels themselves).  For example, X makes the case that perhaps Pilate was in on the conspiracy to not have Jesus executed.  I'm not sure that is really worth the time that Y gives it in response, but Y does devastate the conspiracy.  X repeatedly raises these conspiracies and repeatedly suggest that they are well worth our time when they simply are not.  This goes to show that X has as much an agenda as Y and one ought to be aware of that agenda before sinking into the debate.

My biggest concern regards the author himself however.  This is a Christian book published by a Christian publisher, Thomas Nelson.  And yet the author seems non-committal to either side.  I can accept some of his criticisms of Lee Strobel and Josh McDowell, but it is a concern for me that an author of a Christian book to be sold in Christians stores would conclude with:
But even if all this is wrong and something of the kind was expected, one still has to ask, 'How did the disciples come to believe that the man Jesus was the first one to emerge so shockingly from the grave?'  For, rightly or wrongly, they certainly seem to have believed it.

Whether or not that belief was right is something about which you'll have to make up your own mind.

Really?  That's the best you can do?  If Jesus was really, historically, miraculously, and triumphantly raised from the dead, that's not something one can halfheartedly pick a side and run with it.  The consequences are too great.  If Jesus is a fraud then Christianity is dead.  But if Jesus conquered death, then we must submit to Him as Lord who offers either judgment or salvation.  To ignore the truth is to accept judgment deservingly.  To embrace the resurrection in repentance is to accept salvation and grace.  Though I know the author does not seek to make converts, as a Christian how can he not?  Isn't that exactly what the Gospel writers sought to do?

Overall, this is a book worth having especially if you are new to the debate and are willing to think.  With that said, I do have my concerns.  But at the end of the day, this book does show, at the very least, that the case for the resurrection of Christ (not to steal a Lee Strobel book title or anything) is very strong and the implications of that are intense.  We have no need to fear.

I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their book review bloggers program. 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 Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

I review for BookSneeze

All Around the Web - David Platt Edition

On Wednesday, the Southern Baptist Convention hired pastor and best-selling author David Platt as President of the International Mission Board, one of the largest Protestant missionary agency in the world. The response has largely (overwhelmingly) positive and (really) exuberant. I for one could not be more thrilled with the announcement. Because there has been so much buzz regarding this election, I want to do a special edition of "All Around the Web" focused exclusively on Platt's election and the future of the IMB.

Blogizomai - David Platt Named IMB President
The old saying among pastors that a church doesn't simply choose anyone to fulfill the office of deacon. Rather, each deacon ought to carry themselves as one before ever asked or ordained to serve as one. The same is true when it comes to leading the International Mission Board. When looking for a suitable candidate to serve in one of the most important entities of the Southern Baptist Convention, it was imperative we chose not someone who wanted the title, but someone who was already doing the work.

I believe the search committee found the perfect candidate in David Platt.

Russell Moore - Why I’m Glad David Platt Is the New IMB President 
Today the trustees of our SBC International Mission Board elected my friend David Platt to serve as president, and I am radically happy. Here’s why.

I have been praying for a long, long time that he would be elected. Our IMB president must be one who can drive our missions focus in a new way for a new era. It’s not enough that Southern Baptists’ global missions leader motivates us all to give and to go (although he must do that). He must be someone who can connect from the Scriptures how the Great Commission, and especially our global Great Commission responsibilities, are the urgent concern of all of us. Most Christians know that Matthew 28 and Acts 1 command us to go, to reach the unreached with the gospel. We need though to be constantly reminded how every text, from Genesis 1 to Revelation 22 is connected to the mission of reaching the nations.

In a rapidly shifting American culture, this means modeling a vision of why it is that cooperating together for this task is connected to everything else that we do. We need to activate and enthuse a new generation for the adventure of reaching the world with the gospel.

Baptist21 - Why David Platt Is A Great Choice For IMB President
 It has just been announced that David Platt is the next President of the IMB. We are so thankful for the Trustees hard work, and we could not be more excited for this election. Here are several reasons we think David Platt is a great choice:

Joe Carter - David Platt Elected as President of International Mission Board

Baptist Press - Platt Succeeds Ellif as IMB President
David Platt was elected president of the Southern Baptist International Mission Board today (Aug. 27) by board trustees, meeting at the IMB's International Learning Center in Rockville, Va.

Platt, 36, pastor of The Church at Brook Hills, a Southern Baptist congregation in Birmingham, Ala., will take office effective immediately as president of the 169-year-old organization, the largest denominational missionary-sending body among American evangelicals. More than 4,800 Southern Baptist international missionaries serve worldwide.

Platt succeeds former missionary, pastor and Southern Baptist Convention president Tom Elliff, 70, who has served as IMB president since March 2011. Elliff asked the agency's trustees earlier this year to begin an active search for his successor. Elliff and his wife Jeannie plan to return to their home state, Oklahoma.

JD Greer - What David Platt’s IMB Presidency Signals About Our Future
This morning, the International Mission Board (IMB) trustees announced David Platt as the new IMB President. I have no doubts that he is God’s man, chosen for this task in this hour. Personally, I could not be more thrilled. I think this is a wonderful gift of God to our Convention of churches.

On a personal level, no one has inspired me more toward believing God for the nations than David. There is no one I would trust more to steward the cooperative efforts of our church—together with the 42,000 other churches of the SBC—toward the completion of the Great Commission.

Over the last few years, I have watched David lead his church to give extraordinary amounts of money away to global missions through Southern Baptist agencies (in addition to other means). Furthermore, Brook Hills has been a pioneer in new ventures in mission. The Summit Church has learned much from Brook Hills, and I have learned much from David.

Philip Bethancourt - David Platt and the Future of the SBC
“We’d be all in!” Those are the words a friend of mine declared when I asked him a simple question several weeks ago. What would it mean for your church’s approach to the SBC if David Platt is elected as president of the IMB?

His church is emblematic of a group of younger generation leaders who have hovered around the fringes of SBC life. He was raised in an SBC church. Went to an SBC seminary. Planted an SBC church. By God’s grace, it became one of the fastest growing churches in his state.

But along the way he began to question the value of his church’s engagement in the SBC. Why put their energy and resources there when other opportunities for partnership exist that were less frustrating? Yet recently, connections with an SBC seminary combined with new leadership and vision at NAMB and the ERLC have reenergized his interest.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Matthew 28:1-15 - Come and See the Resurrected Christ

Here is the sermon and notes from our discussion of Matthew 28:1-15.
Now after the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to look at the grave. And behold, a severe earthquake had occurred, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled away the stone and sat upon it. And his appearance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow. The guards shook for fear of him and became like dead men. The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; for I know that you are looking for Jesus who has been crucified. He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said. Come, see the place where He was lying. Go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead; and behold, He is going ahead of you into Galilee, there you will see Him; behold, I have told you.”

And they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy and ran to report it to His disciples. And behold, Jesus met them and greeted them. And they came up and took hold of His feet and worshiped Him. 10 Then Jesus *said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and take word to My brethren to leave for Galilee, and there they will see Me.”

11 Now while they were on their way, some of the guard came into the city and reported to the chief priests all that had happened. 12 And when they had assembled with the elders and consulted together, they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers, 13 and said, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came by night and stole Him away while we were asleep.’ 14 And if this should come to the governor’s ears, we will win him over and keep you out of trouble.” 15 And they took the money and did as they had been instructed; and this story was widely spread among the Jews, and is to this day.


January 12, 2014 | Matthew 19:1-9: All the King's Horses: Marriage, Divorce & the Gospel
January 19, 2014 | Matthew 19:10-12 - What's the Point?: Marriage, Singleness, & Living for the Glory of God
January 26, 2014 | Matthew 19:13-30: What Must One Do to be Saved? 
February 2, 2014 | Matthew 20:1-16: Marvel at Grace
February 16, 2014 | Matthew 20:17-28 - The Key to True Greatness
February 23, 2014 | Matthew 20:29-34
March 3, 2014 | Matthew 21:1-11: The Royal Entry
March 9, 2014 | Matthew 21:12-22 
March 23, 2014 | Matthew 21:23-46
March 30, 2014 | Matthew 22:1-14 - What Not to wear or Heeding God's Invitation to Celebrate His Son
April 6, 2014 | Matthew 22:15-22: Life After Death and Taxes
April 13, 2014 | Matthew 22:23-33 - I Don't Want to be a Sad-You-See, or Why the Doctrine of the Resurrection Matters
May 4, 2014 | Matthew 22:34-46
May 11, 2014 | Matthew 23: Religion vs. the Gospel, or Why Don't You Tell Us How You Really Feel Jesus
May 18, 2014 | Matthew 24:1-31 - Is It the End of the World As We Know It?: The End Times, the Present Times, and the Kingship of Jesus
May 25, 2014 | Matthew 24:32-51
June 1, 2014 | Matthew 25
June 8, 2014 | Matthew 26:1-16 - O Worship the King
June 15, 2014 | Matthew 26:17-30: The Lord' Supper
June 22, 2014 | Matthew 26:30-35 - A Pilgrim’s Regress: Why Christians Need Grace Daily 
June 29, 2014 | Matthew 26:36-46 - A Better Adam: How Man's Messiah Suffered Well Through Prayer
July 6, 2014 | Matthew 26:47-75
July 20, 2014 | Matthew 27:1-10
August 3, 2014 | Matthew 27:11-26
August 10, 2014 | Matthew 27:27-66: Why Did Jesus Come to Die?
August 17, 2014 | Matthew 28:1-15 - Come and See the Resurrected Christ 

For more:
Matthew 1-18 | The King Has Come: The Gospel According to Matthew Series
50 Reasons Jesus Came to Die
How Did Judas Die?: How to Handle the Apparent Contradictions
MacArthur on the Greatest Act of Love
Ain't No Grave . . .
The Healing of Blind Bartimaeus
The Gospel of Matthew Movie
Humpty Dumpty & Grace
I Am Yours, Save Me

Jesus is a Better Adam: How Gethsamane Corresponds to Eden - Part 2

Jesus is a Better Adam: How Gethsamane Corresponds to Eden - Part 1
Jesus is a Better Adam: How Gethsamane Corresponds to Eden - Part 2

In part one, I introduced the basic exegetical concept that Jesus fulfills all that the Old Testament anticipates. In that post I provided Isaac and Israel as examples. The parallels force us to see their connections with Jesus. We must conclude, then, that Jesus is a true and better Isaac and Israel.

With all of that as background, let us turn our attention to Jesus' Gethsemane experience and how it relates to Adam and Eden. One way to see Gethsemane as the fulfillment of Eden is to note the numerous contrasts.
  • Eden is a beautiful garden full of life. Gethsemane is marked by tragedy, betrayal, and death. 
  • Adam failed. Jesus persevered.
  • Adam's temptation took place in the daytime. Jesus' took place at night.
  • Adam ate the forbidden fruit. Jesus drank the cup of wrath.
  • Jesus says, "not my will but yours." Adam says, "not your will but mine."
  • Paul describes Jesus as the second Adam (Romans 5)
We should note other connections. First, there is an emphasis on "sorrow." In handling out his curses, God repeatedly says there will be sorrow. Eve, for example, is told that God will "increase her sorrow" in childbirth. In Gethsemane, we clearly see a sorrowful Savior. Regarding this point, author Patrick Henry Rearden elaborates:
The context of this assertion indicates that Jesus assumed the primeval curse of man’s sorrow unto death, in order to reverse Adam’s disobedience. In the garden he bore our sadness unto death, becoming the “Man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3). . . . In the garden Jesus returns to the very place of Adam’s fall, taking upon himself Adam’s sorrow unto death. (The Jesus We Missed, 160, 161)
Ultimately, what we need to see at Gethsemane in narrative is what Paul described in his epistles. Jesus, as the second Adam, succeeds where our first father failed. Jesus, then, is a true and better Adam. Another important theological point needs to be made clear here. Yes Jesus is Israel's messiah yet he is not only Israel's messiah. By taking upon himself the story of Adam, the Evangelists make the central point that Jesus is man's messiah. He is the Savior of both Jew and Gentile, Israel and the rest of the nation.

All Around the Web - August 28, 2014

Trevin Wax - President Obama’s Mythical 21st Century
The beheading of journalist James Foley has shocked the world and elicited outrage from virtually every corner of civilized society.

Unfortunately, this kind of brutality is no longer uncommon. The ISIS rampage has delivered grisly videos of executions, reports of religious minorities being maimed and killed, and beheadings in the Middle East, all designed to draw attention to the bloodthirsty antics of terrorism’s most recent villains.

Foley was not an outlier. He was the public victim of Islamic militancy’s newest wave of terror.

The threat of ISIS should concern anyone who loves freedom and justice. But I fear that the moral convictions needed to confront such unspeakable evil may be missing in the United States today. We seem to be gaining our moral bearings from an overly optimistic vision of the world’s future and human nature.

Brian Croft - How does a pastor’s wife care for her husband when he is attacked?
There is one place more difficult than being a criticized pastor—that is, that pastor’s wife.  I assume most men are like me in that you can attack me, but if you attack my wife—well it’s on!  The fact of the matter is this attitude usually represents our wives feelings about those who attack us also.  Yet, a pastor’s wife cannot fight back.  It almost always ends badly or makes the situation worse.  At least when we as pastors are attacked or criticized by those in the church, we have the option to defend ourselves.  We can fight back.  We can argue our case.  In most cases, it is a “lose-lose” battle any time a pastor’s wife embraces the task to defend her husband.  Therefore, what is she to do?  Here are 3 suggestions:

Philip Bethancourt - 4 Keys to Gospel-Centered Cultural Engagement

Thom Rainer - Five Reasons Many Churches Are Not Growing Evangelistically
  1. We fail to be biblically responsible for doing evangelism ourselves. Instead we think it’s the responsibility of another person, a program, or a denomination.
  2. We fail to put evangelistic opportunities on our calendars. Many of us are evangelistic in theory. But we will never be evangelistic unless we are intentional about it and set aside time each week. It may be as simple as taking a co-worker or neighbor to lunch.
  3. We fail to be consistent in our evangelistic efforts. What if we committed to doing just one thing evangelistically each week? Think about the impact we could have with 52 evangelistic encounters. Think about the impact a church would have if 100 members had 52 evangelistic encounters.
  4. We fail to pray for evangelistic opportunities. What if each of us, whether we are a pastor, church staff member, or church member, prayed each day for the opportunity to share the gospel in word or deed? Imagine what would happen if we combined the power of prayer with intentional evangelism.
  5. We fail to do what is most important because we are busy doing the less important. Church life can keep us very busy, so busy that we neglect our families, and we neglect doing ministry outside the walls of the church. Many of our church members may not be evangelistic because church activities keep them too busy to engage the community around them.

Washington Post - Why you might want to ditch your e-reader and go back to printed books
If you’re one of those Luddites who still clings, technophobically, to the printed page, then a team of European researchers has some good news for you:

You have again been vindicated.

This latest study on the differences between e-readers and printed books — which was presented at an Italian conference last month and reported this week in Britain’s Guardian newspapaer — asked 50 people to read a short story and take a comprehension test afterwards. Half the readers got the story on a Kindle; the other half got paperbacks; everybody got the same story. But when it came to the test, results diverged: The Kindle readers, it turned out, were far worse at remembering the story’s plot than were the print readers.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

David Platt Named IMB President

The old saying among pastors that a church doesn't simply choose anyone to fulfill the office of deacon. Rather, each deacon ought to carry themselves as one before ever asked or ordained to serve as one. The same is true when it comes to leading the International Mission Board. When looking for a suitable candidate to serve in one of the most important entities of the Southern Baptist Convention, it was imperative we chose not someone who wanted the title, but someone who was already doing the work.

I believe the search committee found the perfect candidate in David Platt. I could not be more thrilled by this selection. And as I sit here and think about some of the big decisions that the SBC has made in recent years I am more thrilled to be a Great Commission baptists. The election of Kevin Ezell at NAMB, Russell Moore at ERLC, Thom Rainer at Lifeway, and now David Platt at IMB are excellent choices for strategic organizations. Add to this the Great Commission Resurgence and an ever increasing focus on the gospel and regenerate church membership, I believe better times are ahead in the SBC.

Pray for the new president.

Here are some good links for more on this selection.

Worship Wednesday: "Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone)" by Chris Tomlin

From Lewis' Pen: If You Want to Get Warm

From Mere Christianity:
An now, what does it all matter? It matters more than anything else in the world. The whole dance, or drama, or pattern of this three-Personal life is to be played out in each one of us: or (putting it he other way round) each one of us has got to enter that patter, take his place in that dance. There is no other way to the happiness for which we were made. Good tings as well as bad, you know, are caught by a kind of infection. If you want to get warm you must stand near the fire: if you want to be wet you must get into the water. If you want joy, power, peace, eternal life, you mus to get close to, or even into, the thing that has them. They are not a sort of prizes which God could, if He chose, just hand out to anyone. They are a great fountain of energy and beauty spurting up at the very centre of reality. If you are close to it, the spray will wet you: if you are not, you will remain dry. Once a man is united to God, how could he not live forever? Once a man is separated from God, what can he do but wither and die?

All Around the Web - August 27, 2014

Happy birthday to me!

Justin TaylorA Statement from Mark Driscoll

Denny Burk - Refusing to call evil “evil”
I just read one of the most morally confused (and indeed asinine) things I’ve ever seen on the New York Times editorial page. The author is a professor named Michael Boyle, and he argues that we must not call the ISIS terrorist group evil. Why? Because the times don’t call for moral clarity. President Bush had moral clarity, and look where that got us–a decade of war. For this reason, Boyle argues that we should avoid describing ISIS as a “cancer” like President Obama did earlier this week. Such language keeps us from seeing the world as it is.

This is the logic of appeasement. It’s very similar to the moral indifference of Western democracies that led to the rise of the Nazis and the rearmament of Germany after World War I. And we cannot go that route again. There really is such a thing as evil in the world. In a culture of pluralism, we may have difficulty agreeing on how to define the good, the right, and the true. Nevertheless, there are times when all of our pluralistic sensibilities are overcome by an unambiguous display of wickedness. It happened on 9-11. And it happened again when ISIS beheaded James Foley. How can someone be so resentful of the last president that he would refuse to see that?

Canon and Culture - Transgenderism: A Theological Perspective
Imagine, instantaneously, feeling alienated from those closest to you—your family, your closest friends, and your other immediate social circles. All of a sudden, all that is familiar to you is completely distant. The chemistry you shared with your family and friends has evaporated. Your residence and your community are now places totally foreign. You perceive, at best, you are considered a nuisance by those around you; at worst, an outcast.

Now, imagine the aforementioned feelings of alienation, discomfort, and maybe even disdain thrust upon you because you do not feel at home in your own skin—your own body. You have all the physical marks of one sex, but your heart is pulled towards being the other sex and you cannot escape these yearnings. They have been with you for a very long time, maybe even as early as your days in elementary school.

For most in the Church, transgenderism is an aspect of life that is hard to understand and relate to. Most cannot fathom the dichotomy existing in one person  being one sex and desiring to be another. Around 700,000 people in the United States, however, feel this “tug of war” every day according to UCLA’s The Williams Center. Compared to the rest of the population, transgender persons are a very small percentage. But from California to Maryland, states have already begun implementing policies affecting this group of the national community. For this reason and others, Time magazinehas called transgenderism the next civil rights battle in a recent article.

Ross Douthat - Our Thoroughly Modern Enemies
IN his remarks on the murder of James Foley, the American journalist decapitated by the terrorists of ISIS, President Obama condemned Foley’s killers, appropriately, as a “cancer” on the Middle East and the world. But he also found room for the most Obama-ish of condemnations: “One thing we can all agree on,” he insisted, is that the would-be caliphate’s murderous vision has “no place in the 21st century.”

Writers Write - 45 ways to avoid using the word 'very'
'Very' is the most useless word in the English language and can always come out. More than useless, it is treacherous because it invariably weakens what it is intended to strengthen. ~Florence King

So avoid using the word ‘very’ because it’s lazy. A man is not very tired, he is exhausted. Don’t use very sad, use morose. Language was invented for one reason, boys - to woo women - and, in that endeavor, laziness will not do. It also won’t do in your essays. ~N.H. Kleinbaum

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

To the Source: Hiding the Body of Jesus

I have officially finished preaching, verse-by-verse, through the Gospel of Matthew. In the second to last sermon, Matthew uniquely includes the story of the religious leaders bribery the guards to claim that the disciples stole the body. Matthew notes that that story remained prevalent even to his day. Many of my commentaries made note of a number of instances where early Christians mention the very same thing. Here are two of them:

Justin Martyr, Dialogue With Trypho, chapter 108:
"And though all the men of your nation knew the incidents in the life of Jonah, and though Christ said amongst you that He would give the sign of Jonah, exhorting you to repent of your wicked deeds at least after He rose again from the dead, and to mourn before God as did the Ninevites, in order that your nation and city might not be taken and destroyed, as they have been destroyed; yet you not only have not repented, after you learned that He rose from the dead, but, as I said before you have sent chosen and ordained men throughout all the world to proclaim that a godless and lawless heresy had sprung from one Jesus, a Galilaean deceiver, whom we crucified, but his disciples stole him by night from the tomb, where he was laid when unfastened from the cross, and now deceive men by asserting that he has risen from the dead and ascended to heaven. Moreover, you accuse Him of having taught those godless, lawless, and unholy doctrines which you mention to the condemnation of those who confess Him to be Christ, and a Teacher from and Son of God. Besides this, even when your city is captured, and your land ravaged, you do not repent, but dare to utter imprecations on Him and all who believe in Him. Yet we do not hate you or those who, by your means, have conceived such prejudices against us; but we pray that even now all of you may repent and obtain mercy from God, the compassionate and long-suffering Father of all.

The Gospel of Peter 11.46-49:
46 Pilate answered and said: I am clear from the blood of 47 the son of God, but thus it seemed good unto you. Then all they came and besought him and exhorted him to charge the centurion and the soldiers to tell nothing of that they had 48 seen: For, said they, it is expedient for us to incur the greatest sin before God, rather than to (and not to) fall into 49 the hands of the people of the Jews and to be stoned. Pilate therefore charged the centurion and the soldiers that they should say nothing.

For more:
To the Source: Josephus on the Pharisees, Sadducees, Essences, and Zealots

"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Biblical Theology 2

No doubt when it comes to what the Bible has to say about economics and "social justice," many point to the prophets - both major and minor. The prophets witnessed rampant injustice and sins against the poor and marginalize and preached against it. However, often when we limit the message of the prophets to that of social justice, we are missing their central message. The authors of Seeking the City explain:
Overwhelmingly, these true prophets were concerned with the first three commandments of the Decalogue as their chief indictment against Israel, for the people had persistently failed to worship only Yahweh, had filled the land of promise with idols, and had thus taken Yahweh's name upon themselves in an empty display ("in vain"). No examination of the work and writings of the OT prophets can possibly begin without recognizing this fact. (122)
We pause here only to emphasize what Brand and Pratt are arguing. As the authors will argue in the quotes below, the emphasis the prophets laid on what we now call social justice stood in the context of returning Israel to the worship of Yahweh and not to false idols. Returning to true Yahweh worship will lead naturally to a real love of neighbor. The authors go on:
Their primary mission, their pervasive and unending task, was to call God's covenant people first, and through them all peoples, to worship the one true God exclusively and completely. They were not first social and political reformers - they were revivalists and awakeners to genuine faith in God. To the extent that they were on the side of those who had remained faithful to Yahweh in spite of the times, they were comforters of true believers, the "poor" (Isa. 61:1, who are here the "meek" of Isa. 59:20, "those who turn from transgression in Jacob"). But they were decidedly discomforters to the comfortable who were "at ease in Zion." (122)
Again, clarity on the message of the prophets. We do them and the inspired Scriptures a disservice when we label them social and political reformers first. To do so would require hermenteutical gymnastics by ignoring the rest of their writings and ministry. The authors then add:
In the context of this singular mission to call for the true worship of Yahweh as commanded at Sinai, it is surely proper to emphasize the aspects of their message that are what we call "social." What is not proper is to allow this one facet of their overall message to become a rallying cry for "reforms" in a twenty-first-century setting divorced from a call for the worship of the one true God revealed at Sinai and in the Scriptures. The idolatry charge takes precedence over the social concerns because no true benefaction can happen without the clarity of Yahweh worship. . . . This primary call is grounds for every other application of the further demands emanating from the fire on the mountain in the wilderness. They cannot be made to say something more or less than was revealed there. The Torah of God is the text and context for the preaching of the true prophets. (123)
Let us, then, move to our current context. When progressive theologians and social gospelers point us to the prophets with their emphasis on social justice, they are missing one central ingredient of their ministry: repentance. To the prophets, their idolatry was seen in how they treated one another especially the poor and the marginalized and the clear presence of injustice in the cities. The answer, then, is not statism or the social gospel, but repentance. Love God, then you will be able to truly love your neighbor.

Our nation, then, needs a revival of repentance, not a revival of progressivism.

"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Preface

"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Introduction 1
"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Introduction 2
"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Introduction 3
"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Biblical Theology 1
"Seeking the City": Blogging Through Brand and Pratt - Biblical Theology 2

For more:
"Flourishing Faith" by Chad Brand: A Review
Brand on Coveting and Classwarfare
The Secular vs the Sacred: Brand on the Influence of Luther

All Around hte Web - August 26, 2014

Albert Mohler - Lead with Empathy, Love Your Neighbor, Let the Truth Come Out — A Response to Ferguson
I first addressed the situation in Ferguson back on August 12th, which was then the first opportunity I had to speak to the issue. Since then I have not addressed the question because I wanted to stand by what I said back on August 12th. We should not speak to the facts on the ground until we know what those facts are. The facts we know now are pretty much the facts we knew then—that there was an 18-year old African American young man who was shot 6 times, twice in the head and four times in the forearm by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. We know that also there was an immediate backlash in terms of controversy, cries of racism, and then moral protest that led to over 10 days of successive riots and protests—some of them breaking out into violence, some of them to which police responded with military tactics. We also know that now the Attorney General of the United States and the FBI are involved in an independent investigation to find out what exactly took place. We also know that yesterday in Clayton, Missouri—a suburb in the west of Saint Louis—a local grand jury was convened with the very same aim, to try to determine exactly what happened.

Denny Burk - Regretting Surrogacy

The Gospel Coalition - Three Deaths Every Seminarian Must Face
I wish there had been a sign hanging at the gate of Westminster Seminary when I entered in the mid-1970s: "Welcome! Come and die!" Dr. Van Til, Dr. Clowney, and others tried to tell me. I just did not have ears to hear.

It may seem odd to suggest that death is at the core of seminary preparation for every student who would truly profit from the study. It certainly seemed odd to me. As a new seminary student, I supposed seminary to be an essentially life-enhancing, life-renewing endeavor. This is true enough; but it is not the whole truth.

In reality, death and deep loss are important components of seminary education and ministerial training. Some “deaths” are those areas of deep personal loss to which Jesus calls us during seminary—the loss of time, freedom, choice, and (above all) ego. Other “deaths” are the losses Jesus warns us against, the losses of fruitfulness and spiritual growth that come from failing to abide in him (John 15:5). And still other “deaths” come when we graduate, as we enter into the deep losses in the lives of those we seek to serve.

The Cripplegate - Which Gospel Tracts Do You Use?
One of my ministry responsibilities at my church is to oversee all of the church’s local outreach ministries. At our church, that includes preaching the Gospel at local jails, drug/alcohol rehab centers, and on skid row; it includes systemically visiting our neighbors and following up with those willing to talk more about the Gospel, doing street evangelism at a local metro station; it even includes hosting volleyball and basketball games in our church’s gymnasium, and preaching the Gospel to those who come to play.

As the Pastor of Local Outreach Ministries, I’m often asked what tracts and other resources we use in our evangelism efforts. Tracts can be a very helpful way of getting the Gospel message into the hands of someone who doesn’t have the time or inclination to have a conversation at the moment. They can also be a helpful follow-up to a good conversation—reinforcing the main themes of the Gospel long after you’ve both moved on to the next part of your day.

The following list is a selection of some of the tracts, Bibles, New Testaments, and other books that we use at Grace Church and make available to our church family.

PBS - Women significantly outnumber teenage boys in gamer demographics
Adult female gamers have unseated boys under the age of 18 as the largest video game-playing demographic in the U.S., according to a recently published study from the Entertainment Software Association, a trade group focused the U.S. gaming industry.

While men still account for the majority of the U.S. gaming population, the number of women playing games on both consoles and mobile devices is up to 48 percent, from 40 percent in 2010.

The spike in the number female gamers is likely tied to widespread smartphone adoption. In addition to traditional PCs and the Nintendo Wii game console, women were more likely to game on their mobile devices, and were just as likely as men to play on Apple’s iPhone and iPad platforms. In the past, female gamers were thought to play games primarily as a means of connecting with their loved ones.

Monday, August 25, 2014

A Public Statement from Mark Driscoll

In the following video, Mark Driscoll reads from a pre-written statement responding to the many controversies that has plagued him and Mars Hill.

For more:
Three Themes of Scripture: Some Insight from Driscoll 
Why We Should All Hate Religion & Love the Gospel
Mark Driscoll and Five Ways Jesus Loves the Church
Mark Driscoll on What Forgiveness Is Not

Mark Driscoll on What Forgiveness Is
A Pastor's Library: 10 Must-Have Books - Part 1
"Who Do You Think You Are?" by Mark Driscoll: A Review
"Death By Love" by Mark Driscoll & Gerry Breshears: A Review
For Valentine's Day | "Real Marriage" by Mark & Grace Driscoll
"God's Hand in Our Suffering" by Mark Driscoll
Repost | The Myth of Adolescence: Mark Driscoll Weighs In
"Fall: God Judges" by Mark Discoll
Wilson & Driscoll: On Masculinity, Spiritual Gifts, & Ministry
Weekly Recommendation - "Doctrine" by Mark Driscoll
Mark Driscoll on Abortion

What Does the Lord's Supper Mean?
An Elephant In the Room: Christianity in 20 Years

"The Murder of Jesus" by John MacArthur: A Recommendation

Matthew includes a touching vignette that further displays God's sovereign control of the events leading up to the crucifixion. It stands in stark contrast to the conspiracy being plotted in the palace of the high priest. There, men who hated Jesus plotted His demise. Here, a woman who loved Him prepares Him for burial. (15)

Here's what was happening on the cross: God was punishing His own Son as if He had committed every wicked deed done by every sinner who would ever believe. And He did it so that He could forgive and treat those redeemed ones as if they had lived Christ's perfect life of righteousness. (219)

For several months I have been preaching verse-by-verse through Matthew's account of the Jesus' passion week. Though there are countless resources available for pastors like myself, one of the most important works I utilized was John MacArthur's book The Murder of Jesus. On the personal side, The Murder of Jesus was one of the first major Christian books I read as a teenager and thus it has always had a special place in my heart. After reading it, I knew that I wanted to do, one day, what John MacArthur did. Later while in seminary I finally met Dr. MacArthur and had him sign my copy.

With that said, I want to recommend it to visitors of this site. The book was birthed from MacArthur's own exposition of Matthew and even a cursory reading of this volume will show MacArthur's heavy reliance on Matthew over the other Gospels. This is not to suggest that he ignores the other three Gospels - quit the contrary. Like all of his books, MacArthur weaves together the totality of Scripture rarely going outside of God's Word for validation.

When writing or discussing the murder of Jesus, it is important to decide where to begin. MacArthur starts in Matthew 26 where the conspiracy to kill Jesus becomes more real (instead of idle talk) and Judas approaches the scribes while Jesus is being anointed in Bethany. By starting here, MacArthur is able to provide some of the necessary back story and information that plays a big part in the trial and crucifixion of Jesus in addition to the theology of Jesus' murder (the anointing in Bethany is key to understanding that theology).

The strength of this book is the same strength of all of MacArthur's books. He is the best exegete and bible teacher of our time. One cannot read a book of his without being confronted with biblical revelation. At the same time, however, this does create a real weakness to his books. Though assessable and saturated with orthodox doctrine, MacArthur rarely deals with outside issues.

Perhaps an example will suffice. One of the most difficult passages in Matthew's Gospel is his claim that after Jesus' resurrection "many" saints were raised and wondered around in the city. Certainly there are theological implications here and MacArthur points them out. Matthew wants the reader to see that Jesus is, literally, the first fruit of the resurrection. However, one cannot deny that some of the greatest defenders of Scripture have struggled with this narrative as it is found only in Matthew.  MacArthur barely dedicates a page to it.

With that said, though, this is an excellent read that remains as important today as it was when it was first published. I highly recommend every pastor to have a copy in his office and every Christian serious about Christianity and the gospel to pick it up as well.

I will give MacArthur the last word:
Why did Paul place so much emphasis on the death of Christ, rather than always stressing the triumph of the Resurrection above even His death? Because, again, without the atoning work Christ did on the cross, His resurrection would be merely a wonder to stand back and admire. But it would have no personal ramifications for us. However, "if we died with Christ," - that is, if He died in our place and in our stead - then "we believe that we shall also live with Him" (Romans 6:8). Because of the death he died, suffering the penalty of sin on our behalf, we become partakers with Him in His resurrection as well. that is virtually the whole point of Romans 6.

So don't ever pass over the meaning of the death of Christ on your way to celebrate the Resurrection. It is the Cross that gives meaning to the resurrection life. Only insofar as we are united with Him int he likeness of His death, can we be certain of being raised with Him in the likeness of His resurrection (cf. Romans 6:5).

That is why "Jesus Christ and Him crucified" remains the very heart and soul of the gospel message. and in the words of the apostle Paul, every believer's deepest yearning should be this: "That i may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead" (Philippians 3:10-11). (242-243)

All Around the web - August 25, 2014

Russell Moore - Should We Stop Singing Vicky Beeching Songs?
In recent days, singer/songwriter Vicky Beeching announced that she is a lesbian, and that she disagrees with the historic Christian sexual ethic. Prior to this, Beeching wrote many songs used as praise choruses in evangelical churches. Some are asking if they should continue to sing her songs in corporate worship.

At first glance, the question is a good one. After all, this is not the equivalent of an intramural disagreement about the ordinances or church government or the authorship of the Book of Hebrews. At question here is whether or not the church will tell unrepentant persons that they will “not surely die” if they proceed in this way. This is a gospel issue.

The issue becomes more complicated, though, when we ask what it means to sing songs written by someone in some area of doctrinal or moral error. The leadership of the congregation in song is a calling of great gravity. Music is more than just “mood accompaniment” for preaching. Music is an important way that the people of God conduct spiritual warfare and the way we teach one another in the gospel (Eph. 5:15-20).

The Gospel Coalition - Sermon Prep 101

Kevin DeYoung - Four Brief Theses on Suicide
The news last week of Robin Williams’ death was painful for millions of people, not only because he was a beloved entertainer (count me a fan of his clean stuff) but because suicide is not a topic which lands on us lightly. This is especially true for the countless number of Christians who are still grieving for loved ones or who have struggled with suicidal thoughts themselves. Not surprisingly, in the wake of such big national news, the internet lit up with commentary and critique, point and counterpoint. Some of it helpful, some of it not so much.

Without trying to sift through all that has been said, and without pretending to say everything that needs to be said about such a difficult subject, I thought it might be helpful to try to cut through some of the fog and look at four brief theses. Perhaps these can help us think theologically and pastorally about suicide.

Thom Rainer - When Its Not Time to Quit
  1. When we have no clarity from God. Of course, I am not prepared to tell you how you should discern the will of God. But you certainly should be seeking His will.
  2. When you haven’t expressed gratitude and joy to God for where you are now. I know. Your present situation stinks. Why should you be joyful and thankful for anything about it? But do you really believe God is working all things for good? Can you see some areas where you can express joy and gratitude today?
  3. When it’s just about a few critics. Don’t let the small minority be your impetus to leave. You can be assured that your next place will have critics as well. Love your critics. Pray for your critics. And focus on the positive people where you are.
  4. When it’s a season of discouragement or difficulty. All places we live, work, serve, and do ministry have seasons of discouragement. All relationships have their more difficult moments. Try to discern if your present reality is just a season, where the tough times will later transition to victories and joy.
  5. When the job is not done. Of course, you have to define what “job” means in your context. But you will know. And you will know if you are leaving at a comma instead of a period.
  6. When a commitment has been made. Again, you have to define “commitment,” and honor promises you have made.

Vision Room - Staying in Ministry May Be Harder Than You Think
According to a study conducted by Dr. Richard J. Krejcir,2 being a pastor is difficult work — as shown by the following statistics:
  • 90% of pastors stated they are frequently fatigued and worn out on a weekly or even daily basis.
  • 77% of the pastors surveyed felt they did not have a good marriage.
  • 75% of the pastors surveyed felt they were unqualified and/or poorly trained by their seminaries to lead and manage the church or to counsel others. This left them disheartened in their ability to pastor.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

"Legends of the Dark Knight: The History of Batman" Documentary

Batman has always been one of my favorite heroes. At its root, it is a story of justice. Here is the history of Batman.

All Around the Web - August 23, 2014

Trevin Wax - Is Sanctification a Process or a Position?
Is sanctification the “process” of being made holy?

Or is it a term that refers to our position as belonging to God?

That’s the question at the heart of David Peterson’s Possessed by Goda book I summarized yesterday. (Start there to get the gist of Peterson’s proposal.)

Today, I want to follow up with some thoughts on how Peterson’s book plays out in day-to-day ministry.

Baptist21 - Same-sex Attraction in the Church

New York Times - Who Will Stand Up for the Christians?
WHY is the world silent while Christians are being slaughtered in the Middle East and Africa? In Europe and in the United States, we have witnessed demonstrations over the tragic deaths of Palestinians who have been used as human shields by Hamas, the terrorist organization that controls Gaza. The United Nations has held inquiries and focuses its anger on Israel for defending itself against that same terrorist organization. But the barbarous slaughter of thousands upon thousands of Christians is met with relative indifference. 

The Middle East and parts of central Africa are losing entire Christian communities that have lived in peace for centuries. The terrorist group Boko Haram has kidnapped and killed hundreds of Christians this year — ravaging the predominantly Christian town of Gwoza, in Borno State in northeastern Nigeria, two weeks ago. Half a million Christian Arabs have been driven out of Syria during the three-plus years of civil war there. Christians have been persecuted and killed in countries from Lebanon to Sudan.

Chuck Lawless - Fifteen Church Facility Issues
  1. No obvious main entrance. We have seen this problem in churches with large facilities as well as church plants that meet in rented space. The building has several doors, each that enters the facility in a different location. Only one leads to the main entrance, but guests must guess which door that is.
  2. An unmarked (or unattended) welcome center. No signage indicates the welcome center, and no greeters direct people there. Brochures and sermon CDs might be available there, but sometimes no one is there to distribute them. Such a location is an information kiosk – not a welcome center.
  3. Paper signage. Even in larger churches we’ve seen it: handwritten (or even poorly done computer generated) room signs on a piece of paper taped to a wall. I realize emergency situations necessitate a “quick fix,” but this kind of signage implies a lack of attention to excellence.
  4. Old information on screens or bulletin boards. I’ve seen bulletin board announcements for events that took place six months ago. Even in churches with computerized announcements, I’ve seen outdated information flashed on the screen.
  5. Unsecured children’s area. Our “secret shoppers” often report having complete access to children’s areas. In some cases, no security system is in place to protect children. In other cases where security does exist, unmonitored outside doors still allow entrance to this area.
  6. Windowless doors in the children’s area. Windows in doors cannot eliminate the possibility of child abuse in a church, but they are at least a deterrent. Solid doors are an indication the church has not taken enough steps to protect their children.
  7. “Big people” furniture in children’s rooms. Perhaps you’ve seen a children’s room where the table is lowered a bit, but the chairs are still adult chairs. The furniture (and often, the teaching method in the class) say to a child, “Your job is to act and learn like an adult in this room.”
  8. Clutter. The list is long. Old literature on tables. “Donated” toys no one wants. Leftover craft supplies. Jesus pictures. Ugly upright pianos. Last week’s bulletins. Unwashed dishes. Drama costumes. Somehow the church facility has become a gathering place for junk.
  9. Open outlets in preschool rooms. A preschool room electrical outlet without a cover insert is an invitation to trouble. Toddlers typically have not learned not to stick something in the outlet.
  10. Dirty carpet. This one surprises me, simply because cleaning a carpet is not that difficult. It may cost a few dollars, but not cleaning the carpet says, “We’re not that concerned about the look of God’s house.”
  11. Odors. Again, the list is long. The musty smell of water damage. The hangover of dirty diapers in the nursery or spoiled food in the kitchen. An unfixed clogged toilet. What’s hard to believe is that people who attend regularly apparently do not notice the smells.
  12. Unstocked bathrooms. Sometimes I feel like I’m traveling on a mission trip when I enter a church restroom – that is, I’m out of luck if I didn’t bring my own toilet paper, soap, and towels. Those issues are only magnified when the bathroom is generally dirty.
  13. Poor lighting. Dimming the lighting might be an effective device to focus worship, but a service is hardly facilitated if members strain to read their Bibles. I’m especially sensitive to this one as I get older.
  14. Few garbage cans. Church buildings would be cleaner if our buildings included nicely designed, strategically placed garbage cans inside the building. There is a reason garbage cans in bathrooms and kitchens are often overflowing.
  15. Faded paint. It’s amazing what a fresh coat of paint will do to a room. It’s also amazing how long some churches wait before adding that fresh coat.

Anxioius Bench - HISTORY IN MAPS
I was recently looking at some older maps of Africa in the colonial period. Now, maps can be quite deceptive in telling stories, but one in particular struck me forcefully. This is a c.1913 map of the African religious scene. The Muslim regions are quite familiar, and the mapmaker has done his/her best to show some kind of emerging Christian presence – although the effect looks more like spiritual measles than a sustained campaign of expansion.

That was just a hundred years ago – actually, within the lifetime of my father. But any number of modern-day maps shows the astonishing change since that time. I take two at random

If Michael Bay directed "Up"

Friday, August 22, 2014

"Be the People" by Carol M. Swain: A Review

Be the People: A Call to Reclaim America's Faith and Promise
I must admit that I am not a fan of "lets make America a Christian nation again."  And I say this as a conservative, Reformed pastor who unashamedly cares most about the gospel of Jesus Christ. I have a deep concern that many fly the flag higher than the cross and that Christianity is a term used to rationalize one's particular politics. Most who mix Scripture with politics do so at the cost of Scripture. If politicians have taught us anything, it is that Scripture can be made to say just about anything. Likewise, Christians are wrong to think that the right President, Congress, or laws could "save" our culture. We who have a Savior - the God-man Jesus Christ - ought to know better.  Depraved men and women will by no means save a depraved society. We need the gospel.

It is with this reluctance I picked up Dr. Carol M. Swain's book Be the People: A Call to Reclaim America's Faith and Promise and although some of my problems I have with Christians calling on other believers to straighten out of culture by means of the state, I will admit that Swain offers a more credible book than most. Dr. Swain is a scholar in her own right and writes like one. Everything is documented, well-researched, and clearly comes from an educated mind that has studied and thought through these issues. For most of the issues she raises, she is dead-on articulating the implications of a Christian worldview.

As one who has read a number of books like this, it is predicable that she discusses religious liberty and our Christian heritage, abortion, the family (with emphasis on gay marriage), and other key social issues. Throughout the book, Swain encourages her readers to understand Scripture and the US Constitution.

Regarding religious liberty there is much to like. However, red flags go up whenever I see someone try to make the case that we are a Christian nation built on Christian principles.  This is not because I necessarily reject such an idea, only that we have a wrong understanding what that means. There is no doubt that the Christian worldview has had a major influence on the founding and traditions of Christianity and no one who understands history or theology can deny that. Swain's discussion here was rather tamed from what I'm used to and offers some historical "proofs" (if you will) to support her claim.  She admits that Deism was popular among the founders but then shows that such Deist were free in their quotation of Scripture (though they rejected it) and saw its principles as central to the founding of the nation. So as a whole, there is much to like regarding her discussion on this subject, but as always, we must be careful.

Regarding abortion, Swain shines.  Her academic mind and understanding of history, law, ethics, morality, theology, and Scripture are made evident.  Though her treatment is not exhaustive, she does make some excellent points.  What I found most helpful was her survey of various court cases and how they have gotten us to where we are today.  In the end, she defends a Christian view of life and wants America to protect life from birth to natural death.

The same would be true regarding the family. I was satisfied to see that this was not just a bashing of homosexuality, but a discussion of issues surrounding the family including gay marriage, divorce (including divorce among Christians), spanking, etc.  In each discussion, Swain continues to prove her credentials. Regarding homosexuality I thought that Swain raised some credible issues that I had not considered before such as the argument that homosexuals rarely speak of monogamy but infidelity. The distinction is important.

One issue important to Swain is race and I will not go into detail here. Like any sane human being, Swain is against all forms of racism including reverse racism in American. Most subjects received one chapter, but racism (for the most part) received two (the second regarded the Presidency of Barack Obama).

One issue that I found helpful but a bit problematic was her discussion on immigration. I would consider myself a political conservative, but when it comes to immigration, I have found that Christians have a tendency to either separate Scripture and illegal immigration or abuse what Scripture says about immigration. Yes Scripture says to love the stranger and the alien and Swain raises this point. Yes a State has a right to protect itself and we are expected to obey a nation's laws unless it violates the gospel. But what Christians fail to do is to articulate the gospel here.

Here's the truth about illegal immigration as a Christian.  It is a problem but we as Christians have a priority called the gospel.  Yes the State should do something about illegal immigration in its obligation to protect its citizens.  However, our priority is the gospel.  Let us focus on the gospel.  Our nation has a huge number of illegal immigrants and too many Christians refuse to reach them with the gospel because their politics get in their way.  This does not mean that the issue isn't important, only that where we have an opportunity to proclaim the gospel we ought to.  Isn't it amazing how we have been going to the nations and yet this issue has led to the nations coming to us.  Let us preach the cross and the resurrection!!

That is the greatest critique I have of this book.  Little is said in this book about the gospel.  It is the gospel that ought to inform what we believe about sex, marriage, family, life, race, humanity, government, gender, parenting, etc.  It is the gospel.  Outside of the last few paragraphs of the book (in which the author quotes John 3:16) little is said about the gospel.  This does not mean that this is not a Christian book or that the author is ignorant of Scripture.  Quite the contrary.  Rather, it means that so long as Christians seek revival through politics and not the cross and the resurrection, things will only get worse.  Law, ethics, debate, the public square, elections, and politics have their role, but we are a people of the cross.

So I would say that for books that call on Christians to change the culture primarily through the lens of politics and society, I would say that this book is better than most. But like all of the other similar books, be careful.  Let us preach Christ and show the world that our Savior still saves.

I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their book review bloggers program. 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 Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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