Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Sunday's Sermon

On Sunday I preached part 8 in our series through Job. It is entitled "Who Needs Justification?" and is taken from Job chapters 29-31. You can listen to or download it HERE.

Grief and prayers for a broken body

* Given the current climate, I have no doubt that this post will be frustrating to some. Some will think my comments are inadequate and I'm sure they are in any number of ways. But if we are to have honest conversations about race then we will have to tolerate each other's inadequate thoughts. My purpose here is not to comment about race so much as to reflect on what is most needful at this moment.


Social media brings out the worst in us (that 'us' includes me!). It is a means by which we can post our immediate thoughts with a sense of minimal accountability. Facebook in particular is a public venting forum for all our least carefully considered thoughts. This feature of social media is on sad display in these days following the tragic situation in Ferguson, MO.

It is not my purpose to write about the death of Michael Brown. The mere thought fills me with fear and trembling. Rather, I simply wish to make an appeal that we put down our weapons, cover our mouths, and for a moment simply grieve over the fact that our nation is still so divided over race. It is doubly grievous that Christians are so clearly divided. The level of certainty that some are displaying across social media is remarkable. Before the facts are even in, one side has Michael Brown painted as a thug and the other has whites licking their chops to see another black man killed.

I understand why those who have little or no knowledge of the gospel would post racially inflammatory and accusatory posts. I understand why the Christ-less would use the situation in Ferguson to advance political and ideological agendas. But does not Christ call us to something better? Does not Christ call me to refuse impulses to see all young black men as criminals? Does not Christ call me to grieve with the family of Michael Brown? Does not Christ call my black brothers and sisters to refuse to see whites as merely cogs in the wheel of institutional racism?

Let us not insist that the black community in Ferguson stop grieving. Let us seek to understand why a black father would fear for the future of his son. Let us also not compel white Christians to make definitive public statements concerning a situation of which we still know so little.

Let us instead pray. Let us pray for the family of Michael Brown. They have lost a dearly loved son. Let us pray for the churches in and around Ferguson, some of whom are doing beautiful work to press for peace. Let us pray that those churches will have a greater influence over the climate in Ferguson than the insurgent criminals and political opportunists. Let us pray for law enforcement who have a profoundly difficult task in a community on edge. And, yes, let us pray for the police officer who shot Michael Brown. We do not know what happened on that terrible night. We do not have enough information either to convict or acquit. And, in the end, that is not our job anyway.   

Finally, pray for the body of Christ. We seem to be a shattered body at the moment. What does our suspicion of and, in some cases, hatred for one another proclaim about the power of the gospel? What does our racial strife tell the world and our own sons and daughters about our love for God and our conformity to a Lord who loved those who cursed Him? My heart comes close to despair.

But the gospel will not allow hopelessness. The gospel will not allow cynicism. The gospel will not allow us to forget or treat as insignificant the fact that our Lord promised to make for Himself a people from among all the peoples who will triumph over the very gates of Hell.

I'm more real than you

The latest Mortification of Spin is up and running.

On this edition we sit down with Dr. Derek Thomas to talk about Peter Frampton, tattoos, and pastoral authenticity. Take a listen HERE.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Sunday's Sermon

On Sunday I preached part 7 in our series through Job (chpt 28). It is entitled "Will God Answer?" and can be listened to or downloaded HERE.

Robin Williams, Sentimentalism, and Blunt Truths (Updated)

The death of Robin Williams has sparked a lot conversations about depression and suicide. It has also generated no small amount of sentimental nonsense from the world of broad evangelicalism. Wishes of "Rest In Peace," "Genie, you are free," "Now he is free from the pain," etc. can be seen across the Facebook landscape.

Mr. Williams' tragic death has also been an interesting window into celebrity culture. "I never met Robin Williams but I knew him," "I felt like I knew him through his work," and other such posts reflect one of the chief characteristics of the celebrity culture: the illusion of intimacy. The irony is that Mr. Williams' suicide proves the point that we certainly did not know him through his work or any other way for that matter.

I understand the sentiments. It is terribly sad when a man takes his life. And when it is someone widely recognized, someone whose movies we enjoyed, someone who made us laugh, the sadness is quite real. It is also appropriate. Christians, above all other people on earth ought to grieve (though not like the world) over the reality of death. It should be an especially sharp grief for Christians when we ponder the death of those who have died in their sins apart from a saving relationship with God through Jesus.

And while none of us were present in the closing hours of his life, there is no indication that Robin Williams repented and turned in faith to Jesus. Certainly it is right to take care that our public pronouncements are seasoned with grace. But it would be doubly offensive if our desire to be kind degenerated into outright falsehoods like, "Now he is finally free."

The blunt truth but ultimately liberating truth is that there is no freedom, no peace, and no salvation outside of Jesus Christ. We do not serve the cause of Christ or further the joy of man by speculating on how Robin Williams has 'em rolling with laughter in Heaven. His death is a tragedy, not because there will be no Mrs. Doubtfire 2 but because the peace that apparently escaped him in this life is now eternally beyond his reach.

*Clarification:
It is clear that some of my brothers and sisters believe my words are too definitive in this post. Let me try to be more clear: We DO NOT know the spiritual condition of Robin Williams at the time of his death. I thought I had made that clear. However I can see why some might read my final sentence as too definitive. Also, there is absolutely NO evidence from Scripture that those who commit suicide go to Hell because they commit suicide. I have no doubt that genuinely converted brothers and sisters can find themselves for various reasons so beyond any sense of hope that they end their own lives.

This post is a response to the overflow of, what I believe, are deeply troubling responses from Christians to Robin Williams' death. As I have written in this post, the death of Mr. Williams is a tragedy and something for which we ought to grieve. However, in that appropriate grief we must be careful to not distort truth with statements that could be profoundly misleading.

That said, my final statement would be better phrased something like this - "His death is a tragedy, not because there will be no Mrs. Doubtfire 2 but because the peace that apparently escaped him in this life may also be eternally beyond his reach. Certainly it is right to hope that something he heard in his upbringing or from faithful Christians later in life may have come to mind and in his final tragic moments opened his heart to call out to Jesus."
*Clarification:
It is clear that some of my brothers and sisters believe my words are too definitive in this post. Let me try to be more clear: We DO NOT know the spiritual condition of Robin Williams at the time of his death. I thought I had made that clear. However I can see why some might read my final sentence as too definitive. Also, there is absolutely NO evidence from Scripture that those who commit suicide go to Hell because they commit suicide. I have no doubt that genuinely converted brothers and sisters can find themselves for various reasons so beyond any sense of hope that they end their own lives.

This post is a response to the overflow of, what I believe, are deeply troubling responses from Christians to Robin Williams' death. As I have written in this post, the death of Mr. Williams is a tragedy and something for which we ought to grieve. However, in that appropriate grief we must be careful to not distort truth with statements that could be profoundly misleading.

That said, my final statement would be better phrased something like this - "His death is a tragedy, not because there will be no Mrs. Doubtfire 2 but because the peace that apparently escaped him in this life may also be eternally beyond his reach. Certainly it is right to hope that something he heard in his upbringing or from faithful Christians later in life may have come to mind and in his final tragic moments opened his heart to call out to Jesus." - See more at: http://www.reformation21.org/blog/2014/08/robin-williams-sentimentalism.php#sthash.vKeromzX.dpuf
*Clarification:
It is clear that some of my brothers and sisters believe my words are too definitive in this post. Let me try to be more clear: We DO NOT know the spiritual condition of Robin Williams at the time of his death. I thought I had made that clear. However I can see why some might read my final sentence as too definitive. Also, there is absolutely NO evidence from Scripture that those who commit suicide go to Hell because they commit suicide. I have no doubt that genuinely converted brothers and sisters can find themselves for various reasons so beyond any sense of hope that they end their own lives.

This post is a response to the overflow of, what I believe, are deeply troubling responses from Christians to Robin Williams' death. As I have written in this post, the death of Mr. Williams is a tragedy and something for which we ought to grieve. However, in that appropriate grief we must be careful to not distort truth with statements that could be profoundly misleading.

That said, my final statement would be better phrased something like this - "His death is a tragedy, not because there will be no Mrs. Doubtfire 2 but because the peace that apparently escaped him in this life may also be eternally beyond his reach. Certainly it is right to hope that something he heard in his upbringing or from faithful Christians later in life may have come to mind and in his final tragic moments opened his heart to call out to Jesus." - See more at: http://www.reformation21.org/blog/2014/08/robin-williams-sentimentalism.php#sthash.vKeromzX.dpuf

50 Shades of Obscenity


The latest Mortification of Spin: Bully Pulpit is up and running.
This installment of Mortification of Spin: Bully Pulpit sees the crew discussing a pervasive cultural sensation - The Fifty Shades of Grey book series. Since the release of the movie's first trailer, the Internet is abuzz with talk of the series; some of the hype is even streaming from Christians. The hosts cut to the chase: this is not harmless entertainment, it is pornography, and its effects alter a person's attitude and behavior towards sexuality, ourselves, and others on a fundamental level. As Christians, we must flee from sexual immorality, whether it comes in images or the written word. Listen in to hear what all the spin is about… maybe the issue isn't so grey after all.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Sunday's Sermon

On Sunday I took a break from our series through Job and preached Psalm 139. It is entitled "Search Me O God" and can be listened to or downloaded HERE.

Tribulation is for Christians...

Christians in parts of Africa and the Arab world are going through great tribulation. In fact Christians are the most persecuted group of people on the planet. It's breathtaking. From Nigeria to Iraq to North Korea and China, Christians are being murdered, arrested, beaten, systematically impoverished, and driven from their homes. And yet many Christians in the west persist with the happy illusion that Christians will escape "The Tribulation."

Not only is a pre-tribulation rapture of the church a recent theological innovation which relies on tortured hermeneutics, it denies the clearly biblical teaching that tribulation is for Christians.
After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”
Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?” I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

"Therefore they are before the throne of God,
  and serve him day and night in his temple;
  and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence.

 "They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore;
  the sun shall not strike them,
  nor any scorching heat.

 "For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd,
  and he will guide them to springs of living water,
 and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
(Revelation 7:9-17)

UPDATE:
Just found this helpful post over at TGC - 9 Reasons We Can Be Confident Christians Won't be Raptured Before the Tribulation

Leadership Training?

It seems that a secret from my past I thought had been well buried has now come to light. To find out more listen in on the latest Mortification of Spin... 
Crisis! Todd's past comes back to bite him. This Promise Keepers-sweatshirt-wearing hooligan and the rest of the gang discuss a continually important pastoral subject: leadership. Much of what passes for "leadership training" in the evangelical church is profoundly unhelpful. It has more in common with secular leadership theory than it has with anything found in Scripture. This becomes especially troubling when it comes to pastoral leadership. What qualities should a good leader have? How can pastors improve their leadership capabilities to better serve their churches? Listen in!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Give and Get or Get Your Money Back!

The latest Mortification of Spin: Bully Pulpit is up and running.
"If you will agree to tithe your income for 90 days and you don't receive a blessing from God, you'll get your money back, guaranteed!" This sort of spiritual mumbo jumbo is, as Carl nicely sums up, bonkers. Those who propose these gimmicks are treating God as a pagan deity, and wrapping it all in vaguely orthodox theology. We can't stand by and accept this "prosperity gospel lite." Tune in to the latest Bully Pulpit and you'll receive a blessing or your wasted time back, guaranteed!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Taking God at His Word

When you get a chance, check out the videos from the Taking God at His Word conference that was hosted by WTSbooks.

The featured speaker was Kevin DeYoung. There were also panel discussions with Drs. Carl Trueman, Greg Beale, Scott Oliphint, David Powlison, and Jeff Jue.


Taking God at His Word: Panel 1 from Westminster Theological Seminary on Vimeo.

Taking God at His Word: Panel 2 from Westminster Theological Seminary on Vimeo.

Sunday's Sermon

On Sunday I preached part 6 in our series through Job. It is an overview of chapters 4-27 and is entitled "A True Believer". You can listen to download it HERE.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Credo on Whitefield

The new issue of Credo is dedicated to the life and ministry of George Whitefield.

Credo is one of my favorite places on the web. This most recent issue, like all issues of Credo, is well worth your time.

Mortification of Spin

The latest Mortification of Spin is up and running...
The MoS posse toss around ideas about the biblical concept of finding strength in the midst of weakness. As Christians, we must draw our strength from our brokenness, sinfulness, and weakness. How can pastors shepherd their flocks of weak, broken people as weak, broken people themselves?

Thursday, July 17, 2014

It's a good idea to be Reformed

Over at First Things, our friend Carl has written an excellent apologetic for the Reformed faith. Specifically, Trueman asserts that the Reformed faith is uniquely suited (over general evangelicalism and Roman Catholicism) for exiles, or what the apostle Peter called "strangers and aliens."
It’s not surprising that Reformed Christianity equips us well for exile, because it was itself forged in a time of exile, often by men who were literal exiles. Indeed, the most famous Reformed theologian of them all, John Calvin, was a Frenchman who found fame and influence as a pastor outside his homeland, in the city of Geneva. The Pilgrim fathers of New England knew the realities of exile, and the conditions that it imposed upon the people, only too well. Winthrop’s famous comment about being a city on a hill was not a statement of messianic destiny but a reminder to the colonists of the fact that their lives as exiles were to be lived out in the glare of hostile scrutiny. Exile demanded they have a clear and godly identity.

The Reformed Church has its own baggage, but given the nature of its origins and our own moment, it is the right baggage: light when it needs to be light and heavy with the Gospel when it needs to be heavy. A marginal, minority interest in America for well over a century, she does not face the loss of social influence and political aspirations that now confront Evangelicalism and Roman Catholicism. We do not expect to be at the center of worldly affairs. We do not imagine ourselves to be running indispensable institutions. Lack of a major role in the public square will cause no crisis in self-understanding.

This does not arise from indifference or a lack of substance, but instead from clarity and focus. Doctrinally, the Reformed Church affirms the great truths that were defined in the early Church, to which she adds the Protestant doctrine of salvation by faith alone. She cultivates a practical simplicity: Church life centers on the preaching of the Word, the administration of the sacraments, prayer, and corporate praise. We do not draw our strength primarily from an institution, but instead from a simple, practical pedagogy of worship: the Bible, expounded week by week in the proclamation of the Word and taught from generation to generation by way of catechisms and devotions around the family dinner table.
It is an outstanding article. Read the whole thing HERE.