Friday, December 30, 2011

Seeing, they do not see...

In a recent Hardball, Chris Matthews and his panel demonstrate a stunning lack of moral seriousness in a conversation about abortion. Of course, avoiding moral seriousness is necessary if one is to hold a "pro-choice" point of view. The entire abortion debate rests on the issue of personhood. But it is this issue that Matthews and his ilk, for obvious reasons, seek to avoid.

Denny Burk links to
the Hardball episode and offers these comments:

I have often observed that debates about abortion among political pundits tend to miss the point. There is no serious moral contemplation of the issue, but only crass calculations of how a particular point of view might help or hurt some politician.

That is why I was struck by this conversation on Chris Matthews’ program “Hardball” (see above). Matthews and his guests seem to have discovered for the first time that pro-lifers actually believe life to begin at conception. They are astonished and appalled by this revelation, and it is almost as if they have never even heard of this point of view before several GOP candidates signed the Personhood USA pledge. As a result, the panel lampoons the view as if it represented some extreme, unheard of ideology. They don’t seem to realize that the pro-life position consists precisely in the view that individual human life begins at conception. How could they not know this?

The entire pro-life debate hinges upon the status of the life that is taken in an abortion. If it’s just a blob of cells, then abortion on demand would be no problem. If it’s a person (as pro-lifers have been arguing all along), then that unborn person should be protected in law. I am happy to welcome Matthews to the national conversation now that he has discovered what it is really about.

I give you fair warning that what you are about to see is completely morally unserious. Matthews argues that the politics of abortion should be totally disconnected from “metaphysical” questions about personhood. The panel even suggests that the reality of miscarriages somehow constitute prima facie evidence against the personhood of the unborn. The arguments here are really weak, but they are precisely the kinds of opinions that proliferate among unthoughtful pro-choice advocates.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Journaling Through the Bible

Journibles look like a helpful tool for studying and meditating upon the Bible. I am looking forward to the release of the 1 & 2 Corinthians edition.

Journible Spot 1 from Puritan Reformed on Vimeo.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

"Jesus Calling" A Review

Tim Challies reviews Sarah Young's enormously popular book Jesus Calling. In it, Young claims direct revelation from Jesus Christ. Oddly, while Young claims the entries in her book are the words of Jesus delivered to her, she cautions the reader to not regard them as authoritative as Scripture. But how can this be? If her book is Jesus speaking (which she explicitly claims) then how can those words be less authoritative or binding as the Scriptures? Indeed, if Mrs. Young has written down the words of Jesus that He spoke directly to her, then how can they not be Scripture? Unfortunately, her many admirers seem not to mind her troubling claim or incoherent contradiction.

Challies writes:

James Montgomery Boice once said that the real battle in our times would not be the inerrancy or infallibility of Scripture, but its sufficiency—are we going to rely on the Bible or will we continually long for other revelation? In Jesus Calling we see this so clearly. Young teaches that though the Bible is inerrant and infallible, it is insufficient. It was not enough for her and, implicitly, she teaches that it cannot be enough for us. After all, it was not reading Scripture that proved her most important spiritual discipline, but this listening, this receiving of messages from the Lord. It is not Scripture she brings to us, not primarily anyway, but these messages from Jesus.

On this basis alone this book is very suspect and needs to be treated with the utmost care. Young offers us words that she insists come straight from the Lord. But she gives no proof that we should expect the Lord to speak to us this way; all she offers is her own experience of it. At this point we are left with a few options. We can stop reading altogether, we can continue to read while rejecting her claims that these are words from the Lord, or we can read and take her at her word. Personally, unless reviewing the book, I would abandon it immediately. If she claims to be speaking Jesus’ words, I am no longer interested. However, for the sake of reviewing it, I continued to read.
Dr. Boice was right. Clearly, the battle over inerrancy continues. But more often it is the sufficiency of Scripture that is under constant attack in evangelical circles. "God told me," "God spoke this word in my heart," etc are frequent appeals to extra-biblical revelation. And yet such claims are ubiquitous among evangelicals. We make bestsellers out of fanciful tales of people's trips to heaven. How gullible have we become? We must ask, "When did God's Word become insufficient?" When did the Bible need the help of mystical experiences? extra words from God? or a little boy's trip to heaven and back?

Challies continues:

It is interesting that the majority of the devotionals are affirmations rather than commandments which means that the book tends to be more descriptive than prescriptive. It is less about Jesus telling how we are to live, but more about who he is, who we are, and how to enjoy his Presence. It is notable that these affirmations span only a very narrow range of the Christian experience. It is equally notable that many of Jesus’ words sound very little like what he says in the Bible. For example, “Let the Light of My Presence soak into you, as you focus your thoughts on Me.” And shortly after, “Learn to hide in the secret of My Presence, even as you carry out your duties in the world.” I do not even know what that means or how it might be applied. There is no clear command there for me to obey and no clear word about who Jesus is.

Jesus Calling is, in its own way, a very dangerous book. Though the theology is largely sound enough, my great concern is that it teaches that hearing words directly from Jesus and then sharing these words with others is the normal Christian experience. In fact, it elevates this experience over all others. And this is a dangerous precedent to set. I see no reason that I would ever recommend this book.

Read the entire review HERE

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Like "priapistic teenage boys sniggering"

Ed Young Jr. is by no means the only pastor out there with a fondness for preaching and writing about sex. However, his latest project does prompt more than a few questions. Is all this "honesty" about sex truly helpful for the church? Does the presence of Song of Songs in the Bible justify this, this, or this?

Carl weighs in with a dose of biblical sanity:

It is true: those who jump quickly to allegorise the Song of Songs bypass entirely the obvious fact that it is an erotic love poem. Nevertheless, it seems to me significant that the Bible reserves raw and explicit sexual references for passages like Ezk. 23:20. Yes, the Bible contains crudity but it never uses such language to describe a properly functioning marriage. Those who speak explicitly in their sermons about sex acts may be reflecting the fact that the Bible does refer to such things; but the form they use may actually be reflecting rather the pathologies of the wider culture. They are certainly not paying any respect to the form which scripture uses to speak of such things. There is a beauty to the Song of Songs which is connected to its poetic form. Telling the world it refers to this or that specific sex act misses the point on so many different levels and is an interesting and eloquent response which perhaps tells us much about the reader and little about the text; it reminds me of being in a gallery and seeing priapistic teenage boys sniggering at the naked breast of a woman in a painting by a Renaissance master.

I also wonder how helpful it is to deal in graphic detail with sexual acts from the pulpit for those struggling with addiction to internet pornography. Or even simply for single people. Or for those who have not heard of some of the sex acts mentioned. Or for those who are impotent. Or for those who are still children. Or for those who suffered sexual abuse. So many pastoral issues would seem to be exacerbated by explicit and indiscriminate teaching on this issue from the pulpit. Yes, there are obviously serious sexual dysfunctions in the church - many deriving directly from a wider culture which is so explicit about sex - but most if not all of these are best addressed in more individualized pastoral settings.

Further, the reduction of sex to a set of physical acts seems to play to the idolatries of the world around, and this reduction can be the result as much of the way we talk about sex as the content of what we say. I find it significant, for example, that we now routinely talk of `having sex' rather than `making love.' Perhaps the latter is somewhat archaic but it still carries with it emotional, relational and loving connotations which the former lacks entirely. A man can have sex with a prostitute; he can only make love to one to whom he is emotionally connected.

The Bible's refusal to reduce sex to physical acts is surely one of the reasons why it uses poetry to describe it. Poetry communicates meaning and significance which cannot be reduced simply to the reference; and the turning of the Song of Songs primarily into a sex manual is arguably a greater act of reductionism than jumping straight from the text to Christ and the church. This is important because reducing the importance of sex to the physical is one of the greatest moral errors of the spirit of this age, and the current penchant for explicit content in sermons seems rather to stand in continuity with this spirit than to be a prophetic sign against it. Paul's advice about it being better to marry than to burn is not reducible to 'if you struggle with lust, find a girl to marry and have sex with her.' That does not address the underlying problem. Everyone knows that nobody is ever addicted to one pornographic picture; thus lust is not eliminated by simply trying to set it in a monogamous context.

Finally, I wonder if the current passion for producing books and preaching sermons on sex also witnesses to the erosion of the boundary between public and private which is all too obvious in the world around us. Facebook, Twitter, reality TV and the rise of celebrity have each served to turn us all into exhibitionists and to make those who yearn for privacy look like weirdoes and losers. That this is impacting the church from the top down is obvious; and it is at least worth pausing to ask whether sex books and explicit sermons are part of this. It is surely hard to imagine Christian public figures of yesteryear such as Martyn Lloyd-Jones, J I Packer or Carl Henry setting up a website called the `sexperiment' or giving advice on sexual technique from the pulpit.
Read the entire post HERE.

What you want in a pastor...

Good stuff from Jonathan Leeman:

I’m not talking about a man who simply checks the belief box on the “authority” or “sufficiency” or “power” of the Bible.

I’m talking about a man who whose conviction here runs so deep that it profoundly influences the way he works and lives. He plans his weekly schedule based on this conviction. He rests his daily mood upon this conviction. He even picks his clothes in the morning knowing that, it’s not how good he looks that will bring life to the dead, it’s the resurrection power of God’s Word and Spirit.

This is as important as any other quality a pastor could have. It’s as important as swimming is to a lifeguard, throwing is to a quarterback, or adding is to an accountant. It defines the very task of what a pastor does.

Humans create with hands, shovels, and bulldozers. Not God. God creates with words. He says, “Be,” and it is. He says “Peace” to the riotous wind and waves, and they obey. He says “Come forth” to dead people and their eyes pop open.

Just as astonishing, God tells the light to shine in dark hearts, giving them the ability to see the glory of his Son (2 Cor. 4:6). His Word of power saves (Rom. 10:17). It fundamentally changes people (1 Thess. 1:5-7). It gives the new birth (1 Peter 1:23).

Now get this: God gives his faithful servants the ability to do the same things. “If anyone speaks, she should do it as one speaking the very words of God.” (1 Peter 4:11). This is why Don Carson calls preaching “rerevelation.” A preacher’s primary task is to say again what God has already said. Did you think life comes to the dead through the power of our intelligence or humor or charisma?
Picture Ezekiel standing in a valley of dry bones. He preaches God’s Word, God’s Spirit blows, and the bones come to life. Your church wants a pastor who believes—deep in his bones!—that the same supernatural power is available to him. POW! He doesn’t rely on “the weapons of the world” but on “divine power to demolish strongholds” (2 Cor. 10:4). KAZAMM!

Why is this critical for who your church should look for in a pastor search?

1. It will keep him from manipulating. Paul said he “renounced secret and shameful ways” but instead “set forth the truth plainly” (2 Cor. 4:2). If a man believes that the Word alone is powerful to save, that’s what he’ll do—preach plainly and not try to emotionally manipulate.

2. It will keep him from building your church and your spiritual life on his personality. Paul wasn’t a “trained speaker” with an impressive resume, like the “super-apostles.” He just preached Jesus, the Spirit, and the gospel (2 Cor. 11:4-5). Likewise, you want a man who is a good steward of his gifts, doesn’t rely on or trust his gifts to give life. He plants and waters, but relies on God to give the growth (1 Cor. 3:6-7). Men who build on their personalities have churches filled with nominal Christians.

3. It will keep him happy. A man who trusts God to save by his Word and Spirit is a man who can sleep at night, because it doesn’t finally depend on him. This is a happy man who probably has a happy wife and children because he spends time with them. He doesn’t carry the weight of the world on his shoulders. This is a man who won’t burn out as easily and will serve your church for years.

4. It’s the primary means to your growth and your church’s growth. It’s through the words of the apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers that God’s people become prepared for works of service “so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4:11-13).

5. It’s your best hope of reaching non-Christian neighbors. “Faith comes from hearing the message,” says Paul (Rom. 10:17). Can the message be proclaimed through special programs and events? Of course. But you want a man who recognizes that it’s the regular, weekly “in season, out of season” work of “great patience and careful instruction” that saves the lost and builds up the saints—you want a man who “does the work of an evangelist” (2 Tim. 4:2-5).

Jonathan's book Reverberation was one of my favorite reads for 2011. I would love every church member to read it.

Secrets Pastors Keep

I can certainly identify with much that is in this following list. Perhaps this will serve as a helpful way to inform our prayers for our pastors.

From Ron Edmondson:

1. Leading from this position is overwhelming at times. We know Christ is ultimately in charge, but we also know it often seems everyone looks to us to have all the answers.

2. People tell the senior pastor all kinds of things about what is happening in their life or in the lives of others…many we would rather not know sometimes…and sometimes the weight of others problems we carry is enormous.

3. Most pastors walk with a degree of uncertainty, which keeps us in prayer, but also makes us question our abilities at times. It makes depression common for many senior pastors. (Need a Biblical example…see 1 Kings 19)

4. Many senior pastors fear the possibility of failing in their role, so they thrive on the encouragement and prayers of others.

5. Sometimes we allow insecurity to cause us to become overprotective of our reputation and our position.

6. We face the same temptations and occasional spiritual dryness as everyone else. This means we need accountability, but are often afraid to seek it.

7. Our spouse is sometimes the loneliest person in the church and often feels extreme pressure to live up to unrealistic expectations.

8. Loneliness can exist for all leaders and many pastors suffer from it.

9. We seldom know who we can trust, which is why we become guarded and appear hard to get to know. Most senior pastors have been burned by someone they once trusted.

10. We suspect the staff, church leaders and congregation sometimes talks about us behind our back.

Read the whole thing HERE.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Cherishing what we still precariously hold

For those of us in church leadership who are always under pressure to innovate, the following words from P.D. James present a relevant challenge:

We live in an age notable for a kind of fashionable silliness and imbued with a restless desire for change.

It sometimes seems that nothing old, nothing well-established, nothing which has evolved through centuries of experience and loving use escapes our urge to diminish, revise or abolish it.

Above all every organisation has to be relevant—a very fashionable word—to the needs of modern life, as if human beings in the twenty-first century are somehow fundamentally different in their needs and aspirations from all previous generations.

A country which ceases to value and learn from its history, neglects its language and literature, despises its traditions and is unified only by a common frenetic drive for getting and spending and for material wealth, will lose more than its nationhood; it will lose its soul.

Let us cherish and use what we still precariously hold.

Let us strive to ensure that what has been handed down to us is not lost to generations to come.

I believe it was C.S. Lewis who wrote about "chronological snobbery": the tendency to think that your time, your methods, your generation, etc are somehow worthy of greater esteem than that of the past. This has been tragically true within evangelicalism. The irony, of course, is that we are a people whose entire existence depends upon events 2,000 years ago and beyond. What is more, we have two millennia of church history from which to draw. Unfortunately, in our preaching, praise, and education we seem to prefer the cheap porridge of contemporary trends over the rich and thoughtful deposits of our forebears. The finest historians on the planet ought to be Christians. Our churches ought to be filled with historical referents. Not that our buildings would be museums and our gatherings exercises in nostalgia. A thousand times no! However it seems to me, to quote one of my co-laborers, "We are sowing the seeds of our own demise."

HT: Justin Taylor

Sunday's Sermon

On Sunday I preached from the messianic prophecy found in Isaiah 9. It is entitled "A Great Light" and can be listened to or downloaded HERE.

Christmas Everyday...

Good stuff from Carl:

The irony of the Christian Christmas is that the Christ child comes not because of any need of his own or any desire to fulfill a selfish or inwardly directed want; this child, the child in the manger, considers it not robbery to be equal with God and yet humbles himself by taking the form of a servant in order to be obedient even to death on the cross. All of this is done for those who not only did not deserve it but who despise the very thought of grace. For the strong and the self-sufficient to be shown their need and to be delivered therefrom by a nobody who begins life in a manger and ends it on a cross is a profound insult to everything we hold dear. The world looks on - now as then - and see this all as so much childishness; the tragedy, of course, is that it is the unsuspecting world which is truly childish.

I wonder if it is coincidence that at the very moment when childhood - or, perhaps better, childishness - seems to be permeating society, atheism and the militant rejection of Christianity are becoming so trendy. There is nothing more childish than the repudiation of parental authority by those who are still dependent upon their parents for everything from food to shelter to clothing. As the fourteen year old kid with the body-piercing and mohawk is still utterly dependent on his parents' money to buy him the torn jeans and the tee-shirt with the anti-authoritarian slogan spray painted on it, so those dependent upon God for their lives take a perverse and childish pleasure in denying his claims over their lives. And as the fourteen year old punk looks like a serious adult role model to the twelve year old wannabe, so the angry atheism that sells so many books today looks like true maturity to the world at large. Yet it does not change the fact that, as Romans 1 tells us, such is really a move not towards maturity but towards a fundamental denial of our humanity.

This should put our need to engage with atheists in perspective. Atheists do appear scary to the church, as the foul-mouthed kid with the leather jacket and the tatttoo might well be an intimidating and alien presence in my neighbourhood late at night; but all the expletives in the world do not change the fact that he is just a kid with attitude, not a serious challenge to my safety or well-being. Yes, we sometimes need to refute atheists in the same way we need to check unruly teenagers; but we should not waste too much time on such matters. The church also has adult work to be doing and dealing with kids should not distract us from that. Atheists come and atheists go; as far as I can tell, Mt. 16:18 continues to prove to be true.

The message of Christmas is the message of the cross: all our human conceptions are turned upside down; greatness is found in a manger and on a cross; the most powerful autonomous aspirations of men and women are in comparison to the baby Jesus but childish acts of meaningless defiance; atheism pretends to maturity; but from the perspective of the Bethlehem stable, it is but so much juvenile posturing.

Read the entire article HERE.

Monday, December 19, 2011

The "Dear Leader" Dies

We may never know the extent of Kim Jong Il's brutality and madness. We know that he tortured and murdered his people on a massive scale. Il the atheist insisted on being worshipped as a god. He routinely threatened the world. All the while the "Dear Leader" lived in luxury enjoying fine wine and American movies. Since the North Korean Communist dictatorship is a family enterprise, the reigns of leadership will go to one of Kim's sons. There is, so far, no indication that any of his sons will change the ever darkening course of this already dark country.

Justin Taylor has posted a series of videos that give a glimpse into the wicked cruelty that was Kim Jong Il's North Korea.

Friday, December 16, 2011

A yearning for justice or banal, wicked envy?

Try this challenging thought experiment from Doug Wilson.

Would Christopher Hitchens rid the world of theists?

An obituary for Christopher Hitchens

Doug Wilson has written a moving but, thankfully, not sentimental memorial for Christopher Hitchens who died of cancer yesterday.

G. K. Chesterton once pointed to the salutary effect that the great agnostics had on him—that effect being that of "arousing doubts deeper than their own." Christopher was an heir of the Enlightenment tradition, and would have felt right at home in the 18th-century salons of Paris. He wanted to carry on the grand tradition of doubting what had been inherited from Christendom, and to take great delight in doubting it. This worked well, or appeared to, for a time. But skepticism is a universal solvent, and once applied, it does not stop just because Christendom is gone. "I think, therefore I am. I think." We pulled out the stopper of faith, and the bathwater of reason appeared undisturbed for a time. But modernism slowly receded and now postmodernism is circling the drain.

Our intelligentsia needs to figure out how to do more than sit in an empty tub and reminisce about the days when Voltaire knew how to keep the water hot. Christopher knew that faithful Christians believe that it is appointed to man once to die, and after that the Judgment. He knew that we believe what Jesus taught about the reality of damnation. He also knew that we believe—for I told him—that in this life, the door of repentance is always open. A wise Puritan once noted what we learn from the last-minute conversion of the thief on the cross—one, that no one might despair, but only one, that no one might presume. We have no indication that Christopher ever called on the Lord before he died, and if he did not, then Scriptures plainly teach that he is lost forever. But we do have every indication that Christ died for sinners, men and women just like Christopher. We know that the Lord has more than once hired workers for his vineyard when the sun was almost down (Matt. 20:6).

We also know that Christopher was worried about this, and was afraid of letting down the infidel team. In a number of interviews during the course of his cancer treatments, he discussed the prospect of a "death bed" conversion, and it was clear that he was concerned about the prospect. But, he assured interviewers, if anything like that ever happened, we should all be certain that the cancer or the chemo or something had gotten to his brain. If he confessed faith, then he, the Christopher Hitchens that we all knew, should be counted as already dead. In short, he was preparing a narrative for us, just in case. But it is interesting that the narrative he prepped us with did not involve some ethically challenged evangelical nurses on the late shift who were ready to claim that they had heard him cry out to God, thus misrepresenting another great infidel into heaven. It has been done with Einstein, and with Darwin. Why not Hitchens? But Christopher actually prepared us by saying that if he said anything like this, then he did not know what he was saying.

This is interesting, not so much because of what it says about what he did or did not do as death approached him, and as he at the same time approached death. It is interesting because, when he gave these interviews, he was manifestly in his right mind, and the thought had clearly occurred to him that he might not feel in just a few months the way he did at present. The subject came up repeatedly, and was plainly a concern to him. Christopher Hitchens was baptized in his infancy, and his name means "Christ-bearer." This created an enormous burden that he tried to shake off his entire life. No creature can ever succeed in doing this. But sometimes, in the kindness of God, such failures can have a gracious twist at the end. We therefore commend Christopher to the Judge of the whole earth, who will certainly do right. Christopher Eric Hitchens (1949-2011). R.I.P.

Read the whole thing HERE.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Sunday's Sermon

On Sunday I preached the final message in our series focusing on the Great Commission. It is entitled "Sustained By Grace" and can be listened to or downloaded HERE.

* On Sunday January 8th, I will begin preaching through Philippians.

My Favorite Reads for 2011

The following are books (not all published in 2011) that were either the most enjoyable or the most important books I read over the last 12 months.

Theology / Biblical Studies:

Historical Theology by Gregg Allison

I have not read this book cover-to-cover. However, it is extremely helpful; a great "one stop shop" for the history of the development of Christian doctrine.

What is the Mission of the Church? by DeYoung and Gilbert

Excellent. Clarifying. Careful. Readable. Important. Need more?

Union With Christ by J. Todd Billings

I am thankful for what may be a renewed focus on a sadly neglected doctrine. Dr. Billings's volume is a great example of theology in service of doxology and the church.

The Deity of Christ, Morgan and Peterson ed.

Outstanding! Readable and doxological instruction.

The best single volume I have read on the doctrine of the Word of God. Man, does Frame love appendices!

Applied Christianity:

I love this book! Dr. Cary offers an important correction to the errors of what he calls "the new evangelicalism."

Reverberation by Jonathan Leeman

Excellent. Leeman helps the reader understand how God uses his Word to transform his people. This is one of those books I wish every church member would read.

Jesus + Nothing = Everything by Tullian Tchividjian

A refreshing journey through Colossians with an eye toward the radical nature of the gospel.

Read this

Non-Fiction / Biography:

Young Stalin by Simon Sebag Montefiore
Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar by Simon Sebag Montefiore

Raven by Tim Reiterman

* Okay, I understand how some of you may be concerned about my seeming fascination with tyrants and cult leaders.

I confess that I have not completed this yet but so far it is excellent.

An amazing story but little known in the U.S. The story of Donald Crowhurst is a compelling mix of adventure, mystery and tragedy.


Billy Bathgate by E.L. Doctorow

Hitler's Niece by Ron Hansen

The following are some books I have recently begun reading and are, so far, excellent:

Truman by David McCullough

Washington: The Indispensable Man by James Thomas Flexner

Feast Day For Fools by James Lee Burke

Authentic Church by Vaughan Roberts

The Christian Faith by Michael Horton

Friday, December 9, 2011

Simply Proclaim

Carl Trueman on the challenge and privilege of preaching (especially at Christmas):

The problem is not just metaphysical, not simply a question of how one can talk about infinite God entering finite human existence (`Our God contracted to a span, incomprehensibly made man', to use Wesley's beautiful phrase). In this it is akin to the cross as Paul articulates it in 1 Corinthians: it is foolishness and a stumbling block. Foolishness, because the very idea of the sovereign creator and ruler of the universe being born of a teenage virgin in a stable in a tiny nation of no account at the far end of the Mediterranean is utterly ridiculous. Indeed, one might say that it looks very much like proof that God cannot exist -- at least, that is, God built according to our specifications and requirements. An offence because I do not need salvation, especially salvation brought by a pre-modern peasant's child in some backward place nobody would otherwise ever have heard of.

Yet this is where the glory of preaching and hearing the word of God comes into play. Preaching is proclamation, and proclaim we must, however inadequate we might think our words and our delivery are. Preaching is not a carefully worked-out philosophical defence of what God must be like if the advent of Christ is to be true. Nor is it an attempt to make Christianity look sophisticated or moral as the world understand these things. Least of all is it stand-up comedy designed to entertain those who might otherwise seek their fun elsewhere. Its agenda, especially at Christmas, is not to be determined by unbelief or what the hipsters in the Village will tolerate or what the brain's trust at MIT think is plausible. Preaching at Christmas is akin to Lk. 2:8-12. It is the announcement of what God has done, that he has come in Christ, and that thereby his grace has abounded and overflowed to those who deserve it not.. Our task as preachers is to do simply that: proclaim the advent of the Christ. Can there be a greater privilege, a more awesome responsibility, or a greater delight?
Read the whole thing HERE.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Some light reading for Christmas...

Carl Trueman has posted some recomendations for Christmas reading:

Gregory K. Beale, A Biblical Theology of the New Testament (Baker). Monumental work. My students know I have a thing about people who use `eschatological' every other sentence (the Reformed equivalent of quoting Bono among trendies) but in Greg's case, I'll forgive him. The book has already changed the way I think about New Testament teaching on eldership. It is self-contained (good job at over 1 000 pages) but familiarity with Greg's work on the Temple is useful.

J. Todd Billings, Union with Christ (Baker Academic). Those who have enjoyed Dr Billings' work on Calvin and on scriptural interpretation will know what to expect. Thought-provoking treatment of a hot topic. To be read alongside Robert Letham's book with the same title. Both of these books are both theological and doxological. Letham also has one of the most concise and brilliant summaries of Cyrilline Christology to be found anywhere.

James Dolezal, God Without Parts (Pickwick). An important elaboration and defence of divine simplicity, a doctrine frequently rejected today but rather less frequently understood.The Reformed Orthodox would have regarded divine simplicity as one of -- if not the most -- important element of their doctrine of God.

Derek Prime, Charles Simeon: An Ordinary Pastor of Extraordinary Influence (Day One). OK, I have not read this yet; but the combination of author and subject is irresistible. Mine is on the way from the UK but some Christian bookshop in the USA needs to take this on.

Finally, guilty pleasure for anyone with a (British) sense of humour: Adam Macqueen, Private Eye: The First Fifty Years (Private Eye). Nothing Christian about this one. I became an avid Eye reader at age 13 and it inspired me to go on to be part of the team that put together the semi-underground satirical magazine for my school (greatest achievement: getting it banned from the girl's school next door because of `unacceptably subversive' material). My role was writing parodies written in the style of the local newspaper and in the manner of various schoolmasters. All the inspiration came from the Eye. If you are suspicious of establishments, the self-important, Rupert Murdoch, celebrities of any stripe and have never grown up, this is the book to read. And Craig Brown is one of the few living geniuses.
I have just begun Dr. Beale's massive new volume on biblical theology. I'm still in the introduction! I just received in the mail today Dr. Billings' book on union with Christ. It looks like it will be an excellent read. I will certainly try to get hold of Derek Prime's book on Charles Simeon.

Learning from Herman Cain

Albert Mohler has written a thoughtful challenge for Christian men in light of the news swirling around Herman Cain.

Mohler points out five lessons to be learned:
1. The Christian man must realize that credible accusations of sexual misconduct or immorality are fatal to credibility and ruinous to Christian witness.

2. The Christian man cannot dismiss any charge of sexual immorality as being a private matter of no public concern.

3. The Christian man must plan his life in order to assure moral accountability and protections.

4. The Christian man must depend upon his church, the congregation that is so essential to his Christian vitality and faithfulness, as a bulwark against sin.

5. A Christian man knows that his wife is his best defense against sexual immorality and sexual vulnerability - and his most important witness to character.

Read the entire article

Sunday's Sermon

Sunday's sermon was part 7 in our series focusing on the Great Commission. It is entitled "How Disciples Are Made" and can be listened to or downloaded HERE.

Monday, December 5, 2011

The fanaticism of amorality

"A revolution without a firing squads," Lenin is meant to have said, "is meaningless." He spent his career praising the Terror of the French Revolution because his Bolshevism was a unique creed, "a social system based on blood-letting." The Bolsheviks were atheists but they were hardly secular politicians in the conventional sense: they stooped to kill from the smugness of the highest moral eminence. Bolshevism may not have been a religion, but it was close enough. Stalin told Beria [one of the most sadistic members of Stalin's inner court] the Bolsheviks were "a sort of military-religious order"...Stalin's "order of sword-bearers" resembled the Knights Templars, or even the theocracy of the Iranian Ayatollahs, more than any traditional secular movement. They would die and kill for their faith in the inevitable progress towards human betterment, making sacrifices of their own families, with a fervor seen only in the religious slaughters and martyrdoms of the Middle Ages - and the Middle East...

The "sword-bearers" had to believe with Messianic faith, in order to act with the correct ruthlessness, and so convince others they were right to do so. Stalin's "quasi-Islamic" fanaticism was typical of the Bolshevik magnates: Mikoyan's son called his father "a Bolshevik fanatic." Most came from devoutly religious backgrounds. They hated Judaeo-Christianity--but the orthodoxy of their parents was replaced by something even more rigid, a system of amorality: "This religion--or science, as it was modestly called by its adepts--invests man with a godlike authority...In the Twenties, a good many people drew a parallel to the victory of Christianity and thought this new religion would last a thousand years," wrote Nadezhda Mandelstam. "All were agreed on the superiority of the new creed that promised heaven on earth instead of other worldly rewards."
From Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar by Simon Sebag Montefiore

On the fate of those who have never heard the gospel...

An illustration from Francis Schaeffer:

If every little baby that was ever born anywhere in the world had a tape recorder hung about its neck, and if this tape recorder only recorded the moral judgments with which this child as he grew bound other men, the moral precepts might be much lower than the biblical law, but they would still be moral judgments.

Eventually each person comes to that great moment when he stands before God as judge. Suppose, then, that God simply touched the tape recorder button and each man heard played out in his own words all those statements by which he had bound other men in moral judgment. He could hear it going on for years—thousands and thousands of moral judgments made against other men, not aesthetic judgments, but moral judgments.

Then God would simply say to the man, though he had never head the Bible, now where do you stand in the light of your own moral judgments? The Bible points out . . . that every voice would be stilled. All men would have to acknowledge that they have deliberately done those things which they knew to be wrong. Nobody could deny it.

We sin two kinds of sin. We sin one kind as though we trip off the curb, and it overtakes us by surprise. We sin a second kind of sin when we deliberately set ourselves up to fall. And no one can say he does not sin in the latter sense. Paul’s comment is not just theoretical and abstract, but addressed to the individual—”O man”—any man without the Bible, as well as the man with the Bible.

. . . God is completely just. A man is judged and found wanting on the same basis on which he has tried to bind others.

—Francis Schaeffer, The Church at the End of the Twentieth Century, 2d ed. (Crossway, 1985), pp. 49-50.

Romans 2:1-3; 14-16:

1 Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. 2 We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things. 3 Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God? . . .

14 . . . When Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them 16 on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.

HT: Justin Taylor

Monday, November 28, 2011

Sunday's Sermons

On Sunday we were pleased to welcome Mike McKinley to the pulpit of Church of the Saviour. Mike's sermon, The Disciple's Marathon can be listened to or downloaded HERE.

Mike is the author of two helpful books:

Mike writes regularly for the 9 Marks Ministries blog Church Matters.

On Sunday evening I preached a message from 2 Corinthians 2:12-17 entitled Conquered By Christ.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Ravi Zacharias reponds to a Muslim's question...

Jesus Saves

Unequivocally, Scripture highlights Jesus' death and resurrection when it speaks of his saving accomplishment. It does, however, paint a fuller picture and mentions seven additional aspects of Christ's saving work.

sinless life
second coming

Brief definitions are in order. The incarnation is the Son of God's becoming a human being by a supernatural conception in Mary's womb. Christ's sinless life is his living from birth to death without sinning in thought, word, or deed. His ascension is his public return to the Father by 'going up' from the Mount of Olives. His session is his sitting down at God the Father's right hand after his ascension. Pentecost, as much Christ's saving work as any other event on the list, is his pouring out the Holy Spirit on the church in newness and power. His intercession includes his perpetual presentation in heaven of his finished cross work and his prayers on behalf of his saints. His second coming is his return in glory at the end of the age to bless his people and judge his enemies.

From Salvation Accomplished by the Son by Robert Peterson

Friday, November 25, 2011

The Gospel of Pragmatism

Check out this edition of the White Horse Inn.

Why do so many contemporary churches or best-selling Christian books focus almost exclusively on practical application rather than doctrinal truth? Why do most Christians prefer to talk about their own testimonies or changed lives, rather than arguing for the truth of the Christian faith?On this edition of White Horse Inn, the hosts take a look at the philosophy of pragmatism and its effects on contemporary Christian thought and practice.

Thanksgiving Parades

Take time to read this excellent article by Michael Horton.

“Sacrifice and offering you do not desire, but you have given me an open ear. Burnt offering and sin offering you have not required; Then I said, ‘Here I am; in the scroll of the book it is written of me. I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart’” (Ps 40:6-8, emphasis added; cf Ps 51:16). Mediating God’s dispute with his people, the prophets repeat the psalmist’s refrain against those who dare to bring their sacrifices while violating his covenant (Hos 6:6; Am 4:4; Mal 1:8). Jesus takes up the theme as well (Mt 9:13). Obedience is better than sacrifice, because thanksgiving is even greater than forgiveness.

Far from downplaying the importance of the sacrifices, the psalmist is pointing to Christ, the one who is not only a guilt offering, but actually renders at last the thank-offering: the covenantal faithfulness that humanity in Adam has failed to yield. That is how the writer to the Hebrews interprets it. No New Testament writer is more eager to highlight the significance of Christ’s sacrifice of atonement—the guilt offering. Yet his point (consistent with the psalmist’s), is that something greater is needed. Not only is a greater guilt-offering required, since the old covenant sacrifices could never take away sins but only cover them over in typological anticipation of Christ; something more than a guilt-offering itself is envisioned. The writer points out that the burnt offering always reminded worshippers, as well as God, of their guilt. Although it made temporary provision, it always highlighted the negative breach that required satisfaction. In other words, we might say, it never transcended the debt-economy. If these sacrifices would have actually remitted all of their guilt for the course of their entire lives, the worshiper would not have to return home after the Day of Atonement still burdened by “any consciousness of sin” (Heb 10:2). “But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sin year after year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (v 4).

This, I maintain, is what the psalmist had in mind when he recognized the weakness of the old covenant sacrificial system. Forgiveness is good, but obedience is better. God delights in forgiving debts, but his deepest joy—in fact, his requirement—is the faithful love and obedience of the covenant servant whom he created in his own image, with the mission of entering into the sabbath day with the whole creation in toe. The old covenant sacrifices did not absolve transgressors of guilt once and for all, so their negative function (forgiveness) was temporary, and furthermore, such sacrifices could not offer to God the positive obedience (justification) that God required of his covenant partner.

In Christ, however, both types of sacrifices converge: not only is he the only qualified substitute for the guilt of sinners; he is the only one capable of rendering the life of thankful obedience in which God truly delights.

That voice you are hearing in your heart is not God...

That little voice in your heart is not God speaking. He does not speak in your heart. He speaks outside of us from His own word. That means the pressure is off! You don't have to strain to hear God's voice in your heart and hope that you're hearing the right voice. God has already spoken outside of us. And that is how God still speaks - through his own perfect and holy word.

In his outstanding new book Good News for Anxious Christians, Phillip Cary has an excellent chapter entitled "Why You Don't Have to Hear God's Voice in Your Heart OR, How God Really Speaks Today. Dr. Cary writes:

[The] place to look for God's word is not in your heart but in the gathering of God's people for worship, prayer, preaching, and teaching.

That is why the apostle says, "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs" (Col. 3:16)...This happens when the people of God gather together as a congregation in the name of Christ, teaching and admonishing and singing God's word to one another...

[Nothing] has changed in this regard since biblical times. The Spirit has always spoken through external words. Biblical prophets, for instance, never talk about hearing God in their own hearts. That's just not what they say about their own experience. They often tell us about their dreams and visions, but they know nothing of the practice we have been taught today where you try to quiet yourself and hear God's voice in your heart.

That's not how the Spirit speaks, because that's not why the Spirit speaks. He does not come to give people private instructions - that's not what prophecy was ever for - but to join them to the community of God's people. So the best place to hear him now is in a gathered congregation of the Body of Christ, where he is present to teach, comfort, warn, and guide all who believe. His speaking is not an inner experience but a shared event, just like the teaching and admonishing that happened when the New Testament church was filled with the Spirit...

When I talk about this biblical view of the Spirit with my students, they often ask, "But are you saying God doesn't speak today?" Now you know my answer. Of course God speaks today! His speaking today in the word of Christ is what saves us and makes us Christians, and that is what the Holy Spirit is all about. He speaks when the words of the prophets and apostles found in Scripture are preached and taught and sung and prayed, especially in the gathering of his people for worship. He speaks whenever the gospel of Jesus Christ dwells in us richly.

What my students' question shows is that they have never thought of this as God speaking. For them, the only way God can speak today is in the privacy of their own hearts. That's the only way they have ever heard of God's speaking - the only way they have ever heard it talked about, even in church. They have literally not been taught to hear the gospel as God's word.

Do Your Shopping at Home...

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Thursday, November 24, 2011

S. Lewis Johnson

Your one-stop shop for S. Lewis Johnson resources HERE.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Books for Pastors...

Pastoring and pain go together. If you are involved in pastoral leadership then you will experience the barbs of criticism, the grief of your own sin, and the loneliness of leadership. Biblical counsel from wise brothers, therefore, is essential.

If you are a pastor then you ought to have the following books on regular rotation for your yearly reading:

New Life in the Wasteland by Douglas Kelly

The Cross and Christian Ministry by D.A. Carson

Pastors Under Pressure by James Taylor

The Roots of Endurance by John Piper

The Call to Joy and Pain by Ajith Fernando

Under the Unpredictable Plant by Eugene Peterson

Keeping Snakes out of the Garden

Typically good stuff from Carl Trueman on the vital role of elders:

Greg Beale has a fascinating section on elders in his new A New Testament Biblical Theology, pp. 819-23. Here he underscores the importance of the office for protecting the church from false teachers, especially those who arise within her ranks. It is this internal struggle which is part, a significant part, of the tribulation of the church since the inauguration of the last days. This is one reason why elders are necessary: they are the bodyguards of the flock; and the flock more often than not needs to be protected from the wolves in sheep's clothing who have sneaked in under the fence.

Two questions flow from this. First, what implications does this have for those who play with false teaching or false teachers within a churchly context, be it a church conference, a Sunday service or a presbytery meeting? I do not mean those who appear on seminar panels with atheists and heretics outside of the ecclesiastical realm. I mean those who bring these people into things such meetings of the church as the church or platforms where all are proposed as believers. It surely means that they have failed to fulfill their role as elders and have become part of the problem, not part of the solution. Alleged open-mindedness, curiosity or outward-looking geniality are no excuse. The office of the elder is to keep the serpent out of the garden. It is that simple. And if you cannot stand the social stigma and cultural marginalisation that goes with the task -- inevitably goes with the task, one might stress -- that is OK; you simply need to step down from your position and do something for which you are better equipped.

Second, why do evangelicals, who claim to be people of the Bible, so often try to solve the problems of the church by looking to non-ecclesiastical confederations as the primary platforms to make their stands for the truth? Faced with blasphemy and false teaching in Ephesus, Paul does not develop a strategy of setting up parallel organisations above and beyond the church to solve the problem; rather he instructs Timothy to appoint qualified men as elders. Not a perfect solution -- these men were presumably fallible and sinful like the rest of us -- but it is the biblical solution. That should surely count for a lot in any context where the Bible is taken with appropriate seriousness.

Upcoming Sermon Series...

Beginning in January (Lord willing) will I will launch a series of sermons through the book of Philippians. I have been spending some time outlining the epistle and the following is what I have come up with:

Partners in the Gospel
A Study of Philippians
1 - Servants, Saints, and the Savior (1:1-2)
2 - Gospel Partnership (1:3-8)
3 - A Knowing, Discerning Love (1:9-11)
4 - Capturing Calamity for Christ (1:12-14)
5 - So Long as Christ is Preached (1:15-18)
6 - How to Live When Dying is Gain (1:18b-26)
7 - Living Worthy of the Gospel (1:27-30)
8 - Have This Mind (2:1-11)
9 - The Song of the Savior (2:5-11)
10 - Of Working and Willing (2:12-13)
11 - The Fruit of Paul's Labors (2:14-18)
12 - Worthy Ministers (2:19-30)
13 - Rejoice in the Lord (3:1)
14 - When Loss is Gain (3:2-11)
15 - Restful Striving (3:12-16)
16 - Following The Right Example (3:17-4:1)
17 - The Agreement that Trumps Differences (4:2-3)
18 - Living in Light of the Nearness of God (4:4-7)
19 - What Do You Think? (4:8-9)
20 - Strengthened for Contentment (4:10-13)
21 - Gospel-Driven Giving (4:14-23)

Monday, November 14, 2011

Sunday's Sermon

On Sunday I preached part 5 in our current series on the Great Commission, The Mission. It is entitled "For All The World" and can be listened to or downloaded HERE.

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Power of God

Outside of heaven, the power of God in its highest density is found inside the gospel. This must be so, for the Bible twice describes the gospel as "the power of God" [Rom 1:16; 1 Cor 1:18]. Nothing else in all of Scripture is ever described in this way, except for the Person of Jesus Christ. Such a description indicates that the gospel is not only powerful, but that it is the ultimate entity which God's power resides and does its greatest work.

Indeed, God's power is seen in erupting volcanoes, in the unimaginably hot boil of our massive sun, and in the lightening speed of a recently discovered star seen streaking through the heavens at 1.5 million miles per hour. Yet in Scripture such wonders are never labeled "the power of God." How powerful, then, must the gospel be that it would merit such a title! And how great is the salvation it could accomplish in my life, if I would only embrace it by faith and give it a central place in my thoughts each day!

From A Gospel Primer by Milton Vincent

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Church Revitalization: Costly but Worth It...

I have been deeply encouraged and challenged by Pastor Andrew Davis' testimony of God's faithfulness to reform First Baptist Church of Durham, N.C. Leading a church from unhealthy to healthy is a costly endeavor. The stress can be overwhelming. The attacks from the enemy can feel unrelenting. And certainly, apart from God's grace, church revitalization is impossible.

Take time to read the story of First Baptist Durham. It is a harrowing story but profoundly encouraging.

Rehearsing the Gospel

There is simply no other way to compete with the forebodings of my conscience, the condemnings of my heart, and the lies of the world and the Devil than to overwhelm such things with daily rehearsings of the gospel.
Milton Vincent from A Gospel Primer (p. 14)

Adam and the Gospel

Al Mohler led a helpful discussion on the importance of an historical Adam to the Gospel narrative. In addition to Dr. Mohler, the panelists were Jim Hamilton, Tom Schreiner, Chad Brand, and Steve Wellum. Download it audio HERE and video HERE.

On saying "No."

The Church of our day needs above all else men who can say "No"; for it is only men who can say "No," men who are brave enough to take a stand against sin and error in the Church—it is only such men who can really say "Yea and amen" to the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.
- J. Gresham Machen

HT: Dan Phillips

Sunday's Sermon

On Sunday I preached part 4 in our current series The Mission. The sermon is entitled "Our Gospel Imperative" and is based on Matthew 28:16-19a. You can listen to or download it HERE.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Enns, Evolution, and Al Mohler

Dr. Jim Hamilton has written two helpful posts (here and here) responding to some recent comments from Peter Enns on evolution and the reliability of the Bible. Along the way Dr. Enns takes issue with Al Mohler's commitment to the reliability of the biblical record of origins.

Luther and the Word

An outstanding address from Dr. Timothy George (a Southern Baptist) on Martin Luther's life and legacy. Excellent...

HT: Justin Taylor

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Nine Marks Journal

The latest edition of the Nine Marks Journal is outstanding. The theme is church revitalization and will be particularly helpful for those who help to lead churches struggling with a significant need for greater health or even reform.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Sunday's Sermon

October 30 was Reformation Sunday. In light of that I preached a message entitled "Justified" which explores the doctrine of justification by faith from Romans 1:16-17. You can listen to or download it HERE.

Monday, October 31, 2011

A Cup of Joy and Sorrow

I have started re-reading Douglas Kelley's wonderful exposition of 2 Corinthians, New Life in the Wasteland. Dr. Kelley pays special attention to Paul's insights on the pains and joys of Christian ministry.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 5 For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. 6 If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. 7 Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.

8 For we do not want you to be ignorant, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. 9 Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. 10 He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. 11 You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.

- 2 Corinthians 1:3-11

Dr. Kelley writes:

Paul writes about the value of difficulties, pain, and suffering that God may call us to endure from time to time in our Christian service. The Lord mingles our cup very tenderly and graciously with joy and sorrow, testing and pleasure. But from time to time he does call every true servant of his to go through dark places; it is especially this situation that seems to be in view in 2 Corinthians...

Normally the apostle dwells on God's blessing to the church, as he does in 1 Corinthians and 1 Thessalonians; here he does not dwell on what God has done in the lives of the Corinthians, but on what God had done in his own life. Now why does he take this tack in the introduction? The reason is that in verses 3-7 Paul is giving thanks for what God has done in his life in precise connection with the pain that these Corinthians had caused him. He is saying, "You've hurt me but I can even thank God for the hurt that you caused me because good has come out of it." It is a word of grace and forgiveness to this church; it takes a generous and big-hearted man to utter such a word. "You hurt me but God enlarged me through this and further blessings will come to the church through this." (p. 24)

The Gospel is for Pastors Too...

I am looking forward to reading Tullian's new book Jesus + Nothing = Everything. In it he tells of the tumultuous first years of his ministry [beginning in 2009] as the new pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church. Following D. James Kennedy's death, Coral Ridge began pursuing Tchividjian to become their new senior pastor. Tullian however was committed to the church he had planted. After much prayer and planning the decision was made to merge the two churches. And then the proverbial shoe dropped.

With the merger and the leadership transition, a small but vocal group of long-time Coral Ridge members immediately began voicing opposition to practically any and every change we initiated or even considered at the church. Blogs were posted, notes and letters were circulated—some anonymously—with false accusations about me. Just three months after I arrived, a vigorous petition drive was started to get me removed, and it gained steam. Some people began lamenting the huge mistake they’d made in agreeing to the merger, and they grumbled that the whole thing had turned into a “hostile takeover.” Their tone was frequently heated and vicious. Battle lines were drawn, rumors raced, and the spirits of those who supported me sagged. There was a crescendo of misunderstandings, frustration, and pain.

I continued in my determination to bring about what we believed were needed changes at the church, but the virulence of the opposition to them was almost more than I could bear. I was undergoing the shelling of my life—and I was plenty ready to quit and escape elsewhere. I was informed of possible other job offers from around the country, and believe me, they were tempting. It would have been so easy just to walk away from the turmoil I was in and never look back (pp. 21-22).
Church leadership is dangerous. In our context, the danger is usually not physical. Rather, it is dangerous spiritually and emotionally. It is dangerous for a pastor's wife who must help her husband to carry the load. She feels the sting of criticisms leveled against her beloved. In some unfortunate cases, the pastor's wife will be treated poorly by those who oppose her husband's leadership. It is dangerous for a pastor's children who, depending on their age, are able to see their father struggling. Imagine what it must do to a child's love for the body of Christ when they perceive it to be the very thing that makes their father sad.

This is why pastors must regularly, daily, even moment-by-moment declare to themselves gospel truth. Because of the nature of pastoral leadership, the pastor will regularly face the disapproval and even anger of those he is called to lead. There are times when he will respond sinfully which will add the weight of guilt to his already burdened heart. In those times (and many others) the pastor needs the liberating truth of the free grace of God mediated through the Lord Jesus. He needs to learn to take comfort in the acceptance of his crucified Savior, the love of his Father, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. This the pastor needs, for there will be many days when the costly acceptance of Jesus will be the only acceptance he knows.