Monday, June 30, 2014

Sunday's Sermon

On Sunday I preached the second message from our current series through Job. It is entitled "God Holds Court" (1:6-12) and can be listened to HERE.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

A World of Difference

In this morning's sermon I mentioned Dr. Peter Jones' excellent book One Or Two: Seeing a World of Difference.
Walking around in a blur? Afraid to talk about Jesus? Not sure how Christians fit with other religions? One or Two will help you see a world of difference between the only two worldviews: the worship of the creation (what this book calls One-ism) or worship of the Creator (Two-ism). Using the apostle Paul’s structure in Romans 1, Peter Jones shows why your choice affects everything you think and do: how you think about God (theology), what you worship (spirituality) and how you live your sexuality. Seeing a world of difference and distinctions will help you make a world of difference.
“Peter Jones has no peer in exposing the bankruptcy of the New Age and Neo Gnostic thinking.  This work is a tour de force.  I encourage Christians to read it and become aware of how this New Spiritualist thinking is negatively affecting our every day lives.”
— R. C. Sproul, Founder and Chairman of Ligonier Ministries

“Please read this book! The church in America is desperate for believers who understand our present battle and are equipped to respond.”
— Francis Chan, Pastor, Cornerstone Church, Simi Valley, CA

“One or Two offers a provocative, accessible, and urgent message that we ignore to our peril – and that of our non-Christian neighbors.”
— Michael Horton, Professor of Systematic Theology and Apologetics, Westminster Seminary, CA
Also, I would encourage you to check out Dr. Jones' ministry TruthXchange.

You can find out more about Peter Jones HERE and HERE.

 "A scene in The Lord of the Rings, shows the band of heroes hopelessly surrounded by orcs in the Mines of Moriah. Then, miraculously, the ugly crowd, in a squealing frenzy, dissolves into the shadows. Relief registers on the travelers until... a far more fearsome enemy emerges from the depths of the earth: a Balrog, demon from the beginning of time. Christians were relieved when secular humanism, long-time enemy of biblical supernaturalism, scurried off into the shadows. Little did we realize that a demon from the beginning of time threatens our Fellowship of the King. That demon comes in disguise, offering spiritual help from the one place where it cannot be found: within the human soul."
- Peter Jones, from One or Two

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Sunday's Sermon

On Sunday I began a series through the book of Job entitled "Out of the Storm." My goal is to preach through this amazing book in 9 sermons. We'll see relatively soon if I will be successful in this. The first message is entitled "A Well-Ordered World" and can be listened to HERE.

"Be Ye Nice"?

One of the things that characterize contemporary evangelicalism is the aesthetic of niceness. Evangelicals will tolerate charlatans and false teachers. What they will not tolerate is anyone who violates the canons of niceness.

In this episode of Mortification of Spin, we address the ill-defined but ruthlessly enforced rules of niceness with our guest Dan Phillips.
"Dispy Dan" Phillips drops by the West Virginian tavern the gang seems to find themselves in to talk bad about niceness. Is it wrong to be mean in conservative Evangelicalism? Is niceness the highest calling for a Christian? It's proposed as the end-all of Christian life, but is this really the case? Writing as a "pyro-maniac" for years, Dan has become something of an expert in Evangelical niceness. Listen to Dan and the crew make even more enemies and dig themselves even further in.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Clergy Killers

Back in April of 2012 an article entitled "Silent Clergy Killers" ran in the Huffington Post. I would encourage you to take time to read it.

"Clergy Killers" is also the title of a book by G. Lloyd Rediger. That book was quite helpful to me several years ago during a particularly challenging season in my life.

The author of the Huffington Post article defines "Clergy Killers" as "congregations where a small group of members are so disruptive that no pastor is able to maintain spiritual leadership for long." He continues:
And yet ministers often endure the stresses of these dysfunctional relationships for months, or even years, before eventually being forced out or giving up.

Adding to the strain is the process, which is often shrouded in secrecy. No one -- from denominational officials to church members to the clerics themselves -- wants to acknowledge the failure of a relationship designed to be a sign to the world of mutual love and support.

But new research is providing insights into just how widespread -- and damaging -- these forced terminations can be to clergy.

An online study published in the March issue of the Review of Religious Research found 28 percent of ministers said they had at one time been forced to leave their jobs due to personal attacks and criticism from a small faction of their congregations.
I am one of many pastors who have personal knowledge of this reality as I have written in a series of articles.

Periodically, I will read an article or blog post where the writer tells pastors who have been battered to more-or-less "Shut up and quit your complaining. It's a blessing to be a pastor." Well it certainly is a blessing to be a pastor. I have served on a church staff since I was 21 years old. I know the blessings of pastoral ministry. I have seen and witnessed the most excellent acts of love and service from my fellow Christians. I have been treated with profound kindness more times than I can possibly recount. Throughout my years in pastoral ministry I have known men and women who make it a joy to be a pastor. I love the church of Jesus Christ. I am deeply grateful for the blessing of serving her as a pastor.

I also know that some churches truly are clergy killers. And the research indicates that it is probably worse than we know. This sin is a blight on the church and greatly detrimental to her witness.

It is not really difficult to determine whether your church is a clergy killer. It just requires a bit of painful honesty. Here are a few questions that may help:
1. What is the typical length of tenure for the lead or senior pastors of our church?
2. How many of our pastors have been fired or otherwise forced out?
3. Does our church have good relationships with our former lead or senior pastors? If not, why?
4. Does our church have a reputation for being a difficult place to serve?

Confession and Concern

On Monday evening prior to the official start of the 42nd General Assembly of the PCA a gathering took place called "An Evening of Confessional Concern and Prayer." The purpose to the open event was to address four rather controversial issues facing the PCA: 1) Procedures for dealing with errant Teaching Elders, 2) Insider Movement, 3) Male-only office holders, and 4) Theistic evolution. There was a panel of four men addressing the issues: Sean Lucas, Guy Waters, Rick Phillips, and David Strain. It was an important and helpful gathering characterized by clarity and an irenic spirit. The event concluded with a time of prayer.

You can listen to the audio HERE.

Mortifying Plagiarism

The latest Mortification of Spin: Bully Pulpit is up and running.
The ragtag group of vagabonds takes on the issue of pastoral plagiarism, and as usual pulls no punches. After scoffing at the "manly" Father's Day items Aimee is considering buying for her husband, they get down to the issue. How much can a pastor "borrow" from others before his preaching becomes plagiaristic? This is a weighty topic and an extremely important one for the church today.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Sunday's Sermon

On Sunday I preached Psalm 16. It is entitled "The Sheltered Life" and can be listened to HERE.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Insider Movement(s) and the PCA

The title of this post may be a bit misleading because I have no intention of trying to address this very
dense and conflict-laden subject.

In a week I will be attending my first General Assembly as an ordained teaching elder in the PCA. I am looking forward to it. There will no doubt be some wonderful fellowship and preaching. However, it is also true that the PCA is facing some challenging waters. That is, there are some issues that are currently a source of division within the PCA: theistic evolution, the nature of sanctification, the role of the GA to in settling disputes, and so-called Insider Movements. The later has to do with how we will reach Muslims (and adherents of other religions) for Christ.

There is an article over at Ref21 by William Schweitzer entitled "Is The Insider Movement Really That Bad?" In it, Dr. Schweitzer expresses grave concern over the very influential book by Carl Medearis, Muslims, Christians, and Jesus: Gaining Understanding and Building Relationships.
The book is full of vignettes relating the author's amazing adventures witnessing to Muslims during his tenure in the Middle East. Given the large number of these stories, I was expecting at least some of them to end with the Christian missionary being shouted down if not arrested (after all, such things happen to missionaries working in England). Strangely, none of them do. Not one of his stories-- including the meeting with what Medearis calls the 'cousins' of the Taliban--give the slightest hint of persecution or even mild opposition. The question is, why?
Read the entire article HERE.

Books for Graduates

Recently over at Ref21 I posted a list of recommended books for graduating high school seniors. Each of the titles in this post have my enthusiastic recommendation. There are others that could easily be added to this list, but the following will get us started:

Taking God At His Word by Kevin DeYoung
This title earned my coveted and highly publicized "Most Important Book of the Year Award." Seriously, though, it's a must read and very accessible.

Just Do Something by Kevin DeYoung
Outstanding little book on guidance.

Thriving At College by Alex Chediak
From the Publisher:
"In a nutshell, the book is about how college students can launch into responsible, fruitful adulthood for the glory of God against the backdrop of a young adult culture that often values perpetual adolescence and the avoidance of responsibility. It explores topics such as loving God with all your mind, growing in character and maturity, striving for academic excellence, balancing work and recreation, finding your calling, establishing godly friendships, handling the transition from high school to college, time management, financial discipline, and honoring parents while pursuing functional/economic independence."

The Reason for God by Tim Keller
There is a good reason why this book finds its way onto so many similar lists.

The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert by Rosaria Champaign Butterfield.
This gem does so many things well. It is a compelling biography of a radical conversion to Christ. It is also an effective explanation of the centrality of the church and God's Word in the life of the believer. Along the way the author presents one of the most effective explanations of biblical sexual ethics you will ever read.

Magnificent Obsession by David Robertson
Robertson is a highly effective and winsome apologist. This book easily serves dual purposes. It helps bolster the faith of the Christian and quite ably points the genuine seeker to Christ.

Reasons Of The Heart by William Edgar
Dr. Edgar is one of the finest apologists out there. This slim volume addresses not only the mind but the longings of the heart.

What's Your Worldview? by James Anderson
From the Publisher:
"Cast in the mold of a classic "Choose Your Own Adventure" story, What's Your Worldview? will guide you toward finding intellectually satisfying answers to life's biggest questions--equipping you to think carefully about not only what you believe but why you believe it and how it impacts the rest of your life."

Rebels Rescued by Brian Cosby
This terrific little book is a clear explanation of and winsome apologetic for the Reformed Faith.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Bully Pulpit

The latest Mortification of Spin: Bully Pulpit is up and running:
The question of women’s roles in the church is as old as the church herself, but in the past ten years the numbers of women teaching theology has skyrocketed. Women teach on blogs, posts, and tweets from all over the world. Is it OK? What is the difference between her work and a non-ordained man’s? Carl, Todd, and Aimee address this topic on today’s Bully Pulpit.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Sunday's Sermon

On Sunday I preached part 15 in our current series through Acts. It is entitled "So The Word of God Spread" (6:1-7) and can be listened to HERE.