Friday, December 23, 2016
I have one of those sicknesses that prevents sleep. Usually it's my thoughts that keep me from rest. Today it's phlegm, so I might as well say something. And since next year (just over a week away) marks the 500th anniversary of the Reformation launch, I think of church history - God's activity among His people in space and time. I am not a historian. So I can't recommend the very best works and resources for your education (other than the Bible). But I will list a few options with which I am familiar.
1. A Pastoral Overview of Church History - 6 Sermons by Douglas Wilson.
2. Church History in Plain Language by Bruce Shelley
3. The Biography Section at Monergism
4. The One Year Christian History by E Michael and Sharon Rusten
5. Essential Church History by Adam Murrell
6. Any history books by Stephen Nichols or Carl Trueman
Tuesday, December 20, 2016
Tuesday, December 13, 2016
"We must think of no other God than Christ; that God which speaks not out of Christ's mouth, is not God. . .We seek God everywhere; but not seeking him in Christ, we find him nowhere." -- Martin Luther, from Tabletalk, #182
Saturday, November 26, 2016
Then He said to me, “Son of man, go to the house of Israel and speak with My words to them. For you are not being sent to a people of unintelligible speech or difficult language, but to the house of Israel, nor to many peoples of unintelligible speech or difficult language, whose words you cannot understand. But I have sent you to them who should listen to you; yet the house of Israel will not be willing to listen to you, since they are not willing to listen to Me. Surely the whole house of Israel is stubborn and obstinate. Behold, I have made your face as hard as their faces and your forehead as hard as their foreheads. Like emery harder than flint I have made your forehead. Do not be afraid of them or be dismayed before them, though they are a rebellious house.” Moreover, He said to me, “Son of man, take into your heart all My words which I will speak to you and listen closely. Go to the exiles, to the sons of your people, and speak to them and tell them, whether they listen or not, ‘Thus says the Lord God.’” - Ezekiel 3:4-11
Monday, November 21, 2016
Monday, November 7, 2016
Sunday, November 6, 2016
Saturday, October 15, 2016
Saturday, October 1, 2016
Thursday, September 29, 2016
Wednesday, August 31, 2016
Saturday, August 6, 2016
Earlier in Ephesians 5:2 we are all told to "walk in love." So I am not arguing that a woman is not obligated to love her husband. She is. He is her nearest and dearest neighbor, and she is to love him as she loves herself. But in the particularities of marriage, the obligations specific to her are those of respect (Ep 5:33 - ". . . and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband), and obedience (". . . wives ought to be subject to their husbands in everything" - Ep 5:24).
It seems to me that God commands to each sex what comes most unnaturally to them. Men desire to respect. Women desire to love. So God commands against our natures, because it is necessary.
As a related aside, I am for strong, thoughtful, expressive, resourceful, creative, and tough Christian women/wives. I love the Proverbs 31 woman, who, by the way, is called "an excellent wife" (verse 10). But none of these fine qualities require rebellion against God and husband.
Submission, ladies, means moving in the direction of your husband. It means learning and adopting his values. And it means doing what he asks of you. Wives are given as helpers. So help him. God says he needs it. "Then the LORD God said, 'It is not good for man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.'" (Ge 2:18). "For indeed man was not created for the woman's sake, but woman for the man's sake" (1 Co 11:9).
These things are not in the nature of a fallen woman. Fallen women desire to rule over their husbands. It's a part of the curse (Ge 3:16). But a Christian woman, who has God the Holy Spirit, and is being redeemed day by day, may be the respectful helpful wife God intends for her own progress and fulfillment and for the good of her husband and children.
I realize this kind of talk brings up a myriad of questions and emotions; so many "what ifs" and "yes, buts," etc. And I will write on none of them today. Besides, nothing Scripture says will invalidate what else it says. Marriage is God's arrangement in which there is a head and a helper. This reality is grounded in the Godhead itself where there is a Father, a Son, and a Holy Spirit; all of equal worth and dignity but nevertheless operating in different ways; including the way of submission.
Thursday, July 21, 2016
Sunday, July 17, 2016
Yesterday evening I heard this, and commend it to you. It's not the typical story put to song by an old-time country music singer. It's better. And while Kristofferson theology is a bit sketchy, the testimony given is worth a listen, I think. Enjoy.
Sunday, July 10, 2016
Tuesday, July 5, 2016
Faithful biblical parenting is demanding, but it is not terribly complicated. It has to do with being a Godward helpful influence through modeling, yes, but in a large way also through conversation. We see this in some of the Scripture's earliest descriptions of the way believing parents are to operate, such as in the early chapters of Deuteronomy where we are told to take every opportunity to be in conversation with our children. We see it in the Proverbs, many of which are presented as a father speaking with his son (beginning with 1:8 and continuing from there). The Apostle Paul uses this format to instruct and counsel his "son in the faith," young Timothy (Cf 1 Ti 1:18 & 2 Ti 2:1, etc). This is the model -- a Godward parent in helpful verbal communication with his or her children.
Thursday, June 30, 2016
Perhaps John Creasy has learned his teaching philosophy from the Bible which he reads regularly. I am not holding up this movie character as a model in general. But he does provide a useful illustration of faithful parenting. Our children are becoming what we are leading them to become. They are modeling what they observe in us. They are taking to heart our values reflected in our practices, attitudes, habits, speech, use of time, use of money, etc. And then there are the deliberate sessions with them in which parents instill particular lessons. Whatever it is we want them to learn, we must teach. Whatever it is we want them to understand, we must explain. And we must not expect from them what we have not taught and expounded. And we must be patient throughout, for there is much repetition involved, not unlike the way Father God regularly repeats Himself to me and for my sake. Apparently He thinks I'm worth the effort. Certainly to us our children should be worth no less.
I am not beginning this particular blog series because I have figured out parenting and have a handle on the sound practice of it. I am beginning it because I need to better learn the art of raising children and be vastly more consistent in it. Writing can be helpful to me in this regard. Perhaps the series may prove helpful to you as well.
Thursday, June 23, 2016
Wednesday, June 15, 2016
Tuesday, June 14, 2016
I was wondering if any of us believe in anything for which, rather than deny it, we would ourselves be content to be burned.
Wednesday, June 8, 2016
Jim was intelligent and witty. When with him I laughed a lot, and heartily. Something like that means a lot to a melancholy someone like me.
Jim had means but lived simply, in a mobile home in tiny Erwin, NC, just north of Fayetteville. He loved his children - one daughter and one son; and loved his granddaughter also. He spoke of them regularly with a kind of healthy and humble thankfulness.
Jim read the Scriptures and prayed every day, and participated weekly in our church's Sunday gatherings. And he asked me a lot of questions, especially about the Trinity. He wanted to understand. I don't believe that's common in today's American and southern church. He also participated in a men's study group I hosted in my home. In my experience, that too is rare for a southern Baptist in his 70's. But like I said, Jim wanted to understand. He was teachable even in old age, and even by a young punk, like me.
Jim was a smart-ass in the best sense of the word, like Jesus in His cutting sarcasm. I loved that about him. He did not fear the faces of men.
Following my leaving Fayetteville, Jim and me kept in touch by phone. And I occasionally sent him pictures of my children since they didn't exist when Jim and me lived near one another. He was interested in how they were growing and getting along. And when we talked he always asked about my wife and my work. And he always pressed me to keep him in my prayers. Maybe better than most of us he recognized his dependent status.
This poor tribute certainly does not do justice to Jim or to what he has meant to me. But I offer it nonetheless. Maybe he'll hear about it, in heaven.
Sunday, June 5, 2016
PS - These channels through which God means for currency to flow should also be priorities for Christian families and individuals. The God who gives power to earn money also gives us instructions on what He wants done with that income. Do your own study of Scripture. These channels are not hard to see there, in both testaments.
Saturday, June 4, 2016
So His fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought Him all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, those oppressed by demons, epileptics, and paralytics,
Saturday, April 16, 2016
Apparently the origins of the song come from the writers' understanding of God as revealed in Jeremiah 29, particularly verse 11. The chorus contains these lines: "Your plans are still to prosper, You have not forgotten us. You are with us in the fire and the flood." Wonderful. But I do wonder if the authors of this piece, along with the many who sing it, realize that the God of Jeremiah 29 is with us in the fires and floods that He sends. The losses and pains of our existence are not accidents, or merely the results of a fallen world, or some other less than sovereign reality. Read the chapter. God is the source of the very pain in which He promises His presence. But that truth wasn't included in the song. Too bad, because it saturates Jeremiah's thinking.
Wednesday, April 6, 2016
Wednesday, March 30, 2016
Sunday, March 20, 2016
The statement above was given in answer to a question from an audience member regarding whether or not he should accept an invitation from his home church to return there to pastor following his upcoming seminary graduation. His concern was that the church had gone in a wrong direction; that it had become what is often called "seeker-sensitive" as a part of the modern times "church growth movement." I listened to this exchange just yesterday.
On Sunday of last week I was listening to a pastor explain to me that his co-pastor, a young man, was looking to leave their church to pastor another one. He said that the youngster was being careful to find a "healthy" church to pastor, and so was taking quite a bit of time with the search.
Two weeks back I listened to a good friend of mine speak to me about ministry possibilities for myself. Over the years I have found myself in and out of a variety of vocational pastoral roles but currently that is not my work. So my friend was attempting to be helpful by feeding me ideas, one of which was to plant a church, thereby avoiding the many hardships that come with laboring among an established congregation.
In addition, I know a young pastor with a thirty year plan for his church. I'm wondering what that means for his understanding of today.
And finally, to continue the testimony, five weeks back I resigned the very part-time church staff position I did hold for less than ten months (Cf Our Potipharian Prisons from 4/25/15). Since then I have thought a lot about who and what I am, and what my expectations should be, of myself and of a church, especially church leaders. What is Scripture's counsel on such things? I don't mean to try to answer fully in this post, but I do want to add to Trueman's comment.
I want to urge pastors to know themselves. How has God built you? What are your dominant spiritual gifts and your recurring tendencies? What is it that you do that God most uses to bless and strengthen believers? Are you getting to engage in that activity regularly? What can't you live with in a pastoral context? What do you believe about the nature and necessity of change? Are you a leader or a support staffer? Do you have biblical categories established for how to think about life? What are your weaknesses? Are you lacking courage? Are you looking at Jesus as your model for shepherding, and then looking at the Apostle Paul perhaps? These men would normally be fired from our churches; that is, if they could get hired by one. They simply did not think or operate in the ways American pastors are expected to today. And some of their ways would even be classified as sinful by many folks - like when they got angry at their people (and showed it); like when they called their folks derogatory terms (like Satan - Mt 16:23, and foolish - Ga 3:1-3, for example); and like when they expressed sadness, grief, distress, and you know, other real human and non-sinful emotions that are quite unpopular (and often considered un-Christian) in the victory-driven American Church of today. (For examples see Lk 12:50; Mt 26:37; 2 Co 2:4, 4:7-12; 6:3-10; He 12:5-11; Ja 4:8-10; Re 2:9-10). So I ask the pastors, what are you, essentially? I ask this question because it's the one to which I continue to return. For what has God built me and to what is He calling me then? (These realities are connected). For what has He suited me? In what context am I designed to be most effective and fruitful? These types of questions are important for another reason - there are many men in pastoral ministry that do not belong there. We may testify that we are called by God, inwardly (an immeasurable thing), but are clearly not equipped outwardly (quite measurable). If that's me, I need to find other work, then I will be free to serve a church in the ways I am actually suited, and as a volunteer.
Here's what I think I've learned afresh, about myself, hopefully not presuming upon the Lord, His plans, His ways, and His intentions; and hopefully pushing pastors to examine themselves constructively. I feel forced into this myself due to my history, my age, my responsibility to my family, and the new transition time in which I find myself, again. So here goes - I am essentially a reformer. I do not want to start something new. I want to work on something old, even sick. So I am not seeking a healthy church to pastor. Healthy churches probably don't need a guy like me. I am not shy but I am an introvert. People sap my strength, none more than myself. I like books and dark rooms and projects. And while its been rare for me in a work context, I should probably be in charge. The one time I have been proved the most visibly fruitful and inwardly satisfying. And I tend to end up in charge anyway, even though my title doesn't recognize the reality and my intentions were not to lead.
Looking back over 44 years, it is clear that it is not in my nature to take the path of least resistance simply because it is least resistant. I strive to take the best path, as I understand it. That's often the hard road. Also, my heroes are the Bible Prophets and the Protestant Reformers. These are the people with whom my soul most connects and resonates. One of my favorites of the favorites is Ezekiel, because of how God constructed him. He gets the assignment no one wants, and is told by God that the people to whom he is sent "will not listen to him" because they "will not listen to Me" and are "nations of rebels." That's hard for a preacher to hear. The prophet's audience has "a hard forehead and a stubborn heart." But here's the good news from God to His spokesman, "I have made your face as hard as their faces, and your forehead as hard as their foreheads. Like emery harder than flint have I made your forehead. . .And whether they hear or refuse to hear they will know that a prophet has been among them." Yes!
One wonders at such an assignment, from God! But the Lord prepares His prophets. Chief in this preparation is the vision of His glory recorded in Ezekiel 1. The prophet learns the worth and glory of God (ch 1), receives God's word (ch 2-3), and so must speak it, even to those who will not hear. (God's thoughts are worth saying because they are God's thoughts. Whether or not people welcome them is not the issue for a preacher or any other truth-teller). This account reminds me much of the Apostle Paul, who also learned the worth and glory of God (Ac 9), received God's word, and then couldn't help but speak, testifying to the Corinthians, "I believed, therefore I spoke" (2 Co 4:13). That's not terribly complicated.
Of course a personality like this comes with glaring weaknesses. Yet God continues to construct folks with a prophetic bent (See Prophets Push from 1/25/15). Should these kind of people pastor churches? Perhaps not, although the Bible Prophets did function pastorally in some measure, as did many of the Protestant Reformers, and of course the Apostle Paul. But it's really tough. Including in a cover letter that you're a task-oriented introvert will not land you a pastoral position. My point is that it's good to know who you are and what you're for and seek a role where that can be useful to folks for Christ's sake. Regarding themselves, the prophets seem to be fairly clear on this, as does Paul and certainly Jesus. The Protestant Reformers had more to figure out, seeing that they didn't receive direct revelation but needed, like us, to understand revelation previously given (the Bible) and then apply that to themselves in their context.
So what to do? I'm not yet sure. But I'm considering enrolling in carpentry school.
Sunday, March 13, 2016
Friday, February 12, 2016
While on earth, Jesus did not get along well with everyone, made many enemies, and in fact was murdered by the most worldly powerful among them; and He's the Prince of Peace (Is 9:6). Where does this leave us?
Saturday, January 9, 2016
Friday, January 1, 2016
I was arrogant. I was foolish. I was neurotic, and largely spiritually blind. I made promises I couldn't keep and held expectations I couldn't match with performance. I was terrified of failure and too ignorant to succeed. I wanted to exert strength for a God who was calling me to embrace my weakness. But men don't naturally value weakness. We hate weakness, especially our own.
I read my Bible a lot. And being a son of Adam, I was unwittingly drawn to its commands and to its "heroes." At 15 I committed myself to pursue Christian ministry as a vocation. I led the religious clubs in my high school and was awarded the "most-Christlike" award by my youth group. Apparently its members were also blind. But I understand. I played the part well, in some measure because I was sincere, and I think I was actually a Christian, meaning I had faith in Christ to cover my sins and get me to His Father. But I regularly functioned like a Pharisee, guarding the Law I couldn't keep and imposing my version of it upon others. I was sinfully hard on people, and generally merciless. I hate that guy. But I can't seem to kill him. So in this life, repeatedly wounding him is my lot. After high school I gained a religious studies degree at university and then off to seminary for the MDiv. That's the normal course for a fellow like the me of then.
But God is patient, and merciful. He has been content to take a lifetime to shatter the idols and images of self. His work continues. If 2015 hasn't been about that then I don't know what to make of it. In an effort to keep this post on the brief side, I want to mention (with little explanation; maybe I can expand that in later posts) only two hard lessons from this past year of the divine scourge (Pr 3:11-12; Cf He 11-12).
1. God the Holy Spirit's work of sanctification might be more about teaching weakness than it is about instilling righteousness. By my best and most generous estimation, I am not a better man than I was 365 days ago, or twenty years ago. But I am more aware of my own profound weakness. And I am learning that any progress in holiness is necessarily gained through that weakness. And I am now sure of my all-engulfing need for God to act on my behalf. I cannot produce what He commands. I cannot, in the ways that matter most, change myself, improve myself, help myself, provide for myself, or sanctify myself. This fresh awareness has been shaping what I expect of myself, and others. From the first man Adam to the model of faith Abraham to King David to the Prophet Jeremiah to the Apostle Paul to us on this first day of 2016, the aim of God for His people continues to be our humiliation, not our glory (See Php 2, for example).
2. We are too weak to have recourse. This, like lesson 1, runs throughout the Scriptures and is written over every life. And it is a further comment on the one above about needing God to act on our behalf. Perhaps it is seen most clearly in Job's life. When the horrors of our existence are discussed by those given to philosophy, the old dilemma is often restated - that either God is good but not powerful, or powerful but not good - otherwise He would not permit said horrors. I have never heard of anyone suffering as Job did; yet, he doesn't seem to wrestle with his miseries in the usual way. He actually affirms God's sovereign power and God's comprehensive justice. He would say, I think, that God can do anything He wants, and that all He wants is right; and that's his struggle - the absence of recourse. What can a man do with God? How can a man move God? How might a man wrestle with God? Who can make a case against God? Job cannot. We cannot. And when we learn this in our distresses and pressures and losses and pains, perhaps we will behave as Job did when he prayed: