Monday, May 30, 2011

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Great Hope in the Gospel

What then shall we say to these things?
If God is for us, who is against us? 
He who did not spare His own Son,
but delivered Him over for us all,
how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?

Romans 8:31-32

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Around the Horn

Here are a few interesting links.

The Unchurched in Church – I think we need to think about how our corporate gatherings look to people who are not “one of us,” or even people who may have just become “one of us.” In a recent community group, I was reminded that our “church language” doesn’t work well with people who didn’t grow up in church. It was a great reminder to speak in language everyone can understand. This article should help us think about how to connect with people who are not “one of us.” This is anathema to some who consider that any accommodation to unbelievers in church is compromise. It isn’t.

The Dirty in Church – The old saying is that a church should be a hospital for sinners, not a hotel for saints. If your church doesn’t have some dirty laundry, a little ugliness, some broken marriages, some addicts, some profane people, some hurting lives, you should be questioning what kind of gospel you are preaching.

Success in Church – Here is a great reminder that gifting is no substitute for holiness. There is a constant emphasis today on the gospel. And that is great. But we as pastors and leaders must remember that the gospel is not a permission slip that allows us to sin with forgiveness (Romans 6:1-3). It is a call to walk worthy. It is true that we are completely accepted by God because of Christ alone. It is also true that we are to pursue holiness without which no one will see the Lord.

Statistics in the Ministry – Thabiti lists a number of statistics concerning pastors. Of course we all know the old lines about statistics. But some of these ring true for me, and no doubt they ring true for some of you. I recently had the opportunity to preach on motivation in pastoral ministry. I took as my text Titus 2:11-15 to encourage us to be motivated by the appearance of God’s grace and appearance of God’s glory. These are things that will never change. They will never let us down. They will help us to not be one of these statistics.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

E. B. White on Reading and Writing

Andy Naselli has a short post today about author E. B. White’s book Charlotte’s Web. He (E. B., not An.dy.) is also the author of one of my favorite books growing up, The Trumpet of the Swan. as well as children’s favorite Stuart Little.

Andy’s post reminded me of a post I almost wrote about a year ago.

At that time, while sitting in the jury room awaiting my opportunity to serve my fellow citizens (is jury duty missional???), I came across a book of interviews of authors, published by the New York Times (I believe).

I was unfamiliar with most of the authors, but I am almost sure that one of them was E. B. White. The reason it stuck out to me was because of White’s comments about reading. He said he barely ever read anything.

I can’t seem to find the book now, but I did find a few other articles about E. B. White that were interesting.

In an interview with the NY Times, he said, “I was never a reader. I was arriving at conclusions almost independently of the entire history of the world. If I sat down to read everything that had been written--I'm a slow reader--I would never have written anything. My joy and my impulse was to get something down on paper myself.”

I tend to believe this a good reminder for pastors preparing sermons. As bad as it sounds, I think we should do less reading, at least in the early stages of sermon preparation. Spend your time in the text, hours just reading, rereading, jotting notes, drawing lines, underlining words, making connections between verses and ideas. At this stage, use outside sources only to clarify meanings of words and to establish basic historical context where necessary.

Only after this work should we go to commentaries.

White also makes some other fascinating comments about writing.

A writer has the duty to be good, not lousy; true, not false; lively, not dull; accurate, not full of error. He should tend to lift people up, not lower them down. Writers do not merely reflect and interpret life, they inform and shape life.
(Writers at Work, Eighth Series, Penguin, 1988) (Here).


It is my belief that no writer can improve his work until he discards the dulcet notion that the reader is feebleminded, for writing is an act of faith, not of grammar. Ascent is at the heart of the matter. A country whose writers are following the calculating machine downstairs is not ascending--if you will pardon the expression--and a writer who questions the capacity of the person at the other end of the line is not a writer at all, merely a schemer. The movies long ago decided that a wider communication could be achieved by a deliberate descent to a lower level, and they walked proudly down until they reached the cellar. Now they are groping for the light switch, hoping to find the way out (Here).

And are a few bonus quotes from the NY Times piece. I repeat them here because I think they are great, but don’t really fit the theme of reading or writing.

"I lived in an age when parents weren't scared of their children; they commanded respect, enforced discipline and maintained an orderly household. It can still be done, but the motor car and the TV have clearly added to the burden of the task of discipline and of communication."


I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve (or save) the world and a desire to enjoy (or savor) the world. This makes it hard to plan the day."


I do have a tremendous respect for anyone who does something extremely well, no matter what. I would rather watch a really gifted plumber than listen to a bad poet. I'd rather watch someone build a good boat than attend the launching of a poorly constructed play.

Thursday, May 19, 2011


Ed Stetzer writes on How to Offer Criticism.

Criticism hardly ever goes well when you do it in a hurry. To do criticism in grace may cause you to miss the moment in blogtown, but it is better to take the time and do it well.

This is a point well worth considering. Perhaps I will offer some criticism … tomorrow. This this is part three of this series. It is worth reading.

Russell Moore writes on the Pre Tribulational Rapture.

Dispensationalists still hold to a distinction between the church and Israel, but the idea of two peoples and two programs, is almost wholly abandoned by contemporary dispensationalist theologians, evacuating the primary theological reason for a pretribulational rapture.

Interestingly, my systematic prof (Dr. McCune) was saying this fifteen years ago when I was sitting in his class.

Overall, my belief in a pre-trib rapture is not shaken by Moore’s writing. The arguments offered by Moore have been pretty well answered, IMO. They are not persuasive to me. At the end of the day (or the age), if I am wrong, I will gladly change my position. At the end of the day, if Russ Moore is wrong, it will be too late to change his .

Friday, May 13, 2011

Trueman on Picking Your Battles

Carl Trueman, in the latest issue of Themelios, has some helpful comments on engaging controversy.

Interestingly, and correctly in my estimation, one of his emphases is the matter of the controversies relation to our local sphere of ministry. He comments that the Internet makes the world appear smaller than it really is and warns about the danger of “introducing certain errors to people who would otherwise be blissfully unaware of them.” He uses Rob Bell’s recent book as an example where many people were taught about a heresy by addressing something they would have likely never known about.

I am increasingly convinced of the centrality of the local church and local ministry. Obviously, the internet age has changed this somewhat, but probably not as much as most people think.

The truth is that people involved in real ministry do not need to concern themselves with every thing that happens all over the globe. Know the people you minister to, and minister to them. And I am going to go out on a limb and suggest that many people who blog prolifically are not involved in real ministry. (No, spouting your personal opinions and attacking other people to faceless blogrolls is not real ministry.)

Another helpful emphasis of Trueman is that of competence. A lot of people speaking up in controversies are simply incompetent. They are not equipped to render a legitimate viewpoint on the matter at hand.

Of course, this will bring charges of elitism.

And I plead guilty.

I am an elitist. I am one of those narrow-minded bigots who think you ought to know a little bit about something before pontificating on it.

Today, the blogosphere is filled with armchair theologians, armchair psychologists, armchair attorneys, armchair political scientists, armchair cultural critics, and armchair blog commenters.

And honestly, at the risk of appearing elitist, some of these people seem barely qualified to mow my grass. That’s about the only thing I am not elitist about. And I have a yard I will let you mow. And I will minister to you by keeping you busy for a while so you don’t get involved in something you should not get involved in.

So pick your battles wisely and carefully. And don’t pick them all.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Here’s a Guy Who Doesn’t Get It

Several weeks ago, Kwame Kilpatrick, former Detroit Mayor and current prison inmate, said this regarding his perjury about the text message scandal that brought down his corrupt administration.

I certainly believe that telling the truth right would have saved my own butt and would have saved a lot of turmoil and trouble, but I don’t know if I would have done anything any different, because I was trying to stand up for my wife and children at the time.

This is unfortunately all too typical of the kind of thing that passes for husbands and men these days.

The notion that you are protecting your wife and children by lying about another woman is beyond bizarre. It comes only from a sense of entitlement that you should get what you got at home, and get some on the side as well. It is the sense of entitlement and arrogance that underlay the whole sordid mess known as the Kilpatrick Administration in Detroit.

If you had been wanting to protect your wife, you would have limited yourself to her. You would have kept the promises and the commitments you made to her when you married her. There would have no been no text messages, no relationship with your chief of staff, or other women.

You would have taught your boys by example that a real man loves the woman he married and he keeps the promises he made to her.

The truth is you were trying to protect yourself from your wife, from the possibility that she might infringe on your fun, take your family and your life savings, and leave you behind.

And now your boys are growing up without their daddy.

Now, the Detroit Free Press runs another story with this as the lead paragraph:

Carlita Kilpatrick says her husband is distressed and depressed, angry and resentful, has trouble sleeping and fears the future – mainly because his text messages were released, according to a now-disclosed interview with a psychiatrist.

Again, this is just evidence that he, and she, just doesn’t get it. The problem isn’t that the text messages were released. The problem is that there were text messages to be released. His anger, fear, resentment, trouble sleeping, and depression is because he did something wrong, he knows it (which is why he wanted to hide it to begin with), he got caught, and now is paying the price for it.

Here’s the cold hard truth: If you don’t want salacious text messages or emails being made public, then don’t send them.

Instead, cultivate a heart of respect for the woman you married.

It’s a hard lesson to learn, I guess. And one that more than a year in prison has not yet taught him.

His mother, former Congresswoman woman Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick chimes in calling it “judicial misconduct” and “prosecutorial misconduct.” She says it’s “helplessness and slavery,” which is an embarrassment to her and disrespect to generations of African-Americans who were actual slaves for reasons other than getting caught sending illicit text messages to someone they weren’t married to and lying about it while spending $9 million dollars of someone else’s money to hide your own mess.

Fortunately, the gentle congresslady is unemployed now.

Unfortunately, she’s living off her government pension, which means you and I are paying her to pontificate like this..

And by the way, Kwame, your greatest fear should not be the already released text messages.

It should be the federal corruption trial that awaits you and some of your cronies.

Because long after your sentence on perjury and violation of probation has passed, your sentence for corruption and bribery will keep you away from your family.

And my bet is that you still won’t get it.

But let’s not kid ourselves. This is not a Kwame problem. It’s not a Detroit problem. It’s a human problem.

All of us have within us the seeds of self-destruction that have manifested themselves in incredibly ugly ways in this situation.

We are sinners by nature. We are possessed by an extreme sense of entitlement and a deep and abiding gullibility.

We are tempted to satisfy our own lusts and then cover our tracks with dishonesty—whether implicit or explicit, whether only to ourselves or also to those around us.

We would all do well to consider the instructions of Proverbs: Guard your heart with all diligence for from it flow the springs of life (Proverbs 4:23).

Only the gospel can save us from ourselves.

So run to Christ.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Civil Rights and the 60s

On Monday night, I watched American Experience on PBS. It was about the civil rights movement in America and the freedom riders. It was a fascinating and disturbing episode.

I was born in 1968, which was the year Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated, so for much of the civil rights movement, I was not even alive.

It boggles my mind that these conditions existed so recently.

It boggles my mind that people could make the kind of statements that were made (and still are in some places).

It boggles my mind that many churches were so late to the fight on this topic.

It makes me wonder what the big issues of our day are.

What is it that our children will look back on with embarrassment because we did not step to the front and use our voices?

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Stott on the Cross of Christ

The concept of substitution may be said, then, to lie at the heart of both sin and salvation. For the essence of sin is man substituting himself for God, while the essence of salvation is God substituting himself for man. Man asserts himself against God and puts himself where only God deserves to be; God sacrifices himself for man and puts himself where only man deserves to be. Man claims prerogatives which belong to God alone; God accepts penalties which belong to man alone.

John Stott, The Cross of Christ, p. 160

Saturday, May 07, 2011

On College Chapel

We might as well abandon chapel at our Christian Colleges and Seminaries. We fill them with drivel. Announcements about campus thing this, or denominational thing that, or district thing this, or student/faculty thing that. We let speakers speak who seem to be interested in entertaining or promoting rather than exalting the Risen Savior. Enough.

This is what my friend Marty writes about chapel on college campuses. If you schedule the preachers for your college, you desperately need to hear his words. If you are on the schedule to preach at a college, you desperately need to hear his words.

Don’t let just anyone preach there. Only let those communicators who can enthrall the heart of our brightest minds with an intoxicating vision of Jesus.

Make chapel a “can’t miss” experience for every student. Inspire them with a vision of Jesus that makes them go out the door saying, “I will do anything, I will go anywhere, I will endure anything for the glorious Lord and Savior I just saw in the message of that chapel speaker.”

And pastors, do that every Sunday. Make that your goal every Sunday. Some will hate you. Do it anyway because Jesus is worth it.

College students hear enough nonsense that they don’t need more of it from the chapel pulpit. They don’t need to know how well you can alliterate, or how good a story-teller you are. They don’t need to hear about your mystical experiences of God telling you do this or telling you not to do that. They don’t need you to be funny. They don’t need to you be creative.

They need you to unfold the text of Scripture for them and point their hearts to God and the gospel. They need you to challenge their highest aspirations with Jesus, the King of kings and Lord of lords.

College chapel speaking should be about more than how many students you send there, or how well connected you are. It ought to be about Jesus.

So make it about Jesus.