It grieves me to read blogs that use a tragedy to grandstand. I've done it, and I hate it. But there's also the reality that public heartache gets people thinking about a topic—and we might as well endeavor to think well.
Regarding Robin Williams' suicide, I wrote the following Facebook post:
"Funny people are often sad. Popular people are often lonely. Successful people are often insecure. Wealthy people are often broken. This is always true, whether we notice it or not. We just had a profoundly tragic reminder. I ache over it. We need grace."
I do ache. I'm sad that the world is so broken. I'm sad that someone can reach such a desperate place that destruction actually seems like a solution. But people do descend to that kind of crushing despair, more often than you'd think. They need help. They need understanding. Ultimately, they need Christ.
If possible, I want to help others think well about the issue of suicide. To that end, here's a PDF of a piece I wrote on the topic in the recently published devotional Gospel...
In speaking to a promising young man recently about his preaching, we both arrived at the conclusion that his difficulty was not in style, organization or delivery. What he was facing was simply a problem of communicating something substantive to his congregation each week. The problem is not uncommon, even among those who hold to the inerrancy of the Scriptures.
In order to preach effectively, you must have something to say, not merely have to say something! From reading and hearing sermons, all too frequently it seems as though that elemental truth has escaped many.
Are your sermons thin soup? Does your congregation get fed sawdust or the wholesome food of the Scriptures each week? Lean, scrawny Christians are indicative of lean victuals. Are your members healthy and robust? Or are they suffering from spiritual rickets?
It is not as though there is not enough “healthy teaching” (one of Paul’s favorite phrases in speaking to pastors like Titus and Timothy) to go around; the Word of the Lord is filled with all of the ingredients necessary to spread a balanced, nourishing meal before the congregation every time that you rise to preach. There is no end of...
Is it surprising that some preachers are hated? Well, it shouldn’t be. For people to hate them is nothing new. Listen to this passage:
Jehoshaphat asked, “Isn’t there a prophet of Yahweh here any more? Let’s ask him.” The king of Israel said . . . “There is one man . . . but I hate him because he never prophesies good about me, but only disaster” ( 1 Kings 22:8, HCSB).
The king of Judah was right in seeking God’s will through a prophet; the king pf Israel was wrong in hating the prophet. What a contrast!
Why did the latter hate the prophet? Because he did his job—he told the truth about the sins of the king and his people, and predicted God’s judgment upon them apart from repentance.
Today, we have no prophets (contrary to the views of a popular theological writer), but we have preachers who are as close to being prophets as anyone. When they do their job (fulfill their calling from God) they will frequently have to warn about the consequences of sin against God. When they do, they are often disliked (or possibly even hated) by those who listen. But they are as foolish for doing so as king Ahab, who lost his life as a result (v. 37).
One of the principal unrecognized problems in contemporary preaching is sleep-inducing rhythm patterns. These pulpit lullabies, which stroke and soothe already sleepy parishioners, are of much more frequent occurrence and contribute far more toward the ineffectiveness of preaching than most realize.
Pulpit sirens, who fall into such rhythmic patterns, bill and coo at congregations unwittingly. It is almost impossible to convince them that their Sunday lyrics may be responsible for the small results obtained, because of the difficulty of recognizing the problem in one’s own preaching. If you are guilty of orchestrating weekly performances of this nature, you will never know it unless you are willing to listen analytically to tapes of your preaching in a critical and businesslike manner. Because so few are, I predict that this article will go largely unheeded. Pastoral nightingales, perched in pulpits, chirruping and warbling away, often are too entranced with the sound of their own voices to do the critical evaluation necessary. But for the few rare birds who will listen, who discover that the problem is theirs and who wish to do something about it, I offer the following...
“It’s our being caught up into the air to meet Jesus at His coming, of course.”
“Wrong? Why I read about this in Titus 2:13. How can you say that?”
Easily: by reading the passage; and not reading anything into it.
I’ll let the passage do so:
We wait for the blessed hope and (better, “even”) the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.
Do you get it? What we wait for isn’t what happens to us—it’s what happens to Jesus: the important thing isn’t our going; it’s His coming.
And it’s not just His coming—but how He will come. He will appear in a glory that makes it clear to all who He is: God as well as Savior.
In that day we who know Him won’t focus on ourselves—we’ll focus on Him! It would seem wise to do so now, as the Great God and Savior, as well as then, wouldn’t it?
 He Greek word “KAI” can mean either and or even.
Ezekiel 14 has (wrongly) been used to support the “idols of the heart” doctrine.
However, the passage says nothing about looking for idols in counseling or for any other purpose. What, then, was going on?
Here was a people just about to be exiled for idolatry (physical idolatry—worshiping man-made objects of wood and metal). Ezekiel speaks throughout his book of such, and condemns the people for it.
Here, he describes how bad the problem had become: these same people, going out to Babylon, were about to carry images of the idols they were supposed to leave behind in their hearts!
They were “setting up” these idols upon their hearts so that, even when not physically present, they would be able to put them “before their faces.” What a tragedy! What an attachment to the idolatry they had become so accustomed to!
That’s what the passage is referring to. The idols (now in imagery)...
An excerpt, but read the whole thing:
By striving, self-consciously, to be as culturally transcendent as possible, I would argue, we can cultivate timeless, transgenerational bodies that do not need to reinvent themselves every quarter century to remain solvent.
Travel through any international airport in the world today, especially during the summer, and you will see them: in numbers large and small, youth, college, career, even senior citizens are headed to or returning from a short-term mission trip. Quite often, you can identify them from across the terminal by their pastel t-shirts that say “ABC Church Summer Mission Trip 2014.” These groups are as ubiquitous as ATMs! I have stood with them in aircraft boarding lines, check-in lines, and customs lines. Short-term mission teams are everywhere and their numbers are growing.
I have a significant personal history of short-term missions involvement. In college, I spent two summers on eight-week trips working on an Indian reservation in Manitoba. After graduation, I assumed the ministry of the missionary I had worked with and so became the recipient of more summer teams over the next several years. During my final eight years in Canada, the church I pastored sent out short-term teams. Finally, in the late 1990s, I started traveling internationally myself, teaching in Eastern Europe, Asia, and Africa. I have made twenty such trips over the past...
Love edifies. It builds up others. When Christians love other believers, they take concrete steps to help them spiritually. When God loves his people, he acts on that love by transforming us into people who glorify him (through justification and sanctification and the other benefits of our calling in Christ).
Love looks similar in our own lives. When we love God, we will want to see him glorified above all else. When we love others, the affection will move us to concrete actions that help those others magnify God’s glory. The Christian who loves another believer seeks to see that other grow in Christlikeness, the fruits of the Spirit, and the grace of God that alone will bring that other believer happiness and greater godliness. The believer who loves his brother wants to see his brother or sister’s spiritual advancement.
Knowledge puffs up. By itself, left in the hands of sinners, knowledge without love seeks to magnify self. We like to know what others do not know so that we can convince ourselves that we have an advantage over them. It gives us a sense of superiority to know more than others around us.
Knowledge itself is not bad. We are the...
I was recently made aware of an article on the Christianity Today web site about songwriter Melanie Penn. The following passage from the article is of particular note:
“All the songs [on her album] are ‘Christian’ in some way,” Penn said. “I’ve never written a song with Jesus’s name in it. But all of my songs are about Jesus, and they are all for his name.”
Penn says it’s a mantra she has learned at Redeemer [Presbyterian Church in New York City], from [Pastor Tim] Keller.
“There’s no distinction between ‘Christian’ and ‘non-Christian’ art,” she said. “If art is true and beautiful, then it has to point to Christ himself. Art makes us thankful. Art shows us there is more to life. Art awakens the soul.”
In other words, a song that makes no mention of Jesus, Scripture, the gospel, or anything explicitly Christian is still “Christian” music.
So this is Christian:
4 o’clock panic sets in
Thoughts don’t stop of us back then
I woke up...
No, I haven’t been looking into facelifts or a new Fountain of Youth. I’ve been researching my health issues for about a decade now, and I’ve found a new path in the journey that, I have faith, will not be another merry-go-round, but rather an escalator! This new direction is Creator-based, using nutrients He made to heal the body He made!
Up until now, for the joint pain and inflammation (which tested negative for arthritis, Lupus, and RA…but positive for fibromyalgia), the fatigue (which tested positive…again…for Epstein Barr virus) and migraines (for which I’ve been treated by a few chiropractors as well as having a CAT scan and going to physical rehab for the structural instability in my neck), I feel like my health has been on a dimmer switch, gradually brightening.
The MD’s concluded:
I’m a homeschooler, and creator of the Facebook group, “Schoolin’ Swag”. This past Monday, we hosted a huge giveaway event called the “Planner Palooza”, featuring over 25 prizes. It was a great event!
Well, I’ve been investigating planners for at least 3 years, and in preparation for the Palooza, I did research all over the web, looking for the best products I could find to offer. I thought I’d seen it all. Then I got an email from the Homeschool Buyer’s Co-Op and my life took a new turn!
The Co-Op offers “Homeschool Planet” (click <– that link to see a video!) exclusively. Right now there is an offer to check it out for free for 30 days. It looked interesting, and was totally...
Roger Goodell and the NFL absolutely dropped the ball on the Ray Rice domestic violence situation.
Rice knocked his then girlfriend/now wife (what was she thinking? Does she have no one speaking into her life?) unconscious in a hotel elevator. He is now suspended for two games of the 2014 season.
Yes, that’s not a typo. He knocked his girlfriend unconscious in a rage and is suspended for two games.
By comparison, Terrell Pryor pulled some shenanigans to avoid an NCAA suspension and get in the NFL through the supplemental draft and got a five game suspension before he was ever in the NFL.
A guy named Robert Mathis got four games for taking some fertility drugs to help his wife conceive. Yes, four games for trying to start a family with your wife. Two games for knocking out your soon-to-be wife.
Using marijuana will you get you a whole year in the NFL, even in states where it’s legal to smoke marijuana.
So assuming the rational position that the punishment should fit the crime, and that we reward or punish based on relative significance, the NFL has declared that beating a woman unconscious is not as significant as trying to have...
The end of the week brings thoughts of the end of the age. At least for me it does, as I finalize a message for tomorrow on Matthew 24 and the Olivet Discourse.
A lot could be said about this passage, but what gets my keyboard going today is Craig Blomberg’s comments in the NAC regarding the identity of the “great distress” (NIV) in Matthew 24:21. He says,
The concept of a period of unparalleled distress (based on Dan 12:1) causes problems. If these two verses simply depict the horrors surrounding the war of A.D. 70, it is hard to see how v. 21 could be true. If they point to some end-time sacrilege, just before the Parousia, then it is hard to see how Matthew allows for a gap of at least two thousand years between vv. 20–21.*
I think he is correct that these verses cannot describe the war of A. D. 70. There’s too much history of violence to identify that event as “unequaled from the beginning until now, and never to be equaled again.” Not to mention, the Bible describes a period just before the end that is even worse than A.D. 70. It might be that A.D. 70 is a type of some sort, or a downpayment of sorts on that which is to come. But it is...
One last post on Hobby Lobby, and then I am done … at least for now.
The Detroit Free Press reports recently that some Democrats in Congress are making plans to pass a law to override the recent SCOTUS decision in the HL religious freedom case. That has apparently now been refused, as a mentioned in a previous post.
This article shows that people with microphones in front of their face still don’t get it. Here are three examples of the absolute falsehoods being propagated by people who should know better.
Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow says, “I am eager to work with my colleagues to make sure that women are making health care decisions in consultation with their doctor, not their employer.”
Perhaps she was out of the country and just got back and hasn’t had time to read the news yet, but there is nothing in this decision that has anything to do with women and their doctors. The women who work at HL are still completely free to consult with their doctors, to use whatever birth control they desire, and to have an abortion if they so desire. This decision...
Person 1: We have to outlaw _________, because too many people are getting killed.
Person 2: If we outlaw that, then people will just get it through other means that won’t be as safe and controlled.
Person 1: That doesn’t matter. We have to do it anyway.
If you put “guns” in the blank, you probably tend towards the liberal end of the political spectrum in the USA.
If you put “abortion” in the blank, you probably tend towards the conservative end of the political spectrum in the USA.
Both sides tend to support the things they like and oppose (at least in voice) the things they dislike.
I am reminded of this recently when I see that some in our Congress have introduced a bill to override the recent decision of SCOTUS in the Hobby Lobby case. Word is that the GOP has rejected it.
Can you imagine the outrage if someone had introduced a bill to overturn SCOTUS in the ACA/Obamacare case?
Turns out you don’t have to imagine it. We have seen the outrage of people on the left when the GOP (rightly or wrongly) introduced bill after bill to overturn Obamacare. After the...
At first, jilted US soccer star Landon Donovan chimes in on the US departure from the World Cup. Whether or not he should have made the team (and can any seriously doubt that the departure of Altidore would have been less substantial with Donovan available?), his comments are correct. Klinsmann failed in his strategy. You can’t tilt that heavily too defense at that level of soccer. You give up too many opportunities, and eventually, a mistake is going to happen. It might be a mental mistake, a field condition like a slip or fall, or an unfortunate bounce. But it will happen. Disappointing, not that they lost, but that the game was the kind of game it was.
At second, US goalkeeper Tim Howard has been showered with praise for his efforts in the match against Belgium, and he deserves it. He did a magnificent job. However, a goal keeper should not be making sixteen saves in a game. That, in itself, revealed a bad game...
Over the past decade it has been popular to distinguish between “cultural fundamentalism” and “historic fundamentalism.” Cultural fundamentalism is regarded by its critics as very, very bad. It consists of folksy/outdated traditionalism that has drifted from its quaint, innocuous origins and has entered a bitter, skeptical stage of life—complete with theological errors of a sort that typically attend aging, countercultural movements. Historic fundamentalism, which focuses more on basic theological issues, fares a little bit better, but only a very little bit. Critics puzzle over those who accept this label, marveling that anyone would risk associative guilt by lingering near those nasty cultural fundamentalists: “Why not get with the program,” they ask, “and become a conservative evangelical?”
Part of the reason, I would venture, is that conservative evangelicalism itself appears, to all but those blinded by its euphoria, to be yet another cultural phenomenon—a new iteration of a broader movement (evangelicalism) that, let’s face it, has a track record easily as jaded as that of fundamentalism. True, the conservative evangelicals of today are a bit more...
In 1768 the French Enlightenment philosopher Voltaire wrote: “If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him.” Voltaire was not trying to denigrate Christianity. Rather, he was arguing for the social benefit of belief in God. He thought that belief in God helped provide incentive to people to live morally and helped establish social order and justice. Thus, if God did not exist, it would be better for society to convince people that God did exist.
There are a growing number of atheists in our day who are clamoring for the abolishment of religion. The late Christopher Hitchens was a leading voice in this movement, and he did not hide his contempt for Voltaire’s sentiment. “Though I dislike to differ with such a great man, Voltaire was simply ludicrous when he said that if god did not exist it would be necessary to invent him. The human invention of god is the problem to begin with” (God is Not Great, 96).
In response to these calls for the abolishment of religion, some are continuing to argue that religion, though perhaps (likely?) false, is still good. Thus, much of the discussion has moved past the question of whether or not...
The winner of our recent book giveaway was Chris K. in Clarkston, MI. His copy of Four Views on the Apostle Paul is in the mail. Congratulations, Chris. And thanks to all who participated.
Hopefully, at this point in the summer you’ve made a pretty good dent in your summer reading list. We’re looking to add one more title to that list, and we’re going to give a free copy of Four Views on the Apostle Paul (Zondervan, 2012) to someone who comments on this post.
In order to enter the drawing, you need to leave a comment below telling us the author and title of the best book you’ve read this summer (outside the Bible). The book can be fiction or non-fiction, academic or popular, long or short. It doesn’t matter. To be entered, you only need to tell us the title and author, but if you really enjoyed the book and want to tell us why, that would be great too.
The deadline to be entered in the drawing is 11 pm (EST), Wednesday, August 13.
It’s no secret that I have an abiding interest in the place and function of sanctification in the life of believers. The journey that began for me as a doctoral dissertation answering the Keswick model of sanctification that has historically punished dispensational fundamentalism has taken a new twist in recent years as a new threat has emerged within conservative evangelicalism: the gospel-driven sanctification approach most vividly seen in the writings of Tullian Tchividjian, but certainly not restricted to his sphere of influence.
In ultimate terms, I am not opposed to the label “gospel-driven” as applied to sanctification. My tension with the contemporary use of this label by those in the “contemporary grace movement” (as it is now being labeled in some Reformed circles) is that it restricts the gospel, in varying degrees, to Christ’s accomplishment of justification for us while giving scant attention given to Christ’s accomplishment of regeneration in us. As such, “gospel-driven” sanctification becomes, to a greater or lesser degree, an exercise in recalling Christ’s righteousness imputed in justification (with an attendant abhorrence of all that...
More info here.
I’m taking a little blogging break in July and early August so that I can focus on some other projects. God-willing, I’ll be back by mid-August.
The archives are open.
E.g., these two posts from 2014 have received the most views thus far this year:
These 30 posts from 2013 received the most views in 2013 (my favorites are #25 and #29):