2 Corinthians 13:14

SBC Convention 2016: Video Recap

My family and I made the trek from Florida to St. Louis, MO in June to attend the Southern Baptist Annual Convention. It was a long but very rewarding trip. On the way to St. Louis we made stops in Northern Alabama, to see family, and South East Missouri to visit our former church in Oak Ridge. It was so great to catch up and visit with folks that we deeply love and care for and to meet the new pastor and his wife.

The Convention itself in St. Louis was historic. I found myself challenged by messages and calls for action, encouraged by such sweet fellowship and unity, weeping and crying out to the Lord for our churches and convention, and refreshed by seeing God move during our time together.

I was blessed and challenged by the discussion on race and reconciliation (which came at a critical time in our nation). I was encouraged by our resolutions passed concerning the Confederate Flag, Marriage, and the tragedy in Orlando (notice the portion of the highlight video below that features James Merritt speaking about the Confederate Flag: it was powerful). I was moved in seeing the display of humility between J.D. Greear and Steve Gaines. And I was honored to represent First Baptist Hilliard, and be apart of such an significant time for our Convention.

Take a few moments to watch this video below that recaps the Convention.

Am I My Brother’s Keeper?

Like many in America, the events of this past week in Baton Rouge, Minneapolis, and Dallas affected me deeply.

de0I watched the videos online from Baton Rouge and Minneapolis on Thursday only to be glued to a the television that night while the tragedy in Dallas was unfolding. My heart is very heavy for our nation. Even heavier right now for “the church.” Our nation needs the church to be what the Scriptures call it to be. For too long we have been silent on issues, or on the wrong side of issues, that have deeply impacted and changed our nation into what it has become today (See R. Albert Mohler’s “We Cannot Be Silent). I take preaching the Bible very seriously and consider it a joyous labor to spend hours upon hours to prepare to preach three times a week. While I do not believe that politics or agendas should be preached, or that pastors should endorse candidates from the pulpit, it is unavoidable to speak about social problems because the Bible does just that.

This past Sunday I addressed the tragic events from this past week and the deaths of Alton Sterling (Baton Rouge), Philando Castile (Minneapolis), and officers Lorne Ahrens, Michael Krol, Michael J. Smith, Brent Thompson and Patrick Zamarripa (Dallas) and then I led our congregation in a special time of prayer. For context, my congregation is located in the South. We are predominantly white as a church and town. I can joyfully affirm that our church is not perfect but that our church is very loving and desires to be an obedient and biblical church and by God’s grace we will continue being an outpost of the kingdom of God in our community.

DPD-Patch-874x492I deeply respect the men and women who put on the uniform and protect and serve as officers in our country. I have had the great privilege of pastoring bailiffs, deputies, detectives, and officers and I have spent many hours praying for their safety, for wisdom in day to day matters, and that the Lord would use them as a means of bringing peace in the communities that I have lived in (Jeremiah 29:7). Even in the midst of the uncertainty and unrest within out nationI have family members who have felt the call to put on the uniform to be apart of the process of bringing peace and stability. While I’ll admit my praying has increased and that I fear for them, I understand that it is the Lord is answering my prayers for our nation by stirring the hearts of men and women to serve and protect for such a time as this.

The Dallas Police Department has been heroic. Chief David Brown has been heroic. The nation has much to learn from this great department and their leader. When gunshots began to ring out Thursday night officers of the Dallas Police Department were selfless in protecting protesters and running toward the fire. The actions of the gunman were demonic and satanic and have rightly been denounced by even those who were there protesting in Dallas. We mourn with the families who have lost loved ones and the officers who have lost partners and friends and continue to pray for those who were wounded by this attack.

While we pray for those mourning in Dallas, and for all of our officers nation-wide, we must also remember to pray for the families of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile as they mourn the loss of their loved ones.

I confess that the first time I heard the phrase “Black Lives Matter” I responded the same way most White-Americans have by rebutting the statement with “All Lives Matter.”

I confess that I really never “listened” to the cry and the heartbeat of those who have been mistreated and oppressed.

I confess to being part of the reason why a movement such as “Black Lives Matter” had to begin outside of evangelicalism because I, as an evangelical, was silent.

I have been reminded of Zechariah 7:9-14  which states:

“Thus says the LORD of hosts, Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another, do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor, and let none of you devise evil against another in your heart.” But they refused to pay attention and turned a stubborn shoulder and stopped their ears that they might not hear. They made their hearts diamond-hard lest they should hear the law and the words that the LORD of hosts had sent by his Spirit through the former prophets. Therefore great anger came from the LORD of hosts. “As I called, and they would not hear, so they called, and I would not hear,” says the LORD of hosts, “and I scattered them with a whirlwind among all the nations that they had not known. Thus the land they left was desolate, so that no one went to and fro, and the pleasant land was made desolate.”

Israel was called to by the Lord to be light to the nations (Exodus 19) and yet the failed. How did they fail? By being people who were unjust and disobedient to God’s Word. The prophets Isaiah (1:17), Jeremiah (21:12), and Micah (6:8) called out to Israel to repent and to show mercy and to be just, but as Zechariah recalls…the message fell on deaf ears. In the spirit of Cain, Israel said “am I my brothers keeper? (Genesis 4)” In Matthew 23 :23 Jesus issues woes to the Pharisees because they neglected the weightier matters of the law…”justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.”

That is why I could no longer be silent.

Israel was judged and exiled for neglecting the oppressed. The Pharisees were issued woes by our Lord Jesus because while they were religious on the outside they neglected justice and mercy. John 8 and 1 John 3 make it clear that the Pharisees followed after Cain and after Satan. As those who claim to be followers of Christ we must not follow in the steps of Israel and the Pharisees and ignore the Word of God. We must seek justice and love kindness and mercy and we must walk humbly with our God (Micah 6:8).

In the New Testament, Jesus sums up the law by stating we should “…love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:30-31).  Paul echoes this in Galatians 5:13-15 and Romans 12:

Galatians 5:13-15

“For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.

Romans 12:9-21

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

The problem with our nation is not a skin problem, it is not a political problem, it is a sin problem.  The Church has THE message to address this sin problem…it is the gospel of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-6). This message must be preached (Romans 10) but it must also be lived (Romans 12).

In my sermon I echoed the words of Mika Edmondson who states that while “the church cannot affirm [the] Black Lives Matter leaders’ view of sexuality. We must maintain a biblically rooted sexual ethic. Nevertheless, we must critically engage the ethical questions they raise and decry the injustices they’ve highlighted.” Edmondson also stalest that…

…Black Lives Matter does not mean “black lives matter only.” It means “black lives matter too.” It’s a contextualized statement, like saying “children’s lives matter.” That doesn’t mean adult lives don’t matter. But in a culture that demeans and disparages them, we understand we have to say forthrightly and particularly that children’s lives matter. In the face of a historic and contemporary context that has uniquely disparaged black life as not worth valuing or protecting in the same way as others, they are saying black lives matter just as much as every other life. Ironically, saying “Black Lives Matter” is really a contextualized way of saying, “All Lives Matter…”

“The Black Lives Matter movement is best understood as one modern expression of a 350-year-old struggle to affirm the dignity of black life in a society that has systematically and historically denied it. The black church has been its most consistent champion, providing the theological foundation and often the only platform for the full affirmation of the humanity and dignity of African Americans.”

Edmondson is helpful in pointing out the main goals of the “Black Lives Matter” movement are

  1. To make the suffering of the oppressed visible and unable to be communally ignored
  2. To see black liberation as a key to communal liberation for all peoples.
  3. To reject social passivity on the one hand and violent militancy on the other.

In these, the church should agree and should proclaim more loudly than any movement of its kind. To this end Edmondson states”

“There are enough major differences to say Black Lives Matter is not an extension or rebirth of the Civil Rights Movement. Still, I strongly recommend full engagement with the concept and critical engagement with the movement, especially since there’s no evangelical alternative to Black Lives Matter. It grieves me deeply to say there’s no evangelical movement robustly, consistently, and practically affirming the value of disparaged black people. So we must be careful how we criticize Black Lives Matter in the absence of an evangelical alternative.”

To that end I called our church to engage. Not to blindly affirm all actions or statements made by the leaders of the “Black Live Matter” movement, but to speak louder and more passionately that black lives really do matter.

So how do we respond to the events of the past week?

We do not respond like Cain by asking “am I my bother’s keeper.” No, instead…

We weep with those who weep…we be open to correction…we engage racial tension…we submit to the entirety of Scripture…we pray to Jesus, who is the only one who can empathize and bring healing…we preach and live lives that reflect the coming kingdom of Jesus…and we love because Christ first loved us.

Take time and read from some very helpful resources listed below.

****“Is Black Lives Matter the New Civil Rights Movement?”

****“Ugly Stain, Beautiful Hope: My Response to Mika Edmondson”

“How Can Blacks and Whites Stand Together on Racial Injustice?”

“The Recent Shootings and What to Say This Sunday”

“How to Pray in Our Time of National Crisis”

“Police Shootings, Racial Justice, and the Church”

“Can We Weep Together? Bringing Peace to Racial Pain”

“5 ways to respond to recent violence”

“Weeping with those who weep”

“How Pastors Can Address the Shootings This Sunday”

“How to pray for the police”

“A pastor’s thoughts on the recent tragedies”

Black and Tired, Blue in the Face: An Evangelical Response to the Shootings

Per the Facebook page of the Dallas Police Department donations to assist the families of the officers who were slain and wounded can be made at http://atodallas.org/; http://www.dallasfoundation.org/; or www.dallasfof.org

Holy is the Everlasting God

Having attended Southern Seminary from 2008-2011, I was greatly impacted by sitting under the teaching of Dr. James Hamilton. You can follow his blog here. Dr. Hamilton became pastor at Kenwood Baptist Church in 2009 and last year their church (under the direction of Matt Damico) produced a mini album entitled “No Grave Could Keep.” In a day when music written specifically for churches is becoming watered down, repetitional, and more emotional than theological…the team at Kenwood have produced some very refreshing and biblical songs.

This past Sunday I introduced a couple of new songs from the Kenwood Album, one of which was “Holy is the Everlasting God.” 

Here is the lyrics and audio of Holy is the Everlasting God…

Holy is the Everlasting God 
Words and Music by Matt Damico 

Verse 1
Before the mountains and the sea, before the land and sky 
Before the worlds were called to be by ancient, sov’reign cry 
From days of old, for years untold, the Father, Spirit, Son 
The radiance of Your glory none had seen 
Verse 2 
Then from the dust, first man You made, and from the rib his wife 
The garden You made their domain, that they might give it life 
You bid them, spread, to ev’ry end, to make Your glory known 
That all who bear Your image would proclaim

Chorus
Holy is the everlasting God, enthroned above, yet near the humble heart 
He reigns, oh let the earth rejoice, let all his people lift their voice 
Holy is the everlasting God 

Verse 3 
Your name was marred by man’s disgrace, Your righteousness we scorned 
But taking flesh, taking our place, in Christ our sin was borne 
In Him our death was put to rest, in love He took our nails 
By faith we rise with Him who overcame.

Verse 4 
Your gospel goes to spread Your fame to ev’ry tribe on earth 
That all who hear the Savior’s name behold His endless worth.
From Calv’ry’s hill the earth will fill with the glory of our God 
When every nation joins in heaven’s praise

© 2015 Matt Damico

 

In “Holy is the Everlasting God” I specifically like that the trajectory the songs takes us on as we think about creation, the garden, the fall, the cross, and the mission of the church. Musically, I think the song is well written and can easily be adapted to fit your church’s ministry. Whether led by piano, guitar, a band, or an orchestra this is a song that can easily be worked into your worship rotation and one that your people will greatly benefit from singing. A song like this is a great tool to help remind us of the story line of Scripture…a story we (the church) are apart of…a story of redemption and grace.

Enjoy!

 

 

Carl F. H. Henry’s “The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism”

Henry, Carl F.H., The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism. Originally published 1947; reprinted, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003. 89 pp. $15.50.

henry uneasy conscienceIt is rare that an author can write a short, but profound work. Even more rare is a book that is relevant in its current day, and still relevant fifty years later. The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism by Carl. F. H. Henry is such a book. Based on lectures to students delivered at Gordon College of Theology and Missions, Henry’s work is a call to against detached fundamentalism and social gospel liberalism. In the Foreword to the the 2003 edition of the book Richard Mouw is correct that Henry’s work is not a “museum” peace (ix). While certain circumstances and conditions have changed within out country the essential message of Henry’s work, addressing evangelical failures and calling for renewal, remains as important today as it did in 1947.
The book consists of a Foreword by Richard Mouw who speaks of the continued impact and relevance of Henry’s book. A Preface, from Henry himself, in which he states his concerns of Fundamentalism and the need to return to Scripture. Henry states “The hour is ripe now, if we seize it rightly, for a rediscovery of the Scriptures and of the meaning of the Incarnation for the human race” (xvi). Having just come off WWII Henry was concerned because “…we have not applied the genius of our position constructively to those problems which press most for a solution in a social way” (xvii). Next in the Introduction, Harold Ockenga boldly states that “the church needs a progressive Fundamentalism with a social message” (xx). According to Ockenga, Henry’s work is a healthy “antidote” to the Fundamentalist aloofness in a distraught world (xxii).
The main body of the book consists of eight short chapters. In Chapter 1 Henry chides Fundamentalist for being quiet on social ills. In a company of more than 100 evangelical pastors and leaders Henry found that not one had preached against any of the most prevalent social ills of his day (4). While Fundamentalist have a good understanding of the condition of man in his sinful state they are quiet in regards to the main social ills plaguing society. In turn, this causes non-evangelicals to question whether or not to wonder if there “…is something in the very nature of Fundamentalism which makes a world ethic view impossible” (11).

In Chapters 2 and 3 Henry warns against divorcing doctrine from ethic. Henry state that historically “Christianity embraced a life view as well as a world view; it was socially as well as philosophically pertinent” (18). While Liberals are embracing the social gospel, Fundamentalist are ignoring social ills. There must be balance. That balance is found in both the Old and New Testaments in which “..there is but one sure foundation for a lasting civilization, and its cornerstone is a vital knowledge of the redemptive God” (31).
Next, in Chapters 4 and 5 Henry speaks against those whose eschatology has caused them to become spectators, rather than ambassadors, of the kingdom of God. Particularly, Henry speaks against Dispensationalist and Amillennialist who are looking toward the future while forgetting the present. Instead, believers (of all eschatological views) must understand the dire needs of today. To illustrate this, Henry walks through the illustration of the two chiefs upon the cross.

Finally, in chapters 6 through 8 Henry begins working toward a solution. First, evangelicals must work toward developing literature so that “…evangelicalism…contends for a fair hearing for the Christian mind among other minds, in secular education” (68). Secondly, evangelicalism must press their worldview among the masses and be an active presence in society. In summary, our actions must match our message.

At the heart of Henry’s book is balance. When someone becomes unbalanced toward either Liberalism or Fundamentalism the kingdom of God suffers. That is what makes Henry’s work so valuable. He calls out both sides as being in error. As Liberals moved toward a social gospel, Fundamentalist became detached from society. In my opinion it is easy for evangelicals to look at Liberalism and feel superiority for having a more robust soteriology and and over all theology. But when Fundamentalist evangelicals divorce theology and ethics then they too are imbalanced. While there are many voices against Liberalism, Henry was certainly in the minority for voicing concerns against Fundamentalism but I am so glad that he did and I agree with his assessment.

Eschatology has a major impact on how someone views social ills. Jeremiah 29 came to mind while reading Henry’s book. Specifically verse 7 which states “But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” Evangelicals must be concerned with the welfare of our current world. Our practice must match our message. It would have been tempting for Israel to put life on hold and live miserably in Babylon but such is not the way of the kingdom of God. When the church has a correct eschatology it will seek the welfare of the city while advancing the message of redemption in Jesus Christ in the same breath. While views on eschatology are shifting, the temptation is to shift from one extreme to another and in doing so Henry’s message of balance will continue to be relevant to each generation.
Henry is right to state that Christianity “offers not only a higher ethical standard than any other system of thought, but provides also in Christ a dynamic to lift humanity to its highest level of moral achievement” (75). When the church is obedient it affects society for the good of everyone. Present day evangelism must turn away from our “mega” church buildings and bigger staff mentality and be an active presence in society. While this generations is different from the “Builder” generation that Henry spoke against, the temptations are the same. We must not neglect the needs of our society. Henry’s message is still relevant today, calling us to be balanced in our theology and our ethics in the midst of uneasiness.

Onward by Russell Moore

Russell Moore. Onward: Engaging the Culture Without Losing the Gospel. Nashville, TN: B&H, 2015. 240 pp. $24.99.

onward

Onward, by Dr. Russell Moore, is a very timely book in which he address how Christians should be engaging (and not retracting from) the culture. In the acknowledgements Moore notes that in some sense he has “been writing this book all of my life, seeking to articulate what I believe about the relationship between the kingdom of God and the cultures of this present era” (223). This book is about the importance of eschatology in the life of Christians and how it affects our worldview and ethics. In the introduction and beginning chapters Dr. Moore address the current state of the church within a radically changing American culture. Many within the church our outraged in the direction that America is heading politically and morally but as Moore states “…the future of the church is incandescently bright” (3). The reason for optimism is not found within the constitution or the promises of democracy…the reason for hope I because Jesus has said that “I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). Based on the promise of Christ Moore can boldly (and correctly) state “The Bible Belt is teetering toward collapse, and I say let it fall” (3).

For too long Christians in America have associated Christianity with being an American and assumed that there were more of “us” than “them.” But as Moore rightly notes “the problem was that, from the very beginning, Christian values were always more popular in American culture that the Christian gospel” (6). For too long we have lived in what we thought was a “Christian” America, but that was never the reality because the gospel was compromised. At best it was an “almost” Christianity. Moore sees the decline of the Bible Belt as an opportunity to reclaim authentic Christianity in which the world will see us as “strange.” He notes “the strangeness of Christianity will force the evaporation of those who identify with the almost-gospel of Jesus as a means for American morality, and it can force the church to articulate, explicitly, the otherness of the gospel” (7). This should not cause a retraction (like we have seen from churches) but a genuine engagement with the culture in which we proclaim good news of the kingdom of God. As Moore puts it “We must put priority put priority where Jesus put it, on the kingdom of God” (8).

The Introduction, and Chapter 1 address our current state of the church. While it seems we our losing our culture, the truth is we never had it. Instead we had a false sense of “God and Country” as authentic Christianity which is false and hopefully will fade away. While it is falling away we do not need to fear but to seek to be authentic Christians who are pursuing the kingdom of God. To do this we realize that we are a minority but one that is prophetic. As a prophetic minority we seek to engage the culture with the gospel, the good news of the kingdom of God. Moore, then walks his readers through a correct and biblical understanding of the Kingdom, Culture, and Mission in the following chapters. Next, he specifically address issues of human dignity, religious liberty, and facility stability before describing the importance of conviction all kindness. Chapter 10 and the Conclusion wrap-up the book in which Moore calls on Christians to be “..Christ shaped, kingdom-first culture warriors”…because the gospel we have received “isn’t just strange to the culture around us; it’s strange to us too. That’s what makes it good news (222).

I finished Onward over the weekend. It is very well written and very compelling and convictional. As a pastor I see the issues that Moore raises all too often as people argue not for authentic Christianity but for an “almost-Christianity” that makes them feel good about themselves but never leads them to repentance or obedience to the gospel. Particularly, this year is pivotal in American history, but it is also pivotal for the church. I fear that we could easily go back to this almost-Christianity in which we compromise the gospel in order to get what we think are back to the “good ole days.”

I believe that an incorrect view of eschatology is the problem of this idea of American Christianity and that Moore nails it on the head by emphasizing that a correct view of eschatology does not lead to retraction but to engagement. It does not see doom…it see opportunity. I share in this optimism of Dr. Moore, not because I think he is stating something new…but because he is basing it off of something old. The promise of Christ as found within the Bible. As the church we see our numbers decreasing and we see the culture declining and if we do not have a firm biblical foundation and understanding of the future then it will lead us to rage. Those who are raging must repent and return to biblical Christianity and abandon American Christianity.

CZBABd8WEAQ4kK4.jpg-large

Moore, and other Evangelicals, has been very vocal about their concerns for Donald Trump because he is the epitome of the old “American Christianity” and he is appealing to those who think they have lost a culture they never had. Why is this so important? Because it is a gospel issue. If politics drives the gospel, instead of the gospel driving politics, then, as pictured, “we end up with a public witness in which Mormon talk-show hosts, serially monogamous casino magnates and prosperity-gospel preachers are welcomed into our ranks, regardless of what violence they do to the gospel” (22). Our desires should not be to return to the false sense of the good-ole days…we should press on, recovering authentic Christianity in which we become concerned for God’s Kingdom and not our own…in which as a prophetic minority, we actively engage the culture with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Dr. Moore also acknowledges the impact of Carl F. H. Henry’s book The Uneasy Conscience of Fundamentalism and in the same spirit of Henry, Moore is echoing the call to kingdom ethics and engagement in our culture with the gospel.

Onward is a must read for pastors, as we seek to be faithful shepherds who guard our flocks from (or call repentance from) this false idea of “God and Country.” We must get our priorities aligned with the priorities of Jesus…and his priorities are the kingdom of God. 2016 is a critical year for our nation and our churches…start off the year right by reading this book from Dr. Russell Moore.

**I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”**

Worldview and Ethics in “The Devil Wears Prada”

I hate to admit that 1.) That I have watched the film “The Devil Wears Prada” and 2.) It was one of the first illustrations that came to mind as I was sitting
in class last week at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.MBTS logo The class was on biblical Worldviews and Ethics and Dr. Thor Madsen was describing how the influence that philosophers (like Plato, Aristotle, Kant, Nietzsche, and most recently John Rawls) affect our current ways of thinking. In our day to day lives we fail to see how past thinkers have shaped the way we currently think. As Christians we are called to be thinkers, we are called to know…Paul prays in Ephesians 3 that his readers would KNOW Jesus, more and more. Knowledge and rational thinking are a very important part of our faith. While some philosophers (such as Immanuel Kant) believe that it is impossible to “know” things about God from nature…Paul makes it very clear in Romans 1 that God does make things clear through nature and that humanity is without excuse.

If we are not careful though, we will fail to realize that we are being influenced by old (and unbiblical) ways of thinking, and we will be deceived by new ideologies that are not new at all but just receruleaun-blue-lecture dwprada2-hashed and re-packaged philosophies. In the movie, (The Devil Wears Prada) Andrea (played by Anne Hathaway) is a journalist major who has recently graduated from college and is looking for a job. While she is unable to land an actual job in journalism she stumbles upon a job working for Miranda Priestly (played by Meryl Streep) at Runway magazine. Andrea cares nothing about fashion herself and while Miranda is trying to make a tough decision about an accessory Andrea smirks. Andrea does not see the point of why the decision is hard…and that is when Miranda explains the power of her influence and thinking by dissecting the sweater that Andrea is wearing. She states..

You think this has nothing to do with you. You go to your closet and you select… I don’t know… that lumpy blue sweater, for instance because you’re trying to tell the world that you take yourself too seriously to care about what you put on your back. But what you don’t know is that that sweater is not just blue, it’s not turquoise. It’s not lapis. It’s actually cerulean. And you’re also blithely unaware of the fact that in 2002, Oscar de la Renta did a collection of cerulean gowns. And then I think it was Yves Saint Laurent… wasn’t it who showed cerulean military jackets? I think we need a jacket here. And then cerulean quickly showed up in the collections of eight different designers. And then it, uh, filtered down through the department stores and then trickled on down into some tragic Casual Corner where you, no doubt, fished it out of some clearance bin. However, that blue represents millions of dollars and countless jobs and it’s sort of comical how you think that you’ve made a choice that exempts you from the fashion industry when, in fact, you’re wearing the sweater that was selected for you by the people in this room from a pile of stuff.

Andrea, in thinking that she is free from fashion choices, fails to see that they have been made for her. While fashion is important to an extent…the point of the illustration is that dwprada1we are guilty of the same charged, but with something much more important that fashion. We are guilty of letting others think for us and from how we process and break down the world around us. As Christians we believe in General Revelation and Special Revelation. Psalm 19 states ”  The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” We can know things about ourselves, our world and God because of general revelation. the first half of Psalm 19 speaks to this fact, but the second half speaks to Special Revelation. The second half of Psalm 19 makes it clear that while the heavens declare there is a God, the Bible reveals His name and character.

As the church, we must be people of thought and knowledge…thought and knowledge that is deeply informed and shaped by the Scriptures. Humans, created in the image of God cannot help but to worship, and evangelize, and disciple, but when we neglect the Scriptures then we are allowing ourselves to become disciples of something other than Jesus. You are always being discipled and trained and doing the same to others…do not think that this not important. Scripture intake and reading must be prioritized in a Christian’s life…there are no excuses…and there is no time to waste. Be informed Christian…not primarily by s news station on TV or radio…be informed by diving and dwelling and meditating on God’s Word so that as Paul states in Ephesians 4 that you may no longer be tossed to a fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes…but would instead…speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:14-15).

#TBT Illumination Meditation

throwback_thursday

In Ephesians 1:15-23 Paul has yet another long sentence (169 words in the Greek) in which he offers a thanksgiving and a prayer for his readers. As a pastor I echo these words for not only my congregation but our current generation…that our eyes and hearts would be illuminated to the beauty of Christ and the Gospel. The bigger your view of God becomes, the more you reverently fear and obey him.

In 1:15-16 Paul gives thanks that he has heard of their salvation and love for one another. Christians are those who have faith in Jesus and love for one another. Reflecting on the entire passage I asked three questions. For verses 15-16 I asked “Are we thankful that God saves sinners?” It might sound ridiculous to ask that but there are ways in which we can view others and act toward others in which our actions would be communicating that we are not thankful that God saves sinners. The Bible is the great equalizer for humanity…it declares throughout we are all sinners who have earned death and damnation. There’s not one sinner better than another…we are all deserving of death. And yet when we refuse to obey the Great Commission and take the gospel to our neighbors…our actions are saying “we are not thankful that God saves.”

Secondly, I asked “Are you asking God for Illumination and Wisdom?” 17-19. Once, you have tasted and seen how wonderful Jesus is…everything else pales in comparison. It is like eating a really awesome steak for the first time. Once you have tasted that steak…McDonald’s is just not as appealing…and now you have an appetite for steak. Paul prays here that his readers would find their identity in the Gospel (the hope of the world), understand their eternal security, and know the true power of God.

It’s hard to imagine…but believer, you are valuable to God. We literally have nothing to offer to Him and yet He lavishes His grace on us. You may not “feel” that you are valuable…but emotions and feelings can not be trusted because they fluctuate. But the truth is, is that you ARE VALUABLE to God. Lean on truth, not emotions. Live and walk in truth, not circumstances. Pray that God would give you wisdom and knowledge of the gospel and how sweat Jesus is. 

Finally,  “Are you resting in the resurrection of Christ?” 20-23. Life has meaning, history has a purposes and a direction because Jesus has overcame sin and death and is resurrected. In these verses Paul pulls from Psalm 8:6 and Genesis 1:26-28 in emphasizing that far above Adam and David (Israel) Jesus now has dominion over EVERYTHING. Where Adam and Israel failed…Jesus did not, and he has overcome death and the grave and is seated at the right hand of the Father. As Christians then we don’t fear evil and this world because we know God has subjected it all under the feet of Jesus.

Show that you are thankful that God saves sinners by intentionally sharing the gospel.         Pray and ask for a Spirit of Wisdom and revelation so that your view of Jesus increases. Rest in the resurrection, fear not, Jesus is alive and will one day return. 

Even so, come Lord Jesus!

you can listen to the sermon here.   
 

 

Come Behold The Wondrous Mystery

I love music…I remember being in a “praise band” in High School when Delirious and Passion came out with wonderful and riveting praise songs. When it came to worship music I am extremely thankful that I was taught balance and depth…to really think and understand what I was singing or leading others in singing. I have no preference for style but care very much about the depth and theological statement of a song. Some traditional hymns have great theology…others do not. Some modern praise songs are filled with Scripture…others could be sung to a boyfriend/girlfriend with no change of the lyrics.

For those who have not heard, let me introduce you to a wonderful…new(er)…hymn. Isn’t that strange to hear…new hymn? The reason new hymns are being written is because “Millennials” (those born between 1980-2000) when polled have made it clear…we care about authenticity and depth more than style. Anyways, you can listen to the song/hymn below and follow the lyrics (which are great…).

 

VERSE 1
Come behold the wondrous mystery
In the dawning of the King
He the theme of heaven’s praises
Robed in frail humanity

In our longing, in our darkness
Now the light of life has come
Look to Christ, who condescended
Took on flesh to ransom us
VERSE 2
Come behold the wondrous mystery
He the perfect Son of Man
In His living, in His suffering
Never trace nor stain of sin

See the true and better Adam
Come to save the hell-bound man
Christ the great and sure fulfillment
Of the law; in Him we stand

VERSE 3
Come behold the wondrous mystery
Christ the Lord upon the tree
In the stead of ruined sinners
Hangs the Lamb in victory

See the price of our redemption
See the Father’s plan unfold
Bringing many sons to glory
Grace unmeasured, love untold

VERSE 4
Come behold the wondrous mystery
Slain by death the God of life
But no grave could e’er restrain Him
Praise the Lord; He is alive!

What a foretaste of deliverance
How unwavering our hope
Christ in power resurrected
As we will be when he comes

What a foretaste of deliverance
How unwavering our hope
Christ in power resurrected
As we will be when he comes

– Matt Boswell, Michael Bleecker, Matt Papa 2013

#TBT Sermon Review

Throwback-Thursday-1024x274

As a Husband, Father, and Pastor…I make plans all of the time. Good plans. Well thought out plans. I like to plan and know what is going on in the days, months, and years ahead. Unfortunately, plans changes…good ideas flop…well thought out plans need adjustments or changes. Even though I like to plan…my plans are not infallible.

However, the Bible makes it clear that 1.) Before the foundations of the world, God had a plan 2.) Nothing can thwart that plan 3.) We should trust in what God has said and live by faith, not fear.

This past Sunday I preached from Ephesians 1:3-14 at First Baptist Church Hilliard. Instead of the normal greeting or thanksgiving (Eph 1:15-23), Paul begins this circular letter with a berakah (a declarative praise found through out the Old Testament and also found in 2 Corinthians and 1 Peter) as he reflects on the amazing fact that God saves sinners. Verses 3-14 comprise one long, 202 word, sentence in the Greek and begin and end with the focus on Praise to the Triune God.

I broke down the passage into three sections.

  1. God is worthy of our praise…
    …because the Father chose us 1:3-6
  2. God is worthy of our praise…
    …because the Son has redeemed us 1:7-10
  3. God is worthy of our praise…
    …because the Spirit seals us 1:11-14

Words like “chosen” and “predestined” should not cause fear and anxiety since they are biblical words and themes found throughout all of the Bible. In fact, most of the time these words are used by the biblical authors to bring comfort and hope. Unfortunately, many have an unbalanced view of Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility. An excellent resource on this issue is the book PROOF by Daniel Montgomery and Timothy Paul Jones which I have reviewed in a previous post.

A balanced view of Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility is very important…on the one hand if we are imbalanced we become man centered in our evangelism and rely on manipulative practices instead of the power of the gospel to save. On the other hand, we can become theological snobs in which we disassociate ourselves with others Christians and stop evangelizing non-Christians. If head knowledge does not affect our heart…we’ve missed the point. So how do we balance Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility? Free Will and Election? I believe the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 is the best statement regarding  this issue.

             V. God’s Purpose of Grace

Election is the gracious purpose of God, according to which He regenerates, justifies, sanctifies, and glorifies sinners. It is consistent with the free agency of man, and comprehends all the means in connection with the end. It is the glorious display of God’s sovereign goodness, and is infinitely wise, holy, and unchangeable. It excludes boasting and promotes humility.

Election should not hinder missions…it should fuel it.

Review of “We Cannot be Silent” by Albert Mohler

I am grateful for HarperCollins for sending me an advance copy of Dr. R. Albert Mohler’s new We Cannot Be Silent, which releases October 27th. The book has already gained a lot of attention from news media outlets like  51viQCZlcvL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_The Courier-JournalUSA Today, and The Huffington Post just to name a few. Unfortunately, most media outlets have only focused on the final chapter of the book which essentially is a Q&A chapter covering multiple issues. The final chapter though, is not the essence or point of the book…it is simply a Q&A in which Mohler tackles very difficult questions. While many are only focusing on a few answers from Mohler (comprising of 3 pages out of 200!) what the news media is not doing is focusing on the main argument, or point of the book.

While Mohler gracefully and compassionately answers tough questions about whether or not a Christian can celebrate and attend a same-sex wedding, the essence of his book is not boycott, ridicule, judge, or hate. The essence of Mohler’s book is compassion. A call for Christians to repent of their distorted views of marriage, sex, and reproduction, and to return to the truths found within the Bible. Christians should not distance themselves from those in the LGBT (or whatever acronym is being used) crowd, but to compassionately engage them with the Gospel. This will require Christians to have a firm understanding of where our country is, how we got here, where we are going, and how we have failed in many ways concerning these issues.

It would have been easy for Mohler to appeal to the to the “Extreme-Right” and make this book a battle cry to “take back” what has been lost concerning marriage. The book would have probably been more popular (unfortunately) if that was Mohler’s agenda, but it is not. Mohler writes specifically to pastors and leaders within Christianity, but the book is applicable for all Christians (and spoiler…I recommend this book as a MUST read for all pastors and leaders but essentially Mohler’s book is a must read for ALL Christians). Mohler’s message to Christians is to repent and be compassionate.

In the Preface Mohler states “This book is about this moral revolution, how it happened and what it means for us, for our churches, and for our children. It is important to trace the revolution and understand that the most heated controversies of our day did not emerge from a vacuum onto the daily headlines. Every revolution has a story, and the story of this revolution is one that we can now trace. To put the truth plainly, this revolution did not start with same-sex marriage, and it will not end there. (xi-xii)…This book is written in hope that the church will be found faithful, even in the midst of the storm (xv).”

Quite frankly, the church has failed to have a biblical view of sex, marriage, and reproduction for a long time. We should not be surprised at the progression our country has taken. Chapter 1 explains exactly where our country is…in the midst of a moral and sexual revolution in which anyone opposed to the new way of thinking is demonized for beliefs that have been held by societies for over two thousand years (and more). This chapter elevates the seriousness of our situation and looks at the heart of the issue and not just the symptoms.

Chapter 2 is a fascinating chapter in which Mohler explains how the development of birth control and contraceptions, divorce (specifically no-fault divorce), advanced reproductive technologies, and cohabitation have set the stage for the arrival of same-sex marriages. While the church mostly ignored these issues (instead focusing on lesser issues) the progression for our current day was already set in stone many decades ago. The language and terminology used in major court decisions concerning these issues paved the way to how our courts have made recent decisions.

In Chapter 3 the developments of the homosexual movement is put within the context of that moral revolution and in Chapter 4 Dr. Mohler takes a closer look at same-sex marriage itself. Mohler states “Discovering how this happened is essential for Christians who are trying to live faithfully on the other side of this moral revolution (33).”   Again Mohler’s work in these two chapters is very fascinating. He pinpoints a key book entitled “After the Ball: How America Will Conquer Its Fear & Hatred of Gays in the 90s”  by Marshall Kirk and Hunter Madsen in which the quintessential strategy for what became a gay-rights revolution was laid out. Of course that strategy alone could not have been successful without the significant help of liberal Bible scholars, theologians, and religious leaders who declare that the church was in error and needed changing.

Mohler comments (and rightly so) “At this point, we must respond with a sobering reality that America has never been nearly as Christian as many conservative Christians have claimed (43).” The false idea that America is or ever was a “Christian” nation hopefully has been dismissed. While certainly there are some aspects of Christianity at the heart of our constitution there are also Deistic and other principles found as well. Instead of fighting for ideologies or false understandings of our nations past, Christians need to make the Gospel their primary effort in spreading

Next, in Chapters 5 and 6 Mohler discusses the transgender revolution, the early affects we are seeing, the progression we are on, and how the church should respond. Again, Mohler encourages compassion and awareness while also affirming the Gospel can change anyone in any situation.  Mohler then goes on in the next chapter to describe how the progression we are currently on essentially means the end of marriage. Again Mohler emphasizes that damage done by heterosexuals has caused the current crisis.

Concerning gay families Mohler makes a tough, but much needed statement when he says, “… we must always be ready to state publicly our gladness that children are cared for, even as we assert the deficiencies of the home in which these adopted children find greater security, love, nurture, and comfort. This will require Christians to form a more mature and theologically sustainable arguments than we have brought to the public square in the past. Frankly, we will make fools of ourselves if we suggest that it would be better for children to be cosigned to the anonymous social welfare system, with little hope of eventual rescue, then to be adopted by homosexual parents who deeply desire to invest themselves in the are and nurturing of children (93).”   That does not mean that we forget and continue to fight for the true context of human flourishing (within a husband and wife relationship), but that we do so with compassion and biblical conviction.

Next, in Chapter 7 Dr. Mohler does a brief biblical theology of sex. Though brief, this chapter is filled with solid biblical exposition. In this chapter Mohler corrects new and wrong interpretations that are taken out of context in order to blur and excuse sin. He rightly states that, “In the end the church will either declare the truth of God’s Word, or it will find a way to run away from it. It ultimately comes down to trust. Do we trust the Bible to tell us truthfully what God desires and commands about sexuality (118)?” 

In Chapter 8 Mohler explains the issue between religious liberty verses erotic liberty and how those fighting for erotic liberty are essentially arguing for the end of religious liberty. Instead, those who speak in opposition to the moral revolution are declared to be making “hate speech” and erotic liberty is trumping religious liberty and freedom of speech. Mohler states, “Even while religious liberty is supposedly recognized and affirmed, it is often being transformed and minimized…President Obama himself, has shifted his language from “freedom of religion” to “freedom of worship” (127). While the difference seems subtle it is profound. Worship is restricted to the confines of a building while religion can be practiced in the public sphere. “Freedom of worship essentially muzzles the Christian in the public square.”

Finally, Chapter 9 is a profound and biblical call for Christians to repent of our failures and sins and to compassionately be obedient to the Great Commission. Mohler specifically notes how evangelicals have sinned against homosexuals “by speaking carelessly about the true nature of their sin (143).” Mohler mentions several other ways that evangelicals have sinned against homosexuals…again calling for repentance and change. As mentioned before, media outlets have completely missed the point of this book. While Chapter 10 is a Tour de France of answering tough questions, Mohler is not advocating boycotting or abandoning or running away from the culture issues that are present. Mohler rightly calls for Christians to compassionately engage our culture with the gospel.

This is a must read for church leaders, members, pastors…every Christian should read this book from Dr. R. Albert Mohler. Critics would be wise to read the book in it’s entirety, instead of blatantly taking a small portion of it out of context. I think even they will be challenged by what they find.

**I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”**

About

Thank you for visiting my site. I write about Academics, Athletics, and the Arts. More specifically…Theology, Books Reviews, Cultural Issues, all things Florida Gators, and Music.

Recent Tweets

Sharing

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Website Traffic Ticker

  • Total Visit: 38,166