The Final Days of Jesus

9781433535109If you have a new revelation from the scriptures, you are probably wrong.  I’m not sure who said that to me first, but it is true.  If you believe you have a new revelation, you are wrong in at least one of two ways.  Either your revelation is not new at all or it is not from the scriptures.  Heresy often begins with a desire for something new or different.  We long for more and as a result of our longing, we look for the Bible to say something new.

It is the longing for new and different that often draws us away from the beautiful old story of the gospel (see 1 John) and that drives much of the publishing world.  I am thankful for books and teaching that deliver nothing new, but a different twist on an old story.  With that in mind, I am very thankful for The Final Days of Jesus by Andreas Kostenberger and Justin Taylor. This book is a real blessing.  Of course, it would be difficult for this book to be bad since it is primarily cutting and pasting from the biblical text.

The authors have taken the final week of Jesus and broken down all of the relevant biblical material into a daily diary of sorts.  I have a synopsis of the four gospels that has often proven beneficial for me and I’ve read the gospel accounts chronologically, but never have I had the gospel accounts of Jesus’s last week compressed into one place where I could absorb them easily and get lost in the story, perhaps the way that the gospel writers intended.  Kostenberger and Taylor explain it this way:

The early church did not consider our four Gospels as four separate Gospels … Continue reading

Is Jesus Calling, or is Your Refrigerator Running?

refrigerator-runningAs a kid I remember hearing the rumors of others doing prank calls (emphasis here on others, the fifth amendment is my right).  Caller ID has made prank calling more difficult, but one of the all time favorites for prank calling was the classic, “Is your refrigerator running?” bit.  In the days before caller ID, you could never be certain if Sears was really doing a check-up on your appliances or if there were 5 little boys gathered around a telephone receiver waiting to laugh hysterically when they told you to “go catch it.”

I recently criticized Sarah Young’s book, Jesus Calling, in a sermon and received several questions afterward.  In all honesty, I had no idea until recently that this book was such a big deal.  Trust me, it is.  In light of the questions I received, I feel it necessary to share a few thoughts and some critical reviews of this book.

I should note that I have not read this book from cover to cover, I have only read the introduction and some of the devotions from within the book.  I have tried to read up on the author, Sarah Young, but little is actually known about her. Christianity Today recently published an article about some of the mystery that surrounds her. My primary concern, however, is not with the mystery of Sarah Young (though that is at least a bit concerning), but with a quote from the introduction to the book that I read in the sermon I mention above.

The following year, I began to wonder if I, too, could receive messages during my times of communing with God. I had been writing in prayer journals for years, but that was one-way communication: I did all the talking. … Continue reading

Your Pastor Knows You Best

I don’t know Andy Schmidt, but I think I like him already.  here’s a quote from his recent article, Platt Wasn’t Enough For My Church:

Are Piper, Chan, and Platt better preachers than me? Yes! By far! Can they preach the gospel better than me? Probably. However, those faithful men know and care for their own flocks, but they don’t know mine. I love my flock; I care for my flock. Therefore, I endeavor to preach the written Word to my flock such that they behold the Incarnate Word, Jesus Christ! Christians and churches need pastors in the flesh who faithfully minister the Word to them both in word and in deed—in the pulpit and outside it!

Pastor, you are needed.  Your congregation needs you.  Christian, you need a pastor, not merely a sage on the stage, but guides by your side.  You need pastoral leadership that will live and walk with you.  Of course, this should come as no surprise.  God designed it this way.

4 I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: 2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound[a] teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. 5 As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

2 Timothy 4:1-5

Why This Issue Is Different

Homosexuality isn’t the only sin in the world. But I know of no Christian leader or Christian community promoting theft or championing idolatry as a special blessing from God. It is not an overstatement to say solemnizing same-sex intercourse is in danger of leading people to hell. The same is not true when it comes to sorting out the millennium.  In tolerating the doctrine which affirms homosexual behavior, we are tolerating a doctrine which leads people farther from God, not closer. This is not the mission Jesus gave us when he told us to teach the nations all that he has commanded.

–Kevin DeYoung in Why Is This Issue Different?

A Biblical Worldview or a Worldly View of the Bible

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I like this definition of biblical worldview: A Christian worldview or a biblical worldview refers to the framework of ideas and beliefs, derived from the Bible, through which a Christian individual, group or culture interprets the world and interacts with it.  A biblical worldview necessarily involves application of the whole Bible and not merely the parts that are amiable to our particular situation.  If a worldview is the lenses through which one views and interacts with the world, then a biblical worldview means to wear biblical lenses–to work diligently to view all aspects of our world through the filter of the Bible.

It is not vogue to hold to a biblical worldview.  Instead, Christians are urged to hold to a worldly view of the Bible. A biblical worldview holds that the Bible should determine and define right from wrong, moral from immoral, and should dictate how I live my life.  The Biblical worldview claims that God is the author of the Bible and as its author and our Creator, He has the right to tell us how we should live.

A worldly view of the Bible claims that the Bible is a book written by men.  A worldly view of the Bible claims that the Bible is open to wide interpretation and its meaning should change with culture.  A worldly view of the Bible claims that people should shape the meaning of the Bible, not that the Bible should shape people and culture.

But, outside of the definition above, what is a biblical worldview?  The Colson Center is helpful by telling us first what a biblical worldview isn’t, and then what it is.

A Biblical Worldview is Not:

  • It is not merely holding to Christian morals.  A person can have good morals without adhering … Continue reading
  • World Vision’s Public Declaration of its Theology

    I’ve compiled a short list below of responses to World Vision’s recent announcement that they would no longer prohibit homosexuals from employment.  I do not feel that I can add much to the debate beyond what has been said in the articles below, but one thing concerns me greatly that I do not see others mentioning.

    Stearns is quoted in Christianity Today as saying,

    “This is not us compromising. It is us deferring to the authority of churches and denominations on theological issues. We’re an operational arm of the global church, we’re not a theological arm of the church.”

    To suggest that the operation of World Vision (or any other organization) is not driven by theology is disingenuous.  In his own book, The Hole in Our Gospel, Stearns argues that neglect of the poor in our world has come about as a result of poor theology.  He couches the premise of his entire book and ministry off of his personal belief that there is a “hole in” the gospel of many Western Christians.  His ministry is built off of his theology.  He defines his theology this way:

    “Proclaiming the whole gospel, then, means much more than evangelism in the hopes that people will hear and respond to the good news of salvation by faith in Christ.  It also encompasses tangible compassion for the sick and the poor, as well as biblical justice, efforts to right the wrongs that are so prevalent in our world.  God is concerned about the spiritual, physical, and social dimensions of our being.  This whole gospel is truly good news for the poor, and it is the foundation for a social revolution that has the power to change the world.  And if this was Jesus’ mission, it is also the mission of all who claim to follow him. … Continue reading

    Baseball and Christ…The Conversations That Matter

    Since yesterday I wrote about what we are learning from our daughter, today it is appropriate for me to write about what I am learning from and through my son.  Wyatt is all boy.  He loves baseball, basketball, football, bike riding, and dirt.  He is just like his daddy which can make for frustrating interactions as I look into myself twenty-five years ago.  I think he is more compassionate than I’ve ever been and I pray that as he ages, his compassion grows rather than wanes. I also pray that he will soon find Christ as his Savior.

    Children are good for us.  Paul tells us that marriage sanctifies, and we know that children sanctify us as well.  Recently after one of Wyatt’s baseball practices, I put him in the truck and had a conversation with his coach.  We discussed hitting, fielding, and our common frustrations with our local recreation department.  We talked about the kids who were improving and the kids who needed the most attention.  Then, I got in the truck and left.

    Wyatt, of course wanted to know what we had talked about.  His little ears worked diligently to listen in, but he was only able to catch bits and pieces of the conversation, so he asked, “why did he point at me” and “when did he say my first game is going to be?” Then, out of the blue God brought conviction from my son: “Daddy, were you talking to my coach about Christ?”  My silence in the truck was palpable at that moment and I was forced to respond, “No, son, I wasn’t.”

    Wyatt doesn’t yet know Jesus, and yet, he seems to get it better than I do at times. He knows that one of … Continue reading

    What A Broken Leg Taught Me About Church Attendance

    As a pastor, I’m committed to church attendance.  That goes without saying, but many people assume that my commitment to regular church attendance is based primarily upon the fact that I’m a pastor–more of a “well, of course you think it’s important,” rather than an understanding of why regular church attendance matters. The reality is that church attendance must matter to us because it matters to God.  He warned the recipients of the letter to the Hebrews to not forsake to gather together, but to gather for “encouragement.” There are times when church attendance isn’t convenient or doesn’t seem beneficial, and I want to argue that it is during those times especially that church attendance is crucial.  Just this past week in our own family, we have seen the value of our church family investing in our life during a trying period.  Our 5 year old daughter hurt her leg last Saturday, and after an X-ray the next day following Sunday morning’s service, we learned that her leg was broken.  She was splinted and miserable.  her attitude was terrible and her normally bubbly personality was nearly non-existent. Angela and I briefly contemplated not taking her to church for our equipping studies on Sunday night because it was going to be difficult for us and because she was so miserable.

    What a disservice we would have done to Aubrey to keep her away from her church family during a time of great stress and trial in her young life.  The temptation for us was to retreat into our comfortable home and stable family.  Of course, that temptation would have resulted in movie time with mom for Aubrey, but it would also have resulted in Aubrey not experiencing the love of her church family as they surrounded her on Sunday night with … Continue reading

    Four Habits of Spiritually Immature People

    I lift weights.  I don’t do crossfit, I don’t bodybuild, I don’t run marathons. I get funny looks in the gym because plates clang together and chains are loud. I like to lift heavy weights and I like getting stronger. As a result, I am a student of weight-lifting and power-lifting. I read and study the technique and science of lifting and I try to be stronger every week.

    Over the years, I’ve noticed that much of what I learn about strength-training is applicable to spiritual matters.  Recently, I read an article about the four habits of weak people (I won’t link to it because of some language in it) and was really convinced that the same habits can apply to those who are chronically spiritually immature:

  • Weak people justify their weakness.  Many who are chronically immature are satisfied in their state and spend time justifying their immaturity.  The excuses come across in phrases like, “I’m just not a reader,” or “Praying is hard,” or even, “I’m just not like you…I guess I’m just made different.”
  • Weak people know too much and practice too little. There are three ingredients to gaining physical strength: time under tension, proper rest, and proper nutrition.  Spiritual growth is not a secret science.  Basically you need three things, you need time with the Lord and in his Word in private, you need to live out your faith publicly putting into practice what God has commanded of you, and you need to be involved in a local church with other believers for regular worship and accountability.  Spiritually immature people often focus on how much they know without taking into account just how much they are applying that knowledge.  Are you applying the Word of God to your … Continue reading
  • Centering Your Family Life Around Christ

    Occasionally, I read something and think, “wow, that’s exactly what I’ve been thinking, but didn’t know how to say” (it happened in this book recently on evangelism and discipleship).  This morning I read a quote in a blog article that said exactly what I’ve been thinking, but couldn’t really put into words.  The article/post was about eliminating the entitlement in our children, and the whole thing is worth your time, but the quote that got me was this one:

    We simply can’t center our lives around our children when we are centering our lives around Christ.

    Parents and families, hear me when I say (or read me when I write), being Child-centered is not the same thing as being Christ-centered.  In fact, the two are actually in opposition.  If you are leading your family to be Christ-centered, your children will need to be reminded occasionally that they are not the center of the universe or even your attention.  If you invite hurting people into your home for ministry, your children will sometimes have to take a back-burner.  If you are committed to Christ and his mission through the local church, your children will sometimes have to go to places they do not want to be at times they do not want to be there.

    Rest assured, your children are not getting the short end of the stick.  They are getting something much greater than your constant and continual attention.  They are receiving the greatest gift you can give them, the insistence upon being Christ-centered in their own life.  You are giving them the gospel when you are inviting them to live out the implications of the gospel through your family life.  Being child-centered may make you the envy of other parents on the block.  It may help you … Continue reading