Friday, March 24, 2017

The Cost

"What people don’t realize is how much religion costs. They think faith is a big electric blanket, when of course it is the cross. It is much harder to believe than not to believe. If you feel you can’t believe, you must at least do this: keep an open mind. Keep it open toward faith, keep wanting it, keep asking for it, and leave the rest to God." 

         - Flannery O'Connor

Monday, March 20, 2017


3 Things We Must Believe About God's Word adapted from Taking God At His Word: Why the Bible Is Knowable, Necessary, and Enough, and What That Means for You and Me by Kevin DeYoung.


In Psalm 119 we see at least three essential, irreducible characteristics we should believe about God’s word.

1. God’s word says what is true.

Like the psalmist, we can trust in the word (v. 42), knowing that it is altogether true (v. 142). We can’t trust everything we read on the Internet. We can’t trust everything we hear from our professors. We certainly can’t trust all the facts given by our politicians. We can’t even trust the fact-checkers who check those facts! Statistics can be manipulated. Photographs can be faked. Magazine covers can be airbrushed. Our teachers, our friends, our science, our studies, even our eyes can deceive us. But the word of God is entirely true and always true:
God’s word is firmly fixed in the heavens (v. 89); it doesn’t change. There is no limit to its perfection (v. 96); it contains nothing corrupt. All God’s righteous rules endure forever (v. 160); they never get old and never wear out.
If you ever think to yourself, “I need to know what is true— what is true about me, true about people, true about the world, true about the future, true about the past, true about the good life, and true about God,” then come to God’s word. It teaches only what is true: “Sanctify them in the truth,” Jesus said; “your word is truth” (John 17:17).

2. God’s word demands what is right.

The psalmist gladly acknowledges God’s right to issue commands and humbly accepts that all these commands are right. “I know, O Lord, that your rules are righteous,” he says (Ps. 119:75). All God’s commandments are sure (v. 86). All his precepts are right (v. 128). I sometimes hear Christians admit that they don’t like what the Bible says, but since it’s the Bible they have to obey it. On one level, this is an admirable example of submitting oneself to the word of God. And yet, we should go one step further and learn to see the goodness and rightness in all that God commands. We should love what God loves and delight in whatever he says. God does not lay down arbitrary rules. He does not give orders so that we might be restricted and miserable. He never requires what is impure, unloving, or unwise. His demands are always noble, always just, and always righteous.

3. God’s word provides what is good.

According to Psalm 119, the word of God is the way of happiness (vv. 1–2), the way to avoid shame (v. 6), the way of safety (v. 9), and the way of good counsel (v. 24). The word gives us strength (v. 28) and hope (v. 43). It provides wisdom (vv. 98–100, 130) and shows us the way we should go (v. 105). God’s verbal revelation, whether in spoken form in redemptive history or in the covenantal documents of redemptive history (i.e., the Bible), is unfailingly perfect. As the people of God, we believe the word of God can be trusted in every way to speak what is true, command what is right, and provide us with what is good.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Answering the Lies

Have you believed any demoralizing lies lately? Check out Three Lies We Might Easily Believe by Ray Ortlund:
It is very much in the Devil’s interests that we despair. If he can get us to believe any of these three demoralizing lies that he loves to whisper into our thoughts, our powers for Jesus are greatly diminished. And each one seems to us quite plausible.
Lie #1: “You’re a hypocrite. Sure, you’re serving Jesus. But you don’t really mean it. It’s really all about you. You might as well give up.”
Answer: “Whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything” (1 John 3:19-20). “I do not even judge myself. . . . It is the Lord who judges me” (1 Cor. 4:3-4).
Lie #2: “You’re a loser. You’ve ruined your life. You’re too damaged by now. You’ll never amount to anything for the Lord. You might as well give up.”
Answer: “. . . the poor, . . . the brokenhearted, . . . the captives, . . . that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified. They shall build up the ancient ruins, they shall raise up the former devastations” (Isaiah 61:1-4).
Lie #3: “You’re too small. You’re so buried under the debris of our complex and crowded world today, you’ll never make an impact. You’re making no difference at all. You might as well give up.”
Answer: “God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God” (1 Cor. 1:28-29).
Each lie is believable, in its way. So we don’t defeat the lies by pushing back with our own beliefs, which are little more than stabs at truth. We push back by declaring God’s Word, which has a decisive finality our own little thoughts cannot generate.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Both And

Why do we always want to break things into dichotomies: Two options only, and only one available. Sometimes we must simply choose YES, both and, rather than either or. For example, check out As A Christian I Favor National Security and Refugee Care by Scott Sauls
All partisan politics aside (truly), I am an evangelical Christian pastor who supports our President’s commitment to national security and who favors doing everything possible to help the world’s most vulnerable refugees get out of harm’s way as quickly and safely as possible. I support both of these commitments because in Jesus, my conscience is bound by both. And, as Luther once famously said, “To go against conscience is neither right nor safe.”
This is not a new subject for me or for the church that I serve. For two years strong, Christ Presbyterian in Nashville has embraced every opportunity availed to us to give a cup of cold water to the least of these, especially Syrian refugees who are out there on the run, as well as the sixty thousand or so who now reside in Nashville. Currently, we have several missional communities and member-led nonprofits focused on refugee care. We have deployed over $150,000 toward relief efforts, partnering with organizations such as World Relief, World Vision, and Preemptive Love Coalition. As for me, I have preached sermons, written essays, and spoken at conferences on this crisis. Our oldest daughter is majoring in Global Studies, volunteering for a refugee resettlement organization, and planning to learn Arabic in the Middle East so she can return to the States and minister among Muslim refugees as a Christian. My wife has recently become engaged in the crisis locally. Finally, I have written about this humanitarian crisis in chapter 18 of my latest book, Befriend, a book about creating belonging in an age of judgment, isolation and fear.
Lest the reader interpret this as some sort of left-wing partisan stance, it is not. I stand for the vulnerable refugee in the same way that I have always stood for the vulnerable unborn. It is a biblically-driven justice and human rights stance, plain and simple. I have no personal beef with President Obama or President Trump. For this reason, my liberal friends sometimes suspect me of being a Republican and my conservative friends sometimes suspect me of being a Democrat. You might say that I am one of those pastors who feels too conservative for his liberal friends and too liberal for his conservative friends. If this is an outcome of following the whole Jesus instead of merely following part of him, then sign me up and so be it.
In addition to being for the unborn and for the refugee, I am committed to a stance of honor regarding any leader, especially when said leader holds the office of President. Our church has supported my commitment not to insult, belittle, or speak ill of either President Obama or of our new President, Donald Trump (I wrote more about this in a previous post, which can be seen here). Instead, our people have joined me in the equally Christian commitment to show respect for all leaders, including those whose policies and personalities may at times stand in contrast to Christian convictions and beliefs. To the church in a decidedly anti-Christian Rome, Paul wrote the following under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit:
Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. (Romans 13:1)
This was true of President Obama. It is also true of President Trump.
Thankfully, as an evangelical Christian, I am not alone in my desire to honor our leaders and remain committed to refugee care.
Recently, I joined evangelical leaders across North America including friends like Tim and Kathy Keller, Bill and Lynne Hybels, John Perkins, Ann Voskamp, Sandy Willson, John Yates, Max Lucado, Eugene Cho and many others, by adding my signature to this petition to our President. (Most unfortunately, certain news outlets have attached inflammatory, partisan headlines to the story that have, in the experience of many, caused the actual substance of the petition to be lost. For example, one outlet called the petition a “denouncement” of President Trump. The use of such a word is an inflammatory overreach, to say the least. Please ignore the headlines and read the actual petition.)

Monday, March 13, 2017

About "the Shack"...

I read the book The Shack twice when it first came out. The book has a great emotional impact, and I certainly felt that, but I also had then and have now grave concerns about the theological errors in the story.

Many readers argued "Hey, it's just a story, not a theology textbook." Since then, William Paul Young, author of The Shack, wrote another book called Lies We Believe About God.  This book is not a story, but a clear presentation of his beliefs making it explicitly clear what he believes about God, free will, eternal judgement, etc., and that those beliefs are embodied in the story of  The Shack.  his beliefs and teachings are most definitely not orthodox. I have no plans to see the movie, although I reserve the right to change my mind. However, I most definitely cannot recommend either the book or the movie as accurate theology, or as good things for anyone to read or watch.

 Tim Challies said it better than I could. I encourage you to read his post  What Does the Shack Really Teach. which covers the relevant parts of the new book mentioned above.

The god presented in the book and movie is not the God of the Bible, and not the God revealed by Jesus. It is a god who is not sovereign, does not punish evil, and whose "love" is a limited generic feeling of benevolence.

If you felt power from the story of the Shack, please know that the God of the Bible is more powerful, more loving, but also more Holy.