Monthly Archives: January 2010

Links to Help Your Grip (2.1.10): Review of “The Shack,” Matt Chandler’s Faith, E-Book Fad, and More

Serious Preaching by Jim Elliff

I have been considering for some time the desperate condition of preaching in the West. I have even toyed with the idea of writing a booklet entitled Serious Preaching. Such preaching is out of vogue, but I still believe in it. Please know that I’m not talking about serious sweating. It used to be said that if a man didn’t fill his hanky with sweat, make himself hoarse with screaming and wind up walking on about two inches of his pants cuff, he hadn’t really preached at all! Billy Sunday, the baseball-player-turned-evangelist of the early 1900’s, was like that. But, with all the humor and quaintness of his message and style, after reading his sermons (and even hearing one on tape) I am left empty. He could rivet a sinner with words like a machine gunner, he could wave his chair and compel them to listen, he could lure them down the “sawdust trail” (his words, by the way), but all in all, nothing very important was said. It is easy to wave a Bible and yet never preach it. There are many who have fought hard for the inerrancy of Scripture who don’t sufficiently break open the Bible they fought for. No, What we need is doctrinal preaching…real solid truth.

Tim Keller gives a review of the ever-popular book, The Shack:

Sprinkled throughout the book, Young’s story undermines a number of traditional Christian doctrines. Many have gotten involved in debates about Young’s theological beliefs, and I have my own strong concerns. But here is my main problem with the book. Anyone who is strongly influenced by the imaginative world of The Shack will be totally unprepared for the far more multi-dimensional and complex God that you actually meet when you read the Bible.

That E-Book Thing Will Never Catch On by Michael Hyatt

It’s no secret that I am a big fan of the Amazon Kindle 2. However, whenever I write about it (as I did recently here and here), I always have someone who says, “I will never convert to an eBook reader. I just love the feel of a book in my hands.  I totally understand that sentiment, but imagine this: . . .  (It’s worth reading the rest!)

Suffering Well: Faith Tested by Cancer (AP article by Eric Gorski about Matt Chandler):

Matt Chandler doesn’t feel anything when the radiation penetrates his brain. It could start to burn later in treatment. But it hasn’t been bad, this time lying on the slab. Not yet, anyway.

Leadership from the Business World by Chuck Lawless

Leadership has become a big deal for me not only in my role as dean of the Billy Graham School, but also as my denomination (the Southern Baptist Convention) faces transitioning leadership at multiple levels. I am particularly burdened about reaching out to and working with young leaders who are the future of our churches. Given my interest, the November 2009 copy of US News and World Report – an edition that focused almost entirely on leadership – caught my attention.

I read it thoroughly, digesting the comments and thoughts of mostly secular leaders. What grabbed me, though, was just how applicable so many comments are to the church world. Below are some of the words of these leaders, with my corresponding remarks about church application indicated by asterisks (**). Read on, and be willing to be challenged.

Fan, friends, connected to Chad Ochocinco (ESPN):  A touching article about Cincinnati Bengals’ wide receiver Chad (Johnson) Ochocinco and his connection to a fan who passed away.  Any of you who may discount the connectability of our social networks such as Facebook or Twitter need to re-evaluate that.  Here’s an extended excerpt:

Kirk Stivers was tired, cold and grieving. It was the last Saturday in November and he had just returned from the funeral of one of his oldest friends, Chris Kernich. Stivers sat on the couch of his mother’s home in Beavercreek, Ohio, opened his laptop and logged on to Twitter. He needed to send a message to Cincinnati Bengals receiver Chad Ochocinco.

"I knew that was the way I could really connect to him," Stivers says.

That night, nearly 60 miles away, Ochocinco was in Cincinnati on the eve of the Bengals’ game against the Browns. It was just after 6 p.m. when he, too, logged on to Twitter.

Chris Kernich was a devoted follower (on Twitter) of Chad Ochocinco and the Cincinnati Bengals.

Ochocinco has more than a half-million followers on the social-networking Web site, which has helped him build a brand beyond being an NFL wide receiver. While scanning his Twitter feed, Ochocinco spotted a message from Stivers that read: @ogochocinco @the_man_CK was buried today with your jersey! A great person was laid to rest today. His memory will always be alive! RIP CK

Less than five minutes after Stivers posted the message, he saw a return message that made his jaw drop and tears start to stream. Ochocinco had a message for Chris Kernich: @the_man_CK bruh I love you man, RIP, you’ll never be forgotten, I’m playing for you tomorrow

Before Facebook, Twitter and e-mail, if a fan wanted to reach a professional athlete, there generally were two routes: either some personal connection or a pen and paper. You’d stuff the paper in an envelope, stamp it, ship it, wait and hope. The letter probably would sit in a tub on the ground in the athlete’s locker room. If the athlete was a superstar, it likely was wedged between thousands of others.

Technology has allowed social-networking sites to change the dynamic between player and fan. In particular, the emergence of smart phones has brought fans and athletes even closer. But there are no guarantees with this evolving mode of communication, either. Ochocinco, who has more than 700,000 people following him on Twitter, can be besieged with hundreds of messages in a matter of minutes, so there is no guarantee he will see a specific message; it could be wedged in the pile — just like that piece of snail mail.

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Embracing the Particulars of the Gospel

We need to treasure the fact that God has put himself and his grace on full display. And as a result, we as Christians are fully responsible to know what God has made known. It’s not helpful to you or anyone to simply know “just enough” to give us what many have called “fire insurance.” We have not had much help in truly understanding what it meant to be born again.

Sadly, many in influential places pass on a far more diluted understanding of the gospel. George Barna is a Christian research company who polls segments of our country to find out particular trends taking place. Each of these companies has definitions in place to help them sift through the data. Here’s their definition of “born again.”

“Born again Christians” were defined in these surveys as people who said they have made a “personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is still important in their life today” and who also indicated they believe that when they die they will go to Heaven because they had confessed their sins and had accepted Jesus Christ as their savior. Respondents were not asked to describe themselves as “born again.” Being classified as “born again” is not dependent upon church of denominational affiliation or involvement.[i]

The problem with this definition is that he (1) takes them at their word—fair enough, I suppose; but (2) as Piper notes, “slanders that precious biblical reality by saying that regenerate hearts have no more victory over sin than regenerate hearts.”[ii] For you see, based on this definition, Barna’s research seems to say that Christians have just as many problems with worldliness as non-Christians do. It’s based on outward habits (church attendance) and even feelings (Jesus is still important), but there’s no change, no transformation. Barna’s research intends to motivate Christians to greater faithfulness, but the actual result is that the world sees those who are “born again” (according to Barna’s definition) are not that different from the world, and therefore there is nothing special about being a Christian.

God has given us the depth of the gospel—and we would be remiss in not taking the pleasure and privilege and honor of investigating what God has revealed. Consider this nugget from Titus 3:3-5a:

3For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. 4But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us.

If you wish to inform people about what the gospel is all about, I can give it to you in one word: change. Does not this passage show a great change, a great transformation? David Powlison insightfully notes:

You become profoundly different as you come to the growing realization, “It’s not all about me.” It’s all about the One who is remaking us—each one and all together—into His image, and thus into a community that practices loving-kindness, justice, righteousness in the earth.[iii]

With the saving gospel, everything changes. Your understanding of the world, of history, of your purpose in life, and your actions which result from that Spirit transformation. Consider where you were beforehand.

Paul begins by saying you were “foolish and disobedient,” meaning that you had a lack of understanding and as a result disobeyed. But then he goes deeper into the fact that you were “led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures.” This goes deeper to show that this was not simply a flaw in our thinking, but an infliction of a Deceiver who enslaved you. Instead of a passion which sought its pleasure in Christ, the curse brought about a seeking and satisfaction in personal pleasures.

Does this go deeper? Without question. The “passing our days in malice and envy” does not indicate a quick burst of sinfulness, followed by general obedience to the things of God. This phrase indicates a daily routine—a way of life of malicious and discontented behavior! The result was a mutual hatred festival by all participants! The more selfish one desired to be, the more cut off they would be from all relationships. That inner desire for a solitary control of your life will leave to a solitary existence—cut off from God, and your neighbor!

You may say, “How awful an existence that is for such a person!” That’s true, it is. Yet, we must understand that this describes each of us! We may define these words in ways that make us look better, but all of us have a lack of understanding, disobey, and in our flesh are deceived. Outside of Christ, we operate based upon our own standards and passions and pleasures—even if those standards look good to a watching world!

Then we say, “Wait, I’m not passing my days in malice in envy. No, I haven’t surrendered to Christ, but I’m not malicious.” Rejecting Christ is the most malicious thing you can do to yourself and to those in your circle of influence. You are going against the very reason why you were created.

So when we look at Titus 3:4-5

4But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. 8The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people.

This is the essence of what it means to be “born again” or “born from above” (John 3:3-5). The key phrase is found in verse 5: “he saved us.” John Stott notes:

Whenever the phraseology of salvation is dropped into a conversation today, people’s reactions are predictable. They will either blush, frown, snigger, or even laugh, as if it were a huge joke. Thus the devil, whose ambition is to destroy, not to save, succeeds in trivializing the most serious question we could ever ask ourselves or put to anybody else. For Christianity is essentially a religion of salvation.”[iv]

This salvation was not something we could drum up in ourselves, but this salvation had to appear. In verse 6, we see this salvation had to be “poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior.” Also, notice that this did not come about through the accrual of good works, but by His mercy. We also see that we are justified by grace, being recipients of the hope of eternal life.

Do you see the pattern? God had to bring this salvation to us. He showed it to us, poured it out His Holy Spirit on us, and the motive was his glorious mercy. The means? “The washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit.” A.W. Tozer once said:

We may as well face it. The whole level of spirituality is low. We have measured ourselves by ourselves until the desire to seek higher plateaus and the things of the Spirit is all but gone. We have imitated the world, sought popular favor, and manufactured delights to substitute for the joy of the Lord, and produced a cheap and synthetic power to substitute for the power of the Holy Ghost.[v]

That’s how we were saved—God appeared to us by His mercy, taking the initiative to make us right by His righteousness. Michael Horton puts it this way: “God does not simply create the gift and offer it to us, if we will only climb the stairway to heaven to get it; he brings it down to us, uncurls our ungrateful fingers and places it in our hands.”[vi] Peter drove this home:

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

We must understand why people have an issue with this. There is something in our flesh that wants to do something.

[i]George Barna. Accessed 30 January 2010; available at, quoted in John Piper, Finally Alive (Minneapolis, MN: Desiring God, 2009) ,14.

[ii]Piper, Finally Alive, 14.

[iii] David Powlison, in the Foreword to Timothy S. Lane, Paul David Tripp, How People Change (Winston-Salem, NC: Punch Press, 2006), vi-vii.

[iv]John R.W. Stott, The Message of 1 Timothy & Titus, The Bible Speaks Today (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1996), 201.

[v]A. W. Tozer, God and Men, quoted in Francis Chan, The Forgotten God (Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook, 2009), 27.

[vi]Michael Horton, The Gospel-Driven Life: Being Good News People in a Bad News World (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2009), 108.

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The Way to Say Thanks and Farewell

One of the shows that I enjoyed the most growing up was The Carol Burnett Show, which ran on CBS from 1967-1978. I found them to be some of the most talented character actors and comedians around–and thanks to YouTube, you can still see their talents on display. The last episode of the Carol Burnett Show was touching, and handled with class. In this, Carol gives a model of how to be thankful to everyone who made that show ‘go,’ attributing to them in front of the nation the great skills they had on various levels. If you listen to the interviews by Vicki Lawrence, Tim Conway, and the late Harvey Korman, you will see that Carol gave them great leeway to be creative, demonstration her own security in the process. The results of their 11-year run speak for themselves. I watched this and thought, “As a leader, I need to make sure I show this type of appreciation and communicate as clearly as she did in this last episode.”

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Mark Driscoll’s 32 Hours in Haiti

Mark Driscoll, pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, had an opportunity to spend 32 hours in Haiti.  I was moved greatly by his recounting of his time there.  My respect for Driscoll has grown over the years.  This is one sermon I feel good about passing along! 


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Readying Ourselves for Revival?

Dr. Hershael York will be joining us at Boone’s Creek Baptist Church in Lexington for our revival services on February 7-10 at 7:00 p.m. each night (please see the enclosed flyer for all the particulars). God has used Dr. York in mighty ways through preaching, pastoring, writing, and mentoring young men for ministry work. I would like to encourage you to :

  • Begin now by praying for yourselves, that your sails would be ready to move where the Spirit blows (John 3:5-8).
  • Begin praying for your church! It’s been said that when George Whitefield began preaching in England and America and when revival hit, he did not preach on having revival—he preached the pure gospel, and revival came. Revival is about falling in love with Christ and His Good News all over again.
  • Begin praying for who you may invite. Try this: pray and ask God for him to give you ten times. Now, don’t overspiritualize this exercise: if a name comes across your mind, write that name down—that’s a name that God sent to you! Write those ten names down, then invite them to come. Better yet, offer to bring them!
  • Begin praying about the follow up! During these special times, God impresses on our hearts many things, and as a result we make a lot of commitments to God and to one another. Yet, with those high expectations, Satan may bring discouragement when the issues of life confront us. Don’t be alarmed by this. God has promised to give us gospel-strength in the midst of those trials—not remove them from us (John 16:33; 2 Corinthians 12:9-12).

Many of you have seen revival services and preachers come and go. Praise God that He sends His men to His church to revive His people in His Word by His Spirit for His glory (did you get that?). Be encouraged! This is not simply an event—it’s a time of focus, revival, renewal, and motivation to be salt and light in this world.

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Links to Help Your Grip (1.25.10)

14 Things I Pray For Pastors by Clayton King.  Here are the first four:

1.  I pray that they would love Jesus with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength and that ministry would never become a mistress that steals them from their first love, Jesus Christ.

2.  I pray that they love and serve their wife and kids with gracious and glad hearts and that their family loves the church instead of hating it for stealing their daddy or husband away from them.

3.  I pray that they would be anointed by the Holy Spirit and filled with passion, conviction, and dedication to their calling, their own spiritual growth, and to Jesus Christ.

4.  I pray that for confidence and humility: that they would walk in power and authority to lead, all the while kneeling in humility as gentle shepherds who care for people’s souls.

Pastors, Be Jesus-Full by Jared Wilson.  He begins:

There is a pastor whose Twitter feed I occasionally read, but I shouldn’t, because it absolutely drives me nuts. A large portion of my reaction is tied to my own issues, I’m sure, but I see in his broadcasts an almost pathological intention not to mention Jesus. And as I thirst for Jesus, I notice this withholding lots and lots of places everywhere else.  I have been and always will be doggedly suspicious of pastors who rarely (or never) mention Jesus.

Mugged by Ultrasound (from The Weekly Standard):

Pro-choice advocates like to point out that abortion has existed in all times and places. Yet that observation tends to obscure the radicalism of the present abortion regime in the United States. Until very recently, no one in the history of the world has had the routine job of killing well-developed fetuses quite so up close and personal. It is an experiment that was bound to stir pro-life sentiments even in the hearts of those staunchly devoted to abortion rights.  Ultrasound and D&E bring workers closer to the beings they destroy.

Was Spurgeon King James Only? by Phil Johnson.  He quotes Spurgeon below:  

Concerning the fact of difference between the Revised and Authorised Versions, I would say that no Baptist should ever fear any honest attempt to produce the correct text, and an accurate interpretation of the Old and New Testaments. For many years Baptists have insisted upon it that we ought to have the Word of God translated in the best possible manner . . .. By the best and most honest scholarship that can be found we desire that the common version [KJV] may be purged of every blunder of transcribers, or addition of human ignorance, or human knowledge, so that the Word of God may come to us as it came from His own hand.

Top Ten Best (and Worst) Communicators of 2009 by Bert Decker.  I realize this is late in coming, but the lessons we can learn from communicators (both good and bad) can help us greatly wherever we may find ourselves.

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Three Types of Pastoral Authority in the Church

 authority2 Some bristle at the notion that elders/overseers/pastors have authority in the church. Yet, this authority has not been bestowed by his own personal ambition, by the desire of a pastor search committee or a church body. This authority has been bestowed by Christ. As preachers preach from the Scriptures, led by the Spirit of God, they become the voicebox of God. To reject the preaching of the minister is to reject the preaching of God’s Word. Therefore, pray that your pastor and all pastors of all churches will be so surrendered to the word of the Lord as well as the Lord of the Word so they may rightly lead the people of God in the way he has ordained.

How so? First, God has called pastors to oversee the gospel-direction of the church. While every person who is a member of God’s church has a part in the church, it is the elder/overseer/pastor who has been given to this task full-time. The church is the heartbeat of every pastor—and seeing the church follow in the path of Christ who redeemed His church through His glorious work on the cross.

Paul reminded Titus that “an overseer [is] God’s steward.” Without saying it, Paul reminded Titus to whom the Cretan churches belonged: the Lord Jesus Christ, who purchased the church with His own blood. Joshua Harris reminded us of this:

Do you love the church? Romans 12:10 tells Christians to "Love one another with brotherly affection." The affection and love we’re to have for fellow-Christians is to be based on the work of Jesus Christ for us. It’s not about elitism, it’s not because Christians are better than anyone else, it certainly isn’t because Christians are necessarily more lovable. We love the church because we love the Savior who redeemed the church.

Acts 20:28 tells us that Jesus obtained the church with his own blood. Is this what your love for the church is based on? If it’s anything less, it won’t last long.

  • Don’t love the church because of what it does for you. Because sooner or later it won’t do enough.
  • Don’t love the church because of a leader. Because human leaders are fallible and will let you down.
  • Don’t love the church because of a program or a building or activities because all those things get old.
  • Don’t love the church because of a certain group of friends because friendships change and people move.

Love the church because of who shed his blood to obtain the church. Love the church because of who the church belongs to. Love the church because of who the church worships. Love the church because you love Jesus Christ and his glory. Love the church because Jesus is worthy and faithful and true. Love the church because Jesus loves the church.[i]

The word steward comes from the Greek (oikonomos) which means being the manager of a household. One considers Joseph in the book of Genesis, whom Potiphar made “overseer in his house and over all that he had the LORD blessed the Egyptian’s house for Joseph’s sake; the blessing of the LORD was on all that he had, in house and field. 6So he left all that he had in Joseph’s charge, and because of him he had no concern about anything but the food he ate” (Gen 39:5-6).

Pastors and leaders of our churches need to recognize that we are simply managers of what God has given to them. As Joseph was in charge of what Potiphar entrusted to him, so too are the overseers/elders/pastors of the churches in charge of what God has left them. Pastors are overseers. Of what? The main issue is that we are stewards and overseers both of the gospel and the souls to which the gospel is applied. Look at Hebrews 13:17:

Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you (Hebrews 13:17).

Pure leaders driven by Christ and His Word are praying for and preaching toward your souls. They are to exhibit a spiritual wisdom and maturity in this oversight, with a great understanding that they will have to give an account for every soul under their care. Calvin observes:

The heavier the burden [pastors] bear, the more honor they deserve; for the more labor anyone undertakes for our sake, and the more difficulty and danger he incurs for us, the greater are our obligations to him. And such is the office of bishops, that it involves the greatest labor and the greatest danger; if, then, we wish to be grateful, we can hardly render to them that which is due; and especially, as they are to give an account of us to God, it would be disgraceful for us to make no account of them.[ii]

Another type of leadership is that of how God has called pastors to shepherd the church. Peter charged the elders to whom he was writing:

2Shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; 3not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. 4And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. (1 Pet 5:2-4)

Notice that pastors (a derivative of the word ‘shepherd’) are not to rule with an iron fist, but a shepherd’s stick. You see the rod of the shepherd served a number of uses. One use was to guide the sheep along the path that the shepherd knows oh so well. Another was to use in warding off those who would seek to devour the sheep. The third use served to actually count the number of sheep as they would pass “under the rod” (Ezek 20:37). They are to clear the way that they know so well, because they know their shepherd’s way so well.

This understanding must be clear, especially when one broaches the subject of elders. Do we have one, or do we have a number? There are various examples of having a plurality of elders who have different ministries in the church (Acts 14:23; 1 Tim 5:17; Eph 20:17, and yes Titus 1:5-6). But even with those who have the single elder (a main pastoral minister), there is still that bucking of authority (as we have already covered) because of a fear of all the ‘power’ in a church being consolidated to just the “ministry staff.”

Churches need leaders to pave the way, and shepherds to guide them in that direction. Even if churches did have a plurality of elders, Scripture clearly states that the final say in major decisions in the church comes before the congregation. When they chose those Christ-loving, Spirit-led men who are considered to be the first deacons, where did the apostles take the concern from which this arose? The congregation. When someone is brought up to be disciplined in the church, where does this go? Just to the two or three witnesses? No, Matthew 18:17 says, “It should be taken to the church—the assembly.”

Lastly, God has called pastors to having teaching authority in the church. Look at Titus 1:9: “He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.” Elders and deacons have similar qualifications, but what distinguishes elders from deacons is that elders must have an ability to teach. Elders take care of the spiritual aspect of the congregation, the deacons deal with the physical issues of the members and even the building.

There is a two-fold rationale: instruct the faithful in sound doctrine, and to rebuke those who contradict that same sound doctrine. 

Richard Baxter was a pastor in the 1600s. What makes Baxter so special is his desire not simply to preach in the house of God, but to teach in the homes. 

[There] have been my hearers eight or ten years, who know not whether Christ be God or man, and wonder when I tell them the history of his birth and life and death as if they have never heard it before . . . I have found that some ignorant persons, who have been so long unprofitable hearers, have got more knowledge and remorse in half and hour’s close discourse, than they did from ten years of public preaching. I know that preaching the gospel publicly is the most excellent means, because we speak to many at once. But it is usually far more effectual to preach it privately to a particular sinner.[iii]

Baxter’s passion did not simply come in delivering a sermon, but shepherding his people by teaching them the Word of God on numerous, more personal occasions! 

Does this information cause you to pray for your pastor all the more? 

In a letter to a friend, who was in the ministry but sought to go abroad to learn the German tongue, Robert Murray McCheyne gave this great advice that all of us would do well to heed, minister or not:

I know you will apply hard to German, but do not forget the culture of the inner man—I mean of the heart. How diligently the cavalry officer keeps his saber clean and sharp; every stain he rubs off with the greatest care. Remember you are God’s sword, his instrument—I trust, a chosen vessel unto him to bear his name. In great measure, according to the purity and perfection of the instrument, will be the success. It is not great talents God blesses so much as likeness to Jesus. A holy minister is an awful weapon in the hand of God.[i]

[i]Quoted in C.H. Spurgeon, Lectures to My Students (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 2008), 2.

[i]Joshua Harris, Wrong Reasons to Love the Church. Accessed 23 January 2010, available [on-line]; Internet.

[ii]John Calvin, The Commentary on Hebrews, accessed 23 January 2010; available at [on-line]; Internet.

[iii]Richard Baxter, The Reformed Pastor, 5th ed. (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1974), 112.

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Music Friday: Roy Clark Killin’ It on the Guitar

This piece is called “Malaguena.”

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The Wedding Is Done—Now the Marriage Begins

Eric, Sarah and Bro. Matt

On December 19, 2009, I had the privilege of officiating the wedding of Eric Masters and Sarah Wasson.  I (center) was privileged to officiate this wedding at the Willow Grove Baptist Church in Danville, Kentucky.  I enjoyed doing this wedding.  I had the pleasure and the responsibility of conducting pre-marital counseling with the two of them and enjoyed getting to know them not just as individuals, but as a couple.

The wedding rehearsal and ceremony was a lot of fun.  Getting to the rehearsal was a chore given the weather and the Christmas shopping traffic, but we had some sweet fellowship at the dinner.  The ceremony brought out family and friends from all over to witness this joining.

Having been married 11+ years, I recognize there are still some stages of life still to come for Cindy and me.  But I believe I can still pass along some advice that may aid you in your marriage.

  1. You’re both sinners.  Deal with it.  Dave Harvey in his book When Sinners Say ‘I Do’ (review of this book forthcoming), notes that couples walk the aisle with a lot of baggage in tow. But you also walked down that aisle with hearts full of love—love toward God in providing your spouse to you, and and God-filled love for your spouse as well.  As Christ dealt mercifully with His bride (the Church – Eph 5:28ff), so you are to deal mercifully and graciously with one another. 
  2. It’s you against the world.  Remember that!  The world hates marriage, working to destroy or redefine the institution that God created—all in the name of sexual freedom.  The devil hates marriage not only because God created that institution (Genesis 1:26-31), but also due to the fact that its a glorious picture of Christ and the church.  And, sad to say, at times your flesh may hate marriage.  In our default mode, we long to be self-sufficient and detest answering to anyone else but self (see Genesis 3).  Yet, you will find the most freedom within the confines of marriage because marriage is one of the most sanctifying relationship on the planet.  Through marriage, we see our weaknesses and our sins reflected back to us.  And that’s a good thing.  We can only repent of sins of which we are aware.
  3. Your goal is to strive toward Christlikeness—not ‘me-likeness.’  In leading in from #2, our goal is not to craft our spouse into our own image and our will, but to Christ’s.  This is where we have to beware of certain marriage curriculums which have us only observe ‘love languages’ that we understand.  It’s not about us.  It’s about us seeing the gesture of love given by the other, and by the mercy and grace of Christ receiving it as such!  The biggest enemy we have is our own sinful, selfish expectations.  God has laid out in His word what to expect—we lead with grace, mercy, and a desire to help others (especially our spouse) strive toward holiness (Hebrews 12:14).

There is more I could talk about:  raising kids, finances, work, etc.  But I believe these three issues are very, very foundational.

Congratulations, Eric and Sarah!  Many God give you many Christ-filled years together.

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Does Institutional Structure Freeze the Flow of the Spirit in our Churches?

Paul commissioned Titus to “appoint elders in every town as I directed you” (Titus 1:5). In other words, part of God’s plan for a pure church is to have pure, Spirit-driven leaders leading God’s people. This has always been the case, as we have seen with the priesthood and the prophets of Old Testament times—they were God’s visible leaders who, themselves, were to be led by God and to also identify with the people they were leading.

In our day, there are many who buck at this notion of churches and their members being led by one in authority. Edmund Clowney sums up the spirit of the age when he observes:

"Critics of ‘churchianity’ hold that institutional structure freezes the flowing streams of the Spirit. The task of the church is indeed spiritual: . . . to worship God, to nurture the people of God, and to bear witness to the world in mission. Yet no less spiritual are the means that Christ has provided by which we are to achieve these three goals. The Spirit of God brings order, as well as ardour” (Ed Clowney, The Church). 

So while God calls his church to be led by the Spirit, part of that is God establishing leaders. What do these leaders look like? By leaders, we mean that they are ones who have authority over the people of God. Some have abused this authority in ways too many to count, while others have abdicated or refused this authority due to a fear of confrontation or rejection. And as a result, those who would follow buck against their leadership because they are either abrasive and overbearing, or because they are spineless and therefore lost their respect.

Leaders ones who are led by God so they may lead God’s people.

(To hear more on this, join us at Boone’s Creek Baptist Church on Sunday at 11:00 AM.  If you are not in the area, listen to our podcast at .) 

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