October 21, 2016

That’s the Gospel

by Mike Riccardi

Recently I had the privilege of presiding over my first “installation service” for a friend of mine, Alan, who served alongside me at Grace Church while he was in seminary. An installation service is basically where a new pastor is ceremoniously installed as the pastor of the church he’s been called to. It usually involves a personal and passionate call to the task of the ministry by another pastor whom the new pastor considers a mentor and/or friend. I was humbled and privileged to do that for the first time for a dear brother of mine. It was a wonderful time to be with him and his new church family, and I’m encouraged what the Lord is doing and will do through Bethany Community Fellowship in Sylvania, Ohio.

While I was there, Alan also asked me to do a series of seminars on evangelism as a weekend conference ahead of the installation service. I was delighted to do oblige, as it was a treat for me to discuss the motivation, message, and method of evangelism with the saints at Bethany. Toward the end the seminar in which I was teaching through the various points to cover in a Gospel presentation, I tried to encapsulate all I had said in the previous hour in a three-and-a-half minute summary, while also modeling for them what it looks like to succinctly proclaim the Gospel to someone. It turns out that the gang at Bethany turned it into a short video, which I share with you all today. My hope is that it serves as an example of how we can evangelize both with brevity and accuracy, and as an encouragement for you to speak the Gospel to those to whom the Lord brings you in your daily lives. Transcript below.

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Image result for church open door

I was in seminary, and had never been a pastor before. But I knew God was preparing me to become one, and my desire was to church plant. So I was overjoyed when a pastor asked me to join him in a new church close to where I lived. This was exactly what I wanted to do, and seemed like the perfect opportunity.

But I had no way of knowing that perhaps the most significant lesson I would learn through that experience would be from the pastor himself. After several years of ministry the church plant disbanded and the pastor left the ministry. He and I still kept in touch after the church shut down, but that communication dwindled over time. I found out he wasn’t going to church much anymore, and when I challenged him about that, he cut me out of his life.

I was shocked. We had been so close. We were together on the battlefield, partners in the gospel, slugging it out in that start-up church. What happened? How did this happen? Were there warning signs along the way? As I look back on that experience, I’ve pulled out three lessons for pastors—warnings you could call them—from a pastor leaving the ministry: Continue Reading…

converse_sole_stomp_01_white_by_megakorean-d632g4wIt’s never something we want to talk about. But, with it happening more than any of us would like, we must. And with a handful of passages addressing the issue, we must all the more. All Scripture is profitable. That even includes the sections covering apostasy.

It’s a big enough deal that God addresses it. And the way in which he does so is telling:

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trumphillaryThis election season has been one of the most excruciating experiences for Evangelicals. So many Christians are exasperated by all the different things to think about before they walk into the voting booth. Smarter men than me have attempted to convince you to vote for, not vote for and to keep your opinions to yourself about which candidate to support this election cycle. Christians who hate abortion and want to see it end in their lifetime are rightfully distraught over the direction the supreme court seems to be going and we all see our religious freedoms departing as well.

My mind and heart are exhausted but there is enough in Scripture for our souls to be refreshed and reinvigorated.

Any time this world disappoints us our eyes should turn away from our situation and be fixed on the Lord. But more specifically, when our kingdom seems to be in shambles we must fix our eyes on a coming kingdom that is unsusceptible to human evil and error.

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October 17, 2016

Saints on a Mission

by Clint Archer

The Mont-Joux pass is the erstwhile name of a particularly treacherous mountain pass in the Alps straddling Switzerland and Italy. For centuries thousands of lost sojourners perished trying to cross it in the biting winter. When a snowstorm unpredictably arose, there would be a whiteout, and with no way to stay on course travelers would get disoriented, distressed, irrevocably lost, and slowly freeze to death.

percopio-stbernardBut, suddenly, in the 1700s the death rate declined drastically. The reason was not due to any serendipitous technological advances. The climate hadn’t changed. The reason for the increased survival rate was a dog; or to be more accurate, a breed of dogs. This uncanny canine breed possessed a prodigious aptitude for navigation in the blinding fog, a preternatural stamina in below freezing temperatures, and an almost mystical ability to locate lost people in a blizzard.

By this stage in history the pass had been named for the monastery founded by St Bernard of Mont-Joux, so naturally the dogs were also canonized, as St Bernards.

During the 200 or so years that the faithful saints served on the St Bernard Pass, over 2,000 lost souls were rescued from the frost-bitten clutches of an icy death. When the “saints” found a lost soul, they would rescue the iced travelers with a simple but effective, methodical process: first, they located them in the snow with their super-sniffer abilities, then they would deliver a life-saving supply of whiskey and bread in quaint oaken barrels strapped around their necks, and finally they would lead the revived popsicle back to the monastery at a blood-stirring pace by borrowing a pathway with their broad chests at a determined gait.

The rescue dog breed is an apt metaphor for the intrepid sub-species of Christian, the full time missionary. This is a breed of believer that exhibits extraordinary stamina and perseverance, and the exceptional abilities to sniff out local spiritual and physical needs, and lead disciples by example, into the soul-saving truth. Missionaries  also admit that they are impotent to help the lost soul, except for delivering the life-giving elixir they carry with them, namely the gospel message.

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Welcome back for the final installment of Addressing the Dressing!

So far in this series, we’ve discussed what modesty means in the Scripture, what elaborate hairstyles were associated with in Roman culture, and discussed the key biblical texts associated with “modesty” in the Bible.  In the previous post we set up the theological framework for, and briefly discussed, a general principle that covers a wide gamut of clothing/fashion related questions:

Avoid any reasonable degree of self-induced nakedness.

That’s definitely not the thorough discussion many may have been expecting or wanting, but it does work in giving a general orientation to this discussion.  If clothing bears skin or appears as skin, avoid it and move in a contrary direction.  Flee from the kinds of revealing, sensual or sexually-charged clothing that has become “normal” in contemporary culture.

Having dealt broadly with the issue of clothes, we now turn to the second (and final) issue.

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October 13, 2016


by d p

Image result for fishing net sunrise

strengthen feeble hands
and tighten loosened cords
for we must throw these nets wide n’ long
n’ our ropes must hold strong as we hold on
’till every catch has been caught
’till every cast has been fought
’till our deck is filled with all the fish that we got

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So we’ve made it through eight posts, covering different information about modesty than many were expecting.  I won’t do another summary of what’s come before, except to say that I’ve argued at length that “modesty”, in the Bible, has more to do with general demeanor and flaunting wealth than it has to do with dressing inappropriately.  For a more in depth summary, I’ll refer my readers to the previous post.

I closed off the last post by pointing out the obvious: I hadn’t yet addressed what would be considered standard “modesty” fare…namely talking about women who dress in clothes that flaunt their culturally-afforded fashion rights.  Today, that’s where we’re going; starting with the American Constitution.

Second Amendment

Many women think modesty talk has to do with utilizing the right to bare arms…or more specifically stopping at the arms.  When it comes to typical “modesty” discussions, the conversation often runs in one of three directions:

a. Guidelines to help someone determine just what a woman is allowed to bare before she crosses the line into “immodest”

b.  Trying to find explicit statements about baring/not baring specific things (knees, thighs, shoulders, etc.) in the Bible that are questionably there.

c.  Talking about frustrations related to how men can’t control themselves, no matter what a girl covers up…or how girls constantly get blamed for someone else’s sin.

Seeing that my summary of b reveals my opinion about that (rather obviously), and seeing that I’ve already taken a rather thorough look at the directly relevant scriptures in the previous posts, I’m going to leave that one as already dealt with sufficiently.  The Bible doesn’t directly talk about how many inches above/below the knee a skirt should be, or whether or not women can wear pants (and yes, I know about Deuteronomy 22:5).  People who claim otherwise are exegetical hacks.  The Bible does give direction on issues of what a woman can or cannot bare, but not specific guidelines regarding styles of clothing or units of measure regarding clothing length.

That leaves a and c, so let’s get rolling. Continue Reading…

If you’ve been paying attention, you’ve noticed that I’ve been heading in a specific trajectory and there are a whole lot of practical questions that remain outstanding.  Now we’re going to be covering a lot of ground quickly, so it seems like it’s time for a quick review of what we’ve covered so far:


In the first post, we introduced the topic and gave a broad look at the categories of women in churches that have concerns about modesty (in various ways). I mentioned the four categories of woman as those interested in a) biblical modesty, b) historic modesty, c) cultural modesty and d) those interested in being “Christian hotties.” So far, this series has mostly aimed providing answers for ladies in categories a and b.

In the second and third posts, we looked at the biblical terminology by exploring the two main passages in the New Testament where the word “modest” appears: 1 Cor. 12:23 and 1 Tim. 2:9.  I only did that because the verses with the term “modesty” in them are generally the passages that people talk about when the topic comes up.  In 1 Cor. 12:23 we discovered that the idea behind “modesty” isn’t primarily one of appearance, but rather overall demeanour.   In 1 Tim. 2:9 we discovered that the idea behind “modesty” is one of “order.”  The women that God esteems are women who are marked by restraint and dignity; they’re honourable women.  The idea of a woman adorned in “respectable apparel” (“respectable apparel” being “modesty and self-control“) is contrasted with one who is not adorned “with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire.”  Again, 1 Tim. 2:9 aims at character rather than rules about clothes, though people often take the “braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire” to be some concrete rules about “not dressing like a prostitute.”  At the end of that post, I suggested that the idea that “gold and braided hair was the mark of a prostitute in ancient Roman culture” was essentially a myth. Continue Reading…

humble-pieIn elementary school I was really bad at playing soccer. But my school tried to be inclusive and didn’t want any kid to feel left out, so they had as many teams as there were players.

The coveted “A team” was kitted out in glamorous, white, satin shirts and shorts with golden trim, while the rest of us had itchy yellow and brown shirts. But at least we got to play. I was too maladroit to qualify for the talented B or promising C team, or even the undaunted D team. No, I was cast down to the freakish menagerie of hopeless misfits known as the E team.

We seldom actually played games since few other schools even had an E team, but when we did, we played our uncoordinated hearts out!

The upside of being on a team—any team—was that you got to go on the annual soccer trip by train to play a rival school in the faraway shire of Greytown. When our E team arrived for our match there were no opponents to play; Greytown didn’t have an E team.  They quickly assembled a team to play us. I think they drafted the chess team who was there to spectate. After a grueling, dramatic game, we managed to beat the hodge-podge team by two goals.

I remember on the trip home the A team was pretty despondent because they had lost all their games. But our E team was in high spirits. We came, we saw, we conquered. And we let everyone know about it.

In hindsight, I cringe at the thought of how annoying our hollow boasting must have sounded to those with real athletic ability and undeniable talent. I sometimes still think of that spectacle of my utter lack of self-awareness whenever I am tempted to be puffed up in the presence of my Savior.

Here are three ingredients in the recipe for humble pie so you can cultivate humility in the presence of true greatness…

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