This year for my church’s Christmas concert, we didn’t do what we traditionally have done–in years past we would do music with a gospel presentation from a pastor. This year instead of a pastor presenting the gospel, we chose four people from different backgrounds that are all faithfully involved at Immanuel. We asked them to describe their lives when they were in darkness, how they heard about the light of Jesus, and what their life is like now that they are living in the light.
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There are two reasons churches need to have clear teaching on human sexuality (sexual attraction, sexual identity, gender distinctions, etc). The first is because this is an issue which Scripture speaks about. It is under attack in today’s culture, and thus churches should be quick to clearly explain what the Bible actually says on the issue.
The second reason is because our culture is particularly litigious. With that in mind, churches have a stewardship over their finances and property to make sure that they are protected against such lawsuits, and currently the best legal protection we have is churches have the freedom to structure themselves around their own teachings. However, this legal protection is moot when churches don’t have any articulated or published views on the topic.
Yesterday I was interviewed at The Daily Signal for a churchman’s perspective on the Ferguson rioting. I chose to limit my responses to the riots—as I think it is foolish to try and relitigate the guilt or innocence of Wilson or Brown. After all, one man is believed until he is cross examined (Prov 18:17), and there are only a few people in the world who have heard from the witnesses on both sides of this case.
Nevertheless, there are some basic biblical principles concerning the aftermath in Ferguson that need to be said: Continue Reading…
When I came to Immanuel in March of 2012, the first series I preached was Psalm 119. I chose this Psalm because I wanted to impress on people the foundational nature of the Bible. As Christians, we never get beyond the fact that the word of God is absolutely necessary for everything related to life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). Psalm 119 makes that point in every single verse.
Yesterday I catalogued the themes of each stanza. Today I want to pass along the most helpful Psalm 119 resources. All four of these interact with every single verse of the stanza (whereas most commentaries have sections on Psalm 119 shorter than the actual psalm!)
These four were the most helpful to me in my preaching, and three of them are free on-line: Continue Reading…
Psalm 119 is the longest poem in the Bible. It is the longest prayer in the Bible. It is the longest acrostic in the Bible. It is the longest chapter in the Bible. It stands at the center of the Bible, and it is about the Bible. The longest Psalm is a psalm about Psalms. The most intimidating chapter in the Word is also a chapter about the Word.
The scope of Psalm 119 is both huge (22 stanzas) and limited (every verse is about scripture). The chapter covers every aspect of life—successes, failures, victories, defeats, prosperity and adversity—and yet is also almost entirely a prayer (nearly every verse is directed to Yahweh).
Because of its length, the unity of it can often be missed. The stanzas are not interchangeable. Instead, this Psalm is masterfully crafted to guide the reader in a progression through the believer’s life. It covers all you need to know about leading a godly life, from A-Z (or aleph-to-tav, as it were). And it does so in order. Continue Reading…
I grew up in a non-Christian family, almost entirely ignorant of the Bible, Jesus, and the basics of the gospel. I was registered as a Quaker—to keep me out of the draft, were one to present itself again (flower power, and whatnot)—but this was mostly symbolic, and did not bleed over into any kind of religious upbringing.
In fact, when I was an eighth-grader I watched a soccer game on TV and noticed a guy in the stands who was holding a sign that said “John 3:16.” I honestly had no idea that meant, and I asked my dad. When I found out it was a Scripture reference, I tracked down a Bible. First I had to figure out that “3:16” was not a page number, and then sort through the five books in the KJV that bear John’s name. But because I thought it was connected to soccer, I was motivated and finally cracked the Bible code and read the verse. This was anti-climactic though, and left me super-confused—I could not figure out what God giving his son had to do with World Cup soccer.
This week I attended the Expositor’s Summit at Southern Seminary. It’s a conference for pastors who love expository preaching, and the messages have been very powerful. John MacArthur preached on parables, HB Charles on the doxology at the end of Ephesians 3, and Al Mohler on Genesis 22 (in the next few days, the audio will be posted here).
There was also a panel discussion where each of the speakers was asked what the hardest passage of scripture is that they have ever preached. Here is what they said:
Judges 11 is one of the darkest chapters in the Bible. God’s judge, Jephthah, offers up his only child as a human sacrifice, under the incredibly sinful assumption that Yahweh is worshiped in the same way the pagan gods are. The story stands as evidence that without faith, God’s people are as depraved as the world, and that Israel is in desperate need of a savior better than a Judge.
In the last few weeks I’ve read two articles (here and here) that have argued against that understanding of Judges 11, essentially saying, “no, no…you have it all wrong…God wouldn’t allow one of his Judges to do something that horrible… Jephthah didn’t sacrifice her, he asked her to live a life of chastity in service to Yahweh.”
I think this attempt to rescue Jephthah’s reputation comes up short though, and here is why:
The doctrine of inerrancy–that the Bible is without any kind of error whatsoever–is closely tied to the practice of expository preaching—teaching line-by-line, verse-by verse. Their connection makes sense: if the Bible is perfect, than every word of it should be brought to bear on the Christian’s soul.
Thus one could argue that there is no real concept of expository preaching without a true understanding of inerrancy.
Yesterday I explained that spiritual gifts were God’s way of uniting believers in the church and advancing the gospel through the church. Every believer uses their spiritual gifts when they serve the church for the purpose of building up each other (1 Cor 10:23-24, 1 Cor 12:7).
But there is an obvious exception to these principles: the sign gifts. By sign gifts I mean the gift of languages, interpretation, the gift of healing, the gift of apostleship, and the gift of miracles. These gifts were not merely examples of people serving the church, but instead they had a much more immediate role: they validated the ministry of the Apostles. This is exactly why Paul called them “sign” gifts (2 Cor 12:12).