The Kingdom of Speech, by Tom Wolfe, is a fun tour of the folly of evolution. While Wolf himself is an atheist, he is a vocal critic of the atheistic materialism that grips the Western world. He traces much of this materialistic swagger to the arrogance of modern evolutionary science, which he critiques in The Kingdom of Speech.

The problem with evolution, Wolfe notes, is that it overplays its hand. It tries to be too much. It tries to explain everything, and in so doing it ends up explaining nothing. Wolfe writes, “Darwin had fallen into the trap of cosmogonism, the compulsion to find the ever-elusive Theory of Everything, an idea or narrative that reveals everything in the world to be part of a single and suddenly clear pattern.”

Because no evidence for such a theory exists, evolutionists grasp at straws for the faintest semblance of corroborative affirmation, as seen by Darwin often employing his dog as a stand-in for actual research (as in, “If my dog were left on an island…” or “even my dog has figured out how to…”). All of evolutionary theory is ripe for the mocking, and Wolfe is up to the task.

There are five standard tests for a scientific hypothesis, and evolution can hardly meet the easiest (observation) much less any of the others, such as recording or replicating. Despite this, evolutionary theory bred Nazism, and soon led to something Wolfe calls “worse than the great wars: the total eclipse of all values.”   Continue Reading…

1025_Atrophy

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If you’ve ever broken a bone, you recall something about that associated muscle; atrophy. Due to low attention and use, a muscle will become weak and emaciated, or atrophied. A muscle in this state is feeble and of less use to the body.

The same can occur spiritually in the lives of Christian. If we fail to give proper attention to the biblical process of sanctification, we can unnecessarily weaken our souls. And, when a church leadership shepherds with a weak approach to sanctification, they risk endangering souls in many ways.

With that, here are a few risks of taking an atrophied approach to sanctification:

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“Oh wow! A lady from my church just called my wife to tell her she found out her husband has committed adultery! I think he’s leaving her.”

That’s the sentence a pastor friend of mine said last week during our conversation. While we were catching up, he had received a phone call but he ignored it since we were talking; then he got the text. Here we were at a pastors’ conference enjoying fantastic preaching and great fellowship, when, suddenly, this text served as a striking reminder that ministry never stops. It doesn’t matter how far we travel, across the country or across the world, we can’t escape the realities of ministry.

I don’t have much experience in ministry, but I can confidently say that the most difficult part of it is when people walk away from the Lord. Of course, the death of fellow saints is painful, but our theology allows us to be joyful at the same time; unbelievers rejecting the Gospel is sad, but it is expected apart from God opening their eyes. It must be said that there is nothing like having someone with whom you’ve spent hours with, discussing Scripture, theology, doing evangelism with them, and spending Sunday after Sunday singing incredible truths with, only to watch them walk away from it all in order to satisfy some worldly temporary pleasure while forsaking the church that Christ died for.  Thomas Watson’s words ring true when he said, “What a fool who, for a drop of pleasure, would drink in a sea of wrath.”

What are we to do?  How are we to think about it?  It doesn’t matter if you’ve been a pastor for decades and have watched dozens of people walk away, or if you’re new in the ministry and it has happened only a handful of times, I imagine that it is something you never get used to and, perhaps, as we get older and our joy to see Jesus increases, our disappointment over those who walk away only tends to get stronger. So, how do we think through this? You don’t have to be a pastor to experience this tragedy. Here are four reminders we need when someone close to us in the church walks away.

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transfigurationJesus invited Peter, James, and John to summit a mountain with him. He then peeled back his humanity and revealed an unprecedented, electrifying display of unveiled glory. Oh, and then he was joined by two luminaries who had been dead for centuries. And then, just when they thought this jaw-dropping experience could not possibly get any more intense, the voice of God the Father resounded with a declaration of his unreserved approval.

Naturally, the three witnesses were gobsmacked. And very much in character, a star-struck Peter blurts out exactly what would have been swimming in my dazed thoughts in a mesmerizing moment like that: I don’t want this to end. Ever. Let’s set up a tent-town and soak this experience up forever.

But then—in a flash—it’s all over.

The dazzled disciples descend from the charged mountaintop experience and, before their brains have had time to acclimatize to the sudden loss of experiential altitude, they are immediately accosted with the frightful and gritty melee of a demon possessed burn victim thrashing about in a fit, while onlookers desperately call for Jesus to intervene.

I find this scene in Matthew 17 to be an apt analogy for what it’s like coming home to ministry after a glorious, edifying, encouraging pastors’ conference.

It is an experience that is difficult to relate to anyone who hasn’t had it. But when a church sends its pastor to a conference like the Shepherds’ Conference Summit, or T4G, or Desiring God, or any well-executed gathering of pastors, it is a boon that can be a defibrillator for the pastor’s heart.

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rosaryAs we celebrate the 500th year of the reformation this year, I’ve been very encouraged by the fact that there are so many in the church who understand that the reformation is not over.

Coming to America after growing up in Italy was very interesting. The world has a lot to learn from the American church, who, for so many years, has supplied the world with most of its Christian missionaries, and yet the American church has a lot to learn from the rest of the world when it comes to being able to condemn false religions.

This year is an opportunity for the American church to really explore what the Roman Catholic church actually is, and ask whether or not it teaches the truth. Secondly, each believer must ask himself whether, when speaking with the Catholic individual, they are asking the right questions.

Many Christians may accept the fact that the Roman Catholic church is a false church that teaches works-righteousness, but may have “the neighbor” who says he really loves Jesus, making it very difficult to figure out how to really know if they believe in grace or if they believe in works.

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600541276_640Today begins one of my favorite weeks of the year; the annual Shepherd’s Conference. This year’s conference is unique, however. Fourteen keynote speakers have assembled from around the world to speak with one voice on the greatest movement of God in church history since Pentecost; the Protestant Reformation. With 2017 marking the 500th year anniversary of the Reformation, it is an opportune time to gather accordingly.

But, why such a big to-do? For centuries, faithful pastors and exegetes have spilled much ink on the necessity of Christianity’s break from Rome. We could talk about errors, for example, from Rome’s doctrine of the saints to celibacy; from Mary to the mass; from indulgences to inspiration; from purgatory to the papacy. But, there is one simple reason why coming to Christ requires breaking from Rome.

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I’m a sucker for a good sales pitch. I’ve plunged into various predicaments because I couldn’t say no. This weakness almost derailed my career path the day the US military recruiters showed up at my seminary.dress whites

They wanted military chaplains. Being a chaplain was so far away from my calling that I expected to be impervious to their pitch. But their chapel speaker, a major in the Navy in a Top Gun-esque white uniform and impressive physique, preached up a storm. He regaled us with how he got to start Bible studies on submarines off the coast of Iraq, how he would disciple pilots while jogging with them on the aircraft carrier, and how he counseled combat troops in exotic locations.

After chapel, a gaggle of awestruck students fluttered to the recruiters like moths to the flame. The recruiters in their smart uniforms all smelled so good and beamed friendly smiles. They talked of seeing the world and being all you can be. They had pictures of happy soldiers with gleaming guns repelling from helicopters like my childhood GI Joe fantasies.

I…was…mesmerized.

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February 23, 2017

For Lent, give up Lent

by Jesse Johnson

Image result for lent evangelicals

A friend of mine was recently asked by a local youth pastor, “What’d you give up for Lent?” My friend quipped, “Lent.”

I can’t help but notice a growth in evangelicals who want to celebrate Lent by “giving something up.” I’ve heard of Christians giving up sugar, soda, Angry Birds, and Netflix (ok, I made up the last one—I’ve never heard of anyone giving up Netflix). For some evangelicals, apparently Lent is the new New Year’s. Those old resolutions were dropped by Feb 10, so time to dust them off and start over on March 1.

That is a bad idea. Here are a three reasons you should give up Lent for Lent:  Continue Reading…

struggles

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Hard circumstances surround us about as much as air. From a flat tire on a rainy day, to opposition from friends, to family scuffles, to grave illness, and more, we will not remain insulated from difficulty.

And our responding to the inevitable can make all the difference. On one end, we can, by God’s grace, respond with God at the center so as to honor him. On the other, we can respond with self at the center so as to send ourselves into a whirlpool of error and anger. None of it is easy. At times, we can get into patterns where unbiblical responding becomes second nature (or first). If you have struggled like I have to maintain a God-centered perspective in struggles, you may need a biblical mirror held up to help facilitate change.

Here are a few adjustments we might need to make in our perspective as difficulty hits:

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nonnoenonnaMy grandfather turned 90 last week. This year, he will celebrate his 68th year of being a missionary in Rome, Italy.  He is still preaching regularly, not only in his own home church that he planted over 60 years ago but also around the country. He also writes for a monthly magazine and books for the edification of Italian believers. It has been an incredible ride, and I’ve learned so much from him over the years, but there was one day in particular that will stay with me forever. But first, let me tell you about his ministry.

It was 1949, World War II was just finished, and William Standridge, my grandpa, fresh out of college, was on his way to Italy as a missionary. He was 22 years old and had already decided a few things. If he was going to be giving his life for the Italian people, he needed to adapt as quickly as possible to the Italian culture. He would learn to wear what they wore, eat what they ate, and speak as they spoke.

Soon after that, he was on his way to speak at a young adults’ camp and although his desire was to dress like an Italian, he hadn’t adapted quite yet. After the war, Italians were experiencing serious depression, not just financial, but even more emotional turmoil. This affected their clothing. They all wore gray and black suits and ties, with very little color in them. As he approached the camp, he caught the eye of the woman who had organized the conference. She said that his choice of shirt that day was something she had never seen before–horses that were colored in every color of the rainbow. And so, he caught her eye even before she heard him speak. He taught them that week about his love for the Lord, and his ability to preach the Word stood out and she definitely wanted to get to know him more.

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