ant farmAs a kid I didn’t have an X-Box or Apple Wii. I had an ant-farm. It was perched on the desk in my bedroom. I derived a simple, if voyeuristic, fascination from hours of observing these industrious creatures in their diminutive universe, bustling about their business, oblivious to my all-seeing gaze. I would ensure they always had ample nutritious sustenance to stockpile, and even the occasional sugary delight. And I vigilantly protected them from the clumsy curiosity of our dogs.

But one day they discovered a tiny crack in the plastic, and they staged an adventurous emigration into my room. I began to find ants on my desk, in my closets, under my bed.

At first I was compassionate and patient. Scooping up each escapee and whisking it back to the comfort of the well-stocked farm. Until one day I got tired of having a nation of ungrateful tenants that were constantly rebelling. So I picked up the whole contraption and tossed it into the garbage on the street, cast from my presence.

I suppose it’s this type of petulance in my character that makes me appreciate God’s patience with me. But the scene of that ant-farm rebellion is also a picture of another species of recalcitrant rebels who are puny in comparison to the one who provides their sustenance and safety.

Let’s see, in four scenes of Psalm 2, what God thinks of humans who rage against being subject to his rule…

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DisciplineOver the past couple of weeks, we’ve been examining what the New Testament says about dealing with sin in the church. To learn how the church is to deal with sin in its midst, we’ve turned principally to Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 2:5-11. There, Paul discusses his dealings with a sinning member of the Corinthian church who has now repentant and seeking restoration to the fellowship of the church at Corinth. However, the church is struggling to accept this repentant brother because of the severity of his sin and the way it has affected Paul himself. Paul writes to encourage the church to restore him. In that passage, Paul outlines five stages of successful church discipline (or perhaps better termed, church restoration). Two weeks ago, we took a look at the first stage, which was the harmful sin that makes discipline necessary. This week, we look to stage number two, which is corporate discipline.

2 Corinthians 2:6 says, “Sufficient for such a one is this punishment which was inflicted by the majority.”

The word that gets translated “punishment,” is epitimía. It’s a technical, legal term that in secular Greek refers to an official disciplinary act. And this official act of discipline was carried out “by the majority.” That is to say, the church had a formal gathering, and deliberated upon this matter, and rendered a verdict. This is none other than the outworking of the process of formal, organized, official church discipline.

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Should Christians be friends with non-believers?

Well there are two biblical concepts at play in this question—the first is the principle of purity and the second is the mandate for evangelism.  Continue Reading…

February 1, 2017

Why I Am Not a Buddhist

by Eric Davis
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You hear it often these days in one form or another. “I’m not really religious, but if I was, I would be a Buddhist.” “I don’t believe in organized religion, but I hold to the ideas of Buddhism.” “I’m attracted to Buddhism because it is so peaceful, loving, and free.” It’s becoming increasingly trendy to display Buddhist prayer flags on homes and public places. A form of Buddhism is increasingly embraced in the United States, with an estimated 5-6 million adherents. Notable celebrities, for example, who reportedly hold to Buddhism include George Lucas, Keanu Reeves, Oliver Stone, Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt, and Mark Zuckerberg.

Before getting into the reasons why I am not a Buddhist, a brief summary of Buddhism is necessary.

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biblepulpitWe are less than a month away from the Shepherds conference and the anticipation is building as we are looking forward to another incredible week. I get that I am biased, but I do believe it is the best conference to go to. Grace Community Church does an incredible job serving the pastors who come, it is great to see so many old friends and make some new ones, and, most of all, it always seems like the various speakers preach their best sermons during this conference.

This year’s theme is going to be “We Preach Christ” and it will be honoring the 500th year of the protestant reformation you can watch the conference at the conference website. To whet our appetite a little I’d like to highlight a sermon preached by Steve Lawson two years ago. The focus of the conference that year was on the inerrancy of Scripture.

He began his sermon by quoting Spurgeon who said, “O Friends, if I did not believe in the infallibility of Scripture—the absolute infallibility of it from cover to cover—I would never enter this pulpit again.

Then, Steve Lawson declared, “Because the Word of God is inerrant, it is, therefore, by necessity, invincible. And because it is absolutely pure, it is absolutely powerful.”

He also added, “The Bible is like a beautiful diamond that has many different cuts, and, when you hold it up to the light, each beauty is refracting the light of each different side and no one symbol of the Bible can communicate the whole. So, it requires many different metaphors, many different analogies, to even begin to try to put its arm around the totality of the invincible power of the inerrant Word.”

All in all, this sermon was very quotable, so I’d like to share with you his outline, as well as some of my favorite quotes, that I hope will give you a gist of what he said. Of course, it would be best to listen to the sermon itself as it would be encouraging to any heart that treasures the Word of God.

Here are Steve Lawson’s seven metaphors that the Bible uses to describe Itself.

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old school immigrationSo, I have never done this before, but I just received an e-mail from a friend who is a politician in the USA, and I punched out a quick reply that I thought I’d post here for your comment to help me think through the issue of refugees, immigrants (legal & illegal).
Disclaimer: I am not American, but am married to one and father of four of them, so I have a keen interest in what happens on the other side of the pond. Naturally, I am removed from all the nuances of the debate, which is why I’m hoping your comments can help elucidate the issue for me.
Another disclaimer: I typed this out 20 mins before the blog went live, so it hasn’t even been proofread by my editor!

Hi Clint,

Have you blogged on the U.S. refugee crisis? If not, are you able to share your thoughts? I’m conflicted on role of church in U.S. versus role of government in this situation. Generally supportive of recent measures to limit refugees based on national security. But empathetic to arguments on the other side. Thoughts?
My reply…

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Pastoral prayer—the part of the worship service where a pastor stands before the congregation and leads them in prayer as part of the worship service—seems to have fallen on hard times.

By pastoral prayer, I mean a pastor (someone whom has been ordained, and is being paid by the congregation for pastoral ministry; 1 Tim 5:17) praying a deep prayer over/for/with the congregation on the Lord’s Day.

Terry Johnson—who wrote When Grace Comes Alive and When Grace Comes Home (two books about theological prayers), points out that through church history, pastoral prayers have been a mark of healthy churches, but particularly during the Reformation. They are common today because they remain embodied (if neglected) in most liturgical churches.   Continue Reading…

A couple weeks ago, my kids saw a man and his son out in the park, so they quickly asked if they could go outside. It was a great chance for my kids to play with someone and for me to get to know a neighbor. It turned out to be a great Gospel opportunity.

He was a guy who grew up in Peru, currently working for an airline company. He gets to fly all over the world for free, and he told me that he can’t wait to make it to Italy one day, specifically Rome.  When I informed him that I grew up in Rome, we were practically best friends. Then he asked me what I do. When I informed him that I worked at a church, he played it cool like he was ok with it. He had already told me that he grew up with Catholic grandparents, as well as a Jewish grandpa, all practicing in their respective religions. He never mentioned anything negative about them, nor about religion at all. And then he told me that he was an atheist. As we continued our conversation, it was very pleasant. He couldn’t understand why there are so many religions, so I explained to him the differences between what I believe and most other religions. He had many questions about the Bible’s reliability which I did my best to answer, and then I got the chance to encourage him to read his Bible. He confessed to a fear of death, as well as some doubts about atheism. Right before we went home, we took out our phones and became Facebook friends. All in all, a wonderful conversation, and one which I was very thankful for.

And then I looked at his Facebook.

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trump tower protestWith President Donald J. Trump’s inauguration behind him a dilemma faces those who marched on Trump Tower waving signs that declared “NOT MY PRESIDENT.” They can either submit to the reality ushered in by the inauguration day—that Donald Trump is now POTUS—or they can ignore reality and keep protesting.

If they remain at Trump Tower they will look rather pathetic since their target has now moved to his new, blanched digs. If they do show up at the White House it will prove that in some begrudging respect those who aver that he is not their president tacitly concur that he is in fact the president of their country.

At least they have the security blanket of term limits for consolation.

This cognitive dissonance will thrive in the afterglow of the Oxford Dictionary’s party to unveil its word-of-the-year: “post-truth” (which is actually two words, but ignoring that fact is the epitome of post-truth, which makes the choice even edgier).

The same existential crisis loomed heavy over the Jews of Jesus’ day. Here was a man who claimed to be the King of the Jews, the fulfillment of the prophecies that he would rule in power and justice and liberate his people. But he was submissive to authority, happy to pay taxes to Caesar, not looking for any trouble with the Roman oppressors, and generally not very regal in his behavior. He might be their king, but he was not yet the king of their country. Some Jews rejected him outright as “not my king” and others were devoted followers, acknowledging him as their king, and eagerly awaiting the day his kingdom arrived.

So did the kingdom of God come when Jesus came?

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SurgeryLast week we began a series on dealing with sin in the church. And as long as there are sinful people in the church—which is to say, always, on this side of heaven—the church needs to be equipped to deal with sin according to the instructions the Lord Jesus left us. And we turn to Paul’s directives in 2 Corinthians 2:5–11 to observe five stages of faithful and successful church discipline and restoration.

This week we come to that first stage, and that is the harmful sin that makes discipline necessary. This passage teaches us that all sin is harmful to the body of Christ. Paul says in verse 5: “But if any has caused sorrow, he has caused sorrow not to me, but in some degree—in order not to say too much—to all of you.”

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