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.

Continue Reading…

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.

Continue Reading…

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.

Continue Reading…

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.

Continue Reading…

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

writingartsandalittlemore.files.wordpress.com

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:

Continue Reading…

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.

Continue Reading…

Norma McCorvey passed away at age 69 on Saturday.

Her journey to notoriety began in June 1969 when she attempted to get an abortion. Her lying failed to secure legal permission, and her scheme to obtain an illegal abortion also ended unsuccessfully. She then gathered a diabolical duo of fee-hungry attorneys to gear up for a protracted legal fight. Fortuitously, the baby reached full term before the menacing lawsuit did, and in 1970 the suit was filed under the alias Jane Roe. The Dallas County DA was Henry Wade, and thus the infamous case was christened Roe v. Wade.one missing

By the time the case popped out of the Supreme Court, the law was on the side of executing unborn people, a monstrous legality that began to rapidly and incessantly devour millions of unborn babies. Legally.

The rest, as they say, is history. And a bloody one at that.

But in 1994, Norma McCorvey flipped sides. She made the acquaintance of pastor Flip Benham who ran a pro-life outfit based adjacent to the pro-choice reproductive health clinic (read: infant abattoir) where McCorvey was working.

On her outdoor smoke breaks she would engage in heated banter with the pro-lifer next door. She eventually began to see him as a caring man, and even agreed to visit his church. Within a year she publicly declared that she had converted to Christianity, and was baptized in a backyard pool on national television.
Continue Reading…

February 17, 2017

Forgiven People Forgive

by Mike Riccardi

ForgiveWell, we’re back to our series on dealing with sin in the church from Paul’s instructions to the Corinthians in 2 Corinthians 2:5–11. If you haven’t read the other posts in this series, I’d encourage you to do so. We’ve been moving through the stages of faithful, successful discipline, and have seen three of them so far. First, there is the harmful sin that makes discipline necessary; second, there’s the corporate discipline itself; and third, there is, we hope, genuine repentance. The fourth stage, after there has been genuine repentance, is comforting forgiveness. Paul says, “Sufficient for such a one is this punishment which was inflicted by the majority, 7so that on the contrary you should rather forgive and comfort him, otherwise such a one might be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow.”

Here we glean a principle that needs to take root in the soil of every Christian’s heart: where there is repentance, there is forgiveness. When a sinner repents, the church forgives. And though the original events of this text lead us to apply this principle first of all to cases of corporate church discipline, we all need to hear this point in light of our own duty to forgive those who sin against us personally. When a sinner repents, Christians forgive.

Continue Reading…

Image result for planning center

Last week I listed seven components of worship that should take place when the church is gathered: fellowship, ordinances, Scripture reading, giving, corporate prayer, preaching, and singing. By itself, this list demonstrates the necessity of being part of a church. If a Christian is not part of a church, he separates himself from not only the means of grace, but the means of worship as well.

This week I want to answer this question: should all seven of them be present in every service? Or, to ask it another way, are any of these seven prioritized over the others? Is every form of corporate worship equal, or are some more equal than others?  Continue Reading…