The Ordinary & Magnificent Church

Pastor Dustin Benge:

I grew up in a small Southern Baptist church in eastern Kentucky. Four generations of my family had attended the church, and my great-great-grandparents were buried nearby. My grandpa drove the church bus, and my mom played the piano.

I remember the Christian and American flags flanking the stage as we sang patriotic songs every year during VBS. The pastor preached from the KJV, visited the sick, and called unbelievers to repentance. We sang from the Heavenly Highway Hymnbook. I heard the gospel, was saved and called to preach in this church.

When I began theological education, I quickly became puffed up with pride thinking I knew much more than everyone in this little southern church who were not as “intellectual and I was.” Many years later, I came to realize that these faithful farmers, miners, teachers, truck drivers, veterans, and homemakers genuinely loved the Lord, the gospel of Christ, their neighbors, and desired to obey the Bible faithfully.

Could they have been more theologically precise, perhaps? Could the sermons have been more hermeneutically correct, maybe? Could there have been more training for leaders, probably? But I came to realize that I had more to learn from these men and women than I had to teach them. They weren’t perfect, but now that I look back, I was in heaven on earth. This was the church.

We may have degrees and experience, but we must never dismiss those who faithfully serve the Lord. Their names are known only in heaven and within the communities they’ve served. Let’s pray for these warriors of Christ, for they’ll enter glory far ahead many of us.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Don’t Exchange Fake News for Faker News

Julie Masson offers a needed warning and some sound counsel for those rightly wary of being duped by fake news :

We are currently dealing with some people in our lives who wholeheartedly distrust any “mainstream media.” But they believe the random dude on YouTube who “knows what’s really going on.” As Christians, I hope that we can be discerning as we consume and engage with any media.

And we should also remember a few things.

1. Your typical journalist/reporter has a boss that they are accountable to just like you are accountable to your boss. They will have bias for sure but that does not mean they are simply saying lies. They can’t or they’d be fired.

2. Your typical news outlet will have several people who review content before it is published or put on the air. Again, this doesn’t mean bias doesn’t exist. But several people are doing their jobs to make sure their info is credible.

3. As Hannah Anderson said so well, our ability to go directly to a source is much easier these days. So any news outlet worth their salt knows that people are able to “fact check” what they say.

Again, this doesn’t mean there isn’t bias. But we can’t believe everyone is lying. Rather we should watch/read multiple sources. Chris Martin said it well when he said:

“I have noticed that truth can often be found where the Right and Left outlets’ stories are the same. For example, if a Right outlet and a Left outlet both report that Event X occurred, that it occurred in City Y and that approximately Z number of people were impacted, all of that is likely true. When Right and Left then explain the implications of Event X, whether Event X was right or wrong, & perhaps who may be to blame for Event X, this is where bias may exist and the stories may differ. This isn’t always the case, but I have often found it to be so.”

If as Christians we only trust the sources we find in the obscure corners of the web on websites with donate buttons and videos that say “please share this” so the person can build a following, then we are actually trusting more in ourselves.

We should be in the word daily and we should be discerning as we engage with any media but if “discernment” means that we only trust the person who says what we want to be true, I think that means we are putting our trust in ourselves and not the God who will help us discern.

Confirmation bias is a heck of a drug that’ll enslave your mouse and your mind. Be soberly skeptical, discerning, and don’t fight fake news with fake news.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Bible Reading Plans for 2021

It is 2021! God help us.

If you are like many, you have a list of resolutions to improve yourself in the new year. And, like my friend Sam Luce says, that’s a good thing when done with the cross in mind. May God give you the grace needed to carry out the good plans and the wisdom needed to quit the dumb ones.

Among the resolutions you’ve planned already, I would like, on the Eve of this new year, to ask you to consider one more: plan to read the whole Bible in 2021.

Why Read the Whole Bible?

Think that’s irrelevant or too lofty? Allow me to persuade you otherwise with a few points.

First, here are a few reasons reading all the Bible in 2021 should excite you.

Second, listen to a simple word of encouragement: you can read the whole Bible. Justin Taylor notes that, “The average person reads 200 to 250 words per minute; there are about 775,000 words in the Bible; therefore it takes less than 10 minutes a day to read the whole Bible in a year.” No matter how slow of a reader you are, you can still do it.

Third, you make plans for other stuff, why not reading the Bible? As John Piper once wrote, “We take steps to see that we have enough to eat and clothes to keep us warm. But do we take our spiritual needs that seriously? Do we apply the same earnestness in planning to maximize our ministry as we do in planning to make a living?”

Lastly, if you don’t plan to read the Bible this year, just know this: you won’t.

Good. Now that you’re excited, encouraged, motivated, and hopefully sobered up, allow me to offer you some Bible reading plans to take on in 2021.

A List of Plans to Read the Whole Bible

This list isn’t exhaustive, but it should serve as a helpful start. The list is ordered with the easiest plans first (least amount of daily reading) to more robust plans that cover more ground in a lesser amount of time.

The Bible Reading Record Keeper. This isn’t a reading plan, but it is a record keeping sheet that lists all the books of the Bible with their respective chapters numbered to the side. This tool helps keep track of what books in the Bible you have read and those you haven’t. For those who don’t want to follow a particular plan, but plan on regularly reading a few chapters each day, this is can serve as a helpful tool to make sure you’re covering all God’s Word. Here is the same idea, just much more pretty.

5 Day Bible Reading Plan. “This special Bible reading system allows you to read the entire Bible (or just the New Testament) in one year while only reading five times a week. Five readings a week gives room to catch up or take a needed day off, and makes daily Bible reading practical and do-able.”

52 Week Bible Reading Plan. “Read through the Bible in a year, with each day of the week dedicated to a different genre: Epistles, The Law, History, Psalms, Poetry, Prophecy, and Gospels.”

The Bible Reading Plan for Shirkers and Slackers. Justin Taylor describes this plan as one that, “takes away the pressure (and guilt) of ‘keeping up’ with the entire Bible in one year. You get variety within the week by alternating genres by day, but also continuity by sticking with one genre each day. Here’s the basic idea:

  • Sundays: Poetry
  • Mondays: Pentateuch (Genesis through Deuteronomy)
  • Tuesdays: Old Testament history
  • Wednesdays: Old Testament history
  • Thursdays: Old Testament prophets
  • Fridays: New Testament history
  • Saturdays: New Testament epistles (letters).”

The Discipleship Journal Bible Reading Plan. This gives you 25 readings each month from four different places (it begins in Genesis, Psalms, Matthew and Acts). Having 25 readings each month means you will have a few “catch up” days each month if you fell behind or “free days” to study passages that intrigued you more deeply.

The Chronological Bible Reading Plan. Read through the Bible in the order the events occurred chronologically. This helps some people focus on the unfolding story a little better.

The Historical Reading of the Bible. “The Old Testament readings are similar to Israel’s Hebrew Bible, and the New Testament readings are an attempt to follow the order in which the books were authored.”

The Kingdom Bible Reading Plan. In this plan the Old Testament receives three readings per day and the New Testament gets one reading per day. “The Old Testament readings follow the arrangement of Jesus’ Bible (Luke 24:44 – Law, Prophets, Writings), with one reading coming from each portion per day. In a single year, one reads through Psalms twice and all other biblical books once…Only twenty-five readings are slated per month in order to provide more flexibility in daily devotions. The plan can be started at any time of the year, and if four readings per day are too much, the plan can simply be stretched to two or more years (reading from one, two, or three columns per day).”

Read Through the Whole Bible in Order. “This plan calls for reading all the books of the Bible in canonical order in one year. Each day’s reading is about 3-4 chapters in length, with the exception of the Psalms (which are covered in 5 chapters per day). The idea is to read longer chapters in groups of three (e.g., Pentateuchal narratives, Gospels) and shorter chapters in groups of four. There are 7 “catch-up” days scattered throughout the calendar.”

The Ligonier Bible Reading Plan. “Two readings each day; one from the Old Testament and one from the New Testament.” Being from Ligonier, you can get the plan in the Ligonier App (iPhone / iPadAndroid, Kindle Fire & Windows Phone) and YouVersion.

The Legacy Plan. “This plan does not have set readings for each day. Instead, it has set books for each month, and set number of Proverbs and Psalms to read each week. It aims to give you more flexibility, while grounding you in specific books of the Bible each month.”

The Robert M’Cheyne Plan. My wife and I did this one in 2011 and enjoyed it. This plan starts you in the four great beginnings of Scripture (beginning of creation in Genesis 1, beginning of Israel’s return from Exile in Ezra 1, beginning of Christ’s incarnation in Matthew 1, and beginning of the church in Acts 1). This plan will have you read through the whole Old Testament once and the New Testament and Psalms twice. It is four chapters a day. One great thing is it has you in four different places in the Bible at once so when you hit the less than inspirational sections (genealogies, records, etc.), you will still be in more immediately helpful sections. Also, you can grab D.A. Carson’s marvelous devotional based on this reading plan here and here. If you don’t want to buy the book, you can subscribe to a daily email where you are sent the devotional for that day’s reading.

5X5X5 Plan. The Ligonier site explains this one as such: “Read through the New Testament in a year, reading Monday to Friday. Weekends are set aside for reflection and other reading. Especially beneficial if you’re new to a daily discipline of Bible reading.”

52 Week Plan. Gets you through the entire Bible in one year. Each day of the week (Monday through Sunday) is dedicated to a different Biblical genre: Epistles, The Law, History, Psalms, Poetry, Prophecy, and Gospels. This one provides huge variety in daily readings.

Professor Horner’s Plan. Professor Horner’s System is not for the faint of heart. It calls for 10 chapters per day. With this plan, you will read 10 chapters from 10 different books each day. It is a Bible reading immersion plan. No treading the waters with this one, just diving. Here is one pastor’s hearty recommendation.

A Few Helps Along the Way

Here are some resources to help make sure your Bible reading doesn’t amount to you sounding out empty words in your head without actually understanding or appreciating what you’re reading.

Overview of the Bible. Lots of people don’t finish their plans to read the Bible because they get lost in what’s happening. Here, Dr. R.C. Sproul will help you grasp an overview of the Bible so you are equipped to read all that God has given you!

A Graph of the Old Testament Timeline. This is a simple map of the Old Testament timeline. It serves to help you locate where you are in the Old Testament timeline as you’re reading the Old Testament. Like a movie, we need to know how each scene of the Bible fits into the larger plot.

Don’t Scorn Audio Bibles! Most of the Christians in the first few decades of the church most likely heard the Bible more than they read it, so don’t discount audio Bibles. Most audio Bibles are around 75 hours long, so you can listen to it in just over 12 minutes a day. Biblegateway has a lot of audio Bibles offered free of charge.

Reading the Bible Through the Jesus Lens. This is a fantastic book that provides a very brief background and introduction to every book in the Bible along with an explanation for how each respective books anticipates or points to the person and work of Jesus Christ. This way you are prepared to understand each book and how it relates to all of God’s redeeming work! Highly recommended.

God’s Big Picture. The publisher’s description describes it well: “In this excellent overview, Vaughan Roberts gives you the big picture – showing how the different parts of the Bible fit together under the theme of the kingdom of God. He provides both the encouragement and the tools to help you read the Bible with confidence and understanding. And he points you to the Bible’s supreme subject, Jesus Christ, and the salvation God offers through him.” Also, two other helpful books that provide the same overarching story line of the Bible are Carson’s The God Who is There and Graeme Goldsworthy’s According to Plan.

Of the making of Bible Reading plans, there is no end. This is not an exhaustive list and it will not be the last. There are a lot more plans out there (like these and these and these). But, in the end, I hope you will make a plan to read God’s Word. Don’t leave it to whenever you find the time because Satan will make sure the time evades you. As the old saying goes, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” Don’t fail to plan your Bible reading because then you’re planning to fail in reading your Bible.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Why Christmas?

Adorbz

At Christmas, we Christians remember and celebrate the incredible event where God became a man. Charles Spurgeon expressed the proper kind of admiration we ought to have when thinking about such an event:

Infinite, and an infant—eternal, and yet born of a woman—Almighty, and yet hanging on a woman’s breast—supporting the universe, and yet needing to be carried in a mother’s arms—king of angels, and yet the reputed son of Joseph—heir of all things and yet the carpenter’s despised son!

God becoming a man (a.k.a. the incarnation) is a mind-blowing whose mysteries couldn’t be fully grasped here or in eternity to come. Brain shattering, awe-inducing stuff.

Why Did God Become Man Anyway?

As we think about such an event, I encourage you to not only admire, but also ask. One good question to start with is, “Why did God become a man?” What was so important about becoming a human being in order to save human beings? What does Jesus becoming man accomplish that other methods could not?

Well, it’s Christmas and I don’t want to wax eloquent for too long, I got stuff to do. Thankfully, the Heidelberg Catechism helpfully answers our question and in a much more eloquent way I could have anyway:

Jesus has been ordained by God the Father and has been anointed with the Holy Spirit to be…

our Chief Prophet and teacher (Acts 3:22; Deuteronomy 18:15) who fully reveals to us the secret counsel and will of God concerning our deliverance;

our only High Priest (Heb. 7:17; Ps. 110:4) who has delivered us by the one sacrifice of his body, and who continually pleads our cause with the Father;

and our Eternal King (Matthew 21:5; Zechariah 9:9) who governs us by his Word and Spirit, and who guards us and keeps us in the freedom he has won for us.

Heidelberg Catechism, Q&A 31

Jesus became a man to reveal God’s truth, reconcile us to God’s affection, and rule us as God’s King, clothed in all beauty and goodness.

May your Christmas be alight with His truth, warmed by His unhindered friendship, and enjoyed with the peace that comes from knowing His rule.

Merry Christmas.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

I Want to Be An Ass

My new motivational poster.

Ever since I became a Christian in high school, I have regularly exchanged my heroes. At first, my heroes were men like David or Hezekiah who, in moments of crisis, courageously risked life and limb so God would be honored above all (1 Sam. 17:46; Is. 37:20). Then, as I grew I became enamored with saints like Ruth (Ruth 1:16-17) or Boaz (Ruth 2:1-16) or Anna

(Luke 2:36-38) who carried on with quiet, daily, and humble submission to God in the daily grind of mundane, routine life. More heroes took my attention as the years have passed on.

However, I think I found a hero that may be here to stay, at least for awhile. Unlike the previous examples, I feel I can possibly live up to the standard this one sets.

Os Guinness explains:

On the desk in front of me as I write is a tiny silver donkey, standing awkwardly with its characteristic big ears. It could hardly be more different from a thoroughbred racehorse or a magnificent charger that could carry a knight of armor into battle. The donkey reminds me of the proper role of the apologist. In the apostle Peter’s sequel to the letter mentioned earlier, he refers back to the book of Numbers when the prophet Balaam, en route to delivering a message that God had not sanctioned, was stopped in his tracks by the donkey he was riding. Peter described Balaam as the man who was sharply rebuked for his offense “when the dumb beast spoke with the human voice and put a stop to the prophet’s madness” (2 Peter 2:16).

Balaam’s ass is the patron saint of apologists. Madness, as we shall see, is an appropriate term for the unreality of unbelief. In order to counter it, we play our part, and we do the best we can. But even when our efforts are serviceable, our role is always humble and all too often inadequate and somewhat ridiculous. Christian advocates who understand their calling should ever be too big for their boots. The task is not about us. It’s all about him, and he may be trusted to do what matters.

(Taken from Fool’s Talk, p. 50)

I still admire David and Hezekiah for their courage in crisis. Ruth and Boaz and Anna still challenge me to strive daily not for stunning greatness, but for consistent faithfulness. However, my new hero, the donkey of Balaam, daily challenges me to be the “dumb beast” who speaks God’s glorious word with my inglorious human voice to challenge the world’s madness so they’d see the wisdom, truth, goodness, and beauty of the God of the world.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Unconditional Affirmation is Not Love

Last night, at our home group, we opened the Word and discussed this last Sunday’s sermon text on 1 John 4:7-21 which offers a compelling picture of where love comes from, what love looks like, and how we can enjoy and express it. It was dope.

One of the questions we discussed was, “What are the definitions of love we often see in the world?” Of the many good answers, it was an answer from one of my brothers that struck me with peculiar force: “Love is unconditional affirmation.”

I think he was right. There is widespread belief that loving someone means always accepting and embracing whatever they choose to think, feel, or do and that it is always unloving to challenge, confront, or correct. This view of love thinks it should be all sugar and no scalpel.

However, in truth, this is a love that is lazy, selfish, and so unlike the love Christ shows at the cross. Kevin DeYoung describes this well:

Love is so much more difficult than the bumper stickers make it out to be. It requires so much more than a general sentiment of good will. It is so much deeper and better than unconditional affirmation.

What does unconditional affirmation require of you by way of sacrifice? Nothing. All it requires is a wave of the hand–“Whatever you do, I’m fine. However you live, that’s fine.” The problem with unconditional affirmation is not that it is too lavishly loving, but that it is not nearly loving enough. When God tells us to love our brothers he means more than saying, “I’m okay. You’re okay. Whatever you do is fine and I don’t judge.” To really love your brother is to lay down your life for him. It requires you to die to yourself, which may mean a sacrifice of your time, a sacrifice of your reputation, and a sacrifice of your comfort. Unconditional affirmation only asks that you sacrifice your principles.

Love is harder than we think. Of course we love our kids and grandkids and those who treat us well. We love nice people. But Jesus says even the pagans do this. That’s not hard. People love people who love them. But will we keep on loving when it means bearing burdens we would rather not be bothered with? Will we love when the people we love do not love us in return? Will we lay down our lives for those who are unlovely, undeserving, ungrateful?

Isn’t that what Christ did for us? When we were unlovely and undeserving and ungrateful, Christ died for us. He loved us not because we were holy, but so that we might be holy. His love was self-sacrificing, sin-atoning, and life-transforming.

He loves us with a love that the world does not understand. And it is so much better than unconditional affirmation.

Christians are products of a love that isn’t unconditional affirmation, but selfless confrontation. The love of Jesus is one that compelled Him to be our sacrifice, but also to convict us of our sin in the deepest place of our heart. His is a love that would not affirm us, but interfered with us. For that reason, His people will sing His eternal praise.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

We Must Not Grow Deaf, Blind, or Callous to the Genocide of Our Unborn Neighbors

Joe Rigney recently tweeted a thread concerning abortion that is well worth your time to read and contemplate.

Below is the full text, complete with pictures and links.

A Twitter Thread on Abortion

Watching some Christians react to election news is a sober reminder of how easy it is to forget the unborn and the horrific evil and injustice that is legally done to them every day in this country. Take this sentiment expressed by a Christian journalist, which is simultaneously ignorant, tacky, and completely callous to the horror of the murder of innocents.

It’s ignorant, because (1) correlation does not equal causation, and (2) a far more plausible reason that abortion rates declined in those years is owing to pro-life legislation at the state level.

It’s tacky, because the primary aim of the comment is to antagonize pro-life Christians who voted for Trump on the ground that he has followed through on many of his campaign promises regarding pro-life policies & judges. Make light of baby murder to own the Trumpsters.

It’s callous, because Biden/Harris plan to aggressively rollback policies that limit abortions. They want to end of the Mexico City policy (which will result in exporting America’s abortion radicalism to the world) and they plan to end of Hyde Amendment (which limits federal funding for abortions), forcing Christian organizations (like Little Sisters of the Poor) to fund abortions under the ACA.

A significant challenge for the pro-life movement is that abortion is out of sight, out of mind. No nightly news updates televising the latest dismembering. A media committed to covering for a billion dollar industry that enriches itself on killing children & selling their parts.

The evil of abortion is evident to natural reason. The humanity of the unborn is established by embryology. The dignity & worth of the unborn is accessible to the consciences of all by virtue of the moral law written on our hearts. But human beings are naturally truth-suppressors. And therefore, it is incumbent on Christians–of all people–to remember the unborn, to refuse to ignore the silent screams, and to resist the impulse to rationalize, minimize, & make light of our country’s gravest moral evil. Because the womb is not dark to God. He sees the violence done in the secret place by our so-called “healers.” He hears the silent screams. And his justice does not sleep. He stores up wrath for a day of reckoning. What’s more, he sees the way that civility and social “decency” becomes a cover for evil. He knows that “the appearance of godliness” can mask heinous injustice.

When I consider our nation’s great evil, I always think of this quotation from the preface to The Screwtape Letters:

“I like bats much better than bureaucrats. I live in the Managerial Age, in a world of ‘Admin.’ The greatest evil is not now done in those sordid ‘dens of crime’ that Dickens loved to paint. It is not done even in concentration camps & labour camps [or abortion clinics]… In those we see its final result. But it is conceived and ordered (moved, seconded, carried, and minuted) in clean, carpeted, warmed, and well-lighted offices, by quiet men with white collars & cut fingernails & smooth-shaven cheeks who do not need to raise their voice.”

And right now I see far too many Christians who are willing to celebrate those quiet, smooth-shaven men [and women]. And what’s more sobering, God sees, and God knows. We would be wise to repent of our apathy in the day of his kindness. Some day the iniquity of the Americans will be complete. Until then, have mercy, Lord Jesus.

A Good Example of Winsome Engagement on Social Media

After this tweet thread, Joe Rigney engaged in a back and forth conversation with a commentator. Pay attention to Dr. Rigney’s civil tone, concise answers, and dedication to not allow the conversation to get off topic. Also, pay attention to the content of Dr. Rigney’s answers in that they are concise answers to common objections.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A Few Proverbs for Election Week in 2020

So, as you know, America is knee deep in an exhausting and elongated election week. On both sides of the aisle, the tensions are high, the hot takes are plentiful, and the volume is deafening. On both sides of the aisles, wisdom seems to be the minority.

As I’ve walked through this week (or as it has walked over me), I found a few Proverbs to be sobering, corrective, and helpful to my soul and my interactions with others. In hopes they may serve you similarly, here they are in no particular order.

Winsome Words Are Far More Persuasive Than Hostile Words

“A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Proverbs 15:1

“With patience a ruler may be persuaded, and a soft tongue will break a bone.” Proverbs 25:15

“A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger quiets contention.” Proverbs 15:18

Hatred and hollering are this week’s favored modes of political communication. However, if you think you have something important to communicate and truly want to persuade others, you’ll ensure your words are measured, controlled, and winsome. Don’t let your manner eclipse your message. Wisdom will have you think about what you’re saying and how you’re saying it.

Don’t Have a Naive View of Human Craftiness and Deceitfulness

“The integrity of the upright guides them, but the crookedness of the treacherous destroys them.” Proverbs 11:3

This world has wicked people who do wicked things. It’s filled with sinners who sin and liars who lie. This is true of low class, mid-class, and high-class. All people in all political parties have sin within and this reality should temper us from both unthinkingly defending wrongs that are proven or naively denying that wrongs could ever be done. Sin is bipartisan and wisdom helps us be honest in confessing and realistic in acknowledging it’s possibility. If something or someone is shady, wisdom seems to say, “Check it out.”

Seek Truth, Not Something That Will Confirm Your Bias

“The heart of him who has understanding seeks knowledge, but the mouths of fools feed on folly.” Proverbs 15:14

Folly wants victory and will exult in anything or anyone that brings it. Wisdom wants truth and will exult in anything or anyone that brings it. Don’t ask, “Is this agreeable?” but instead, “Is this true?” Don’t jump on something because it agrees with your narrative, but because it agrees with reality. Wise people love truth more than confirmation.

Love Being Corrected

“Whoever ignores instruction despises himself, but he who listens to reproof gains intelligence.” Proverbs 15:32

Fools hate correction and avoid it or attack those who offer it. If your view on something gets corrected, don’t double down on your falsehood or attack the corrector, Instead, buy that guy a beer and say thank you. Wise people love being corrected because they hate being deceived more than being humbled. Those who point out your error should be treated as your dearest friends.

Examine All the Relevant Evidence Before You Believe a Story

“The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.” Proverbs 18:17

Clickbait confirmation is a heck of drug and we love to pass it around. However, wisdom urges us to examine relevant evidence, facts, proofs, and alternative explanations before we cast our judgment. I think Albert Mohler exemplified this well in today’s episode of The Briefing:

Simply out of respect to the complexities of the situation and the uncertainties of the moment seeking not to add to those uncertainties, we’re going to defer conversation about the outcome of the 2020 presidential election until after the weekend. Hoping that during that time, Americans will gain a clearer picture and increased confidence in the entire electoral process. We’ll know more on this huge question as days and hours unfold.

Dr. Mohler could have ensured an incredible amount of listeners if he chose to speak about the claims of fraudulent votes, but wisdom had him make no comment until more was understood. Could there be voter fraud? Sure (see two points above). Should conservatives automatically believe that? Not until the evidence has been investigated more thoroughly than just seeing a curious graph. Because people can be guilty of all sorts of tomfoolery, the claims of fraud should be investigated. But because our first guesses can sometimes be wrong, we should suspend making judgments or believing stories until all the evidence is examined.

Make Sure Your Not Peddling Fake News.

“The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouths of fools pour out folly.” Proverbs 15:2

“The lips of the wise spread knowledge; not so the hearts of fools.” Proverbs 15:7

Yes, fake news is a real problem, but it is a problem that exists for Blue and Red. One of the best ways to stop fake news is by ensuring you never share it and that you apologize when you do. Take responsibility for peddling mind garbage. How can you ensure you don’t share it? See the preceding point.

Don’t Accuse Others of Wrongdoing Until You Can Prove.

“A man who bears false witness against his neighbor is like a war club, or a sword, or a sharp arrow.” Proverbs 25:18

It is wrong to lead with accusations of a person or a group and then scramble for evidence. Those who lodge baseless or unproven or unsupported accusations are like weapons that only hurt, destroy, and kill. Useless for building anything good.

Make Sure You Fear God More Than the Other Political Party

“Better is a little with the fear of the Lord than great treasure and trouble with it.” Proverbs 15:16

It’s always reorienting to ask yourself, “What do I really fear the most?” Everyone has something that tops their list of “Things I Fear.” For some, it’s loss of security or money or health. For others, it is the existence of certain people or the possibility of certain events. There are lots of others. The fact is clear, everyone has something they fear most.

Right now, the fear-soup-de-jour is the other political party. But, it shouldn’t be.

In ten billion years your fear of the Republicans or the Democrats will mean nothing to you. Your fear of God will mean everything. This doesn’t mean political engagement is unimportant, but it definitely means its not the most important. Not by a long shot. As Jesus said

“And do not fear those who kill the body (insert your worst political fears here) but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell” Matthew 10:28

Why should we not revolve our life around politics as most important? Because the one who has authority over our soul must be infinitely be more revered and important to us than the silly creatures who can only touch our bodies. Sticks and stone can break our bones, but God alone will judge me.

This week, you and I are being told to more concerned about political agendas than anything else. We’re told to have political agendas weigh most heavily in our thinking, feeling, and doing. But, wisdom says: stop that nonsense. Fear not the Donkey. Fear not the Elephant. Fear only the Lamb. Have your thinking, feeling, speaking, and typing formed most by the King’s who reigns and not President who campaigns. Do not be most concerned with those who sit in the Oval Office for four years more than you fear Him who sits on the throne for eternity. Their reign will last a moment, but his will be everlasting.

Get them priorities straight.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A Picture of Manliness

Although there are lots of views, hot takes, and controversies about what a healthy, godly man looks like, I hope this is a picture all of us could get behind.

“When a man has a large, loving heart, men go to him as ships to a haven, and feel at peace when they have anchored under the lee of his friendship. Such a man is hearty in private as well as in public; his blood is not cold and fishy, but he is warm as your own fireside. No pride and selfishness chill you when you approach him; he has his doors all open to receive you, and you are at home with him at once. Such men I would persuade you to be, every one of you.”

Charles Spurgeon, Lectures to My Students

I want to be a man like this, I want my daughters to marry men like this, I pray my church is filled with men like this, because Jesus is a man like this.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Your Pastor Has to Be Blameless

It doesn’t take long to hear about pastors who’ve been sexually abusive, used funds unethically, have acted or spoken in reprehensible ways, or lived in hidden addiction while acting like all is well. Recording more names and failings would be difficult, not because there aren’t more examples, but because of how much time it would actually take to type it all out.

I don’t think it’s an understatement to say that the evangelical church has something of a crises on its hands when it comes to the character of her pastors.

My Gut’s Response to Pastors’ Failures

Each time I hear of pastors who have disqualified themselves from ministry, I am overcome with two deep feelings. First, a deep pain for how these pastors have given the world reason to dismiss the gospel and the church. Pastors represent Christ and his gospel of salvation in an incredibly powerful way to both the world and the saints. When they fall, they take much down with them. The pastoral office is a high stakes calling and that is why not many should become teachers in the church (James 3:1). So, when I see men entrusted with such an important position fall in sin, hypocrisy, or duplicity, my heart breaks in ten-thousand pieces because I love the Savior and the saints they represent.

The second feeling I have is one of anger. I feel pain for the Savior and the people affected by unqualified pastors, but I feel anger at those who seek to lift themselves up even though it crushes others low. I resonate deeply with the woes Jesus charged against the religious leaders of his day:

Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice . . . They do all their deeds to be seen by others . . . they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces and being called rabbi by others . . . The greatest among you shall be your servant . . . Matthew 23:1-11

No one bears the responsibility to reflect Christ’s sacrificial, shepherd’s love for the church as much as pastors do. They are to be the best imitators of Christ among us. So, when they forsake their calling to benefit from the sheep instead of benefit the sheep, a deep well of anger rises up within me. And, if Jesus still feels the same about such men today as he did in the first century, then it angers him too.

Is there grace left for such men? Yes! Absolutely! If they repent. The parable of the lost sheep (Luke 15:3-7), the lost coin (Luke 15:8-10), and the lost son (Luke 15:11-32) are just as true for the fallen pastor as any other sinner. If any would acknowledge their sin, repent of it from their heart, and bear fruit in keeping with that repentance, they will find a gracious Savior to cleanse them and a gracious people ready to receive them back into fellowship (Romans 10:9; Galatians 6:1; 2 Corinthians 2:5-11). Their repentance doesn’t mean they should become pastors again (as this isn’t anyone’s right), but they should definitely (as long as their church is acting faithfully to Scripture) be joyfully welcomed back into membership with God’s people. The church of Jesus Christ is for repentant sinners! However, unfortunately, genuine repentance for such men seems to be the exception and not the rule.

What Can the Church Do About Failing Pastors?

There is a lot to say in answer to such a question, but one of the first things that must be said is simply: the church must take seriously Paul’s pastoral qualifications in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9 more seriously. This won’t make it impossible for unqualified men to become a pastor, but by taking the qualifications given us in Scripture more seriously in calling men to the position or evaluating men already in the position will go a long way in helping the crises of falling pastors.

It’d be worth taking time to walk through each of the qualifications and I may do that (for my own sake) in the future. But for now, there is one summary qualification for pastors that will do any believer well to meditate on and take seriously. That is, a pastor must be “above reproach” or “blameless.”

Paul said it this way:

This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you— if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination. For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. Titus 1:5-7

If the church begins to demand their pastor(s) are men who are “above reproach,” then the church at large will begin making significant steps forward in decreasing the amount of unqualified, ungodly, and dangerous men who fill so many pulpits. The logic isn’t difficult. If a church’s pastor lives in such a way where it would be hard for folks to accuse him of any legitimate wrongdoing, then it’s likely he isn’t doing wrong at all. So, when a church is evaluating pastors either for hiring or keeping, it shouldn’t first look for humor, leadership abilities, vision casting, organizational skills, or inspirational charisma, but for blamelessness.

This prompts the question: what does “above reproach” or “blamelessness” mean?

What Does It Mean to Be Above Reproach?

Simply, it means that pastors should live such Christ-like, exemplary lives that they wouldn’t be charge with wrong doing often or legitimately. I say often and legitimately because even the best of men can be falsely accused every now and then, but the best of men are not accused often or with legitimate accusations. However, if a man is frequently accused of wrong doing by folks who seem to have something legitimate reputation and evidence for their accusation, then the church must start listening and praying hard for wisdom.

To help further color in the qualification of being “above reproach,” I offer two helpful voices. David Mathis says:

As low-bar as “above reproach” may sound in some ears, with just a little reflection we can discover some of the wisdom in it. This banner qualification is not merely “innocent” or “righteous” or “acquitted,” but “above reproach.” We are looking for men above being reasonably charged with wrong in the first place. The term means, writes commentator George Knight, “not open to attack or criticism” (The Pastoral Epistles, 155); “he is not objectively chargeable” (156). He’s not one who makes a practice of dancing around the fine line of righteous reproach.

Whether a man is technically innocent (or not) is not the entirety of the issue for church leadership. He might be unnecessarily controversial in a way that betrays immaturity or lack of wisdom. We want a pastor to be not only forensically righteous but also “the kind of man whom no one suspects of wrongdoing or immorality” (Anyabwile, 57).

John Stott further reflects:

As we approach the question of eligibility for the pastorate, we are struck at once by the requirement of blamelessness, which is repeated. An elder must he blameless (6a); an overseer … must be blameless (7a). This does not of course mean that candidates must be flawless or faultless, or we would all be disqualified. The Greek word used is anenklētos, not amōmos. Amōmos means ‘unblemished’. It occurs in the New Testament only in eschatological contexts; that is, it looks forward to our final perfection. Anenklētos, however, means not ‘without blemish’ but ‘without blame’, ‘unaccused’. So candidates for the pastorate must be people of ‘unquestioned integrity’ (JBP), of ‘unimpeachable’ (REB) or ‘irreproachable’ (JB) character. Paraphrasing the word, they should be ‘marred by no disgrace’; ‘they should offer no loophole for criticism’. All this recognizes that the pastorate is a public office, and that therefore the candidate’s public reputation is important. Hence the requirement in many churches today both of individual references and testimonials and of a si quis, that is, a public statement by the candidate, followed by a public opportunity for the congregation to challenge it.

Stott, John. The Message of 1 Timothy and Titus (The Bible Speaks Today Series) . InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition.

Pastors don’t need to be perfect. They can’t be. Even more, they don’t need to be “near perfect.” But they do, they absolutely do, need to be “above reproach.”

A Simple Plea: let’s Adopt God’s Standards for Our Pastors

John Stott, a man who pastored the same local church for over fifty years, taking his que from Paul’s list of pastoral qualifications, offered this challenge to make sure:

When there is a shortage of pastors, the temptation is to lower the standards of eligibility, and accept and appoint everybody who applies, even if they are not blameless in home life, behaviour and doctrine. Virtually all churches have selection procedures. But they do not always maintain apostolic standards. Instead, in some churches today it is no barrier to ordination (if) a candidate has a public reputation for a lack of Christian integrity and consistency; is married, divorced and remarried, even more than once; is a practising homosexual; has children who are both unbelieving and undisciplined; has a serious flaw in character or conduct; or holds liberal theological views with little respect for the authority of Scripture. It is something of a scandal that, in defiance of the apostle’s teaching, such persons are recommended and accepted for (pastoral ministry). So let us do what we can to copy Paul’s strategy and maintain Paul’s standards. The church would be in a far healthier condition if we did.

Stott, John. The Message of 1 Timothy and Titus (The Bible Speaks Today Series). InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition.

The church is unimaginably harmed when unqualified men lead her. The only way to avoid that is by taking the apostles’ words seriously and putting them into practice. If our pastors are not “blameless,” they should not be pastors.

May the churches of Christ all over the world hold their pastors to the same standard that Christ does. If we do, I think some good will come.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment