Thursday, September 30, 2010

Ordinary Pastors

In introducing the "Ordinary Pastors Project," from The Gospel Coalition, Matt Redmond gives these encouraging words:
Be encouraged. Be encouraged in the midst of ministerial duties that are mind-numbingly mundane. Be encouraged in a world drunk on the sweet nectar of the spectacular. Be encouraged when you preach the gospel clearly. Be encouraged after years of faithfulness, even if you don’t have numbers that impress conference organizers. Be encouraged in the tedium. Be encouraged when you see the same faces week-in and week-out. Be encouraged as you marry and bury, counsel and speak at the local lodge’s spring pancake breakfast. Be encouraged.
Be encouraged when dreams of thousands have careened against the retaining wall of reality with hundreds. Or dozens, even. Be encouraged when no one has heard of you, your church, or your town. Be encouraged in the midst of decline. Be encouraged when you must stop preparing your sermon to clean the bathrooms. Be encouraged, because you stand before God redeemed and loved because of Christ’s righteousness credited to you. Be encouraged, for this right standing before God is not based on the success of your ministry, loved no less because it is ordinary. Be encouraged, ordinary pastor.
Be encouraged when growth is slow and measured by generations. Be encouraged when guilt, fear, and the specter of failure form an unholy alliance against you. Be encouraged when young men grown fat on the feast of podcasts question your every move. Be encouraged when no one knows your name; it is written in blood in the book of life. Ordinary pastor, be encouraged: Your faithful labor in the darkened forest of obscurity is heroic.
Read about the project here.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Dignity of Work

I live in a blue-collar region. People here are still waving goodbye to the many steel mills that defined our valley almost 30 years after they closed, while desperately holding on to what few manufacturing jobs are left. That’s why Carl Trueman’s post today struck a chord. He speaks of the dignity of work – all work, and while it is easy to affirm, we haven’t quite have figured out how it looks. He says:
First, how does the church enable those in such jobs to find God-given satisfaction? It is oh-so-easy for those of us who have jobs which we enjoy doing to talk about `the dignity of labour' when the labour we have has, in a sense, its own intrinsic dignity. But what of the labour that does not have such dignity in and of itself? Which is monotonous, unskilled, boring, poorly paid, and which slowly but surely bleeds any last vestige of creativity and spontaneity out from the veins? The obvious answer is, of course, to find such dignity in extrinsic factors, supremely in doing everything to the glory of God. But, let's face it, it is a whole lot easier to do an enjoyable job to the glory of God than to sweep the factory floor day after day to the same.

Read the rest of the post here

Those in pastoral ministry would do well to know how the people in their congregations spend their days to earn their living. As he sits in his comfortable study preparing the next sermon, there will be a natural disconnect between the pastor and the deacon or elder who works for the road department or on the assembly line. How do we teach and demonstrate the dignity of work to the glory of God?

Friday, September 17, 2010


OK, so I realize that I am no genius. I am not politically savy, but am I missing something in the latest report about President Obama's selection of Elizabeth Warren as a special adviser for consumer protection? She was not named to direct a new agency, because as the AP reports:

Obama did not nominate Warren to be the bureau's director, however. Instead he is creating a role that allows her to avoid a lengthy confirmation fight with Senate Republicans who view her as too critical of Wall Street and big banks. The business and banking community opposed Warren as director, contending she would make the agency too aggressive.
Here's where I am confused (and remember, I am no James Carville, so maybe someone can explain the nuances of the situation to me): isn't the President a democrat, and doesn't his party currently control both houses of Congress? What's to be afraid of? Maybe we need Paul Harvey to tell us "the rest of the story..."

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


On today's date in 1741 at age 56, Georg Friedrich Handel completed his his famous oratorio, "The Messiah." Though mainly performed at Christmas, it was originally intended to be performed for the Easter season. Handel completed this masterful work in 54 days, from start to finish, subsisting mainly on coffee (my kind of guy).

Here is one of the most popular sections, the "Hallelujah Chorus."

Sunday, September 12, 2010

William F. Buckley

Jeremy Lott writes whimsically about a man who, for many years, was the poster boy of reasoned conservatism. Lott’s brief biography of William F. Buckley is one of Thomas Nelson’s Christian Encounter Series. I was a little curious that Buckley might be portrayed as an evangelical Christian, an icon of the religious right. This was not the scope of the book. Lott exposed Buckley’s deep commitment to his Roman Catholic faith and showed how that faith shaped his worldview. For Buckley, religion was not something to be compartmentalized and segregated from public life.

In this brief and very readable biography we learn some interesting features about Buckley’s life. All of these were new to me. His first language was not English, but Spanish, which is even more incredible given Buckley’s writing style. One needs a dictionary at the ready when reading him. He was a deep cover agent in Mexico for the CIA, even if only for nine months; he was godfather to Howard Hunt’s children and stepped in when Hunt went to prison for the Watergate break-in (Hunt’s wife died in a plane crash a few month prior to his incarceration).

Many know William Buckley as the editor of the National Review or the host of the long running "Firing Line." Lott gives us a glimpse into the private thought of this man. This book is a worthwhile read.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255

Friday, September 10, 2010

Doctrine in a Nutshell

Although I have never subscribed, and although I have never sent a change of address when I moved, I still receive a certain fundamentalist periodical in the mail every 2 weeks. I think it was initially sent by a pastor friend who was trying to rescue me from the error of my ways. That’s OK. I can keep up to date on what that slice of the world is doing.

The latest edition had a front page article exposing the errors of Calvinism. The editor stated that he was co-authoring a book on the subject, but hasn’t had the time to complete the work. Instead, he used the space to refer to 2 earlier fundamentalist authors who wrote polemical books on the issue. One of those was called Why I Disagree with All Five Points of Calvinism.

I have no particular interest in defending Calvinism against its detractors. I would appreciate that any critique of any system, whether it is Calvinism, Dispensationalism, Dominion Theology, etc, includes discussion of source material. The aforementioned article had only one reference to a Reformed author and the remainder was an attempt to dismantle a straw man.

For those who may not be familiar with Reformed Theology, Steve Lawson encapsulates the doctrines of grace in one paragraph. There will be some who will disagree with some of the points mentioned in this paragraph. However, it is unlikely that any of the detractors will be able to identify a set of values that is more God-centered and God-focused as is this paragraph:

Before time began, the Bible teaches, God the Father chose a people for Himself to be worshipers of His glory by becoming the objects of His grace. As anexpression of His infinite love for His Son, the Father gave His elect to Christ as a love gift, a people who would praise Him forever and ever. The Father then commissioned His Son to come into this world in order to redeem these chosen ones through His sacrificial death. The Father, along with the Son, also sent the Spirit into this world to apply the saving work of the Son to this same group of elect sinners. This vast number of redeemed saints—those elected by God, purchased by Christ, and called by the Spirit—will never fall from grace. They all shall be transported safely to heaven and glorified forever. This is the God-honoring triumph of sovereign grace. Foundations of Grace (31-32) by Steven Lawson

Monday, September 6, 2010

Church and Culture

During one of my evening walks last week I listened to a workshop session from the 2007 Gospel Coalition Conference. Stephen Um from Boston MA presented a session dealing with the church and culture. One of his rather off-handed comments sparked my thinking.

After Peter’s message on Pentecost, the multitude responded in Acts 2: 37 with, “Brothers, what shall we do?” Peter’s answer was, “Repent…” That answer emphasized that the gospel calls us to break with the past and enter a new kingdom. This was not novel in Peter’s theology. Jesus had explained this in Lk. 14:25-33. There must be a radical reordering of priorities and a major shift in worldview when one becomes a follower of Christ.

Fast forward to 21st century Western (predominantly American) evangelical culture. We debate about the most effective ways to reach the lost with the gospel. We have the Emerging Church, the “seeker-sensitive” model, and, in order to maintain links with the past while facing the future, countless churches have both contemporary and traditional services on Sunday morning. Some have realized that unchurched people will not attend on Sunday morning so they have provided a Saturday evening service (which I wonder if it’s merely an opportunity to allow church members another day of sleeping in on Sunday, but I have no way of knowing).

What seems to have been lost is the realization that no longer do unsaved people ask, “What shall we do…?” Instead, it is the church asking the world, “What shall we do to make you want to be saved?” Am I the only one who thinks that this is backwards? Now, I am not railing upon the contemporary vs. traditional idea. I personally think that we need to call a cease fire in the worship wars. But it seems to me that the more we try to adapt to pagan culture, the less effective we become.

The beauty of the gospel is that it is trans-cultural. In Acts 15, the Jews tried to freeze the gospel into a Jewish context when Gentiles began to be converted. That movement was soundly rebuked. But the attempt to place Christianity into a culture has been an ongoing project. The most recent version in our country is to make Christianity white, suburban, and Republican.

Peter tell us to be ready to have an answer to anyone who asks for the reason for the hope that is in us (1 Pt. 3:15). Is anyone asking?

Friday, September 3, 2010

Carl Trueman Exposes the Pope as Catholic

Carl Trueman provides a thoughtful and whimsical review of a new biography on Pope Benedict XVI. Read the review here. This is a great line by Trueman that encapsulates the pluralistic/postmodern/politically correct insanity that is western culture: "PR will be the only orthodoxy; orthodoxy will be the only heresy."