Morning Mashup 10/20


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Sunday nights provide me with a unique opportunity. I will without fail be doing four things simultaneously: (1) Shaping up a paper due for class at 11:55 pm, (2) Watching both The Walking Dead and Sunday Night Football, (3) Watching my wife and our dog take a long, long nap, and, finally, (4) Work on the Morning Mashup post for Monday.

This all made for an exceptionally interesting night, especially when Gareth was gnawing on Bob’s leg at the end of TWD. Not sure I have recovered from that yet. But as intrigued as I was throughout the night, I kept this in mind as I prepared this edition of Morning Mashup. I hope you find these articles interesting, encouraging, challenging, informing, edifying, or all the above. But seriously…those Terminus folks are MESSED UP!


Peyton Manning Breaks Brett Favre’s All-Time TD Record – Last night, Peyton Manning set the NFL record for career touchdown passes. He threw four TD passes against the 49ers in an all out shellacking. So, here’s to the greatest quarterback in NFL history. Yeah, I said it.

Hillsong Shifts on Homosexuality – When asked to clarify their stance on homosexuality and gay marriage, Hillsong pastor, Brian Houston, was anything but clear. He essentially gave a non-answer and this article from Andrew Walker shows why evangelicals should be concerned.

Hillsong (kind of) Clarifies Statement on Gay Marriage – While Houston affirms traditionally held Christian views on homosexuality, he remains unclear. I don’t see this statement as invalidating Walker’s above article.

How Boko Haram’s Murders and Kidnappings are Changing Nigeria’s Churches – “Leading Nigerian evangelical says Christians won’t abandon the North.”

Why I’m Not Afraid of Ebola – Inspiring words from a doctor who is a Christian.

One of the Oldest Known Synagogues Seized by ISIS – “Islamic State (ISIS) jihadists not only threaten the current Middle East according to antiquities officials in Iraq and Syria, the terror group threatens to erase 5,000 years of history and relics in upper Mesopotamia, including one of the earliest Jewish synagogues.”

The Better Half: SEC Wives – This brief feature on the lives of the wives of SEC football coaches is unique and interesting. However, there is a saddening effect inherent with their lifestyles.

The Mid-Degree Crisis and Value of Work During Seminary – This was timely in my life. I am a theology student who works. I received much-needed encouragement from Phillip Bethancourt in this post.

Book Review of “The Bible Tells Me So” – Don’t miss this important review of Peter Enns’ controversial book.

Marriage on the Edge of Eternity – Francis Chan: “Eternity changes how we enjoy marriage and everything else in this life. Eternity changes how we love. It would be unloving to get my wife and kids so focused on this life that they are unprepared for the next.”

5 Bad Substitutes for Discipline – Tim Challies: “There is nothing easy about parenting, and nothing easy about the responsibility of training our children in obedience through discipline. Because discipline is unpopular and unpleasant, parents often find themselves looking for substitutes.”

The One Key Component to Good Writing – Barnabas Piper with some helpful advice for all of my fellow writers out there.

As long as we let the Word be our only armor we can look confidently into the future. –Deitrich Bonhoeffer

Book Review: “The Extravagant Fool” by Kevin Adams


_240_360_Book.1198.coverKevin Adams. The Extravagant Fool: A Faith Journey that Begins Where Common Sense Ends (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2014) 218 pp. $15.99

American Dream Gone Wrong

What if you lost all of the material possessions you had worked your entire life to obtain? What if the luxurious lifestyle you lived crumbled around you? What if your faith in God was reduced to the size of your bank account that forced you into near homelessness? Kevin Adams was the epitome of business success. He had seemingly endless clients with a business with more work than he could keep up with. He was a multi-millionaire who owned multiple homes and was truly living the American dream until his exuberant world came crashing down with the economic recession of 2008. At the beginning of 2009, Kevin Adams had lost everything.

Summary

The Extravagant Fool is an inspirational story of how one man went from being a worldly fool to a sold-out fool for God. It is a story of God’s provision and how faith in God is more valuable than millions of dollars, multiple homes, and a thriving business. Adams tells his story as a journey from being an ambitious businessman, to a blogger and author seeking to encourage believers and glorify God. Through a beautifully, though sometimes overwhelming, poetic narrative, Adams recounts his journey from casual Christianity to an all-out dependence on God through faith.

With the English Christian leader and founder of countless orphanages, George Mueller, as his example, Adams boldly faced empty bank accounts and no income by relying fully on God’s provision.

Reliance and Intimacy

The greatest strength by far in The Extravagant Fool is the author’s clear and passionate reliance on God. While criticizing all forms of Christian self-help, Adams argues for full reliance on and intimacy with God as the only means worthy and able to get you through the night (95-105). It is clear that Adams was once a Christian who claimed full reliance on God, yet was entirely self-sufficient. However, his financial plunder took him to the depths of his own soul where he found God waiting with a warm embrace. This is especially conveyed in Adams’ discussion of losing the ability to provide for his wife and kids. Many men can testify to the emasculation such a situation brings. However, Adams had an epiphany—one that is crucial to the Christian faith.

After being unable to provide for his family for months and even a couple years, Adams concluded,

“God is weird, but His strange impressions tap at the glass until we’re annoyed enough to look up and begin to truly listen to Him. The counterfeit idea says the dream was just fear over losing my role as provider and protector. But in the context of counting it all joy…was a message that said, ‘Kevin, you were never the provider or protector, so let go already’” (88).

Reflecting on his circumstance to this point, Adams said, “I’d become a man ready to embrace the mystery of my circumstances, but unwilling to let go of everything—a man still white-knuckling his perceived identity, by failing to abdicate his family from a throne meant for a king” (88). Adams clearly relied on God to provide for him and saw each opportunity, whether it be a place to live or a job to work, as a gift from God (182).

Adams also began to see that the more his world eroded around him, his value was found in Christ. He writes, “My value is measured by the price that was paid for me, not by the sweat of my brow or career status—a truth that is easy to say, but hard to accept” (91). This chapter on Adams’ relationship with his wife before and during losing all that he owned is by far the best this book has to offer. His candor and honesty in his journey to accepting biblical truth about him and his circumstance is present on nearly every page and is sobering for the reader.

Theological Concerns

Although The Extravagant Fool is filled with many commendable points, there are a few concerns to keep in mind as you approach this book.

First, there are theological concerns that I would encourage you to approach with caution. Adams seems to communicate faith in God as resulting in material blessing or reward. The more faith Adams exhibits in God, the more God would mysteriously return blessing to his life. Does Adams hold to a Joel Osteen-like prosperity gospel or a Joyce Meyer-like word of faith theology? Or is it an ambiguous rendering of sola fide? He seems to communicate the former in various places:

“The power of God lies not in the size of the seed but in the gigantic potential He’s hidden within it—the Harvard degree in faith that will rise to the top of the industry if we’ll stop attempting to dig our way out and just plant it” (75).

“Daddy, didn’t you say that anything is possible with God if you just believe hard enough?” “Sure, sweet girl. Absolutely” (72, emphasis added).

“My wife and I went to training conferences and were encouraged that our direction was taking a better turn, conferences filled with godly people who believe that abundance is not only okay with God, but his best intention for life on earth—something I wholeheartedly agreed with” (58).

In times of turmoil and suffering, Adams sees God as planning something for his life that can be unleashed by faith, but in the meantime, God “tucks himself just out of sight.” Seeing God’s activity in our suffering like a game of hide-and-seek, Adams says, “We faithfully count with our eyes closed, while He anticipates the ready-or-not moment, only to delight in our search from behind the curtain while his child tiptoes nearby” (76). It appears Adams sees God as drawing intimacy out of us by placing mysteries in our lives. I think Adams interprets God’s relationship with suffering and evil to be one that intends for his children to see a mystery in the suffering and then seek after the answers in him.

However, despite what I see as a forced theological answer to the problem of evil and suffering, I appreciate Adams’ call for intimacy in times when we want to question God. “[G]rowing up means giving logic the cold shoulder and becoming intimate with the One who puts the beans on every table. It requires the willingness of a child and the vision of an adult” (76). Though his theological answers to the relationship between God and suffering is weak, his call to intimacy with God during suffering while honestly seeking answers to difficult questions is spot on.

You will not want to look to Adams for sound theological answers.

A Revelation Problem

Adams believes he receives special revelation from God personally—outside of Scripture. There are many places in the book indicated by italics where Adams recalls God’s special and specific words that he spoke to him either in a dream, prayer, or when he was going about his day. Compare this with the miniscule references to Scripture. This imbalance is alarming and Adam’s expressed theology of revelation and the Bible is flawed.

He also seems to make an unhelpful distinction between God and the Word of God. Adams doesn’t seek, find, or base any answers to his plight in Scripture. Although he makes the claim that the written word of God is “the open door for personal revelation where, for anyone who is willing, God is willing to descend” (142), it seems to me he sees little more value in the Bible. Adams sees the Bible as a means to intimacy with God, but clearly he sees personal revelation as superior (155).

It seems that he desires something more than Scripture. Here are just a few examples of Adams’ preference for personal revelation through dreams and visions over God’s self-revelation in his Word.

“[Dreams] were personal challenges to my faith as delicate as the weight of a fingerprint, yet as powerful as its billion-to-one distinctiveness. And therefore nearly impossible to ignore or rationalize in the way that I’d always done with Scripture” (103).

Adams seems to find most clarity from personal revelation rather than from the Bible. One example of this is when Adams claimed he received special revelation from God in what he called “a note from the King.” After recording that note, Adams commented, “Inspiring, indeed, from His mouth to my ear, yet so lofty a notion that merely reading aloud in solitude inspired my own doubts” (198). For Adams, personal revelation is preferred over God’s revelation in his Word.

There are many places I stand in agreement with Adams, but not in the means to which he came to his conclusions. While he clearly has a desire to be Christ-centered, I would have preferred that he see that this comes by being Bible-centered.

Despite this criticism, there is one section in The Extravagant Fool that, though unbalanced from the rest of the book, is an offering of praise to the Bible. He writes, “[E]very single word, whether in red ink or black, spoken by prophet, king, physician, fisherman, or a collector of taxes, whether from the mouth of Jesus or those inspired by His Spirit, is supernaturally intact…It was either meant for the willing, whether rich or poor, simpleminded or genius, to be trusted completely or not at all” (160).

My question to Adams would then be, “Great! Then why is this not enough?” I am perplexed at his need for further revelation in light of his correct sentiment to trust the Bible “completely or not at all.”

Gospel Absence

Probably the most alarming part of The Extravagant Fool is something that is practically absent—the gospel of Jesus Christ. Granted, Adams mentions the content of the gospel in an email to a tenant who was diagnosed with terminal cancer, calling Jesus “our only hope” (82). However, there is not a gospel-centered framework through which Adams responded to his financial crash. The foolish thing about The Extravagant Fool is that faith is the focus of the book, not Jesus.

Adams speaks of relying on God’s provision and strength in his time of financial desperation, but there are few to no examples of relying on God through Jesus. There is no mention of identification with the suffering of Christ. His story provides ample opportunity to point to the gospel. In fact, I could see great comfort, perhaps the only comfort, coming from the gospel. It is simply alarming that the implications of the cross are absent from this book. I felt the author’s pain while reading, but the comfort he found was not as comforting as I anticipated.

I find little in this book that would help those in similar places of suffering deal with suffering. Adams finds hope in God’s blessing that comes through faith. But as far as dealing with the suffering, Adams failed to communicate if there is any redeeming quality or joy to be found. Ignorance of the gospel and the biblical witness to the glory of God in suffering is a stain on this otherwise inspiring story.

The ultimate question I left this book asking was, “How would an impoverished person feel after reading this book?” Living in poverty, being poor, and not living financially abundant is conveyed as an incredibly negative thing. I may be way off the mark, but at times I felt I was reading a book written by a man influenced by prosperity “gospel” proponents. Adams communicates that God does not want you to suffer and that you can escape it through faith. Are you suffering? Are you poor? Faith leads to blessing. More faith = more blessing. This conclusion and manner of facing suffering is theologically and biblically unhelpful and unwise.

Inspiring Story, Poor Theology

Kevin Adams has a very inspirational story with a few serious deficiencies. Adams hoped his story would “be compelling, real-life evidence that God can be trusted with everything—that He really is that good” (218). He accomplished this goal and there is much to gain from his experience. His journey will cause you to ask the difficult question, “Would I be willing to follow God even if he took away my possessions?” The value of faith is questioned and discovered when adversity strikes. Adams’ intimacy with God is admirable. He made me ask many convicting questions of my own heart.

However, despite some clear strengths, the theological and biblical weaknesses in The Extravagant Fool cause me to encourage you to approach this book with caution. Adams admits he is not a pastor or theologian. However, as a Christian writer, his work must be evaluated against God’s word and proper theology.

As I read this book I was inspired, yet frustrated at the author’s theological errors and preference for personal revelation over the Bible. If you decide to read this great story, read with caution. If you yourself are weak with your theology in the face of suffering, this may not be the best book for you.

Adams is right when he says God wants abundant blessing for you. But this blessing is found ultimately in Christ and may include a life filled with suffering and poverty that does not turn around for earthly gain. Material wealth is a gift from God to be stewarded wisely. There is nothing inherently wrong with having a large income. However, God is glorified in times when God gives and when he takes away (Job 1:21). Adams expresses this and readers will learn from it, yet the theology that grounds it is not strong enough to uphold his claims. Learn from his faith that led to intimacy, but cautiously approach his theological claims.


396110_519885398036913_1852978654_nMathew Gilbert is a student at Boyce College (B.A. Biblical and Theological Studies). He is the author of the forthcoming book Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God (CrossBooks). Mathew lives in London, KY with his wife, Erica, and their dog, Simba. You can follow him on Twitter @Mat_Gilbert.

Radical Faith in the Face of Ruthless Suffering


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This semester I am taking a course entitled, “Interpreting Daniel.” It is what you would expect–a verse by verse exegetical examination of the book of Daniel. The book of Daniel is a theologically rich and full book. Truly one semester is not nearly enough time to adequately pursue all of the issues in Daniel.

I wanted to share just one of the many things that have both alarmed and captivated my heart and spurred me to greater faith in Christ. This particular insight came from an unsuspecting place in Daniel.

3Then the king commanded Ashpenaz, his chief eunuch, to bring some of the people of Israel, both of the royal family and of the nobility,4youths without blemish, of good appearance and skillful in all wisdom, endowed with knowledge, understanding learning, and competent to stand in the king’s palace, and to teach them the literature and language of the Chaldeans.5The king assigned them a daily portion of the food that the king ate, and of the wine that he drank. They were to be educated for three years, and at the end of that time they were to stand before the king.6Among these were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah of the tribe of Judah.7And the chief of the eunuchs gave them names: Daniel he called Belteshazzar, Hananiah he called Shadrach, Mishael he called Meshach, and Azariah he called Abednego.
8But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king’s food, or with the wine that he drank. Therefore he asked the chief of the eunuchs to allow him not to defile himself.
–Daniel 1:3-8, ESV

Let’s break down what is going on here. The king of Babylon, who had recently conquered Judah and taken its people into exile, ordered Judah’s finest to be specifically brought to him. He clearly has a desire to assert his self-proclaimed glory by showing his dominance reaches to the heights of Judean society.

The king orders for “youths without blemish” from the Judean nobility to come to the king’s palace to be indoctrinated with the “literature and language of the Chaldeans.” They were ordered to eat specific food and drink specific wine, food and wine that came from the king himself. While this on the surface seems like a walk in the park compared to what the word “captivity” typically connotes, the next few verses highlight the sinister intentions of the king and his ruthless brutality. “And the chief of the eunuchs gave them names: Daniel he called Belteshazzar, Hananiah he called Shadrach, Mishael he called Meshach, and Azariah he called Abednego” (v. 7).

In years past, I would have thought very little about the brutality of this captivity, and surely would have belittled the significance of the name change. However, after further study it is clear that Daniel’s captivity was indeed as bad as one would assume, maybe worse.

Consider what Daniel and his friends likely endured as a result of exile.

1. Daniel and his friends were torn from their families

These young men were specifically chosen from Judah’s finest, and in the process were ripped away from their families. Being taken into captivity was like the Gestapo storming a Jewish home and dragging mother and daughter into one train car while throwing father and son into another.

2. Daniel and his friends were likely castrated.

The fact that Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were among the “chief of the eunuchs” seems to indicate that they themselves had been made eunuchs. It was not uncommon for the king of Babylon to castrate men of conquered nations, so it is likely that Daniel and his friends were castrated when they were taken captive.

3. Daniel and his friends were robbed of their identity

Daniel, Hananiah, and Mishael, and Azariah had names that reflected their faith. Their identity was found in being part of the people of the one true and living God. When the king of Babylon brought Daniel and his friends to his palace, he not only had them trained in Chaldean culture, but he also renamed them, not simply because he didn’t like their names, but as an exercise of theological dominance. He renames these four Judean young men after his gods. He is essentially desiring to wipe out their religious affiliation. He wants their to be no semblance of the God of Judah. The king of Babylon had conquered God’s people and now he wanted to show that he had essentially conquered their God. He had no place in Babylon and the king wanted this name change to reflect what he arrogantly felt was a certain reality.

4. Daniel and his friends were teenagers

The king of Babylon called for those who were “youths without blemish.” Based on the historical context, conservative scholars have placed Daniel’s age at the time of being taken into exile at around 14. Daniel and his friends were barely teenagers when they were taken into Babylonian captivity. This is alarming and disgusting to think of fourteen year-olds suffering such cultural and theological dominance, and physical brutality at the hands of one of the most ruthless men on the face of the earth at the time.

So, to this point we are given a picture of four young teenagers who were torn from their families, castrated, culturally and theologically dominated, robbed of their identity, and treated as property by a ruthless king with uninhibited power. Yet, after all of this, we are told that these young boys were resolved to fully devote themselves to God. They remained faithful in the midst of severe persecution, suffering, and abuse in a place where their God was seemingly dominated by a ruthless human king.

If anyone had a reason to doubt God’s goodness it would have been these teenagers. However, Daniel and his friends clearly trusted the sovereignty and goodness God despite their circumstances. They did not “defile themselves” with the king’s food and drink. Even though they would have reasonably been broken down after what they had been through, they demonstrated strength in weakness that only God can provide.

These boys have taught me that our circumstances do not determine our attitudes toward God. God’s self-revelation determines this. God has declared himself to be good and sovereignly faithful to fulfill all of his promises to his people. We trust this because he has said it is so, not because our circumstances may seem to tell us otherwise.

The fact that Daniel unashamedly and boldly trusted God over and over again throughout Daniel after initially suffering such atrocities is truly amazing. I am amazed at his faith. I am amazed at his resolve. I am amazed at his unhindered trust in God. He did not allow his circumstances to dictate his theology. Instead, his theology rooted him in something much greater than his circumstances.


396110_519885398036913_1852978654_nMathew Gilbert is a student at Boyce College (B.A. Biblical and Theological Studies). He is the author of the forthcoming book Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God (CrossBooks). Mathew lives in London, KY with his wife, Erica, and their dog, Simba. You can follow him on Twitter @Mat_Gilbert.

The Burden of a Preacher and Success of a Sermon


pastor-pulpitTomorrow morning, churches all across America will gather to worship. During these services, pastors will stand before their congregations and deliver sermons. While we have all rightly protested the unconstitutional Caesarism from the mayor of Houston in the subpoenaing of the sermons of five pastors, she isn’t the only one who will be throwing stones at the pastor and his sermon this Sunday.

From the time the pastor steps into the pulpit, behind the lectern, or on the stage until he steps down to close the service, he will likely be under the scrutinizing glares of his congregation. His clothes, overall appearance, introduction, sermon points, choice of passage and message, sermon length, and a host of minuscule details will fall under their microscope. That is, if they are awake!

And to be sure, pastors know this! The weight of the pressure on the shoulders of a preaching pastor week in and week out is enormous. It is so heavy in fact that the pastor forgets how great the load he carries is. He only realizes it when the scrutiny is countered with a refreshing word or act of encouragement.

One of the greatest burdens on the pastor’s shoulders is the burden for ministry success, particularly preaching success. Every time he stands before the congregation to deliver a message, he has holy ambitions ever before him like church growth (both spiritually and numerically) and response to the gospel. The success of a sermon is often measured in the response of the congregation. Did people trust Christ? Did people join the church?

When the pastor invites the congregation to respond to God’s word, whether people stay seated or walk down the aisles often determines whether or not the sermon was “successful” in the minds of many. Even the preacher feels he has devastatingly failed if his people do not respond to the gospel. He may think, “There is obviously nothing deficient in the message itself, so obviously the deficiency must lie in me and my delivery of the message!”

What a burden! This kind of thinking about the success of a sermon produces two unhealthy actions.

1. The pastor will be tempted to force a response from the congregation through guilt trips.

2. The congregation will respond falsely or pretentiously in order to validate the pastor’s sermon.

The problem with these unhealthy actions is that they are not the result of a real or genuine change of heart or adoration of the gospel. Forced response is futile because it does not come from a heart touched and affected by the Holy Spirit. Neither of these actions come from or even need God’s grace.

The good news, though, is that the success of a sermon is NOT determined by the movement of the audience. The success of a sermon is determined by the faithfulness of the pastor to preach the Bible as God’s word. Pastors Derek Prime and Alistair Begg write to fellow pastors, “The best reputation we can have is of faithfulness to Scripture” (On Being a Pastor: Understanding Our Calling and Work, 54).

Pastors and congregants should not view the success of a sermon consisting in the response of the audience. Droves of people respond to some of the worst, anti-gospel false teachings. On the other hand, some of the most faithful gospel messages have produced zero converts on a given Sunday. Which pastor would be considered successful in his preaching? The unfaithful preacher with many responding? Or the faithful preacher with no converts?

When Deitrich Bonhoeffer finished his doctoral work at Berlin University at the end of 1927, he desired to enter the pastorate. He was a gifted theologian and his family urged him to stay in academia as a professor. However, Deitrich had a burning passion to minister to God’s people. Bonhoffer went to Barcelona, Spain in 1928 to serve at a German church. He was an assistant pastor responsible for teaching children and preaching sermons when the senior pastor was out of town. In the summers, Bonhoeffer was given ample opportunity to preach.

One theological principle that Bonhoeffer drew from his experience preaching was the idea of God’s initiating work in revelation. God must reveal himself to us. Otherwise, there would be no way to reach God. He must come to us. Bonhoeffer applied this to his preaching ministry. He wrote,

I have long thought that sermons had a center that, if you hit it, would move anyone or confront them with a decision. I no longer believe that. First of all, a sermon can never grasp the center, but can only itself be grasped by it, by Christ.

–excerpt from Eric Metaxas, Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy, p. 81

Bonhoeffer realized that despite his theological prowess and brilliance, it meant nothing outside the grace of God. The determinant in the success of a sermon is the grace of God, not the brilliance of the preacher. This means that even when a pastor blows it, either through his poor writing or delivery of a sermon, God may still manifest his glory to his people. On the contrary, the best sermon you will ever preach may not result in even one response if God does not move.

The effectiveness of a sermon is based on God who shows mercy to whom he wills and hardens whom he wills (Rom. 9:18). His grace determines preaching success, not your greatness or weakness as a preacher. The truth of God’s sovereign grace is like a call from the Christ to the preacher, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28).

Pastor, your sermon will never grasp anyone in its own power. However, in the power and grace of God, even your meager attempts to proclaim his excellencies in Christ can be used to draw sinners to the cross.

Church member, your pastor is not a perfect preacher, so put your scalpel down and fill your pastor with refreshing words of encouragement. Let your cry be, “Bring the Book, pastor! Bring the Book!” Respond only as the Spirit moves through the proclaimed word of God. And let all trivialities fall to the wayside.


396110_519885398036913_1852978654_nMathew Gilbert is a student at Boyce College (B.A. Biblical and Theological Studies). He is the author of the forthcoming book Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God (CrossBooks). Mathew lives in London, KY with his wife, Erica, and their dog, Simba. You can follow him on Twitter @Mat_Gilbert.

Morning Mashup 10/17


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With an incredibly busy day on Wednesday, I was unable to put a Morning Mashup together. This turned out to be a real shame because there were many great articles floating around the web on Wednesday. Ah, c’est la vie! Nevertheless, I have a smorgasbord of articles dealing with the religious liberty violation in Houston, Mark Driscoll’s resignation, the Catholic Church and gay “marriage,” Ebola, the MLB playoffs, preaching, and much, much more.


Houston, We Have a Constitution – Russell Moore: “The separation of church and state means that we will render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s, and we will. But the preaching of the church of God does not belong to Caesar, and we will not hand it over to him. Not now. Not ever.”

Why Not Just Hand the Sermons Over? – Russell Moore: “Religious liberty isn’t ours to give away to Caesar, and soul freedom isn’t subject to subpoena from City Hall.”

Mark Driscoll Resigns from Mars Hill Church – With all of the hoopla in Houston, this story seemed to creep between the cracks. Driscoll’s demise is deeply saddening. However, I pray repentance would result from his fall.

Did the Roman Catholic Church Just Change Its Position on Divorce and Gay Marriage – Denny Burk says, based on news headlines, the answer is clearly, “Yes.”

American Evangelicals Should Expect Persecution – As one who will, Lord willing, be studying at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, these words from Albert Mohler are quite sobering: “Maybe the mission of this school is actually to train up a generation of preachers, missionaries, and evangelists who will be martyrs.”

What Happened to the Young, Restless, and Reformed in the SBC? – Blogger Tim Brister reflects on his journey in ministry as a Calvinist in the SBC and describes where many of his friends are. In my circle of friends in ministry who are Reformed, I see a similar trend. I pray this will be the trajectory of my life in ministry.

20 Ways to Be Refreshing in the Local Church – “It has been my pleasure to serve in the local church with some individuals that are truly “refreshing” to the saints. When you meet them, you know it! They are like an oasis in the midst of a desert. I walk away feeling encouraged, joyful, and spiritually stimulated. Unfortunately, they are an endangered species and much harder to find than should be the case.”

What Christians Should Know About the Ebola Crisis – Ebola is causing widespread fear in the United States and around the world. How should Christians respond to this deadly virus?

Making Sense of the MLB Playoffs – Chicks may dig the long ball, but small ball is king this postseason. Here are few surprising things this year’s MLB playoffs have taught us.

Best Trade in the History in the NFL? – This may surprise you.

Four Reasons Why Some Preachers Get Better and Others Don’t – Tremendous wisdom from a wonderful preacher and professor, Hershael York. He humorously writes, “Being a preaching professor is like getting paid to tell a mother that her baby is ugly. It might be the truth, but it’s not a truth anyone wants to hear.”

Ebola Fear – Marvin Olasky: “I had a heavy burden of fears and, unlike Pilgrim in John Bunyan’s wonderful tale, I can’t entirely shake that legacy.”

Preaching is War – David Prince: “As we preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ today, we would do well to keep the protoevangelium (first gospel) in Genesis 3:15 always in mind. It reminds us that preaching is warfare.”

Religious matters are to be separated from the state…because they are too high and holy and thus are beyond the competence of the state. –Isaac Backus

20 Quotes from Kirk Cousins’ “Game Changer”


_240_360_Book.1262.coverGame Changer is not the kind of book that I typically read. It isn’t that I do not find any value in books that combine sports and faith, it’s just that I do not have time to read them. However, I am currently giving my life to the discipleship of kids. I thought it would be beneficial to read a book geared toward kids to see if it would be commendable. As I indicated in my review of Game Changer, I find this book from Washington Redskins quarterback, Kirk Cousins, worthy of recommendation. There are many reasons for this, but I will allow my review to stand and not repeat those reasons here.

Cousins is not a theologian or a pastor, nor does he claim such statuses. Some of his theology is a little, eh. Some of his phraseology could use tweaking. I would prefer he not refer to salvation as “making Jesus Lord and Savior.” Like, how does a guilty sinner command Jesus to do something? I would prefer if the gospel was front and center in each of his biblical principles instead of mixed in some of them. I wish he was a tad more confident and bold in calling people to believe in Jesus, instead of being passively evangelistic in an I’m-not-forcing-this-down-your-throat manner. However, this honest autobiography is full of wisdom and biblical principles that I would want every young boy I disciple to embody.

Kirk Cousins is not Peyton Manning. He will most likely not be your son’s favorite football player. He is not mine. However, the NFL in recent months has shown that it is full of character-deficient athletes. There are quite simply too many athletes that are not worthy of following and are poor role models. Cousins’ presence and Christ-centered life is refreshing and I would encourage you to point him out to your son. He is not the only Christian in the NFL. However, encouraging your sons to follow the example of a man resolved to follow Christ no matter what comes his way makes Kirk Cousins fan-worthy.

If you have a son interested in football or any sport whatsoever, pick up Game Changer. Even if your son is not interested in sports at all, the principles in this book will prove valuable in any walk of life. In the meantime, I have compiled 20 meaningful quotes from Game Changer to whet your appetite.

1. I have a relationship with God through his son, Jesus Christ, and he is the Game Changer of my life.

2. [I]t is not my style to point to the sky after throwing a touchdown pass or to bow in the end zone following a score. The focus of my faith’s expression is found in my everyday life. My faith shapes who I am as a person. My faith shapes my values; my moral choices; my friendships; my role as a football player, a son, a brother, a student, and a leader.

3. I’ve never had a standard path to success. I’ve always had a path where, in the end, I would look back and see how God provided.

4. This is a story about the greatness of God and about the fact that he is worthy to be trusted.

5. Whom I choose to follow has had so much to do with finding my way in life…[W]e need to be careful in choosing our role models It’s equally important that we become the kind of role model that is worth following.

6. God wants to redeem your life and use it for his glory and the good of others.

7. God is at the foundation of my life, the source of my identity. As painful as this loss is, football is not what defines me. As I left the stadium that night, I just kept clinging to the fact that, somehow, someway, God would bring glory to himself through my failure.

8. Football as a foundation for life would not stand up when the storms of life blow through.

9. This is the central message of the Bible, that Jesus came to earth in bodily form and paid the penalty on the cross for all the wrong that we’ve done. If we ask Jesus to forgive our sins, he is willing and able to forgive us and cleanse us.

10. The God of the universe wrote an instruction book for the game of life and sent it to us.

11. Facing and overcoming adversity begins with a choice. It begins with a decision to press on in spite of the present circumstances.

12. God didn’t intend for us to do life alone.

13. Discipline in one area of life carries over to other areas of life.

14. If we are focusing on God’s greatness and glory rather than our own, we can’t help but live with a different perspective.

15. God tells me that my worth is based on the fact that he purchased me with the life of his own son, Jesus.

16. Money is a means to an end and that the only fame worth living for is his.

17. Love and commitment require an incredible degree of humility.

18. You may or may not be an up-front person. You may or may not be the vocal type. You can, however, regardless of personality, be an example and a servant. 

19. We must be willing to be in uncomfortable situations where we need the power of God–this is when God reveals his greatness.

20. I am counting on the fact that God has a plan for me, and that he will unfold it as I seek to follow him. There’s no better place for me. There’s no other place I’d rather be.


396110_519885398036913_1852978654_nMathew Gilbert is a student at Boyce College (B.A. Biblical and Theological Studies). He is the author of the forthcoming book Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God (CrossBooks). Mathew lives in London, KY with his wife, Erica, and their dog, Simba. You can follow him on Twitter @Mat_Gilbert.

The Inescapable Glory of God in Creation


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Last night in kids ministry we asked the question, “What is creation?” The answer we gave was, “Creation is God’s making everything out of nothing by his powerful Word, and it was all very good.” This question and answer is an adaptation from the Westminster Shorter and Baptist Catechisms. We marveled at how God creates in a way entirely unique to the ways we create. Mostly, we examined how the way God creates means that God’s glory is inescapable.

When God created all things, he revealed glimpses of his glory. Creation is God’s manifestation of his glory. From the deepest sea to the highest mountain, God’s glory can be seen. From the most beautiful sunrise to the dreariest rainy day, God reveals his glory. In fact, Paul says this glory is so evident in creation that no man has an excuse of ignorance of God (Rom. 1:18-20). No man or woman can say they did not have knowledge of God, because creation attests to God. It both humbles and amazes me that God makes himself known in every aspect of his creation. One implication of this is that there is no escaping the glory of God, no matter how hard we may try. Another is that although everyone has a general knowledge of God through creation, this knowledge is not enough to save.

I have made it a point recently to organize my reading. Part of this includes reading certain genres and reading from certain historical periods on certain days. Every Saturday I read a few chapters from one of the greatest works that the Reformation produced–The Institutes of the Christian Religion by John Calvin. I have just finished Calvin’s section on the knowledge of God. I can safely say that I have read nothing more insightful on what theologians call “general revelation,” which is the way God makes himself known in creation. Even if you vehemently disagree with certain aspects of Calvin’s theology, you would do well to read the Institutes. There are mountains of theological insights that if you take the time to climb, you will be overjoyed with the breathtaking sights.

I want to take time here to share Calvin’s thoughts on how the knowledge of God “shines forth in the fashioning of the universe.” After reading this, I pray you would more clearly see God’s glory in creation and motivate you to seek effective ways to evangelize your lost friends who have a general knowledge of God through creation. I hope this blesses your soul as it has mine.

The final goal of the blessed life, moreover, rests in the knowledge of God [cf. John 17:3]. Lest anyone, then, be excluded from access to happiness, he not only sowed in men’s minds that seeds of religion of which we have spoken but revealed himself and daily discloses himself in the whole workmanship of the universe. As a consequence, men cannot open their eyes without being compelled to see him. Indeed, his essence is incomprehensible; hence, his divineness far escapes all human perception. But upon his individual works he has engraved unmistakable marks of his glory, so clear and so prominent that even unlettered and stupid folk cannot plead the excuse of ignorance. Therefore the prophet very aptly exclaims that he is “clad with light as with a garment” [Ps. 104:2]. It is as if he said: Thereafter the Lord began to show himself in the visible splendor of his apparel, ever since in the creation of the universe he brought forth those insignia whereby he shows his glory to us, whenever and wherever we cast our gaze…And since the glory of his power and wisdom shine more brightly above, heaven is often called his palace [Ps. 11:4]. Yet, in the first place, wherever you cast your eyes, there is no spot in the universe wherein you cannot discern at least some sparks of his glory. You cannot in one glance survey this most vast and beautiful system of the universe, in its wide expanse, without being completely overwhelmed by the boundless force of its brightness. The reason why the author of The Letter to the Hebrews elegantly calls the universe the appearance of things invisible [Heb. 11:3] is that this skillful ordering of the universe is for us a sort of mirror in which we can contemplate God, who is otherwise invisible.

John Calvin, The Institutes of the Christian Religion, I.v.1, emphasis added


396110_519885398036913_1852978654_nMathew Gilbert is a student at Boyce College (B.A. Biblical and Theological Studies). He is the author of the forthcoming book Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God (CrossBooks). Mathew lives in London, KY with his wife, Erica, and their dog, Simba. You can follow him on Twitter @Mat_Gilbert.

Book Review: “Game Changer” by Kirk Cousins


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Kirk Cousins. Game Changer: Faith, Football, and Finding Your Way (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2014) 192 pp. $8.09 on Amazon [To purchase, click image to left]

If there is one thing that has a penetrating influence on young boys, it is the world of sports. Sports has a unique impact on boys and the ones they look up to most are more than likely in some way involved in the sport they love.

In the United States, football is king. Young boys look up to both college and NFL players with stars in their eyes. They are not only impacted by the way they play on the field, but by the way they conduct themselves off the field. With the phenomenon of Twitter, even young boys are not kept from the lives of their favorite athletes.

For young Christian boys, there are few football players with a platform like the NFL that they have to admire for not only their athletic prowess, but also for their integrity and commitment to Jesus. The most notable would be Tim Tebow (who is no longer in the NFL) and Russell Wilson (QB for the Seattle Seahawks).

Washington Redskins quarterback, Kirk Cousins, throws his hat in the pile of influential Christian athletes with his first book, Game Changer. In Game Changer, Kirk Cousins tells his life-story and shares what it is like to live as a Christian in the NFL. Cousins not only focuses on his own life, but he also provides wonderful Christian principles for living a life that glorifies Christ in sports or anything else.

The Author

Although Cousins has walked in the shadow of the uber-talented Robert Griffin III since being drafted to the NFL, he has proven to be a more than capable quarterback. Kirk Cousins was raised in a small Michigan town and always dreamed of playing college and professional football. This dream began by receiving only one college scholarship and having to fight for the right to start. In his time at Michigan State, Cousins set many offensive records and led the school to some of its greatest success in history. He was then taken in the seventh round of the 2012 NFL draft by the Washington Redskins. While Cousins is clearly not of the athletic guild of Robert Griffin III, he is a very talented quarterback that shows signs of being able to start in the NFL.

Summary

Game Changer is a book that takes the reader through Cousins’ journey as a football player. It is based on the principles of a speech he gave at the 2011 Big Ten Kickoff Luncheon. Cousins does this in a unique way. Instead of focusing on the events in his life, he uses the events in his life teach life principles that he strives to implement. Each of these life principles is rooted in Scripture. Cousins writes, “This is a story about the greatness of God and about the fact that he is worthy to be trusted” (37).

The subtitle is a great summation of the thrust of the book. Cousins tells his story by focusing on his faith in Jesus, which grounds everything he does, his love for the game of football, and finding your way in the world by making some of the most important decisions in life.

Analysis

As a writer, Cousins is compelling and honest. It was a book that I as a college student could enjoy, but at the same time is by no means outside the reach of kids. The book is geared toward ages 8 and up. It would make a great gift for young boys who love sports.

One of the most refreshing things about this book is the way Cousins weaves his faith in his story. He doesn’t talk about how he is constantly passing out gospel tracts, pointing to heaven after a touchdown, or put a cross on all of his gear. Cousins says that is not his style (22). What I find most commendable about this book for young boys is the way Cousins lives out his faith. He gives example after example of what it means to be a Christian and play football. So many Christian boys want to glorify Christ in the sports they love, but they simply do not know how. I love how Cousins says it is much more than gestures or symbols. It is deeper than that.

The focus of my faith’s expression is found in my everyday life. My faith shapes who I am as a person. My faith shapes my values; my moral choices; my friendships; my role as a football player, a son, a brother, a student, and a leader. Take my faith in Jesus Christ away, and I would be a different person living a different life (22).

For Cousins, Christ is all. It is from this foundation that he tells his story. It is from this foundation that he teaches biblical principles to be embodied in all of life. Clearly, without Christ, following the principles outlined in the book would be useless. The supremacy of Christ in his life and his dual passion for Jesus and football makes him an excellent role model for young boys who love the game. Cousins’ perspective is grounded and he humbly communicates his gratitude for God’s grace in his life. If you are not already, you will leave this book a Kirk Cousins fan.

Conclusion

Cousins teaches his readers that the Christian life is a changed life. Following jesus is not easy, but always worth it. Football is a great game, but it is not everything. However, the message is clear that through football and anything else, Christ can be glorified and magnified by realizing the privilege of the platform.

Game Changer is not about Kirk Cousins. It is about Jesus. In the end, Kirk Cousins is not communicated as the game changer, God is. But more than that it is about following Jesus and what this means for life as a football player. I heartily commend this book to any parent with boys who play football and to any young boy looking for a role model who exhibits both athletic and Christian excellence.


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <http://booklookbloggers.com> 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 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


396110_519885398036913_1852978654_nMathew Gilbert is a student at Boyce College (B.A. Biblical and Theological Studies). He is the author of the forthcoming book Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God (CrossBooks). Mathew lives in London, KY with his wife, Erica, and their dog, Simba. You can follow him on Twitter @Mat_Gilbert.

To Whom Should a Pastor Primarily Direct His Sermons?


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In Jim Shaddix’s convicting and helpful book, The Passion-Driven Sermon: Changing the Way Pastors Preach and Congregations Listen, he tells the following story:

I learned an important lesson about people’s perception of preaching shortly after assuming my second pastorate, a small congregation in the deep south. I began immediately preaching systematically through a book of the Bible. All of the messages during the first several weeks were more fellowship-oriented, addressing Christians as the receptive texts demanded. I assumed the people were receiving the sermons eagerly as their shepherd fed them the Word. Boy, was I naive! About two months into the series, I finally came to a text that was more evangelistic in nature. So I proceeded on Sunday morning to wax eloquent with a hot sermon on hell, making primary application to those persons without Christ. The next day one of the prominent men in the church stopped in front of my house as I was mowing the lawn. He rolled down the window of his truck and yelled, “Great message yesterday, Pastor. You finally started preaching!” And I thought I had been preaching all along.

The fact of the matter is that many congregations today believe that every sermon ought to be directed at the lost, informing them of their sinful condition and their eternal destiny of torment (23).

I think many Christians believe the primary form of evangelism is to invite lost friends to church so that they can hear an evangelistic sermon. When this theory is implemented in a church, the extent of the evangelism of church members is to invite and the extent of the evangelism of the pastor is to preach evangelistic sermons week in and week out. Under this system, the pastor is the primary evangelist and the rest of the church serves as gatherers, not messengers.

However, is this the way preaching and evangelism are meant to primarily function? Is it wrong to invite someone to church? Is there no place for evangelistic sermons? Obviously the answer to both questions is “No.” Still, to whom should the pastor primarily be directing his weekly sermons?

I believe that as long as we keep the proper perspective, we can rightly say that the pastor should primarily direct his sermons to believers rather than unbelievers, while not neglecting the probability of the presence of unbelievers in the hearing of the sermon.

A quick glance at 1 Corinthians 2:1-2 may give the impression that Paul only preached evangelistic sermons. He wrote to the Corinthians, “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (v. 2). However, Paul is writing this letter to the church for their edification. The role of every pastor is to be an undershepherd of the flock of God. This flock must be fed and so the pastor’s primary purpose on Sunday mornings is to glorify God through the preaching of his word to the people he has chosen and redeemed in Christ.

Like Paul, we are to preach the “whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27). The direction of a sermon should be dictated by the text. If pastors narrow themselves to solely preaching evangelistic sermons only one implication of the atonement will be on display. This will show that the gospel is only vital for unbelievers. This will also place the burden of evangelism solely on the pastor’s shoulders. What pastors should strive for is to expose the word of God to the people of God to equip them to live a gospel-centered life with the gospel on display in their words and actions.

This does not mean there is no place for evangelistic sermons. Primarily directing sermons to believers does not imply that unbelievers should not be invited, should not attend, or cannot respond to the gospel. The way God has rigged the whole process of pulpit ministry is that when the preacher proclaims what God has said and nothing more, believers grow in Christlikeness and unbelievers can receive saving grace by responding to the gospel. When a pastor sets out to preach the word of God as God has intended, he will be preaching the gospel. In the words of Charles Spurgeon, “No Christ in your sermon, sir? Then, go home, and never preach again until you have something worth preaching.”

In fact, direct messages on the atonement and God’s power to save sinners through faith in Christ will undoubtedly be preached if expository preaching is employed. But the role of the pastor must be to feed the flock that God has entrusted to him. The gospel is for both unbelievers and believers. To set aside certain days where you preach the gospel and neglect preaching the gospel from all of Scripture every single week is to miss the point of preaching. However, at the same time, it is not best for a pastor to solely prepare evangelistic sermons directed at unbelievers. The role of the pastor is to shepherd his flock with all of the word of God and he is to proclaim the whole counsel of God for the guidance and growth of his flock.

Shaddix calls this “reflecting on the cross.” He writes, “The shepherd of the local congregation has the responsibility of reflecting weekly on the cross of Christ in order to show its implications and applications for the body of Christ and the individuals who com rise it” (24). He admits this is the primary function of the New Testament itself.

So, pastor, preach the word primarily for your flock! Preach the word in all of its depth and reflect on the cross for the guidance and growth of your flock.

Church member, rejoice when your pastor preaches the word for your edification and spiritual nourishment. I know nothing brings me more joy than when my pastor reflects on the cross and draws out its implications from Scripture. Call him to preach the cross each week as together you worship the Christ who died to draw you to himself and together as a body.


396110_519885398036913_1852978654_nMathew Gilbert is a student at Boyce College (B.A. Biblical and Theological Studies). He is the author of the forthcoming book Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God (CrossBooks). Mathew lives in London, KY with his wife, Erica, and their dog, Simba. You can follow him on Twitter @Mat_Gilbert.

Morning Mashup 10/13


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So, last night I turned into a The Walking Dead addict. I was mesmerized from start to finish and haven’t even seen any of the other seasons. That will soon be remedied. But as I was watching, I compiled some intriguing and edifying articles and other awesomeness from around the web.


Will Christians Be Secretly Raptured? – Many Bible-believing Christians do not believe in a secret rapture of Christians before the millennium. The author of this post considers whether or not the teaching of the rapture, which only first appeared in the 19th century dispensationalist movement, is biblical.

Living with Ebola in West Africa – A sobering collection of photos from West Africa.

What Not to Say to a Dad with Four Kids – A great lesson on not generalizing and the common misconception that comes with being a parent to multiple children.

Shaping a Kid’s Dream Job – Being married to a teacher, working as a substitute teacher myself, and serving in kids ministry had me in full agreement with this post. Very helpful.

The Solemnization of Matrimony – Kevin DeYoung: “If Christians are to accept gay so-called marriage, they must accept that our liturgies and our services, our pastors and priests, our forefathers and foremothers have been for centuries wrong about the meaning of marriage.”

When Your Child’s Personality Annoys You – When your children annoy you, you will be tempted to put an end to behaviors that get on your last nerve. If this is you, take some advice from Jen Wilkin on a better way to deal with your annoying bundle of joy.

Weird and Wonderful Bookshops Worldwide – As a book lover this gallery brought out the nerd in me. I’d love to visit each of these awesome bookshops.

Below is an amazing video illustration of the gospel. Seriously, I don’t think I have seen one better.

The preacher can only bring the Word to the ear; the Spirit must bring it from the ear to the heart. –Steven Lawson