Bad Leaders Make Bad Followers


Picture in your mind a line of bouncing, giddy preschoolers following behind an adult, doing whatever she did. If she hopped, they hopped. If she ran, they ran. If she sat, they sat. They perfectly followed every move she made. But, this adult leader was disobeying the instructions of her partner. So, he would say, “walk in a circle,” but they would sit down. He would say, “jump up and down,” but they would walk in a circle. I’m sure the parents of these preschoolers really appreciated us leading them to disobey!

It really was a strange sight to see so many children simultaneously obeying and disobeying. They were following the actions of their line leader, yet disobeying the clear instructions of the one giving directions. They did this because we all follow our leaders, especially if they are charismatic, fun, energetic, and compelling. Even though the children were rightly following their leader, they were literally walking in disobedience precisely because they were following a bad leader. The lesson we were teaching the preschoolers was that bad leaders bring culpability on and consequences to everyone they lead. In other words, bad leaders make bad followers.

The impact and influence of leaders cannot be understated. When leaders succeed, so do their followers. When leaders fail, so do their people. And the consequences of a leader’s failure is felt not only by him or her, but everyone around and under his or her authority. We see this dynamic in families, businesses, sports, schools, nations, and churches. There is a disastrous trickle down effect from leaders to followers when leaders fail. Wicked kings of Israel created wicked people and a wicked nation. Bad leaders make bad followers.

Every decision a father makes impacts his children. Every decision a principal makes impacts her teachers and students. The same is true for presidents and pastors. Character is maybe the most significant qualification for leaders. The sobering truth for spiritual leaders in particular is that moral lapses, spiritual apathy, and downright disobedience in his own life leads to moral lapses, spiritual apathy, and disobedience in the lives of his people.

Maybe the most frightening aspect of the priests’ failures in Malachi’s day is the fact that they weren’t ignorant of the Law. They knew what God required of them in their duty as priests. They were technically fulfilling their role by offering sacrifices. They were going through religious motions, which meant they knew the proper forms of worship. However, their right knowledge of God’s word wasn’t leading to obedience in their lives. Their knowledge of the Law only heaped more guilt on their heads. There was a serious disconnect between the priests’ heads and their hearts.

We learn much from others’ failures. The priests’ in Malachi’s day were not following the example set by Levi, the father of the Levitic priesthood. Unlike Levi, they were faithless, ungodly, and silent with God’s word. They weren’t fulfilling their roles of representing God to the people and the people before God. And their moral lapses led to moral decay and chaos in Judah. The priests teach us that biblical knowledge on its own is not enough to save or sanctify us. Beware of vain or empty biblical knowledge. What we do with our biblical knowledge is everything.

Although the priests were faithless to both the Levitic and Sinai covenant, God will forever remain faithful to his promises and his people. God’s desire to grant his people life and peace will not be frustrated by the failures of their earthly representatives. His people need a perfect priest who will offer right sacrifices on their behalf and teach them the law accurately and fairly.

We have such a priest in Jesus. He perfectly revealed God’s will to us and offered himself as a sacrifice for sin. With the coming of Christ, the Levitical priesthood has ended because Christ once for all offered himself on the altar of God for our sins.


19149367_2014653971893374_3834793165439186257_nMathew Gilbert is Associate Pastor for Children and Preschool at The Church at Trace Crossing in Tupelo, MS. He is a student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and the author of Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God. Mathew and his wife, Erica, live in Tupelo with their two boys, Jude and Jack

Don’t Just Pray for Your Pastor


I hope you pray for your pastors and elders. I really do. As a pastor and elder at my church, I know how much our pastors and elders depend on and covet the prayers of our people. The church is not an organization where leaders give and followers receive. Pastors aren’t performers, nor are they caterers. Pastors aren’t called to put on a show for their people, nor are they called to cater to their people’s preferences. Pastors are called to shepherd God’s flock according to God’s Word in the power of God’s Spirit.

It is a noble, humbling, and daunting task. Pastors often feel the weight of the spiritual needs of their people as well as the needs of their own families. And they often hold these weights in tension. At times it can feel like the better husband and father I am, the worse pastor I am, and vice-versa. When pastors labor for hours over the Word and spend time texting, calling, and visiting their people, that is time away from their families. And when pastors give significant time to their families, they feel guilty for not spending as much time meeting with others in the church. Many pastors wade in a pool of guilt as they try to manage ministry time and family time.

Faithful pastors are also usually the world’s worst for taking time off. Most of us are just wired to work and tirelessly give ourselves for the sake of others. Pastors are often perpetually tired–physically, mentally, and emotionally. Pastors experience waves of emotions throughout any given week. They face encouragement and criticism. They see joys and pains. They witness growth and moral lapses. Some faithful members leave for jobs and others leave in anger. Both produce tears in a loving pastor.

Pastors also preach a mix of good and bad sermons. And I can assure you that no one is a bigger critic of a sermon than the one preaching it. There isn’t really a sense of accomplishment in the pastor’s work. There are few tasks that can be started and finished in a short period of time. Even when a sermon is finished and preached, there’s another one coming next week. So, it’s really tough for a pastor to rest.

Granted, many pastors bring these problems on themselves. Pastors need to become experts on time management. Pastors need to be intentional about balancing ministry and family time. Pastors need to carve out time for personal rest, and they should be taking serious care of their minds, hearts, and bodies. However, unless the pastor intentionally seeks out rest and care, there often isn’t much pastoral care for the pastor in the church. While the pastor often preaches the gospel to others, he usually has few if any people in his life who preach the gospel to him.

I don’t mean to throw a pity-party on behalf of myself and my brother pastors. I hope you’re not feeling sorry for your pastor or rolling your eyes at me. Healthy pastors find strange joy in the burdens of ministry. Like Paul, they are sorrowful, yet always rejoicing. Many pastors love their work and their people deeply. My purpose in writing is simply to get you thinking about the stress your pastor is under every single week. I hope you are aware of this, and it compels you to pray for your pastor.

Saturday is a great day to pray for your pastors and elders, especially your preaching pastor. As much as we all work to have our sermons finished before the weekend, many pastors are still cleaning up their sermons on Saturday night. I’ve finished a sermon at 1:30 AM on a Sunday morning. And I don’t even preach on a weekly basis. It happens. And when it happens, I can assure you that your pastor is tired and in need of the prayers of his people.

What an excellent practice it would be to pray for your pastor with your children, spouse, or friends on a Saturday night. What an excellent practice it would be to text your small group and remind them to pray for your pastor. What if you called another church member and decided to intercede for your pastor on a Saturday afternoon? God uses prayer to accomplish his purposes. I wonder how different a Sunday morning would look if the church was intentionally praying for the service the day before.

But I hope you do more than pray. Praying for your pastor should be a given. It’s honestly the least we can do. Your pastor needs more than your prayers. He needs your words. He needs to hear from you. He needs you to encourage and exhort him. Consider ways you can serve your pastor and his family with your words and service. You could offer to watch his children so he and his wife can go on a date. Maybe you could take your pastor out to lunch and share ways his ministry has impacted you. You could even simply be engaged and involved on a Sunday morning. Or at least try not to fall asleep! Paul knows what I’m talking about (Acts 20:9)! And be creative! Have a spirit of humility and service among everyone in the body of Christ, including your pastor.

Apart from general encouragement and acts of service, your pastor also needs something you may not think he needs. He needs you to remind him of the gospel. I know it’s ironic, but it’s really easy for a pastor to forget the gospel–not the content, but the benefits. The nature of a pastor’s work makes it easy for him to find his worth in the approval of his people. It’s sinful when he does so, but it’s easy for a pastor to find identity in how well he preaches, teaches, and counsels. Your pastor needs the gospel just as much as you. What a blessing it is to a pastor to be reminded of the gospel by his people.

It’s Saturday. Your pastor may be chilling with his family not thinking about his sermon or Sunday morning at all. He may be totally content and satisfied with his work. He may not be worried about certain suffering individuals or families in his flock. He may be. But don’t assume it. It’s more likely that his mind is consumed with Sunday morning–both the service and the people. His sermon may not be finished. He may be having a challenging day as a parent. He may be arguing with his wife. He may be burdened by a difficult Bible passage. He may have just received a hurtful phone call, text, or email. And he may just be having a bad day.

Pastors need their people. They need the prayers of the saints. But don’t just pray for your pastor. Encourage him. Exhort him. Love him. Serve him. Remind him of the gospel. Watch how the Spirit will use your resolve to intercede and serve your pastor as he seeks to shepherd you well.


19149367_2014653971893374_3834793165439186257_nMathew Gilbert is Associate Pastor for Children and Preschool at The Church at Trace Crossing in Tupelo, MS. He is a student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and the author of Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God. Mathew and his wife, Erica, live in Tupelo with their two boys, Jude and Jack.

Confessions of a Young Preacher


So, here’s a confession: I’m a young preacher who is learning on the job. My homiletical, communication, exegetical, and expositional skills are still raw and in need of much grooming. I learn far more than I teach every time I stand to proclaim the gospel on a Sunday morning. With each sermon I preach, I learn more about God, the gospel, preaching preparation and delivery, and just how much I need the grace of God and the patience of the people who sit under my preaching. God bless anyone who sit under the preaching of raw preachers like me! We are often passionate, eager, excited, naive, and inexperienced.

There are already things I’ve said in sermons I would never say again, and there are things I’ve said I would definitely say differently. I resonate with Tim Keller when he says the first 200 sermons a preacher preaches will be terrible. I find comfort in this no matter how much the people who sit under the 200 sermon threshold may cringe. The good news for every young preacher like me is that the edification and sanctification of those under our preaching is not ultimately dependent on our preaching abilities, but on the Word that we are preaching. I’m thankful God uses us not only despite our deficiencies, but also through them.

Any preacher, young or old, who faithfully preaches the Word as it was revealed is a competent preacher. Sermon preparation, writing, and delivery skills will develop over time (at least I hope!). But when a preacher preaches the Word, it is the Word that will not return void, not the sermon.

One of the things I am learning as I hone my preaching skills is that preaching can be simple without being childish. Preaching can be both deep and clear. Preaching should be both deep and clear. There is a tendency among preachers in my particular theological camp to give a running commentary on a passage to expose exegetical truths while offering solid theological points along the way. In the process, many of us fail miserably at application. And preaching that doesn’t include application is, well, not preaching.

I believe this is why so many young preachers like me are tempted to draw so heavily on the work of other preachers we follow. In fact, we want to interpret and teach a passage correctly so much that we are tempted to just borrow from the sermons of these preachers. How many of Tim Keller’s sermons have been preached outside of Redeemer Presbyterian? Good intentions that end in plagiarism are still sinful and lazy.

The church is best served by a pastor who labors over the text and seeks to faithfully expose its meaning. Even though the man who wrote the sermon may have wonderfully exposited the text, the man preaching the sermon did not and was not personally impacted by the text. Part of the impact of the sermon is the passion of the preacher who has been overwhelmed by the grandeur of the text he is preaching. This is lost when a preacher preaches someone else’s sermon. Remember, pastor, you are God’s man for the local church you are shepherding. As helpful as Piper and Keller are, they do not know your people. You do. God has called you and will use your unique abilities to preach the riches of God’s grace in Christ week in and week out.

With that said, it is vital for preachers to continue to grow. Growing as a preacher begins with humility. Be keenly aware of your weaknesses and be willing for a seasoned pastor you trust to speak into you. I’m grateful to God that he has called me to serve alongside a faithful and gifted expositor. Put down your guard and allow the arrows of healthy, loving, and biblical criticism to pierce your heart. It hurts to be told where you are weak, but nothing will benefit your preaching like listening to criticism with an open and humble heart.

Preaching is hard work. I’ve never been more spiritually and physically exhausted than after prepping for a sermon and then preaching it. My wife can attest to the turmoil that rages in my soul on a Monday morning after preaching on Sunday. However, the joy I feel in preaching is hard to describe and even harder to exaggerate. I count it a privilege and joy to proclaim the gospel and help people see and savor the greatness and grace of the God who is and speaks and saves. Every growth pain is worthwhile.


19149367_2014653971893374_3834793165439186257_nMathew Gilbert is Associate Pastor for Children and Preschool at The Church at Trace Crossing in Tupelo, MS. He is a student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and the author of Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God. Mathew and his wife, Erica, live in Tupelo with their two boys, Jude and Jack.

The Real MVPs in Christian Discipleship


Timothy Paul Jones once wrote, “What you do for God beyond your home will typically never be greater than what you practice with God within your home.”[1] Some of the most memorable stories we hear in worship services and Christian conferences are of those heralded missionaries who risked all for the sake of Christ. Who isn’t moved by the heart-wrenching sacrifice of Adoniram and Ann Judson? Who wouldn’t be motivated by the unashamed commitment to Christ of John and Betty Stam? Christian missionaries and leaders who have given and even lost their lives for the sake of the gospel are rightly heralded as heroes of the faith.

While it is right and good to honor men and women in church history who have taken big risks for Christ, with this honor comes an unfortunate tendency to look down on Christians who live unassuming and relatively ordinary lives. We teach little boys to be like Moses and David, as we talk about bushes burning and giants falling. The problem with this is that when we look at our own lives, which probably look little like David, Moses, Adoniram Judson, or John Stam, we begin to slowly crumble under the weight of mediocrity.

It would be hard to number the amount of households that are filled with prayers over children like, “Lord, make our son into a great man of God who will do great things for you.” The problem with this prayer is not the desire or the expression. The problem is the perception of what a “great man of God” is. The problem in many Christian households is ordinary, consistent, faithful obedience to the Word is viewed as second-rate.

Dads who lead their families in nightly worship or devotion are not viewed as heroes. Moms who read the Bible to their children before bed are not heralded as heroic. While the heroic tales of missionaries are deeply moving, the primary way God expands his kingdom and the realm of his presence is through ordinary discipleship in families. Moms and Dads who commit to make disciples in their own home are taking part in the fulfillment of the role of dominion given to Adam and perfectly fulfilled in Christ.

This misconception and erroneous perception of greatness is the root of much discipleship deficiency in Christian homes. When greatness is measured only in terms of rare, special ministries and testimonies, the ordinary elements of Christian family discipleship are overlooked. Within my own household, these tendencies to overlook ordinary obedience to disciple my wife in the gospel prevents meaningful and significant discipleship from ever taking place.

There are many reasons for breaking this trend and implementing a disciplined routine of discipleship in the home. In reflecting on my current practices of family discipleship and projecting future practices, it is important to first consider reasons for implementing a disciplined routine of family discipleship in the first place.

One of the reasons a disciplined routine of family discipleship should be implemented in the home is the overwhelmingly biblical evidence, which places the responsibility for the spiritual development of children in the hands of the parents. Contrary to popular opinion, the role of parents isn’t to drop their children off in the church’s ministries solely depend on the church’s pastors to lead their children in the gospel. Jones puts it this way, “Scripturally speaking, the primary responsibility for the spiritual formation of children does rest squarely in the hands of parents.”[2]

As God called a people to himself, he prepared fathers to lead and teach their children. Jim Hamilton observes that when God led his people into the Promised Land and prepared them to live life in it, he called them to extend the glory of God to all nations. This grand purpose was to be carried out through instruction. Hamilton claims, “Moses made clear in Deuteronomy—particularly in Deuteronomy 6:4-9—that fathers of households were responsible to see that this happens.”[3]

The ordinary disciplined discipleship in Israelite homes was the means for magnifying the glory of God in all nations. The blessing of the nation depended on the individual actions of fathers to disciple their families. In the words of Hamilton, “It doesn’t take a village; it takes a father.”[4]

Fathers were commanded to repeat the commands of God to their children. They were to teach them to their children continuously. Disciplined family discipleship is expressed most clearly in the Shema. Family discipleship is disciplined and word-centered. The great command of Deuteronomy 6:5 is to be taught “diligently to your children, and [you] shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise” (Deut. 6:7).

In reflecting on my own family discipleship practices, daily Scripture reading and prayer with my wife and boys is the most biblical way to lead my family in the gospel. It is through the teaching of the Word in families that disciples are made and multiplied in the nations. By reading through books of the Bible, my family is able to reflect the heart of the biblical witness on discipleship practices.

The design for the family is for fathers to lead their families in disciplined instruction of the Lord. My family’s current practices are lacking in consistency. I need to grasp the comprehensive vision for family discipleship of Deuteronomy 6. Faithfulness to the Word in family discipleship is only beneficial when it is accentuated by a disciplined framework. God uses many means in the discipleship of your children, but Mom and Dad, he primarily uses you–you the real MVPs!

While we rightly herald missionaries and biblical men and women as monumental heroes of the faith, the Bible itself suggests that the true heroes are moms and dads who consistently lead their children in the gospel. Christ has come to reorder our relationships in such a way that we can effectively train our children in the fear of the Lord. The picture of a heroine in my home is the young wife and mother who reads and prays over our two boys before bed. True heroes wear pajamas. Be the hero your children need everyday. Call them to the table or the bedroom. Open the Word. Help their little minds and hearts soar.


[1] Randy Stinson and Timothy Paul Jones. Trained in the Fear of God: Family Ministry in Theological, Historical, and Practical Perspective. Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 2011. p. 14.

[2] Ibid., 15.

[3] Ibid., 35.

[4] Ibid., 37.


19149367_2014653971893374_3834793165439186257_nMathew Gilbert is Associate Pastor for Children and Preschool at The Church at Trace Crossing in Tupelo, MS. He is a student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and the author of Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God. Mathew and his wife, Erica, live in Tupelo with their two boys, Jude and Jack.

Celebrating and Stewarding American Freedom


pexels-photo-4Hot takes are for chumps or experts. I’m not an expert on much, if anything. And I definitely don’t wanna be known as a chump. But as I sit on my back porch enjoying some wonderfully suffocating Mississippi heat on this July 4, I thought I’d share a few meager thoughts on celebrating Independence Day from a Christian worldview.

Reader beware: No one could ever label me as a patriot, and I’m not overly patriotic. I love history and am grateful for the independence America gained in the late 1700s. Admittedly, I’m probably less patriotic than I’ve ever been. That’s probably because I’m guilty of being a prisoner of the moment. I’m more pessimistic than I should be about politics. To be honest, this latest political season has left me discouraged, defeated, and disappointed in many Republican and evangelical leaders.

However, I love my country. I love my country regardless of who holds the presidency or which party dominates Congress. I love the inherent and basic human freedoms granted us by God and recognized by the Constitution. With that in mind, here are a few thoughts, for whatever they may be worth, on celebrating Independence Day as a Christian.

Being citizens of a country as free and powerful as the United States should cause us to feel gratitude toward God for providentially placing us here. Being proud to be an American should cause us to be humbled by God’s providence. We contributed nothing to the founding or development of this country. We did nothing to achieve a birthright to the privileges and freedoms America provides. We were simply born here. The fact that I was born in Kentucky instead of North Korea is a mysterious grace from God. I can raise my family without fear and can expect a relatively easy, comfortable, and prosperous life.

However, our celebration of our American citizenship shouldn’t cause Christians to forget their heavenly citizenship. Because we have dual citizenship on earth and in heaven, we should be mindful of God’s providential placement of us in our earthly home. We are citizens of a vastly powerful and advanced nation. We have wealth other civilizations, peoples, and nations could only dream of having.

But what are we doing with the freedoms and privileges the Lord has blessed us with in this country? Are we stewarding them well? Are we leveraging our position as Americans to advance the kingdom that will never end?

If celebrating American freedom is an end in itself for us, we will have wasted our lives. Protecting our American freedoms only matters if we are willing to risk our lives so that others may walk in life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. And ultimately, our hope and work as Christians should be to leverage and steward our American citizenship so that others would gain heavenly citizenship.

How can we not stop at celebrating, but also steward our American freedom well? I told you I’m not an expert, and this list is far from exhaustive, and feel free to disagree with me, but I hope this is good place to begin utilizing our freedoms for the common good.

1. Weep with those who have a vastly different American experience than you.

Not everyone feels deep American pride when they see an American flag. America is a difficult place to live for some of our own citizens. The American experience isn’t congruent in every corner of our land. While I will never worry if my son is one day pulled over by a police officer, other fathers say goodbye to their sons with far different expectations. The killing of Philando Castile and the horridly botched trial of the police officer who killed him, is the latest in a long history of examples of systemic prejudice, racism, and injustice levied against the Black community. Instead of arguing over minor details, try to understand and empathize with a grieving people. Your American experience isn’t everyone’s American experience. As we celebrate, we will better steward our freedoms by listening to those who don’t feel as free.

2. Work to use your wealth, privilege, status, and success for the sake of the hurting and hopeless among us and beyond.

If American freedom has been nothing but a gift to you, then work to extend that gift to others. Whether it is those in our own country who, for whatever reason, haven’t been able to take advantage of American freedom, or those who are trying to come to our country to flee oppression, Christians should be the first to deny self and sacrificially love neighbor as self. We should speak freely about the hope of the gospel, but we should also work out the implications of the gospel in our neighborhoods, counties, and cities. The gospel is enough motivation for us to love and show mercy to the oppressed and helpless around us. But our American freedom give us the position to do creative and constructive work to advance human flourishing.

As you celebrate today, shoot off fireworks, grill hot dogs, play in the pool, enjoy a cold beer, and sing along with Lee Greenwood until your lungs give out. But don’t let your celebrating be an end. Celebrate your American freedom by stewarding it for the good of all people and the sake of Christ’s name.


19149367_2014653971893374_3834793165439186257_nMathew Gilbert is Associate Pastor for Children and Preschool at The Church at Trace Crossing in Tupelo, MS. He is a student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and the author of Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God. Mathew and his wife, Erica, live in Tupelo with their two boys, Jude and Jack.

Throwback Thursday: Brian Walsh on the Postmodern Problem with Grand Stories


Throwback ThursdayChristianity is a story. That’s because the Bible is a story. One big, rich story spanning thousands of years. In my experience teaching and explaining the grand story of Scripture, I have noticed how much this excites children and teenagers. They love to trace the story. They love when I am about to teach a passage of Scripture and ask, “So, where are we in the big story?” The story of Scripture is one of glorious and grand redemption. God’s redemption of sinners through Christ for his glory is the primary theme of the story carried out from Genesis 1 to Revelation 22. Realizing this will transform the way you read the Bible forever.

But while this truth brings me (and truly nearly every person I have taught) much joy, many postmoderns are repelled by this metanarrative. Far too often, evangelicals are ignorant of secular worldviews. It is important to consider what the secular culture believes, so we can intelligently engage their positions and meet them where they are with the gospel. While the secular worldview has gone beyond even the postmodernism of the late 20th century, much of the secular worldview today can still be described as postmodern in nature. Why is the grand story of Scripture repugnant to the secular culture? In a book written in 1996, Brian Walsh gave a compelling answer.

Postmodern culture is deeply suspicious of all grand stories. Again, The Smashing Pumpkins prove to be insightful in this regard. In their infinitely sad song, “tales of a scorched earth,” they sing, “we’re all dead yeah we’re all dead/inside the future of a shattered past.” We live inside the future of a shattered past because that “past” told grand stories of Marxist utopia, technological freedom, or capitalist paradise. Yet we have come to see not only that these stories are unfinished, but that they are also fundamentally unfinishable, for the simple reason that they are fundamentally lies. The postmodern ethos insists that stories such as these that have so shaped our lives are not stories of emancipation and progress after all, but stories of enslavement, oppression and violence. And on such a view, any story, any world view, that makes grand claims about the real course and destiny of history will be perceived as making common cause with such violence and oppression. This characteristic of the postmodern shift is, I think, the most challenging to Christian faith. If there is one thing that Christianity is all about it is a grand story. How else can we interpret the cosmic tale of creation, fall, redemption and consummation that the Scriptures tell? Yet it is precisely this story that we must tell in a postmodern culture. In the face of dissolution of all grand stories, Christians have the audacity to proclaim, week after week, the liberating story of God’s redemption of all creation. It is, we insist, the one story that actually delivers on what it promises.

And that is the difference between the metanarrative of Scripture and the metanarratives of other ideologies and worldviews: The grand story of Scripture delivers on what it promises. Let’s not fail to continue to tell this story and pray that those we share it with find themselves in it as the people God has redeemed for his glory and our joy.


11751958_1209158262442953_3486622930933138849_nMathew Gilbert (B.A. Boyce College) is Associate Pastor of Children and Preschool at The Church at Trace Crossing in Tupelo, MS. He is an M.Div student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Mathew is married to his high school sweetheart, Erica. They have one son, Jude Adoniram. You can follow Mathew on Twitter @Mat_Gilbert.

Morning Mashup 09/28


coffee-newspaper

Injury Interrupted My Idolatry – From time to time, Desiring God will feature an article written by a professional athlete. They are always profound for me. This piece from NBA player Landry Fields is no different. Fantastic perspective.

3 Ways to Teach Your Kids to Pray for the Persecuted Church – Great post from Ruth Ripken on how to get your kids thinking and praying about persecuted believers.

Sex Belongs to Believers – John Piper: “The pleasures of sex are meant for believers. They are designed for their greatest expression by the children of God. He saves his richest gifts for his children. And as we enjoy his gift of sex, we say, by our covenant faithfulness to our spouse, that God is greater than sex.”

Springtime for Liberal Christianity – Typical excellent cultural and religious analysis from Ross Douthat.

The Cosby Conversation We’re Still Not Having – Thabiti Anyabwile: “What we are not discussing is how to prevent the many Cosbys in our homes, families, friendship networks, schools and churches from preying upon our daughters, sisters, and mothers.”

Don’t Hide Behind “The Gospel” – Barnabas Piper: “Only when we can make the connection between the gospel and the centuries of racial inequality in the United States, the lasting impact on our government and social structures, and the insidious and subtle effects on our own minds and hearts is it a solution.”

The Eight Kinds of Commenters in the Christian Blogosphere – Excellent analysis of commenters on Christian blogs. I’ve experienced each of these. My favorite is the “heresy hunter.” They are so pleasant.

Why I Am a Complementarian – “It seems to me that on a very base level the problem of the feminist movement and the patriarchy movement, and indeed sin itself, is principally a lack of trust. We have, from the very beginning, been attempting to wrench what was not given in the search of what was labeled off limits.”

Why Students Hate School Lunches – Just one of many stellar pieces in the Sunday Review section of the NY Times this week. I love this line: “Consider that in France, where the childhood obesity rate is the lowest in the Western world, a typical four-course school lunch (cucumber salad with vinaigrette, salmon lasagna with spinach, fondue with baguette for dipping and fruit compote for dessert) would probably not pass muster under the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, because of the refined grains, fat, salt and calories. Nor would the weekly piece of dark chocolate cake.”

Papelbon, Harper Fight Highlights Nationals’ Deep Problems – The dugout fight between Nationals teammates Jonathan Papelbon and Bryce Harper has sparked much debate in the sports world. Personally, I agree with Papelbon’s principle, but not with his methods. Harper may be a NL MVP frontrunner, but he has a lot to learn.

The Art of Conversation – Tips for how men should engage in conversation.

42 Things We Learned from Week 3 – It usually takes a few weeks to gauge how the NFL season will go. Here is what we know after three weeks.

Spieth’s Stellar PGA Season – Young Jordan Spieth’s spectacular season broken down. I don’t think he’s the next Tiger, but the dude can play.

For us to be in love with ourselves is idolatry. For God not to be in love with himself is idolatry. –Zane Pratt

Quick Quotes: 10 Quotes from “Captivated” by Thabiti Anyabwile


Q-train-logoEvery Friday, I plan to share select quotes from a book I am either currently reading or have previously read. Few things have impacted my faith and life as much as reading has. This will be just one way I promote books and reading. These articles will be for the dedicated reader who loves to gain insight from as many books as possible. They will also be for the Christian looking for new books to read. I am always on the lookout for new books to read. Hopefully some things I share will lead you to pick up a new book. Finally, these articles will be for those of you too busy to read. Hopefully these quick quotes will provide you with easy access to books you would otherwise not have time to read. Each article will include a brief discussion of the author and his work followed by ten (or more) pertinent quotes from the book.


I seem to always be looking for books that are just hard to find. I really enjoy biblical commentaries, but would love to find some that are helpful for devotional style reading without forsaking robustness. They are hard to find. I also love concise theological works that may not address all the issues on a topic, but lay out the basics in a biblically and theologically rich manner. There are a few of these, but they are still difficult to track down.

One reason I love these concise theological works is that they are so helpful for non-believers and new Christians. I am always looking for books to pass along to curious non-believers and new converts. While John Frame and Wayne Grudem have written two of the best systematic theologies in the last 50 years, I would prefer a new Christian’s first look at Christian theology to be a little lighter than 1000 pages. Finding concise theological works is great for discipling children and youth as well. While even these shorter works are often too deep for most children, many teenagers can tackle them, especially in a group setting.

J.I. Packer’s Concise Theology is an excellent choice. It is the go-to work I pass along to new Christians and curious non-believers. It is comprehensive and gives a solid and trustworthy overview of Christian theology from a Reformed perspective. But for non-believers and new Christians, I believe it’s best to read one of these concise works on a particular topic: the person and work of Christ. Bruce Ware’s The Man Christ Jesus is helpful here. But one of the best short theological works on the death and resurrection of Jesus, specifically in the last few years, is Captivated: Beholding the Mystery of Jesus’ Death and Resurrection, written by Thabiti Anyabwile.

81HvEVm8fJLCaptivated is a short and steady meditation on the death and resurrection of Jesus. Anyabwile’s goal is for readers to “behold His face and be satisfied as we’re changed from one degree of glory to another in Him.” To be captivated by anything, we must gaze and behold the beauty of a thing. This is exactly what Anyabwile does in Captivated. He helps readers gaze into the beauty of Christ and behold him as an all-satisfying treasure.

If you are a non-Christian considering the claims of Christianity, a new believer, or a longtime believer, Captivated will help clarify your mind and captivate your soul to the heart of the Christian faith. Here are ten quotes to get you started:

1. Only Jesus ends the war between God and man with a peaceful solution. If Jesus does not go to the cross, then God will win the war with a final and terrible judgment against man for his sin. Sinners cannot fight God and win. Having Jesus as our Mediator is the only way for us to be reconciled to God.

2. God’s greatest motivation for all His actions is the revelation of His glory in the universe.

3. The only perfect Father found occasion to deny the only perfect Son because such denial achieved the only perfect goals: a perfectly qualified high priesthood, reconciliation through the only God-man Mediator, loving atonement for the sins of men, the vindication of the Father’s righteousness, and the ever-redounding glory of the Father in the Son and the Son in the Father.

4. Gethsemane’s silent answer rings eternally in the loud joyous praises of the universe.

5. But on that dark midday on Golgotha, when the sun refused to shine, the unimaginable and indescribable happened. That beautiful, shining, loving face of the Father withdrew into the dark, frowning, punishing face of wrath.

6. Death is dead. Jesus destroyed it in His death and resurrection. It was impossible that death should ever have victory over the Author of life.

7. Life lived in light of the resurrection includes radical sacrifices in faith.

8. The death, burial, and resurrection free us from having to keep the law in order to be reconciled with and justified before God.

9. The resurrection turns us from law-keeping to gospel-believing and from self-righteousness to an alien righteousness in Jesus Christ. It turns us from trying to earn God’s love by our good deeds to freely accepting God’s love as a gift through faith in His Son.’

10. Only one infallible way of knowing the truth about who Jesus really is and the power of His resurrection exists. We must have our eyes opened by God.


11751958_1209158262442953_3486622930933138849_nMathew Gilbert (B.A. Boyce College) is Associate Pastor of Children and Preschool at The Church at Trace Crossing in Tupelo, MS. He is an M.Div student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Mathew is married to his high school sweetheart, Erica. They have one son, Jude Adoniram.

Leaning on the Promises of God: 3 Ways to Apply God’s Promises to Your Life


rainbow-god-promisesHow many of us believe the promises of God are true, but see no fruit of this belief in our lives? I think there is a common disconnect between assenting to the promises of God and trusting the promises of God. Trust or belief in the biblical sense of the words are inextricably tied to action. We believe, so we act on that belief. Any faith that does not result in a changed life where actions and works are altered is worthless.

While the promises of God are far from empty, I wonder if our belief in them is. American Christians are far better off than the majority of people who have ever lived, and yet we probably worry more than any other society in the history of the world. Worry, discontent, and fear of losing our comforts mark many Americans today, Christians included. What would happen if Christians truly trusted the promises of God?

Puritan William Spurstowe (1605-1666), an English pastor and member of the Westminster Assembly, wrote a beautiful work entitled, The Wells of Salvation Opened. In it, he discusses the promises of God and our response to them. He warns that we should not rest in “a general faith, which goes no further than to give a naked assent unto the promises of the Gospel as true; but does not put forth itself to receive and embrace them as good.” True faith works. It doesn’t just mentally assent to the truth of something. It receives and embraces the truth or reality or Person as good. True faith is a work of the heart. Yes, our minds are definitely (crucially) involved. But without the heart’s affections being moved to delight in a thing as good, faith is absent or false.

Why is it crucial then for a Christian to truly trust the promises of God with his whole being and not just mentally assent to their truth? In the gospel, God has promised to rescue, redeem, and secure sinners from death unto life in Christ. We receive this promise through faith in Christ, but there are many who only assent with their minds without ever acting on their faith in Christ (See Acts 8:13, 23; John 2:23; Matt. 25:11). In each of these examples, God’s promises are believed to be true, but not embraced as good.

Trusting the promises of God produces sweet fruit. Mere assent to the truth of the promises of God produces a bitter and barren life. Trusting God’s promises is the building blocks for a solid and firm stance in the face of sin and suffering. Mere assent to the promises of God is like standing on shifting sand on the brink of a storm. When it comes, you will be swept away in its floods.

How do we practically trust the promises of God? How do we apply them to the messiness of every day life? What do the promises of God in the gospel mean for the stay-at-home mom, the CEO, the teacher, the 5th grader, the college student, and the pastor? How can each of these people apply God’s promises on a daily basis?

A critical word from Spurstowe is helpful here:

When a Christian first turns his thoughts towards the promises, the appearances of light and comfort which shine from them do oft-times seem to be as weak and imperfect rays which neither scatter fears nor darkness; [but] when again he sets himself to ripen and improve his thoughts upon them, then the evidence and comfort which they yield to the soul, is both more clear and distinct but when the heart and affections are fully fixed in the meditation of a promise, Oh! what a bright mirror is the promise then to the eye of faith! What legions of beauties do then appear from every part of it which both ravish and fill the soul of a believer with delight!

Spurstowe beautifully describes the Christian’s experience with the promises of God. At first they seem too good to be true, so distant they can do us no good. But spending more time with them, like sitting by the fireplace, will warm our hearts with indescribable comfort. To think, that when I sin against God even after being found in Christ, condemnation is not consigned to me because God promised “Therefore, there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1). To think, when I am abandoned by everyone around me finding enemies on every side, love everlasting kisses my face and embraces my soul because God promised nothing will separate me from his love (Rom. 8:31-39).

What if we truly trusted the promises of God? Our lives would be radically impacted. Our view of the world would gain much needed perspective. We would never look at our circumstances the same. We wouldn’t fall into despair, because leaning on his promises means a Pauline sorrowful joy is existentially possible. Don’t live life independently from the promises of God. Take them with you wherever you go. Where them around your neck and cling to them when the waves of life crash against you. Don’t just know the promises of God are true, apply the promises to your life.

How can we practically trust and apply the promises of God on a daily basis? I believe there are three ways we can do this:

1. Know the Promises of God

While we can’t end with mental assent, we must begin there. Know the promises of God. This requires pointed and intentional Bible reading. Read the Bible every day and you will encounter many direct and indirect promises to wield in the daily fight for joy.

2. Meditate on the Promises of God

It isn’t enough to have a list of Bible verses of God’s promises. In order to know how to apply them in your particular life setting you must meditate on them. Think deeply about these promises. What are their implications? What are you going through that requires dependence on this or that promise? Fix your mind on God’s promises in such a way that the promise is turned into “a strengthening and reviving cordial.”

3. Memorize the Promises of God

A very practical way to apply the promises is not only to know and meditate on them but to commit them to memory. According to Spurstowe, we should commit specific passages to memory for specific trials we may face. Scripture memory isn’t just an activity for children’s ministry. It is a weapon used to attack the powers of darkness in this world. It is a means of grace to fight for joy in the midst of sorrow.

When life creates hunger, feeding on the Word will provide satisfaction and spiritual nourishment unlike anything else. Act with faith in the promises of God and you will be radically transformed and freed to live and love to the glory of God in all circumstances.

Oh! how securely and contentedly then may a believer, who acts with faith in such promises, lay himself down in the bosom of the Almighty in the worst of all his extremities! Not much unlike the infant that sleeps in the arms of his tender mother with the breast in his mouth, from which, as soon as ever it wakes, it draws a fresh supply that satisfies his hunger, and prevents its unquietness.


11751958_1209158262442953_3486622930933138849_nMathew Gilbert (B.A. Boyce College) is Associate Pastor of Children and Preschool at The Church at Trace Crossing in Tupelo, MS. He is an M.Div student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Mathew is married to his high school sweetheart, Erica. They have one son, Jude Adoniram.

Review: Same-Sex Marriage


51KJMtvSkoLSean McDowell and John Stonestreet. Same-Sex Marriage: A Thoughtful Approach to God’s Design for Marriage. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2014. 176 pp. $9.99 on Amazon

The gay rights movement has been picking up speed over the past few decades, but in the past five years, the gloves have come off and a minority movement in America received what seems to be a decisive victory in the Supreme Court’s Obergefell decision, which strikes down state bans on same-sex marriage. While this decision was not necessarily the legalization of so-called same-sex marriage, it was a historic decision, which declared any bans on such unions as unconstitutional. Summer 2015 changed the landscape of American culture forever.

We have already seen the predicted tension between the Obergefell decision and religious liberty in such persons as Rowan County (KY) clerk Kim Davis, as well as the legal nightmare of further lawsuits on similar ground from those in polyamorous relationships.

Further, more than a shift and genesis of cultural breakdown, we are seeing Christians faced with a crisis of faith. Public perception of Christians who do not accept the status quo when it comes to so-called same-sex marriage is increasingly negative and hostile. Christians opposing same-sex marriage are being lumped together historically with those who opposed the civil rights movement.

So, what are Christians to do? How are we to respond? Some have simply jumped ship. Christianity clearly declares same-sex marriage isn’t even a thing, so some have come to realize they want no part of the church. Others have tried to steer the ship in a different direction. They have mutinously overthrown the Captain and steered the ship of the faith where they want it to go. For some like Matthew Vines this has meant trying to exegete the legitimacy of monogamous same-sex relationships. For others it has simply meant fleeing biblical inerrancy for a preference-based hermeneutic. But all honest and thinking Christians have had to discuss and wrestle with how to speak to this issue with biblical conviction and winsome rhetoric.

For conservative, Bible-believing evangelicals (I wish this distinction was unnecessary. I mean, what is a non-Bible-believing evangelical, anyway?) Sean McDowell and John Stonestreet have provided a helpful, intelligent, and engaging resource for thinking and talking through the issue of so-called same-sex marriage. With many possible rabbits to chase in this argument, the authors tactfully keep the discussion fixed on the most crucial question in this debate.

What is marriage? That is the question. Gay rights advocates try to create similarities with the civil right s movement, but this avoids the question. McDowell and Stonestreet strike this erroneous comparison down with an intelligent, yet swift stroke. Their argumentation is worth quoting at length.

A male of one ethnicity and a female of another can become in every sense that a couple of the same ethnicity can. And an interracial sexual union is ordered toward procreation and can abide by the same standards of exclusivity and permanence. Bans on interracial marriages wrongfully discriminated against actual marriages.

But same-sex couples cannot procreate nor can they become ‘one’ in the same sense opposite couples can. Thus, maintaining marriage as the union of one man and one woman is wrongful discrimination only if it can be demonstrated that the revisionist definition of marriage is the right one. If the conjugal view is correct, same-sex couples can’t actually be married. Claiming discrimination assumes a new definition of marriage as proof for the new definition. It’s circular reasoning (61-62).

In all of their refutations of revisionist arguments, the authors return to the crucial question: what is marriage? For the authors, the definition of marriage is entirely shaped by the Bible. They claim “marriage was designed by God to thoroughly join two image bearers in a permanent commitment, enabling them to fulfill their purpose of filling and forming God’s world” (44). The biblical view of marriage inherently fuels sexual ethics, which speaks to the heart of the revisionist definitions of marriage.

An interestingly crucial aspect of the authors’ argument is that marriage is designed for child bearing. Why is marriage a necessary institution for society? Feeding off of Maggie Gallagher, the authors say there are three “obviously true facts about the world that make the institution of marriage necessary: ‘Sex makes babies. Society needs babies. Babies deserve mothers and fathers’” (44). The authors argue that the design of marriage is for child bearing and child rearing—two things that are absolutely crucial to societal sustenance. Does every act of sex bring forth children? Is sex only for procreation? No. But the basic design of sex is for child bearing.

Even more than this, the authors believe “societies have a vested interest in supporting environments that best rears children” (45). They then reference various sociological studies that show children flourish best when they are raised by their biological mothers and fathers. Same-sex marriage inherently refutes all of this research. It says babies do not necessarily need mothers or fathers.

McDowell and Stonestreet intelligently and compellingly make their argument for traditional marriage while refuting same-sex marriage through focusing on the simple question: what is marriage? They show that marriage is not just about feelings of love, which is the primary cry of the same-sex marriage movement. Marriage has much deeper ties to society than this. So, not just from a biblical perspective, but also from historical and sociological perspectives, same-sex marriage is culturally arrogant.

While the authors’ reasoning is clear and concise, they also speak with a careful and practical tone. The first half of the book is a critique of the revisionist view of marriage, while defining marriage and showing its biblical and sociological implications. The second half of the book is a practical discussion of what Christians can and should do in the face of the apparent victory of same-sex marriage. So the first half asks and answers: what is marriage. The second half asks and answers: what should we do?

“The impulse to flee from culture, even for noble causes like staying away from evil or preserving the relevance of the gospel, tempts the Church in every generation” (81-82). One thing we cannot do is remain silent. Hiding in the bushes while the culture radically shifts is beneath a Christian committed to the universal lordship of Jesus Christ. We must not only stand for how God has defined marriage, but we must provide an example to our society of what marriage is. The role of the church as a bastion and pillar of truth is to provide a vision of marriage that counters the culture.

So we must speak and act with biblical integrity and consistency when it comes to marriage. But we also must repent where necessary. Let’s be honest. The church hasn’t historically extended a loving ear to hear the concerns and struggles of the gay community. We have at times responded with hatred that isn’t consistent with the Savior we follow. McDowell and Stonestreet ask, “Might it be possible to maintain our convictions about homosexual behavior and same-sex unions while building bridges instead of walls?” (104).

Same-Sex Marriage belongs in the hands of every pastor. Pastoral staff and elders need to work through this book as it provides philosophical principles for thinking through the arguments of same-sex marriage while also offering a practical paradigm for addressing the issue on a daily and weekly basis in the life of the church.


Disclosure: I received this book free from Baker Books through the Baker Books Bloggershttp://www.bakerbooks.com/bakerbooksbloggers program. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html.


11751958_1209158262442953_3486622930933138849_nMathew Gilbert (B.A. Boyce College) is the Children’s Pastor at First Baptist Church in East Bernstadt, KY. He is an M.Div student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Mathew lives in London, KY with his wife, Erica, and their son, Jude Adoniram. You can follow him on Twitter @Mat_Gilbert