Flourishing in Life, Fearless in Death


In our pluralistic culture, it’s truly difficult to find much common ground between different groups of people. For example, in what ways are right wing fundamentalists, libertarians, and left wing socialists the same? Is there any common ground between religious hate groups and the people they hate? With the number of polarizing issues and worldviews marking the cultural landscape of America, it really is tough to find relatable common ground between you and someone you disagree with on every conceivable and important idea.

However, in my recent experience leading a non-Christian family through a funeral service and counseling them through the early days of the death of their loved one, it has become clear to me that we all relate to one another through four given expectations.

  1. We all want to live a reasonably pleasant, comfortable, and enjoyable life. We want to flourish in work, play, and home.
  2. None of us wants to die. But we all know death is coming. And none of us knows when it’s coming. True, some of us believe death is nothing more than a channel to an abyss of utter nothingness. Others believe death is a channel to true gain and lasting joy. But none of us wants to die, though we all know we will.
  3. We all want our lives to count. We want to matter. We want people to remember us with affection and miss our presence when we’re gone. We want to leave the world a better place than when we were born. We want to make our mark on the world through the things we believe, say, and do.

Because of these four things, the way you live your life and the way you view your death are absolutely crucial! So much so, that I tremble as I approach this topic. It is no small thing to talk about the way you live your life and the way you view your death. Both of these topics are offensive to think about and offensive to talk about. It is offensive to presume to tell someone how to live his or her life and it is offensive to tell someone how to view his or her death.

In fact, if there are two topics that are most uncomfortable for us to discuss with our families and friends, they are life and death. This is why we excel at small talk. This is why we make excuses for those we care about when they live recklessly. This is why we avoid visiting cemeteries and gloss over the reality of death by reminiscing good memories of the deceased. But the truth is, the most important realities in your life and my life are the way we live and the way we die.

And the pressing questions that come from this consideration are these: Can you find lasting joy and satisfaction in life and death? And, will you waste your life? I believe there is no other worldview, no other religion, and no other philosophy that probes these issues, which can provide an adequate answer to these questions. But, in the Christian faith we find answers to these questions that surpass all of our desires and fulfill all of our deepest longings.

The way we live and the way we die are directly impacted by whether or not Jesus was raised from the dead. The resurrection of Jesus informs us on what a wasted and unwasted life looks like. It also shows us where lasting joy can be found.

The way we live and the way we die must center on Christ. A Christ-centered perspective of life and death is the perspective that brings joy to the heart and purpose to life in the midst of tragedy and turmoil. True human flourishing in life and human conquering in death are only possible if it is true that a man named Jesus from Nazareth actually died and actually came back from the dead.

Lasting joy and satisfaction in life and death are only found in an empty tomb and in a risen Savior. The resurrection of Jesus directly impacts the way we live our lives and the way we approach our deaths. God glorifies himself and brings his people joy in the death and resurrection of his Son.

It is an endless quest to seek to find fulfillment in those three basic desires in anything other than Christ. And that’s not just smug, my-way-is-best-so-deal-with-it talk. That’s real talk. Consider where you find most happiness in life. If you are trying to fabricate or manufacture happiness, or flourish by working yourself to death to prove yourself to others, you will be both exhausted and unfulfilled. And no matter how hard you try to convince yourself otherwise, thinking about your death scares the life out of you. You know death is coming. But the fact you don’t know when you die and you have no control over how you die scares you to death. Only in Jesus can we find certainties in and beyond death. Only in Jesus can we face death with hope.


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.

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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.

Morning Mashup 08/12


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How to Survive a Cultural Crisis – Mark Dever offers seven biblical principles for how Christians should respond when the culture shifts.

Reflections on Pastoral Leadership – I try to read everything D.A. Carson writes. Here he writes of the importance of pastoral leadership.

How Abortion Kills the Future – Joe Carter: “‘For the last 30 years, I’ve supported abortion rights,’ says Ruben Navarrette Jr., a columnist for The Daily Beast. ‘This year may be different.'”

Review of Keller’s “Preaching” – Dane Ortlund’s review of Keller’s masterful book on preaching begins with this sentence, “Tim Keller got a C in preaching at Westminster Seminary in the early 1970s.” That’s all you need to know. Click away.

Sex is More and Less Important than What You Think – Trevin Wax with excellent balance on one of the most misrepresented and misunderstood aspects of humanity–human sexuality.

“Shut Up, Bigot!” – “Postmodern liberals cannot comprehend the idea that one could simultaneously reject a belief and accept the person who holds it.”

No Girls Allowed – Barnabas Piper calls male sports fans like myself to leave the “no girls allowed” sign in the treehouse as he asks, “Why does the idea of a woman coaching your favorite team bother you?”

Tim Keller Sermons – You can find around 90% of Keller’s sermons here. Wow.

Unfinished Story by JRR Tolkien to be Published – I’m in book nerd heaven now. I can’t wait to get my hands on this.

We need to forgive our brother seventy times seven not only for 490 offences but for one offence. –C.S. Lewis

Quick Quotes: 25 Quotes from “Preaching” by Tim Keller


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. 


The regret I have about reading Tim Keller this year is that I am just now reading Tim Keller. He is one of the most profound writers and preachers of the last 50 years. He effectively reaches people not many people or churches are reaching. He is highly appealing to liberals without being liberal. He has led a growing and flourishing church in Manhattan since the 1980s. Keller writes and speaks intelligently and is one of the most culturally aware preachers in America. Much like Albert Mohler, Keller always provides clear and prolific analysis of worldviews. And boy does he bring the gospel heat! I have learned to listen to a Keller sermon nearly every morning, if for nothing else for the cultural insight and gospel hope. Keller clearly exposes the gospel in biblical and compelling ways. His preaching, much like John Piper’s, is modernly unparalleled.

So, for any serious preacher of the gospel, Keller’s book Preaching is an absolute must-have. Like all of Keller’s books, readers find rich gospel teaching and application. This book is the farthest thing from a how-to book, even though Keller does include an instruction guide for crafting an expository sermon in the appendix. It is more of a wise older man passing on his experience and wisdom to younger men in the ministry. Preaching offers much regarding his philosophy and theology of preaching, as well as pointed practical advice for effective preaching. Keller is a staunch defender and exemplary demonstrator of expository preaching. But what separates Preaching from most (if not all) works on the topic is Keller’s revelation of his insight into the modern mind. He basically teaches preachers how to speak intelligently and effectively to modern people. What I’m basically saying is chapter 5 is a gold mine. So many preachers fail to appeal to the secular mind. So much so that most secular people write off the church because they think the Bible is an ancient relic that “speaks” only to the unenlightened or easily manipulated.

Bless your pastor by getting him this book. Pastor, read this book! I’m confident God will use it to greatly impact and improve your preaching. Much of Keller’s book cannot be boiled down to a few quotable statements. Its richness demands to be read in context. With that said, here are twenty-five quotes from Keller’s Preaching because ten is just not enough.

25 Quotes from PreachingPreaching

1. To reach people gospel preachers must challenge the culture’s story at points of confrontation and finally retell the culture’s story, as it were, revealing how its deepest aspirations for good can be fulfilled only in Christ.

2. A good sermon is not like a club that beats upon the will but like a sword that cuts to the heart.

3. As we preach, we are to serve and love the truth of God’s Word and also to serve and love the people before us. We serve the Word by preaching the text clearly and preaching the gospel every time. We reach the people by preaching to the culture and to the heart.

4. You should be something like a clear glass through which people can see a gospel-changed soul in such a way that they want it too, and so that they get a sense of God’s presence as well.

5. Expository preaching is the best method for displaying and conveying your conviction that the whole Bible is true.

6. Only if we preach Christ every time can we show how the whole Bible fits together.

7. Every time you expound a Bible text, you are not finished unless you demonstrate how it shows us that we cannot save ourselves and that only Jesus can.

8. When the preacher solves Christians’ problems with the gospel–not by calling them to try harder but by pointing them to deeper faith in Christ’s salvation–then believers are being edified and nonbelievers are hearing the gospel, all at the same time.

9. The key to addressing at the same time both those who believe and those who do not–and even subgroups within cultures–is to go down to the heart level and call for gospel motivation in your preaching.

10. Only in Christ can any cultural plotline have a happy ending.

11. As you write the sermon, keep in mind the objections that skeptics would have to the teaching of a particular text, then take a moment to address them using agree-to-disagree reasoning.

12. The Christian preacher must be a critic of nonbelief. However, there is no virtue in being an unsympathetic one.

13. If you over-contextualize and compromise the actual content of the gospel, you will draw a crowd but no one will be changed…On the other hand, if you under-contextualize, so that your communication of the gospel is unnecessarily culturally alien and distant from the listeners, you will find that no one will be willing to hear you out.

14. If you don’t begin with the Bible, we will almost certainly come to superficial conclusions, having stacked the deck in favor of our own biases and assumptions.

15. Christianity is at the same time both far more pessimistic about history and the human race than any other worldview and far more optimistic about the material world’s future than any other worldview.

16. A Christian, as it were, arrives at far higher self-esteem by getting much lower self-esteem. Only if we repent and admit we are far worse than we ever imagined can we become justified, adopted, and united with Christ, and therefore far more loved and accepted than we ever hoped.

17. Let the biblical text control you, not your temperament. Learn to communicate “loud” truth as loud; “hard” truth as hard; and “sweet” truth as sweet.

18. There is no abstract, academic way to preach relevant, applicatory sermons. Application will naturally arise from your conversation partners.

19. Insightful preaching comes from depth of research and reading and experimentation.

20. As we preach we should always open ourselves to let the wonder sink in.

21. The essence of a good illustration is to evoke a remembered sense experience and bring it into connection with a principle.

22. Heart-moving preachers (in contrast to heart-manipulating ones) reveal their own affections without really trying to.

23. Your loves show what you actually believe in, not what you say you do.

24. The goal of the sermon cannot be merely to make the truth clear and understandable to the mind, but must also be to make it gripping and real to the heart. Change happens not just by giving the mind new arguments but also by feeding the imagination new beauties.

25. Whatever captures the heart’s trust and love also controls the feelings and behavior. What the heart most wants the mind finds reasonable, the emotions find valuable, and the will finds doable. It is all-important, then, that preaching move the heart to stop trusting and loving other things more than God.


396110_519885398036913_1852978654_nMathew Gilbert (B.A. Boyce College) is the Children’s Pastor at First Baptist Church in East Bernstadt, KY. He is the author of the forthcoming book Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God. Mathew lives in London, KY with his wife, Erica, and their son, Jude Adoniram.

Morning Mashup 08/07


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Lots and lots and lots of articles. Including two videos. An extended mashup of articles and videos for your information, edification, entertainment, and enjoyment.


 

What’s It Like to Abort Your Own Child? – I almost teared up just reading the title. The story will beckon your tears fall. I’m thankful for Bethany Jenkins for telling it.

3 Reasons the Campaign on Planned Parenthood is Winnable – Doug Wilson with reasonable encouragement for the pro-life movement. “Think of it this way — Planned Parenthood is serving as the designated victim. This is not scapegoating, or unjust in any way, because in this case the scapegoat really is guilty.”

Trump Gets Spotlight, But it Might Burn – We can only hope that the more Trump speaks, the more voters will see how outlandishly insane he is. If Trump cared at all about the GOP winning the White House, he would drop out or back off. He doesn’t. He won’t.

News for Democrats…It’s a Baby! – Kristen Powers at USA Today shows how Democrats are on “the wrong side of history” when it comes to Planned Parenthood and abortion.

There is No Pro-Life Case for Planned Parenthood – Ross Douthat does it again. Don’t miss this important piece: “Tell the allegedly “pro-life” institution you support to set down the forceps, put away the vacuum, and then we’ll talk about what kind of family planning programs deserve funding. But don’t bring your worldview’s bloody hands to me and demand my dollars to pay for soap enough to maybe wash a few flecks off.”

Shocking Videos and the Art of Looking Away – Important consideration for those of us denouncing videos of Planned Parenthood, yet ignoring videos of police brutality.

In Zimbabwe, We Don’t Cry for Lions – Whoa. Interesting and important perspective. We in the West can be so blindly arrogant. “Did all those Americans signing petitions understand that lions actually kill people? That all the talk about Cecil being “beloved” or a “local favorite” was media hype? Did Jimmy Kimmel choke up because Cecil was murdered or because he confused him with Simba from ‘The Lion King’?”

Ray Rice on NFL Return – Ray Rice expresses desire to return to the NFL, and hopes a team will give him a chance to “hang them up the right way.”

The Most Meaningless Abortion Statistic Ever – I was directed to this article by Albert Mohler in yesterday’s edition of The Briefing. It was written in 2013, but is very important in light of the Planned Parenthood defense of their actions.

Obama on Killing Humans and Harvesting Organs – He called it an “atrocity” while in Africa discussing the tribal killings of a particular sect of people and the harvesting of their organs for ritualistic purposes. Obama was disgusted by this practice, all the while ignoring an eerily similar situation in his own country. My heart weeps for his blindness. Lewis’ idea of “chronological snobbery” comes to mind with Obama’s simultaneous rejection of tribal killings and support of scientific killings.

If Planned Parenthood Goes, Where Do Women Go? – Answer: many places.

How Not to Pray Against Cultural Decline – Christian historian Thomas Kidd offers advice grounded in colonial America on how to engage the culture with prayer.

Should the Church Divorce from the State in Marriage? – Rick Phillips gives six reasons why the church shouldn’t jump ship just yet.

The Sound of Silence – Kevin DeYoung gives ten compelling reasons why congregational singing may be absent in your church, I love reading DeYoung because he just makes sense.

The Gospel and Porn – Good stuff from Fred Zaspel: “Godliness is not attained by zaps. There is no switch to pull that brings us immediately to perfection — well, not on this side of the grave, that is.”

7 Pieces of Advice for Young Pastors – I don’t love everything Ron Edmonson says or writes, but this is pretty good.

Check out this video that does an adequate job dispelling Planned Parenthood’s 3% abortion myth.

And just in case you missed it, here is the 5th undercover video exposing Planned Parenthood. Please, watch the video. I am afraid many people are coming to solid conclusions about the videos without actually watching them. Watch and share.

We need some standard or rule from outside of us to help us sort out the warring impulses of our interior life. –Tim Keller

Morning Mashup 07/13


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It has been a while, but Morning Mashup is back! Three days per week (MWF), I will be sharing a mashup of interesting articles or stories from around the web for your edification, entertainment, and enjoyment.


Building Attention Span – I came across this article in the New York Times the other day and just had to find it online to share it with you. It is a very interesting piece, which discusses our ever-shortening attention span due to the Internet.

Screen Addiction in Children – Another great piece in last week’s Times. Jane Brody makes some startling assertions about children and their growing “screen addiction.” I fear she has hit the nail on the head here. As a substitute teacher and children’s minister, I identify all too well with Brody: “Parents, grateful for ways to calm disruptive children and keep them from interrupting their own screen activities, seem to be unaware of the potential harm from so much time spent in the virtual world.”

Millennial Issues with Love, the Body, and Marriage – Derek Rishmawy, one of my favorite bloggers, interacts with Tyler Huckabee’s recent “change of heart” in the gay marriage debate. He winsomely and pastorally addresses not only the flaws in Huckabee’s biblical interpretation, but also in his erroneous thinking which he fears pervades the minds of many millennials.

2015 is the New 1968 – I saw Ray Ortlund say something to this effect on Instagram the other day. Yesterday, he fleshed it out in a short post that is well worth your time.

How Should Christians Respond to Cultural Decline? – In this sober and wise post from R.C. Sproul Jr., he examines the culture and Christians’ place in it and then gives five responses Christians should give to the recent further shift in American culture.

Roger Federer and Aging Gracefully – Even though Federer lost the Wimbledon final to Novak Djokavic, his Wimbledon run was classic Federer. This was the first year I watched the entire tournament and Federer seems to not be buying in to the whole “age thing” in his sport. Even though this article was written before his semi-final match with Andy Murray, it rings a lot of truth about Federer’s career.

Lotteries, Payday Lending, and Swindling America’s Poor – Michael Gerson wrote this incredibly indicting piece where he charges government and big business with exploiting the poor through lotteries and payday lending.

Serena Williams Transcends Sport – Serena Williams’ run in Wimbledon was dominating. I have witnessed her dominance for most of my life, and while this article calls her the greatest female tennis player ever, I think one could even argue that she is the greatest female athlete ever. We are indeed fortunate to be witnesses to this greatness.

The best is perhaps what we understand least. — C.S. Lewis

Review: “Counter Culture” by David Platt


41O76wsT0VLDavid Platt. Counter Culture: A Compassionate Call in a World of Poverty, Same-Sex Marriage, Racism, Sex Slavery, Immigration, Abortion, Persecution, Orphans and Pornography. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale, 2015. 288 pp. $19.99.

Rarely does a book convict my heart to the point that my emotions overflow in tears. Rarely do I find a book that causes me to experience a range of emotions stretching from anger and frustration to sympathy and sorrow. Many books convict me. Very few books break me. Counter Culture is one of those books.

The best way to describe Counter Culture is to say that it is a rarity. Counter Culture is a rare combination of cultural awareness, Christian conviction, and gospel hope as it addresses the most pressing and controversial issues in Western society.

Author and president of the International Mission Board (IMB) David Platt has developed a reputation for writing heart-wrenching and highly convicting books. Radical was a shot at the heart of the American Dream, and Follow Me was a dagger at the heart of nominal Christianity. In his third major work, Platt sheds light on the most serious issues in America and the world while showing Christians how to live and act in a way that counters culture while improving culture. He does all of this within a gospel-centered framework.

Platt takes a radical approach to social issues in Counter Culture. Instead of abandoning biblical conviction, like other young evangelical leaders have done, he relies on biblical conviction to address social issues. Platt inspires Christians and leads younger evangelicals like me to weep in conviction not because he leaves biblical orthodoxy, but because he unapologetically presents Jesus as the Bible presents him. And while Christian leaders, evangelicals in particular, are accused (often rightly) of harping on certain cultural issues while ignoring others.

Platt leaves no room for such criticisms. In the introduction, he discusses the trend of younger evangelicals standing up against poverty and global slavery. He writes, “What is problematic, however, is when these same evangelicals stay silent in conversations about more culturally controversial issues like abortion or so-called same-sex marriage” (xiii-xiv). He continues by establishing the primary premise for the entire book, namely, that within each issue addressed is an underlying issue we all have with God. He writes,

“What is the main issue in our culture today is not poverty or sex trafficking or homosexuality or abortion? What if the main issue is God? And what might happen if we made him our focus instead? In a world marked by sex slavery and sexual immorality, the abandonment of children and the murder of children, racism and persecution, the needs of the poor and the neglect of the widow, how would we act if we fixed our gaze on the holiness, love, goodness, truth, justice, authority, and mercy of God revealed in the gospel?” (xiv-xv).

Counter Culture begins with the premise that a gospel-centered worldview will inevitably counter the culture in which Christians live. In fact, Platt states the goal of the book in similar terms. “The goal of this book is not information about the gospel and social issues; it is application of the gospel to social issues” (20). What makes Counter Culture a rare gem is that rather than compromising the gospel for social issues or compromising relevance with self-righteous communication, Platt addresses social issues with a gospel mindset. In each chapter, he takes the truth of the gospel and applies it to the issue at hand. He basically asks, “How does a biblical worldview answer the difficult and controversial problem at hand?”

Another thing that makes Counter Culture a rarity is the amount of topics addressed in a compact book. Platt addresses nearly every pressing and controversial issue in the world today. However, the book is not overly long. This typically sets up as a light and insignificant attempt to combine bring brevity to complex issues. However, Platt is atypical in his approach, as he deeply and profoundly probes each issue while making it accessible to a wide audience.

What Platt shows in Counter Culture is that when it comes to issues like racism, abortion, sex trafficking, and same-sex marriage, the sole standard for living and engaging is the gospel. Living a life that is a reflection of God’s glory in person of Christ is living counter to culture. Addressing social injustices and moral controversies must be a personal commitment to the gospel. This book is not a call to community social activism. It is a call to gospel transformation, which changes the way we not only see each of these issues, but the way we live in light of them. For example, Platt writes,

“No matter how many red Xs we write on our hands to end slavery, as long as these same hands are clicking on pornographic websites and scrolling through sexual pictures and videos, we are frauds to the core” (124).

Basically, Counter Culture is a call to believe the gospel. Platt is clear that his “hope is that we would believe the gospel  of Christ and that our believe would move us to engage our culture” (22). This is where the rubber hits the road. Virtually every Christian can agree that we should stand against the social injustices of sex trafficking, poverty, and racism. But what about other issues that more directly require conviction that contradicts the culture? What about same-sex marriage, homosexuality, abortion and the fight for religious liberty? While we all will struggle with different issues, and while we cannot focus all of our energies on all of these issues, Platt writes we must be consistent in our trajectory toward them and the culture.

“What must be consistent for all of us, however, is that we pray, give, and go as he leads, and as we do, that we proclaim the gospel with conviction, compassion, and courage” (253).

Despite all that has been mentioned, I feel the most significant and compelling aspect of Counter Culture is what the book is not made of. This book is not a polemic against “the world.” In the past, those in the “radical religious right” would condemn the world for their views on homosexuality, abortion, sex, etc. However, in the process they would self-righteously overlook their own failures. This is not the case in Counter Culture. Humility drips from every page of the book. Platt confesses his own failures, particularly his silence on the atrocity of abortion (57-58). Instead of pointing his finger at those who ignore these social issues, he stands with his readers before the face of God ready to repent and respond to each injustice and issue presented.

While Platt boldly speaks prophetic biblical truth into the most pressing cultural issues of our day, he soberly helps his readers see with him that the greatest atrocity in the world is not same-sex marriage, abortion, sex trafficking, racism, poverty, or persecution. The greatest atrocity in the world is the presence of unreached people groups. Platt says,

“We have settled into a status quo where we’re content to sit idly by while literally billions of people die without ever hearing the gospel. Surely this is the greatest social injustice in the entire world, over and above all the other issues we have considered” (247).

Will a book suddenly wake Christians up to the massive social injustices in the world? If at all possible, Counter Culture will affect this awakening. But will a book like this mobilize Christians to actively stand against injustice and cultural rebellion against God with biblical conviction for the sake of the glory of God in the gospel and the joy of billions of people? Maybe. But it also has the possibility to overwhelm readers.

While soaked with the grace of God in the gospel and filled with admission of personal failure to stand with “conviction, compassion, and courage,” much like Radical, it has the potential to be burdensome. Personally, I left the book realizing my failures in so many of these areas. The question, “Where can I begin to help?” is the first rock of a load unbearable. However, Platt reassures that we are not alone and that we underestimate the possibilities with God.

“Some will say that these problems are complex, and one person, family, or church can’t really make much of a difference. In many respects, this is true, and each of these issues is extremely complicated. But don’t underestimate what God will do in and through one person, one family, or one church for the spread of his gospel and the sake of his glory in our culture. So do these things with the unshakable conviction that God has put you in this culture at this time for a reason” (254).

Christians today are tempted to either compromise their convictions or cower behind them. Counter Culture is a rare book that calls Christians to face cultural issues with gospel-centered, Christ-like, compassionate conviction for the sake of God’s glory in our culture. Readers will leave the book with repentance and resolve to stand firmly to counter culture whatever the cost.


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. 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 the Children’s Pastor at First Baptist Church East Bernstadt. 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.

Abortion in a Culture of Comfort and Convenience


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Yesterday, my wife and I had the joy of seeing our unborn son. We had been anticipating this 31 week appointment for weeks on weeks. I was all smiles and she was all tears throughout the ultrasound as we saw our baby boy moving, smiling, hiding his face, and stretching his legs. I made the comment to one of the nurses that the technology was simply amazing. I just couldn’t believe how clearly I could see my son and all of his functioning organs.

But as we showed our family the video recording of the ultrasound, an eery thought that haunts me even as I write crossed my mind. According to Roe v. Wade it would be perfectly legal to terminate (kill) a 31 week old unborn baby. The sheer evil of that fact is bone chilling. It has always blown my mind that someone could see an ultrasound of a baby (early or late term) and conclude that it is ethical and moral to terminate the pregnancy. But should it really surprise us? I am not talking about the biblical reality of indwelling sin that perverts God’s good creation. In that sense, nothing should surprise us. No, I am talking about an overall attitude toward children in our culture that allows abortionist mindsets to flourish.

I am talking about parents who push their children far too hard in sports to serve their own egos. I am talking about Little League parents who ruin their children’s experience because of their own greed as made evident on a national scale by the Jackie Robinson West Little League team. I am talking about parents who want as many “breaks” from their children as possible. I am talking about the “you know what causes that right?” attitude that places an invisible limit on the number of children that is “reasonable” to have. I am talking about parents living their own lives through their children.

Abortion will continue to flourish in a culture that views children as subordinate to our own comfort and convenience.

Consider just how anti-children Western society seems to be. Of course, we are not as bad as China’s two-child policy, but the ideology is eerily similar. The United States is one of four nations in the world that will allow late term abortions for any reason whatsoever. The other three are Canada, China, and North Korea. Great company, right? This is no-fault divorce on steroids.

Jon Bloom writes that we must speak accurately and truthfully about abortion. We must see abortion for what it really is–the premeditated and intentional killing of children.  Consider the evil possibilities. You don’t want your child because he has a deformity? Fine, abort and “try again.” You don’t want twins because thrift shops ain’t your thang? No problem, just abort. You don’t want your baby girl because you just realized you aren’t ready to be a parent? No biggie, just abort and try again later.

This have-it-your-way approach to children inside the womb is, in my opinion, the evil residue of an anti-children culture outside the womb.

When my wife and I first married over a year and a half ago, we were advised to spend the early years of our married lives doing a few things before we even think about having children.

1. We were told to build our careers. You can’t have kids without both of you working well-paying jobs.

2. We were told to travel. See the world! When you start having kids, you won’t be able to travel until you retire.

3. We were told to enjoy each other. This is the most insulting piece of advice we received, by the way. It was hard to bite my tongue. We were told to enjoy each other before we have kids, because when the kids come life will be “all about them” (*eye roll*). Children evidently rob parents of love for and joy in one another.

The counsel we received early on in our marriage was to build our lives. Get a good job so you can buy a big house and nice cars. Then, think about having one (maybe two) kids. So, the fact that my wife and I married in our early twenties and are expecting our first child is insanely radical to many in the world and in the church. The judgmental looks and subtleties we receive on a weekly basis is a reminder that a desire for children is a radical venture, especially when you have yet to “live.” This is because children are often viewed as a burden, an afterthought to self-serving greed.

Am I saying there is something inherently wrong with making a lot of money and living in a nice house before thinking about marriage and children? Strictly speaking, no. But the ideology behind waiting for marriage and children in most cases is what I see as dangerous. It views self as superior. Marriage is a means to enhance an aggrandized view of self. Children are an afterthought. When marriage and parenthood are entered into on these foundations, they will surely sink; and both spouse and child will suffer.

For the husband who takes a wife to serve his ego, he will sacrifice her needs for his desires. For the father who has a child after he has enjoyed the things he really wants, he will continue to leave his child on the back burner while pursuing other pleasures.

Granted, it is a big leap from pursuing comfort before children to abortion. And certainly not all who take this popular approach even view their children this way. There are plenty loving husbands and wives, moms and dads that waited for marriage and children in order to “build their lives.” But see the subtle connection between the waiting mindset and the abortion mindset. We wait to marry and have children because we want to be comfortable before having children; we want it to be convenient and easy on us emotionally and financially. Abortion exists because men and women value comfort and convenience above children.

If the one ideology does not directly fuel the other, it at least allows it to exist and thrive, even if unintentionally. Until we begin to value our children more than our own comfort and convenience after they are born, those who want to kill their children before they are born for these same reasons will continue to flourish.

So, when will this culture of death end? When will murder in a doctor’s office become as appalling as murder resulting from domestic violence? When will scales be removed from our eyes so we can see that life supersedes choice? Only when children outside the womb are valued above comfort and convenience. Only when we stop sacrificing our children for our own glory at the ballpark will we help create a culture that will not stand for sacrificing our children for our own glory in the womb.


 

396110_519885398036913_1852978654_nMathew Gilbert is the Children’s Pastor at First Baptist Church East Bernstadt. 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 08/06


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Might as Well Call Jesus the ‘Daughter of God’ – Jared Wilson: “The progressive evangeliwhatchamacalits seem to think they can mess with the revelation of the nature of our relational God without messing with the revelation of the nature of his Son.”

Caring for the Anxious Pastor-in-Waiting – Dave Harvey gives poignant and comforting counsel to men who have surrendered to the ministry, but are waiting for ministry opportunities. This article eased my own soul.

8 Ways the Enemy Attacks Churches – Chuck Lawless: “I have studied spiritual warfare for more than twenty years. During most of that time, I’ve also worked as a church consultant. I’ve learned these two worlds often collide: churches fail to recognize the schemes of a real enemy, and they have no plan to respond. Here are some of the primary ways I’ve seen the enemy attack churches:”

Iraq’s Christians Need Our Help – Clearly, Iraqi Christians need help. Here are ways they need it most.

Christian Family of Eight Murdered Next to Open Bible in Iraq – They would not convert, so they were killed next to their open Bible. Come, Lord Jesus.

Cultural Disintegration and the Revival of a Moral Imagination – Joe Rigney: “[W]e must always endeavor to winsomely wage culture war, to fight as those whose feet are firmly planted on a Rock that is unshaken by Gallup polls, HHS mandates, or Supreme Court decisions.”

Cultural Engagement – Russell Moore: “Knowing Andy Griffith episodes or Coldplay lyrics might be important avenues for talking about kingdom matters, but let’s not kid ourselves. We connect with sinners in the same way Christians always have: by telling an awfully freakish-sounding story about a man who was dead, and isn’t anymore, but whom we’ll all meet face-to-face in judgment.”

Can One Believe in Jesus But Not Believe in Adam? – Contrary to the theological liberal trend and the growing number of so-called conservative theologians, the answer is still “No.” Check out pastor Andrew Dyer’s brief thoughts on the vitality of a historical Adam.

6 Tips for Small Group Discussion – Matt Capps: “Leading a meaningful conversation that engages the hearts and minds of people takes practice. But healthy discussion can be the difference between people going to a group and growing through a group. A life-changing discussion has the following characteristics.”

What Gathered Worship Should Look Like – Ligon Duncan: “Worship is not evangelism, but our worship services should always have the free offer of the Gospel in mind, and if we are God-centered and Bible-directed we will be evangelistic.”

The farther back you can look, the farther forward you are likely to see. –Winston Churchill

From Jerusalem to America: Lessons from the Early Church


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Churches in the culturally shifting West are struggling to find and hold a stable identity and purpose. Oftentimes they seem to be wandering in the dark, searching for relevance and significance in a world of darkness that opposes the Founder of the church who is the light of the world (John 8:12). Cultural issues such as abortion, so-called “gay marriage,” and the lasting effects of postmodernism have caused many churches to flee to moral compromise and cowardly silence. As a result, if you polled ten professing Christians at random, they would more than likely give ten different answers to the question “What is the purpose of the church?” This is a problem across the landscape of Christendom and many evangelical churches are searching for an identity that is favorable to the world. The litmus test in the coming years for the evangelical church in America will be the question: “Are we willing to lose cultural acceptance for the sake of Christ?”

The reason for this is that countless pastors and Christians desire large numbers, full baptisteries, and big budgets to support big programs and big worship services. They also desire favor with the world around them. And so countless churches and Christians are seeking identity in all the wrong places. The toxic desire for cultural relevance causes these churches to reconsider what their DNA will be. However, when churches abandon the biblical witness to the nature of the church of Jesus Christ, the purpose for which the church exists is lost.

So, this begs the question, “What is the nature of the 21st century church to be?” In other words, what are local bodies of believers to do in order to function as a church? We are given an answer to this in Acts 2:42-47 as Luke gives us an overview glimpse of the early church. What they did should inform us on what we should do in the heated and controversial cultural in which we find ourselves.

The Purpose of the Church

Before looking at the text itself, we must observe the purpose of the church as depicted by Luke. Luke records for us in Acts 2 the event of Pentecost—a day on which the Holy Spirit was poured out in the hearts of those who by faith had received Christ and a day on which the gospel was proclaimed with power and three thousand souls obeyed Peter’s command to “Repent and be baptized” (Acts 2:38, 41). This gathering, this corporate body of converts who had been saved by the grace of God through faith in the one who had just died for them, sought to maximize the glory of God among themselves and among all peoples.

What brought these people together was the message of the gospel, which Peter said is for the forgiveness of sins (v. 38). These forgiven believers who were called by God had received the gift of the Holy Spirit. This gracious calling of God to salvation in Christ is the basis for the existence of the church. From this basis, the church sought to maximize the glory of God inwardly and outwardly. And this should be our purpose—to glorify God among ourselves and among all peoples. I believe this purpose can be succinctly stated: The purpose of the church is to glorify God by delighting in him in the community of believers and in the surrounding culture. What we find and what we need in this purpose is unity in the gospel. And this special unity is exactly what remarkably marked the early church.

The all-important question that results from this postulation is one of practicality. In other words, how can the church practically carry out this purpose? Luke includes four things that the early church did to carry out this purpose and it is these four things that should mark churches in the 21st century. The early church was a learning church, a loving church, a worshiping church, and a sharing church.

1. A Learning Church (Acts 2:42)

The teaching ministry in the church is vital for the health and spiritual growth of the church. Just as a class of students grows in proportion to the teaching of its teacher, a congregation of believers only grows when the teaching ministry is taken seriously. In our churches, the first thing we can do to glorify God by delighting in him is through teaching and being taught the Word of God. Like the early church, we must devote ourselves to the apostles’ teaching.

2. A Loving Church (Acts 2:42, 44-46)

Not only is teaching a vital mark of the early church and the 21st century church, but loving is crucial to the identity of the church and to its fulfillment of its purpose to glorify God in their delight of him. The faith they shared in Christ led to a love that resembles the self-sacrifice of the Savior who died to make their community and love possible. The early church was a loving community that understood that it was God who held ultimate ownership of all they had. When we grasp this same understanding, we can flee the temptation of materialism with the love of God for our brothers and sisters in Christ. When believers understand that God owns them and their possessions, the way we use them will be impacted and the identity of the church will be found in loving those whom, like us, God has called to himself.

3. A Worshiping Church (Acts 2:42-43, 46-47)

We see in these verses the elements of corporate worship in the early church. Luke writes that the early church gathered regularly for teaching and preaching, communion, and prayers. There was likely singing as well (“praising God”). The 21st century church regardless of preference or style must remain committed to the elements of worship outlined in Scripture and in the example of the early church. If the church is to carry out its intended purpose to fill the earth with the glory of God, believers must never abandon teaching, preaching, communion, prayer, the Lord’s command (and the early church’s practice) of baptism.

4. A Sharing Church (Acts 2:47)

The final mark of the early church that informs us of our identity as churches today is the fervor of early believers for evangelism. While we have a tendency to boast in church growth at the expense of church health, Luke shows us how out-of-order this is. In summarizing the condition of the early church, Luke emphasizes church health before mentioning the rapid and daily growth of the church. Growth without health is detrimental, so much so that the result may be a false “church.” However, when health precedes growth, that growth will most likely be genuine and joyous. There is great joy to be had when a healthy church blossoms. And by all accounts, the only kind of growth that matters is the growth of a healthy church. When healthy churches grow, God is glorified as his name is rightly praised among his people and propagated in all nations.

It is also vital for us to see that church growth is the result of church health. Unbelievers come to Christ when they see a church devoted to the teaching of Christ, the worship of Christ, and the love of Christ. When Christ is made visible in the local church, those whom God is calling through Christ will flock. The church of Christ is like a human body. Bodily growth follows healthy lifestyles. And bodily growth results from healthy lifestyles. A growing body is a healthy body. And so it is with the local church. The church will grow when the church is healthy. We should actively be involved in proclaiming the gospel of Jesus to our neighbors and into the nations; to be the means that God calls sinners to himself and adds to our number.

Closing Remarks

The early church got it right. May we follow in their footsteps as we seek to be churches who submit to the Word of God, love the people of God, worship our Trinitarian God, and reach out to a lost world with the saving message of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The God who called us is still calling his people home from every tribe and tongue. May we actively be the church and find our identity in glorifying God through delighting in him together for all to see.


396110_519885398036913_1852978654_nMathew Gilbert is a student at Boyce College (B.A. Biblical and Theological Studies, Dec. ’14). 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.