Wednesday Word: Getting ready for Feast Week

For the second year now, some local pastors and I will be preaching through a book of the Bible in five consecutive nights (Sunday-Thursday). Last year we worked through 1 Peter and this year we will be studying 1 Thessalonians. We break it up into five (hopefully manageable) sections and take turns preaching through the text. We call it Feast Week because our hope is that we will feast together on the Word of God!

This year begins on Sunday and we are preaching through 1 Thessalonians.  My assignment? 1:1-2:16 (still wondering why I was given almost two chapters!) It has been fun preparing for my message Sunday night. Paul’s letters to the Thessalonians were some of his first (most think only Galatians was earlier). In these, we get an early glimpse into Paul’s missionary work and the fruit that it produced through the power of the gospel. In particular, we see his love and concern for the churches he planted and his longing to see them live as faithful followers of Christ. He also addresses some issues that had already arisen in the lives of these new believers. For instance, a good bit of 1 Thessalonians deals with the question of what happens to believers who die before Christ returns? Paul speaks of the hope that we have for them in chapters 4-5. One of my all-time favorite verses is found chapter 5: “For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ” (v. 9). What a gracious God we serve!

My passage (1:1-2:16) includes Paul’s thanksgiving for the Thessalonians and their faith and a recap of his visit with them, which probably happened a few months to a year before he wrote the letter. He is reminding them of their identity in Christ (indicative) before he gives them instructions for living out their faith (imperative). He follows a similar pattern in a number of his letters. In preparing for teaching this passage, I came across some good quotes from a couple of commentators:

Leon Morris: “In every age this (that we are not to please men but God) needs emphasis, for the Christian preacher is always tempted to accommodate his message to the desires of his hearers. People do not want a message that tells them that they are helpless sinners and that they must depend humbly on God’s mercy for their salvation.”

Every preacher must learn from Paul the importance of striving to please God and not men (2:3-4).

G. K. Beale: “God’s word is the power that works in people and transforms their lives, whether at the inception of the believer’s life or at any other point along the way.”

Beale is commenting on 2:13, which says, “And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers.” The word of God continues to be at work in believers. It continues to comfort and strengthen, wound and heal, convict and transform. It is our hope and belief that the Spirit will use the preaching of 1 Thessalonians to do just that. I can’t wait for the feast!


(If you are in the area, come out and join us each night at 6:30)


Tuesday Books: ‘The Faithful Preacher’ (Thabiti Anyabwile)

In honor of Martin Luther King Day yesterday, I wanted to point you to one of the few books that I have that deals with the often neglected area of Church history, namely the history of the African-American Church. Thabiti Anyabwile (I am still working on pronouncing his last name) has written a book on three pastors who come from that tradition: Lemuel Haynes, Daniel Payne, and Francis Grimke. The lives of these men span from the 18th to the 20th century and provide an interesting glimpse into the history of the black church in America. If you are interested in this part of Church history, then Anyabwile’s book would be a good place to start.


Thursday Links: Good Blogs for Sanctity of Human Life

The blogosphere is full of people writing about sanctity of human life issues. Truth is, I don’t follow too many blogs these days, but I know that many good ones exist. I would like to point you to three that have helped me in knowing the truth about abortion and the value of life.

  1. Moore to the Point (Russell Moore): As with his books, Moore has become a great proponent for pro-life issues through his blog. He is currently the head of the ERLC (The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission) for the Southern Baptist Convention and I am thankful to have him as a voice for life in that capacity. I searched his blog for articles on abortion and you can find the results here: Moore on Abortion. He is a faithful supporter of adoption and you see that coming through the articles on his blog as well.
  2. Cultural Commentary from a Biblical perspective (Albert Mohler): Mohler is a great spokesman for life for the evangelical community at large. He appears on talk-shows, he writes books, he leads a seminary, and he has a good blog. He normally publishes an article each year about Roe v. Wade and the importance of Christians responding faithfully and biblically to our current culture of death. You can read the article that he posted in July 2015 concerning the Planned Parenthood videos: Response to PP videos. He is a great writer and thinker and I am thankful for his voice in our culture.
  3. Confessions of a former Planned Parenthood director (Abby Johnson): Many have heard Abby Johnson’s story of leaving Planned Parenthood to become an avid pro-life supporter. If you have not, then I encourage you to go her website and check it out. She has a ministry to help people who work for Planned Parenthood to get out of the industry, which you can check out here: And Then There Were None. She blogs occassionally at LifeSiteNews here: Abby’s blog. She has an insider’s perspective that helps people see clearly what is happening behind the closed doors of abortion clinics. And she has a great heart for those who have worked in the industry as well.

I hope you will take some time to check out these blogs and what they have to say about the fight for life!


Wednesday Word: Sermons on the Sanctity of Human Life

Continuing in my effort to provide resources for Sanctity of Human Life Sunday, I want to point you to some sermons on the topic that I believe reveal the Bible’s teaching on the subject. Many great sermons about this issue are available, but I just want to point you to some that I hope will be helpful.

  1. John Piper: Piper observed Sanctity of Human Life for the majority of time that he spent at Bethlehem Baptist Church. He has numerous sermons on the issue and they can be found here: Sermons for Sanctity of Human Life.
  2. Matt Chandler: For the last few years, Chandler has done a series on prayer in January that included a sermon on the sanctity of human life. Here is the one that he preached last year (you might have seen a clip of this one): Prayer and the sanctity of human life.
  3. David Platt: Along with his book (that I mentioned yesterday), Platt has some sermons on this subject as well. You can find a couple of them here: Sermons on children and life.
  4. My own: We have celebrated Sanctity of Human Life Sunday for most of the years that I have been at Trinity. I have taken different approaches to the topic, but I try to start each year with whatever book I am preaching through at the time (since I am currently working through 1 Corinthians, I will be preaching this year on reasons to fight for life from that letter). You can listen to some of the previous ones here: TBC Sanctity of Human Life.

If you have some time this week, pick one of the above and hear what the Word has to say about the sanctity of human life!


Tuesday Books: Books that promote the sanctity of human life

Sunday is ‘Sanctity of Human Life Sunday’ and many Churches will be celebrating God’s gracious gift of life and promoting ministries that labor in the fight for life in our communities. In light of that, I thought I would spend the week focusing on resources that aid us in valuing life and joining in the fight.

Today, my focus is on books. I want to give a list of books that have encouraged and shaped my understanding of this issue. I am certain that there are many others, but these are the ones that have impacted me in various ways.

  1. Readings in Christian Ethics (David Clark and Robert Rakestraw) I took my first Christian ethics class in seminary and this was part of the required reading. We did not read the whole book (at least I don’t think we did), but I distinctly remember reading articles by various authors concerning the issue of abortion. I remember being surprised at the differing opinions on this subject. It exposed me to some of the approaches people take concerning abortion and helped me better understand how to respond.
  2. Adopted By God (Robert Peterson) Before my wife and I were married, while I was still teaching classes at my former Church, I led a class through this book. It is an extensive study on our spiritual adoption into the family of God through faith in Jesus’ death and resurrection. He used several stories of physical adoption that helped me see the parallels between the two (referring to them as ‘spiritual’ and ‘physical’ adoption is perhaps not accurate since they both involve aspects of the other, but the labels help us distinguish the two).
  3. Culture Shift (Albert Mohler) Mohler has greatly influenced my thinking on abortion and this is a good place to start in hearing his arguments. (I will point to his blog later in the week).
  4. Counter Culture (David Platt) I have referenced this book before and I wanted to draw your attention to it again. Platt has two chapters involving issues of life (one on abortion and one on orphan and widow care) and they are both helpful resources. We must be ‘against the world’ in our thinking about life. Platt writes to show us how this might look in our individual lives and in our churches.
  5. Adopted for Life (Russell Moore) Perhaps the best book on adoption that I am aware of. If you are even thinking about this topic, then I encourage you to read it. Maybe the best endorsement I can give it is to confess to weeping through most of it. On a few occasions I have had to sit books down to simply take in the gravity of what is being said and wrestle with my own heart or just cry out to God in praise and thanksgiving, this is one of those books. Dr. Moore also edited “A Guide to Adoption and Orphan Care”, which is a great practical guide for how to get started in these important ministries.

Again, this is a brief list, but I encourage you to read more about the sanctity of human life. Find a way to join the fight!


Wednesday Word: Bible reading plan (January edition)

I wrote about Bible reading plans back in September of this year (the timing makes better sense if you read the post). I noted that I was using the ReadingPlan app (pictured above) and that I was working through the ‘Five Day Plan.’ I finished it up a few days ago and I have to say, it is by far my favorite plan for reading through the Bible in a year. It starts you in a few different places (Genesis, Mark, Psalms) and does not repeat anything. The five days are through the week, which gives you the weekend to catch up. It really is my favorite plan (I decided to start it again for this year).

So what about you? What is your plan for 2016? If you are reading this and you do not have a plan, whatever it may be, then I encourage you to find one right now! (If you are still reading, then you better already have a plan!) Seriously, without some sort of plan we will simply not be as faithful as we could be in reading the Bible. So pick a plan, make some time, and feast on the Word of God in 2016. You will not regret it!


Tuesday Books: ‘Fool’s Talk: Recovering the Art of Christian Persuasion’ (Os Guinness)

Part of the reason why sharing the gospel can be so difficult is that we have forgotten how to talk. At least, we have lost the art of conversation. We are still realizing all of the implications of social media, but perhaps one of them is our struggle to sit face to face with another person (I mean, who does that right) and have an honest conversation about things that matter. Our fear of the ‘incredibly awkward moment when you don’t know what else to say’ has crippled us and surely limited our evangelism.

For this reason (and other equally important ones), Os Guinness has written the book ‘Fool’s Talk.’ It is the latest book that I am reading with my pastor friends and I have really enjoyed it thus far. Here are some memorable excerpts from the first couple of chapters:

Guinness explains how Christian Persuasion is informed by the gospel:

“True to the biblical understanding of creation, Christian persuasion must always take account of the human capacity for reason and the primacy of the human heart.

True to the understanding of the fall, Christian persuasion must always take account of the anatomy of an unbelieving mind in its denial of God.

True to the incarnation, Christian persuasion always has to be primarily person-to-person and face-to-face, and not argument to argument, formula to formula, media to media or methodology to methodology.

True to the cross of Jesus, Christian persuasion has to be cross-shaped in its manner just as it is cross-centered in its message—which as we shall see, lies behind the choice of the title of this book: Fool’s Talk.

And true to the Holy Spirit, Christian persuasion must always know and show that the decisive power is not ours but God’s. For God is his own lead counsel, his own best apologist, and the one who challenges the world to “set out your case.” And as Jesus tells us, his Spirit, the Spirit of truth, is the one who does the essential work of convincing and convicting.”

On the truth that there is no ‘one size fits all’ method for sharing the gospel:

“As we need to remind ourselves again and again, and then again, Jesus never spoke to two people the same way, and neither should we. Every single person is unique and individual and deserves an approach that respects that uniqueness.”

On the necessity for every Christian to learn the art of Christian persuasion:

“God forbid that we ever see the day when we have a guild of apologist experts to provide all our public answers for us, and who will prescribe every argument we must use or not use—if only we knew how to do it as skillfully as they do. Christian persuasion is a task for all Christians, not just the expert few; and a task to be done, not merely talked about.”

And on the need for love:

“Yet the Christian persuasion we are exploring here is not for salesmen, propagandists, proselytizers, PR consultants, lobbyists, press officers, spin doctors, damage control experts and the like. It is not enough to share our faith out of guilt or social pressure or a desire to compete with rivals for cultural influence in today’s world. There are more than enough consultants to cater to those with such motives. This book is for those who desire to share the way of Jesus because of their love for Jesus, and who know that love is also a key part of any human being’s search for knowledge and truth.”

Good stuff!  I have only begun to read this book, but I am already looking forward to what it will say next!


Monday Music: ‘You set a Table’ (Kip Fox)

I was reading an article of top Christian albums for 2015 (HT: Challies) and I stumbled across Kip Fox, who was listed in the top 5. Fox did not actually release one album last year, he released four consisting of only three songs a piece (12 songs total for the year). The group was titled ‘Unheard’ and was listed as vol. 1-4. The music is mostly just him and a guitar, but they are some of the best songs that I have heard in a while. I listened to a number of tracks off of his full albums, but really preferred the acoustic offerings of the ‘Unheard’ volumes. This is mostly because the songs are just that good. The melodies are memorable and the lyrics are strong. Some of them could be used in corporate worship, while others are more personal and reflective. It is always exciting to find a new artist with great music and that is how I feel about Fox. He may not release much more like the ‘Unheard’ volumes, but I hope he does.

Since my favorite volume is the first, I decided to link to the first song of those three. It is a rewriting of Psalm 23 in such a simple, but profound way. I love the second verse and chorus:

“In the gravest valleys

I am not afraid

Of the foes around me

or the claims they make.

For you set a table before me

and prepare a feast,

You pour the wine in the presence

of my enemies.”

Nothing fancy, but a great reminder of God’s presence no matter what we are facing. I love this song (and I love the others as well, seriously take some time to check them out). Give it a listen here (the album version sounds just like this video):

You set a Table