Thursday Links: ‘Why this election makes me hate the word evangelical’ (Russ Moore) and ‘5 Distinguishing Marks of a fruitful Church’ (Jared Wilson)


I have a couple of links for your reading pleasure today:

First, who doesn’t want to hear some of Russ Moore’s thoughts on the election this year? He is not super excited about the way in which the word ‘evangelical’ is being used by anybody and everybody. Give his article a read here: Russ Moore on this election year.

Second (for those tired of thinking/reading/hearing about the election), one of my pastor friends (HT: Josh Boley) just posted a link to this article on measuring church fruitfulness, which I think is excellent. Give it a read here: 5 Distinguishing Marks of a fruitful Church.




Tuesday Books: ‘Exalting Jesus in Ezra and Nehemiah’ (James M. Hamilton)

I will be starting a new series through the books of Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther in a few weeks at my church. Preparing for this always involves purchasing some new commentaries. I have different reasons for selecting which commentaries I will use: I want at least one that is technical and one more devotional, I like certain authors, and I like certain commentary series (Pillar, Reformed Expository, New International Commentary, etc.) It is the last reason that led me to purchase ‘Exalting Jesus in Ezra and Nehemiah’ by James Hamilton, who is currently teaching at Southern Seminary (they have some exceptional graduates who write great blog posts). I was drawn to this commentary because it is in the relatively new (2013) series called “Christ-Centered Exposition.” What makes this series different? The editors (David Platt, Daniel L. Akin, and Tony Merida) write in the preface:

“Finally, as the name suggest, the editors seek to exalt Jesus from every book of the Bible. In saying this, we are not commending wild allegory or fanciful typology (always good to avoid those, wm). We certainly believe we must be constrained to the meaning intended by the divine Author Himself, the Holy Spirit of God. However, we also believe the Bible has a messianic focus, and our hope is that the individual authors will exalt Christ from particular texts…Therefore, our aim is both to honor the historical particularity of each biblical passage and to highlight its intrinsic connection to the Redeemer.”

I love this approach. I know that other commentaries I have read do a good job of pointing the reader to Christ from most passages, but I am excited about a series that seeks to do that with every passage. As a preacher, I hope to do this each and every time I get into the pulpit. It is not enough to simply draw moral lessons from the text, we have to see what it says about Christ. If I am not doing that then I am not preaching as faithfully as I should. Thus, I want to study and learn and teach what Genesis and Exodus and Leviticus teach us about Jesus, how they point us to the Savior. I am really looking forward to diving into Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther to learn the same. I believe Hamilton’s work will help me in that effort.


Monday Music: ‘Wings to Fly’ (Plankeye)

I am a sucker for a good guitar solo. Growing up listening to 80s and 90s rock music made me vulnerable to the allure of heavy distortion and speedy riffs. Unfortunately, it was not always easy finding any decent Christian Rock during those days (some even claim that such a genre does not exist, but I beg to differ). One of my favorite bands of that genre during that time was a band by the name of Plankeye. I stumbled across them by spending hours in my local Lemstone Books listening to every tape I could find that even looked like it might have a guitar solo in one of the songs. I discovered just such a tape when I found Plankeye’s album “Spark”. It is a great rock album with several really good songs. My favorites include: ‘Open House’ and ‘So Far From Home.’ But the greatest song on the album is the almost bluesy ‘Wings to Fly.’ It is actually a simple praise song set to three chords and a funky lick. When the drums and the distortion come in hard on the chorus, you can’t help but smile. I love it.

But all of that just sets the stage for one of my favorite guitar solos of all-time. It starts low and slow, mostly just feed back, but then gradually builds and builds into pure shredding. And just when you think it is going to end, he takes it one step higher for one more run. In fact, even when they take it back to repeat the chorus, the guitarist is still wearing it out in the background. He doesn’t stop until the last chord. It is great! So if you like a little funky praise with a serious solo, you have to check this out:

Wings to Fly

We probably won’t be adding that one to our praise set anytime soon, but man I love it.


Thursday Links: “The Task Unfinished”

I considered saving today’s post and using it on Monday since it involves music, but it is more than just music so I thought I would include it today!

Keith and Kristyn Getty (whose music you can and should listen to here) have partnered with OMF, a missionary agency that focuses on the peoples of East Asia, to promote a global event which will take place on February 21st. The idea is simple: get as many churches as possible to sing “The Task Unfinished” (an old song with a new arrangement written by the Getty’s) to promote and encourage a passion for world missions. Here are the words to the first verse:

Facing a task unfinished

That drives us to our knees

A need that, undiminished

Rebukes our slothful ease

We, who rejoice to know Thee

Renew before Thy throne

The solemn pledge we owe Thee

To go and make Thee known

You can see a map of those participating here and register your church to participate here.  The Getty’s tell the story behind the song and why they are using it for this event at the OMF website, which you can see here: OMF website. It is a great song with a great story being used to promote the greatest mission, namely the spread of the gospel to every tongue, tribe, and nation. Seems like a good idea to me!


Wednesday Word: A Final Word on 1 Corinthians

I finished preaching through Paul’s first letter to the Corinthains on Sunday. Just wanted to post some final thoughts on the letter today.

The early church was not what we often believe it was: It is hard to read this letter and conclude that ‘we need to get back to the early church.’ If Corinth is any indication, we might need to steer clear just a bit. Truth is, every local church has faults, even some serious faults. That is not an excuse for us to just dismiss our shortcomings (that is not the approach that Paul takes in the letter). But it should keep us humble, give us perspective, and prevent us from being too harsh on the local church today.

Sexual sin is not new: The Corinthians were struggling with what to do with their bodies. Due to cultural leanings, some wanted to act as if what we do with our bodies is inconsequential. Who cares if we sleep with prostitutes or our father’s wife? Paul confronted these errors directly and did not shy away from the truth that God commands us to use our bodies (and our sex) for His purposes and His glory. Such truth will be needed in our churches until the Lord returns.

Christians must labor to love each other: It sounds so simple: “Let all that you do be done in love” (16:14). Yet, churches continue to struggle with this command. We claim to love each other and at least act like we do at times, but when push comes to shove, we all have a tendency to act in our flesh. We look out for number one and convince ourselves that we are justified in our actions. In doing that, our love looks more like what the world has to offer than what was displayed by our crucified Savior. If we thought about Him before we made the call or sent the email or spoke in the business meeting, then perhaps we would learn how to love like He did. The sacrificial love of Christ will overcome any division in the Body of Christ. We must never stop laboring for that kind of love.

The gospel is the answer: Paul confronts numerous problems in the church at Corinth: division, worldly wisdom, sexual sin, lawsuits, divorce, idolatry, selfishness in corporate worship, and denial of bodily resurrection. And what is the answer to each of these problems?

“For this I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures…” (15:3-4)

Living out the Christian faith with a community of believers is not easy, but neither is it complex. The problems will be numerous and varied. But the answer is always the same: live the gospel. Treat each other as Christ has treated you. Serve each other as Christ has served you. Forgive each other as Christ has forgiven you. Show mercy and grace and love to each other as Christ has shown to you. If we are all sinners deserving of death and Hell who have been gloriously redeemed by the love of our Savior and set free to walk in the power of the Spirit, then surely we can overcome any problems that might threaten to divide us. No matter what Paul is addressing in this letter, he is constantly pointing them back to the gospel. He does the same for us. May we build well upon this solid foundation!


Tuesday Books: ‘Crimson Shore’ (Preston and Child)

I have not read much fiction so far this year, but just checked out the latest Pendergast novel from Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child from the local library. Although this is the fifteenth novel in the series and things tend to start getting repetitive and predictable at that point, I am enjoying this story so far. The plot is interesting, beginning with the theft of a wine collection in a small town on the coast of Maine (I love Maine!), progressing to activities much more sinister (which I guess depends upon your affection for expensive wine). As usual, Pendergast is great. His dealings with the local sheriff are particularly enjoyable in this novel. Of course, there is history in the old town that has led to the current crimes and Pendergast and his ward, Constance (who is like 150 years old but looks like a twenty-something year old girl…long story) must put all the pieces together to figure out what is going on and catch the killers (oh and maybe recover some of the wine).

I still think Pendergast is one of my favorite modern fiction characters. Preston and Child have done a great job developing his story and it is always great to read of his new antics. I think they remain true to his character while finding interesting ways for him to act and respond in each new novel. Sherlock Holmes meets James Bond meets Dr. House, all with a New Orleans’ accent! Good stuff. Looking forward to seeing how he solves the latest mystery, confident it will be enjoyable.


Monday Music: ‘When the battle’s over’

I have a standing gig at the Clearview Nursing Home. The residents like it because I bring my guitar and I like it because they never complain about my playing! Every Thursday morning we sing ‘I’ll fly away’ to start and ‘Amazing Grace’ to close and I am always blessed to hear them sing.

But something special happened last Thursday. I have been teaching through 1 Corinthians and we had been talking that morning about our future victory over death through faith in Christ (ch. 15). As usual, when we finished, we closed with ‘Amazing Grace.’ Only this time, when we finished that last verse acappella, one of the ladies began to sing this line: ‘When the battle’s over, we shall wear a crown.’ On the second time through the others joined with her. I am not overly familiar with that old hymn so I just listened as they sang:

“When the battle’s over, we shall wear a crown

When the battle’s over, we shall wear a crown

When the battle’s over, we shall wear a crown

In the New Jerusalem.”

They sang through the verse and the chorus together. Their voices are not as strong as they used to be, but they sang with power and conviction. And it was beautiful. Not just because of the song or the words but because of their belief. I could hear faith in the coming victory through Jesus in their voices. I could see it on their faces. I have rarely been so moved by a performance. It was everything I could do to keep from weeping in the floor. Even now, just thinking about it brings tears to my eyes.

As a culture, we are enamored by big performances. Millions tuned in to watch the half-time festivities at the Super Bowl. Thousands pack stadiums and concert halls to hear the latest acts. Yet, the more I live, the more I am convinced that the greatest performances go largely unnoticed. I mean, who cares about some people singing at a nursing home? I can tell you One person who cares. I can see Him leaning in to take delight in their praise and smiling over their persevering faith. We should do our best to listen as well.

Each week the residents of Clearview Nursing Home teach me that faith can last a lifetime. Unlike these bodies we possess, it does not get old or wear out. On the contrary, it is stronger with each passing day and each passing year. Each week they remind me of that. And this past week they taught me even more. They taught me the beauty of enduring praise. I figure from now on, if someone asks me about my favorite concert, I will have to at least mention the time I got the privilege of hearing the impromptu performance of ‘When the battle’s over’ by the Clearview singers. What an encouragement to my soul!


Friday Sports, etc: Vols beat Kentucky and sign a good class

I haven’t been posting too much about the Vols, but they had a week that deserves some attention. On Tuesday night, the men’s basketball team came back from 21 points down to beat Kentucky. Our team is unbelievably up and down (we have beaten the teams in the top of the league and lost to some at the bottom). As frustrating as that is, it does keep you watching. I was about ready to give up on them after they gave up 14 point leads in back to back games, but the win over Kentucky was big. Hopefully they can build some momentum for the second half of league play.

And on Wednesday, Butch Jones scored another good recruiting class on NSD. It was a bit down from years past (mostly due to limitations in the size of the class), but it met some needs for the Fall and makes the years ahead look bright.

All in all, pretty good week for Vols fans!


(Oh, and almost forgot, our favorite quarterback is playing in an important game on Sunday! Go Broncos!)