Thursday, May 31, 2007

Talking to Children About Race

A good friend wrote to me this past week with a good question. Actually, two good friends wrote with two good but different questions, both suggesting future blog topics. That doesn't happen much, but when it does it's usually a good idea and at least an indication that some people may already be thinking about such things.

So, despite my general aversion to talking about "race," the question for today seems a good topic. I hope it's useful to folks.

Here's the substance of my friend's email:
A couple of weeks ago, we had friends over for dinner. During that time our little boy (3 years old) had a good time playing with their daughter. As my wife was putting our son to bed, out of nowhere, he made the statement that he missed, "my new black friend." I briefly forgot about it until we had another family over, relative of that family who has an African-American father, and during that time our son came up to me and asked me where his new black friend is.

As you've noted before, I don't want to deny his friend's "blackness", but I also want to try and raise him correctly in this area, and am really lacking in wisdom on how to deal with it.

I am thankful that he does notice that these kids are different, and yet sub-consciously notices that he has just as much fun playing with them as any of his other friends, i.e. just because they are "different" doesn't mean that they're not the "same". This provides me with a good segue into being able to continually teach him things like we are all created in the image of God even though we look and act differently, we are all sinners even though we may sin in different ways, and ultimately we all need Christ.

Anyway, I know you're time is limited, so even just a few brief thoughts would be appreciated. Or maybe sometime in the future, you can post something on your blog about your suggestions for how parents can talk about race with their kids, and maybe even how they can talk about the gospel in these discussions.

Actually, I think my friend has a lot of wisdom on how to approach this. What he may feel is a certain lack of confidence, a trepidation shared by many when it comes to talking about race. But his third paragraph is spot on in my opinion. So, the comments below are in some ways an elaboration on that paragraph.

How to talk to children about race:

1. Talk with your children about ethnicity (the nations) rather than "race."
If you've been a reader of this blog, you probably know that I'm not at all a fan of the construct of "race," which suggests intractable differences rooted in a biology, an unbiblical myth of recent origin. The differences among people are indeed real (languages, dress, skin color, etc.), but they are not biologically rooted or determined. Making this distinction brings the people closer to our children and their experience. Rooting identity and culture in race makes healthy exchange a wider bridge to cross because it suggests experience and ways of being that are so foreign as to be rooted in a biology we can't acquire. So, parents would serve their children well by exposing them to cultures and ethnicities without leaving them with the contemporary notion (ofen implicit) that those things are rooted in "race" and therefore unchangeable and "off limits" to alien experience, exploration or questioning. Over time, attempt to leave them with a nuanced understanding of the world... one with shades... in appearance, meaning, and thought.

2. Talk about ethnicity in a way that magnifies the power and wisdom of God.
We should be amazed more often than we are (excuse me for projecting my dullness onto you!) at the sheer power and wisdom of God that can create "difference" and "same" in His creation. Here, as my friend suggests, we want to make a big deal of the wonder of how it is we are both "different" and the "same." But we want to wonder toward God, not as a conundrum to be solved, but as a fact to be marveled at in celebration of who God is. How magnificent must be the mind of our Creator if He leaves us--not just roses--but varieties of roses with different colors and smells but the "same" essential thing? And how awesome must be the power of God if He is able to create of one blood all the people of the earth (Acts 17:26), and to make them all in His image including the observable differences in ethnicity? What our children observe in the differences of people is fertile ground for magnifying the power of God who created us all.

3. Talk about the need of all men for the Savior.
Not only are we alike in our humanity, but we are therefore alike in our sin, guilt, shame and need for divine rescue. We are far more alike than we are different. And the ways in which we are alike when it comes to sin and salvation are far more important than the ways we are alike in cultural, economic, social, psychological, or even physical terms. We often may be tempted to leave our discussion of ethnic similarity or difference at some superficial level rather than pour eternal gospel truth into the conversation. When your three year old surprises you with some observation of ethnic difference, direct the conversation to sin and salvation as the common problem and common need of all men. Pray for a ready mind before the topic comes up, a mind that skillfully takes the child to Jesus and the cross as the solution for the common problem and need. Pray for a ready mind that then gives a child a vision for what she or he can do in the areas of missions and evangelism to be used of God to meet their playmates' greatest need. If we've been talking about ethnicities (the nations as suggested in #1 above), turning to missions is really only one short step away.

4. Talk about the gospel and the church as the plan of God to demonstrate unity across such diversity and to display His wisdom.
Please, please, please don't forget that Eph. 2:11-3:12 is written to a local church... that there are truths there to be applied to this life... as well as hopes that sustain us in imperfection until the next. The church's perfection in displaying the wisdom of God in the unity of people from every nation in "one new man" awaits Christ's return, but the reality of Christ's accomplishment is to be experienced and sought after in this life. Hold the church up as the place where that reality is lived out, where your child's "new black friend" or "new Asian friend" or "new white friend" can truly and joyfully and lastingly be not just a friend but something more, a brother or sister in Christ who makes us one with each other by "creating in himself one new man... and in this one body... reconciling us to God through the cross, by which he put to death our hostility" toward one another. The "mystery of Christ" is that Gentile and Jew are "heirs together..., members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus" and that "through the church, the manifold wisdom of God is made known to the rulers and authroities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Eph. 3:6, 10). Let's center our children's thinking about ethnicity in the divine reality of the church, the new spiritual ethnic group to which all who are Christ's belong and derive their reconciled identity and peace.

Point out the glory of God in His creation, including the ethnicities we see. Point to the glory of Christ, a Savior who saves people from all nations. And point to the church as the place where this salvation and new creation is to be lived out until it's lived out completely in the age to come. In discussions of "race" with our children, keep pointing to God, His Christ, and His church so that our children might learn to see men in accord with the majestic power and work of God in history and redemption.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Around the Blog in 80 Seconds

Below are a few clips and bits that have been helpful to my soul over the last week or so....

Mark Dever on Ambrose baptizing Augustine: Ambrose "baptized Augustine in this pool on Easter, 387AD. Ambrose was the same age then that I am now. So when I was there, I prayed that God would lead people to Christ through my preaching, and that I would have the joy of baptizing those this year who would be of immense use to the kingdom." I don't think I pray this nearly enough. I'm going to start.

Because of John Piper (HT: via Rebelution via Non Nobis Domine), I'm thinking about giving my girls a holy ambition as the mark of moving from childhood to adulthood. My parenting needs to be more intentional and spiritually-minded right now.

Reading JT's notes on Piper's address "The Triumph of the Gospel in the New Heavens and the New Earth" at the Gospel Coalition left me longing a bit more for heaven. I'm looking forward to hearing the audio.

DG is beginning to post a 7-part series from Piper's Wednesday night series called "Why Even Deal with Racial Issues?" Great question. Here's part 1. Here's the audio.

Monday, May 28, 2007

I Am Grateful for Dave Jorge

You all should meet Dave Jorge. He is the pastor of worship here at First Baptist Church, Grand Cayman. It is an honor to serve the people of FBC alongside Dave.

He loves the way I number points in the sermons; so the numbered points below are just for Dave. Here are some things you should know about Dave Jorge and why I thank God for him.

1. He is faithful.

It's required of stewards that they should be faithful. Dave in his six year tenure at FBC by all accounts has proven a faithful shepherd. He is no hireling serving when it's convenient or advantageous in some way.

How would you respond if your community and home were destroyed by some catastrophic event? What would you do if you had the opportunity to pick up and start over elsewhere after such an event? And how would your decision be influenced if you were significantly understaffed and overworked at your job, and perhaps there was great uncertainty at work?

My brother remained on island during the country's most devastating hurricane, hurricane Ivan in 2004. Many expatriates had to leave the island in the storm's aftermath. And a great number of those never returned. I don't judge them; the storm was indeed devastating. Dave and his family could have called it quits and bailed, and I'm not sure many people would have blamed him. But he has made Grand Cayman home and the people of FBC his family, and he gave himself fully to their care and recovery. The church was without a senior pastor in that time; the elders were basically brand-spanking new; and a church split would soon begin to brew. And pretty much no one had any experience with category 5 hurricane events. What did Dave do? Dave rounded up the people, loved them, organized tons of outreach and care activities. During the weeks following the hurricane, with the main church building pretty much destroyed, Dave and others organized food relief from the church's kitchen that served some 50,000+ meals. He was faithful to love and care and pray for the people--even to the detriment of his physical health. My brother is faithful

2. He is longsuffering and compassionate.

Dave does not give up on people. If anything, he perhaps assumes too much responsibility for other people. His compassion and patience seems to know no limits. I don't think I know many people who are so quick to "mourn with those who mourn" and who bear with the weak. When someone is sick or hurting, Dave is there. He has great wells of compassion, empathy and mercy.

2. He is generous and giving.

The Lord has gifted him with a strong gift of helps. The brother is a servant. Actually, both he and his wife are servants given to quickly without hesitation dropping all to serve others. They make a wonderful team. In the last year, he's done triple duty as pastor, working on everything from his day job (pastor of worship) as well as the building admistrator and contractor helping to oversee reconstruction, to counseling, and chief cook and bottle washer. I've watched him help friends with their businesses, volunteer at community playhouse productions, give a late-night tow to certain other pastors when they put diesel fuel in their unleaded car engine, and give a little girl's bike a complete lube job (when she really only wanted her brakes adjusted :-)). The Lord has made him tremendously giving.

3. He is an accomplished musician.

This is another way the Lord has gifted him. And while he could be putting that gift to lucrative secular use, he dedicated himself to the work of the kingdom in this area. He has blessed an unnumbered group of souls through the worship ministry at the church and at other places. And this is a tremendous help to me. I'm thankful for his giftedness in this area because I'm a musical illiterate! I thank God for making us a team and for using Dave in a very gospel-centered, Christ-exalting way in the music ministry of FBC.

4. He is humble and gracious.

I assure you he's already made awkward at this post. He would prefer none of the spotlight. He would genuinely prefer the background, quietly doing all the things no one else wants to do. He does not draw people to himself, but points them consistently to Christ and His glory. The Lord has worked that good fruit and disposition in him and it's a blessing to all who work with him.

I praise and thank God for the joy of knowing and laboring with Dave Jorge. He is a gift to the saints at FBC and to this preaching pastor.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Men Are From Mars and Women Are From Venus

Lord willing, I'll post a more substantive post later today. But I just had a Mars/Venus kind of experience with my wife and thought I'd share the laugh.

Here's a simple illustration in how men and women (pardon the stereotypes) view money differently.

My wife just walked into the office and asked, "Do you have any change?"

I began to open the desk drawer for the cup of coins I keep there. Looking into the drawer, I ask, "How much?"

"Fifteen dollars," was her reply.

Fellas, when did fifteen whole dollars become "change"? It's expensive living in Cayman... but my word!

This helps to explain why when we're in the mall and I ask "do you have any money?" she always says "no." But then three stores later, she "finds" $20-40 (in her change purse) to purchase the blouse on sale.

When I say, "I thought you didn't have any money?" She says, "You asked if I had money. Oh, that wasn't money." Apparently, being from Mars, I'm not dealing in big enough denominations! That was just "change"!

I will have been married to my wife for 16 years on August 31st, Lord willing. And not until this moment did I realize how different our perspectives on money can be.

We had a good laugh (and she gave me permission to post this). But from now on, I'm recalibrating my understanding of what "change" and "money" are. Anybody with me?

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Christianity Confronts Islam

While at the DG Pastors' Conference this past February, a young man from Advancing Native Missions pressed into my hands a White Horse Inn CD interview of Sam Solomon. He told me I must listen to the interview of this former Muslim jurist converted to Christ. Well, I've finally listened to the CD and I'm sorry I've waited so long. It's easily the best interview in radio format I've ever heard.

I tried to find the links for the audio at the White Horse Inn. The program is listed in the archives (I've pasted them below), but I didn't find actual audio. For my money, this would be a great program to re-air. Apparently Advancing Native Missions acquired permission to reproduce and distribute the CD. Interested folks may be able to find a copy there. Going through the effort to get a copy will be well worth the investment!

October 1, 2006
Christianity Confronts Islam (Part 1)
On this edition of the White Horse Inn, Dr. Michael Horton talks with former Muslim and professor of Shari'ah Law, Sam Solomon, about the true nature of Islam and the significant threat it presents, not only to the western world in general, but specifically to all weak and sentimental forms of the Christian faith.

Islamization of Europe, by Shane Rosenthal
The Convert, by Cal Thomas

Islam & the Cross, by Samuel M. Zwemer
Londonistan, by Melanie Phillips

Artist: Roger Hooper, Song: "India Mission"
Album: Unreleased

Christianity Confronts Islam (Part 1)

October 8, 2006
Christianity Confronts Islam (part 2)
Christianity Confronts Islam (Part 2)

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

How Zealous Are We for the Honor of Our God?

One of the most striking passages in Scripture--among many, many that could be named--is Numbers 25. (I'll wait while you dig that one up and refresh your memory :-)).

In Numbers 25 Israel is in the land of Shittim. They've just been protected by God from Balak's attempts to convince Balaam to curse Israel (chps 22-24). Rather than curse Israel, the prophet is forced to speak only what the Lord says, and the Lord blesses His people repeatedly in these three chapters.

But in Num. 25, Israel is found committing sexual immorality with Moabite women and sacrificing to their gods. The contrast is stunning. God is faithful to preserve His people from their enemies, and His people go whoring after false gods, including sexual immorality.

For their sin, the Lord's anger burns and He commands Moses to have the leaders of this idolatry killed and exposed in broad daylight. While Moses is instructing the judges of Israel to carry out God's judgment, an Israelite brings a Midianite woman into his tent, "right before the eyes of Moses and whole assembly of Israel while they were weeping at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting. Another striking contrast. The Israel of God is gathered together weeping over their sins before the Tent of Meeting. And this man, brazen and indifferent, brings a woman into his family tent for all to see through weeping eyes.

Then the jarring part. "When Phinehas son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron, the priest, saw this, he left the assembly, took a spear in his hand and followed the Israelite into the tent. He drove the spear through both of them--through the Israelite and into the woman's body" (25:7-8). Following Phinehas' action, the plague that killed 24,000 was stopped.

Now the more jarring part. Verse 10: "The Lord said to Moses, 'Phinehas son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron, the priest, has turned my anger away from the Israelites; for he was as zealous as I am for my honor among them...."

How zealous are we for the honor of our God?

Would we have done what Phinehas does?

When was the last time we gathered as God's people and wept before God over the sins of His people as Moses and Israel did here?

Does Phinehas appear to us a wild-eyed religious radical?

Does his action seem extreme, impulsive, perhaps self-righteous?
Do we think that Phinehas' action here is unloving, perhaps cruel?

Does it seem to us that length of human life is more important than the honor due to God?

Have we been thinking that anyone who calls her or himself a "Christian," who is pleased to attend our churches, has a right to our unending patience even when in clear, unrepentant sin?

Who do we identify with most in the account: the Midianite woman and Israelite man committing adultery, Phinehas with spear in hand, or Moses interceding in prayer?

Christ Jesus our Savior has, in His body on the tree, been pierced for our transgressions. He has bore the spear thrust due to us for our adulteries, physical and spiritual. By His wounds we have been healed.

But are we zealous for His honor? Does knowledge of our sin that placed Christ on that tree work in us a righteous indignation toward sin?

We are not Phinehas; we are not gathered together before the Tent of Meeting in a developing theocracy. But are we to be more or less zealous than Phinehas for God's honor? And if we are zealous, what is the appropriate standard against which to measure our zeal?

Verse 10 commends Phinehas for being as zealous for the honor of God as God himself is. That's our standard. How zealous was God for His honor? Enough to pierce His own Son to satisfy His wrath against the sins of His people. It's in the broken body and shed blood of the Perfectly Righteous Christ that we get an estimation of the honor due to God. The blood of bulls and goats will not do. Though Phinehas is said to have made atonement for the Israelites (v. 13), neither will the blood of offending people do. Only the blood of Christ--sinless, powerful, cleansing--will honor God the way He deserves. And in the shedding of the blood of Christ, we have answers to our questions.

How zealous are we for the honor of our God? We should be so zealous as to proclaim and live by the fact that the sinless Son of God came into the world to take the "spear" of nails on Calvary's cross. We should be so zealous as to make the proclamation of the death and resurrection of Christ our constant and passionate vocation. We must mortify the deeds of the flesh--not by javelin--but by turning again and again to those nails and those boards and that Savior who died on them.

When was the last time we gathered as God's people and wept before God over the sins of His people as Moses and Israel did here? Should this not be weekly? Should we not daily even cry over the sins of our brethren in our midst, and intercede for each other more often than we do? Our coming to the Lord's Table should, in part, be a time of weeping for those who knew our fellowship and are now lost to us. Our hearing of the gospel should bring to mind those deceived by sin, who have tasted the glories of heaven but are not entangled with the world and the enemy. We should be zealous enough for the honor of God to weep for the lost and the apostate and those held by sin's grip.

Does Phinehas appear to us a wild-eyed religious radical? Does his action seem extreme, impulsive, perhaps self-righteous? Do we think that Phinehas' action here is unloving, perhaps cruel? If this is the case with us, perhaps we've not been thinking clearly enough about the fact that God will finally declare an end to rebellion. He will finally crush the serpent's head and call the birds to feed on the carcasses of the enemy's army. It is the most loving thing in the world to call people to stop their abuses of God's patience and to turn from sin. It is good for us to deny people even the opportunity to sin if it's within our ability. And certainly, it's loving for us to leave our knees weeping before God to stop the self-destructing sin in our midst that dishonors God to pierce through with the gospel and the demands of the gospel those who come into the camp committed to sin.

Does it seem to us that length of human life is more important than the honor due to God? If so, we will be more zealous for "life," which is really spiritual death, than we will for the honor of God. I once heard someone say "God cares more about the quality of your life than the length of your life." I think that's true; it's at least implicit in the judgment "the day you eat of this fruit you shall surely die." Is it not our tendency at times to "prolong a life," to in effect coddle a sin, by failing to swiftly and decisively and lovingly confront an erring brother, to pass over the Midianite in the tent by saying something like "I'll pray for you" rather than open the word of God which pierces and divides.

Have we been thinking that anyone who calls her or himself a "Christian," who is pleased to attend our churches, has a right to our unending patience even when in clear, unrepentant sin? If we do not lovingly confront those in sin or error, if we do not disciple others, if we do not attempt to restore our brothers, if we fail to see our responsibility to participate in the corrective discipline of our churches... we have perhaps valued "patience" more than the honor of God.

Oh for more zeal for the honor of Christ our God, to be as zealous for God's honor as God himself is!

Friday, May 18, 2007

I Am Going to Die Soon

Yesterday, I had the privilege of preaching a funeral for the grandmother of a former elder of the church, a man I count as a Barnabas to me, and a dear, dear family.

This morning, I'm reflecting on the fact that I'm going to die soon. I don't know how soon. I don't know whether I'll live to be 90 or just have 90 more minutes. But, I'm going to die soon. Even if I live to be 90, I'll look back at my life and it would have been a vapor. I'm going to die soon. And you are too.

I asked the people yesterday how they would be remembered at their funeral. It's a good question for the preacher, too, not just the pew. I'm going to die soon, and I wonder how I will be remembered.

Will I, like Abraham, be remembered as a "man of faith" (Gal. 3:9)?

Will I, like Abraham, be remembered as a friend of God (James 2:23)? Will people say I plead with God as a man pleads with a friend (Job 16:20-21)?

Will anyone think that I, like David, was a man after God's own heart (Acts 13:22)?

What will be said about my service in the church? Will I, like Moses, be faithful in all the house of God (Num. 12:7; Heb. 3:2)?

Will those who knew me say I loved my wife as Christ loves the church (Eph. 5:25)?

Will anyone testify that the Lord hid nothing from me because I was trusted by God to teach my entire household His wonderful deeds, "to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just" (Gen. 18:17-19)?

I am going to die soon, and these questions receive far too little of my time. Moreover, these questions seem occupied with what other men think. I suppose that's okay on one level, given how the questions are asked. But what will God say when I die?

Will it be written of me: "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saint," Thabiti (Ps. 116:15)?

I suppose some men will spend their lives in the ministry, and at the end cry out with Balaam: "Let me die the death of the righteous, and may my end be like theirs!" (Num. 23:10). Yet, like Balaam, they may never see such a death and their end may never be like "the dust of Jacob."

I'd rather hear the Lord say, Thabiti "was as zealous as I am for my honor" (Num. 25:10, 13). Oh to be like Phinehas son of Eleazar! To live only for God's honor!

For the saint, death is but a carriage to eternal life and the glories of Christ on high. All the commendations that attend our processional will have been earned by Christ our Savior. All the fruit of our lives leading to honor among men will have been produced by God's Spirit. To God be the glory, great things He has done.

But we would be better prepared for that day if we live now with the certain knowledge that we are going to die soon.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Around the Blog in 80 Seconds

Here are a few things, some trivial, some interesting I've been noodling on lately.

1. Melinda Doolittle was robbed! Okay, yeah, I watch American Idol with the family some times. Ohhhh, the shame! But this year featured a couple contestants I really liked, who were full of Christian grace and character. Melinda Dolittle was one of them. And besides all that, she was clearly the best and most consistent singer on this year's show and any show that I can remember. She was robbed. Though, if history is any predictor, losing at this point is actually better for your career than becoming "the idol." Seems fitting that a Christian would not win that particular "honor" or label.

2. I'm adding a couple of blogs to my blogroll. All of these are operated by brothers I've gotten to know over the last couple years and appreciate for multiple reasons. They have a common passion for the Savior, a great love for His church, and a desire to see the church increasingly reformed according to the Word of God. The first two were recently interviewed on this blog. Perhaps I botched the interviews and they've decided to speak directly to the people! :-)

You might want to check out Lance Lewis (interviewed here) over at Blaque Tulip.

Also, visit Eric Redmond at A Man from Issachar. His purechurch interview is here. Today he offers some engaging reflections on the deaths of Jerry Fallwell and Martin Luther King, Jr. and our tendency to "sanitize" and "domesticate" our heroes.

The third blog is a group blog over at the Council for Reforming Churches. It includes the likes of Anthony Carter, Michael Leach, and others. The website also features sermon audio, upcoming events and articles.

3. Jury to hear case of woman suing pastor for fall during prayer. This article (HT: Lou Love) has too many things to comment on. Here's my question: how long was the woman in the Spirit, until she hit her head on the pew or until she filed the lawsuit?

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

I Am Grateful for Dr. R. Albert Mohler

I've not known Dr. Mohler for very long, perhaps three or four years. I first met him during a visit to Washington, D.C. He spoke at a Henry Forum and took a ton of questions afterward.

Because Mark Dever is who is, some of his friends have become my friends. I am grateful to count among the men who have influenced me--sometimes from a distance, other times close--Dr. Mohler.

Here's why I am grateful to God for Al Mohler.

1. The man has a big brain.

He's easily one of the smartest men I've ever met. Do you remember Cliff Claven from the TV show Cheers? Cliff was full of trivial information always awkwardly injected into some otherwise edifying conversation. Well, Dr. Mohler is like Cliff Claven--except what is stored in his mind and heart are the always relevant and edifying treasures and precious truths about the Lord Jesus Christ our Savior. Open almost any subject and he's read about it, thought about, written a commentary on it, or included it in a talk somewhere or some time. He's a walking encyclopedia. The last time I saw him, he actually recommended a couple books on the history of darkness and light in Europe! Who reads about darkness and light and how candles and electric lights changed society?! Al Mohler. And write it down, that seemingly obscure knowledge will one day surface in a powerful illustration or commentary that changes how we think about an issue or culture. I am grateful, deeply thankful, that the Lord has given the Church an Al Mohler who loves the Lord with all of his mind.

2. The man is steadfast.

I'm searching for the correct adjective here, but "steadfast" keeps coming to mind. Many of you will know of Dr. Mohler's part in the "conservative resurgence" in the SBC. And some of you will know of the tremendous heat and pressure that comes along with any movement of that sort. And still others, even if you know nothing of the resurgence, will know that Al takes a lot of hits because of his engagement with the culture and ideas of our day. Homosexual advocates on the left. Moderates and liberals in the convention. Secularists on TV. Intellectuals in ivory towers. The man faces slings and darts from all around, and he does it by God's grace with biblical resolve and steadfast commitment to the gospel of our Lord. He's not moved by changing opinions and faddish winds. He's steadfast in the Lord.

3. The man is tireless.

I'm learning from Dr. Mohler that I can run harder, longer, and at times faster for the Lord. The Lord has worked in him a unique stamina and endurance. Dr. Mohler is a full-time husband and father, a university president. host of a syndicated radio talk show, author, and blogger! He's no stranger to hard work and he is redeeming the time, and I am grateful for his example.

4. The man is funny.

Trust me. When the smoke settles for the day's battles, you want to be in earshot of Dr. Mohler. A quick, sometimes satirical, sometimes anecdotal, always side-splitting humor emerges. I appreciate men who can laugh and who can make others laugh. Of the times I've been around Dr. Mohler, I can't think of one where I didn't hear a truly funny story or an occasional impression.

5. The man is caring.

This should be evident, but sometimes I think this gets lost when we think about public figures and the various causes they're addressing. I appreciate Dr. Mohler's deep gospel-centered and practical compassion for people. He appears to me to be moved by Christian love, empathy and concern. The most recent and moving example of this for me came at a Southern chapel back in March. Homosexual activists had staged a surprise protest on the campus the day before. The campus was abuzz from the day's events. The following day was chapel. I can imagine 100 ways that the situation could have been mishandled or poorly addressed. The protestors could have been met with any number of unkind comments, cold stares, or angry rants. Instead, Dr. Mohler closed the chapel service with words that at once convicted the assembly of its need for a much deeper, Christ-like compassion and stirred affection and concern for the lost. He could have "run for the door" or left the gathering unsettled and undirected. But with great pastoral warmth and care, he led us well with words of instruction and a time of rich prayer. I'm deeply grateful for his example of compassion and grace.

There aren't many Al Mohlers in the world as far as I can tell. That the Lord has placed him among us as a champion for the gospel should make us deeply grateful. And, indeed, I am grateful for our brother.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

I Am Grateful for Dr. John MacArthur

Equating gratitude and thankfulness in some ways seems to cheapen the more rarely used term "gratitude." We say "thank you," or just "thanks" in such a common, nonchalant way that to equate the two almost seems an injustice. Our "thank yous" seem almost devoid of genuine gratitude. Honest appreciation... that is, a sincere weighing, evaluating and esteeming of the person and/or the gesture/gift... appear to be almost entirely missing.

Perhaps this is why gratitude sometimes strikes us as an old, quaint word. The kind of specific, intentional, and meaningful expressions that compose genuine gratitude seem to belong to another era, a foreign people, a more idealic place.

I pray that the Lord would work deeper gratitude in my heart for all that He is to me and for all that He has done for me. He loved me and gave himself for me.

And in His continuing kindness, He has placed in my life people who have taught me to love Him better, to trust His word, and to serve him more faithfully. One such man is Dr. John MacArthur.

I became aware of John MacArthur while one day driving home from work. His radio program, Grace to You, came on during drive time in the city I lived in at the time. I remember how excited I felt just hearing the messages, how rich they were in biblical truth, and the way my thinking changed as I listened to him. For me and many of my friends, John MacArthur became something of the standard for pulpit ministry and teaching.

1. Changes the Lord wrought in me.

I am grateful to the Lord for the personal changes He worked in me through the preaching ministry of John MacArthur. I went from thinking that preaching had to be entertaining to seeing that preaching the word is beyond entertaining and exciting! I went from thinking it was the pastor's job to always "console," to seeing that it's most often the pastor's job to teach, sometimes rebuke and often challenge through the preaching of the word. Perhaps most importantly, I began to see ways in which I needed to grow as a Christian, ways I needed to be more set apart from the world and zealous for the Lord. It was probably John MacArthur's radio teaching ministry that brought this into clearer and sharper view for me. I am deeply grateful for how the Lord has used him in my personal life.

2. Faithful expositor.

I am grateful for MacArthur's faithfulness in biblical exposition. One thing you can always say about John is you know you're going to get the word, a whole lot of word, as if drinking from a fire hydrant. For 40 years now, he has expounded the word one verse at a time. I appreciate his example of longevity, faithfulness, and dedication--all based upon a rock-ribbed trust that the Bible is God's word and the preacher's job is to make it's meaning clear for the people. I suppose that in 40 years' time, there have been many men who have started out well and then been "bewitched" by strange doctrine, cultural fads, and other things that have shipwrecked their ministry if not their faith. In a time of shifting currents and trends, I am thankful for Dr. MacArthur's steadfastness in expounding the word, for his continued belief in the sufficiency of Scripture as evidenced by his continued study and teaching of it.

3. Institution builder.

Another thing that makes me grateful to and for John MacArthur is his work as a builder of institutions. Grace Community Church, Grace to You radio and TV, and The Master's Seminary are all institutions the Lord has used John to build. I am thankful for the legacy John means to leave to the church. Not that he has set out with wild ambitions and great plans. Far from it, I think. He has set out to preach the word, and from there, the Lord has given him opportunity to impact now a generation of churches and pastors. I am thankful that John has had the faith and courage to walk through the doors the Lord has opened and leave institutions that prayerfully will shape generations to come. I am thankful that he has not lived for himself but has lived for those who follow, and the institutions that stand in his wake are one evidence of that.

3. Courageous defender of the faith.

How often have you seen Dr. MacArthur on Larry King Live? And have you ever witnessed him fail to speak the truth of the gospel in any appearance? I imagine that walking into the lion's den is not something you do whistling, "here kitty, kitty, kitty, kitty." It's an experience that puts you on your toes, ready to spring, lest you be devoured. It takes courage to defend the faith on the airwaves before millions. But the same integrity John shows in his pulpit where it's "home field advantage," he shows on the opposing team's turf. And he does it with grace, clarity, humility and a constant certainty that grows out of the gospel.

And I especially appreciate that this is not limited to public appearances. Perhaps Dr. MacArthur will one day share some of his experiences as a Californian in 1950-60s Mississippi and the courageous way the Lord used him to stand for the gospel in that day. He's a man of great faith and compassion, and I am indeed humbled and happy that the Lord has made him available to the world.

4. A nice jump shot.

Perhaps you've seen the photos. I was there! John MacArthur is an athlete--pure and simple! Here's a man approaching seventy that played 3-on-3 pick-up ball with 20-somethings and held his own from beyond the arc! No matter your eschatology... you gotta appreciate and be grateful for a pastor consistently draining the three over men 1/3 his age! I am grateful to have been on his team!

I am grateful to and for John MacArthur for what he has modeled and taught so faithfully over these many years of ministry. I am deeply humbled at the privilege of getting to know him and can only praise God for the lavish kindness He has shown me through Pastor John MacArthur.

Friday, May 11, 2007

"Give Me My Flowers While I'm Living"

That's what my mother often says when she attends a funeral and hears all the nice things people say, or witnesses the deep grief of persons who perhaps have loved deeply but not expressed it in various ways. With a resolution born of knowing, she announces in calm tone, almost to herself and to no one in particular, "Give me my flowers while I'm living."

Over the years, it's become for me a lesson in expressing gratitude. I can see the rows of flowers and arrangements adorning the pulpit area and casket at funerals... wonderful colors, arrangements of various sizes, sometimes with ribbons bearing various sentiments. Then my mother's voice, "Give me my flowers while I'm living."

Yet, learning to express gratitude hasn't been easy for me. And I'm certain I've not expressed enough gratitude to God for my mother or for others He has placed as gifts in my life. It's sad really. I do feel grateful, and I am thankful, but I'm lousy at expressing it.

Well, I'm praying and continuing to work on changing that. I want to give flowers to people while they are living, while they can smell and enjoy them, and rejoice in the Lord who created them.

Today, I want to say a word or two about how grateful I am for my mother.

There's no one quite like her. She's strong. Quiet but passionate, and even emotional at times. She left school in the 7th grade to work in the furniture mills of NC making less than a buck an hour. But she is one of the smartest people I know. She gave me a love for books and learning, telling me I could be anyone or anything I wanted to be, even president. I believed her well past the time I perhaps should have known better, and so the Lord has used her to get more out of me than I otherwise would have thought possible.

My mother can look at a person, listen for a moment, and almost give you a life history and current trajectory. She reads people like she does books. I think that comes from a long life filled with experience, usually hard, sometimes disappointing, and occassionally surprising.

I am the youngest of eight children born to my mother. She never married. But neither did she ever complain, run down my father, bail on providing for us, grow too tired to take an interest in our schooling or extra-curriculars, avoid the responsibility of hard work, make excuses, or resign at anything. I'm sure in the long, tired nights of single motherhood she felt like doing some of those things. But she never did. Ever.

When she wept, she showed great humanity. But I've never seen a person work so hard while weeping. And I've never met someone who so consistently saved her tears for things worthy of them. The loss of her mother... and later one of her sons. The day that I was arrested at my first job while in high school. My mother wept. She could see the end of the choices I was making and wept for the loss it would be. I'm grateful for my mother's tears; they literally turned my life around. I guess you could say even her tears were strong.

One of my fondest memories of my mother is a foot race we had down the street bordering the rear of our home. I was probably 7 or so. My mother was in her mid-forties or so. She had had a heart attack and was trying through diet and exercise to take care of herself. She had smoked most of her life up to that point. When I brought home one of those scary pictures of black lungs they give school children to "evangelize" their smoking parents to a non-smoking life, she looked at the picture, looked at me, and with a purse of the lips quit her pack-a-day Pall Mall cigarette habit on the spot! Hasn't smoked one cigarette since. Well, we're walking this last block home and my mother looks at me and says, "Want to race?" I was a little surprised, but said something like, "You can't beat me." She laughed and said, "Well, let's race then."

On your mark... get set... go! Man, my mama shot down that gravel road like an Olympic track star. I can remember churning my legs as fast as possible as she toyed with me running down that street, laughing and taunting all the way!

That's when I gave up my track ambitions and settled for basketball. If I couldn't out-run my mama, there was no way I was going to out-run little speedster friends like Lamont Holt. But I was tall... so basketball seemed a likely sport. My mother rarely missed a game my entire "career." She was there for me. Which is why I could trust her sober advice when recruiters from small DI and DII schools showed up with partial scholarships and big promises. "Son, you're probably not going to go pro. You have an offer of an academic scholarship. Take that. Study. You can be anything you want to be." Man, how she served and loved me so well!

I wish you had time to read a much longer post, and I had words to honor my mother well and express my gratitude. But here's a summary. I am grateful to the Lord for my mother. I am thankful for the way she never let me down. Though a fallen, sinful person like the rest of us, her steadfast love long ago vanquished any doubt that she was a virtuous woman in her own right, interested in me not out of convenience but with sincerity and great hope, full of wisdom and strength.

I am thankful for all the extra long hours of work she put in at that furniture mill. Hours she translated into food on the table, clothes on my back (how ashamed I am for the small tantrums I threw over the latest trendy clothes "I had to have"), books to read, frivolous treats and surprises, money for college, doctors visits, and on and on.

How grateful I am for the example of industry and prudence she left. How she raised eight children on essentially minimum wages I'll never know. But was she ever an example of diligent, responsible, self-less behavior.

I'm thankful for every tear, every secret prayer, every word of encouragement (there were so many), every "idle" moment spent dreaming with me about what I'd be when I grew up (Pastor was never on the list, but now she tells me she is proud of me), every visit to the school to meet with a teacher, every reprimand, and every tender moment.

And in these later years, I am thankful to the Lord for her faith and hope in Him! As grateful as I am for my mother, I'm more grateful to the Savior who first placed me in her care and who has taken care of her soul.

So much to be grateful for. Words so feeble. But I think I'll call my mama today and give her some flowers while she is living.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

I Am Grateful for John Piper

Our deepest gratitude is to be expressed to Christ Jesus our Savior, who loved us, and gave himself for us, and purchased with His own blood our eternal redemption. That God gives himself not only for but also to sinners is astounding! But this is what He has done through Christ and His Spirit who quickens and seals us. There is no more profound gift and no gift more deserving of gratitude--deep, humble, joyous gratitude.

Perhaps the thing we, then, should be most grateful for after Christ are those men and teachers whom the Lord uses to draw us to Christ, to push us up into Christ, the exalt Jesus before us, to placard Christ crucified before our very eyes, and to cause us to bow in reverence before the Lord of glory. When the foolishness of preaching and the scandal of the cross becomes wisdom to us, when the Spirit opens our eyes to behold the Lamb through faithful preaching, it is proper for us to be grateful to God for such preaching and preachers.

More holy affection and joy for Jesus my Savior has been stirred in my soul through the preaching of John Piper than anyone I can think of in the past three years or so. God blesses my soul through his preaching. He pulls me heavenward while simultaneously leaving me in the dust in contrition... that odd mix of abasement and exultation in Christ. I'm so grateful.

1. I've learned from Piper to exult in Jesus

I know many of you have the same experience listening to John. My chest and heart open, Christ pours in, and my affections are set in heaven! You know, I really loathe that cliche that says, "Don't be so heavenly minded that you're no earthly good." Uuugh!! What an unbiblical, backward thought. It's only when we are heavenly minded, when our affections and thoughts are set on Christ the King who reigns and returns, that we're ever any good on earth. And more importantly, it's only when we're longing for heaven and our God in heaven that we make any progress in being fit for heaven!

I remember the first time I heard him ask that now famous question:
"Would you be happy to go to heaven... to have all your family there, to be free from all diseases, to have every kind of pleasure you desire, etc.... would you be happy to go to heaven... if God were not there?" It's an arresting question that cuts right through the heart of our materialistic, self-seeking, but ultimately unfulfilling, earth-bound, and trivial lives. And it reminds us that Psalm 73:25-26 is absolutely true!

When it comes to loving Jesus beyond all things, the Lord has used Piper in a prophetic way in my life. John Piper teaches me to exult in Christ, and for that, I am grateful... deeply grateful.

2. I've learned to "let go" a bit in the pulpit and preach with passion

When the Lord first allowed me the grace of preaching the gospel, I would preach with some measure of freedom and intensity. Over time, becoming perhaps a better student of preaching, I think I lost a fair amount of that. That loss wasn't all bad. For example, I think I grew in the ability to distinguish between truth set on fire and mere emotionalism. I hope it's the case that my sermons have taken on more meat, and rely less on personality or human cleverness.

But in the process, I think I grew a bit colder as a preacher. The Lord has been pleased to put John Piper in my life at a time when I need and desire more Truth-driven passion in my life and ministry. I can't think of many people who better exemplify what it means to "preach as a dying man to dying men." The Lord has made John Piper to be an encouragement to me in this respect, and I am deeply grateful.

3. I've learned that I can be serious and intense, and simultaneously tender

Yep, I've learned that, in part, from John Piper. I know that some perhaps have come to see Piper as "hard" and intense only, perhaps not always qualifying things to make his hearers comfortable.

But here is a man that weeps and wants to weep over the lost. Here's a man that dishes out pastoral counsel with deep concern and empathy. He cares greatly about people not like himself and that shows in the initiatives and priorities of his ministry. Seriousness and tenderness are not antithetical. And I think a biblically-informed, anchored-in-Christ seriousness will inevitably lead to great tenderness. We've seen this not just in his preaching and pastoral roles, but even in his family. Consider the comments he shared with us when his father passed... blood-earnest seriousness and great tenderness and gratitude for his father. It's a tension that not many hold together well, and I am chief among those who fail at it. But I am grateful to God for what I'm learning about this in the life and ministry of John Piper.

I could say more. I should say more. I'm working on learning how to express gratitude in a more meaningful and consistent way. But for now, let me just say I am grateful to God for John Piper and I am grateful to John for all that he models for me and so many.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

I'm Grateful for Jonathan Leeman

Perhaps you've not met Jonathan Leeman. Perhaps you've never heard him preach, or you've not read anything he's written. That's a shame. Here's a brother the church should be thankful for.

He's not famous... yet. And should the Lord desire to make him "famous," I'm pretty confident that "fame" will mean almost nothing to him. He'll take it as an indication that he has an even greater stewardship and responsibility; he'll work harder. But I doubt he'll be anyone or anything besides Jonathan Leeman.

If you read the 9Marks e-newsletter (current issue/archives), you've come into contact with Jonathan Leeman. He is currently the communications director for 9Marks and the lead writer for issues involving church discipline. He does those things about 8 hours a day. But he is the full-time husband of Shannon and soon-to-be father of two children.

Why am I grateful for Jonathan?

1. He is humble.

That's a precious quality. It takes work to cultivate, and even more work not to be content with being "thought of" as humble but actually being humble. One of the first times I met Jonathan was during his baptism at CHBC. I didn't know him personally, only by reputation. He had been a member of the church some years before Kristie and I landed there, and was by most accounts pretty head strong. He went off to Southern to study and his years there had by all accounts a dramatic effect on his life. When I met him, he was back to join the church and to be baptized. His baptism represented a very public and significant humbling. He was, in some ways, confessing a lot of growth, growth involving the changing of his mind and heart over the years. By the time I met Jonathan, two things were consistently being said of him: he was fruitful in discipling young men at Southern and he was very humble. That reputation was obviously well earned. The work of Christ in his life is evident, producing that rare blend of certainty in Christ but lowliness and opennes before others. I'm grateful for his example of humility.

2. He is fruitful.

I mentioned that a moment ago, but it deserves mentioning again. Jonathan is diligent and faithful, which works itself out in fruitfulness. His addition to the 9Marks team is a tremendous blessing. So much has taken place in the spreading and multiplying of that ministry since he has started. Workshops have been added. Newsletters expanded. Lead writers herded and disciplined (Jonathan, I'll get that article to you soon, D.V. :-)). The brother is pouring himself out for Christ and giving himself to this very quiet, almost anonymous, but tremendously important role. He's a great "Tonto" to Matt, Mark and Josh and the rest of the team... again speaking to his humility. He continues to disciple men, teach in the local church, and encourage others far and wide. I'm grateful for his ministry of encouragement in my life and his example of gospel fruitfulness.

3. He is sincere.

I wish I could find a better word than "sincere." It's a good word, but it's fallen on hard times as people sometimes use "sincere" as the litmus test for personal truth. That's a shallow use. What I mean here is that what you see is what you get with Jonathan. And, something more. His sincerity leads him to inquiry, discussion, and exchange. I remember the day Jonathan came into my office and dropped his rather tall, solid body into my poor little wooden side chair. Slightly nervous, but with sincere intent, he asked me to explain a comment I'd made about race in the office copy room. He'd just been passing by when I made the comment, but on reflection thought he'd strike up a conversation. He told me about how he didn't "see" one of his African-American friends as African-American or black. To which I responded, "Then you don't know him much at all; you're hardly a friend." I probably spoke too rashly (still working on James 1:18). But Jonathan, with rarest of sincerity, took it to heart. That began an ongoing conversation that Jonathan I pick up from time to time on everything from Earth, Wind and Fire to what it felt like a couple decades ago to be labled "an endangered species" (see here and here for examples) and how Christ changes all of that. He's been a tremendous conversation partner, full of questions, eager to gain, and willing to push back.

I'm grateful for Jonathan. I count him a dear brother in the Lord. I thank God for the gift he has made Jonathan to be to the church and I trust there will be a crown of rigtheousness for him when He sees the Savior on that day.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

I'm Grateful for C.J. Mahaney

Learning to express gratitude hasn't been easy for me. And I'm certain I've not expressed enough gratitude to God for the people He has placed as gifts in my life. It's sad really. I do feel grateful, and I am thankful, but I'm lousy at expressing it. Without making an excuse, maybe it's this male thing. I start to feel all squishy and goofy, like what I'm saying is waaayyyy to warm-fuzzy or cheesy or something. So, I tend to say simple, shallow things that communicate some appreciation but remain rather generic and sometimes heartless, as though I'm composing one of those non-descript greeting cards for "all occasions." In fact, it feels rather like a blank card.

Well, I'm praying and beginning to work on changing that. I want to give flowers to people while they are living, while they can smell and enjoy them, and rejoice in the Lord who created them. Today, I want to say a word or two about how grateful I am for one brother in particular, C.J. Mahaney.

Many of you will know C.J. from his books, his preaching, the Sovereign Grace family of churches, and his infectious joy in the Lord. C.J. is perhaps as grateful a person as I've ever met, and I'm thankful to the Lord for placing him in my life.

Things I've learned from C.J. about gratitude for which I am grateful:

1. Gratitude is to be an endearing and enduring mark of the Christian life.

We are to be grateful for the cross of Christ and redemption through Him. We are to be grateful for the evidences of grace we see in our lives and others. And our gratitude to God should spill over lavishly onto others in the form of meaningful and specific words and acts of encouragement and appreciation. C.J. is a bit like a cross between the Energizer bunny and a Hallmark card. He is non-stop, high energy encouragement and gratefulness. And I'm learning that such gratitude should be commonplace for the Christian.

2. Gratitude is to be taught and modeled.

Indeed, this is what C.J. does so well. Not as a show; that would make a mockery of true thanksgiving. But with genuine interest in people, he models what it looks like to hand out flowers to others around you. That's something that is not evident enough in my life and ministry and something I want to change. I once stood with C.J. outside the Covenant Life bookstore, where he introduced me to a number of members of the church. With nearly each member, he told me how long they'd been members and offered some specific encouragement or word of appreciation to each of them. One couple had been with church for 20 years or so. After sharing some specific ways they labor in the church, he turned to me with these words, "These are the kinds of people you can build a church on." How wonderful to say such things to people with no hint of flattery but with sincere appreciation. And the great thing about the exchange was it was not isolated to C.J. Nearly everyone I met that Sunday morning was full of gratitude to God and for others. It's a compelling vision and experience--all churches should be filled with people who ooze gratitude. It's to be modeled and taught.

3. Love your wife.

How many of us pastors need to think more about this one and put it into faithful practice? How many of us have almost shipwrecked our marriages on the rocks of the ministry, giving ourselves to everything but our wives? It's a sad and all-too-frequent occurence. I love C.J. for the way he loves Carolyn. His love for her is obvious. And though I'm sure he'll be the first to tell you of his many woeful failures (after all, he is the guy who wrote the book on humility :-)), one can not be around him long before he expresses in his own way the truth of Prov. 18:22. Our wives are a tangible expression of God's kindness to us, His favor received. How appropriate it is, then, that we should show gratitude to God for them and express that gratitude toward them. I'm not sure I've met a pastor who does that as obviously and faithfully as C.J. I've even stolen some of his lines when he introduces Carolyn. Like this one. "Sweetheart, when you're in the room you're the only one in color; everyone else is in black and white." Yeah... I stole that one. And more than that, he's inspired me to use carefully crafted words of my own toward my Kristie. I need to do more, to show more gratitude. It's good and right and godly that I should do so. And I'm thankful that the Lord has used C.J. to teach me that.

4. Gratitude expresses itself in love for your family.

C.J.'s example doesn't stop with the church and Carolyn. But he is active in his expression of gratitude toward his family. He obviously loves his daughters and his son. He spends time with them. He cares for them. He plans in such a way as to include them, to consider them. I'm a fan because he loves his family so well.

I guess, in short, I'm grateful for C.J. because he embodies so well a deep, passionate love for Jesus, the Lord's church, his wife and his family. He models, by God's grace, this sense of great and appropriate joy in all of life's good and godly pleasures... eclipsed by even greater joy in Jesus. He's grateful for what he has, and yet he seems most often to remember that he has nothing that he has not first received. And the One from whom he received it is greater than all.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

So, Again, What Is An "Evangelical"?

That question has been kicked around a bit. And, I know, there are as many unsatisfying or cloudy answers as there are people who think they can define it clearly. Some even think we should retire the word and move on from any titles or create new ones.

I've not thought about the word recently, though I find myself thinking and talking about the people/movement called "Evangelicals" all the time. The most recent prompt to think about the question "What is an evangelical?" came from Francis J. Beckwith's recent letter explaining why he has re-joined the Roman Catholic Church. Until May 5, 2007, Mr. Beckwith was the sitting president of the Evangelical Theological Society.

This post is not about Mr. Beckwith and his recent decision. I don't know him personally and it would be both unwise and uncharitable for me to speculate on his motivations (public and private, theological and personal) leading to this move. Carl Trueman offers some good responses to the few theological reasons that Beckwith offered for his move to Rome (HT: JT).

But what caught my attention was a statement Mr. Beckwith made when he was considering the possibility of serving out his term as president: "I can in good conscience, as a Catholic, affirm the ETS doctrinal statement."

If a former-evangelical-turned-Roman Catholic can in good conscience sign the ETS doctrinal statement, how good a statement can that be? How does that shape our definition of evangelical? In the words of one hotly debated book, is the Reformation over?

Here is the ETS "doctrinal basis" in its entirety: "The Bible alone, and the Bible in its entirety, is the Word of God written and is therefore inerrant in the autographs. God is a Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, each an uncreated person, one in essence, equal in power and glory."

I'm not a member of the society, so perhaps an ETS member out there can help me out. Is this really all there is to the "doctrinal basis" for the society? It seems to me it would be difficult for any orthodox Christian to deny this statement, whether or not they are "evangelicals."

I can well understand an academic society dedicated to a particular purpose wanting, for intellectual and other reasons, to maintain a membership with people from disciplines and perspectives not necessarily its own. That can add much needed rigor and richness to the intellectual climate.

Yet if someone not committed to "evangelical" truth can maintain one of the highest posts in the organization in good conscience, I think that organization hasn't done a robust enough job in defining itself. "Evangelical Theological Society" sounds like it's a group of evangelicals (and a smattering of others) who commune together over theological issues from a distinctly evangelical perspective. If that's not the case, perhaps the group should be called the "Society for the Study of Evangelical Theology."

In suggesting a name change, I've gone beyond a certain boundary I should respect. It's not my place to suggest that an organization change its name. But if the group does not change its name (and I don't think they would), could they take up that tired ol' question and help the rest of us out: What is an evangelical?

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Around the Blog in 80 Seconds

Are Evangelicals disdained in the classroom today? The Washington Post takes a look at some research attempting to answer this question.

Our brother, Eric Redmond, who we interviewed here a couple weeks ago, is expanding his writing ministry to the blogospere. Check him out here. He is just starting out and sorting through the focus he wants to have, but these are the kinds of things Eric intends to cover:
  • A Matter of Meaning. Author-centered interpretation of passages of Scripture, following the theory of E. D. Hirsch.

  • Notes from Issacharians. General clips from others thinking within culture.
    Being Intellectually Virtuous. An “although I find it odd,” or “I never thought about this” section. (Thank you, James Sire.)

  • Apostle Paul’s Haircut. Comments at the dividing line between the African American Church and African American Culture.

  • Ex Libris Kai Bibliotheca. Recommendations of books, and an occasional review. (Yes, I know I mixed my Latin and Greek in the title.)

Thanks to JT and Eric, I learned that IVP has The Decline of African-American Theology: From Biblical Faith to Cultural Captivity now advertised on their website. Thanks JT and Eric for pluggin' the book. It's been a labor of love. My sincere and humble hope is that this book and The Faithful Preacher: Recovering the Visions of Three Pioneering African-American Pastors contribute in some small way to the reformation discussion and activity in the church. Would you join me in that prayer?

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Baptists and Baptism

One would think that most baptists are "died in the wool baptists," by which I mean are knowledgeable about what baptism is and why it's important, and maybe even a little zealous for the practice. But if the truth be told, most evangelicals--baptists among them--are "soft" on baptism. Far from zealous, many are indifferent.

As a convinced baptist, that saddens me. It saddens me because of the rich theology, symbolism and meaning of this ordinance left to us by our God and Savior himself. So, it's with some delight that I saw JT's reference to Van Neste's paper "Reinvigorating Baptist Practice of the Ordinances." It's also timely because, Lord willing, we'll be considering Matthew 3 on Sunday morning, a text where baptism figures prominently.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Around the Blog in 80 Seconds

The new edition of 9News is out. This issue focuses on preaching. Check it out here.

Two other resources you may find helpful from 9Marks:

There's a new 9Marks interview with Russell Moore and C.J. Mahaney called "Women and the Church."

And, a new book called What Is A Healthy Church (Crossway) is due out in June.