Archive by Author

Difficult but important reading: Hugh Hefner

[Please note: for those not already aware, some content in the following articles may be disturbing.]

It’s difficult to imagine a way for someone to do more damage to souls, families, churches and societies than Hugh Hefner. I remember the first time I was shown a Playboy at a friends’ house. Sadly, the image remains burned in my brain. Although I don’t know him personally, I detest and condemn his life’s work. I must take the blame for my own sins, but those who set poisoned candy before children surely stand under Jesus’ judgment (Mt. 18:6). 

Bigger Thoughts

“Shorter! Simpler! More punchy!” Whether you’re a journalist or a teacher or a pastor, there is a constant pressure to consolidate our communication. Pastors are taught that our sermons need to have a theme that can be easily expressed in one, simple sentence. Many people don’t read past headlines, so we strive to make those headlines catchy and clear. Twitter’s 140-character limit protects us from rambling.

While these are not negative things in and of themselves (most pastors still need to work on simplicity and clarity in their preaching!), it is part of a bigger cultural force making deep thought and deep communication more difficult and foreign. The technological and societal pressures to communicate simply often lead to simplicity and facileness. By and large, we don’t read deeply, so we don’t think deeply and cannot communicate deeply. And the cycle continues. As someone who favors brevity over profundity, I freely acknowledge that I write as a culprit more than a solver.

Thankfully, Scripture shows a better way.

Romans 16, A Model of Encouragement

Everyone loves to be encouraged and praised and valued. We all know instinctively that “Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good work makes him glad.” (Pro. 12:25) Yet many of us struggle to build habits of regularly encouraging others. Perhaps many are worried that too much praise and honor will result in big-headed pride, so the best thing to do might be to keep our compliments to ourselves. Certainly complimenting and praising aren’t the only ways to encourage others (Scripture often shows us how to encourage with good and hopeful theology), but they should be tools we use often for the good of others.

Paul’s example in Romans 16 has always stood out as a great way to show honor and pay compliments in a way that continues to glorify God even while lifting up his servants. Here are just a few observations from the “farewell” chapter in Romans to get us started on showing others how much we value them.

Grace Is Always Better

This guest post comes to us from Maria Rockhill, who has recently relocated to one of the wetter parts of Texas to be part of the Living Way church plant in Bryan along with her husband Steve.
—–

It isn’t coincidental that our opening exercise scripture passages the last few soggy, academic days have focused on the discrepancy between God’s power and man’s. For it got me to thinking about the harsh, beautiful disparity between legalism and grace.

Easy Lies to Believe

A few days ago, our Sunday school lesson was centered on the first chapter of the Westminster Confession and its emphasis on the necessity of Scripture. In discussing how wonderfully God provided for our need to be certain about Him and about salvation, we also spoke about how often we feel certain but we shouldn’t. Along those lines, I’d like to take a stab at naming and disarming several lies often spoken to us through social media, especially in understanding the world around us. In naming these lies, I’m not necessarily advocating giving up on #facetagramsnaptweeting, but encouraging us to wise, careful and limited use.

Another Boring Bible Passage

Numbers 7 is a fairly hard-to-read list of the offerings brought by the various tribes to the consecration of the shiny, new tabernacle. Each day a different man from a different tribe brought the same sacrifices (a silver plate, a silver basin, both full of flour and oil, a gold dish filled with incense and a miniature herd of animals for sacrifices). Such records are easy to pass by, perhaps skimming it so one can check it off the Bible reading plan. While we need to be careful not to look for magical meanings in the numbers or names, we do need to let God’s Word speak to us.

The One Foundation of Ministry

For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more…
Philippians 1:8-9

My wife and I sat down to dinner at my professor’s home in the last couple months of our seminary training. Glad to receive this invitation, we enjoyed their warm hospitality and genuine care for us. Thinking ahead to being ordained in a few weeks, I decided to seize the opportunity and asked rather abruptly, “What advice would you give to a new pastor?” 

The Blessings of Ministry

For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you–that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine. 
Romans 1:11-12

There are real costs to ministry. If you decide to give yourself in ministering to others (which seems more like a Biblical command than an option), it will cost your time, energy, money, sometimes even your reputation. Because it’s often fighting an uphill battle, ministry tends to wear us down, and we end up hearing statistics about pastors leaving the pastorate and how hard it is to get people involved in real, spiritual ministry to each other.

Maybe a little selfishness is in order. Maybe we’ve spoken too much about the costs of ministry but not the blessings.

Peer Review and Whiny Pastors

Currently I’m preparing to take part in a preaching workshop hosted by the Charles Simeon Trust. This is the third year I’ve participated and anticipate being just as blessed this year as in past years. Unlike other theological or pastors’ conferences, this is a real workshop, with lots of prep work and peer review throughout the week. If there’s a workshop meeting near you, I would encourage any pastor to attend. Toward that end, here are a few quick thoughts and encouragements regarding the work of preachers. 

“Nevertheless” – A Pattern of Tragedy

It is a true tragedy when a great life is marred by a glaring failure, when accomplishments are marked by an *asterisk, when every great memory is followed by the ominous “Nevertheless.” Lives that begin well but end poorly are much harder to comprehend than those that are wicked from front to back.

Such were the lives of some of the kings of Judah. Between the thoroughly wicked reigns of Ahaziah and Ahaz we find four of these tragedies.