Thursday, April 17, 2014

Fast track to Sainthood: John Paul II

Having grown up Roman Catholic and spending much time studying the church then and more recently, the history of the papacy is thoroughly intriguing to me. For part of my doctoral studies, I researched the history of several popes.

I think what causes me such interest in the papacy is the way authority works in the Roman Church. Ultimately, Romanists think the Pope is the chief Apostle on earth, acting as the vicar of Christ.  For Roman Catholics, authority rests with the Pope, unlike Reformed Christians, who believe the Bible is the chief authority.  Part of my research revealed a growing recognition of papal authority over the course of centuries.  The idea of papal infallibility and authority developed over time with each new pope.

So, any news about papal happenings interests me.

I recently learned Pope John Paul II was beatified a few years ago in a ceremony that cost the Vatican more than $1.65 million! He will be the fastest tracked "saint" in the history of Catholic saint-making, beating out Mother Theresa.

I cannot help but wonder how the victims of the vast sex abuse scandals over his 27 year papacy feel about his rather quick canonization?

Monday, April 14, 2014

Stormy time lapse of Redeemer Sanctuary

A talented videographer in our church came out to take a few pictures of the Redeemer sanctuary, when a storm started to roll in.  He got some very cool footage.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Ministry of Mercy must still go on

World Vision is a Christian para church ministry that provides ministry to poor and needy people, especially children, all over the world.  They take in a billion dollars each year for the operation of their ministry.  Christianity Today reported yesterday World Vision previously required its some 1,100 employees at the American branch to abide by a policy that required fidelity within marriage and abstinence outside of marriage, and only recognized heterosexual marriages. However, now World Vision is allowing gay Christians in legal same-sex marriages to be hired as well as gay Christians who follow their policy of abstinence outside of marriage.

World Vision's capitulation on the latest American cultural popular movement shouldn't really be a surprise given their para-church design and function. Churches slide away from biblical and historical moorings too, but not as quickly as para church entities. At any rate, I have supported Compassion International for years, which does similar work as World Vision. Hopefully your church or denomination has ministry like this in various places to which you can contribute.

Don't buy the guilt trip about stopping your donations to World Vision.

Mark Tooley of The American Spectator made a poignant observation-
"No doubt World Vision, which receives tens of millions from the federal government totaling about 18 percent of its budget ($174 million in 2011), has accurately calculated that it’s so large that it can absorb any significant drop-off in donations from traditional Evangelicals. It will chug along for decades to come, moving further and further away from traditional Christianity, becoming just another generic charitable machine in pursuit of government contracts and foundation grants. Who needs the Gospel when there’re so many good works to achieve?"

The gospel is fundamentally about estranged sinners being made right with God through faith in Christ (as His merit is credited to us). Compassion, love, and mercy are the definite fruits of one who believes the gospel. Compassion/love/mercy toward others is not an option for Christians, it's God's command, and frankly, it's the evidence we have actually been transformed by God's grace. The gospel is not fundamentally about meeting people's areas of poverty, such mercy ministry is a fruit of the gospel or reaction to the gospel by those who believe.

The institution responsible for ministering to the poor and needy is the Church. Every gospel-believing church must be about serving the poor. This can be done in many ways, but it must be done. So the first place to donate is our local gospel-believing church. Because the need has been so great over the years and churches have been largely negligent in meeting the needs (sometimes because governments have made it difficult to perform this mercy function- but that's a different subject) independent "Christian" organizations have cropped up to meet these mercy needs. Para-Church entities have done wonderful work, like World Vision, Compassion, and many, many, others.

I think people should give most of their charitable donations to their local church.  Hopefully your church is doing or supporting mercy ministry. If your church is not pipe lined in such a way, I'd seriously challenge your church's thinking or even find a new church (how can a gospel-believing church NOT be doing mercy ministry?). But, if you wish to give elsewhere, faithful para church organizations are an option. There are LOTS of really good para ministries doing very effective, Christ-honoring mercy ministry. People should choose an organization that most aligns with their convictions. That's all I'm suggesting here. For me, World Vision doesn't align with my core convictions, so I'll look for ones that do. Since there are many solid churches and organizations doing this work, we have lots to choose from.

Again, don't buy the guilt trip about stopping your donations to World Vision, unless you stop donating to the same cause all together. 

I trust there will be no less mercy ministry done as a result of World Vision's shift in position. It will simply be done by other organizations.

Monday, March 3, 2014

The Oscars (Neo-Paganism) interrupted by Neo-Evangelicalism-Lite

The Oscars are one of the most telling displays of neo-paganism one can observe, for that, I am always intrigued and pay attention. The best actor winner- Mattthew McConaughey- was totally deserving. His performance was masterful. 

His speech stood out, because he gave some credit to "God" at the beginning. I put "God" in quotes because what he said next rather defined God in his personal view (not based on God's revelation of Himself in Scripture or nature, for that matter). He spoke of His father in some kind of heaven, looking down with satisfaction. He noted the usual humanistic "respect yourself so you can respect others" doctrine, and then went on to say his life motivation is about chasing himself as his own hero. 

Honestly, his speech didn't make logical, coherent sense. As you might expect, many Christians are lauding his speech because in the midst of such a hedonistic, humanistic, neo-paganistic crowd, it sounded like he was Joel Osteen. 

But therein lies the problem- Joel Osteen is emblematic of the weakness of "Christian" thought in America today. So it was Neo-Paganism interrupted by Neo-Evangelicalism-lite as represented by a Joel Osteen-esque Matthew McConaughey. 

Yes, America in 2014.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Religious Liberties related to Wedding Ceremonies need protection

I hope there can be some kind of legislation crafted to protect religious liberties related to wedding ceremonies.

The recent legalization of same sex marriage in several states has prompted efforts by various state governments to pass laws allowing for business owners, on the basis of their religious beliefs, to deny service to homosexuals. The framers of these legislative efforts have insisted the focus is narrow, intending to protect wedding ceremony related activities and businesses. Nevertheless, sufficient concern was raised that such laws would be used by all sorts of businesses, not just wedding related ones, to deny service to homosexuals. Some opposing such proposed laws painted pictures of restaurant owners standing at the entrance of their establishment forbidding homosexual couples to enter. The Washington Post described the veto of such legislation as- “The Arizona Governor vetoes Controversial Anti-Gay Bill”.  The Wall Street Journal described the same event by writing- “Arizona Governor vetoes Religious Freedom Bill.”  The issue is as polarizing as you might expect.  

I am not a legislator or a legal expert. I do know a very fine legislator who contributed to the crafting of such a religious liberties bill in Kansas.  I am 100% certain his intention was to protect religious liberty in very specific situations, not create a way for any business to discriminate against homosexuals. So far, no bills concerning this matter have passed in to law anywhere in the U.S., that I am aware of. 

I hope there can be some kind of legislation crafted to protect religious liberties related to wedding ceremonies. Traditional wedding ceremonies between a man and a woman have been around a lot longer than same sex ones. Even in modern times, legalized same sex marriage is in the overwhelming minority globally.  There should be an appreciation for the antiquity and earth-wide majority practice of traditional, heterosexual marriage and the attending ceremony, that allows for such religious liberty protection. It is certainly not unreasonable to expect religious people in favor of traditional marriage to be alarmed and reactive by how quickly the legal situation has changed. 

I am not sure of the best way to craft a bill that will please everyone.  I do think, at this point, Christians should focus on being specific about wedding ceremony related activities and businesses in proposed legislation.  Here’s my reasoning today (I am open to biblical correction):

As a pastor committed to the Bible as the Word of God and ordained by a denomination that upholds the authority of the Bible, I would not perform the marriage ceremony of a same sex couple. As a church, we would not rent our sanctuary for a same sex wedding. If I was in a wedding ceremony-related business (photographer, florist, cake maker, limo driver, etc), I would not offer my services to a same sex couple.  The basis for my choosing not to do business with a same sex couple related to their wedding ceremony is based on my religious belief about marriage and wedding ceremonies, not because I am afraid of or hate homosexuals.    

If I owned a non-wedding ceremony related business, I would not deny service to anyone on the basis of their sexual practice or marital situation (even assuming I would be able to know either of these). There are probably businesses I would not choose to run because of how complex the current cultural climate is (like a health club or hotel), but I can’t imagine discriminating against anyone.  I oppose same sex marriage as an institution, not gay people personally. No, I don’t agree with homosexual practice, but I don’t agree with sex outside of marriage, lying, stealing, and all the other sins people commit.  Why would I discriminate against one sinner and not another? If I know a guy is a serial player, bedding every woman he can, should I deny him service?  What about a glutton who keeps coming to my buffet restaurant?  The alcoholic who buys beer at my supermarket? How would you even be sure who is gay?  What about other sins and sinners?  

Frankly, if I wasn’t a pastor, I think I would like to own or work for an Italian restaurant.  I would welcome anyone and everyone.  I would try to meet everyone personally. I would love to dress in a pin striped suit with my hair greased back and walk people to their tables. I would tell them what the specials were, a bit of Sicilian lore, and try to make relationships with frequent customers.  Eventually, if the situation was right, I would tell them about my love for Christ.  Maybe over time I would have a chance to share Christ and His gospel with them. I think I would approach any business enterprise similarly, or at least I hope I would.  Honestly, I don’t think most Christians would discriminate against any sinner in their business practice, even if there was a law that said you could.

It seems to me that Christians should stick to advocating for the passage of legislation that is wedding ceremony specific.  If a Christian so opposes homosexual people, I would challenge them to reconsider such a stance, in light of Christ’s example of love and care.  Jesus didn’t compromise concerning God’s standard, but he was kind to everyone no matter who they were and what they had done. If you just can’t get over homosexual sin, don’t be a non-wedding ceremony related business owner, because at very least, you risk representing Christ and Christianity poorly.  

For those who scoff at the notion of not providing wedding ceremony related services to same sex couples, will you please do your best to appreciate our deep-seated religious beliefs and convictions in this area?  

In the Christian Faith, marriage is a divine institution and the associated covenant-ratifying ceremony is sacredly connected. It has been recognized by millions, for centuries, that marriage has been explicitly ordered by God as a male-female union. This union forms the foundation of society and serves as a picture of Christ and His Church.  For eons, marriage and wedding ceremonies have religious significance for a great many people, and so these folks should have protections if providing a directly related service- that’s all I am advocating for.  

Disclaimer: I fully realize there are probably a thousand “what if’s” related to businesses and situations that could cause a sense of compromise for a Christian.  I am not suggesting I have covered every angle here, but I think a dose of reality is needed on the part of Christians in Post-Christian U.S.A.  The thing to be guarded is the Christian view and practice of marriage and wedding ceremonies.  The horse is out of the barn related to the movement to nationwide legalized same sex marriage. The best thing Christians can do now is to keep their religious liberties intact related to wedding ceremonies and then to exhibit faithful, Christian marriages.  The tide can only be turned back when Christians model godly marriages before a watching world and people come to Christ. 

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Lord, Give us Passion for Worship

I would like to share the prayer I offered at the conclusion of this past Sunday's sermon. The sermon was on 1 Corinthians 14:20-33 where Paul encourages precision and care when ordering a public worship gathering. My prayer was offered in hopes that God would give our church a genuine passion for our times of corporate worship. I don’t always fully write my closing prayers, but rather have a basic outline for guidance. This is an attempt to recreate the prayer best I can remember. It is informally written the way I said it, so therefore not exactly ready for entrance in to the Book of Common Prayer.

Heavenly Father, It is our desire to worship you in spirit and in truth. It is our desire to worship you the way you call us to. Make our hearts passionate for your worship every hour, but especially in those hours of gathering with all the Saints, like this hour. When we are called to worship, jar us to life- make us know we are in the presence of King Jesus- the One who is Worthy to take up and open the Scroll and thus WORTHY of all our worship and praise. Make us to not just read prayers each week with no feeling. Cause us to be invested in the Prayer of Confession and truly relieved by the Words of Assurance of forgiveness through Christ. Make us not to mumble through the great hymns of praise and adoration. Cause us not to murmur against the speed of the music, the distraction of the baby crying, the person playing with the kneeler, or the service going a bit long. Help us as we join in responsive readings to RESPOND to your Word. Help us preachers not to be boring and help the people not to be snoring. Lord, make us prepare for our times of public worship the same way we would for anything important- that we don’t go to bed too late and get up late also. Lord, give us hungry anticipation for the celebration of the Lord’s Supper every week. Renew us and grow our faith in you by your means of grace experienced each Lord’s Day corporately. When there are unbelievers in our midst- remove the scales from their eyes as they hear and see the gospel. What glorious grace, that you would transfer someone from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light, right here in a sanctuary built for your honor! Lord, we get pumped for a party, a fine dinner, a great concert, or an exciting sporting event...but please, more than these events, make us say with the psalmist- “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the LORD!’” Amen. 

We sang a closing hymn that really captures our desire for God to move when we gather for worship- Revive thy work, O Lord, give pentecostal showers; the glory shall be all Thine own, the blessing, Lord, be ours.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Make the Word Plain!!!

In his sermon on 1 Corinthians 14, H.A. Ironside, pastor of the historic Moody Church from 1930-48, spoke about the importance of making the message of Scripture understandable to the congregation:

The Apostle rebukes the vanity of ministers who delight to use the pulpit as a place to display their education and culture, but also the use of language that is far above the heads of the people to whom they are ministering.  Charles H. Spurgeon said: "I am afraid that many of my ministerial brethren must imagine that when Scripture tells them to 'Feed my sheep,' it means 'Feed my giraffes,' for they put the food so high that people would have to be giraffes to reach it."  

Always put the food down where the sheep can get it.  It should be the ambition of the preacher of the Word to use language so simple and so plain that everybody can understand.  A few months ago a lady brought to me a little boy about ten years of age, and she said, "I want my little grandson to meet you.  I hope you won't be offended about what he said.  I had been telling him about you and he wanted to hear you.  He said to me, 'Why grandma, he is not a great preacher; I could understand every word he said.'"  I replied, "Well, my dear madam, I consider that a great compliment."  

I hope you will always pray that when I stand up to minster the Word, I may do it in such a way that the youngest child, as well as the oldest saint, may understand every word; because if we do not, we are just speaking in to the air.  

Likewise, I ask my congregation to pray for me similarly. 

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Cloudy Backdrop for RPC Sanctuary

Nathan consistently captures some nice pictures of the Redeemer sanctuary.  Beautiful backdrop today.

Friday, January 3, 2014

TOCA FC models a refreshing approach to youth sports

I will share a few unsolicited thoughts prompted by the soccer club my sons play for.

Sports have always been a big part of my life.  I played lots of soccer and hockey from a young age. Soccer was the sport I was most devoted to in to my teen years, on in to college, and these many years later. I badly injured my knee a little over three years ago (dislocated/tore 3 of the 4 ligaments) and probably should have quit playing, but after a year of reconstruction and rehab, I'm still playing regularly at age 42.  Along with hunting, coaching and playing soccer are my favorite stress relievers.

It wasn't until the end of my high school soccer career that a godly leader challenged me about my motives and reasons for playing.  I was a pretty physical player and didn't always play clean. Honestly, I just wanted to win. I was extremely one dimensional and short-sighted about sports and competition, it boiled down to winning.  This godly man told me that God wanted more for me than winning a game. I couldn't really grasp what he meant. I regularly heard that playing a sport should be for fun.  Well, in my mind, winning was fun.

As I transitioned to college soccer, I was completely transformed in my thinking by my coach, Joe Harding.  Coach Harding is one of the most competitive individuals I have ever met.  He taught me about working harder than I could ever imagine possible, not with the goal of winning, but for the purpose of bringing glory to God by doing something as well as it could possibly be done.  Added to this was his emphasis on team unity and sacrifice for one another.  The whole experience wasn't just about me, but it was about the mission of a whole team to do their very best for God's glory. Almost suddenly for me, I went from training and playing to win, to training and playing for God's praise.  Please understand- you play a game to win the game- but how you train and actually play the game brings a quality to the whole experience that transcends the winning part.  That is a hard concept to grasp if a "W" is all you care about.  But after a certain amount of "W's", it's pretty empty if that's the true end goal.  I was part of the Moody program that Joe Harding founded and has since won 5 national titles in the NCCAA.  If you train and play with the highest of ideals in mind- to glorify the Creator- you'll probably win more games than you lose, but really, that's not the point.  What does it look like to glorify the Creator with/in soccer?  I think it has to do with perfecting the individual and team skills to play the game in the most beautiful way you can. 100% all the time.  Playing with all your heart.  Really, team sports are a microcosm of life. Even the adult team I play on now consists of guys who want to play the game right, win or lose, because it's fun that way.

I have three boys who are all very competitive.  Before you blame me for this, I married a woman who was also a competitive college athlete who, to this day, would think nothing of giving me an elbow to the thorax in a one on one basketball duel. It's her fault too!  All three boys are involved with youth sports, mainly soccer and basketball.  Soccer, as you might guess, is starting to emerge as their main sport.  From a young age I have tried to place them in situations with coaches who understand the philosophy I described above.  God has blessed us with such coaches.  I am amazed with how mature my sons are about their outlook on sports and competition, compared to me at their age for sure. Still, like all of us on life's journey, they need constant prodding and coaching to keep the right things in mind and they are working to perfect their craft.

Last year my two oldest boys played for a large club in Kansas City.  The coach is a friend of mine, but he was planning on a change of coaching venues, so we needed to find another club.  I heard about Alec Lemmon and TOCA FC from several friends.  I called Coach Lemmon last Spring and was immediately impressed by the mature philosophy of this 25-year old man.  He not only understood and embraced the basic philosophy I described above, he challenged me to think even more holistically about the whole youth soccer scene and the potential good that could come from approaching sports differently. He was an accomplished player himself, who went through a philosophical transformation similar to mine, only with far more diverse playing and coaching experience to shape his thinking.  Long story short, my two oldest sons joined TOCA FC teams after summer tryouts and it has been an overwhelming joy to watch this club operate and my sons grow under the leadership of their coaches.

Before you get the impression that TOCA is some kind of pansy "we don't care about winning" organization, be sure such is far from true.  They are only in their 4th year of existence and are producing some of the best young teams in the region.  Alec Lemmon coaches several TOCA teams and is also the club's Technical Director.  He has trained his young teams to play a level of possession soccer I didn't think was possible.  The quality of game played by his under 13 team is just crazy.  I watched my son's team play a game, against another Division 1 opponent, where TOCA possessed the ball a full 8 minutes before the other team even touched the ball.  I have seen that kind of thing happen several times this past season.  TOCA is working at perfecting the "beautiful game".  My youngest son, Jordan, will join a TOCA team this Spring.

I know TOCA will teach my boys about soccer and competition the right way and with the utmost intensity, intentionality, and view to the future. I wish there were more clubs like this. Youth sports needs an overhaul. TOCA is a model in progress. They really want competitive, elite, youth soccer, to be an agent of personal development in the lives of each player, so they become remarkable leaders. Part of the TOCA experience is to make a special team effort to serve others.  This past Fall, Coach Lemmon took the boys on a service/mission trip to a needy area in St. Louis. They used soccer as the relational touch point for serving and encouraging others.

Learn more about TOCA FC here.

Here's video recap of a summer mission/service trip Coach Alec led my son's U13 team on this past fall:

Atheist vs Christian View on Life

I found this very clever post on Facebook today.  Pretty accurate. 

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Scratch list of topics for a Book

I have been brainstorming about subjects I would like to write on.  I am thinking of blog posts in 2014, but also beginning to write a book on one or more of these topics.  Here's my scratch list:

Coaching as a discipleship tool Team Sports/competition as a discipleship/spiritual formation tool Navigating competitive youth sports as a Christian parent
Personal Foster care/Adoption Journey
A balanced view of Foster Care/Adoption related to local churches
Pastoral/Discipleship Ministry team development
Trickle down (Leadership to Laity) Church unity
Corporate worship with biblical, historical, and contemporary considerations
The simplicity and timelessness of a Word/Sacrament ministry
Lessons learned when I was a young senior pastor (30 to 40 era)
The pastor as a Coach instead of a CEO or Military Leader
Social Media as a Pastoral tool
Why a plurality of elders/pastors is better for a church
Pastoral ministry is not a one man endeavor/advocacy of pastoral ministry team model
Building a ministry team for a mid-sized church (considerations, approach, ongoing nurture, mistakes made, etc.)
Keeping it real in Suburban Church ministry
Suburban Christianity that is still Christian
Guilt free Suburban Christianity
Spiritual Battle with the idol of food/weight and body image worship
Walking the faith, Not just talking about it
Sent by Jesus to bring: The Gospel, Compassion, Truth, Peace
Being Reformed and still fit to live with
First generation Christian fatherhood (more of a “how not to” guide, I’m guessing)
A biblical view/practice of hobbies, recreation, entertainment, etc.
Suckering a woman who is way too good for you, to marry you

What are your thoughts?

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Cardinal George makes sobering prediction

As the social landscape of the United States changes ever so rapidly, it seems toleration for historic Christian positions is lessening.

Cardinal George of the Roman Catholic Church recently made a sobering prediction.  I think his forecast  holds true for the whole of Christianity in the U.S., not just the Roman Church.  First Things captured him sketching the implications of radical secularization for America:

“I will die in bed, my successor will die in prison, and his successor will die as a martyr in the public square. His successor will pick up the shards of a ruined society and slowly help rebuild civilization, as the Church has done so often in human history.”

Friday, December 13, 2013

20 Year Anniversary of Nirvana's historic unplugged concert

I remember driving to work in Wichita, Kansas on April 8, 1994 and hearing the body of Curt Cobain had been found in his Seattle home.  A few days prior, he shot himself in the head after getting high on heroine one last time.

Cobain and his band Nirvana were pioneers of "grunge rock" in the 90's and with each passing year the genius of their music becomes more evident.  There were many such "grunge" bands from their era, but none were better.

Cobain himself was such a tragic figure.  A musical and lyrical genius, he battled drug addiction the whole of his short adult life. He seemed to struggle with awful mental/emotional and spiritual demons.  He sang about Christian themes, questioned the purpose of life, and wrote of meaninglessness regularly.  The band's name echoes his tendency toward a Buddhistic kind of philosophy.  Despite such a connection, he never showed a peace that remotely resembled what the band's name was supposed to conjure.

Four months before Cobain's suicide, Nirvana performed a truly epic unplugged concert.  I watched it again today as I was studying and working.  There is an eery sense of his impending death as you watch him fidget and talk awkwardly, all the while singing Nirvana's deeply profound songs.  Such a sad case of a man apparently without Christ.  Obviously no one but God knows if he ever came to trust Christ before taking his life- I sincerely and deeply hope so.  Whatever the case, gifted musicians like Curt Cobain receive their abilities from God.

Here's the concert:

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Awesome recap of the epic MLS Cup final

Following Sporting Kansas City as a season ticket holder for over 6 years has been a great ride.  This season was the most magical yet.  Here is a tremendous recap of the battle for the ages played last frigid Saturday afternoon.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

President Obama and the First Lady provide some entertainment

The First couple are more like a regular couple than you might think.  At the memorial activities for Nelson Mandela, President Obama was caught laughing it up with the Prime Minister of Denmark.  He was even seen talking some selfies with her.  The priceless part of this picture is Michelle's death stare.

The situation only gets better when the next picture shows Obama doing what every husband would have to do, after such a situation...

Friday, December 6, 2013

Thank God for Using the complex Mandela

Nelson Mandela died yesterday at the age of 95.

The usual outpouring of praise for an impacting leader like Mandela has been ongoing for the last 24 hours and will undoubtedly continue for several weeks.  I find it fascinating to see the high praise in eulogy for Mandela, especially coming from people under 30. These younger folks can't honestly know that much about him, right?

Heartfelt condolences to the people of South Africa for losing such a extraordinary figure and key player in that country's move to a more just society. But honestly, reading the posts that attribute incredible attributes to him make me wonder how much people really know of the actual man. He was most active in enacting transformation when I was in high school and the ten years that followed, so I have read quite a bit by him and about him. Let's just say, on the chief dimension he is known for,  he is a symbol of something that was monumental and clearly a principal person to be appreciated for many incredible actions affecting human rights. However, like every person who has ever lived, except One, he was not one dimensional and deeply flawed.  As is the case for all of us, time will test all his works and put them on display.

Nevertheless, at Mandela's passing, it is appropriate to give thanks for God's use of him in relieving the oppression of so many.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Thoughts prompted by the Mark Driscoll Plagiarism dust up.

Mark Driscoll is an influential "celebrity" pastor in the Seattle area.  For some time he has been the rage among young evangelicals with his brash, blunt, confrontational style. He is generally Reformed in his view of salvation and a few other areas of theology, but on the whole, he walks to the beat of his own doctrinal drum.  His popularity and sway is significant with hundreds (maybe thousands?) of churches and pastors trying in some way to emulate what he does.  His "Acts 29" network is ostensibly made up of churches who take their missional cue from Mark Driscoll.

Driscoll is a gifted communicator and shows a good basic knowledge of theology and doctrine when teaching and preaching.  Many people have benefited from his teaching and writing, I hear from those folks regularly. He has somehow put out a large number of books in a short time span, despite maintaining an intense speaking schedule.

Recently it seems he has at least become careless with his citations in some of his books as it seems he borrowed from other authors without giving proper credit.  Perhaps he trusted a ghostwriter too much, but whatever the case, the evidence seems to prove plagiarism.  See these sources for the case against Driscoll about plagiarism here, here, and here.

As a pastor, every week I read dozens of commentaries, sermons, and sections of books, in preparation for my weekly sermon.  I have never knowingly plagiarized.  I have a simple rule: if I use someone else's words to say something- even if it is an idea I had independently- I will let the listener/reader know who said it or thought it first.  I am not an intellectual or a professional scholar, so I am not ashamed to cite other people when I use their words and thoughts to express an idea.  My job is to make the Word of God understandable and applicable to the people of God.  There are thousands of smarter pastors and theologians who have lived before me or presently active who I will draw upon to edify my people.  I am a prideful, competitive person about a great many things- for which I depend on God for constant repentance- BUT, when it comes to giving credit to others for various profound theological, biblical, or doctrinal insights, I have no problem and can't understand why anyone plagiarizes. My people know my limitations, if I said something too profound, they'd know it didn't originate with me (ha ha).  Admittedly however, I can imagine being lazy or just not remembering where I heard a certain thought or quote, and failing to give proper credit. Maybe this is what happened with Driscoll?  I don't know. The story and facts surrounding are still coming out, so hopefully Driscoll explains himself well and apologizes if/where necessary.  Pastors have to stay above reproach when it comes to the blogs, books, and sermons we write, but yes, we'll screw up from time to time.

Here's the thing with Mark Driscoll and his teaching/books.  If you have time to read one of his books, I kindly suggest reading something else.  I'm not suggesting he doesn't have good, edifying things to say, but I am certain there are better authors for you to consider.  Driscoll seems accountable to no one doctrinally (or otherwise).  He's kind of the bishop of his own diocese called Mars Hill and Acts 29.  He holds to positions that are controversial and seem to lack biblical justification but seems answerable to no one in an official way.  I wish Mark Driscoll would submit himself to a denominational authority or presbytery, but I'm not holding my breath.  Even the Apostles had a system of accountability about what they taught (see Acts 15 rather than Acts 29).

If you have time to read a non-technical book like the ones Driscoll publishes, I suggest you pick up a Jerry Bridges book, any Bridges book, rather than a Driscoll one.  Try reading a John Piper book or perhaps one by Kevin DeYoung.  If you have time to read a Driscoll book, read a Keller book instead.  I'm not endorsing every one of these authors blindly, I just know their respect for historical interpretation and ecclesiastical authority is better than Driscoll's, which is a big reason why their theology is more trustworthy too.  We live in a day when anyone can publish anything and potentially reach a huge audience.  I think this is a rather modern dynamic and it allows for authors who are largely unaccountable to peddle their thoughts.  I am a minister in a denomination.  I can't just write or say whatever novel thought enters my head and think I'll get away with it.  I am accountable to other elders, at a couple levels.  So, if you have time to read a Christian author, on a subject you hope will help your walk with Christ, pick a writer who is accountable for his/her teaching, not someone who seems to be so popular that no one will challenge them.

Seriously, if you haven't read J.I. Packer's Knowing God, Piper's Desiring God, Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, Bridges' Transforming Grace, Keller's Prodigal God, Lewis' Mere Christianity, do so right away.  When you finish those, there are hundreds more to read before you pick up a Driscoll book...with all due respect, of course.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

We need more things like this...

I'm a sucker for semi-spontaneous craziness like this.  Some day I will do something like this. I promise.

Monday, October 21, 2013

John Calvin on obeying the Civil Government

As a seeming list of  U.S. government elected officials change their positions on various moral issues, I am reminded of John Calvin's comments in his treatment of the civil government-

"But in that obedience which we hold to be due to the commands of rulers, we must always make the exception, nay, must be particularly careful that it is not incompatible with obedience to Him to whose will the wishes of all kings should be subject, to whose decrees their commands must yield, to whose majesty their scepters must bow. And, indeed, how preposterous were it, in pleasing men to incur the offense of Him for whose sake you obey men! The Lord, therefore, is King of kings. When he opens his sacred mouth, he alone is to be heard, instead of all and above all. We are subject to the men who rule over us, but subject only in the Lord. If they command anything against him let us not pay the least regard to it, nor be moved by all the dignity which they possess as magistrates - a dignity to which no injury is done when it is subordinated to the special and truly supreme power of God." 

- Book 4, Chapter 20 of Calvin's Institutes