I’m excited to let you know about a new album that just came out this week. It is “Battle To Do” by Stephen Gates. Stephen is a dear brother and friend who leads us in musical worship on Sundays at Emmaus. He is a very gifted guitar player and vocalist. What’s more, he writes and sings out of a heart that is deeply conscious of the greatness of Christ as well as the presence of indwelling sin (Hence the title: Though I am new…there is Battle to Do). To this end, this album is a refreshing, edifying blessing to me. I shamelessly encourage you to buy it.
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We all know that kids, particularly little kids say surprising and funny things, but sometimes they are refreshingly precise. They can cut through the boundaries erected by the mature.
This was the case last night as I was putting my daughter (4) to bed. We were talking about how I was going to visit a family member. She asked me if this person loved Jesus. I told her that I do not think that she is a Christian. Then I invited her to pray with me for her salvation. She complied. Then she sat up, pushed her curly hair back and said, “You know what, you should also go and tell her about Jesus right away. Prayers are good but you need to tell her about Jesus Daddy.” I told her that she was exactly right and that I would.
Here we are reminded about the simplicity of a child and perhaps some of the things that Jesus would have been aiming at when he reminded us of being like a child. She doesn’t have all of the hangups that we often have about evangelism. She hasn’t been rejected, argued with, or belittled. She doesn’t entertain the quiet, embarrassing doubts about the sufficiency and power of the gospel. She just understands, in her young mind, the need for us as Christians to tell unbelievers about Jesus. And she is exactly right.
I share this story because it was so encouraging to me and I think it would be for you also. Further, it reminds us not to overcomplicate things; it is really that simple: someone has got to open their mouths and talk about Christ. The gospel is powerful. It is sufficient (Rom. 1:16). After all, this is how we ourselves came to faith in the Savior.
“It is beyond dispute that the inferior is blessed by the superior.” (Hebrews 7:7)
Like a shaken two-liter of soda in the hands of a 5-year-old, the story of Melchizedek is fully charged and overflowing in Christological significance. We learn of the uniqueness and superiority of Christ’s priesthood by means of this somewhat mysterious and obscure type from Salem. It is upon this new priesthood that the new covenant is built. For a guy with only a hand-full of Old Testament verses he sure does get a lot of airtime in the New Testament Scriptures.
There is one phrase that arrests my attention in Hebrews 7 however. It is this statement about the inferior being blessed by the superior. In the case of the narrative we are talking about Genesis 14 where Abraham received a blessing from Melchizedek.
The context of chapters 13 & 14 include a story of Abram and Lot separating because their hired hands could not get along (Gen. 13.13). Abram went toward the land of Canaan and Lot towards Sodom. Following this a war breaks out and Sodom, along with 4 other kings, are defeated by the 4 king coalition from the north. Consequently, Sodom, and Lot with them, were dragged north towards Mesopotamia. When Abram hears about this he gathers his crew and charges after them. In due time he catches them, battles them, and wins. He takes Lot and all of his possessions and turns around to go home. Abram is legit.
In Crossway’s ongoing series “The Theologians on the Christian Life” authors aim to provide an accessible introduction to some of the great teachers on the Christian life. The challenge is present in the goal. If you have a great teacher then accessibility may present a problem. What’s more, many (great) teachers are very interesting people. Their lives fill up pages quickly.
This gets intensified further when we consider Dietrich Bonhoeffer. With a biography named Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy–you can see how the author would have his work cut out for him. In this case, I feel that Stephen Nichols has done a superb job at introducing us to the life and theology of such an intriguing and admirable guy as Bonhoeffer.
Previously God had promised Abraham that he would be the father of a great nation (Gen.12.1-3). This after, as Paul eloquently put it, Abraham was as good as dead (Rom. 4.19). The promise would not come through Eliezer, his present heir (Gen. 15.1-4) but his own son. Nearing 100 years of age Isaac is born and the word of the promise is confirmed. However, now, several years later, God tells Abraham to go and sacrifice his son on the mountain.
We know how the story ends. God mercifully stops Abraham and provides the ram. The promise does indeed come through Isaac. God is faithful.
Much of what I am able to do in ministry is a direct result of God’s grace in and through a local church. Having never attended seminary, I owe much of what I do to faithful men who sought to train me in ministry through the church. It is little surprise then to have training at the core of what we do as a church. We say it over and over again: Emmaus exist to make and train disciples who make and train disciples. This is why we were planted and this is what we are pursuing as a church.
Now that we are nearing 3 years into the life of Emmaus, we have seen a number of people emerge who would like further training in ministry. We have also had people from outside the church express interest in being trained for ministry. Some want to work in church planting and revitalization, others international missions, still others to be better served toward the office of elder, etc. As a result we have established the Emmaus Residency. We believe this ministry will help equip men, women, and Emmaus Bible Church for the ministry that God has called us to.
The Residency is Emmaus’ training scheme devoted to training pastors, church planters and full-time Christian workers. The curriculum consists of three parts: theological training, ministry experience, and mentorship.
Theological Training- Our goal is to equip each student with the skills they need to responsibly and rightly handle the Bible so that they may teach it to others.
Ministry Experience- The residents engage in nearly every aspect of Emmaus’ ministry. On any given Sunday, you may see a resident preaching, leading an adult Sunday school class, or working with the children’s ministry. During the week, the residents lead gospel communities, work in the office and lead several other aspects of church ministry.
Mentorship- Perhaps you have heard it said that some things are better caught than taught. This is a powerful truth that the Bible affirms. Having a more seasoned mentor to disciple those that are younger in the ministry is modeled throughout the New Testament. The mentoring pastors not only teach the residents in the classroom, they also interact with them on their ministry responsibilities, training them and giving them feedback.
At present we are accepting applications for the upcoming year. If you are interested, head over to the Emmaus website and take a look at the page and application. Space is limited and the deadline for application is July 1st. You can also contact us with further questions.
(Note: we are thankful for ministries like Simeon Trust and Capital Hill Baptist Church for their help in putting together the Residency)
We are thankful that the Bible addresses a wide variety of questions and issues. Throughout church history we have been able to have many important questions answered by the Scriptures. At the same time this comprehensive biblical coverage provides answers that occasionally make people uneasy. Often times these topics are referred to as “controversial issues.” Some people want to avoid talking about these things and others enjoy it. The former out of a distaste for controversy and the latter out of a craving for it. Still others find these topics important and aim to cut through the fog to show what the Bible teaches and why it is important for the church to think through.
When people say that God loves us unconditionally they usually mean something like, “After conversion God loves you no matter what. Isn’t that great?”
In one sense this is true, God’s love for his people is not based upon what they do or do not do. But this does not mean that God loves us unconditionally. If God loves anyone he loves them conditionally.
“Make sure you shut the door!” This phrase is uttered a few dozen times a day in my home. With the warmer Spring weather we have children coming in and out of the house all the time. We also have a dog. She is an extremely curious, 1 year-old Boxer (fawn) named Bristol, who very much enjoys being outside. If the door is left open, or allowed to close slowly, Bristol will seize her opportunity to run out the door and then she’s off. She runs down the alley, through the neighborhood, off to experience the freedom of self-discovery. We have been told by neighbors that she sometimes just joins their family on their walk or goes into their yard to play. She seizes her opportunity.
However, there are times when she doesn’t run. Actually there is only one time. This is when someone with authority is standing in front of the door or close enough to catch her quickly. In this case she just sits there waiting for us to get distracted or leave our post. She is most certainly restrained by the law and not trained by grace.
As a Dad sometimes I feel like my wife and I are standing by the door. I look at my children (ranging from 2-18) and know what I think is best for them. We try to educate, be transparent, humble, gracious, consistent, and loving with them. We want to build a foundation of thinking and understanding of the world, train them in wisdom, and help them gain understanding. However, as a parent you never feel your work is done, there is always more to do and more you could have done better.
People speak of faith as if it is a “leap of faith.” In this way it sounds like an acceptable embracing of something that is irrational. The Bible does not present faith as irrational.
Others speak of faith as simply intellectual ascent. I believe the facts about God much like someone believes the facts about the life of George Washington. While facts are important there is more.
Still others will speak of the way they feel. God makes them happy when they should be sad. Emotion corresponds with faith but is not all that faith is.
If you are a young pastor what do you do when you get the call that one of your church members has died? To whom do you turn? In most cases you don’t have the time to spend a few hours with a seasoned pastor for training and review in this area. You need help, right away.
This happened to me recently. After the shock I knew I had work to do, but I certainly was not polished in the care for the grieving nor the conducting of a funeral. A friend had previously ordered Brian Croft and Phil Newton’s helpful little book, Conducting Gospel-Centered Funerals. He gave me the book and simply said, “Here. I think this will help you this week.”
I once heard someone ask RC Sproul a question. “What is the point of creation?” His answer was, “Holiness.” He nuanced it a bit to include “that people would glorify God by means of holiness.” If Sproul is correct (and I think he is) then this is a staggering statement. God is pursuing his glory through the reflection of his own holiness. The obvious problem here is the reality that none of us perfectly reflect this holiness. When we sin we are failing to be holy as he is holy.
When you think about the divine pursuit and the human problem then the Bible’s tone makes a lot of sense. What you basically have is God speaking and acting in order to procure holiness by waking people out of their rebellion.
How does God do this? How does he get people’s attention? How does he get your attention?
Prayer before preaching is essential because, without God’s help, we are useless.
In Deuteronomy 32 Moses is no doubt feeling quite a burden. You see, Moses is about to die–and he knows it. He is going to look into the eyes of the covenant community once again. He is going to preach and plead God’s character, promises, and threatenings to them. In the ensuing words of chapter 32 he uncorks one if the heaviest, pastoral, and most passionate sermons in print. Remember, it was this chapter that proved to be the sermon text for Edwards’ Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.
How does he begin?
May my teaching drop as the rain….For I will proclaim the name of the Lord; ascribe greatness to our God! Deu. 32.2-3
The preacher’s burden has never changed, therefore his prayer remains the same. God–may you be pleased to use my words to magnify your name!
Moses knew himself, a dying man preaching to dying men (to use Baxter’s phrase). As a result, he did not long for such temporal and base things like what the crowd would think of him, how they would remember him, or how he would feel saying what needed to be said. Instead, he pleaded the living word of the living God! And in his prayer he struck the flint for God to light up his people with an awareness of God’s awesomeness and sin’s repulsiveness. Oh, that more preachers would preach a deep awareness of their own mortality as well as God’s eternality!
Whether you are stepping into the pulpit tomorrow or will be in the pews tomorrow, this is they type of prayer that you can pray for the sermon: “May this teaching drop as the rain…may the name of the Lord be proclaimed, may he ascribe greatness to our God!
The best part about this: God answered the prayer. Read the sermon; it drips with God-centeredness.
Whenever you set out to teach a topic you have a myriad of challenges in front of you. What does the Bible say? What have other teachers written about this? How does it apply? When someone attempts to do this well, that is faithfully and accessibly, it is a daunting task—for most of us. Kevin DeYoung, however, seems to be a bit different. He’s able to tackle complex and urgent matters faithfully and accessibly.
You could argue that the most pressing issue for the church is to be clear on is the Bible. What we need today is to have confidence in the authority, clarity and sufficiency of God’s Word. Thankfully, DeYoung grabbed his pen and went to work.
In his new book Taking God at His Word: Why the Bible is Knowable, Necessary, and Enough, and What That Means for You and Me, we have this pressing matter succinctly addressed. The book is short (a mere 146 pages) but it is not light nor unaccessible. And his is the beauty of it; a well-written, clear, helpful book on the Bible. DeYoung provides a systematic study, interacts with individual passages, works through implications, and shows how this doctrine has been historically regarded. In other words, he approaches the Bible from a systematic, exegetical, biblical, pastoral, and historical perspective of theology.
There always seems to be some sort of news of a scandal or shameful practices concerning professing Christians. Somewhere a pastor or professing Christian’s secret life of rampant sin gets revealed. As a result, we all (rightly) lose our collective breaths and our stomaches turn.
Then questions come. Why? How did this happen?
I remember hearing John MacArthur say,
“Nobody just falls out of a tree. They climb up in it, move around a bit, and then fall out.”
His point is obvious: this doesn’t happen overnight.
How do you deal with difficult passages in the Bible? Thankfully the Bible is straight-forward and understandable. The most important things are the most clear. However, there are passages that are more difficult, requiring more work by the interpreter.
I remember about 12 years ago as I worked as a pastoral intern at a church. I was teaching through a passage and my pastor gave me some feedback. “You are calling out audibles like a quarterback.” I was working through a difficult passage and in order to prove my interpretation I marshaled some other (many) verses. Like Peyton Manning yelling “Omaha! Nascar! Bradshaw! Montana! Hut Hut!” I was calling out Bible verses from everywhere.
Many years ago I was driving across the country to visit my future wife. As you can imagine I was eager to arrive so I minimized stops and attempted to make the 26-hour drive all at once. Going nearly a full day without sleep and in spite of being fueled on more Mountain Dew than is advisable, I began to nod off. I soon meandered over into the other lane and was startled by an 18-wheeler’s lights and horn! I awoke and swerved back in my lane. That shook me. My pulse went through the roof. I lost my breath. I contemplated what would have happened if I didn’t wake up. I was good for another 5 hours. No problems. After my pulse descended to reasonable levels I remember getting mad at myself. “How could I be so careless?”
The Book of Hebrews often functions like the headlights of an 18-wheeler. With pastoral clarity it provides a number of warnings as well as reassurances. We are told do not neglect so great a salvation then we are told that we have an anchor of hope within the veil. We are warned about the danger of hardening our hearts through unbelief while also being reminded that Jesus has delivered his people from the bondage of death (cf chapters 2, 4, 6, 10, & 12 for warning passages).
Evangelism is hard. I can’t think of anyone that I have met over the last 15-plus years of being a Christian who did not struggle with evangelism. Even the people who seem to excel and have the gift of evangelism readily confess their weakness.
So, why is it so universally difficult?
Some common answers include such things as not knowing enough Bible, fear of rejection, or not being sure how to bring up the gospel. I am more convinced then ever that these are symptoms of bigger issues. I’ve distilled my answer to evangelistic struggles into three areas: my view of God, my view of others, and my view of the gospel. I am convinced if we get these 3 down then we will be well on our way to diagnosing unfaithfulness and demonstrating faithfulness.
“and again, as was his custom, he taught them” (Mark 10.1c)
A couple of years ago our son began driving. As parents, we spent time with him so he would learn the rules of the road and became more familiar with the car. One thing he seemed to continue to forget about where the speed bumps. We would cruise over them at 35 mph only to elevate and then bottom out. Each time he’d say, “Whoops.” Eventually he learned to slow down a bit as he came upon the speed bumps.
Sometimes, when reading the life of Jesus, we just cruise over the Christological speed bumps. In other words, we jump over what appear to be minor details in order to get to bigger details that we we know are coming.
I would argue, however, that there really are no insignificant items.
Take for instance the above reference to Jesus teaching the crowds. We know that Mark 10 goes on to provide a highly charged debate between Jesus and the Pharisess on the topic of divorce and marriage. In this case Mark puts a Christological speed-bump before us. We are bidden to slow down a bit before charging into the narrative.
As a pastor I meet a lot of people who are looking for a church. One of the most helpful questions I can ask is, “What are you looking for in a church?” In one sense I hate this question because of the way it can reinforce our American consumer mindset. At the same time it gets right to the point. They are looking for something.
Then there is the other side of the spectrum, people who leave a church. It is basically the back door answer to the front door question, “What were you unhappy about in this church?”
What I have found is that most people do not filter what they looking for in a church through the Bible as much as through their previous experiences or personal ideals. Some of the most common things that I’ve seen in the last 10 years of pastoral ministry include the following: