Friday, October 31, 2008

Theology today

Of laughter and tears

In a world that seems to promise fame for everyone, Doug Floyd shares some clear-eyed thoughts on gifts and calling:
I once dreamed of speaking to large crowds who would sway and fall under the weight of my words. But those large crowds have often taken form in a handful of folks in my living room or in one friend during an extended lunch.

It seems that when God called me, He called me out from the successful and ever-growing church as I knew it, and into the lonely quiet of caves (better known as cubicles).

For a season I fought this exile by reminding myself that my intellect would one day reap great acclaim from audiences far and near. Over time, I’ve come to realize that I know far less than most people and understand even less of what I know
Although Doug hasn't found fame, he has found something much better:
I’ve come to peace with the limitations of my abilities and opportunities. And yet, following Chesterton’s advice, I continue to delight in all three because “if a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly.”

Every so often I am reminded of the gifts and calling that I bear. Rather than being called to soar to great heights of profound erudition, I’ve been given the simple gifts of laughter and tears.
Amen. I heartily recommend Doug's whole essay.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

"Gut check"

Preachers, here's something to ask ourselves: five questions for pastors.

Accepting the gift

Eric Jones: "Pride is a nasty thing."

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Good answer

Matt Dirks does a good job of answering the question, "Does God condone sin if it accomplishes good?"

Finding ourselves in him

Dan Edelen notes that Christians in the United States need to find ourselves in the Gospel story:

More and more, I realize we modern Christians . . . have distanced ourselves from the story of the Gospel. It’s not that we don’t know the Gospel enough to share it. Most of us do. Instead, our problem is our inability to see ourselves as a part of that story. . . .

We Christians today persist as an isolated, self-centered lot. Few of us see our individual lives as part of anything larger than ourselves, much less part of the narrative of God’s redemptive story. Yet our lives and what Jesus has done in them are no different than those of the patriarchs and saints of yore. The reality of Jesus Christ meeting Saul of Tarsus on the road to Damascus centuries ago is no more valid that Jesus Christ meeting you or me on our own figurative Damascus road. We have our own Gospel story to tell, our own encounter with the Lord of the Universe, and our story matters to God as much as Saul of Tarsus’s does.

Because we have forgotten this, we have forfeited an important piece of what we share with the lost.

Sad but, I'm afraid, true. But let's pray it's correctable.

Thursday, October 23, 2008


My family is in the process of moving from southeastern Pennsylvania to Middle Tennessee, so I probably won't be posting here before Tuesday, October 28. Thanks for visiting, and I hope to be back with you next week.

All broken

"I am beginning to see that the churches are made up of some people that are in in the body of Christ and some people that are not in the body of Christ, and all of the people are broken."

Clear thinking on cliches

Tony Myles deconstructs Christian cliches. His analysis of Christianity in the United States is especially trenchant.

Halloween horror

What is wrong with folks in the United States that we put this kind of stuff in department stores? And what's wrong with parents that we take our children shopping at places like this?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Remembering the first love

Are our churches full of churchgoers who only think they're Christians?

Strangeness of the gospel

Glen Scrivener, reflecting on the work of Michael Horton, shares these insights on Christ and the gospel:
If there’s one thing I love in hearing preachers it’s astonishment at the strangeness and wonder of the gospel. God save us from the world weary tone that introduces each point with: “Of course we all know, don’t we…” No we don’t! That’s why we need the Word. Constantly!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Showing the bigger picture

Peter Mead: "We should not take for granted that people understand the bigger picture, the broad storyline of the Bible."

Going deeper

For the scholarly-inclined, it's good to be reminded that "there's more to the deeper life than learning information":
As walls come down in my life, I've sometimes faced different layers of doubt, fear, and uncertainty. Assailed by venomous thoughts, I need Jesus, not data. Sadly, many pursue knowledge about the Person, without ever abiding in the Person. Maybe it takes a crisis to know the difference.

Our Christian life isn't an intellectual pursuit. To approach the bible this way is to miss the whole point. Sure, I appreciate good scholars and theologians. I'm not saying to study is a waste, either - please hear my heart. But I go to His Word to meet Him there, to pour out my need, and to receive from Him. Everything else is extra.

To experience Christ's life, the so-called "deeper" life, we must find Him as vital as the air we breathe.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Seeking first

Measuring love

Jared Wilson asks some probing questions about measuring spiritual maturity.

Friday, October 17, 2008


From the East

This looks interesting and useful: The Orthodox Study Bible.

Beyond programming

Jared Wilson: "A community whose culture is gospel-intentioned is the antidote to programmed discipleship, where "church" is fit into schedules."

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Gospel disconnect

Sad to say, I often encounter this disconnection, too.

Doubt as an open road

Peter Mead encourages Christians, and especially preachers, not to be afraid of doubt:
Many Christians feel guilty for doubting. They feel that they should immediately cut it out and get back on track. Metaphorically the doubt is seen as a dead end road that should be reversed out of as quickly as possible. I would encourage people to engage the doubt, to study the truth, to follow through. Doubt is a pathway to a tested and evidentially undergirded faith.

As we preach we regularly have opportunities to address doubts. Doubts about God, about the Bible, about suffering, about faith, about the future, about all aspects of Christianity. Let’s be sure to not reinforce the typical response - to hit reverse and get out quickly. Instead let’s encourage an informed, researched, understood Christianity. Let’s encourage people to prayerfully wrestle with the Word. Let’s model in our preaching a healthy response to doubts.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Fulfilling the Torah

Glen Scrivener explains that Jesus, not the New Testament, fulfills the Old Testament.

Growing in grace

"I often pray by talking at God, rather than listening to Him. I can’t say that that approach has helped me to grow. . . . But listening…listening by praying with an open Bible…really seeking, saying, “Lord, show me who you are,” as I pray…I think those times have caused tremendous growth."

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


Cal Habig shares thoughts on how to botch an "altar call".

Tuning out or giving in

Victoria Gaines shares her personal experiences on the futility of trying to tune out God:
Eventually, my life started to crack after a series of personal blows and failures, one after another. My life spiraled downwards. There, I was given a glimpse of the darkness of pride, my perfectionism, my efforts to control and manipulate, as well as some very flawed and faulty thinking. . . .

With time, the Cross became more than a sentimental doctrine to me. The Cross became a crucial reality that needs to be operative in my life if I'm to change and grow in Christ. I'd read the Scripture that says "He must increase, but I must decrease," but thought it was up to me to make this happen. That's what I had read and heard preached. But the reason we fail is because the Lord has to do all this, not us. For twenty years I had it backwards. Christ is the One who brings His Cross to bear on my life; it is also Christ who empowers me to live above my circumstances by the power of His Spirit.

I wasn't ready to hear this until I'd exhausted my own resources.
Amen. Vicki has been writing some dynamite posts lately. I recommend reading more of her writings. Also, you can see Vicki's follow-up post here.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Which one?

On martyrdom

In modern culture, the idea of power is tied to authority and office. Power is reserved for the outwardly important, the cultured, and the refined. History, however, shows that people with the mere position of power are ineffective without the inner strength to carry out their duties. In contrast, God targets our inner strength through the presence of the Holy Spirit. Suffering is his classroom, where he teaches us what it is like to be strong. We are able to endure more than we imagined. We are bold beyond our means. You may feel as though your sufferings have made you weak. Ask God to show you how they can, in fact, make you stronger. Flex your muscles. You will see you are stronger than you think.

What God has done

Darryl Dash offers a good reminder about what the gospel really is:
The Gospel is about what God has accomplished through the person and work of Jesus Christ. This is big news. It involves rescue from judgment for sin and a restored relationship with God, and his restoration of creation.

The Gospel is good news about what God has done, never about what we must do or have done. It's good news, not good advice.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Pack light

Peter Mead reminds preachers that "dense packing doesn't prosper."

Abolishing religion

"Think about it. With Jesus we hear righteous teaching like the world has never heard. And yet, who flocks to Him? The scum, the low-lives, the outsiders, the sinners." - Glen Scrivener

Dying to self

This pretty much sums up the world's attitude toward the gospel:

"The masses want a resurrection experience without ever going to the Cross."

Preachers, we ought to be asking ourselves: are we giving the people what they want?

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Milk and meat

J.D. Hatfield writes on spiritual maturity and learning to grow on the milk you've got.

Real churches?

"How many churches there are that preach the fluff of well-meaning platitudes, rather than the solid substance of biblical truth"?

"More than moralism"

L.B. Graham's thoughts on "Christian" fiction includes a few valuable truths for preachers:
Christianity is not about moralism, and Christian fiction shouldn’t be either. Christianity revolves, not around good behavior, but around God’s mercy shown to man in the death and resurrection of Christ. However, even though we know this to be theologically true, I think we struggle to remember this as we go about our daily lives . . . .

I’m constantly surprised at how often fictional stories are judged to be Christian or not, based more or less on how well the characters behave themselves. Of course it is true that morality matters - God has taken great care to expound in some detail the moral laws which flow from and are an extension of His own character. It is also true, though, that the Bible itself is full of flawed men and women whom God used almost despite of rather than because of their moral triumphs. However, when Christian writers incorporate flawed heroes into their stories, men and women with moral failings of any significance, they are often left open to charges of having given dubious testimony to their Lord.
As a Christian fiction writer myself, I appreciate those insights. And thanks to Theocentric Preaching for the link.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Only Christ

"Some are billing Election 2008 as either salvation or damnation for America. Oddly, the Church used to have a term for people who thought that way: the lost."

Preaching by faith

Biblical Preaching recently shared wisdom on faith and preaching:
Real faith is not all about grand and glorious certainty. Often it is found in the midst of total inadequacy, absolute weakness and apparently overwhelming failure and hurt.
Amen. I recommend Peter's whole article--it's an important reminder not only for preaching, but every aspect of living by faith.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008


Which kingdom?

I'm not being "anti-American" when I say my faith is not in our country or our military or our government. I don't think the "American Way" is even a consideration to the God of the universe. The "way of Christ" is our only hope. Sure, maybe a bunch of rich American politicians can "save" a way of life for a small group of people for a little while. But what then? It won't last. Salvation - the setting things right for everyone for all time - cannot be bought for a mere 700 billion dollars. It has already been purchased for those whose faith and trust is in Jesus Christ.

Monday, October 06, 2008

"Meltdown USA"

For years Dan Edelen has been calling the church to deal with the larger financial issues facing Christians in the United States. Now are we ready?

Feeling Scripture

"We like to keep Scripture short and manageable, and that's understandable. It's certainly more convenient that way. But we will not be mastered by Scripture if we don't occasionally allow it to overwhelm us, intimidate us, and force us to wrestle with it."

Friday, October 03, 2008

Showing honor

This is interesting: "The punch line of the Gospel."

Glorious gospel

"Looking back through the powerful lens of the bodily resurrection, we see the cross not simply as the moment Jesus died because of sin and death, but as the moment Jesus murdered sin and death. Christ killed is Christ conquering; Christ raised is Christ in conquest.

That is amazing. Only a wild God could tell a story so fantastic."

Regional maturity?

Daniel Hames looks at the church universal and asks these questions:
Is the church of the south (and the east) more spiritually mature (and spiritually earnest), even in its relative poverty? Is the church in the west too comfortable, smug, and self-reliant? I need not have bothered asking those questions- I could have made them statements.

The fact is that en mass, the church in the west is riddled with biblical and theological illiteracy despite all our seminaries and millions of meetings, conferences, and organisations; we lack discernment despite all the well-known leaders who draw crowds; we're prone to shallow fads and trends despite the richness of the history that stretches behind us.
Don't believe? The article is full of examples.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

In darkness and in light

This is memorable: Every sin mimics God.

Five alive

Preacher, do your lessons appeal to all the senses?
When we appeal to the full range of human senses, we only do what the Bible does so often. Be sure to look carefully in your preaching text for any sense appeal that is already there. Then think carefully about your message, each detail, and how it can deliberately target various senses as you preach.
Good point. Thanks, Peter.


As of this past Friday I am no longer preaching for the North Penn Church of Christ. My family is in the process of moving out of the parsonage and will be moving back to Tennessee later this month. My family will be looking for a place to settle, and I'll be looking for a job. It may not show in these blog posts, but big changes are underway for the Stanley family.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

You've convinced me

Stacy L. Harp explains why we ought to be praying for persecuted Christians--by name.

Soul and spirit

Dan Edelen is exploring the difference between soul and spirit. Too often, Dan notes, Westerners classify each human being dichotomously: body and soul. In reality, Dan argues, man is trichotomous: body, soul, and spirit. And why does the distinction matter? Here's Dan:
The more I weigh this before the Lord, the more I believe our dichotomous view of man as being merely body + soul explains much of the deadness of the Western Church. In fact, I wonder if our spiritual glasses are so attuned to only seeing body + soul that we have been practicing a form of Christianity in the West that is not really Christianity at all.
How so?
We’re living out of our emotions and our intellect, out of our souls, but the inner man that God says is the true man is still wadded up deep inside of us, dying to get out and actually change our lives.
Part 2 is also rich.