Interviewing the Holy Spirit: Pastoral Redemptions

Discernment of the Holy Spirit is essential. This skill is one that we never master because there is always room for improvement. Still, it is important for Christians to have a baseline understanding on how the Holy Spirit speaks. If anything, to know how the Spirit does not speak. Otherwise, we may just make important spiritual decisions on our own, which we are sure to get wrong from time-to-time.

Unfortunately, it took two difficult pastorates for me to grow in the area of discernment. In fact, as I look back at one set of church interviews, it was clear that God was shouting to me, “DO NOT GO HERE!” Sadly, like many others, I had to learn through the hard path of experience. Continue reading “Interviewing the Holy Spirit: Pastoral Redemptions”

Parsing About the Parsonage: Pastoral Redemptions

Once upon a time, it was thought that I lied to a church about moving into their parsonage. That is not exactly correct. While I failed to communicate my change of mind, I did not lie. These points and more I accept responsibility. More importantly, I am glad for God’s redemption ability despite challenging church leadership and my poor judgment.

As stated in a previous post, “The Church Parsonage is Not a Benefit,” but many churches believe it is an excellent tool to recruit ministers. In some cases, it still is a significant advantage. More and more pastors though are declining to live in them. Like many in their congregation, they want to build equity for their family’s future, which a provided house does not give. As a result, many churches are choosing to sell their parsonages. However, where I once pastored the expectation was still for the pastor to live in the parsonage.

The conflict over me and their parsonage began when a deacon on the Pulpit Search Committee asked

“Brother Mike, I got a question for you! Are you going to live in our pastorium?!”

On asking his question, there was at least one committee member who interjected against this deacon’s question. His objection centered on the previous pastor who experienced problems when he lived in the home owned by the church. Despite this committee member’s concern, the deacon reiterated with,

“Hey, our former pastor needed to get out. When you resign as the pastor, you need to exit the pastorium sooner than later. Besides, we are better than some churches. I know one church who had the water cut off the next day. We gave the former pastor more time than a day!” 

This scenario was a shock to my senses. Not only did I doubt the long-term benefit of living in any parsonage; the committee was admitting their checkered history with their building. Still, I had to give a response, so I said, Continue reading “Parsing About the Parsonage: Pastoral Redemptions”

Book Review: New Morning Mercies, by Paul Tripp

UnknownDevotionals can be a dime a dozen. The way they are laid out is almost as predictable as a crime show procedural. Readers know there will be an entry for each day and that the entry will not be very long. Usually there is a scripture to accompany the devotional and after each one is read a reader moves onto the next day. As a result, it is tough to add something new to the genre, but Paul Tripp does this with his yearly devotional, “New Morning Mercies.” He does this by simply focusing on the foundational aspect of the Christian life, which is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

The Gospel is a mystery that Tripp helps the reader unpack each day in this devotional. As one learns from the book, it is uniquely simple, yet completely profound. As a result, Christians can pursue two paths towards the Gospel. First, they can believe they understand all they need to know about the Gospel and never go any deeper. This can stem from teaching that mainly emphasizes the saving element of the Gospel and not much else. However, the grace of the Gospel does much more than that, it sanctifies and grows a person in Christ. This is the second path Christians should take in regard to the Gospel once they are eternally secure by the grace of God. By growing in one’s understanding and application of the Gospel each day transformation occurs that eventually leads one to fall more in love with Jesus. There becomes a deep affection for Christ that encourages one to continue to unpack the mysteries that the Gospel has to offer. In other words, the ability to understand the Gospel is without end and Tripp masterfully writes about it each day in this devotional. Continue reading “Book Review: New Morning Mercies, by Paul Tripp”

Christians Should Praise In Public & Criticize in Private

“Don’t answer a fool according to his foolishness or you’ll be like him yourself.” (Proverbs 26:4)

UnknownDuring my undergraduate degree one professor gave me a piece of advice that has stuck with me for years. He said, “Don’t get into a peeing contest with a skunk because if you do you’re sure to get some on you.” This semi-grotesque statement has a simple truth to it, which is, there are some debates, arguments, and conversations that are not worth having, especially in public. Sadly, too many Christians I see on social media have yet to learn this lesson. As some of the worst Christian disagreements occur publicly on social media.

For example, too many Christian bloggers attack each other over semantics and nit-picky issues when we really have more in common in Christ. This type of public arguing does little to convince our critics from the culture. In fact, this confusion begins to make them ask,

“Do we know what love looks like”

Or,

“If they can’t love another then how can they love those who are not Christians?”

Therefore, we need to stop being foolish by not airing our sharp disagreement out in public. Rather we need to wisely discern to handle things in a private chat, phone call, or otherwise. In other words, we must consider the consequences and results from how we handle our differences. This is because Jesus prayed in John 17:23-25: Continue reading “Christians Should Praise In Public & Criticize in Private”

Book Review: Romans 8-16 For You by Tim Keller

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A lot has been written about the book of Romans. Some people interpret it in fragments and fail to see the holistic theme of the book. For example, some people have taken chapters 9 through 11 as written only for Israel, while the rest of the book is meant for non-Israel. Yet neither approach is correct. Rather, as Tim Keller has written Romans 8-16 For You, Romans is about the Gospel. He writes,

“The first seven chapters explain the wonderful truths of the gospel: of justification by faith, of union with Christ, of salvation through Christ alone and not through our works…Then comes the second half of the book. In chapters 8 to 16, Paul is going to continue to answer a question he began to ask in chapters 5 to 7: How does faith in the gospel of Christ actually lead to change in real life?”

Basically, Romans has a unified theme and a simple message, which is, the Gospel for salvation and transformation. From this simple message Paul relates it to very complex issues to show the truth. He practically relates the Gospel for all aspects of life. Each of these issues – adversity, predestination, Israel’s salvation, loving enemies, relationship to government, loving one’s neighbor, stumbling blocks, unity, and women’s roles in the church – Keller directly interprets. Below are some of the issues in more detail.

Love and Gratitude Flow from the Gospel

Keller spends time exegeting chapter eight. He wants to connect to the first seven chapters of Romans to “remember what Christ has done and will do for us…to feel the obligations of love and gratitude to serve and know him.” By doing so Keller is able to explain the doctrines of divine election much easier. This is because living in gratitude for what God has finished about salvation allows Christians to directly see the importance of biblical predestination. A connection that will be explained further in the next section of this review.

Divine Election and Predestination’s Connection to the Gospel Continue reading “Book Review: Romans 8-16 For You by Tim Keller”

Titus For You: Book Review & Summary

UnknownTheological debates occur within Christianity; sadly, some miss the main point biblical authors were really communicating. For example, the book of Titus is often remembered for the checklist of qualifications concerning elders, yet there is more to the book than this one topic. Author Tim Chester of Sheffield, England does a great job in Titus For You of summarizing Paul’s intent for the entire epistle. Basically, Chester believes Paul wrote this letter to Titus, his younger son in the Christian faith (1:4), by saying, “His goal was not converts, but disciples. For any ministry we are involved in…that should be our goal, too.”Chester explains his thesis by exegetically explaining this epistle verse-by-verse, which includes topics such as the Gospel, discipleship, character, God’s grace, and His glory.

The Gospel is the Cornerstone of Discipleship First, Chester’s summary of Titus may be discipleship. He realizes that Paul’s letter begins by emphasizing the Gospel (1:1-3). Only the Gospel can “bring those to whom God has chosen to saving faith” because one cannot rescue oneself, which feeds into holistic discipleship. In other words, the Gospel must be lived out in each believer’s life and not just received as a one-time moment of salvation. In chapter three in the book of Titus (3:4-7), Chester explains the difference between God’s grace and His glory. He starts by showing how Paul emphasized correct Gospel application in both belief and in culture. As a result, one lives a purposeful life because one’s motivation for living is founded in the Gospel’s redemptive application in not just their past, but also in their present and future. Continue reading “Titus For You: Book Review & Summary”

The Three-Fold Discipleship (Part 3), by Zach Kendrick

FINALLY I’m posting Zach Kendrick’s third post on discipleship. I originally began posting his three part piece on discipleship back in November. Granted my delays in between each edition of Zach’s series hasn’t been helpful, but I would strongly encourage you go back and read the first two editions. Part 1 and Part 2 help set up this third and final post of Zach’s on discipleship, which I believe is needed now more than ever. So I hope you enjoy Zach’s posts, check out his website, which you can click on in my blog roll, and let’s make disciples so we can baptize even more disciples.

In my last two posts I have discussed the need for being a three-fold disciple. First I discussed the need for a person to be a disciple with their head, because there are facts about the gospel we must know in order to be a disciple. Next I discussed the need for a person to be a disciple with their heart. The facts of the gospel must transfer from our head to our heart and change what we believe. The last step of the three-fold disciple is the hands. What we know and believe effects what we do; simple as that. James puts it this way, “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (James 2:14-17, ESV). He goes on to say, “You believe that God is one; you do well. Even then demons believe and shudder” (2:19)! Belief in God alone is not enough, we must allow what we know and believe about the gospel to transform how we live. If a person merely does good deeds, they are not living the gospel they are following religion. These people are trying to work their way to a relationship with God and may not truly know Jesus.

For this reason it is crucial in discipleship to first know the facts of the gospel, “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4, ESV). A disciple must come to the realization that God is sovereign and created the world perfect, but man rebelled and sinned against God. Yet, God in his mercy and grace has made a way of salvation for wicked sinners. When a person responds to this gospel in faith he is justified (made right before God) and sealed by the Holy Spirit (Eph. 1). The intellectual knowledge of the gospel must transfer to the heart and change what we believe. We are no longer sinners before a holy God, but adopted sons and daughters through the blood of Jesus Christ. This belief in the gospel then changes how we live. We now live as ambassadors in the world, doing good deeds, not to earn God’s love, but because he already loves us.

This changes everything! A disciple must learn the gospel (Head), believe the gospel (Heart), and experience/live the gospel (Hands).

(This post is by my friend Zach Kendrick. He is a church planter in Helena, AL just outside of Birmingham. Each week he and I will be sharing various posts on another’s blog. Please pray for he and his wife Courtney as they start a new church for God’s Kingdom.
You can also follow him at this link right HERE.)