Book Review: The Pastor as Public Theologian

Nate PickowiczBook Reviews, Christianity0 Comments

I remember getting into a theological discussion with a pastor one time, and at the end of our kerfuffle, he looked at me and asked, “If you had the choice, would you rather pastor a church or teach in a seminary?” I’ll never forget his puzzled look when I responded, “Pastor a church.” Because of my intrigue with theological discourse, he simply assumed that standing in front of a group of budding seminarians would best suit me, and couldn’t fathom why I would want to do the messy, non-glamorous work of pastoral ministry.

For many today, the general assumption is that brainy, theologically-minded scholars belong in the academy, while rugged, servant-oriented pastors belong in the churches. However, this distinction is a false dichotomy. In their book, The Pastor as Public Theologian, Kevin Vanhoozer and Owen Strachan unseat this two-pronged myth, and make their plea for a robust amalgamation of both realities simultaneously existing in one pastor.

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NIAW ’17: Sometimes There’s Never a Pregnancy

Rachel WilliamsChristianity0 Comments

I have to be honest.

Sometimes, one of the hardest aspects of infertility as a follower of Christ are the seemingly endless articles that go like this:

“I can’t get pregnant. So I prayed really, really hard. And I asked my pastor/preacher/teacher/friend/husband/mentor to pray over me. And now my little bundle of joy is playing at my feet while I try to figure out the cutest way to announce baby #2 is on the way. Tee hee.”

Or the women in churches who have had five children, and still claim to be infertile. If you have popped out five kids in less than eight years, you aren’t infertile.

Or the pastors and well-meaning teachers who continually say, “Just keep praying, and eventually God will bless you with a baby,”  Oh…just hush.

I know that comes across as snarky, and I should probably be sorry, but…

But I have been praying for a pregnancy since 2005. That’s 12 years. Over 100 months of having my hopes unmet, tears as my companion, and wondering if God is hearing me.

But there is no pregnancy for me.

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It Is Not Supposed to Be This Way

Deering DyerChristianity0 Comments

Matthew 27:57-66; Psalm 3:1-8

Death is an enemy, the ultimate antagonist that seems as if it will eventually claim victory over each of us. However, the truth remains, it isn’t supposed to be this way. Yes, death is a part of life marked by the fall, however, we should never believe the lie that this is how it was meant to be.

I am certain that you have felt the sting of death in your life. Some of us are acutely aware of the pain of loss. I have experienced the evaporation of dreams and watched future plans crumble before me when my first wife of 17 years suddenly died leaving me not only a widower, but a single dad with a nine month-old son and crying, “It is not supposed to be this way!” Death is a thief of joy and hope in every circumstance. All people bear the image of God and when someone passes from life to death, it should be a clear reminder that death is anything but natural.

I was reminded of this recently as my family was on our way home from church. As we turned into our neighborhood, we saw a police car, yellow tape, and the lifeless body of a local homeless man. After I got my family into the house, I went back to the scene. I saw him lying right where he would frequently sleep, only this time he would never wake. His final expression was not one of peace, but of uncomfortable pain with eyes half-open and mouth frozen agape – an image I will never forget. I didn’t know his name. I had never spoken to him and he never asked me for anything – I only remember seeing him around the neighborhood. One of the police officers said the cause of death was “unexplained.”

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The Daily Discovery (January 18, 2017)

Landon ChapmanThe Daily Discovery0 Comments

ARTICLES I LIKE FROM AROUND THE WEB:
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With Greater Age Comes Greater Joy – “We were made to exist within time, to age as we progress through the years allotted to us. As we age, we experience tremendous sorrows—the sorrows of weakness, weariness, reaping, mortality, and fear. But we do not experience only sorrows. We experience joys as well. Some of these extend to believer and unbeliever alike, but God reserves the choicest of his joys for those who live for his glory.”

Love & Irritability – “It was a typical night waiting tables in the fine dining room of the country club. Napkins were creased, flowers centered, and tables angled just right. Then my manager came to me with a warning I’ll never forget.”

Did ‘God Show Up’ to Grant Donald Trump Victory? – “Did Donald Trump win the presidential election because ‘God showed up’? Well, yes… though that may not signify what some imagine it does. Franklin Graham raised the issue, addressing ‘thousands’ of people at a Trump rally. Because he’s Franklin Graham, and the words were controversial, they were reported across the land. Why does Franklin Graham speak to thousands (and get repeated to millions)? Because he’s Billy Graham’s son, and president and CEO both of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, and of the Christian relief organization called Samaritan’s Purse.”

How much blood will save my soul? – “Try to think of your most cherished and precious religious activity. Maybe it’s singing God’s praises, maybe it’s the prayer meeting, or preaching, or fellowship, or the Lord’s Supper. How would you feel if someone came along and told you, “Hey, that’s just a pale shadow of what we have got in our church.” You would probably feel a bit hurt and offended, and it might even make you say, ‘Well if there’s one church I’m not going to, it’s yours!'”

The Truth Ab0ut Evil – “How can a good and powerful God tolerate all the evil in the world? That question—frequently posed by skeptics and liberal theologians—is a not-so-veiled attack on the God of the Bible, and an easy excuse for those looking to undercut or ignore the authority of His Word. Last time we considered some of the most popular answers to the problem of evil (theodicy), and considered the fatal, man-centered errors they commit. In short, they attempt to make God submit to man’s standards and preferences. Worse still, they attempt to reconcile the truth about God to the satisfaction of an unbelieving world, and accommodate its philosophies and worldviews. That is no way to solve the problem of evil.”

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The Daily Discovery (January 16, 2017)

Landon ChapmanThe Daily Discovery0 Comments

ARTICLES I LIKE FROM AROUND THE WEB:
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Aging Gracefully – “Every day, we are all building the house we will live in when old age comes. Some of us are building a beautiful palace. Some are building a dark prison. What are you building? Perhaps you are building a house that will prove beautiful and comfortable through the long winter of your old age. You are decorating it tastefully, filling it with ornaments designed to bring pleasure and comfort in the days to come—deeds of gratitude and grace, acts of generosity and selfless love. On every wall, you are hanging pictures that are as meaningful as they are beautiful—warm friendships in Christ, mentoring and discipling relationships, children and grandchildren who know and love the Lord. They look down upon you to comfort, to cheer, to encourage.”

Should I use my phone for my personal devotions? – “Friday’s Facebook Live session addressed the question of whether we should use smartphones, iPads, and other digital devices in our personal Bible reading. I argued strongly against it for the following reasons which I explain at greater length in the video.”

The Problem of Evil – “One of the most common excuses given by those who reject the God of the Bible is the issue of evil in the world. Skeptics and theological liberals ask, ‘How can the God portrayed in the Bible as good, holy, and loving allow massive injustices and evil in the world?” Some ask, “How can an all-powerful God be loving and tolerate all of the effects of evil which inflict so much suffering around the world?’ In fact, many skeptics and theological liberals believe this dilemma backs Christians into an impossible position.”

Human Dignity in a Post-Human World – “Yesterday, our church observed Sanctity of Life Sunday (a bit early due to our church’s involvement with the G3 Conference this week). For the 2017 Sanctity of Life Sunday, we welcomed Scott Klusendorf, president of Life Training Institute to our church and our pulpit. You can hear his full sermon as he pointed out the biblical, logical, and moral fallacies of the pro-choice movement.”

Can Pastors Have Friends? – “Recently I have been reflecting on friendships–not just specific friendships but the concept of friendship. My reflection started while watching the Netflix show Stranger Things. The show depicts the friendship of four middle school kids and their search for a missing friend.”

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The Daily Discovery (January 12, 2017)

Landon ChapmanThe Daily Discovery0 Comments

ARTICLES I LIKE FROM AROUND THE WEB:
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Be a Parent Worthy of Honor – “For a number of weeks, I have been exploring the fifth commandment and, in particular, how adult children are to obey it. ‘Honor your father and your mother, as the LORD your God commanded you, that your days may be long, and that it may go well with you in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.’ While heeding this command is relatively straightforward to the young child under the authority of his parents, it is much more difficult to know what it entails for adult children. Through this series, we have begun to learn some ways such honor can take shape. We have seen that all children owe their parents a debt of honor that continues past childhood. All children of all ages are to honor their parents. We have explored this from many angles and now, as we conclude, I want to explore it from just one more.”

An Open Letter to Louie Giglio – “With the many Christian artists who believe and teach the full counsel of God’s Word available to lead worship at Passion, why would you choose one who publicly states homosexuality is not a sin? Would you invite a well-known artist who stated publicly that using porn is honoring to God to speak or sing at Passion? I do not ask this with a facetious attitude but the sincere hope of making a point. God has given you such a major platform with Millennials it is disheartening to see your lack of concern for biblical clarity on marriage in such a chaotic era. Your approval gives thousands of unsaved or weak Millennials an untruthful image of what the Bible says about marriage.”

Hebrews 13:21- True worship & the true church – “Worship is a heart-felt attitude of thankfulness, love, holy fear, and submission to Scripture that magnifies the glory of God by rejoicing in who God is and what he has done for us through Jesus Christ. Worship takes God’s attributes (which can seem distant and are marked by the otherness of God—his holiness) and not only makes them personal, but magnifies them by the attitude of the worshiper towards them.”

Secularism, Preaching, and the Challenges of Modernity – “I began my chapter on preaching and postmodernism in We Cannot Be Silent with these words, “A common concern seems to emerge now wherever Christians gather: The task of truth-telling is stranger than it used to be. In this age, telling the truth is tough business and not for the faint-hearted. The times are increasingly strange.” As preachers we recognize how strange the times have become. Almost anyone seeking to carry out a faithful pulpit ministry recognizes that preachers must now ask questions we have not had to consider in the past. We recognize that preaching has been displaced from its once prominent position in the culture. Many of us are wondering, why is preaching more challenging in our cultural moment than it has been in other times?”

Does Church Discipline Prevent Church Growth? – “The present evangelical church culture that we live in is, in many ways, hitched to the train of pragmatism. Whatever works is what the church practices because it brings about results. What if a church grows larger and looks successful from the outside, but did it all without any functional church discipline taking place in the congregation? It would be like an athlete growing really large by eating something other than protein and lifting weights. If an athlete takes steroids, he can bypass the normal way of growing muscles, but in the end, it’s very unhealthy.”

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The Daily Discovery (January 10, 2017)

Landon ChapmanThe Daily Discovery0 Comments

ARTICLES I LIKE FROM AROUND THE WEB:
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Breaking Down Beth Moore’s Comment at Passion 2017 – “The annual Passion conference was held last week at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, headed up by Passion City Church pastor Louie Giglio and featuring speakers like John Piper, Beth Moore, Christine Caine, and Francis Chan. The conference targets young adults. In addition to preaching and music, they make a big push for ending the evil of human trafficking. I’ve never been, but my sister has. That year I watched the entire thing online.”

sixty-six books. one story. all about one name. – “During the reign of Augustus, a young, ordinary teenage girl gives birth to a baby. In the vast expanse of eternity’s story, she’s just one person in one chapter. But in her arms is the author! Before he was laid in a manager, it was Jesus who laid out the foundations of the universe. Before Jesus split the veil in two, he split the sea in two. Before Jesus made a promise to his disciples, he made a promise to Abraham. Before Jesus walked in the garden of Gethsemane, he walked in the Garden of Eden. Jesus is in Genesis. Jesus is in Exodus. Jesus is in the prophets and the Psalms. Jesus is in Romans and Revelation. There was never a moment before him. And there will never be a moment without him.”

The Humility of Love – “We live in an egotistical, narcissistic generation. Our culture is obsessed with self-esteem, self-love, self-fulfillment, and every conceivable kind of selfish pursuit. People relentlessly promote themselves, praise themselves, and put themselves first.”

Jimmy Kimmel Accidentally Gives A Reality-Based Lesson On Transgenderism – “In the video above, Jimmy Kimmel goes to great lengths to explain how the truth works. In short, he argues that truth is an objective fact that exists independently from the whims of human opinion. One must not confuse personal opinion with the nature of reality. Human opinion may or may not conform to the way things really are. But the truth doesn’t change simply because some people have a contrary opinion.”

Don’t Worry, Be Godly – Pt 1 – “In 1988 Bobby McFerrin dropped his enormously popular hit that would become the first a capella song to summit the Billboard Top 100 chart to reach the #1 spot. ‘Don’t Worry, Be Happy’ resonated with a generation of those who identify as overstressed, overworked, underpaid, and underappreciated.”

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The Daily Discovery (January 6, 2017)

Landon ChapmanThe Daily Discovery0 Comments

ARTICLES I LIKE FROM AROUND THE WEB:
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Passion Without Knowledge Is Deadly – “Although some really good things have come out of the Passion movement, there have been some questionable things emerge through the years as well. This year, another strange thing happened at Passion that’s causing people to ask important questions. No matter how passionate we are, if our passions are unbridled and not submissive to the Holy Spirit, it will lead to sin. Passion without knowledge is deadly.”

The Commandment We Forgot: Honoring the Dishonorable – “Today we continue this series on honoring our parents, the series that considers how we, as adults, can fulfill the fifth commandment. Behind it is the knowledge that few of us seriously consider the fifth commandment and how we can actively fulfill it, even after we have left our parents’ authority. We have been focusing on Deuteronomy 5:16: ‘Honor your father and your mother, as the LORD your God commanded you, that your days may be long, and that it may go well with you in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.’ We have already seen that this commandment is not only for children. At every age, we owe our parents a debt of honor and this can can be expressed in a number of ways: forgiving our parents, speaking well of them, esteeming them publicly and privately, seeking their wisdom, supporting them, and providing for them.”

The Pastor and Counseling: When to refer – “The Pastor and Counseling, by Jeremy Pierre (Dean of Students at Southern Seminary) and Deepak Reju (Counseling Pastor at Capitol Hill Baptist Church), is an excellent little book written for pastors who find themselves with a desire to counsel, but don’t quite know where to begin. It serves as a how-to manual, walking pastors through the biblical mandate for counseling as well as the practical process for creating a culture of counseling in the church. It covers everything from how to start a counseling session through the last meeting.”

Bible Reading Plans for the New Year- 2017 – “Happy New Year! Do you make resolutions or set goals you’d like to accomplish during the new year? A lot of people resolve to read the Bible more often or read it through in a year. If that’s you but you’re not quite sure where to start, here are some awesome and unique reading plans that can help.”

The candy diet – “The bestselling novel of 1961 was Allen Drury’s Advise and Consent. Millions of people read this 690-page political novel. In 2016, the big sellers were coloring books. Fifteen years ago, cable channels like TLC (the ‘L’ stood for Learning), Bravo and the History Channel (the ‘History’ stood for History) promised to add texture and information to the blighted TV landscape. Now these networks run shows about marrying people based on how well they kiss.”

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The Daily Discovery (January 5, 2017)

Landon ChapmanThe Daily Discovery0 Comments

ARTICLES I LIKE FROM AROUND THE WEB:
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Does Sermon Prep Get Easier? – “The right kind of experience is always a good thing. We have all known what it is to try something for the first time and to feel like we’re all thumbs. Then, with a little practice, whatever it was that seemed so difficult becomes second nature. Is it like that with sermon preparation? Can I expect that the longer I preach, and the more times that I prepare sermons, the easier it will become to be ready by Sunday? I would answer, yes and no.”

Anger is Learned – “Early this morning I finished reading the most recent book from David Powlison on the subject of anger. I’ve been tackling a small section with each of my devotions and ab-so-lute-ly loved the journey. Dr. Powlison is the executive director of the Christian Counseling & Education Foundation (CCEF). He had worked for four years in psychiatric hospitals, during which time he came to faith in Christ; he is a former pastor with over thirty years of counseling experience.”

Book Review: Reviving New England. (Why Women Ministry Leaders Should Read This Book) – “Early in 2016 I was introduced to Nate Pickowicz via a viral Facebook post that included a ‘heresy’ stamp. Someone had made a book stamp for him that read ‘Heretical: For Research Purposes Only.’ I loved it! But I had no idea who Nate Pickowicz was.”

Gospel Artists, Please, Pick a Side! – “Have you heard the one about the Civil War soldier who couldn’t decide whether he wanted to fight with the Union or the Confederates? So he wore Confederate gray pants and a Union blue jacket to war. And he was shot by both sides! I imagine this is how Gospel Music artists often feel. Many Gospel artists feel their gifts and work are unappreciated by the church and disrespected by the world. They really don’t know which side to fight for. But, with all due respect, this local pastor and passionate fan begs you to pick a side!”

One Small Step for DNA, One Giant Leap for Man’s Brain – “Scientists, led by Max Planck Institute’s Wieland Huttner, have identified a gene that triggers a human embryo to grow the vast supply of brain cells that largely forms the foundation for our braininess. The same gene is found in modern humans, Neanderthals, and Denisovans. Called ARHGAP11B, Huttner says this is ‘the first human-specific gene where we could show that it contributes to the pool of basal brain stem cells and can trigger a folding of the neocortex. In that way, we managed to take the next step in tracing evolution.'”

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The Daily Discovery (January 4, 2017)

Landon ChapmanThe Daily Discovery0 Comments

ARTICLES I LIKE FROM AROUND THE WEB:
(Click title to go to full article)

Evangelicals should be deeply troubled by Donald Trump’s attempt to mainstream heresy – “Donald Trump’s upcoming inauguration will include Paula White and possibly other members of his inner circle, Darrell Scott, ‘Apostle’ Wayne T. Jackson and Mark Burns. They’re all televangelists who hail from the ‘prosperity gospel’ camp. They advocate a brand of Pentecostal Christianity known as Word of Faith. Inaugurations are always curious rituals of American civil religion. It would not be surprising to see a non-Christian religious leader participating. But what’s problematic for me as an evangelical is how Trump’s ceremony is helping to mainstream this heretical movement.”

Christian Celebrity Culture and Shot Glass Communities – “2016 has revealed a lot of problems with the Christian celebrity culture. There have been big names that have fallen, treasured orthodox doctrines downplayed and distorted, and many people and churches terribly hurt. Those who warn about this culture, about the ignored or overlooked issues, and even the suppression of abuses within it, are often dismissed because of their tone or accused of overreacting. One popular response to the lament of celebrity culture in evangelical and Reformed communities is an acknowledgement of its prevalence, but with a ‘What can you do?’ shrug. We’re always going to have a celebrity culture. We are.”

2017: A Year of Digital Detox – “Digital technology has punctured every part of our being and is slowly psssssssing the life out of us. That’s why I’m asking you to join me in making 2017 a year of detoxification, a process  often used to systematically and safely withdraw people from addicting substances. I’m utterly convinced that vast numbers of Christians are dangerously addicted to digital technology. It has way too big a place in our lives and it’s not just damaging us; it’s destroying us.”

Taking Back Christianese #7: “America is a Christian Nation” – “In any election year (especially one as tumultuous and exhausting as 2016), there will be claims and counter-claims about what values and principles should guide the United States of America. And such debates inevitably lead to appeals to the history and heritage of our country.  What principles guided the founding fathers?  Were the founding fathers Christians?  Were the founding documents Christian in nature? Thus we come to the next phrase in our ‘Taking Back Christianese’ series: ‘America is a Christian nation.’ Our purpose in this post (as in all the posts in this series) is simply to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of this phrase.  We will do this by asking three questions:  (1) Why do people use this phrase?  (2) What is correct or helpful about this phrase?  and (3) What is problematic about this phrase?”

Reveling in Wrath – “It was one of the darkest chapters in Jewish history. Zedekiah had chosen to rebel against his Babylonian overlords, and King Nebuchadnezzar’s retribution was swift and sure. He besieged Jerusalem and captured it. He burned the temple, he burned the king’s palace, he burned all the mighty houses. He broke down the walls and left the city bereft and defenseless. He didn’t stop there. He also drove off 10,000 of the city’s most prominent citizens, leaving behind only the lowest, the poorest. We can well imagine the pain and sorrow as these men, women, and children trudged from their native land, their Promised Land, to foreign captivity. The deepest pain of all must have been knowing this captivity was God’s judgment on them for their rebellion. No wonder they soon sang songs like this…”

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