From the Archives: Go Therefore

Go therefore…

Two of the most important words to us in Scripture: ‘Go therefore…’

What is so important about this phrase for many probably is not the words themselves but how often it has been preached and how often these two words have been addressed. As an alumnus of Southeastern Baptist in Wake Forest, I heard these words a lot. These words helped to shape my understanding of the gospel and the importance Christ put on our call not just to pastors and missionaries, but to all believers. We are called to go, or as can be derived from the text ‘to be going.’

Now before I get too far ahead of myself there are some crucial things in Matthew 28:18-20 that we need to embrace. First while the verse does say go, there is a very important phrase before that, a phrase that makes it all possible, a phrase that shapes how, why, and to what end we go and it is this simple phrase: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” Let us just stop right there. In Jesus’ final words to his disciples He wants them to understand the most important thing about what is to come and what is happening right now and that is: All authority is His, All power is His, All that can be and ever was to be is His. In these 11 words Jesus gave the disciples and us everything we ever need, not just to go but to live.

This authority is what gives the Gospel power, Jesus conquered the grave and in so doing revealed all authority to be His and has made it evident for all to see and know. And because of this authority He is now sending out His disciples on the most important task of their lives to make more disciples. Surprisingly to some, we see that Christ’s authority was not dependent on the disciples, but rather one who sent them. In this they are assured that it is not by their might or power that people come to know Him or grow but by the authority of Him alone.

However this should be a motivation for the pursuit of making disciples not an excuse, if for no other reason than the fact that this is commanded by God. As we continue in the text we see that the disciples are to teach every new believer the commands of the Lord and to follow after His teachings and the truth of the Gospel, which clearly means the one He is giving them here before He ascended. In the book of Matthew these are the last words of Christ to the 11 remaining disciples. His final words are to go, baptize, teach, and know that He is with them. And these words apply to us today as much as they did then. We are called to go. God has placed each of us in this specific place, in this specific time, with our specific jobs and neighborhoods not simply for our own well-being, but for the proclamation of the Gospel. We exist and are called to go and make disciples, some will go to far off countries, some will go across the street, some will go to a new city or job, but all will go and as we go we make disciples.

For most of you who read this you will say you have read this before. There is nothing new here, I will agree with you on that. For most of us this is one of the first things we learn when we come to faith. I mean we came to faith because someone told us, whether that be a relative or a friend someone told us, someone spent time with us, someone walked us through the basics of the faith, someone taught us about the work of the Spirit in us leading to holiness, someone taught us we needed to forgive others and seek forgiveness when we sin. Someone discipled us, whether that was one-on one or in a group. Someone followed Christs command to go and make disciples. How did they grow in holiness and understand the Lord more, they followed his commands to go and make disciples. You are the product of God’s work in their lives.

So I write this not because it’s new or revolutionary, but because it is the most basic thing we are called to do and at times it is one of the easiest to forget.

I pray for each of us that we will never forget, because we have the assurance that all authority is His and He is the one at work, so rest in Him and go make disciples.

3 Reasons Why……You should know George Whitefield.

1. He Was One of the Most Prolific Evangelists of the Church.

In many ways he is the driving force that God used in bringing revival to America in the 18th century. Whitefield was a man on a mission to proclaim the gospel to all who would hear, from town to town, he boldly proclaimed the good news of salvation in the open air. He preached God’s wrath against sin and grace to the repentant throughout the American colonies at a time when such things were not done.

2. He Believed No One was too Far from the Grace and Salvation of God.

One of the driving forces behind Whitefield’s open-air preaching was the need for people to hear the truth of God who did not have churches to gather in. In his early days preaching in England he was rejected from preaching in the churches due to the focus on the gospel as the means of God’s salvific work, thus leaving him first to preach in prisons and then from the prisons to the fields. His first primary location was Kingswood, a people mostly rejected by English society. He firmly believed that all men needed the gospel, and that the gospel was for all mankind.

3. He Gave His Life to the Proclamation of the Gospel.

George Whitefield’s aim in life was to be fully spent for the cause of proclaiming the gospel, and in the end he did just that. He often stated that he wanted to be buried in a crypt under the pulpit of the final church he preached at and in 1770 after arriving in town he proclaimed the gospel one last time at Old South Presbyterian church in Newburyport, Mass. where he died hours later and was buried. Every inch of the man was given to the proclamation of the gospel. He was only 55 when he died but in those years, God used him to proclaim the good news of Christ’s work to many who had never heard its truth and sparked the flames of reformation in the American colonies.

A Reminder of How We May Learn Through Disagreements.

As we come to the close of 2020 I was reflecting back over some of the things I have written over the last several years, and the following article hit me square in the face. It is one I am personally striving to do and at times still easily falling, especially in a year where tribalism seems to be growing and divisions easily erected. We have ceased to listen. I hope it will encourage you and maybe convict you as it did me.

Sometimes it takes a younger you to remind you of these things.

*Originally published Dec, 2018

Over the last few weeks in the office we have been reading the book: Spurgeon on the Christian Life by Michael Reeves. It is a wonderful read and one that will make you think deeply about what it is we love so much about Spurgeon’s preaching and teaching ministry, but it will also at times made us step back and disagree with Spurgeon’s views on several things such as preaching books of the bible, liturgies, the New Birth, and scripted prayer.

Today’s post isn’t a review of the book but rather what the book helped me to see and think more deeply about. I’ve posted on it before, but I think it bears reminding that some of the very people our heroes ranged against and called out as heretics or worse are us. As a Baptist I love the reformation and appreciate all that Luther did and at the same time know he would have considered me as much a heretic as the Pope in Rome. Augustine was the father of much of what we find distasteful in the Catholic church such as baptism for the remission of sins in infants, Purgatory, Limbo, and a host of others, yet he also helped to solidify theologically the truth of Monergism and a full appreciation for the Sovereignty of God. Bavinck and Kuyper in Holland could not reconcile the role of the church and state, especially in the training of ministers, and in the process their partnership as ministers of the gospel was frayed.

Now I say all this for two reasons. First, there is always a chance we are wrong, not about the gospel but at times on its application when scripture is less than clear. Second, there are good and godly brothers and sisters in Christ who we can learn much from, whom we will equally disagree with on these tangential things. Both of these things we need to remember because at the end of the day we live to imitate Christ and become more like him, not necessarily other Christians, they at times point us to Christ and at times are worthy of admiration, but ultimately it is Christ whom we pursue.

 We Might Be Wrong

No one likes to be wrong. Let’s just face it, red marks on a test don’t tend to bring out our most excited moments (though many of us can agree we learned a lot from those red marks). Being corrected for our attitude or unrighteous behavior isn’t a fun day, though necessary. I’ve spent the last 6 years in full time ministry before that I spent 7 years in Bible college and seminary, along the way I read a lot of the Bible and equally a lot of theology texts. My office is filled with commentaries on the Word of God and books discussing how we should live out these truths. In Seminary, I focused my studies on Christian ethics (Or the practical outworking of theology in everyday life).  This time taught me a lot about what it means to be wrong and to be gracious in doing so, but it also showed me areas of my theology that should have been peripheral that had become central, things that being wrong about didn’t change who I was in Christ. Such as how does the Spirit gift individuals and what does that look like, what should the church sing, how do we practice church discipline, in what ways can baptism be performed, how often should we take communion, and what role does Communion, the Word, and singing play in weekly and personal worship?

I could ask these questions to a whole host of pastors and theologians and get a wide variety of answers and in that way, it taught me that it was okay to accept that possibility of being wrong in some areas of the Christian life, but not to settle for being wrong. It is important that we acknowledge that there are mysteries too marvelous for us to full comprehend or articulate. We must accept that there are areas of the outworking of the gospel that take effort to dive deeply into, and we should. The point of accepting that you could be wrong is not to be lazy in the process but to push harder into Christ and to trust in Him, to dive deeply into His Word and allow it to be the guide of who we are and how we then shall live. He gives us His Word to know Him and His family and to live out the truth of who has been revealed.

Now I know there are a lot of traps with what I am saying, and I’ll admit that as well. Hebrews encourages us to continually be on guard against falsehoods and to not be led astray into disobedience but to fight all the more for the faith and to rest in Christ our great High Priest who gave all for us, and for the Glory of His father. So, while it is good to accept, we may be wrong on the peripheral we must not give ground on the reality of who Jesus is, what salvation is, the work of the Holy spirit producing righteousness, the call to repentance, the work of God through all of scripture. These are the areas of the faith first and foremost to be wrong is to be outside of the faith. These are questions while they may be answered with different words will have the same substance, will reflect the same gospel truth, Spurgeon, Luther, Augustine, Bavinck, Kuyper, Piper, MacArthur, R.C., Gurnall, Athanasius, Polycarp, John and Paul would reflect the same gospel reality.

Learning from Others

Now that was a long way to highlight the importance of learning from those who we may, at times, disagree with on peripheral issues. Again, this is not a call to start picking up Osteen and Bell books, no need to take down that old Brian McLaren book on the 19 different Jesus’. No this is more about the importance of getting outside of our tribal instinct and studying the truth of scripture and seeing how other godly people have applied the text and lived it out. When I was in college, I went to an interdenominational school made up of a host of different theological backgrounds all studying the scriptures together and having lively and gracious discussions on the outworking of that faith. I learned a lot about loving my brothers and sisters well in disagreement from brothers whom truly reflected and lived out the gospel. I didn’t agree with everything they thought but I agreed with how they lived, for they lived it out far greater than I. Especially while those in my same camp seemed to move farther and farther way from the actual practice of the faith, while condemning these brothers as legalists or worse.

It is an amazing thought that we read men whom we openly would disagree with if they were around today, but the measure of their lives proved that they ran the race, they kept the faith, and in Christ have been rewarded greatly. In a day and age where we have become more tribal than ever, I fear we have stopped listening to those we disagree with, and in some ways, we have stopped learning.  If you are afraid to pick up a book by John Wesley because of his views on Holiness, you will miss his great care for the preaching of the Word and deep reverence he had for God. There was a reason Whitefield and Wesley were great friends, and they learned a lot form each other even while disagreeing over aspects of doctrine. If Spurgeon’s view of preaching topically drives you to forsake his preaching you will miss his rich exposition on the Psalms or the beautiful encouragement, he gives to suffering saints through the preached word, while simultaneously presenting the hope of the Gospel to the lost.

Ultimately, we need to be people committed to the cause of Christ, learning the truth of Scripture, defending the faith well, and growing in our love and dedication for the Saints.

Meet the Publicans: Matt Noble

Here at The Publicans we have many contributors. They labor each week to bring you posts and thoughts and rich Scriptural content to encourage us. We’re thankful for each of them. Today we chat with one of our long running contributors Matthew Noble.

Andrew: Who are you and where are you from?

Matt: My name is Matt Noble. I was born in Peterborough, New Hampshire, but grew up in Wesley Chapel, FL. Currently I live in Land O’ Lakes, FL with my amazing wife, Rachel, and our awesome son, Levi. I am a huge sports enthusiast, and I enjoy spending time with family and friends. By God’s grace I was born into a Christian family, raised in the church and saved at a young age. In my early 20’s I was called into ministry and I have been serving Christ and His church since.

Andrew: What church do you serve?

Matt:I am an elder at Cornerstone Community Church of Pasco, a Southern Baptist Church in the Reformed tradition. I serve as Pastor of Student Ministry. I have been on staff since 2017 and I am very grateful that God has called me to this community of believers. 


Andrew: What do you desire to see most in your ministry?

Matt:I desire that there would be genuine growth both spiritual and numerical in the church for God’s glory. I want to see believers equipped and strengthened and I want to see unbelievers come to a saving faith in Christ. 


Andrew: What is your biggest joy in ministry?

Matt:When you can see the fruit of God’s Word blossoming in someone’s life. Seeing them eager to be at church, eager to read God’s Word, eager to share Jesus with others. That brings joy to my heart. 

Andrew: What is your biggest obstacle in ministry?

Matt: Time restraints. Being able to properly prioritize family, ministry, and a full-time job.  


Andrew: How do you define success in ministry?

Matt: Being faithful where God has called you. In the little things or in the big things being faithful to serve Christ and His church. 


Andrew: Tell us something your church might not know about you.

Matt:I have dislocated both pinkies on separate occasions while playing football. 


Andrew: Random concluding question: if you were sneaking into Mordor to destroy the ring of power who would you rather have at your side: Martin Luther, John Calvin, Charles Spurgeon, R.C. Sproul, or John Piper?

Matt: I am not sure I understand the question? Is that Star Wars? But the answer is always John Piper. 

Meet the Publicans: Matthew Mahan

Here at The Publicans we have many contributors. They labor each week to bring you posts and thoughts and rich Scriptural content to encourage us. We’re thankful for each of them. Today we get to know our newest contribute Matthew Mahen.

Andrew: Who are you and where are you from?

Matthew: My name is Matthew Mahan and I hail from the Great Lakes region of NE OH and NW PA. I have been married to my beautiful bride, Liz, for the last eleven years, during which time God has blessed us with three young children (6- and 1-year old boys and a 3-year old girl). We have bounced around the USA throughout our marriage, having lived in PA, TX, AZ, CT, and FL.

As far as where I am from spiritually, I grew up as a denominational mutt – my parents’ litmus test for choosing a church to attend was less denominational-centric, more focused upon which churches had pastors who would preach and teach the Scriptures faithfully. I have inherited that legacy from them; these days I find myself worshipping our triune God as a member of the Anglican Church in North America.

Andrew: What church do you serve?

Matthew: I am just finishing my second year as the Rector (Head Pastor) of All Saints Anglican Church in Pensacola, FL. We are a member church of the Anglican Diocese of the Living Word.

Andrew: What do you desire to see most in your ministry?

Matthew: Above all else I hope and pray that through my ministry people are better equipped for discipleship to Jesus Christ.

Andrew: What is your biggest joy in ministry?

Matthew: The biggest joy I have in this calling is seeing how God works through the ministry of the church to grow the faith of parishioners in Christ and the development of the fruit of the Spirit in their lives.

Andrew: What is your biggest obstacle in ministry?

Matthew: I have found the biggest obstacle for ministry, outside of my own sinful flesh and weaknesses, has been the stranglehold that local traditions can have in liturgical churches. So quickly can meaningful traditions become ossified and gain near-idol status, all while losing their initial vitality and vibrancy.

Andrew: How do you define success in ministry?

Matthew: I define success in ministry as faithfully handling God’s Word through preaching, teaching, and exhortation, and rightly administering the Sacraments. I think the Biblical picture of success is faithfulness – especially in the midst of a darkling generation – and cannot be defined by numbers.

Andrew: Tell us something your church might not know about you.

Matthew: I love reading good science fiction novels, from Arthur C. Clarke to Michael Crichton, to C.S. Lewis, to Andy Weir.

Andrew: Random concluding question: if you were sneaking into Mordor to destroy the ring of power who would rather have at your side: Martin Luther, John Calvin, Charles Spurgeon, R.C. Sproul, or John Piper?

Matthew: I would prefer Luther for the first half of the journey – there’s a man who would appreciate second breakfasts and a good pint at the end of a long day’s journey – provided that when we got closer to the goal our paths diverged so that he could serve as a diversion on a separate route! If I had to choose a companion who would stick by my side the whole way through (what a terrific joke! Better put, with whom would I choose to tag along and offer whatever meager service I could), out of the given choices I would go with John Calvin. If I am allowed to choose from other theologians or pastors of the past 500 years, give me C.S. Lewis for the journey any day.

Meet the Publicans: Austin Wynn

Here at The Publicans we have many contributors. They labor each week to bring you posts and thoughts and rich Scriptural content to encourage us. We’re thankful for each of them. Throughout the next few weeks, we’d like to introduce them to you. Today we get to know Austin Wynn.

Andrew: Who are you and where are you from?

Austin: In God’s kindness, I’ve been blessed with a very full and abundant life. I grew up in Metro Atlanta (Suwanee to be exact) to a church-going family. God graciously opened my eyes to the Gospel in my junior year of high school. It was in my college years at Valdosta State University that He then graciously opened my eyes to a girl, Emily Ruth Phillips. Emily and I have been married for eleven years and have been blessed with four uniquely gifted kids (Annie Ruth- 8, Everett- 7, Elias- 4, and Lydia- 1).

Andrew: What church do you serve?

Austin: I’m so blessed to be able to serve the great people at Westside Baptist Church in Valdosta, GA (Winnersville, USA). We began serving at Westside in 2017.

Andrew: What do you desire to see most in your ministry?

Austin: I couldn’t put it any better than Paul’s words to the church at Ephesus: “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4:12-13). I long to see people grow deeper in their faith in Christ and their love for Him, His church, and their lost friends and family.

Andrew: What is your biggest joy in ministry?

Austin: I absolutely love seeing glimpses of a growing Gospel awareness in His people. I often see such growth through evangelistic encounters outside the body and discipling relationships inside the body. Seeing the spark of a Spirit-given hunger for God’s Word in new believers is one major reason I do what I do.

Andrew: What is your biggest obstacle in ministry?

Austin: Satan, the flesh, and this world offer so many myriads of obstacles to the advancement of God’s kingdom. In my current ministry assignment, I’d say one of the biggest obstacles I face is being a solo pastor. I need brothers who can come alongside me and help me in prayer, the ministry of the Word, and leading His people. I know the responsibility falls on me to invest in men and train them up for such a task, but this takes time and patience (2 Timothy 2:2). 

Andrew: How do you define success in ministry?

Austin: As my pastor, Bill Cook, said at my ordination service, success is faithfulness. As much as the world tells me success is nickles and noses or budgets and backsides, I’ve sadly seen that isn’t the case. Therefore, my prayers and efforts are aimed at being faithful to God and His Word, faithful to my wife and children, and faithful to the sheep with which He has entrusted to my care. If I’ve carried out the charges given in 1 Peter 5:1-4 and 2 Timothy 4:1-5, then I will have succeeded as a minister of the Gospel (no matter what people say or don’t say about me once I’m gone).

Andrew: Tell us something your church might not know about you.

Austin: On the light side: I like listening to Bluegrass with my daughter (long story) and eating Moose Tracks ice cream.

On the serious side: That I’m smack dab right in the middle of my own sanctification and need their prayers like crazy. Not that its much of a surprise, but my feet are made of clay and I’m wrestling with principalities and powers as they are (so prayer and encouragement is huge).

Andrew: if you were sneaking into Mordor to destroy the ring of power who would rather have at your side: Martin Luther, John Calvin, Charles Spurgeon, R.C. Sproul, or John Piper?

Austin: All of the above! Luther would help me punch the devil in the face everyday. Calvin would help me press on for God’s glory. Spurgeon would help me not give into discouragement. R.C. Sproul would help me tremble before God instead of Mordor. John Piper would help me desire God more than the ring of power. If forced to choose only one, I’d say Spurgeon because he has finished his race, is a fellow Baptist, and God gave that man a way with words!

Meet the Publicans: Don Carpenter

Here at The Publicans we have many contributors. They labor each week to bring you posts and thoughts and rich Scriptural content to encourage us. We’re thankful for each of them. Throughout the next few weeks, we’d like to introduce them to you. Today we begin with Don Carpenter.

Andrew: Who are you and where are you from?

Don: First, I am a sinner saved by God’s grace. Through the years, I have learned that my identity begins with Christ and everything flows from there. As a result of God’s grace, I am a husband to Angie, a father to Faith & Cole, a son to parents, a shepherd to His people in EBC, and a friend to far more than I deserve. We are from the St. Louis Metropolitan Area (Illinois side); a small rural community in the heart of corn-country.

Andrew: What church do you serve?

Don: I serve the Lord in Eldred, Illinois at Eldred Baptist Church. We are a New Hampshire Confession church that focuses on living inside the covenant-community of faith while seeking to make disciples through evangelism and relational discipleship.

Andrew: What do you desire to see most in your ministry?

Don: I long to see a genuine movement of the Holy Spirit that manifests in (1) a profound love of God that leads to personal holiness in the lives of our covenant members, (2) our covenant members living an Acts 2:42-47 life devoted to Christ & His Church, and (3) the salvation of the lost in our community through the evangelistic efforts and Christ-like lives of our covenant members.

Andrew: What is your biggest joy in ministry?

Don: My biggest joys are always connected to witnessing the salvation and sanctification of those entrusted to me by God. As John wrote, “There is no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth” (3 John 4). The Lord has proven this true time and time again in my life.

Andrew: What is your biggest obstacle in ministry?

Don: Without question, my biggest obstacle in ministry is me. Sometimes, my obstacle is pride and self-sufficiency that keeps me from coming to the Throne of Grace where I may find the help I so desperately need. Other times, it is my tendency to be slow to listen, quick to speak, and quick to become angry (even if I hide it on the outside). Thank God my Great Shepherd is still guiding & correcting me with His rod & staff; His discipline is a comfort.

Andrew: How do you define success in ministry?

Don: Success in ministry cannot be measured by growth and decline alone, although they can be helpful tools. Jesus is Lord of both and has given both to EBC at various times. Success in ministry is my learning to trust God with the results of the faithful proclamation of His Word. God’s Word always accomplishes His purposes; I need, simply, to trust Him.

Andrew: Tell us something your church might not know about you.

Don: I am far less certain about how to do what I know God’s Word commands me/us to do. The Lord has given me a strong personality and I think that it helps me hide my insecurities. Since coming into a Sr. Pastor’s role, I have learned the significant difference between knowledge & wisdom. God’s Word provides me/us with the knowledge of what to do but it is God’s Spirit that gives me/us the wisdom to apply that knowledge in my/our context. This has humbled me greatly and continues to do so. And for that, I am grateful.

Andrew: Random concluding question, if you were sneaking into Mordor to destroy the ring of power who would rather have at your side: Martin Luther, John Calvin, Charles Spurgeon, R.C. Sproul, or John Piper?

Don: Luther. He was willing to stand alone, face-to-face, against the most powerful force of evil for the Truth of the Gospel. Not to mention, Luther would certainly have some incredibly hilarious insults to throw at his opponents along the way.

Don, we’re sure thankful to God for you and His work in us through your writing. May God continue to do that more and more, amen!

Feed, Tend, and Follow

When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” … “Feed my lambs.” … “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” … “Tend my sheep.” … Simon, son of John, do you love me?” …  “Feed my sheep”… “Follow me.”

Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved … When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?” Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!”

John 21:15-23

The conclusion of John’s gospel should be a great encouragement to us when we think about Gospel ministry. In His final interaction with Peter, Jesus not only restores him to ministry but gives him a direction and an encouragement to persevere in ministry despite what transpires around him. He is reminded to keep his eyes focused on Christ and his heart set on those whom Christ puts under his care. This two-fold commission is the task for of each of us in the church and it is amazing how easy it is to lose sight of these simple tasks every day for the distractions and aspiration of the world.

In each of the opening questions put before Peter, Jesus is asking him does he Love him. Not long before we saw Peter turn away and deny Christ and now, we see Christ restoring him and preparing him for ministry by revealing his heart. Peter never stopped loving the Lord he allowed fear to turn his eyes away from following Christ and in that moment, he lost sight of the goal. Now, Jesus lays before him the reality that the love he has for Christ comes with a mission to follow Him while feeding & tending the sheep the Lord places before him.  Peter is being commissioned to be an ambassador of Christ and proclaim the good news and build up the church.

This is the task that remains for us now in ministry. We too are called to tend and feed the sheep that the Lord has placed under our care. Every day we labor in the Word and prayer for the good of others. We see the task that Peter is being given is a heavy one, and a beautiful one, not flowing from selfish ambition, but from a love for Christ. This is paramount to our task in ministry. If our goal is ever to make much of us and not to love Christ, we have lost the very heart of our purpose as shepherds. Our first and primary role flows from a love for Christ and in that love a love for those we are given to care for daily in word and prayer.

The second aspect of our love for Christ is seen in our call to follow Him. We are not called to feed and tend the flock of God by our own wisdom or creativity, but by following the word of Christ alone. He has given us all we need to tend to and love those whom He has placed under our care. He has given us the Word which reveals all we need for life and godliness. In the Word we are shown how to love them well and pray for them, and from this love and knowledge we seek to minister to them in their brokenness leading them back to Christ day by day as he leads us back to himself day by day. We cannot divert our eyes from following Him, for as we do we begin to lose track of the one who saved us and the one who sustains us, we can quickly begin to build a new foundation based on ourselves. When we stop following Christ in how we lead we will lead wrongly, we will feed and tend to the flock no longer out of love for Christ, but out of a misplaced love for ourselves and our name. This is why I think we see Peter corrected in the end one last time as he points to John and asks what the Lord’s plans are for him. In this moment, Christ quickly points out that it is not his to worry about. His task is to follow Christ wherever that leads and to care for those he is given along the way, and the Lord will lead John and given to him those to tend and feed of whom he will give an answer.

This final admonition is one we need to be reminded of, especially in ministry. The Lord has a plan and task for each and everyone of us. He has people whom he will place among us to love and minister to daily. It is these whom we will give an answer for and it is these whom he has called us to give of ourselves to feed and tend as we seek him. This knowledge should free us from jealousy of other people’s ministry, it should free us from the burden to seek within ourselves some new and creative gimmick and it should alleviate the stress of performance anxiety. This should lead us to lovingly care for those before us and pray for our brothers in Christ as they labor for those under their care.

Old Path’s Still True

Heidelberg Catechism

Q & A 105

Q. What is God’s will for you in the sixth commandment?

A. I am not to belittle, hate, insult, or kill my neighbor— not by my thoughts, my words, my look or gesture, and certainly not by actual deeds— and I am not to be party to this in others; rather, I am to put away all desire for revenge.

I am not to harm or recklessly endanger myself either. Prevention of murder is also why government is armed with the sword.

In our day and age we must not forget the simple things the Scriptures and these faithful catechisms teach us. Here before you is the 105th question of the Heidelberg catechism used to instruct children and adults in the truth of godliness for hundreds of years. What is so important in this little paragraph for us today is the depths to which the sixth commandment addresses murder. Murder is far more involved than the simple matter of ending someones physical life and has far more repercussions than we think.

Our country is in a state of upheaval at the moment over the death of George Floyd and the discussion over the nature of race relations. On Tuesday, Don wrote a great article highlighting the reality behind much of what we see as hate. There exist in our world a systemic issue, sin and along with it comes hate. What is worse is this is not only in the world but in the church. If you venture onto social media you will find some of the most vile and contemptuous words and accusations coming from Christians at one another. In many ways the church has adapted the culture’s propensity towards division and hatred.

So therefore, let us remember every day as we speak to one another and post online, that we represent Christ to a lost and dying world. As we speak the Lord calls us to be an encouragement to the body. The commandment before us calls us not just to not raise arms to kill one anther but not to speak in such ways, nor think it. Let us think well of each other, giving the benefit of the doubt and seeking to hear, love and encourage one another with the truth of the gospel.

As believers we hold the only true hope for the world and it is not in this world, but in Christ, and His Kingdom.

The Table in Exile….

There has been a lot of talk over the last month about what makes a church. How do we define its actions and, most importantly, how are we supposed to act in this season of separation? The reality is, at this moment, we are not assembling. We are not physically gathering together, hearing the voices of our church family raised in song, passing the elements, hugging one another, or sharing life together. In the absence of our normal routines, it is understandable that we would begin to make compromises as an attempt to find what normalcy we can. However, I hope this post will encourage you to use this season as a time to allow your heart to feel the weight of that longing and grow your desire for the communion of saints without compromising the integrity of the things we hold dear. Specifically, I want to address the theology of the Lord’s Table, in absence of the gathered body.

“So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for one another—if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home—so that when you come together it will not be for judgment.”

1 Cor. 11:33-34

One of the questions we have been asked is, “Why are we not doing a virtual communion during this season?” It’s a good question, and we acknowledge there are other church bodies who have been observing the Lord’s Table virtually, but we do not feel this is the most biblically accurate representation or purpose of the Table. Paul gives a hearty admonition to the Corinthian church to be prudent in how they come to the Table. It is not a trivial matter, but one that requires humility, reflection, and community. In his letter to the Corinthian church, Paul was clear that the Table should be a communal activity of the church. In chapter 11, he rebukes those who are seeking only to serve themselves through the Table at the exclusion of the rest of the church. They are not exercising proper judgement towards one another. Also, as we see in the text, there is far more at work than a simple meal. For he openly encourages them to eat at home if in need of food, then come to the Table to be with your family. For the Table is much more than food, it is a meal with the family of God, in communion with Christ, lived out in humility and forgiveness, expecting and practicing for the great wedding feast of the Lamb.

However, these are not the only things we can glean from Christ’s institution of the Table and Paul’s admonition. We also see that the fencing and admonition given at the Table have no bearing if we freely partake in our homes, as we are not engaged with other believers calling us to repentance or forgiveness. Christ gave the church the command to practice this together as we await His return, where we will eat it with Him in Paradise. It is in this waiting that we truly see the need to be assembled together at the Table. The Table reminds us of the price paid for our sins, the Savior who paid it, and that we are not alone in this salvation. When we come to the Table, we are not alone; we are together as God’s people, living in anticipation of the feast to come.

So, as we yearn for the great day of the Lord and the feast we will experience as His bride, so too in this season we wait and yearn for the feast we share together. Therefore, our hearts should reflect to a degree what Israel felt in exile: a yearning to return home, a desire to experience the wonder of the temple again, and sadness over what has been lost. Oh how sweet it will be when all is returned, when we feast again with our church family, when we hear the voice of our neighbors sing songs of victory in the midst of sadness, when we see the wonder of baptism and new life spring from the ashes of death, when we marvel at God’s work day by day around us.

May our weeping be turned to singing on the day we gather together once more at the table.

Rejoicing in the Lord

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” (Phil. 4:4-9)

It’s easy to become anxious more and more each day as the news reminds us of the uncertainty of the times we are now living in, and yet this is hardly the first time the world has encountered such epidemics. The Spanish Flu in the early 1900’s reeked havoc across the world, and throughout the middle ages viruses would flourish and destroy many lives. I certainly don’t want this to sound callous or unfeeling, because that’s hardly the case. However, the reality of this not being a new endeavor reminds us that, as the book of Ecclesiastes says, there is nothing new under the sun. The Lord is the Sovereign one over all that happens around us including the plagues that seem to tear the world apart. Because of this there lies within those who believe a deep sense of peace in these uncertain times.

Looking at Paul’s admonition to the Philippians we are struck by the fact that in that moment Paul was in jail for Christ, there was no evidence he would be freed and a chance he would lose his life. His times were far from certain but his hope in Christ was unwavering, and because of that security he could pray. Paul here is very clear on the hope found in Christ in uncertain times. These closing words to the book should bring us a sense of peace in our current day.

Let’s stop and reflect on Paul’s encouragement.

Rejoice over Worry

Paul’s thoughts here begin with a good reminder that no matter the situation there is room to rejoice for those who are in Christ Jesus. Think about all that we have in this moment, especially compared to many around us. We face a massive hurdle ahead, yet we have homes, food, running water, technology that allows me to write this today, and even the ability to see and pray with my brothers and sisters in Christ. The Lord has blessed us in many ways. Also think of how much time we have to slow down and reflect on the goodness of God, to see His mercies even in suffering. We learn that life is a vapor, but the hope of Christ is eternal, in that there is much to rejoice in. There is also a reminder that we are to take each day as the Lord has granted it to us. We should rejoice with each breath He has given to us because our days are not guaranteed and as we see now are a very high commodity. We can’t control the outcome, but we can control how we face it. So let us face uncertainty with rejoicing in our God.

Prayer over Self

Not only are we called to rejoice and give thanks we are called to pray. This is a key aspect of our need to rejoice in the face of uncertainty: the Lord is at hand. As the old hymn use to say: “I can face uncertain days, because I know my savior lives.” Here is the hope of our prayers, the Lord lives and hears us. He is the one who controls the future. He is the one who has ordained our days. He is the very real help in the midst of peril, and He is the source of our peace. This doesn’t mean we are foolish in how we live, but we live in wisdom (following good health and safety habits) and thankfulness trusting in the Lord. Here we are being encouraged to turn to the One who gives true peace; peace that is not fleeting and far more secure. All the more we should continue to pray for the Lord grace and mercy to those serving the broken and sick in this season. Those who by God’s providence are putting themselves in danger to help those around us.

Good over Evil

Paul concludes with a reminder of the things that we should set our attention on. For here, Paul’s calls us to look at the good things the Lord is doing and has done. We are not to get distracted and fearful, we are to be focused and thankful. Our focus is on the good work of the Lord in the midst of chaos, the certainty of His kingdom in the midst of upheaval, the hope of a future in the midst of our anxious tomorrow.

Let us look to the good things and trust the Lord through the evil. Let us pray with fervent hearts to the one who hears us, and through it all let us be people who rejoice and sing for our hope is unfailing.

Certainty in Uncertain Times

“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

Matthew 6:34

There is great wisdom in the truth that for the people of God there is nothing in this world that we should fear, for we serve a loving and sovereign God who controls all things. There is nothing in this life that can separate His own from His loving hands. This is especially true today as we turn on the television or browse the internet and see a world captivated by a health crisis. One of the things we know for certain is there is nothing new under the sun, all that has been will be again. However, with that in mind there are few encouragements I would like us to remember today:

  1. God is God I am not. He is ultimately in control of what will transpire over the coming weeks and months. Our trust must be fully in Him and not ourselves. This doesn’t mean we become lazy in our day to day affairs or careless in how we act during this time, but that we know the ultimate source of our hope is not how much we can hoard, but how much we pray and trust the Lord.
  2. Love your neighbor. This is where taking care of yourself and following prescribed guidelines come in to play. Yes, most of us won’t experience the virus, and of those of us who do many will experience little to no known affects, however for a percentage of our population, the elderly and immune deficient, they may have a very different experience. As followers of Christ we should care for those in our community who are most likely to experience the worst effects of this virus and be most vigilant in our love for them. This doesn’t mean to leave them in isolation, but to be aware of what you are doing and how best to care for them in this time.
  3. Be a witness of the true hope. In the midst of the apparent chaos and uncertainty of the future the world once again reflects on their own mortality. These are wake-up call moments that as believers we should not shy away from. We have the true hope that transcends the experiences of this world. We know of the truth that there is a much greater threat that lurks inside everyone that is far deadlier than any earthly virus. We know the reality of sin and the wrath to come for those apart from Christ. We must be a light in the darkness of uncertainty, offering the true and lasting hope of Christ and the blood that covers our sins.

Through the months ahead let us love God, love our neighbor and be the light of the Gospel the world needs. Let us be examples of godliness and wisdom. Let us pursue the Lord with all vigilance. Let us not lose our heads while the world around us rages on. Christ is our victory, He is our hope, He is our sovereign Lord who watches over His sheep. Let us trust the Lord.

5 Blog/Sites you should bookmark

As we continue our listing journey here in 2020 I wanted to highlight a few websites and blogs you may not be familiar with, and encourage you to check them out.

The Rabbit Room

The Rabbit Room is run and moderated by Andrew Peterson and his brother Pete. On this page you will find a plethora of articles on art, faith, and life. If you dive into their Spotify playlists you will also find a whole host of fantastic music. They are Christians dedicated to make much of the glory of God through their art, and while doing so encourage us to think more deeply about the things of God.

The Redeemed Mind

The Redeemed Mind is a weekly Bible commentary blog written by Dr. David Jones of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. The purpose of this blog is to help Christians understand the scriptures verse-by-verse and applying these truths to their Christian walk. His work in examining the text in its historical and Christological framework helps guide the reader to be a better student of the Word of God, also he is currently working through Revelation.

Reformation 21

Here you will find a host of articles written from an academically reformed perspective along with some very practical article geared towards the daily Christian experiences of life in a fallen world. This site also features the very enjoyable Podcast: The Mortification of Spin.

Frame-Poythress

Many people are not aware of the plethora of academic work that these two amazing men have written over the years dealing with a range of topics within the Christian life, and most of them are available for free on their website. Specifically, John Frame and Vern Poythress are a must read when thinking about the ethical implications of the scriptures, a topic tackled often in their writings and blogs.

Operation World

Operation World is very useful website to aid in praying for the nations. Each day another nation is highlighted along with information to help guide prayer for the region and its people. This is a site that has been an encouragement to me for many years and helped me to see the beauty of God’s mission to reach the nation and the continued need for prayer in missions.

Advent & Immanuel, Redux

With the season of Advent coming into full bloom and the music of the season in the air I want to revisit one of the most popular songs of the season: O Come, O Come Immanuel.

It is a song rich with history, being originally traced back to the 8th century as a responsive reading, it is one of the oldest songs of advent we still sing in the modern Church. One of the reasons I believe it still holds a place so near and dear to most of us is its reliance on the biblical text to bring comfort, truth and grace through music to God’s children. This 1200 year old hymn points us straight back to Scripture and brings life and comfort to the weary soul.

Specifically I want to look at the opening verse of this amazing hymn.

O come, O come, Immanuel,
and ransom captive Israel
that mourns in lonely exile here
until the Son of God appear.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Immanuel
shall come to you, O Israel.

This first verse has its origins back in  Isaiah 7 in the days of Ahaz king of Judah. In that day God offered the king a chance to ask of Him whatever he wished as proof of God’s love and protection for His people, but rather than accept this gift of God, Ahaz spurned the gift and God in the process. Rather than trust in God for deliverance and protection for the people, Ahaz turned to political allegiance and military strength to find peace. It is in this setting that God brings forth the prophecy that a virgin will bear a son and he will be named Immanuel (Isaiah 7:14). This sign was meant to be a reminder that God was the only hope for His people, because before this even would come to pass His people would suffer at the hands of the very alliance the king had established.

However, The king’s disobedience and sin would make a way in time for God’s ultimate blessing. For God didn’t leave His people in exile and suffering but rather brought forth in time the fulfillment of the words of Isaiah to king Ahaz in the giving of His Son to the world. In the midst of the great fear of the ages and the new captivity of Israel to the people of Rome, God would now dwell with His people. Immanuel was to be born to a virgin in the city of David.

Now before the child would be born the Lord sent an angel to instruct her fiancé in the truth of what was to take place. We see this in Luke 1:18-23 with a picture of the angel’s interaction with Joseph. In this vision he is instructed to name the child Jesus, for He would save the people from their sins, but not only would He be named Jesus, He would be Immanuel. In this short passage of Scripture the name Immanuel became intricately connected to the name Jesus. In Jesus we see that God’s presence with His people is linked with His love for them and the desire to set them free from the lasting pain of sin. He takes on the name that echoed back to the very founding of the nation in the land of Canaan as Joshua lead his people to political freedom. Now the new Joshua (the Hebrew name that Jesus comes from) will set them free from a far greater danger, that of sin and death, and the only means by which he could do this is if he was the Immanuel, God himself residing with His people.

For us we are blessed to know that God did keep His promise to the people of Israel and we are the humble recipients of His grace and mercy. God came to us and set us free form our sin and set us on the path of righteousness, but He did not leave us on that path alone.

In both narratives we see God’s faithfulness to His people in the midst of uncertainty. So too in this advent season we know that God is still faithful to His people, though it took over 700 years for the true fulfillment of Immanuel to take place, He was faithful. In our day and age we have the blessing of seeing and experiencing the gift of the first Advent. As believers we experience the grace of God daily, all the more if you are not born Jewish, for in Christ He brought us gentiles into the family of God.

Today, while we experience the great blessings of Christ, may we also look forward to the eternal blessing of His second advent. One of the great blessings of God being with His people is that it is more than a metaphysical reality of the past, it is a real present experience, and a future hope in His final return.

So let us sing out with gladness not only because He has come and set free the first captive Israel from their sin, but that He shall return again to bring the true Israel to Himself for eternity.