In light of the current debates surrounding the doctrine of sanctification, we should be careful to stay close to the language of our confessions. With that in mind, Heidelberg Catechism, Lord's Day 114 asks the following:

 114. Q.

But can those converted to God
keep these commandments perfectly?


In this life even the holiest
have only a small beginning
of this obedience. 

Nevertheless, with earnest purpose
they do begin to live
not only according to some
but to all the commandments of God.

I have a few questions: If the "holiest" have only a "small beginning" of this new obedience, what are we to say about least holy in this life? Are they in danger with less than a small beginning of holiness?  How can the least holy who lack even a small beginning of holiness find any comfort?



I have been following, again, the current internet debates over sanctification.  It's troubling. Have we really not figured this out yet? Did the Reformation not make things clear for us? While it's not unhealthy to have brotherly discourse over these matters, I woke up this morning and read the following by Rick Philips at Reformation 21:

I can think of few messages more urgently needed by our worldly churches today than the necessity of pursuing practical holiness through obedience and good works.  I realize that many even of our Reformed brothers would rather ignore James' teaching than work through its challenges, both doctrinally and practically.  But as my friend insisted, "James is, you know, in the Bible. 



The Pretender in the Pulpit

In his excellent book, “The Courage to be Protestant”, David Wells opens chapter two with a startling account of an Easter worship service.  Wells writes, “It’s Easter morning 2006. And there lurking in the shadows, is a figure rarely seen in church. It’s Superman. Yes, Superman! He who leaps tall buildings in a single bound as he pursues evildoers.  No, wait a minute. It’s not him. Actually it’s only the senior pastor all decked out as Superman ready to communicate the gospel to a new generation…”  If this were playing on my MP3 player I’d hit stop at this point.  Does that really occur anymore? Seriously?  I think enough critique has happened by now that people have told their senior pastor to take off the Superman mask.  Aren’t we done now with the superficial, ear-tickling pastor? 
I have for some time been concerned that many churchgoers view the megachurch practices as so far out there that ignorance now prevails among Christians as to how subtle Satan is working in churches that claim to hold fast the truth.  More needs to be said of what I have observed as artificial imitation or, as Martyn Lloyd Jones used to call it, pulpiteering, in churches that are proud of their doctrinal heritage.  Did you know that a preacher could be nothing more than a good actor? I’m hoping this brief write-up will help the churchgoer to be able to distinguish between those ministries that are sincere from those that are artificial imitations.  There is a great difference between preaching and pretending to preach. 

Who Was That Masked Man?
Philip Doddridge in his work “On the Delivery of Sermons” provides an extensive warning against theatrical preaching and its destructive consequences in the life of the church. Theatrical preaching occurs when a preacher attempts to “transport into the views, the feelings, and the circumstances of the person represented.”  Theatrical preaching is the practice of acting what one is saying. It’s extremely detrimental to the spiritual life of the church. 



What The Gay Marriage Movement Should Know About God’s Rainbow

This last Friday is already designated as one of the most historic victories in our nation’s history as a divided Supreme Court on Friday ruled that same-sex couples can now marry nationwide.  This landmark opinion, as it’s being described, now opens the door for all gay and lesbian couples to have legally recognized marriages in all fifty states.  As soon as the announcement was made, gay and lesbian couples swarmed the streets with victory screams and chants. In short order, President Obama unequivocally spoke of the decision as a victory for America.  Within just a few hours, America itself seemed to be enveloped with the symbol of gay pride: the rainbow. 
Within the last twenty four hours, the rainbow has appeared everywhere.  I’ve seen pictures of the White House painted with the colors of a rainbow.  Silicon Valley companies are implementing all sorts of creative ways to use the rainbow as a sign of victory for the decision. Facebook has declared a celebration allowing members to add a rainbow filter to their profile picture to make clear those who support the decision.  Twitter has added a rainbow heart icon with the hash tag: Love wins. From Google to Starbucks to At&T, the rainbow has become the new flag for America, from sea to shining sea, America is now draped with the rainbow. 



What a great reminder from Calvin's letters to John Knox that we should moderate our rigor with regard to worship principles and ceremonies. 

First Letter of 1555:

"Certainly no one I think who is possessed of sound judgment, will deny that lighted tapers, and crucifixes, and other trumpery of the same description, flow from superstition.  When I lay it down for certain, that those who from free choice retain these things, are but too eager to drink from polluted dregs.  Nor do I see for what reason a church should be burdened with these frivolous and useless, not to call them by their real name, pernicious ceremonies, when a pure and simple order of worship is in our power.  But I check myself, lest I should seem to stir up a new strife, respecting a matter which, as I hear from, is happily set at rest." 

Third Letter of 1561:

"With regard to ceremonies, I trust, even should you displease many, that you will moderate your rigor. Of course it is your duty to see that the church be purged of all defilements which flow from error or superstition...But with this exception, you are well aware that certain things should be tolerated even if you don't quite approve of them

I am deeply afflicted, as you may well believe, that the nobles of your nation are split into factions, and it is not without reason that you are more distressed and tormented, because Satan is now plotting in the bosom of your church...but God is to be entreated that he may heal this evil also...For though your discord should spread no farther, already more than sufficient mischief has been done.  It will then belong to your wisdom and equity, in order that kindly affections be kept up, sedulously to disperse whatever remains there may be of estrangement. "

We all need this reminder.



The other day I stumbled upon an article by Farsch Askari lamenting what has happened to the Food Network.  The article is well-worth reading. In the article, Askari describes how the Food Network provided him a soothing release where he could escape from the stresses of daily life.  Watching the food network was a blissful and inspiring experience, driving his imagination and value for healthy eating as he watched real chefs in the kitchen craft their delectable gourmet dishes. 

But one day this all changed.  The reason: Guy Feiri.  What was once an authentic and stress relieving experience, was now, suddenly, replaced by a so called “rock-n-roll, unhealthy looking, food king.”  Askari goes on to describe how this one figure dramatically changed the entire course of the Food Network.  First, the Food Network became personality-driven.  The billabong wearing, college garage band maniac—circa 1995—had a new method of speaking to audience—he yells and speaks to the people like they’re five-year olds.  Then things got worse. In the wake of Fieri’s appearance, a host of other personalities began to dominate the network, well-known personalities such as Rachel Ray and Bobby Flay. Askari asks, “Did the head of their programming issue a mandate to seek out the most supremely irritating people who may or may not be able to cook decent food…?  

The second major shift is the most perplexing: Healthy cooking no longer seemed to matter on the Food Network.  Guy Feiri is offering “concoctions such as beer-battered meatball sandwiches, wrapped in a pizza and deep-fried in lard” and for desert a “sheet cake dipped in pancake batter, dunked in butter frosting and sprinkled with Pop-Tarts”—and he doesn’t even do any of the cooking.  Consequence?  Askari says, “Guy’s trying killing us.”

As I read the article I thought the most tragic consequence of the whole thing is when Askari laments the mass exodus of genuinely talented chefs.  Quality crafted dishes and culinary art no longer seemed to matter anymore, it became about ratings and personalities, a phenomenon that, in Askari’s eyes, has ruined the Food Network. The real fault remains, says Askari, with those who ever allowed this to happen.

Imagine for a minute substituting everything Askari describes in terms of the church today.  Would it be an unfair comparison?

I remember a time when coming to church was valued. Whether it was ever truly valued as it should have been is not what I am engaging, nor am I singing Mellencamp’s “Glory Days” with regard to the church.  I think know better than that.  But I do speak of a general value Christians placed upon going to church. There was a time when people had a general understanding of the value of worship.  At one time, across denominational lines, Christians used to gather twice on the Lord’s Day for worship.  It was accepted that something special was happening on Sunday’s when God’s people assembled together.

I know it’s out of vogue and considered legalistic to mention dressing-up for church, but dress used to convey in the church world something about what we believed we were doing.  Church was considered to be the most reverent and respectful act we did all week, and it earned our best preparation and response.  It was an escape for sinners, to come in the presence of God and receive from his hand real food and drink of eternal life—sacraments they “used” to be called.

It was intended to be refreshing. We sat intently listening to God’s pastors open His Word with sermons well-crafted, meditated upon, and prepared through the course of an entire week. Agreed, these no name pastors may not have had the “X-Factor”, but they were offering us real food, and it inspired us to want more of that food.  It was satisfying to the soul. We understood the gospel, grace, forgiveness, new life--the core doctrines of the Christian faith--and were inspired to keep our eyes fixed on God’s savior. 

But then one day it all changed.  The reason?  Well, I could answer that with naming about a dozen dominant Hollywood-esque personalities that began to fill the church.  The America Chapter 11 hall of faith (oops I mean “fame”) would certainly see figures such as ______, _______, _______, etc. And what more shall I say, for the time would fail me to tell you of, ______, _______, _______, _______, and_______.  I would fill in the blanks but we’ve come into a time when Christians don’t take well to mentioning of any names and I’m afraid that if I begin to do this many will disregard the entire post. 

But if I could mention a name, it would be Joel Osteen.  Like Askari’s circa 1995 Feiri, Osteen reminds me a lot of Brandon on 90210, less so Dillon, but nonetheless he still takes me to circa 1995--preppy style.  It really doesn’t matter who the figure is at the moment, we’ve become accustomed in Christianity to have one, and I’m sure the next one is already on deck. Shelf-life for these guys seems to be getting shorter and shorter even though a plethora of churches have now adopted the outdated model of yesterday's "Guy." What’s tragic is that in the wake of each dominant figure that arises, we see greater departure from the historic Christian faith.  And the farther we get, the more unrecognizable any Christian orthodoxy becomes for the new generation.

Askari’s overall concern is that Food Network has morphed into something other than a “food network.” Think about the consequences of this in terms of the church.  First, the church today is personality-driven.  We’re all about finding somebody relevant to the next generation. You know this. I am saying nothing new here. But we seem ignorant or at least unwilling to see the consequences of our rock-star Christianity.  We have a host of so-called pastors who are speaking to us like we’re idiots. Is a good sermon now only measured by how funny the pastor was in telling me about his personal home-life? And Christians today seem to love this. Sound familiar? Maybe this: "The prophets prophesy falsely and my people love to have it so (Jer. 5:31)." Askari says the Food Network speaks to people now as if they are in fifth-grade.  What grade-level, theologically speaking, does today’s preaching deserve?  You can answer.

We have a host of so-called pastors who are not trained.  Consequence?  Just as Guy Feiri never does the cooking himself because he is not a trained chef, and forces upon the audience food that slowly kills, the church today is fueled with so-called pastors who no longer preach. Is that a choice or it is because they do not know how? Whatever the answer, I do know this: training for the ministry doesn’t seem to matter at all anymore. And this has created a vacuum in which people no longer know what true preaching even sounds like.  Thus, the craft of preparing a sermon has little to do anymore with the actual Word of God and explaining its meaning.  It’s now about how witty the pastor can be in ticking the ears of the people by determining how best he can give them only what they want to hear.  It’s for this reason that the church often amounts to nothing more than being obnoxious and silly, and that seems to win the favor of the people.

Second, healthy food no longer seems to matter in church today.  We are spiritually getting “sheet cake dipped in pancake batter, dunked in butter frosting and sprinkled with Pop-Tarts.”  What ever happened to the meat and potatoes?  Yes, sometimes as a child my mom made me eat the brussel sprouts, even though it wasn't always a pleasant experience, I needed them. Why can’t we have meaty expositions of God’s Word that show the whole plan of salvation in Jesus Christ throughout redemptive history?  Do we even know what that tastes like anymore and the spiritual nourishment it provides?  If I may use Askari’s concern: don’t we realize the food we are receiving today is killing us and our children? 

But then comes the most tragic of consequences.  There is now becoming an “exodus” (shortage) of genuinely called pastors.  If you find them, generally speaking, they will be on the fringes, their churches small, full of struggle, undervalued, and under a great amount of pressure due to the “Guy Feiri’s” next door offering the “deep fried lard.”  And I come back to Askari’s concern that the real blame has to do with those who ever let things get like this.  Will the “Food Network” ever again be what it was designed to be? 



 In his book, "A Continuous Harmony: Essays Cultural and Agricultural," Wendell Berry writes,
Because of the obsession with short-term results that may be contained with the terms and demands of a single life, the interest of community is displaced by the interest of career.  The careerist teacher judges himself, and is judged by his colleagues, not by the influence he is having upon his students or the community, but by the number of his publications, the size of his salary and the status of the place to which his career has taken him thus far.  And in ambition he is where he is only temporarily; he is on his way to a more lucrative and prestigious place. Because so few stay to be aware of the effects of their works, teachers are not judged by their teaching, but by the short-term incidentals of publication and “service.” That teaching is a long-term service, that a teacher’s best work may be published in the children of grandchildren of his students, cannot be considered, for the modern educator, like his practical brethren in business and industry, will honor nothing that he cannot see.
I can't imagine a greater caution for those entering into Christian ministry (especially the Reformed pastorate) than to apply what Berry is saying to our context. Consider the painful application. Like modern teachers, pastors today are driven by short-term results. We are most concerned with being judged by ourselves and our colleagues as wise, intellectual, and accomplished. The ministry today is no longer driven by concern for the spiritual lives of our people, but instead, it's become a career, a platform for our own personal advancement. The ministry has become a stepping stone to the next and better thing, something more "lucrative and and prestigious." This manifests itself in constant restlessness. We're not really satisfied.  We look over the fence constantly to the bigger and better.

All of this creates a disconnect between what is a calling from God and our own aspirations of what we want ministry to be. What is lost is the sense from the people that we pastors love the sheep, are in it for the sheep, that we are servants given as sacrifices for the service of their faith.  Because of our displaced motives, our pastoral work is no longer judged by the nature of what constitutes pastoral work. The consequence of this lack of investment in people's lives is apparent, we now live in a generation that measures and judges our pastoral work by the "short term incidentals"of our publications and accomplishments, as we justify our displaced aspirations in the advancement of our names under the guise of "service." Does this mean that all incidentals are wrong? Of course not. But the motivations of our service should be checked as to whether they are an investment in us or the sacrificial love we are called to demonstrate to Christ's sheep.

What most interests me here is Berry's astute observation that teaching is a long-term service that the modern interpreter will never appreciate since he cannot see the results.  Berry says the best work of teachers is published in the "children of grandchildren in students." Oh that we would think of ministry this way!  This means, of course, that long-term investment in people's lives will often seem unsuccessful and lackluster, and will receive little approbation from a church world obsessed with numbers and immediate gratification. If God gives us to see some of the fruit of our pastoral labor in this life, then we should praise him for his kind providence. But our best work will be known tomorrow. Our faithfulness will be known in the generations to come, after we are dead and gone. This is God's way of doing ministry. It makes sense. This way glory goes to him as our motives remain challenged.

Pastors who adopt this modern paradigm for their ministry, dependent on being sustained by their big name, personality, and so-called "service," lacking any real investment in the lives of the people, tend to fall as quickly as they rose to power. This is, in my estimation, happening right now to Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill Church.

So I humbly caution those entering into the pastoral ministry. Brothers, we're not careerists. Are you in this for the up building of Christ's church, realizing that you may never live to see the results of your work, or are you in it to make a great name for yourself today?

Don't be a pastor, if you don't want to be a pastor.



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The following is my feeble attempt to wrestle through the 2k/neo-Calvinist controversy.  This is written with sincere concern for the church and in love.

Last week Carl Trueman interacted with D.G. Hart’s new book on Calvinism: A History, and posted an article with a fair concern of the transformationalist ideals.  Trueman writes,  
Surely it is time to become realistic. It is time to drop the cultural elitism that poses as significant Christian transformation of culture but only really panders to nothing more than middle class tastes and hobbies.  It is time to look again at the New Testament's teaching on the church as a sojourning people where here we have no lasting home."



Grumpy Old Men & The Reformed Tradition
Where are all the young people going? Why do the visitors never seem to stick?  Why have there been so many fights in our church history? Unfortunately, these are common questions in the Reformed tradition.  In my years as a pastor, I have been shocked over how much antipathy there has been toward Reformed churches.  It took me more than a few years to get a handle on why the reaction has been so strong.  The sad reality is that many people have witnessed fighting, church splits, abuses, hatreds, contentions, jealousies, all undergirded by a hard kind of legalism within the confines of a closed community that demonstrates nothing of the joy of Christ.  What are we to think of these things? Are there any legitimate criticisms of the Reformed faith that we should evaluate? 


Good Friday Meditation: THE POPE KILLS CHRIST by Martin Luther

Luther on why the Pope continues to kill Christ, 

"We should learn here that no one should place his trust in men, even if he is in an estate ordained by God. But if we are not to believe nor put our trust in Annas and Caiaphas, how are we to believe or trust the devil, the pope in Rome, the monks in monasteries, or the godless bishops? God so thoroughly forbids putting trust in any man that one should not even trust in those who are in the highest, best, and most secure estates. For no estate on earth has been so gloriously confirmed as was the estate of Annas and Caiaphas.  If Annas and Caiaphas became scoundrels in their order and estate, even though it was the most exalted on earth, then you should learn from this not to esteem any man on the basis of his estate or see.  The papal jurists exalted their pope and said, "non est praesumendum, quod tantae altitudinis apex possit errare"--"It is not to be presumed that the pope in such a lofty station can err."  Against this claim I set the following: Annas and Caiaphas occupy a loftier position and sit on a greater throne than do the pope and the emperor. Yet they not only err but also are scoundrels and knaves--the worst of scoundrels and knaves ever to have lived on earth, for they crucified the Son of God... 


THE PERILS OF SELF PROMOTION: 8 Mistakes of Seminarians & Young Pastors

THE PERILS OF SELF-PROMOTION: 8 Mistakes of Seminarians & Young Pastors
Delivered to Westminster Seminary, CA- URCNA Students

Text: Now Absalom would rise early and stand beside the way to the gate…So Absalom stole the hearts of the men of Israel (2 Sam 15:2).

The peril of self-promotion in the Christian ministry is nothing new.  Jesus himself had to deal with this problem on numerous occasions in his own disciples.  The Son of God became a servant to seek and to save that which was lost, and before him were his own followers often arguing about greatness, fighting over the best seats, and pushing their earthly agendas upon him for their own glory in the here and now.  Jesus took every opportunity to correct this problem, summarily when he said, “whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave--just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many (Matt 20:27-28).”
Over the years I have witnessed this problem in the pastoral ministry both in myself and in others.  As I see a new generation of young pastors aspiring to the pulpit ministry, I would like to offer some reflection upon mistakes that are common both to young men training for pulpit ministry and for young pastors.  No one ever warned me of these things, so I hope such a reflection will help us all to remember that our calling is to be servants.
 1. I’ve Got A Hero
We are used to a Christianity that is full of stars, and the Reformed world has some of the most notable.  Combine personality with a robust theology and you have quite an attraction in our day of mindless Christianity. The Reformed world has really become its own little theological Hollywood, and we unite together around the theological giant who has a name.  While nothing is wrong with appreciating, learning from, and implementing the teachings of godly teachers set apart for our training, this does become a problem when we are trying to become that giant. This easily becomes our identity in our formative years.  We think like, act like, and begin to speak like the success who has influenced us the most. We’re afraid to speak apart from that identity. We feel safe within the personality of the hero we have adopted. What becomes of our homiletic training and preparation? We are emboldened in our preaching in so far as we achieved sounding like our hero.

The danger here is evident.  Not only are we guilty of following Apollos, Paul, Sproul, Piper, Beeke, et al, but we have pushed to the side the real agent of blessing in the Christian ministry, the Holy Spirit.  If the ultimate goal of our training and study is to preach Christ, what good is such preparation if we have forgotten the one who bears witness to Christ, even though we have achieved exegetical accuracy through the lens of our hero?   Hywel Jones summarizes the problem well when he concludes that preaching is today driven by the importance of exegetical accuracy and contemporary relevance, but in our attention to Scripture, has the Holy Spirit been forgotten?
 2. I’ve Become, Look at Me
As time goes on, the new pastor begins to realize that the identity he has adopted isn’t working real well in the ministry itself.  It was good for the seminary days, but for some reason, the draw just isn’t happening out at ground zero.  Where is the interest?  Why did it work for my hero and not me?  What often happens is that pastor begins to search for a new hero, or he tries to develop himself as his own new brand of hero.  If he adopts the former, often an overt shift in theological emphasis occurs with the goal of breaking the perceived stagnation. He adopts Piper's satisfication message, Beeke's assurance emphasis, Sproul's holiness of God recovery. Everything becomes built around one of these themes.

If the latter is pursued, the result will be some kind of pastoral make-over.  Excessive attention is given to books, lectures, speaking engagements, sermons, all with the goal of trying to get people to adopt the pastor himself as their hero.  There is a real danger here of theological narcissism, and radical paradigm shifts often follow.  I’ve been amazed in my short time of ministry how many pastors continue to swing from pendulum to pendulum—low liturgy to high, Chuck Smith to Pope Benedict, belief to unbelief. What is most disturbing is how much public attention is given to these theological shifts, along with the readiness to dissect, debate, and dissemble, in public, the former views once held, and with robust passion.
 3. I’m Ready For Debate
Young pastors, especially seminarians, should stay out of, as much as is possible, theological controversies.  As a side note, I also think our churches and seminaries should protect our seminarians from these controversies.  Seminarians are quick to jump into the fight.  I observed recently that a seminary student wrote a chapter in a book on one of the major theological controversies in the Reformed world.  This was poor oversight of this young seminarian and it opened him up to scrutiny before he has even been ordained.  Seminary students have one job, and that is to learn and to be teachable.  Theological controversy will always be around.  Those who are the most humble and teachable in their preparation today will be the greatest defenders of the truth tomorrow.
 4. I’m the Vox Dei
In the Reformed tradition we have a high view of preaching.  The one who proclaims the Word of God is sent by Christ to authoritatively declare his will.  But what happens when that Word is not being heard?  What is the pastor to do when, in the middle of controversy, it seems that no one is heeding the admonitions of the Lord?  There is a view of the pastor as the vox dei that is abusive.  In the midst of controversy, it’s easy for the pastor to brow beat the congregation into submission with the added threat that the people are sinning against God if they do not accept lock, stock and barrel everything the pastor says. 
Controversy can often so easily warp the pastors sermon preparation that he is unable to think, see, or apply Scripture beyond the controversy.  Never does the pastor stop and ask why, in every sermon, am I coming up with the same applications to the current controversy? When the pastor uses the pulpit this way, he has struck the rock sinfully, and will have the slow effect of losing his congregation. I have seen many a pastor end up defrocked from the ministry for such abuse.
5. I’ll Deal With This
The pastor holds an incredible position of power.  He is used to everyone coming to him for the answers.  The young pastor is prone to tackle every single problem in the church. Beware of this, the devil will attack your ministry at the inception with some kind of controversy in the church—a divorce, a mixed marriage, a leadership problem, a discipline case. The pressure for the pastor to get the situation solved immediately, exercise the key of discipline hastily, and take the problem into his own hands is a dangerous one. 
My advice to a young pastor is to make a distinction between those things that pertain to your office and those things that do not. With regard to the later, stay out, with regard to the former, lean heavily upon your elders. They are given to shepherd the congregation, and the pastor is sent to minister the Word and assist in the shepherding of the elders. Pastors who are too involved in disciplines cases and in the minutiae of church life will lose their effectiveness in the pulpit.  We are not micro-managers.  We are shepherds.  For this reason, I believe the pastor should not be the one reading discipline statements from the pulpit.  An elder should do this, if only for the sake of the one being disciplined that he will still be able to receive the preaching of the Word.
6. You Should Call Me
Seminary is an artificial atmosphere. Here students pick-apart, dissect, and “make perfect” the sermon as they are taught by qualified men who the Lord has set apart for this important task.  The student then takes his well-crafted sermon out to the churches, preaches it over and over until it is perfected.  People approach him after the sermon saying things like, “Wow, you are a great preacher. We would love to have someone like you here.”  They mean well.  The people are generally excited about the fresh new seminarian—his life, his excitement, his passion.

After a bit of this, the seminary student begins to take it in.  Everyone has confirmed his gift of being a pastor, there should be no barrier to his receiving of a call.  He begins to think, “Wow, I would love to pastor that church that has received me so well.”  Though not overtly, he is preaching so as to candidate, even though the church has a pastor. He visits, preaches with enthusiasm, and secretly would love to have that pulpit. 

What he has not considered is that the pastor of that was once treated like that too.  He was the young guy on the block, and the honeymoon was really enjoyable. But after years of the warfare, and a current conflict in the church, things have weighed on him.  Pastor is tired. The seminary student and young pastor should realize this dilemma.  Such a praised situation is not the normal life of the ministry.  Be careful not to self-promote when you preach in another pastor’s church.  While you should receive the encouragements from God’s people as a blessing and confirmation of your calling, realize that what you are receiving is not the normal life of the pastorate. 
7. Are You Questioning Me?
Always be willing to ask for forgiveness and be humble.  If you ever get to the point where you cannot accept or receive any criticism, pride has overcome you.  We will sin and make many mistakes along the way, and the willingness to seek for reconciliation is a big qualification of a servant.  There will always be antagonists in the church, and I believe God allows for these thorns in the flesh to keep us humble. We should see in these thorns a representation of ourselves in how we have treated the Lord, being reminded of his unfailing love for us.
I never accepted criticism well in my early years.  A seasoned pastor once reminded me that he was often roasted at the Sunday lunch by his parishioners and that I should get used to this about the ministry, lest I start acting like a cult leader.  I never forgot that advice.
8. Here Is How I Do Things
Inflexibility in matters of indifferent things will kill your ministry.  Be balanced and never forget why you are doing what you are doing.  The letter to church in Ephesus is one to remember.  They were commended for their doctrinal integrity, but were charged for leaving their first love.
What exactly was a leaving of the first love?  Ask yourself, why are you preparing so diligently to become a pastor? Imagine rising early every week to prepare a sermon, working hard, tending to the calling, and forgetting why you are doing these things. Your heart would not be in the work.  This was the problem in Ephesus. It was wonderful they were exposing error, but why were they doing this?  Was it to validate them or was it because they cared deeply for the souls of those who being seduced away into false teaching and things that Christ hates?
We can apply this to ministry.  Are we preaching and teaching to validate us, or are we doing all of these things with the goal that every man would be presented perfect in Christ, as Paul states. If it’s the former, we are merely promoting ourselves, if it’s the later; we are servants in the calling Christ has placed upon us.



We start airing Abounding Grace Radio in Phoenix this Saturday and Sunday 7:30 Am on 1360 KPXQ.

We're still airing in the Pacific Northwest on KARI 550 Monday-Friday, 8:30 am, 2:45 pm, and 8:45 pm.

We are also airing Monday Oct. 8 five times per week at 1:30-2:00 PM on K-Praise 1210AM. We air right after David Jeremiah and before Mark Larson. A great spot indeed!



I realize that writing this post probably does the very thing that I am condemning, but I don't know how else to address the issue.  This past Sunday, Jason Stellman, a former PCA Reformed minister, was received into the Roman Catholic communion.  He has posted his story of journey to Rome on the Called to Communion website. Painful, but not surprising. 

Many responses have been provided suggesting a variety of different motives for Jason's departure--some even suggesting he doesn't understand the gospel.  I did a write-up a few months back attempting to address what I believe is the crucial consequence of his departure. 

Since that time, I have followed Jason on Facebook and his blog.  When it first broke open, Jason demonstrated some kind of remorse. He apologized to people, expressed grief to those whom he has hurt in his church, home, community, etc., and he seemed generally humble by what he knew was a radical shift in his theology. 
But that day of remorse was short lived.  At first Jason claimed that he would remain silent in light of the plethora of degrading responses he was receiving.  Reason?  Jason responded that his sanctification was being tested (mortal sins, purgatory, etc., obviously have serious consequences to an unsanctified life). But this too didn't last very long. 

Now Jason is back and bolder than ever.  From the Calvary Road (Calvary Chapel that is), to debating the fine points of election and covenant theology, to fighting the Federal Visionists, to now swimming the Tiber, Jason is now ready to take on all his former Protestant friends and debate them on how they have all read Paul wrongly on justifying faith, and assumed too much in adopting Scripture as an alone authority.  Jason is ready to dissect, debate, and dissemble, in public, his former views he once held, and with robust passion.  The Roman door is now open, Luther is now the door-stop, and Called to Communion has a new poster boy, as Jason summons us all to consider his insurmountable conclusion that has lead him home. 

His old, loyal friends are standing back in shock. We remember reading his public testimony of why he left Calvary Chapel.  Powerful reading. Jason became the poster boy for the anti-Calvary Chapel movement. We were convinced, but now we are confused. Can you really begin with Hawaiian shirts, guitars, and Pope Smith (as Jason used to call him), and end up satisfied with collars, beads, and Pope Benedict XVI?  What is left except to become a poster boy for yourself? We would surely call that agnosticism.
I write this to make a plea with those who are still engaging Jason, listening to him, or considering following his path.  Look at the real problem here.  The radical nature of the paradigm shifts that have taken place in Jason's short life should say something.  And the question of why Jason has to make every shift a public event with public attention should say even more.  How much attention does Jason really need?

How Jason broke so quickly out of remorse for hurting an entire congregation and now has so boldly engaged his interlocuters on Called to Communion, Green Baggins, and his blog should earn some discernment from those who are reading. This all exposes a need for attention. It seems disingenuous for Jason to make the case that he as relinquished all autonomy in joining Rome when the result is this kind of theological narcissism.
Jason did understand the gospel and decided it was not the answer for him. I repeat, it was not that he misunderstood it, and has departed in ignorance. Jason grasped it, confessed it, was ordained to it, promised to defend it, and then defected consciously from the system of doctrine he promised to uphold.

We've considered the Roman claims, tested them by the Word, and rejected them. Our confession stands because the Word stands. This doesn't mean that the issues are not worth engaging. They are. This doesn't mean that the Romanist claims aren't worth refuting. They are. It's that Jason isn't the fellow with whom we should be having this debate, if only for his sake. There is a bigger problem that the bigger picture exposes. We should be conscious of those who are carried about by every wind of doctrine. The most loving thing we could do for Jason right now is to stop engaging him.