As of today, July 10th, 2020, Governor Andy Beshear (Kentucky) will require masks to be worn in public spaces for at least the next 30 days. Some think such a requirement is government overreach and unconstitutional. Others consider this mandate to be a simple rule to follow. My aim is not to argue politics or the constitution. I am not an expert in either of those topics, and I think politicizing every issue often misses the point.
Regardless of your political opinions on the matter, should you wear a mask or not? What if a judge has ordered a block on pandemic executive orders coming from the governor? Here's where the issue gets a little sticky. Who do we follow? What does the Bible teach on the matter? How do we move forward for the next 30 or even 60 days?
1. Is it loving or unloving to wear a mask?
A good place to start is Matthew 22:36-40:
He said to him, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important command. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.
Does wearing a mask help us love God or our neighbor? To put it differently, does wearing a mask hinder me from loving God or loving my neighbor? These questions should drive us to think deeply about the health and social implications of such a mandate. Does my wearing or refusal to wear a mask display a political stance more than a biblical one? Does my wearing or refusal to wear a mask portray an unbiblical measure of fear or anxiety? Does my wearing or refusal to wear a mask shout, "I trust (or reject) the government!"?
2. Is it sinful to wear a mask?
In Philippians, we are called to "approve of what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God" (Phil. 1:10-11). Let's break that down in light of wearing masks. Does wearing a mask stop you from:
If you can biblically answer "no" to these questions, then it is not sinful to wear a mask. If you can biblically answer "yes" to these questions, you shouldn't wear a mask because it is sinful either in omission or commission of sin. Further, if your conscience does or does not allow you to wear a mask, you need to heed Romans 14:23: "For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin".
Be warned, doing Bible gymnastics to twist Scripture to fit your opinions is dangerous business! If you're willing to do it for a mask, you'll probably be willing to bend over backwards to make more serious and spiritually deadly decisions in the future.
3. Is this a situation where civil disobedience is necessary?
There are times, as in the case of Daniel, where civil disobedience glorifies God—he was told to worship a god other than the God of Scripture (see Daniel 6). The high officials knew that Daniel lived a godly, upright life and would obey the government unless it pertained to the "the law of his God" (Daniel 6:5). This begs for our attention! There are situations where the world and corrupt governments will try to bait us into sinning against God. We must resist the temptation to sin.
However, we need to use the Word of God to discern when and how to resist governing authorities in such cases. We also ought to reflect on how the Bible calls us to relate to the governing authorities in our cities, nations, and states. This doesn't mean reading the Bible through your political (or anti-political lens). It means striving to take the Word of God as it is and applying it to the situation in front of you.
Romans 13:1-7 calls us to "be subject to the governing authorities" and not do wrong because "rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad." Paul refers to God's sovereignty over the rulers of the nations and calls us to "do what is good." We do this not only to guard against "God's wrath", but also for the sake of our consciences.
1 Peter 2:11-17 is similar to Romans 13. Peter calls Christians to "keep [our] conduct among the Gentiles honorable" and to "be subject for the Lord's sake to every human institution" because "this is the will of God". He continues, "Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the Emperor." Peter reasons that living godly lives and being subject to governing authorities:
After reading these two passages, are masks inherently sinful? Does wearing or not wearing a mask keep us from being subject to the governing authorities? Are we following the revealed will of God if we decide to wear or not wear a mask? Who are we honoring if we do or don't wear a mask?
Let the Word of God Lead the Way
At the end of the day, you must let the Word of God dictate how you'll respond to the mask mandates—and any other government policies we meet in this lifelong journey. Here are three reasons I'll be wearing a mask in public:
I am not prescribing a policy for whether you should wear a mask or not, but it seems that this shouldn't be a hill to die on. This isn't a specific or direct attack on churches or religious liberty, so I don't see the need to buck against the system. You may disagree, but we must all strive to have the mind of Christ and "do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than ourselves" (Phil. 2:3).
Cry Out, Don't Complain
This is a hard time for us all, but especially pastors and church leaders. Before you criticize or complain, cry out to God on their behalf. You may not like the governor's or pastor's decision on masks, but remember that they are striving to make decisions based on Scripture and the flock God has called them to shepherd.
If you’re looking for a family friendly resource to get your kids learning about the Bible and having fun at the same time, this is it!
The book has several Bible stories to choose from:
Each of these stories has scripture and a brief summary of the Biblical text. In addition to the Scripture is a seek-and-find that is sure to keep kids and parents searching together while talking about the Bible stories. Each page contains at least 50 objects to count, which helps with math skills as well as attention to detail and memorization.
As a guy who loves bonuses and special features in books, I was excited to see some extra goodies tucked into the first page. This is a book full of surprises and fun finds for our children, and it is especially good for younger children who may not be able to focus very well on longer Bible stories.
I recommend Seek and Find Old Testament Stories to families with young children who want to get them involved in Bible time and family worship. It’s a great starting point, and is tied directly to the biblical text for those who want to use it in family devotional time.
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher. I was not required to leave a positive review.
Theological Bobble Heads
Bobble heads are some of the funniest decorations I’ve ever seen. The heads are so big that they wobble with every move. They are especially funny when they are on the dashboard of someone’s vehicle. I haven’t seen one in quite a while, but it reminds me of a spiritual problem that I’ve seen in my own heart and in people around me.
I have noticed a tendency to be fat-headed when it comes to theology. When I go to someone’s house, the first thing I look for is their bookshelf. One reason is to see if we stand on the same theological ground and read the same authors. Another reason is simple: I want to see how well-read they are.
By All Means, Read
Reading good books and studying the Bible is not inherently sinful. In fact, Paul tells Timothy to study (or be diligent) to show himself approved (2 Timothy 2:15). However, he also tells Timothy to continue in what he learned from Paul, including his conduct, aim of life, faith, patience, love, steadfastness, and more (2 Timothy 3:10-11).
In the same chapter, Paul says that all Scripture is God-breathed and profitable for a host of reasons including “training in righteousness.. that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
Don’t Just Learn
For the more academically oriented Christians, we read of studying and get excited. We envision ourselves with books strewn across the table as we dive deep into the meaning of a Greek term or theological concept. We hear the words “study”, and “teaching” loud and clear. We often feel that we are “equipped” simply by our learning.
This can be a dangerous way of thinking, if we are not careful. Very dangerous.
In some Christian circles, learning is where we stop. As our heads swell with doctrinal knowledge, our desires to love and listen to others seem to wane. We are quick to quote scripture, our favorite theologians, or our confessional statements while we are slow to practice the principles and commands found in those same documents.
Notice that I said “we”. I’m a fat head too, sometimes. Just ask my wife and close friends.
Commit To Obedience
I recently had a conversation with a friend of mine about how challenging it is to discuss and discern tone—especially in writing. What I mean is this: there is a way to speak truth that is loving, and there is a way to speak truth that is unloving. It is hard to figure out, sometimes, when a person is trying to be loving or unloving.
This is where we must search our own hearts and discern our true motives. As quickly as we study, we must also be willing to apply that learning through loving. That is what Paul speaks of in Philippians 1:9 when he says “and it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment”.
The clear way forward is to commit to applying and obeying everything we read and study in scripture. We are not to be hearers of the word only but also doers. We can’t settle for just being bobble heads who have minds full of knowledge and hearts dulled by the pride and arrogance that comes with unapplied excessive learning.
Are you a Christian bobble head? What would your friends and family say? What is your social media saying?
“So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.”
As we scan the horizon of American church history, we would be foolish to pretend that racism or ethnic partiality has not been and is not an issue. We know that the stain of racism has soiled the garments of the Church in this nation. As John Perkins stated in Welcoming Justice, the church allowed the culture to pervade their thinking.
However, the bride of Christ is always being made pure by her Bridegroom. We are a people being sanctified day by day as we behold our glorious Savior. Her sin-stained garment is being made white as snow by the blood of Jesus, and we must never forget that. The gospel is radically powerful no matter what culture or what sin issues may abound.
The Prophetic Work of the Church
Reconciliation starts with us... well, sort of.
Reconciliation starts with God who first extended His electing love to a people who were hell-bound and deserving of eternal death. Yet, after He saved us, He sent us to all nations to proclaim His glorious message of reconciliation. Our ultimate problem is enmity with God, and politics won’t fix that. Only the gospel can.
Since we have been reconciled to and sent out by God, reconciliation in America starts with us—the ambassadors of Christ.
As I have looked at the issues of racism and injustice in this nation, I have shared a similar sentiment with many friends and family: the church needs to be at the forefront of reconciliation efforts. In fact, I believe the church will lead the cause of racial unity and equality in America. The far-left agenda of organizations like Antifa and Black Lives Matter won’t sustain it. The alt-right groups like bro-confederates and the KKK want nothing to do with it. Partisan politics is only fuel for the fire.
This doesn’t mean we don’t need reforms in the justice system. It also doesn’t mean that fighting for the rights of the oppressed is a waste (see Isaiah 1:17). But it does mean we need more than than that. We need the gospel. We need a biblical worldview. Our foundation is Christ, and our strength lies in the power of God.
Christians are called to hate all evil (Psalm 97:10). As we deal with the evil in our own hearts, we will become more Christlike, and that Christlikeness will be put on display for the world to see. The gospel is a powerful message, and those who have new hearts also have the Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead dwelling within us. We are mystically, and yet actually, in union with Christ. He is our power for a change!
This Is Church Work
The work of the Church in reconciling with one another is prophetic. I am not speaking of institutional religiosity and buildings. The church is the universal assembly of grace-filled believers who join together in local assemblies—churches—to worship and work together for the glory of God.
Our message and mission will speak volumes to the culture around us. The church has always been called to love one another and do good to everyone, though we do this imperfectly. Today, I see Christians throughout this nation rising up and listening and loving one another. I see Christians of every ethnicity studying the Bible in order to grow in their knowledge of the truth as well as their application of it.
I am hopeful! Jesus said that nobody can come to the Father except through Him. He has invited the world to come to Him, and He uses the church to do it. As the world sees Christians love one another, they will know we are His. We are living pictures of the reconciling work of the gospel!
What Is Your Part?
We each have a part to play. What is yours?
As we desire and strive to see reconciliation In this nation, it is going to take far more than more policies and diversity training. Those things are indeed helpful, but they don’t change hearts. We have seen that with the Civil Rights movement and laws that followed it. As disciplemakers, we are in the unique position to both teach and model biblical diversity.
Are you a parent? Teach your children the Bible. Share the gospel with your children as often as you can. And as you’re teaching them the gospel, show them what it looks like to be Christlike toward people to all people, even those who don’t look like them. Teach them to respond to racism or ethnocentrism in ways that glorify God.
Do you have a job? Grab lunch with a coworker that you’ve been meaning to connect with. Speak to them about these issues from a biblical worldview, and share the gospel as you speak on these matters. Reach to friends of other ethnicities and get to know them. Even if you don’t have many opportunities for that, speak to people of your own ethnicities about the issues and show them the biblical response. We don’t have to live in diverse areas to make a difference.,
Do you go to church? If you’re in a predominantly black or predominantly white church, you can still make an impact in the discussion of reconciliation. We should be willing to discuss our struggles and point one another to the gospel. Perhaps there are racist tendencies and mindsets within our own hearts. The church is the place to discuss that, because we have the Scriptures and the gospel to change those things. If you are in a diverse church, share your struggles while carrying the burdens of the Saints around you. This is exactly what the church is here for.
Will you buy in?
For some of us, reconciliation has been a way of life already. There may not be much for you to change at all. As a black man with a white wife and mixed children, reconciliation is part of the fabric of my life. I am in predominantly white churches, but I am striving to stay connected with the black culture in my community as well as connecting my church to the people I love and grew up with. Sometimes it is tough to balance because I feel stuck in the middle of two groups of people I love. For years I’ve been praying for God to send me as a laborer in the harvest of my community, and now I’m seeing some of the answers unfold.
For others of us, reconciliation may feel like a foreign task. It may be scary. It may even be offensive to think that you need to pursue diversity in your life. I challenge you with this: if heaven will be multicultural and multi ethnic, don’t you want a taste of that today? I don’t believe that you have to befriend every black person or every white person you meet. I am not saying that pursuing relationships with Latinos or people from other nations should be your only focus. But could it at least be one of them?
As I look at the world around me, reconciliation is bigger than just race. There are people in poverty from all races. There are people who have faced injustice from all walks of life. There are people everywhere looking for the hope of the gospel. The bigger picture of reconciliation is that we desire to see all people as image bearers of God who desperately need to be connected with the Savior—Jesus Christ. Will you grab them by the hand and take them to the foot of the cross?
Reconciliation starts with us.
Image Credit: Photo by fauxels from Pexels
I’m tired right now.
I’m tired of having to witness another unarmed—this time subdued—black man killed by some bad police officers.
I’m tired of saying that most black people aren’t “thugs” and that there are “good” blacks everywhere.
I’m tired of saying that not all cops are bad.
I’m tired of people thinking that I’m a “white” black dude who only wants to talk about how bad the looting is and not about the racial tension that caused it.
I’m tired of having to remind people that not every black protestor desires to see riots and destruction of business in their own community.
I’m tired of my white friends having to ask me how I’m doing because it’s happened again.
I’m tired of being told that since it didn’t happen to me, it shouldn’t affect me.
But I’m thankful.
I’m thankful for all the peaceful protestors who are using their freedom to speak out against injustice and evil.
I’m thankful for the black Christian voices that can keep me encouraged and remind me that I need to speak up and use my voice as well.
I’m thankful for the white Christian voices who are truly concerned and desirous to be there for us.
Im thankful for the white pastors who are literally taking action to help their churches be catalysts in reconciliation, even if they’re called social justice warriors or lose credibility with some in their theological camp.
I’m thankful that there are good police officers of all races—including white!—out to serve and protect the people of this country.
I’m thankful that many police officers and government officials have spoken out on the atrocity we witnessed this week.
I’m thankful most of all for the gospel which saves the souls of all who call on the name of Jesus.
I’m hopeful knowing that this will all be over some day.
I’m hopeful that God will use circumstances like these to strengthen and unite Christians all across this country.
I’m hopeful because Christ will come back and God will wipe every tear from the eyes of His children regardless of what their skin looks like.
I’m hopeful because the Holy Spirit is crying out with groanings too deep for words on the behalf of many speechless and hurting Christians.
I’m hopeful because Christ has given me rest and is interceding for me as well as my brothers and sisters in Him.
And I’m hopeful because I’ve read Revelation. I know the end already because God revealed it and promised to make all things new.
If you don’t know Christ. Get to know Him now. It’s not too late to trust in Him and His finished work. It is through the cross that Jesus paid for sin and broke down the dividing wall of hostility between all of His people. He died to make us all one in Him. He rose again so we could have life. If you want to see true change, seek the Lord and watch Him change you first. Then come join us as we fight together for justice.
An Array Of Emotions
We've seen a plethora of responses to COVID-19 and the worldwide fallout over the past several weeks. We've all been impacted and may even feel like we're on a roller coaster, shifting up and down with each new and seemingly contradictory piece of information thrown at us. While there is a lot to be joyful about in times of trial, sometimes we just don't feel the way we should.
Thankfully, God knows that intimately. Jesus took on flesh and felt more suffering than we could ever imagine. He is a brother (Hebrews 2:11) who sympathizes with our weakness and suffering, though He never fell into sin (Hebrews 4:15). The Holy Spirit is in His people and intercedes for us when we are too weak and unable to pray as we ought (Romans 8:26).
Are you angry? You may be angry at the governor or with the church leaders for how the worship service will look this week. Maybe you’re angry at God that He allowed this virus get out of hand. Maybe you’re angry because you feel that we’re being duped in a global conspiracy. Perhaps you're angry because you lost your job or the economy is being crushed. You might even feel angry because we're opening sooner than you think is wise.
Are you fearful? Perhaps you're anxious about your health. Maybe you have an immunocompromised loved one. Maybe you have a newborn or young baby and you fear what this virus could do to them. Perhaps you're nervous because others aren't wearing masks or don't seem to be taking this as seriously as we have been advised.
Are you overwhelmed? You might be caring for several young children. You could be the parent of older children who want to break free from the government restrictions. Perhaps you have an elderly parent or family member to care for. Maybe your job has drastically changed and you're doing difficult and confusing work. Maybe life was already overwhelming and this virus has thrown it completely off kilter.
Whatever the case, let the glory of God minster to your soul today.
God is Worthy of Our Worship
Pray earnestly right now that God would reorient your heart toward Him. Ask Him to open your eyes to His glory in the midst of this frustration. Psalm 33 is a call for His people to worship and praise Him—even in the midst of suffering. Praise "befits" those who have trusted in Christ for righteousness (v. 1-2). For this reason we can "sing to Him a new song" as we take a fresh look at glorious, ancient truths that have blessed us through the years and continue to bring us great joy (v.3).
God Word is upright and faithful (v. 4-5), powerful to create the universe (v. 6-9), powerful to restrain sinners (v. 10), and forever beneficial to those who are His (v.11-12). God's Word is worthy of our adoration and we need to let it draw us to a place of deep worship in our hearts and in our churches.
God is Still Here, Hope in Him
God doesn't stand far off as a distant watchmaker who set things in motion and just let it go. He "looks down from heaven" as He sits on His heavenly throne (v. 13-14). He sees the wicked and their vain trust in themselves and their inventions (v. 15-17). They technology and weaponry won't save them in last day. His caring and watchful eye is "on those who fear Him" and He delivers our souls from death (v. 18-19).
If you're struggling today, tell it to God and wait for Him. Long for the day that He returns and fixes all of this mess. It's coming! Remember, too, that right now "He is our help and our shield" (v. 20). He can help you repent of unrighteous emotions and use your righteous emotions in ways that will do good and not evil. Pray that your heart can be glad in Him because you trust in Him (v. 21).
Ultimately, pray that God's steadfast love could be upon all of His people as we hope in Him (v.22). God is bigger than COVID-19, corrupt governments, potential vaccines, media outlets, social media opinions, and anything else we can find. If we set our minds and souls on Christ and remember that in Him we are righteous and upright (v. 1-2), He will be our help and our hope (v. 20-22).
We all need the gospel right now. We must not take our eyes off Jesus, especially in the most challenging and stressful moments. How are you feeling? Where are you looking?
A Stroll Through the Neighborhood
As I walk down the street this morning, I see an empty neighborhood. There aren't a lot of cars out driving, and there aren’t a lot of people out having fun together. No cookouts, no yard sales, no birthday parties, and not much of anything else. Spring doesn’t normally feel like this, but the COVID-19 lockdown has us all stuck at home and waiting for some relief. It seems that many states are opening things back up, which has many people jumping for joy.
As I think personally about this whole situation, the thing I miss most is fellowship with other Christians. I miss the corporate gatherings each Sunday. I also miss the impromptu get-togethers with brothers and sisters in Christ. Right now I can’t have a bonfire and invite my friends over for scripture reading and discussion. Kim and I can’t invite another family over for dinner after Sunday morning worship. I can't meet with Jeremy on Tuesday at the Hub or pray with Joe on Wednesday morning.
Some have been quick to remind me that, technically, I can do all of these things. They're right. But out of love for others, respect for the government, and our own health, my family has decided to stay in.
Loving My Neighbors
While many people allow their Christian faith to be Sunday and Wednesday only, I hope this lockdown gives us a greater longing to spend time with people. Humans are not meant to be isolated. I think about God speaking that Adam was not meant to be alone (Genesis 2:18). While many of us have a spouse or children, several do not. I feel for our single Christian brothers and sisters out there who have lost many of the avenues of social connection in this tough season.
I've been thinking a lot about the command to love my neighbor, and how radically different that looks right now (Mark 12:31). I guess I could still go visit my neighbors and bring them food, but I could also be introducing them to a virus that I don’t even know if I have. Our church could set up a block party, give away food, hand out tracts, and preach the gospel, but that size gathering could spread the virus without proper social distancing. And who knows when the government will say it is wise to host such a gathering.
The reality is, I haven't visited my neighbors enough in the past few years, and it took being locked down to realize that. It took being locked down to get me to recognize the numerous families in my neighborhood who need to see the love of God. It took a global pandemic to open my eyes to the people I've been ignoring for the past five years while praying for God to send me somewhere with the gospel.
It may sound crazy, but coming out of this Coronavirus in the coming weeks is going to be a bitter time for many. Did I just say that? What could possibly be bitter about local businesses and restaurants opening back up? What could be bitter about getting back to grilling out and watching the kids play in the backyard? What could be bitter about our local churches and small groups gathering again?
Some people will face great anxiety. It is clear from the protests and social media clamor that many people are ready to get back to life as usual. Along with these people, there are plenty of others who feel the need to be cautious about opening things back up. And no, they haven't "bought in" on some government or media conspiracy to keep everyone afraid until the mark of the beast comes in the form of vaccinations. They simply see the nature of a deadly disease that has continued to spread even in the face of global lockdowns.
To think about life as normal in the midst of this pandemic can be terrifying for some people, setting their anxiety on edge. They may not be ready to get back to church as much as they deeply miss it. The immunocompromised and at-risk Christians get to watch everyone else get back to life while they continue to shelter in place. Pray for them. Pray that they wouldn't be overcome with anxious thoughts and fears of contracting the virus. Pray that they don't become angry or bitter about their circumstances. Instead of mocking them for being illogical or speaking as though they don't matter in the grand scheme of things, pray that they would cast their anxieties on the Lord who cares for them (1 Peter 5:7).
Some people will act recklessly. From skepticism to outright anger, some will refuse to wear masks or keep social distance. Others will go out of their way to reject anything that government recommends regarding social distancing. By law, they are totally free to do so in stores and in churches. We are a free nation governed by a constitution for a reason. However, as Christians, we need to remember the principle of Paul's teaching in 1 Corinthians 10:23-24:
"'All things are lawful,' but not all things are helpful. 'All things are lawful,' but not all things build up. Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor."
While we may think it's silly to wear a mask to Walmart or to church, we must be cognizant of the needs and desires of our neighbor. It may sound stupid to stand 6 feet away from people or not shake hands at church, but it could be what is good for our neighbor. It might be annoying to not sip that cup of coffee before corporate worship on Sunday, but it could be beneficial to others.
People don't wear signs saying, "cancer patient", "immunocompromised", or "lung issues". Also, seasonal allergies and asthma make some people more prone to coughing, sneezing, and getting respiratory issues during the next 5 months or so. We need to focus less on what's lawful and more on what builds up. In these days, it is especially important to live out Philippians 2 as we seek to live like Christ and count others as more significant than ourselves. Let us pray that Christians would reflect the love and kindness of Christ in the coming days.
In light of the bitter, however, there is so much sweetness.
We get to gather on Sunday mornings again. We will soon get to see many of our beloved brothers and sisters in Christ as we gather to worship with one another. No more Zoom burnout—we hope! No more preaching sermons to an empty room. No more watching the sermon from home and being distracted by the million things going on around us. No more singing into a camera with everyone muted so that we can only hear our own voices at home. No more internet connection issues making us look and sound like pixelated Super Mario using autotune. And no more blacked out screens with silent mics! (We know you're hiding!) Even if behind masks, we get the joys of being physically present.
I hope we don't ever take gathering together for granted again. It has been almost 8 weeks since we last did this, and I hope it has created a longing for more than just mere social interaction. I hope we are excited about more than just getting out of the house. I hope that we are overjoyed about the fact that the we get to be back together doing what the church does—gathering and going. While the going has never stopped, the gathering won't be paused (or Zoomed) anymore!
We get to gather in small groups again. We get to start having meals and get-togethers in our homes again. We get to send up prayers of worship, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication together. We can sip coffee—iced, whipped, or hot—while discussing work, parenting, marriage, and every other aspect of life from a Christian perspective. We get to open our Bible and start dwelling again on how we can reach our communities with the gospel that Jesus has commissioned us to share with the world. We get to be together.
Whether your local church has formal small groups or not, I hope you've missed being among other believers. I hope that you've grown a hunger for more than just consuming a Sunday sermon and a Wednesday night Bible study. I hope we've all developed a zeal to reach the lost in ways that have always been simple but often taken for granted. I hope you're ready to get back to living out the numerous "one another" passages with a renewed joy and vigor.
I know I am.
Are you ready to reopen? What are you most excited about? Are you nervous or fearful about anything? How are you praying in these times?
Image Credit: Photo by fauxels from Pexels
God's Glory Revealed in Christ: Essays on Biblical Theology in Honor of Thomas R. Schreiner is not for the faint of heart. I say that jokingly because there is plenty of Greek and Hebrew in this book. However, if you are a pastor or a student of biblical theology, this will be a great addition to your library. The contributors include scholars and pastors like Albert Mohler, Jr., D.A. Carson, James Hamilton, John Piper, Robert Plummer, and more. To say this volume is meaty is an understatement.
God's Glory Revealed in Christ is divided into 4 helpful categories:
1. Whole Bible approaches to biblical theology: This section is packed with helpful information, especially for those considering the various approaches to biblical theology and how they interpret the scripture to form their theology. These chapters provide overviews of the various forms of and systems of biblical theology such progressive dispensationalism, new covenant theology, etc.
2. Major themes and issues in biblical theology: These chapters help understand some of the broader themes in Schreiner’s work. The essays also expand on some of the issues and qualms facing biblical theology today. It was helpful to see how biblical theology helps interpretive challenges in the Bible, especially in the New Testament as it relates to the Old Testament and complex doctrines such as the Trinity. The chapter on pastoral ministry was golden. It definitely changed my perspective on pastoral visitation and the importance of ministering the word beyond just the pulpit.
3. Background issues and biblical theology: This was probably the most technical section of the book. It Is valuable in teaching the importance of background information with regard to biblical theology and New Testament interpretation. For most lay level readers, much of this will be outside of our scope at first. However, it is beneficial to be acquainted with these issues as we read and study theology. Jarvis William’s chapter on second temple Judaism was brilliant (though jam-packed with Greek!). It was great to see some of the connections he made, I certainly look forward to reading that chapter again!
4. Applications: Of course, this section is very practical and accessible even to those who don’t have a strong grasp of previous technical material. This section addressed transgenderism , the great commission, pastors as theologians, academic ministry, and the kingdom in today’s public square. I was further reminded that pastors and church leaders need to be well-equipped to teach the Word in season and out. We must never fail to see how our biblical theology will shape the preaching and practical ministry of our churches.
While all of this valuable information lies in the first 268 pages, my favorite chapter was on Schreiner as a father. His son's word echo those stated by his students and colleagues in previous chapters. Throughout the book, it is made clear that he is a scholar of scholars, and yet he is often described as humble, approachable, loving, and pastoral. Tom Schreiner is a family man who is sinner who has flaws just like everyone else, but he has an admirable life worthy of his work as a pastor theologian.
If biblical theology is your niche (like it is mine!), I heartily recommend this book. I especially recommend it to pastors who are seeking to grow theologically and become pastor theologians. God's Glory Revealed in Christ has given me a strong desire to check out more of Tom Schreiner's writings, especially on biblical theology.
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher. I was not required to leave a positive review.
What would life be like if we said phone use was our greatest priority? Let's look at such a day...
What if we planned to use our phones for the first 15 to 30 minutes in the early morning? Instead of sleeping in, what if we set our alarms and resolved to rise early to be alone with our phones? Instead of waking up, though, we keep hitting snooze until the kids get up or it's time to get ready for work. By then, we scramble to make coffee, grab a shower, throw a shirt in the dryer, and hit the door. We're frustrated that we couldn't get up, so we promise ourselves that tomorrow morning will be different! Plus we have time to spend time on our phones later. It's only 7:15 for crying out loud!
What if we decided that since we hadn't used our phones before work that we'll wait til lunch? We'll have a half-hour of quiet time, and we can give full attention to our phones. Instead, we get interrupted by a coworker for 15 minutes and don't want to be rude, so we scarf down our meal and run to the restroom. Now lunch is over. Oh well, we'll just get around to it later when we can get a chance to sit down and be alone with it. It's only noon and there's plenty of the day left. Surely the afternoon will be better than the day has started out.
What if we got home after a busy and exhausting day only to find that our children needed our attention and our responsibilities demanded our focus, time, and energy for the next 4 or 5 hours? We planned family phone time at dinner, but decided last-minute that it would just be easier to eat and get the kids to bed. There was no time to plan it, and we haven't even had phone time alone. We know that our children would greatly benefit from the screen time, and we convince ourselves that they know we care a LOT about our phones, even if we don't really use them very much. Since tomorrow's always more convenient, we'll just wait.
What if we were so tired at bedtime that we decided to veg out and watch the latest episode of TV, hang out with our spouse, or just crash and get an extra bit of shut-eye—we all need more sleep, especially when there are little ones at home! Perhaps we even planned to have phone time together with our spouse, but just weren't feeling it tonight. We reluctantly grab our phone after waiting all day to use it knowing that we'll get drowsy and fall asleep within a few minutes, but we reassure ourselves that some phone time is better than none. Plus, we know that tomorrow will definitely be better than today was.
What if we planned to meet up with a friend tomorrow for coffee to talk about life and our phones? Instead of any real phone conversation, though, we spent most of the time joking around, catching up, and talking about current events. We do talk about phones, but it's mainly about how frustrating American life can be with all the busyness and struggles that keep us from really enjoying our phones like we want to. We're tempted and we struggle with all kinds of distractions that keep us from living the life our phones promise us. By the time we glance at our watches, it's time to go, and we didn't really do much more than shallow chit chat. We'll do a better job next week, for sure!
What if we only planned to be with friends and family once a week for an hour to engage with our phones together? Some of us get to hear a nice Ted Talk that tells us how to do better and think differently based on a blend of the speaker's ideas and some of the information gathered from his phone. Others get a really good message from our phones about how to enjoy more phone time and connect with the maker of the phone. However, rather than enjoying the time together and focusing on our phones, we get sidetracked by the craziness of the morning, our to-do list at home, and the cookout we are going to enjoy afterward. Since we had plenty of phone time in the morning, we'll just put our phones up and enjoy a day off today. This morning's pick-me-up will be just the boost we need for the week.
A Parable Explained
In a culture that spends upwards of 5 hours a day on our phones, this doesn't sound like devotion, does it? In a scenario like this, there are certainly priorities, but it's not phones. From the outside looking in, it wouldn't seem that we even cared much about our phones. Phones would probably end up becoming dusty relics of a bygone era in less than a generation. If nothing else, people would keep buying phones and using them sporadically enough to be familiar with them, but there would be few people whose lives are marked by devotion to a glowing screen.
So it is with our Bibles and our devotional lives. The scenes painted are from my life and the lives of countless people around me. We claim to be devoted to God. We plan and "prioritize" our devotional lives, but it seems that so many things crowd out our priorities. The irony of this parable is that such a “struggle” to prioritize phone use is rarely a struggle for many of us. There are very few people who need to work hard at getting their 5 hours of phone time in. Yet most of us know the struggle to get even 15 minutes of solid Bible time each day.
This isn't meant to guilt you into Bible reading. It occurred to me as I was listening to Jerry Bridges' True Community that my priorities are often out of sync with Scripture. Theoretically, I prioritize communion with God. I've read books on the topic, I write about it often, and I preach about it in my sermons quite a bit. However, this quote from Bridges hit me like a ton of bricks:
"Most of us do not experience this continual communion and corresponding delight in God that the Bible talks about. Worse yet, we do not even long for it. We are content to use God — to seek His help in our jobs, our studies, our marriages, and, yes, even our ministries."
Do we experience communion and delight in God as the Scriptures reveal it? Or do we constantly chase communion with God while being tripped up and distracted from seeking Him? Do we long for time with God in reading, meditating on, and praying through His Word? Are we content to use God like a genie who is sovereign over the universe? These are all questions we need to ask ourselves.
In light of these questions, the answer is not to get up tomorrow and try harder in our own abilities. Rather, we need to strive with all His energy to seek and find Him (Colossians 1:29). The reward of secret communion with and devotion to God is God Himself (Matthew 6:4). Those who seek God with their full heart will find Him (Jeremiah 29:13; Matthew 7:7). Yet we know that none seek after God until they've been born again by the Holy Spirit (John 3:3; Romans 3:11). Will you give everything in you to seek and find the Lord? There's not a more rewarding life than the one that lives in communion with the triune God.
When you hear the word theologian what comes to mind? When you think about doctrine do you picture scholars in suits and ties studying 2000 page books full of 15-letter -isms and -ologies? Do you picture them solving problems and writing page after page on issues that have no little to no practical bearing on the lives of everyday, average people like us? As much as I hate to admit it, I have often felt that way as I've waded into depths of theological conundrums caused by the translation (or mis-translation) of a single Greek word.
I used to think John Calvin was one of these ivory tower theologians with all head and no heart. However, the more I read what he wrote and not what people say he wrote, I see that he had the heart of a lover of God and pastor. He was a man of strong devotion and zeal for God, and he puts this on display with the numerous prayers and references to seeking God in writings. Contrary to popular belief, he wrote more on other topics than did on election or predestination.
Everyday Prayer with John Calvin is one such example of his passion for God. It isn't a book that Calvin wrote, but it's jam-packed with quotes and excerpts of his writings on dwelling with Christ through prayer. Donald McKim has done an excellent job of pulling excerpts from Calvin's magnum opus, Institutes of the Christian Religion, as well as his numerous commentaries on the Old and New Testaments.
McKim suggests four steps to using this book in your prayer life:
1. Read the passage of Scripture at the top of each page. (Yes, this book is about the Word and the God Calvin wrote about, not Calvin himself!)
2. Meditate on the teaching and instruction from the passage and devotional writings of Calvin.
3. Pray in reflection on the Scripture and the devotional..
4. Act in light of what you've read and prayed about.
In the strange and scary days we are walking in right now, here is an excerpt of how Everyday Prayer with John Calvin and helps us pray in light of God's Word. In his writing on Psalm 18:1-6, Calvin said:
"It was a very evident proof of uncommon faith in David, when, being almost plunged into the gulf of death, he lifted up his heart to heaven by prayer. Let us therefore learn, that such an example is set before our eyes, that no calamities, however great and oppressive, may hinder us from praying, or create an aversion to it." (p. 27; emphasis added)
With prayer points and reflection questions each day, Everyday Prayer with John Calvin is an excellent supplement to your devotional life. Whether you're looking for a quick and simple tool for your quiet times or you're planning to spend time with a friend, spouse, or family member, this is a great option for you!
*I received a free copy of this book from the publisher. I was not required to leave a positive review.
Image Credit: Amazon