Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Cyber Parents

This week, Whitney and I were talking to a woman who has opted out of the digital world. She closed down her Facebook account and feels that she is better off. “It’s awkward sometimes,” she admitted, “I don’t know as much about what is going on in people’s lives.”

It has caused her to be more committed to developing real, non-virtual relationships. “We’re going to be facing a whole wave of children with communication disorder,” she lamented. As children tweet and text their way through life, the ability to handle face to face communication will diminish.

Not all people will reach the same conclusion as our friend, but all believers should think carefully about why and how they interact with our cyber culture.  Our friend, fortunately, was savvy enough to realize the potential dangers of the digital world.  Many parents are clueless when it comes to the allure and danger of the cyber world. 

Dr. Mohler has some excellent insights into the problems parents face in his article, “The Dangerous Worlds of Analog Parents with Digital Teens.”

Monday, December 6, 2010

Deceit in the Evangelical World

How would you feel if you found out that your favorite Christian book was written not by the famous name on the front cover but rather an editor at the publishing company? The practice of using ghostwriters in Christian publishing has been far more common than widely known over the past few decades.

In 2002, Randy Alcorn wrote an article entitled, “Scandal of Evangelical Dishonesty,” which can be found here: In the article, he tackles the sensitive issue of deceit in the evangelical community and cites several examples of areas in which Christians seem comfortable with a certain level of deceit.

For instance, did you know that sometimes charitable organizations that help children actually pay Christian celebrities to mention them at concerts? Alcorn writes:

A disturbing recent fundraising development is purchasing celebrity endorsements of charities given at conferences and concerts. A speaker or musician gives an appeal for a ministry’s child sponsorships. For every child sponsored as a result of the appeal the performer receives $25 to $50. (In the secular world, this is called a kickback.)….

I have no problem with a ministry presenting its vision to a speaker or group and then asking them to pray about calling attention to their cause. I have major problems with offering them a percentage of “the take” (the offering). Unless this is done with full disclosure, unless clear verbal or printed recognition is made of this financial arrangement, the offering is a deception. Anything less than full disclosure to potential donors constitutes fraud. Such arrangements will inevitably promote abuse, and sometimes lead to public scandal. Consider the temptation to overstate or misrepresent needs or to speak with artificial enthusiasm for the poor, while thinking of the larger kickback they will get for doing so. Our enemies dish out enough temptations without us dispensing them to our friends. Think of a Christian speaker appealing to people to give to starving children, knowing what the audience doesn’t—his personal wealth will increase directly in proportion to what he says and how convincingly he says it.
Regarding ghostwriting, he distinguishes between collaboration and ghostwriting, which is “when the actual writer’s name is not on the cover, or when a person’s name is on the cover…who did little or nothing to write the book.”

Alcorn is right to be concerned. The evangelical community, perhaps enamored by the lure of fame and popularity, is willing to look the other way on many practices that in the secular field would be unthinkable. One day I received an email from someone suggesting that I listen to a "great message" given by a pastor of a mega-church that was about a theology of adoption. I went to a church’s website and as I listened to the message, I realized that this was a message that I had given at a conference! Illustrations from my message had been changed to make it more the speaker’s own, but my name was never cited as the original source of the material.

I don’t believe the pastor who did this had wicked motives. I like to think that he was simply unaware of proper ways to cite where material came from. (Most annoying, given his natural charisma and fine speaking voice, I think he delivered the message better than I did.) His possible unawareness that he was doing anything unethical, however, is a byproduct of an evangelical culture where we have lax standards for transparency. It is my fear that these lax standards stem from an infatuation with wanting the esteem of men.  We fear honesty and desire prominence.

Jesus has this warning for those of us who desire the approval of men:

Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.

Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. (Matthew 6:1-4 ESV)

Monday, November 29, 2010


During Sunday’s sermon, I mentioned J.C. Ryle’s book Holiness. There have been only a handful of books that have been more influential in my life than this book. For those who would like to purchase it, I believe the church has a few copies or it can be found online in its entirety here:

It was published in 1879 and yet remains extremely relevant. Controversies over anemic doctrine and slothfulness in our pursuit of holiness are not something birthed in our modern age. Ryle laments, “I have had a deep conviction for many years that practical holiness and entire self-consecration to God are not sufficiently attended to by modern Christians in this country.” He is writing to those living in England in the 19th century, but could just as well have been writing to us.

He continues: "Yet sanctification, in its place and proportion, is quite as important as justification. Sound Protestant and Evangelical doctrine is useless if it is not accompanied by a holy life. It is worse than useless; it does positive harm. It is despised by keen-sighted and shrewd men of the world, as an unreal and hollow thing, and brings religion into contempt. It is my firm impression that we want a thorough revival about Scriptural holiness…."

These are strong statements, but I believe Ryle is correct. Sanctification is important and sound doctrine is useless unless accompanied by a holy life. Neglect of holiness is a stain upon the church.

There are many gems found throughout even the introduction to the book as he gives some glimpses into the themes he will be covering in its pages. For instance, he addresses those who believe one can simply “Let Go and Let God” (a slogan still seen in many Evangelical churches and retreat centers today).

Ryle responds: "…is it wise to teach believers that they ought not to think so much of fighting and struggling against sin, but ought rather to "yield themselves to God," and be passive in the hands of Christ? Is this according to the proportion of God's Word? I doubt it…. But, on the other hand, it would not be difficult to point out at least twenty-five or thirty distinct passages in the Epistles where believers are plainly taught to use active personal exertion, and are addressed as responsible for doing energetically what Christ would have them do, and are not told to "yield themselves" up as passive agents and sit still, but to arise and work. A holy violence, a conflict, a warfare, a fight, a soldier's life, a wrestling, are spoken of as characteristic of the true Christian. The account of "the armor of God" in the sixth chapter of Ephesians, one might think, settles the question."

And in the remainder of the book, Ryle issues his call to spiritual arms, to engage in the first of one’s life…the struggle for holiness. It is our goal at Bethany Community to engage in that fight as well with similar ardor.

Monday, November 15, 2010

A Quick Update

Dear Bethany Community Church,

Just a quick note today to encourage you to consider two opportunities provided by the Bethany Fellowship of Churches in the coming months.

The first is “A Community Christmas.” The past two years, Bethany Baptist and Living Hope have joined us on this side of the river at Five Points Washington. But this year, each church will be holding a concert in their own community. In one sense, it’s sad to have fewer people from the other churches join us at Five Points. At the same time, in years past we have been quite constrained by space. This year, we have a great opportunity to fill up the seats in the theatre with family and friends in the community who may not have a church home.

Please take advantage of this and invite your friends to a Community Christmas on December 10th at Five Points Washington!

The second opportunity is the “Engage” conference in January. This is a competition for high school students. It gives them the chance to really make their faith their own as they either prepare for the apologetic section of the competition or the preaching category. For more information, contact Joey Holland at

By His Grace,

Pastor Daniel

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Greatness of God and the Frailty of Earthen Vessels

I recently began perusing an excellent new book entitled Well-Driven Nails: The Power of Finding Your Own Voice. The author, Pastor Byron Yawn, was an associate pastor at my parents’ church for several years and so I had an added incentive to purchase it.

Yawn is writing primarily to preachers, but there are some principles contained within its pages that I believe are helpful to all.

For example, as I scanned the table of contents, one of the chapters caught my eye. It was entitled, “John MacArthur: The Most Extraordinary Average Brain Expositor I Know.” Here’s what Yawn writes:

[MacArthurs] views his “average intelligence” as a primary reason he’s been able to connect with so many people. As he put it, “…It helps to not be too intelligent. I need a simple understanding of everything. I battle with the Scripture until I can understand it.”
MacArthur, writes Yawn, takes it as a compliment that his commentaries are viewed as tools for the untrained layman:

I’ve spent my entire life talking to the untrained layman. I’m not talking to dead Germans, liberals or scholars in a PhD program. I’m talking to the untrained layman. More than anything, I’m talking to myself. I need a simple understanding of Scripture. I have to have it broken down into simple concept. As it turns out, so does most everyone else.
Pride is a terrible foe. Even as we seek to glorify God in our ministry, pride trips us up. Some of us think too highly of our ministry abilities and stumble as we seek to exalt ourselves. Others of us take a more accurate assessment of our abilities, but then our terrible foe pride causes us to resent that our ability to minister is not greater!

MacArthur here reveals an encouraging truth that should result in greater humility. God uses whatever instruments He deems fit to use in whatever ways He deems fit to use them. In the hands of a Sovereign God, each of us becomes not an extraordinary tool but rather an ordinary tool that does an extraordinary thing—encourages others to worship a holy God.

May God give you grace to humbly engage in ministry for His glory.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Adding my two cents...

After reading Ritch's article, several of you have sent me emails asking for my perspective on the race for U.S. Sentate (the State Comptroller race is a similar situation).  "Be more specific!" you say.
Let me first say that godly men and women disagree on how to apply pro-life principles.  Some believe they are promoting pro-life principles by voting for the best of two terrible candidates so that stronger pro-life candidates can be put in stronger positions.

But I personally have come to a different conclusion.  Here are the reasons I will not be voting for Mark Kirk tomorrow (nor Judy Barr Topinka).

1. A candidate’s position on life is a litmus test.  If they will not support the right every citizen has to life, they are not qualified for elective office.  End of story for me.

2. Kirk is a terrible congressman and I believe he will be a worse senator.

3. I’m not a Republican. Having the Republicans gain control of the Senate doesn't drive me.  Kirk will be a thorn in the side of the people I want to be successful.

4. I don’t want his potential work in the senate on my conscience. He will certainly cast terrible votes as a senator and I don’t want those on my conscience.

5. I don’t want the Republican party in Illinois believing they can nominate corrupt, pro-choice candidates and count on my vote.

Those are my thoughts, not the convictions of the church or even all the leaders in the church.  May God grant each of us the wisdom and courage to vote our conscience tomorrow.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Pastor Ritch Boerckel: A Single Issue Voter

The following article is by Ritch Boerckel and taken from Bethany Baptist's Broadcaster newsletter.  I think it is appropriate to consider in light of the elections tomorrow.  I share Ritch's conviction regarding voting pro-life and, because of that conviction, I will not be voting for either the Republican or Democratic candidate in several statewide races.

A Single Issue Voter

"Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people." (Pro 14:34 NIV)

I am a “single issue” voter. Abortion is the issue. I know that many may ridicule me for it as though such a stance is simplistic and unintelligent, but I refuse to be embarrassed by my conviction that I cannot vote for anyone who promotes legalized abortion. Often the pro-life option is found in one party; sometimes it is found in another. My conviction over the years has led me to vote variously for Republican, Democratic and Constitution Party candidates for the office of governor of Illinois. Sadly, in the past 18 years, I have not had the joy of voting for any winning candidate for governor. Happily, I have not had the sorrow of voting for any indicted and convicted candidate for governor. This is a trade off that I can live with.

Why do I defend “single issue” voting when the issue is abortion? I understand that there are other issues of great importance. I think it wise to consider these other issues when choosing between two pro-life candidates. But my understanding of the Bible leads me to believe that abortion transcends every other issue. Let me offer you three reasons for your consideration:

First, abortion is the most heinous sin that this nation presently acknowledges as lawful. The evil of abortion is almost too nauseating for me to consider. Thankfully, in the nineteenth century our nation’s conscience was awakened to the evil of slavery. We decided that we could no longer give the practice of slavery refuge within our laws. (I am thankful for the single issues voters of Abraham Lincoln’s day that voted to remove the blight of slavery from our land.) Today, our moral ground is no better than those before us when we legally sanction the taking of an innocent human life. Abortion is a silent slaughter that takes the lives of nearly 50,000 babies each year in the state of Illinois alone. As an evangelical Christian who believes that the Bible is true, I believe that there is no qualitative difference between a baby in the womb and a baby in a crib. If I would be outraged by the legal murder of infants and toddlers, then I must be outraged by the legal murder of babies in the womb. The heinous nature of abortion is masked from our eyes as we do not see the corpses of the little ones whose lives have been taken from them by someone more powerful than they. But it must not be masked from our consciences or from our voting record. It seems schizophrenic to affirm the heinous nature of abortion and then support it by voting for an elected official who will work to see that abortions continue to be lawful. My conscience does not allow me to participate in the evil of abortion by giving power to candidates who openly declare their intentions to continue this great national sin.

Second, abortion directly and intentionally causes the death of 1.3 million Americans each year. I do not know of any other issue that intentionally targets a specific group of Americans for death. Christians may reasonably disagree on social justice topics or on fiscal issues or on a host of other important concerns. However, I do not know of any other issue in which one side says, “I defend one person’s right to actively kill another person.” The abortion lobby’s entire intention is the killing of little ones. And it is very effective at accomplishing those goals. The most fundamental right given by God is the right to life. If this right is abandoned, then no other right has meaning. There is no value in the right to free speech, the right to freedom of religion, the right to bear arms or the right to a free press IF the right to life is undermined. A government that sanctions abortion is a government that is willing to sacrifice any other fundamental human right if the political winds blow in that direction. This issue transcends all the others. Yes, I am concerned about fiscal responsibility and foreign policy, but if I agree with a candidate on every other issue except this one, then I cannot support them. This is too important. I want to vote on the right side of this defining issue of our age.

Finally, I have a responsibility as a citizen of the United States to vote for representatives who uphold the sanctity of life. Ours is a government of the people, for the people and by the people. Our elected officials do not rule over us as kings, but they represent us. We vote for a person that we can honestly say best represents who we are and what we value and how we think. We are the ones responsible for the government that we have. The preamble of our constitution explains what the responsibilities that the citizens of our nation have in governing. We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America. I do not uphold the Constitution when I vote for a pro-abortion candidate. These candidates deny the blessings of liberty to our posterity. The Supreme Court ruled abortion Constitutional as the Court reasoned that babies in the womb are not “persons”. Justice Blackmun wrote that "the unborn have never been recognized in the law as persons in the whole sense alone" to justify abortion up until the precise moment that the infant leaves the womb. The Court understood that if it acknowledged the personhood of infants in the womb, then it would have to declare abortion illegal throughout the land.

Pastor Martin Niemueller was arrested in Nazi Germany for preaching the Bible, and speaking against Hitler, consequently he was one of only a handful of German Christian leaders who did speak out. A Lutheran chaplain visited him in jail and asked him, “My brother, what did you do? Why are you here?” To which Niemueller replied, “My brother, given what is happening in our country, why aren’t you here?”

So I would urge you to consider voting only for those candidates that affirm life. May God bless our nation with a heart of repentance and revival.

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Greatness of Grace

This Sunday, Lord willing, we will explore Jesus’ encounter with someone Luke describes as “a woman…who was a sinner.” The story that transpires in Luke 7:36-50 vividly depicts the graciousness of a loving Savior who receives all who come to Him.

I'm excited about preaching on this text because it serves as a nice balance to what we've been discussing in previous weeks.  We've talked a lot about repentance and the essential part in plays in the life of the believer.  But as we discuss repentance, we need to consider the attributes of the One whom we are seeking forgiveness from.
God’s forgiveness is not granted reluctantly. It is bestowed with eagerness as He proclaims the greatness of His name. I would encourage you to be meditating on this Scripture in preparation for Sunday. Consider how you can grow in your love for Christ as you grow in your realization of your own sin.

Luke 7:36-50 (ESV) 36 One of the Pharisees asked him to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and took his place at the table. 37 And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, 38 and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment. 39 Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.” 40 And Jesus answering said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he answered, “Say it, Teacher.” 41 “A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?” 43 Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.” 44 Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. 46 You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. 47 Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” 48 And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” 49 Then those who were at table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?” 50 And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

Monday, October 18, 2010

Vote on November 2

I believe that for the Christian, voting is not only a right and a privilege, but a sacred responsibility. God has sovereignly placed you in a unique position of authority. You have the ability to help determine who our leaders will be. You have the ability to affect who will lead you, your family, your children and your brothers and sisters in Christ. When you fail to exercise your right to vote, you are perhaps even more culpable for the type of leaders who are voted in.

Therefore, I encourage you to vote on November 2 and, to assist you in that endeavor, here are a few tools to help you make an informed decision.

First, I like to know who is going to be on the ballot before I step in the booth. Here is an excellent site that allows you to see exactly what your ballot will look like: This helps me focus my research and not get bogged down with races that do not affect me.

Second, voting guides can be helpful. The Illinois Family Institute’s voting guide can be found here: (if Aaron Schock is your congressman, you are in Congressional District 18).

Finally, viewing endorsements of other groups can help you find out more about candidates. If it is important to you to find pro-life candidates, The Illinois Federation for Right to Life endorsements can be found here: If you like to read about candidates understanding of local issues, the Peoria-Journal Star’s endorsements can also be helpful: (these endorsements are provided for your research and should not be read as my own personal endorsement for any candidate).

May God bless you as you seek to glorify Him in the voting booth this next month!

By His Grace,

Pastor Daniel

Monday, October 11, 2010

Pastor Ben Davidson, Guest Blogger

In my absence, Ben Davidson is guest blogging today:

Last week, I was watching a group of birds outside my office window. There were five of them gathered together on adjacent branches. At once, 4 of the 5 went together to higher branches--leaving the fifth behind. They stayed this way for a few minutes. I watched and wondered if the fifth would join the rest of the group. Suddenly a sixth bird landed near the fifth, and they flew together to join the group.

It reminded me of our roles in the church. There are going to be those in our church who are with us, then maybe because of the growing pressures around them, stray from the group, not looking like they'll connect to Christian community. Nevertheless, our role, like the 6th bird, is to go to them and shepherd them back to where all need to be--in the community of faith.

As I typed this out, the group of birds landed on the gutter directly by my window...then flew away...together.

Hebrews 10:24-25 says, 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

Let us not neglect,

Ben D.

For more insights on Christian community, go to Pastor Daniel's blog entry at:

Monday, October 4, 2010

Thoughts from a Rookie

Recently, a friend who works in the publishing industry asked me to write an article for his blog, He asked me to write about my experiences as a first time writer. Below is what I wrote:

The following are three inter-related applications that I have found helpful as I am nearing the end of what has been a rewarding and enjoyable process.

1. Be humble.

I doubt there are many writers who submit a manuscript to a publisher without wondering “what if.” In “the writer’s daydream,” the would-be wunderkind begins to fantasize about future fame and glory: What if the publisher accepts my manuscript? What if it does really well? What if I become a best-selling author? What if J.K. Rowling, John Grisham and I begin to hang out?

The writer’s daydream is majestic, but the writer’s reality is far more mundane. Most books are not best sellers, and there’s no reason to believe your book will be the exception. As my friend and fellow pastor said to me when I told him I could get some copies of my book at a discounted price: “That’s OK. I’ll wait a month and get it at clearance prices.” Odds are that he has hit upon a pretty-good strategy.

The harsh realities of the publishing world should protect a writer from hubris. A first-time author, such as myself, should be particularly humble as he or she receives guidance from a publisher.

From the very beginning, my publisher has had specific suggestions for how to improve my book. It would have been very foolish of me to believe that my original proposal was so incredible it could not be improved upon!

By the way, this principle is important at all phases of the publishing process. As I have researched more about the publishing world, I hear authors make all sorts of complaints about their publishers: they should have a higher initial printing, they should do more to market my book, they should display my book more prominently, etc.

In the end, the reality is that the publisher wants your book to do well almost as much as you do. The hard truth to accept is that maybe your book is getting the attention it deserves. It’s good enough to be published, but maybe it won’t change the universe in quite the way you thought it might!

2. Have something to write about.

The remedy to the discouraging realities of the publishing world is to be confident that you have a contribution to make. The writer of Ecclesiastes tells us that of the making of books there is no end. What you will say in your book has already been said before. You are simply repacking ideas that have already been thought and perhaps you are expressing them in a new way.

It is incumbent upon you, therefore, to make sure that the ideas you are repackaging are of worth, that they are those timeless truths that will serve to build up Christ’s kingdom.

3. Keep your ultimate goal in mind.

Our ultimate goal in writing, as in life, is to glorify God. There is only one way to ensure that your book or project has an impact that reaches into eternity and that is to make it a work that exalts our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. When that is your passion and aim in life, your book need not be published at all to be considered a success!

Call to Ministry

I am occasionally asked how a person knows whether or not they are “called” to ministry. This relates somewhat to the discussion that has been going on in our Sunday School classes on God’s will.

Obviously, there are both subjective and objective elements to a decision to pursue ministry. My call was a slow one. As I tried to be obedient to God’s Word and participate in ministry, He continued to direct me to vocational ministry.

In the process of trying to determine whether or not I should pursue vocational ministry, I read a great chapter on the call to pastoral ministry from Rediscovering Pastoral Ministry, a book that the Master’s Seminary faculty put together, that I found very helpful. In it, James M. George identified four elements of a biblical call to pastoral ministry that we find in Scripture: Confirmation, Abilities, Longing, and Life (CALL).

First, there is a confirmation of one’s call to ministry from both God and His church. In Scripture, we often see God confirming a call to ministry through providential circumstances. As George puts it: “God’s sovereignty provides for the calling of certain men for leadership in the local church. God gives them the gifts to carry out the functions of the ministry, gives them the desire to serve in this capacity, and then orchestrates the circumstances to provide for the place of ministry” (108). In 1 Corinthians 16:8-9 Paul speaks of the door God has opened for him to remain at Ephesus. Timothy serves as an ideal model of how the confirming from the church body should take place. The elders in this young man’s church recognized God’s work in his life and publicly recognized his calling. Later, in both 1 & 2 Timothy, Paul would refer to the public ordination of his young friend to exhort Timothy to persevere.

Second, there are abilities that one who is called to the ministry must possess. For example, Scripture tells us that the pastor must be able to teach and shepherd the flock (e.g. Acts 20:18; Ephesians 4:11; 2 Timothy 4:2; 1 Peter 5:2). Therefore, if he does not possess the abilities necessary to perform these very vital and basic tasks, a young man can be assured that he is not called to the ministry.

Third, there must be a longing by the pastor who is called by God. At first, I identified most closely with the type of longing Jeremiah describes. He writes in Jeremiah 20:9, “But if I say, ‘I will not remember Him or speak anymore in His name,’ Then in my heart it becomes like a burning fire shut up in my bones; and I am weary of holding it in, and I cannot endure it.” There was a longing to do what God desired me to do—indeed, I could not help it—but it was a longing that filled me with dread as well. Though I felt the joy of being involved in ministry, I was also reluctant to trust God with the long and difficult road that I knew ministry would be. As time has gone on, I have felt more the joy implicit in 1 Timothy 3:1. Not only is it impossible for me to be involved in any other vocation, there is no other vocation that I would desire to be in. I long to be with the people of God, serving them and aiding them in their walk with Him.

Finally, there must be a lifestyle that is above reproach. Even if others confirm him in his calling, a contentious man may be assured that he is most certainly not called into ministry. I believe that, by the grace of God, my lifestyle is consistent with what Scripture mandates concerning the one called by God.

One final thought: while discerning whether or not God has gifted a man for vocational ministry can be difficult, what is clear is that each believer has been called for some work of ministry. The Holy Spirit has give “to each one” gifts for the body’s benefit (Eph. 4:7; 1 Cor. 12:11).

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Russell Moore on God, the gospel, and Glenn Beck

Dr. Russell Moore published an article at the end of August that I thought made several excellent observations.  It was entitled, "God, the Gospel, and Glenn Beck."  It can be read in its entirety here:

Moore's concern is that evangelicals are so confused as to the content of the gospel that they are embracing Beck's call to return to God despite the fact that Beck is a Mormon and has a far different understanding of the gospel.  Moore agrees that evangelicals can partner with those of different faiths for political ends but rightly argues that Christians are not thinking biblically about concepts like justice and the common good.

Here are a few paragraphs from the article:
Too often, and for too long, American “Christianity” has been a political agenda in search of a gospel useful enough to accommodate it. There is a liberation theology of the Left, and there is also a liberation theology of the Right, and both are at heart mammon worship. The liberation theology of the Left often wants a Barabbas, to fight off the oppressors as though our ultimate problem were the reign of Rome and not the reign of death. The liberation theology of the Right wants a golden calf, to represent religion and to remind us of all the economic security we had in Egypt. Both want a Caesar or a Pharaoh, not a Messiah.

Leaders will always be tempted to bypass the problem behind the problems: captivity to sin, bondage to the accusations of the demonic powers, the sentence of death. That’s why so many of our Christian superstars smile at crowds of thousands, reassuring them that they don’t like to talk about sin. That’s why other Christian celebrities are seen to be courageous for fighting their culture wars, while they carefully leave out the sins most likely to be endemic to the people paying the bills in their movements.

Where there is no gospel, something else will fill the void: therapy, consumerism, racial or class resentment, utopian politics, crazy conspiracy theories of the left, crazy conspiracy theories of the right; anything will do. The prophet Isaiah warned us of such conspiracies replacing the Word of God centuries ago (Is. 8:12–20). As long as the Serpent’s voice is heard, “You shall not surely die,” the powers are comfortable.
But Moore does not advocate ignoring the political process.  He concludes his article:
The answer to this scandal isn’t a retreat, as some would have it, to an allegedly apolitical isolation. Such attempts lead us right back here, in spades, to a hyper-political wasteland. If the churches are not forming consciences, consciences will be formed by the status quo, including whatever demagogues can yell the loudest or cry the hardest. The answer isn’t a narrowing sectarianism, retreating further and further into our enclaves. The answer includes local churches that preach the gospel of Jesus Christ, and disciple their congregations to know the difference between the kingdom of God and the latest political whim.

It’s sad to see so many Christians confusing Mormon politics or American nationalism with the gospel of Jesus Christ. But, don’t get me wrong, I’m not pessimistic. Jesus will build his church, and he will build it on the gospel. He doesn’t need American Christianity to do it. Vibrant, loving, orthodox Christianity will flourish, perhaps among the poor of Haiti or the persecuted of Sudan or the outlawed of China, but it will flourish.

And there will be a new generation, in America and elsewhere, who will be ready for a gospel that is more than just Fox News at prayer.
Moore is exactly right.  The ultimate problem isn't Glenn Beck or Fox News or Nancy Pelosi or Barack Obama.  The problem is that the church has failed to train its people to understand the implications of the true gospel and help them live it out in their lives.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

John Piper on Preaching

HT to Ritch Boerckel...excellent insights on the task of preaching.

(Author: Jeff Lacine)

Although John Piper was completely unable to speak in front of groups from fifth grade until his sophmore year of college, and although he received a C minus in his seminary preaching class, God made him a preacher. Hear about it in today's Ask Pastor John.

The following is an edited transcript of the audio.

Where and how did you learn to preach?

I don't know. Watching my dad when I was six, eight, ten, twelve. Watching how not to do it in lots of places. Being unable to speak in front of a group from grade five to my sophomore year in college. I think I was learning to preach during that time because I was so hurt, so wounded, so discouraged, and so desperate that I had to go way down into God, and way into Scripture, and way into pain, and God was making a preacher by shutting my mouth.

You don't become an effective preacher by becoming a loquacious and effective communicator at age sixteen. You become a clever communicator, but you don't become a preacher of the holy things of God. So that was a piece.

I don't know. The courses that I took on preaching were marginally helpful. I got the lowest grade in seminary in my preaching class. I think I got a C minus in James Daane's preaching class at Fuller Seminary. We never agreed on anything except the principle that every sermon should have one point, he said that over and over again. So I made a terrible grade there. But there were other teachers that...

I think the way that I became a preacher was by being passionately thrilled by what I was seeing in the Bible in seminary. Passionately thrilled! When Philippians began to open to me, Galatians open to me, Romans open to me, the Sermon on the Mount open to me in classes on exegesis (not homiletics, but exegesis), everything in me was feeling, "I want to say this to somebody. I want to find a way to say this because this is awesome, this is incredible!"

So for preachers today that go everywhere but the Bible to find something interesting or something scintillating and passionate, I say, "I don't get it. I don't get that at all!" Because I have to work hard to leave the Bible to go somewhere to find an illustration, because everything in the Bible is just blowing me away. And it is that sense of being blown away by what's here—by the God that's here, and the Christ that's here, and the gospel that's here, and the Spirit that's here, and the life that is here—being blown away by this, I just say, "That's got to get out."

And then I suppose how it gets out. What is that? I don't know what that is. That's just the way I'm wired that I would say it a certain a way. It's owing in part to me being a lit major, you know, I studied language a little bit. Goodness, a thousand things go into your life and nobody can copy anybody else. I don't know. God makes us who we are. I don't think there is much you can do to become a preacher except know your Bible and be unbelievably excited about what's there. And love people a lot, that is, you want to make the connection with people and what's in the Bible.

The Hospitable Bishop

I have an unwritten rule against using multiple sermon illustrations from the same source—at least until a respectable amount of time has transpired. I used Les Miserables in a sermon several weeks ago and I’m reluctant to use it again.

The pity is that there is so much good material in the book! Therefore, I have decided to grant myself amnesty for weekly updates, which means you may be seeing a lot of Les Miserables in the coming weeks.

Near the beginning of the novel, a bishop says these words to Jean Valjean, who is in desperate need of hospitality:

You need not tell me who you are. This is not my house; it is the house of Christ. It does not ask any comer whether he has a name, but whether he has an affliction. You are suffering; you are hungry and thirsty; be welcome. And do not thank me; do not tell me that I take you into my house. This is the home of no man, except him who needs an asylum. I tell you, who are a traveler, that you are more at home than I; whatever is here is yours. What need have I to know your name? Besides, before you told me, I knew it…. Your name is my brother.
Can you say the same of your home: This is not my house; it is the house of Christ?

In Romans 15:7, tells us why believers should be more hospitable than any other group: “Therefore,” writes Paul, “welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.”

You and I have been welcomed into the home of God through faith in Chris Jesus. We become family, yes, but it should never be forgotten that we who were God’s enemies were shown gracious hospitality at the moment where we needed it the most and deserved it the least.

My encouragement to you is to examine the home in which you live and be careful about speaking of it as “your” home. You live in it, but it is God’s. The food, the clothing, the furniture exist not for your own benefit but for God’s. Use it accordingly!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Why My Family is Participating in Care Groups This Year

Since our church launched in 2008, I think it is fair to say that our family has been pretty involved in the life of the church. We love Bethany Community and receive great joy from our participation in ministry here.

There is one ministry at BCC, however, that my family has not been heavily involved with, and that is the care group ministry. If the care group ministry is an integral part of our church’s discipleship ministry, why have we not been more involved?

The primary reason was that we were busy with other ministries, but as we looked at all that we were involved in, we noticed that we were not, as a family, participating in a smaller, relational ministry.

So this year, our family has decided that we need to be involved in the care group ministry. Not because the ministry needs more leaders. Not because we want to show how important the ministry was by getting involved. Not because we believe the other things we are doing are suddenly unimportant.

We are participating in care groups because it is important for the spiritual health of our family. We need it. You see, it is not only possible for a casual attendee to miss out on relationships at church—it is possible for a very committed attendee/Senior Pastor to miss out on relationships.

Remember the interaction between Jesus, Mary and Martha in Luke 10:38-42:
Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”
Mary chooses the “one thing” that is necessary—growth in her walk with the Lord Jesus. That is what my family needs as well, and that growth can occur more effectively in regular, consistent relationships with other believers.

So, we’re looking forward to participating in the small group ministry and seeing how the Lord continues to challenge us in our walk with him.

I encourage you to consider if God is calling you to participate in care groups as well!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Bethany Community Update

Sunday’s business meeting was a source of great encouragement to me. There was unanimity or near unanimity on every item on the ballot. In fact, the constitution and bylaws—under which we become a church on May 1 unless the Lord returns first—received no dissenting votes.

That is encouraging to me because it seems to reflect a spirit of unity and trust in our church as we move ahead. The unity of Christ’s church is a precious thing that we should endeavor to preserve. As Paul writes in Ephesians 2:

13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

The unity of the church, then, has been created by Christ and is a reality for all who have responded to the message of peace and placed their faith in Him.

Unity can wrongly be defined as “agreeing with the leadership.” Well-meaning Christians are frightened sometimes of voicing contrary opinions within a church because they don’t want to be seen as “rabble rousers.” I trust our unity is never borne of fear but instead comes from the Spirit leading us in a similar direction.

May God continue to preserve our church for His glory and not our own! As we begin this next phase, I am heartened by the oneness of purpose that exists in our midst.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Message from Christian Alliance for Orphans

I received the following from CAO...great conference if you're able to attend!

Summit VI

You and individuals from your church community are invited to attend the Christian Alliance for Orphans’ national Summit VI! This national conference is designed to help Christians start and grow orphan ministry in the local church, including adoption, foster care and international orphan initiatives.

Summit VI on April 29-30 in Minneapolis, MN will bring together grassroots advocates, pastors, orphan experts from across America and beyond—as well as many new to the issue seeking to learn how to engage.

Featured speakers include national champions of orphan care and adoption, including John Piper, Doug Sauder, Mary Beth Chapman, Jedd Medefind, Tom Davis and Al Mohler. Compelling voices from the global church will address attendees as well, from Africa and Eastern Europe to Central America. Music will be led by Steven Curtis Chapman and other artists. Meanwhile, more than fifty workshops will deliver practical know-how for orphan ministry—from supporting families with post adoption challenges, to effective models for church foster care programs, to partnerships with indigenous churches for overseas orphan care. In addition, families in the adoption process will have the opportunity for five “Hague Hours” from national experts such as Dr. Karyn Purvis at no additional cost.

If God has stirred hearts in your church for the plight of orphans, Summit offers the biggest and best opportunity of the year to learn how to act upon your convictions. Many churches will send multiple individuals in order to fully access the full range of resources, workshops and other opportunities available. To learn more and register now, visit the Christian Alliance for Orphans website at

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Bethany Community Update Email

Dear Bethany Community Church,

Some women’s advocacy groups are protesting CBS’ decision to air a commercial during the Super Bowl that they say is offensive and demeaning to women.

The groups are not protesting the demeaning of women on the sidelines or during the half-time show. The commercial is not one in which women are objectified to sell beer or cars or announce new web companies.

Instead, the groups’ fury is targeted at a 30-second ad from Focus on the Family in which a mother will relate the story of how she was advised to abort her unborn son when she became ill in the Philippines. She refused to do so and her son, Tim Tebow, became one of the most successful quarterbacks to ever play at the University of Florida, or anywhere else for that matter.

I try not to be a pessimist. I have every confidence that through the gospel, hearts can be changed and our culture can change in radical ways. But I have to admit that the furor over this ad has me quite saddened and perplexed.

The venue in question—the Super Bowl—has hosted some of the most offensive advertising content ever. There was the scandalous “wardrobe malfunction” incident several years ago that resulted in heated discussions regarding indecency, but for the most part these discussions missed the fact that decency and modesty in television were long ago replaced with an insidious lasciviousness.

The divide in our country on this issue is truly great. Terry O’Neil, the president of the National Organization for Women, referred to the ad as “extraordinarily offensive and demeaning.” How tragic that in our Mad Hatter sort of world, using women as billboards is wholesome entertainment and the promotion of message of life is demeaning to women while promoting the choice of life is demeaning.

By His Grace,

Pastor Daniel

2010 Orphan Sunday Video

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Read a Little, not a Lot

Dear Bethany Community Church,

Let me add one more suggestion to your ever-growing list of New Year’s Resolutions: resolve to read little bit instead of trying to read a lot.

Books can sometimes be rather formidable opponents, weighing in at several hundred pages usually.  Great tomes can seem even more overwhelming.  We feel as though we are doing well to read the Bible, much less additional reading! 

Therefore, my suggestion is to try not to read “a lot” but instead try to read “a little bit.”

Pastor John Stott tells of his struggle to find adequate study time and the realization he came to in his book Between Two Worlds:

I found from the beginning that [spending an entire morning in study] was an impossible ideal to attain.  I made valiant efforts, but I failed.  Mornings?  Why, on Sunday morning I was at public worship in church; on Monday morning there was a staff meeting; Tuesday was my day off; by Wednesday there were urgent letters to write; on Thursday morning I taught in our Church Day School; on Friday morning there was sure to be a funeral; and Saturday morning I had to reserve for actual sermon preparation.  Thus the week went by without a single morning being free for those books which I was supposed to be reading.  So I found myself obliged to lower my expectations and set myself more realistic goals.  I have come to believe in the cumulative value of shorter periods of study (202). 

John Piper confirms Stott’s conclusion and offers this observation in Brothers, We Are Not Professionals:

We think we don’t have time to read.  We despair of reading anything spiritually rich and substantial because life seems to be lived in snatches.  One of the most helpful discoveries I have made is how much can be read in disciplined blocks of twenty minutes a day. 

Suppose that you read slowly, say about 250 words a minutes (as I do).  This means that in twenty minutes you can read about five thousand words.  An average book has about four hundred words a page.  So you could read about twelve-and-a-half pages in twenty minutes.  Suppose you discipline yourself to read a certain author or topic twenty minutes a day, six days a week, for a year.  That would be 312 times 12.5 pages for a total of 3,900 pages.  Assume that an average book is 250 pages long.  This means you could read fifteen books like that in one year (66-67).

You probably do not have several hours every day to read a book.  But perhaps you have twenty minutes a day before you fall asleep, or half an hour while you eat lunch. 

By God’s grace and for His glory, venture into new worlds this year in your reading!
By His Grace,

Pastor Daniel