Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The Stupidest Thing I've Seen on Facebook This Year

The above nonsense showed up on my Facebook feed a few days ago. Just to be difficult I left this comment, "I kept scrolling."

Sunday, December 27, 2015

7 Reasons Why Your Two Week Trip To Haiti Doesn’t Matter: Calling Bull on "Service Trips"

(I intended to wait until the new year to post anything serious, but the article I'm linking to is simply too good to wait that long.)

"The road to hell is paved with good intentions."

The above saying can be applied to all sorts of situations in life. One of the most appropriate is short-term missions trips. Many churches send groups of volunteers overseas with the hope of doing some good. Their intentions are great. Unfortunately, these groups frequently do more harm than good. Sadly, the level of cluelessness is often extreme. Many western Christians go to foreign lands for a week or two, do some stuff, and then return home feeling good on the inside. However, what they've left behind is often more damage than anything else.

The article 7 Reasons Why Your Two Week Trip To Haiti Doesn’t Matter: Calling Bull on "Service Trips" skillfully addresses the above issue. While I do not agree with all of the details or conclusions in the article, I do believe most of it is right on target. I appreciate the fact that the author not only diagnoses the problems involved with missions trips, but also offers specific solutions.

The church in this country literally spends millions of dollars each year to send unskilled Christians abroad with the hopes of somehow doing some good. The results are generally not positive. Is there a better way? Can the money be spent more wisely? Can we avoid harming the locals and even accomplish some lasting good?

I encourage you to read the article and see what you think.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Couldn't Resist

I won't be posting anything serious until after the new year, but this video is just for fun. I couldn't resist sharing it.

Have a merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Taking a Blogging Break Until the New Year

The title of this post pretty much sums it up: I'm taking a break from blogging for a month.

My JCB work schedule has been more insane than normal lately; in one recent two week span I totaled 155 hours. It likely won't let up significantly until the new year arrives. This combined with various Christmas festivities means little time for anything else (except running of course). Therefore, I just don't have time to blog well. Additionally, I currently have a little blogging burn-out going on. Maybe a month off will help. I believe it will.

I hope you have a wonderful Christmas. See you in 2016!

Monday, November 30, 2015

And the Free Book Winners Are...

I love handing out free stuff. Since these books are mine to give away, that makes it easy.

The three winners of Simple Church: Unity Within Diversity are Vaughn B., Patrick P., and Tom T. Congratulations gentlemen and thanks for playing!

I hope you all find the book to be both encouraging and challenging. You will read various perspectives on church life. All the contributors do not agree with each other on all issues. However, we do all agree that God designed His church to function in a simple manner that is far different from what we see in the institution. God has given us both the Holy Spirit and the bible to guide our paths. When we allow the Spirit to direct the church and we follow what we see in scripture, the body of Christ can operate in a way that is magnificent. Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

I'm Giving Away Three Free Copies of Simple Church: Unity Within Diversity

Although it's difficult for me to believe, it has been nearly a year since Simple Church: Unity Within Diversity was published. I suppose the older you get the faster time seems to go. Now that I'm half way to 90 time simply flies. Regardless, I'd like to do something fun to mark the 365 days since the book hit the market. Therefore, I'm giving away three free copies.

If you would like to be considered for a free copy all you need to do is send me an email with your name, mailing address, and reason why you want the book. Maybe you would just like to read it. Maybe you want to give it to a friend. Maybe you desire to use it as a Christmas present for that family member who just doesn't understand simple church stuff. The list goes on and on.

My email address is Shoot me a short message with the three above items (name, address, and reason), and you'll be entered. I will announce the winners on Monday the 30th of this month. Stay tuned!

Friday, November 20, 2015

We Must Not Sacrifice the Truth for the Sake of Unity

The church is this country is largely in disarray. One of the primary reasons for this is its turning away from the truth in the name of unity.

If you've read this blog for a while, you know that I'm actually a proponent for unity within the body of Christ. In part because of this I acted as editor of Simple Church: Unity Within Diversity.  Since Jesus Christ is for the unity of his church, I'm for the unity of his church. It's that simple.

A massive problem within the church today is that some local bodies have sacrificed gospel truth for the sake of unity. Numerous denominations (see the Episcopal Church, the PC-USA, and the UCC for examples) have either watered down or outright rejected biblical teachings on the truth of the good news. They desire togetherness over truth. They are full of unregenerate people who see no need for repentance and faith. The cross is an offense to them.

Other bodies of believers, while not rejecting the gospel itself, have caved in on other issues. The two most common are women pastors and homosexuality. These folks have given in to secular culture, letting outside political pressures make decisions for those inside the church. This is all done in the name of unity. I call it cowardice.

Christianity is a belief system based in facts. It is true. Facts and truth are not popular today since they are so offensive to so many. Political correctness wages a constant war against any metanarratives, crying and whining about anything resembling absolute truth. Because of this, many who claim to follow Jesus have turned from the truth.

Despite this cultural nonsense, truth and facts stand the test of time. We learn these facts primarily in one place: the bible. Truth is a stream that runs throughout the pages of scripture. Psalm 86:11 says, "Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name." Psalm 119:160 tells us, "The sum of your word is truth, and every one of your righteous rules endures forever." Later in this book we read, "The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth" (Ps. 145:18).

In Proverbs 12:19 we learn, "Truthful lips endure forever, but a lying tongue is but for a moment."

What about the New Testament? Did those writers care about the truth? Let's see if we can find any examples:

"So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, 'If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free'" (John 8:31-32).

"Jesus said to him, 'I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me'" (John 14:6).

"You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth?" (Gal. 5:7).

"Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ" (Eph. 4:15).

"Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth" (I John 3:18).

Truth does not change. God's facts do not change. In order for us to embrace Jesus Christ, we must embrace his truth and facts. Even while society wars against the very idea of truth, we must stand firm. We cannot bend either to increase perceived unity within the body or to coddle a politically correct Thought Police.

I will admit that the church, at least in this country, has a tendency to divide over some nit picky and/or stupid issues. Many reasons Christians separate are of no consequence. This needs to stop. However, what also must stop is the sacrificing of truth, especially gospel truth, for the sake of unity. The consequences of this failure are eternal.

In John 18:38, Pilate famously asked our Lord, "What is truth?" Our society is asking that same question today. However, it is not seeking an answer but rather making the massive (and ironic) truth claim that truth itself does not exist. We must reject this notion. Salvation depends upon it.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Positive Acts Series Summary

The book of Acts is a great gift to the body of Christ. We learn a tremendous amount about how the Holy Spirit works through Christians to accomplish God's purposes. We see both the good and the bad. We can apply much of it directly to our lives.

In this short blog series I've looked at various positive situations in Acts. My desire was two-fold. First, I simply wanted to write about positive things. Second, I love the book of Acts. It's really that simple. My hope is that you have benefited from it. I've included all of the posts below:

Positive Acts
Positive Acts - A Promise with Orders
Positive Acts - Wham!
Positive Acts - Some Sweet Fellowship
Positive Acts - Praying With the Right Priorities
Positive Acts - Not A Needy Person Among Them
Positive Acts - It Pleased the Whole Gathering
Positive Acts - For Gentiles, Too!
Positive Acts - Mission Matters, Race Doesn't
Positive Acts - Now That's How To Do It!
Positive Acts - A Little Help
Positive Acts - On Fleeing Naked and Wounded
Positive Acts - Gathered Together to Break Bread
Positive Acts - Hospitality Anyone?

Monday, November 16, 2015

Linking: Ten Serious Problems With Jesus Calling

A few years ago I came across a copy of Jesus Calling, Sarah Young's extremely popular devotional book. After I read a few pages I thought, "Yuck." I set the book down and never picked it up again. While I knew something was wrong with Jesus Calling, I didn't bother giving it much more thought. In light of how well this book and others in the series are selling, maybe I should have. The reason is that Young's books are having a significant impact upon the church in at least the USA.

Tim Challies has penned a helpful piece entitled Ten Serious Problems With Jesus Calling that discusses why this book is such a disaster. Tim's post helped me think more clearly through the issues at stake. It is worth the read.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Positive Acts - Hospitality Anyone?

"And from there we made a circuit and arrived at Rhegium. And after one day a south wind sprang up, and on the second day we came to Puteoli. There we found brothers and were invited to stay with them for seven days. And so we came to Rome. And the brothers there, when they heard about us, came as far as the Forum of Appius and Three Taverns to meet us. On seeing them, Paul thanked God and took courage" (Acts 28:13-15).

Hospitality is a lost art within the church. This probably has to do with the way our culture has changed over the past fifty years or so. While folks used to sit out on the front porch, they now generally spend time secluded on the back patio or inside in front of the T.V. People just do not get together as much as they used to. This cultural change has impacted the way the church interacts internally. Hospitality in general is not what it once was.

In Acts 28 we see hospitable believers. Paul was on his voyage to Rome. After much struggle, including a shipwreck, Paul had almost arrived. This is the setting when we read 28:13-15. Paul's team had come to Puteoli. They were likely in need of help. They met some Christians for the first time. What did these believers do? They allowed Paul and his friends to stay with them for a week. That is impressive. I wonder if I would be willing to take strangers, even if they were brothers, into my house for a full week with no time to prepare for them.

After this, Paul's group headed to Rome. Believers there came to meet Paul. Luke tells us that Paul "thanked God and took courage." Under the circumstances Paul would most likely have this response because he knew these brothers would offer assistance. We can surmise that these Romans acted much like the brothers in Puteoli had. They offered some form of hospitality.

We should learn much from these early believers. Even with no advance notice they provided for brothers in need, opening up their homes to them. For someone like me this is a great challenge. How would I respond in a similar situation? How would you?

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Linking: "The Celebrity Pastor Factory"

Skye Jethani has written a bold article entitled The Celebrity Pastor Factory. The author discusses the way in which publishing companies have an unhealthy influence on the rise of certain pastors to positions of celebrity within the church.

The money quote:

In summary, the rise and fall of any celebrity pastor is merely a symptom of an underlying malady within American evangelicalism. Why are there now so many celebrity pastors? Because they generate a lot of revenue for the Evangelical Industrial Complex. Why do these pastors fall with such regularity? Because the Evangelical Industrial Complex uses a business standard rather than a biblical standard when deciding which leaders to promote.

Throughout the piece the author explains how what he refers to as the Evangelical Industrial Complex drives the growing trend that is celebrity pastors. At the conclusion of the article he offers three suggestions for what we can do about this mess.

I encourage you to read Jethani's post. He has a perspective on this subject that I had not previously read.

(HT: Challies)

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Positive Acts - Gathered Together to Break Bread

This post is a continuation of my series Positive Acts.

Why does the church get together? Is it for "worship," as much of the American church believes today? No, it is not. Rather, the bible tells us that the body of Christ comes together for edification. I Corinthians 14:26 says, "What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up" (ESV).

One key method the church uses to bring about mutual edification is the Lord's Supper. I'm not referring to the typical funeral-like ceremony held by institutional churches. Rather, I'm talking about what we see in scripture: a joyful and full meal in which the church family has a great time. In Acts 20 this is what we see in Troas.

Paul was passing through town. He got together with his friends. They were meeting that night for a specific purpose. Luke writes in 20:7, "On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul talked with them, intending to depart on the next day, and he prolonged his speech until midnight." They gathered to break bread. As they ate together, Paul talked with them. He likely told them all about the many things God was doing through him and his companions while they were traveling about Asia and Greece.

God wants his people to gather. He also wants them to gather for the right reason. Worship is a 24/7 exercise. The church comes together not specifically for worship, but for edification. One primary means of edification is the Lord's Supper.

If we do not know why God wants his body to gather, then how can we ever accomplish what our Lord desires through our meetings?

Monday, November 9, 2015

Linking: "Three Ways Christians Can Be Like Jesus Amidst a More Polarized Culture"

Ed Stetzer has written an excellent article entitled Three Ways Christians Can Be Like Jesus Amidst a More Polarized Culture. The author discusses research data that shows the increasing polarization of America. He then asks and answers the question, "How do we, as Christians, live in this new polarized reality?" His answer focuses on living like Jesus Christ. I encourage you to read it.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Finished the Race

The marathon is over. After months of training, the big event has come and gone. Although I have mixed emotions about this, it is certainly nice to have accomplished my goals. This morning before the race I hoped to: 1) finish, 2) have fun, 3) not walk, and 4) finish in less than four hours. All goals met!

The complicating factor this morning was the heat and humidity. It was an unseasonably hot day here in Savannah. The high temperature hit 86 degrees, with humidity above 90 percent. It was rough. I drank water and Gatorade like a fiend. Because of the weather conditions the race organizers made the wise decision to shorten the race. I ended up running about 24 miles total. Oh well.

One runner actually died today, but I do not know if the heat played a part. That's a good reminder that these long runs are serious events.

Back in February I set this race as a concrete goal to motivate me to lose weight. It worked. The weight is off and the race is complete. Now it's time to rest and relax my aching muscles.

I thank God for providing me with this opportunity. In many ways the marathon was a culmination of a significant life change: becoming healthy physically.

(That's me to the left post-race wearing my finisher's jacket and bling.)


This morning I finally run in the Savannah Rock 'n' Roll Marathon. I greatly appreciate your prayers for both safety and endurance. Sometime after the race, when coherence returns, I'll post an update. Thanks for the support!

Friday, November 6, 2015

Jesus Christ Is at the Center. Let's Live Like It.

Jesus Christ is at the center of creation in general and the church in particular. This is an objective reality. At the most basic level it is both true and truth.

Paul tells us:

He (Jesus Christ) is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities — all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. (Colossians 1:15-20)

As followers of Jesus, we face the challenge each day of living out a Christ-centered reality. He has, after all, given us great gifts and also made radical claims upon our lives. We happily submit to his Lordship over salvation. However, in the day-to-day comings and goings of life we may fail to live as though Christ is in fact where he is - at the center.

On a day by day basis what are some of the things that we can and should be doing to display the fact of Jesus' position at the center of our existence?

The joyful answer is that God has not made this complicated for us. We do not have to wonder what his expectations are. The only difficult part lies in carrying them out.

Below are seven simple yet profound things we can do to show the world that Jesus Christ is the center point our our lives:

1. Obey Christ's commands. This one is not generally popular, but it shows that we are his disciples.

2. Encourage other believers to obey Jesus' commands. All disciples of our Lord will obey him (if imperfectly).

3. Love others sacrificially. This one hurts sometimes, especially when we do not receive love in return.

4. Accept suffering as normal. While this point won't surprise many believers around the globe, it continues to shock us residents of the good ole USA.

5. Give generously. Jesus owns it all; let's allow it to flow freely through our fingers to those in need.

6. Make disciples. Closely related to number two above, Jesus expects us to help his followers mature.

7. Encourage an active church. Rejecting passivity, let's exhort other believers to actively follow after Jesus in every area of life.

The above is a fairly basic list. We could add twenty more to it without much difficulty. The problem is that the church here in America is weak in even these seven. Let's do our part to show that Jesus sits at the very hub of our existence by carrying these out. The church has to start somewhere.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

4 Days to Go!

The marathon is getting close. Very close.

I have to admit that I am extremely excited about this. For those of you who are not runners, the idea of plodding along for 26.2 miles may seem horrible. For some odd reason, it sounds wonderful to me. Regardless, I'm very much looking forward to it. For one thing, the Savannah Rock 'n' Roll Marathon is a big event. About 18,000 runners are scheduled to participate. That many runners in one place means lots of people who love to run!

As a bonus to all this, Rascal Flatts will perform a free concert immediately after the race. Sweet.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Linking: Doubling Up At Church – Filling Our Week With Extra Programs Because Sunday Isn’t Meeting Our Spiritual Needs

A few years ago Kathleen Ward wrote an excellent, short post that happens to have a long title: Doubling Up At Church – Filling Our Week With Extra Programs Because Sunday Isn’t Meeting Our Spiritual Needs. I highly encourage you to read it.

Kathleen points out that many churches are becoming increasingly busy because the folks desire community but aren't getting it on Sundays. The shape of the Sunday ceremony, pews and all, keeps the body from truly being together. This in turn forces increased meetings during the week just to be able to fellowship.

The Sunday form is the problem.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Linking: Is the Reformation Over?

Does justification by faith alone matter anymore? Is the Reformation over?

R.C. Sproul provides excellent answers to these questions as he deals with the critical topic of justification. Sproul is correct in saying that justification by faith alone is a core attribute of the biblical gospel. He points out how the Roman Catholic Church has steadfastly rejected the notion that faith is enough for salvation. Please read the post. It is relatively short and worth your time.

(HT: Arthur)

Thursday, October 29, 2015


I am a runner. A runner runs. A runner also writes (at least I do).

I've run for years, but several months ago I got serious about it. The reason was simple: I was fifty pounds overweight. I was disgusted with my lack of eating self-control and disgusted with my body. It was time to get in shape.

I decided in February that I would run in the Savannah Rock 'N' Roll Marathon. Well, the race is now only nine days away. I've been training like a madman for a while now. It's been exhilarating and exhausting at the same time. While doing this, I've lost the fifty pounds I needed to.

After the marathon is over, I must learn how to maintain my current weight. While doing this I want to gain a better understanding of how to live a more healthy lifestyle. I realize that physical health is only so important, but God gave us bodies; we should be good stewards of them.

In light of all of the above, my blogging is going to make a seismic shift. I'll continue to write primarily about theological and church issues. However, I'm going to add blog posts about running in particular and health in general. My hope is that you will both continue to read this blog and benefit from the new topics.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Mixed Emotions About the Homeless

This past Saturday I spent some time in Savannah's historic district both reading and relaxing. Due to my crazy work schedule I rarely get to do this. It was wonderful. Savannah boasts numerous pre-Civil War era squares that are excellent places to sit quietly. On Saturday I selected Orleans Square because of its awesome fountain (see my pic to the left).

After I had been in the square for about an hour, a man slowly entered, placed a blanket on the ground, lay down, and went to sleep. Based on his appearance I'm guessing that he is homeless. He stood in stark contrast to all the tourists and locals who walked through the square that day. Everyone ignored him as best they could. After all, he sort of messed up the photos they were trying to take of the lovely fountain. I watched the man for a while, wondering what to do. Out of respect for him, I did not take his photo while he slept. Eventually I just left the square.

I have mixed emotions when it comes to homelessness. Like any other city, Savannah has its share of homeless folks. I doubt that homelessness is as big of a national problem as liberals make it out to be. It's likely more of a problem than conservatives want to admit. Regardless, a significant number of Americans do not have homes.

On the one hand, those without homes need to take some responsibility for their actions. Just like all other citizens, they have certain rights and privileges. I have to work a lot. They need to as well. Additionally, due to our over-sized government, all sorts of social programs exist (for better or worse) to help people like these. Also, most cities provide places where the homeless can sleep and eat. Savannah has the Inner City Night Shelter.

On the flip side of this situation, we followers of Jesus need to show compassion to those with less. Even a cursory glance at Christ's teachings makes it clear that He expects us to care for the poor. Most churches in this country, especially conservatives ones, have done a poor job in following Jesus' expectations on this issue. Additionally, many homeless folks have little education and few skills. Because of this, they have no way to get a decent job. Also, a significant percentage of the homeless suffer from mental illness. This compounds their problems. My guess is that many feel as if there is simply no way out of their situation.

Making things even more complex, I've read and been told that some homeless people do not see their situation as a problem and do not want any help at all.

Just as I do not know what to do about and for the homeless in general, I did not know what to do for the man sleeping in the square. Part of me was disgusted and annoyed by his presence. Another part of me felt deep compassion for his plight. In the end I just walked back to my car and went home.

Not only do I have mixed emotions about the homeless, but I also do not know how to help them.

What about you?

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Thank You, Arthur Sido, for Writing This Important Blog Post

Arthur Sido has penned a critical post entitled Pitting Jesus Against The Bible. He addresses the growing segment within Christianity that claims to follow Jesus but not scripture. This, of course, allows these folks to create a Jesus of their own making and liking. It is delusional.

I've been thinking quite a bit lately about this specific topic. I even began piecing together a blog post about it. However, Arthur beat me to the punch. And he did an excellent job of it. I highly encourage you to visit his blog and read the post. It is a well-written rejection of the fairly modern idea that Christians can somehow know Jesus while ignoring much of the written revelation about Him.

Linking: "Contemporary Church Worship: A Liturgy of Entertainment?"

Read some excellent thoughts from Jeff Clarke on both the problem of church entertainment and the benefits of a superior way of gathering. He discusses these in his post entitled "Contemporary Church Worship: A Liturgy of Entertainment?"

Monday, October 26, 2015

Keeping the Gospel of Grace Front and Center

It's easy to get sidetracked from what is most important. Not only is our society an extremely busy one, but so is the church. Amidst this busyness, it is quite easy to take our eyes off what is most critical. When it comes to Christianity, the most critical thing is the Gospel itself.

The Gospel at its heart is based in the grace of God. We must never forget this. In our man-centered culture, the tendency is to elevate humanity to the position of most importance. This can and does seep slowly into the church. This in turn even impacts what Christians believe about the Gospel. In particular, I'm concerned about two growing segments within the church as they relate to the Gospel. Albeit in different ways, both groups stress man's work as being important to the Gospel. Both groups are wrong.

The first group I'm referring to is those Christians who act as if man's response of faith is something that he himself instigates (some call this group "Arminian," but I'm going to avoid that term because it simply leads to arguments). These folks believe that God bestows a certain amount of grace upon every human, but that it is up to said human to respond in faith of his own doing. They believe faith precedes regeneration. What this does is turn the faith response into a work. In essence, these believers are saying that a spiritually dead man can repent and believe while still spiritually dead. Not only does it make no sense theologically, but it also is patently false. Worst, it denies that grace is enough for salvation.

The second group is even more problematic. These folks, who may or may not actually be Christ-followers, deny that the atoning work of Christ is necessary for salvation. Rather, they say that Jesus' work on the cross was an act on his part to set an example of living sacrificially for others. While it is undoubtedly that, it is so much more. What Christ did on the cross caused the great transaction to occur: my sin for his perfection. This great exchange is absolutely necessary for salvation. If it is not, then salvation once again becomes a work of mankind as he wills himself to God. In order to deny that the atonement is necessary, you have to reject a great portion of the bible. In fact, the entire sacrificial system of the Old Testament makes no sense when you hold this position.

The above two beliefs are just two of many variants that deny that God's grace is sufficient. As Christ's body, we must reject any and all of these positions. God's grace is not only what makes Christianity unique, it also makes salvation possible. If knowing God through Christ depended on our works, then no one would ever come to salvation. It is God's amazing grace, and it alone, that both makes salvation possible and causes it to occur.

Let's keep this issue front and center. God is honored when we emphasize his grace.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

True Worship

This book just arrived in the mail. I hope to find time later today to read much of it (it's only about 100 pages long). I prefer short books; most seem unnecessarily long.

Worship is both a key component of life and one that is misunderstood by many Christians. This is clear based on how many believers think that worship is limited to worship services in worship centers. The church is in desperate need of a greater understanding of what true worship is.

Dave Black highly recommended this book on his blog. That was all I needed to inspire me to order it. If you want to read what Dave said about about, then click here and scroll down to October 11th.

Click here to order the book.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

From the Department of Redundancy Department?

I've been told by some who shall remain nameless that I say the same things over and over on my blog. In essence, the accusation is that I'm being redundant. Is this true? If so, is it a problem?

Is my blogging from the Department of Redundancy Department?

I admit to spending a good amount of time pointing out the numerous problems embedded within institutional Christianity. I make no apology for this. However, I also write about other issues such as family and culture. Additionally, other posts look at positives we see in scripture as far as the church is concerned. I attempt to then make application to today's church. Finally, sometimes I blog about simple church practices and activities that I find both important and interesting. To sum up, this blog looks at much more than just institutional problems.

For the sake of argument, let's just say that my posts focus more on the institution and its absurdities than on anything else. Is this a problem? I think not. Here's why. First, each week institutional Christianity rolls along, largely unimpeded. The pastors do their thing. The people sit quietly. The offering plate fills up. Society is not changed. Because of this, at least some of us outside the institution must point out the problems. Blogging is one of the few avenues I have. As long as the institution keeps up its traditional nonsense, I will discuss the unbiblical nature of what I see. The institution's redundancy leads to my redundancy. We must keep these issues in the minds of other Christians. Otherwise, no change will come within the church.

Second, many bloggers who prefer simple church and are willing to discuss institutional problems also have another problem: they are weak doctrinally. I'm not sure why it is, but a lot of those outside the institutional walls hold unbiblical positions on issues such as homosexuality, gender roles, the atonement, and Hell to name a few. Many also border on universalism. The term "squishy" is a good way to describe their doctrine. Therefore, I'm part of an odd, small number of bloggers who hold orthodox Christian beliefs and also reject institutional church practices (Arthur is another in this odd camp). Since our number is so small, we must continue to bang the same drum.

If this seems like redundancy, then so be it. Nobody is forced to read anybody's blog.

Monday, October 19, 2015

At the Fountain

Yesterday my son Bobby and I spent a couple of hours walking around Savannah's historic district. One of the highlights of this walk is always Forsyth Park. The best aspect of the park is the fountain. That's me above on an absolutely picture perfect day. As a bonus, the ever-present humidity was even low. Awesome.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Church History is Authoritative Only As Far As It Follows Scripture

When it comes to the history of the church, most Christians swing to one extreme or the other.

On the one hand, some believers look to church history as carrying a significant amount of authority. In particular, certain creeds have been elevated by different groups of Christians to the point where they carry a great deal of power. The Apostles' Creed is one of these. Another is the Westminster Confession, which some Reformed and Presbyterian groups look to for much direction.

On the other hand, other believers reject church history as having any sort of authority. While they may look to some more modern creeds for direction, in general they simply take a "It's me and my bible" approach. These folks are generally ignorant of church history and don't care that they are. Many Baptist and non-denominational groups, for example, fall into this category.

Both positions fail.

There is a better way. We can learn a great deal from church history, both the good and the bad. While some decisions and creeds are positive, others are most decidedly negative. What do we do with this? What we do is look for the good.

As far as church history follows scripture, then we should look to learn from it. While it does not carry the same weight as scripture, where it is faithful to the bible we ought to carefully consider it. Additionally, we should treat it as though it carries authority - but only when faithful to the bible.

We can and must also learn from the myriad mistakes in church history. In particular, we cannot ever forget all the times the church has harmed, persecuted, and even murdered all in the name of "faith."

In summary, anywhere church history, especially in the creeds, does follow scripture, then we should be following it. This is because, obviously, when we do so we will be obeying the bible.

Let's avoid both extremes. This is a situation where the middle position is best.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Positive Acts - On Fleeing Naked and Wounded

Acts 19:11-20

And God was doing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, so that even handkerchiefs or aprons that had touched his skin were carried away to the sick, and their diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them. Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists undertook to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, “I adjure you by the Jesus whom Paul proclaims.” Seven sons of a Jewish high priest named Sceva were doing this. But the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who are you?” And the man in whom was the evil spirit leaped on them, mastered all of them and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded. And this became known to all the residents of Ephesus, both Jews and Greeks. And fear fell upon them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was extolled. Also many of those who were now believers came, confessing and divulging their practices. And a number of those who had practiced magic arts brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted the value of them and found it came to fifty thousand pieces of silver. So the word of the Lord continued to increase and prevail mightily.

Certain passages in the bible are very gratifying. Acts 19:11-20 is one of those. In that sense it reminds me of I Kings 18, where Elijah mocks and defeats the prophets of Baal.

However, this passage should also give us pause. The statement by the evil spirit is a somewhat frightening one. The beatdown he gives the sons of Sceva seems funny, but it stems from their lack of faith. What about us? Would the spirit recognize us, or would he send us fleeing?

It is exciting to see God at work in the above passage. The results in Ephesus for the Gospel were impressive. They appear to stem in large part from the nude scampering of Sceva's sons. This leads me back to my original question: would the evil spirit recognize us? If we say yes, then why?

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Urban Legends of the New Testament

The church in America faces two primary problems when it comes to the bible. First, some believers simply do not care much about what scripture has to say. Second, other believers care what the bible says, but do not know how to interpret it correctly. Urban Legends of the New Testament: 40 Common Misconceptions deals with the second problem.

In this book, author David Croteau tackles numerous different poor interpretations of well-known biblical texts. Croteau's major emphasis throughout is something that is sorely lacking in much of the church today: the utmost importance of context. The author stresses again and again that each verse must be understood in light of the verses and chapters surrounding it. Significant damage is done, and this happens a lot, when verses are yanked out of context and applied willy-nilly to situations that have nothing to do with the biblical writer's original meaning.

This book could be summed up in one word: context.

I like Urban Legends of the N.T. for more than just the important topic. Croteau has a clear, understandable writing style. He also has thought clearly through these issues. His arguments do not degenerate into the use of logical fallacies. Rather, he simply points out the context of the original verse or passage and applies it within that context. An additional bonus is that Croteau begins each chapter by providing the teaching that corresponds to the urban legend; he then goes on to debunk it.

The money quote from the entire book, in my opinion, comes from page 202. The author says that in practicing sound biblical interpretation the reader must remember:

First, seeking the author's intent must always precede attempting to apply a passage. Second, the primary meaning of a passage needs to be the focus of interpretation. While secondary or tertiary meanings can be identified and interesting, they should not be the focus of interpretation. Third, the interpreter must remember that only primary meanings build doctrine. If a text has an implication (a secondary meaning) that appears to support a certain doctrine, a separate text should be located that has that doctrine as its primary meaning.

As for negatives, this book has few. In fact, only one comes quickly to mind: Dr. Croteau embraces the church institution. This does not mean that he agrees with every aspect of it (he couldn't and write a book like this at the same time); however, he still is firmly entrenched. Frankly, as a seminary professor he has little choice.

Despite this issue, Urban Legends of the N.T. is worth the read. It's a solid reminder of just how important context is in accurately understanding the bible.

This book reminds me somewhat of another good one: The Most Misused Verses in the Bible.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

How Much Would It Cost Me to Attend Ligonier?!?!

A few days I ago I received a flyer in the mail for the 2016 Ligonier National Conference. It is addressed to "Pastor and Mrs. Eric Carpenter." I guess they don't realized that I resigned from professional pastoring five years ago. That's probably because I haven't attended a Ligonier conference in five years either.

As theology conferences go, Ligonier is a good one. The line up of speakers is usually excellent, and the topics are both interesting and relevant. This year's focus - the Gospel - could not be better. Part of me would really like to attend. However, since I'll be working I won't be going (when I attended Ligonier conferences in 2009 and 2010 I was employed as a salaried pastor; thus, I had all sorts of free time to travel to Orlando for a few days).

If I had the time, just how much would it cost me to attend? Let's do the math.

If I registered right now it would cost $169.00. Prices increase as the conference approaches.

The Meal Plan for four meals is $59.00.

The cheapest hotel reservation is $79.00. However, with taxes included the cost would rise to close to $100.00. The schedule calls for two nights; total hotel cost equals $200.00.

Gasoline cost from Savannah to Orlando and back would be somewhere in the vicinity of $100.00.

Meals to and from Orlando would be about $25.00.

The cost, then, for me to attend the 2016 Ligonier National Conference would be a whopping $553.00.

That is a lot of money.

Of course, when I last attended Ligonier I was a pastor; therefore, I let the church pick up the tab since it was part of my monthly expenses. That means that hard working people back home in Savannah shelled out hundreds of hard-earned dollars for me to sit and listen for three days. It was a good deal for me.

Did I forget to mention the books? Like most conferences, Ligonier has a large room full of theology texts, all for sale. These go on the pastor's expense account, too.

Something is not right with this picture.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Reformed on Salvation. Anabaptist on the Church.

The longer I live the more thankful I am for the Reformers. As we near October 31st, the day Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the Wittenberg church door in 1517, I can't help but muse upon just how much we owe those who came before us. For hundreds of years prior to the Protestant Reformation the Gospel had been largely locked away behind the pomp and circumstance of the Roman Catholic Church. The average person on the street had no access to the truth of the Biblical Gospel. Most people couldn't read, and even if they could they would not have had any way to read the scriptures in their first language (since the Bible was stuck in the Latin Vulgate at that time).

Enter the Magisterial Reformers. Men such as John Wycliffe, Jan Huss, Martin Luther, Ulrich Zwingli, William Tyndale, John Calvin and many more literally risked their lives for Biblical truth. Some, like Huss, lost theirs at the stake. These men, who were able to read the Bible, saw that the Gospel is all of grace. They understood that Jesus Christ's work is complete. It is about Christ and Christ alone. God used the Reformers greatly to proclaim the wonderful news that Jesus accomplished all that was required.

Secondarily, I agree wholeheartedly with the Refomers' strong belief in the absolute sovereignty of God when it comes to salvation. I love both the 5 Solas and the Doctrines of Grace; I love them because I believe they are scriptural.

The Reformers stuck to the Bible when it came to the Gospel. For this I am indebted.

And yet...

When it comes to church life, the Reformers dropped the ball - at least where the Bible is concerned. Frankly, the Reformers did very little to alter the church from what it was (and still is) in Catholicism. The priests simply became pastors. The mass was replaced with a new sacrament: the sermon. The big buildings hardly changed at all. Because of this, I reject the Reformers' model of church life.

Enter the Anabaptists. While the Reformers deviated little from the Roman model of church, the Anabaptists embraced not only the Biblical Gospel but also the Biblical model of church life. They kept things simple. They emulated what they saw in the Bible. They rejected unbiblical concepts such as salaried clergy, special buildings, and worship services. They also saw the church as free, unencumbered by a cozy relationship with the state. It was this rejection of the church-state alliance that brought persecution and death to many of them. Almost all of their early leaders were slaughtered, either by Catholics or Protestants.

It is the Anabaptist model of church, which is basically just the Biblical model of church, that I embrace. This is not to suggest that either A) the Anabaptists had everything figured out perfectly, or B) that all Anabaptists were the same. However, they generally attempted to allow scripture to inform what they believed and how they acted as it pertains to living out church life.

For this, I'm deeply indebted to the Anabaptists.

In the end, this leaves me in the somewhat odd situation of being Reformed on salvation, but Anabaptist on the church. So be it.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Piper GIFs

John Piper is one of my favorite authors. I've read more of his books than any other. One thing Piper is known for is his gesticulations while preaching. Well, somebody took the time to put together a few classic Piper GIFs. Fun stuff. Enjoy.

Thanks to Arthur Sido for finding this.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Take the Trinity Test

Tim Challies and Rebecca Stark have put together a very solid little quiz that focuses on the doctrine of the Trinity. Since it's only made up of 33 questions it doesn't take long. While some of the questions were easy, a few made me stop and think. I managed to get all 33 correct, but I had a little uncertainty along the way.

I encourage you to take it. Click here to do so.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Marathon Update: Only One Month To Go!

(I apologize in advance for the self-centered nature of this post. There was no way to avoid it.)

Back in February of this year I weighed about 220 lbs. Curiosity got the best of me. I decided to look up how much I should weigh based upon factors such as height, weight, age, bone size, etc. My guess was around 190 lbs. I was shocked to find that the weight I should be at was more like 165-175. Yikes.

It was at that point that I decided to make a significant change in my life. By the grace of God, I almost immediately started eating correctly and exercising more regularly. I'd always enjoyed running, but now it became a means to an end: getting to my goal weight of 175. In order to accomplish this, I knew that I needed some sort of concrete motivator. It wasn't difficult to settle upon one. I'd always wanted to run in the Savannah Rock 'N' Roll Marathon. The timing was perfect because it allotted me nine months to prepare. Additionally, the cost would not be prohibitive since it happens right where I live.

Here we are eight months later. I've been at my goal weight and holding steady for a few months. Additionally, I've run in four relatively short races both for fun and for marathon preparation. This past Saturday night I placed 5th out of about 50 people in a local 5K. Sweet.

The marathon is one month from today! I cannot wait. However, training still calls. Between now and then I have to tackle two more long runs (about 20 miles each). Those are the worst. They are boring and tiring. The last few miles are even painful. Ugh. Despite that, it will be worth it in the end.

The 26.2 is calling my name. It will soon be here!

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Positive Acts - A Little Help

Acts 18:24-28

Now a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was an eloquent man, competent in the Scriptures. He had been instructed in the way of the Lord. And being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John. He began to speak boldly in the synagogue, but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately. And when he wished to cross to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him. When he arrived, he greatly helped those who through grace had believed, for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, showing by the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus.

I love the above passage because of its simplicity and beauty. Luke describes a relatively straightforward situation where a gifted orator needed some help with his content. Apollos, who clearly had good intentions, was extremely skilled in proclaiming what he knew. The problem was that he didn't have a complete knowledge of the Gospel. Aquila and Priscilla rightly discerned that Apollos needed some help. The key to this passage is how they responded to his need.

Aquila and Priscilla could have rebuked Apollos. They could have "put him in his place" due to his lack of knowledge. They could have deeply discouraged him. However, they rightly understood his skills and intent. Instead of taking a negative approach, we read that "they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately." This is edification at its best. These two seasoned Christians understood Apollos' need and assisted him in overcoming it. This is what Christ-followers should be doing.

Luke then tells us the outcome. Apollos was able to in turn assist other believers in a different area. Luke reports that "he (Apollos) greatly helped those who through grace had believed." Apollos accomplished this by giving superior arguments to the Jews of the area. With his new, fuller knowledge of the Gospel as told to him by Priscilla and Aquila, he was able to successfully show that Jesus is the Christ.

Apollos took his edification from Aquila and Priscilla and in turn used it to edify other believers. This is as it ought to be. Edification leads to edification leads to edification, etc.

Simple and beautiful.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Papal Ponderings

Pope Francis has come and gone. The church in the USA remains the same. After all the pomp and circumstance we are left with the vast variety of problems that we had prior to his visit.

I'm not surprised that many American Roman Catholics were thrilled to have Jorge Bergoglio (his real name) on U.S. soil. He has been lauded by many as a Pope who is willing to change things for the better. In some situations this is, in fact, true. For example, this particular pontiff shuns some of the ceremonial nonsense that normally goes along with his position.

In addition, Jorge truly does appear to care for the poor and downtrodden in society at large. Furthermore, he speaks out in favor of peace, for which I am grateful. Finally, the Pope not only accepts but also recognizes at least some of the Roman Catholic abuses of the past; he recently apologized for Rome's vicious persecution of the Waldensians in the years leading up to and during the Protestant Reformation.

In light of all this, should we be thrilled? Should we even consider, as many evangelicals now do, this Pope to be our brother in Christ?

Despite some of his outward uniqueness, Pope Francis has not been willing to change one thing about Roman Catholicism that never changes: Roman dogma. The Council of Trent showed us this hundreds of years ago. As a reaction to the Reformation, the Catholics gathered on and off over the course of eighteen years to basically say, "We still believe what we've always believed." Rome does not compromise or change any of its theological positions. It still has seven sacraments. It still celebrates the Mass. Most troubling, it continues to reject salvation by grace alone through faith alone.

Put simply, this Pope continues to believe the Roman gospel, which is a different gospel from the one clearly taught in the Bible. Therefore, this Pope cannot be a true follower of Christ despite his outward actions.

On a related note, Pope Francis is not a big fan of definitions. This leaves things messy. While he speaks much about the social side of life, his statements on theological matters are unclear at best. We are left to assume that he believes what Rome always has.

Finally, Jorge remains at the epicenter of THE largest church institution on the planet. If there is one position on earth that exemplifies all that is wrong with the leadership, authority, and power that has warped the church into an institutional framework, it is the papacy. The Pope is the hub.

In the end, little has changed. Although this new Pope does some things differently, he still rejects the true Gospel of Jesus Christ. This is the key issue.

To learn more of the excesses of the Pope and the Vatican, watch the two videos below:

Friday, October 2, 2015


I have a tendency to get offended by people fairly easily. Recently I realized that this causes me much more consternation and angst than it does those doing the offending. Therefore, when I saw a friend recommend the book Unoffendable on his Facebook account, I figured it would be worth the read.

Author Brant Hansen makes the case that as followers of Jesus Christ we have no right to get angry. In part because of this, we can and should be unoffenable people. This, in turn, makes life better and less complicated. Hansen's argument has more depth than what I've described here, but this is the gist of it. He even tackles the ubiquitous Christian idea of "righteous anger." The best part of this book is that Hansen supports his thesis with a good amount of scripture from various parts of the Bible.

I appreciate the author's belief that we, as Christians, should be humble people. Since God has saved us, people who don't deserve saving, we have no reason to be prideful. On page 192 of Unoffendable Hansen writes, "At the beginning of this book, we talked about the crazy idea that we are not entitled to anger, and how taking this idea seriously actually opens up new dimensions of rest, grace, and simplicity in our lives. We are, above all, embracing a radical humility."

As for negatives, my only real criticism is that the author stresses the grace of God almost to the complete exclusion of sanctification. While God saves us and sustains us through His grace, He also has an expectation that we will grow in holiness. Hansen basically ignores this topic. I find this fascinating because it seems to me that growing in unoffendability (is that a word?) is part of growing in sanctification.

Two other aspects of this book annoyed me a bit, but this has to do with personal preference more than anything substantial. First, the author writes in a very casual, conversational style. This is fine, but takes some getting used to. Second, although Hansen quotes various versions of the Bible, he leans heavily on the New Century Version (NCV). This version has a low reading level, and thus reads in a choppy manner.

If you can deal with a casual writing style and don't mind the NCV, then I recommend this book to you. The author address a topic that we all need to ponder.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Ten Things That Matter

We Christian bloggers, myself included, talk a lot about a lot of different things. This is a quick reminder of the things of utmost significance.

1. God exists.

2. God exists as the Trinity.

3. God created the universe, but does not need it.

4. Jesus Christ became human, lived a sinless life, died a substitutionary death, was resurrected, and ascended to heaven.

5. The Holy Spirit lives with and empowers us today.

6. The Bible is true and must be understood as God wants it understood.

7. The Gospel of grace, as described in the Bible, is true.

8. We must love one another.

9. We must proclaim the Gospel.

10. We must care for those in need.

I do not intend this post to be exhaustive. We could clearly expand on any number of these (especially number four) or add to the list. My point is simply that we do well to ponder, dwell upon, and take joy in the truths of most importance.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Positive Acts - Now That's How To Do It!

While he's in Athens Paul shows us how it's done.

In particular, Paul provides us with an excellent example of how to speak to unbelievers about Jesus Christ. Please click here to read the passage and then return.

This is master evangelism.

First, Paul makes a connection with those listening (17:22-23).
Second, Paul describes who God is and what He has done (17:24-29).
Third, Paul calls for repentance (17:30).
Fourth, Paul tells of Jesus Christ and His resurrection (17:31).

Paul understands that he must start at the beginning; he is not dealing with listeners who understand the Old Testament (as they would, for example, in a synagogue). The apostle proceeds to inform the men of Athens about the glorious nature of the God of the bible. Without using harsh words, Paul shows that God is far greater than anything the people of Greece had conceived. Simply put, God as revealed in Jesus Christ is superior. In light of what Christ has done, everyone has the responsibility to repent. Paul, as always, mentions the resurrection (this is critical).

Take note that Paul did not make this overly complicated. He also didn't need to speak for thirty minutes to explain the basics. He just started where his listeners were and went from there. As is usual, some of the people mocked, some believed, and some wanted to hear more.

Sometimes we make sharing Christ into a burden by thinking of it as much more complex than it is. If we will follow Paul's model we can avoid this. We make a connection, tell how great and wonderful God is, tell what He has done in Christ, and make a call for repentance and faith. This is not a rote formula to be memorized. Rather, it is simply a helpful guide to us. Let's use it.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Linking: The Imminent Decline of Contemporary Worship Music

I have no interest in the ongoing evangelical "worship wars." However, the older I get the more I prefer the great hymns of the faith to modern praise and worship choruses. While the hymns generally have both beautiful tunes and theological depth, the choruses seem designed to whip the audience into some sort of warm fuzzy through repetition. This difference does not always hold true; I'm speaking in generalities. Churches ought to sing a variety of songs of differing styles, all with sound theology.

The church would do well to reconsider its current love affair with praise and worship choruses. Frankly, it may just be the latest fad. Twenty years from now most of today's popular choruses will be long forgotten.

About a year ago T. David Gordon wrote an interesting piece entitled The Imminent Decline of Contemporary Worship Music: Eight Reasons. Gordon offers some solid insights into why modern worship music is already fading. While I don't agree with some of his views on church life, I do believe this article is worth reading.

Speaking of music, a few years ago I wrote a post named (not too creatively) My Top Ten Favorite Hymns. While I do not know whether or not all the links still function correctly, the hymns I've listed remain my favorites.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

My Place of Work: JCB North American Headquarters

One of the advantages of finally getting a smart phone is the awesome camera. Today I took these photos of where I spend much of my time - at JCB North American Headquarters. While I actually work in the factory that makes up the rear 80% of the building, these two pics are from the more picturesque front areas.

Monday, September 21, 2015

The Church Can Learn a Lot From Running Clubs

I love running. That may seem like crazy talk to some of you. I fully admit that I do not completely understand it myself. As I've mentioned a few times before, I'm training to run in the Savannah Rock 'n' Roll Marathon which takes place in about seven weeks.

I've been running for both exercise and enjoyment for the past twenty years. While doing this, I've always been somewhat envious of folks who are part of specific running clubs (like this one in Savannah). If I'm ever able to transition to a job within JCB that allows me to work a more reasonable schedule I'm going to join.

Why would I join a running club? The reason is simple: encouragement. In fact, the church could learn a great deal from running clubs for just this reason.

Running clubs unite a group of people around one thing: running. The folks in the club enjoy discussing running, challenging one another, and encouraging each other through injuries, trials, and successes. Most of the people genuinely like to help others, giving all sorts of solid advice. The more experienced runners in particular assist the newbies, whether it be in what running shoes to wear, what to eat before a run, or where to train.

Not only do the members talk about running, but they also run together. They foster a family atmosphere and truly enjoy being together. Groups of this type almost always have a good amount of diversity. What unites them is running. The people want others to join the group and often almost proselytize about it. Frankly, they think running is just the greatest.

If you take what I've just described and substitute Jesus Christ for running, you have what the church should and can look like. While I'm not encouraging the unbiblical practice of "local church membership," I am suggesting that local bodies have the capacity to be sources of great encouragement to one another as they unite around the person of Jesus Christ. According to scripture, the church meets for the purpose of edification. What does this look like? Well, it appears much like a family gathering (because churches should be families). The people like to be together, help one another, think Jesus is the greatest, and desire to share him with others. Or, at least this is how it should be.

The church can learn a lot from running clubs. Let's hope it does.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Positive Acts - Mission Matters, Race Doesn't

"Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a lifelong friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, 'Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.' Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off." (Acts 13:1-3, ESV)

I despise political correctness. Among other things, the politically correct thought police in our country have developed specific things you can say and cannot say when it comes to race. Actual meaningful dialogue regarding race relations has, quite sadly, become a near impossibility. I fear that in our secular society we will have racial problems until Christ returns.

If there is one place where people of different races should be able to be united it is within the body of Christ. This is because Jesus Christ is in the business of changing hearts from stone to flesh. It is also because in the church it is not race that unites people, but Christ Himself. How I wish Sunday mornings in this country were not so segregated!

When we look in Acts 13 we read something beautiful. Luke describes a group of men of varying backgrounds and races. These men appear, based on the small amount of data we have here, united around the person of Christ. They are worshiping and fasting. I'm not sure exactly what this means, but later in the paragraph we see that prayer was involved. Whatever they were specifically doing, it must have pleased God. Something extraordinary happened. The Holy Spirit spoke to them. Whether or not this was audible is not particularly important. The key is that they were in agreement about what the Spirit said. The men then obeyed.

These men, who could have been divided because of their differences, were instead united around Christ and his gospel. They understood that Christ's mission is what matters, not their variety of races. The unity they had in Jesus trumped all their differences.

Acts 13:1-3 is a short but powerful passage that speaks to the unity we can and should have in Christ. Nothing, not something even as significant as race, ought to be able to separate us from one another. It is Christ and his mission that matter.