Blog Posts by David Mathis
Trick or Treat? It's Martin Luther
It was October 31, 1517, that Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the church door in Wittenberg. He wanted to debate the sale of indulgences with his fellow university professors. He wrote in Latin, but a nameless visionary translated the theses into German, carried them to the printing press, and enabled their dispersion far and wide.
Luther ended up with more than he bargained for, but he proved to be no coward in defending the discoveries he was making…Continue Reading
Sent into the Harvest: Halloween on Mission
What if a crisp October wind blew through “the way we’ve always done things” at Halloween? What if the Spirit stirred in us a new perspective on October 31? What if dads led their households in a fresh approach to Halloween as Christians on mission?
What if spreading a passion for God’s supremacy in all things included Halloween — that amalgamation of wickedness now the second-largest commercial holiday in the West?
Loving Others and Extending Grace
What if we didn’t…Continue Reading
The Next Step: Disciple a Few
Maybe you attended a missions conference. Or read a book or article. Or heard a life-altering message. Or perhaps best of all, you were turned upside down by personal interaction with a fellow Christian. For the first time, you’re seeing that we are all “sent.” Every Christian is called to live on gospel mission. Whether God is lighting a new fire in you for “living sent” where you already are, or he’s calling you to cross a culture in missions,…Continue Reading
"Bring the Books With" — A New Recommended List
As you head back to school, or out to visit a friend or family member—or perhaps as you leave the National Conference in Minneapolis—take a cue from the apostle Paul and bring some good books with (which is a quintessentially Minnesotan way of saying it).
The Time Is Short
In 2 Timothy, the grizzled gospel-carrier knows he’s nearing the end of his days on earth. “The time of my departure has come,” he writes. “I have fought the good fight.…Continue Reading
9/11 — The Day Death Became Real
C. S. Lewis's words from his classic essay “Learning in War-Time," written during World War II, captured some of the powerful effect 9/11 had on those of us living half a century later.
There is no question of death or life for any of us, only a question of this death or of that — of a machine gun bullet now or a cancer forty years later.
What does war do to death? It certainly does not make it more frequent;…
Boomers, Millennials, and the Growing Tension: Nine Lessons in Generational Dynamics
The first of the Baby Boomers are turning 65 this year, just as their generational progeny, the so-called “Millennials,” are hitting their thirties. With one massive generation approaching retirement, while another even larger group seeks to establish itself in the adult world, it’s a recipe for generational tension.
The Boomers were born in the post-WWII birthrate “boom” from 1946 to about 1965. After this significant two-decade spike, there was a kind of birthrate recession from about 1965 to 1980—referred to…Continue Reading
Getting the Accent Right: "Not of . . . But Sent Into"
“In. . . but not of” — are you familiar with this popular phrase? It captures a truth about Jesus’ followers. We are “in” this world, but not “of” it.
“In. . . but not of.” Yes, yes, of course.
But might this pithy slogan give the wrong impression about our (co)mission in this world as Christians? You see, the motto seems to give the drift, We are in this world, alas, but we…Continue Reading
Avoiding Smarty-Pants Theology
Bible teachers have their more sophisticated ways of saying, "Nanny nanny boo boo."
And perhaps we Calvinists are especially susceptible to this temptation to pump our team more than focusing on biblical truths.
We would do well to track with John Frame's observations and maybe adjust our attitudes accordingly.
Frame writes in Evangelical Reunion:
[I]t is not hard to convince people of Calvinistic teachings when you avoid using Calvinistic jargon. . . . [T]here is a slogan among the…
The Fairy Tale of Universalism
Universalism is the view that in the end all humans—irrespective of whether they reject the gospel in this life—will be saved.
In the book Whatever Happened to Hell?, British evangelical John Blanchard writes these memorable words about universalism:
Universalism originated in the Garden of Eden when Satan brushed aside God’s warning and assured Eve, “You will not surely die” (Genesis 3:4). . . .
All the ways to hell are one-way streets. The idea that those who go there…
Fitting to Fulfill All Righteousness
John the Baptist has a point when he objects, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” (Matthew 3:14). But there’s more going on here than he first realizes.
Here’s Don Carson on what Jesus means in Matthew 3:15 in responding to John the Baptist, “Let it be so now, for thus it is filling for us to fulfill all righteousness”—
Jesus affirms, in effect, that it is God’s will (“all righteousness”) that John baptize…
Top 5 Books Read in 2010
In reflecting back on 2010 at year’s end, here are what I’d call “the top 5 books I read” (in order of author’s last name):
|Gospel in Life by Tim Keller|
It’s not a typical read-it-on-your-own book, but specially designed for small-group study. Our weekly small group tackled the 8 sessions together this Fall. Each session has a “home study” (nice way of saying “homework”) and a 10-minute video lesson by Keller on the accompanying DVD. The topics are great,…
Enhypostasis: What Kind of Flesh Did the Word Become?
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us . . . (John 1:14)
Yesterday we looked at the doctrine of anhypostasis and said that the kind of humanity Jesus took in the incarnation was impersonal. He did not add a human person to himself when he took a fully human nature.
Now we turn to the flip side of the coin and ask, Where did the singular person of Jesus come from? Who is the one person of…Continue Reading
Anhypostasis: What Kind of Flesh Did Jesus Take?
. . . [Being] in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men . . . (Philippians 2:6–7)
At Christmas we celebrate that Jesus became human that he might save us. Without ceasing to be fully divine, he took on full humanity.
But what kind of humanity did he take on? Was it a humanity that…Continue Reading
Footnote Gem: Humanity’s Need for the Gospel
E. T. is back—at least he’s made a brief reappearance in this footnote gem from John Frame.
In his chapter “Christians in Our Culture” in The Doctrine of the Christian Life, Frame writes,
Steven Spielberg’s character E. T. is, I think, a genuine Christ figure: recall the themes of preexistence, growth, teaching, miracle, healing, death, resurrection, and ascension. Spielberg denied this parallel, but in my view it is objectively there, even if Spielberg was unconscious of it. The reason…
Changing a Church Culture
In the sixth and final session of the Trellis and Vine workshop, Col Marshall presented 13 ideas for changing a complicated and programmatic church culture into a culture of disciple-making:
- Set the agenda on Sunday. The public ministry of the gospel and the Scriptures is essential.
- Teach “the ministry of the pew”—that everyone can minister to everyone, and they can come to the weekly gatherings on the lookout for others to engage with, welcome, and minister to.
- Be a…
After yesterday’s afternoon of small-group evaluation and discussion, we started Day 2 with another teaching session.
Col Marshall led us through 1 Thessalonians 1:1–2:16 and pointed to how Paul himself was a trainer of ministers—a discipler of disciplemakers. Three key points Col highlighted from the text came under the headings 1) word, 2) prayer, and 3) parenting.
First, Paul’s ministry was word-centered—shaped and powered by the gospel and the Scriptures. Col challenged us to “be plain speakers of the…Continue Reading
The Biblical Vision of Christian Ministry
We're at Bethlehem's North Campus for the first of a 2-day Trellis & the Vine workshop with Col Marshall and Tony Payne (authors of the book by the same title). We found out at the beginning of this morning's session that there are attendees here from not only the 5-state region (Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, and the Dakotas) but also as far as New Hampshire, south Texas, and Oregon.
Tony Payne led us through the first session on the biblical…Continue Reading
31 Years Ago Today: Piper Called to Preach
It was October 14, 1979—31 years ago today—when John Piper first felt “irretrievably called” to enter the pastoral and preaching ministry. Justin Taylor told the story well a year ago on the 30th anniversary.
[It was] the fall of 1979. I was on sabbatical from teaching at Bethel College.…
Critiquing the Left—And the Right
We commended Darrin Patrick’s new book Church Planterbefore, but here’s a particular word for the preface, titled “Why Focus on Men?” It may be one of the best short articles on biblical manhood now available.
Below are a couple paragraphs that give the flavor of Patrick’s even-handed perspective—an approach that critiques both the left and the right, and thus steers clear of both the liberal and conservative errors.
These sentences won’t sit well with the left:
The… Continue Reading
The Cross: Not a Terrible Monstrosity
A great quote from T. F. Torrance in his article, "The Hypostatic Union" (36, paragraphing mine) —
It is important to see that if the Deity of Christ is denied, then the Cross becomes a terrible monstrosity.
If Jesus Christ is man only and not also God, then we lose faith in God and man.
We lose faith in God because we could not believe in a God who allows the best man that ever lived to be hounded to…
If Billy Graham Had Been a Pastor
Billy Graham once was asked, “If you were a pastor of a large church in a principal city, what would be your plan of action?”
In the modern-day classic The Master Plan of Evangelism (which has gone through over 100 printings since it was first published in 1963), Robert Coleman reproduces Graham’s response, perhaps a surprising answer to many:
I think one of the first things I would do would be to a get a small group of eight or… Continue Reading
The Wine Jesus Drank
Twice Jesus was offered wine while on the cross. He refused the first, but took the second. Why so?
The first time came in verse 23, “they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it.” William Lane explains,
According to an old tradition, respected women of Jerusalem provided a narcotic drink to those condemned to death in order to decrease their sensitivity to the excruciating pain . . . . When Jesus arrived at Golgotha he…
The One Who Stills the Seas
Why were Jesus' disciples so wigged out when he stilled the sea? Already afraid of the great storm, you'd think they might have been calmed by Jesus' calming of the waves. But it seemed to have the opposite effect. Mark 4:41: "And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, 'Who then is this, that even wind and sea obey him?'"
The disciples now seem to be perplexed about their master's identity. "Who then is this…Continue Reading
Samson’s Spectacular Sin
In the book Spectacular Sins, John Piper writes about how God uses even (and especially) his people’s most tragic sins to work his global purposes for the glory of his Son, and for his people’s good. Judges 14 picks up on the tune.
There Samson bids his parents secure him a wife, a particular Philistine woman who has caught his eye. And, as you probably know, in ancient Israel, the Philistines are usually the bad guys. This marriage would…Continue Reading
You Can't Make This Stuff Up
Here is Moses’ amazing monotheistic appeal to the people of Israel at the edge of the Promised Land, after 40 years of wilderness wandering.
Ask now of the days that are past, which were before you, since the day that God created man on the earth, and ask from one end of heaven to the other, whether such a great thing as this has ever happened or was ever heard of.
Did any people ever hear the voice of a…