James Henley Thornwell, the Southern Presbyterian theologian who died in 1862, got somethings very wrong, like slavery. But this he got right and it is amazingly up to date:
Our whole system of operations gives an undue influence to money. Where money is the great want, numbers must be sought; and where an ambition for numbers prevails, doctrinal purity must be sacrificed. The root of the evil is the secular spirit of our ecclesiastical institutions. What we want is a spiritual body; a Church whose power lies in the truth, and the presence of the Holy Ghost. (B. M. Palmer, Life and Letters of J. H. Thornwell, p. 291).
Eric Redmond, pastor of Hillcrest Baptist in Temple Hills, MD, helps us see the lay of the land in the African-American church by doing two things.
- He celebrates Anthony Carter’s and Thabiti Anyabwile’s books as rallying points for a different hope than the black mega-churches offer (giving credit also to Carl Ellis, Bruce Fields, Ken Jones, and Wy Plummer).
- And He points us to a paper he wrote in 2006, “Megachurches and Megaphones,” where he describes what he sees as the difference between these two ways of seeing the Christian faith fleshed out in African-American life.
Read and rejoice and say yes to God for these good things.
The target audience for our pastors conference is church leaders. We call it a conference for pastors, but in the small print it is for church leaders. We don't make anybody show their credentials at the door.
Our goal is to encourage pastors. The way we go about encouraging them and strengthening their hands to press on in the work is by focusing on theological issues rather than how-to issues. It's not a conference mainly on how to do church. It is mainly a conference about who God is and what are his ways in the world.
So it's reflective and theological. It involves a lot of singing, worship, prayer, and a big bookstore. We love to get pastors together and have them …
I am writing this on New Year’s Eve. The ending of 2007 moves my mind to other endings—like the final judgment. Ponder with me, if you wish, what it will be like to go through the last great judgment. It is good to settle in our minds what it will be like. If we could see it clearly, it would make those who trust Christ the happiest and bravest people in 2008.
I do believe we will all face a final judgment with the rest of the world. “We will all stand before the judgment seat of God” (Romans 14:10; 2 Corinthians 5:10). When Jesus says, “Whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life,” I take him to …
It seemed to us that if the focus of the pastors conference is going to be on the pastor as father—both of a church and a family—then having the sons along could enable them to catch a vision of what it is that their fathers are called to and what the challenges are that their fathers face.
Asking the fathers to come is, in part, a means of showing respect. And wouldn't it be awesome to see a few hundred three-generation teams at the conference, all hearing messages about God as our father, pastors as fathers, and missions as fathering? Asking fathers and sons to come is a way of building into the manhood of sons, fathers, and grandfathers a sense of what a great calling it is…
If you enjoyed Jon Bloom’s post-Christmas wisdom, you might like a 400-year-old version of the same point in verse by George Herbert.
This is one of my all-time favorite poems:
When God at first made man,
Having a glasse of blessings standing by;
Let us (said he) poure on him all we can:
Let the worlds riches, which dispersed lie,
Contract into a span.
So strength first made a way;
Then beautie flow’d, then wisdome, honour, pleasure:
When almost all was out, God made a stay,
Perceiving that alone, of all his treasure,
Rest in the bottome lay.
For if I should (said he)
Bestow this je…
I love my wife. Today is her 60th birthday. I got her permission to say that.
We have had significant talks in recent months about aging. Not all the accompaniments are visible, and not all are expected. But some things are firm—forever. That’s because of Christ. I wanted Noël to feel that. Hence the poem.
On Turning Sixty
Toward sixty, losses multiply.
The pace and pain we cannot stop:
How suddenly the petals dry,
And as if in agreement, drop.
And sometimes even little buds
Are lost, cut off before they bloom,
And heaven nourishes with floods
Of hopeful tears, her second womb.
How many petals y…
Each year Christmas night finds members of my family feeling some melancholy. After weeks of anticipation, the Christmas celebrations have flashed by us and are suddenly gone. And we’re left standing, watching the Christmas taillights and music fade into the night.
But it’s possible that this moment of melancholy may be the best teaching moment of the whole season. Because as long as the beautiful gifts remain unopened around the tree and the events are still ahead of us, they can appear to be the hope we are waiting for. But when the tree is empty and events are past, we realize we are longing for a lasting hope.
So last night, as Pam and I tucked our kids into bed, we talked about a few t…
The book on sale this week, The Pleasures of God, has a chapter entitled “The Pleasure of God in Bruising His Son.” It is based on Isaiah 53:10, “The LORD was pleased to bruise him, he has put him to grief.” The chapter ends with this parable:
Once there was a land ruled by a wicked prince. He had come from a foreign country and enslaved all the people of the land and made them miserable with hard labor in his coal mines across the deep canyon. He had built a massive trestle for the trains that carried his slaves across the canyon to the mines each morning, and it was heavily guarded.
Two men were still free in this kingdom -- one old and the other young. They lived on a…