Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. (Romans 14:10)
When I was in college, I took a philosophy class in Logic where we studied the differences between strong, medium, weak, and deductively valid arguments. We also studied the art of crafting and presenting arguments. In other words, how to formulate a strong premise to support one’s conclusion. As part of the class, we studied the views and arguments of various political, ethical, and moral opinions in order to identify and understand what makes a strong argument and what makes a weak argument. An assignment the professor would periodically give was to have us write a brief essay arguing for or against a particular position regardless of our own personal view. The idea was to encourage us to try and accurately understand an opposing point of view.
This exercise can still be helpful, especially as we continue to deal with the challenges of COVID. Putting ourselves in someone else’s shoes, getting inside the mind of those who do not agree with us, can help us extend grace and, if done with humility, can cause us to realize that maybe our side does not have all the answers or has not thought through all the possibilities. However, serious differences which threatened to divide the Church is nothing new. Differences within the Church have been ongoing since the first century. One such instance is dealt with in Romans 14.
An understanding of the image of God in man is significant for at least two reasons.[i] First, Genesis 1-3 are the introductory chapters to the Bible and set the stage for all of redemptive history as it unfolds in the pages of Scripture. To have a full and accurate understanding of redemptive history, we must have an accurate understanding of the introductory material to Genesis. Second, it is clear from Scriptures that God places a high degree of value on humans precisely because they are created in His image (Gen. 5:1-3; 9:6; Ps 8; James 3:9). To know God in a fuller sense, we must develop a concrete understanding of God’s image in man. To know God's image better is to have a better comprehension of the one who created it. Thus, humans are the image of God in that God has willed them to be his image, and has instilled in them all the necessary elements to be an accurate image (spirit, intelligence, emotions, dominion, etc.), and although these elements are unique and integral to humanness, they do not fully constitute the meaning of the image of God.
Five weeks ago, I came down with a case of Shingles. If you are not sure what that is, here is a brief description from WebMD.com: “Shingles is a rash with shooting pain. It usually shows up on one side of your body” and is caused by the Chickenpox virus which lays dormant near your spinal cord or the base of your brain for decades until it decides to “wake up” one day in the form of Shingles.[i] One in three adults who have had Chickenpox as a child will develop Shingles in later years. Shingles is extremely painful and can last up to six weeks. In my case, it broke out on the right side of my neck and head. Thus, there were many nights when I would simply lie in bed medicated on one prescription pain med and two different over-the-counter pain meds with an ice pack on my head whimpering in pain. It was brutal to say the least. And as if that were not enough, where the Shingles broke out infected the nerve which runs through my right inner ear which then spreads out across the right side of my face. The result is what is called Ramsay Hunt syndrome (RHS). In short, paralysis to the right side of my face making it difficult to eat, drink or speak and impossible to blink my right eye. Thus, I am forced to wear an eye patch from time to time, especially when I sleep, and I have not been able to carry out my weekly preaching responsibilities at my church. It was a frightening thing to wake up in the middle of the night and suddenly not be able to move the right side of my face. I first thought I was having a stroke. What is worse, no one knows how long the RHS will last. It could last several weeks to several months. Ten percent of patients experience some degree of lifelong paralysis.
This presidential election is proving to be one of the most difficult and challenging elections in recent history. On the one hand there is Joe Biden, an avowed pro-abortion candidate, who seems more presidential, courteous, and civil, and on the other hand there is President Trump, a president who drops the F-bomb on national radio, who has openly bragged about groping women before going into public office, who has a tendency to be rude and crude.
Recently an article was published by The Gospel Coalition titled “Christians Are Not Immune to Conspiracy Theories”, which I think is worthy of a response. First of all, I do not know Pastor Joe Carter, the article’s author, and I am quite certain his heart is in the right place, his motives are pure, and he has the best intentions in mind. However, I believe he has taken an extreme position in his article which at best is unhelpful, and at worst could potentially be harmful.
With the COVID19 pandemic controlling much of what we do, many churches have opted for placing their sermons online, placing their worship online, and moving to live-streaming their Sunday services. Some churches are having their pastor and worship team gather on Sunday morning and live-streaming an entire worship event so that their members at home can have church at home. The question is, are we really having church at home via the internet? Some say yes. Some say no.
These days many are concerned, some bordering on anxiety, about the spread of the Coronavirus, not only for personal health reasons but also for personal financial reasons, some have lost jobs, some have lost their 401k or their IRA due to the stock market crash just as they were preparing for retirement, even worse, some have lost loved ones. And many are wondering what life will look like when we come out on the other side of this. Psalm 23 is always a classic psalm to go to for comfort and encouragement. A reminder that for God’s people no matter where we are or what we are going through, we are never alone. The Good Shepherd is always there beside us, leading us, caring for us.
Of all the institutions that exist in the world, the Church has the primary responsibility of being the voice of truth and reason in a world of chaos. This is in part what Jesus meant when he said, “You are the light of the world.” He wasn’t just talking about proclaiming the gospel to the world, although that is the primary means by which the Church does shine light into the world. He was also saying that in a dark world where up is down, right is wrong, where most people have no moral compass or sense of direction, where when tragedy strikes, the world’s natural response is to react in fear and confusion, the Church, who is the sole possessor of absolute divine truth, is to shine light into the world and be the voice of reason and comfort and light and life. It is to say that if the Church loses her bearings, if the church loses her way, if the church ceases to give her light, or begins to point in the wrong direction, the world is doomed.
If you were to ask people what the most difficult thing in the world is to do, you would likely receive as many answers as the number of people you asked. Some might say, ‘To jump out of an airplane with a parachute.’ Another might say, ‘To climb Mt. Everest.’ Still another might say, ‘To swim the English Channel.’ I think one of the most difficult things for a person to do—if not the most difficult—is to say to another person the three simple words, ‘I forgive you,’ and mean it.
This past Christmas day, 11 Nigerian Christians were beheaded for their faith by ISWAP (Islamic State West African Province), an Islamic terrorist group operating in Nigeria. A video of the beheadings was released on December 26, which shows 11 men on their knees, all wearing orange jumpsuits, with their hooded captors behind them. The first martyr is shot in the head while the other 10 are then beheaded. Just before the killings, one of the terrorists says, “This message is to the Christians in the world. Those who you see in front of us are Christians, and we will shed their blood as revenge for the two dignified sheikhs.” Nigeria is a country of about 200 million people that is nearly evenly divided between Christians and Muslims. Some moderate Muslims have also been targeted by the extremist group; however, about 95% of those being held captive by ISWAP are Christians. The scene is similar to the recent execution of other Egyptian and Ethiopian Christians in Libya.
Recently my family and I were going through a department store and walked by one of those racks that hold magazines that show all the various toys that can be bought in the store. Of course our kids each grabbed one, even the two-year-old who can’t even read, and took them home, found a red pen, and began to circle all the items in the toy magazine they wanted for Christmas. On the one hand, this made shopping easy for us but, on the other hand, we wondered if we were simply encouraging covetousness/discontentment. With that thought in mind, and being in the throes of the Christmas season, I began thinking about what the Bible has to say about contentment.
On our church website, under “Who We Are”, it says that Tapestry Community Church was started by a group of believers who wanted “a church that stood in the historic Baptist tradition and in the stream of the Reformed faith.” As a result, I am often asked what we mean by “historic Baptist tradition” and the “Reformed faith”?
Does God care how we worship him on Sunday morning? Does it really matter what we do or don’t do? Isn’t the only thing that matters is that people are experiencing God, learning about God, enjoying church, and enjoying one another’s company? The answer to these questions depends on two things. First, one’s understanding of the purpose of the Sunday morning corporate gathering of the saints (aka, church). Second, one’s understanding of God—who he is, what he is like, and what he demands of us.
The Sequoia National Forest in central California is home to some of the most amazing and oldest trees in the world.* Sequoias are the world’s largest single standing trees by volume. They grow to a height of 164-279 feet and a diameter of 20-26 feet. The oldest known Sequoia is 3,500 years old. They have clearly been around for a long time and do not buckle easily to the harsh conditions of nature.
As a young believer I remember having the ambitious goal of reading through the entire Bible from beginning to end. I found Genesis and Exodus to be very interesting, but as I read through Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy I remember wondering to myself, ‘How much of this do I have to follow? ‘Why don’t Christians follow all these dietary laws? ‘Can Christians eat catfish and shrimp? ‘Should I be keeping the Sabbath? ‘When is the Sabbath, Saturday or Sunday? ‘Are we bound by any part of the Old Testament [OT], and if
At Tapestry Community Church we view children and children’s ministry a little differently than most churches. We don’t provide any kind of children’s church for ages 4 and up, but instead we bring them into the worship service. There are biblical reasons why we do this.
In the opening sentence to our church constitution, it reads this: “Jesus Christ, as King, has given to His Church officers, oracles, and ordinances; and has ordained His system of doctrine, government, discipline, and worship, all of which are either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary inference may be deduced from it; and to which things He commands that nothing be added nor subtracted.”[i] What this first sentence means is that we at Tapestry Community Church seek to be as biblical as possible. That means that when the elders discuss possible new ministries for the church or when we meet with the deacons to discuss new ideas or possible new ministries, the question that is always first and foremost on our minds is—Is this biblical?
In the United States, the third Sunday of every January is known as National Sanctity of Life Sunday. It was designated as such by the late President Ronald Reagan on January 22, 1984, to remember the 1973 Supreme Court decision known as Roe v. Wade. In that decision the Court ruled that selective abortion was the right of women protected by the fourteenth amendment to the Constitution. Thus, beginning in 1984, President Reagan designated each Sunday that fell the closest to January 22 to be Sanctity of Life Sunday. However, this article is not about the evil of selective abortion, nor is it about the evidence that life begins at conception. Rather, this article is about the value churches should place on children and what that should look like within the context of the local church and within the covenant community. Since life begins at conception and since children are a blessing from the Lord, children should be welcomed into the corporate worship service at as young of an age as possible. (At Tapestry Community Church we welcome children into the corporate worship service at age four.)
Joshua Harris first became a household name within the Evangelical community when he published his first book in 1997, I Kissed Dating Goodbye, at the tender age of twenty-three. The book instantly became a #1 bestseller, launching Harris into the stratosphere of success. Three years later he published another mega bestseller, Boy Meets Girl: Say Hello to Courtship. These two books started what became known as the purity movement within Evangelicalism, particularly among homeschoolers. Then, four short years later he became the lead pastor of his Maryland mega-church, Covenant Life Church, replacing the popular and charismatic C.J. Mahaney. By all accounts, Joshua Harris by the age of thirty had accomplished what most only dream about—two successful bestselling books, a successful and lucrative career, a beautiful young wife, speaking tours and speaking engagements. But how did all this happen?
A friend recently brought to my attention an article written by my former New Testament professor, Thomas Schreiner, whom I greatly respect, titled “Why I am a Cessationist.”[i] As I read the article it became clear that Schreiner wants to hold to a classic cessationist view, but recognizes that he does not have enough scriptural evidence to defend that position, so he wants to remain open to the “open but cautious” view as defined in the book, Are Miraculous Gifts for Today?: Four Views—Cessationist, Open But Cautious, Third Wave, Pentecostal/Charismatic.[ii]
What is preaching? What does it mean to preach a sermon and is there a difference between preaching and teaching? We all recognize there must be some difference because when a Sunday school teacher or Bible study leader opens the Bible and delivers a message, we say that he or she “taught a Bible lesson.” When a politician delivers a message, we say he or she “gave a speech.” But when a minister stands behind the pulpit and exposits God’s Word, we understand him to be doing something different. Why is that? And what exactly is so different?
What is church? Not what is the Church? But what is church? What is it that we do on Sunday mornings? When believers come together on Sunday mornings to sing, pray, fellowship, read God’s Word, listen to a sermon preached, and take the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper, what is all that? What are we doing? I ask these questions because it seems there is confusion within our current generation. Consequently, there is a dumbing down of church. There is a low view of church. There is an undervaluing and under-appreciation of what is happening on Sunday morning during the corporate gathering of the saints. So what is church? Is the Sunday morning service nothing more than a snazzier Bible study? Is it simply an extension of the Sunday school class? Or, is it something more?
Back in June of 2015 when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage was a constitutional right, I made the comment on my Facebook page that this was the beginning of the end of Western Civilization as we know it. By “Western Civilization” I mean the shared Greco-Roman ideals of a Democratic-Republic form of government and Judeo-Christian values which have been the two foundational pillars of the western world since the days of Constantine (4th century AD).
I have recently been dialoguing with a friend who struggles with the concept that humans exist for the worship of God. This is not an uncommon struggle that people often face. We like to think God created us in order to have a relationship with us. It seems arrogant and egotistical for God to create us for the mere purpose of having us worship him. These two concepts seem antithetical to each other. But are they? Below is my email response to my friend’s concern. Her name has been changed.
During the Protestant Reformation in Europe of the 16th century, the Dutch Reformed churches in the Netherlands were attended by about 10% of the population. At the turn of the century nearly 50% of the population of the Netherlands began attending Dutch Reformed churches. Although one would think this is a good thing that the Dutch Reformed churches grew so rapidly, “it became easy to confuse being anti-Catholic with being Reformed. Nominal church membership and loose living became fashionably acceptable. Spiritual and ethical sterility grew rampantly, particularly when combined with newfound prosperity.”[i] Thus, while the Dutch Reformers stood squarely on the shoulders of the Reformers who had come a century before them, they sought zealously to apply Reformation doctrine to the lives of their parishioners. Hence, the Second Dutch Reformation was “a movement in the 17th century which was a reaction against dead orthodoxy and [the] secularization of Christianity in the Church of the Reformation and which insisted on the practise of faith” [sic].[ii] In essence, the Dutch Reformers sought to show that right theology that is not lived out, that is not seen as being relative to every day life, is pointless. Right theology should lead to a life of doxology.