Spurgeon’s Preaching

“During the 1880s a group of American ministers visited England, prompted especially by a desire to hear some of the celebrated preachers of that land.

            On a Sunday morning they attended the City temple where Dr. Joseph Parker was the pastor. Some two thousand people filled the building, and Parker’s forceful personality dominated the service. His voice was commanding, his language descriptive, his imagination lively, and his manner animated. The sermon was scriptural, the congregation hung upon his words, and the Americans came away saying, “What a wonderful preacher is Joseph Parker!”

            That evening they went to hear Spurgeon at the Metropolitan Tabernacle. The building was much larger than the City Temple, and the congregation was more than twice the size. Spurgeon’s voice was much more expressive and moving and his oratory noticeably superior. But they soon forgot all about the great building, the immense congregation, and the magnificent voice. They even overlooked their intention to compare the various features of the two preachers, and when the service was over they found themselves saying, “What a wonderful Savior is Jesus Christ.””

-Spurgeon: A New Biography by Arnold Dallimore, page 216

Exodus International (My Continuing Thoughts, Continued)

Homosexuality seems to be one of the main issues dominating the church and culture today. I have written before about some of my continuing thoughts regarding homosexuality, yet the culture seems to continue to shift, so taking a stance is easy for a day, but then there’s another facet that needs to be dealt with. So many times it feels like we’re shooting at a moving target. In this same moving target, Exodus International, an organization aimed at fixing people with same sex attraction by converting them to straight attractions, has just announced that they will be shutting down their organization. Alan Chambers, the founder of Exodus, just published a blog titled ‘I Am Sorry.‘ Through what I’ve read about the “redemptive therapy” the results were slightly less than what people I think had hoped. I don’t necessarily think it is the best way to deal with same sex attraction.

Shortly after Alan announced that Exodus would be closing their doors, he did an interview that appeared in The Atlantic. In this interview he said a few things that were troubling to me.

Have you changed your theological position on homosexuality?

My belief about sexual expression remains the same. But that really matters little to anyone except for me. It only serves to govern my own life. This isn’t something I’m going to make an issue or a barrier of in my relationship with anyone else.

The bold was the question asked, the regular font was Alan’s response. I’m glad to see that his beliefs about sexual expression remain the same, but it isn’t enough to say that is only governs his own life. The church has a responsibility to protect and preserve what God has commanded in regard to sexuality. And far too many people forget what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 5:12 in talking about sexual immorality, “For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge?”

Tied in to this is Alan’s response to the question, “Are you in favor of gay marriage?”

I don’t really know what to think, honestly, when it comes to gay marriage. But I also don’t think anybody needs me to have a position. People have a right to live their lives as they see fit. If a friend or family member who is gay or lesbian invites me to be a part of their special day, I’m going to go and be a part of that because I love them. It doesn’t matter if I endorse or condone something–that’s not my right. I have plenty of friends who are gay and lesbian, loved ones in my family who are gay and lesbian. Their family will be my family, their friends will be my friends, and that’s all that matters.

Again, tied in to my above hesitation with this-if someone is a true believer, I don’t think that this is an appropriate response. If someone is in Christ, yet experiences same sex attraction, it does not make them worse than me as the sinner I am, but that does not mean they are then able to act on their desires. Just as me, as a single heterosexual male cannot act on the desires I have in the lust I have in my heart toward women I see. And this gets harder as it gets warmer out! I so long for the day that I will no longer have any lust in my heart, but until that day I will fight hard against my fleshly impulses.

So many people in this discussion point to Christ and his lack of mention about anything in regard to homosexuality. While Jesus may not have mentioned anything about this, he did talk about sexuality in general. In Matthew 19, Jesus is questioned about divorce.

“Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” They (the Pharisees) said to him, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?” He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.”

Jesus whole idea of sexuality is rooted in the creation order. Looking back at Genesis, the way God created the world was with a male and a female, who together were the pinnacle of his creation. Yes, because of sin there were and are perversions of sexuality throughout the Bible and today. Many of the patriarchs had multiple wives, and we can read through the Bible to see the problems that occurred because of those multiple wives! God’s intent for mankind has always been for a man and women to become one flesh. Tied in to this, simply because Jesus didn’t address this issue head on, doesn’t mean it’s not an important issue. Far too many people neglect that Jesus was a real person who lived in first century Israel and was raised in a conservative Jewish home. There were many issues that Jesus didn’t address that were assumed. Homosexuality was considered to be a sin in conservative Jewish homes, and as seen above, Jesus had a very high view of sexuality that is rooted in the creation order. Does this mean that Christians need to be hate mongers who continually bash those with same sex attraction? Not at all! We should come alongside our brothers and sisters who do experience these attractions and love them as they live in the same fallen world we do, struggling with their sin and issues, just as we do. Let’s not encourage the pursuit of sin, but the pursuit of holiness in all areas of life-including sexuality.

I hope that Alan Chambers does not throw out Scripture in his attempt to reach those with same sex attraction, but continues to hold to it as he seeks God’s will for his life now as he works to help reconcile the relationships between those who experience same sex attraction and those in the church who are opposed to it. May the church be a place of grace and the Spirit convicting those of the sin in their lives as we continue to conform more into the image of Jesus Christ.

Drinking Beer to the Glory of God

Can beer be reconciled to the Bible? And can beer be consumed to the glory of God? I would argue that it can and should be enjoyed by those who are able to be responsibly with alcohol, as would David Valentine, who wrote a piece titled ‘Beer & the Pulpit‘ for Relevant magazine. In it, David argues against two extremes when it comes to alcohol: first, we should not over consume to the point of being drunk. Scripture clearly says that’s a sin (Ephesians 5:18). And the second extreme is to simply ignore it. I agree with David that the church should be a place where we can talk about something like alcohol, but how should we do that?

I know some people who abstain from drinking because it causes them to take it too far. If you are one of those people, do so to the glory of God, but don’t hold the same expectations for everyone around you. If you are one who can drink, do so to the glory of God, but do so in a way that doesn’t harm your witness to the world or become a stumbling block to those around you. I try to be very careful about who I will consume alcohol around, not because I’m worried about what people will think, but because I don’t want to harm my witness to others.

I’m grateful for a group of guys right out of college who taught me to appreciate a good drink. We would find different local beers we could try and pair it with a great meal. I’ve gone a much different direction than my parents with it as well, as neither one of them drink. They don’t think it’s a sin, but have chosen to abstain because they have both seen how it affects people.

What does your church say, if anything, about alcohol? How have you been raised in your treatment of alcohol, and has it changed as you’ve gotten older?

Talking To My Dad

For those of you interested, my dad has posted a conversation we recently had about what pastors need to learn from youth. You can check it out here.

Talking To My Dad

For those of you interested, my dad has posted a conversation we recently had about what pastors need to learn from youth. You can check it out here.

Do I Offend You?

One of the biggest challenges I’ve discovered in being a pastor is how easily I can offend people. Often this is over things that I am trying very hard to not offend people in, yet no matter what, I can’t seem to get it just right. I either pick a song they don’t like, they find out I have my ears pierced, or that I have tattoos, or that I often make jokes at my own expense, or that I play guitar. It seems there is no limit to the things people will find to get offended at. Despite what may seem like an attempt to offend people, I really try hard to not offend them except in one case-when they are offended because I am presenting the Gospel.

I read a very interesting blog today on Spurgeon versus the “Pretty-Boy Preachers” of today. So many pastors are too scared to offend anyone so they work hard to appear like everyone’s best friend. Spurgeon, however, was not worried about being anyone’s friend.

Spurgeon feared no man. Constrained only by the bounds of God’s Word, Spurgeon said what he liked,when he liked, how he liked. The problem with Spurgeon was not that men misunderstood his meaning. The problem was that men understood him completely. Spurgeon’s style was plain, direct, outspoken and urgent. Spurgeon wasn’t trying to be popular. He was trying to bring the ​truth​ to your soul.

Does your pastor do a better job of bringing the truth to your soul, or of being a nice guy? I pray that I never become a “pretty boy preacher” but continue to rely on Christ as my strength and witness. If you are offended, I hope it’s for the sake of the Gospel permeating deeper into your life.

Typography and Theology

I just read a great piece over at the Gospel Coalition titled ‘Creative Orthodoxy‘ that attempts to answer the question, how can we be creative with theology yet hold to orthodoxy? Ben, the author, uses typography to talk about how we can be creative with theology. The best typographies are those that disappear and allow the reader to instead focus on the words. The idea is:

Both great typographers and also great theologians strive to make their work an “invisible art.” They facilitate a process by which ideas are conveyed (in the case of typography) from one person to another or (in the case of theology) from God to his creations, without causing a distraction or drawing attention to themselves.

Does your life and theology make you invisible and instead point to Christ? What does this mean in your life to make yourself more invisible?

He must increase, but I must decrease.

John 3:30