Tell me what to write

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Periodically, I get a really good suggestion from you, the readers of this blog, on what to write. These have often wound up being some of my favorite posts to put together, if for no other reason than they give me an excuse to dig into a subject that may not be on my radar. A few of my favorite examples of reader requested posts include:

I have a lot of fun with these kinds of posts, so I wanted to open this up to you:

Tell me what to write!

How do you do it? Leave a comment with your topic suggestion before midnight on Saturday.

Pretty much any subject is up for grabs. If you see your idea on the list, reply to that comment with “me too!” or something along those lines. After Saturday, I’ll find the most commonly requested topics and have you vote for the top three (with a handy-dandy poll), which I will then write over a reasonable time frame.

Sound good? Looking forward to reading your suggestions!

Should we always expect God to heal?

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So many Christians wonder about whether or not God still heals miraculously today, as we see Him do in the both the Old and New Testaments. Depending on who you ask, you’ll get some interesting answers.

My answer is somewhat simple, but then again, maybe not so. Here’s how I answer the question:

We should expect God to do what will bring God the most glory. 

To help unpack that, here are three things to keep in mind when wondering if God will heal someone of an ailment or infirmity:

1. Recognize the difference between ability and obligation.

God is capable of doing absolutely anything. He created the universe and everything in it from nothing (Gen. 1:1-2:3). He holds all things together with only a word (Heb. 1:3; Col.1:17). He is able to do more than we could ever think or ask (Eph. 3:20).

No one could look at how the BIble speaks of God and suggests anything is beyond His ability.

But we must remember that just because God can do something, it does’t mean He is obligated to do so. God does whatever pleases Him (Psa. 135:6), and only what pleases Him. Who He heals, how He heals and when He heals, that’s His business, not ours. We must, therefore, be careful to that we do not presume upon Him and put Him to the test (Deut. 6:16; Matt. 4:7; 22:18; 1 Cor. 10:9).

2. A lack of healing doesn’t mean a lack of faith.

One of the most dangerous beliefs a professing Christian can hold is in their connection between faith and healing.

I remember many impassioned conversations with a man who grew up in a Pentecostal church over this issue. He was convinced that God not only can, but God must heal His people from illness—and if He doesn’t, clearly it’s a lack of faith on the part of the one suffering.

Therefore, the logical response is to rebuke the one who is ill.

Can I just say, that kind of thinking isn’t going to go well?

My wife has been a model of suffering well (despite her protests to the contrary). When she nearly died during a miscarriage, her response was not to doubt God, but to cry out to Him. When she developed epilepsy recently, her response (although she’s admitted she has a long way to go) has not been to sit in sackcloth and ashes, but to look to see God’s purposes in it.

A friend and mentor, Chris, is another example of one who has suffered unbelievably, yet his lack of healing has nothing to do with a lack of faith. In fact, he’s among the godliest men I know. Nevertheless, he’s been dealing with a Crohn’s-like illness for the last seven years and been hospitalized multiple times because of it.

An important thing to remember about theology is that, as much as possible, it actually has to make sense in practice.

Would the right response be for me to rebuke my wife because she’s got epilepsy? Would Chris’ wife be in the right to rebuke him for having a disease?

Of course not! Responses like that only serve to pour condemnation upon those who are suffering—but there is “no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1). We must should offer not condemnation, but compassion. If our theology of healing and suffering causes people more pain, it might be missing the mark.

3. God’s glory is His overriding concern—and it should be ours, too.

Finally, it’s important to remember that God does all things, ultimately, for His own name’s sake—His glory is His utmost concern (cf. Isa. 48:9; 66:5; Ezek. 20:9, 14, 22, 44; 36:22). That has to be our primary concern, just as it is God’s.

God does whatever brings Him the most glory in all matters—including if, how and when He chooses to heal someone. Any conclusions we make, any positions we hold, must be filtered through this lens.

So if you pray for healing and it comes (whether through ordinary or extraordinary means), rejoice and give glory to God! But if healing doesn’t come, understand, it’s not because you’ve done something wrong—it’s that by suffering well, you have the opportunity to give God the most glory.


Part of the “tell me what to write” series.

What does the Bible say about worship?

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What is worship?

More specifically, what does it mean to worship? Is there a right way or a wrong way to do it?

Is it singing, clapping and/or raising your hands at your local church on Sunday… or is there something more to it than that?

The question of what worship is is extremely important. Far too many arguments have been had over what is and is not a legitimate form of worship. Preferences can too easily become elevated to precepts if we’re not carefully grounding our understanding of worship in what we see in the Bible.

Worship is singing… but not only singing.

Many Christians today understand worship as singing. When we talk about Sunday morning, we refer to congregational singing as “worship.” When we say, “I really enjoyed the worship,” we almost always mean “I really enjoyed the music.”

This isn’t entirely wrong… it’s just incomplete. There are clear examples of singing as worship found in Scripture (see Ex. 15:1, 21; Num. 21:17; Judges 5:3; 2 Sam. 22:50; Psa. 5:11; 7:17; 9:2, 11; 18:49; 33:3; 1 Cor. 14:15, 26; Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16). We’re admonished to sing to the Lord and to encourage one another with hymns and spiritual songs.

So singing, biblically, is a part of worship.

However, we must be careful not to equate worship with singing and music.

The word “worship” at its most basic level means to ascribe worth. This is helpful to keep in mind, especially when you consider the words translated as “worship.” The two most commonly used words in Hebrew and Greek that we often translate as “worship” (ḥā·wā[h] and proskyneō) refer to bowing or kneeling down, both to God and to men.

They describe an act of reverential deference.

This is the important thing to understand, then, about worship. It’s not merely about singing, it’s about reverence—it’s about having a biblical fear of the Lord.

At its most basic level, then, you could define worship as the humbling of yourself before the One who is your better.

This, naturally, has serious implications. [Read more...]

Does it matter if evolution is compatible with Christianity or not?

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Growing up, I didn’t give the “fact” of evolution more than a passing thought. It was just a given. Then I became a Christian—and for the first time, really had to start thinking about the origins of humanity.

The Bible is quite clear about how the world was created: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1). There was God—then God made everything that is with only a word (Gen. 1:3). According to Genesis, over the course of six days God spoke everything that is into being:

  • time, space and matter (day 1)
  • the sky when He separated the waters (day 2)
  • the dry lands, plants and trees, each according to its kind and already bearing seed (day 3)
  • the sun, moon and stars (day 4)
  • all the creatures that live in the sea and all the birds of the air, each according to its kind (day 5)
  • the rest of the animal kingdom, each according to its kind. He also creates the first man and woman according to His image and likeness (day 6)

And then he rested from his work, to set the pattern of work and rest that we ought to follow today.

In recent times (the last century or so in particular), there’s been a great deal of debate as to whether or not the creation account of Genesis 1 should be taken literally. Maybe it’s merely poetic expression? What does the Bible mean by “day” in this chapter—does it mean 24 hours or an undetermined period of time? Do we need a historic Adam and Eve?

Does it matter if Christianity and evolution are compatible or not?

When people ask this question, here’s what they (usually) really mean: Can you be a Christian and believe in evolution? That’s what people really want to know.

Understandably, Christians want to avoid setting up unnecessary barriers to their friends and family hearing the gospel and potentially coming to faith—and this is a big one.

It’s a pretty audacious claim, isn’t it? (It’s also the only creation account I’ve found so far that doesn’t involve some sort of conflict.) I totally get why people don’t “get” this and don’t see it as a “must have” of the Christian faith.

So does it really matter if Christianity and evolution are compatible?

Yep.

To be clear: this is not an issue of salvation—one can believe the gospel and be a genuine believer while embracing evolution. However, it does present numerous problems:

1. It affects how you read the Bible. Throughout the Scriptures, the creation account of Genesis is assumed as being true. A few examples that affirm the creation account of Genesis include Exodus 20:8-11 (“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God…For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”), Mark 10:6, 1 Cor. 15:45, 1 Tim. 2:13 and Rom. 5:12, among others.

If we embrace a view that says the early chapters of Genesis aren’t factually accurate, we’ve got a number of issues. First, it flies in the face of God’s proclaiming that everything was good (which he does each day). Death, throughout the Scriptures, is uniformly portrayed as an enemy, something to be feared, even hated. But evolution requires it, which suggests that death would then be good, wouldn’t it?

More significantly it creates an issue in understanding our need of the gospel itself. If the events of the garden didn’t happen, then is sin as pervasive an issue as the Scriptures teach? What’s the alternative explanation for humanity’s condition as outlined in the rest of Scripture?

2. It affects how you view humanity. If evolution is true, then it drastically impacts our understanding of the dignity and value of humanity. If we are here through millions upon millions of years of slow, incremental evolutionary changes, changing from one species to another, then we’re all interconnected and truly no more unique than any other creature upon the planet. If so, then humans have no more dignity or value than a dog, cat or potato.

Yet, the Bible uniformly portrays humanity as having inherent dignity—all because we are created in the image and likeness of God. We are given a preeminent position in creation as God’s representatives within the created order to steward, cultivate and care for His creation. Practically speaking, how we view parenting, abortion and reproductive rights, marriage, work… everything is connected to the creation account.

These are no small issues. How we view the creation account doesn’t declare us saved or unsaved, but it does impact how we view practically everything.

And it really, really matters. Have you wrestled with the question?


Part of the Tell Me What to Write series. Thanks to Norm Millar for his exceptionally helpful insights into this difficult question.

Leadership and the Successful Local Church

Part of the Tell Me What to Write series.

Recently, my friend Ben suggested tackling a great topic:

What role does good leadership play in the overall success of a local church?

As I write this, I’m attending a conference on Christian leadership, so the subject is top of mind. The short answer to this question is that good leadership is essential to a local church’s health and wellbeing.

So, what is a good leader?

Is a good leader the one that can put together the right plan and get it done? The one who can identify and address issues that arise among staff and volunteers? These kinds of things are important parts of leadership, absolutely, but they’re not the totality.

Fortunately, the Scriptures offer an answer.

The Character of a Christian Leader

In 1 Tim 3:1-7, Paul writes:

The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.

Similarly, we read in Titus 1:5-9:

This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you—if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination. For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.

In these two passages, we see the qualifications of an elder or pastor, the highest leadership role within the church. Paul explains that an elder, in a nutshell, must be a mature Christian man; a man who is above reproach. The short version is that he’s a man against whom no one can hold any serious sin. His marriage, if he’s married, is healthy (which does not mean that it’s perfect, obviously, otherwise we’d all be disqualified). His household is in order and his children respect and obey him. And he is to be a man in whom the fruit of the Spirit are clearly evidenced. He is to be “self-controlled,” a “lover of good,” “disciplined,” humble, gentle and hospitable. Deacons, by and large, are also to have these same character traits (see 1 Tim 3:8-13). [Read more...]

Fruit, Faithfulness and Preaching

The other day I wrote about whether or not a church can be successful by focusing on preaching the gospel, and a brother rightly pointed out that the conclusion was incredibly weak. In Monday’s post, after writing on preaching’s central place within the worship gathering, I said that faithful preaching bears fruit and that a successful church is a fruitful one.

Now there’s a sense in which that’s true; however, without some additional clarification on the relationship between fruitfulness and faithfulness, it’s woefully incomplete.

Fruit and Faithfulness

Are there times when the Word is preached and fails to do what God purposes? No.

In Isaiah 55:10-11, we read, “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” God’s Word will always do exactly what He intends it to do.

In Isaiah’s case, that meant spending years preaching to people whose hearts were increasingly hardened (Isa. 6:9-10). Still, Isaiah preached and was eventually murdered by his fellow Israelites for his trouble. The prophet Jeremiah also ministered to the people of Israel for many years, yet if you considered the idea of numerical growth as how you measure fruitfulness, he failed miserably.

He had two people listen to his calls of repentance: Baruch, his scribe (Jer. 32:12) and Ebed-melech, an Ethiopian eunuch who served King Zedekiah (Jer. 38:7-13).

Two converts.

Everyone else tried to kill him.

The same could be said for all of the Old Testament prophets, of John the Baptizer and of Jesus Himself. Each fearlessly proclaimed God’s Word, yet the hearts of their hearers were largely hardened. [Read more...]

Preaching and the Successful Local Church

Part of the Tell Me What To Write series.

A few weeks back, I asked you all to tell me what you wanted me to write about and the response was pretty amazing. Today I’m kicking off the series with what I hope will be an easy one:

Can a local church be successful solely focusing on preaching the gospel?

So how about it? Is preaching the gospel enough make a church successful? I guess that depends on a couple of things:

  1. What is the place of preaching in the worship gathering?
  2. What does it mean to be a successful local church?

Let’s take a (hopefully) quick look at both.

The Place of Preaching

What is the place of preaching in the worship gathering? Throughout the Old and New Testament, the public proclamation of the Word of God is held in extremely high esteem. In an exceptionally quick survey of the New Testament alone, we see that:

  1. Jesus was a preacher (Matt. 4:17)
  2. The apostles were commissioned to preach the gospel (Mark 3:14; 1 Cor. 1:17)
  3. No one will be saved without having the gospel preached to them (Rom. 10:14)
  4. Paul exhorts Timothy always be ready to preach the word and to contend for sound preaching (2 Tim 4:2; 1 Tim. 1:3)
  5. Paul warns that any who proclaim a false gospel are cursed of God (Gal. 1:8)
  6. The final person to preach the gospel before Christ’s return will be an angel (Rev. 14:6)

Just from these few examples, it’s sufficed to say that the faithful preaching of sound doctrine is really important. And when we look at history, we see that arguably all of the greatest movements and revivals within the Church centered around the faithful preaching of the Word.

The 16th century Reformers rallied around Sola Scriptura—putting Scripture in its rightful place as the Church’s highest authority. The Great Awakening was ignited largely through the faithful preaching of men like Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield. Spurgeon—often referred to as the Prince of Preachers—regularly drew thousands to hear his astoundingly gifted preaching (he pastored a mega-church in 19th century England!). Martyn Lloyd-Jones similarly drew crowds of thousands during his ministry throughout the middle decades of the 20th century. And the list goes on and on. Within all of these movements, the proclamation of the Word was placed at the center of worship. [Read more...]

The Line-Up

A few days ago, I asked you all what you want me to write about. And man, did I ever get some great suggestions! Here are a few of the topics, with a bit of commentary thrown in for good measure:

  1. Egalitarianism in church ministry (aka “Are female pastors biblical?”). This might be better known as the “post where Aaron turns off comments”. ;)
  2. What does the Bible say about worship? This one could be fun, particularly dealing with “worship being more than singing.”
  3. Is evolution compatible with Christianity? See comment on topic one.
  4. Should we always expect God to heal? I had a really interesting debate with a guy at our old church on this one…
  5. How should a theologically Reformed church express the supernatural gifts of the Spirit? This is a fun one for sure—particularly since I have really struggled with this.
  6. Can a local church be successful solely focusing on preaching the gospel? This one brings me great joy :)
  7. What role does good leadership play in the overall success of a local church? Another great one!
  8. Predestination: Does God harden/steer our hearts; how do we reconcile free will and God’s sovereignty? I have been predestined to write about topics that set the interweb aflame.
  9. Being in the will of God—how much “doing” is required? Really good question.
  10. Does God always answer all the prayers of the redeemed? This one would be a real challenge (in a good way).
  11. Does God treat intentional sin and unintentional sin differently? Fantastic question!
  12. What does it mean for us to be made in the image and likeness of God? I wrote about this a couple years back and have been updating that content over the last few months. Keep your eyes peeled!

You folks definitely don’t like easy topics! So now here’s the big question:

Which one do you want to see first?