Philippians and Gordon Fee

Commentaries are an interesting thing.  Preacher's offices are full of old commentaries like Calvin's many volumes, Matthew Henry, and any number of sets from the 1970's, 80's, and 90's.  They are expensive until they're outdated, which is probably why preachers have older sets. But in the academic world (and probably the world of the preacher too) the better commentaries are ten years old or less.

"Wait just a minute!" you might shout, "aren't some of the classics still the leading thoughts on the matter?"  Yes, don't panic.  Those older commentaries aren't bad because they're older any more than newer ones better because they're new.   However, good commentary writers will have consulted a slew of older commentaries and affirmed or refuted the older work with additional material.  Maybe even quoted the older stuff.

It's also helpful to understand how different commentaries work.  Some commentaries are extremely technical.  They dive into the languages (and assume the reader reads Greek and/or Hebrew).  Some commentary writers deal with the historical context.  Some deal with application.  Some examine more theology while others are focused on the transmission of the text.  There are commentaries that approach the biblical material from a preacher's perspective.  And there are devotional commentaries. So it's helpful to know what kind of commentary you are consulting because the specific type of commentary was written for a specific purpose.

Take for example, Dr. Gordon Fee.  Fee is an expert on the book of Philippians.  If you consult, you'll see that Fee has two commentaries on the list.   Fee's commentaries on Philippians are:
Fee, Gordon D. Paul's Letter to the Philippians (The New International Commentary on the New Testament). Grand Rapids, Mich: W.B. Eerdmans Pub. Co, 1995. 
Fee, Gordon D. Philippians (The IVP New Testament Commentary Series). Downers Grove, Ill: InterVarsity Press, 1999.
You might also see that the better Philippians commentaries are more than 10 years old.  (Oops! This one is an exception.)  A couple publishers have produced something in the past few years, but it's hard to outsell Fee, especially when he has two commentaries on the list!

Now, you might be asking how the same guy could have two commentaries on the same book.  Why would anybody own both copies?

In Fee's case, he was first asked by IVP to write a commentary for their series and agreed to write Philippians when he had time.  Shortly thereafter, Eerdmans asked him to write for the New International Commentary on the New Testament.  Understanding the different focus, both publishers agreed to allow Fee to write Philippines in their series.  But why own both copies?  Fee answers that question in the introduction of the IVP publication, writing,
"The reader, however, should not assume by these acknowledgments of indebtedness that this is simply a small version of the larger one.  In many ways, of course, it is that, since I changed my mind only a couple times in the course of this writing.  But I have had the reader of this series in view at every turn, which has meant that the exposition has 'lightened up' a bit and the many footnotes of 'Big Phil' have been all but eliminated.  What remain are those few that are necessary to help the reader know where to go for alternative views on many tests" (Fee, 1999, 10).  
I own both copies.  I love both copies for entirely different reasons.  The IVP version is quicker, punchier, and easier to get right into the points.  It can be read devotionally and is less distracting.  If I'm looking for the background on something for a sermon and don't need to spend an hour reading, I pick up the IVP version.  It's 200 pages; whereas, the Eerdmans print is 500.

On the other hand, when I was studying for a preaching series in Philippians, I enjoyed the heavier material and language notes of the Eerdmans' version. It is rather academic and a little stuffy, but very helpful in the technical matters.

If someone were wanting to learn more about the book of Philippians but have no need to write academic papers, I would recommend the IVP copy.  Why not?  It's full of illustrations, easy reading, and it's backed by the amazing mind of Gordon Fee.  And for the ambitious types, the Eerdmans copy is outstanding too!

*If you're interested in either of these commentaries, purchasing them with the links above helps support this ministry. 

The Case for Antioch by Jeff Irog

Iorg, Jeff.  The Case for Antioch: A Biblical Model for a Transformational Church. Nashville, Tenn: B&H Publishing Group, 2011.

Books on church planting and building healthy churches are many.  Too many.  But The Case for Antioch is different.   Most the books on church planting are a story about a specific plant, in a specific time, by a specific planter.  After the church is planted, the planter thinks everybody should do the same thing he did.  The same is true of healthy, thriving churches.  Models and methods are promoted and then everybody tries to copy the book.  Jeff Irog did plant a church, but this book is about a plant that happened long before Iorg set out to plant a healthy church.  This book looks at a church plant called Antioch. Maybe you've heard of the Church in Antioch?  It's discussed in the book of Acts.

Dr. Jeff Iorg is the president of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary and the author or many other books, including, Is God Calling Me? and Seasons of a Leader's Life.  In this book, Iorg examines clues from the book of Acts and extracts timeless lessons for planting churches and building healthy, transformational churches.

The book is laid out in three parts.  The first is a biblical case study.  It is helpful that in this case study, Iorg defines a transformational church.  Part 2, which is the bulk of the book, is where the lessons learned from Antioch are found.  And the book concludes with a single chapter that encourages the reader to look toward the future.

Iorg's writing style is easy and enjoyable to read.  The information is not watered down, but it is smooth.  If the reader is looking to learn about Antioch he or she will be pleased.  If however, a reader is looking for leadership lessons, he or she will find that too.

At times the book feels repetitive, as if Iorg was trying to fill a word count.  But this is minor and not too distracting.  That being said, I highly recommend The Case for Antioch: A Biblical Model for a Transformational Church

Purchase The Case for Antioch from Amazon here.

You May be a Barnabas if. . .

By guest writers Dave Earley and Tom Swanner.

Dave Early says you may be a Barnabas if...

... you get more excited about the ministry success of someone else whom you have helped than you do about your own success.

... you are content to do most of your ministry behind the scenes and off the radar.

... ministries that you have started tend to fizzle.

... you would rather listen quietly to the struggles of a young leader than lead an evangelistic rally.

... you get your greatest joy from watching the individuals that you have discipled become movers and shakers in the kingdom.

... you are awakened often in the night with an urgency to lift up your senior leader in intercessory prayer.

... you are more about what other leaders are doing than about what you are doing.

... you are often tempted to see the needs and inadequacies in senior Christian leaders and think of ways you can help.

Tom Swanner explains what it is to be a "Barnabas" in ministry: 

Most of my life I struggled with thoughts of inadequacy and self-doubt. I was sure that I was supposed to be in some kind of ministry; however, I did not feel that I was supposed to be the lead in any Christian organization. I knew what it took to be a leader, and many times I found myself in leadership roles, but I never felt entirely comfortable.

One day I was studying the life of Paul. I realized that there was a person who was not only humanly responsible for Paul being in the ministry, but there was also a person responsible for keeping him effective at ministry for an extended period of time. His name was Barnabas.

Barnabas: Son of Encouragement

Barnabas was really a nickname that Joseph (his real name) picked up after the early believers learned what kind of person he was. The name “Barnabas” means “son of encouragement.” The longer I spend in ministry, the more I am convinced that this type of leader is vital for the sustainment of our campaign against the darkness. While we may see the need for real men and women of God to lead the masses, the often-overlooked need of the son and daughter of encouragement is just as fundamental.

The problem with being a Barnabas is that there is often very little recognition in the modern Christian economy for someone who is a second leader. People tend to ask, “Who is in charge here?” People want to get that guy’s attention so that they can get what they want. They do not ask for the guy who is not in charge of something, because that guy cannot give them what they want.”
“Jesus said that whoever would be great in God’s kingdom would be the servant of all (Matthew 20:25-28). As a Barnabas, you have a great responsibility. Your job is to keep the “Paul” in your ministry encouraged and on track. They do not need your criticism from the sidelines. They need your encouragement.

* Dave Earley and Tom Swanner serve at Grace City Church in Las Vegas, Nevada.  Dave is the author of more than 20 books.  Both hold Doctorates of Ministry. 

** This post originally on published on Dave Earley's website in a slightly different form.  You can find it here.  It is reposted here with permission. 

What is Courage?

What is courage?  Is it something demonstrated on the field of battle, where bullets cut through flesh and heroic acts dance a pasodoble with death?  Is it giving up a high-dollar promotion to be the father that makes it to his son's soccer games?  Might it be standing up to the bullies that tease your little brother?  Running into a burning building when everyone else is running out is courageous, right?

At a time when being part of the LGBT community is vogue and celebrated, our society (or at least the media) has deemed it courageous just joining the party.  Celebrities are hailed for their courage when they're photographed (for big money from magazines) without make up.  Rock stars are courageous for releasing books that tell the world all of the antics they did that the rest of us already assumed they did.  Politicians are courageous for admitting wrongdoing after having been caught.  One wealthy, politically savvy woman is courageous for running for president while another wealthy, politically savvy woman is courageous for being black and living in the White House.  CEOs are courageous when they go undercover and spend a weekend working an entry-level job in the companies they lead--and it's even more courageous if they do so on a TV show that will promote their company.  Having special dietary needs is courageous.  So is riding a bicycle.  Courage, is turning your cell phone off for an hour.

When everything is courageous, nothing is.

When I think of courage, I think about Polycarp.   Most of what we know about Polycarp comes from a letter he wrote to the Philippians and another letter someone else wrote and circulated to the Second Century churches. That second letter was on the topic of Polycarp's martyrdom.

Polycarp became a Christian as a child.  He studied under the Apostle John and eventually became the Bishop of Smyrna.  During his lifetime he argued against Gnosticism, to include Marcion, a heretic of great note.  But what makes Polycarp truly courageous came when he was 86 years old.

For whatever reason, Rome determined that Polycarp, the Bishop of Smyrna, was an enemy of the state.  When the Roman centurions came to arrest him, he fed the soldiers dinner.  He then proceeded to pray for two hours.  Eventually the guards took him to Quadratus and a screaming mob of fans that packed out an arena.

While the spectators demanded Polycarp's death, Quadratus demanded that Polycarp deny Christ.  Polycarp responded.  "Eighty and six years have I served him, and he never did me any injury: how then can I blaspheme my King and my Saviour?"

After some banter, Quadratus lost his temper and threatened to burn Polycarp on the stake.  This time Polycarp responded, "You threaten me with fire which burns for an hour, and after a little while is extinguished, but you are ignorant of the fire of the coming judgment and of eternal punishment, reserved for the ungodly."  Quadratus, in his anger, demands that Polycarp be burned alive.  The letter says that the fire did not burn Polycarp so a guard stabbed him with a spear and killed him.

The Roman government felt that an 86 year-old Christian pastor was dangerous to their way of life so he tried to silence Polycarp.  Instead, Polycarp, firmly standing on his convictions, gave up his life for Jesus Christ and continues to speak today.  He would not recant.  He would not back down. And we still remember him for his faithful courage.

History probably holds records of more courageous acts.  But there is something about Polycarp that should inform about us what courage looks like.  Compare Polycarp's last day to many of the things called courageous today.   It's almost laughable, isn't it?  Maybe we should think twice before we call someone courageous, unless he or she really is indeed courageous.    

Pentecost and the Church Year


Last Sunday was Pentecost.   I've not spent much time in local churches celebrate the Church Year liturgy.  Every church has a liturgy, be it less formal or not, and most churches have some kind of typical calendar.  The Evangelical churches I've been a part of celebrate very few Christian holidays.  Sure, every local church I know celebrates Christmas and Easter, Christmas Eve and Good Friday; but what about Pentecost?

Before I get into Pentecost, I probably need to give a brief summary of the Church Year (also referred to as the Liturgical Calendar or Christian Calendar).  The Church Year is a visual representation of the historical narrative of gospel redemption and the life in the New Testament Church.

Different traditions break the year up differently; but for the most part, the 'seasons' look the same.  The first season, which, by they way, does not start on January 1st, is called Advent.  It typically begins about a month before Christmas and consists of four Sundays.  Advent is a season of anticipation of our coming Savior.

The second season is called Christmas.  It lasts 12 days, starting with Christmas Day.  (There's a song about the 12 days of Christmas.  If you didn't know why there was 12 days, now you know.) Because we celebrate Christmas on a fixed calendar date, the date the Christmas season is not dependent upon Easter (more on this below).

Next comes Epiphany.  Epiphany means a disclosure or unveiling and this season represents Christ's earthly ministry.  Various traditions mark special days within this season, but they are not all in agreement about which days to draw more attention too.  Epiphany begins January 6th and can last as much as nine weeks depending upon which Sunday Easter falls.  Epiphany ends when the season of Lent begins.

Lent begins 40 days before Easter.  It is intended to be a time of preparation.  According to T J. German, Lent started as a week long fast but was extended to 40 days in the 7th Century.  Depending on the tradition, every Friday of Lent is a day of abstinence.  Prayer and fasting are important.  People of some traditions abstain from a desired item as a way to anticipate and long for the coming of Easter.  In addition, Holy Week is the last week of Lent and refers to the last week of Christ's earthly life.  The First Day of Lent is typically called Ash Wednesday.

Easter is the name of the most holy day of the Christian Year and it's the name of the next season.  Easter is a movable feast, celebrating the resurrection of Jesus.  It is connected with Passover because Christ raised from the tomb on the Sunday following Passover.  Technically, Jewish Rabbis determine the day for passover. But to simplify when Christians celebrate Easter, it is set on the first Sunday after the first full moon occurring on or after the Spring equinox.  The Easter season is 7 weeks long and includes The Day of Ascension.  (Some traditions include Pentecost as part of the Easter season too.)

The final season, which represents life in anticipation of the consummation of the Kingdom, is either called The Season After Pentecost or Ordinary Time.  On occasion, this season is all called Pentecost.  Some traditions place the Day of Pentecost in the Easter season, some have a one week break between seasons, and some open the season with the Day of Pentecost.  No matter how you break it up, last Sunday was the Day of Pentecost.

Pentecost is an interesting holy day.  In the Old Testament is was actually called the Feast of Weeks (Exodus 34:22 and Deuteronomy 16:10).  It was to be celebrated seven weeks after the Paschal Feast.  In other words, 50 days later, there would be another feast.  The Greek word, pentekostos, means fifty.  The celebration was originally designated to celebrate the first fruits of the harvest (Leviticus 23:17-20 and Deuteronomy 16:9-10).

Jesus was crucified on Passover.  He was the perfect sacrificial lamb and the perfect completion of the Exodus foreshadowing.  What a remarkable connection to the lamb in Exodus.  In that event, the lamb was sacrificed so its innocent blood could mark the homes of those the angel of death would passover.  It is fitting that Jesus would be crucified on the day of a celebration about sacrifice, just as it is fitting that the Holy Spirit would come on a day that traditionally celebrated the harvest.  

Before Jesus ascended to heaven, he instructed his disciples to wait in Jerusalem.  They waited and prayed.  They also replaced Judas, who had betrayed Jesus.  Then, Acts 2 opens by stating that the day was Pentecost.  It was on that day that the Holy Spirit came on the disciples and filled them.  It was also on that day that people witnessed the impact of the Spirit and questioned what was happening.  Peter, being filled with the Holy Spirit, stood and preached.  3,000 people became believers that day.  Talk about some first fruits of the harvest!

Some church traditions don't make a peep about Pentecost.  I come from such a tradition and I find that sad.  What a great day to celebrate.   What a great way to remember and learn.  Some traditions, however, celebrate baptisms on Pentecost.  That is a remarkable picture of the working of Christ.  I think this is one Church Year holy day that ought to be celebrated with a little more gusto.  And if that can be done with baptisms, all the better.  I don't know what the church I pastor will do next year, but I hope it's more than I've done in the past.

Welcome to Pentecost, The Time After Pentecost, or Ordinary Time. . . depending on your persuasion.    

Why Golden Gate?

I've shared my reasons for attending Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary and I've discussed the Doctorate of Ministry program too.  We've had Dr. Jeff Iorg--the president of the seminary--on "Salty Believer Unscripted" to discuss the future of Golden Gate.  And I've interviewed Ryan and Jania Rindels about and attending GGBTS.  Now you can hear from other doctoral candidates too.

After too many days of seminars, I gathered up some of my friends and fellow cohort members to talk about the seminary.  We were tired and our brains were overworked, but thanks to the mobile podcasting gear we were able to get around the microphone and record a podcast.

Joining me that evening was Josh Saefkow, Peter John, Les Wesley, Al Weeks, and Daryl Watts.

The conversation was unruly and loaded with rabbit trails, which made it really fun. Our focus for the podcast was to answer the question, "Why Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary?"  

I love this school and this group of guys.  Iand highly encourage that you listen to what these guys had to say about Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, especially if you're thinking about attending seminary or a Doctorate of Ministry program.

Subscribe to the Salty Believer Unscripted Podcasts:
iTunes  | Non iTunes

The Book of Isaiah

Jared Jenkins, a friend and co-host of "Salty Believer Unscripted" recently finished a PhD seminar on the book of Isaiah at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary.  I thought it might be interesting to do a podcast series on the Isaiah and have Jared walk us through the book.  It's a big book, but with Jared's info, it's really not that hard to navigate.

If you'd like to walk through and overview of Isaiah--and hear all kinds of interesting stuff along the way--I recommend you check out the Isaiah series on Salty Believer Unscripted.  You can subscribe on iTunes or listen by clicking on the audio links below.

Jared Jenkins on Isaiah
-- Part 1, The Lay of the Land audio
-- Part 2, A Walk Through Chapter 8 audio
-- Part 3, Nine Through 35 audio
-- Part 4, The Life of Hezekiah audio
-- Part 5, Isaiah Shifts Gears audio
-- Part 6, The Conclusion audio 

You can find many more podcasts, book recommendations, and other resources at the Resources page on this website.

*Photo of Isaiah taken by user, "Ted" is registered under a creative commons license. 

Nine Marks of a Healthy Church by Mark Dever

Dever, Mark. Nine Marks of a Healthy Church. Wheaton, Ill: Crossway Books, 2004.

There are books on my shelves that were read quickly.  Skimmed and speed-read.  Papers were written and then it was on to the next book.  This was my seminary life.  I always knew at some point I would return to a select few of these books for a second, moderately-paced reread.  Mark Dever's, Nine Marks of a Healthy Church is one of those books.

Nine Marks of a Healthy Church does not define the requirements to be a church, but instead suggests nine things a healthy church should demonstrate. But neither is it a diagnostic book on church health.  Dever writes, "This book isn't a complete inventory of every sign of health.  It is intended to be a list of crucial marks that will lead to such a full experience" (17).

The nine marks are, expositional preaching, biblical theology, the gospel, a biblical understanding of conversion, a biblical understanding of evangelism, a biblical understanding of church membership, biblical church discipline, a concern for discipleship and growth, and biblical church leadership.  (Now that I've given you the marks, you probably think you don't need to read the book.  I feel otherwise.)

Dever does a wonderful job working through each of the items he defines are required for health. No single point goes too deep and Dever does hugs biblical principles.  He uses lots of Scripture to support his argument, which we've come to expect from Mark Dever.

I found that this book served as good guide and a reminder of sorts.  Given that I am in the process of planting a church, I quickly realized this book serves as a helpful reference tool.  It will be extremely easy to pull this book out the next time I need to think about biblical evangelism or a leadership issue or should we need to do church discipline.

While the book is probably best suited to pastors and church leaders, it is extremely informative and would make a good read for any Christian desiring to contribute to the health of his or her local church body.  

Nine Marks of a Healthy Church has been around for more than ten years, but if you've not yet read it.  I highly recommend it.

Purchase this book on Amazon here.

*Purchases from this website help support this ministry. 

Redeeming Life Church Public Launch (Or "The Funny Language of Church Planting")

April 28, 2015.

In February of 2014, I packed a church van full of young people and set off for Missions Week on the Golden Gate Seminary campus.  It was a pivotal trip.  We attended workshops and sessions.  We helped a church plant and we slept in a poor part of San Francisco.  I met Dr. Richard Johnston and Pastor James Soy.  Dr. Irog and Dr. Wilson encouraged me to apply for the Doctorate of Ministry program, and I did. (Dr. Iorg also tried to convince an intern on my staff to transfer to Golden Gate; but so, far that hasn't happened.) A young man in our group demonstrated that he can lead worship.  We discussed the missional nature of church planting and Risen Life's role in that. And we prayed a lot.

The group was from Risen Life Church.   I was on staff.  My job was to learn and grow in preparation to plant a church.

Upon our return, we started a Bible study group in my home with the purpose of examining what it might take to plant a church in another part of Salt Lake City. The Barnabas House Fellowship was the name of our study. We journeyed through the book of Acts with Elmer Town's book, Churches that Multiply as a supplement.

The group grew as people came and went.  Some were simply not called to church planting.  Others were only in it for the excitement of the newest, shinny thing.  But some were there in the beginning and are still a part of our core team today. (More than I expected, actually!)

Eventually we outgrew our house and it became apparent that God was calling this group to plant a church.  We worked through all kinds of details.  Eventually we settle on the name, Redeeming Life Church.  ([R] for short.)

We started meeting on Sunday afternoons in the Risen Life Church building.  It was a special time because we saw God do some amazing things.  People were saved.  Believers were baptized.  And our core team grew stronger and stronger. 

Then something happened. God brought people from the Rose Park area all the way across the valley to worship with us.  We knew what was coming.  God was calling us to the Rose Park area of Salt Lake.  It was time to move out of the Risen Life building.

Risen Life released me from their staff and commissioned me as the pastor of this new church.  My family, as well as other families of the core team moved into the neighborhood. We started doing evangelism in our target area to include a campaign that resulted in us hanging 5,000 door hangers. We invited the neighborhood to our Easter Sunrise service. 

We've spend the past three weeks meeting in the Northwest Community Center in preparation for our 'public launch.' It's funny because in church planting language, this point is thought of as the day the church plant starts.  But we've been a church seedling for a while and we feel more like May 3rd is the day we stop saying 'plant' and just say 'church,' Redeeming Life Church. 

I'm thrilled to see what God might do with this little church in Rose Park.  If you live in the area, we'd love it if you'd be our guest.  Our Sunday Gathering starts at 11am. We're praying that God is calling you to join us in this mission. Or maybe you don't live in the area but he's calling you to help us in some other way. And please, keep us in your prayers.   

Soli Deo gloria!
Bryan Catherman
Salty Believer and Pastor of Redeeming Life Church

GGBTS Cohort on Evangelism

After a grueling two weeks in doctoral seminars at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, some of the guys in my cohort pulled up chairs and recorded a podcast on evangelism.   I hit record on mobile phone recording gear and six of us tried to pull some thoughts out of our soupy minds.

Throughout the week, we tried a few things to open up evangelistic conversations in the community.  We also swapped stories from our experiences where we pastor, respectively.  This podcast attempts to understand how we try to engage in evangelism within our respective contexts.

You can listen to the podcast here.

Mike Clements pastors First Baptist Floresville in Texas.  Josh Seafkow is the Minister of Education and Outreach at Abilene Baptist Church in Georgia. Less Wesley pastors Trinity Baptist Church in Washington.  Stephen Brucker is the Associate Pastor of The Branch in Oregon.  And Peter Jun does international student ministry in Boston.

Subscribe to the Salty Believer Unscripted Podcasts:
iTunes  | Non iTunes

The Insanity of God by Nik Ripken

Ripken, Nik. The insanity of God: A True Story of Faith Resurrected. Nashville, Tenn: B&H Publishing Group, 2013, Kindle.
When Nik Ripken is asked if he believes persecution is coming to America, he says, "Why would Satan want to wake us up when he as already shut us up?" (310).  It's good logic considering the deep faith and explosive Church growth Ripken has experienced in places of great persecution.  Ripken witnessed the entire community of Christians wiped out in Somalia.  When he arrived during their civil war, there were about 150 believers.  Four remained when he left.  And not long afterwards, they were hunted down too.  In the mist of this great loss, Ripkin's son died.  It was too much for him to take.  Ripkin seemed, but his own confession, to question God.

In his questioning, Ripken set out to find ways to help grow the church in places of great persecution.  He started visiting persecuted countries to interview Christians.  What he found fills the pages of his book, The Insanity of God.

The Insanity of God is easy to describe on one hand, and nearly impossible to explain on the other.  I'll let this video try to get at the basics of the book:

What becomes difficult to explain are the feelings generated deep within the soul of the persecuted believer. It's not guilt, but something else.  Gratitude maybe.  Or instead, it might be a greater understanding of persecution as well as why American Christians seem so much more apathetic, so much less rich, vibrant, energized.

Reading The Insanity of God it might be easy to think the stories are inflated, but I have no reason, experience, or expertise to suggest Ripkin may have stretched the truth.  It almost would matter anyway because one can easily image the same attitudes and responses of the persecuted.   At one point Stoyan, a friend of Ripkins' and interviewee encouraged, "Don't you ever give up in freedom wen we would never give up in persecution" (311).  How can anybody argue his point?

Nik Ripken has a ministry website at that's full of many more resources and stories.  It's worth your time to check it out.  I also encourage you read The Insanity of God.

Purchase this book on Amazon here.

*Amazon purchases from this website generate funds to help support this website. 

KSL's "Faith on the Frontlines"

On April 5th, 2015, Easter, the Salt Lake NBC affiliate, KSL ran a documentary about soldiers and faith.  This was one of a handful of documentaries to run during the halftime show between their broadcast of two LDS General Conference sessions.  Three of the interviewees are LDS and then there is me -- an evangelical Christian pastor.

With our permission, they brought cameras into our home and church.  They filmed our prayer time and school.  They interviewed me and asked me questions about the war, my family, the pastorate, and my faith.

Obviously there is a risk when you do these things.  Editing can make the program go any number of ways.  I could have ended up looking either LDS or crazy.  But I don't feel that's what KSL did.  Keri, Eric, Doug and the crew did a wonderful job getting at their topic; and although KSL is an LDS owned company, they were more than fair.  I wish I would have had more pictures to supply of the 3d Armored Cavalry and might have been able to give the Brave Rifles a bit more of a shout out but I just didn't take many photos in that first year of the war.

I really enjoyed KSL's work and I hope you enjoy the documentary.  (It's 22 and a half minutes long, but if you'd like to jump the the bulk of the stuff featuring me, my family, and Redeeming Life Church, you can click this link.)

It's a Matter of the Heart

Jonathan Edwards argues for a faith that comes from our affections because our affections ultimately drive us. “The nature of human beings,” writes Edwards, “is to be inactive unless influenced by some affection: love or hatred, desire, hope, fear, etc” (1).  True religion, according to Edwards, is one in which we are driven, compelled even, to seek after God with deep affection. Our faith simply cannot be motivated from a cognitive understanding of God. Edwards argues, “A person who has knowledge of doctrine and theology only—without religious affection—has never engaged in true religion. Nothing is more apparent than this: our religion takes root within us only as deep as our affections attract it” (2).

Sadly, many who call themselves Christian have affections for something or someone other than God. They have an awareness of God’s Word but it has not penetrated the dark places within the soul. Something else still masters over them. “There are thousands,” Edwards says, “who hear the Word of God, who hear great and exceedingly important truths about themselves and their lives, and yet all they hear has no effect upon them, makes no change in the way they live” (3).  Edwards feels that no person will ever be changed by the Word of God unless he or she is affected because God has changed the heart, or more specifically, the affections of one’s heart.

Richard J. Foster and James Bryan Smith, eds. Devotional Classics: Selected readings for individuals and Groups (New York: NY, HarperCollins, 2005), 20. 
2. Ibid., 21.
3. Ibid.

* This post comes from a paragraph of a paper written for the partial fulfillment of a DMin at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary.  It has been redacted and modified for this website.

John of the Cross: The Dark Night of the Soul

John of the Cross understood something of spiritual growth. “At a certain point in the spiritual journey,” writes John, “God will draw a person from the beginning stage to a more advanced stage. At this stage the person will begin to engage in religious exercises and grow deeper in the spiritual life” (1). The means, according to John, is the ‘dark night of the soul.’ This dark night is that time when, “those persons lose all the pleasure in that they once experienced in their devotional life” (2).

Seeing God as a mother caring for her little one, John compares the new believer to the babe suckling and feasting on its mother’s milk. “But there will come a time,” he writes, “when God will bid them to grow deeper” (3). As difficult as it may be, the dark night is the means of growth.

The Christian will experience a dry season in his or her devotion with God. Dry may even be an understatement for those who completely seem to lose any closeness with God. God withdraws himself for a season. However, the risk of living a life free of the dark night is grave. John identifies seven spiritual sins that manifest themselves in the devotion of the believer because of immaturity and a lack of the dark night season. Pride, greed, luxury, wrath, gluttony, envy, and sloth in devotion creep in and lead to death. A survey across Christendom confirms the very presence of these seven sins and may actually cause the Christian to welcome the dark night of the soul, the Christian who deeply desires to grow closer to Christ and mature in his or her journey. “No soul will grow deep in the spiritual life,” argues John, “unless God works passively in that soul by means of the dark night” (4).

1.  Richard J. Foster and James Bryan Smith, eds. Devotional Classics: Selected readings for individuals and Groups (New York: NY, HarperCollins, 2005), 33.
2. Ibid.
3. Ibid.
4.  Ibid., 37.

* This post comes from a paragraph of a paper written for the partial fulfillment of a DMin at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary.  It has been redacted and modified for this website.
** Photo used in this post is in the public domain.