John Mark Hicks Reviews When Shovels Break

whenshovelsbreakMichael Shanks has published When Shovels Break, a sequel to his Muscle and a Shovel, another novelized treatment of his theology.

Shanks asked me to read and review his new book, but having spent so much time on Muscle and a Shovel, I decided to decline. I don’t enjoy writing negative reviews, and it was obvious that this book would follow the same doctrinal lines as Muscle and a Shovel.

Nonetheless, I’m pleased that John Mark Hicks has posted a review — because (a) I enjoy all that he writes and (b) it means I won’t feel tempted to do so.

Hicks writes, Continue reading

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Homosexuality: Why Does God Declare Homosexual Conduct Sinful? Part 1 (the Image of God)

gaysurveyStrictly speaking, this question is irrelevant. After all, God is — by definition — wiser than we mortals. It should not surprise us that we sometimes can’t understand God’s purposes.

(Deu 29:29 ESV)  “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.”

God is under no obligation to explain or defend his commands. He often does, but we are not entitled to an explanation.

On the  other hand, we may fairly expect God to be consistent with his own declarations. Continue reading

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Todd Rhoades: Why Your Church is Mediocre

mediocrityWise counsel from Todd Rhoades

1.  No evaluation.  Do you evaluate anything? …

2.  Tolerance of mistakes. If you allow things as simple as mistakes in the bulletin, or unplanned worship services… your church is screaming mediocrity. …

3.  Poor maintenance. Untrimmed bushes, potholes in the parking lot all communicate that you really don’t care all that much.

4.  Internal building maintenance.  Chipping paint, light bulbs that are out, worn carpeting communicate that you’ve stopped caring in most instances. Continue reading

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Homosexuality: If Gay Marriage is Contrary to God’s Will, Shouldn’t It Be Illegal? Part 5

gaysurvey7. On the other hand, there is a prophetic role for the church to confront the wickedness of the government.

I struggle to reconcile 6 and 7 and would welcome any help with that.

It’s easy to find examples of OT prophets confronting the Jewish and even foreign governments for their wickedness. For example,

(Isa 10:1-3 ESV) Woe to those who decree iniquitous decrees, and the writers who keep writing oppression,  2 to turn aside the needy from justice and to rob the poor of my people of their right, that widows may be their spoil, and that they may make the fatherless their prey!  3 What will you do on the day of punishment, in the ruin that will come from afar? To whom will you flee for help, and where will you leave your wealth?

A “decree” is a law. Isaiah is confronting the king and the tribal elders — those who enact wicked laws.

Now, of course, Israel was a theocracy ruled by God himself, and so very unlike any nation-state around today. But sometimes the prophets also spoke against the wickedness of surrounding nations. Continue reading

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Carey Nieuwhof: 11 Signs Your Church Will Soon Be Extinct

extinctchurchInsightful post from Carey Nieuwhof

1. No sense of urgency

2. Urgency about the wrong things

3. Decline has made you cautious

4. Success has made you cautious

5. Your affection for the past is greater than your excitement for the future

6. You don’t understand the changing culture

7. You haven’t got new leaders around the table

8. You mostly listen to the voices of current members

9. Your conflict is about all the wrong things

10. Any growth you have is transfer growth

11. The core team is not fundamentally healthy

Continue reading

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Homosexuality: If Gay Marriage is Contrary to God’s Will, Shouldn’t It Be Illegal? Part 4

gaysurvey

5. The laws our government enacts and the decisions made by the U.S. Supreme Court impact the culture of our nation.

Not always, but often, a change in the law results in a change in culture. When the Supreme Court approves topless bars, the nation becomes more accepting of topless bars. After all, as they become more common, and we drive past so many, we become desensitized.

6. The Bible does not call on the church to change the culture of unbelievers. In fact, it seems to say the exact opposite.

Consider this very familiar passage —

(Rom 1:28-32 ESV) And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.  29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips,  30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents,  31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.  32 Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them. 

This section of Rom goes back at least to v. 18, but this should be enough of Paul’s argument to make the point. Continue reading

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Gone to the Beach

destinbeach1I’m headed to the beach for a week. Destin, Florida, to be exact. My plan is … well, I have no plan.

I’m packing several books people have asked me to read and review. No promises, because I’m also packing my two grandchildren — and they are a higher priority for this old man.

In fact, the entire family will be there: one wife, four sons, two daughters-in-law, and two grandchildren. Oh, and did I mention my grandchildren?

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Sarah Rainer: Six Guidelines for Ministers Who Counsel

choosing-1Interesting post from Sarah Rainer on guidelines for pastors (ministers, in the Churches of Christ, of course) who counsel. Also for elders.

1. Competence

A lack of training in counseling and mental health issues would indicate that a pastor should refer these issues to a professional in the area. …

2. Certain Disorders

… There are certain mental health issues that are probably best left to specialists in the area. Schizophrenia, severe eating disorders, and certain substance abuse, are amongst the few of these disorders. …

3. Emotional Involvement

… When pastors begin developing a deeper intimate connection with a particular counselee that extends beyond a pastor-church member relationship, they should consider the impact it could have on the counseling relationship. …

4. Personal Life

When counseling sessions are extending into the pastor’s personal and work life, a pastor should consider alternatives for their counseling work. …

5. Lack of Progress

Despite several months of counseling, the counselee is not making improvement. …

6. Personal Relationships

… It is a good idea for pastors to steer clear of counseling someone with whom they have a close and intimate relationship (i.e. family members, friends, neighbors, coworkers). …

Continue reading

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Homosexuality: If Gay Marriage is Contrary to God’s Will, Shouldn’t It Be Illegal? Part 3

gaysurveySome principles

1. The United States is not a theocracy and not the Kingdom.

Although Rome had been a republic governed by a senate for many years, by the time of Jesus and his apostles, Rome was an empire ruled by an emperor. The senate’s power was severely curtailed by the time of Julius Caesar. Nonetheless, citizens did have some influence over government — varying greatly by location and time and limited to those with Roman citizenship — only a minority of those living in the Empire.

In Judea, the Romans gave limited autonomy to the Jews, who were ruled by a combination of the Sanhedrin (the Council of Seventy chaired by the high priest), Herod (or one of his sons) appointed “king of the Jews” by Caesar, and the Roman governor, such as Pilate. We don’t know how the Sanhedrin was appointed, but it evidently was a council of respected rabbis and other Jewish religious authority figures. After all, to the Jews, there was no distinction between religion and government. Continue reading

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Homosexuality: If Gay Marriage is Contrary to God’s Will, Shouldn’t It Be Illegal? Part 2

gaysurveyThe government seen positively

Well, even though I’m a lawyer, I took no political science classes. (Math major. Ask me about cosines sometime.)

And the Bible does not give a complete theology of good government. But it does speak of government as both a gift from God and an enemy of God. Really. Kind of like the Law of Moses. A necessary thing that, in the case of government, will become unnecessary when Jesus returns. The last enemy is death, but somewhere just before death, Jesus is going to destroy government.

(Rom 13:1-7 ESV) Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.  2 Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.  3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval,  4 for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.  5 Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience.  6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing.  7 Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.

Paul says that government has certain legitimate purposes, and we should honor the government as it fulfills these purposes. Among them are punishing those who “do wrong” (v. 4). Unfortunately, Paul doesn’t give us any detail on doing wrong, and I doubt that he wanted the government involved in the circumcision controversy that was such a difficulty in his ministry. Continue reading

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