Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Why I Love Missions Trips

Missions trips take many forms. I've been on teams that have visited slums, performed skits on the streets, witnessed to kids on spring break, built schools for deaf children, played basketball in the projects, hosted a Vacation Bible School, or combinations thereof.

Each of these trips have combined worship, work, witness, and (sorry, no "w" here) partnership with believers across the miles. For example, I just returned from our church's second project in the projects, which partnered us with a Brazilian and Hispanic church in Newark. In this case, partnership isn't even the right word--friendship (and pretty close friendship at that) is far more accurate. People from our churches are traversing up and down the East Coast to see one another at different points throughout the year, and of course all our teens have a dozen or more Newark Facebook friends.

So, here's what I love about missions trips: they provide a unique opportunity to experience the Christian life in its most distilled and undistracted form.

Here's what I mean. Over the course of, say, a week, the team works a spirit of worship and prayer. This is what God made us for! Check out Genesis 1 and 2 - we were made to be in relationship to God, and to one another, as we serve Him. Or consider the Great Commandment, Great Commission, or perhaps the New Testament as a whole. Or the life of Jesus. On a missions trip, all the pieces come together. And for a week or more, we get to experience what God made us for and what Jesus calls us to.

What I've found also is that this is a two-edged sword. Because a missions trip distills the Christian life down to its most basic priorities, we can easily experience angst as well as joy. We may see our sin and inability, our lack of genuine love, the no-worship zones of our hearts. But humility is a needed thing, and is the first step to seeing God forgive, transform, or soften, as the case may be.

I think these trips are especially important for young people, because it provides a template for what it means to serve Jesus Christ with all their lives. I've seen these trips serve as incredible turning points. I still remember the first trip I went on, how one of the principles was, "Before you do anything else, pray." So whenever there was a glitch, a problem, or an obstacle, we stopped to pray before we tried to work it out. That was formative; it stuck with me for the past 21 years.

One wisened teen said last week, when joy and enthusiasm for Jesus was running high, "It won't always feel this way. We'll have to go back to school and serve Jesus even when we feel all alone."


But I would add, "You know now, more than ever, that you're not alone. And that there is something more glorious to reach for."

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Doctrine of Worry

The street between our theology and our lives is a two way street. Which is to say, our beliefs about God have and influence on the way we live our lives. But we can also drive the other way. The way we live our lives, shows something about what we believe to be true about God. But unfortunately, when we drive this direction, the systematic theology of our lives tends to look very different.

The Doctrine of Worry: The belief that God does not care about us as much as he cares about sparrows. The belief that either God does not have a good plan for us, or if he does, he is unable to bring it about. The belief that God, who did not spare his own son, but gave him up for us all, will somehow NOT along with him, graciously give us all things.

How to Apply: This doctrine ought to be applied whenever things don't go your way. For best results, begin to apply well in advance of any occasion in which you suspect things might not go your way. Remember to assume that your plan for your life is best, and that if God knows what's what, he will agree with you.

It's unfortunate how many of us subscribe to this doctrine. We might not acknowledge that we do, after all, it sounds ridiculous when you write it out. But remember, practical theology is a two way street, and we preach with our lives what we are unwilling to acknowledge with our mouths.

Some days this chapter is right up towards the front of the systematic of my life. That's embarrassing, and goes to show that no matter how well I can articulate the divisions of theology, I still have work to do in working my theology down into my heart. This happens best when the Spirit works the word of God into my heart. Then armed with this sword of the Spirit, I am more well suited to defend myself against lingering doubt and worry, a favorite tactic of the evil one.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Get on Yer Boots!!

I find it only slightly ironic that in Ephesians six, which is the classic description of spiritual warfare, as Paul is describing the suit of armor that Christians need to be equipped with, the necessary footwear is the "gospel of peace." If you are going to go to war with the evil one, you need to know that you are completely at peace with God.

As Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:18, "God, through Christ reconciled us to himself." Or again in Romans 5, "since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God."

In Ephesians 2, Paul explains slightly differently, but to the same effect. He begins by saying that we were once, like the rest of mankind, children of wrath, at enmity with God. But God is great in mercy, and he made us alive together with Christ.

Peace with god. We have it, by faith. It is because God has reconciled us to himself, in Christ. And our peaceful relationship that we now enjoy with God is secure, because it is based on the work of Christ. If we had peace with God only so long as our performance lived up to his expectations, we would be walking on eggshells, and there would be no peace. But it is based on the death of Jesus on the cross. The hostility has been put away once for all because our sins have been decisively dealt with and forgiven.

This is not only good news as far as the whole salvation issue is concerned, it is also an indispensable piece of our Christian armor. Our knowledge of the gospel of peace, the fact that our relationship with God is in good order, and securely so, is part of what protects us from the attacks and flaming darts from the evil one.

The evil one does not want you to know that you have peace with God. He would rather you take your eyes off of the cross, put them on yourself and your own performance, and begin to entertain all sorts of doubts as to the status of your relationship. If you are insecure in your relationship with God, the darts of the evil one can land with deadly accuracy. Temptations to sin will feel persuasive and the allure of doubt irresistible. But the Pauline counterattack to this guerrilla warfare is a deep, heartfelt knowledge of divine reconciliation through the gospel of peace.

Of course, it would be impossible to read through Ephesians (especially 2:11-22 and 4:1-7) without realizing that the peace purchased at the cross extends to human relationships as well. Because I have peace with God, and you have peace with God, therefore you and I have peace between us as well. Growing roots of bitterness and stirring up dissension between believers is a favorite tactic of the evil one, and the boots of gospel peace are necessary for us to maintain a very practical, gospel-based, believer-to-believer peace among us.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Strange Pew-fellows

Most American holidays are insignificant for the life of the church. Arbor Day, Valentines Day, President's Day, Labor Day, Memorial Day, Halloween, all of these come and go with nary a mention in my church. There are a few holidays, which are relatively insignificant as far as the liturgy goes, but which warrant a brief mention during the announcements. I'm thinking here of Mother's Day, Father's Day, Veteran's Day and New Years Day. None of these are Christian holidays, but we take the opportunity to note them, and wish well to those involved. Then you have Christian holidays such as Christmas, Easter, and Palm Sunday, which all have great impact on the liturgy and life of a church.

But there is one American holiday in particular, which has a strange relationship with the church. I'm thinking of the fourth of July. Patriotism and Religion have always been strange pew-fellows, and the mixture has always made me uncomfortable. This year the issue was pushed to the fore, since the fourth fell on a Sunday. I would like to offer a few thoughts. I have intentionally waited a couple of weeks so that those who feel strongly about the issue might have the emotional distance necessary to consider the case anew.

In one sense, the fourth of July falling on a Sunday highlights the truth that each of us as human beings have a complex identity, that is made up of more than a single component. To use myself as an example, I am both a Christian and an American (also a husband, father, son, pastor, and many other things...). Of the two, I would identify primarily as a Christian, and secondly as an American. But of course, this is not to say anything amiss about America or my status as a citizen. I love this land, I feel a certain amount of patriotism and pride in living here, and unless God radically changes the direction of my life, I don't plan to move. I feel a deep sense of gratitude for living in this country at this point in time. I enjoy celebrating the fourth by eating a hot dog and watching fireworks.

But my identity as a Christian is much more significant for understanding who I am. I belong to the church of the Lord Jesus Christ. I am a member of the household of God, a part of the covenant family. And this family knows no boundaries, political or otherwise. It is an international family, composed of people who identify as citizens of all sorts of countries. This means for me, that I feel like I have more in common with a Mexican Christian or a Ghanaian Christian, than I do with an American who is spiritually lost.

So what are we to do when the fourth falls on a Sunday? Should we mention it? Should we sing the patriotic songs found in the far back of the hymnal?

I vote no. For two reasons. First, when we gather as the body of Christ, we have something so much more grand and glorious to engross ourselves in. We are gathering specifically as the church of Christ, in union with the saints throughout the world and across all the ages. We are not a civic organization, we are a gathering of the elect. This is a category that knows of no tie to political organizations or eras. When we come to church, the fact that most of us in the room are Americans is completely incidental.

Secondly, what would we say if a believer from Mexico, China, Peru or Kenya came to church on that Sunday, expecting to find a familiar culture of Christianity, and instead finding us enjoying our country rather than our covenant. I would be embarrassed to alienate a brother or sister in Christ by appearing to cherish our citizenship on earth as deeply as our citizenship in heaven.

Again, none of this should be taken as disrespect for our country or our history. I like our country, but I like the church even more. And as believers, our identity as members of the church will be far more eternally valuable than the fact that we were citizens of this particular nation.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Error We Usually Make

There is a story, somehow related to Martin Luther (I'm not sure how) about a man riding a horse. He was tired, and started slumping a bit to the left. As he got tireder and tireder, he slumped further and further, until all of a sudden he fell off the left side of the horse and landed in a heap on the ground. The man awoke with a start, and when he got back on the horse he solemnly pledged that he would never again fall of the left side of his horse. So he adopted a peculiar posture, leaning to the right. Of course, it wasn't long before he fell off the right side of the horse. He was so intent on not falling to the left, that he made the same error in the opposite direction. The goal, of course, is to ride the horse sitting straight up and down.

Many churches and theologies are like this hapless horseman. Especially those of us in the conservative branches of the church. We feel like the church fell off the liberal side of the gospel horse back in the mid-twentieth century, and we have seen the disastrous effects that caused. So now we are so committed to not doing that again, that we are leaning heavily towards the conservative side, and again we are in danger of falling off the horse, simply in the opposite direction. The goal remains being able to ride the gospel horse straight up and down.

How does one fall off the conservative side of the horse? A friend I was enjoying lunch with last week put it this way: Liberals tend to take away from scripture, conservatives tend to add to it, and both are equally bad.

Indeed. I thought this way of putting things was insightful, yet upon reflection so obvious as to hardly require explanation. Liberals have been taking away from scripture for years, no longer listening to its teaching on sexual ethics, the uniqueness of Christ, the resurrection, etc. Many of their churches can now be clearly seen lying in a heap in the ditch on the left side of the road.

Conservative churches, meanwhile, have been so afraid of that left ditch that we have built a hedge around the scriptural teachings to keep us from breaking them. To protect ourselves from sexual promiscuity, we have prohibited dancing. To protect ourselves from drunkenness we have prohibited all alcohol whatsoever. Now, of course, these prohibitions come with good intent. But the Bible says we are not to take away from it, or add to it. Is that a conservative church I spy in the right-hand ditch, lying in a heap while the gospel horse walks on unriden?

I am a conservative. Perhaps you are too, or perhaps you are a liberal (or perhaps you don't identify as either, the labels aren't really that important). Neither of us has yet perfected what it means to ride the gospel horse straight up and down. Neither our casting off of biblical burdens, nor our taking on of additional ones has taught us how to live in the freedom and joyous constraint of the biblical gospel. All of us must continually go back to the scriptures, find their level, and discern our own leanings.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

And now we address the concubines.

When King David flees from his son Absalom, who has conspired to overthrow his father, he naturally makes sure that all his loved ones (wives, children, servants) are kept safe. Basically, they flee with him. And he puts his trust in God during this tragic time, as you can see for yourself by reading Psalm 3 or 2 Samuel 15.


But David is far from perfect. In fact, let's use the term he would use: he's a sinner. You can see all sorts of his faults on display in 2 Samuel 11-14. Specifically, it's 2 Samuel 12:13 where David admits his sin, though he also wrote a song about just how deep sin runs in Psalm 51.

Well, here's one way that David sinned when he fled from Absalom. He left 10 concubines in the palace to "take care of it" while everyone else fled for their lives. Maybe he didn't intend for harm to come to them, but it did--they were basically publicy raped (2 Samuel 16:22).

David didn't treat these concubines like he would his own flesh and blood. He treated them like, well, like servants--except that he had actual servants that he loved more and treated better. Not uncommon in the ancient world, before the clarity of the gospel, but nevertheless.

So I was wondering this. Who are those in our lives that we don't really truly love, even though we may act like it? Who is there that we pretend to love and cherish, and yet when the going gets tough--we leave them behind. Who are the people that we have fellowship with every Sunday, smile and greet perhaps, but they are totally expendable to us?

You might say, well, not everyone is family! We can't treat everyone like flesh and blood! But Jesus treated us that way. He laid down His most precious life for us, and He calls us to see every other believer as our brother or sister--as flesh and blood.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Some Wedding Cake Leftovers

(nb: this should be consider part 2 of my earlier post.)

One of the most important times to keep in mind the reality of the wedding cake is in the midst of theological controversy. When discussing theological positions, or in thinking about those with which we disagree, it is important to remember all four layers of the cake, and to remember that we must always work from the bottom up. Let me explain with reference to a current theological brew-ha-ha.

N.T. Wright recently wrote a book on Justification that has caused quite a stir. He departs from the traditional understanding of Justification, and presents the case for a reading now commonly known (at least common to theologians) as the New Perspective on Paul. His book is notable is several regards, but not least for the way it covers all the layers of the cake.

The first half of the book, roughly 125 pages, discusses justification from a systematic theology standpoint. He defines what justification is, what it is not, how it relates to other doctrines (covenant, eschatology, Christology), what the component parts are (imputation, federal headship), etc. As you can see, the systematic discussion of justification is complex, but highly necessary. A few comments on application are interspersed, although that is not really the point of the book. And several of the topics require a discussion of biblical theology.

The second half of the book is dedicated to exegetical theology. In other words, recognizing that his new(ish) interpretation of justification must stand or fall based on the biblical evidence, he spends 125 pages (or so) discussing the key passages in Galatians, Philippians, Ephesians, 1 Corinthians, and Romans. The discussion of Romans alone receives almost 85 pages.

Whether or not Wright is right about all this is the question for another post, but methodologically, it is quite interesting. Wright has many critics, and many of them have gone to great lengths to point out how Wright is not clearly within the reformed tradition (historical theology), how his theology will have deleterious effects on people's lives (practical theology), or how he has misunderstood the theological categories (systematic theology).

But very few have attacked his understanding on the basis of his exegetical theology. And as Wright is correct to point out, exegesis is the foundation of the theological enterprise, and any critique or accusation of heresy must work from the bottom up. Or again, many are quick to point out that Wright is outside the bounds of the Westminster confession, or that he is far afield from Hodge or Calvin. But Wright is justified in responding - yes that's true, but I'm more in line with the scriptures. (Again, the question of if Wright is right about that claim must wait for another day, but I can appreciate the motivation!) In fact, Wright is now claiming the high ground of Sola Scriptura that the reformation tradition has held so dear.

If we see someone who appears to have a screwy systematic theology, as many have claimed Wright's theology of justification is screwy, then the first thing to do is to examine the foundation. If the foundation of exegesis is caddywompus, then of course the whole cake will be messed up, and we will have our explanation as to why everything looked odd to us. But if, upon examination, the foundation is solid, then we can examine the biblical theology and the systematic theology again with fresh eyes. Perhaps, where we thought the cake was crooked, we were really just holding our heads at a funny angle. Which is another way of saying that if the exegesis is correct, perhaps it is us who was wrong, and we need to adjust our own thinking, rather than accusing the other.

This is the real value of keeping the layers of the cake in order. If we do really believe in Sola Scriptura, that the Bible is the final arbiter of truth, then of course we must always consider potential heresy on the basis of the exegesis. Wright has done all his critics a huge favor in this last book, he has laid all his exegetical cards on the table. They are free for examination. If he is found to have laid a faulty foundation, perhaps misunderstood the historical context, or cherry picked the literary context, misapplied a Greek root-word, then the brew-ha-ha can end, and we will see clearly how this one mistake can transfer all the way up through the layers of theology. But on the other hand, we no longer have the luxury to simply criticize his systematic understanding, or his divergence from historical predecessors. He has tied his theology to the text, and it is to the text we must go.

Friday, July 9, 2010

The Wedding Cake of Theology

Theology is like a wedding cake. And when done well, it is scrumptious and delicious. It's like a lovely four-tiered wedding cake. Oh, and it has a grooms cake on the side.

Believe it or not this is actually somewhat of a serious illustration. Because there at least five different types of theologies that we can be talking about when we talk about "theology." Most of the time we use the word "theology" in a fairly undifferentiated sense, and most of the time that works out just fine, but occasionally it is nice to be precise. There are five different things we are sometimes talking about when we discuss theology. Four of these stack one on top of the other, in the manner of a wedding cake, the fifth is related but separate, we'll call it the grooms cake.

Much like a four tier cake, it is essential that the layers are stacked in the correct order. You can imagine the disaster that would result if one put the smallest layer on the bottom, or the biggest on top. The bottom layer is foundational for the one above it, and the second layer in turn, is foundational for the layer on top of that one, etc. A visual aid would be nice here, but my art skills are pretty limited, so use your imagination.

The first (and foundational) layer is Exegetical Theology. Exegetical theology is what we are doing when we are talking about the meaning of specific verses, chapters, and books in the bible. When we discuss the literary context, the meaning of the Greek and Hebrew, the flow of the argument, and so on. This is the foundation of all theology. So long as we want our theology to be based on the Bible, we need to discuss what particular parts of the Bible mean. The rest of the theological cake rests on this.

The second layer is Biblical Theology. To engage is Biblical Theology, is to think about all the different parts of the bible, and put them together into a meaningful whole. It helps, in this regard, to remember that the Bible is a story with a plot, it has a trajectory. So when we think biblically-theologically about, say, the temple, we are not thinking about individual verses (although we need to have done that first!), we are thinking about the way the tabernacle was revealed on Mt. Sinai as a reflection of the garden of Eden, traveled through the wilderness, morphed into the Temple, was destroyed by Babylon, rebuilt by Zerubbabel, and replaced by Christ. Notice how was attempting to follow the biblical storyline, and to see and appreciate the twists and turns of the story, and effect of progressive revelation.

The third layer of the theological cake is Systematic Theology. Systematic theology as a discipline is now attempting to gather together everything we know from the bible about a particular topic and make a coherent sense of it. Again, this type of theology might not deal in detail with passages from the Bible, because it is assuming that that work has already been done.

The fourth and final layer of the cake is Practical Theology, also sometimes called Pastoral Theology, but it is practiced by all of us, not just pastors. All of us often engage in practical theology. It is what we are doing when we ask the question "How should we then live?" Once we have examined the biblical texts, become aware of the way the topic functions throughout the bible, and gathered all our knowledge together, then we are ready to put it into practice.

These four tiers are all important, and the order of them can not be changed, reversed or ignored, except to our own theological peril. But there is one more way we often talk about theology, and that is Historical Theology. This is what we are doing when we investigate when John Calvin thought about a particular issue, or how the Puritans viewed such-and-so. I consider this to be the grooms cake, because it is important, but not integrally related to the other four disciplines.

Perhaps an example would be helpful here. Say we are trying to think theologically about the Sabbath and its importance for the church today. We start at the bottom of the cake, by asking what does the Bible say about the Sabbath. So we carefully investigate Genesis 1-2, Exodus 16, 20, 31, Deut 5, Isaiah 58, Mark 2, John 5, Romans 14, Col 2, Heb 4, etc. This is the practice of Exegetical Theology. Next, we would step back and look at the trajectory. Was Sabbath observance of different importance at different periods of the covenant families life? How was it progressively revealed to Israel, and has the inauguration of the New Covenant changed how we think about it? This is Biblical Theology. The third step is to gather all our information together, and see what we can say from a systematic standpoint. Only after we have done all of these steps, are we in a position to ask how we are to live now? What should we do on Sunday afternoon? In other words, we can now pursue the task of relating the Bible to life, or doing Practical Theology.

And if you are still hungry, there is no reason to neglect the grooms cake, asking how different theologians throughout history have viewed the issue. This can be both interesting and informative, but we should remember to read with a discerning eye. Just because John Calvin wrote it, doesn't make it more sure than the Bible!

Let me explain why this cake is important. No one on earth is equally skilled at doing all five layers of theology, we all tend towards one or two, and are weaker in the others. Most pastors I know really excel at the top two tiers (systematics and practical), and of course, in order to be a pastor you need to know how to help people apply the Bible to their lives. But these pastors need to be humble in recognizing that they need help with the exegetical task, which is foundational to the whole enterprise. There are some pastors who really excel at exegesis, who love to read commentaries, who still know Greek and Hebrew five years after seminary. This is great because it is foundational, but they often need help in making practical application of the truths they discover to the lives of their parishioners.

It has been helpful to me when I read a particular theological piece to ask where it fits into the whole theological cake, what is supporting it, and what could potentially be the next step? Not all theology is done the same way. And the point of this exercise is not to say that one layer is the most important of all, but to say that it is absolutely vital that we have the whole cake!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Fighting the Devil by Doing the Dishes

How do you imagine that the evil one will try to attack most Christians?

Most of us, when we think of spiritual warfare (if we think of spiritual warfare), probably think of some bizarre evil poltergeists of the ethereal world attacking missionaries on the front lines. Or perhaps you think of the blatant expressions of witchcraft, spiritism or paganism that exist here in the U.S. But according to Ephesians, we need to think a little closer to home.

Close to home, as in, in our homes. One of the classic Bible texts on the issue is the end of Ephesians 6. Paul says that our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Spiritual warfare is in fact a true reality (as Schaeffer would say, a true truth) that believers in Christ have to deal with. And it is not something that only effects the mission field (where is that again?).

It would seem that the thing which led Paul to write Ephesians 6:10-20 was in fact Ephesians 5:1-6:9. Paul had just finished his instructions for family relationships defined by the kingdom of God. He had been talking about husbands loving their wives, and wives submitting to their husbands. He had been talking about parents loving their children and children obeying their parents. And it seems to me that it was talk about these most basic of human relationships that led Paul to reflect on the fact that we as believers are under attack, and need desperately to put on the full armor of God.

Or again, in Ephesians 4:26-27 Paul had said that if we let the sun go down on our anger, then we are giving opportunity to the devil!

It's easy for us to think that in our highly technologized, squeaky clean suburban environs that the devil is nowhere to be found. He certainly wouldn't shop at Barnes and Noble.

But more than likely, the devil won't try to get you to renounce Christ all in one fell swoop. Instead he'll try to get you to watch TV instead of doing the dishes. He'll get you to harbor pride and savor bitterness, to not love your wife sacrificially as Christ loved the church. As Paul has just explained, a fully functional marriage relationship is a picture of the gospel, what would the evil one like to ruin more than that? The schemes of the evil one are powerful, but they are subtle. In The Screwtape Letters, the senior devil advises his devil-in-training to work on the Christians, and get them to think about how much that one certain look their mate gives bothers them, and to really stew on it. Sometimes its the littlest things that can give a foothold to the devil.

These are his schemes, and we need to put on the whole armor of God, lest we give in to the temptation to give that look when asked to vacuum.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Our Spiritual Immune Systems

One of the things I've learned about since Judah was born three months ago is 'Passive Immunity.'

When babies are born, they have very weak immune systems. As a result, they are extra susceptible to getting sick. This is why you have to be very careful with little babies, if they get sick, they have very few resources to fight it, and sometimes they have to go to the hospital.

However, one benefit of breastfeeding is that babies receive passive immunity. They have no antibodies of their own, but some of their mother's antibodies are passed along through the milk, so that the babies receive the benefit of their mother's immune systems. The babies on their own are small and weak, but their mothers are strong, and by feeding on their mothers, they receive the benefits of all the immunities their mothers have built up by fighting off sicknesses.

When new Christians are first converted (and sometimes for a long time afterward!), they have very weak spiritual immune systems. In fact, given what Paul says in Ephesians 6 about the attacks which the evil one mounts against believers, we are all much too weak in ourselves. We are susceptible to all sorts of spiritual attacks, temptations, and defeats. However, as we feed on Christ in the Word, we receive the benefits of his strength.

Christ is strong, and has earned by his years of obedience to the Father complete immunity from (victory over) the evil one and his attacks. We are weak, but through our union with Christ, we share in his strength. The more we know Christ, both the holiness of his character and the vitality of our union, the more we are strengthened to stand against the wiles of the devil. If we are lax about our feeding routine, we will remain weak, with only our own meager strength to live by.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Bold Post about Preaching

I like books about preaching, and I think I like lesser known ones the best. For example, I think that Kindled Fire Zack Eswine is quite good. It's a look at Charles Spurgeon's preaching in its historical/cultural context, and calls us to bold, Spiritual, applicable proclamation of the word.

Of interest to me was his argument that Spurgeon did not live in a "golden age" of preaching but rather went against the grain in his day and received a lot of push-back. Of course, he is today referred to as the "Prince of Preachers" (a term that really should go to Jesus, but my point is that people like him).

I recently began reading Tongues Aflame by Roger Wagner, who is an OPC pastor in Chula Vista, California. I attended his church for a while and remember seeing the book float around in manuscript form.

He says that the key characteristic of apostolic preaching was boldness. The word translated "boldness," he says, is the word most frequently applied to preaching in the book of Acts. And Paul famously asks for prayer in Ephesians 6 that he would speak the word with boldness. Without boldness, our preaching simply isn't biblical; so we better figure out what that means!

Wagner goes on to clarify that those with "bold" personalities are surprisingly often NOT the boldest preachers. Boldness is not a matter of personality or tone, but simply the willingness to directly, clearly speak the truth of God from His word. And it is ultimately a work of the Holy Spirit (man, can't we do anything on our own?).

Biblically, he draws on the example of Peter. He claimed to be bold, he said he would follow Jesus to death, but petered out. It wasn't until the Holy Spirit took over in Acts 2 that Peter was truly able to preach with genuine, Spiritual boldness.

Lord, grant us pastors grace to boldly speak Your word. And thank you, Lord, for those who do.