What is the Fear of the LORD?

What is the fear of the LORD? This is something many of us have heard about in church or read in the Bible, but it remains an abstract thought that we can’t clearly explain.

If “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge” (Proverbs 1:7), then it’s an important thing for us to understand what that means. Easton’s Bible Dictionary describes the fear of the LORD this way,

It is a fear conjoined with love and hope, and is therefore not a slavish dread,
but rather filial reverence.”
(Easton Bible Dictionary)

So it’s not a fearful dread that creates distance. Instead, it’s a fear build on love and hope that draws near to God in worship, humility, and obedience. These are the three keys to understanding what the Bible means by “the fear of the LORD.”

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How Busyness Chokes out Faith

When I was interviewing for my current position as a youth pastor someone asked me, “What do you think is the greatest challenge facing teenagers today?”

It’s a great question. I remember giving some answer about postmodernism and the challenge of living in a relativistic culture. Blah blah blah. I’m sure my answer was brilliant… but let me take another crack at it.

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Busyness. Without a doubt, I’d answer, “Busyness.” And I’m not alone.

The Barna Research Group and Youth Specialties have conducted a “State of Youth Ministry” and found that 74% of youth pastors say teen busyness is the main obstacle to ministry while only 11% of parents claim their teenagers are too busy.

Let that sink in. 89% of parents are ok with their teenager’s busyness but only 26% of youth pastors agree. I think that qualifies as a discussion point between youth pastors and parents!

As a youth pastor, you can guess where I fall, but I think it would be helpful to clarify why busyness is so spiritually dangerous that so many church leaders point to it as the primary challenge they face in their ministries. (note: this is not a unique challenge to those of us who serve in youth ministry… teenagers have learned it from someone!)

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What’s the Difference Between a D.Min and Ph.D?

Trevin Wax has recently offered his counsel for those considering a Ph.D. I really appreciated his post, because it’s something I’ve prayed about many times. In the end, I opted to pursue a D.Min. in “Ministry to Emerging Generations” through Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, which I completed in January of 2014. I had known that I would pursue a doctorate of some kind for a few years, but I was torn between Ph.D and D.Min.

Version 2There was a long time where I didn’t consider a D.Min a “real” doctorate and looked down on it as an imposter doctorate… something people get when they want the title “Dr” but they aren’t smart enough to get a Ph.D. Obviously, my opinion has changed.

My hope is that this post will help clarify the differences between a Ph.D and a D.Min while offering what I wish I had known going into the program. Continue reading

What’s the Difference Between Roman Catholic and Protestant Christianity?

My wife is a teacher and has been asked many many times how she’s married to a priest. We live in New England, I am Irish, and I work in a church… therefore it’s natural for people to assume we are Catholic.

Gone are the days where Catholics and Protestants banish one another as inherently nonChristian, but we’ve also begun to overlook the legitimate differences in ways that are a bit worrisome. I know some Roman Catholics whom I consider true believers; and I’ve know some Protestants whose faith I question. Contrary to popular opinion, the Pope is not the main difference between the two. Ironically, there are normal Catholics whom I believe are “saved” even while the Pope is not.

The Five Sola’s of the Reformation serve as a good reminder about the foundational differences between the Roman Catholic Church and the Protestant Churches; especially since the issues the Reformers protested have not changed. These are not presented with anything other than a desire to clarify the difference between Roman Catholic Christianity and Protestant Christianity – there is no desire to spread judgment or animosity.

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Four Motifs for Sharing the Gospel

The gospel is the greatest news and it is the Christian’s honor to announce it to all people everywhere… if only it was that easy. So often, we simply don’t know how to “bring it up” or deal with the rejection.

As we read through the book of Acts, we see how the apostles preached and applied the gospel in their ministries and there’s much to learn. I am particularly fond of Paul’s example in Acts 17 where he’s in Athens, the academic and philosophical center of the Roman Empire.

Christians today can learn from Paul’s example, discerning which “Gospel Motif” connects with the people to whom he is ministering, and then using that motif to lead them towards the gospel.

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God is Not Fair

Fairness has become one of the gold-standards of American culture. Everyone is equal. For anyone to receive preference is akin to discrimination and will surely bring a lawsuit. In many ways, this is good and entirely appropriate for any free society.

Fairness doesn’t mean everyone gets the same thing. It means you get what you deserve. This is our default theology. For those of us who are more melancholy, we live with guilt and gloom we cannot escape, because we have a more negative view of ourselves and the world. Others have a go-get-’em mentality and always see the positive side of things, and they live with the expectation that since they’ve never been arrested they’re all-good in God’s eyes.

But there are some ways in which fairness is unhealthy. Because love isn’t fair: it prefers the beloved over and above all others. I think my kids are cuter than your kids are. I’m sorry, but I just do. And I assume you think your kids are cuter than mine. Because that’s what love does. It’s not fair, but it’s good.

God is love. And God is not fair. But he is good, and he is just.

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Is “Forgive and Forget” Biblical?

We’ve all been hurt. We’ve all been forgiven. We’ve all needed to be forgiven. But some hurts are simply too difficult to truly forget.

“Forgive and forget” sounds good advice until you’re the one hearing it. Then, when it’s personal and when the hurt is deep, it seems like you’re expected to do something impossible. And for the Christian, it begs the question: Is “forgive and forget” biblical?

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