April 15, 2022

If You Must Speak the Hard Words, Speak with a Humble Spirit

As with other pastors, against my preference for peace, the Lord sometimes called me to deliver a strong prophetic word to rebellion among his people. It always grieved me deeply to do so.

When I see controversial pastors revel with relish in the same task, I reevaluate myself. 

If my voice relishes the opportunity to blast the deceived… If the one conveying God’s Word speaks hard truths without love… Then I am not filled with God’s Holy Spirit but with my own spirit, and that is very dangerous.

What brings this to mind this morning is my devotion. Ezekiel was told, “These are the men who plot evil and give wicked advice… Therefore, prophesy against them. Prophesy, son of man!” (11:2,4)

When he did, one man died in judgment. But Ezekiel did not laugh, as I saw one pastor do. No, Ezekiel “fell facedown and cried out” on behalf of the people of God (v 13).

If I as a pastor do not love the people whom God loves—I mean really love them, such that I rush to rejoice and weep with them in their triumphs and trials—then I do not really shepherd them in his name.

Yes, brothers, let us speak God’s truth with power, but always with love, always recognizing we are all sinners saved by grace alone, we are all guilty in ourselves, and we come to the throne only by grace through faith in the humbled man on the cross. 

Only through his righteousness and resurrection do we have hope. 

Remember Him, remember yourself.

April 7, 2022

The Man with Jesus on His Chest

Suppressing my emotions as our daughter was disappearing, we turned our minds to this man’s needs.

Yesterday, as Karen and I sent our daughter from DFW airport to work with Afghan refugee children, a man came up asking for bus fare from the airport to Cleburne to see his mother.

We don’t really carry cash any more, so we were at a loss. He kindly walked away.

Another man walked up and gave us two waters as he couldn’t take them through security.

We watched our girl go.

Then I remembered someone recently gave me a $50 bill, which I stuck in my phone.

I chased the poor man down as he walked away. I gave him the bill. He started rejoicing, saying he could now see his mother and get a good meal, too.

I blessed him in the name of Jesus.

He stopped and said, “I believe in Jesus. I have Him with me, too.” Then he raised his shirt.

As several passersby stared in shock, the poor man revealed this large, intricate, and well-drawn tattoo of Jesus crowned and hanging on the cross emblazoned on his chest and side.

It was a light-hearted moment for me in the midst of a difficult time as I mourned my daughter.

I hope this poor man’s mother was glad to see her son. She is sick, and they had not seen each other for awhile. I know we will be glad to see our daughter again. In that, we were the same.

I will never forget the poor man with Jesus emblazoned all over his chest.

April 6, 2022

The Pharisaic Hermeneutic

A Short Essay on Pharisees in the Church Today:

There is nothing like a Pharisaic party to bind a church. They love, “The Law requires,” rather than “Jesus saves.”

“But some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, ‘It is necessary to circumcise them and to command them to keep the law of Moses.’” 

Note the apostle’s enlightened response: “Now then, why are you testing God by putting a yoke on the disciples’ necks that neither our ancestors nor we have been able to bear? On the contrary, we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus in the same way they are.” Acts 15

Peter’s response was not a rejection of the Old Testament Word of God but a rejection of a legalistic hermeneutic. Legalism reduces Scripture to a static human law code, demotes Jesus to a supporting role, denies the priority of the gospel, and inhibits the saving proclamation.

The spirit who says, “You cannot do this,” in spite of the commandment of Jesus to all believers… in spite of the example of Jesus in everything He did… in spite of the call of Jesus upon each life—This is not the illumination of the Holy Spirit but the darkness of another spirit.

Theology Is for God’s People

I am happy to announce that the good people at B&H Publishing Group and I have contracted for a major 3-volume popular-level systematic theology.

The Lord has long impressed me with the truth that theology is the responsibility of his people in the local churches.

This conviction began under the preaching of pastor Wayne DuBose, now of Minden, Louisiana.

It was then reinforced by the teaching of James Leo Garrett of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Research on the biblical and historical doctrine of the priesthood of all believers with the ThM at Duke Divinity (on the continental Reformation) and the DPhil at University of Oxford (on the English Reformation) cemented this conviction. (The latter was published by Oxford University Press).

Significant pastorates in Texas, Louisiana, and North Carolina showed in practice the truth that our people in our local churches want to know how to think properly about God, his work in the world, and his Word. These pastorates above all developed a deep love to teach God’s Word.

When Lakeside Baptist Church Granbury called me to be their Teaching Pastor, I was overwhelmed with joy to ground academic theology in church theology. The combination of the roles of Teaching Pastor and Research Professor have proved beneficial for both classroom and pulpit.

In important ways, the ongoing Baptist struggle with theological modernism has been exacerbated by a divorce between church and academy. The churches rightly claim theology is for their use in worship, mission, teaching. The academies serve best when we support the churches.

The theological construction undergirding this conviction was written up for academic theological audiences in “The Formation of Christian Doctrine,” a detailed methodology published by B&H Academic in 2007. Theologians in the academy may consult that work for more detail.

Now, in my writing ministry, I plan to turn in the direction that, as my wife Karen Searcy Yarnell recently reminded me, Leo Garrett long hoped I would do: popular theology.

The American Evangelical and Southern Baptist academy is maturing theologically by leaps. Let us now build on that.

Stay tuned for more details from B&H Publishers in the next few years. For now, however, you know where my focus will be dedicated.

Theology is for God’s People.