Ardent Cries

Christians and Culture,Cultural Events,Pastoral,Preaching

October 21, 2012

Why I Love Politics – And Why I Won’t Preach Them From the Pulpit

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(By: Nick Kennicott)

When it comes to politics and political systems (probably much to the chagrin of many of my friends and family), I have a lot of opinions. Assuredly, they may not be your opinions, and I don’t expect you to care as much about the rise to power and fall of Slobodan Milošević in Serbia/Yugoslavia in the late 90′s as I do (I wrote a paper on him in my Comparative Politics class in college). In 2000 as an undergraduate student at the University of New Mexico, my major was Political Science, particularly focused on international political ideology. I can assure you, the textbooks aren’t much more exciting than the subject matter sounds. Nevertheless, I enjoyed it – I wanted to know why societies function the way they do, what political leaders believe, and how they rise to power. I was interested in learning if there’s a significant difference between Communism, Marxism, and Fascism. And of course, I was very interested in what really goes on in the American political system and whether or not the United States is really a government by the people, for the people. In my mind, I was a future politician in the making: I loved politics and working with political campaigns, had a job with an Albuquerque law firm working on cases at the federal level, and was on the cusp of beginning a season of military service.

As I consider my past, I thank God that He had other plans for my life. I’m not sure a lot of parents feel warm and fuzzy when their child reports that their greatest ambition in life is to become a politician. I was that kid. But having a keen eye on the political process, studying the progression of policies and parties, and serving in the military at the launch of two different wars has a way of alerting a young man to the reality that ideological principles of governmental leaders really do have consequences that effect the everyday lives of real people. I may never meet the President, his staff, or any members of congress, but what they do each day has a significant impact on the future for me, my family, and the church I pastor.

I know most people won’t care about politics as much as I do, and I’m ok with that. Whether or not you know the United States is a constitutional republic and not a democracy isn’t really all that important (Did you know the founders of the United States feared democracy as much as a monarchy?). I don’t think Americans should have to pass some basic exam to prove their level of political knowledge before voting – such ideas fly in the face of the political ideology upon which the nation was founded. And yet, I do wish more Americans knew and cared about the issues that shape our nation at least to the point of being able to make informed decisions as to who they should vote for, even if they can’t or don’t want to have an engaging conversation on those issues.

As a Christian and a pastor, the politics of the country I am in take on another level of meaning that non-Christian people don’t generally pay much attention to. As the United States Government has evolved since its founding, more and more moral issues have become issues of policy on which the Church should express the truth. Additionally, policy decisions made in Washington D.C. have a significant impact on how each local church is able to function in its community. We are called to be culture shapers and makers, and we have to utilize the means at our disposal to do so. In a day when the moral repugnance of genocide via abortion, homosexual union, and euthanasia are front and center on the political stage, the Church has something to say because God has something to say. But how shall we say it?

I find it unfortunate that many pastors will preach politics from the pulpit, and in fact there is currently a movement afoot to get pastors to forego the preaching of their regularly scheduled sermon and instead encourage the people of God to support a political agenda in favor of specific political candidates. And while the move to do so might be well intentioned, it’s a pulpit crime (in the words of Dr. James White) worthy of rebuke. While the church has a duty to speak clearly with regards to moral issues like the sanctity of life and marriage, she does not have a biblical commission to promote individuals or parties for political office in the gathering of God’s people for worship.

Lord’s Day worship and the gathering of the Saints is just that – a reprieve from the cares and concerns of the world, and a time and a place for unity, peace, shared joy, and nourishment for the soul in the proper administration of the Word and Sacraments. A worship service is not a political rally nor a platform to promote the ideas of one political party over another, but rather a time and a place to focus our hearts and minds on being conformed more and more to Christ Jesus, our eternal Lord and Savior. I happen to believe that “the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). The Holy Spirit will use the Word of God to teach, reprove, correct, and train God’s people in righteousness that they may be competent, equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Part of that equipping is developing a moral conscience in the people of God that informs their decision making. Christian people should know that abortion and euthanasia are murder and homosexual acts are an abomination to God. What Christian people don’t need is their pastor binding their conscience to a specific political candidate or party from the pulpit where the pronouncement is not to be “Thus sayeth your pastor,” but rather, “Thus sayeth the Lord.” God has not revealed in His Word the appropriate political voice for American Christians in the 21st Century to rally around, therefore any pronouncement of such from the pulpit is outside the bounds of the proper preaching of God’s Word.

I trust Christian people to make good choices when their conscience is formed by the Word of God. I know there are Christian people who are much more godly and holy than I, and yet express political views different than mine. While we are working from the same biblical foundation, so long as we are not saying yes to sin, we ought to lovingly submit to the reality that our Holy Spirit driven consciences will often drive us in somewhat different directions (and yes, somewhat is a modifier in this sentence, because in the grand scope, our underlying principles should bring about somewhat similar results). Yes, have good and passionate political debate – know the issues, seek to convince others of your position, and appeal to the Scriptures for your conclusions. But please don’t make the foolish statement that Jesus was either a Republican or a Democrat, that any political candidate is the greatest thing for America, or that we will be without hope if someone other than who we vote for wins a political office.

The Sovereign God of the universe has appointed the governing authorities of the world. Be in subjection to those who are appointed over you, for your good (Romans 13:1-7). Pray for our leaders, for it is pleasing to God (1 Timothy 2:1-3). And by all means, seek to live at peace with brothers and sisters in Christ and do not be at enmity over the political issues of the day. Issues will come and go, but we will dwell together as sons and daughters of God for all eternity. We may disagree and we may enjoy debating why, but we must remember that whoever is elected is God’s appointed authority, and not because others simply did not vote the way we told them they should. Remember, “the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever” (1 John 2:17). Trust in God’s sovereignty and His care for His people – after all, He’s on our side, so who can be against us (Romans 8)? Now that will preach!

(By: Nick Kennicott)

Books,Recommendation,The Law of God

August 6, 2012

The Hole in Our Holiness

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(By: Nick Kennicott – repost from The Decablog)

I cannot express how excited I am for Kevin DeYoung‘s new book, The Hole in Our Holiness (You can also Pre-order the Kindle Edition). DeYoung addresses what I have been having an ongoing conversation about for a few years with several brothers, namely the relationship between justification and sanctification, or perhaps more appropriately stated, the law and the gospel (and of course, I realize this has been an ongoing conversation for much of the church’s history). It seems to me that there are very few men who have been associated, either willingly or unwillingly, with the “gospel-centered” movement who are talking about the use of God’s law in the lives of Christians. I’m thankful for the recovery of the gospel in much of what can be seen in quasi-Reformed evangelicalism today in some respects, but I am also concerned that without a recovery of the right uses of God’s law, we have not truly recovered the gospel. In fact, some men seem almost scared to give any validity to the use of God’s law in the life of a Christian at all. Based on what I’ve heard and read, methinks Kevin DeYoung is providing a valuable addition to the very necessary conversation – perhaps we could soon see brothers linking arms Together for the Law and Gospel.

The Hole in Our Holiness from The Gospel Coalition on Vimeo.

A sermon by DeYoung excerpted from one of the chapters in his new book:

Uncategorized

September 3, 2011

Biblical Ecclesiology Has Left the Building…

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(By: Nick Kennicott)

I regularly get glossy mailers from the latest and greatest church plants in/around our community and instantly run to the computer to check out their website. The newest one has a “Sunday worship experience” and seeks to “be Jesus” to our community. In other words, it seems as though worship is about feeling good and getting excited. And I hate to break it to my new neighbors, but they will never be Jesus to anybody, nor should they want to. We are all lame, broken, fallen substitutes that fall far short of the true King of kings. I don’t want a substitute and I don’t want to offer one either. I want Jesus.

Here’s their teaser: “When you come to a Sunday experience at ____ you can expect a coffee waiting for you and friendly faces. Your kids have an exciting safe environment for them with fun in mind. They won’t be bored to death. Our worship is upbeat and passionate and will probably look more like a concert from a venue downtown.”

Lovely.

I think I’ll stick with biblical worship on the Lord’s Day and catch an actual concert at a venue downtown some other night.

I’m so grateful the Lord has given us clear instruction from the Bible regarding ecclesiology, worship, and the importance of the ordinary means of grace. I am humbled by God’s truth and have a great desire to pray all the more for the purity of Jesus’ bride.

Ecclesiology,Theology

September 1, 2011

The Man-Centered, Downhill Slide

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(By: Nick Kennicott)

Whenever the church becomes increasingly man-centered, she begins the downhill slide, often without recovery, and always to her detriment. Once yielding the high ground of Calvinism, a self-absorbed church puts its full weight onto the slippery slope of Arminianism, resulting in a loss of its foundational stability. Tragically, however, the descent rarely stops there. Historically, man-centered doctrine has served only as a catalyst for an even greater fall.

Rappelling down the slippery slopes of Arminianism, one is soon to find the church sinking deeper and deeper and deeper into a murky quagmire of heretical ideas. Such a descent inevitably gives way to liberalism, the utter rejection of the absolute authority of Scripture. From liberalism – given enough time – the church always plunges yet lower into ecumenism, the deadly philosophy that embraces all religions as having some part of the truth. Continuing this downward spiral, the church plummets into universalism, the damning belief that all men eventually will be saved. Yet worse, universalism gives way to agnosticism, a degenerate view that one cannot even know whether there is a God. Finally, the church falls into the deepest abyss – the hellish flames of atheism, the belief that there is no God.

-Steven J. Lawson, Foundations of Grace: 1400 BC – AD 100

Miscellanious,Service

June 9, 2011

Joplin

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On Sunday afternoon, May 22nd, around 4:00pm, my wife and I were taking a nap when Paige’s mom, Lisa Satterfield, called Paige’s cell phone from Baxter Springs, Kansas. Lisa casually told Paige that a tornado hit Joplin; then she had to take another call and said goodbye.

Paige woke me up, told me what her mom said, and I quickly jumped online to check out any tweets from Joplin. Sure enough, I immediately began reading things like, “Total devastation;” “Hospital hit hard;” “Massive tornado.” We turned on the Weather Channel to see footage of reporter Mike Bettes in front of St. John’s Medical Center. It looked terrible. I got back online and mapped St. Johns in comparison to Paige’s grandparents home. According to Google Maps, their home was approximately 1.6 miles from St. John’s. By this time, we started to worry, though we were only beginning to understand the sad enormity of the disaster and the personal effect it had on our family.

We were pulling into our church parking lot at 6:00pm (Arizona time) when Paige’s brother, Drew, called from Baxter Springs to share the much-anticipated news: “Grandma and Cathy are okay,” he said, “but Grandpa…”. Paige interrupted him with her voice shaking, “But what about Grandpa?!”

Grandpa didn’t make it.

Paige and I decided at that moment that we would turn around, go home, and book the next flights out of town to be with the family. After a brief time of prayer in the parking lot with some dear family and friends, we headed home, bought two one-way tickets, reserved a rental car, packed, and caught a few hours of sleep. We were on a plane headed for Tulsa at 6:30 Monday morning, May 23rd.

After a long day of traveling, Paige and I arrived in Baxter Springs, Kansas, just 16 miles from Joplin, late Monday afternoon. For the next 72 hours we spent our days searching for valuables and keepsakes at the site of where the Buttram’s home once stood and our evenings sharing smiles and tears with family.

Below is the video recounting some of our time in Joplin. Even in the midst of sadness, God brought comfort and relief.



Also, here is a link to view some of the pictures I took while there.

I want to thank all of those who knew of this event and offered prayers of behalf of me and Paige and the Satterfield/Buttram family. We have much to thank God for. Clearly, it was nothing short of a miracle that anyone survived in that home. God was merciful.

God continues to teach us many things through this providence. We are learning to better trust in Him through all of life’s tragedies; to be mindful of the brevity of life; to rely solely on Christ for our every need; to know the comforting power of the Holy Spirit; to grow in love for one another; and to be grateful and content with all that God has given us.

Our faith is strengthened knowing that God is sovereign over the winds and rain. Grandpa Odell didn’t die a minute sooner or a minute later than God planned it. And as my sister-in-law Morgan said, “It’s kind of comforting knowing that Grandpa died in a tornado.” Thinking that an odd statement, Paige probed for some clarification. What Morgan meant was that it’s comforting because we know that tornadoes are acts of God, not acts of men. He wasn’t killed in a car accident or by a gunshot, but in a tornado. Therefore, we rest fully in God’s providence knowing that Grandpa was taken by God from this sin-cursed earth to heaven where he now sits at the feet of His beloved Jesus. (But knowing how much of a collector of precious metals Grandpa Odell was, we’re just hoping he’s not chipping away at the gold pavement!)

Paige and I love these words from Psalm 91, and they seem especially relevant in light of what has occurred:

“Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” …If you say, “The LORD is my refuge,” and you make the Most High your dwelling, no harm will overtake you, no disaster will come near your tent.” Psalm 91:1, 2, 9, 10

Thank you again for continued prayer on behalf of this family and all of the families affected by the Joplin tornado. We know that the faithful prayers of God’s people are effective as we see God’s strength and comfort touching Grandma Evelyn, Cathy, and the rest of our family.

David Giarrizzo

Christian Living,Christians and Culture,Ecclesiology,Evangelism,Gospel

May 4, 2011

Church as Place and People

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(By: Nick Kennicott)

I am very thankful for the emphasis in the following quote regarding the church as a place and as a people. A proper understanding of the means of grace and their use necessitates an understanding of the Church, not as either/or, but both/and:

We do not have to choose between the church as place and as people. Because it is first of all a place where God is at work, it becomes a people who leave the assembly as forgiven, renewed, and strengthened disciples who are prepared to love and serve their neighbors in the world. Of course, the church is not a building, but it is a public assembly where the Triune God is the primary actor. We are not the church merely as individuals and our private spiritual disciplines and moral activity are effects of grace, not the means of grace. Therefore, we mustgo to church if we are to be the church…in the formal gathering of the church, God serves his people through Word and sacrament, and they leave the assembly to fulfill their callings in the world. This is where their good works go: to their brothers and sisters, co-workers, family members, and neighbors who need them. God’s Word comes to us from outside of ourselves, outside of our ability to control it and make it an echo of our own felt needs and aspirations. And then as the Spirit wins our inward consent to its searching judgment and surprising promises, we are filled with love for our neighbors who need our vocations and witness.


-Michael Horton, Renewing the Great Commission