In just a couple days, episode 50 will drop. It’s hard to believe Spurgeon Audio has come this far from those first few raw episodes I recorded in Jon’s studio. I had no real idea what, exactly, I wanted this to be, other than a chance to share with others the words that were inspiring me in my walk. In that time I have passed through some deep, deep valleys as well as witnessed beautiful heights.
And so many of you have passed through those times with me, at a distance. The encouragement I’ve gotten from so many as I’ve developed this platform by God’s grace and through His wisdom has been incredibly gracious and kind. I continue to covet all your prayers and I am hoping to continue to build relationships with the brethren as I seek to bless you in any way I can.
A few stats
I have purposefully not dwelt on numbers much with this podcast, because I don’t want to be sitting around obsessing over download numbers and Alexa ratings. But I did want to share a few numbers that make me very happy:
The number one streamed and downloaded episode is Episode 35: The Glorious Gospel. If there is any episode that I hope will hold the theme of this podcast, it is that one both in title and in substance. I hope that as long as I am able to produce this, that I will never waver from that.
The third-most is Episode 34: Earthquake but not Heartquake. I recorded this one shortly before the beginning of one of my darkest times, and certainly God led me through the truth of the words I read that day. I hope it has strengthened others in their own struggles.
The list of countries that I have seen listeners coming from is mindboggling. It is incredibly humbling to know you have given your time to listen to this podcast, and I hope you will continue to join in.
My desire is to begin to release this podcast more regularly. I have not been as disciplined as I could be in this effort and I want to become more focused on producing content here, both original work and more Spurgeon sermons.
There are a couple things I would like to ask for input or advice on before I sign out here:
I have steadfastly refused and will continue to refuse to ask for donations. I believe that if you are desiring to give money to support a ministry, it’s best given to your own local body. I am, however, considering monetizing either through ads or sponsorships of some kind. If you have thoughts or helpful input on this I welcome any and all advice and direction.
I have been using the same music for a while, and I’m hoping to find more to share. If you are an artist looking for platforms to get ears on your tunes, or if you’re just interested in collaborating, I would love to hear from you. I’m not looking for free handouts, and I hope you will consider dropping me a line.
On the occasion of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, I wrote a little article over at Theology Mix on faith, what it is and how it makes and fuels Christians to live in light of Christ. Check out the excerpt below and follow the link for more!
It is difficult to talk about the meaning of “salvation by faith alone” apart from its fellow slogans of the Reformation, because they inform each other and play different roles: we are saved by the grace of God through faith in Christ for God’s glory. But each of those has such a deep meaning behind it that they deserve…
Every morning at work I have a basic routine to kick things off, before I actually clock in and start to business. I fire up my computer, get all the basic programs I need loaded, and pop up a browser window to glance at Google News for what’s going on. It’s interesting to see what gets pushed to the top, and the other day one appeared that really caught my eye: “Trump: ‘We’re Saying Merry Christmas Again.‘”
President Trump reignited the “war on Christmas” on Friday, telling a crowd of supporters that “we’re saying merry Christmas again” now that he’s president.
Speaking to a packed crowd at the Values Voter Summit in Washington, D.C., Trump argued political correctness has gotten in the way of celebrating the holiday.
“We’re getting near that beautiful Christmas season that people don’t talk about anymore. They don’t use the word Christmas because it’s not politically correct,” he said to strong applause and cheers from the audience at the Christian public policy conference, sponsored by the Family Research Council.
So I am in a position where essentially I find myself at odds both with my very traditional-minded conservative brethren as well as my friends on the left. The latter is probably more normal for my experience, but as I have tried to push forward in seeking Christ in obedience to the gospel, I have noted many times that what often passes for Christianity in the US is, unfortunately, very much the opposite in various ways.
Those ways differ from place to place, but they work out the same way: rather than worship God boldly and joyfully, obeying the commands to not fear and to rejoice in all things, they instead are seeking after themselves. They use the name of Jesus, they claim to love and believe in Him. Yet they operate in fear and they do not rejoice, at least not in Him, not the way modeled by the early church. They put immense weight on cultural expressions of Christianity (like visible decorations and holidays) but their handling of such issues rarely reflects the heart of Christ towards others.
The apostles left the beatings they received at the command of the Sanhedrin “rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name [of Jesus].” Are Western Christians similarly ready to truly suffer loss and pain for the sake of Jesus? Or are we fleeing from pain for the sake of our comfort? Are we trusting to God in all things or are we trying to control the world to our tastes?
When I see the President or any other public figure standing in front of a group that has declared itself to be Christian and delivering the line “We’re saying merry Christmas again” as though it is demonstration that victory has been won over the godless pagans who only say “happy holidays,” I am deeply concerned. I am concerned that for many in the West, Christianity has been reduced to platitudes and traditions. I am concerned that the Jesus worshiped in the hearts of many is not the Savior who died on the cross and the mighty King who sits upon His throne, who will one day dispense both justice and mercy perfectly.
What I see is many evangelicals trying to build a fortress to hide themselves and their families inside, lest they be impacted by a society that is darkening around them. They are doing exactly what Jesus said not to do, and hiding their light under a basket. And when they do try to drag it out, there is little love in it. Rather, there seems to be a great deal of arrogance and self-righteousness.
Brethren, if the thing that excites you is the idea that “Now we can give Christmas-specific greetings rather than generic holiday ones because the federal government is slightly less antagonistic towards Christians,” I would suggest you need to stop for a moment and examine your own heart. As Christians we ought to be thinking about things like “How can we look at the people near us who are hurting and lost and serve them in a way that glorifies Jesus? How can we make the gospel our speech and walk every day?”
And if we’re going to talk about Christmas, then perhaps ask yourself, “How can we use this celebration of the incarnation of the Son of God to show what it really means to worship a God that is so mighty He requires nothing, and yet cares so much about His creation that He became flesh to pay the price for our wicked and sinful deeds?” We should be able to live even in a society that truly despises us and still be serving and loving, because that is the model Christ set even as He was despised and rejected.
The point of this post is not to hate Trump or rag on him. I do not hate him and to despise him like that would likewise be un-Christlike. But I believe that it is unwise and just as un-Christlike for believers to attach their affections and hopes to a man who is so manifestly manipulative and who clearly has no interest in the faith beyond what it can bring him in the moment. Hope in God alone.
Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation. When his breath departs, he returns to the earth; on that very day his plans perish.
Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, who keeps faith forever; who executes justice for the oppressed, who gives food to the hungry.–Psalm 146:3-7
I’ve already mentioned it on Twitter and Facebook, but due to an equipment failure unfortunately production on future episodes both of this and the Morning & Evening podcasts are on hold for the time being. My laptop was apparently damaged somehow in transit while I was on a business trip and the screen no longer works. If I can’t fix it, I’ll have to replace it, which probably means next month some time. Apologies to everyone, especially those of you who have been so encouraging through the production of the M&E podcast at Theology Mix (and to the other guys who have produced recordings for it). I will update as soon as I am able to get everything back up and running.
I have really, really been thinking about if I even want to say anything about the election. Friends who know me from years past are probably amazed, because they know me as a guy who was always up for a debate, always reading and engaging. But this election has been absolutely off-putting and bizarre for a lot of reasons, and I do want to enumerate at least a few of those, as well as give a few thoughts on how I want to move forward, as a Christian and as a man who has often identified himself as a conservative and a Republican in one form or another.
This was probably the biggest disaster of an election I could have ever conceived of. I made the comparison several times on Facebook that for Christians, this election was the equivalent of the infamous Kobayashi Maru scenario from Star Trek.
On the one hand, you had a candidate who was overtly antagonistic to Christians, whose leaked emails revealed a campaign with not only no regard for believers but who openly opposed them, and intended to continue the Obama administration “pen and phone” efforts to force leftist social changes onto the country. And on top of all that, before the campaign even began she was carrying enough scandalous baggage to make Richard Nixon look like Abraham Lincoln. So for a lot of Christians, trying to avoid the consequences of Hillary’s victory was a major issue.
On the other hand, however, you had what amounted for many Christians to a big question mark. Donald Trump mouthed a lot of the right platitudes and shook hands with the right people, he was photographed bowing his head and closing his eyes with American evangelical leaders…but he had a long and unsavory history of being after number one more than anything else, of doing whatever it took to squeeze the last penny out of a business before jumping ship and letting whatever was left sink in bankruptcy court. And of course there’s this:
“So what?” a lot of people said. “Who cares if Donald Trump isn’t some perfect Christian, we’re not electing a pastor.” “He’s repented of that and we should forgive him,” others said. And above all, the droning repetition of “We have to stop Hillary. If you oppose Trump you support Hillary. You don’t want her as president, do you?”
But by supporting Trump, many evangelicals stood completely at odds with their own positions on presidents with similar records of debauchery, infidelity and covenant-breaking…who happened to have a D after their names. Well, name, because we all know who I’m referring to–the husband, ironically, of the candidate who claims to be running to defend the rights of women, who has made a name for himself as a serial cheater and possible rapist.
And so, we have the Kobayashi Maru. We can enter the neutral zone and find ourselves the targets of Klingon torpedoes with #ImWithHer emblazoned on them, or we can just be on our way and support a man whose behavior and political positions up until recently have really not set him apart at all from Hillary’s husband and…hope for the best?
For the record, I did not vote for either of them. I have found myself saying many times over the course of the last few elections that my hope does not lie in votes or candidates, and this election perhaps more than any other has forced a realization of the truth of that statement. In an absolutely stunning turn of events and against all expectations, Donald Trump won the presidency, and my social media feeds have exploded with a lot of different messages. I have friends all over the political, social and religious spectrum, going back to school days in Minnesota up to today in work and church.
What I have heard has been a range of fear, anger and frustration on one side, and hope, happiness and even some optimism on the other. What I don’t see much of, though, is any meaningful interaction between the two. I don’t say, no interaction at all, because there has been interaction–it’s just been pointless. One guy going into a thread to call someone else a “libtard” or someone else posting angry screeds on someone else’s wall telling them that they’ve chosen racism and hatred over being a good human being does not make for thoughtful discussion. It makes for building up walls, it makes for simply digging in deeper to preconceived opinions, and it certainly made for more anger for everyone involved. Anger from my friends on the left as they continue to perceive their political opponents as racist, hate-filled, and irredeemable. Anger from my friends on the right as they see their political opponents as completely entrenched and unwilling to think beyond a media message.
And me? I don’t believe either candidate deserved the position. My thoughts on this entire matter are probably summed up best by this quote from the 16th century reformer John Calvin:
Biblically this is certainly true. God turned the Israelites over to evil rulers, kings and governors and conquerors when they would flee obedience and seek after their own desires, until they repented and He would set them free. When Jesus came, the Jewish leaders chose to turn Him over to the Roman leaders as an accused opponent of the Roman emperor rather than follow after Him as the true King of all. And we still see this happening throughout history, as nations embrace the boot that crushes them so many times, before the glimmer of first hope shines in repentance.
So from my perspective, even more so there was no winning with either candidate. No matter who won, we had a leader who was not a servant of the people, but a ruler who wanted what he wanted. The only question was which flavor of tyranny the people would choose.
But even with that I have to be careful, because the temptation is to dive headfirst into cynicism and disconnection, from people and from loving others. The challenge grows ever greater for a Christian who takes the faith seriously to remember: this is not about winning elections. This is not about “saving the culture” or “advancing an agenda” or any of the other myriad of things people say about political action. Our goal as believers, saved by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ, is to serve, to love and to preach the Gospel faithfully.
If you are afraid, if you are hopeful, if you are simply ambivalent, I’ve found representatives from all these camps in Christ. And for all of us, the same truth remains:
I can’t tell you “Feel this way. Don’t feel that way.” But I can say, trust your Father, and know that even if what we are seeing is His judgment on a wicked nation, it is a judgment that is happening with us here to continue serving as ministers of reconciliation, to carry the Gospel forth and to love our neighbors. If you are afraid, remember that not a sparrow falls without your Father knowing it and reigning over even such small consequences. If you are excited, remember that your God is the one who sets up and casts down kings, and let your worship rest on Him, not on the tools He uses. In all things, let’s love our neighbors and our enemies, and do good to the ones who curse us.
I need to remember that myself more than anyone. Friends, I pledge to you that I will do my best to avoid mocking, belittling or ignoring in any way. That does not mean that I will agree with you, but I will listen to you, and I hope that in the end what we find is a chance to overcome needless division and find peace.
We are closing in on the end of our first month releasing audio recordings of the Morning and Evening devotional through Theology Mix. I wanted to thank Ryan Jackson, Len Flack and Cody Almanzar for being a part of creating these, and I am excited to see this through to the end of the book. I’d also like to thank Jeremy Lundmark for bringing Spurgeon Audio into the ThM fold and encouraging me as I’ve pursued production of this podcast.
I think I wasn’t quite prepared at first for the scope of a project this size, even if each episode is only a couple minutes long. But I am glad that it has gone so smoothly to date and I am hopeful that this has a positive impact on listeners. If you have listened and enjoyed, please share them with your friends and family. I am planning to keep these available for free download indefinitely.
If you are subscribed to the Spurgeon Audio RSS feed and wonder why you aren’t getting these twice-daily updates, it’s because they aren’t coming through that feed. You should make sure you subscribe to Theology Mix through iTunes or your favorite podcast catcher, and you will be able to receive these daily, in addition to being able to follow several other excellent podcasts as well.
You can listen to and read all the Morning and Evening episodes released to date here, and don’t forget to follow Spurgeon Audio on Facebook and Twitter. If there are sermons you’d like to hear recorded, email me and we will add them to our list for the future.
Now we get to what I consider the real heart of the matter. It’s also the part most likely to upset and offend, because it is going to involve directly naming and confronting sinfulness. However, at the bottom of it, it involves the question of what makes humanity valuable, what reason anyone would have to believe that humans have an inherent value more than simply the sum of our parts. So let’s get right to the question that’s been thrown out by many to Christians:
How can you say that you are praying for the victims and that you love them, when you condemn them and say they are in sin?
To answer this question, we need to look at the very foundation of the Christian faith and worldview, and we need to go back to the very beginning. Well, a few days after the beginning:
All right, let’s get this out of the way right now:
Does the Bible say that Christians are supposed to kill homosexuals?
No, it doesn’t.
Okay, okay, calm down. There is quite a bit to say on this because I want to make sure I handle the Scripture rightly on this. Once again, for a subject commonly engaged with a great deal of emotion and where personal experience is valued over transcendent truth, I desire to take it out of that and into the realm of the testimony of the text.
Homosexuality is forbidden in the Mosaic law, in Leviticus 18:22: “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.” Leviticus 20:13 gives the punishment for this act: “If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them.” But again, as mentioned above with regards to Qur’anic commands to execute homosexuals, this is not a command given to all people anywhere to carry out as they wish. This is given to the people of Israel, within the framework of the Mosaic law, to be carried out in that legal system.
That system, of course, does not exist any longer in the sense of the ancient nation of Israel. There is a country called Israel that occupies roughly the same area geographically, but they do not hold themselves under this law. But what about Christians? How do we regard these passages?
I want to start with a couple questions relating to the shooter himself, and his reported faith as a Muslim. I want to address the issue of what it is that drives anyone, at the root, to such a depraved act. I also want to talk about what it means for us as we look at our Muslim neighbors and try to understand what they really believe, and how they can live as Muslims and stand opposed to violence like this.
Firstly: What kind of man could do something so horrible to people who have never hurt him? How can someone commit such an unrepentantly evil act, with so little regard for human life? Even without the issue of radical Islamic terrorism, such an inhuman act is repulsive to consider.
The answer to the first ties into my answer for the last. Somewhere in his mind, this man began to see others as less human than himself. Though he laid claim to a religious identity that made him a creature alongside every other man, in his mind and by his actions he set himself up as the true arbiter of morality. The picture we are getting of him is becoming broader and stranger with each passing hour. But the bottom line is that he placed himself above others, he decided that he was fit to carry out judgment against them by his own reckoning, and ended the lives of people who posed no threat to him. Furthermore, he did it in the name of two organizations that preach the radical message of Salafi Islam, or what is called wahhabism in the West.
The shooter claimed to be a Muslim–was he really Muslim? Do all Muslims have to act like the shooter?
A discussion of the divisions within Islam is not a simple one and probably not possible within a blog post like this. I would highly recommend James White’s book What Every Christian Needs to Know About the Qur’an for an excellent discussion of foundational Muslim beliefs, but most fundamentally: the organizations that the shooter claimed allegiance to both represent, as I mentioned, an ultra-conservative division within the Sunni denomination of Islam. Sunnis are the largest branch of Islam, representing over 90% of Muslims in the world. The Shi’a branch represents the next largest slice, but only at about 5% of Muslims. The rest is made up of smaller sects like the Ahmadiyya, Sufi, and Druze, among many others.
It is hard to make a simple pronouncement like “he wasn’t a Muslim” because of this action, since there is so much divisions within the religion itself on that subject. The differences between a Sunni and a Shi’ite is not like the difference between, say, a Baptist and a Presbyterian. It’s more like the difference between a Baptist and a Roman Catholic: there are fundamental differences that, when you see how deep they run, reveal that they are different religions at their root.
The problem is that the Qur’an is not written with a singular, consistent message. There are major inconsistencies between early and later surahs, or chapters. Muhammad moved from being a minority prophet preaching tawhid, or the oneness of God, in the face of polytheistic paganism, to a majority prophet commanding the Muslim armies. So it’s possible to claim the name of Islam and live at peace in the West (as many do) by resting on certain surahs, while another can claim the name of Islam and march under the ISIS flag. There is simply no consistent message within the Qur’an to point to from the outside for such a thing.
This is not to say that individual Muslims cannot have a consistent way of living. But the problem is simply that it’s difficult to ascertain a consistent definition beyond the basics of belief that Allah is God and is one God alone, and belief that Muhammad is his prophet. So if you want to ask “Was he really a Muslim”, the answer is…it’s not as simple as some want to make it. He claimed to believe the tenets of the faith, yet it is becoming very clear he did not live consistently with them.
As to, do Muslims have to do this to be Muslims? That plays into the question of consistency again, and I would say the answer is clearly no. There are many Muslims in the West who are able to live, work, and thrive alongside non-Muslims not as secret sleeper agents as some of the more fevered among us imagine, but simply as fellow Americans. There are also Muslims here who have fallen into the sway of radicals, and unfortunately we have seen the result of this once again. As Dr. White pointed out on yesterday’s Dividing Line, one can certainly look at the Qur’an and find passages that require the killing of homosexuals, yet those are also intended to be carried out within some sort of system of justice, with a trial and witnesses, not by one assailant carrying out his own brand of justice. So one could certainly hold the belief that what the Qur’an commands regarding homosexuals is true, without believing that the response to this is picking up a gun and murdering others.
I am planning in the next couple of weeks to have a guest on the podcast to discuss Islam from the perspective of missionary work in an Islamic framework. I hope to be able to discuss all this and more in greater detail then. Until then I highly recommend getting Dr. White’s book and reading it.
My wife came up to me yesterday and asked me, “Does the Bible say we should kill gay people?” I was rather taken aback, since this subject doesn’t exactly come up on a regular basis. But as we discussed the issue, about what Scripture says and what a Christian response to an evil act like the Orlando nightclub shooting looks like, the discussion turned more to the responses she had seen on Facebook. And there are many understandable ones: What kind of person does something like this? How can we hope to stop this from happening again? Then there are ones that ask very pointed questions of Islam, as the shooter was a claimed adherent of Islam and, according to police, called 911 before or during the shooting and pledged allegiance to both ISIS and al Qaeda. Then there were some responses that involved Christians, both from the Christian side (such as “How should we be serving these people in their time of pain and loss?”) and from the secular side (most pointedly, “How can you say you love these people and pray for them when you say they are living in sin and condemned to hell?”)
I think these all deserve discussion from a Christian point of view. Most especially, they deserve discussion because when those around us experience pain and suffering, we should be ready to engage with them meaningfully–not with a pat answer and phony Christianese sunshine, but with the only real answer that matters, the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the hope it provides even in the darkest moments. I don’t intend to make this “the definitive Christian response” but I want to do my best to answer questions I know many of my friends have. I highly recommend listening to Dr. Albert Mohler’s excellent Briefing podcast episode from yesterday, as he calmly yet lovingly discusses some of the specifics from this issue. The Gospel Coalition also has some excellentposts, including one by Nabeel Qureshi, who converted from the Ahmadiyya denomination of Islam and is now a Christian apologist working with Ravi Zacharias’ ministry.
I’ll be putting up several posts over the next couple of days. I want to let this series of posts stand as a place to discuss the questions, responses, and frustrations of many, both Christian and not. I may update it as time goes on. Please feel free to post your own thoughts and anything you would like to see addressed in the comments below. I do moderate for spam and trolling, but I will never turn away honest and heartfelt questions and disagreement.
I want to divide this up into sections, beginning with the subject of the shooting itself and branching out to broader issues. For example:
What kind of man could do something so horrible to people who have never hurt him?
The shooter claimed to be a Muslim–was he really Muslim? Do all Muslims have to act like the shooter?
Does the Bible say we are supposed to kill homosexuals?
How can you say that you are praying for the victims and that you love them, when you condemn them and say they are in sin?
This is my prayerful and thoughtful attempt to bring a meaningful gospel response to a horrific and wicked act. I hope my readers can recognize this, and are willing to engage in that spirit.
Exciting news this week, as this podcast joins forces with the Theology Mix podcast network! Be sure to visit the website and check out the other awesome contributors. In future episodes you will start to hear promos for other shows, and I’ll be producing one for them to run for this show. There are a lot of great podcasts that you should add to your subscription list.
There are also a lot of awesome blog posts, such as this one right here: we’ve also made Calvinist Chewbacca’s list of Chewy Approved Podcasts! It’s truly an honor, and if that sounds absolutely bizarre…well, it really is an honor. Seriously, you guys.