Archive by Author | Paul O'Brien

Exercise vs. Eternity

10 Quotes on Preaching

“Expository preaching is the best method for displaying and conveying your conviction that the whole Bible is true… A careful expository sermon makes it easier for the hearers to recognize that the authority rest not in the speaker’s opinions or reasoning but in God, in his revelation through the text itself… Expository preaching enables God to set the agenda for your Christian community… Expository preaching lets the text set the agenda for the preacher as well… Exposition can prevent us from riding our personal hobbyhorses and pet issues… A steady diet of expository sermons also teaches your audience how to read their own Bibles”  (Timothy Keller, Preaching, 32-38).[1]

“Expository sermons help us let God set the agenda for our lives…. Secondly, expository preaching treats the Bible as God treated it, respecting particular contexts, history and style of the human authors” (Peter Adams, Speaking God’s Words: A Practical Theology of Preaching, 128).

“An expository sermon may be defined as a message whose structure and thought are derived from a biblical text, that covers the scope of the text, and that explains the features and context of the text in order to disclose the enduring principle for faithful thinking, living, and worship intended by the Spirit, who inspired the text” (Bryan Chapell, Christ-Centered Preaching, 31).

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A few thoughts on anxiety and fear

10 Quotes from John Piper’s book, Future Grace

“The commandments of God are not negligible because we are under grace.  They are double because we are under grace” (John Piper, Future Grace, 168).

“The way to fight sin in our lives is to battle our bent toward unbelief” (Piper, Future Grace, 219).

“The faith that justifies is a faith that also sanctifies… The test of whether our faith is the kind of faith that justifies is whether it is the kind of faith that sanctifies” (Ibid., 332).

“The blood of Christ obtained for us not only the cancellation of sin, but also the conquering of sin.  This is the grace we live under—the sin-conquering, not just sin-canceling, grace of God (Ibid., 333).

“The problem with our love for happiness is never that its intensity is too great. The main problem is that it flows in the wrong channels toward the wrong objects, because our nature is corrupt and in desperate need of renovation by the Holy Spirit” (Ibid., 397).

“The role of Gods Word is to feed faith’s appetite for God.  And, in doing this, it weans my heart away from the deceptive taste of lust” (Ibid., 335)

“It is this superior satisfaction in future grace that breaks the power of lust.  With all eternity hanging in the balance, we fight the fight of faith.  Our chief enemy is the lie that says sin will make our future happier.  Our chief weapon is the Truth that says God will make our future happier. We must fight it with a massive promise of superior happiness.  We must swallow up the little flicker of lust’s pleasure in the conflagration of holy satisfaction” (Ibid., 336).

“There are no closed countries to those who assume that persecution, imprisonment and death are the likely results of spreading the gospel.  (Matthew 24:9. RSV)” (Ibid., 345).

“Perseverance in faith is, in one sense, the condition of justification; that is, the promise of acceptance is made only to a persevering sort of faith, and the proper evidence of it being that sort is its actual perseverance” (Piper, Future Grace, 26 quoting Jonathan Edwards).

“Humility follows God like a shadow” (Ibid., 85).

10 Quotes from Jonathan Pennington’s book, Jesus the Great Philosopher

I appreciated Pennington’s book. He did a good job showing that “Christianity is more than a religion. It is a deeply sophisticated philosophy” (Jonathan T. Pennington, Jesus the Great Philosopher: Rediscovering the Wisdom Needed for the Good Life, 159).

Here are 10 quotes that stuck out to me:

“When we try to live without knowledge of physics and metaphysics—how the would is and how works—then we are foolish, not wise, living randomly, haphazardly, without direction or hope for security, happiness, or peace” (Pennington, Jesus the Great Philosopher, p. 23).

“The Bible is addressing precisely the same questions as traditional philosophy” (p. 53).

“The Old and New Testaments teach people to act in certain ways, knowing that cognitive and volitional choices not only reflect our emotions but also affect and educate them” (p. 120-21).

“Without intentional reflection, we will live our lives without direction and purpose. Or worse, we will live with misdirected and distorted goals” (p. 124).

“Relationships aren’t an add-on to life, they make up our life” (p. 134).

“Jesus himself emphasized that his kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36). This does not mean Christians are free to ignore this world, but instead it frees Christians to relate in a gracious and humble way, knowing their citizenship is ultimately something more and greater and different” (p. 166-67).

“The reason Jesus was so infuriating to both religious and government leaders was not because he was taking up arms and trying to overthrow governments but because his radical teachings were so subversive to society. Jesus was subversive because he sought to reform all sorts of relationships. In his teachings and actions, Jesus continually subverted fundamental values of both Jewish and Greco-Roman society” (p. 172). 

“Christianity is a deeply intentional and practical philosophy of relationships” (p. 173).

“Unlike sitcom relationships, the reality is that our lives are broken through sin—the brokenness not only of sin that has corrupted creation itself but also of personal acts of evil, foolishness, and harm. Thus, the Christian philosophy’s vision for relationships within God’s kingdom is not naive or idealistic” (p. 181).

Should Wives Work Outside the Home?

Titus 2:4-5 and 1 Timothy 5:14 talk about young wives working at home, is this the ideal role God ordained for women? Should women not work outside the home?

To answer those questions, it will be helpful to look at five considerations.

1. Principles from the Bible 

First, it is important to glean principles from the Bible to answer this question. The first principle or truth that I think is relevant is that God made humans gendered. The Bible clearly teaches that males and females are both made in the image of God (Gen. 1:26-27) and yet males and females differ from one another in some respects to various degrees. Scripture also teaches that within the family and within the church God has given complementary roles and gifts. For example, see the table from God, Marriage, and Family by Andreas Kostenberger:

The way that Andreas Kostenberger says it, is that “Women are to place special priority on their God-given calling as mothers and homemakers.”[1] That, I agree, seems to be a biblical principle. Women are especially equipped for that task (even physiologically).

2. Priorities from the Bible 

Next, it is important to consider priorities from a biblical perspective. We want our priorities to lineup with the priorities of Scripture. If they don’t we will have a problem with Scripture wherever it is at odds with our priorities. Our priorities, however, should be aligned with Scripture; we should not seek to align Scripture with our priorities.

Interestingly, “A 1982 Gallup poll showed that more than eight out of ten respondents (82 percent) assigned top priority… to the importance of family life. Families… rated as more important than the possession of material goods.”[2] Scripture agrees with what was the majority assessment in 1982 (see e.g. Deut. 11:19, 21; Ps. 127:3-5).

What, however, do we value?[3] Fortune or family?

Tacitcus, the Roman historian and politician writing around the same time as the Apostle Paul in A Dialogue on Oratory said,

“Our children are handed over at birth to some silly Greek servant maid… The parents themselves make no effort to train their little ones in goodness and self-control; they grow up in an atmosphere of laxity… they come to lose all sense of shame, and all respect for themselves and for other people.”

Tacitcus had a problem with that approach. And I think Christians should too.

We, however, haven’t answered our above question yet, but we’re getting there. But, it’s vital that we consider our motivation and priorities as we ask the question.

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What if Satan wants to destroy the Church more than the country?

In the book of Revelation the Church is not called to react to the End or the antichrist by moralistic, militaristic, or political means. The Church is called to return to Messiah Jesus, remembering that those who continue faithful to the End will receive the “crown of life.” The way of resistance of evil, is the way of Christ. That is, loving Christ Jesus, and loving others. Taking up our crosses and following Jesus and loving others, even when it hurts, is a sure sign that we don’t and won’t have the “mark of the beast.” 

What if the clearest mark of the beast is the mark of hatred and hostility? Many have thought it stood for Nero (the numerical value of 666), and perhaps it did in a way. He was, as history showed, marked by the beast. He was, as history showed, like his father the devil. He was proud and unloving, destructive and devilish.

Is not the mark of the Messiah, the mark of beatific love?1 Do not His followers, follow Him? If Jesus is love, should not His followers be loving?!2

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres” (Corinthians 13:4-7).

And would it not make sense that the converse also follows? If the mark of the Messiah is true sacrificial love, is not the mark of the antichrist hatred? And what if the serpent of old, the father of lies, the great deceiver, is adept at what he does? And what if he wants to destroy and divide even what Messiah Jesus died to bring together? And what if he even uses the means of media and the marketplace and various views on certain medical opinions regarding COVID-19? What if?…

And what if the worst thing that can happen to Christians is not that they’d lose earthly freedom(s), but that they’d lose heavenly crowns? not that their earthly country would be divided, but that their heavenly one would be? not that they’d have to wear a mask, but that they’d have a mask put over their eyes? What if Satan’s not primarily trying to destroy a country, but what if he desires to destroy Christians and Christian witness? What if Satan doesn’t want the nation to descend into debauchery, but wants Christians to be desensitized to their hatred and fear? 

Revelation also talks a lot about Babylon. Babylon was what a lot of people cared about and had their hopes fixed on. However, Christians, are marked by and are members of a different city. Christians have their hope wrapped up in a city, but it’s a different city, a city that comes down from heaven, a city that couldn’t be built here. It’s beyond and better than here. 

Christians live, labor, and love in Babylon, but they’re waiting for something better. They’re waiting for Jerusalem to come down. 

Christian brothers and sisters, are you showing the mark of your Savior? The characteristics of Christ? The mark of your true city? Or, are you too wrapped up here? Are you betting on Babylon3 or are you “looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God”?!

We, as Christians, are sojourners here in Babylon. Our time is short. Let’s be a blessing as Scripture exhorts us (Jeremiah 29:7). But, let’s remember, any castle we build with our hoarded cash, will soon wash away with the tide of time. Let’s not lay up hoards here or place our hope here. But in heaven. 


1 Ephesians 1:13 tells us that all who are in Messiah Jesus have been sealed (or marked?!) with the promised Holy Spirit. Notice also that it is the Holy Spirit in Jesus followers who produces the fruits of the Spirit, one of those fruits being love.

2 God alone provides access to the Garden of Eden and the pathway there is through the Golgotha of sacrificial love. 

3 If politics has you overly down, perhaps it’s because you placed your hope in a ship that must inevitably sink. 

Morality and Politics in America

John Adams said a long time ago, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” And the conservative Edmund Burke said, “What is liberty without wisdom, and without virtue? It is the greatest of all possible evils; for it is folly, vice, and madness, without tuition or restraint.” Here are some similar insights Alexis de Tocqueville shared in his book, Democracy in America*:

“Liberty cannot be established without morality, nor morality without faith.”

“Society is endangered not by the great profligacy of a few, but by the laxity of morals amongst all.”

 “Liberty cannot be established without morality, nor morality without faith.”

“When a nation[‘s] well of public virtue has run dry: in such a place one no longer finds citizens but only subjects.”

 “The health of a democratic society may be measured by the quality of functions performed by private citizens.”

“A nation cannot long remain strong when every man belonging to it is individually weak.”

“What one must fear, moreover, is not so much the sight of the immorality of the great as that of immorality leading to greatness.”

“So religion, which among the Americans never directly takes part in the government of society, must be considered as the first of their political institutions; for if it does not give them the taste for liberty, it singularly facilitates their use of it.”

“Religion is much more necessary in the republic.”

“In order that society should exist, and a fortiori, that a society should prosper, it is required that all the minds of the citizens should be rallied and held together by certain predominant ideas.”**

“Despotism may govern without faith, but liberty cannot… How is it possible that society should escape destruction if the moral tie be not strengthened in proportion as the political tie is relaxed? and what can be done with a people which is its own master, if it be not submissive to the Divinity?”

No matter who ultimately gets elected, if what Adams and Tocqueville said were right, and I think they were, it’s only a matter of time before a pretty significant downfall of America. Many moral dominos have fallen, and I don’t so much mean abortion and gender confusion. I mean the more common and prevalent lack of virtue, which has precipitated more visible concerns. Now the only truth that is readily accepted is that there is no truth, only what is right for the autonomous self. Those were dominos. Those have been falling. 

America needs: revival. Not of the Republican Party, but of people set on fire for the true Savior. Revival is what would make people “moral and religious,” as Adams spoke of and which our Nation rests or topples on.

Whatever happens, Christians trust the One who has the government on His shoulders. The One who is “called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” The One of whom it can be said: “Of the greatness of His government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over His kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore” (Isaiah 9:6-7).

Whatever happens, Christians can trust that God is very adept at using a remnant for His good purposes to highlight His glory and goodness. Perhaps America won’t be saved, but perhaps millions of Americans will be?!

*As an aside, I think it is interesting to note what Tocqueville said about wealth in America remembering that Scripture says, that the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil (1 Tim. 6:10). Many have “noted the American obsession with work and the restless quest for the “almighty dollar” (Tocqueville, Democracy in America). Tocqueville also said, “The love of wealth is . . . to be traced, either as a principal or an accessory motive, at the bottom of all that the Americans do” (Ibid.). As well as, “One must go to America to understand what power material well-being exerts on political actions and even on opinions themselves, which ought to be subject only to reason” (Ibid.).

**Such as the reality of objective truth actually existing.

How to Evaluate Christian Leaders?

Recently, I’ve seen a lot of Christian leaders be criticized or criticize, and even call other Christian leaders names because of disagreement on such things as politics, the pandemic, and policies regarding justice. And not surprisingly, those who are not leaders are also jumping into the fray and lobbing grenades too.

How many people, however, actually think through the appropriate way to evaluate Christian leaders? And how many people know what reasons Scripture gives for concern? How many Christians have a sort of theological triage they use to evaluate and make these important decisions?

There are doctrines of “prime importance and great weight” that we must insist on.[1] “There is a time to fight. There are certain hills that must not be surrendered, even if the cost is losing our lives.”[2] Some of the hills that we must be willing to die on are the deity, life, death, resurrection, and Second Coming of the Lord Messiah Jesus. 

Other doctrines, beliefs, and convictions are, or should be, a little further down the list of importance. Just as a doctor would jump to help the patient with a gunshot wound to the chest before she would help someone with a broken pinky finger. It is not that the pinky finger is not important; it is that the gunshot wound is more important and dire.

So, let’s look at some biblical criteria by which to evaluate Christian leaders. It should be understood that these criteria do not have the same weight. The criteria of “Christology,” for example, should be given more weight of importance than “Clarity.”

1. Christology (& sound doctrine)

Christian leaders have the duty to communicate God’s transforming truth, exalt Jesus Christ, teach the Bible so that people understand and apply what God has said, and encourage conformity to Christ (see e.g. Neh. 8:7-8; 1 Tim. 3:2). Faithfulness to the revelation of God and preaching Christ are paramount (Col. 1:28). If the word of God and Jesus the Messiah are not being preached then you have reason for concern.

If false or unhealthy things are said or taught about God, His word, or Jesus the Messiah then you have great reason for concern and should share your concern and likely leave that individual’s leadership. It is important that we are aware that leaders sometimes don’t preach the truth. Peter told us that there will be false teachers among us, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought us (2 Pet. 2:1).

If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions” (1 Tim. 6:3-4).

So, in a evaluating a Christian leader, ask yourself:

  • “Does this person preach/teach true, healthy doctrine? Does this person preach/teach the goodness and glory of Messiah Jesus?”

Don’t ask:

  • “Do I like the style etc. of the person?”

See also: Deut. 13:1-5; 1 Jn. 4:1-3; 1 Cor. 12:3; Col. 1:28; 2:8 2 Thess. 2:15; 1 Tim. 1:10; 2 Tim. 1:13; 4:3; Titus 1:9, 13.

2. Character

The leaders own life should be in order. That is, the leader should have Christ-like character. Leaders and teachers can “profess to know God” and yet “deny Him by their works” (Titus 1:16). That’s partly why it’s so important that Christian leaders meet the biblical qualifications (1 Tim. 3:1-13; Titus 1:1-9).

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Disagreement Over Doctrine

Doctrine matters. Doctrine can cause delight or be very damaging. And sadly, false doctrine is more common than many people realize.

It’s not just me that says deception and damaging doctrine is prevalent though. That’s what Scripture says (see Matt. 24:11, 24; Mk. 13:22; Acts 28:31). False teaching is not a small concern. There is false teaching that is the doctrine of demons (1 Tim. 4:1). Remember, as Ephesians 6:12 says, we are at war not with humans but with unseen spiritual powers. This is serious. Paul says this will happen in “later times.” That’s where we are now. We are in the last days, the days in between the Ascension and the Return of Jesus Christ.

It’s helpful here, however, to consider that not everything we disagree with is the “doctrine of demons.” So, it helpful for us to consider “theological triage.” There are some teachings that are especially connected to the good news of Jesus Christ and there are other things that are further down the list of importance. 

There are some things that are absolutes, like the deity and full humanity of Jesus Christ, the Trinity, and the authority of Scripture. There are, however, things that are less critical when it comes to theological triage. For example, what we believe about the end times is not as critical as what we believe about Jesus and how people are saved.

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