Monday, December 31, 2012

Final Journey Post!


It was awesome. And it was (for me anyway) really, really challenging. In fact, I feel like I’ve graduated or something. Many months before 2012 began (23 in fact) I heard of a church in another state that went through the whole Bible in a year together. I was so impressed and thought, “That would be so good for us!” But my next thought was, “But I’m not sure I can preach through the Bible in a year.” Frankly, I was flat out scared. It would be an epic challenge. I know...people don’t want to hear pastors talk about how hard it is to preach; so I’ll keep my whining to a minimum. But I’m telling you, about September, I was feeling as close to burnout as I’ve ever felt (as evidenced by the lack of posts since then!). I love to study God’s Word. Love it. I love to share its riches and wisdom and truth with others. This Journey was so different, however. The 30,000-foot perspective was a great discipline for me as a reader and a teacher for many reasons:
  • It forced me to focus on the big themes: who God is and how he works, his plan and his providence.
  • It helped me see and communicate how well the Old and New Testaments fit together.
  • It solidified in me certain doctrinal beliefs I’ve held:
    • God’s sovereignty in all matters.
    • The reason for pain and evil, and the necessity of our own suffering.
    • The wonder of God’s grace, and our unworthiness of it.
    • The meaning and supremacy of the atonement of Christ.
    • The exceeding goodness of the Good News.
    • The way all things will end, and how to better interpret apocalyptic passages.
    • The uniqueness and wonder and mystery and inerrancy of God’s Word.

The discipline of reading (and for me, studying) large swaths of the Bible each week was hugely beneficial.
  • It kept my thoughts on God and his thoughts. I’m amazed by him and love him more.
  • It served as a constant positive “pressure” to be disciplined.
  • It gave so many great opportunities to have spiritual conversations with my family and others.

But I’ve got to say, I’m so glad it’s over.
  • I’ll have much more timeMy study time was ridiculous during 2012. Probably 35 hours a week on average (I know, but I’m not as smart as others). It just took that much time to read and digest the passages, then outline them and determine main themes & applications, then see what scholars/commentaries say (to make sure I wasn’t off base), and then reduce the content to manageable size and make it understandable. I’ve gained 12 lbs. this year because I virtually stopped running (it’s the first thing to go when I get short on time) and I’m grossly out-of-shape. I’m going to be much more pleasant to my kids on the weekends and will get back to enjoying some things I didn’t do much of (fishing, hunting, hiking, going to ballgames, working in the garden, working on our cars, house, etc.). The staff at church will see me more. My small group will get their leader back. I’ll be a better pastor. I’ll be a better son, friend, husband, dad, and neighbor. (Man, I’m a whiner!)
  • You’ll get out of church on timeBelieve me, nobody was more stressed than me about going 50 (or sometimes more!) minutes. On many weeks I would be up Saturday night until 2:00am trying to cut content, and then be hoarse from Sunday afternoon until Tuesday from talking too long. It was exhausting, and I hated myself for going too long. I would promise the staff that I would be shorter...only to make myself a liar.
  • I’m looking forward to putting away the telescope and getting out the microscope.
    Bite-sizes are so much more enjoyable, and perhaps more beneficial. We’ll get back to this “proper portion” size the first week of February when we start Romans. And there’s not a better time for Romans—after grasping the whole Bible! I can't wait!
So many people have said that God used the Journey to deepen them in 2012. I’m thankful. I definitely think we did right by attempting this crazy thing! But I’m glad it’s over. Now I pray that God will move all of us forward as we become more conformed to his image.
Thanks, Lord, for how you’ve worked. Please grow us more. Please grow me more. 

Friday, November 30, 2012

The Home Stretch

A long time ago in high school I ran track. As a sprinter, I loved the 100 and 200 (it was 220 yards back then). But occasionally, my coach asked me to run the 1/4 mile (i.e., the 440 yard dash—a couple of steps longer than the 400 meters in today's track meets).

My track team from 1985. I'm a junior. Third from the left on the bottom row.
It was brutal! One lap around the track at full speed. I can remember what it was like to turn the final corner and see the finish line. Back then they would stretch "the tape" across the finish line and the winner got the privilege of "breaking the tape." So there it was, the tape just glimmered there at the end of the home stretch. My legs would be burning, my lungs hurting, and every muscle in my body strained forward for that tape. Interestingly, it is in the last 100 yards (or, um...meters) that the race is usually won or lost. That’s where you find out two things: who has the best training and who has the most determination. No matter how much I was hurting or how far I was behind, the thought of quitting was out of the question! “What, after I have come so far? Are you crazy?” I rarely finished first, but the satisfaction of knowing I had given it my all was worth more than a blue ribbon or medal.
In case you're wondering, that's not me--it's the
very humble Usain Bolt breaking the tape.

The Journey 2012 is now in the home stretch. I can see the tape. We have one more month. I try not to whine, but this has been the most difficult year of teaching for me in my life! Just the reading alone has been tough. If you struggle to read the average 23-or-so chapters each week, I get to read them multiple times and then read what the various commentaries say! Don't get me wrong, I've loved it. But those of you at Providence know how hard it is for me to speak concisely. Imagine trying to do that while teaching entire books (vis. 1 and 2 Corinthians as we’re doing this week! Impossible! It took us over 2 years to cover these books before!).

I’m chuckling as I notice I haven’t written a blog post since September! It’s just been too busy. The Journey has been great—perhaps the best thing we’ve ever done together as a church! The last month’s material (most of the New Testament!) is the focus of 80% of the sermons of most evangelical preachers and churches! And we’re going to cover it in 5 Sundays!? Insane.

Hang in there. If you've given up, just read the book of 1 Corinthians. 2 Corinthians is on the plan for next week. We can see the tape at the finish. Let’s all be able to say in 31 days, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2Tim. 4:7). It has been awesome. But I can’t wait to celebrate once things are finished!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Farewell Eccentric Ezekiel

Several months ago I saw Ezekiel coming on the horizon. The book seemed foreboding. I read it and didn’t understand it at first (not that I completely understand it now!). Frankly, I dreaded having to teach from it. I put off choosing “working titles” to share with other staff who were also working on Journey related stuff because I just couldn’t get settled. As the time grew closer, I became consumed with the “weird and wonderful” book (as one of my Ezekiel commentaries call it). Now, I’m kinda sad to see it go.

I love to immerse myself in what I'm studying. Ezekiel has been fun in this regard. From beginning to end there are opportunities for this. I’d love to share a couple of examples so that you know what I mean:

In the early part of Ezekiel (chapter four) God told him to live exclusively on a peculiar kind of bread. Did you know that you can actually get it in the grocery store? I bought some “Ezekiel 4:9 Bread” and have been eating it for a couple of weeks. I’d never heard of it before receiving an email from a person doing the Journey 2012 along with us online. She said that the bread (made from the ingredients found in Ezek. 4:9) is a "Bible food that is among the most perfect foods ever devised for human beings because the recipe was made by God." "In fact" a website she quoted says, "the bread recipe that God gave to Ezekeil (sic.) is a survival bread." This bread is called “holy” and is supposed to be a perfect food, since Ezekiel "lived on that Holy bread for over a year"! I found the bread in the frozen food section at Ingles in Karns! On the package it describes itself using words like “miracle” and “staff of life.” How did I not know about this?!

Of course, I immediately had questions like, “Did they cook it over dung?” and “Wasn’t it supposed to be a meager bread to illustrate the suffering of besieged Jerusalem?” But that’s just me nitpicking. I actually liked the bread (as long as it was smothered with butter and honey)! And Darla really liked it! I can’t say I’ve noticed any laudatory affects from eating it, miraculous or otherwise.

The other way I immersed myself in Ezekiel is to set myself to study the over-the-top description of the future temple that God revealed at the end of the book. After reading it over the first time, I wondered, “Why is there so much written about this?” It just seemed so, well, unnecessary (perhaps even boring). I didn’t go there on a Sunday morning because I simply didn’t have time to scratch the itch when there were so many other major themes that demanded attention but it is very interesting! I especially enjoyed reading a book entitled, Messiah's Coming Temple: Ezekiel's Prophetic Vision of the Future Temple, by John W. Schmitt and J. Carl Laney. Excellent!

On his website, Schmitt writes:
Almost six chapters in the book of Ezekiel are devoted to an explicit description of the Temple. His eyes must have flooded with tears of joy as he saw before him the beloved altar of sacrifice and the beautiful Temple building with its two golden pillars before the Holy Place and Holy of Holies. However, most amazing to him: some historically essential elements of temple worship were missing.
In addition, the structure itself was different; the walls were much lower; the inner and outer courts were strikingly different. The most astonishing change, however, the furnishings.
There was no Candlestick, no Table of Shewbread, no Golden Altar, no Veil, and no Ark of the Covenant with its Mercy Seat. In their place was a wooden table before a door into the Holy of Holies. This table of wood is very surprising. It is evident that the information surprised Ezekiel, for he twice mentions it in his writings. He must have also wondered a great deal about the meaning of these missing items since he was a priest and trained to be knowledgeable on all aspects of the Temple and its worship.
It is particularly noteworthy that the items Ezekiel left out all reflect the presence of Jesus, the Messiah. Jesus said, “I am the Light of the world” – the Candlestick. Jesus said, “I am the Bread of Life” – the Table of Shewbread. Jesus said, “No man cometh unto the Father but by Me” – the Golden Altar. Jesus said, “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father” – the Mercy Seat. The Bible tells us that when Jesus died on the cross, the Veil was torn from top to bottom – providing all people access to God.

Wow! Pretty cool, huh? In the book there is much more, from the history of the Temple Mount and the current squabbles over it between Jews and Muslims to what the authors believe the Bible teaches about the role of Ezekiel’s temple in the end times.

You know, Ezekiel ended up really surprising me. I only wish we had more time to really dig in! But, alas, here comes Joel and Daniel...!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

The Tyre Quagmire

When I was in college I took a class entitled "The Old Testament Prophets." The professor (an ordained minister and super-nice guy) took it on himself to make sure we students were aware that the Bible was, in his opinion, "unreliable." He used Ezekiel 26 as his primary example. He read verses 3-14:
Artist's rendition of Alexander the Great's siege against Tyre
  "Thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I am against you, O Tyre, and will bring up many nations against you, as the sea brings up its waves. They shall destroy the walls of Tyre and break down her towers, and I will scrape her soil from her and make her a bare rock. She shall be in the midst of the sea a place for the spreading of nets, for I have spoken, declares the Lord GOD. And she shall become plunder for the nations, and her daughters on the mainland shall be killed by the sword. Then they will know that I am the LORD.
"For thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I will bring against Tyre from the north Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, king of kings, with horses and chariots, and with horsemen and a host of many soldiers. He will kill with the sword your daughters on the mainland. He will set up a siege wall against you and throw up a mound against you, and raise a roof of shields against you. He will direct the shock of his battering rams against your walls, and with his axes he will break down your towers. His horses will be so many that their dust will cover you. Your walls will shake at the noise of the horsemen and wagons and chariots, when he enters your gates as men enter a city that has been breached. With the hoofs of his horses he will trample all your streets. He will kill your people with the sword, and your mighty pillars will fall to the ground.
They will plunder your riches and loot your merchandise. They will break down your walls and destroy your pleasant houses. Your stones and timber and soil they will cast into the midst of the waters. And I will stop the music of your songs, and the sound of your lyres shall be heard no more. I will make you a bare rock. You shall be a place for the spreading of nets. You shall never be rebuilt, for I am the LORD; I have spoken, declares the Lord GOD."

This, he said, was a clear example of biblical fallibility since history shows that Nebuchadnezzar was unsuccessful in his attempt to conquer Tyre, an island city 1/2 mile from the shore in the Mediterranean. He even quoted some other passages from Ezekiel where he said Ezekiel "backed-off" his earlier prophecies about Tyre when he saw they had not been fulfilled.

I left class that day feeling discouraged. He had argued persuasively. I was asking myself, "Do I need to reevaluate my understanding of the Bible? Is it really true? Or are there some parts that are imaginative, speculative, or worse, deceptive? How can I believe any of it if any part is flawed?" I was reeling. After all, if parts of Ezekiel are untrustworthy, how can I know John 3:16 is true?

I got in my truck after class to grab lunch and drive to Knoxville where I worked. My radio was tuned to a religious station and I caught the beginning of Thru the Bible Radio with J. Vernon McGee (something I occasionally listened to). He "just happened" to be talking about Ezekiel 26 that day! I couldn't believe it! On that show he pointed out details in the text that my professor had (conveniently?) overlooked. He also told about Alexander the Great, who with his Greek army (one of the "many nations" who God would "bring up against" Tyre) also besieged Tyre. They quite literally used the ruins of Old Tyre, the part of Tyre that was on the mainland—actually scraping the soil—and threw the rubble into the Mediterranean to make a causeway—a land bridge—to the island city so that Alexander could conquer it! I was amazed, elated, and mad. Before my next class I did some research. I checked the facts for myself and found that McGee was right. Several non-Christian sources confirmed the historical account of Tyre's demise. And I read Ezekiel's account with my own eyes (along with some help from my Ryrie Study Bible notes) and saw the amazing accuracy of the prophecy—down to the details! Far from being an example of inaccuracy, this was an amazing testimony to the Bible's dependability—and a reminder: God means what he says. A quick trip to the campus library uncovered much more about the "many nations" that were brought up against Tyre. Interestingly, ancient Tyre remains ruins to this day. It has never been rebuilt. Ezekiel's prophecy could hardly have been more literally fulfilled.

I went back to class loaded for bear. After his lecture I engaged the professor, sharing with the class what I had learned of Ezekiel 26 and the rest of the story of Tyre's history. Funny, he didn't want to talk about it. He quickly cut off any discussion and dismissed the class! Although I felt victorious, it was also frustrating! Why would a Christian religion professor and minister seek to undermine the veracity of the Bible in the minds of college students? Why not celebrate the accuracy of the Word? It's still a mystery to me.

Here is an article about the supposed "difficulty" regarding Ezekiel 26. Read it and see what you think!

Friday, August 31, 2012

Still Reading? Hang In There!

I know, I know. The Journey reading is tough right now. I’ve heard it from many of you. People in my small group and even some in my own family have fallen off the pace a little. Life gets busy in the fall when school starts back and it doesn’t help that the reading in Ezekiel (like Jeremiah) is, well, depressing. Would it help if I told you that there’s light at the end of the tunnel? We’re only one month away from the New Testament!!! In fact, things are going to get better even before we start the Gospels. Daniel is really interesting and unbelievably accurate regarding what would happen in the world before the Messiah was to come, and there’s a really cool event that we’ll read about next: the return of the Jews from the exile. You don’t want to miss it. Putting the final pieces in place will complete this big puzzle we’ve been working on since January! You’ll be so glad you stayed with it, and you’ll understand the Old Testament better than 90% of all Christians! Don’t quit!

Even more than this, I don’t want you to miss the important spiritual purpose for reading all this doom-and-gloom. There IS a spiritual purpose. And it’s not ALL doom-and-gloom. Okay, there’s a lot, but every bit of it is necessary. God had a purpose for it then and he has a purpose for preserving it for us to read now. For them? Easy. He wanted them to realize the seriousness of rebelling against him. He also wanted them to consider how hard it is for inherently sinful people to be obedient to an infinitely holy God. In fact, it’s impossible! With all the advantages he’d given them and all the ways he’d revealed himself to them, they still couldn't break free from the gravitational pull of their sinful hearts. So now, in the time of Ezekiel, they’re broken and exiled to a foreign nation as slaves. God reminded them why they were where they were. Over and over it seems. According to my wife, "he’s rubbing their noses in it."

His purpose for US in reading it? Exactly the same. He wants us to see the seriousness of sin and our inability to change ourselves. He wants us to grapple with the similarities between them and us. He wants us to wonder if the doom and gloom ever ends.

Then he cracks the door of hope.

God says that HE will take your heart of stone and replace it with a heart of flesh. HE will establish a new, everlasting covenant. HE will atone for your sin. HE will be our God and we will be his people. No one will say, “serve the Lord” because HE will write his law on our hearts.

It reminds me of the time long before when the whole “God’s people” thing began. Remember Abraham? In Genesis 15 God promised to make a great nation of him, and Abraham believed—which God “counted to him as righteousness.” In the great scene that followed, God asked Abraham to prepare some animals and divide their carcasses in halves as men did in ancient days when making a covenant. The two men would then “walk the blood path” between the dead animals to promise, “If I break my end of the deal, I’ll die like these animals.” Abraham prepared the animals and then waited. He even had to drive off the vultures that wanted to eat the carcasses. He finally fell deeply asleep and a “dreadful and great darkness fell upon him.” God showed him a glimpse of a hard future for his offspring. Then God symbolically passed through the animal carcasses...twice. Once for himself and once for Abraham. Don’t forget the picture. God was saying in effect, “You can’t live up to your end of the covenant. So I’ll do it for you. And if (when) you don’t, I’ll die in your place.

Abraham’s children have utterly failed to live up. Now God, through Jeremiah and Ezekiel, is making sure they know it. And he’s preparing the way to come and die in their place. Just as he showed Abraham he would.

Oh, and that promise to Abraham’s family? We’ll see in the New Testament that it includes all who believe, just as Abraham believed and was counted righteous. So hang in there! It will all come together. You’ll be so glad you pushed through.

Friday, August 3, 2012

God’s Glory in Brazil

I am just now able to sit down long enough to write some reflections on this trip I’ve been on.
The last week-and-a-half has been life-changing for me and a few people and (I pray) world-changing for others. God has just blessed this time, effort, and money.

Last week I went with some in our church (including my family) to work with the church we planted in Barra (Rio de Janeiro) Brazil. They are doing an amazing work. God is blessing them with much growth and increasing influence, both in the Christian circles of Brazil as well as cultural change in Rio. Last Sunday, they had about 2600 people in their worship services. 47 people joined their church Sunday, making the total number of members 1745. That’s amazing when you remember they had a small handful of people when the church began 9 years ago. But to simply state numbers does not give an adequate picture. The church is unique in Brazil. In it are both rich and poor. Worshiping, serving, and learning together. And loving one another. Examples abound.

One of the two poor communities we worked in is called Tijuquinha (ti-ju-KEEN-ya). When I went there with a group five years ago, it was much worse. It felt extremely dangerous. Open sewage. Strong bad smell. The people we met there seemed much poorer. Lice-infested kids wore rags and scraggly animals walked the dirt alleys. Homes were dirty. It truly was a favela (Portuguese for “slum”). The church had just started reaching into the area, and we met with a small group of about 6 people, and went to the homes of several others who were new Christians. This time I noticed a remarkable change in Tijuquinha. Kids seemed healthy. I did not notice a smell. Dirt streets had been paved with cobblestones and had sidewalks. Many neat little stores and services (like hairdressers) were doing business. Homes were much neater. It seemed much safer. It’s not even accurate to call Tijuquinha a favela anymore. We were told that it is now called a comunidade (pronounced “communi-dodge,” meaning “community”)! What happened?

Darla and I after our first day at Tijuquinha watching our
group interact with the people (and watching Dara,
Addy, and Allie show Brazilian boys how American
girls play soccer. They were quite impressed!).
We were sporting our tie dye shirts. We made
hundreds of these for the kids there! An awesome day.
I think I know. There are now dozens of small groups from Central Church Barra there. I walked the streets and met many people inviting them to our program there and giving out Bibles and lists of the small groups in the community. Almost everyone knew of Central Church Barra and had favorable things to say. The church has literally transformed the community. Many of the residents I met 5 years ago who were new Christians are now leaders in the church and/or community. You can just tell they are happy and growing. They are seeing their community changed. This time I met with a small group (a couple of other groups met with us, so it was not really “small”). Four men received Christ that very night. UNBELIEVABLE!

The rest of the week we worked in a new favela that the church has targeted to transform. It has already begun. They had events designed for the purpose of showing love to those people whom the government had forgotten. It reminded me of the Tijuquinha I visited five years ago. But we (the group from Providence and Central Barra) played with kids, prayed with the people, presented the Gospel, and invited the whole community to a big event there on Saturday. At that event lawyers, doctors, professional counselors, veterinarians, physical therapists, and other professionals from the church set up stations to give free help to the people. The church went all out and we were right there with them. We made salvation bracelets (I’ll try to blog later about them) that told the story of the Gospel, and (with translators from Central Barra) told hundreds about Jesus’ love. Then some famous Brazilian musicians gave a mini concert for the people and Pastor Josué spoke of God’s love and told the people that Central Barra was just starting to show his love and would be in this community from now on. At least 47 people received Christ. I am tearing up as I recount this even now.

This week I’m in São Paulo, the third largest city in the world (according to some reports). There are many places here where wealthy and poor neighborhoods live virtually side-by-side, oblivious to one another, and oblivious to the Good News. We’re wanting to start another church like Central Barra. Please pray for us. Jesse Cragwall of GPI is assisting, Tim & Polly Sumner are translating, and John Barber is getting it all on video. More later, just please pray as we meet with pastors, denominational leaders, seminary professors, and potential church planters. Many thanks to those who are helping us make connections and getting the word out. Great things are happening.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Back in Brazil

Finally here in Brazil. I thought I'd write a few reports as I get the chance. Travel went pretty well (minus a delayed flight from Knoxville to Atlanta which caused Jesse, John, and I to have to run like maniacs OJ style through a couple of concourses. We almost didn't catch the flight to Brazil! We were sweating and wheezing when we sat down on the plane!). My first surprise was the way the church has grown! They have made use of every inch of the property that they bought and have bought more. The auditorium that had low ceilings and held about 200 people has been expanded to a capacity of 800 people with a high ceiling. They have 3 services each Sunday averaging 2400 per week! Wow!
Josue is still the humble and godly man that he was. I am almost brought to tears as I see how much God has used them.
More later. Gotta go to sleep.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Give Peace a Chance...Seriously

World Peace

It’s almost a joke. It seems only Hollywood types or beauty pageant contestants speak seriously of “world peace” anymore. And I'm not sure they're serious! At the very least, it’s become a cliché.

I was born a generation after the baby-boomers. I grew up watching the counter-culture, give-peace-a-chance, flower children of the 60s and thought they were almost insane! The popular culture of the 1980s was, in many ways, a reaction against that generation’s excesses and silliness. From bell-bottoms and long hair to straight-legs and short hair, and from war protests to patriotism. My generation saw the maturation of postmodern pessimism. Aristotelian realism regained ground after a splash of Platonic idealism. Communism was a real and present danger and needed to be stopped. The answer, as Reagan put it, was “peace through strength.” But we all knew that meant the real possibility of war. We just wanted to make sure we were the ones who won. The obvious evil of humankind and corruption of human institutions is one of the few “absolute truths” accepted by postmoderns today. We all know the world has major problems, too messy for trite political answers. There will always be some warlord or radical that wants to have his 15 minutes of fame and be taken seriously. There will always be megalomaniacs and paranoid pariahs who disregard human life. We’ve all watched the History Channel. The very idea of world peace is laughable.

Or is it?

We’ve read over half of the Bible chronologically and it looks like God’s plan to bless the whole earth through Abraham’s seed is unraveling as Israel and Judah are self-destructing. When suddenly from the prophets we get glimpses of a glorious future: perfect global peace under a coming King.

What is this?

World peace is no joke. It is a very real thing. Tomorrow morning we will explore it together.

(If you haven't yet, read Micah 4, and Isaiah 9 & 11. It's just a taste.)

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

A Modern Prophet

What would a prophet look like today?

As I’m reading Jonah, Amos, and Isaiah I’ve been pondering this question. These guys were bold, many times unpopular, and believed what they said—because they believed in the God who said it first. They weren’t (contrary to popular belief) just crazed preachers who flew-off-the-handle every chance they got. They were neither gluttons for punishment nor did they have some kind of martyr-complex. And they certainly weren’t out for personal gain. They were lovers of God in a world that was running away from God as fast as it could. They were lone voices proclaiming hard truth when all other voices were spewing lies. They were people who loved their nation and loved people enough to warn and admonish—sometimes through tears.

A few months ago, Ron Brown, an assistant football coach for the University of Nebraska Cornhuskers, found himself in the news for being, well, a modern-day prophet. I know Ron. He and I were the speakers for a Fellowship of Christian Athletes leadership camp in Shreveport, LA a few years ago. Quite frankly, he may be one of the godliest men I know and perhaps the best speaker I have ever heard. Yep. You read that right. He’s not hateful—quite the contrary. He is a compassionate and loving man. I saw this in the way he treated his wife with honor and how he spent many hours with high school and college students that week that he didn’t even know. He was vulnerable and humble. He genuinely wants people to know the Christ that saves sinners. He’s also passionate and uncompromising about God’s word. Of course that means he's a lightning rod for controversy. That’s what makes him, in my estimation, about as close as we can get today to a prophet.

He proved it when he weighed in on a hot issue this April—perhaps the hottest of our time: homosexuality. It’s the same issue about which I get pushback almost every time I mention it in light of God’s word.
Of course, the popular media frame his words and edit his comments to make him seem like an unloving, extreme fundamentalist. He’s not. He’s a prophet. And like those of old, after the names of all the “kings” that “rule” today are relegated to obscure lists that no one knows except to note their collective complaisant (read: cowardly) attempts to be considered tolerant and hip, Ron Brown will be remembered for much more. He is FAR from hateful. He is faithful to be a lone voice of grace, love, and truth to sinners like me whose salvation is found in no other name but Jesus. He could just enjoy his own redemption and wait around for heaven. But he chooses to put his reputation on the line to invite others to find new life in Christ.

We need prophets today.