Monday, December 28, 2015

Carl Trueman on Love and Hate


"LOVE HAS BECOME almost the only transcendent moral imperative in our society. It is used to justify abortion, euthanasia, same-sex marriage, and adultery. This list in itself should indicate that it has become a virtually contentless term and, like its opposite, hate, can be used to justify anything and silence all objections. The result is that Christians who wish to develop a Christian ethic need more than the word love at their disposal. Love needs content if it is to be anything more than empty sentiment or an aesthetic." Luther on the Christian Life, p. 174, Crossway. Kindle Edition.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

The Compelling Community


MARK DEVER AND THE FOLKS at 9Marks ministries have consistently served the church with excellent materials on the church. One of their newest contributions, The Compelling Community, where God's Power makes a Church attractive, might be one of their best.

The book opens by observing that different communities are distinguished by what you build them with. What holds the community together? Does the it have a "natural" explanation, or can it only be explained "supernaturally?" For example, Seahawks fans gather on Sunday morning and experience  community around a shared passion for football. The atmosphere is electric and the camaraderie intense. Some churches build community around a shared outreach to the poor or political engagement. But these communities have a "natural" explanation.

However, the "compelling community" that this book describes is different. It is built around the gospel. It can only be explained by the presence of something supernatural. People are doing things they would never naturally do. A gospel community will be "deep" in its commitments and socially "broad." By "broad" Dever means socially diverse. Many in this community have nothing in common but the gospel, but that is enough. Old mix with the young, rich  with poor, and black with whites.

The rest of the book provides tips for fostering and protecting a"compelling" community. I was greatly encouraged by this book and reccomend it enthusiastically. Here are some quotes...

“If you attract people by appealing to them as consumers, you’ll most likely retain them as consumers" (Pg. 54).

“God’s plan for reaching the lost is for local churches to burn brighter and hotter. You must believe that in the long run, the exclusivity that fuels a blazing hot community of believers can do far more gospel work than watering down breadth and depth of commitment in order to feel inclusive" (Pg. 127).

“If the community of the local church is confirmation of the gospel message, we are fools to evangelize in isolation from it. Doing evangelism on my own is like digging a pit using a toy shovel, then leaning on a backhoe to rest" (Pg.188). 





Thursday, August 27, 2015

The Importance of Bible Reading Plans


IN LAST WEEK'S POST we discussed the importance of family meals and using the Bible for family devotions. This week I want us to think about Bible reading plans, of which there are many. Navigators, Robert Murray McCheyne, Crossway, Ligonier, and many others have assembled helpful plans. (For more examples go to www.biblereadingplans.com . Some take you through the Bible in 90 days, some in one year, some longer. But for most Christians a Bible reading plan of some sort is essential.

When thinking about a Bible reading plan several principles are important. First, pick a plan and stick with it. “Sticking with it” is the hard part. Second, don’t be a slave to the plan. I would rather read the Bible slowly, study it, and think hard about it than be forced to hurry through it in 12 months just to meet a self-imposed deadline. I read through the Bible about once every 18 months, but I am in no hurry. If it takes more or less time I am OK. The important thing is reading and thinking hard about God’s Word.

Why a plan? Without a plan we just tend to read our favorite parts of the Bible over and over. A plan forces us to regularly read books we find less exciting. For me that would be Leviticus, Job, Ecclesiastes, and some of the minor prophets. For you it might be different. However, Jesus is the Word of God (John 1:1). That means that it is all—even your less favorite books—part of his revelation to fallen humanity, and it needs to be faithfully read. Besides the more we read the unpleasant books the more pleasant they become.


The important principle is this. Read the Bible! It is the Word of God. It raises the dead. It is a message from heaven. In fact, it is God’s thoughts. The less you read it the less you will want to. But, the more you read it, the more you will want to. So, get involved in a Bible reading plan! 

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Why Family Meals Matter.


IN HER IMPORTANT STUDY of affluent, troubled teens, The Price of Privilege, counselor Madeline Levine observes. “Families who eat together five or more times a week have kids who are significantly less likely to use tobacco, alcohol, or marijuana, have higher grade-point averages, less depressive symptoms, and fewer suicide attempts than families who eat together two or fewer times per week.” A host of other studies confirm this point. The routine of a regular family meal is crucial for the maturation of children. It emphasizes the importance of family. It also creates an important environment for daily communication between parents and children.


A shared family meal is hugely important to Christians for another reason. It is a regular opportunity for daily exposure to prayer and Bible study. The time doesn’t need to be long. Ten or fifteen minutes will do, but ultimately, it is dad’s responsibility. Real masculinity initiates spiritual activity. You don’t need to be a great Bible scholar. Pass out paper back ESVs, read a paragraph, and ask the kids to explain it. Ask lots of questions. When done, sum up with the right answer and ask one of the children to pray. 

The results will be long-term and massive. You are honoring God and his Word. You are convincing your children that God is central. You are showing them what true masculinity looks like. In addition, you will see fruit in your children and grandchildren. They will imitate you. Your sons will do this with their families, and your daughters will seek to marry men who do the same J.  


If you have fallen off the wagon, if you have gotten out of the habit of family devotions, don’t beat yourself up. Just ask God’s forgiveness, and climb back on board. 

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Summer Reading for Growing Christians

SUMMER IS A GREAT TIME FOR READING.

In my experience, books come in two flavors. One flavor is plain old  information. But others have a more delightful taste. In addition to information they motivate, inspire, and encourage. “The best Christian literature is not written for the mind and intellect alone," notes Ian Murray. "It appeals also to the heart, the conscience, and the will. A good book does something to us, something that God put first in the spirit of the author. A book should not simply convey knowledge; it should uplift us, it should make us want to pray, and we should rise from it with an ambition to live nearer to Christ and to serve  him better. Books of lasting value are books that feed the soul, and there is a ‘taste’ about them that lives on from one generation to another.”

Here are five books that in my experience do that "something"  to the reader that  Murray describes in his quote.


First, Delighting in the Trinity by Michael Reeves. Reeves takes a complex, weighty subject and makes it accessible for someone with an ordinary education.That is a feat in itself.  Most importantly, he shows the reader why the doctrine of the Trinity is a game changer.

It is not for no reason that Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell is on the New York Times best sellers list. Gladwell takes the reader behind the scenes to the real reason why some people are successful (become outliers) and others are not. Neither Judy nor I could put it down. Read with confidence in God's sovereignty this book will easily edify.

George Whitefield, Americas Spiritual Founding Father by Thomas Kidd is another edifying read. Some authors can make history come alive, and Kidd is in that class. The subject matter doesn't hurt either. Whitefield is a fascinating individual. He is probably the greatest preacher since the Reformation. The spiritual power that rested upon this preacher is an example of what God can do when he decides to pour out his Spirit.

Fourth, Prepare: Living Your Faith in an Increasingly Hostile Culture by Paul Nyquist. This timely book is prophetic. Now that we have lost the culture wars, now that we live in a post-Christian world, how should we respond? How should we think? How should we and our families prepare for the future? Nyquist, the president of Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, offers some helpful and insightful suggestions. As a pastor, concerned about the welfare of my flock, I can enthusiastically recommend this read.

Speaking of pastoral concerns, another important and timely book is Kevin DeYoung's What Does the Bible Say About Homosexuality? This is a short, accessible work for anyone who wants to tighten their grip on this important and crucial contemporary subject.










Thursday, June 18, 2015

Carl Trueman on Luther


"TO THE ONE who has been told that he is under the damning wrath of God because of his failure to fulfill God’s law, grace comes as a serious thing, with serious consequences. He receives it with joy and gladness and revels in his subsequent freedom, a freedom shaped at a deep level by his
understanding of God’s holiness. To the one who has not been told that he is first of all damned in God’s sight because God is holy and he is filthy, grace breeds presumption and a lack of concern for a truly Christian response. It should be redundant to say this, but I will say it anyway : we live in an age where the fear of a holy and righteous God is not something that one finds in the wider world. Western culture, particularly affluent Western culture, is self-absorbed and overindulged."

Trueman, Carl R. (2015-02-28). Luther on the Christian Life: Cross and Freedom (Theologians on the Christian Life) (p. 173). Crossway. Kindle Edition.

Are Intellectuals the Problem?


SUNDAY, JUNE 21, IS FATHER'S DAY. In 1989 my wife gave me one of my best all time Father's Day's gifts, Paul Johnson's Intellectuals


Don't let the title intimidate you. The book is not for intellectuals. It is a series of short chapters about key intellectuals that, for the last 250 years, have shaped the modern world. It is accessible, readable, and highly entertaining.

The author describes the scope of the book on the first page. "With the decline of clerical power in the eighteenth century, a new kind of mentor emerged to fill the vacuum and capture the ear of society...He proclaimed from the start a special devotion to the interests of humanity and evangelical duty to advance them by his teaching...[However] he felt himself bound by no corpus of religion...For the first time in human history...men arose to assert that they could diagnose the ills of society and cure them with their own unaided intellects...They were not servants and interpreters of the gods but substitutes."

Succeeding chapters paint short biographical sketches of men such as the philosopher, Jean-Jacques Rousseau; the poet, Shelley; the political ideologue, Karl Marx; the playwright, Henrik Ibsen; the authors, Tolstoy, Ernest Hemingway, Bertrand Russel and more. These men, and others like them, have enjoyed a massive influence upon modernity. They are the architects of the modern world.

In each case the individual professed great love for the world at large. They designed plans and programs to aid humanity. However, they were unable to love those with whom they were closest. In fact, their treatment of specific family members was barbaric. In each case, was massive hypocrisy was the rule. Despite this the progressives and the academic community think of  them as heroes to be modeled.

Intellectuals is a stimulating read, a tremendous aid to discernment, and an indispensable aid for understanding the modern world. It is available in paper, hardback, or kindle versions.


Friday, May 1, 2015

Escape From North Korea


JUST FINISHED Escape From North Korea, the untold story of Asia's Underground Railroad, by Melanie Kirkpatrick. The author, a journalist for The Wall Street Journal, compares the escape routes used by North Koreans in and through China to the underground railroad that transported runaway slaves from the South to the North during the American Civil War period. In the process she highlights the astonishing brutality and cruelty of the North Korean political regime. The book opens with a description of life in North Korea, and it is not for the faint of heart.

Once in China the North Korean exile must elude the Chinese authorities who will return them to North Korea. If caught it  means imprisonment in a work camp, torture, starvation, death, or all of the above. For females it might mean capture by the underground sex slave trade and sale to a rural Chinese husband.

This book also tells the story of many Western individuals who have set up shop in China under the alias of doing business, but are really there to  expend their lives helping the fugitives escape to the West. If caught the "helpers," like the fugitives, face certain imprisonment by the Chinese government or worse.

Although published by a secular publisher the author consistently draws the readers attention to the fact that almost everyone helping the fugitives are Christians. These Believers are either  native Chinese and/or their helpers from the West.

This book will convince you that the world is fallen. But it will also convince you that Christianity is the world's hope. The gospel really changes people. They beccome citizens of another world, completely misunderstood by unbelievers around them, but alluringly attractive to those whom God is calling.

Last, Escape From North Korea will make you overflow with gratitude. Reading a work like this is tonic for the soul. No matter what problems you and I face, they are trivial compared to the issues faced by the North Korean fugitives and the Believers that help them. Books like this remind us how good life in the U.S. is and how much we take it for granted.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

A Time For Prayer and Repentance


THIS WEEK MARKS a turning point in our national history. The Supreme Court will hear arguments to answer the question “Does the constitution guarantee Americans in all fifty states the right to same sex marriage?” It is crucial that we turn to God in prayer and confession. We should confess our national sins of materialism, godlessness, and idolatry, and we should lift holy hands in prayer for the future of America, GCF, and our families (1 Tim 2:1-7). Confession matters because Romans 1:18-27 informs us that the widespread acceptance of homosexual behavior is God’s judgment. He is judging the idolatry of self-worship, in other words, we love the “creature” more than the “Creator.” This means that our national problems are spiritual. They are not political. If the root problem is spiritual, the solution is also spiritual. It is a national return to God through repentance and faith in the gospel. Therefore, pray, pray, pray!


Since we are on this subject, here is a gracious, winsome blog by Kevin DeYoung explaining why the legitimization of homosexual marriage is bad for any culture. DeYoung defuses the fog of confusion that currently surrounds this subject. 

Monday, April 27, 2015

Worldliness in the Church?


WHAT DOES WORLDLINESS  look like when it gets a foothold in the church? In his wonderful book, Embracing Obscurity, the author, Anonymous, paints an insightful verbal picture. 

“To be a success in the local church, apparently, you need to go to school to get your bachelors, M.Div., and possibly doctorate. Then you work your way up the ranks of a church, from youth pastor to assistant pastor, and eventually to lead pastor. Once you’re on top, your job is to grow your church to a successful number. One hundred will never turn heads, so you’re encouraged to “think big” and implement a “growth strategy.” You’re going to need at least four-digit Sunday attendance to be taken seriously at pastor’s conferences. Then, once you have a few thousand in attendance and blog , Facebook, and twitter platforms, you can go on to write books. Once you have a book or two on your resume, you can speak on invitation outside your flock. If you work hard enough, you can eventually retire and enjoy all the luxuries you’ve accumulated through your hard work and revel in your five-star reputation.”[1]  

Advanced degrees, large churches, writing  books, and speaking engagements are not bad. In fact, they are good things. The question is always motive. When they come to a pastor motivated by unselfish ambition, i.e. ambition for God's glory at my expense, they are are blessing to all involved. However, when we pursue these accolades out of selfish ambition, i.e. my glory at the expense of God and the church, they are sure signs that the "whore of Babylon" has invaded God's people. 


Let's purse  these, but constantly searching our hearts for the poison of selfish ambition, eager to put it to death no matter the cost to self.  






[1] Anonymous (2013-12-08). Embracing Obscurity: Becoming Nothing in Light of God's Everything (Kindle Locations 1014-1020). B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Edwards On The Christian Life


JUST FINISHED DANE ORTLUND'S new book, Edwards on The Christian Life: Alive to the Beauty of God. I am a student of Jonathan Edwards. He has affected me more than any other christian thinker. I have read Ian Murray's bio once and George Marsden's twice. I have read all of Edwards' major theological treatises (except the Nature of True Virtue), some of them several times, and most of his printed sermons. I am not saying this to boast, but rather to put in perspective what I am going to say about Ortlund's new book. 

It is simply the best thing I have read on Jonathan Edwards and his approach to  the Christian life. It has something for everyone. A new Christian can read it profitably. The academic specializing in Edwards can also read it with profit. Why? It is more than knowledge. Ortlund's new book is soul-food. “The best Christian literature, notes Ian Murray, 'is not written for the mind and intellect alone; it appeals also to the heart, the conscience, and the will. A good book does something to us, something that God put first in the spirit of the author. A book should not simply convey knowledge; it should uplift us, it should make us want to pray, and we should rise from it with an ambition to live nearer to Christ and to serve  him better. Books of lasting value are books that feed the soul, and there is a ‘taste’ about them that lives on from one generation to another.”[1]

Dane Ortlund's prose meets Murray's specifications. It does something to the reader. It feeds the soul, and I can make no higher recommendation. My favorite chapters were the ones on beauty, temptation, the soul, love, new birth, as well as the conclusion on Edwards' weaknesses.  

Buy this book and read it. You won't be disappointed. 



[1] Murray, Iain, Banner of Truth Magazine, Issue 487, pg 5 

Tuesday, March 31, 2015


IF SOMEONE POLLED your church with the question, “which preacher do you listen to most frequently,” how would you respond?  Some would point to their pastor. Others might suggest a minister they hear on the radio or by podcast. But if we are honest, none of these win the contest. Believe it or not, the individual who has the greatest access to our heart, the one who preaches to us most frequently, is not who we thin.  

It is the Devil.

Satan preaches a sophisticated, seductive, and manipulative message. He has one goal, to either convince you that the Lie is true, or to convince you that the Truth is a lie, and we are usually unaware that he is the one speaking. For example, he speaks to us through our newspapers, through television, blogs, email, the radio, popular music, the movie industry, magazines, our consciences, NFL commercials, and yes even at times through our friends. He is the “Prince of this world.” God has given him control of the media, and through this megaphone he preaches persuasively.

How do we know if we have been listening to the Devil’s lies? The fruits are ominous and varied. We become discouraged when life doesn’t go as we had planned. We feel unneeded guilt over a careless comment that hurt someone we love. We compare ourselves to others and then feel worthless. We give into hopelessness or fear as we observe cultural change. Some even yield to the despair that this life is all there is.  The Devil knows how to “preach it,” and we are often the victims.

But God has provided us with a mighty spiritual weapon. It is the gospel. Hidden in its recesses are crucial truths. When applied they shatter the Devil’s vicious deceits. Hidden in the Gospel argues that preaching these truths to yourself 24 x 7 matters greatly.

In other words, God does not want us to listen to ourselves or the Devil. Instead, he wants us to preach to ourselves.  Listening is passive. Preaching is active. For example, when I don’t feel loved by God, I preach the truth to myself. It transcends feelings. Before the foundation of the world God chose me and set his love upon me. He didn’t choose me because I performed, but despite the fact that I didn’t. He sent his Son to live a perfect life in my place, and to bear the wrath that I deserve at Calvary. It is rare when this exercise does not kindle feelings of being loved in my heart.

I wrote Hidden In the Gospel to help the average Christian cultivate this discipline of preaching the gospel to themselves. By the gospel I mean everything that God has done, or will do, to save us. It stretches from eternity past to eternity future. This gospel starts with election and ends with the new heavens and new earth. It includes the doctrines of election, Christ’s incarnation, his active obedience, penal substitutionary death, his resurrection, ascension, return for final judgment, and the creation of new heavens and earth. Hidden in these wonderful doctrines are truths, whose marvelous application each Christian needs to preach to themselves daily.


So, which preacher do you listen to most? Hopefully, it is not the Devil. I wrote Hidden In The Gospel to convince you that it should be yourself.  

Monday, March 16, 2015

Is Retirement A Twilight Zone?


The Useful Retiree
THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH has uncritically bought into the concept of retirement. This column and those that follow will take a critical look at this idea. 

Some have defined retirement as a twilight zone, a phase of life in which the individual is “too old to work, but too young to die.” There is some truth in this assessment. Eventually everyone becomes “too old to work,” at least full time. That is because advancing age means less energy and stamina. It means a loss of physical strength. It might also mean problems with hearing or vision. For some it might mean decreasing cognitive abilities.

But, it is also a stage of life were people are “too young to die.” One of the blessings (and also problems) with modern medicine is that it extends this period— sometimes far too long. Physically and mentally unable to work or contribute, the aging body just keeps ticking and ticking. For many “too young to die” us a euphemism for extended misery.

For example, my church just went Christmas caroling at a local “memory” facility for senior citizens. Those listening were anywhere from fifty on up. All suffered from either significant dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. In each case “too old to work but too young to die was appropriate.” It was depressing because we all realized that this might someday be either us or someone we loved. A healthy fifty year old friend whispered in my ear. “My wife and I have decided we would rather ‘go out’ on our motorcycle.”

I sympathized. 

God's people need to rethink the assumption of retirement at age 65 to decades of relaxation and leisure. for those healthy enough to contribute, is this a biblical lifestyle? 

In the coming columns I want to motivate those in their thirties to prepare for retirement differently. I want to motivate those in their fifties to think about retirement differently. I also want to motivate an army of seniors to give their fourth quarter to Christ and the advancement of his kingdom. The gospel promises that they will gain their lives to the degree that they are willing to lose them. 

What are your thoughts? 

Thursday, March 5, 2015

A New Approach to Death and Dying!


MY NINETY YEAR OLD MOTHER, like so many of our elderly, is now languishing in a "memory
facility" in Oregon. She is overweight, unable to walk, and slowly losing her mind. Dementia has changed her once sweet and amiable personality into someone largely unrecognizable to those who have known and loved her.

In the same way, my beloved mother in law suffered a stroke in her eighties. Modern technology was able to "bring her back" from a situation that would have killed her forty years ago . She lived five more years, but her physical condition was miserable. She was unable to talk, walk, or toilet herself. We were glad for one thing. It was a time when my wife, Judy, was able to share the gospel with her, but her quality of life was almost unbearable.

Modern medicine is wonderful, but it has one drawback. Sometimes it allows us to live longer than we want. The  treatment of our aged is a subject largely ignored, but it is one that is in great need of vigorous discussion.

In his New York Times best selling book, Being Mortal, Atul Gawande, a surgeon, had done us all a favor. He opens  with these words. "I learned about a lot of things in medical school, but mortality wasn’t one of them. Although I was given a dry, leathery corpse to dissect in my first term, that was solely a way to learn about human anatomy. Our textbooks had almost nothing on aging or frailty or dying. How the process unfolds, how people experience the end of their lives, and how it affects those around them seemed beside the point. The way we saw it, and the way our professors saw it, the purpose of medical schooling was to teach how to save lives, not how to tend to their demise."The rest of his book remedies this void. He writes at a sufficiently sophisticated level to appeal to medical professionals. But, he also writes for the average lay man like myself.

I for one, I am thankful that Gawande has projected this crucial subject for public discussion. This book include the importance of educating more physicians in gerontology, the need to know when to give up and embrace hospice care, why the elderly are so depressed in nursing homes, etc. He writes well. At times I was moved to tears.

One disclaimer. Although he doesn't like it, he is soft on the subject of physicians assisted suicide. But the good in this book greatly outweighs the bad.  I heartily recommend it anyway.


Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Need for a Second Conversion?


MOST CHRISTIANS GO through two conversions. The first is to Christianity. They believe the gospel, repent
of sins, get baptized, and join a local church. The second is equally important. It is a conversion to a biblical understanding of who and what God is. This often happens gradually. The street view of God is that he is love, and that is all that God is. The street view of God also has him needing man, and centering his existence on the happiness of man.

But that is not the biblical view of God.

God has no needs. He is infinitely happy, (which is as happy as one can possibly be), without us. He doesn’t need us for any reason. In addition, from God’s perspective, holiness, not love is his most important attribute. Everything about God is holy, including his love. It is the holiness of his love that makes it so wonderful. Last, although God’s justice is seldom important to us, it is as important to God as his love. God never loves at the expense of justice. But he is free to exercise justice at the expense of love. All God owes his creatures is justice. Were he to be exclusively just, we would all be damned.

Many Christians never pass through this second conversion.  As a result, they never mature spiritually. They don’t advance far in sanctification. They remain perpetual spiritual infants.


All of this brings me to an important book. It is Dr. Bruce Ware’s, God’s Greater Glory, the exalted God of Scripture and the Christian Faith. It is a fascinating study of the providence of God---his control of everything that happens on planet earth. This includes both pleasant and painful circumstances. If a good God is in control, why would he allow the holocaust, or the death of an infant from cancer? To answer these questions Dr. Ware dives into the greatness of God, the majesty of God, and the holiness of God. Reading this book will help you pass through this second conversion. Just under 200 pages, God’s Greater Glory is highly readable. I strongly recommend. Buy it here, and read it. You won’t be disappointed. 

Monday, January 19, 2015

Sheep In the Midst of Wolves



IN THE TENTH CHAPTER OF MATTHEW Jesus warned his disciples, "Behold I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be shrewd as serpents, and innocent as doves." Recent events in the media have made us feel the truth of these words. 

Although God is sovereign over persecution resistance to the church has often, but not always, been the case. For example Open Doors[1] estimates some 100 million Christians are persecuted globally each year. Islamic extremism is the prime culprit, accounting for most persecution in 40 of the 50 countries on the list. 

But, persecution is not just for Christians under Islamic rule. It is increasingly the experience of Christians in North America. For example, here is how some of the liberal media responded to last week’s Charlie Hebdo assassinations in Paris.

"MSNBC compared...the fundamentalist Muslims who carried out the crime with ...Jerry Falwell and Liberty University. Several American politicians and journalists made comments along the lines of "all religions have their fundamentalists responsible for violence" (and of course, remember this from Salon? 'What's the difference between Sarah Palin and Muslim fundamentalists? Libstick...").[2]

The great irony in the response to the Charlie Hebdo attack on free speech last week was our blatant hypocrisy. The "Progressives" are seeking to muzzle free speech here, and no one seems to note the similarities with the Muslim radicals.

For example, in October the lesbian mayor of Houston subpoenaed all of the pastors in the city to turn over any sermon material that referenced homosexuality. Their crime? They opposed the newly passed “equal rights ordinance” which allowed any male to use any women’s public bathroom.
In addition, many have lost their jobs because they object to homosexual activity.

“ATLANTA — Mayor Kasim Reed announced Tuesday [Jan. 5, 2014] that he had fired the chief of the city’s Fire Rescue Department, Kelvin Cochran, after Mr. Cochran gave workers a religious book he wrote containing passages that condemns homosexuality. [The Fire Chief] is…a member of a church affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention, which holds homosexuality to be sinful. Mr. Cochran’s book, “Who Told You That You Were Naked?” counts homosexual acts among a number of “vile, vulgar and inappropriate” activities that serve to “dishonor God,” according to excerpts obtained by the local gay news media and activists.”[3]

Here is the bottom line. In Dr. Mohler’s words a newly discovered “right” to erotic freedom is conquering, squelching, crushing, and smothering our constitutional right to freedom of speech, and freedom of religion. There is incredible hypocrisy at work.  The Muslim attempt to suppress the speech of the editors of Charlie Hebdo is unthinkable. But, stateside the suppression of free speech, if that free speech supports Christian sexual morality, is politically correct.
This kind of spiritual conflict is the point of today’s text. Jesus tells his disciples that he is sending them out as sheep in the midst of wolves. This text is very relevant to contemporary experience.
"16 “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.

“Sheep in the midst of wolves” is a graphic word-picture. This is not what we want to hear. We want Jesus to say, “I am sending you out as Lions in the midst of antelope.” But that is not what he says. He likens the church to “sheep,” and likens the world to “wolves.”

Think about it. What is more harmless than a sheep? They have no fangs, no claws, no horns, i.e. no way to defend themselves. They can’t disguise themselves. They can’t even run away.
By contrast, what is more vicious, predatory, swift, and skilled at devastation than a wolf? He is fast, he is lean, he has long fangs, and he is blood thirsty.

In other words, this conflict is no contest. In this war the sheep are the losers. Sheep only have one protection—the Shepherd. His job is  to guard and protect them from the wolf. 
That is why  Jesus tells his disciples (his sheep) to be “wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” 

Does that describe the church today? 

[1] Founded by Brother Andrew in the 1960s to evangelize behind the Iron Curtain
[3] Richard Faucett, New York Times, “Atlanta Ousts Fire Chief Who Has Anti Gay View,” Jan 6, 2015