Picks of The Week

I am often asked what I read, or what kinds of media I find interesting. To this end I thought it would be helpful to begin sharing some of the things that I find particularly interesting in the week and give a little commentary from a biblical worldview perspective. Hopefully this will help us all to Think Through It.

The Gondolier – RadioLabGondo

What is the end of Gender Confusion in the world? This story is a wonderful example of the confusing end of humanism. We all struggle with identity whether it is with our work, success, image, or relationships, but of course the gospel sets us free from all of this. The gospel calls us to be a new man or woman, identified by who we are in Jesus as sons and daughters of God. For more of my thoughts on this see this 2015 Sermon.

How St. Augustine Invented Sex – The New Yorker
Aug

It’s amazing how much influence Freud has had on the modern understanding of human drive and this article is definitely written from this modern perspective. How should Augustine actually be defined? I would encourage you to consider his own words through this easy to read translation of his Confessions.

Les Misérables (2012)
Les

Paige and I spent a few nights this week chipping away at Les Misérables after we put the kids to bed (we are too old and tired to watch a movie in one sitting these days). It has long been one of my favorite musicals, a story of redemption, order, hope, struggle, and love. Obviously Les Mis falls short of a robust biblical theology but it does do 2 things really well. First, it really helps the viewer think about the human experience and to ask some of the foundational questions of what it means to be human. Second, the concluding thesis of Les Mis (which is, “to love another person is to see the face of God”) is certainly getting at what is true in this life. The how, why, and what of that statement is where the gospel comes in and makes so much sense of everything. It is an almost five year old movie and the Hollywood vocalists certainly don’t match their Broadway peers but it is well made, well acted, and worth a first or a second watch.

I won’t be able to post next week but let me know if this is a helpful experiment and I will be back in a few weeks with more picks of the week encouraging you and hopefully helping you to think through it.

The Spirit of St. Louis: What This Year’s Annual Meeting Can Teach Us About the SBC

The Southern Baptist Convention ended a week ago, and SBC pastors and messengers have now settled back into our churches and lives all across America. But there are several things that we all took away from St. Louis. In general, this year’s convention gave a great display of who we are as a denomination – all of our glory and all of our warts – and a few critical moments captured the essence of this display.

First, the central moment of this year’s meeting was the election of a new president. The president of the SBC is allowed to serve two consecutive one-year terms, and Ronnie Floyd’s second term was expiring. We had three nominees heading into the annual meeting: David Crosby, senior pastor of First Baptist Church New Orleans, Steve Gaines, senior pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis, and J.D. Greear, senior pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh. In the weeks leading up to the meeting, this election began to represent a growing tension in the SBC. Greear represented a growing group of young, energetic, more theologically reformed leaders in the denomination. Gaines represented the older, more traditional group of Southern Baptists. And, perhaps, even Crosby represented the group of Southern Baptists that find themselves in neither camp.

After the first ballot, Greear and Gaines went into a runoff receiving 45 and 44 percent of the vote respectively. And in something I have never seen before, the runoff (between only two candidates) failed to produce a winner. Roberts Rules of Order say that while all ballots may be used to calculate a majority, only legal ballots (meaning they were filled out properly) are eligible to count for a candidate. In the runoff vote, Gaines received 2,410 votes or 49.96 percent, and Greear received 2,306 or 47.80 percent with 108 illegal, or improperly filled out, ballots. The election was heading for an unprecedented third ballot the next morning when J.D. Greear humbly and graciously bowed out. Greear’s resignation from the race brought a standing ovation from all who were in attendance — an enormously unifying moment for all Southern Baptists.

This election tells us so much about our denomination of churches. First, it tells us that there really is a divide in the SBC between the “young, restless, reformed1” Baptists and the older “traditional2” Baptists. Even ten years ago, this more reformed group in the SBC was thought to be a small minority, but now as this election proved, it represents about half of all Southern Baptists. Second, this election showed that at least 2.23% of Southern Baptists aren’t very good at listening to instructions, even simple “fill in the circle” instructions. But third, and most importantly, this election showed us that our unity in the Gospel and for the Great Commission is stronger than our differences. In the end, I believe God’s kind providence prevailed, and, despite our differences, the messengers left St. Louis more unified than ever.

A second telling moment in this year’s Southern Baptist Convention was the passing of a resolution to renounce the display of the Confederate Battle Flag. The Confederate Flag certainly gained a lot of attention in the summer of 2015 after the horrible, racially-motivated shooting of nine churchgoers in Charleston, SC. In response, many SBC leaders spoke into the Take It Down movement. This resolution passed overwhelmingly — a great moment of solidarity and repentance for a denomination with a past marked by racism. This resolution reminded us of the incredible, transformative grace that God gives through repentance and faith. It signaled the power of the Gospel to change, correct and heal.

As complicated as the SBC is, we praise God for enabling us to send more resources to missions, plant more churches, and train more pastors and missionaries than ever before. The International Mission Board reported that the 2015 Lottie Moon Christmas offering was over $165 million, nearly $12 million more than the previous record.

I pray that moving forward, God would continue to give us grace to move forward by opening our eyes to sin. I am so grateful to be connected with so many people who are passionate about the word of God and the advance of the Gospel. I left the convention with a sense of gratitude for all the work that is being done, but I also left with a greater sense of urgency for the work yet to be done. I look forward to next year’s convention in Phoenix and pray with expectation that God will do immeasurably more in my heart, in our convention, and around the world.


[1] Collin Hansen coined this phrase in his 2008 book and in other articles.  It has come to describe the revival of reformed theology among younger evangelicals.

[2] In 2012 Eric Hankins published “A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation” in response to the growing movement of reform theology in the SBC.

Reliability of the New Testament

4543060842_e4fdb33047_b

Image by Ryk Neethling / CC BY 2.0

This week’s Think Through It question asks, “How do we know that the New Testament is reliable?”

There are many reasons to believe in the reliability of the New Testament, but perhaps the most compelling evidence is that the New Testament books that make claims about the miracles of and resurrection of Jesus were written during the time of eyewitnesses and even appeal to the testimony of those eyewitnesses. For example, in 1 Corinthians 15 the apostle Paul is writing on the resurrection and then makes an appeal to a group of 500 people that Jesus appeared to after the resurrection as if to say, “If you don’t believe me, go ask one of them.” If these New Testament claims weren’t true they would have been easily dismissed, but because they were true and verified by witnesses many people believed.

I’m Jason Dees, encouraging you to think through it.

Jackie Robinson

1152383938_e95a667392_b

Image by Paul Lowry / CC BY 2.0


Sixty-eight years ago today on April 15, 1947 America was changed forever. On that day Jackie Robinson ran across the line in Dodger Stadium becoming the first African American to ever play Major League Baseball. When Herbert Aaron of Mobile, Alabama saw this, he said to his 13-year-old son Hank Aaron, “Son, you can do anything you put your mind to in life.” Jackie Robinson was given this chance to break the racial barrier that had existed in baseball by Brooklyn Dodgers General Manager Branch Rickey whose belief in racial equality was fueled by his biblical understanding of the sanctity of every human life. And, he used his influence as a Major League Baseball manager to influence the world for the glory of God. Like Branch Rickey, all of you have influence. Are you using that influence to serve the Lord, or are you letting it go to waste?

I’m Jason Dees, encouraging you to think through it.

Religious Liberty

2502535352_8703e5cac1_b

Image by Kim Davies / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0


In light of the controversy in Indiana and Arkansas I have been asked this week about religious liberty in America. It is important to remember that there is a difference between the freedom of religion and the freedom of worship. The First Amendment of the Constitution says that there shall be no law prohibiting the free exercise of religion. While worship is something that is typically done privately in one’s home or in a church building, religion is something that informs a person’s everyday life. How people conduct their business, raise and educate their children, and interact with their community is all informed by their religion. As Americans we must all protect this fundamental right. Even a quick reading of the Constitution will show that our founders were much more interested in protecting a person’s religious identity than they were in protecting a person’s sexual identity.

I’m Jason Dees, the pastor of Valleydale Church, encouraging you to think through it.

Who Is Jesus?

773872749_7a3ff41012_b

Image by John Wright / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

“Love your enemy.”

“Blessed are the poor.”

“If someone strikes you on one cheek, let him strike you on your other cheek.”

As strange and as counterintuitive as these things may sound, these are all things that Jesus said – a person that more than 2 billion people believe to be God. Who was Jesus? What did He really teach? And how does a man who lived for 33 years in a distant land more than 2000 years go have anything to do with our lives today? The answers may surprise you.

I’m Jason Dees, encouraging you to think through it.

Progressive Christianity

3664385777_2a1dc84a33_b

Image by Wally Gobetz / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0


Unfortunately Christianity has been politicized. Some politicians will tell you that we need to get back to our Christian values, while often other politicians will tell you that Christianity is a backwards way of thinking and is the enemy of true progress. But, what if I told you that neither of these groups is presenting the real Christianity? What if I told you that Christianity is actually the most progressive way of life, and if we lived out a biblical Christianity we would have a society full of unity, love, acceptance, and peace? Christianity is not a list of traditional truths, nor is it the absence of absolutes. Real Christianity is truth. Real Christianity is a rescue from all evil and hate. Real Christianity is the pathway to living life as it was designed to be lived.

I’m Jason Dees, encouraging you to think through it.