The How and Why of Forgiveness and Reconciliation

When ever you talk about forgiveness, there are hundreds of "What If" Questions. "What about this situation?" "What about this?" I could never answer all these questions in a sermon. For two weeks, we've studied Matthew 18:15-37, which cover both confronting sin and forgiving sin. I could spend a month preaching on each section and never come close to teaching the full depth and breadth of God's wisdom in these verses. So to augment what I taught, I'm urging, no I'm begging, you to read the following articles by Timothy Keller. 

Tim Keller defines forgiveness this way, "Forgiveness means giving up the right to seek repayment from the one who harmed you." And he goes on to teach that forgiveness means absorbing the debt yourself through a series of payments. What I want to add to yesterday's sermon is this. Some wrongs done to you are the spiritual equivalent of stealing a pack of gum, it doesn't take much payment to forgive. BUT other sins done against you are the spiritual equivalent of burning your whole house down. These big things like divorce, adultery, physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional trauma, neglect, or murder take a mortgage worth of forgiveness payments over years and years to forgive. That is ok. Forgiveness is not instantaneous, it is a repeated decision to absorb the cost rather than seek revenge. 




IF YOU'RE ONLY GOING TO READ ONE ARTICLE, READ THIS ONE FIRST! It is a polished version of the stuff in the other article, though they each have their respective strengths. This article is the most helpful thing I've read on forgiveness. It skillfully relates the disciplines of confronting sin and forgiving sin. It answers most questions about, "Well what about this?" "What if he did this?" 

Article: Forgiveness and Reconciliation


Gospel Forgiveness

NOTE: If you're only going to read one of these articles, READ THE OTHER ONE. 

I'm guessing this was originally an outline for a class, Tim Keller taught for Married Couples. While the whole document is awesome for improving our communication and intimacy in marriage, the stuff on Forgiveness and Reconciliation starts on page 10, Session 3. The article gives a great theological explanation of forgiveness and reconciliation, and then a very practical how to guide for how do it in a marriage. 

SERMON – An Extra Sermon on Changing your Life

I don't change my life SO THAT Jesus will love me. BECAUSE Jesus loves me, my life changes.

We don't grow spiritually by moving past the basic gospel that we're sinners saved by grace into the super spiritual curriculum. Rather, spiritual growth is the right application of the implications of God's Salvation in every area of life. All of our sin is at its core a failure to believe or to apply the truth we learn in Jesus that not because of anything we have done, but because of Jesus, we are infinitely loved, cherished, accepted, and valuable to the God of the universe.

If it is true, and it is, that no area of life is untouched by the infection of sin, then it must also be true that the gospel must be the antidote in every area of life. We must rethink our marriages, jobs, hobbies, relationships, and vacations in light of the gospel. The Gospel changes everything and redeems every area of our lives.

This sermon by Timothy Keller, a Presbyterian pastor in New York City, helps us begin to think out the implications of the gospel for every area of life.


Here is a link to the Podcast in iTunes if you want to listen on your phone or iPod: PODCAST



An Introduction to Baptism – An Outline

I'm preparing to counsel another family before the Baptism of their children, and so I figured I'd share on here the three documents I give every family I counsel. Baptism is one of 2 sacraments (The Lord's Supper is the other). For something to be a sacrament, it must have been instituted and commanded by Jesus in the Scriptures. Many other practices are beneficial, but these two actions are special, and visualize the gospel in a unique way. 


An Intro to Baptism – An Outline of Scripture

This document traces what the Scriptures say about Baptism and boils it down to three main points about water. 

1.) We use water for washing - so in baptism we celebrate that all our sin has been washed away by the blood of Jesus. 
2.) We use water for burial (either to prepare or burial at sea) - so in baptism we celebrate that we have died with Christ and been raised to new life. We are new creatures, the old is gone and the new has come. 
3.) Water breaks during childbirth - We are reborn or born again when we put our faith in Jesus, and when a baby is born they become part of a new family connected to people they did not choose. So too in baptism we are made part of God's family the church, called to love these people as family. 

Baptism – An Intro

Baptism by Francis Schaeffer

This document helps explain and reproof mainly commonly held misconceptions about infant baptism. Francis Schaeffer, one of the leading evangelical preachers of the last 100 years, argues that Infant Baptism is Biblical.  I find it especially important for families who grew up in churches that believe baptism is only for believing adults and by total immersion. 

Baptism, by Francis Schaeffer BLANK

The Baptism Service Outline

Lastly, I give each family a copy of a Baptism Service, so they can see the questions they will be asked and answered. 

Baptism of __________

A Sermon for Vacationers – “Work and Rest” by Timothy Keller

Most of you know that I went on vacation with my family earlier this month, and it was great. I needed a week out of the pulpit to recharge and to study God's word without the immediate need to teach it, when all I was doing was enjoying it. I loved getting to witness the beauty of God's creation first hand in fish, otters, sea turtles, a manta ray, dolphins, and birds, birds, birds. 

Still, I know that I often idolize vacations. I look to them like a week of salvation, a week that will fix every problem, that will calm all my anxieties, that will restore my soul, that will restore my sanity, that will rejuvenate my sagging will, and will automatically make me more joyful and content. But like all idols, Vacations are a great thing, but they make terrible gods. I still remember my first vacation after becoming pastor at Oakland. I expected a week at the beach to do all I listed and more. I looked to it for salvation from compassion fatigue and mental fatigue and faith fatigue. I went on vacation like a worshipper travels to a shrine, and I found a dead god. I spent little time in prayer that week and littler time in the Bible. I wanted to completely disconnect, and in so doing, I willfully disconnected myself from God. 

I came back more exhausted, more overwhelmed, more baffled, and more desperate for rest than I did when I went. My vacation was actually vacuum. And I have heard many of you say some form of the sentence, "I need a vacation to recover from my vacation." Sometimes your joking about doing too much on vacation, but I still cannot help wonder if it is indicative, that we as Americans (and especially country music listeners) are prone to idolize Vacations. 

This summer, I tried something different. I went on vacation in much the same spot - tired. But I intentionally tried to stay connected to God, to rest in God, to rest in his unchanging assurances. I did take a break from heavy reading or spiritual self-help books or church-development books. I did let myself sit and listen to conversations or silence rather than try to think of the next right question a real pastor would ask. But I didn't disconnect from God like last time. I didn't look to food, sun, and saltwater to fix me, but I thanked God for each of them, and I spent a lot of time just trying to be awe-filled in this awesome universe. 

I got back and listened to this sermon, and I think it summed up much of what I was trying to practice. Maybe as you go on vacation it will help you to find retreat rather than idolatry. 



Like OPC on FB!

1857 Layman’s Prayer Revival

1442766193809Yesterday, Andrew told three stories about times God did amazing things that changed the course of history. Each time God used a small group of people seeking God and seeking a groundswell of conversions and faith. 

Here is an account of the second story, often called the 1857 Layman's Prayer Revival, which began with a 12-1pm Businessman's Prayer Meeting in NYC.

I pray it spurs you to pray for revival and pray that God would use Oakland in a similar way. That through Oakland, God would start a tidal wave of conversions, faith, prayer, revival, piety, evangelism, mission, and social revival. We pray for a landslide shift in churches all over Johnston County that God would cause thousands of conversions in JoCo and start dozens of churches, ministries, homeless shelters, food-pantries, recovery centers, and so much more. We pray that spreads through the whole Triangle and North Carolina. 


Please Lord. Please. 


A Theology of Work

This morning at our first Men's Breakfast, we spent a half hour discussing the topic, "How does your Faith affect your Work?" Trying to pass round questions like, "How does your faith affect HOW you do your work?" "How does your faith inspire you to work?" "How does your faith inform your interactions with employees and customers?" "How should we balance profit and employee care?"

It was a great conversation, and I'd encourage you to head over to


to check out lots of great resources explaining why your work is sacred and important to God.

This is an awesome sermon:



If you heard the sermon Sunday, you know that we’re studying Oakland’s P.S.A.L.M. – Oakland’s Core Values.
P. is for “We PRIZE PRESENCE,” by which we mean:
  1. We Prize the Presence of God above all else, so we prioritize individual and group worship through prayer, song, preaching, and Bible Study.
  2. We Prize the Presence of other believers at Oakland, and so we prioritize meeting together weekly. We do not follow Jesus alone.
  3. We are intentionally Present in the Cleveland Community, and so we try to be present to love and serve our neighbors and our community.
Here is one of the quotes our Session reads at least annually, by Henri Nouwen. It reminds us that being present to our community and to each other is vitally important and the heart of ministry.

“More and more, the desire grows in me simply to walk around, greet people, enter their homes, sit on their doorsteps, play ball, and be known as someone who wants to live with them. It is a privilege to have the time and the freedom to practice this simple ministry of presence. Still, it is not as simple as it seems. My own desire to be useful, to do something significant, or be a part of some impressive project is so strong that soon my time is taken up by meetings, conferences, study groups, and workshops that prevent me from walking the streets. It is difficult not to have plans, not to organize people around the urgent cause, and not to feel that you are working directly for social or spiritual progress. But I wonder more and more if the first thing shouldn’t be to know people by name, to eat and drink with them, to listen to their stories and to tell your own, and to let them know with words, handshakes, and hugs that you do not simply like them, but truly love them.”

– from Gracias! By Henri J. M. Nouwen

Which Bible Do You Recommend for a Middle Schooler?

Which is the best Bible?


No matter how good the translation is, how pretty the cover is, how scholarly the notes are, how relevant it is, NO Bible is any good if you don't read it. But if you do read it, any Bible is good enough. So the Best Bible is a READ BIBLE.

Recently, I was asked to recommend a Bible for a rising 6th Grade Student. These are some of my favorite questions, but also hard to answer. If you're looking for a Bible for a Young Teen or Tween (4th-7th grader), maybe my advise to them, will help you out. For young elementary kids, I'll have to write another blog, but for now, I like The Jesus Storybook Bible, though it is not technically a Bible, it will help young students learn the whole story of Scripture and learn to see Jesus on every page.  

41LMG+8cE+L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_A couple of our younger youth (6th and 7th graders) have this Teen's Quest Bible, and I think it is really cool. It is probably one of my first choices since it is designed with questions that teens/tweens ask. Really good at those things. It may or may not lack some of the more advanced features like cross-references and a concordance, but should be pretty good. 
287706An older youth, 17 years old, really likes this Revolution Teen Guy Bible, but I think it is more for 16-18 year olds. It helps students think about dating relationships, sex, peer pressure, school performance, family dynamics, alcohol/drugs, gossip, etc.
411LjKlkk4L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_My old reliable, i.e. what I give to people when they ask for a Bible and give to High School Graduates is this Zondervan Life Application Bible - it is simple and yet has everything you need to do deep study. I started using it at age 18 and it was awesome. I used it until I was probably 21, and it taught me to read the Bible and apply it to my life. Claire still carries it to church weekly. At some point, a Life Application Bible and especially the footnotes may feel “too simple” like “Sunday School answers,” but that is a sign of growth in you not failure in the commentators.
Of them all, I'd probably go with the top one, QUEST, for a 4-7th grader. Just seems like a good age appropriate Bible if they are going to start using it and reading it immediately. If you think he or she will put it on the shelf for 4 years, then maybe the middle one, and if you want to give him a Bible he can carry to church for the rest of his life, then the last one. 
Personally, I think a Bible should only last 3-5 years, because if you use it regularly, carry it around, mark and study it, they fall apart, even the leather ones and hardback ones. That or they’re so full of highlighting and underlining that they’re hard to use. That’s ok. That’s what’s supposed to happen. I have my old Bibles on the shelf (except for the ones I gave away to someone who I led to the Lord). My prayer is that the next Bible you buy will be worn out in 5 years, and you’ll be emailing me again about Bibles for college students or young adults or mothers or dads or business men.

What Do Americans Believe About Jesus – A BARNA Study

What Do Americans Believe About Jesus – 5 Popular Believes

Above is a link to one of the studies mentioned in Sunday’s Sermon about Jesus Christ Alone. This recent study asked several questions about Jesus, including:
1.) What Jesus a real person that actually lived?


2.) I believe Jesus was ______.


3.) Did Jesus ever sin?


4.) Is salvation based on Faith in Jesus or Good Works?


For the whole study click on the link above or copy and paste this link:

SERMON – An Extra Sermon on Christ’s Uniqueness – As God’s Final Word

Body builders will tell you, "If you want to get big, you gotta eat big!" The same is true spiritually. If you want your faith to grow, you have to feed it with faith-inspiring, gospel-centered teaching.

On Sunday, April 24, 2016, I preached on the exclusivity and the uniqueness of Jesus, arguing that Jesus Christ is the only way of salvation open to human beings. Here is another sermon by one of my favorite preachers, Timothy Keller of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, that is connected to our theme. I pray that my preaching inspires and illumines you like his does me. 

If you want to download the podcast episode on your phone or iPod, here is the PODCAST LINK