In The Room Ep. 15: Joe Thorn

Today I’m in the room with Joe Thorn. Joe is one of my closest pastor friends and he’s written a new book called “Experiencing The Trinity: The Grace of God for the People of God.”

In our conversation, we discuss why so many ministry leaders burn out, how to endure difficult seasons of life, and the role of mental health professionals in the Christian life. 

Buy "Experiencing The Trinity" on Amazon.
Connect with Joe on Twitter, Instagram, and his blog.

In The Room Ep.14: Barnabas Piper

Today I’m in the room with Barnabas Piper - He’s a prolific blogger at both The Blazing Center and BarnabasPiper.com and he also writes for World Magazine. Most recently, he’s written his first book called “The Pastor’s Kid.” If you don’t know, Barnabas is the son of one of the most influential pastors of our generation, Pastor John Piper.

In our conversation we discuss what makes being a pastor’s kid uniquely difficult, some keys to creating a home and church culture where PKs can thrive, and 7 Rules for when you meet a pastor’s kid.

Buy The Pastor’s Kid on Amazon.

Connect with Barnabas on his BLOG and TWITTER

In The Room Ep.13: Dr. David Murray

Today I’m in the room with Dr. David Murray - He is the pastor of Grand Rapids Free Reformed Church and the Professor of Practical Theology at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary. He’s a written a fascinating and helpful new book called, “The Happy Christian: Ten Ways to Be a Joyful Believer in a Gloomy World.”

In our conversation we discuss the unfortunate stigma surrounding mental health in the church, why our minds matter so much in the pursuit of happiness, and how we can live optimistic lives without losing a realistic grasp on the world we live in.

Buy The Happy Christian on Amazon.

Connect with Dr. Murray on his BLOG and TWITTER.

In The Room Ep.12: Joe Rigney

Today I’m in the room with author Joe Rigney - he’s the assistant professor of theology and Christian worldview at Bethlehem College and Seminary and he’s just written a great new book called “The Things of Earth: Treasuring God by Enjoying His Gifts.” 

In our conversation we discuss how to deal with what appear to be contradictions in the Bible, how to properly enjoy the things that God has made in a way that glorifies him and how to keep our enjoyment from becoming idolatry. 

It's a tricky and fascinating subject, so I think you'll find this helpful!

Buy “The Things Of Earth” on Amazon.

Follow Joe Rigney on Twitter.

In The Room Ep.11: Scotty Smith

This week I’m in the room with Scotty Smith - he’s an author, a pastor and a professor.

On this episode we’re talking about prayer. In our conversation we discuss why prayer is necessary, why we struggle with it so much and how we can overcome some of the obstacles to a rich prayer life. 

Make sure you follow Scotty on Twitter and read his blog over at The Gospel Coalition

Thanks for listening!


The Real Reason We Suck At Evangelism

One of the main reasons we Christians fail to do the work of telling others about Jesus, is that we've forgotten His grace toward us.

We've forgotten the feeling of being lost. We've forgotten what it feels like to be without hope. We've forgotten what it feels like to grasp at something we have no idea we're grasping for.

When we forget, we grow cold.

When we forget, we grow apathetic.

When we forget, we grow indifferent. 

We don't ultimately need better methods for evangelism (though I'm thankful for those who labor to help us in this). What we really need is to taste and see the grace of God.

Because when you taste grace, you can't help but talk about it. 

Take a long, long look at the cross today.

Remember what Christ bore for you. Remember that it was your sin that sent Him to His death. Remember that He loves you that much.

Then, and only then, no amount fear, insecurity, or uncertainty will be able to silence the good news of Jesus from pouring forth from your speech.

In The Room Ep. 10: Justin McRoberts

This week I’m in the room with songwriter, author, and pastor, Justin McRoberts. He recently wrote a book on his creative process called, “Title Pending: Things I think about when I make stuff.”

In our conversation we discuss the advantages and disadvantages of being an independent artist, how to turn failure into fruitfulness, and why so much Christian art sucks. There's lots more and I hope you enjoy it. If you'd like to connect with Justin (which I'd recommend), here are a few options:

Purchase "Title Pending" on Amazon.

Follow him on Twitter.

Follow him on Instagram.

Check out his website.

In The Room Ep.9: JR Vassar

This week I’m in the room with JR Vassar. He’s the lead pastor of Church at the Cross in Grapevine, TX. He’s also the founding pastor of Apostles Church in NYC. He’s written a convicting new book called, “Glory Hunger: God, the Gospel, and our quest for something more."

In our conversation we discuss how to transition between ministries well, the narcism that pervades social media, and how to satisfy the glory hunger we all have.

Follow JR on Twitter.

Order his book “Glory Hunger” on Amazon.

If these conversations have been a blessing to you, would mind helping me spread the word? I’ve learned so much and I want to get this great content to as many people possible. Here are two ways you can help:

1) Share In The Room with friends and followers on social media.

2)Subscribe and leave a review on iTunes. 

I’d be honored if you helped me spread the word. Thanks for listening!


In The Room Ep.8: Alec Rowlands

This week I’m in the room with Alec Rowlands. He’s the senior pastor of Westgate Chapel in Edmonds, WA and the author of a great new book called The Presence: Experiencing More of God. 

In our conversation we discuss the defining marks of revival throughout church history, some things that keep us from experiencing God’s manifest presence and how to maintain balance in our theological convictions.

Follow Pastor Alec on Twitter 

Order his new book, “The Presence” 

If these conversations have been a blessing to you, would mind helping me spread the word? I’ve learned so much and I want to get this great content to as many people possible. Here are two ways you can help:

1) Share In The Room with friends and followers on social media.

2)Subscribe and leave a review on iTunes. 

I’d be honored if you helped me spread the word. Thanks for listening!


My Saturday Nightmare

I have a recurring nightmare on Saturday nights. 

It involves me stepping up to the pulpit, looking down at my notes and having NOTHING prepared. As every eye looks on, I start to mumble and make up a sermon out of thin air. I’d love to report that the dream ends with me preaching an earth-rattling, hell-shattering sermon resulting in revival, but more often than not I wake up just before falling off the stage I never should have set foot on.  

Thankfully this dream has never been a reality, but it does remind me that I need to know a few things  prior to preaching. And if you’re a preacher, so do you.

1. Know Your Text

I don’t just mean have one picked out. Holy cow, I hope we at very least have that. I mean we need to know the text the way a chef knows food, or a nerd knows comics - we need to know EVERYTHING we can. We need to know our text inside and out. 

Write it out, jot down your observations, study it in multiple translations, understand the original languages, and read a couple of good commentaries. Our creativity, charisma, and carefully crafted sentences are pathetic substitutes for truly preaching the very Word of God. 

Prior to preaching make sure you know your text.

2. Know Yourself

No two preachers are exactly the same. Are there any two people more different than Tim Keller and Steven Furtick? Keller’s all turtle necks and Tolkien, Furtick is fohawks and v-necks. Keller was a professor, Furtick fronted a punk band. Completely. Different. People. 

Few things are more frightening than listening to a preacher try to be someone they’re not. Like David in Saul’s armor, it’s awkward, uncomfortable and incongruent with who God’s made them to be. 

God gave you the personality He gave you and intends that you preach from it, so make sure you know yourself.

3. Know Your Audience

I just finished preaching a retreat for 6th-12th graders. It had been a long time since I’d preached to anyone other than adults and let’s just say my “re-entry” was rocky. Five minutes in, I felt like I’d never preached before. I was sweaty, self-conscious, and couldn’t wait for it to be over. I didn’t know my audience.   

WHAT we preach does not change based on the audience, but HOW we preach should. Children, students, and adults all demand different strategies. What works in an urban area, may crash and burn in a rural community. 

The more we know our audience, the more we know how to apply God’s Word skillfully. 

You may still have the Saturday nightmare like I do, but if you know your text, yourself, and your audience, the nightmare won’t be a reality. 

In The Room Ep 7: How To Live Life Intentionally feat. Carlos Whittaker

On this episode, I’m talking with Carlos Whittaker. He’s a worship leader, recording artist, speaker, author and social media machine. In our conversation we discuss his new book Moment Maker, consider how to bring more intentionality to our lives and ministries, and talk a bit about how to use social media without losing our souls. 

Here are a few ways you can connect with Carlos:

If these conversations have been a blessing to you, would mind helping me spread the word? I’ve learned so much and I want to get this great content to as many people possible. Here are two ways you can help: 1) Share In The Room with friends and followers on social media 2)Subsribe and leave a review on iTunes. I’d be honored if you helped me spread the word. Thanks for listening!

In The Room Episode 6: Jared Wilson

On this episode, I’m talking with Jared Wilson. He’s the author of books like Gospel Wakefulness, The Wonder-Working God and The Pastor’s Justification. 

In our conversation we discuss the importance of pastoral presence when people are suffering, some of the most common problems pastors face, and whether, or not it’s necessary to correct other pastors publicly via social media. 

You can follow Jared on Twitter and pick up one of his great books now

I’d love to hear the one thing that sticks with you from this week's episode. Join the conversation online using the hashtag #InTheRoom, or leave me a comment here on the blog. Don’t forget, you can subscribe to In The Room on iTunes and have it downloaded directly to your device as soon as it’s available. Thanks so much for listening!


7 Themes We Need To Hear Hundreds Of Times

As a parent of three young kids I’m amazed how frequently I have to tell them the same things over and over. I mean honestly, should I really have to tell my four year old son more than once that he can’t push his two-year-old brother off the couch? I even find myself saying, “Guys, I’ve told you this a hundred times.” Maybe a slight overstatement, but they do need to hear the same messages over and over (and over and over and over…) 

In truth, you and I are no different. Over these past five years I find myself and my church in need of hearing these seven themes over and over again. 

1. God's grace is greater than our sin.

I heard a great story of Martin Luther being approached by a member of his church who asked when he would preach something OTHER than the gospel to them. Luther responded, “When you show up looking like a people who believe the gospel, I’ll preach something else to you.” We’re all prone to believe we can out-sin God’s grace. That means the message that must saturate every sermon is the one true gospel of Jesus’ perfect life, substitutionary death and victorious resurrection. 

2. What we feel doesn't dictate what's real.

Emotions have a way of determining our perceived reality. If I FEEL God has allowed something unjust, God is unjust. If I FEEL God has abandoned me, God must have abandoned me. If I FEEL God is not in control, I must be on my own. The problem is, our emotions frequently conflict with God’s Word. Each time this happens, we have a choice to make: Will Scripture, or my subjective feelings, determine what’s true? I have a friend who says, “Emotions make a great caboose, but a lousy engine.” Each day we have to let the Bible beat our feelings into submission. 

3. If it's in the text we have to do something with it.

We tend to treat the Bible like a buffet - we pick what we like and skip what we don’t. Pastors are guilty of this, too. We all have parts of Scripture we’re comfortable preaching and parts we’re not. The task in front of every Bible preacher is preaching the full counsel of God’s Word, regardless of our comfort with what it says. No skipping, no ignoring, no passing over. If God says it, we have to face it. 

4. God's always working for our good and His glory.

If you follow Christ for more than a few seconds, something will happen that will make you wonder what God is doing. It may be a trial you face, a loved one who dies, or a situation you never expected. As a result, the most common questions we ask are, “Where is God and what is He doing?” The answer: He is with you and He is working. God is always accomplishing His objective: His glory and your good in all things. 

5. Jesus is coming!

Even a cognitive trust that God is pushing His plan forward doesn’t diminish the temporary suffering we all experience. Suffering has a way of obscuring our ability to see God’s hand in our hurts. That means we need our hearts constantly recalibrated to the reality of Christ’s return. Things won’t always be the way they are. Suffering will cease. Pain will pass. Death will disappear. Even the most difficult day will be eclipsed against the backdrop of eternity with Jesus. 

6. Christians don't coddle sin, they kill it.

In Romans 8:13, Paul tells us to put to death the deeds of the body. We’re not called to manage sin or minimize it. We’re called to kill it. Over and over we needed to be reminded that sin is not a game. You may not see the immediate consequences of it, but make no mistake, if you’re not killing your sin, it is in fact killing you. The death may be slow, but in the end, death is still definitive. 

7. Faith isn’t a feeling, it’s a choice.

As a pastor, I hear people say, “I want to have faith and trust God, but I just don’t FEEL it.” We have to get rid of the notion that faith is a feeling. It’s not. Faith is a decision to believe that God is who He says He is and capable of all He says He is capable of. When we choose faith, our feelings will follow. 

So if you’re a preacher, don’t tire of telling people the same things over and over. They need it and so do you. If you’re not a preacher, never tire of returning to God’s Word over and over again for the daily bread that the truth of His Word is for your soul. 

Which of these themes do you need to be reminded of today? 

In The Room Episode 5: Pastor Mark Jobe

On this episode, I’m talking with Pastor Mark Jobe. He’s the lead pastor of New Life Community Church - a multi-congregational and multi-ethnic church in urban Chicago. He’s also the author of “Unstuck: Out of Your Cave, Into Your Call.”

In our conversation we discuss the difficulties of urban ministry, some of New Life's mistakes as pioneers in the multi-site strategy of church planting, and Pastor Mark's new book, “Unstuck.”

You can follow Mark on Twitter and buy his new book on Amazon now.

I’d love to hear the one thing that sticks with you from this week's episode. Join the conversation online using the hashtag #InTheRoom, or leave me a comment here on the blog. Don’t forget, you can subscribe to In The Room on iTunes and have it downloaded directly to your device as soon as it’s available. Thanks so much for listening!

In The Room Episode 4: Dr. Gregg R. Allison

On this episode, I’m talking with Dr. Gregg Allison. He’s the Professor of Christian Theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. We’re discussing his new book “Roman Catholic Theology and Practice.” Most of you who listen to the podcast are Protestant, but with over 1.2 billion Catholics in the world, this is a topic we need to think clearly about. 

In our conversation we cover a brief history of the Catholic church, how the Catholic Church differs from the Protestant Evangelical Church and how we can best love and minister to those who are Catholic. 

I’d love to hear the one thing that sticks with you from this week's episode. Join the conversation online using the hashtag #InTheRoom, or leave me a comment here on the blog. Don’t forget, you can subscribe to In The Room on iTunes and have it downloaded directly to your device as soon as it’s available. Thanks so much for listening!

In The Room Episode 3: Justin Taylor

On this episode of In The Room I'm talking with Justin Taylor. He's the author of multiple books, a trusted blogger and the Senior Vice President of Crossway Books. In our conversation we discuss the benefits and liabilities of social media, mistakes that Justin has made as a blogger, and whether, or not we really need "watch blogs." You can find Justin's blog here and follow him on Twitter here.

I’d love to hear the one thing that sticks with you from this week's episode. Join the conversation online using the hashtag #InTheRoom, or leave me a comment here on the blog. Don’t forget, you can subscribe to In The Room on iTunes and have it downloaded directly to your device as soon as it’s available. Thanks so much for listening!


Crafting Sermons That Cut Through The Noise

I think we can agree that in our current culture, you and I are inundated with information. Communication is constant, cluttered, and consuming. This poses a significant challenge for those of us who preach. How do we craft sermons in such a way that they cut through the noise?

Here are five suggestions:

1. Proclaim the authority of God’s Word and nothing else.

In Isaiah 55:10-11, God Himself promises us that His Word never returns void. Think about that! If you’ve preached God’s Word faithfully, you can rest knowing it has accomplished exactly what God wants. That promise doesn’t extend to our creativity, clever thoughts, or compelling illustrations. I’m NOT saying don’t incorporate those things into your sermon. I AM saying far too much of what we call “preaching” is light on the one thing we know contains power: the Word of God. 

2.  Prepare your guts out and don’t wing it.

The fact that God’s Word won’t return void shouldn’t make us prepare less, but more. We need to be sure we get it right. We need to explain, illustrate, and apply God’s Word with surgical precision. Our culture kills itself to prepare its sermons; should we prepare any less? We have the truth. We labor for eternity. The One we preach is worthy of our best. So, no winging it. Pray yourself hot, press deep into the text, and prepare the best sermon you can every time you’re blessed to preach.

3. Present the problem and preach the solution.

Every sermon should be the solution to a specific problem. I’ll give you a hint: the problem is always some manifestation of sin. It may be an issue of disbelief, an ungodly attitude, or a behavior that is contrary to God’s revealed will. Regardless, we focus the truth we proclaim when we identify the problem we’re addressing. Ears perk up when people realize God’s Word holds out hope for something that is causing them pain. 

4. Push on real issues and don’t stick to what’s safe.

The message of the Bible is beautiful, but it’s not pretty. One of the great things about God’s Word is the authentic way in which it speaks about life. It confronts our sin and calls us to repent. Sexuality, relationships, speech, money, politics…there is no subject God is afraid to force us to face. If we’re going to be faithful to the text, we have to say what it says. We can’t pull any punch or ignore any issue. If God has something to say about it, so must we. 

5. Preach to your actual audience and use their language.

Too much preaching is done in language that is either over the heads or beneath the intelligence of its listeners. Some sermons have so many Greek words or Christian cliches, the message is lost on the average listener. Other times we preach like our congregations are stupid and can’t handle the full weight of what the text says. No preacher would step into another country and ignore the language of that country. You’d either learn it or have it interpreted so the audience can understand. But are we doing this work in the context God has placed us in? Know the audience and talk to them.

Our message is too important for it to get lost in the noise. Let’s give our all to insure we’re preaching the right thing the right way. 

The Story Behind The Songs We Sing

One of the first things we think of when we think of Christmas is music. Love it or hate it, we all associate music with Christmas. Think about it, Christmas is the only season that has its own soundtrack.

Christmas-Carols-HD-Starting.jpg

Entire radio stations spring up each year devoted exclusively to running Christmas music into the ground. Four of the top 10 selling albums on iTunes this week were Christmas albums. Some people are so crazy for Christmas music they go caroling! What?! What other time of year is it socially acceptable to stand on someone's doorstep and sing to them?

There's just something about Christmas and music.

If we're honest, however, there's a bunch of songs we sing and don't really understand many of the words we're singing. When was the last time you used words like hark, gloria, or noel in a sentence? Um, the answer is NEVER. 

In fact, I gathered a highly qualified focus group recently to discuss our confusion with so many of the details of the Christmas story. Watch:

It's one thing that we don't know what a few words mean in a song; it's something altogether different when we forget the story these songs tell. 

To remedy this, I'm currently teaching a series called "Christmas Carols" at Redemption. It's all about the Story behind the songs we sing. My first sermon was from Luke 1:1-25, entitled "Trusting God's Promise." I focused on the examples of Zechariah and Elizabeth and how they teach us that our limitations, fears, and doubts can't hinder God's plan. 

I'd be honored if you'd listen.

In The Room Episode #2: Luke MacDonald & Andi Rozier of Vertical Church Band

For this episode of In The Room, I stopped by Harvest Bible Chapel to talk with Luke MacDonald and Andi Rozier, of Vertical Church Band. In our conversation we discussed the evolution of Vertical Church Music, what they’re encouraged and concerned about in the modern worship movement, and the upcoming release of their 3rd album “Church Songs” (Available 1.20.15).

I’d love to hear the one thing that sticks with you from this week's episode. Join the conversation online using the hashtag #InTheRoom, or leave me a comment here on the blog. Don’t forget, you can subscribe to In The Room on iTunes and have it downloaded directly to your device as soon as it’s available. Thanks so much for listening!

3 Ways You Can Help With #InTheRoom

It's been an amazing first few days for my new podcast In The Room! As I'm writing this, it's the #12 podcast in the Religion & Spirituality section, which almost makes my brain explode.

Thank you to everyone who has listened, provided feedback and helped me spread the word. I just wanted to let you know how it's doing and tell you about three ways you can help me with the podcast: 

1. Listen to episode #1 with Matt Chandler.

The most consistent piece of feedback I continue to hear this week surrounds how much wisdom Pastor Matt shares on the podcast. What he shares is so helpful for all Christians - not just other pastors.

2. Leave a review for me.

Reviews are one of the main components that iTunes uses to determine which podcasts receive increased visibility. They also help people determine if they will sacrifice their time and give a podcast a shot. So if you have a second, would you mind clicking over and leaving a review?

3. Let somebody else know about the podcast.

The BIGGEST way you can help is simply spreading the word. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Email, just telling people - it all helps. So, if you've enjoyed it and have a way to let someone else know about it, I'd appreciate really it. 

Thanks so much for all your help this week. We're in this together and I hope you'll find In The Room helpful. I love you and thanks again for your help!