Joseph’s Tomb Is Occupied

Joseph’s tomb is occupied. Within it, the body of Jesus of Nazareth lay. Death has laid hold of him. His color is changed. His limbs are stiff. His heart is still. His chest rises not. He’s cold and lifeless. He’s gone the way of all the world.

So much on the line. Death has grave repercussions. A soul is separated from a body. A person is gone. Universally, gone without return. And in their absence, things inevitably change. Death has ripple effects in the lives of those attached to the deceased. But this is different. It’s different in that, in Jesus’ death, the lives of ‘every man’ are on the line. What’s more, from what He said, the eternal state of ‘every man’ are on the line.

He said He came to die. He also said He came to bring about the death of Death. He said He came to rise immortal, incorruptible. And He said that, in doing so, He’d ransom a people for God. He’d save His people. He’d redeem sinners. Though they die, yet they too will live. All who believe in Him will never die, for, as He self-disclosed, He’s the Resurrection and the Life. We’re about to find out. As I said, Joseph’s tomb is occupied.

As we sit here today, the Saturday prior to Easter Sunday, 2020, having the benefit of hindsight, it’s hard perhaps to identify with Jesus’ disciples and their state of mind on that Saturday just after the crucifixion. They’d just witnessed the divine spectacle that was Christ crucified, only what they surmised was far more deflating than elating. They only felt the gore of it all, but none of it’s glory. And in large part, that’s because, to date, they hadn’t heard or understood what Jesus made plain: I came for this. I lived for this. And I shall live again from it too!

Without forfeiting the truth that we know (from their eyewitness testimony, by the way!), it’s good today to take some time and feel afresh what’s on the line in whether or not, come Sunday morn, Joseph’s tomb would have a vacancy. So as we’ll be studying John 20:24-29 tomorrow, here are some things from John’s Gospel for your meditative consideration. The hope is that as we come to hear, as Thomas, of Jesus’ resurrection, all these things packaged up within it will radiate all the more profoundly and joyously within us. So, at stake:

The deity of Jesus, 1:1
The exclusivity of Jesus as the Truth, Life, and Way to the Father, 14:6
The new temple of God. We call it the church, 2:21. Also, 4:23-24
The hope and success of Gospel missions, 4:34-38. Also, 17:20
The fulfillment of God’s prophetic Word, 5:39. Also, 19:17, 24, 28, 36-37
The fullness and veracity of the apostolic Word we call the New Testament, 16:13
The entire rationale for abiding in His Word, 8:31
The indwelling of the Holy Spirit, 7:38. Also, 14:16-18, 16:7
The vindication of His life and work on the cross. Is it really finished? 10:17
The entire rationale for believing in Him, 11:25-26
The entire rationale for worshipping Him, 12:7-8. Also, 20:28
The entire rationale for missional humility, love, and service to one another, 13:14
The restorative care of Jesus, 20:24-29. Also, 21:15-18
The entire rationale for following Him, 21:19
Our sin-penalty paid, it’s power broken, 1:29
Our new birth, 3:3
Our adoption, 1:12
Our inheritance of eternal life, 3:16. Also, 6:40, 10:28, 17:3
Our joy in and over against sorrow, 16:20
Our peace in and over against fear and anxiety, 16:33
Our sanctification, 17:19
Our unity, 17:21-24
Our ability to bear fruit for God, 15:5
Our ability to bear fruit for God to the end,15:18-16:5
Our preservation to glory, 6:39
Our resurrection to life, as well as the vindication of the just, 5:24-29
Our seeing the glory of Jesus, 17:24
The glory of God!, 11:40

There’s a lot on the line, for time and eternity, in whether or not Joseph’s tomb is vacant come tomorrow morning, some two thousand years ago. Sit in it. Ponder the stakes. And do so with a smile.

Maundy Thursday

Beloved TMC,

We’ve arrived at Maundy Thursday! I wanted to let you know the plan for Easter Sunday. We had planned to do live music and preaching with the help of Zoom, but with increased restrictions amid the pandemic, as well as the desire to make our service to you as smooth as possible, we’ve decided against that plan. We will pre-record the sermon and create the Youtube playlist for you as we did last Sunday.

We do, however, want to have a time of virtual gathering Easter morning. It is likely that we will continue this moving forward in an effort to see each other and pray together ahead of our participation in ‘corporate’ worship. To this end, we will have a church-wide Zoom meeting from 10:30-10:50 a.m. or thereabouts.

In order to facilitate this, we will create break out ‘rooms’ that keep the groups to a more conversational size. Consider it an opportunity to greet and pray together in view of worship. Additional details will be forthcoming. For now, take a mental note, frequent Slack, and get excited about more interaction this coming Sunday.

A few other items for your consideration:

  1. Is there anyone in the church body without the means or know-how to participate in this kind of on-line activity? Reach out to them and see how you can be of help in equipping them for this. If that’s not possible, reach out to them by phone or email and be the community they would otherwise miss.
  2. We all have unbelieving family and friends (and enemies). I’m sure we also know a fair amount of disbelieving, disassociated believers. How can you connect them to Christ this Easter Sunday? How can you promote the Gospel ministry of TMC for their benefit? Maybe, you can share the playlist from this coming Sunday and e-chat with them about it afterward. Maybe, you can share the blog posts planned for later this week and follow up with them. You can certainly reach out to them and ask how you might pray for them, or if they’ve given any thought recently to the vital veracity of Christ crucified and raised. Whatever it is, let’s create ways to get Christ to souls and souls to Christ in these days.
  3. Would you pray for me and your elders and deacons? I know I need it. I need ‘a closer walk with Jesus.’ I want to know, as Paul told us in Philippians, His resurrection power. I want to be more like Him in His death, more for Him in my life. My spirits are down of late. So, more than anything, I long to feel the fact that He is above! I desire the peace, the courage, the joy, the Christ-centered-ness that comes from the knowledge that Jesus is risen! And not just for a day, but increasingly in all my days. For this, I and we covet your prayers.

As always, the aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith (1 Tim 1:5).

Brian (on behalf of your elders)

Aaron’s Blessing

As part of my personal time in Scripture and prayer, I’m reading through the Bible, straight, something I have not done since high school. I was joking with one of the other pastors that I had enjoyed Leviticus, but was finding Numbers a hard slog. To be fair, I was only two or three chapters in, and while I love math, the repetition and tallies were not my favorite. And that coming off the heels of Leviticus, with its descriptions of proper worship and timely, interesting connection points to our current COVID-19 experience in the instructions on handling skin disease, and dealing with matters clean and unclean, holy and profane.

But, all of Scripture is profitable! Of this I am sure. And lest we avoid the difficult work of discipleship looking for pet verses, affirmation, and encouragement, God shows up in the remote wilderness. So, I offer this blessing to you today from Numbers, and with it hope to remind you that your salvation and hope do not depend on your effort; they rest on on the completed work of Christ, the Gospel we are commanded to teach our neighbor. It is the Lord who provides all we need. Labor diligently to care for family, and to love one another, even during this time of isolation. But, rest in Jesus throughout all your labors, so he can make your works shine with the light of Christ (2 Corinthians 4:4-6). And finally, we are representatives of the King. We have a glorious calling, each one authorized by Christ himself (Matthew 28:18-20), as ambassadors of an everlasting peace, a peace that abides in sickness, traverses death, and combats sin.

The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, Thus you shall bless the people of Israel: you shall say to them,

The Lord bless you and keep you;
the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;
the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

So shall they put my name upon the people of Israel, and I will bless them.”

Numbers 6:22-27

So, carry the name of Jesus on your very person, in your words, in your hands. Peace and love to you all. May you experience joy, growth, and opportunities to be the hands and feet of Christ this week.

Reflections and Updates

Dear saints,

While there hasn’t been a lot of time to spend in reflection amid attempts to faithfully adjust to this season as a family and a church, I did happen to squeeze out a walk today and, with it, the following reflections:

I miss our physical gathering

At the same time I thank God for the means He’s given for us to continue having edifying face-time, I feel compelled to say what I hope you all are feeling—virtual’s not the same. In an church age when virtual church is all the rage, I’ve grown stronger in my conviction that such a rage only betrays an impoverished ecclesiology (understanding of the church). We are the church most brilliantly when we gather or assemble, face to face, in that foretaste of heavenly fellowship.

As I mentioned at the outset of last week’s sermon, there is an incarnational blessing to be had in Christian worship, communion, and ministry that simply cannot be had through a set of screens between shepherds and sheep that hardly know each other. Just think about our normal gathering on Sunday mornings. How many graces occur that we simply take for granted until they’re no longer occurring for lack of gathering—how many holy smiles, hugs, encouragements, alignments, affirmations, assurances, how much heightening of prayer, of music, of truths sung, preached, received, and discussed?

It’s significant. I hope you feel it. I hope this season is refining your ecclesiology, the importance of the gathered assembly of Christ in your life. Learn by social distancing to long for corporate worship on the Lord’s Day (Heb 10:24-25), like a festival of resurrected souls after a week out and amongst the spiritually dead.

I’ve been floored by the service of your elected leaders

Your deacons and elders and staff (and others) have worked remarkably behind the scenes in an effort to serve our joy and confidence in the Lord in this strange time. George and Marshall have put in hours to make sure we maintain a regular diet of the Word preached. With George, Derek and John have done an exemplary job, much in secret, of managing the TMC household to peace and edification.

Bronson and Amy have made sure that the facility and a host of other things having to do with our day to day operations have received due care. Rodney and Stephanie have continued to give up their Saturday mornings to preserve the ministry of our clothes’ closet. David Conley has kept an able-eye on the songs we sing in this season. Shane has been steadfast in keeping our grounds well-manicured.

And I’ve spoken to others who, more distanced from the church’s life by this present trial, have expressed their longing to find ways to serve her still! It’s a beautiful thing for this needy pastor to see. No better air to breathe than the one that’s filled with the aroma of Christ, the church aromatic in self-sacrificial service.

Your generosity has been overwhelming

In my initial letter concerning our direction in view of this pandemic, I challenged us from 2 Corinthians 8:1-9. There, we find a church undergoing great distress, impoverishing trials, who were yet doing what we might not expect given the circumstances. Their extreme poverty plus their extreme joy overflowed in a wealth of eager, cheerful, self-sacrificial generosity. Paul calls it a work of grace. Christian giving, rooted in what Christ has done for us, as well as our love for Him and His people, is supernatural in nature. It’s a grace in which we’re called to be excellent. And to date, you have been excellent! Let’s continue to excel in this grace of cross-beholding generosity. A thought in practice:

No need to dive into the details, but our government has approved a stimulus package in light of a sharp economic recession. As I’ve maintained, if the pandemic has crippled your familial income and any stimulus monies you receive can offset that loss, by all means, offset it. Provide for you family (1 Tim 5:8). A challenge, though, (not original to me) for those who are essentially fiscally unaffected. Trust the Lord, and receive it to give it (Acts 20:35; 2 Cor 9:6-15) to those entities that need it.

As one example, I have a pastor friend with five children and another in the womb who was just forced to resign his post by members of the church who rebuffed at the biblical ministry he was bringing. And then, even in the pursuit of a normal job, this pandemic hit. They could use the support.

I’m sure you know of others in the service industry, etc. who have lost their jobs. They could use the support. Or you could simply donate it to the church’s ministry of the Gospel, entrusting it to the body, in the vein of a mercy fund, for the alleviation of needs in the church and/or community. But the point is, provided financial solvency, it’s hardly the time to receive for self, but to give to others (1 Jn 3:16-17).

It’s as good a time as any to recover family worship

Sadly, family worship, assumed in the Bible, cannot be assumed in the church today. For various reasons, gathering together as a husband, wife, and kids around the Word and prayer and song is no longer a prioritized item on our daily schedules. But it should be, at least a couple times a week. One wonders the difference it would make in marriages, in families, in the lives of our children, in the life of the church, in the success of the Great Commission for generations to come if we were to recover a passion for the ministry of the Word in our homes.

In my home, I’ll let you know this happens about 2-3 times a week, not including the Lord’s Day where we gather with the body for corporate worship. These times are very informal. In fact, it often looks counter-intuitive to learning. That’s okay. Try to tame the wild things, but don’t get discouraged if you can’t. The simple act of attempting to sit the Word in the midst of your day and family teaches. As far as teaching, we just completed the Psalms. It only took 3 years! But it builds. We and our kids retain more than we might imagine at first. Keep it at.

As far as practice, we pull out the Oreos. I open to a text. I read said text. I then ask each child, very simply, what stuck out to you in the text? What do you think is God’s main point? If application rears its head, we do that. But the tangents are equally valuable. It’s amazing what the Lord will bring up for conversation. Address it. Follow the rabbit trails, then bring it back to the text for prayer. Pray.

And if you have time and attention, Youtube a song or two. Sing. It takes 15-20 minutes, but has an abiding impact. If you’d like to talk more about this, I’d love to have that chat and offer further resources for equipping. When we can’t gather together for worship, it’s a good time for families to do so, and the church will prove stronger for it!

Church life updates

In that initial notice to the church, we said we’d be suspending services through Sunday, March 29. That’s tomorrow. You may now assume we will be suspending services until further notice. Lord, let it be sooner rather than later! Small group studies will continue to meet, assuming all acts of prudence.

Lastly, we tried live-streaming the sermon last week. The feedback we’ve received from you suggests that’s not the most user-friendly or edifying experience. So we will return this Sunday to pre-recording the sermon and posting it on all our social media platforms by 11:00 a.m., pending the internet’s cooperation.

The goal remains the same. It’s our desire that we continue to gather together mentally for corporate worship, that we keep our rhythms of grace as a church, that while we’re apart, we’re yet with each other, around the Word, before the throne, in heart and spirit. So I’ll be sending out the bulletin today for ‘service’ tomorrow. Please make every attempt to assemble with and as the Body at 11 a.m. for this ‘family meal.’

Longing to see each of you, healthy and healthy in the Lord.

Brian (on behalf of your elders)

A New Week

Dear beloved TMC,

As we continue to monitor the path of COVID-19, as well as God’s path for us in and through it (Ps 70:10-20), we want to have some additional communication with you concerning our operations as a church in the coming days.

Pastoral Care

Whenever God enables us to safely meet again, it’s our hope as elders to launch, not too long thereafter, another arm of pastoral care and discipleship for the church (see Ezek 34:1-10 & Jn 10:13; Jn 21:16; Heb 13:17). We’ll simply refer to them as pastoral visits. We’re spiritually optimistic concerning you, that every member will find this encouraging and edifying for our faith in Christ. Details will come as a launch date draws nearer.

For the time being, in order to shepherd you well during a season of social distance, we’ve thought it a providential time to begin a virtual foretaste of that pastoral aim. We plan to reach out to each of you via phone to check up on you and pray for you. We have alphabetically divided up our membership among the four elders to this end. Derek has Ackerman-Conley. John has Fabian-Henderson. George has Jenkins-Massey. I have Marshall-Wells. Hold us accountable! And please pray for us in this as we seek to steward our office well for the good of your souls and the glory of Christ.

A Call to Fast

We think it’s a good season for the church to be fasting together. Of course, for various reasons, some may not be able to fast from eating food. Charity given. For everyone else, we’re calling the church to fast during lunch on Thursdays for the foreseeable future. Extreme circumstances provide opportunity for us to exercise relatively neglected spiritual disciplines, like fasting. So let’s turn our hearts and hungers to the Lord together, asking Him to end this virus, protect those on the front lines, heal those infected, save the lost, revive the church, strengthen us, and swiftly enable us to gather again with joy around His Word and ordinances.

Our Church and the Community

We have been sought out by the Pickens County School System for the use of our parking lot in the distribution of lunches for students now without. Should they need us, we’ve offered to help.

Further, while the clothes closet has been closed off from the inside, the Risling’s have stepped up to bring that service outside to those who continue, now more than ever, to be in need. They are packing up resources and distributing them to any who show up, as well as taking them to the homes of those who regularly visit for vital supplies. Can we just praise the Lord for this self-sacrificial service that so beautifully reflects the heart of God! If you’d like to come alongside them in this ministry, please reach out to George or myself.

Small Group Gatherings

As of right now, all small groups, minus the youth’s gathering, are still full-go. That includes men’s and women’s studies and prayer. This past Wednesday, we met in the parking lot to pick up prayer guides. We then drove through our various neighborhoods to pray for them. Women’s study in Philippians will meet this Monday evening from 6:30-7:30 on the basketball court at the church facility. The next men’s meeting is not until Saturday, April 11. A charitable word to the wise: if you prefer not to attend these at this time, we understand. If you think you might be sick, don’t come. If you come and practice social distance, that makes sense. We get it.

What About Giving?

We praise the Lord that many of you have asked how you might continue to financially give cheerfully and faithfully to the ministry of the Gospel through TMC. That’s a good sign of grace in your hearts (Exod 35:30-36:7; Lk 21:1-4; Acts 4:32-37; 2 Cor 8:1-9; Phil 4:10-20)! We understand the economics of our situation. We encourage you to provide for your families (1 Tim 5:8), while continuing as you’re able to reflect the cross in your support of our Gospel ministry.

To that end, George has been working tirelessly to set us up for online giving. It’s not quite ready yet, but we hope it will be by next week. Once it is, we’ll let you know. In the meantime, you can mail your gifts to the address of our facility, 827 Old Greenville Hwy, Clemson, SC 29631. Finally, if you’d rather drop it off, one of the elders will be at the facility from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday.

Live-Streaming Corporate Worship

We will be live-streaming sermons starting tomorrow, Sunday, March 22. They will be recorded too, so that you can watch and/or listen to them at any time.

However, our desire is that we will all tune-in together at the stated time. Even though we’re not gathering physically, we’d like to be gathering mentally.

We want to keep our rhythms of grace as a church body, and we think it will be helpful for the church to know, ‘as I’m reading this call to worship, singing these songs, praying this prayer, receiving the Word preached, my siblings in Christ, TMC, they’re doing it too. We’re doing it together!’ Don’t waste your Lord’s Day mornings. If anything, use this time to accentuate them for your soul’s joy in God’s glory. Rid yourselves of things that distract (no, not your children!), rediscover methods of readying your hearts for corporate worship, and roll them over for when we begin to gather physically as one again.

The plan for tomorrow, then, is to have a bulletin to you on Slack that you can begin to work through around 11 a.m. The sermon will be live-streamed at 11:20 a.m. A link will be provided across all our media platforms for this event. Ideally, at 11, read the call to worship, sing the first two songs, pray, sing the next two, then tune-in to the live-stream. Maybe have it ready to click, or go ahead and have it opened so you don’t miss the beginning. Afterward, sing the final song.

If you know of anybody who does not have internet or cannot operate it, so long as you and they are healthy and have been relatively ‘quarantined,’ trust the Lord with prudence, and extend an invitation for them to worship with you. Lastly on this, again, let’s just praise the Lord for His servants! George and Marshall have been working late into the evenings to generate this service for us. I thank God for them. I’d invite you to also.


I’m sure we’ve missed something. If you have any other questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out and ask them. We’re here for you.

“The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith,” 1 Tim 1:5.

Brian (on behalf of your elders)

Urgent Letter to The Mount Church

Dear beloved TMC,

As I’m sure you’re aware, our world is in the middle of a pandemic. There is a coronavirus called SARS Covid-2 tragically making its way through the global population, producing in the infected the disease now known as COVID-19. It is a respiratory disease. As of March 11, it’s spread to more than 115 countries, resulting in 126,300 cases (N).

Of these cases, 90% have produced only minor conditions. Almost, 4,700 people have died worldwide, mostly outside of the US. The New England Journal of Medicine projects a 1% mortality rate when all is said and done. For comparison, the now ‘common’ flu has a mortality rate of 0.1%. It also has a vaccination, whereas this strain of the coronavirus does not. It is mostly acute in it’s aggravations amongst the elderly and the immuno-compromised.

Coronavirus is transmitted through small droplets of liquid from coughs or sneezes, and by touching things these droplets have touched. It enters the body through the mouth, nose, or eyes, and has an incubation period between 2-14 days. The longer incubation period is particularly troubling. It gives folks license to move around for nearly two weeks without any symptoms when, unfortunately, they’ve been carriers of the virus to, potentially, anyone they’ve been around.

For this reason, the informed powers that be are calling for social distancing. The idea, well-proven by graphs from the Spanish flu of 1918, is that the sooner the general populace takes appropriate precautions, the greater likelihood that the virus will be relatively contained and lives spared. The other consideration in this is that we only have so many hospital beds and ventilators in the US. If by negligence, we let the virus spike, hospitals will be overrun, and the fallout will be devastating.


After consultation with other area pastors, we will be canceling corporate worship in our regular meeting space through the end of March. That includes tomorrow, Sunday, March 15, Sunday, March 22, and Sunday, March 29. Know that we are closely monitoring the situation, so that if at any time the situation changes for the better, this decision can and will be amended. Likewise, if it continues to worsen, we will have to extend this suspension. At the present hour, however, this route seems to be most wise and charitable to one another and our broader community.


Your elders will be meeting this Tuesday to further address our response as a church to this pandemic, hopefully, with greater light being shed upon it in the coming days. More immediately, in consideration of the age of those who most consistently serve in our Clothes Closet, it’s deemed best that this service to our broader community also be suspended indefinitely. It also seems to be wisest to rescind our participation in DNOW, as well as cancel our discipleship quarterly scheduled for the evening of Sunday, March 29. We will also be suspending the non-church specific women’s study on Tuesday evenings.

Here are some further, initial thoughts in light of this two-week suspension of corporate worship:

  1. The suspension of corporate worship is not the suspension of ‘church.’ It’s the suspension of the church’s larger corporate gathering, but we, as the church, will continue to exist and act as such, however creatively during this suspension. In other words,
  2. We will make ways to gather, to hold community, to pray together, to hear the Word preached, to disciple and care for one another in such a way that, Lord willing, we can reconvene without having skipped a beat in our Gospel life and ministry together. Praise God for electronic means of grace! We will seek to at least record sermons to be sent out to the body on the Lord’s Day.
  3. Even in the event of a suspension of corporate worship, we will likely still continue our smaller group gatherings, our men’s and women’s studies, our youth gatherings, and our mid-week prayer meeting, again, applying the love of precautionary measures. Let’s just be prudent, discerning, and charitable with respect to and in these gatherings. Take exceptional measures of love, especially in exceptional times. During this time, these studies will occur as regularly scheduled, but be moved out of homes and into the church building.
  4. Use any time away from the priority of corporate worship (Heb 10:24-25) to do what we should always be doing—reconnect with other priorities that we might’ve neglected, i.e., family worship, loving our spouses, missional parenting, biblical Christianity over against the more cultural version, etc.
  5. Rest assured that your elders and deacons will be in regular communication about needs within the body and how we can best provide the holistic care each one of us needs in Christ. Again, most immediately, be advised to wash, wash, wash your hands with soap and water—for at least 20 seconds! It’s not in the Bible, but in this case we might even say that ‘cleanliness really is next to godliness.’ It’s hard, I know, I’ve tried, but work on not touching your face. Disinfect objects and surfaces regularly. And for a season, try your best to avoid close contact with people who are ill.


In view of these uncharted waters, I do also want to briefly bring the Word to bear upon it:

  1. Neither fear, nor be anxious (Lk 12:22-34; Phil 4:6-7). Church, at the end of the day, God is in control of every viral spore in the universe, as well as every hair upon your head. Jesus upholds the universe by the Word of His power (Heb 1:3). All coheres in Him (Col 1:17). More, He is for you. And when He’s for you, many things may be against you (Rom 8:35-39), but no thing ultimately (Rom 8:28, 31, 39). If you’re in Christ, the worst this virus can do is kill you—and deliver you to God’s ‘tearless, painless, graveless’ Land (Rev 21:4). But you can trust that that’s in our God’s Almighty hands. He’s ordained all our days. He’s not threatened by this. Take heart, comfort, and courage in Him (Isa 41:10).
  2. As this ought to keep us from collapsing all our care upon ourselves, let’s understand how great an opportunity this is to be the God-glorifying salt and light of Jesus to one another and to our broader community. People are scared. They are anxious. Many, maybe even of us, may struggle to stay afloat as schools and businesses close their doors. But their will be struggles. Bearing in mind all the prudence mentioned above, let’s step into those struggles and bear one another’s burdens. Call it the Galatians 6:10 principle. As we discover any member in need, insofar as we can, let love fill it. As we then discover any neighbor in need, insofar as we can, let love meet it. Maybe it’s providing childcare, maybe a meal, maybe counsel, maybe community, maybe room and board, maybe all of the above but, as biblical Christianity has historically done, let’s step into need with the cross-bearing, self-sacrificial love of Jesus.
  3. Related to this, let’s take opportunity by tragedy to obey the Great Commission (Mt 28-16-20). People are going to have questions. In conversations with some, there’s already an openness to the sort of talk that lends itself to the Gospel. That door will open wider if and when the trial grows and we are yet distinct from the world in ultimate hope, in grieving with hope, in helping others to our own hurt, like Jesus. Let’s walk through it in the vein of Colossians 4:5-6.
  4. Let’s pray (1 Tim 2:1-4). Let’s pray that our God would quickly end this pandemic, that the spread would be slowed, that the sick would be healed, that hospitals would be able to serve at capacity, that medical professionals would be given grace in the best application of their craft, that others would find a suitable cure at miraculous speed, that the racism against Asian-Americans, recently revived because of this, would be quickly quenched in favor of love, and that this global trial would yield it’s God-ordained fruit. That many would be saved from their sins, and that the church global, but particularly in the US, and even our own local body, would be awakened and revived out of any spiritual stupor that’s hindered our zeal for the glory of Christ and universal faithfulness to His Word and Gospel.
  5. It’s likely to be harder to worship God in giving. Provide for your families, no doubt. But don’t let fiscal tightness or the suspension of corporate worship tighten up or suspend the heart for giving to the church’s ministry of the Gospel. Let’s take the Macedonian church as our example (2 Cor 8:1-9)! Then, further, continue to discern needs in the area that you might be able to meet. In the coming days, I plan to reach out to other churches and community centers to learn of ways in which we can be of help to those who are hurting around us.
  6. Apply Job’s faith. ‘Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive calamity?’ Both types of providence are gifts from God, however distinct they feel to us. Remember God’s purpose in what we’ve been covering—it’s to show that saving faith will endure the greatest trials because God Himself has given it and He sustains it. And that this brings Him glory, displays it before all the cosmos—that He is truly enough for us! See the breath that is our life, the vanity that is so much of our idolatry, and get back to using our ‘breath’ according to it’s divine purpose—in treasuring our eternal God in Christ by the Spirit above all else!


Heavenly Father, we pray for wisdom from above in these days. Help us to know how best to proceed as Your people, how best to live for Your glory. Give us a great degree of charity towards one another as we make difficult decisions that impact our typical rhythms as a church. Enable our hearts to swell with cross-beholding love for one another. Make us rich in grace towards outsiders. Bless our efforts at impacting our community for it’s greater good, as well as it’s greatest good in Jesus. End this pandemic. Accomplish Your purpose. Draw near to the distressed. Be present with Your people. Save the lost. Build Your church. Edify The Mount, refining us to more brightly reflect Your glory in this world. We ask this and so much more, in Jesus’ Name. Amen.

As you have any need, know that I will continue to frequent my office at the church building, while continuing a steady presence on Slack, Facebook, and my phone. Love to each of you in our risen and reigning Lord until, in His mercy, we’re able to gather together as a whole body again in the worship of Him,

Brian (on behalf of your elders)

What Baptism Does and Doesn’t Do

In our last post, we finished addressing what baptism is and isn’t. In this post, we want to be much more brief in addressing what baptism does and doesn’t do.

What Baptism Doesn’t Do

Let’s begin with the negative, what baptism doesn’t do. Baptism as we see the Bible defining it does not save you. This is very important to note. Particularly in our geographical culture where cultural Christianity is alive and mostly well, many functionally believe that their baptism has saved them. If you ask them to share why they think they are Christians, or why they think God in Heaven is theirs to behold forever, they will say something like, ‘Well, I was baptized when…’

Even if they don’t believe their baptism saved them, their lack of clarity upon the gift of faith in the Person and work of Jesus through which God saved them has them testifying as if their baptism saved them. It’s the stone of remembrance. But it’s that concerning what God did in saving us, not that it itself saved us.

Additionally, there are heretical branches of so-called Christianity that do believe in what’s called baptismal regeneration, that is, that the waters of baptism do actually wash the sinner clean from their sin and save them. Without this, none are saved. They draw on the misinterpretation of texts like John 3:5 (where by ‘water’ Jesus is making reference to the New Covenant language of Ezekiel 36:25), and 1 Peter 3:21 (where baptism is so closely related to the saving ‘ark’ of Christ, it’s practice is virtually inseparable from the effect of repentance and faith in Him. A Christian was a baptized person and a baptized person was evidently a Christian).

Besides this, the saints in the Old Testament were obviously never baptized but, at Christ’s transfiguration, we see Moses and Elijah appearing from heaven. Of course, the thief on the cross was never baptized, and yet Jesus told him that, on account of his faith in Him, he would be with Him in Paradise.

More, Simon the magician was baptized, but it’s highly questionable whether he was actually saved. We might add that many who die in infancy or believe later in life when, due to disability, baptism is practically impossible, are yet saved by their faith in the Gospel of God’s grace. So Christians are to be baptized, but baptism doesn’t make one a Christian. What does it do?

What Baptism Does Do

We might ask, if it doesn’t save us, why is it so important? Well, it’s so important simply because it’s in the Bible. Jesus commands it. God thinks it important. But we might add, then, what we’ve covered thus far; believer’s baptism marks off the believing individual from the world as united to Jesus and part of His new creation people. It’s meant to show the world who belongs to Jesus.

If that sounds familiar, it’s because it’s virtually the same language we use about formal, meaningful membership in the local church. That’s on purpose. Baptism depicts what membership declares. They go together. Baptism is the initiatory sign for belonging to the family of God. It’s the front door to God’s ‘house.’ It’s the person declaring for Jesus, and Jesus’ people positively affirming that declaration. Believer’s baptism is, we say, prerequisite for membership in the local church.

So what does baptism do? It doesn’t save us. But it does say that we’ve been saved, that Jesus’ people believe us to be saved, and that we are assuredly one with Christ and His new creation people, those determined in the Spirit to walk together in newness of life. It identifiably binds us to the church expressed in local churches.

Next time, we’ll begin to dig into the Lord’s Supper. Until then, continuing to aim only for fully-informed minds begetting fully-rejoicing hearts as we, in spiritual unity and with holy accountability, come to remember the Lord’s death until He comes again. Devoted to the most Scriptural display of Christ’s glory in and through you,

TMC elders

“Intersectionality and the Church”

I came across this article through another pastor friend. As we continue to look at meaningful church membership, and what it means to be the visible church in the midst of a lost and hurting world, I commend it for your review. But maybe some context is in order.

Our western culture is in a state of upheaval. As Christ-followers, as the visible and local body of Christ, we are called to some heady virtues. Among these are love, justice and peace. But if you have spent any time on social media, or any time listening to political adds or the politicians and parties themselves, you likely have come away confused.

Because all the voices claim that they are the voice of “love” and “justice”. All the talking points lament the other side as the haters of men, the haters of liberty. How can this possibly be? While not being the only answer, one large answer is a subtle redefinition of terms. The article already mentioned attempts to tackle this topic.

The following quote especially stands out, putting the church at the epicenter of God’s work of justice, rather than a cacophony of voices:

God-fearing churches take violence and oppression seriously. A God-fearing church takes church membership, personal accountability, and church discipline seriously, too, because these things are connected. An oppressed person’s best defense against true violence is membership in a Bible-believing church, one that practices both hospitality and church discipline, one that protects the sheep from the wolves by driving the wolves out the door. Intersectionality banks on the power of human words, but justice for the oppressed comes by the power of the gospel.

“Intersectionality and the Church”, Dr. Rosaria Butterfield

Micah 6:8 tells us, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” It poignantly brought the crux of the people’s heartlessness into view. Let us run after God’s heart for the oppressed, the unloved, the downtrodden. But let us not fall for a false gospel that values people for their “oppressed” status, that treats them as “chips” in a high-stakes political and societal game, rather than image-bearers of a holy and loving God.


I’m Not Crying, You’re Crying

I had the pleasure (or something like that) of re-hearing this song earlier in the week. Coming so soon on the heels of this past Sunday’s message by Brian Mahon, I was struck by the connection between Job’s cries for God to speak, and the picture of Christ’s suffering for Job. This, combined with the picture of Eliphaz’ misreading of Job’s lament and Peterson’s own words:

And if a man has got to listen to the voices of the mob
Who are reeling in the throes of all the happiness they’ve got
When they tell you all their troubles have been nailed up to that cross
Then what about the times when even followers get lost?
‘Cause we all get lost sometimes…

The Silence of God

All I can offer is a sincere, “Thank you, Jesus,” for mercy, for love, for community, for daily needs cared for and for His faithfulness when mine is found lacking. He is is wonderful savior.


What Baptism Isn’t

In our last few posts, we’ve briefly described what baptism is.


One thing I’d add to that is that baptism is what true, Gospel-believing churches do. If Christian baptism is what we’ve described it to be, it follows that it’s legitimacy is closely connected to the practice and affirmation of a truly Christian church.

In other words, if a church is an apostate assembly – no longer a church in any meaningful, biblical sense of that word – it is an act of prudence on behalf of a true, evangelical church to judge the baptisms by such a church as inauthentic, something other than biblical baptism. Again, baptism isn’t just the act of an individual going public for Jesus, but also the act of a whole church affirming that said individual is “going public” with good, biblical reason. It takes a truly Christian church to perform truly Christian baptism.

Enough of that, on to what baptism isn’t.

Testing For Imposters

Having laid the foundation for what baptism is, we can more easily handle what it isn’t. Why? Because what baptism isn’t necessarily follows from what baptism is. Yet another instance where diligent study of the ‘real’ thing prepares one to more accurately spot the ‘fake’, the near facsimile, the counterfeit. So, prepared, let’s tackle a few misunderstandings by looking carefully to the Bible, and specifically to the New Testament (as that is where baptism appears):

Baptism isn’t merely an individual’s act. In Acts 2:41, 47, it’s clear that those who believed the Gospel message were, then, baptized and added to ‘their’ number. ‘Their’, to be clear, is referring to the church in Jerusalem.

Baptism isn’t merely a church’s act. In the same verses mentioned above, the church isn’t just grabbing people off the street and baptizing them. Individuals are coming to faith in Christ and, having done so, are being baptized of their own will, we might now say, into the membership of the church.

Baptism isn’t performed in the hope that the one being baptized will eventually come to faith in Christ. The Israelites were commanded in the law of Moses to circumcise their male children as an act of covenantal obedience, but Jesus does not leave his disciples a similar imperative. Nevertheless, this is the practical understanding of “paedobaptists”, parents and churches who ‘baptize’ their infants. Baptism, rather, is the sign of the New Covenant in Christ (Acts 2:38; Rom 6:3-11; Col 2:11-12), and as such has a new scope.

One of the hallmarks of faithful biblical interpretation is that clearer passages ought to govern dimmer ones; more, that we want to take our doctrine from revelation instead of silence. The fact is, there’s no clear passage in the New Testament prescribing infant baptism for the church. Some may be read to imply it, but none state it explicitly. And further, those passages (Acts 2:39, 16:33; 1 Cor 7:15) are few and, in my opinion, more properly understood to the advantage of believer’s baptism by the broader details surrounding them. They give no warrant, certainly no prescription, for the church to ‘baptize’ infants.

Baptism isn’t whatever is performed upon an unbeliever, however old. Some, of course, are dunked in water, only later to understand that they weren’t believers at that time. In all love, that wasn’t the baptism. It was a quick bath (compare with 1 Pet 3:21. We’ll talk about what Peter means by ‘Baptism . . . now saves you’ next time!).

Following from this, baptism isn’t something accomplished more than once in a person’s life. In other words, there’s no such thing as re-baptism. There’s only biblical baptism. If you’ve been baptized as a believer by a Gospel-believing church, you’ve been baptized. You need not be baptized again as, say, penance for a season of sin. You just need to repent, and move forward walking humbly with your God. In fact, instead of seeking an additional baptism, just remember the original (Rom 6:3-11)!

Finally, baptism isn’t normatively done any other way than by immersion in water. Again, the Greek word means ‘to dunk,’ ‘to immerse,’ it’s depiction portrays the same, and every clear mention of it’s practice in the New Testament relays the necessity of ‘lots of water,’ and the submersion of the one being baptized. Rare exceptions may necessarily occur on account of things like physical disabilities.

I think that about covers it. Next time, we’ll take a look at what baptism does and doesn’t do. This brings us ever closer to the discussion of the Lord’s Supper and the relationship between entering Biblical community and sustaining Biblical community. Devoted to the most Scriptural display of Christ’s glory in and through you,

TMC elders