Latest Article: Cigarette Smoke Evangelism

My latest article is now featured at The Veritas Network:

“You are either a missionary or an imposter” – Charles Spurgeon I most distinctly remember the smell of cigarettes. I smelled it on the older man I met in the nursing home. A whiff from the neighbor lady who yelled a lot. That section of the restaurant we avoided. And John-John. I met John-John the day our moving truck pulled up to our tiny mustard yellow house on the dead-end road a few hundred yards from Chesapeake Bay. You could always smell the brackish water full of blue crabs, just waiting to be drenched in some Old Bay seasoning. In the distance, the ghosts of the eastern shore rose slightly above the waterline. It was another sticky summer day. But our new window air conditioner made my nose tingle when I pressed my face up against the vents. Life was good. Word had spread rapidly among the local collection of children that a new family was unloading their earthly belongings. The little girls with blonde pigtails from next door ran over to see the new family with three brown-headed boys. A metal gate conveniently connected our back yards. The two boys with jet-black hair across the street grabbed their yo-yos, jumped on their new bikes and pulled up to our white picket fence and stared awkwardly, waiting for an invitation to test out our massive back yard, at least for six-year-old eyes. Somehow John-John made his way to our house that day too. I’ll never forget him. He snorted in some snot, and told me his dad sold candy and ice cream, if I ever wanted some. John-John smelled like cigarettes.

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All Together Now: A Reformed Baptist and Pentecostal Anglican Talk Church Unity

by Tim Sweetman & David Ketter Note from Tim: Dear readers and friends. Do not be alarmed. I hope, in the following few hundred words, to maintain my standing as completely orthodox, as thoroughly baptist, and totally biblical. My dear friend David Ketter and I began a lively conversation that sparked this collaboration effort, and I am pleased with the result. It is not something radically new. It’s not even something I would call our best work. But I think it’s something we needed to say, together. And so we offer our small voices into the larger conversation of unity – a unity we hope is not founded upon a disdain for differences or good theology, but a deep love for one another rooted in the gospel of Jesus Christ. So what’s one thing Michael Vick and some Christians have in common? Hopefully, it isn’t illegal activities and abusive forms of entertainment. But in some ways, dogfighting is what many churches are training and egging their members into. Because as much as we all claim to believe in one united, invisible Church, we lay claim much more vigorously to the title “Holder of the Most Pure Truth™” for our own church tradition. We try to convert Wesleyans into Calvinists. We’ll fight to convince those who baptize infants into doing believers baptism exclusively. We never fight so hard, or get attacked so viciously, as when we Christians start talking about our distinctives in the Church. It’s our “small differences” that inspire the raging cage-matches between Christians all over the internet, around Christian colleges and seminaries, and within Christian families. And what we have learned is…we really shouldn’t have our dogs in these fights. There’s a lot of burned of people out there. I (Tim) don’t mean they’re physically distorted. It’s their hearts. They’re bruised and ripped apart. I was graciously spared this burning, but recently I’ve stepped outside and have seen these people cowering in the dark corners, weeping as they attempt to nurse their wounds. There is not much to say to them as they glare with beady black eyes at my clean clothes and untouched heart. These are those who have been attacked by the dogs. Those who spit out the tainted and poisonous forms of Christianity rearing their ugly heads in our society. and sadly, some of our churches. You know the type: the vitriolic and angry. The hateful and hurtful. The ones who take the injured and instead of offering grace, condemn them to die. Even so, we believe Christianity is entering an exciting time. A quick glance around us and we can find many major Christian denominations and organizations rallying around the central and ancient tenets of our faith. We can sit across the table from our Presbyterian brother and rejoice with him about the success of his ministry. We’re moving away from nastiness and arrogance that we’ve noticed. It also means we hate a few things. We hate the narcissism of small differences. It is a bitter irony: those we are closest with we beat up the most. Brothers tend to battle most intensely (just ask our brothers). Thankfully, we continue to be friends. But those around us, if we had said some things we regretted in front of them, might miss that fact. It may be that we have had some dogfights when we just needed to have dinner. Neither we nor our churches have a monopoly on biblical Truth. But fortunately for us, we have an amazing promise from Jesus. In one of his last words of encouragement at the Last Supper, Jesus says to the disciples (and to us): “But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth” (John 16:13). That promise was made to Jesus’ people gathered together. It’s a grand promise. It means we can have a certainty that God reveals Truth to the whole Church. The Truth in its fullness isn’t simply a system of theology, but the Person of Jesus Christ (John 14:6). The fullness of Christ is revealed in the world in the totality of the Church in all places and at all times. By extension, the fullness of Christ can’t be contained in our Presbyterian, Baptist, Anglican, Pentecostal niches, among others. If we want the fullness of Christ, we need the whole Church. So what do we do? Find a Least-Common-Denominator statement of faith? Have a Christianity that’s skin and bones, with no substance,, because we’ve kept it to what we all agree on? By no means. There’s a reason the early Church passed on the creeds. Professing the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds is not about having a least-common-denominator Christianity. It’s “the faith once for all delivered to the saints.” It’s the proclamation of the whole counsel of God in summary. When we profess the Creed together, we aren’t saying “Well, at least we agree on a few important things.” Instead, we show that we have a rule of faith by which we believe and stand and that rule of faith is built on the Scriptures and confirmed by the Spirit. What we affirm in the creed is the Faith. Everything else is our traditions’ interpretation of it. Our denominations together with all our differences keep us balanced and in check. It means that we are ready to unite with my brothers and sisters in Christ because of the ancient gospel of Christ as we fight against moral relativism, idolatry, politicization of Christianity, and other attacks on the Church. More than ever, we need the Church to unite together to stand strong in an increasingly secularized culture that is pressuring us to cave to cultural norms. Sisters, brothers, fathers, and mothers in the faith: we’re inseparable. All who have been confronted by the crucified and risen Lord Jesus,, repenting of their sins have been marked and sealed by the Holy Spirit. That Spirit gives us the common cry “Abba, Father!” We share in one baptism. We share in one faith, delivered to us by the Lord Jesus. We share in one communion feast, gratefully remembering and participating in the death of our Lord until He comes back. We lift up the Name of Jesus as one body for a broken world that desperately needs His visible presence. So, let’s put a leash on the dog and instead release the freedom revealed in Jesus’ life, death, resurrection and return soon. It’s time for some dinner.

Latest Article: No Little Cross

My latest article is on The Veritas Network this morning.

My eyes were burning as the salty sweat dripped off my forehead. I took a bite of my chewy energy bar, then crumpled and stuffed the aluminum packaging deep into my backpack. I rummaged around for my water bottle, my arm brushing against the harsh canvas. Finally my fingers touched the warm plastic. I jerked it free and brought it to my mouth. I took a deep, warm gulp. It eased my throat that was burning from the pungent smells wafting all around me. Dusty fields randomly spattered with green plants surrounded the brown and broken dirt road I walked on. I stepped off into a ditch to allow a camel-drawn cart full of colorfully clothed men and women pass. My feet were starting to ache. It had a been a long morning already. The hotel shower had been cold and my breakfast had been a few handfuls of cheap, dry cereal I had bought at a cluttered bazaar the evening before. A friend and I had met and greeted our translator early in the humid morning, crammed ourselves into a smelly green and yellow auto rickshaw, then pattered off to the bus stop. Once we arrived, the three of us climbed into a dilapidated old bus full of staring people and took off. I wondered why they stared. We quickly realized why. It was like driving in a war zone. I still have no idea how people could sleep on a bus that creaked, groaned, and roared louder with every kilometer we traveled. Every time we hit a pothole, the sound was deafening. But we made it. Finally. We were now walking about 10 kilometers to a remote village in Northern India, a village where I would start to fully realize something that would radically change my life forever.

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Latest Article: Dear Jason

My latest article is up at the Veritas Network, a fantastic resource that I’m humbled to have written for:
Dear Jason… March 26, 2012— I was walking by the bridge the other night. Actually, I got engaged there just a few months ago. My fiancée sat on the same bench and looked out over the dark river and the city beyond – and I couldn’t help but think about you Jason and that terrible night. For me, it was dark and a perfect night for a walk. I guess you and your fiancée and friend though the same. It’s what 20 year olds do. That train bridge would have given you a spectacular and stunning view of the city, for sure. Little did you know that this evening stroll would change my life. I’ll be honest Jason, I haven’t quite been the same person since that night. When I saw Ginny running on the bridge, I didn’t know what I was seeing. I’d never seen a human being on a massive train bridge. The dam below was empty that night, so it was quieter than usual – but when I heard her weeping, I knew something was wrong.

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New Article: Faithful to the End

My latest article from Boundless is now online:
Sitting across the table from my 96-year-old great-grandmother is always a joy. It doesn’t take long to realize she was once a fiery redhead, even beneath the faded beauty. She smiles wide when I tell her that I’ve decided to be a pastor. I smile back. See, my great-grandma grew up in a small town in Illinois, went to Bible school and married a pastor. She and my great-grandfather served in churches from Mississippi to Maryland. Her stories range from the hilarious to the somber and depressing. I took a sip of my tea as she told me another funny story with that twinkle in her eye. When she finished her story, I couldn’t help but ask her about the hard times. Her face darkened as the months and years of difficulty and sorrow flashed through her mind. Their house had burned after a church service. I could imagine my great-grandmother being dragged away from the wreckage as she watched through tears all that she owned burn to the ground. “But you know what, Tim? It couldn’t have been better for us,” she told me. “We kept serving, and that tragedy brought us closer to the community. We ended up in an even better house.” Hardly anyone knows my great-grandmother. She does not command attention when she enters a room. She is frail and forgetful. But I wouldn’t dare for a moment say that this woman was not used by the Lord in incredible ways. She stands as a spiritual giant in my mind, despite her lacking résumé and speaking schedule. The Apostle Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 1:27 that “God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things — and the things that are not — to nullify the things that are so that no one may boast before him.”

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Facebook Faceoff

I just had an article published in the Give Me An Answer Important conference material that it being given out to a few hundred students that are visiting the campus of Southern Seminary to hear speakers like J.D. Greear, Albert Mohler, and Russell Moore (along with Shane and Shane and FLAME). I am extremely excited about it, and honored to have contributed a little bit to the cause of helping students understand what is really important. The conference theme reminded me of something I had written in the past that continues to convict me each and every time I read it. I was sitting in a coffee shop the other day chatting with a friend about how our technology is affecting our relationships (particularly those who are married). But I also wonder how it may be affecting our most important relationship, our relationship with God. So I wrote this article about the importance of knowing God in an age of constant distraction, change, and confusion.

I couldn’t help but wonder what he was thinking as he pulled out his iPhone and took advantage of a new Facebook application — right in the middle of the sermon. It was then that I realized the narcissistic machine that is Facebook. Shifting uncomfortably in my chair, I found myself desiring to do the same. I shuddered. Have I really come to this place where I’m more concerned about what’s taking place on Facebook than what’s going on in this church service? More concerned about a self-serving social networking site than this Bible on my lap? Later on that evening, I thought more about my internal battle between Facebook and my Bible. I understand that one of my desires as a Christian should be to know God more deeply; the reality is that I spend very little time actually getting to know Him. Too often, my hours are spent pursuing other human beings through convenient electronic means like Facebook. My life can quickly become all about striving to know my buddies better than my Lord.

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Every Life

The following video was a part of my past training at Chick-Fil-A, and to be honest, it discouraged me. I was discouraged because I saw a lost, hurting, and dying world and all that I had the opportunity to do was smile, sell chicken, and maybe make a friend. I am well aware that there is more opportunity for ministry than just that, but my time working in the family friendly quick-service restaurant propelled me to a greater passion to offer people more than just a smile and a chicken sandwich. I have the gospel that each of these people need so desperately in their lives. What is your response to this video?

For A Lifetime

I’ve already posted this article before in different locations, but have gotten the incredible opportunity to enter a writing arena I’ve never been before: a blog specifically directed towards girls. I know, I know, doesn’t sound very manly. But I have been so encouraged by Nancy Leigh DeMoss, my friends Hannah and Lindsey, and others that I couldn’t say no to such an interesting and fun assignment. So I will be a guest blogger over at Lies Young Women Believe for the next few months.

Latest Article: To Shoot An Elephant

My latest article on the Lies Young Women Believe Blog:
“Let me not forget the heinousness of sin lies not so much in the nature of the sin committed, as in the greatness of the Person sinned against.” —Puritan prayer George Orwell wrote an incredible story of a man who was faced with a major moral dilemma—to kill an elephant or not. “To Shoot an Elephant” was first published in the literary magazine New Writing in the autumn of 1936. The story doesn’t sound quite that drastic or horrible a situation, but this foreign policeman struggles with the task placed upon him. He knows he shouldn’t do it. He can’t do it. But the elephant is destroying the market of this foreign country that hates the policeman, yet he is tasked to be in. These people are ones who do everything they can to humiliate him. And now he has been given a task by his superiors, who he does not agree with. Orders to shoot the elephant. Everyone expects him to do it. One of the most telling parts comes when he says: “And my whole life, every white man’s life in the East, was one long struggle not to be laughed at.” So there he stood, rifle in hand, sights set on the elephant he knew he should not shoot.

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