Blog Tidbits on The 500th Anniversary of the Protestant Reformation

On October 31, 2017, the Protestant Reformation turns 500 years old, commemorating the posting of the 95 Theses that Martin Luther nailed to the door of the Wittenberg Castle church.  (To read the entire blog posts, click on the titles below)

The Reformation and the Glory of God (John Piper)

"The Reformers believed that only grace could raise us from the dead, and only Christ could become our punishment and our perfection. These two miracles—of life from the dead and wrath removed—could only be received as a gift through faith. They could never be merited or earned, all so that the entire transaction would culminate soli Deo Gloria—to the glory of God alone."

Did the Reformation Secularize the West? (Kevin Flatt)

"Once, in the Middle Ages, Western Christendom was united in a shared faith under a single Roman Catholic church. All areas of life were suffused with religious influence and significance, and it was almost impossible to disbelieve in God or live one’s life as if he were unimportant. But the Protestant Reformation came along and shattered this unity, creating deep, irresolvable disagreements about fundamental questions of authority, doctrine, worship, and morality—even among Protestants themselves. The resulting conflicts could and did turn violent, as the various groups persecuted each other and doctrinal disputes provided pretexts for religious wars.
These events had two unintended long-term consequences: the privatization of religion and the rise of religious individualism. Privatization said, in effect, if we can’t agree about religion, let’s keep religion out of the things we do together as a society—science, philosophy, commerce, government, education. Individualism said, since we can’t agree, let every man be his own judge in religious matters. While privatization led to the stripping of religion from the public square, individualism led to a breakdown in religious authority in the church and at home, ending in full-blown relativism: what’s true for you isn’t true for me, and you have no right to tell me what to do. Thus, in the long run, the Reformation removed religion from most areas of life and undercut the viability of local church communities rooted in shared beliefs. Or, in Clue terms, “The Reformation did it with religious divisions in the sixteenth century!"

Martin Luther: The Man who Rediscovered God and Changed the World (Eric Metaxas)

I'm currently reading Martin Luther's new biography by Eric Metaxas who also wrote a thoughtful and engaging biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer entitled "Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy".  The Metaxas biography of Luther is a good way to celebrate the 500th anniversary of our Protestant tradition.  Tolle lege -- "Take up and read!"

Slow is Beautiful

Spiritually-speaking, I want to grow. Growing implies movement. Movement implies progress. Progress can be measured. Progress means success.

If only the spiritual life were so easy.

The spiritual life is slow. I don’t do slow well. In fact, I hate slow.

The spiritual life is like mile 23 of a marathon: you can’t see the finish line, two people just passed you, and you begin to wonder “now…what am I doing this for”? (Take my word on it if you haven’t had the “privilege” of running a marathon.)

I’ve been struck lately about the slowness of the spiritual life. The never-arriving-part of the spiritual life. The I-wish-I-was-more _____ (wise, faithful, prayerful, generous…) part of the spiritual life. The-I-know-that-I-should-focus-on-Christ but it’s-so-easy-to-focus-on-self part of the spiritual life.

I want spiritual jumper-cables at hand at a moment’s notice to automatically put a spark in my life whenever the spark (seems) to fade away. I want to grow. And I want to do it yesterday. And I want to have learned that lesson already. And I want to have read those books three years ago. And I want to have said my prayers more intensely, more contemplatively, more faithfully, more articulately, more meaningfully.

I want to grow.

Yet, what if, in addition to using the word grow, we used words like rest and abide, celebrate and dance, commune and soak, serve and listen? What if the spiritual life isn’t about how high the tree grows but how strong the roots are? What if the spiritual life isn’t about how fast the tree grows but how many years it endures? What if the spiritual life isn’t about how beautiful the tree is but how many birds can find rest in its branches? (And maybe just 1-2 birds finding rest there is enough.)

Rest, abide, celebrate, dance, commune, soak, serve, and listen.

Maybe I’m thinking about growth all wrong.

Blog Tidbits

From time to time, I'll share some interesting tidbits from the blogosophere.  (Click on the titles below to read the entire blog post.) 

  "Do you Actually Want to Be Our Pastor?"

“But it didn’t take me long to figure out that lots of churches don’t actually want a pastor. They want a leadership coach or a fundraising executive or a consultant to mastermind a strategic takeover (often performed under the moniker of evangelism or missional engagement). In this scheme, there’s little room for praying and gospel storytelling, for conversations requiring the slow space needed if we’re to listen to love.
People criticize the church today as being consumeristic. And to some extent, churches cater to consumerism—often to our detriment. I agree that consumerism is a problem for Christianity.

But ironically, much of the dialogue about why people are done with church pushes people deeper into Christian consumerism than it pushes them into deeper discipleship: Here I am, all alone, worshipping God on my schedule when it’s convenient for me.

Listening to a podcast of your favourite preacher while you’re at the gym or on the back deck and pushing three of your favourite worship songs through your ear buds does not make you a more passionate Christ follower.

It usually makes you a less effective one.
Institutions are not a problem. But institutionalization is. An institution can enrich life, but institutionalization takes that good thing and turns it into death. How? The structure, the mechanism, the means, becomes the end. The institution itself takes on its own inherent purpose.

Hurricane Irma and the Groaning of Creation

“For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” – Romans 8:20-23

This is not the way it’s supposed to be.  I take this adage as a colloquial expression of the doctrine of sin which affects even creation itself.  During Hurricane Irma, I often thought about this language of groaning found in Romans 8 -- the whole creation is groaning as if in the pains of childbirth.  It seems to me that hurricanes, earthquakes, and tornadoes all represent the groans of creation longing for full redemption. The picture Paul paints of creation is that of a mother in childbirth who simply cannot wait any longer to see her beloved son or daughter. Yet for now, all of creation lives in the “already/not yet” tension – already tasting redemption but not yet receiving the fullness of the New Creation.

How should Christians and the church react to these groans of creation?

N.T. Wright pens these words: “Where should the church be at such a time? Sitting smugly on the sidelines, knowing it’s got the answers?  No, says Paul: we ourselves groan too, because we too long for renewal, for final liberation. And where is God in all this?  Sitting up in heaven wishing we could get our act together? No, says Paul (8:26-27): God is groaning too, present within the church at the place where the world is in pain. God the Spirit groans within us, calling us in prayer to God the Father.

The Christian vocation is to be in prayer, in the Spirit, at the place where the world is in pain, and as we embrace that vocation, we discover it to be the way of following Christ, shaped according to his messianic vocation to the cross, with arms outstretched, holding on simultaneously to the pain of the world and the love of God.” (The Challenge of Jesus, 189-90)

This seems to me very wise counsel for us to remember when we see (or experience first-hand!) the pain and suffering in our world.  We hold on tightly to both the pain of the world and the love of God. We do not look away from the pain and suffering of the world as if taking “the happy pill” of escapism. That is the not the way of the cross.  Yet neither do we doubt the love of God in the midst of the storm. The surprising truth of the cross is that it reveals the love of God like never before. 

For it is only when we hold the pain of the world close to our hearts and at the same time reach out for the love of God in the midst of our suffering are we following the narrow way of the cross.

This was my first rodeo riding out a Hurricane here in Florida.  (I feel duly welcomed now!)  Many people in our state and our community are hurting; many more have spent a very long week without power or water. 

Each situation is distinct, and each person experienced the storm in different ways.  Yet, what I personally found most encouraging is that I often found myself thinking: If I have to experience Hurricane Irma, I’m glad that I get to do it with the people of Trinity Wellsprings Church. I saw (and heard about) so many of our Covenant Partners helping widows and elderly folks put up hurricane shutters. I saw the encouraging words spoken back and forth on Facebook. I know many prayers were being lifted up to the throne of grace for protection for our world, our state, our communities, and our church buildings.

Whatever your experience of Hurricane Irma, I hope we can all say with the hymn writer Thomas Chisholm (1866-1960) these words:

Great is Thy faithfulness!
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me!

Grateful to have ridden the hurricane out with an amazing community of faith,

Pastor Jason Carter

Worship: Supernatural, If Not Always Spectacular

“Worship gatherings are not always spectacular, but they are always supernatural. And if a church looks for or works for the spectacular, she may miss the supernatural. If a person enters a gathering to be wowed with something impressive, with a style that fits him just right, with an order of service and song selection designed just the right way, that person may miss the supernatural presence of God. Worship is supernatural whenever people come hungry to respond, react, and receive from God for who He is and what He has done. A church worshipping as a Creature of the Word doesn't show up to perform or be entertained; she comes desperate and needy, thirsty for grace, receiving from the Lord and the body of Christ, and then gratefully receiving what she needs as she offers her praise-the only proper response to the God who saves us.” (Matt Chandler, Creature of the Word: The Jesus-Centered Church)

It is difficult not to be a consumer in our day and age. We are raised from children to be careful consumers so that life works for us. Our every whim and desire are constantly being targeted by market researchers. We are accustomed to having it “our way”.  We deserve it! 

Yet this kind of mentality is catastrophic for our spiritual lives and typically brings dysfunction into the church. When consumerism hovers over our church experience, we expect the spectacular when we really should be looking for the supernatural. 

God placed a longing for his supernatural presence into our hearts, yet we are often content with much less – a spectacular experience that impresses us or entertains us.

We constantly need to check our motivations: to be sure we are sitting under the Word of God, engaging with God in worship. Consumerism kills worship. Consumerism blocks the pathway of our hearts to God’s heart.

Grateful to be with you on this journey of worshipping the Living God,

Pastor Jason

On Race and the Gospel: Pastoral Reflections

I’m no expert on racism and reconciliation. I don’t claim to understand all the nuances of the Civil Rights movement or the latest unrest of racial tensions in our country (Trayvon Martin, Ferguson, Charlottesville). It’s a painful and explosive topic. It’s easy to say something ignorant.  It’s hard to say something winsome and thoughtful. 

Yet Christians can – and should – be able to say without hesitation or equivocation that racism is sinful.  This is not the way it was supposed to be. 

  • We are all created in the image of God. “Let us make mankind in our image and after our likeness…” Gen 1:26-27 // “And he made from one man every nation to live on the face of the earth”, Acts 17:26).  Racism in any form, including the recent uptick of white supremacy in our country, is an affront to our shared humanity because we are all created in the image of God. Humanity always has more to unite us than divide us because of the beauty and good news of our shared imago dei (the image of God).


  • The cross of Christ is the great equalizer and the Holy Spirit brings us into one family of faith. (“Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all,” Eph 4:3-6 // “His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace,  and in one body to reconcile both of them [Jews and Gentiles] to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility…For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit, Eph. 2:15-19). The beauty of the cross and the gospel is that they provide the means for which we are united into one family of faith. 


  • We will all worship around the throne of God for all eternity with people of every tribe, tongue, people, and nation.  (“After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb,” Rev. 7:9). The church is a harbinger of the kingdom of heaven where every tribe and race and people are welcomed through the blood of Jesus Christ.

I have no wish to make politics the tail that wags the church. I believe this is an unfortunate misstep for the cause of the gospel. Politicians often suffer from a messianic complex: “vote for me because I alone can save you”. Quite frankly, this is idolatry.  Yet, we hear these sentiments on a regular basis from politicians on both the right and the left. The biblical witnesses tells us that there is no area of human life where the sin of idolatry cannot raise its ugly head – and politics is no exception. The messianic nature of politics and its demanding claim of total allegiance upon our worldview should make us pause reflectively and discerningly as Christians.

The church should be a model of charity, empathy, and love in our discourse. Listen to what Kevin DeYoung writes:  “The model of discourse we see on television is impatient, defensive, and rude. As Christians we need to be patient, understanding, and kind. Instead of going on the attack, we can ask genuine questions. Instead of bristling when our narrative is summarily dismissed, we can carefully explain our way of seeing things. And when we are wrong, we won’t be afraid to say so.”  News stations are big businesses intent on making big money; they do not exist to bring people together over cups of coffee to sing Kumbaya. Facebook posts typically go viral because an “in your face” tone and tenor not because of their ability to reflect on complicated issues in a way that reflects grace and truth. The church has an opportunity in our divided world – to be a different voice that communicates in tones and hues qualitatively different than our world.

So how are Christians to respond to this moment of time where racial tension, white supremacy, and events like Charlottesville are happening in our neck of the woods? 

1.     Talk with your kidsBegin where you can.  Talk to your kids at home.  It may not seem like much, but as I see these acts of violence and racism in our country, I often wonder: “Who raised these people? What messages were being communicated at home?”  We have a responsibility to raise a generation that sees clearer and thinks deeper about the common humanity we all share across racial lines. 

 2.     Be Informed.  I recognize that I have a lot of “catch-up” to do along these lines, as I’ve been overseas for the last 11 years. In Central Africa, I utilized a chapter From Every People and Nation: A Biblical Theology of Race by Daniel Hays (for a seminary class on  “Contemporary African Christianity”). Next, I will be reading John Piper’s Bloodlines: Race, Cross, and the Christian. I recognize that these books are only the tip of the iceberg; I will need to have others on my plate. How about you? 

I’m interested in hearing what an African American pastor says to white Christians in Tears We Cannot Stop (Michael Erik Dyson) as well as how poor, working class whites are feeling marginalized in today's economy in Hillbilly Elegy (J.D. Vance) -- both are NY Times Bestsellers. 

3.     Be Teachable, Be Humble, and Do Some Listening (Not only Talking).  In my experience, almost every minority can recount with vivid details the history of unfairness, discrimination, and racism that exists in our country. Because they have experienced it personally first-hand. As part of the white majority, I have a lot of listening to do when the opportunity presents itself. Now is one of those times. 

What about the events surrounding Charlottesville?  Here are what some prominent Christian leaders are saying:

  • Rev. Tim Keller, Reformed pastor, author, and Vice-President of The Gospel Coalition:

o   “Christians should look at the energized and emboldened white nationalism movement, and at its fascist slogans, and condemn it—full stop.”

o   “The conservatives are using the events to prove that liberal identity politics is wrong, and liberals are using it to prove that conservatism is inherently racist. We should not do that.” (See:

  • Did you know that before Charlottesville, the largest protestant denomination in the United States – the Southern Baptist Convention – condemned the alt-right movement with this language in June 2017?  The declaration reads:

o   “WHEREAS, Racism and white supremacy are, sadly, not extinct but present all over the world in various white supremacist movements, sometimes known as “white nationalism” or “alt-right”; now, therefore, be it RESOLVED, That the messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention, meeting in Phoenix, Arizona, June 13–14, 2017, decry every form of racism, including alt-right white supremacy, as antithetical to the Gospel of Jesus Christ; and be it further RESOLVED, That we denounce and repudiate white supremacy and every form of racial and ethnic hatred as of the devil; and be it further RESOLVED, That we acknowledge that we still must make progress in rooting out any remaining forms of intentional or unintentional racism in our midst; and be it further RESOLVED, That we earnestly pray, both for those who advocate racist ideologies and those who are thereby deceived, that they may see their error through the light of the Gospel, repent of these hatreds, and come to know the peace and love of Christ through redeemed fellowship in the Kingdom of God, which is established from every nation, tribe, people, and language.”

o   For a denomination whose strongest pockets of attendance lie in the southern part of the US, this was a case of Christian leaders clearly recognizing the evil of white supremacy as a contradiction of the gospel of Jesus Christ. (See:

  • Dr. Albert Mohler, Reformed Baptist president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, makes the following observations:

o   Among those who attended the demonstration on Friday night [in Charlottesville] were self-identified neo-Nazis and white supremacists. Photos quickly appeared in Berlin, showing protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia -- in the United States of America -- offering the raised arm of the Nazi salute.”

o   “We must see claims of racial superiority–and mainly that means claims of white superiority–as heresy.  That is not a word we use casually. Heresy leads to a denial of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the eclipse of the living God as revealed in the Bible. A claim of white superiority is not merely wrong, and not merely deadly. It is a denial of the glory of God in creating humanity—every single human being–in his own image. It is a rejection of God’s glory in creating a humanity of different skin pigmentation. It is a misconstrual of God’s judgment and glory in creating different ethnicities. (See:

I bring up these points not to cause needless controversy, but to remind us that Christians have clear biblical reasons to stand up against racism. This is not a grey area. Historically, Christians have always been on the forefront of social justice issues: from the transatlantic slave trade (William Wilberforce) to treating leprosy patients worldwide (Leprosy Mission) to the 2014 Ebola outbreak (where Christians were on the front line in offering courageous and compassionate service).

I pray that TWC will always be a church where all races and nationalities find an authentic, loving community under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

Celebrating the beauty and implications of the imago dei with you today,

Pastor Jason

"All About Jesus": The Two-Hour Attender Challenge

As your pastor, I want to encourage (and challenge) you to consider becoming a “Two-Hour Attender” on Sunday mornings beginning August 20th (next Sunday) with the purpose of strengthening your discipleship and connecting with community or finding an area of ministry to serve.

Our entire focus of discipleship this Fall is built around “It’s All About Jesus”. Next week, I begin a new teaching series in the pulpit with the Gospel of John -- exploring who Jesus was and why it matters. The Church Wide Studied entitled “Christianity Explored” also begins the week of August 20 for our Life Groups, a study which is deep enough to engage Christians, seekers, and skeptics alike. Alongside thoughtful videos asking “big life” questions, the study also looks at the life of Jesus in the Gospel of Mark.  

This fall, TWC is beyond blessed to count two seminary-trained pastoral leaders to teach at our Christian education hours. Our two main classes – featuring plenty of dialogue and discussion – will also focus on the life and person of Jesus.  At 9:00 am, Rev. Julianne Whipple will be exploring the Gospel of Luke (Seminar Room) while Rev. Tom Mayo will be guiding us through the Gospel of Matthew at 10:30 am (Seminar Room). 

Thus, you will be hearing about the life and teachings of Jesus from the pulpit, in Life Groups, and during the Christian education hours!  Hopefully, you can read at home or in your personal devotions the remaining gospel you don’t have the privilege of studying in a group!  The aim is for us to be re-focusing our lives, our families, and our church around a robust, biblical vision of the person of Jesus.  After all, Jesus was the greatest human being who ever lived.   A fresh vision of Jesus enlarges our capacity for contagious joy, life-giving love, and compassionate service.  Recovering a fresh vision of his life and teachings is indispensable for leading a purposeful existence and following God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength. 

Consider becoming a “Two-Hour Attender” by worshiping with your family before splitting off to deepen discipleship (head and heart) during the Christian education hour – a time which is for children, youth, and adults alike.   

I’m a pastor who smiles at seeing families attending worship services together! This healthy routine and practice lays the indispensable ground-work for the life of faith to continue into young adulthood as students “graduate” from youth ministries.  Let us never think that worship services are “adult-only” territory; children and students are not only welcomed but enthusiastically invited to participate in all facets of the life, worship, and work of Trinity Wellsprings Church!

Become a “Two-Hour Attender”:  Attend a worship service (with the family if you got one!) and dive into the Gospel of Luke (9:00) or the Gospel of Matthew (11:00).  I personally believe children 7-8 years old (some a bit younger/some a bit older) are fully capable of sitting through a worship service. Of the 168 hours in a week, consider giving two hours to Sunday morning worship! 

Take up the challenge and be encouraged,

Pastor Jason Carter

Revive Us? Revive Me!

"There has never been a spiritual awakening in any country or locality that did not begin in united prayer." - A. T. Pierson

"Every mighty move of the Spirit of God has had its source in the prayer chamber." - E.M. Bounds

Revivals are interesting phenomena.  In one sense, they depend solely on the sovereign grace of God to bestow a sense of spiritual awakening to the people of God (and to those coming to faith in the revival).  Yet studying revivals throughout church history, we can also identify some common threads: (1) robust expository preaching of the Bible as the Word of God, (2) an openness to the Holy Spirit, especially to bring deep conviction of sin, and (3) a vibrant sense of private and corporate prayer issuing to the throne of God from the people of God. 

Most movements of God throughout church history have come as the church gathers together on its knees. There is no substitute for spiritual renewal and revitalization – let alone revival – without the church gathering together for prayer.

We cannot control or manipulate God in prayer.  We can no more bring forth a revival or movement of God than we can control the weather! Yet, God often delights and smiles upon His children as we come together – shoulder to shoulder – to pray and seek His face. 

On August 13th, we want come together to knit our hearts closer to God’s heart.  As a church family, we come “empty handed” simply to offer prayer and praise to the Living God.  We come in prayer as we send our children and grandchildren off to another school year; we come to ask for God’s favor and blessing as we crank up the Fall programs in the life of our church; we come together to seek God’s wisdom, direction, and blessing for our church family. 

Thankful to be with you on this journey of discipleship,

Pastor Jason Carter

*** “Refresh: A Night of Prayer and Praise” will take place in the sanctuary from 6:15 to 7:00 followed by “Renew: Vision and Training” from 7:15-8:00.  Hope to see you there!