Author: Michael Pohlman

Discipleship: A Cost-Benefit Analysis

Does it pay-off to be a follower of Jesus Christ? Is it a sound investment? A good decision? Can it be justified in the light of what it costs a person? These are the questions that make up the cost-benefit analysis of discipleship. And this helps us get at the heart of Jesus’ words on discipleship in Mark 9:42-50: Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea. [43] And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. [45] And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell. [47] And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to …

Some Pastors and Teachers: A Manifesto

The Tortoise wins.

I remember hearing Aesop’s famous fable The Hare & the Tortoise as a little boy and thinking, “I’d still like to be the hare. After all, the tortoise may win, but who wants to be a tortoise?”

Many years later I’ve reconsidered, especially when it comes to pastoral ministry. If there ever was a vocation wherein “the race is not to the swift,” it’s the pastorate. A faithful shepherd will . . .

One There is, Above All Others

Faithful pastors need a song on their heart. But not just any song. We need songs that sing of our Savior; songs that are richly theological and doxological. In Newton we have both. *** One there is, above all others, Well deserves the name of Friend; His is love beyond a brother’s, Costly, free, and knows no end: They who once His kindness prove, Find it everlasting love! Which of all our friends to save us, Could or would have shed their blood? But our Jesus died to have us Reconciled, in Him to God: This was boundless love indeed! Jesus is a Friend in need. When He lived on earth abasèd, Friend of sinners was His name; Now, above all glory raisèd, He rejoices in the same: Still He calls them brethren, friends, And to all their wants attends. Could we bear from one another, What He daily bears from us? Yet this glorious Friend and Brother, Loves us though we treat Him thus: Though for good we render ill, He accounts us brethren …

Why a Great Tribulation?

Preaching through Mark 13 was hard. The themes taken up in this chapter—the destruction of the temple and fall of Jerusalem, the Great Tribulation, Second Coming of Christ, and faithful discipleship—are both humbling and exhilarating to study. I remember coming to verse 14 and the “abomination of desolation.” I sought to demonstrate from the text how this future event will take place during an unprecedented period of tribulation on earth—indeed, “such tribulation as has not been from the beginning of the creation that God created until now, and never will be” (v. 19). The Great Tribulation is significant not only because it exceeds in horror any known event in human history, but also because it marks the period of time immediately preceding the Second Coming of Christ. Therefore, Jesus exhorts us to “be on guard” or “take heart” or “not be led astray” from the path of discipleship (v. 23). I had several questions of this text. One of my questions was, Why? Why a Great Tribulation? Why would God do this? I offered three …

Pastoring and Hot-Air Balloons

I’ve only been in a hot-air balloon once. And it was tied to the ground so I could only go so high and then no higher. But that was fine with me given that cutting the rope would have left me unanchored to the ground below, an idea that I wasn’t ready to embrace. So much of the Christian life is like this: we don’t want to let go of control (our anchor) and fly at the will of our God. Of course, behind this desire for control is our own “God-complex.” In our pride we think we can steer the course of our lives better than the Lord. We trust our own wisdom more than his. But this is the height of folly given our finite, imperfect wisdom when compared to the infinite, perfect wisdom of God. Indeed, God alone is all-wise and, therefore, we ought to unhesitatingly embrace his control over our lives. Isaiah reminds us that God is “wonderful in counsel and excellent in wisdom” (Isaiah 28:29). And we know that in …

Jordan Peterson and Gospel Hope

[The following is the conclusion from a recent sermon I gave from Acts 2:25-36.] With all that is going on in the world today at large and in your life in particular you may be tempted to grow weary and lose heart. This was the case for one Jordan Peterson fan who attended his recent book tour event in Indianapolis, Indiana. Peterson is a clinical psychologist and University of Toronto professor, and the author of the national and international bestseller 12 Rules For Life: An Antidote to Chaos. His book tour has sold out venues across America. An intellectual and self-help guru, Peterson is offering his own brand of hope and finding a huge market. At Peterson’s book tour events he lectures for about an hour and then moves to a time of Q&A. The questions are sent via Twitter so he opens his laptop to mine the best ones for the audience. According to a person at the event, Peterson answered some “light” questions before coming to one where he paused and said, “This is a serious one.” …

July 4th and Freedom in Christ

Like millions of Americans this week, my mind is on the Fourth of July holiday and what it represents: our freedom as a nation. This freedom is a precious thing, bought with the sweat, toil and blood of countless Americans who initially fought to obtain it (Revolutionary War), as well as those who have fought to secure it in the centuries since that fateful day in 1776. Gratitude without measure wells up in my heart when I consider the brave men and women of the American military who, this Fourth of July, will be fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan to combat the tyranny of terrorism. These soldiers stand in the train of valiant warriors who fought in the Revolutionary War, Civil War, two World Wars, Korea, Vietnam and the first Gulf War. Each of these conflicts—while unique in themselves—shared the common goal of protecting American freedom. Today’s battles are no different. But even as I prize my freedom as an American, I am moved to consider a greater freedom—my freedom in Christ. It is the …

Preaching as Longing

What do people do who long for something? They run toward it. This struck me anew on my way back from a recent mission trip to Ethiopia. Upon arriving back in the states my heart was longing to see my family. When I saw them for the first time in 10 days I made a beeline to embrace Anna and the kids. Indeed, longing is not a weak emotion—longing moves you to run toward the object of your affection. Longing for Christ as Longing for Heaven As Christians we long for Christ. Therefore, we design our lives around the single, earnest pursuit of Him. Isn’t this what Jesus meant when he said, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33). In other words, our lives are not about seeking “all these things,” but Christ. This is the note the author to the Hebrews strikes. He says that one of the ways we “run with endurance the race set before us” is by …

The Menaces of God’s Word

To be ready to preach on Sunday requires resting your head on holy things throughout the week. And on Saturday evening it is especially important to have some reading of a devotional nature. Tonight I went to Thomas Watson’s The Godly Man’s Picture. I was particularly moved by chapter four, “Showing the Characteristics of a Godly Man.” In this chapter Watson details 34 specific characteristics that mark a godly man. In characteristic number 9, “A Godly Man is a Lover of the Word,” Watson writes of the “menaces” of God’s Word: A godly man loves the menaces of the Word. He knows there is love in every threat. God would not have us perish; he therefore mercifully threatens us, so that he may scare us from sin. God’s threats are like the buoy, which shows the rocks in the sea and threatens death to such as come near. The threat is a curbing bit to check us, so that we may not run in full career to hell. There is mercy in every threat (61). A …