You and Me Forever

you-and-me-forever

If you’ve read more than one or two Christian marriage books, you may have noticed they tend to follow a pretty standard template. For a marriage to be successful, husbands and wives need to:

  • Understand how God has intended them to be (with some sort of discussion of Genesis 2);
  • Have frequent sex;
  • See how their relationship represents the gospel (as per Ephesians 5); and
  • Have frequent sex. Frequently.

And then Francis Chan went and wrote a marriage book. Or did he?

Chan and his wife, Lisa, give readers a decidedly different take, one suggests that as good as it is it try to make your marriage better, our main focus—whether in marriage or singleness—needs to be something bigger: God. This is the big idea behind You and Me Forever: Marriage in Light of Eternity. The Chans want readers to picture marriage as a vehicle for mission, an opportunity for Christians to carry out our mission to make disciples of all the nations.

Sounds pretty lofty, huh? So how’d they do?

Marriage problems are God problems

“As a pastor for over 20 years, I have come to the conclusion that most marriage problems are not really marriage problems. They are God problems,” Chan writes (20). “They can be traced back to one or both people having a poor relationship with God or a faulty understanding of Him.”

This, among all the many wonderfully helpful things you’ll read in this book, is probably the most important—and also the most contentious. While sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, certainly, many of us are too quick to call everything a cigar.

Or (to mix metaphors) we treat symptoms, but not illnesses. The problem with this is what happens when you leave an illness untreated? It only gets worse (and in some cases, eventually kills you).

So think about it in a marriage: if a husband is domineering, it’s because something is deeply dysfunctional in his relationship with God, if one exists at all. If a wife commits adultery because another man understands her and makes her feel special, it’s because something is deeply dysfunctional in her relationship with God, looking to other people for affirmation instead of the Lord.

The same can be said of virtually any problem we face. They all start with our relationship with God. And that’s what makes it so contentious. Chan’s tendency is to get to the heart of an issue right away, rather than easing his audience into that knowledge. And because of his, shall we say, abrupt style of springing such things upon us, it’s easy to be turned off. But the more you sit with what he says, the more you realize it’s true (most of the time, anyway).

Marriage is for mission

This theme continues throughout the book, as both Francis and Lisa continually remind readers that marriage is a tool for the spread of the gospel:

Beautiful people make beautiful marriages. Jesus is the most beautiful person to ever walk the earth. Your best shot at having a beautiful marriage is if both of you make it your goal to become like Jesus. (91)

Our mission does not call us to neglect our marriages. But a marriage cannot be healthy unless we are seeking His kingdom and righteousness first (Matt. 6:33). (97)

Whether as individuals or as couples, our mission is to make as many disciples as we can during our time on earth… We should be constantly asking ourselves the question: How can we free up more time and resources for making disciples? (98-99)

There is an urgency to the period of time in which we live—after Jesus’ resurrection and before His second coming. We have callings from God, and those callings are bigger than our marriages. Seeking His kingdom must be our first priority, and if we’re not careful, marriage can get in the way. (114)

This, again, is a necessary reorientation for many of us (even if there are some cautions I want to address). We should be examining our lives from the perspective of our clearly stated purpose: to make disciples. If we are in Christ, each and every one of us is called to this in some way, shape or form. There is no denying it.

And if we have children, mission starts at home. We want our kids to know the gospel, to see the beauty of Christ, to see Christianity as something more than just going to church for a couple hours on Sunday. We want them to see that it involves sacrifice, sometimes including sacrificing time with them for the sake of the gospel…

How much should mission disrupt marriage?

But we also want them to see something else: sometimes the sacrifice we make is saying “no” to a good opportunity in order to be with them. Chan writes:

I work a lot. And I definitely travel more than most. Hardly a week goes by where I’m not jumping on a plane, wishing I could just stay home with my family. Some would call this bad parenting. I would argue that. I don’t neglect my children by any stretch of the imagination, but there are many times when I know God has called me to serve Him in ways that disrupt the family routine. I genuinely believe that it’s good for my kids to observe this. (165)

I sympathize with this a great deal. There are times in our lives when our family routine is disrupted. Because of work commitments or speaking engagements, I’m away from home probably five to six weeks of the year. While that might seem light in comparison to the schedules of many authors, speakers and pastors, we take it very seriously. When I have the opportunity to speak somewhere, we consider not only the opportunity, but the cost for our kids who are all very young. And there have been many times when I’ve had to say no to really good opportunities because where I’m most needed is at home playing cars on the floor with Hudson.

(There was also the time I went to Nashville and back in 36 hours when Emily was days away from giving birth to the boy, but…)

The point here is simply this: sometimes where we will be most effective for the sake of the mission will be away from home. But this is not license to “take care of the ministry and let God take care of your family,” as so many of a previous generation advocated (with their lives if not their words). I fear for the one who neglects his family in the name of Christ, because I can’t see it going well for them. Instead, what we need to do is find the right balance (in as much as something as unbalanced as ministry is). While we might have good opportunities to be used effectively away, sometimes it’s still best to be right here.

A marriage book that’s not about marriage

You may have gotten to this point and thought, “Great, it sounds like Crazy Love: Marriage Edition.” As tempting as it might be to say, it’s not entirely true. Yes, it has all the emphases of “radical” Christianity that you see in Crazy LoveRadical and so many others. No, it’s not without it’s problems (personally, I do feel Chan’s explanation of disrupting the family routine could be better fleshed out). But in the end, You and Me Forever succeeds in giving us a different kind of marriage book—one that’s less about marriage and more about the gospel. And that, for me at least, is a welcome change of pace.


Title: You and Me Forever: Marriage in Light of Eternity
Authors: Francis and Lisa Chan
Publisher: Claire Love Publishing (2014)

Buy it at: Amazon

Links I like

Kindle deals for Christian readers

The theme of this week’s Crossway deals is pretty transparent (but very welcome):

Also on sale:

What We Can Learn From Gamergate

Richard Clark:

It all started with a scandal. One woman slept with other men, and one man took umbrage, posting personal chat-logs with her as “proof” of videogame nepotism and corruption. The result was “Gamergate,” a videogame-related witch-hunt the likes of which none of us have ever seen before.

Gamergate is an online controversy centered around both the treatment of women in videogames and ethics in videogame journalism. The active campaign operates primarily out of the concern that there is a general “groupthink” in videogame journalism centered around feminist and generally progressive concerns.

Of Michael Landon and Brittany Maynard

This is so good.

Bible Ignorance

Mark Jones:

People who have an excellent understanding of the Scriptures really impress me. If there’s one thing I detest, besides Manchester United, it’s Bible studies or theological discussions where the Scriptures function like the crumbs in a bag of chips: you get to them only if you’re desperate.

As someone who has had the pleasure and displeasure of examining candidates for the ministry, I can tell you that many candidates suffer from a lack of basic bible knowledge. They (kind of) know their five points of Calvinism – I wish they knew the other twenty – but they have no idea what the five Levitical offerings are. They know two Latin words (duplex gratia), which they say ad infinitum, ad nauseam, but they don’t even know whether the cupbearer, the baker or the candlestick-maker forgot Joseph in prison.

The Church and Women at Risk

Lindsey Holcomb:

Violence against women is a global epidemic that affects women and girls of all socioeconomic backgrounds, ages, religions, cultures, and ethnicities. Some women and girls, however, are particularly vulnerable to abuse. The phrase “women at risk” or “at-risk women” is used to describe women most susceptible to exploitation and violence, such as women and girls living in poverty and girls younger than 18.

Because life can be tragic for women, it is crucial to have a biblical understanding of how the church can protect and care for women at risk.

Abraham, Cultural Distance, and Offering Up Our Moral Conscience

Derek Rishmawy:

All too often in these discussions of troubling texts, we collapse the cultural distance between us and the biblical characters. Human nature is, in many ways, constant. Conscience is one of those basic human features. Across cultures, everybody has a clear sense of right and wrong, norms against which we must not cross, and an internal compass about these sorts of things. That said, any student of culture knows there are some significant variations across cultures as well. “Self-evident truths” held by post-Enlightenment Americans are not all that apparent to equally intelligent Middle Easterners or citizens of the Majority world. The conscience of a 1st Century citizen might be very sensitive about an issue you and I wouldn’t blink twice about, and vice versa. Our cultural presuppositions and plausibility structures do a significant amount of work here.

Where does this come in with Abraham? Well, I think it becomes a factor in two ways: cultural distance and revelational distance. These two are bound up with each other.

Christian, don’t begrudgingly affirm God’s Word

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This past week, the folks at Hillsong found themselves in a bit of a pickle as founder Brian Houston, when confronted on the question of homosexuality and same-sex marriage. In attempting to provide a winsome answer, he said that it’s too important to reduce down to a “yes or no answer in a media outlet,” which many conservative evangelicals took to mean Houston and Hillsong are fudging on what the Bible says.

Fast forward a couple of days. Houston clarified, saying, “My personal view on the subject of homosexuality would line up with most traditionally held Christian views. I believe the writings of Paul are clear on this subject.”

Houston’s not alone in doing “the dance”—not wanting to deny the Bible, but wanting to keep entry to the faith as free from obstacles as possible. Tons of pastors (and “pastors”) have faced this. Even Joel Osteen (who has the most inoffensive to unbelievers personality on earth!) has been ambushed on the question. In the end, he said he didn’t believe it to be God’s best for people.

Public personalities like these aren’t alone in doing the dance. At some point or another we all do it. And as I’ve watched it happen (and occasionally been caught in it myself) time and again, one of the inevitable pieces of fallout is we wind up just having to come out and say what we were trying to not say.

This almost begrudging acceptance of the truth—we really do have to say what the Bible says.

Now, I get it. Many people want to avoid putting up a stumbling block to unbelievers coming to faith. They don’t want to be seen as “those Christians”—the ones who are always fighting about this or that, or who are considered hateful or bigots. But dancing around the Bible isn’t the answer.

We don’t really need to do the dance. We don’t have to be backed into a corner where we begrudgingly accept what the Bible says. Not if we are viewing the Bible as we are meant to.

If the Bible is the word of Truth (James 1:18; Ephesians 1:13; 2 Timothy 2:15), shouldn’t we be more comfortable standing by it? Not with a begrudging acceptance, but with a heartfelt confidence?

Shouldn’t we be willing to treat God’s word as, well, God’s Word?

Links I like

Kindle deals for Christian readers

A few by Gary Thomas ($2.99 each):

Also on sale is Your Guide to Writing Quality Research Papers: For Students of Religion and Theology for $2.99 and John Newton: From Disgrace to Amazing Grace by Jonathan Aitken for 99¢.

Adventures of a church introvert

Yep.

Theological Revolutionaries and their Potty Talk

Erik Raymond:

The only thing more difficult than understanding this moral confusion is keeping up with it; a new story seems to come out daily.

When you think through what is being said there is a common theme. These headlines have just as much to do with theology as they do anthropology. At every turn, the moral revolutionaries are asserting their claim to divinity, or at least to their ability to act like they are.

Resources on domestic abuse

Moody has put together a helpful collection of resources based on Justin and Lindsey Holcomb’s book, Is it My Fault? (reviewed here). Bookmark this (pastors and counsellors, especially).

5 Bad Substitutes for Discipline

Tim Challies:

There is nothing easy about parenting, and nothing easy about the responsibility of training our children in obedience through discipline. Because discipline is unpopular and unpleasant, parents often find themselves looking for substitutes. In her book Parenting Against the Tide, Ann Benton lists five poor substitutes for disciplining our children—five poor substitutes that fail to address the heart.

Three Reasons to Attend Corporate Worship

Matthew Westerholm:

“Why do we have to go to church again?”

Children ask this question on a semi-regular basis. I know my three boys have given me many opportunities to answer it. As a worship pastor, I am embarrassed to admit that I have found myself facing another service and asking the same question: Why again? Did we fail last week, or do it wrong? Was last week’s service not enough?

I have not always had good answers at hand, beyond a biblical command not to neglect meeting together (Hebrews 10:25), but over time I’ve drawn encouragement from a broader view of Scripture and godly Christian authors. Having faced the challenge to frame those encouragements in ways that kids can understand, and my own heart will accept, allow me to pass on my best three answers:

So why should we attend corporate worship?

God Wants Us To Want

Darryl Dash:

I used to think that God was happy with our grudging obedience. Do the right thing, grit your teeth, and everything is good with God. I’ve been increasingly learning that God doesn’t want us to do the right thing so much as he wants us to want to do the right thing. Big difference.

Unbelief commits nothing to God

unbelief

Unbelief leaves our dearest interests and concerns in our own hands. It commits nothing to God. Consequently, it fills the heart with distracting fears when imminent danger threatens us. If this is your case, you will be surrounded with terror whenever you are surrounded with danger and trouble. Believers have this advantage: they have committed by faith all that is precious and valuable to them in God’s hands. They have committed the keeping of their souls (1 Peter 4:19) and all their eternal concerns (2 Tim. 1:14) to Him. Because these things are in safe hands, they are not distracted with fears about matters of less value. They entrust these to God and enjoy the peace and quietness of a resigned soul (Prov. 163). But as for you, you keep your life, liberty, and soul (which is infinitely greater than these other things) in your own hands in the day of trouble. You do not know what to do with them or how to dispose of them.

Oh, these are the dreadful frights in which unbelief leaves people! It is a foundation of fears and distractions. Indeed, it cannot but distract and bewilder carnal people, in whom it reigns in full strength. Sad experience shows us what fear (the remains and relics of unbelief) produces in the best people.w ho are not fully free from it. If the relics of unbelief can darken and cloud their evidences, if it can draw such sad and frightful conclusions in their hearts (despite all the contrary experience of their lives), what unrelieved terrors must it produce in those who are under its full strength and dominion!

John Flavel, Triumphing Over Sinful Fear, 38-39


Photo credit: Sander van der Wel via photopin cc. Designed with Canva.

The weird and the witty: A choose your own autobiography

I walked into my local Chapters, making my usual bee-line for the Starbucks, when it caught my eye.

No, not Joel Osteen’s beautiful (and likely very expensive) smile…

osteen-book

(Although…)

No, something much more amazing. This:

NPH-autobiography

Autobiographies are weird animals. Most of us don’t have a life stories interesting enough to fill a book (or at least, one people would want to read). The same goes for celebrities, who also don’t really have lives that could fill a book you’d want to read, either.

And yet, here we are.

And here this is.

Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography may well be the most clever addition to the ever expanding line of celebrity life stories, simply because of the schtick of putting the reader in the driver’s seat of Harris’ life. For example:

You, Neil Patrick Harris, are born in Albuquerque, New Mexico, on June 15, 1973, at what you’re pretty sure is St. Joseph’s Hospital, although it’s hard to be certain as the whole experience leaves you a little blurry.

The first person you encounter is, not surprisingly, your mother, Sheila Scott Harris. As the years go by you will come to learn she is a truly remarkable woman filled with love, kindness, fragility, selflessness, intelligence, wisdom, and humor. The kind of mom who will talk to you like a person and treat you with respect from the age of two. The kind of mom who will hold you in her lap for an entire four-hour car ride, lightly scratching your back. The kind of mom who teaches you the rules of Twenty Questions and then lets you guess the “right” answer even though it wasn’t what she was thinking, but does it subtly enough to keep you from realizing that’s what she’s doing. The kind of mom traditional enough to sing in the Episcopal church choir every week but hip enough to improvise a horrific death for a character in the bedtime story she’s reading you just to make sure you’re paying attention. The kind of mom who sews your Halloween costumes and plays the flute and loves to laugh and encourages you to pursue your passions and at one point trains to become a Jazzercise instructor and at another decides to go back to law school in her thirties and commute four hours each way every weekend for three solid years to make sure she spends enough time with you.

This is a pretty clever approach to an autobiography, one that shows a certain willingness to poke fun at oneself too rarely found in celebrities. But then again, Harris did start something of a career comeback mocking himself in the early 2000s, so…

Links I like (weekend edition)

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Brittany Maynard, Rachel Held Evans, and Not Giving Up

Samuel James:

What Evans is too tired to do is the hard work of theology. Putting together the doctrine of God’s love and mercy with the doctrine of God’s sovereignty and righteous condemnation of sinners is too difficult. The paradox has created an irreparable dissonance within her spirituality. Rather than submitting to the view of Scripture that Jesus endorsed, and trusting in the goodness of the Spirit that illuminates the meaning of the Word, Evans believes she has to make a choice: Scripture or conscience, Bible or values, Joshua or Jesus.

A non-answer is an answer

Andrew Walker:

Let’s be very clear on that. It’s also a very vapid answer. What we’re seeing in many corners of evangelicalism is a pliability that makes Christianity an obsequious servant to whatever the reigning zeitgeist is. With non-answers like this, it isn’t Jesus who is sitting at the right hand of the Father. Culture is. Perhaps Hillsong would rather abide by a “Don’t Ask; Don’t Tell” policy on matters of orthodoxy. That’s their prerogative. But let’s be clear that this is not the route of faithfulness.

Sexuality and Silence

Andrew Wilson:

I’ve heard rumours of a silent trend beginning to take hold in some city churches in the UK and the US. I don’t just mean a trend that takes hold silently; presumably most trends do that. I mean a trend toward silence: a decision not to speak out on issues that are considered too sticky, controversial, divisive, culturally loaded, entangled, ethically complex, personally upsetting, emotive, likely to be reported on by the Guardian or the New York Times, uncharted, inflammatory, difficult, or containing traces of gluten. Since I do not attend a city church, but am a proud member of the backward bungalow bumpkin brigade, this is coming to me secondhand, and it may turn out to be a storm in the proverbial teacup, or even (for all I know) entirely fictional.

But let’s imagine that there were such things as well-written booklets which had been discontinued simply because they were about sexuality, and leaders who were avoiding making any public comments at all on controversial ethical issues, or churches whose lectionaries or sermon series were systematically avoiding passages which addressed pressing contemporary questions, presumably in the name of being winsome or wise or likeable or culturally sensitive, because of the number of Influencers and Powerful People in the area. Without knowing any of the behind-the-scenes discussions that had taken place—all well-intentioned, I’m sure—what would I say then?

Seven things.

How To REALLY Help Someone Change

Stephen Altrogge:

We tend to get this wonky, thoroughly unbiblical idea in our minds, that we can actually change people. That by the force of our will, we can move a person from ungodliness to godliness. We think that if we get sufficiently angry, they will see our point and change. They will feel the force of our anger, come under the cutting conviction of the Holy Spirit, and repent. Of course, this is complete nonsense. We know this both from Scripture and from experience.

The Healthy Elder Board Is a P.C. Elder Board

Thabiti Anyabwile:

The abbreviation “P.C.” has an almost universally negative connotation. We hear “P.C.” and we think “politically correct.” Being “P.C.” is synonymous with cultural capitulation, a kind of cowardice that refuses to call things what they are.

If that’s all the letters “P.C.” could stand for then we’d be right to suspect a “P.C. elder board” of unfaithfulness and ineffectiveness. But, thank God, there are other words for which “P.C.” can stand. And some of them actually help us define what a well-functioning eldership looks like. In general, I think we need “P.C.” elder teams. Here’s what I mean.

Links I like

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Today is also $5 Friday at Ligonier, where you’ll find a ton of great resources for $5 each, including:

  • The Masculine Mandate: God’s Calling to Men by Richard Phillips (hardcover)
  • God’s Technology teaching series by David Murray (DVD)
  • Foundations of Grace by Steven Lawson (ePub)

Why repentance must be central to your ministry

Really good stuff from Platt and Chan.

15 Proverbs for social media users

Barnabas Piper:

Social media is a wonderful resource, an outlet for wit and wisdom… It is also where common sense and decency go to die. The same means that help me connect with new friends in South Africa and read real time updates of happenings in Ferguson, MO enable thoughtless people to spew hatred, lunacy, and general stupidity just as far just as fast.

How can we be sure we are using it in a wise and helpful way? Starting with some wisdom from God’s word is a good start, and no book has more practical wisdom than Proverbs. Here are 15 proverbs with direct application for how we should use social media.

Don’t Expect Unbelievers To Act Like Believers

Tim Challies reflects on an important point found in John Owen’s Overcoming Sin and Temptation.

What happened to the YRR in the SBC?

Tim Brister:

Fifteen years later, I think about where the young, restless, and Reformed have gone in the SBC. Are they sitting in the halls of academia, waiting to write the next book defending Calvinism? Perhaps. Are they trying to work their way up into denominational life to influence the SBC toward Calvinism? I seriously doubt it. For the men God brought into my life over a decade ago, here’s the breakdown of where they are now.

The true nature of elder authority in the church

Matt Perman:

So we need to understand what type of authority elders really have in the church, and what it truly means to not be domineering.

There are many sources we could go to to summarize the biblical view on this (which has always been the historic Protestant view). One of the best is John Stott, who covers this issue very well in a few simple but profound paragraphs from his book Christ in ConflictSo in this article, what I’m going to do is quote a few sentences from Stott, make some comments, quote the next few sentences from Stott, make some comments on those, and so forth. By the end we will have a clear outline of the real nature (and limitations) of the authority of elders in the church, to the end that we will know what the Scriptures mean when they say that elders are not to “domineer” over those they are leading.

C. S. Lewis on Why You Should Read Fiction: Get In and Get Out

Justin Taylor shares a great quote from Lewis’ An Experiment in Criticism.

Five opportunities to glorify God in Mark Driscoll’s resignation

Pastor_Mark_Driscoll

So… Mark Driscoll resigned.

There’s a lot that could be said about this, and undoubtedly much will be. Some of it will be helpful, some of it will be… less so. Hopefully this will be the former, and not the latter.

In all honesty, I’m very glad that Driscoll is out of ministry. After years of controversy, and in recent months the unceasing barrage of issues coming to light—including plagiarism, financial mismanagement at Mars Hill and a pattern of abusive behavior—this needed to happen, for the good of the people who have been hurt, for the people at Mars Hill and for Driscoll himself.

And while, undoubtedly, there are going to be some who will read his resignation and point out some of the troubling aspects (including his not being found disqualified despite being disqualified by his “domineering style of leadership,” [1 Peter 5:3]), I would love to focus on five opportunities to glorify God arising from this:

The opportunity for Mars Hill Church

Mars Hill’s at a crossroads: if the church is all about Jesus, now’s the time to prove it. The best place to start? Honestly evaluating their structure.

The model they’ve been running on—with an outside board of accountability—simply doesn’t work, nor is it biblical. If they’re serious about getting healthy, they need to put in place a model of governance where every leader really is one vote at the table, and are held to account. They need to become autonomous churches with elders who are biblically qualified and capable of preaching the Word.

They need to not be what they’ve been for the better part of the last decade if they’re serious about getting healthy and continuing on with Jesus’ mission to make disciples of all the nations. If that can happen, I believe God will be glorified.

If not, then it’s time to turn off the lights and shut the doors.

The opportunity for Mark Driscoll

Mark Driscoll is also at a crossroads. The pattern of public behavior we’ve all witnessed over the last several months have shown us what can happen when a man with natural ability but lacking in spiritual maturity puts himself in a position of great authority. One cannot escape from such a scenario unscathed.

While he says he was not disqualified by the investigation (and really, did anyone expect him to be), one thing is unquestionably clear in all of this: he desperately needs help. Driscoll desperately needs to do some real soul searching and ask himself hard, honest questions: How did things get this bad? Is he seeing his own role in this drama correctly? What would God have him do going forward.

And although, I’m glad he says in his resignation that he and Grace will be receiving support and counsel from men and women across the country, he needs something else: to be a member in a local church. He needs to be under the authority of someone (or rather, multiple someones) for the first time in his adult life.

To be perfectly honest, my hope for Mark Driscoll is that he stays far away from the spotlight and far away from ministry for a long, long time. He’s got serious issues that need to be worked out. The best place for him to do that is as a member of a local church, not as a leader in one. If that can happen, I believe God will be glorified.

The opportunity for those injured

For those who have been injured over the years at Mars Hill, I’m not certain the news offers much comfort. Some, understandably, had hoped to see him disqualified and fired. Instead, he’s resigned of his own accord.

Regardless, he’s gone. Whether the church stands or falls remains to be seen. This is an opportunity to be at peace and heal, even if the way the end came about isn’t the way they’d hoped. If that can happen, I believe God will be glorified.

The opportunity for those on the sidelines

Finally, those of us on the sidelines have a number of choices to make. Some have made their reputations blogging about these sorts of controversies (to varying degrees of helpfulness). For these bloggers, their work is more or less done, at least as far as the negative side of these events is concerned. My hope for them is they’ll be able to focus on what is good and pure and true, and celebrate what God inevitably does out of this situation.

Some bloggers have chosen to be silent about these sorts of issues in general and this one in particular. Sometimes it’s for good reasons, such as not having anything to say or not wanting to be accused of chasing controversies. I don’t really have an issue with that. But my hope for all of us— particularly those of us who claim to be “gospel-centered”— would be an increased willingness to confront evil, especially when it appears in our own houses. We should be willing to decisively condemn such practices. If that can happen, I believe God will be glorified.

The final opportunity

Finally, we all have one final opportunity to glorify God in this, and that is to pray. We need to pray for God’s will to continue to be done in the lives of all who have been affected by the drama at Mars Hill Church over the last several months and years.

  • That those who have been injured would find peace.
  • That humility would reign in the hearts of the remaining leaders at Mars Hill as they choose how to move forward.
  • That God would truly break Mark Driscoll’s heart in a new way so he can be closer to God as he says he desires to be.
  • That we wouldn’t just wait for the next rockstar megachurch pastor to implode, but would pray that God would cut through the garbage they’ve surrounded themselves with.
  • That we would put our houses in order and not sacrifice people and mission on the altar of celebrity.

If we can pray for those things, I believe God will be glorified.

Links I like

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Although not strictly a Kindle deal, here’s a great deal from Christian Audio and Cruciform Press. For a limited time, you can get the audio edition of Jerry Bridges’ excellent little book, Who Am I? free (and read by Alistair Begg to boot!). You can also get the eBook editions of this book and four others for $12.98 (or $3.99 each).

On sale at Amazon, however…

Four Ways Getting The Gospel Right Ain’t Enough

Matthew Sims:

Christianity centers on the gospel of Jesus Christ. Is doctrinal precision all we need to get gospel right? Can getting the technical aspects alone save you? Or is there more?

You can get the content of the gospel right, but still miss the gospel. Here are four ways getting the gospel right ain’t enough.

The Progressive Evangelical Package

Derek Rishmawy:

It’s no secret that Reformed Christians have built their own wing of the internet where they spend their time chatting among themselves … The progressive Evangelicals now have their own wing, though, ostensibly with an emphasis on diversity and a marked aversion to foreclosing conversations or policing boundaries. The idea that there is a strict standard, a party line you have to toe in order to be a part of the club, is supposed to be foreign to the Progressive internet’s ethos. That’s for the heresy-hunting, conservative builders of Evangelical empire, after all, rather than the “radically inclusive” prophets of a more Christ-like faith. Unlike their conservative counterparts, Progressives follow a Jesus who came to tear down the walls that divide, not put new doctrinal ones back up.

Those are the stereotypes, at least. But it’s increasingly difficult to maintain this picture if we take a look at the actual situation on the ground.

5 Benefits Of Having A Challenging Teen

Mark Altrogge:

…doing all the right things doesn’t change the heart. The Lord is the only one who saves and changes people, not all our practices and effort, as good as they may be. Having a difficult teen causes us to grow in dependence on God – to cry out to the Lord in prayer, to seek him for mercy and grace and wisdom. It drives us to his Word, to seek out his promises. It causes us to grow in faith and trust in the Lord to work in our child.

5 Reasons Why There Are No Millennials in Your Church

Chris Martin offers his take on why Millennials aren’t attending church.

The Lethal Drug in Your Dream Job

Marshall Segal:

Success at work will play god and make promises to you that it cannot and will not keep. Success promises to fill holes in our hearts. If you only ascend this high or accumulate this much, your fears and insecurities will be resolved once for all. Success promises the love of those around us. They will finally give you the respect and affection you crave. Success says it can cover everything wrong about us. It offers esteem, control, and security — everything we surrendered in our sin. It wears the savior’s costume and presents itself the strong, charming, and trustworthy hero.

But success is a horrible hero, and an even worse god.

The Pagan Heart of Today’s Culture

9781629950877

Nature abhors a vacuum. A bit cliché, perhaps, but true nonetheless, especially as we consider the cultural landscape of the West. As Christianity’s influence in wanes, something else is rising to take its place. But what? According to Peter Jones, it’s paganism, or Oneism. In The Pagan Heart of Today’s Culture, the latest in P&R and Westminster Theological Seminary’s Christian Answers to Hard Questions series, Jones introduces readers to this belief, grounding his study by showing the connections between three other isms—polytheism, Gnosticism, and postmodernism.

“These three ways of thinking have become strangely connected,” he writes. “Together they help explain the nature of today’s pagan worldview and its opposition to the truth of the gospel” (5).

Three isms and Oneism

Each of the isms described in this booklet represent pieces of a larger puzzle that, when seen together, describe a worldview ultimately about one thing: the end of distinctions. No longer will there be need for the distinction between male and female (sound familiar?), right or wrong, good or evil… “a rejection of the opposites is in fact…a fundamental aspect of religious paganism, so that postmodern philosophy fits surprisingly well with the religious yearnings for the morality and spirituality of inclusion—pantheistic ‘all is one’ wholeness” (9).

This is seen not only in postmodernism, but gnosticism and polytheism as well. Ultimately, these ideas all coalesce in the end of the distinction between Creator and creation. And this is the great lie we see in Romans 1:25—that people exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshipped and served creatures instead of the Creator. That, in essence, is what Jones calls Oneism, and it is a deadly snare.

Twoism: the Achilles’ heel of the “all-is-one” fantasy

Contrast this with Twoism, or, rather, biblical Christianity, a view that embraces distinction—male-female, right-wrong, Creator-creation. This, Jones says, is the only significant challenge to the rising tide of paganism, which is why there is such a strong effort to snuff it out in our day:

Twoism is the Achilles’ heel of their “all-is-one” fantasy. Twoism must therefore be spoken of and lived out with love, courage, and coherent clarity before a hostile world progressively enveloped by the delusion of the unifying Oneist lie. And as Paul implied so long ago, the future confrontation will be between not simply thinkers but spiritual worshipers, the worshipers of creation and the worshipers of the Creator. (35)

Jones’ challenge isn’t to engage in more culture wars in the sense some may fear. He’s not telling us to run around calling people pagans for doing yoga, for example. Instead, he’s challenging us to live out our faith as we’ve been called to—to be people who celebrate the differences between male and female, as well as between humans and the rest of creation, and who rejoice in the difference between God as our Creator and ourselves as created beings.

This is something we so easily forget, isn’t it? That while we should be informed in our thinking, the call is not to be the best apologists out there and present the clearest argument: Our call is to be people who obey our transcendent Lord, the One through whom and for whom all things were created.

A solid and accessible introduction

The Pagan Heart of Today’s Culture does not represent the end of a journey, but the beginning of one. If you’re intrigued by the concepts of Oneism and Twoism, or if you’re confused by them, Jones unpacks these concepts in greater detail, particularly in One or Two and Gospel Truths, Pagan Lies, both of which I would highly encourage reading. However, if you’re looking for an accessible and solid starting point, this is the book to get.


Title: The Pagan Heart of Today’s Culture
Author: Peter Jones
Publisher: P&R Publishing/Westminster Theological Seminary Press (2014)

Buy it at: Westminster | Amazon

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Conversations with Small Creatures

Mary Eady:

So often when I think about how to talk to my children about theology, I imagine these high-minded, lengthy and mature conversations that are free of the every day distractions of real life.  In my fantasy theology lessons my children mysteriously know what “eschatology” and “hermeneutic” mean, I never mispronounce words like “antithesis” or Iraneus’ name, and my son never, ever responds to one of my profound statements with, “Uh .  Mom, can I play video games today?” (I’ll have to tell you about the imaginary perfectly balanced and nutritious lunches I pack them in another article…But trust me.  They’re delicious!)

I hope you know, however, that reality is FAR different from fantasy in my house.  I have to grab the chances I’m given, as brief as they may be, and make the best of them.  And, though I often envy my coworkers their amazing vocabularies, I find that the simpler I am with my kids, the more they understand and the longer they’re willing to listen.

Give a gift and do good

We just launched our Christmas campaign at work; this video was a ton of fun to write and film:

Houston, We Have a Constitution

Russell Moore:

Reports coming out of Houston today indicate that city attorneys have issued subpoenas to pastors who have been vocal in opposition to the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO), a measure which deals with gender identity and sexuality in public accommodations. The subpoenas, issued to several pastors, seek “all speeches, presentations, or sermons related to HERO, the Petition, Mayor Annise Parker, homosexuality, or gender identity prepared by, delivered by, revised by, or approved by you or in your possession.”

I am simply stunned by the sheer audacity of this.

When A Pastor Gets Depressed

Jeff Medders:

Last Monday, an untraceable sadness came over me. It wasn’t because we had a “bad Sunday.” We didn’t (whatever that means.) A young man, someone who I had been praying would come to Christ, pulled me aside before the second service and wanted to become a Christian. Hallelujah! I live for these moments.

I preached on Proverb 4:23 and watching our hearts, having joy in God, and keeping our lives in alignment with the King of kings. After church, we went on to have a great lunch with friends; I even got in my nap.

And then Monday morning, right before lunch, I began to cry for no reason. I sat in my living room, while my ten-month old son was napping, and tears slid down my cheeks.

How Much of a Servant Are You?

Aaron Earls:

But most of us aren’t dying to take a quiz to discover “Just How Much of a Servant Are You?” But, as Christians, is that not more important than which Frozen, Lord of the Rings, Hunger Games or Harry Potter character we are?

Is Glorification Conditional?

Kevin DeYoung:

As often happens in theological discussion, we have to start by saying that in one sense glorification is not conditional, if by condition we mean we must earn our place in heaven or that the final salvation of those regenerated and justified hangs in the balance. The golden chain of Romans 8:30 cannot be broken: those whom God predestined will be called and those called will be justified and those justified will be glorified.

But the word “conditional” does not have to carry the sense of merit or uncertainty. A condition is simply a requirement that must be met or a state of affairs that must come to pass if a certain event or outcome is to be realized. To say something is “conditional” is to say nothing about how the condition is met or whether there is any doubt the condition will be fulfilled. I can see how the word “conditional” throws people off, but we must affirm from Scripture that without certain evidences made manifest in our lives, we will not be glorified.

Cancel your Halloween plans if…

Halloween

My latest article at Christianity.com:

“Do you let your kids do Halloween?” My coworkers and I discussed this recently as we decompressed from our Monday morning meeting. It’s an interesting discussion to have with fellow believers because we’re so split on the issue.

Although rarely does anyone declare you a gospel-compromising heretic if you allow your kids to go trick-or-treating, it’s not uncommon to get a sideways glance. So how are we to navigate Halloween? Should we avoid it entirely or embrace it unquestioningly? Or is there a way for us to engage it appropriately, in a way that honors Christ?

I believe this final option is possible, provided we take the following things into consideration.

Read the whole piece at Christianity.com – Cancel Halloween (Unless You Can Do These 5 Things)


Photo credit: minipixel via photopin cc. Designed with Canva.

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eBook deals for Christian readers

As part of Pastor’s Appreciation Month, Impact members can save 60 per cent off six of their best pastoral resources this week (in print and eBook editions). These titles include The Pastor’s Justification by Jared Wilson, Nine Marks of a Healthy Church by Mark Dever, One with Christ by Marcus Peter Johnson (which is also on sale for the Kindle this week) and Total Church by Tim Chester and Steve Timmis.

On the Kindle deal front, here are a few new ones:

Completing not Competing

David Murray:

When we look at the nut and bolt, we don’t think one is superior or inferior to the other, we just see different designs for different but complementary purposes. We don’t try to make the nut into a bolt or vice versa; that’s just a waste of time and effort. And when we see them working well together, we may want to compliment the inventor of this complement. 

There is Glory in the Details.

Erik Raymond:

Consider a newly engaged couple, do you have much trouble getting them to tell you the story about how they met and fell in love? Not likely. Or, how about new parents? Many will gladly recount the details of their birth story for you. How about a little kid who just saw something surprising? I think of my little 5-year-old daughter who recently told me the whole story of how she got a princess dress at Goodwill and how it really is an Elsa dress because of these 5 things… We love details when we love the topic we are describing.

God is no different. He loves details, especially when describing who he loves. He is very thorough, precise and passionate to communicate the intricate beauty and diverse glories of his Son.

Why I Don’t Typically Argue About the Rapture

Mike Leake:

Rarely will I challenge a persons belief in a pre-tribulational rapture. But there are at least four times when I will speak up:

  1. When their belief makes them swallow other silly things.
  2. When their belief is giving them a dangerously wrong view of suffering.
  3. When their belief is negatively impacting the way they follow Jesus.
  4. When they are obsessed/distracted to the detriment of themselves or others. Usually in the form of being divisive and argumentative.

I’ve found only a handful of instances in which one of these is present that would necessitate my speaking up. For the most part there isn’t much benefit in arguing about the timing of certain eschatological events—this includes the rapture.

Should Giving Always Be Kept Secret?

Randy Alcorn:

We need to stop putting giving in a class by itself. If I give a message on evangelism, biblical interpretation or parenting, I run the risk of pride. But it may still be God’s will for me to share with the church what God’s taught me in these areas. Paul spoke of himself as a model—”Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1). I could write books for the wrong reasons, even though I seek God’s face and ask that this wouldn’t be the case. I could send every email with the wrong motive, to seek man’s approval, not God’s. But I write books and send emails anyway, partly because if we refrain from doing everything we could do with a wrong motive, we’ll never do anything at all. (If your pastor only preaches when there’s no temptation to pride, he’ll never preach.)

Practical Principles of Biblical Interpretation

R.C. Sproul:

It has often been charged that the Bible can’t be trusted because people can make it say anything they want it to say. This charge would be true if the Bible were not the objective Word of God, if it were simply a wax nose, able to be shaped, twisted, and distorted to teach one’s own precepts. The charge would be true if it were not an offense to God the Holy Spirit to read into sacred Scripture what is not there. However, the idea that the Bible can teach anything we want it to is not true if we approach the Scriptures humbly, trying to hear what the Bible says for itself.