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Elisabeth Elliot (1926–2015)

Elisabeth Elliot, wife of evangelist Jim Elliot and celebrated author, died yesterday morning (June 15, 2015). Several Christian leaders paid their respects with some lovely (and informative) posts including:

Yoga, Hospitality, and Cultural Appropriation

I’m glad to see an author wrestling with whether or not yoga should be practiced by Christians (though I suspect we would differ on our conclusions if I’m reading the post correctly).

Reasons Why We Don’t Read Our Bibles

Erik Raymond:

Most people when asked about their Bible reading say: I have been really busy. This may be the truth; people are very busy. However, it is not the reason. I think we can distinguish between realities and reasons. Those same people who are really busy do have the time to eat food and sleep. I know people who have their entire day (and evening) mapped out for them. They are extremely busy; yet they still read their Bibles. There is time for even the busiest of us. However, others who claim busyness also are up to date on the news, watch movies, use social media, exercise, and a host of other things. In pursuit of a true diagnosis here, let’s be honest: none of us are truly too busy to read the Bible. We may be busy but we choose to put the Bible aside for one reason or another.

Let me give you a few reasons why many Christians do not regularly read their Bibles.

Don’t Return To Your Vomit

Geoffrey Kirkland offers some helpful points here in considering our application of Proverbs 26:11.

Why Bloggers Are Calling it Quits

Amy Julia Becker:

Stepping away from the very platforms that shaped them and popularized their careers, these celebrities raise questions about the future of blogging in particular and of social media in general. In announcing their departures, Whedon, Sullivan, and Armstrong all mention wanting to move away from the barrage of “haters” who leave their reckless disagreements and insults in comment sections and replies.

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Kindle deals for Christian readers

Crossway’s Kindle deals for this week focus on biblical counseling:

Also on sale is a new edition of The Acceptable Sacrifice by John Bunyan for 99¢.

We Long to Belong

Jasmine Holmes:

Last year my fifth-grade students sharpened their number-two pencils, looked down over their scantrons, and raised their hands to ask a million questions before taking the standardized test.

“I’m 1/256 Native American, can I fill in that bubble?”

Tweets Set on Fire By Hell

Nathan Bingham:

The Internet could be a better place if the convictions that govern our speech offline also governed our speech online. Comments could be turned on. There would be freedom to dialogue, not the exchange of potshots. There would be an atmosphere of gratitude, not entitlement. Social media may better serve as an extension of relationships, and not for their destruction. But although these would be good things, if they merely remained an external piety they would only serve as a mask to disguise our disfigured hearts. When Jesus said that it was out of the abundance of our hearts that our mouths speak, He was describing the need for a radical heart change—a change that is only possible by of work of God’s grace. His words also serve as a reminder for the Christian to repent for speaking in ways not in accord with our new nature and to ask God to cleanse us anew (1 John 1:9).

George Yancey on the Rise of Anti-Christian Bias

Daniel Darling interviews George Yancey, author of Hostile Environment

Africa Infested by Health and Wealth Teaching

Jeff Robinson:

The prosperity gospel runs rampant through Sub-Saharan Africa, and Uganda is no exception. Churches don’t call themselves prosperity churches and even churches claiming to oppose the prosperity gospel have

it proclaimed from their pulpits. The prosperity gospel has attached itself to the theological framework that runs through this region. It has spread primarily through television. Preachers such as Benny Hinn, Creflo Dollar, Myles Munroe, and Joel Osteen can be seen on TV around the clock in Christian homes throughout Uganda. Their books are found lining the shelves of Christian bookshops. These preachers have also done a great job of personally visiting this region.

Don’t Underestimate the Importance of the Foundation

Michael Kelley:

You can have the most beautiful paving stone or the most eye-catching paint color, but in the end, they don’t really mean anything if you don’t put the right amount of time into the foundation. In our project, for example, we had to dig down approximately 18 inches in order to build the retaining wall so that not only the wall but the surface of the patio would have the right shape, definition, and strength when we were all done. I’d like to think I didn’t need this experience to know that Jesus’ words were true.

God doesn’t need an invitation

 

calling-god-down

There’s a peculiar thing I’ve noticed in some of the songs in popular Christian praise and/or worship music—typically the ones you hear at the beginning of the “set”1 intended to warm everybody up and get everyone excited. It’s this idea that we are somehow summoning God into our presence. Songs about inviting him into our midst, calling him down, telling him to show up in power, and show us his glory, and all this kind of stuff…

Now, depending your congregation’s proclivities, you’re probably going to sing a song like this today. And I’ve gotta say, to me at least, it’s really weird. It’s not that I’m against being aware of God’s presence, nor am I against praying—or singing for that matter—for true, Spirit-wrought revival. But I’m not sure this is what these songs are talking about. Instead, they seem to be putting us in the drivers’ seat, making us the ones in control during the our time of corporate worship.

In a chapter of The Prodigal Church at least 75 percent of worship leaders will skip, Jared Wilson calls our attention to the heart of this peculiar problem:

The danger we face when we worship is coming into the experience assuming we are summoning God. Assuming worship is our initiative. Assuming we are somehow the ones in control, that we are bringing the best of ourselves and our holy desire to worship. But the reality is, worship does not begin with the worshipper. It begins with God. It is a response to God’s calling upon us. (97)

This is the danger of experientialism. It moves us by inches away from the center, from the reality of who God is, of what the purpose of worship is—of who the object of worship is. And if we’re not careful, and the slide continues, our worship songs may wind up more closely resembling the frantic cries of the Baal-worshippers on the mountain than those of Christ’s disciples.

You’re not calling God down this morning. He doesn’t need an invitation. But I have some better news for you: He is already here. The Holy Spirit dwells within all of his people, every moment of every day. He is the one who empowers our worship, who gives us the desire to sing God’s praises. His power has already shown up—and it resides in us. Should we not rejoice and be glad of this?

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Kindle deals for Christian readers

Today is also the last day to take advantage of these deals from Crossway:

Finally, you may also want to check out Amazon’s big deal sale, which features deals on a number of general market titles, as well as few Christian ones.

Where the battle rages

Ray Ortlund shares an encouraging quote from Martin Luther.

When God Interferes With Our Plans

Tim Challies:

God’s providence is the single greatest hindrance to the floods of sin that would otherwise gush out of our sinful hearts. If it were not for God’s care and preservation, even we Christians would be far more sinful than we dare imagine. If it were not for God’s gracious interference, our best efforts in holiness would not be enough to keep us from drowning in sin and heaping contempt on the name of Christ. God takes far better care of us than we do of ourselves. For this reason, every Christian owes unending thanks to God for preserving us from what we would otherwise do and who we would otherwise become. This is roughly what John Flavel teaches in chapter 6 of his work The Mystery of Providence. Here are a few of the ways in which God interferes with our desire and attempts to sin against him.

The Child Preachers of Brazil

This was interesting:

Adauto prepared the crowd to receive his daughter, who is now 11 and has been preaching since she was 3. On Monday nights, Alani lays on hands; on Wednesdays, she has a revelations service, in which she and other preachers make predictions about the future; on Saturdays, she hosts a radio show about the Bible. She also does Skype prayer sessions with followers who live far from her or are too sick to meet her, and preaches at other Pentecostal churches and gatherings.

The pastor offered practical reminders. There would be no need to touch Alani excessively; Jesus’ followers were able to receive miracles after only brief contact with his garments. And everyone needed to turn off cellphones, lest they ring and “interrupt a miracle.”

Argument and Conversion

Mike Leake:

Thomas Scott was an unbelieving minister who labored to see his congregation reform their morals. He was discouraged as the folks seemed to never be able to live rightly no matter how he preached. This is no surprise—moralistic preaching never works.

No matter how wonderfully Scott argued, his people would never be able to truly reform their ways. Contrast this with how John Newton interacted with Thomas Scott. Knowing he was not converted—but that God was working on his soul—Newton lovingly engaged Scott with the gospel.

How Younger Preachers Can Help Their Hearers

Eric Davis:

Young men are often raised up by God to take the baton in various ways to faithfully follow previous generations. One of those ways in the privileged and sacred task of feeding Christ’s flock through biblical preaching.

However, as you read Scripture and spend time ministering to God’s people, one thing becomes clear: it is not always easy for people to readily receive the ministry of a young man. A young preacher’s hearers sometimes need help.

What to expect when we preach the gospel

friends-gospel

In modern times, we tend to look at the world around us and say, if only we were X—whether X is hip, trendy, socially active, or whatever—then we’d win the culture to Christ. We act as though there’s some magic formula to this. That somehow we can make everything go exactly our way if we could just unlock the secret.

Now, imagine having these sorts of aspirations—of winning your people with your powerful and prophetic preaching—and rather than turning to God in repentance, they turn on you with murder in their eyes. That those plotting your demise are not strangers, but your childhood friends.

And not your friends only, but your family: your parents, siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles…

They all want you dead.

What would you do?

Jeremiah, often described as the weeping prophet, didn’t need to imagine this, for it was his experience. He wrote in chapter 11 of his book of their scheming. For he heard them say,”Let us destroy the tree with its fruit, let us cut him off from the land of the living, that his name be remembered no more,” not knowing that “it was against me they devised schemes” (Jeremiah 11:19).

How would you respond to opposition of this degree? Would you flee? Would you be tempted to retract your message? Or would you turn to the Lord to defend your cause as he did, pleading, “But, O LORD of hosts, who judges righteously, who tests the heart and the mind, let me see your vengeance upon them, for to you have I committed my cause”? (Jeremiah 11:20)

While many around the world don’t have to wonder, for it is their daily reality, I hope none of us here in North America will ever have to experience exactly what Jeremiah did. None of us should ever desire persecution of this nature, or actively pursue it. Nevertheless, it’s important to remember as we consider the experiences of Jeremiah, the Apostles, the Reformers, and so many others right up to our own day is that the gospel is offensive. If we preach the truth—if we preach that Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, died for our sins on the cross and rose again on the third day—we are preaching “a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense” (1 Peter 2:8).

The gospel shows us as we truly are—lost, depraved, unable to save ourselves no matter how good and moral we attempt to be. Thus, it confronts us with uncomfortable realities. We know we can never be good enough (even by our own standards, to say nothing of God’s). We know the deeds and thoughts done in private. The gospel shatters our self-image, and so we are left with two options: repent or retaliate.

And that’s the hard thing for so many to get, I fear: generally speaking, we’re not going to win any popularity contests when we’re preaching the gospel in a culture that runs contrary to it. The hard-hearted Israelites to whom Jeremiah preached would not hear him, and in their rebellion sought his death. Today, we’re called bigots for upholding biblical truths and not being able to bless actions that run contrary to them. We’re called intolerant for our exclusive claims. Even when people think we, individually, are very nice, collectively, Christians are personae non gratae.

This is what we should expect when we represent Christ, no matter how well we represent him. Some will be drawn closer, but others—many others, perhaps—will be repelled. That’s what we should expect, because it is what we’re told will happen. So do not lose heart if social action doesn’t win the affections of the lost, or being culturally relevant still results in us being left out in the cold. Give thanks to God and carry on.

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Sex Trafficking: What it is, why it matters, and what you can do about it

Barnabas Piper interviews Stephanie Clark, executive director of Amirah.

Why We Need a Christian Counter-Culture

Ivan Mesa shares a few excerpts from the following video:

Saint Samson

David Murray:

Following my attempt to resurrect Jephthah’s reputation, I now turn my attention to Samson. In some ways, Samson is even harder to rehabilitate due to his popularity (or should I say “infamy”) in children’s Bible story books. We’re all familiar with the narrative and the moral: “Don’t be like Samson who committed adultery, murder, and suicide.” …Is resuscitating Samson a lost cause? I don’t think so, for the following reasons.

Four Keys for Avoiding the Anger Trap

Mark Dance:

The more vocal our critics become, the more vocal we should become in prayer. I realize that this concept is both counterintuitive and countercultural, but it really works! Have you tried adding your enemies to your prayer list?

5 Ways to Keep Church Discipline from Seeming Weird

Jared Wilson:

Recently, the subject of church discipline has hit the radar in many circles due to some high profile controversies and scandals.  The way some churches appear to poorly exercise church discipline is as distressing as the way many Christians reacted to the concept. There has been a collective incredulity about church discipline as some kind of “strange fire” in the evangelical world.

I can’t help but think that this aversion is partly because, as God has built his church, his church leaders have not always kept up with what makes a church a church. So even to mention the idea of a church disciplining its members strikes tenderhearted and undereducated Christians as weird, mean, and legalistic. How do we work at keeping church discipline from seeming weird?

 

They will argue your experience, but share it anyway

share-your-story

A few years ago, a couple friends and I were hanging out with colleagues of ours from the Netherlands. As we enjoyed some chicken wings and soda, one of them asked me, “So how did you get saved?”

I hesitated for a moment, and then told him the short(ish) version: that both my wife and I were attacked by demons, I asked Jesus to save me (which he did), and it all stopped. After what seemed like several minutes of stunned silence, one of my friends said, “And if I didn’t know him, I’d think he was crazy, too.”

This wasn’t the first time that’d happened, either. A couple of years prior to that, back when I used to frequent the message boards of a couple of big name comic book writers, an artist named Alex wanted to hear from people who’d had a conversion experience (he was and is not a believer, to the best of my knowledge). I offered to share what happened, which he was glad to hear about… but then suggested it probably wasn’t actually something supernatural that happened, but sleep paralysis. And then there was the time when… You get the idea, right?

As you can imagine, I have a hard time telling people about how I came to faith. Now, it’s not that I’m ashamed or embarrassed, but because there’s some freaky deaky stuff in there, I’ve come to expect people to back away slowly. And to be honest, it gets a little disheartening when people look at me as though I’ve got two heads and one has spinach in its teeth. And it frustrates me to no end when I see the cavalier attitude with which some charismaniac nitwits brag about such thing because I’ve had experiences that would make them tremble in their biker boots.

Some well-meaning people will tell you that the best tool in your evangelistic arsenal is your testimony—no one can argue it. They can’t tell you that isn’t really what happened… y’know, except for when they do. And make no mistake: they will. But you know what? I still try to tell it, awkwardness and all. Why? Because it’s how God saved me.

The same is true for you. Whether it was a seemingly mundane experience or a terrifying one, how God saved you is how he saved you. You might feel awkward, but you know what? Share it anyway.

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Tucking them in

Becky Wilson:

“Well, that’s not that weird,” you may think. No, for real. It’s weird. Because for some reason, I can’t just do it once and be done with it. First, I go and tuck them in as soon as they’re ready for bed. You know the drill: Make sure the doors and windows are locked. Make sure they have enough blankets. Turn the big lights off and the little lights on. Pray. Hugs. Smooches on all 4 cheeks and 2 foreheads. That sort of thing. And then as I’m walking out the bedroom door to close it behind me, we try to see who can be the last one to say “I Love You.” (Macy always yells it one last time after the door is closed, which I treasure more than she knows.) At this point, the girls are all set. They’re happy and cozy and likely to drift off to peaceful sleep in just a few minutes. I literally do this every single night we’re in the same house together. I can’t sleep if I don’t.

Why Shia’s faith may not look like yours

Preston Sprinkle:

When you try to cut out Christians with a religious cookie cutter, you not only tarnish diversity, but you trample on grace. It’s one thing for Christian subcultures to cultivate unique values. But it becomes destructive when those values are chiseled on Sinaitic tablets for all to obey.

How Different Cultures Understand Time

Richard Lewis:

Time is seen in a particularly different light by Eastern and Western cultures, and even within these groupings assumes quite dissimilar aspects from country to country. In the Western Hemisphere, the United States and Mexico employ time in such diametrically opposing manners that it causes intense friction between the two peoples. In Western Europe, the Swiss attitude to time bears little relation to that of neighboring Italy. Thais do not evaluate the passing of time in the same way that the Japanese do. In Britain the future stretches out in front of you. In Madagascar it flows into the back of your head from behind.

Are You Discontent?

Erik Raymond:

Christians are to be content. We see this modeled in Scripture in the life of the Apostle Paul (Phil. 4:9-11). We also see it commanded in Hebrews 13:5. In previous blog posts (here,here, and here) I’ve attempted to define what contentment is and why we must pursue it. Well, what is contentment? I’ve defined it the following way: Contentment is the inward, quiet spirit that joyfully submits to God’s providence.

Staring at Dementia, Fighting for Joy

Jeff Robinson:

She looks like my mother, but it couldn’t be her; this lady doesn’t even know my name. She thinks I have eleven brothers (I have two), including another named “Jeff” who lives next door. I reside 400 miles from my hometown in the Deep South, arguably in the lower Midwest if you want to make the case Louisville is not a Southern city. They don’t have sweet tea here. Not many grits are on the menu unless you count Cracker Barrel. Not exactly a Southern town. Formerly, mom would have agreed. Today, she doesn’t know I live in Louisville and cannot name the state in which it is located.

Love in the time of clickbait

 

heart

Nearly three years ago, my wife deleted her Facebook account and hasn’t looked back. She’s now on her second Twitter account, having deleted the first after she found the people she was following were a little too intense (and sure) in their belief that Obama is letting America go to pot so he can declare martial law, thus becoming Barack the First. Now, even though she’s occasionally tempted to pack it all up, she routinely unfollows people when they’re getting consistently cranky.

She is a reluctant social media user. And she is wiser than many of us, I suspect.

Part of the issue for her—and for me, too—is the clickbait we Christians keep shoving at one another. Now, it’s usually not the “Someone ate a sandwich and YOU WON’T BELIEVE WHAT HAPPENED NEXT” all-caps type of nonsense promoted by Buzzfeed and Answers and the like.

No, ours is of a different sort. It’s outrage (and fauxtrage) and open letters and op-eds—some helpful, most not—about everything from a theologically liberal Christian coming out in support of something most people already assumed he supported, or a celebrity who is deeply confused about his identity, or issues that were handled wrongly at one church or another, or blog posts carefully examining every word a pastor has to say, looking for the one thing that could discredit him…

These are the really tempting stories to share because they get attention. (They got your attention, right?) And many of us feel a particular need to bring to light the injustices that happen when church leaders handle situations wrongly or we feel it’s important to shine the light on wolves in sheep’s clothing. And certainly, there are times when this is necessary (so please don’t hear me as saying the sins of churches and their leaders should never be spoken of publicly).

But maybe it’s not a good idea to be sharing these all the time. I wonder if we’re being just a little too liberal with it and not considering its effect on other believers. After all:

  • What does it do to a believer when he or she feeds on a steady diet of stories detailing the faults of church leaders they may not have heard of otherwise?
  • What does constantly being inundated with story after story after story of things they can’t do anything about do?

Now, I again, I don’t want to be so crass as to suggest that sin should remain hidden, for what is hidden will always come to light (as we’ve seen time and again). But is it not helpful for us to consider whether or not what we’re sharing demonstrates love for those who follow us on Twitter or Facebook, or read our blogs? Should our greatest concern be not to point out faults, but to encourage and build up believers in the faith?

Love doesn’t conceal truth, nor does it treat sin lightly. But it also doesn’t leave us wallowing in the muck and mire. And this is what I see lacking in so much of the conversation around so many issues. There are so few pleas to not lose heart. There seem to be no exhortations to think upon whatever is good and true. No appeals to consider what is honorable and just. No pleas to press into what is pure and lovely. No giving thanks for what is commendable and praiseworthy. Of all these Paul instructs us to think on, and yet publicly we spend so much of our time considering the exact opposite.

We speak with so much fire, but seem to do so with so few tears.

Friends, this should not be said of any of us.

Around seven years ago, I was having lunch with my former pastor, and we were talking about my tendency to wield truth as a hammer, smashing falsehood indiscriminately, without considering the collateral damage. My actions and my words were inconsistent with the grace I’d been shown in the gospel. I wasn’t acting out of love for those around me, even when I was right in what I was saying. I wasn’t speaking out of a desire to build others up, but to tear someone down—or more often to build myself up.

And that’s a dangerous place to be. It’s lacking in love. It’s barren of joy. It’s out of step with the Spirit.

My fear is that many of us are saying so much and not paying attention to the effect we’re having on those around us. We are rightly concerned about the piles of dead bodies left by domineering pastors, but we’re not checking to ensure we’re not creating piles of our own in the process.

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Kindle deals for Christian readers

Westminster Bookstore has a terrific deal on books by Tim Keller and Dennis Johnson: get Preaching, The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness and Him We Proclaim together for only $30. Each book is also on sale individually. These deals end in a few days, so act quickly.

Not Your Average Paedobaptism

This is an interesting piece by Jared Oliphint:

It took awhile to sort out the complexities involved with baptism, specifically the infant variety. The “click,” the light bulb, and the “Aha!” moment occurred when someone helped me ask the right questions like, “Whom does Scripture include within the new covenant people?” As I tinkered with the idea of a covenant people, the meaning of the covenant sign started to take shape.

 

A better kind of selfie-stick

Also, don’t call your friends selfie-sticks:

“The Thief’s Prayer”

Brandon Smith shares the previously unseen notes of a sermon by a very young Charles Spurgeon.

When Marriage Is Miles Away

Marshall Segal:

My wife and I dated long-distance for two years — 1,906 miles and two time zones apart.

Any dating couple — whether they’re next-door neighbors or international heartthrobs — should pursue clarity and postpone intimacy. The great prize in marriage is Christ-centered intimacy; the great prize in dating is Christ-centered clarity. We all do well to make decisions in dating with that reality in mind. However, since long-distance relationships bring special challenges, they require special wisdom.

2 Billion Christians Believe in Traditional Marriage

Mark Galli:

But it’s not at all certain that the rapid cultural shift in America on gay marriage will be mirrored in the Christian church. North American and European Christians who believe in gay marriage are a small minority in these regions, and churches that ascribe to a more liberal sexual ethic continue to wither. Meanwhile, poll Christians in Africa, Asia, and practically anywhere in the world, and you’ll hear a resounding “no” to gay marriage. Scan the history of the church for 2,000 years and you’ll have a hard time turning up any Christian who would support same-sex marriage. The church has been and remains overwhelmingly united. It’s undergoing stress, certainly. But the evidence doesn’t support a narrative of division and collapse on this point.

Does history matter to Christianity?

Blind Spots

blind-spots

A lot of people are going to hate Collin Hansen’s new book, Blind Spots.

Some are going to be upset because it seems too accommodating. Others are going to be upset because it’s not accommodating enough. Yet those who feel this way are the most in need of hearing what Hansen has to say.

And in case you hadn’t already guessed, that includes all of us.

Blind to our blindness

You’re no doubt familiar with the concept of a physical blind spot—the place where you don’t have visibility in your vehicle. You’re also most likely familiar with the concept of psychological and emotional blind spots, too. We’re unaware of our own personality or behavioral ticks, though they are painfully obvious to everyone else (one of mine begins with, “The reality is…”). We have certain people we continue to think the best of, despite all the evidence to the contrary.

Is it any surprise, then, that if we contend with physical, psychological and emotional blind spots, we would also have to address our theological ones?

Regardless of where we land on the theological spectrum, we have our heroes—the people we look to, and tend to trust without hesitation. We have our systems of theology that we either wholesale reject or unquestioningly embrace. We even have churches we look at in our neighborhoods where we’d say, “They’re not a true church” (even if it’s just to ourselves).

We look at the churches where people are doing good deeds, but no one is hearing about Jesus as lacking courage. We look at churches contending for the truth but ignoring the needs of others as lacking compassion. We look at churches that seem to be all about unbelievers or seekers, yet not about godly living as lacking conviction. Not only is this unfair, it’s dangerous. It presumes we have a lock on Christian truth. The only problem with that, of course, is  you. And me. And that guy over there.

What we need to do is to learn to “see the faults in [ourselves];” because until we do, we “can’t appreciate how God has gifted other Christians” (26).

Embracing our weaknesses and pursuing unity

Hansen argues the need for Christians to embrace courageous, compassionate and commissioned ministry—to pursue the Christian life with our heads, hearts and hands. But he is quick to clarify: We are not to pursue each in a balanced way, but to practice all three in “full, blessed abundance—in ourselves, our churches, and the church at large” (36).

This is important: To pursue the lost is good. To practice compassion is good. To contend for the faith is good. All of these are completely and utterly biblical, and anyone who says otherwise may need to check themselves before they wreck themselves. But we can’t just be good at one. We need them all.

Together. All the time. Among all of us.

In other words, we need to pursue biblical unity.

We are our own worst enemies

When it comes to the pursuit of unity, though, we are our own worst enemies. Unless it’s just me. I work for an organization where the staff are from all sorts of streams of evangelicalism (with a couple of mainliners and a Messianic Jew thrown in for good measure). We don’t agree on a lot of things. But we do agree on the majors (or at least most of them). But it’s easy to forget that. There are times when I find I have to remind myself not to make assumptions, and to remember that if I have a question or a concern, I don’t need to write out a theological treatise. I can just ask my question or have a conversation.

Now think about your own experience: where do you see the need to pursue biblical unity to a greater degree? Where do you see God giving you opportunities to put into practice what you already know about it?

No finger wagging, and no free passes

Some critics will no doubt be quick to point out Hansen’s connection to The Gospel Coalition, a ministry that is often accused compromising the gospel (from the right) or corporatizing it (from the left and the right). And it’s fair to bring it up as Blind Spots is an explanation and application of the core convictions of TGC. However, it would be wrong to assume this book is a “do life and ministry the TGC way” piece of propaganda. It’s not an apologetic for that particular ministry, any more than it’s one author pointing out what everyone else is doing wrong without pointing to himself first (even if there are more “yous” than perhaps I would have used). No one gets a free pass, including the author himself. Why? Because no one is exempt from the need to walk humbly before God. Regardless of the level of responsibility we have or the position we hold, we are all called to humble ourselves and repent. To abide in Christ—to pursue unity in its biblical fullness by pursuing Christ (109). For that, Hansen says, is our best hope:

Abiding in Christ is the best defense against the blind spots that destroy our joy in following Jesus and set us against other believers with different gifts and callings. Abiding in Christ will protect you from growing discouraged and getting sidetracked in trying to obey Jesus’s commandments.… Whatever direction the world tries to steer us—toward retreat, compromise or assimilation—the Spirit points us to Jesus, the true north on our moral compass. Only when we abide in him will we resist the cares of the world and the snares of the flesh. (111-112)

So, do I really think a lot of people are going to hate this book? Okay, maybe not hate. But they will definitely have a hard time with it. Though it’s a small book, it offers much by way of challenges to our thinking. And regardless of the degree to which we agree with what Hansen writes, we need to consider what we are going to do once our blind spots are revealed. I can’t easily answer the question, not because there isn’t an answer, but because it’s one you can’t answer hastily. But it is worth answering—because when we do we will find ourselves better equipped to bear witness to Christ in the world.


Title: Blind Spots: Becoming a Courageous, Compassionate,and Commissioned Church
Author: Collin Hansen
Publisher: Crossway (2015)

Buy it at: Amazon | Westminster Bookstore

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Kindle deals for Christian readers

The Seeds Project is now available

My friend Mike’s been working long and hard on the first volume of The Seeds Project, Jesus Is All You Need, a devotional for children on Colossians. Be sure to grab a copy of this!

Leadership is always temporary

Eric Geiger:

Leadership is always a temporary assignment—always. It is a temporary assignment because leaders do not ultimately own the teams, ministries, or organizations that they lead. They simply steward what the Lord has entrusted to their care for a season. Wise leaders embrace the temporal reality of leading, and they prepare the ministry for the future. Because the assignment is fleeting, developing others for leadership is an essential responsibility of a leader.

The Six Definitive Rules Of Internet Behavior

Stephen Altrogge offers a good example of satire.

Dustin Kensrue covers “Wrecking Ball”

Seriously:

How Should Christians View World History?

R.C. Sproul:

It is also important for us to understand that in terms of biblical eschatology, the end of the world does not indicate an annihilation of the world but a renovation and redemption of it. The New Testament makes it evident that the final renovation of creation is cosmic in scope, that the whole universe groans together in travail waiting for the redemption of the sons of men (Rom 8:18–23). Questions of our future, personal and cosmic, are all subject to the inquiries associated with eschatology. The question of life after death—the issues of heaven, hell, and resurrection—are all integral to our study of eschatology. An understanding of the last judgment also falls under the scope of this consideration.

The Rise of the Selfie Generation

Nathan Bingham:

We all know the Greek myth of Narcissus—the attractive man who was lured by Nemesis to a pool. Narcissus, fatally falling in love with his own reflection, drowned. But what would a 21st-century Narcissus myth involve? I suspect it would include a smartphone, selfies, and crossing the street without looking.

The Lost Sermons of Spurgeon

Brandon Smith interviews Christian George on the previously-unpublished sermons of Charles Spurgeon.

Three thoughts on satire and social media

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We all know great satire when we see it. When it shows up in our Twitter feed, or we read it on the Onion, watch an honest trailer, or pay money to see a Michael Bay movie.

But what is it that makes great satire great?

1. Good satire—and good parody—loves its subject

I asked a few friends—one of whom is the man behind one of my favorite parody accounts on Twitter (and maybe yours, too)—this question over dinner a while back. The answer was actually pretty simple: as with great parody in general, great satire1 requires you to love what you’re spoofing.

That’s the thing, isn’t it? Let’s not forget that satire has a purpose: it showcases the shortcomings, vices, and follies of individuals, governments, organizations or society as a whole with the goal of improving it through ridicule. This is what you see in The Onion, with its open mockery of what passes for news, as opposed to a classic movie like Airplane, which sends up crisis films so wonderfully. The latter does a great job poking fun. The former implicitly asks, “can’t we do better than this“?

The same is true in social media. The best parody and satire accounts are the ones where the person operating happily imitates and pokes fun at his or her subject, but does so from a place of affection. This is why parody accounts like Fake John Piper and Fake JD Greear  are worth following. They respect the individual being parodied, but don’t idolize him. Case in point:

(And everyone who’s read Don’t Waste Your Life or have heard the seashell illustration snickered.)

This is also why the satire account Church Curmudgeon is worth your time. The author doesn’t come across as a “hater”, but he or she certainly isn’t afraid to tease about some of the goofiness of North American evangelical churches.

2. Good satire isn’t a mask for malice

There are other accounts though—such as the plethora of Fake Driscolls, Fake Ann Voskamps, and fake Rob Bells—that are simply not worth your time. While they are technically satire, their goal is uncertain. Their words are frequently venomous. There is no evidence of love, or even a desire to see change in the people being “spoofed”. It seems an opportunity to mock not because the individual wants a particular person or people’s view of him or her to change, but because they feel malice toward their subject.

Which is basically bullying, but whatever…

There is no place for such writing or thinking in the Christian life. We are called not to mock others, but to show love to all. Mean-spirited words, even against subjects worthy of extreme ridicule, is unbecoming of the Christian. If you’ve got an axe to grind with a particular person or organization, don’t write it. Don’t read it. Don’t encourage others to read it, either.

3. Good satire is written by people who are actually good at it

I think the reason a lot of the satire online is so terrible is because people don’t realize how hard it is to write. Satire is difficult to write well. Parody is a little easier, but not by much. There’s a reason I don’t write much of it. I’m not good at it—I know my limitations. So my attempts rarely (if ever) see the light of day. I wonder how many of us would do well to follow suit?

Links I like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

This week’s deals from Crossway focus on social issues:

You can also get Get Out: Student Ministry in the Real World by Alvin L Reid for $4.97, The Mystery of Providence by John Flavel for $2.99, and my tiny book, Everyday Theologyfor 99¢.

The Importance of the Pastoral “I Don’t Know”

Jared Wilson:

One of the most valuable sentences in a pastor’s arsenal is “I don’t know.” The pressure to know and be everything everybody expects us to know and be can be pride-puffing. I once worked at a bookstore where we were told never to say “I don’t know” to a customer. We must give them some answer, any answer, even if it was a guess or a likely wrong answer. Customers don’t want to hear “I don’t know” from service people, but even a wrong answer makes them feel helped. I confess the temptation to “satisfy the customer” has persisted through my ministry days, for a variety of reasons. I want people to feel helped. And I also don’t like looking like a rube.

Are You Insulting God in Worship?

Sam Storms:

Little words can mean a lot. They can make the difference between good and evil, between heaven and hell. In this case, a right understanding of a single word is the only thing that prevents an act of worship from degenerating into a colossal insult to God. It’s the word “for.”

What Dodgeball Taught Me About Growth in Christ

Kevin Halloran:

Looking back at where I have come since I left my physical “prime”, I notice that I have grown deeper in my knowledge and love for Christ, my love for others and the desire to see souls saved, my desire to bless His church with the gifts He has given me, and my ability to withstand temptation by the Spirit’s power.

The Bible and Same-Sex Relationships

Tim Keller:

There are a number of other books that take the opposite view, namely that the Bible either allows for or supports same-sex relationships. Over the last year or so I (and other pastors at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City) have been regularly asked for responses to their arguments. The two most-read volumes taking this position seem to be those by Matthew Vines and Ken Wilson. The review of these two books will be longer than usual because the topic is so contested today and, while I disagree with the authors’ theses, a too-brief review can’t avoid appearing cursory and dismissive. Hence the length.

I see five basic arguments that these books and others like them make.