The answer to our worship problem

worship-problem

One of the inescapable realities of human existence is we are all worshippers. We are always putting someone or something in the place of “ultimate” in our lives. And there’s no where where this is more easily seen in western culture than with celebrities.

We look at certain individuals, and we are in awe. We admire their talent; we enjoy the movies or TV shows or music in which they perform. We kind of wish we had their gifts (or at least their looks—remember “the Rachel”?). They promise to rescue us from the hell of our boredom with the ordinariness and obscurity of our own lives. We want to be known and important—and because that’s not going to happen for most of us, we are (somewhat) content to live vicariously through them. We read blogs or news sites that talk about new projects they’re involved with. But as time goes on, the boredom creeps back in. So the stories change from their work to their lives. And, voyeurism aside, we are enthralled, and our boredom is sent back into exile. But then it happens again: we start getting bored with the happy narrative. Soon, the tone of the reporting begins to change. We no longer have a happy picture of their lives:

  • We’re confronted with their revolving door relationships.
  • Then the ugly divorce.
  • Then the debilitating drug habit.

Before long, this person we so admired becomes a punch line. We mock and jeer as our would-be savior from our boredom is crucified. And once the spear has entered their side, we go off in search of our next savior.

This, in a nutshell, is what the Bible calls idolatry. It’s to take someone or something that isn’t God and worship him, her or it, despite these idols always over promising and under delivering. They simply cannot do what we ask of them. In idolizing celebrities, in treating them as being “more” than human, we are making them less. We dehumanize them, turning them into puppets and pawns to make us happy (or at least, help us forget about what’s going on in our own lives). And while they have power over our affections, they don’t control over our destiny. That’s the greatest lure of idolatry. We want to be the masters of our domain, and there is no fate but what we make. Ultimately, in worshipping people and things, we are kind of worshipping ourselves. Idolatry is all about us being in control of our own destinies. About being our own gods. All of us—every single person on the face of the earth, every person who has ever lived—are prone to doing this. And there isn’t a single person who is excluded from it.

This is where the message that the Bible contains is so important. It tells us of the problem of humanity—we worship the wrong things and we fail to worship the only one worth worshipping. And it shows us the lengths to which this God who created everything has gone to fix the problem. It tells us of how we were lured away from true worship by the promise of being like God in a way that we were never meant to (and could never actually be). It tells of how this world became the mess that it is even to this very day, as humanity pursued its own desires. As it chased after its sad substitutes for the fulfillment that only comes through our relationship with our Creator. And it tells us of how God, from the very beginning, perfectly planned the events of history to bring humanity back into relationship with him. And this plan all centered on a man named Jesus—a man who was also, somehow, God.

Jesus came into the world, born as we are (well, sort of) and lived as we do. Except not. See, the Bible makes some extraordinary claims about Jesus. It tells us that from before time began, he existed. It calls him the Word who was with God and was God. It tells us that this same Jesus’ mother became pregnant through a miracle (hence the “sort of” with being born as we are). He became hungry and tired. He probably got sick from time to time. But one thing we have no record of is Jesus ever doing or thinking anything wrong. Ever. Not even once. He never lied, stole, or dishonored his parents. He never mocked people behind their backs. He never once behaved hypocritically. When he looked at people, he always gave them the appreciation and respect they were due—never thinking too highly or too lowly of anyone. He taught thousands of men, women and children, and showed extraordinary compassion to them. He frustrated the religious leaders of his day, because he kept calling them hypocrites and liars. Despite being a celebrity, with an entourage numbering in the tens of thousands, he wasn’t interested in status and making a name for himself. He was a servant of all. The writers of the Bible tell us he performed incredible miracles—including healing the sick and raising the dead! He said things like believing in him was the only way anyone could have a relationship with God. More than that, he even claimed to be God. And for this, he was arrested, beaten and brutally murdered. But even the grave wasn’t enough to stop him, for it’s said that he rose from death just a few short days later and appeared to hundreds of people, as many as 500 at once!

In all he did and all he taught, Jesus showed us was what a life of true worship looks like, one that is devoted to the God who created us. A life that consistently denies our selfish desires to put us at the center of the universe, and instead forces much needed perspective back into our lives. And that perspective really comes when we figure out what to do with Jesus, because he is the answer to our worship problem. And because he is the answer to our worship problem, we have to do something with him.

This is why so many people want to dismiss or discredit him. This is why some people pretend he never existed at all, and claim the story of Jesus was cobbled together from competing mythologies. This is why some try to say that the earliest writings of Christians didn’t include all of this Jesus is God talk; that this was something that was added later (what we might call the purple-monkey-dishwasher effect). This is why others still try to add him to a pantheon of little gods and goddesses, of spiritual teachers from whom they can pick and choose what they like and ignore the jagged bits. But I’ve got to be honest, having tried all of those, I can safely say they’re unsatisfying answers.

They don’t work.

There’s really only one honest answer to the question of what to do about Jesus, and that is to worship him as God. This is what Christians do, however much we falter: we worship Jesus because Jesus is the way God fixed our worship problem.

Links I like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

This week’s Kindle deals from Crossway focus on some great books about Jesus and the gospels:

Also on sale is Autopsy of a Deceased Church by Thom S. Rainer ($2.99).

Ayn Rand really, really hated C.S. Lewis

This was fascinating.

How the Prosperity Gospel Hurts Racial Reconciliation

Russell Moore:

When a prophet calls down fire from heaven, it’s wise to stand to the side.

That’s how I felt a few weeks ago when John Perkins, the revered preacher and civil rights activist, brought up prosperity gospel pastor Creflo Dollar during a live interview I was conducting with Perkins at a summit on racial reconciliation. Perkins lamented that there are so few accredited African-American evangelical schools in the United States while at the same time Dollar is asking for money for a $65 million dollar private jet. “That’s almost witchcraft,” he said.

The more I’ve thought of that over the past few weeks, the more I’m convinced that Perkins is right. The prosperity gospel is a barrier to racial reconciliation.

Did the Early Church Fathers Believe in Sola Scriptura?

C. Michael Patton offers a fairly decisive answer, citing the works of the early church fathers themselves.

How Blue the Sky Was

Douglas Wilson provides some interesting commentary following his recent involuntary blogging break:

Liberals really hate freedom of speech. They loathe it. They are currently involved in far more than just trying to shut down speech that is inconvenient to this particular project of theirs or that one. They are engaged in rejecting the whole idea of free speech in toto. They have gotten to the point where they object to freedom of speech in principle. William F. Buckley once said that liberals give great lip service to the idea of hearing other points of view, but then are shocked and offended to discover that there are other points of view. That tendency, which Buckley observed, has now officially metastasized.

So in pursuit of gratifying this strange animus, they will employ any number of tricks to silence dissent. But I will content myself here with simply listing two or three of them.

Gospel Irony

Stephen J. Nichols:

There are many who are telling us the time is coming in our American context that might very well resemble the times of the first century for the first-century church. The opposition is mounting. The foe is formidable. Many of our brothers and sisters in Christ around the globe already find themselves in situations not unlike Paul and the first-century Christians. Their “Praetorian Guard” is a force to be reckoned with. Despite that, they preach the gospel.

What is our greatest need?

changing-people

This weekend, as I prepared to teach the grades 4 and 5 kids in our church about Jesus cleansing the temple and righteous vs. unrighteous anger, I was reminded of the danger of simply telling them “don’t be angry,” or “be angry like Jesus.” There’s a trite, simplistic, or naive way to to teach about these complex issues. And the danger of teaching in such ways is that it doesn’t actually allow the gospel to shine through.

This is something I always try to remember when I’m teaching in children’s ministry: my goal isn’t to help kids become good, moral Christian-ish people. It’s to help them discover their greatest need. Our greatest need is to know God in Christ, as Martyn Lloyd-Jones put it so well in Authentic Christianity:

Do men and women need to be told about some kind of program that will give them better conditions? That is not our greatest need. Our greatest need is to know God. If we were all given a fortune, would that solve our problems? Would that solve our moral problems? Would that solve the problem of death? Would that solve the problem of eternity? Of course not. The message of Christianity is not about improving the world, but about changing people in spite of the world, preparing them for the glory that is yet to come. This Jesus is active and acting to that end, and He will go on until all the redeemed are gathered in, and then He will return, and the final judgement will take place, and His kingdom will stretch from shore to shore.

This is the great need, and more than that—it is what God has done to meet that great need. If our kids don’t hear this—and if their parents don’t hear it either–then we’ve kind of missed the point.

Links I like (weekend edition)

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

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

Also on sale is Stuff Christians Like by Jon Acuff ($3.99) and the following books from Brian Croft’s Practical Shepherding series ($2.99 each):

What if Man of Steel was in (full) color?

This is pretty fantastic:

What Should the Church Say to Bruce Jenner?

Russell Moore:

Bruce Jenner, of course, is a symbol, a celebrity spokesperson for an entire mentality that sees gender as separate from biological identity. So is there a word from God to the transgender community? How should the church address the Bruce Jenner in your neighborhood, who doesn’t have the star power or the Malibu mansions but who has the same alienation of self?

The Holiness of God: the app

Ligonier has introduced a new free app version of R.C. Sproul’s The Holiness of God teaching series for the iPhone and iPad. Enjoy! (P.S.: an Android version is coming soon.)

Martin Luther’s Definition of Faith

This is a really great excerpt from Luther’s An Introduction to St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans.

How to Practice a Gospel-Centered Spirituality

Donald S. Whitney:

However, the common perception of spirituality is not the biblical one. I’m writing from the perspective that spirituality includes—but transcends—the human spirit, and involves the pursuit of God and the things of God, through Jesus Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit in accordance with God’s self-revelation (that is, the Bible).

You Have Just Enough Time

Jon Bloom:

But to call busyness (meaning a frenetic, distracted lifestyle) “moral laziness” suddenly makes us uncomfortable. It means that busyness is not something that merely happens to us. It is something we choose. As objections begin to rise in our minds, it is helpful to remember what Jesus said to busy Martha: “Mary has chosen the good portion” (Luke 10:42). Martha, you have chosen something else.

What do you do when books attack? (a #bibliophileprobs poem)

books-attack

What do you do when books attack?

When the shelves are double stacked?

Books are piled by the thousands;

and slowly becoming mountains.

O’er the coffee table tumbled,

wife’s aggression lowly mumbled.

Perhaps you should consider moving houses?

Or build a fort, where the kids can play,

or deny there’s a problem and pray it away?

All these have merit,

(well, a little if any).

But there’s one thing to do

that’s better than any:

Start packing up boxes, and give some away.

don’t wait ’til tomorrow, do it today.

There are people who need them,

and some might even read them!

Please take my advice,

O, would-be book hoarder:

start packing some boxes,

and unburden your shoulders.

Say farewell to some books, at least one or two

for your home will expand the moment you do.1

Links I like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

 

 

 

 

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

  • Thomas Manton by Derek Cooper (paperback)
  • Are We Together? A Protestant Analyzes Roman Catholicism by R.C. Sproul (hardcover)
  • The Person and Work of the Holy Spirit Teaching Series by R.C. Sproul (audio download)
  • Recovering the Beauty of the Arts Teaching Series by R.C. Sproul (audio and video download)
  • Pillars of Grace by Steven Lawson (ePub)

$5 Friday ends at 11:59:59 tonight.

Don’t Be Too Quick To Look For Fruit In New Believers

Mark Altrogge:

When we believe in Jesus we have eternal life. We can’t lose this life. But this grace of God in believers often seems to be little more than a spark. Sometimes it takes a long time for Jesus to fan it to a full flame. And as Richard Sibbes says, that small “measure of grace” is often mixed with “much corruption” and like smoke, can be offensive. Yet Christ will not quench that faintly burning wick.

This means we shouldn’t be too quick to look for fruit in new believers. Yes, some people come out of the gate like gangbusters, turn wholeheartedly from sin, and begin to share the gospel like zealots. But others, like myself as a young believer, though they have the spark of grace, put forth a lot of smoke and change very slowly.

Hand Lettering Co. 

If you’re looking for nice art, this is a great site to check out.

From the people of the cross to ISIS

Hanging Out With Your Friends is Not the Church

Aaron Earls:

Increasingly, I see younger evangelicals (like the one in this Relevant blog post) wondering if they can call their spiritual hang outs with friends a congregation. They are exploring the question: What is church?

Why You Should (Literally) Look at the World Upside Down

Trevin Wax:

It’s a figure of speech to look at things “upside down” in order to get some perspective. But what if there’s more here than just a clever turn of phrase? What if we can’t actually see our world in proper perspective unless we’ve seen it upside down?

The Challenge of Contending (For the Church)

contend-truth

My first article at For the Church:

Like all married couples, my wife and I occasionally express our disagreements with a certain unhelpful zeal… In other words, we fight. However important the issue might seem at the time, we have come to realize that our disputes are often over stupid or trivial things:

  • Was there an episode of the Ewoks cartoon with Storm Troopers? (Yes.)
  • In answer to the question, “What time is it?” is there a meaningful difference between “A little after three” and “3:07”? (Not really.)
  • If I go into another room to get something for my wife, is this actually helpful to her if she didn’t ask for my help? (Jury’s still out on this one.)

These are the kinds of deep, confounding issues that can arise in a marriage, right? No, these are the kinds of ultimately insignificant questions that we find ourselves squabbling over mainly so we can claim the title of Rightest Person in the Room.

For some, the idea of contending for the faith feels a little like this. Indeed, if the concerns voiced by some evangelicals—particularly those who label themselves “progressive”—were any indication, it seems as though we’re spending most of our time fighting over fairly insignificant issues while overlooking more important ones. And even when the debates are centered on important matters—such as abortion or the biblical view of marriage—some are so exhausted they’ve thrown up their hands and cried, “Can’t we all just get along?”

I understand this concern. There are many times I’ve felt like this, too, particularly as I look at how we conduct ourselves online. But you know what keeps me from giving up the fight? The Bible won’t let me. And just as the Bible won’t let me give up the fight, it’s changed how I fight.

Continue reading at For the Church.

Links I like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Today’s the last day to get these two from B&H on sale:

The glorious freedom of not mattering

Michael Kelley:

When I feel small, there is the gospel that reminds me that my size and worth is determined by that which was sacrificed for me. And there is no greater sacrifice than that which has been given. Thanks to that sacrifice – His sacrifice – I am not small. I matter. I matter in the kingdom, and I matter in the world. And when you matter these challenges are not to be shrunk away from out of fear but are to be counted with courageous hope.

8 Lies Christians Believe About Success

Emily Wierenga:

If God loves you he’ll bless you, says the prayer of Jabez and North America’s favorite verse, Jeremiah 29:11. His desire is to prosper us, not to harm us—to give us hope and a future.

Just look at all those megachurches, with their million-dollar sanctuaries. Look at all those bestselling Jesus-loving authors and speakers.

But then there are the 21 Egyptians, or the 30 Ethiopians, martyred recently for their Christian faith. There are the faithful pastors who don’t have megachurches, who suffer heartache and setbacks. And there is my own journey as a Christian author, through anorexia, miscarriage, and anxiety. And there are countless other believers who do the right thing, who say the right prayers, who believe, and yet who know the anguish of Job.

Sex Appeal and Female Christian Artists

Mike Leake:

I’m not much of a fan of CCM (mainstream Christian music) in the first place. But I haven’t entirely thrown the baby out with the bath water. There are some phenomenal Christian artists who God uses to engage my heart in worship. I’m grateful for music with biblical lyrics that encourage my walk with Jesus.

But there is something I’ve noticed with the promotion of female artists that really annoys me. Here is another one of those areas where I believe CCM follows culture a bit too much.

The New Rules of the Secular Left

Albert Mohler:

Business, political, and civic leaders piled on in a mass act of political posturing. The federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act became law in 1993 in a mass act of bipartisan cooperation. The Act passed unanimously in the House of Representatives and with 97 affirmative votes in the Senate. President Bill Clinton signed the bill into law, celebrating the Act as a much needed protection of religious liberty. Clinton called religious liberty the nation’s “first freedom” and went on to state: “We believe strongly that we can never, we can never be too vigilant in this work.”

But, that was then. Indiana is now.

How Do We Keep Our Possessions from Possessing Us?

S.D. Kelly:

Here’s the problem: while I might feel superior to the hoarder, I don’t believe any more than the hoarder does that love is actually enough. In addition to love, I need things. What gets confusing is knowing the difference between the things we need and the things we don’t need. The basics are shelter, food, and clothing. But what happens after I have the things I absolutely need? What should I be acquiring? As a culture, we seem to be incapable of answering those questions. Actually, we don’t even try to answer them. We’re too busy shopping. Maybe because, in economic terms, supply relentlessly exceeds demand. From Dollar Tree to Neiman Marcus, Freecycle to Craigslist to the mighty Amazon, we are swimming in stuff, with the Container Store at the ready with attractive bins and baskets to put it all in.

In Praise of Hymns

This is a nice piece on the Gettys.

Why I’m excited about For the Church

ftc_logo

Today’s an exciting day for my friends at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary: their new venture, For the Church, launches today! What’s even more exciting for me (from a purely selfish perspective) is that I get to be a part of it as a contributor.

Here’s why I’m particularly keen on this new site:

1. The vision. For the Church is all about  engaging, encouraging, and equipping the Church with gospel-centered resources that are pastoral, practical, and devotional:

This tone—being practical, pastoral and devotional–is really important, especially in a world where we have far too much bad news thrown at us, including from our fellow believers. I don’t know about you, but I get a little tired and depressed after reading 18 posts on the latest violation of Americans’ fundamental freedoms, or the continuing crisis in the Middle East. By no means should we stick our heads in the sand; but we do need to remember that if all we’re getting is this message—difficulty, trial, persecution, suffering—then we are going to be living our saddest life now.

We need fuel to face the bad news that constantly assails us. We need to encouraged in the gospel, and to be strengthened for what lies ahead. We need to inform our heads, yes, but we also need to strengthen our hearts. That’s For the Church is offering, and it’s something I am eager to read.

2. The contributors. MBTS has put together a phenomenal crew of writers for this site, including Brandon Smith, Michael Kelley, Joe Thorn, Erik Raymond… these are guys I enjoy learning from and folks whose writing makes me want to be a better one. That is pretty exciting to me—and I hope it will be to you, as well, especially if you’re an aspiring writer. Just as with preaching, you need to read a lot (and read a lot of different styles) to really find your own voice. Reading work from as diverse a group as For the Church’s contributors will go a long way.

3. Jared Wilson. I’m not gonna lie: Jared Wilson is one of the guys I most respect, both as a pastor and a writer. His writing has been consistently helpful to me (and he’s been kind enough to put up with periodic emails from a knucklehead like me for years). So, him asking me to contribute is not something I take lightly, and I’m grateful to be a part of the team.

So what will I be writing on? 

One of my first posts should be up on today called “The Challenge of Contending.” This is a post that gives a snapshot of how to contend for the faith without being contentious. Following that, I’ve got a new series that will be starting sometime in the near future based upon the things I wish I’d known as a new believer.

There’s lots more that I could say about this new endeavor, but for now, I hope you’ll join me in celebrating the exciting  the most important is to encourage you to check it out for yourself. Enjoy the first batch of articles, and be sure to add For the Church to your favorite feed reader today!

Links I like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Zondervan’s put Brian Croft’s Practical Shepherding series on sale for $2.99 each:

Also on sale:

Does the Bible Contradict Itself?

Preston Sprinkle:

Most people answer this question either with an adamant “Yes!” or passionate “No!” Too often, though, both sides fail to understand or represent the other side. Not everyone who says that the Bible contains contradictions is an angry, arrogant, card-carrying atheist. And not everyone who believes there aren’t any contradictions is a backwoods, unscientific, raging fundamentalist with his head in the sand.

 The God of Justice Hates False Reports

Kevin DeYoung:

lease, please, please, let us be more careful with our words. Let our blogs be based on knowledge and our tweets be founded on facts. Let us be among the last to speak our minds if we are not one of the first to know the truth. Let us not confuse a social media scroll with actual research. Hearing a report is not the same as the right to speak.

10 Things Young Singles in Romantic Relationships Ought to Know

Yes!

Do You Have a Dysfunctional Relationship with God?

Erik Raymond:

What is so troubling to me is how many professing Christians have a similar relationship with God, let’s call it a dysfunctional relationship. In every counseling situation and in an alarmingly high rate of regular conversation with Christians, I have observed that many people do not pray regularly, read their Bibles devotionally, or prioritize the Lord’s Day gathering of the church.

Being an iceberg pastor

Andrew Haslam:

But there is one rule that I think ought to underpin every pastor’s understanding of his calling, which is that he needs to be an iceberg. What do I mean? Simply this: that whatever public ministry he engages in (that bit above the surface) needs to be built upon a lifetime of preparation, growth, character, learning, and reliance on God (the mass under the surface). Public prayers ought to be a taste of how he prays in private. Preaching ought to be the cream scraped off the top of his brain.

Earth Day, religious devotion and creation care

earth-day

The first time I heard about Earth Day was when it interrupted my Saturday morning cartoons. I was probably seven or eight at the time, and this particular weekend NBC decided to air one of their NBC All Star type shows. This one featured the Huxtable family talking about how we shouldn’t be taking long showers as it wastes water. This was a way we could take care of Planet Earth. Next, came the announcement at school: because we had to do our part to care for the planet, we’d be spending a couple hours on Earth Day cleaning up trash in the school yard and the surrounding neighborhood.

Things escalated from there: recycling clubs (yep, I’m old enough to remember when recycling was a new thing), more posters, more TV specials, Ferngully, and Captain Planet:

As a child, I was heavily exposed to the fear of global warming and acid rain. But it didn’t really change my life that much. Nor did it really seem to change the habits of anyone else I knew, either. But I did slowly see it starting to change how people wanted to present themselves. Though there was little overt pressure, people seemed to want to appear to be environmentally conscious, even if they didn’t really care all that much.

Because thinking about something is just as good as doing it, right?

But over the years, I noticed a change as the message shifted and the rhetoric took on a more overtly religious tone. The local coffee shops put up posters exposing the dangers of styrofoam cups and their continued existence over the next 1000 years in landfills (despite only having been invented in the 1940s). Garbage and recycling programs have escalated to require separate bagging of items—paper, plastic and metal, compost, and other (yet still crushed in the same bins in the pickup truck). Our government has even got in on the action, instituting environmental fees on your electronic products (a sure sign of environmentalism being mainstream). Earth is no longer the place we live, but “the mother of my mother,” and the use of fossil fuel is comparable to human slavery.

And then there’s the public schools. I’ll be honest, even though I noticed the changes in behavior, it didn’t really hit home until a few years ago, when my daughter came home from school with a handout that talked about how we were hurting the earth because we drove cars, and should really be using public transit or bicycles instead. This led to the following conversation:

Abigail: “We shouldn’t drive our car. We should take the bus.”

Me: “Okay… So, let me ask you something. Does your teacher take the bus to school?”

Abigail: “No.”

Me: “Does she ride a bike?”

Abigail: “No.”

Me: “So how does she get there?”

Abigail: “She drives.”

Me: “So does that mean your teacher is bad?”

Abigail: “No…”

Me: “So if your teacher isn’t bad for driving a car, then why are we bad for driving one?”

Abigail: *Lightbulb moment*


Now, obviously, I’m not going to declare we should all start driving gas-guzzlers to the arctic circle for a wild weekend of seal hunting. I don’t want anyone to think I’m saying don’t bother recycling (even if I question its efficacy at times). But as we come up to Earth Day and the increase in environmental messages and rhetoric, I want us to consider the question:

What does it really teach?

The more I consider it, the more I wonder if what it really teaches is that humanity is simultaneously the problem, and the solution. We are to be our own saviors, even as we lament our existence. Our world is overpopulated.1 We are consuming our resources at an unheard of rate and within the next 50-ish years, we’ll be running out of water, fossil fuels and possibly even air, as the doomsday prophesying goes. We’ve gotten ourselves into a horrible mess, and we are the only ones who can get ourselves out of it.

Notice the religious contours of this: there’s a state of perfection that’s been lost. There’s a problem to be resolved. And there’s a promised salvation from the problem we face. The problem, of course, is it all centers on us. It’s a religious system without God.

This sort of environmental hoobity-boobity is rooted in what Peter Jones would call Oneism—a radical rejection of the Creator/creation distinction. Because we ignore or outright reject the Creator—the one who created all things and supplies all our needs—the creation becomes the object of our worship. Thus, environmentalism becomes a matter of life and death.

And this religious devotion is fundamentally what Christians must reject. We are not worshippers of the creation. We have dominion over it. Not to abuse, but to carefully use its resources as God’s image bearers—his representatives—in the creation. So what does this mean for us?

1. We don’t worship the earth. A Christian caring about the environment is a good thing. But we must reject anything that smacks of placing any created thing (including the planet) in a position it does not deserve.

2. We consume responsibly. As I’ve written elsewhere, while I’m skeptical that a styrofoam cup in a landfill will still exist in 15,000 years, I’m all for being responsible as a consumer. Don’t buy more than you need. Buy things that last. Just because you can be conspicuous in your consumption doesn’t mean you should be.

3. We trust the Lord to provide for all our needs. If God provides for us—if he makes it rain on the just and unjust alike—then we have nothing to fear. Ever. This means it’s highly unlikely that we’ll ever run out of clean drinking water, or appropriate fuels, or lose the ability to produce food to eat. Our problems around these things really have more to do with distribution than actual shortages (even in the case of California).

As wonderful as the earth is, it does not deserve our devotion. There is only one who does, and that is our Creator, the maker of the heavens and earth. Caring for the environment is a good thing, but only if we understand it in relationship with the ultimate thing.


photo credit: Full Disk Image of Earth Captured August 24, 2011 via photopin (license)

Links I like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

This week there are 13 books by A.W. Tozer on sale for $3.99 each:

Also on sale is A Life Observed by Devin Brown ($2.99).

But Jesus didn’t say…

If you only read one article today, you can’t go wrong with this one by Karen Swallow Prior.

15 Doctrines That Ought to Bring Comfort In Suffering

Derek Rishmawy:

One of my fundamental convictions is that theology, while possessing theoretical aspects, is eminently practical. It’s the “doctrine of living unto God” as some of the older theologians used to put it. One of the greatest tests of that “practicality” is understanding the various ways that the doctrines of the Christian faith can serve as a comfort to us in the manifold sufferings and tragedies we encounter in this life this side of Eden and before the Second Coming.

Religious Liberty Is Not Freedom from Ridicule

Russell Moore:

In my mind, I was upset because I was protective of the reputation of evangelical Christianity. I thought: “Are you so ignorant that you’ve never heard of Augustine or Justin Martyr or Blaise Pascal or Carl Henry?” And, years ago, I thought I was protective of my home state. I thought, “Yes, I think maybe William Faulkner and Eudora Welty and Tennessee Williams read more than I do.” But in both cases, I was wincing at a personal slight. I’m a born Mississippian and a born-again Christian. When one insults these categories, one is insulting me—and I didn’t like it.

Every pastor needs a theology coach

Joe Thorn:

Many of us have seen recent, and very public, theological train wrecks driven by pastors who do not appear to be under the coaching, or tutelage, of seasoned theological leaders. As I observe and talk with pastors from different denominations and networks I can’t help but get the impression that many pastors limit their theological investment to seminary (if they went to one), or the occasional doctrinal issue. This is dangerous not only to ourselves, but to the church as well.

7 Things I Learned From Going Viral

Aaron Earls:

Having become temporarily “Twitter famous” (which is one step below Internet famous and still another step below reality TV show famous), here are 7 things I learned from going viral.

Don’t Be A Commentary Junkie

Ryan Higginbottom:

Let’s be honest: a good Bible commentary is awesome. A scholar spends years studying a book of the Bible, gathering wisdom both from centuries of Christian history and from his own encounters with God in his Word. Then you get a chance to peek over his shoulder! Commentaries can be a great blessing from God.

While they can be terrific as a reference, commentaries are a poor substitute for studying the Bible yourself. I understand the temptation to rely on commentaries. The research! The analysis! The footnotes! But when we become enamored with the work of a Bible scholar, we miss out on the beauty of the Bible’s author.

What do true teachers do?

true-teacher

What do all faithful teachers have in common? What separates a good teacher from a bad one? And what do they actually do?

It’s easy to become confused about this. After all, there are plenty of speakers and teachers who are technically excellent. They are captivating personalities and incredibly gifted, yet they are a total train wreck.

Assuming the primary issue is understood—after all, the Scriptures place little emphasis on an individual’s abilities and focus almost entirely upon his conduct and character—there is really only one thing that determines if a teacher is a true one, a faithful one: how firmly he holds to Scripture. Martyn Lloyd-Jones made the point well in Life in Christ: Studies in 1 John:

The most important test is the conformity to scriptural teaching. “Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God.” How do I know that this is a scriptural test? All I know about Him, I put up to the test of Scripture. Indeed, you get exactly the same thing in the sixth verse of 1 John 4 where John says, speaking of himself and the other apostles, “We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error.” The first thing to ask about a man who claims to be filled with the Spirit and to be an unusual teacher is, does his teaching conform to Scripture? Is it in conformity with the apostolic message? Does he base it all upon this Word? Is he willing to submit to it? That is the great test.

Your ability to teach matters, make no mistake. But what’s more important than your ability that you hold fast to the Scriptures. That you grab hold and never let go, no matter how tempting it may be (or how popular it may make you). Pastors, bloggers, conference speakers and authors should always be the first to say, “Do not simply take my word for it. Check the Scriptures—listen to them above me.” He doesn’t encourage closing the book, nor turning off your brain. He doesn’t imply infallibility in his ministry. He is subordinate to the Word of God. He conforms and submits to it.

That’s what a true teacher does.

Links I like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

This week’s Crossway deals focus on biblical authority:

Be sure to also check out Cross edited by John Piper & David Mathis ($4.99) and Ordinary by Tony Merida ($4.99).

When Your Twenties Are Darker Than You Expected

Paul Maxwell:

The human body starts dying at age 25. Our twenties slap us with the expiration date of sin’s curse (Genesis 6:3): slowly, in our ligaments; tightly, in our muscle fibers; subtly, checking for bumps; decimally, with a rising BMI. We feel death in our twenties; emotionally and relationally, in ugly and odious ways. Death latches its chain to our frame, slowly pulling us deep into an answer to the question “Death, where is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:55). Our twenties bring so many answers to that question — transition, failure, desperation, dependence, accusation, responsibility, moral failure, stagnation, unfulfillment. “Sting” isn’t sufficient. Our twenties can be a dark time.

How should writers and editors work together?

Aspiring writers, you’d do well to take this advice from Gavin Ortlund seriously.

Does Open Theism solve the problem of evil and suffering?

Randy Alcorn:

I don’t enjoy opposing a doctrine that seems to comfort some suffering brothers and sisters. However, I believe open theism redefines God Himself, altering one of His most basic attributes, omniscience, in a misguided and unsuccessful attempt to make it more compatible with His love.

4 Things the ‘Hate Psalms’ Teach Us

Wendy Stringer:

My husband and I spent the first 15 years of our life together with a church that sang the psalms in corporate worship. They were set to old hymns and anthems, with language similar to a sonnet and sung a cappella. Opening burgundy psalters, waiting for four notes blown on the pitch pipe, we would break into harmony and sing our hearts to God.

It was a beautiful experience, but every once in a while we would come to an imprecatory psalm, and I couldn’t choke out the words. Singing Psalm 137, for example, felt offensive and unnecessary; Jesus is not explicitly present, so why sing as though he has not come and saved us?

Why these imprecatory psalms? Why Psalm 137? What do these psalms tell us?

Faithfully Delivering the Gospel

Erik Raymond:

If we really believe that the gospel is the power of God for salvation we probably would not mess with it. It is not wise to edit perfection; we have not been given proofreading writes by God to add or delete elements from his masterpiece of Christ exalting truth.