Five books to read near Christmas

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Yeah, I know. You probably don’t want to think about that word any more than I do right now. I mean, Christmas has so much baggage surrounding it that it’s hard to have much fun. But it’s coming (just a few weeks away, friends).

Despite how we might feel about travel, awkward conversations, and the risk of really loud toys entering our homes, there is so much for us to be thankful for in the season, particularly as we remember the significance of the birth of Christ.

In light of this, we’ve been working to develop traditions in our family to help us be mindful of this truth. And, because it’s us, many of those traditions happen to revolve around books. Here are a few recommendations for books worth reading as we lead up to Christmas, both for personal enjoyment and family use:

Peace by Steven J. Nichols

This is a stunningly beautiful devotional that Ligonier Ministries and Reformation Trust released last year. Peace offers readings for the Advent season (four Sundays and Christmas Eve), as well as hymns and carols, readings from Christian theologians throughout history (such as this one from Augustine), and most importantly reminds us of the “earth-shaking implications of Christ’s appearance.”

Buy it at: Amazon | Westminster Bookstore


God Rest Ye Merry by Douglas Wilson (read a review here)

Okay, yes, Wilson is not for everyone. Some find his writing style pretty off-putting (he’s clever and he knows it). But in this volume, Wilson deconstructs the many false reasons for the season, provides an answer to the all important question, “how then shall we shop,” and shares how Santa Claus may or may not have slapped Arius across the face at the Council of Nicaea.

Buy it at: Amazon


The Lightlings by R.C. Sproul

An Armstrong family favorite, The Lightlings weaves an allegorical tale of redemption, focusing specifically on the incarnation. “A race of tiny beings known as lightlings represent humanity as they pass through all the stages of the biblical drama creation, fall, and redemption. In the end, children will understand why some people fear light more than darkness, but why they need never fear darkness again.”

Buy it at: Amazon | Westminster Books


The Dawning of Indestructible Joy by John Piper

This is the latest Advent devotional written by John Piper (the 2013 edition, Good News of Great Joy, is also well worth revisiting). Piper offers short daily readings (25 in all), intended to guide us in experiencing the joy of Christ in this season. I particularly enjoy the fact that Piper doesn’t stick to traditional Christmas passages, leading off with Luke 19:10, and Jesus’ declaration that He came to seek and save the lost:

So Advent is a season for thinking about the mission of God to seek and to save lost people from the wrath to come. God raised him from the dead, “Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come” (1 Thess. 1:10). It’s a season for cherishing and worshiping this characteristic of God—that he is a searching and saving God, that he is a God on a mission, that he is not aloof or passive or indecisive. He is never in the maintenance mode, coasting or drifting. He is sending, pursuing, searching, saving. That’s the meaning of Advent

Buy it at: Amazon | iBooksDesiring God (free PDF download)


A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

This is one of the stories we’ve been waiting for a loooong time to share with the kids, and probably need to wait a while longer yet. I’ve long been a fan of Dickens, and am eager to share this classic tale of transformation with the kids as they get older.

Buy it at: Amazon | Westminster Bookstore

What are a few books you’d recommend reading for personal reflection or family enjoyment as we prepare for Christmas?


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On comparing space probes and hungry kids

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Last week, the big story in the news was the European Space Agency’s Philae probe landing on comet 67P. Some called the landing historic (which it is—landing a probe on a comet is pretty unprecedented). But others—notably many Christians—received the news with a fair bit more cynicism. In fact, more than a few times I read how some folks they couldn’t believe we would waste billions of dollars while millions of children around the world go hungry.

Where, oh, where are our priorities, people?!?

I get this reaction, in some ways. I mean, I work for an organization that helps these very children. I’ve met those children, and been in their homes. I actually have a half-decent sense of what their daily lives are like.

But I’ve gotta be honest: comparing space probes and the needs of hungry kids is kind of silly. And when I see it happen, especially when it’s folks who I know are actually quite intelligent and thoughtful, it’s disappointing. Here are three reasons why:

1. It’s fauxtrage. Most people who appear upset about this, and make this silly comparison, aren’t really all that upset. Remember #BringBackOurGirls? #TakeDownThatPost was more effective.

2. It’s naïvely simplistic. While lamenting the fact that billions of dollars were spent on this project, I saw many a mention of it only taking $400 million or so to eradicate world hunger. So shouldn’t that money have been used for that purpose? As if we just throw enough money at a problem and it’ll go away.

This suggestion (which tends to be most strongly advocated for in socialist-leaning nations such as mine) overlooks a significant problem: it’s not true. Without getting into a long treatise on the subject, we can’t forget that world hunger has more to do with explicit human sin (expressed in corrupt governments) and the natural outworking of the curse (work being fruitless toil) than a lack of money. Changing life for the poor starts with changing the hearts of people.

(And if you want the longer version, read Awaiting a Savior, if you’d be so kind.)

3. It’s demeaning to the people who work in that field (and the “poor” children who want to). Imagine you sponsor a child with an organization like Compassion, and that child wants to be an astronaut or an engineer when he grows up. So, he works really hard in school, and eventually, has an opportunity to go to university. There, he takes a degree in Aerospace Engineering, and graduates with honors. Finally, he gets his dream job, and starts working for a space agency, and eventually helps design a new probe or spacecraft. What would you say to him if his work were to be used in a similar scientific endeavor? Was he wrong to pursue his dream—and actually, by God’s grace, accomplish it?

What we fail to realize is that behind space exploration is not a faceless committee, but people. People who love what they do. People who are passionate about space and engineering and exploring the universe God has created and placed us in. To call their work a waste is demeaning, not only to them, but to the people who dream of doing it someday. (To say nothing of overlooking the fact that none of the money has been wasted—remember, people get paid to work in this industry, and some of them likely even give to charitable organizations!)

So how about this: when we’re concerned with what we perceive as wrong priorities in the world, we should ask ourselves two things:

1. What is it that prevents me from celebrating human achievement and marvelling at an element of God’s creation?

2. If I’m truly concerned about the needs of the poor, am I supporting organizations that are making a difference in their lives to the fullest of my desire and ability? 

When we do a little bit of heart checking, we usually find we’ve got less to be fauxtragey about.


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Five ways we live like we’re under the Old Covenant

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The Old Covenant is glorious, but the New Covenant is even moreso, Paul says in 2 Corinthians 3:7-11. It’s ministry is of death (since the Law’s power is to reveal our sin but not to save), where the New’s ministry is life and righteousness. It’s design is temporary, intended to give way to something permanent.

We know this to be true, at least intellectually—so why do we keep living as though we were still under the Old Covenant? And what does that look like?

During Sunday’s message at our church, Leo, one of our pastors, suggested five ways we live this way:

1. We do it literally. There is a growing movement that believes Jesus is the Messiah, that He truly died to atone for our sins and rose again… but also believe it important to worship on Saturdays (the Jewish Sabbath), celebrate the Old Testament festivals, be circumcised, and maintain a kosher diet. But does the New Testament give room for this? Yes and no. If it’s a desire to follow the model of Christ—for example, to eat as He ate during His earthly life, or to worship on the day He would have—it might be a grey area governed by Romans 14.

However, the difficulty is when those who practice such things move beyond merely following a model to working to earn our right standing before God. It’s easy to slip into that mindset very quickly, because our default mode is to try to earn our own salvation. But the ministry of the Old Covenant—including all its feasts and dietary laws—though it was glorious, was a ministry of death. It could not save.

2. We do it ceremonially. Others look to traditions, rituals, sacred sites and human mediators for our salvation. Now, it’s not that rituals and traditions are a bad thing; they can be quite helpful in help us in our experience of worship. But our salvation is not dependent upon their observance. And Roman Catholics might believe the Pope is the vicar of Christ and head of the church, but he is a mere man. We do not need to look to another person as our mediator between us and God. We have one in Christ, who doesn’t merely reflect God’s glory (as Moses did), but reveals it in Himself.

3. We do it dutifully. It’s so easy to turn our practice of spiritual disciplines—prayer, fasting, meditation, Bible reading, memorization, and so on—into a system of merit. Consider your reaction when you get behind on your Bible reading plan: do you do a cram session to get caught up, but don’t allow time for the text to work on you? Or do you roll with it and move forward, faithfully spending time in the Word despite the fact that you’re not going to make your deadline? (Can you tell I’m speaking to myself here?) But you are worth more than the number of verses you have memorized and how many times you’ve read through the Bible in a year. We study God’s Word to know God, not to earn anything from Him.

4. We do it doubtfully. This is one of the most sinister. A season of depression or a disappointment may grow into something deeper and deadlier than we could imaging, robbing us of all joy and leaving us in a place where we don’t believe God could possibly forgive us. But to this, God’s Word says to us that our great high priest—Jesus—is able to sympathize with us in our weakness. He knows our struggles as well as we do. He is acquainted with grief and sorrow.

5. We do it fearfully. Finally, some of us fall prey to a spirit of fear. We live in fear of the Devil, as though at any moment he is going to come after us. We live in fear of death, our foundation uncertain. We live in fear of hell, and so our faith becomes about not wanting to go there, rather than looking forward to spending eternity with Jesus. But Jesus knows His own, and not one will be lost, so we need not fear.

When you consider where you are in your walk with Christ, do you see yourself in any of these five categories?

But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. (2 Cor. 3:16-18)

Generational Lies; Timeless Truths

I never gave God much thought before becoming a Christian, unless it was to make fun of Christians. But what I did know didn’t really make sense when confronted by God’s character as revealed by God.

I was not alone in this. When you talk to people around us—both outside the church and within it—you quickly see that many have some strange ideas about God:

  • We treat Him like a divine butler whose existence is centered around making us happy.
  • We act as though God doesn’t matter or exist at all, until a loved one dies unexpectedly; then we ask how God could have let this happen.
  • We imagine God as being solely about love, and forgiving us is His job.

As we all become increasingly confused about who God is, and what He demands of us, it’s more necessary than ever for us to be able to understand what lies beneath the lies we believe and be ready to respond lovingly and clearly.

Generational Lies; Timeless Truths

That’s why I’m excited to be a part of TruthXchange’s 2015 Think Tank, “Generational Lies; Timeless Truths.” During this event, the speakers and participants will be discussing the lies we’ve passed on for generations, and respond with the unchanging and life-giving truth of Scripture. Speaking at the Think Tank are Peter Jones, Calvin Beisner, Joe Boot, Ted Hamilton, Rebecca Jones, Jeffrey Ventrella, Thaddeus Williams… and me.

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(And yes, Canadian friends, the idea of being on the same roster as Joe Boot is just as terrifying as you’d imagine.)

What will I be speaking on?

I’m speaking on a subject close to my heart: social justice. I love that there are so many young people—both Christian and non—who are fired up about helping those in need and making a difference in society. But that zeal needs to be built upon a solid foundation. So, in my session, I’ll be digging into the roots of the “deeds, not creeds” mindset and offering a look at how the gospel informs and transforms our desire to act on behalf of those in need.

When is it happening?

The Think Tank will be held February 3-5, 2015 in Escondido, CA at New Life Presbyterian Church. If you’re in the area, I hope you’ll make it out for what is sure to be a challenging and edifying few days. Look for registration information soon at TruthXchange.com.

What my daughter reminded me about prayer

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Last night had one of those moments when I could clearly see the Holy Spirit at work. It wasn’t while I was reading my Bible, or during my own prayer time… it was at the dinner table. We sat down to have our delicious meal—leftover chili, lovingly prepared by Emily—and Abigail asked if she could pray tonight.

As cool as that was, it wasn’t where I saw the Spirit at work. It was in her prayer, a simple, honest, word between her and God. And as she prayed for our leftover chili that God provided, and that we would have a good night’s sleep so we could have fun and learn at the homeschool co-op, she also asked God to help me teach the older kids well.

Listening to her pray, I was reminded of three things:

1. We often make prayer more complicated than we need to. Her’s was so uncomplicated, but it felt weighty to listen and pray alongside her. This is an important reminder for me: that prayer doesn’t have to be complex. We don’t always have to deliberately hit all the marks of adoration, thanksgiving, confession, repentance, and petition. A simple prayer is just as powerful as a more complicated (or, rather, thorough) one.

2. I need to ask my family for prayer more often. After we finished praying, I was quick to thank Abigail for praying for me without having been asked, but I also confessed to her and to the family that this is something I really need to do more often. While I don’t need to introduce concepts or situations too complex for my children too understand, I can still ask for prayer. More than that, I want to do this more to help them understand that asking for prayer is a good thing. There’s nothing that is keeping me from asking, I just need to do it.

3. We are always modelling prayer to our children. Abigail rarely asks to take the lead in our family prayers. For her, that was pretty bold. And hearing her prayer reminded me of my own. I’m not particularly profound in prayer. I stumble over my words. I repeat myself occasionally. I have moments where I’m searching for what to say at all. And Abigail’s prayer had hints of those same things. She’s seen what’s been modelled, and is doing as her parents do.

We trust God when we trust His Word

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I’m doing something kind of dumb (again): reading too many books at one time. At the moment, I’m only seriously reading two, but still, I should know better. That being said, one of them happens to be Tim Keller’s latest, Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God(Which I think makes it cool, right?)

Regardless of the wisdom of my reading habits, there is a great deal of wisdom in this book. One of the things I absolutely love so far is Keller’s understanding of where we encounter God (which has massive implications for our prayer lives, but that’s another post) and how we know we can trust Him.

We often like to think of esoteric, mystical “whispers,” when we think of God speaking to us, or even speaking to us without words—impressions and that sort of thing. Yet, Keller reminds us that God’s words  (and thus God’s Word) also represent His active presence in the world. God acts through speaking:

“We humans may say, ‘Let there be light in this room,’ but then we have to flick a switch or light a candle. Our words need deeds to back them up and can fail to achieve their purposes. God’s words, however, cannot fail their purposes because, for God, speaking and acting are the same thing,” Keller explains. “To say that God’s word goes out to do something is the same as to say God has gone out to do something.… If God’s words are His personal, active presence, then to put your trust in God’s words is to put your trust in God” (53, 54).

This is why many Christians get so jittery when we see people playing a bit loosey-goosey with the Bible, whether with the meaning of a passage or how we should understand it. It’s not because we’re worshipping our Bibles, but because of whose Word it is and whose words are recorded there.1 We keep pushing back to the Bible because we know there is no other way to actually know who our God is in a truly personal, meaningful, relational way. We learn who God is from His Word. And we learn to trust Him by learning to trust His Word.

Why we become deaf to the warning cries

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Whenever a controversy erupts, you’ll always find a group of people who, when everyone else finally realizes there was a problem, are saying, “We’ve been saying it for years!”

And it’s true. They have been saying it for years. There’s no question about it. There have been many—many—people who were warning about Mark Driscoll, for example. Notably among them were John MacArthur and many of his followers such as the Team Pyro folks.

So why didn’t we listen?

I wonder if the reason is two-fold:

The first reason is many of us choose to not hear. Honestly, when a church leader appears to be being used by God in a pretty powerful way, it’s tempting to just shut down any negative criticism with a slightly patronizing, “But look how God is using him”. Which is completely stupid, of course, but it’s true. Many folks did this with Mark Driscoll (something I admitted to). Many did it with Rob Bell, too. Many still do it with Steven Furtick, and Perry Noble, and Joel Osteen, and TD Jakes, and…

We need to not just look to (dubious) fruit as a reason to excuse  un- or anti-Christian conduct, character or creeds. When there are warning signs, we need to pay attention and we need to take them seriously.

The second is that many of those voices raising alarm only raise alarm. I remember attending an event in 2011 during which the alarm was raised a great deal over the seep of paganism into the church. During the final Q&A session of the event, one of the attendees said something to the effect of, “We’ve heard a lot about the dark, and this has been a real wake-up call… but what about the light?”

The truth is, we need both light and heat1. The alarm needs to be raised over false teaching, abuses of power and actions and attitudes that bring reproach to the name of Christ—we need to offer reproof in those instances.

But we are also called to encourage, to build up and edify the body of Christ. There needs to be a balance, of the sort you see in the letters to the seven churches in Revelation. There, when addressing each church, Jesus offers specific commendation to five of the seven churches (Sardis and Laodicea being the two exceptions), before offering any rebuke. Jesus shone light on their sin, but also on their good works. If all we say is a constant stream of warning, we risk becoming clanging symbols that deafen those we wish to persuade.

Why don’t they report it?

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As more and more stories of women’s encounters with Canadian radio host/musician/producer Jian Ghomeshi have come to light (and sparked an investigation by police thanks to at least three women coming forward to file complaints), Emily and I have spent a great deal of time talking about this situation in specific, but assault in general. The other night, I asked:

Why aren’t more women reporting these types of crimes?

After thinking about it for quite a while, Emily gave her answer on the ride to church Sunday morning. She suggested that for some women, it’s a case of not thinking it counts. At least, not for them.

What Emily hit on right away is the lie sexual assault (and sexual predators) tells victims, A lie that says “this isn’t a big deal.” A lie that says:

  • It doesn’t “count” if it was (at least initially) consensual.
  • It doesn’t “count” if you were just being groomed.
  • It doesn’t “count” if you had one too many drinks.
  • It doesn’t “count” if you didn’t fight back.

And so, as the lie take root, victims pretend like nothing happened. Or that it wasn’t a big deal. Or that maybe they “deserved” whatever happened.

Predators continue to roam free, while their victims become trapped by their shame-induced silence.

I wonder how many women (and men, for that matter), would speak up if someone told them, “It counts”?

  • No matter how things started, it counts.
  • No matter how far things progressed, it counts.
  • No matter how much (or little) you drank, it counts.
  • No matter how much of a fight you put up, it counts.

“You did not ask for this. You should not be silenced. You are not worthless. You do not have to pretend like nothing happened. You are not damaged goods, forgotten or ignored by God, or ‘getting what you deserve.'” (Is It My Fault?, 21)

If we want victims to speak up, we need to help them see the truth. We need to help them see that when assault happens, it counts. Period.


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Links I like

Free audio and Logos deals

Christian Audio’s free audiobook of the month is The Attributes of God by A.W. Tozer. From Prussia with Love by Carol Purves is the free book of the month for Logos Bible Software. For 99¢, you can also get Clive Anderson’s Gunpowder, Treason and Plot. And finally on the Logos side of things, you can enter to win the 23-volume Day One Christian Biography collection, which includes titles such as 365 Days with Calvin, 365 Days with Wilberforce, A Reluctant Missionary, and 365 Days with Spurgeon (five volumes).

Where Hazy Repentance Goes to Die

Jonathan Parnell:

Mental agreement that Jesus is glorious is like affirming the statement that honey is sweet. As much as you might agree on paper, it still doesn’t stop you from eating other things. We can crunch on salty cashews without changing our minds about the honey. And we don’t necessarily feel like the cashews are something we need to forgo in order to eat more honey. To suggest we should would seem strange. If faith is all in our heads, repentance is still opaque.

Good intentions: Beware!

Important stuff from Ray Ortlund.

Mars Hill dissolving

Mars Hill has announced that the church will be dissolving effective January 1, 2015.

The Great Throbbing Verbs

Tim Challies:

So drama describes the actions, the verbs, or what God is doing. Doctrine describes the facts, the nouns, of who God is and what it means that he made us in his image. If you put the two together, you have the content of the Christian faith. I was thinking recently about the great “throbbing verbs of this unfolding drama,” and about this universe as the stage in which God is displaying himself and his glory. I was convicted that I think of the world this way too seldom, and was convicted that there is a lot of value in making this shift in thinking. After all, if this world is a stage, there are many implications.

Christian, stop using “OMG!”

Adam Ford raises an interesting point.

Pockets of Treasures

Lore Ferguson:

Tonight I sat on the far left side of the sanctuary, where I always sit when I’m home, and I hardly recognized anyone sitting around me. We are a big church, but a small service, and I still felt the ache of everyone moving forward but me.

I told someone tonight I feel like I’m a kid with a pile of treasures, none of them making sense, all of them seeming valuable, but no idea where they belong or when.

I thought I would grow out of this.

Does everyone feel like this?

The promise no one likes to talk about

Of all God’s promises, the one Christians like to talk about least is persecution. No less than 90 times1 in all but two books of the New Testament, Christians are promised one thing: Persecution will come. Just as we are assured of God’s love for us in Christ, just as we can be confident that our sins are fully paid for in the death of Christ, we can be sure that we will experience persecution for the sake of Christ.

Yet despite this promise, Christians in North America continue to find this idea foreign, although as time goes on and western culture sheds the last remaining vestiges of Christian influence, it’s becoming less so. In Canada and the United States, our trials tend to come on the legal front: Do Christians who own businesses have the right to refuse to provide services in situations that violate their consciences? Are graduates from a Christian university’s law school permitted to practice law?

These are the questions we are confronted with on a regular basis, and they are serious issues. However, what we might see as persecution is not what a believer in Syria or Iraq might experience. Here, our livelihoods are threatened. There, the threat is to their lives.

This is why the Church needs our prayers, not just on a day like the international day of prayer for the persecuted church, but every day. Christians—both here in North America, and around the world—need to pray for one another as we endure these trials in whatever shape they take. That we would truly believe that to live is Christ and to die is gain. And we would be willing to stand firm on the foundation of the gospel, as people certain that our lives are no longer ours, but Christ’s, and therefore He can do what He wants with them in order to bring Him glory.

Why I’m teaching teens about worldviews

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Today is a fitting day to begin a course about worldviews with the teens in our homeschool co-op. This is the 497th anniversary of Luther’s nailing his 95 Theses to the door of Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany—the spark that ignited the Protestant Reformation.

The Reformation is an example of one of the most important theological debates in the history of the Christian church: the debate over justification. How are we saved—by faith and our works, or by faith alone? But this wasn’t simply a renewal of vibrant Christian faith and a rediscovery of the gospel: it represented a massive worldview shift, completely changing how people understand how the world works. 

As Christians, we have to understand this. We want to have a strong grasp of our own worldview, certainly. But just as importantly, we need to understand how the others see the world if we are going to reach them with the good news of Jesus. Having a foundational understanding of worldview allows us to enter into their world, to see affirm what is good and true and point those things back to the source of truth, while probing those aspects that stand in stark contrast to the Christian worldview.

That, in the end, represents the why of this course. So here’s what we’ll be doing over the next few weeks:

  • We’ll be engaging in some good old-fashioned Bible study;
  • We’ll be interacting with news stories and pop culture to see what story they’re telling about how the world works;
  • We’ll be asking friends and neighbours about their worldviews;
  • And we’ll be making the most of opportunities to put what we know into practice.

I don’t want these teens to engage this in a merely intellectual fashion. I want them to gain confidence in their faith, and I want to help equip them to confidently and humbly examine the competing ideas that exist so they can share their faith with others.

What the fruit will be, only the Lord knows. But I’m excited to see what happens.

“Stop feeling that way” doesn’t work

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Last night, Emily and I had an interesting discussion about a little booklet we’d been reading, Help! My Teen Struggles with Same Sex Attractions. Although the booklet had some good points throughout, and presents a solid (albeit extremely brief) rebuttal of common redefinitions of the so-called “hammer” verses on homosexuality, there was something just not quite right about it. In fact, if I had to sum it up in a couple of words, it would be this: naïvely simplistic.

Unless I’m completely misreading it (which I hope I’m not), the approach seems to be, more or less, “repent or you’ll keep being gay.” Keep contemplation and confession logs. Have Bible verses around the house to remind you of what God’s Word has to say on the issue. If your teen does these things, then they won’t succumb to temptation.1

Now, obviously, repentance is right when sin is committed either in the heart or in the body. If a Christian who deals with same-sex attraction entertains immoral thoughts, he or she should repent of that (just as a heterosexual Christian should). If he or she commits an act of sexual immorality with a member of the same sex, then repentance is required, just as it would be for Christian doing so with a member of the opposite sex. The response on the part of the one committing sexual sin, whether in the heart or in the body, is the same whether they are heterosexual or homosexual, absolutely. And likewise, those temptations can only be resisted with a new heart, one inclined toward Christ, and a new identity, that of being a child of God in Christ.

But the booklet does not seem to make a distinction between temptation and action itself. Based on some of its language, it seems to view the issue of inclination (which may or may not be welcomed by the one dealing with it) as an act of rebellion itself. But the reality may be more complicated than this.

We should not forget that sin wreaks havoc on every aspect of creation. This is why some of us are predisposed to be overweight, even when we have healthy eating habits, or why healthy people’s bodies suddenly turn on themselves as cancerous cells develop, or why hard working people live in poverty. It’s not that these people have necessarily done anything to cause these things: they simply are as a result of living in a fallen world.

Sin represents a disruption in God’s good creation that affects everything.

So, too, it is with our affections. We are naturally designed a certain way; and I believe God’s design is for men and women to be attracted to members of the opposite sex. But the fall disrupts even this aspect of God’s good design, in effect inverting our orientation for some of us. While this does not excuse acting upon these inclinations, it should serve as an important reminder: we should not treat a teenage or adult Christian as though they rebelling against God simply because of these inclinations. If we fail to recognize this, we may do far more damage to Christians—including our own children—than we realize.

This is not to say we should be soft on sin. Far from it. It is simply a recognition that we can’t expect “stop feeling that way” to work, no matter how many memory verses we post around the house.

Don’t seek what you’re not willing to lose

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There’s a real danger to platform building, as anyone who has paid the slightest amount of attention to the scandals that routinely rock churches in North America will tell you. And it almost always winds up being a variation on the same theme: someone starts believing his or her own press.

Despite building a platform for the sake of the gospel, the platform inevitably becomes more and more about us.

And the moment that happens, we’ve already lost it. We see this when celebrity pastors hire PR firms, sure, but none of us are immune. When blog stats are lower than we’d like, or we lose follower on social media, or people simply aren’t as into us as they used to be… When it’s about us, these things destroy us. When it’s about Jesus, it doesn’t matter quite so much.

The preposterous inconsistency of secular sexual ethics

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“Sexual preference is a human right.”

I read these words Sunday afternoon as CBC radio personality Jian Ghomeshi, best known as the host of Q, announced that he had been fired from theCanadian Broadcasting Company (CBC) because of his sexual preferences, and would be suing the taxpayer-funded broadcasting company for a hefty sum. Ghomeshi, as he revealed on his Facebook page, preferred to engage with ladies in BDSM, and a jilted ex had decided to take it public, saying he had abused her. (Note: use wisdom in determining whether or not to click the link. The language is fairly clean, but it’s a pretty frank discussion of all the events from his perspective.)

Now here’s the twist: though his employers agreed (based on evidence Ghomeshi provided) that his relationships were consensual, their problem was they believed “this type of sexual behavior was unbecoming of a prominent host on the CBC.”

This, friends, is secular sexual ethic at work, in all of its inconsistent glory. Consider a couple of ways it plays out, both in this story and in a broader context:

1. Preferences are a right… unless they’re too icky for us. The CBC has long promoted socially and politically liberal ideologies. In fact, they’ve been tireless advocates of all sorts of non-traditional sexual behaviors, and spent a good amount of taxpayer money getting us all acclimated to them. (Exhibit A: The Survival of the Fabulous.) So it seems a bit odd that they’d have issues with Ghomeshi’s behavior—especially given how quickly it’s been normalized thanks to a whole lot of people reading 50 Shades of Creepy.

(And as an aside, nothing is more disturbing than your teenage niece telling you how “romantic” those books are. Barf.)

So the question becomes, who draws the line when it comes to sexual ethics in the postmodern secular worldview? Is it purely individual? Is it a constantly moving target? Is the line drawn, as in some views, based on how “good” the fruit appears to be? In the end, it comes down to all sexual preferences being all equally fine, unless they’re too icky or inconvenient for us.

2. Sexual preference should be private… except when we think it shouldn’t. Pierre Trudeau, the father of the modern mess that is Canada, said, “There’s no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation.” This was often quoted to Christians who advocated against the legalization of same-sex marriage here in 2005 (which, ironically, was a push into the bedrooms of the nation). And yet, we continually see the media—and by proxy, the state—push into our minds and bedrooms as they attempt to acclimate us to certain ideas. Remember how only 20 years ago, it was shocking that a gay character would be featured on a sitcom? Now, if you don’t have one you’re considered out of touch or worse.

So which is it? The problem is, the secular sexual ethic generally want to have it both ways: If you disagree with us, fine, but keep it to yourself. But there’s an agenda to push and by golly, we’re going to push it.

In the end, as grieved as I am that Ghomeshi’s lost his show (while I disagreed with much of what he said, he was and is a skillful and winsome interviewer), and that he had to share details about his personal life he’d have preferred remain private (provided, of course, his version of events is accurate), these events reveal something very important: the secular sexual ethic, in all of its preposterous inconsistency, is like a snake eating its own tail. It will devour itself. It fails in practice because it doesn’t have a firm foundation. It just doesn’t make sense because we weren’t made to work that way.

And this is where Christians have the opportunity to show our non-believing neighbors something better: a sexual ethic that brings dignity, and builds up men and women. A way of looking at gender, marriage and sexuality that’s internally consistent. A tested and true ethic built upon an immovable foundation. One that, in the end, you can look at and realize “it just makes sense,” because it’s the way God made us.