What does accountability look like for Christian bloggers?

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One of the great dangers of the Internet is also one of its great strengths: the ability to communicate to a (potentially) large group of people with few (if any) barriers. While much good can come from this, it also represents a great risk to those who write if we don’t have any sort of accountability.

As Christians, we understand that we don’t live our lives in isolation. We live in mutual submission to one another. So, what does this look like for Christian bloggers—or at least, this one? Here are three forms of accountability I have in place:

1. The elders of our church. I believe one of the most dangerous places for a Christian to be is outside of the authority of their local church (insomuch as they are modelling Christlikeness in exercising it). So, when we joined our church, one of the first requests I made of our elders was for them to have oversight over this blog.

This doesn’t mean they spend all their time reading this blog since they have much more important things to do. But it does mean they’re aware of what’s going on. So, if they see something they’re concerned about in a post, they can ask me to clarify or remove it, depending on the degree of concern. If they are see an unhealthy pattern in my writing (for example, unnecessarily chasing controversy or using words sinfully), they can ask me to either take a hiatus or stop altogether. And to date, I can count the number of times I’ve had a concern raised on one hand.

2. My wife. Emily actually reads or hears almost every post I write. She’s a good gauge for whether or not the content is actually helpful, and because she is slightly more in touch with people’s feelings, she can give me a better sense of a reader’s response. The number of times she’s asked me to rewrite something or not publish cannot be counted; the number is far too great.

3. Trusted fellow bloggers. There are a few fellow bloggers I seek out feedback from on a semi-regular basis, particularly when writing on a sensitive subject. If, for example, I’m writing a critical review (such as this one), or addressing a controversial topic or person, a number of people will almost certainly have read the post before it ever gets published. This group of writers has given me a great deal of sharpening critique, pushed me to drop certain arguments or add new ones, and, every so often, let me know when something’s not worth writing about at all.

That, in a nutshell is what accountability looks like for me. Mind blowing? Probably not. Helpful? You bet.

How now shall we act online?

A while back, I had the opportunity to sit down with my friends Dan Darling and Derek Rishmawy to discuss how Christians should approach using social media and engaging online conversations (and controversy) in a Christlike manner:

Thanks to Dan and all the folks at the ERLC for the opportunity to be a part of the conversation!

God doesn’t have time to worry about such little things, right?

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The other day we were on our way home from Port Huron, MI, when our car started making some shady sounds. A grinding/vibrating sound that sounded like maybe one of the brakes had seized. (Whatever it is, I’m sure it will be something catastrophic, to my savings if nothing else.)

Sunday night, as we prepared dinner, Emily and I talked about how much we were willing to spend on repairs. It’s important to have a “do not pass go” line because, at some point, it’s just not worth fixing a vehicle. Of course, when that happens, it’s also helpful to have a fair bit saved up in order to actually pay for a new one. Which we don’t (yet).

One of the things we don’t do all that well is pray over “little” issues. Years ago, as new believers, we were exposed to a lot of damnably stupid teaching on prayer. One video we watched, featuring an ultra-hip (now ex-) pastor, openly mocked a person who would pray for such seemingly insignificant things as a parking space, as though doing so would be a waste of God’s time and yours.

After all, God doesn’t have time to worry about such little things, right?

And yet, we see something very different in Psalm 8:3-4: “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?”

Setting aside the christological elements of these verses for a moment, we see something pretty incredible: David is in awe of the mystery of God’s care. What shocks David here is that the God who created all the universe is not distant. He is near to us and intimately involved with every detail of our lives. That he has numbered every hair on our heads. He has determined all the days of our lives. There is not a single event that happens, whether a hair falling from our heads or a piece of dust floating down onto your shoulder, that the Lord is not aware of.

Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! … Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! (Luke 12:24; 27-28)

This is the mystery of God’s care: that he holds all of creation together, and yet is actively involved in the minutest details of our lives. Do you believe this? Do you believe that right now, God is working all things together for your good—that there is nothing that happens in your life that escapes his sight? Or do you believe, as the song goes, God is watching us from a distance?

Events like our car problems are an opportunity for me to shake off the “little faith” attitude of the man who mocks those who pray for “little things.” If God provides for sparrows and clothes the grass in splendor, will He not provide what His people need? I’m not saying this in some sort of goofy “name it and claim it” sort of way. Instead, it’s a reminder to me that God truly is involved in the most mundane aspects of my life.

We had another car problem about a week ago. The repairs cost $100, though they could have been significantly more had the problem not been easily resolved. It is right to see this as evidence of God’s care. I had $100. I did not have significantly more. We have this latest problem. We have no idea what it will cost to repair or if we have to say “when” on this car. We can only trust that the Lord will provide what we need, when we need it in the way we need it.

And that’s the thing that should give us great hope and encouragement: God is not disconnectedly watching the events of our lives play out. He is actively engaged. He really does care for us and provide for us, no matter how insignificant it might seem.


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Err on the side of original

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There are a lot of embarrassing things that can happen when you’re preaching. One time, and this was one of my earliest preaching opportunities, I completely blanked out. It was as though my entire vocabulary was lost, and I just stood there for what seemed like at least 15 seconds (which is a really long time to be silent when you think about it). Another time, I preached one of the worst messages of my life at a friend’s church. The entire thing was a scattered mess, and I felt like I wanted to die (especially when people were offering polite compliments).

There are some things I haven’t done, thankfully. (At least, not yet; there’s still time.) But you know what I expect would be really embarrassing? Being invited back to a church and preaching a message you’ve already shared.

At that church.

Toward the end of Preaching and Preachers, Martyn Lloyd-Jones shares a number of stories of preachers who had this happen. He wasn’t saying this to steer his hearers away from re-preaching a message, but to give wise counsel: if you’re going to do it, make sure you keep track of where you have already preached the message.

This is good advice, for obvious reasons. Although I prefer to not re-preach my own sermons, the odd time I have, I’ve made sure to note where so I don’t do it again.

But, I’ve got to be honest, sometimes it’s sorely tempting to just re-preach out of convenience. After all, I have a young family, a full-time job and multiple hobby jobs… it’s not like there’s a lot of time that exists to write new sermons every time I preach.

But there’s just something about the process of preparing the message that feeds and encourages me, even as the purpose is to encourage others. When I re-preach, I rarely have that same experience. I don’t feel truly prepared, no matter how much time I spend reviewing the text and manuscript. When I preach new material, it’s the message I need to hear, as much as it is the message for the congregation. For me at least, that seems to be a pretty good reason to err on the side of original. What do you think?

The day I made my daughter cry

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Tears started streaming down her cheeks and drool dribbled down her chin. Her hands rose close to her eyes, fingers prepared to poke. And then, between sobs, she spoke: “But (hic) I really (hic) wa-wanted to win…”

And with that, I claimed the title of history’s greatest monster.

All because I made my daughter cry.

A few months ago, I shared a summer reading challenge for my daughter. Her mission: to read ten books over the summer and write a short summary of each as a comprehension check. We asked often about how her reading was going. She her typical answer: “I forgot; I’ll read some tomorrow.” As the summer progressed, we could see her starting to get a little anxious. We reminded her that it wouldn’t be a big deal if she didn’t meet her goal.

On August 31st, she had five books left to read, and declared she would finish them all before Labor Day was done. When I told her that she wouldn’t be able to do it and actually understand what she was reading, the tears began.

Now, we’re not strangers to experiencing consequences at the Armstrong home. Timeouts are fairly common, we’ve had to ground our oldest at least once already, among other things… but this time was different. This wasn’t a disciplinary issue. This was just the result of failing to do what was necessary.

This was a good learning opportunity for us, too, though. All the way through the reading challenge, we created the environment for her to do her reading, but we didn’t force her to do it because that would have been counterproductive. Our goal is to help her develop a love of reading, not see it as a chore.

As she cried though, a temptation came over me, just for a moment: to give in and let her have the prize anyway. As soon as the thought came into my head, I had to acknowledge it as wrong. If we’re trying to teach her to be responsible for her own actions, then it’s wrong to reward her for not doing what was necessary. Instead, we’re giving her the opportunity to try again with five books in September. Will she succeed this time? I guess we’ll find out in a few weeks.


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Four truths that will change how you care for the poor

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Let’s be honest: no one with a firm grip on reality looks at the world and says, “Yep, everything is running exactly as it should.” When we millions of people go to sleep each night unsure if they’re going to eat the next day while others have an abundance beyond what they could need for a thousand lifetimes, we know something’s not right.

And therein lies the problem: we know things are wrong, but we don’t know what we can do about them. The problem seems too big to really make a difference! And you know something? We’re right to think so, at least in one sense. When we look at the suffering and injustice that exists in this world as a whole, it’s overwhelming. The problem is just too big!

And yet, we see throughout Scripture an overwhelming concern for the needs of the poor.… So we can’t simply turn a blind eye, or give into the despair that comes with the overwhelming nature of poverty. Instead, we need to engage as God has called us to—caring for the needs of others, both in the church and in the world (Galatians 6:10).

So where does it start? I believe it starts with a change of mind and a change of heart. In order for that to happen, we need to understand four things.

Read the whole piece at Christianity.com – Four truths that will change how you care for the poor

Brothers, abandon the green room

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Every so often, I’ll be reading a book by a pastor and see mention of a green room at the church. For those who don’t know, a green room is one in which in which performers can relax when they are not performing (typically, they’re found in a theaters, concert halls, and studios).

Which, of course, is one of the goofiest things ever.

Now, I get it: I am not a natural “crowd” person. My favorite time at a party is when it’s time to go home. Most pastors (at least, most of the pastors I know) tend to have a more introverted temperament.

And while I get that, I hope we all realize that the green room runs completely contrary to the gospel.

No matter how we over-spiritualize it—whether we say that area is used for pre-service prayer, or yet another review of our sermon notes—it represents more of a detriment to our spiritual well-being than we might realize, both those of us in the congregation and those who preach. The green room is about isolation, about creating barriers between the shepherd and the sheep.

The green room is a place to hide.

The gospel, however, refuses to let us remain isolated. It connects us to God through Christ; but it also connects us to others. That whole “body” metaphor Paul kept using? Yep. The vine and branches analogy Jesus used? Ditto.

No matter how much we believe, “No one knows what it’s like to feel these feelings,” autonomous Christianity doesn’t work. Ever.

If a pastor does not feel that he can be present with the congregation while waiting to preach, there is something dreadfully wrong, internally. And if there’s a lesson for all of us—both congregation members and pastors alike—it’s that. Pastors cannot be disconnected from congregations. When they cease to be connected, they cease to truly be pastors. They become something else entirely. And this should never be.

Brothers, abandon the green room. Do not hide from the congregation; do not perpetuate the leadership is lonely garbage. Worship with the congregation, seeing your place in the body so you might experience the ministry of the body.

Show me the body

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Recently I was asked this question by a reader, and it’s a good one: What would cause me to abandon Christianity?

What many people forget about Christianity is it’s not based on experiences or feelings. This is, of course, due to the fact that we’ve elevated experience to a place it doesn’t belong, and talk about “just believing” and all sorts of other nonsense.

But Christianity is based upon facts. And in reality, Christianity is the most falsifiable religion to ever exist, because all you have to do is two thing, both of which are accomplished in one act: Prove that Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, and prove the New Testament is false. How do you do that? With one piece of evidence: the body of Jesus Christ.

After the apostle Paul reminded the Corinthians of what is first importance in 1 Corinthians 15:3-11, he explained that:

Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. (1 Corinthians 15:12-19)

Paul is very clear here: if the body of Jesus could be produced, it would mean that He was never raised from the dead. And because He was never raised from the dead, the gospel would then be false. And if the gospel were proven false, Christians are “of all people most to be pitied” for they’ve put their hope in something meaningless.

He is confirming what we should all know: Christianity is easily falsifiable. You can easily disprove it. To do that, one only had to produce a body—and this is something that would have been easy, particularly in the earliest days. And yet none was then, and one still hasn’t been produced in the nearly 2000 years since Jesus was crucified. It wasn’t because the original followers of Jesus were super-creative guys, nor were they apparently the sharpest knives in the drawer. They were often rebuked by Jesus for not picking up most of what He was putting down. The makers of a conspiracy to deceive the masses these were not.

And then there’s the hundreds of witnesses to the resurrected Christ. “He appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time,” Paul wrote, most of whom were, again, alive at the time. (1 Corinthians 15:6). Paul was writing, give or take, about 20 years after the crucifixion of Jesus. If he and the other apostles had made the whole thing up, they could easily have been found out. And yet, here we are.

Because Christianity is so easily falsifiable, arguments of experience, feelings or “Jesus being resurrected in our hearts” just won’t do. It doesn’t allow for that. Christianity is based on historical facts, not on feelings. And if you could produce the body of Jesus today, you’d knock the foundation out of it. You’d not only prove that Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, you’d prove that the entire New Testament is false. And if the New Testament is false and Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, Christianity’s no good to anyone.

Five books every Christian should read on prayer

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Prayer is a discipline many of us need help with. Okay, maybe you’re doing great in your prayer life. I need a lot of help in mine. Thankfully, there are a lot of really great books out there on the subject. Here are five I’ve found particularly helpful and you might, too:


The Mighty Weakness of John Knox

True, I recommended this one when talking about biographies you and I should read, but Douglas Bond’s book on John Knox offers us an example to look to when we want to know what a life submitted to the Lord in prayer looks like. “Because of his candid acknowledgment of his great need, he sought the aid of the God of the universe, and one way he sought it was through the prayers of fellow believers.”

Buy it at: Westminster Books | Amazon


Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor

Don Carson’s book on his father, Tom, is another powerful “pray by example” book (even if not technically a book on prayer). As I wrote elsewhere, Carson shows his father as a man who prayed as though the Lord really is sovereign—that He must intervene for the lives of his hearers to be transformed.

Buy it at: Westminster Books | Amazon


A Simple Way to Pray: The Wisdom of Martin Luther on Prayer

Archie Parrish offers an examination of Luther’s prayer life, as well as the advice he wrote in his little booklet, The Way to Pray. As far as “instruction” books on prayer, there are few better than this because of it. (More thoughts related to this book can be found here. And for a related book, read R.C. Sproul’s The Barber Who Wanted to Pray, a child-appropriate retelling of Luther’s The Way to Pray.)

Buy it at: Amazon


A Call to Prayer

This little book is one of the most challenging, if for no other reason than J.C. Ryle’s willingness to call out the complacency of Christians in his day (a complacency that looks familiar in ours, as well). He writes:

Can we really believe that people are praying against sin — when we see them plunging into it? Can we suppose they pray against the world — when they are entirely absorbed and taken up with its pursuits? Can we think they really ask God for grace to serve him — when they do not show the slightest interest to serve him at all?

Buy it at: Westminster Books | Amazon


Valley of Vision

As mentioned above, often the best way to learn to pray is by example rather than by instruction. Sometimes the best way to pray in a given moment is to pray with someone else’s prayer. That’s where the Valley of Vision, with its powerful, gospel-rich prayers, is so helpful.

Buy it at: Westminster Books | Amazon


Reader’s choice: A Praying Life by Paul Miller. I’ve not read this (yet), but I keep hearing I should and that you should, too! (You can get it at Westminster Books or Amazon.)

What books have you found helpful for cultivating your prayer life?

The irony of God’s strength

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In, Psalm 8:1-2, David gives God praise, describing the gloriousness of His nature and the majesty of His name. And almost immediately, he presents us with a curious irony: God’s strength is displayed in weakness:

O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. Out of the mouth of babies and infants, you have established strength because of your foes, to still the enemy and the avenger. (emphasis mine)

Notice how God has established his strength—”out of the mouth of babies and infants.” God reveals His majesty using the “weak” and “foolish” things of this world. He uses voices that don’t matter, at least in worldly ways. He revealed himself to the world through the nation of Israel—redeemed slaves taken out of the land of Egypt. Through Moses, God revealed himself to Pharaoh with power and authority. Moses, a man who stuttered. Later, as Israel’s earthly throne was established, God rejected Saul, who was the epitome of what a human king should be, and gave the throne to David, a lowly shepherd boy.… On and on we could go through the Old Testament as God consistently used seemingly insignificant voices within the culture of the time—the poor, women, children—to reveal his power and majesty to the world.

And today, it’s no different. God continues to reveal his strength through the weak things in the world. He reveals himself through the church. A church founded by uneducated fishermen, a former tax collector and zealots, with a message that sounds like absolute lunacy to most who hear it: that God would come in human form, suffer and die on a roman cross to pay for the sins of the world, and rise again from death.

In his excellent book, The Way of the Righteous in the Muck of Life, Dale Ralph Davis describes the day General T.J. “Stonewall” Jackson’s world came crashing down around him. His wife had given birth to a stillborn son, then she suffered an uncontrollable hemorrhage. In the span of a few hours, Jackson went from joyful expectant father to crushed widower.

The next day he wrote his sister Laura; he told her he thought he could submit to anything if God strengthened him for it; but he made no attempt to cover his sad despair. But then there in the middle of his note, there is a most moving one-liner. He says: “Oh! my Sister would that you could have Him for your God!”

Can you imagine that? Can you think of anything weaker than Jackson dashed and devastated by the Lord’s “taking away”? Here is a man beaten and crushed who nevertheless says, Oh that you could have him for your God.

This is one of the great ironies of the gospel: God’s strength is made known in weakness. That is what God has entrusted to us. Fallible, foolish, sinful people, who, by God’s grace, have been saved and redeemed by this foolish message of good news and great joy. And so, like David, we give God praise because of the irony of his strength.


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Seven books to read on Christianity and homosexuality

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Last week, recording artist Vicky Beeching, whose songs are sung in thousands of churches in America (possibly even yours this weekend), announced, “I’m gay. God loves me just the way I am.” And she is just the latest among many who are either coming out as gay or in favor of same-sex marriage.

Far too many of us struggle to know how to respond. Is there a biblical case for same-sex relationships? Does the Bible really condemn it? Can we just “live and let live”?

If we’re going to be people who truly love our neighbors, we need to be people who tell the truth. And in order to do that, we need to know what the truth is—what God’s Word has to say about homosexuality. Here are a few books that I’ve found helpful and you might, too:


God and the Gay Christian by Matthew Vines

This one might be the surprise recommendation to some of you. But it’s one I believe we all should be paying attention to as it purports to offer a biblical foundation for the compatibility of homosexuality and Christianity. For that reason alone, it will almost certainly be the book progressive Christians will be appealing to on this matter (in fact, one of them—Rachel Held Evans—wrote a glowing endorsement for it).

Buy it at: Amazon


Is God anti-gay? by Sam Allberry (reviewed here)

Sam Allberry’s book is one of the finest you will read on the subject. He writes not simply as a pastor helping Christians wrestle with the implications of homosexuality and same-sex marriage, but also as a man who deals with same-sex attraction. So for him, the temptation to compromise on what the Bible says would undoubtedly be strong. It would certainly make it convenient for him. Instead, he reminds us of the simple truth: “God’s message for gay people is the same as his message for everyone. Repent and believe.”

Buy it at: AmazonWestminster Bookstore


Washed and Waiting by Wesley Hill

Like Allberry, Wesley Hill writes from the perspective of a man living with same-sex attraction. And like Allberry, he writes from the perspective of one who truly believes the Bible’s teaching on human sexuality and marriage. His approach is a little different than Allberry’s in that the message of his book finds its heart in the hope of 1 Corinthians 6:9-11: that although some of the Corinthians practiced homosexuality, and adultery, and were thieves, drunkards, and swindlers, “you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”

Buy it at: Amazon | Westminster Bookstore


The God of Sex by Peter Jones

Peter Jones broadens the discussion away from merely talking about homosexuality as if it were “the” problem, to the larger issue, which is one of worldview. For Jones, fundamentally, what we’re seeing is a clash of worldviews at work, the continued battle between the truth and the lie (Romans 1:25). Examining the relationship between sexuality and spirituality through this lens allows us to see how both worldviews see sex as sacred, but with purposes in mind.

Buy it at: Amazon


Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert by Rosaria Champagne Butterfield

Rosaria Butterfield is another writing from first-hand experience, having been in a relationship with a woman for several years before her conversion to Christ. While the book is principally the story of her conversion, her thoughts on the conflict between the two opposing ideologies—especially given that she was a chief advocate for gay rights at an academic level—is fascinating.

Buy it at: Amazon | Westminster Bookstore


The Truth About Same-Sex Marriage by Erwin Lutzer

It’s been about five years since I read this one, so a lot of the details are fuzzy. However, I do remember it being you’d expect from its author: biblical, careful, pastoral and extremely helpful. While he does strongly express the serious implications of homosexuality and same-sex marriage on society, his point is not to condemn this sin as though it existed in a vacuum. Essentially, even as he equips us to think biblically about the issue before us, he also gives readers a gentle warning (and rebuke) to not ignore the other serious sins among us, whether greed, adultery or gossip.

Buy it at: Amazon


Bonus book: Love into Light: The Gospel, Homosexuality, and the Church by Peter Hubbard

This is not one I’ve read (yet); however, it is one that a number of friends and fellow bloggers have recommended. Here’s a look at what Tim Challies had to say in his review:

Hubbard writes as a pastor, as a counselor and as a man deeply marked by the gospel of divine grace extended toward human sin. He insists that the gospel makes all the difference, for before the cross we are all the same, we are all sinners, we are all in desperate need of grace.… The gospel makes all the difference and the gospel is exactly what Fred Phelps and so many others have thrown away in their misguided, hate-filled attempts to address homosexuality. “If our attitude toward a gay or lesbian person is disgust, we have forgotten the gospel. We need to remember the goodness and lovingkindness that God poured out on us. God should have looked at us and been disgusted. Instead, without condoning our sin, He loved us and saved us. And I want everyone to know that kind of love!”

Buy it at: Amazon | Westminster Bookstore

That’s a few of the books I’d recommend checking out. What about you: what books on this issue have you found helpful? 


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This should make us stop and think

Without realizing it, leaders can paint their own dysfunction over churches, ministries, and missions fields. All too easily, the effort to preach the gospel becomes about appeasing fears and insecurities, turning leadership into a tool used to primarily gain a sense of personal meaning.

If this doesn’t make us sweat a little bit, I’m not sure we’re examining ourselves carefully enough, what do you think?

Prioritizing the gospel

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Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord, a celebrated politician of France, was known for his brilliance in the court and his wisdom in the pulpit. He was influential, wealthy, and powerfully wise. Educated as a priest, even to the rank of bishop, he renounced the church to excel in public affairs. And excel he did. Only the emperor was more distinguished.1

And yet, with all his knowledge, with all his splendor, and with all his wealth, Talleyrand died with a miserably regretful epitaph. Next to his deathbed was a handwritten letter detailing his dying words and reflections on the life he was leaving behind:

Behold eighty-three years passed away! What cares! What agitation! What anxieties! What ill-will inspired? What vexatious complication! And without any other result than great moral and physical fatigue, and a profound feeling of despair for the future, of disgust at the past.

We find a similar letter in the Bible. It wasn’t found next to a comfortable bed under a warm lamp, but smuggled out of a cold Roman dungeon where criminals were imprisoned, drowned in the city sewage, and flushed away with the garbage. It wasn’t written by a political dignitary or high ranking diocesan, but by a humble and modest-living Christ follower. It did, however, contain the dying words of a well-known man—the apostle Paul.

He didn’t write what you might have expected a man to write in such an appalling setting—especially staring death in the face. His words were most powerful, most abiding, most encouraging, and most wise. His words captured the remarkable joy of a fulfilled life.

For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing. (2 Tim. 4:6-8)

What consumed Paul’s life and culminated in such an extraordinary epitaph? It was the gospel of Jesus Christ. He made it his priority, his purpose, his aim in life, and his motivation to endure (2 Tim. 2:8-10). He made it his all. The gospel was a treasure entrusted to him by God, just as his life was a treasure entrusted to God (2 Tim. 1:12-14). The gospel mattered most to him—even above his own life.

The fight fought

Paul described his life as a war waged against gospel negligence. It was a gutsy struggle to maintain persevering trust in Christ by rooting himself deeply in the gospel. He fought apathy, laziness, comfort, weariness, fear, shame, unfaithfulness, and worldly arguments that would challenge his gospel meditations.

The race finished

Paul also described his life as a race, not to be won by finishing first, but to be won by finishing well. He taught that an athlete is crowned only if he competes according to the rules (2 Tim. 2:5). So the race finished well is a race finished with honor and excellence. Paul was not concerned with success tips, marketing points, or worldly wisdom. He knew that fulfillment in life was not succeeding in the world, but excelling in the Word. He concerned himself with the gospel.

The faith kept

Finally, Paul described his life as having a strong hold on the cross. He gripped Christ, knowing that the winds of persecution would fiercely blow and the waters of suffering would aggressively flow against him. Only the cross of Christ could withstand such a current. So he clasped tightly, kept strongly, seized firmly. The faith that he held was the breathed-out Word of God, the only resource capable of shaping a life such as his (2 Tim. 3:16). Paul held the gospel in order to keep the faith.

When the gospel means this much to you, death is the vehicle to the reward you seek and your life is labor toward the offering you give (2 Tim. 4:6-8). The Lord poured him out and he loved it. Is the Lord pouring you out?


Jacob Abshire is the author of Forgiveness: A Commentary on Philemon and Faith: A Commentary on James, and co-founder of Resolute Creative. You can find him online atjacobabshire.com and follow him on Twitter @aliasbdi.

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Let’s do some catalytic visioneering… and stuff! Because we’re leaders!

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I have to be honest: I really, really miss the days when leaders were cool with just being called managers or leaders. You know, when people weren’t adding qualifiers to boost their self-importance self-esteem?

Today, instead of being managers, we’re leaders. But not just leaders, catalytic leaders. Visionary leaders with fireworks shooting out our rear-ends with every decision we make. (And not just because of the Taco Bell we ate at lunch.)

We get it, okay? You’re a big deal. You’ve got people skills, dag-nabbit!

But could you maybe shut up about it?

There’s a problem in leadership circles when you have to declare yourself a catalytic, visionary such-and-such with mad woo skills (which is just as creepy as it sounds). The problem is simple: you’re clearly not one.

Your vision is seen in what you’ve accomplished, not by what you say you’re doing.

Your ability to move people to action is less important than what action you’re calling them to.

Your charisma is less important than your character.

Who are we trying to kid, honestly? The more I think about it, the more I’m convinced it’s ourselves.

We want to be seen as important. We want to be seen as big deals. We have a brand to uphold and promote, after all. We want to matter… because, well, we are deeply insecure. We are unsure of our ability to lead faithfully, so we mask it in bravado. We are insecure in our relationship with Christ, so we look to our performance for comfort.

But it’s a little bit like a foodie blog operated by someone who only knows how to make Kraft Dinner. The disconnect is often obvious to everyone but us.

“Let another praise you, and not your own mouth,” says Proverbs 27:2, “a stranger, and not your own lips.” There’s a reason the Lord inspired these wise words. When we praise ourselves, we reveal our insecurity.

But, brothers (and sisters, too!), we do not need to be insecure. The fruits of our labors will be apparent to all in time, if they are not already. And in time, if the fruit is good, the lips of another will praise our efforts. So we don’t need to!

Leader, let another praise you. Worry less about calling yourself a catalyst or a visionary. Vision and charisma is fleeting, and your security is not in those things anyway.


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