Where the Sermon on the Mount leads

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Strange indeed is the complacency with which modern men can say that the Golden Rule and the high ethical principles of Jesus are all that they need. In reality, if the requirements for entrance into the Kingdom of God are what Jesus declares them to be, we are all undone; we have not even attained to the external righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, and how shall we attain to that righteousness of the heart which Jesus demands? The Sermon on the Mount, rightly interpreted, then, makes man a seeker after some divine means of salvation by which entrance into the Kingdom can be obtained. Even Moses was too high for us; but before this higher law of Jesus who shall stand without being condemned? The Sermon on the Mount, like all the rest of the New Testament, really leads a man straight to the foot of the Cross.

J.Gresham Machen, Christianity and Liberalism | Image source: Lightstock

Better to tell the truth than stories

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“You used to be awesome and tell funny stories about dumb things you did. You don’t do that anymore.”One of the fifth graders at our church shared this little bit of encouragement with me as he headed out the door the other week.

He meant it as an insult. I see it, oddly, as a compliment.

A few months back, I started sharing a few stories of really foolish things I did when I was between 8 and 10 years old. Things like: jumping off a roof to see if a man (or, in this case, boy) could fly. Defying my mother and getting an ATM card for my bank account after she explicitly told me not to. Or finding all the Christmas presents during a sick day, opening and playing with them all, and then attempting to cover my tracks by “rewrapping”all the presents.

Y’know, the typical idiotic stuff you can expect an eight-year-old boy to do.

The kids all enjoyed these stories, which is great, but then I ran into a couple of problems:

  1. The stories I could think of were inappropriate for kids (most of my childhood stories are PG-13 and up).
  2. The stories I could think of were inappropriate for the lesson being taught.

The second is far more significant an issue than the first. Although some of the stories I could share make me wonder how I’m not regularly in therapy, there are some I can clean up a little to make slightly more appropriate for little ears. But when a story doesn’t connect with the meat of the lesson, I don’t feel right about using it.

Telling stories that way—telling a story just to get a laugh—puts the focus on the wrong thing: me. While I obviously want to do all I can to make what I’m saying relatable and interesting, I don’t want to put me at the center of the teaching time for the sake of a quick laugh.

I’d rather be accused of being boring because I’m not telling funny stories, if it means the kids get to hear the gospel.

But the kid who was upset that I’m not telling as many funny stories doesn’t understand that. At least, he doesn’t understand it yet. He doesn’t get that it’s more important for him to know what God’s Word says than hear about something dumb I did when I was a kid. Someday he might. And if it ever happens, I hope he’ll be thankful that I sometimes sacrificed telling stories for the sake of telling him the truth about Jesus.


Originally posted at jtcochran.com. Photo credit: amanky via photopin cc

Does your slogan say what you think it does?

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Whether it’s on our signs, our websites or on the lips of our congregations, every church has a mission statement or slogan that people rally around—something that articulates the vision of what we’re all here to do.

At least, we think it does. But maybe it doesn’t.

One of the challenges of church marketing (yes, I used the “m” word) is seeing our mission statements and slogans from an outside perspective, carefully considering what they communicate, intentionally or otherwise, to people who aren’t us. We’re all blind to our own blind spots, and without good council and perspective, the message we’re sending may be the opposite of what we’re attempting to.

This is what we see in so many of our church slogans. Here’s one example:

“A church for people who aren’t into church.”

What does this actually communicate? Let’s think about it from a couple of perspectives.

This slogan is birthed out of the seeker sensitive mindset of the 1980s and 1990s; the idea most churches using a slogan like this is trying to get across is that it’s a place where non-Christians will feel safe to explore the Christian faith at their own pace.  They’re trying to say they’re welcoming and inviting.

But what does a Christian attending a slightly more theologically conservative church take away from it? In my town, it’s a safe bet a church using this type of slogan:

  • Has topical “talks” instead of expositional preaching
  • Has a low-level of commitment from congregation members
  • Has a low-level of biblical literacy
  • Has high attendance turnover

(I say this from experience, not to be a snarky, divisive jerkwad.)

At best, to this sort of believer, it comes across as trying to be “relevant” to the culture in the negative sense, and perhaps a few steps away from abandoning the gospel at worst. (This, again, is something I’ve seen from churches using this exact slogan.)

Just as importantly, what does this slogan say to its intended target—the non-Christian?

Not much.

The difficulty here is the idea of being a church for people who aren’t into church is those people aren’t into church. There is nothing you can do to be a church for them except to not be a church! It’s like saying a banana is a banana for people who aren’t into bananas—if someone doesn’t like bananas, there’s nothing you can do to make them want to eat one, even if you claim it’s not like any other banana they’ve tried.

The fact is, there are only a few things that lead a non-Christian into a church service:

  • The work of the Holy Spirit
  • alleviating familial pressure (Easter and Christmas visits)
  • baby dedications (sometimes)

Being a church for people who aren’t into church isn’t likely to do that.

Whether we like it or not, marketing is a part of ministry. We need to think carefully—from a theological and practical perspective—on what we’re saying, considering whether or not the message we’re conveying is true and clear and God-glorifying. If we don’t, our attempts at marketing might be doing us more harm than good.


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The Internet needs a cookie

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There’s blood in the water and the sharks are circling.

At least, that’s what it looks like based on the craziness in the Christian side of the Twitter- and blogospheres:

  • People are continuing to wrestle, with varying degrees of helpfulness (very little, for the most part) with the Nathan Morales trial and the question of who knew what when. People continue to (again with varying degrees of helpfulness) press for statements from TGC’s leadership.
  • Tullian Tchividjian officially left TGC, something he’d planned to do (but evidently several months earlier than he’d originally intended), leading some to get their rage on even more.
  • On the other end of the spectrum, Rachel Held Evans, in a ham-fisted effort to illustrate God being beyond gender (since He’s neither male nor female) wrote a post referring to God as “She,” and was declared a heretic for her trouble. She’s since been asking everyone on the Internet if they think she is one.

There’s a lot right and wrong with everything that’s happening at the moment. Those who are legitimately angry about a horrific crime not being reported to police are right to be angry. The crime itself should never happen, ever, nor should any concerned parent feel like silence is acceptable.

But is it right to start spiralling and getting all conspiracy theory-y? Honestly, I’m not sure.

Because I’m friendly with a lot of TGC folks, I’m inclined to think the best of them. That’s what we all do with people we like, though (which is sometimes what gets some of these things happening). But, of course, thinking the best of someone doesn’t mean they’re exempt from criticism, as we all also know…

Tchividjian, likewise, is a guy who has taken a lot of heat—and been called a lot of nasty names—because of his views on sanctification. Again, he’s a guy I’m on good terms with, and I tend to agree with a lot of where he’s coming from (even if I’d nuance some of it differently). But does that mean he’s the right horse to bet on in the sanctification debate? Probably no more than Mark Jones is (I’m one of the few who didn’t find his book Antinomianism terribly compelling or helpful).

And then there’s Evans. Is it fair to call her a heretic for her attempt to say God is beyond gender? I don’t know; at a minimum, I’d think it’s more accurate to say she’s a sloppy lay theologian who lets her desire to win the Internets get the better of her and cries foul whenever her bluff is called. (Full disclosure: this opinion is based on her public persona as I have no personal relationship or connection with her.)

When a perfect storm of crazy comes together like it did this week, it’s easy for people to get their rage on. But we should also remember something really important: We don’t do anger well. Paul (and the Psalmist) encourage us to “be angry and do not sin” (Eph. 4:26; Psalm 4:4). James warns that our tongues are “a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell” (James 3:6). 

We should take this seriously. If even our righteous anger yields unrighteous results, particularly because of our hasty, harsh, mean-spirited words, it means we’ve got a problem. We should all be very cautious about how we use our words—especially when we’re angry! We say things we’ll regret. We say things we mean in the wrong way. And worst, we don’t take our words and redirect them to the Lord.

We don’t pray. We don’t ask for God’s wisdom. We don’t ask for God to reveal to us the state of our hearts.

That’s the danger we’re all in in this latest hullabaloo—and it’s the thing we, individually, need to protect ourselves against the most.

And sometimes the best way to do that is to just chill out, have a cookie and ask God for wisdom. You might feel better if you do.


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Four and a half books I shouldn’t have read as a new Christian

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Last week, I shared five books I would encourage every new Christian read. In that post, I mentioned that in my first years as a believer, I read a lot of books I simply should not have. At all. Which ones were they? Here are five… well, four and a half:

1. Velvet Elvis by Rob Bell. I picked this up because Bell was the hip teacher at the time. Lots of folks at our church were into the NOOMA videos, and we were all gaga over them. And kinda dumb for it. This book really messed with my head at a time when I was trying to begin figuring out what it meant to be a Christian. In the end, it seems I’ve come out better for it. But would I recommend anyone follow my path? Gosh no.

2. Just like Jesus by Max Lucado. This was the beginning of my life-long whatever the opposite of a bromance is with Lucado. As a new believer, I found this book to be sappy, sentimental pap, an opinion that’s carried over into pretty much anything I’ve read of his. While I’m sure he’s a lovely man, I can’t help but hate myself a little when I read something by him.

2.5. Wild at Heart by John Eldridge. This one’s the half book because I never finished reading it. I made it about halfway before I gave up. Terrible writing combined with a weird “frontier man meets mystic” idea of what it means to be a Christian man.

3. The Irresistible Revolution by Shane Claiborne. This, again, was one of the super-hot books of 2006, and easily one of the most pretentious. For a book advocating a “simple way,” it came across incredibly arrogant and condescending. Basically it read like, “If you’re not driving a van running on vegetable oil, living in a monastic community and not bathing, you’re doing it wrong.” It also didn’t help my wife with her ongoing issue of mocking authors in a sing-songy voice.

4. The Future of Justification by John Piper. This was actually the first John Piper book I ever read, and it’s a really good one. So why’d it make this list? Because I understood it and, as a believer for only a couple of years at the time, I didn’t have the emotional and theological maturity to handle that well. I already had some pretty serious pride issues by that point, and that only served to make them worse.

There were others, of course. I read a Brian McLaren book around the time I was gaining doctrinal convictions and threw it against a wall (it was either The Story We Find Ourselves In or The Last Word and the Word After That) because of its irritating hypothetical anecdotes about hypothetical people becoming hypothetical Christians. I read  memoirs by Mark Driscoll and Craig Groeschel that did nothing to help me get a clear picture of the challenges of pastoral ministry (or, in hindsight, the character of an elder for that matter). I remember really enjoying a lot of Don Miller’s books, but failed to see some of the significant theological problems in them (particularly Searching for God Knows What).

But you get the idea. Reading books is good for new Christians, but our reading is only as profitable as the books we’re reading are helpful. When the content is beneficial and we’ve got the maturity to embrace it humbly, it’s a good thing. When the content is awful and we have the acumen to critique it thoughtfully, it’s a blessed thing. But when we’re reading anything and lack either the maturity or discernment to appropriately process it, it can lead to disaster.

Your turn: What are a few books you shouldn’t have read as a new Christian?


photo credit: gioiadeantoniis via photopin cc

How to talk when we talk about God

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What kind of pronouns should we use when we talk about God?

We typically default to the masculine “He,” but should we?

Is there anything wrong with referring to God as “she”?

While the answer might seem obvious, it is worth considering. After all, as Christians, we want to speak of God in a way that is pleasing to Him. So, here are a few things to keep in mind when considering how to to talk when we talk about God:

1. God is not a man but is spirit (Numbers 23:19a; John 4:24). Simply, human gender does not apply to God. God is neither male nor female. God is spirit and we are wise to remember this, even as we hold to the necessary tension of things like the eternal sonship of Jesus as the second member of the Trinity.1

2. God uses masculine and feminine terms and attributes when describing Himself. God is likened to a “dread warrior” (Jer. 20:11) and a faithful and long-suffering husband (Hosea—all of it!), a “mighty man” and a “woman in labor” (Isaiah 42:13-14). Wisdom is personified in female form (Proverbs 1:20-21). Jesus even emphasizes the feminine when He laments over Jerusalem, “How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!” (Matt. 23:27; Luke 13:34) Without being too reductionistic, God is quite comfortable referring to Himself using or inspiring the use of both feminine and masculine characteristics, even if it makes some of us uncomfortable.2

3. God reveals Himself as “our Father.” But regardless of God’s comfort with taking on feminine attributes, how does God reveal Himself? As our Father. When Jesus teaches us to pray, He tell us to pray like this, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name” (Matthew 6:9). Seven times in Matthew and Luke, Jesus calls God our “heavenly Father” (Matthew 5:48; 6:14; 6:26; 6:32; 15:13; 18:35; Luke 11:13), and another 17 times in Matthew, Mark and Luke “our Father in heaven” or “our Father who is in heaven.” This is something that’s continued into the epistles, with God being called “Father” at least nine times by Paul and Peter.

This should tell us something very important: While God is very comfortable attributing feminine characteristics to Himself, when He does so, it is typically in the form of a simile—God’s love and longing for His people is like that of a mother hen’s for her chicks. His anguish over sin is like that of a woman in labor. But when God chooses to reveal Himself, and when He gives us context for our relationship with Him, He does so in the masculine—as Father.

So, how should we talk when we talk about God? We should talk about Him the way God Himself does. Embrace both masculine and feminine characteristics as He does, but pay close attention to how God speaks of Himself. He is our Father, and He wants to be referred to as such. Let’s make sure we honor His wishes.

Jesus’ authority engenders terror in the merely religious

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Not everyone recognizes Jesus’ authority; others sense the power but do not respond with faith. Even some who naturally belong to the kingdom, that is, the Jews who had lived under the old covenant and had been the heirs of the promises, turn out to be rejected. They too approach the great hall of the messianic banquet, lit up with a thousand lamps in joyous festivity; but they are refused admission, they are thrown outside into the blackness of night, “where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (8:12). The idea is not that there will be no Jews at the messianic banquet. After all, the patriarchs themselves are Jews, and all of Jesus’ earliest followers were Jews. But Jesus insists that there is no automatic advantage to being a Jew. As he later says to those of his own race, “Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit” (21:43). An individual’s faith, his or her response to the authority claims of Jesus, will prove decisive. The alternative to entrance into the kingdom is painted in horrible colors: literally the weeping and the gnashing of teeth, to emphasize the horror of the scene, the former suggesting suffering and the latter despair. The same authority of Jesus that proves such a great comfort to the eyes of faith now engenders terror in the merely religious.

This is not a teaching that is very acceptable to vast numbers in western Christendom today. It flies in the face of the great god Pluralism who holds much more of our allegiance than we are prone to admit. The test for religious validity in this environment is no longer truth but sincerity—as if sincerity were a virtue even when the beliefs underlying it are entirely mistaken.

D.A. Carson, Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount and His Confrontation with the World, 166 (photo: iStock)

One more reason why Sunday evening services are disappearing

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Recently, Thom Rainer shared a few reasons for the possible demise of the Sunday evening service. Yesterday, Tim Challies chimed in from his perspective, suggesting that it could be linked to a diminished view of preaching, our amusement culture and the growth of amateur and professional sports, among others. But there’s one other reason I’d like to suggest:

A diminished view of discipleship and leadership development.

This has been a growing problem not only in the church but in the culture at large, despite it being one of the most oft-cited practices of good leaders (and all who’ve read a book on leadership said, “Amen”). Younger potential leaders need guidance from seasoned leaders—to learn from their experience (both positive and negative). And seasoned leaders do their most important work when they’re investing in those coming up behind them and ensuring that there are strong leaders to take the reins after they’ve retired or moved on to another opportunity.

Yet, despite the common knowledge that developing leaders is a good thing, this is missing in the cultures of many organizations—including churches.

This should never be. After all, we see a pretty strong emphasis on this kind of development in the New Testament. Although, you’re not going to find a verse saying, “older leaders, thou shalt raise up younger ones,” what you will find is Paul exhorting older men and women to invest in younger ones (Titus 2:1-6), Paul shepherding younger men like Timothy, whom he calls his “true child in the faith” (1 Tim. 1:2), appointing elders (Acts 14:23) and tasking his protégés to do likewise (Titus 1:5).

Going a little more broadly, this kind of investing in others is part and parcel with the great commission itself—we are to go and make disciples, teaching them to obey all that Christ has commanded. This necessarily requires the older (or more mature) to train and teach the younger.

Factoring all that in, rather than think of it as leadership development, maybe it’s more helpful to see it as discipleship.

Back to Sunday evening services for a moment: what both Rainer and Challies mentioned is that many pastors simply don’t have time to prepare two different sermons for each Sunday. This is very true. The responsibilities pastors carry are great, and one of the most important is their proclaiming and teaching of the Bible. But no one says senior pastors have to be the ones preaching on Sunday evening.

Sunday night services are a prime opportunity for the training of younger preachers—men who have shown some aptitude, but need experience to both identify their strengths and confirm whether or not a calling to pastoral ministry exists. It’s also a positive way to disciple the congregation as a whole. By having someone else preach, even someone who isn’t super-experienced (and may preach a lemon or ten), the congregation is protected from developing a cult of personality (you don’t need to have a big church for this to happen). They’re learning to be discerning, as well as being reminded that they’re trust is to be in the Word, not in the words of a messenger.

These are just some of the practical values a Sunday evening service brings. While I don’t attend a church that has one (we meet in a public high school and it’s not included in our lease agreement), I have been invited to preach at other churches for their evening services. And every time, it’s been a really positive learning experience and (thankfully) the congregation leaves encouraged. The more I do it, the more I am grateful for the churches that continue to hold these services.

Now, obviously, the solution to the leadership development and discipleship issue isn’t just “bring back Sunday night services;” that would be far too simplistic a thing to suggest. But what it should make all of us consider is how are we intentionally investing in and discipling younger potential leaders—and, honestly, whether or not we’re doing it at all.

What is an evangelical?

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The term “evangelical” is colored with different shadings in various parts of the world. In North America until very recently, it was used to refer to Christians who are loyal to both a formal principle and a material principle. The formal principle is the truth, authority, and finality of the Bible. The material principle is the gospel as understood in historic evangelical Protestantism. While not wanting to minimize the theological and ecclesiastical differences in that heritage, we might summarize that heritage in terms such as these: We insist that salvation is gained exclusively through personal faith in the finished cross-work of Jesus Christ, who is both God and man. His atoning death, planned and brought about by his heavenly Father, expiates our sin, vanquishes Satan, propitiates the Father, and inaugurates the promised kingdom. In the ministry, death, resurrection, and exaltation of Jesus, God himself is supremely revealed, such that rejection of Jesus, or denials of what the Scriptures tell us about Jesus, constitute nothing less than rejection of God himself. In consequence of his triumphant cross-work, Christ has bequeathed the Holy Spirit, himself God, as the downpayment of the final inheritance that will come to Christ’s people when he himself returns. The saving and transforming power of the Spirit displayed in the lives of Christ’s people is the product of divine grace, grace alone—grace that is apprehended by faith alone. The knowledge of God that we enjoy becomes for us an impetus to missionary outreach characterized by urgency and compassion.


D.A. Carson, The Gagging of God: Christianity Confronts Pluralism, 445 | Photo: Lightstock

Christian, you can’t win the Internets!

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Blogging—oh, let’s be honest, the Internet—has a tendency to encourage a certain, shall we say, zeal for one’s viewpoint. Simply, many of us just want you to know you’re wrong and make sure you know it (and we won’t let Wheaton’s Law stand in our way).

Emily reminded me of this last night when discussing an article she was reading. Ever since we started thinking about homeschooling, Emily’s been reading the blogs of homeschoolers to get a sense of what to expect. What’s she’s found has been… “interesting.”

Yesterday afternoon she was reading a 2009 article by Reb Bradley on her mistakes as a homeschooling mom, where she confessed that her approach was far too “me-centered” and consumed with outward appearances than the actual well-being of her children. (It’s long, but really good.)

Then she found a response article that, in a nutshell, said, “Nope, you’re wrong; you were right the first time, and you’re wrong to feel the way you do. Here are some Bible verses.”

You can see why this might be unhelpful, right?

Although the Internet encourages a certain kind of zeal for one’s own views, we should always strive for something better. The Internet is not something you can win, therefore we shouldn’t try.

Instead, we should try to do these things:

1. Take a deep breath. Don’t get your fauxtrage on, friends. Or at least, don’t post/tweet/update/pin/plus/twerp when you’ve got it on. Take a deep breath. Go for a walk. Have a cookie. Get away from your device for a while to see if your rage is legit or you’re just a rampaging rageoholic. Who knows? You might just be gassy.

2. Try to actually understand the point. This might be a tall order, but I’m confident it can be done. A great way to do this is to ask good questions, which also means avoid leading or entrapment style ones whenever possible.

3. Keep our mouths shut. Sometimes the best thing we can do when we disagree with something on the Internet is to just say nothing. This is especially important when we’re dealing with other people who really, really want to goad you into a fight with click-baity blog posts and tweets. Remember, those people are trying to win the Internets, too. And if you take the click-bait, they win.


photo credit: Jan Tik via photopin cc

“What will they do before the sentence of God?” Pilgrim’s Progress conversations (5)

Then Christian said to Hopeful, “If these men cannot stand before the sentence of men, what will they do before the sentence of God? And if they are mute when dealt with by vessels of clay, what will they do when they shall be rebuked by the flames of a devouring fire?”1

Personal reflection

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I remember a conversation with my first pastor about money. At the time, Emily and I had a lot of debt and we were trying to figure out how to pay it off (a little faster than paying a bit at a time). We were brand new Christians, and said, “If we took the money we give and applied it to the debt instead, we could have it cleared in about a year. Would that be okay?”

“No, it wouldn’t be an issue,” he replied. “The problem is you won’t do it.”

“Why?” I asked, my curiosity piqued.

I’ll never forget his answer: “You said ‘if.’”

The “if” statements we make when it comes to money reveal a lot about us. If I make more money, then I’ll start giving. If I get the bonus, I’ll make this donation. If this happens, then…

If, if, if.

The problem with the ifs is we use them as an escape from doing what the Lord has already called us to. We know we’re to be generous, but really, we like our stuff better. And it’s a sore spot for us. So when we hear a sermon that talks about money, or when we read a book that describes the radical self-sacrificial nature of the Christian faith, we get our backs up, pull the legalist card and bail.

But the words that confront us—these are the words of men. And we cannot stand before them. How then will we stand “before the sentence of God”? Without a broken and contrite heart, we cannot.

Reading with Ryken

The interaction between the travelers and the worshipers of wealth is a temptation scene par excellence. Here the danger is not external hostility but the allurement of worldly success. The allegorical antagonists are not bullies but qualities (such as Money-love and Save-all) that make life easy in the name of religion. Accordingly, what the conflict requires from Christian is the ability to provide convincing intellectual reasons against the claims that religious people can pursue wealth and success as their highest goals.2

Next time

The next discussion of The Pilgrim’s Progress will be centered around chapters 10 and 11 (I should note: chapter breaks are based on the 2009 Crossway edition).

Discussing together

This reading project only works if we’re reading together. So if there are things that stood out to you in this chapter, if there are questions you had, this is the time and place to have your say. Here are a few questions to help guide our discussion:

  • How does the temptation to live an easy life in the name of religion?
  • Consider 1 John 2:15-17. How do you see John’s warnings exhibited in the worshippers of wealth? Why is this form of worldliness so dangerous?
  • How can you protect yourself from it?

Post a comment below or to link to your blog if you’ve chosen to write about this on your own site.

Is anyone really surprised?

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This past week, rumors surfaced of Oprah joining the cast of a new faith-focused film—playing the role of God.

The film? The Shack, based on Wm. Paul Young’s dangerously stupid book. If the rumors turn out to be true, this would be perfect casting.

I read the book in the summer of 2008 right around the time it was first attracting serious attention. Tons of people were talking about this book—it was a topic of conversation online, at our church and in my office. Lots of folks were raving about how amazing the book was, and how they felt like they better understood God and the reasons for suffering…

But the god they were connecting with wasn’t the God of the Bible.

It was the god of Oprah.

The god presented in the book is a bizarre combination of new age spirituality and conflicting first century heresies. It’s a god who appears as (a bizarre stereotype of) an African-American woman, a flighty Asian Spirit, and a Middle Eastern man. It a god who has a preference for uncertainty, rather than a God who is confident in His knowledge of all things. A god who speaks to you subjectively, in and through your own thoughts, rather than with clarity in the Bible.

It is a god of our own imagining, and the kind of god, if we’re honest, many of us actually want.

It’s a god who doesn’t offer us any challenges or pushback (not really); a god who has no desire or ability to hold us accountable for our actions. A god who is all about relationship, and not about rules.

A god who wants us to have the life we want, but not the Life we need.

And really, who better to portray such a god than one who is so adept at perpetuating the myth of its existence?

No doubt there will be many who flock to see this film when it eventually sees the light of day. And make no mistake, it will be made. Some professing Christian leaders—the same ones who encouraged reading the book—will no doubt encourage their congregations to see it.

But rather than present a pretty picture of a pretend god, and encourage people to connect with a god who doesn’t exist, how about we give a grander picture of the God who does?


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160 of the most terrifying words I’ve ever read

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A man is “without Christ” when the Holy Spirit’s work cannot be seen in his life. Who can avoid seeing, if he uses his eyes, that myriads of professing Christians know nothing of inward conversion of heart. They will tell you that they believe the Christian religion; they go to their places of worship with tolerable regularity; they think it a proper thing to be married and buried with all the ceremonies of the Church; they would be much offended if their Christianity were doubted. But where is the Holy Ghost to be seen in their lives? What are their hearts and affections set upon? Whose is the image and superscription that stands out in their tastes, and habits, and ways? Alas, there can only be one reply! They know nothing experimentally of the renewing, sanctifying work of the Holy Ghost. They are yet dead to God. And of all such only one account can be given. They are “without Christ.”1

What is it about these words that is so terrifying?

The fact that we can so easily deceive ourselves about the state of our souls. That we can say the “right” words, have a good marriage, go to church regularly—that we can be the model “good” Christian—and only be kidding ourselves. That what we think of as fruit may not be fruit at all.

“But where is the Holy Ghost to be seen in their lives?” 

That should give us pause, but not in a nasty, unhealthy, navel-gazing sort of way. The last thing the Lord wants us to be doing is spending our days worrying endlessly about whether or not our faith is genuine. Discerning the reality isn’t that difficult. We look at the affections of our hearts, our desire for God and His Word, our ongoing battle with sin, and our love for God manifesting itself in our love for others, and we can gain a sense of how the Holy Spirit is at work.

Even the concern about whether or not the Holy Spirit is at work in your life can be evidence that He is…

But the most terrifying thing of all? That some of us can hear these kinds of warnings, and not be concerned at all, beyond being offended that someone would even pose such a question.

That we could not truly see the Holy Spirit at work in our lives—and not really care.

That is terrifying.

The one reason you should support the Gosnell documentary

gosnell-kermit

If the name Kermit Gosnell is unfamiliar to you, you’re not alone. You’ve probably not seen his name on CNN. You’ve likely not read an article about him in the New York Times.

So who is Kermit Gosnell? Arguably the greatest serial killer in American history.

In 2013, Gosnell was convicted of the murder of three infants born alive in his Philidelphia medical clinic, as well as 16 counts of violating the state’s informed consent requirements, and guilty of 21 counts of performing abortions after 24 weeks of gestation, the legal limit in Pennsylvania.

But the 24 lives represented in Gosnell’s conviction are not his only victims. Over the course of his 30-year career, he performed thousands of abortions. No one knows how many healthy, full-term babies were murdered by Gosnell. But the mainstream didn’t feel his trial warranted our attention.

Ann McElhinney and Phelim McAleer, best known for their documentary FrackNation, want to change that.

They’ve launched a crowdfunding project to make a documentary about Gosnell and the media cover-up surrounding his trial. And already, the project’s made waves—notably for being booted off of Kickstarter before finding a home at Indiegogo.

As of this writing, they’re about three-quarters of the way to their goal. Recently, my wife and I chose to support the project. We want to see this documentary get made. And while there are many reasons you should support the making of this film, here’s the reason I felt it was important:

Collectively, we need to be confronted by the atrocity of abortion.

Every year, abortion takes the lives of millions of children around the world. In 2011, around 1.06 million abortions were performed in America alone. This is something we collectively sweep under the rug as a society. And no wonder, when you consider what the grand jury said in its report:

This case is about a doctor who killed babies … What we mean is that he regularly and illegally delivered live, viable, babies in the third trimester of pregnancy – and then murdered these newborns by severing their spinal cords with scissors …. Over the years, many people came to know that something was going on here. But no one put a stop to it.   (Report of the Grand Jury)

Conservative Christians are often given a lot of flak for making a big deal out of abortion, but consider for a moment that we’re called to “speak up for those who have no voice, for the justice of all who are dispossessed” (Proverbs 31:8 HCSB). This means Christians are necessarily called to speak into a whole host of social issues, bringing gospel light into the darkest corners of society. We’re to speak about poverty, sex trafficking and child slavery… we’re to defend the need for the poor to have access of all the basics of life.

And that means we must speak about the most basic need—the right to live. 

I hesitated on reprinting that excerpt of the report, which I think says something, doesn’t it? Abortion is unpleasant business. It’s not something we like to think about—the taking of a life. It’s murder, plain and simple. We need to be confronted by that fact, especially those of us Christians who are afraid to speak out on this issue, not with words of condemnation but of conviction—words that bring the power of the gospel to bear on the matter. To see hearts and minds changed, not because an argument has been won, but because people have been won over by Jesus.

The Gosnell documentary won’t be made for this purpose—but what I’m confident it will do is challenge the complacency of many regarding the issue of abortion. It will rattle them. And maybe then some real discussion can start happening.