Articulating unbelief

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A letter.

You wouldn’t think it’d be that hard to write a letter, but this one has a very specific purpose, because it’s also my term paper for my apologetics and outreach course. I am to write a letter to a friend, a family member—someone I am close to—bridge the gap between their beliefs and my own, and encourage them to pursue Christ.

And until last night, I’ve been stuck.

Every time I’d start, I’d hit a wall. I didn’t know where to begin. So I started thinking about a different person, our relationship and what they believe. And then I’d hit another wall. And then another. And another…

My problem is probably not entirely unfamiliar to some reading this: I’ve struggled to get a good sense on what exactly some of the people in my life actually believe. Although with many I have ideas and observations, when it comes down to brass tacks, I can’t definitively say what this person or that believes.

And that’s the challenge I’ve been facing.

But I might have been looking at it the wrong way. Sometimes the fact that we can’t articulate what we believe is itself telling. Maybe it’s that we don’t give it any serious thought. Maybe it’s that we have thought and don’t like the conclusions we’ve come to, so we choose to say nothing. Maybe those whose beliefs I struggle to articulate are having the same problem?

(Unless, of course, this winds up being an attempt to justify myself for not digging deep enough. Which I hope it’s not.)

And then I was able to start.

It wasn’t until I had a good chat with my wife about these challenges that I was able to turn the corner and really put anything meaningful into my document. Where it will go, I’m not entirely sure, but I’m thankful that so far, I’ve not felt the urge to delete everything and start fresh. (Though, there’s still time.)

Articulating unbelief—especially doing it in a way that is honoring to the individual to and about whom you’re writing—is no easy task. But the results, I trust, will be worth it.

Have you tried an exercise like this before? If so, what was the fruit of it?


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The secret to spiritual health

David Murray-happy christian (1)

One of the many books I’m reading (though neglecting at the moment due to trying to keep on top of my school reading) is David Murray’s delightful new book, The Happy Christian. One of the things I’ve really enjoyed about reading this book, aside from its the fittingly positive approach, is the reminder that spiritual health and happiness doesn’t come from looking to ourselves, or pursuing your best life now. We become spiritually healthy when we stop looking at ourselves and start looking at our Lord. Murray writes:

I sometimes imagine that if only I can get the whole world, including God, to orbit around me as the center of the universe, I will be happy, but that’s the way to end up in a black hole. By putting God’s Word and works at the center of our religious experience, of our Bible reading, our preaching, our worship, and our churches, we begin to orbit around the heat and light of His divine Son.

It seems to defy common sense, doesn’t it? Surely if I have a problem, I need to focus on myself to get that fixed. That may be the case with medical issues. But with spiritual issues, the remedy can be found only by looking away from self to God. That’s why Bible reading that keeps asking, “What does this reveal about God?” will put us and keep us in the trajectory of spiritual health and strength. God’s person and God’s works will cure us of over-focusing on ourselves and our works. (54)

A spiritually health—and happy—person looks not to him- or herself, but to God. When reading the Bible, the question is not, “what does this say about me,” or “how can applying this help improve my life?” Instead, when we reorient ourselves to first ask, “What does this reveal about God,” as Murray suggests, we will find answers that are far more satisfying—and find ourselves satisfied as a result.

When a group member may not actually be a Christian…

Unbelievers-small group

You’re sitting in your living room after small group, reflecting on the conversation of the evening. While you’re reviewing the night, you remember something a group member said, and it catches you off guard:

“I don’t know why we put so much emphasis on the Bible…it’s just a book.”

As you pray over this, you recall other similar comments—That’s just Paul’s opinion, God and I have an understanding, and so on—and become increasingly concerned that this person may not actually be a Christian.

And, guess what? They may not be.

The grim picture presented by statistics

According to numerous studies in both the United States and Canada, we’ve got good reasons to be concerned. For example, in a recent study commissioned by Ligonier Ministries, 41 percent of Americans somewhat or strongly agree with that the Bible is not literally true, and 46 percent do not believe it is entirely accurate in all it teaches. 71 percent believe they must contribute personal effort to their own salvation, and 44 percent believe there are many paths to heaven. Likewise, only 18 percent of Canadians believe the Bible is the Word of God, and the majority of Canadians (69 percent) and half of Christians believe it contains irreconcilable contradictions.

Clearly, we have some issues here. Given this information, it’s only logical to assume (though cautiously) that there are many men and women within our churches—and even some in our small groups—who believe they are Christians, but aren’t.

I realize this is highly contentious—perhaps bordering on arrogant—statement to make, so it’s important to clarify: In saying this, and in citing statistics like these, I’m not suggesting we have license to self-righteously determine who is and is not a Christian. Only the Lord ultimately knows if someone’s profession of faith is genuine. Similarly, we must also be careful not to confuse someone who is immature in his or her faith with someone who is actually unregenerate.

So how do you know the difference? Here are a few indicators.

The marks of an immature believer

An immature believer is one who is simply confused about what the Bible teaches and what it says. He may be a brand-new Christian in need of guidance or a long-time Christian who simply has not sat under authoritative biblical teaching. He may even be one of those people who constantly fights over secondary issues.

While an immature believer may not understand Scripture well or may have some serious errors in his understanding of God, he is ultimately marked by a teachable spirit. He is open to correction from people who love him. He takes heed to godly counsel. He has a desire to learn and grow into the likeness of Christ.

The Corinthian church is a perfect example of immature believers. They lacked discernment concerning doctrinal issues. They excused gross unrepentant sin. They abused spiritual gifts in worship. Despite all this, they received correction from Paul. Ultimately, they were teachable.

The signs of an unregenerate churchgoer

Here’s where things get complicated. The unregenerate churchgoer is very good at hiding in a crowd. Many of these churchgoers have been going to church for a long time; many more serve in the church as greeters, in children’s ministry, or even leading a small group (I’ve even heard stories of pastors discovering their fellow elders aren’t actually believers).

Like an immature believer, these churchgoers are marked by a lack of biblical knowledge or an errant understanding of God. Others are characterized by a dogmatic legalism that elevates morality to the highest form of authority. Some believe that grace frees us to sin unashamedly (Romans 6:15). Some believe that all things are lawful, despite not being beneficial (1 Corinthians 6:12-13). All will turn away from sound doctrine and find teachers who will tell them what they want to hear (2 Timothy 4:3-4).

They do not heed godly counsel. They do not submit to authority. They don’t have a desire to grow into the likeness of Christ (even if they say otherwise). They are not teachable. These are the clear marks of an unregenerate churchgoer.

What do I do if I think someone in my small group isn’t saved?

You might be thinking, “Does it even matter if I think someone’s a Christian or not? What do I do with the person who is already in my group?” The answer, again, is both simple and complicated.

Does it matter if we think someone may or may not be a Christian and how do we respond? Yes! Our friends’ salvation and ongoing relationship with Jesus should be of great concern to us. If we love our friends, we need to do what we can to assist them, whether they are mature believers, immature, or secretly unregenerate. Here are a few things you can do that may be helpful:

  1. Pray a lot. Only God can change the heart, and if you suspect someone in your group may not actually be a believer, then you need to be praying for him to draw this person to himself.
  2. Keep Christ the focus of our studies. Our studies must always be pointing to the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. Teach the gospel when it’s popular and when it’s not (which is all the time). Only the gospel has the power to transform the hearts of the mature, immature, and unregenerate alike.
  3. Be patient. Paul exhorted Timothy to teach with complete patience. Not everyone learns at the same rate. Everyone stumbles; everyone gives in to temptation and should be treated with gentleness.
  4. Exhort privately. If there’s a person in your group whom you’re concerned may not actually be a believer but thinks he or she is, talk to them privately about some of your concerns. Don’t point fingers or declare them to be non-Christians (since, again, none of us know for certain), but do challenge.
  5. Pursue accountability. We must cultivate an atmosphere where it’s safe to confess our sins, to be open about our struggles, and give and receive appropriate correction. It’s harder to hide when your culture encourages openness.
  6. Humbly hold your ground. Not everyone will endure sound teaching, but hold fast to it, especially when it’s hard. But the key here is to do it humbly, remembering that we all have blind spots in our theology (after all, if perfect theology were the benchmark for salvation, then we’d all be doomed).
  7. Be willing to say goodbye. Sometimes the healthiest thing you can do is to ask someone to leave your group if they are disruptive, unrepentant and unteachable.

Are there unregenerate sheep in the fold? Probably. However, this shouldn’t come as a surprise to us. So what do we do? We pray, we keep Christ the focus of all our studies, we show patience and mercy, we pursue accountability and confront sin in love, we hold our ground on key doctrinal issues while also admitting that we have blind spots, and we must be willing to say goodbye to those who will not do the same. Is it easy? Nope. Is it the right thing? Yep. Will it make a difference? Only time will tell.


An earlier edition of this article first appeared at Right Now Media and was republished at ChurchLeaders.com. This edition has been modified from these earlier versions.

 

In every second throbs the heartbeat of eternity

heartbeat-eternity

In a world without God, time doesn’t really make sense. Or rather, at a minimum, the concept of time doesn’t. Time is always moving, always changing; one second is always becoming the next… As a thing that is always becoming, then, can time self-originate?

If time is self-originating, when did it self-originate?

Thus, the question is: can that which is ever changing spontaneously come into being? Herman Bavinck, in Reformed Dogmatics (vol 2), argues no. In fact, he says, for time to exist on its own is entirely inconceivable:

God, the eternal One, is the only absolute cause of time. In and by itself time cannot exist or endure: it is a continuous becoming and must rest in immutable being. It is God who by his eternal power sustains time, both in its entirety and in each separate moment of it. God pervades time and every moment of time with his eternity. In every second throbs the heartbeat of eternity. … He makes time subservient to eternity and thus proves himself to be the King of the ages (1 Tim. 1:17). (164)

When we consider the created world around us, it is not only the beauty of nature and the wonder of human ingenuity that testify to our Creator—time itself bears him witness, and indicts us in our neglect of giving honor and thanks to him. For time does not self-originate; God created it, and he sustains it. “In every second throbs the heartbeat of eternity.” Do you see it?


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The one really good reason I serve in children’s ministry

childrens ministry

Let me tell you about why I serve in children’s ministry.

Correction: let me tell you about the one really good reason I serve in children’s ministry.

I’ve written on children’s ministry in the past, but I don’t recall if I’ve ever shared my feelings on this point:1

  • I don’t serve in children’s ministry because it’s a stepping stone to something else, because it’s not really.
  • I don’t serve there because it’s a ministry that constantly bleeds volunteers, though it does.
  • I don’t serve there because it’s one that lacks a positive male influence, though it is.

I serve in children’s ministry because I get to teach kids the Bible and be a part of making disciples. Children’s ministry is not (or shouldn’t be) the church’s babysitting ministry. It’s not telling nice stories where you’re a David or a Daniel. It is intentional evangelism and discipleship. And it is a slow (with a capital S-L-O-W) burn.

Let’s face it: if you’re looking for immediate results, or Charles Finney is your homeboy, you’re probably in the wrong place. You’re likely not going to have a bunch of kids put their faith in Jesus at the end of the lesson every week. And I know, because almost every time I teach, I’m stuck blessed with texts related to judgment and/or evangelism. Thus, my main application points are usually, “You need to believe in Jesus,” or “You need to tell others about Jesus.”

Nevertheless, when I teach, my goal is to teach clearly and faithfully. I don’t sugarcoat or pretty up anything the Bible says, but I do my best to make it understandable to them. I even have a few kids (like my pal Gabe) who provide feedback on whether or not I hit the “understandable” benchmark.2

I don’t often get a sense of what God is doing in their hearts and minds, because I’m not entirely sure that’s what my role is in what God’s doing. But I do know God’s doing something. Why? Because it’s what he’s promised to do in the Scriptures. Wherever his word goes forward, it will accomplish its purpose. When Jesus tells the parable of the sower, he doesn’t tell us to scatter, but doesn’t promise that we’ll be the ones to reap the harvest.

But sometimes he gives you a glimpse. Not too long ago, one of the girls I teach stopped me in the hall. She handed me a little card she had made. Inside it simply said, “Thank you for teaching God’s Word to us.”

That, friends, is why I serve in children’s ministry.


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Links I Like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

The Real Faces Behind the Gay Issue

Jasmine Holmes shares a moving story.

How to Think about Persecution When You’re Not Very Persecuted

Erik Raymond:

The first step in this is define what we mean by persecution. At its core we are talking about active opposition to the people of God because of their commitment to Christ. This obviously has varying levels. There is the boldest and most extreme, which involves the torture and murder of someone for their faith. The watching world was horrified to see this take place this weekend with the beheading of 21 Christians in Egypt by Islamic terrorists. There is also the far less intense persecution that comes simply from claiming Christ as Lord. This may include shunning from family, lose of promotion, mocking, ridicule, or other forms of opposition.

Brandon Smith’s new blog

My friend Brandon Smith’s now blogging over at Patheos. Go check it out.

Secondary Sources and Sermon Preparation

Joey Cochran:

From time to time Redeemer Fellowship receives honest questions from pastors curious about how we do things. Sometimes I have the pleasure of responding to those questions, especially when the topic falls within the wheelhouse of my skill set. Recently, a young pastor e-mailed Redeemer and asked about how Joe and the other pastors at the church use commentaries for sermon preparation. After fielding this question for this pastor, I thought that the response might also be beneficial for others to think through how they might use secondary sources and what priority they should have in sermon preparation.

Why the British are better at satire

This is interesting.

When Eternal Life Doesn’t Woo

Lore Ferguson:

The Christian life, I am finding, does not grow easier with time. I somehow thought it would. I envisioned the sage men and women we would become and find only that my flesh is just as prone to wandering today as it was four years ago or four months ago or four minutes ago.

How do we stand firm?

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What do you say about something like this—how do you begin to process the fact that ISIS has claimed to kill 21 Coptic Christians and released a video to prove it?

It’s really tempting to rebuke ourselves, isn’t it? I mean, when we see the reality Christians face in the Middle East, it makes much of our issues seem petty. Our frustrations about the sort of books being bought and sold. Our issues with celebrity pastors. Our ongoing debates over religious liberty and same-sex marriage. Our incredulity at the notion that we should give or serve in our churches and communities…

They all seem so insignificant in comparison, don’t they?

The natural reaction is to tell the Church to wake up—to make disciples who are truly willing to submit themselves to dishonor and even death for their faith.

But… It’s one thing to say that. It’s another thing to live it. And that starts with small steps. Remember, these men were likely not some sort of super-Christians. It is doubtful they were completely fearless in the face of death. They were probably normal men who read their Bibles and prayed to their Lord, just like any of us.

The difference is, they were put in a situation that tested their resolve. And their resolve, it seems, held to the end.

And this is good news, not the least for us. They held fast to the truth, and thus, we will get to meet these fallen brothers in the new creation, those whom John already saw in his vision of the heavenly Jerusalem (Rev. 20:4). They are those of whom it can be said the world is not worthy. And so, when the day comes, we will be able to rejoice before the throne of Christ with them.

But it also means that, if they were ordinary Christians like us, if we were to face the same circumstances, we may well hold fast to our testimony, too.

Why? Because of the work of the Holy Spirit in us. And it starts with prayer. We pray for our brothers and sisters in the midst of persecution. We pray that the Lord will strengthen them to hold firm to the end. We pray they will not lose hope, for the Lord is in their midst.

But we also must pray for ourselves, too. That we will start to take the small steps necessary for us to stand as well. That we will be willing to speak out against our culture of death, and hold to our convictions on marriage. To oppose teaching that is contrary to sound doctrine. To—gasp!—think more highly of others and do something crazy like serve in the children’s ministry at our local church.

These are the building blocks of discipleship. And it starts with prayer.

To be clear: I am not equating western problems with those in the Middle East. However, if we want to be and make disciples who will hold fast till the end, even in the face of persecution and death, this is where we must start. So will we?

Augustine and the undoing of arguments toward ignorance

slight knowledge

If you say you understand God, it’s not God you understand. You’ve probably heard or read something like this in dozens of books, sermons and lectures over the last 1700 years or so (but with a renewed vigor in the last 20). Usually, it’s used as an argument against certainty, especially about our knowledge of God.

To say we know anything about God is presumptuous some suggest. Wouldn’t it be better to admit just how little we know? Turning to Augustine, some even seek an ally, for, as he wrote:

We are speaking of God. Is it any wonder if you do not comprehend? For if you comprehend, it is not God you comprehend. Let it be a pious confession of ignorance rather than a rash profession of knowledge. To attain some slight knowledge of God is a great blessing; to comprehend him, however, is totally impossible.1

But is Augustine truly an ally—is he the undoer of their arguments? For to be sure, one who would argue that we can exhaustively know God’s thoughts and intentions, his character and his being… those who suggest such things are speaking too quickly (and foolishly).

But a lack of comprehension—our inability to fully and exhaustively know God—does not mean we cannot know something. Remember that, even as Augustine said it is impossible to comprehend him, “to attain some slight knowledge of God is a great blessing.” Which means: there is something of God that is knowable.

What Augustine reminds us of is our ability to apprehend God. To grasp something of him. And certainly, this is no arrogant thing to say, for God desires for us to know him. Were that not the case, he would not have revealed himself to us, in creation, in his written Word, and most fully in the person of Jesus Christ.

In creation, we see God’s creativity, his love of beauty, his precision and attention to detail, among other things. In the Bible, we are given his character and declared will, his plans and purposes for this world and its inhabitants. And in Jesus, we see all of what has been known of God in the abstract—his justice and mercy, compassion and commandments—most fully and tangibly expressed. Do we understand it all fully? Of course not. It is far too much for us. But to grasp something of God—to begin to understand what he reveals to us—is a great blessing indeed.


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Who will remove the stain of cognitive sexual self-abuse?

sexual-self-abuse (1)

About 10 years ago, Emily and I went to see A History of Violence, David Cronenberg’s film based upon the 1997 graphic novel of the same name. We watched the film, more or less nonplussed1… and then we weren’t anymore. Why? Because we reached a turning point in the film, where the main character essentially raped his wife on the stairs of their home.

And we—all of us in the theater—were witnesses to it.

Everyone left that night, and no one spoke. Not a word. No one looked at the person they came with. Everyone had their heads down, walked out to their cars, and left.

We knew that what we had seen was not right. As we had watched this film, we had been violated.

Today, the much anticipated, and much spoken of, 50 Shades of Grey begins showing in theaters. Chances are, you’ve read all the articles about why you shouldn’t go to the movie, so I won’t repeat what others have said so well. Instead, what I will say is simply this:

This movie will, undoubtedly, break records. It will also, undoubtedly, shatter souls.

There will be men and women who will walk away from their movie-going experience violated. They may not be able to articulate it, but it will be there. Shame. Guilt. Pain. It will be written on their faces. It will be written on their hearts.

We will all, almost certainly, have someone in our lives who has chosen to see this. And what they will need from us in the days to come are not lectures about how wrong it is, or lamentations on the continued sexual decline of our culture, or sermon series with bad plays on the 50 Shades title, or any of that…

Instead they will need someone to talk to. They will need someone to help them process through what they’ve subjected themselves to. They will need compassion. They will need hope. They will need Christ, the only one who can remove the stain of this cognitive sexual self-abuse.

Lord, let us be up to the task.

Links I like

Links

You and Me Forever

Today is the last day to get You and Me Forever by Francis & Lisa Chan free from ChristianAudio.com. If you’re not sure about the book, be sure to check out my thoughts on it here.

No Grey Area

Kevin DeYoung nails it, as did Marshall Segal the day prior.

Girls vs boys

Yep:

Learning My Children are not Machines

Aaron Earls:

When I push the button on my laptop, it should start up. If it doesn’t, it can’t blame its nonexistent emotions. It should respond immediately and appropriately because that’s what it has been created to do.

In evaluating my parenting, I realized much of my anger with my children arose from my having the wrong perspective about them. I was viewing them as if they were machines.

Can Jobs Be Stolen?

R. Campbell Sproul’s on the right track here: “Jobs are not property, and since jobs are not property, it is impossible to steal them.”

The Act of Rigorous Forgiving

David Brooks:

There’s something sad in Brian Williams’s need to puff up his Iraq adventures and something barbaric in the public response.

The sad part is the reminder that no matter how high you go in life and no matter how many accolades you win, it’s never enough. The desire for even more admiration races ahead. Career success never really satisfies. Public love always leaves you hungry. Even very famous people can do self-destructive things in an attempt to seem just a little cooler.

Why Is the Number of the Beast 666?

Greg Beale:

The problem is that no clear identification can be made linking 666 with any particular ancient historical name. Attempts have been made to alter spellings and incorporate titles to try to make a multitude of names fit, but nothing conclusive has emerged. Most commonly, the number has been identified with Nero, on the basis of a Hebrew transliteration of the title “Nero Caesar.” However, this option flounders on confusion concerning the exact Hebrew spelling of Caesar, and does not fit the fact that John’s readers were largely Greek-speaking, and that Nero had many titles other than Caesar. Additionally, if John were using gematria, he would have alerted his readers by saying something like, “the number in Hebrew (or Greek) is . . .” as he uses the phrases “in Hebrew” or “in Greek” in 9:11 and 16:16, when he wants to draw the readers’ attention to certain significance.

3 reasons why reading the Bible feels like a chore

reading-bible

Christian, if studying the Bible isn’t really your thing, can we chat for a minute? While Christianity isn’t dependent upon our academic inclinations, nor our interest in reading in general—to suggest those who are illiterate, have a learning disability or simply aren’t big readers are excluded from the kingdom of God is ridiculous—all Christians should strive to be students of the Bible.

We are, after all, a people of the Book. We know God’s will, his character, and his promises through the Bible. And so, especially for those of us who have the means and ability to do so, this is a book that should be one we’re always eager to pick up. To read and study carefully to whatever capacity God has given us. To enjoy as though it were our favorite meal…

So why is it that reading the Bible seems like such a chore? While there are, no doubt, many reasons, here are three that I’ve seen crop up most frequently in my own life:

1. We are lazy. Let’s be honest, this is probably the key reason many of us struggle to read our Bibles. We don’t prioritize it the way we should. We choose other books instead. We choose television instead… This is not right. And yet, it’s so easy to fall into this trap, isn’t it? I can definitely attest that I’ve had seasons where this has been my problem—and it’s really dangerous because it’s so hard to get out of this trap, and often the approaches we take to doing so can cause even greater harm.

2. We treat it like a project. This is the second issue, and it’s related to the first. Many of us try to overcome our lackadaisical attitude to the Bible with aggressive reading plans. We want to read the Bible in a year, or ten times in a year, or the New Testament in a month… But that’s like trying to start your car in the dead of winter and immediately jump onto the highway without letting it warm-up. You may move (briefly), but you’ll ruin the engine. But reading the Bible is not a project. Spiritual dullness cannot be defeated by an exertion of willpower.

3. We are in a season of spiritual depression. Unlike a Barney Stinson’s views on mixtapes and despite what Joel Osteen may tell you, the Christian life is not all rise. Every day is not a Friday. Sometimes we find ourselves in the midst of a deep spiritual depression—one that just never seems to lift. Sometimes this situation comes from a prolonged season of battling against personal sin. Sometimes it’s from trying to remain faithful in difficult circumstances (I went through an extended period of time where I dreaded even getting up in the morning; this was because of circumstances I need not go into). Whatever the reason though, in these situations, we cannot find comfort, encouragement, or rest in the place we should find them. And so our weariness can lead to despair, and we struggle to push back the darkness. And as our shame grows, we grow silent, for fear of judging eyes.

So what’s the solution? 

For the first two, the solution begins with repentance. We need to repent of sinful attitudes toward the Bible, whether that is neglecting it or treating it as a project. We need to see our wrong attitudes as wrong. In order to begin to give the Bible its due, we ought to start simple. Read something. Don’t aim to read the Bible in a month. Just try to read a paragraph. Then another. And another. Take the time you need to take.

The third issue needs to be dealt with with a great deal of sensitivity. Those who are in this trap already feel a huge amount of guilt and shame for not being “good enough” as Christians. They don’t need to be told to do more gooder because that’s just not going to work. Instead, my challenge to them (as one who has experienced this myself) would be to open up about the struggle, for shame only thrives in secrecy. Tell someone who is close to you what you’re going through. Don’t ask them to fix the problem, but just to pray. And to keep praying. And for you to be praying as well. Admit where you’re at, for God already knows.

Most of all, be patient. This is not something that’s going to be overcome with a few prayers and a coffee cup verse. There will be relapses. There will be setbacks. You may never fully overcome it, but there will be small triumphs along the way (especially if you make if your habit to read the Psalms). Focus on those small wins. Focus on where you have seen God at work in the past, and recount them as David did in his darkest moments. Trust him to overcome this, for he surely will, either in this life or in glory.

Sometimes it’s enough to stick a rock in someone’s shoe

evangelism-slow-process

“Sometimes you just need to stick a rock in their shoe.”

I’ve been chewing on this idea1 since Thaddeus Williams shared it during his session at the TruthXchange Think Tank last week. Williams was speaking to the idea that sometimes the best thing we can do for those pursuing relationships outside the parameters set by God is to change the categories.

As his argument goes (and it’s a good one), the problem in our relationships is that we put these God-sized expectations upon those we pursue. And when they fail us—and they will, because the weight of our expectations are too great—it’s not simply that our relationship is over, it’s that our “god” has let us down. But we keep repeating the cycle, over and over again, hoping that the next time will be different (though it never is).

This is how you stick a rock in someone’s shoe.

What’s helpful about this approach is that it understands evangelism to be a slow process, something Jerram Barrs addresses in Learning Evangelism from Jesus. Commenting on the interaction between Jesus and the lawyer (or Bible teacher) in Luke 10:25-37, Barrs explains that Jesus was content “to send this man away without the message of the gospel. Instead of the good news of salvation, Jesus leaves this teacher with some issues to ponder in his heart” (61)

In other words, Jesus was content to stick a rock in his shoe.

This, again is helpful for us to keep in mind in personal evangelism: sometimes the least helpful thing we can do for a person is come out full tilt with a full-frontal gospel assault. For those whose hearts have not been sufficiently prepared by the Lord, this may only serve to drive them further away. Instead, there are times when we would be wise to take a different approach—one that gets people thinking (and perhaps even annoys them) as they wrestle with an idea or a question.

Evangelism is often a slow process; sometimes it’s enough to stick a rock in someone’s shoe, and see what God does through it.

How to lose the head, heart and hands of your faith

Whole Bible-Bavinck

What is the most widespread error in the church? There are oh, so many, of course: We have professing believers who say they love Jesus but hate the church, his bride. We have apparent Christians who call the work of Christ divine child abuse. We have church-going men and women who believe it doesn’t matter with whom they sleep, what media they consume, or where they go (and heaven help anyone who says otherwise).

These are all pretty serious things, to be sure. But they’re not the most consistently widespread problem. If anything, these are symptoms of the larger error. That error? The rejection of the Old Testament. Writing a century ago, in a time in church history very similar to our own, Herman Bavinck put it this way:

The worst and most widespread error is the rejection or neglect of the Old Testament. Marcionism repeatedly reemerged in the Christian church and plays a large role in modern theology as well. All this arbitrary use of Holy Scripture leads to one-sidedness and error in theology and to pathology in the religious life. In that setting the full and rich configuration of truth does not come to light. Either the person and work of the Father or of the Son or of the Holy Spirit is then sold short. Injustice is done to Christ either in his prophetic, or his priestly, or his royal office. The Christian religion loses its catholicity. The Christian head, heart, and hand are not harmoniously molded and guided by the truth. Only the whole Bible in its fullness preserves us from all these one-sidednesses. (Reformed Dogmatics vol. 1, 617)

I have never met a spiritually healthy, well-balanced Christian who neglects the Old Testament. Chances are, neither have you.

If we ignore the Old Testament, and the rich promise of Christ contained within it, we do so at our spiritual peril. If we teach that it’s no longer necessary, we ought to have millstones tied around our necks. If you overlook it, you impede your ability to respond to objections to it from non-Christians.

In other words, if you want to lose your heart, lose your hands or lose your mind, just ditch the Old Testament.

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Why Does God Love Us?

R.C. Sproul Jr. answers here.

Spending an Evening with Atheists

Douglas Groothuis:

This was easily the most hostile group I have ever addressed in thirty-six years of public speaking. I spoke after an hour and half of anti-Christian propaganda and was on stage with an atheist before an audience of many atheists. Nevertheless, I think my opening comments refuted important claims in the film—I needed several hours to respond to all the errors, many of which were absolute howlers—and I attempted to fairly and calmly respond to all the questioners. I was not stumped by any of the questions or comments, but I always wanted to say more; I am a professor, after all. I tried to give Will ample time to respond, but he often wanted to move on to the next questioner. He seemed quite nervous. At several points, I was able to present the essential gospel message, once in response to a question on hell: Jesus came to save us from that fate.

Champions for life in every generation

Daniel Darling:

When Roe v. Wade is overturned (and we pray earnestly for that day), it will not end the prolife movement. Other threats will emerge and require the same Spirit-fueled fortitude I saw at the March for Life. If every human trafficker were brought to justice, there would still be attempts to treat human life as a commodity. If every immigrant were welcomed, if our communities were perfectly integrated, still you’d see attempts to value one ethnic group over another.

This reality is not cause for despair, but a source of hope, for in our mission as followers of Christ we find distant echoes of the kingdom to come. Because the march for life is not just a once a year protest, but a daily way of life. Because the march for life doesn’t end on the steps of the Capital or the Supreme Court, but in that city whose builder and maker is God. When we march for life, we’re marching to Zion.

 Ask Celebrity Pastor: How Do I Improve My Sermons

Stephen Altrogge offers a long overdue new edition of fake celebrity pastor Tyler Hawk’s advice column. (Remember friends, satire.)