Take away the foundation and lose everything

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There are certain statements that are trigger warnings for me—at least, when I see them made by a Christian writer, speaker or pastor. References to 1 Corinthians’ famous “everything is permissible” statements (but only because I almost always see them used in the exact opposite way Paul meant them). Nearly any time someone says Jesus doesn’t judge, so we shouldn’t either (again, because, it’s used in almost the opposite way it’s meant in Scripture). And when someone calls the Bible something like a “different kind of center,” or a people group’s collective and growing understanding of God, or some other such thing… oh boy.

When those kinds of statements come up, I usually know where the author or speaker is going, and it’s always to a bad place. Why? Because they’ve lost their footing, having abandoned the foundation of the Bible’s authority: its nature as “God-breathed,” or inspired.

Herman Bavinck understood this all too well, living through the rise of late 19th and early 20th century liberalism. And he knew exactly where it would lead:

There is in fact only one ground on which the authority of Scripture can be based, and that is its inspiration. When that goes, also the authority of Scripture is gone and done with. In that case, it is merely a body of human writings, which as such cannot rightfully assert any claim to be a norm for our faith and conduct. And along with Scripture—for the Protestant—all authority in religion collapses. All subsequent attempts to recover some kind of authority—say, in the person of Christ, in the church, in religious experience, in the intellect or conscience—end in disappointment. They only prove that no religion can exist without authority. Religion is essentially different from science. It has a certainty of its own, not one that is based on insight but one that consists in faith and trust. And this religious faith and trust can rest only in God and in his word. In religion a human witness and human trust is insufficient; here we need a witness from God to which we can abandon ourselves in life and in death. “Our heart is restless until it rests in Thee, O Lord!” (Reformed Dogmatics vol. 1, 463)

This is something we’ve got to get. The arguments we’ve seen re-emerge over the last 20 years or so, the positions put forward by the likes of Brian McLaren, Rob Bell,1 and the like, are little more than the recycling of 19th century (and earlier) arguments by those who’ve attempted to revere the Bible in a sense, while undercutting the foundation of its reverence. We want to treat the Bible as having some sort of limited authority. And yet, unless we take seriously the foundation of its authority—that is, unless we truly embrace its inspired nature in its fullest sense—we’re only going to be disappointed. And worse, if we persist down this road, we’ll be lost in utter darkness.

Links I like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

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

  • Heroes of the Christian Faith teaching series by R.C. Sproul (audio download)
  • A Survey of Church History, Part 3: A.D. 1500-1620 teaching series by W. Robert Godfrey (DVD)
  • Mark by R.C. Sproul (ePub and MOBI)
  • Feed My Sheep: A Passionate Plea for Preaching by various authors (ePub and MOBI)
  • The Promises of God by R.C. Sproul (Hardcover)

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

And finally, be sure to check out this great deal on a new curriculum for middle schoolers at the Westminster Bookstore.

Jesus and Scripture

Andrew Wilson:

Post-evangelicals often present the options as (1) an infallible Bible and an infallible Church, or (2) a correctable Bible and a correctable Church. But if we were to present these options to Jesus or Paul or Moses – or Gregory, Augustine, Aquinas, Calvin, Wesley, Spurgeon and the rest – I suspect they would splutter in astonishment and tell us about option (3): an infallible Bible, and a correctable Church. That, surely, is the way to preserve divine authority and human humility; a word from God that never fails, and people that frequently do.

Today I stopped being afraid of the social media mob

Really appreciated this piece by Matthew Paul Turner.

The Worst Ever (Mis)Quotation Of The Bible?

David Murray, continuing his series reading through Joel Osteen’s Your Best Life Now:

The more we read and study the Bible, the more painful it becomes when we hear a verse quoted out of context and even used to advocate for the exact opposite of the verse in its context.

In reading through Joel Osteen’s book, Your Best Life Now, this pain is fairly constant. But the worst context-ripping and heart-rending example is Osteen’s use of Colossians 3:2 in Part 1: Enlarge Your Vision.

7 ways handwriting can save your brain

This is really interesting (HT: Aaron Earls)

All I really want

Red Rubber Studios did a great job on this new music video for Deni Gauthier:

What to Do When We’re Prayerless

Jon Bloom:

If prayer is the native language of faith and we’re struggling with prayerlessness, then the first thing we need to do is look for a faith problem. There’s a faith breakdown somewhere and until we get that fixed, our problem will remain.

How do we fix this?

 

It’s getting real

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Yesterday was kind of a big deal on this education journey I’ve been on. I completed my registration for my first course at Covenant Seminary, and paid my tuition. My books have been purchased, and are sitting on my coffee table (see the list here). So, next week, I begin studying apologetics and outreach with Jerram Barrs.

I’ve gotta say, I’m incredibly nervous in some ways. I have no idea what it’s going to do to my schedule yet. A healthy work/life/ministry balance is not something I’m terribly familiar with. I’ve got a bit of anxiety about whether or not I’ll actually do well in the class. I’ve not been a student (formally) since 2002…

Making my tuition payment is a big part of what brought up all these jitters.

All of a sudden, it got real, y’know?

But beyond the jitters, I’m still excited. Yes, it’s getting real—but it’s also getting real (if you follow).

But one of the greatest stresses has been the financial side. When I went into this, I didn’t have a clue if I would be able to pay for it. I mean, we’ve definitely got our needs covered (and a number of our wants, too), but no one’s making it rain.1

And this is one of the things I’ve been most thankful for, which is to see how God has provided. He’s done it through regular people—both friends and strangers—giving to my YouCaring.com fundraiser, and well as providing some really cool opportunities that have allowed me to earn a little extra income. And because of that, I was able to pay for the tuition for my first course without incurring any debt.

There’s still a long way to go, obviously—and not just on the finances side—but I am very grateful and encouraged. Being able to start my first course in the black is wonderful gift from the Lord. And however the Lord provides, I’m more confident than ever that it was the right commitment to make. Thanks for helping make this first step possible!


Photo credit: the tartanpodcast via photopin cc

Can we be politically disengaged as Christians?

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As a Canadian, I find American politics intriguing. The way Americans engage—regardless of their views—is astonishing, and somewhat refreshing. Every time I see it, I’m reminded of how different not only our governments are1 but also how different we are as people.

By and large, Canadians don’t care about politics the way Americans do, certainly not to the same extent at any rate. So the debate on, say, the most recent State of the Union address, would likely never happen here.

We are, for the most part, a politically apathetic people. And if we’re not careful, for our culturally-induced political apathy can quickly seep into our faith, as well.

But as Christians, this should never be. In fact, we should care deeply about politics.

By this, I don’t mean the old stereotype of marrying the Christian faith and political activism, seeking cultural transformation through legislation, as the Religious Right and Moral Majority have often been accused of. Instead, we need to think about politics Christianly–that is, in light of three realities: the source of government, our identity, and our obligation to society.

1. The source of government: God. God establishes all governments. He is their source, existing only at his good pleasure. They are his instruments, existing for our good, and requiring our prayers (even if their leaders’ values do not align with our own). Their laws are to be obeyed willingly and in good conscience insofar as they are not in conflict with the commands of God (see Romans 13:1-8; Acts 5:29).

2. Our identity: Ambassadors of Christ. In Christ, all Christians are citizens of the kingdom of God. Thus, our primary allegiance does not belong to an earthly nation but to the Lord Jesus. God has also determined the times and places in which we live. As such, we serve as ambassadors for Christ in those nations (2 Corinthians 5:20), with the local church functionally serving as embassies of the kingdom.

3. Our obligation: to point others to Jesus. As Christ’s ambassadors, God has charged us point the lost and perishing to Jesus Christ. We are ministers of reconciliation, through whom God makes his appeal. We are to be salt and light in the world, letting our deeds cause others to give God praise.

Seen in this light, how should we think about political engagement?

I would suggest that it is an extension of our role as Christ’s ambassadors, and of the command to love God and our neighbors (Matthew 22:37-40). Thus, we cannot be “apolitical,” at least not in the way some may wish to be. While we are not all compelled to participate in the political process to the same degree, we all would be wise to participate. But to the degree to which we choose to participate, we have the opportunity to speak truth with conviction and compassion into situations where we might not otherwise.

We can show the lost the values of God’s kingdom in action, provided we stand by our convictions. And even when we “lose” temporally, we can be confident knowing that our loss is only temporary—and in doing so, we get to show that our hope for a better world comes not from politics, but from the promised return of Jesus, when he will usher in his kingdom in its fullness.

So, Christian, what do you think: should we care about politics?

Three ways to avoid futile discussions on Twitter (and create healthy ones)

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It was so tempting to hit the send button.

But I knew if I did, I’d regret it, because it’s nearly impossible to have an intelligent discussion on Twitter.

The other night, I read what I felt was possibly one of the most asinine statements I’ve read on Twitter in at least two or three days.1 I’ll spare you the details because, well, I don’t want to fuel anyone else’s irritation.

When I read the comment, though, I had a lot of things I could have said. And it was really tempting to do so. But I didn’t, because those words would have been wasted.

After all, when you get in a debate on Twitter, no one wins. Opinions are rarely changed. It’s too easy to wind up frustrated.2

But just because you can rarely have a meaningful discussion on Twitter, does it mean that you can’t have one around something said there? On the contrary. There are many profitable discussions to be had when approached in this fashion. So how do you do it?

Here are three ways I recommend:

1. Ask for clarification, publicly or privately. Invite an opportunity to clarify. This isn’t a debate, just saying, “can you explain what you mean by that?” If this is done publicly, and you receive a response, simply say, “thanks,” since meaningful discussion is challenging with 140 characters. Privately sometimes gives you a bit more room for conversation, since, particularly if it is someone you may know from outside the Internet, and can often be far more fruitful.

For example, I had someone contact me in this fashion last week about something I wrote, not in a tweet, but in an article. I wound up writing something that came across extremely negative. The private discussion gave me the opportunity to work through with those who contacted me what I intended by my comments, and re-phrase them in a more helpful fashion. But if this person hadn’t taken the step of contacting me, I’d have been worse off for it.

2. Open up discussion on a more meaningful platform. Maybe write a blog post about it. Invite discussion with the person whose message got your back up. The goal here is to be charitable, so you may want to avoid titles like “37 reasons why so-and-so is a ninny.”

3. Stop following people who say ridiculous things. Make sure you’re using common sense when choosing who to follow. If you’re following people who are consistently making you angry (and not in a convicted way), use the magical unfollow button. It will breathe new life into your Twitter experience, and you’ll be a better person for it.

What about you: how would you recommend avoiding futile discussions on Twitter and creating healthy ones instead?

Never make peace with death

This is among the saddest things I’ve seen in my life:

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Full size version available here: reproductiverights.org

Sixty-one nations—including Australia, Canada, and the United States—have few to no restrictions on abortion.

Sixty-one.

Meaning, simply, nearly 40 percent of the world’s population can have an abortion at any time, for virtually any reason. And it’s most likely paid for by your tax dollars. In fact, Canada, where I live, has no standing abortion law whatsoever, despite several failed attempts to place limits over the last 30 years (here’s a timeline of abortion laws in Canada for those interested).

All but one of the major political parties in this country are staunchly pro-abortion. One of these parties requires all of its members of parliament to vote in line with this stance on any bill being considered, regardless of personal conviction. But its not as though the remaining major party is pro-life; they simply allow party members to vote according to conscience.

Which means, generally speaking, no one is going to rock the boat when it comes to abortion in Canada.

And this is a shame, because ultimately, it means that people are willing to make peace with death for the sake of convenience. And so, tens of thousands of children die every year, conveniently forgotten by all but those who carry the emotional scars.

This should never be said of the church in Canada (or in any nation for that matter). We should never be so willing to capitulate to society that we would treat abortion as a mere political issue, something that is a hindrance to the preaching of the gospel.

This is nothing but damnable cowardice. It is a willingness to make peace with death—and it is this, as John Ensor reminds us, that is actually crippling the effectiveness of our gospel witness.

Abortion’s role in the consciences of [millions] is a boil that festers just under the surface of all Christian endeavors, and it needs lancing. It needs to be called out by name, confessed by name, and brought under a gospel that declares that there is no forgiveness for the shedding of innocent blood except by the shedding of innocent blood, that is, by the blood of Christ. (Innocent Blood, 68)

Three things I’d like to see in the Christian blogosphere in 2015

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Over the last few years, I’ve developed a bit of a tradition: thinking about a few things I’d like to see in this strange corner of the Internet known as the Christian blogosphere each year (here’s a look at the 20122013 and 2014 editions). For me, this is somewhat therapeutic—and not in the “venting about all the things that grind my gears” sense. For me, it’s a chance to look back and consider where bloggers–particularly me—can grow and change as we represent Jesus on the Interwebs.

Here are three things I’d like to see (and am hoping to do) this year:

1. Fewer blind eyes turned to serious issues. This is a strange one for me to include, since I’m not a fan of chasing controversy. But one of the reasons controversies happen in the first place—at least to some degree—is because people are silent. As the curious ethical decisions and/or compromises of many Christian-famous types continue to come to light (see, for example, Christianity Today’s recent piece on buying your way onto bestsellers’ lists), my encouragement would be that we not shut down discussion, ignore or turn a blind eye. Instead, we should actually wrestle with the issues being raised—and talk about them.

 

2. More admonishing with tears. However, even as we do speak up about problems, we must avoid seeming prideful and arrogant in how we address them. Ad hominems should not be known among us. Instead, we should model ourselves after Paul, who wept for those he warned. Where I feel compelled to offer correction or speak up on an issue, I want to do so in a way that makes it clear that I’m doing so out of great concern for those involved.

3. Write like you like writing. If you’re a blogger, I’d hope it’s because you do it for a really good reason… like because you enjoy writing. It’s easy to get overly concerned with figuring out how to drive traffic to your website; but the problem with getting overly concerned about numbers is it’s easy to start caring more about traffic than writing content you care about. (I’m especially talking to myself here.) Don’t worry about finding the perfect formula, or the right combination of times when to tweet a link or update Facebook, or whether or not you’re SEO-ing hard enough. Write something you like. Something that matters to you. Play. Have fun. Write like you like writing, and let the Lord sort out the rest.

That’s what I’m hoping to see in the months ahead—and what I’m going to be trying to do. What about you?

Should you separate the message from its messenger?

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Maybe I’m too cynical for my own good.

I’ve been wrestling with an article written by one of America’s more abrasive mega-church leaders on how the best pastors, like the best athletes, are the ones who aren’t afraid to take a hit. Taken on its own, it’s certainly a fair enough encouragement. But at the same time, whenever I see the name of this person show up on a blog or on Twitter or…  well, anywhere for that matter, it’s rarely in connection with anything godly or virtuous (though perhaps that simply means I’m following the wrong people).

And this brings me to my struggle: should we separate a half-decent encouragement from its author’s ministry? More pointedly, is this even possible—can our content stand alone, or do we need to pay more careful attention to the context from which the message stems?

When I think about pastors embroiled in controversy, I can think of no better example than the apostle Paul. Wherever he went, he was dogged by groups of false teachers determined to subvert his teaching and turn people away from his message. In Corinth, so-called super apostles questioned his ministry and turned the people away from Paul. And being maligned, Paul—though he called himself a fool for doing so—defended himself (2 Corinthians 10-11).

But what was strong about his defence was what he ultimately pointed to. He didn’t simply encourage the Corinthians to look at the fruit of his ministry, though he could have. He didn’t tell them to consider his teaching. He told them to look at how he conducted himself in ministry—his humble disposition and his refraining from taking financial support from them so that it would not be a stumbling block.

You could look at Paul himself—not the results of his work, but the man—and discern whether or not the criticism he faced was valid.

I’ll be honest: I don’t see that with a lot of modern church leaders. There doesn’t seem to be a willingness to open their lives, and to ask people to verify for themselves. To test the messenger, as well as the message. Instead, when controversy comes, it seems most often to be met with claims of unjust criticism.

And this is where the struggle comes in for me. Even when the message is fine taken on its own, how much should the author’s own baggage factor into how we interpret it? I tend to struggle to be able to easily separate the two. When I read warnings of unjust criticism from those whose names only ever come up in the context of controversy, to me, it seems a bit disingenuous.

But should it? Is it fair to wonder what prompted an author’s words, or to potentially second-guess them—or is it a sign that I, as a reader, am simply too cynical?

When a harsh pastor is really a false teacher

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My latest article at Christianity.com:

It’s easy to think of all false teachers as being cut from the same cloth. Rob Bell and Oprah, Joel Osteen and TD Jakes… They’re all the same, right? They all preach a “gospel” of personal fulfillment. Of creating or receiving our best life now. It’s the gospel of us: we are the solution to the problems the world, and it’s up to us to make this world what we want it to be.

While these are all false teachers, certainly, it’s wrong to think that all false teachers are created equal. Not all false teachers are wrong in their doctrine. Some can check all the right boxes, and get all the right answers on the quiz, but they’re just as hopelessly unhelpful as any prosperity teacher:

  • They are harsh with God’s people
  • They put themselves first.
  • They preach a gospel they do not practice.

And they may be the most dangerous of all.

When I look at Paul’s charge to Timothy in 2 Timothy 4, I am floored by the contrast I see between this sort of teacher (and myself a few years ago), and the standard we are called to. We are to preach the Word in all times and all places, no question, but consider what Paul says about how to do this inverse two: “…Reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.”

This means we are to communicate all that Scripture does: we are to instruct in doctrine, to correct error and to encourage God’s people. We need to constantly be bringing people back to the truth of God’s Word, to confront sin and encouraging Christians to follow the Lord faithfully.

Read the whole piece at Christianity.com – When a harsh pastor is really a false teacher

What did you think would happen?

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A year ago, a Seventh Day Adventist pastor, Ryan Bell, announced he would spend 2014 living as an atheist to explore “the limits of theism and the atheism landscape in the United States.” His experiment ended on December 31st, 2014. So what happened?

Well, after a year of living as an atheist, Bell no longer believes that God exists.

“I think the best way I can explain the conclusion I’ve come to — and conclusion is too strong a word for the provisional place I now stand and work from — is that the intellectual and emotional energy it takes to figure out how God fits into everything is far greater than dealing with reality as it presents itself to us,” he told the Huffington Post.

Bell is not the angry disillusioned stereotype you usually see presented in stories of this sort. He comes across as a very sincere, likeable man. He simply believes “the existence of God seems like an extra layer of complexity that isn’t necessary.”

Which, of course, is not surprising in the least.

No doubt many saw the result of this experiment coming the moment it was announced. When I first read of it, this was certainly my reaction (though, not snidely, I hope).

The problem, is, of course, us. And more specifically, it’s our sin nature. Of course living as though God does not exist is going to be easier for us. When we acknowledge God as God, it means acknowledging his authority—which, yes, does make life more complex in some ways.

But so, too, does denying his existence.

An example of the greater complexity of denying God

For example, although, as Bell points out, atheists in general are not amoral people, we should recognize that there is a fluidity to their morality simply by virtue of there being no recognized objective, outside standard from which those morals emerge. We can more easily justify our wrongdoing as mistakes or errors, or point to the end result for our justification (see: “little white lies”). You do what’s right, you do your best to go to bed with a clear conscience, and you do it again the next day.

But here’s the rub: this is actually a far more complicated way to live. Not because going to bed with a clear conscience isn’t a good thing. Not because we shouldn’t be morally praiseworthy people. But, as Paul says, it’s our right deeds that present a problem for us. For when those “who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves” (Romans 2:14, emphasis mine). This is the same law, the same objective standard, he later says condemns us—not because the law is bad, but because it does not save us. Just because it’s easier to not recognize the source of morality doesn’t mean he’s not there, and it doesn’t mean we will escape the consequences of our falling short of it.

The greater concern with denying God

But there’s a greater concern that I have with this whole situation—and it, again, is one that comes as no surprise. As a Christian, as someone has been saved by Jesus, had my sins forgiven through his death on the cross, I cannot fathom the idea of living as though God did not exist. And I understand backsliding, straying, letting your love for the Lord grow cold, all that. It happens to all of us. But this is different. here’s something terrifying about the idea of being to so easily say, “Yep, I’m going to live this way now,” for it means something else entirely. That the Lord you professed to know, you did not know at all.

That, to me, is tragic. Not because I’m naïve enough to think this doesn’t happen all the time—I know far too many people who have either fallen astray for significant periods of time, continue to walk in rebellion, or have outright denied Christ who once claimed to be believers for my liking—but because the conceit of the project seemed to be self-deceptive. One doesn’t simply decide one day to be an atheist; it’s the result of moving along a trajectory toward unbelief. And one doesn’t engage in such a project if he or she is intending to come out the other side a more committed believer. Instead, the results show the experiment for what it was: one man getting comfortable with being able to say, “I don’t believe God exists.”

And it’s tragic because someday he’s going to meet the God he’s just denied.

So what should we do? We should not make callous comments. We should instead pray for God to reveal himself to Bell and people like him. That genuine believers would come into their lives. That they would meet the real Jesus—the one they never knew—so that, when they stand before him someday, it will not be in judgement, but as being welcomed home.


photo credit: Pliketi Plok via photopin cc

Three tools to help you memorize Scripture

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Something all Christians should make their aim is memorizing Scripture. Whether it’s important verses, extended passages, or even entire books, there is something powerful about being able to recall glorious truths from God’s Word and preach them to yourself, and share them with others.

So… how do you get started? Here are a few tools I’d recommend:

1. Scripture Typer. This is a great way to ease yourself into memorizing Scripture. The idea behind it is that it uses visual and kinesthetic memory to help you memorize verses. So, you type out a verse as it appears, then you can work on memorizing it by filling in the blanks as you type, and progressively work toward being able to type the verse in its entirety.

For example, one I tried out recently was John 3:16 (HCSB): “For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.”

I typed this out in total, with it present on the screen. Then tried it again with every other word missing. Then did it again with the opposite words missing. Then tried it from memory (which is what the above was typed from).

Neat, huh?

This is a free tool online and is also available as an iOS app. A similar tool is Memverse.

2. Fighter Verses. Fighter Verses is a five-year memorization plan, focusing on “the character and worth of our great God, battling against our fleshly desires, and the hope of the Gospel.” It features a number of different sets that can be used free online, or with the iOS and Android devices (which cost $3 a piece).

3. The memory moleskine. This is the most advanced option, but it’s a terrific for memorizing an entire book of the Bible, something I attempted back in 2011 with Philippians. And best of all, I actually did it. The problem, of course, is that I didn’t keep up on my practice, so I lost about 90 percent of it. However, if you can commit to “tending the garden,” these little notebooks and the process of reading, speaking, writing, and repeating, are amazing. Want to give it a shot? Try Colossians.

Happy memorizing!


Photo credit: Generationbass.com via photopin cc

Looking back at 2014, looking ahead to 2015

2015

And that was 2014.

It was a pretty good year, overall, but not at all what I expected. Here are some of the things I’m particularly thankful for:

Our family remains healthy. The kids are super-fun and growing like weeds, and Emily’s about nine months without a full-blown seizure (only experiencing occasional periods of deja vu). This last thing in particular is a huge answer to prayer. Lord willing, the deja vu will reduce further and she’ll someday be able to think about pursuing driver’s education again.

Homeschooling has been a good move. The transition was interesting, but it’s worked. Our kids are working at levels appropriate for each of them, and we can already see where their strengths are and where they need a little extra help. The girls also play a lot better together these days, since Abigail’s getting enough sleep and isn’t entirely peopled out after a long day in public school.

Developing new skills. This year, I was able to branch out into a different sort of writing, including working on a new poverty curriculum for youth groups with my day job and writing a documentary, the recently released Through the Eyes of Spurgeon documentary (you can read about my reflections on that here). These were a lot of hard work, they turned out very well.

But the new year also promises to be very exciting, in a lot of ways. Here are three things I’m looking forward to:

Starting seminary. I’m just a few weeks away from starting my first course at Covenant Seminary, and I have no idea what to expect—both in terms of how much work it will actually be and what impact it will have on my schedule. But regardless, it’s going to be good to get started.

Continuing to pursue publishing. I’ve got a project I’ve been in discussions with a publisher for a while now. Whether the Lord provides the opportunity to move forward or not, we’ll see.

Being a first-time conference speaker. In February, I’ll be heading to Escondido, California, for TruthXchange’s 2015 Think Tank, Generational Lies, Timeless Truths, where I’ll be speaking on social justice and the notion of “deeds, not creeds.” I’m very excited and honored to be a part of this event, and hope you’ll register to attend (I’ll be sharing more on this again soon).

Beyond that, I’m really just excited to see what God does in our family’s lives, in our local church, and in our community in the coming year—no matter how ordinary or extraordinary it may be. Because in the end, it doesn’t matter how majestic or mundane the events of our lives appear to be; it doesn’t matter if we’re well-known or we live in obscurity. What matters is seeing how God grows us ever increasingly into the image of His Son, and in seeing the lost come to know Christ.

Beyond that, everything else is gravy, isn’t it?

No kingdom builders or co-redeemers required

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My day job exposes me to a great deal of literature and communication from “activist” Christians—folks who are very (VERY) heavily concerned with social injustices, sex trafficking, poverty alleviation, and other causes (which, y’know, we should be concerned about). However, whenever I read books coming from this group, or written by people trying to appeal to them, I get a little squeamish about the language used, which usually sounds something like this:

We’re to be world-changers, partnering with God in redeeming this broken world and building his kingdom. 

But if that’s true… why doesn’t it ring true to what the Bible says?

Kevin DeYoung helpfully puts words to my awkward feelings about this in Why We Love the Church. There, he writes:

We need to be careful about our language. I think I know what people mean when they talk about redeeming the culture or partnering with God in His redemption of the world, but we should really pick another word. Redemption has already been accomplished on the cross. We are not co-redeemers of anything. We are called to serve, bear witness, proclaim, love, do good to everyone, and adorn the gospel with good deeds, but we are not partners in God’s work of redemption.

Similarly, there is no language in Scripture about Christians building the kingdom. The New Testament, in talking about the kingdom, uses words like enter, seek, announce, see, receive, look, come into, and inherit. Do a word search and see for yourself. We are given the kingdom and brought into the kingdom. We testify about it, pray for it to come, and by faith, it belongs to us. But in the New Testament, we are never the ones who bring the kingdom. We receive it, enter it, and are given it as a gift. It is our inheritance. It’s no coincidence that “entering” and “inheriting” are two of the common verbs associated with the Promised Land in the Old Testament (see Deut. 4:1; 6:18; 16:20). The kingdom grows to be sure, and no doubt God causes it to grow by employing means (like Christians), but we are never told to create, expand, or usher in the kingdom just as the Israelites were not commanded to establish Canaan. Pray for the kingdom, yes, but not build it. (49)

This, I think, is something we need to remember.

When I see people running around trying to be world-changers, all I see are people running themselves into the ground. Before too long, they’re completely frazzled; burnt out. It’s a burden that’s too much for them to bear.

Fortunately, God’s never asked us to be world-changers. Instead, he encourages us to enter into Jesus’ rest, and be thankful for what has been provided today. To trust him with the needs of tomorrow. And to do the work he calls us to—which, yes, does include social action—not in order to build our inheritance, but as those secure in the goodness of its Builder.


Photo credit: justinbaeder via photopin cc

A year of time-tested theology

time-tested-theology

It’s easy to get stuck in a reading rut. When you read the same kind of stuff, over and over, year after year… you get a bit worn out, y’know? That’s why, each year, I put together a new project to keep my reading from becoming stale. In 2014, I had the re-reading project, going back to a book I’d read in the past—some Christian, some non—to add a little more variety.

In 2015, one of the new projects I’m taking on is a fairly big one:

A year of time-tested theology. 

Beginning January 1, 2015, I’ll be reading (and in some cases, re-reading) a number of time-tested, trustworthy works of theology. My goal is to read four major works in the year, the first two being:

The remaining two I’m still deciding on, but I’m open to recommendations. One I’m considering, though, is Augustine’s Confessions.

This is going to be a fun project for a few reasons:

1. 2014 was a pretty dry reading year for me. There were a lot of really good books, but I felt pretty “meh” about the year overall. But old books are a lot of fun. I like seeing how people used language in the past and seeing how it’s evolved over time.

2. I really need to reconnect with theology that predates the Internet. I’ve been spending a lot of time with books written in the last 60 years or so, to some degree at the expense of far too many older, time-tested works. It’s time to correct that, lest I become guilty of chronological snobbery.

3. The reading is spread out. I’m not trying to set myself a crazy goal of reading one of these every couple of weeks or anything like that. These works take time to digest. My schedule for this project means I’ll be reading each work over the course of three months, on average. In some cases, this will still be fairly aggressive, but in others, it’ll lots of space. And with school coming up, I’ll need to make sure I have that space.

Some of my reading will inevitably be discussed here over the course of the year (but I’m not committing myself to a strict weekly series or anything like that). I really want this to be an enjoyable project for me—and if you’d like to join me in it, let me know what you’re planning on reading!