Links I like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

A few new deals for you:

And today’s the last day to get these ones from B&H:

That “Billy Graham” Rule

Appreciated this piece from Sharon Hodde Miller:

What I struggle with is how these rules can make certain people feel–especially single women, who are already a more vulnerable population in our churches. When applied too bluntly, the rules make single women feel like temptations or seductresses, rather than dignified sisters in Christ.

Will the multisite movement grow-up?

As someone with very serious concerns about the multisite approach—particularly in the mode of having a TV screen for your pastor—I am very glad to have read this:

When the multisite model (defined as one church in two or more locations) works, once-empty pews are filled with worshipers and an older church’s legacy lives on while a larger church expands its outreach. But when things go poorly, multisite churches can become another struggling American franchise, precariously built on the brand of a celebrity pastor—and one step away from collapsing like a house of cards.

Posture in Post-Christendom

Tim Brister:

Christendom is dead. For some, this is a time of lament. For others, it is a time of renewal and revival. I want to offer my reflections on the three different phases of Christianity and culture and the corresponding posture for Christian cultural engagement.

Pastors Who Don’t Delegate

Thom Rainer:

Failure to delegate will always limit a pastor. He will not be able to expand the ministry of the church because that ministry is limited to one person.

Often the pastor who does not delegate gets overwhelmed and essentially stops functioning. At other times, he may move toward workaholism until the inevitable burnout takes place.

Controversy or Complacency

Tim Challies:

But as I read 1 Timothy and hear Paul warn about these controversialists, I hear him sound a second warning as well. This is a warning about a second kind of person who sins very differently but no less seriously. If we have controversy on the one side of the equation, we have complacency on the other. This, too, is a sin and it, too, is very dangerous.

When I don’t know where I’m going with something…

stop-working

“I have no idea where I’m going with this,” I said.

I’d been working on an article—one of the many sitting in my “to-write” pile—and it wasn’t coming together. I had my thesis down (I think), but the rest of it wasn’t coming together. Emily, with her usual wisdom, simply responded, “Well, maybe you should stop working on it then.”

So I did.

I currently have somewhere around 25 different writing projects in various stages of development. Most of these are articles (though a couple are book proposals that I’m particularly excited about). Some will even turn into something. But a lot are just not coming together.

As you can imagine, this is incredibly frustrating. But it’s also part of the work of writing. And make no mistake, writing is work. There’s this notion out there of the inspired writer—the one who sits down to write and every word is breathtaking, a joy to read. And then when you actually start writing, you realize, this kind of stinks sometimes. Why? Because sometimes what you’re writing just doesn’t work.

I learned about this the hard way. When I was early in my writing career (not that I’m terribly far into it now, mind you), I would crank something out and be done with it. This was partly out of necessity, and partly because I didn’t really have people to bounce my work off of. And so when I look back on blog posts I wrote five or six years ago, ones I remember fondly, I cringe a little. Some actually do hold up, surprisingly, but most are pretty awful. Silly, sloppy, blech. They feel like novice writing because it is novice writing. There were posts that were really more or less about nothing at all, or had the start of a good idea that got lost along the way.

Bloggers fall into this trap pretty easily, of course. When we set our schedule, we expect ourselves to meet it (even if no one is reading). We do the daily blogging thing because it’s what someone we read does, but then run out of things to say, and so our blog dies. And while I’m a fan of daily blogging (otherwise I wouldn’t do it), it’s not for everyone. The schedule makes a terrible master and not everyone thrives under pressure.

And even if you do find pressure helpful, you’ve still got to deal with the fact that sometimes what you’re writing just isn’t going to come together the way you’d hoped. It’s not going to work. You’re going to have enough material to fill ten books, and none of it’s going to be useable.

If you’re an aspiring writer, you need to learn to be okay with this. It doesn’t matter if you’re working on a screenplay, a kid’s book, a novel, a blog post, or a theology book, you’re going to hit a point where you don’t know where to go with it. And sometimes the best thing to do is stop. Maybe not forever, but just go on to something else.

Put down the pen.

Step away from the keyboard.

Write something else.

Clear your head.

And then get back to it. The draft will still be waiting for you. Cool?

Links I like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Both of Joe Thorn’s excellent books are on sale this week for $3.99:

Also on sale:

Jesus is on the wrong side of history

This is an older piece by Trevin Wax, but it’s well worth reading.

What if the baby isn’t healthy?

Micha Boyett:

My son Ace was born seven weeks ago. He is my third baby, a boy like his brothers. He has blue eyes and sandy brown hair that’s making way for blonde. He can already reach out and grab the toy that hangs over his head. He has rolled over twice (accidentally, I’m pretty sure).

Yet everything feels different. My pregnancy with him was different.

In December my husband and I received a prenatal diagnosis that shook us. Though we shared it with close friends and family, we didn’t tell anyone else.

Student in a School of Fools

R.C. Sproul Jr:

When I was a younger man I looked upon virtually every conversation as an opportunity for battle. As a college student I regularly called my dad after class and let him know of the great victories I imagined I had won. He, being wise, cautioned me—you can learn something from all of your professors. You’ll serve yourself better being a discerning student than a tilting Quixote. Trusting the teaching of my own father, I have sought to be just that, a discerning student.

The message of the Bible in a sentence

Dane Ortlund asked 26 pastors and scholars to give it a shot. This is what they came up with. Bonus points to Greg Beale for providing a paragraph while keeping it technically a sentence.

‘Apollo 13’: When Will We Be Going Back?

E. Stephen Burnett:

The film showcased Americans’ boredom with the space program … and today our disinterest in space exploration is even worse. Today the answers are the same: Not anytime soon, and likely no one alive today.

The film showcased Americans’ boredom with the space program — until astronauts’ lives were at risk — and today our disinterest in space exploration is even worse. As a Christian, this renews in me a groaning for lost opportunities but even more for a lost paradise.

I also ask what the film’s Lovell left unasked: If we’re refusing to go back, why is that?

The Fresh Prince theme as a blues song

YES!

HT: Aaron

We talk about hell so we can marvel at grace

hell-scare-straight

I’ll be honest, in the last while, I can’t remember the least time I read a book or blog post or heard a sermon that spent much time dealing with hell. Now, there are some good reasons for this, obviously. If you’re preaching and it’s not really relevant to the text you’re focused on, you probably don’t need to bring it up. If you’re writing on marriage, you may not need to deal with it (unless it’s to counter the “marriage and/or singleness is…” attitude).

But I suspect one reason we shy away from talking about hell is we don’t get why it matters to us as Christians. We easily imagine every mention of wrath or hell as being straight out of Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God (despite most of us never having read it). We hold it at an arm’s length because it’s too unpleasant to deal with. Because we don’t want to be scene as fear-mongering—trying to scare people straight.

But preaching about hell, writing about isn’t about scaring anyone straight (at least not ourselves). Not really. We should grieve, certainly, as we consider what awaits those who die apart from Christ, and we should warn them to flee from the wrath to come. But there are good reasons for believers to think about hell, too. And chief among those is to help us appreciate the grace we’ve been shown. Sam Storms puts it this way in To the One Who Conquers:

Thinking about hell and the second death has immense practical benefits.…It is remarkable how tolerable otherwise intolerable things become when we see them in the light of the second death.… It puts mere earthly pain in perspective. It puts tribulation and poverty and slander and imprisonment and even death itself in their proper place. The collective discomfort of all such temporal experience is nothing in comparison with the eternal torment of the second death in the lake of fire.

The one who conquers, said Jesus, “will not be hurt by the second death.” Not even when Satan viciously accuses me of sins we all know I’ve committed? No, never, by no means ever will I be hurt by the second death. Not even when others remind me of how sinful I still am, falling short of the very standards I loudly preach and proclaim? No, never, by no means ever will I be hurt by the second death. Not even when my own soul screams in contempt at the depravity of my heart? No, never, by no means ever will I be hurt by the second death.

And that for one reason only: Jesus, in unfathomable mercy and grace, has suffered that hurt in my place. (73-74)

I will never be hurt by the second death. I never have to fear for the wrath to come. Why? Because “Jesus, in unfathomable mercy and grace, has suffered that hurt in my place.” Amen.

June’s top ten articles at Blogging Theologically

top-10

Let’s take a trip back in time and check out the top ten posts in June:

 

  1. God Won’t Give You More Than You Can Handle (July 2009)
  2. God helps those who help themselves (July 2009)
  3. 5 books every new Christian should read (May 2014)
  4. Six books every Christian should read on prayer (August 2014)
  5. How do we keep these things from happening? (June 2015)
  6. What should the church expect as same-sex marriage moves forward? (April 2015)
  7. Five phrases Christians should never use again (May 2015)
  8. Seven books to read on Christianity and homosexuality (August 2014)
  9. Long preaching isn’t always good preaching (May 2015)
  10. Five books Christian dads should read (June 2015)

And just for fun, here are five favorites written over the month:

If you haven’t had a chance to already, I hope you’ll take a few minutes today to check out a few of these articles.

Links I like (weekend edition)

Links

Happy Independence Day, American friends! Hope you enjoy a great day of celebrating, fireworks, delicious food—and get to avoid any weird patriotic services at church this weekend. Speaking of which…

I struggle with patriotic worship services

Marty Duren:

My discomfort with patriotic worship services culminated when visiting a church during vacation. The front of the auditorium was covered by an enormous American flag. Beneath the flag was the opening for the baptistry where the pastor baptized a new believer.

Under the American flag. With no cross in sight, I suppose it was covered by stripes. It was not surreal for me; it was troubling. The imagery was all wrong.

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Just few for you today, starting with A Comedian’s Guide to Theology by Thor Ramsey ($1.99). Thor’s book from Cruciform Press, The Most Encouraging Book on Hell Ever, is well worth considering, too. Also on sale:

And today’s the last day to get these deals from Crossway:

How to Distinguish the Holy Spirit from the Serpent

Sinclair Ferguson:

How do we distinguish the promptings of the Spirit of grace in His guiding and governing of our lives from the delusions of the spirit of the world and of our own sinful heart? This is a hugely important question if we are to be calm and confident that the spirit with whom we are communing really is the Holy Spirit.

Pastor, You Should Share The Pulpit

Steve Rahn:

We are not a large church. We don’t have a staff—just me. It’s not a necessity that they fill in. I’m not out of town or anything. It probably even seems a little strange to some folks that I’m at the service but not preaching.

I love to prepare and preach sermons. Love it. It’s easily my favorite part of pastoral ministry.

And these men are not getting paid to preach (whereas I am) and they have fulltime jobs outside of the church (I don’t). So why have them preach?

The Final Break Between God and Country

Thomas S. Kidd:

So here we are, a week after the gay marriage mandate, and the Fourth of July is upon us. What should we do? One appropriate option—one we have always had—would be to politely ignore the Fourth of July in our families, and our Sunday services. Again, what does 1776 have to do with our worship? Around the world, our Christian brothers and sisters from Nigeria to Nepal will not say anything about the Fourth of July. Why should we?

Evangelism in a Culture of Religions Nones

Jonathan Dodson:

Rehearsing a memorized fact, “Jesus died on the cross for your sins”, isn’t walking in wisdom. Many people don’t know what we mean when we say “Jesus” “sin” or “cross.” While much of America still has cultural memory of these things, they are often misunderstood and confused with “moral teacher” “be good” and “irrelevant suffering.” We have to slow down long enough to explore what they mean, and why they have trouble with these words and concepts. Often they are tied to some kind of pain.

The kind of fundamentalist I want to be

the fundamentals

With the exception of a few “badge of honor” types, no one really likes to be called a fundamentalist these days. But that’s really just because we use it as the dirtiest Christian cuss-word we can think of—as a pejorative or conversation killer. There’s an image of the fundamentalist as a joyless, angry, fire-and-brimstone preaching, King James reading, hymns-only singing cranky pants who has his tie just a bit too tight on Sunday mornings.

And while there are some who probably fit the stereotype a bit too closely, we really only think this way because we’ve actually forgotten that being a fundamentalist is a good thing. We should absolutely be fundamentalists—at least about the fundamentals of the Christian faith.

So what are the fundamentals? What are the things that make Christians Christian?

There are a number of formulations, but I believe the best place to look is to two ancient creeds: the Apostles’ Creed and Nicene Creeds. These were two of the earliest formulations of Christian doctrine, and so they have much to say about any discussion of fundamentals of the faith.

The Apostles’ Creed summarizes the fundamentals this way:

I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
the Maker of heaven and earth,
and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord:

Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost,
born of the virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, dead, and buried;

He descended into hell.

The third day He arose again from the dead;

He ascended into heaven,
and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty;
from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Ghost;
the holy catholic church;
the communion of saints;
the forgiveness of sins;
the resurrection of the body;
and the life everlasting.

Amen.

Here we have a few basics: we have God himself, that is his nature (the Trinity) and his character—the maker of heaven and earth and the author of salvation. We have Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, and born of a virgin, who was crucified and rose again, and now sits at the right hand of God, from which he will return to judge the living and the dead. We have the Church, both universal and local, and the future promise of the resurrection to new life in the new creation. In other words:

  1. God as Trinity—Father, Son and Holy Spirit
  2. The virgin birth and divine nature
  3. The atoning death, resurrection, and eternal lordship of Jesus
  4. The centrality of the Church (as what we are saved into)
  5. Christ’s future judgment (resurrection of the living and the dead, heaven and hell)

In the Nicene Creed, we have something similar:

I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made.

Who, for us men and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary, and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; He suffered and was buried; and the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures; and ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of the Father; and He shall come again, with glory, to judge the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end.

And I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of Life; who proceeds from the Father and the Son; who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified; who spoke by the prophets.

And I believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church. I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins; and I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.

The Nicene Creed provides essentially the same formula, but makes explicit one element that is assumed in the Apostles’ Creed: the authority of the Scriptures. So from it we get:

  1. God’s nature and character
  2. Jesus’ virgin birth and divine nature
  3. The work of Christ (perfect life, atoning death, resurrection and eternal lordship)
  4. The Church
  5. Christ’s future judgment (resurrection of the living and the dead, heaven and hell)
  6. The authority of the Scriptures (for all of this was “according to the Scriptures”)

Later groups would again redefine these fundamentals, sometimes with as few as three points (as I offered in my book, Contend, which condenses a few of the essentials seen in the creeds together), or as many as 90, as in Torrey et. al’s The Fundamentals. But they all come back to what we see in the Creeds. And where we choose to narrow down, it tends to be in relation to Jesus specifically, such as highlighting the historical reality of his miracles, the miraculous nature of his birth and his bodily resurrection—all the stuff that tends to be heavily under fire in our day and in every era.

But fundamentally, everything comes back to these six points we get from these two ancient creeds.

And this is what we have to remember: without these key truths, there is no Christianity. 

We need the Trinity, as confusing as it can be. We need the true gospel message—including all the sticky bits that make us seem like weirdos (because, y’know, they’re weird). We need the Church, both the reality of the universal invisible body and the local communion of the saints. We need the promise of Christ’s future judgment and final victory over sin and death as it’s what gives us hope. And we absolutely need the Scriptures—in all their inspired, inerrant glory—because without them, we have no clue about any of this stuff at all!

These are the fundamentals of the faith. 

And if believing these things is what it means to be a fundamentalist, sign me up!

Links I like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

The Thin Line Between Faith and Foolishness

Michael Kelley:

At some point, when you are in a rhythm and cycle and you’re not satisfied with the results, you have to go back and look at the way you are doing something, or the assumptions you had in doing that thing to see what needs to be corrected.

40 Questions for Christians Now Waving Rainbow Flags

Good questions from Kevin DeYoung.

Remember The Pit

David Murray:

“Remember the hole of the pit from which you were dug” said Isaiah the prophet. It’s a spiritual exercise that the Psalmist models for us in Psalm 40:1-3. Although the exact nature of the pit is not specified – it could be the pit of affliction, of persecution, of mental distress, or of family trouble – it’s most likely it was the pit of sin and guilt.

Smoke on the Martyrs

David Parks:

We are in the midst of a global upsurge in attacks on Christians. Over the last year we’ve seen major atrocities in Kenya, Nigeria, Libya, Syria, Iraq, Ethiopia, and many other places. Make no mistake: Radical Islam is responsible for much of this. And even though the majority of Muslims are not violent, astonishingly high percentages are sympathetic to extremist violence.

In the midst of this, we see almost no concern from the leadership of the United States. While Christians are beheaded in dramatically produced videos designed to recruit more extremists and to incite fear, the White House has responded to the targeting of Christians in underwhelming fashion. Their condemnation has been disappointing.

And at a time when we need clear, consistent, and accurate voices, Christians in the West blow a cloud of smoke onto the issue by hanging their hats on a discredited and debunked statistic: There are simply not 100,000 Christian martyrs every year.

A Great Cloud of Witnesses: The Role of Tradition in Interpretation

Bill Kynes:

It’s true, human tradition can be a hindrance to divine truth. Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for breaking God’s commands for the sake of their own traditions (Matt. 15:3). And the 16th-century Reformers rejected the magisterial authority of tradition espoused by the Roman Catholic Church. Shouldn’t we seek to emulate Restorationist leader Alexander Campbell, who counseled his followers to “open the New Testament as if mortal man had never seen it before,” no longer bound by the prejudices of the past? Why should tradition be important in seeking to understand the teaching of the Bible? Let me offer two lines of argument—one philosophical, the other theological.

Links I like

Links

This month’s free book for Logos Bible Software is 40 Questions about Christians and Biblical Law by Tom Schreiner. You can also get Four Views on the Warning Passages in Hebrews by Herbert W. Bateman IV for 99¢. Christian Audio’s free book of the month is Eight Twenty Eight by Ian & Larissa Murphy. Finally, Westminster Bookstore’s got a great deal on the updated edition of Apologetics: A Justification of Christian Belief by John Frame.

Help My Unbelief

My friend Barnabas’ new book, Help My Unbelief: Why Doubt Is Not the Enemy of Faith, just released yesterday. Be sure to check it out.

You Don’t Really Know Who Your Friends Are Until…

Tim Challies:

You don’t really know who your friends are until their relationship with you becomes a liability instead of a benefit. Many celebrities, and even Christian celebrities, have learned this lesson the hard way. In the blink of an eye, or the release of a news story, they went from fêted to ignored, from celebrated to invisible. They learned quickly that many of their so-called friends had actually not been friends at all, but people thriving on a kind of symbiotic relationship where each benefited the other. When the relationship become a liability, their friends were suddenly nowhere to be found.

Our Unhealthy Preoccupation with Acceptance

Erik Raymond:

In thinking about this quite a bit over the last several months it occurs to me how gripped Americans, particularly religious Americans are by honor and acceptance. I live in Omaha, Nebraska. The slogan for the state is “Nebraska Nice”. Did you catch that? We are nice here. I grew up in Massachusetts. I am not going to say that people in New England are mean, but they are, in the words of Megamind “less nice”. We didn’t exactly take pride in our niceness. If someone complained about people being rude we would generally think you were a bit too sensitive. But here, if you say that Nebraskans are not nice it is like you said something about their mom. It is one of the worst things you can say to a native Nebraskan. It seems to me that one of the worst things you can say to American Christian, whether in academia, church leadership, the pew, or on the street, is to say that they either not relevant or not respectable. We seem to clamor for it with alarming intensity.

 

Four appeals to Christians embracing gay marriage

Gavin Ortlund:

I recognize that publicly affirming a traditional definition of marriage makes you vulnerable to stigmatization, so I’ve been a bit hesitant to write this. But I also think complete silence is a mistake. And at any rate I’ve never been able to suppress my convictions out of fear of how people will respond. It’s just not who I am. So I offer these thoughts hoping they might be helpful to some, even though they are somewhatad hoc and do not constitute a comprehensive statement on this whole issue.

How Social Networks Create The Illusion Of Popularity

One of the curious things about social networks is the way that some messages, pictures, or ideas can spread like wildfire while others that seem just as catchy or interesting barely register at all. The content itself cannot be the source of this difference. Instead, there must be some property of the network that changes to allow some ideas to spread but not others.

Real leaders say “I’m sorry”

Eric Geiger:

If you never apologize, if you never say, “I was wrong,” you show people you actually believe you are always right. You reveal your foolishness, not your wisdom, if you never admit to being wrong. People are hesitant, as they should be, to follow someone who thinks he/she is always right. There is only One who is faultless, and it is not you.

Everything you wanted to know about Canada (but were afraid to ask)

Today is Canada Day here in Canada, eh.

It’s kind of like the Fourth of July except, instead of declaring war, we asked permission to move out of mom’s basement (true story). And 2015 is the 148th anniversary of our becoming a kinda/sorta/not really independent nation, and the 33rd of the existence of our formal constitution1. That’s right, America: we’re not only polite, but we take our time.

For those curious, here’s a look at how Canada works:

That was pretty helpful, right? And what makes it funny is it’s all true. Our head of state isn’t a President, or even a Prime Minister, but a representative of the Queen of England, the Governor General. And yes, we are indeed subjects of the Queen—a fact may Canadians aren’t actually aware of (or are in denial about)!

I spend a fair bit of time in America these days. And one of the strangest compliments I’ve received was at a conference when someone told me, “Wow, you’re from Canada? I can’t even hear your accent.” While there, I spend much of my time dispelling myths about the frozen wasteland our forefathers chose to colonize. We’re not dirty commies, we’re dirty socialists thank you very much. We’re just as racist as many Americans, just more passive aggressive about it. We don’t all really love Tim Horton’s—even McDonalds’ coffee is better. And our universal health care isn’t free—it’s all paid for with tax money.

Lots—and lots—of tax money.

And the service really isn’t all that good. Unless you’re on the brink of death. Then, it’s aces.

*Ahem*

Thankfully, few of my friends ask me about ice-fishing in July:

But the truth is, we really do have our problems—things Canadians only really understand:

Even so, there are things about Canada I do appreciate.

Despite being a socialist nation, we still enjoy a lot of freedoms, such as choosing the educational direction of our children. We still have the freedom to say more or less what we want, with few immediate repercussions (currently no one is coming to arrest me for some of the things I write). We make most of the world’s maple syrup (and it’s delicious). We’re the ideal neighbor for America—we’re quiet, polite and don’t call the cops when you’re throwing wild parties. And if that’s not enough, we even get to number William Shatner and Don Carson among us!

All that to say, Canada’s not too shabby.

P.S. Sorry again about Bieber. Sorry.

Links I like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

The One Phrase That Will Help You Embrace The Cost of Relationships

Michael Kelley with one of the best things you’re going to read all day:

Every relationship you’re in is going to cost you something.

If you’re a parent, you know it’s true – your relationship with your children is going to cost you some patience, some frustration, or some preference. That’s why we eat at Taco Bell – it’s not because the fare is delectable; it’s because that’s where our kids want to eat. So we “eat” the cost and we take them.

Five Reasons To Take Strong Courage Today

Mark Altrogge:

There are times in life when we need someone to say to us, “Take Courage!” or “Take Heart!”  Like the time I was about to rappel backwards over a cliff.  I looked down and it was a long, long way and I’d never done this before.  My friend who had secured my rope to a tree assured me, “Just push off backwards.  You’ll be ok.  You’re tied to a tree.”

When we are discouraged we need to hear someone say, “Take Courage.”  Maybe you are facing an overwhelming situation.  Maybe you were recently been laid off or face an uncertain future.  Perhaps you are facing a serious health challenge.  Maybe you’re not facing a life and death situation but you’re facing several crazy kids who have the gift of frazzling. But at one time or another we all need to hear God say, “Take courage.”  Here are a few reasons we can.

Seven Warning Signs of Affairs for Pastors

Thom Rainer shares seven warning signs he’s gleaned from years of having far too many conversations with ministry leaders who’ve committed adultery.

5 Questions I Wished My Accountability Partner Would Ask Me

Brad Hambrick:

Without further ado, let’s begin to look at questions you wish your accountability partner would ask and why. These five questions are merely meant to be representative and to spark creativity (stale, repetitive questions result in withering accountability). Use them as a launching pad for the kinds of conversations you should be having as you establish lasting and enjoyable accountability in your life.

A public service announcement

HT: Mike

Don’t ask me to do you harm

heart

If I had a nickel for every time I’ve been told, “You can believe whatever you want, as long as you keep it to yourself,” I’d be wealthier than a prosperity preacher after his royalty check arrives.

The notion that your beliefs should only affect you, but the rest of the world should remain unaffected is so common, and yet it’s completely illogical. It’s a contradiction, one where we see the values of one being or group infringe upon the other—all the while telling the group being infringed upon this is what we are not to do.

This is the line that is appearing in an ever increasing number of articles, particularly those dealing with the religious liberty implications of the recent ruling on same-sex marriage in America. Some bring it up as they dissect the words of the majority judiciaries, usually with some handwringing. Others affirm it openly in their commentary, often with arrogant presumption.

Yet, what I consistently fail to see is anyone—particularly from those affirming the statement—acknowledging that what they’re asking for is impossible. And not just for Christians who are commanded by God himself to share their beliefs openly and without apology.

No one can not share their beliefs. Why? Because out of the heart, the mouth speaks. What we care about, what matters most, what is at the root of our affections, is always going to come out in what we say and what we do. Even if we narrow the idea to imposing our beliefs upon another, we run into more or less the same problem. If one were to follow the logic to its conclusion, the result would be anarchy.

Consider parenting: my job as a dad is to do all I can to ensure my kids grow up to be responsible human beings, with a clear understanding of right and wrong, the ability to make decisions and solve problems, and who (Lord willing) worship Jesus as Lord and Savior. But my three year old boy doesn’t have a terribly well defined sense of right and wrong, and he’s very “in the moment”. So he’ll be playing and then decide it’s a great idea to smack one of his sisters. As a dad, my job is to impose my will in order to stop him from continuing in this pattern of behavior.

Am I wrong to do so? Most, I hope, would say no.

But what would happen if I were to say, “Sorry girls, I believe it’s wrong for the boy to smack you, but it’s really best that I keep it to myself”? Would that say that I care about my daughters?

This is the dilemma that Christians feel pretty dramatically, although to be honest, people from a number of different faith backgrounds feel it, too. The Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses who show up at my door with their false gospel and deficient Jesuses. The Muslims who believe that all must submit to Allah. The Bahá’ís’ who believe that they will be the ones to bring about a perfect new world order1

And this is also what we’ve, quite honestly, been terrible at expressing in our concern over religious liberty issues. It’s not simply that American Christians want to see the First Amendment upheld and Canadian Christians want to see the first of our fundamental freedoms upheld simply for the sake of them being upheld. We want to see them upheld because we love the people around us. The consistent Christian recognizes that the logic of keeping our beliefs to ourselves is really a call to do those around us harm. For to know the truth of what awaits us all after death and to say nothing is to be a perpetrator of great evil. And that’s something we simply cannot do. So please don’t ask us to do you harm. Because we won’t do it.


Note: After writing this article, I noticed several friends sharing a terrific comic by Adam Ford, which expresses a similar sentiment, however those similarities are purely coincidental.

Links I like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Celebrating distinction

Also, be sure to check out this article by Peter Jones.

How to Talk to Your Kids About Gay Marriage

Aaron Earls:

For many of us, we dread having to talk to our kids about our values about sex and traditional marriage, much less same-sex marriage. So how can you have a different “talk” with your children?

Here are five important aspects as you think about talking with your kids about the recent Supreme Court decision and the culture they are facing.

Gay Marriage, Abortion, and the Bigger Picture

Karen Swallow Prior:

While public policy and legal experts debate the recent decision and the ramifications for people of faith, our most meaningful response as Christians will come from our daily lives. We witness through how we love: our God, our church, our spouses, and all of our neighbors.

So just as ultrasound images of the babe in the womb often serve as the best argument against abortion, the portrayal of our own robust marriages—signifying the mystical union between Christ and his church—will make the case for natural marriage. Just we have shown compassion toward those who have gone to the abortion clinic and to the divorce court, so must we do the same for those who go to the altar of gay marriage. We can stand for principle and love people, too.

On Twenty Years of Marriage

Russ Ramsey:

We are like two tectonic plates who, by God’s grace, grind away at each other’s rough edges until we fuse together into a brand new nation. My nearsightedness and pride collide with her courage and wisdom. Her woundedness and fear run aground on the shores of my boyish optimism and confidence. And these collisions shape us both.

But when we stood hand in hand at the altar, promising to stay in this covenant for better or worse, in sickness and in health, until one of us died, we knew little of each other’s worlds.

Now, twenty years in however, we know much more. With God as my witness we do.

Knowing When To Quit

Mike Leake:

There is a point in most every argument when one side or the other just gets silly. Logic and well reasoned biblical arguments no longer matter. Instead emotions and misrepresentation rule the day. The lengthy correspondence between Thomas Scott and John Newton eventually hit this point, as Scott began charging Newton with gross misrepresentation. Newton called him on it:

“It is easy to charge harsh consequences, which I neither allow, nor, indeed, do they follow from my sentiments”.

The Long-Term Consequences of Pragmatism in the Church

Jonathan Leeman:

The question I want to think about can be posed like this: is there something endemic not just to megachurches, but to post-1950s-evangelicalism as a whole that, over time, tends to undermine the very doctrinal convictions which makes us evangelicals? More specifically, does our doctrine of the church inevitably tend in a pragmatic direction, such that we will eventually leave the gospel and other core theological convictions unguarded?

 

How helpful is the Christian confessional?

christian-confessional

He walked across the stage toward the microphone, the room was more crowded than he’d expected. All eyes were fixed on him. He smiled awkwardly and wondered, can I really do this? What will people think? Heart racing and palms sweating, he gathered up his courage and began to speak softly.

“Hi, um, I’m a, uh, a Christian,” he said, “and I have a… a confession to make.”

He cleared his throat, tugged at his collar and continued.

“I want to apologize for the Crusades. And I want to apologize for politics being confused with Christian faith. I apologize for hate crimes being perpetrated in the name of Christ and for slavery. I’m sorry for everything that we’ve ever done that has made life difficult for anyone. But I want you to know something… We’re really not all that bad. I hope you’ll forgive us.”

As he exited the stage, several people came up to him, most of them from his small group, and congratulated him on his effort.

“I don’t know if I would have had the courage to say that,” they told him. “That was so humble of you.”

The young man blushed and thanked them for their kind words.

“I just want to be real, y’know? Authenticity is important to me.”

* * * * *

You’ve probably seen, heard or read something similar to this before: the Christian confessional.

This idea was popularized by Donald Miller in his too-young-to-write-a-memoir memoir, Blue Like Jazz. Miller describes setting up a confession booth on a college campus where he and others would confess the sins of Christendom and ask for forgiveness. In the years since the book’s release, many others have gone and done likewise. These days it’s usually seen in the form of videos of random dudes confessing the institutional sins of Christendom on YouTube.

Now, I’m not against publicly confessing sin, obviously. I’m not even entirely against the idea of the Christian confessional under certain circumstances. But whenever I see it, it’s typically only used to say to our post-Christian culture, “See, we’re not so bad.” And I’ve got to be honest, I wonder if it’s actually beneficial? I mean, I know it’s typically done under the guise of being authentic, and I’m sure those doing it have the best of intentions, but is it really authentic to confess sins you have not committed to people who may not have been sinned against?

Now, certainly there are some (many, even) institutional sins we should ask forgiveness for broadly. For example:

  • We should ask forgiveness for our churches or denominations using the Bible to wrongly treat other people as less than human.
  • We should ask forgiveness for failing to remember that the “but you were washed” of the gospel applies as equally to the gossip and slanderer as it does to the homosexual man or woman.
  • We should ask forgiveness for giving cover to peddlers of God’s word who seek to fleece people instead of feeding God’s sheep.

But these things should always be done from a place of genuine heartfelt repentance. We ask forgiveness because we see genuinely believe they were wrong and we are striving to reconcile with those who have been injured by those actions and beliefs.

Sometimes, though, I wonder if the Christian confessional is just another attempt to have the appearance of godliness without actually having to be godly. It’s like confessing generic issues in a small group—”Gosh, y’know, I’m just really wanting to follow God’s will for my life, but it’s a struggle. Pray for me, if you don’t mind.” Now, there are definitely times when you need to be a little more vague than even you might prefer—especially if you’re in a place where you’re not sure what’s actually wrong, but you’ve just got a sense that something’s off—but it’s easy to use this kind of thing to give you a pass from actually repenting of anything at all.

It’s like saying “mistakes were made,” or “I’m sorry you felt that way,” which is really just having the appearance of contrition without a contrite heart. And the thing that is so deadly is that most of us wouldn’t even be able to recognize that’s what’s going on. But that’s how pride deceives us, isn’t it?

In Luke 18:10-14, Jesus tells the following parable:

“Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’

But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

The Pharisee thanks God for the righteousness that God has given him; that He has made him not like other men who are “extortioners, unjust, adulterers.” He even points directly to the tax collector and thanks God for not making him like him.

Think about that for a second. The Pharisee slams the tax collector—right to his face. All while he’s thanking God and declaring how he fasts and tithes faithfully. Imagine if the Pharisee, rather than saying, “Thank you that I’m not like this tax collector,” said, “God, thank you for not making me like the Crusaders, the slave traders, and the fundamentalists. I live in a monastic community and only buy products that reduce my carbon footprint.”

Imagine if the Christian confessional went a little more like this, “I want to apologize for every time I’ve put my own desires ahead of those of others. For using my words to cut people down instead of building them up. For using the Bible in a hamfisted manner instead of taking the time to explain what it says with patience. For constantly forgetting that grace is freely given to all who ask, and that I am in dire need of it. And I would ask anyone here who has been personally hurt or offended by me to come and speak with me, so I can ask your forgiveness directly for what I’ve done wrong.”

The Christian confessional has its place, just as asking forgiveness for institutional sins has its place. But what’s more authentic, and what’s more God-glorifying, is to put our own need for God’s mercy on display—and to rejoice in the knowledge that while we are great sinners, we have a great savior in Jesus Christ.


An earlier version of this post first appeared in 2010.