If the gospel isn’t in it, should we be singing it?

keyboard

So there’s a completely accurate report rumor going around that I’m pretty persnickety about music. Like, to the point that I have trouble singing most Sundays. This isn’t because there’s anything terrible with the music at our church—far from it, our church has a pretty robust music ministry (but thankfully no lasers or smoke machines)—it’s just I find myself thinking about the words we’re singing more often than not.

The reasons for this vary: sometimes it’s considering how those words line up with my own life at that moment. Other times, it’s contemplating whether or not the words are actually undeniably Christian, or if they’re just kind of feel-good gobbledygook.

Thankfully I am not alone in this.

A while back while reading Mack Stiles’ great book, Evangelism (reviewed here), I came upon this helpful bit of commentary:

My daughter-in-law, Stephanie, told me that she sang a song at her graduation that’s often sung in church services—”God of This City.” Half of her classmates were Muslims, and they had no trouble singing the song with gusto. If people from other faith backgrounds can sing a song with gusto at a secular high school graduation, we can be pretty sure there’s no gospel in the song. (85)

This is worth considering. But first, notice what Stiles doesn’t say:

  • He doesn’t equate a song’s simplicity with a lack of depth. Simple is good, provided what it communicates is faithful and true.
  • He doesn’t say “songs with first person pronouns are bad.” We should be able to sing in the first person as appropriate, certainly.
  • He doesn’t treat the song as if it’s evil in and of itself—he actually says later it’s a better song than most of the stuff on the top 40 (which is true).

But what he does say—and I emphatically agree with—is it is devoid of the gospel.

And again, this should make us think: what do the songs we sing on Sundays communicate about Jesus? Some communicate wonderful truths about God and the gospel, but far too many focus on us in the negative sense—what I’m doing, what I’m feeling, what I want, and, at best, treat God as a cosmic problem solver.

“Greater things are still to be done,” and all that.

While it may be unpopular to say, if a non-Christian isn’t deeply uncomfortable with the songs we sing because of their emphasis on Jesus, we might be doing it wrong. And if the gospel isn’t in it—should we really be singing it?

Links I like

#HowOldWereYou: Origins of a Heartbreaking Hashtag

Karen Swallow Prior:

A central plot-line in the disturbing but stunning 1999 film American Beauty involves sexual fantasies about a teen girl by the main character, a middle-aged suburban husband and father desperately living out a quiet nightmare version of the American Dream. In a discussion of the film with my then-boss, an older man, a strong Christian leader and educator, he told me, “Any man who says he hasn’t had such fantasies is a liar.” His candor was as rare as it was refreshing. But what he said wasn’t shocking.

Ed Stetzer offers some additional commentary on the post that inspire #TakeDownThatPost and #HowOldWereYou hashtags of last week.

Right Questions Matter

JD Payne:

There are many questions to be asked about church health and mission. Many are being asked with the right heart. But right motives are no guarantee that the right questions are being asked.

We often ask questions with familiarity in mind. This is a good place to begin, but we can’t remain here. Unfortunately, we often stay put. We have not learned the stewardship of questioning.

The right questions matter.

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Crossway has a few books by Kent and Barbara Hughes on sale this week:

Risky Gospel by Owen Strachan is also on sale for 99¢.

Because we’re Christians, kids

Trevin Wax:

There’s a phrase I’ve heard in our home lately. It pops up whenever the kids ask why we do things differently than other people.

I noticed it first when our son asked why he and his sister aren’t allowed to say certain words his friends say.

“Why can’t we talk that way?” he asked.

“Because we’re Christians. Jesus saved us, and we want to honor Him with our lips.”

Perfectionism Will Ruin Your Writing

Marc Cortez shares a helpful quote from Anne Lamott.

Some Observations on Tone of Voice.

Lore Ferguson:

In our day to day life, we’re face to face, tone of voice is heard, body language is seen. On the web, though, and social media, we are left without those necessary cues. If a person uses coarse or aggressive language in a post/comment, and defends their words with, “I just want to have a conversation,” they should understand words that sound conversational to them may sound abusive to someone else. And likewise, someone like me who feels any slight pushback is a personal affront to my character, my spirituality, my soul, and my personhood needs to take a step back and assume a charitable posture.

Look at the Book

A preview of the ongoing video series from John Piper on studying the Bible:

Delighting in the Law of the Lord

delighting-law

“The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul” (Psalm 19:7). David wrote those words to describe the first five books of the Bible—Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy. These, he said, are “perfect.” These “revive” the soul.

Do we see the Law the way David did?

I’m guessing, probably not.

We tend to view the Law in one of two ways. The first is, we treat the Law merely as commands to be scrupulously obeyed in order to earn favor with God. We are trying to be “good,” which is moralism (or, legalism). The second option treats the Law as something to be rejected altogether; we are free in Christ and thus we become a law unto ourselves. This is licentiousness (which, arguably, is another form of legalism).

Neither view respects the Law. Neither exhibits a love for the “perfect” Law. Neither revives the soul, as David says the Law does.

But there is another option left to us, one that is better than anything moralism and licentiousness have to offer—delighting in the Law. This is the option available to all faithful Christians, the way the Lord wants us to see His Law, and what what Jerram Barrs wants us to see in his recent book of the same name.

Barr’s background teaching apologetics and outreach at Covenant Theological Seminary plays a significant role in the tone of Delighting in the Law of the Lord. Barr writes not as a typical academic, but one who is convicted that what he writes is true. He, like a good evangelist, wants to persuade us to see the goodness of the Law over the course of 24 chapters (which is, sadly, where he does become more of a traditional academic).

So how’d he do?

Well, here are a couple of the standout items from my perspective:

The law is the definition of true humanness. Barr’s connection of the Law to our being created as image bearers of God is perhaps the most helpful thing he describes in the entire book. The Law represents the character of God—and is therefore beautiful by virtue of this fact—which means it also shows us the nature of true humanity. With each commandment given, “It’s as if God is saying, ‘This is my character: I am just; I am merciful; I am kind; I am faithful; I am generous. You are to be like me’” (99). If humanity was intended to reflect God, it makes sense that the Law would show us what we were intended to be—and more importantly, that Christ would show us what it meant to be truly human in His perfect keeping of the Law.

Legalism is the enemy of outreach. Where legalism—whether in rigorous rule keeping or in defiant rule-breaking—reigns, the gospel is not preached. Barr writes:

We must sit at Jesus’ feet and recognize that all legalism is an implacable enemy of the gospel of grace. And we need to be prepared to fight against it, rather than bow to it or allow it to govern the life or outreach of our churches.… Attacking legalism is necessary to bring about the salvation of the legalists themselves by humbling them before the Lord, before his truth, and before his grace. Attacking legalism is also necessary in setting people free from the rules that legalists impose upon them.… This proclamation of liberty from legalism is one of the great friends of true proclamation of the gospel, both to the church and to the world. (210)

These are a couple of points from the book that, in hindsight are tremendously helpful, and if they’re all you walk away with from the book, you will be very blessed indeed.

However, I’ve got to be honest: I wasn’t terribly enamored with this book while I read it. Don’t get me wrong—it’s well written, it’s thoughtful, and there’s a lot I agree with… but you know how sometimes the best way to describe a book is simply long? That’s Delighting in the Law of the Lord. It took me five months to read—not because I’m a slow reader, but because it couldn’t hold my attention. As harsh as it is it say, for a book on delighting in the Law, I didn’t find myself terribly excited about what I was reading.

Maybe the problem is me. In fact, it’s a safe bet that at least some of the blame belongs there. But as much as I wanted to be riveted by the book, I just wasn’t. I love the Law, I love seeing God’s grace in the Law and recognizing how Christ came to fulfill the Law for me while also working it in me… But my time with this book didn’t help with that. Having had a fairly significant amount of time away from the book (I finished reading it about two months ago), there’s more that I appreciate from it, but it’s definitely not a book that’s for everyone.


Title: Delighting in the Law of the Lord: God’s Alternative to Legalism and Moralism
Author: Jerram Barrs
Publisher: Crossway (2013)

Buy it at: Westminster Bookstore | Amazon

Links I like

Top Ten Bad Worship Songs

Worship pastors, you know it’s true.

 The problem with modern music

Kindle deals for Christian readers

A few Kindle deals to start off your week:

Stories of my dad

Ray Ortlund:

God gave me a great dad.  He was the finest man I’ve ever known — and the best pastor, and the best preacher, by far.  I drew strength from his love for me.  I miss him today.  I miss him every day.

Here are some reasons why I honor him.  And these are just for starters.

If You Had a Big Red Button That Would Destroy the Internet, Would You Press It?

R.C. Sproul, Jr:

I’ve never understood those who take a principial objection to hypothetical questions. “I make it a point never to answer hypotheticals” they tell me. Really? The truth is I actually have no such button. But it is helpful to consider what I might do if I did. I know what I’d do first—wrestle with whether to push the button. That is, I suspect it would be something of a close call. Because, naturally, there are good things and bad things that come with the internet. That doesn’t make it, however, neutral. It makes it good and bad. Ironically, often its strengths and weaknesses are one and the same.

Me and My Ninety-Nine

Tim Brister:

We know how the story goes. A man loses one of his sheep and does whatever it takes to find that sheep. But when I dwell on this passage a little more and the unaddressed realities in my heart, a couple of things come to my mind. First, am I the kind of person who is not even aware of when a sheep is lost? Do I pay enough attention to the “sheep who are not of this fold” (John 10:16) to acknowledge when one is lost? Second, am I the kind of person who secretly tells myself, “Well, I only lost one. At least I still have the other ninety-nine. Why make the effort to go after the one who is lost anyway? Is that not a bad stewardship of my time and energy?”

Few pretensions and disciplined performance

praying

My life has been blessed by some influential models. I must begin by mentioning my own parents. I remember how, even when we children were quite young, each morning my mother would withdraw from the hurly-burly of life to read her Bible and pray. In the years that I was growing up, my father, a Baptist minister, had his study in our home. Every morning we could hear him praying in that study. My father vocalized when he prayed—loudly enough that we knew he was praying, but not loudly enough that we could hear what he was saying. Every day he prayed, usually for about forty-five minutes. Perhaps there were times when he failed to do so, but I cannot think of one.

My father was a church planter in Québec, in the difficult years when there was strong opposition, some of it brutal.… In the ranks of ecclesiastical hierarchies, my father is not a great man. He has never served a large church, never written a book, never discharged the duties of high denominational office. Doubtless his praying, too, embraces idioms and stylistic idiosyncrasies that should not be copied. But with great gratitude to God, I testify that my parents were not hypocrites. That is the worst possible heritage to leave with children: high spiritual pretensions and low performance. My parents were the opposite: few pretensions, and disciplined performance. What they prayed for were the important things, the things that congregate around the prayers of Scripture. And sometimes when I look at my own children, I wonder if, should the Lord give us another thirty years, they will remember their father as a man of prayer, or think of him as someone distant who was away from home rather a lot and who wrote a number of obscure books. That quiet reflection often helps me to order my days.

D. A. Carson, A Call to Spiritual Reformation, 25–26.

Today is Father’s Day—although in my case, it’s the culmination of a weekend long celebration of Daddy. It started on Friday as soon as I got home, with cards and drawings, continued on through Saturday with a daddy-daughters date to the movies and a cake, and concluding today with, Lord willing, a nap.

One of the most touching moments of this weekend came from Abigail, with her hand-crafted Father’s Day card. Her message was simple: “I like it when you play with me. I am shure glad you are my Dad. You are true and I love you.”1 It’s her words “you are true” that got me. Whatever else Abigail thinks about me, she evidently doesn’t think of me as someone putting up some sort of pretense. And apparently it’s a good thing.

So many dads like me are flying blind. Either we didn’t have a dad in our lives growing up, or we did, but he doesn’t hold the same values we do today. So we’re kind of making the Christian father thing up as we go along. That’s where stories and examples like Don Carson’s father are so beneficial to us, and show us what we should be striving for: to be known as people of “few pretensions, and disciplined performance.” For our children to know us as men of the Word and of prayer, and who will gladly get down on the floor and play rather than run away to our books. If my children know me for these things, I think I will have accomplished far more than what could come from writing scores of books.

Thirsting soul, the Kingdom is near to you

Ryle

Who is there that really feels the words of our Prayer-book Confession,—“I have erred and strayed like a lost sheep,—there is no health in me,—I am a miserable offender”? Who is there that enters into the fulness of our Communion Service, and can say with truth, “The remembrance of my sins is grievous, and the burden of them is intolerable”? You are the man that ought to thank God. A sense of sin, guilt, and poverty of soul, is the first stone laid by the Holy Ghost, when He builds a spiritual temple. He convinces of sin. Light was the first thing called into being in the material creation. (Gen. 1:3.) Light about our own state is the first work in the new creation. Thirsting soul, I say again, you are the person that ought to thank God. The kingdom of God is near you. It is not when we begin to feel good, but when we feel bad, that we take the first step towards heaven. Who taught thee that thou wast naked? Whence came this inward light? Who opened thine eyes and made thee see and feel? Know this day that flesh and blood hath not revealed these things unto thee, but our Father which is in heaven. Universities may confer degrees, and schools may impart knowledge of all mysteries, but they cannot make men feel sin. To realize our spiritual need, and feel true spiritual thirst, is the A B C in saving Christianity.

It is a great saying of Elihu, in the book of Job,—“God looketh upon men, and if any say, I have sinned, and perverted that which was right, and it profited me not; He will deliver his soul from death, and his life shall see the light.” (Job 33:27, 28.) Let him that knows anything of spiritual “thirst” not be ashamed. Rather let him lift up his head and begin to hope. Let him pray that God would carry on the work He has begun, and make him feel more.

J. C. Ryle, Holiness, 373–375.

Links I like (weekend edition)

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Also, New Growth Press has made A Quest for More by Paul Tripp available for free at their online store (today’s the last day, so grab it now!).

Letters from Dad

Richard Phillips:

The year 1972 was big for me, for two reasons. That year I turned 12 and entered sixth grade. More importantly, though, my father spent the entire year in Vietnam. He had often been away for maneuvers or short deployments of up to a month or so. He had even done an earlier long tour in Vietnam, although I was much younger then and hadn’t noticed his absence too deeply. But this time, my dad would be at war for one of my most formative years.

What is your reading level?

Aimee Byrd:

Did you know that the average adult reads between a 7th and 9th grade level? And studies show that we like to read two grades below our reading level for entertainment. Well I have a daughter going into the 7th grade, and one going into the 10th this fall. They are intelligent girls and all, but my 38-year-old self would be insulted if I had to stop at their reading level.

And yet there are plenty of intelligent people who do not have the stamina to read a popular level book on the basics of theology.

Is Charismastic teaching breeding spiritual havoc?

Conrad Mbewe offers a challenging look at what’s happening in his nation. (This is one of those “trigger warning” posts.)

Gospel-Shaped Gentleness

Mike Riccardi:

This passage of Scripture [Phil. 4:5] comes in a list of brief commands that Paul means to demonstrate as the means of remaining spiritually steadfast (cf. Phil 4:1). That list is usually read through very quickly, and this command to be gentle often doesn’t enjoy the extended meditation that it deserves.

But the word is packed with meaning, so much so that the translators have always had a hard time translating the Greek word, epieikes. The verse at the top is the New American Standard Update. The older NAS has, “Let your forbearance,” or “your forbearing spirit be made known to all men.” The ESV says, “Let your reasonableness be known to everyone.” The HCSB has, “Let your graciousness be known to everyone.”

The commentators don’t help either, as their lists are even longer: gentleness, graciousness, forbearance, patience, sweet reasonableness, mildness, leniency, yieldedness, kindness, charitableness, considerateness, magnanimity, bigheartedness, generosity. In some measure, all of these concepts are at play in this one word. I thought it would be beneficial to select a number of them and amplify them a bit, so that we can gain a firm grasp on the nature of this duty to which we are called, but which is often easy to overlook. So here are five characteristics of the gentleness that is to dominate our demeanor as followers of Christ.

What do we do when “crazy” wins?

word-balloons

Yesterday’s provincial election was cause for celebration for the political left, with the Ontario Liberals winning a majority government in the midst of unbelievable scandals, crushing debt and deficit spending, and skyrocketing unemployment.

And so, here we are. Now the question is, what are those unsatisfied with the decision to do?

The way I see it, we have two choices:

The first is, we can grumble. We can lament what we perceive of as the insanity of the decision and rant about it. Honestly, this is where I was even as I wrote this—I was legitimately shocked (and more than a little annoyed) to see the results. That a scandalized party could achieve such success utterly confounds me.

There’s so much I could say on this, and am tempted to… but in the end, what would I be doing?

Grumbling.

And what good does that do?

None.

It doesn’t help me live joyfully—if anything, it robs me of joy as it encourages bitterness and taints my ability to love those with whom I disagree ideologically and politically (including some members of my local church).

Which brings me to the second choice. Instead of grumbling, I can pray. And truth be told, this is really hard for me, because, well, grumbling is easier (and in the moment, it’s sometimes much more fun). But it’s not what I need, nor what my family needs, nor what our province needs.

So, I can pray remembering that there is no government—even a thoroughly anti-Christian one—established except by the hand of God (Romans 13:1). I can pray for the wisdom of these leaders and welfare of this land, remembering that this pleases God (1 Timothy 2:1-4), and benefits the unbelieving world in which we live as sojourners and exiles (Jeremiah 29:7; 1 Peter 2:11). I can pray remembering that the actions of the government and the people—not simply in an election, but in all of life—are the result of Romans 1 at work, and that God is sovereign over all these things as well.

Links I like

Success Is Dangerous

Jared Wilson:

There is something biblically beautiful, actually, about such littleness. It appears to be the primary mode of thinking of the apostles about themselves. Paul boasts, but he boasts in his weakness. He considers his successes garbage compared to Christ’s glory. It is God’s bigness he is concerned ultimately with, not his own or that of the churches.

Get The Poetic Wonder of Isaac Watts in today’s $5 Friday at Ligonier.org

Today you can get the hardcover edition of The Poetic Wonder of Isaac Watts by Douglas Bond for only $5 in today’s $5 Friday sale at Ligonier.org. Other items on sale:

  • The Masculine Mandate: God’s Calling to Men by Richard Phillips (ePub)
  • Light and Heat 2011 conference messages (DVD)
  • God in Our Midst by Daniel Hyde (ePub)

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

“Has my view on homosexuality changed?”

Good article from Preston Sprinkle:

I often get asked, have you changed your views after studying the topic and teaching the class? Sometimes the question is genuine; other times the questioner has a sharpened pitch-fork ready to address the wrong answer. In any case, my answer is always the same: “yes and no.”

All The Things God Is Doing When It Looks Like He Is Doing Nothing

Stephen Altrogge:

I have been trained, for good or for bad, to expect immediate results.

The only problem is that God doesn’t usually do immediate. He doesn’t usually do fast. He doesn’t do overnight shipping. He works according to his timeline, not mine. And the wonderful reality, is that God is usually doing a thousand things when it looks like he’s doing absolutely nothing.

Holding the Mystery

Lore Ferguson:

I live in a neighborhood where all the houses look the same. Our floorplans are swapped or switched a bit, but generally, we are like a row of Japanese diplomats, all bowing our heads to the Suburban Man.

The names of the roads are Springaire and Winter Park and Summerwind and Autumn Breeze—a nod, perhaps, to what the city planners wish would be instead of what is. People keep warning me about the Long Winter (they say, with capitalized letters) up north. I keep reminding them of their long summer, but neither of us can agree which is better. We always want what we can’t have, right?

The danger of embracing ignorance

word-balloons

Today’s a big day in Ontario, the province where I live: Election Day. June 12th is the day when Ontarians have the opportunity to make their voices heard and… vote for the member of provincial parliament in their riding who will represent them in the legislative assembly and the leader of the party with the most seats becomes Premier. Yes, it is as convoluted as it sounds.

While no one’s entirely certain who will come out on top this time around, there’s one thing that’s almost a sure bet: there’s a good chance this year we’ll see a record low voter turnout. Just like last time. After all, even the best of the parties we have to choose from is pretty unsavory, and it’s unpleasant to have to choose the best of the worst at the ballot box, y’know?

But I’m not sure that’s the reason most people decide not to vote. Actually, I’m concerned far too many choose to remain ignorant about things that really matter. (And like it or not, politics really does matter.)

But this kind of embrace of ignorance goes by another name: foolishness.

Years ago, during another election season, my wife asked one of her coworkers—one who was extremely well educated—if he was going to be voting that evening. His response? “Nah, it doesn’t really matter. They’re all bad anyway.” Incidentally, he also once argued with me that nothing really existed, including himself.

Foolishness.

Slightly beyond politics, there’s the ongoing myth of overpopulation, one which continues to hold sway in popular culture, even as we see nations sink into economic disaster due to under-population.

“I can’t believe you have three children—don’t you know we have a population problem?”

“Actually, the entire population of the world could fit in Texas with about 1000 sq. ft. between each person.”

Foolishness.

And then there’s the recent rise of the “trigger warning”—the idea that you might need to label blogs, articles, and, shockingly, classic books because they have content that might be offensive to modern sensibilities.

“I had no idea this book had this word in it! How can they put it on the curriculum?!?”

“It’s Huckleberry Finn.”

Foolishness.

There’s a kind of ignorance that comes with a lack of knowledge. When we simply don’t know something, that doesn’t make us fools. It just makes us ignorant. It’s a situation we can change and should want to gladly. But when we embrace ignorance, when we latch on to nonsensical ideas and perpetuate them, when we fail to engage with literature and the arts, when we neglect rights and privileges because politicians are “bad…” I can’t help but wonder how much the words of Ecclesiastes apply to us:

“Even when the fool walks on the road, he lacks sense, and he says to everyone that he is a fool” (Ecclesiastes 10:3).

 

Links I like

Dads, Date Your Daughter’s Boyfriend

Marshall Segal:

One of the most terrifying moments of a not-yet-married man’s life is meeting his girlfriend’s father.

The much-anticipated introduction is an unending fountain of humor for friends and family, but it’s more often an occasion for horror for the young man. What will dad say? What will he ask? Will he be armed? The moment is a mountain to overcome in almost any relationship, but I believe it’s a mountain we, as Christians, can capture for the good of the daughter, the suitor, and the father.

Starting A Fire and Keeping It Going

Mike Leake:

I love survival shows. One of my favorite shows in this genre is Dual Survival. One of the guys on that show is a bare-footed fella named Cody Lundin. And the dude can start a fire from anything and with anything in about any climate.… I, on the other hand, can barely start a fire using a lighter and a propane tank. Therefore, I stand in awe as I see these dudes take the strangest components and from them create fire and then sustain the fire.

But I’m even more astounded at the way in which the Lord can create a spark of grace in a heart and fan such a spark into flame.

How to Grow Spiritually

William Boekestein:

There was once a powerful Syrian general named Naaman who had contracted the dreaded disease of leprosy. At God’s instruction, the prophet Elisha promised Naaman healing if he would wash in the Jordan River seven times. Naaman was indignant. Dipping in the Jordan was too undignified an act for him, and it didn’t fit his definition of help. If not for the persistence of his servants, he would have returned to Syria unhealed (2 Kings 5:1–14).

For the same reason, many people miss God’s simple, ordinary plan for their spiritual growth—diligent attendance to the means of grace.

When My Fashion Accessory Told Me To Take a Hike

Tim Challies:

There was a day when one of my fashion accessories talked back. It told me to take a hike. I had said something about it on Facebook or Twitter or snapped a picture of it for Instagram and it was none too pleased. It said it to me nicely enough, but the point was clear: cut it out.

Why Was Judas Carrying the Moneybag?

Jon Bloom:

Judas’s masquerade is a lesson for us. Wolves can look and sound almost exactly like sheep. And sometimes Jesus, for his own reasons, allows the disguised wolves to live among the sheep for a long time and do great damage before their deception is exposed. When this happens, we must trust that the Lord knows what he’s doing. Judas reminds us that even ravaging wolves have a part to play in the drama of redemptive history.

Why I’m thankful for the freedom to disagree

second_coming

About a year ago, our church was studying 1 Thessalonians together. It was a pretty terrific sermon series. Very thoughtful, careful stuff. But a funny thing happened when we came up to chapter five in our study: after listening carefully as our pastor unpacked the text, which deals heavily with the return of Christ, I turned to Emily and said in mock terror, “Oh no! We’re a dispensationalist church!”1

It should come as no surprise to anyone whatsoever that I would not align with the dispensationalist viewpoint on the end times. I just don’t see it in the Scriptures and I’ve not heard nor read a compelling case for it. And, in the interests of full disclosure, in its most extreme (or Hageeian) forms, I find it to distract from the gospel.2 This isn’t the case at our church, by the way…

This week, as we studied Daniel chapter seven together, the subject came up again. And as I listened to Norm, our pastor, preach, I found myself incredibly thankful for three things as he walked through a very difficult passage very, very quickly:

1. I am thankful that, regardless of the details of our viewpoints, we agree on the purpose of eschatology. Regardless of the viewpoint, all faithful Christian eschatology joyfully affirms that Jesus will return to inaugurate the new creation, that sin will be defeated, that every tear will be wiped from every eye, that there will be no more sickness, sadness, death, malice, gossip, adultery, Reality TV or blasphemy. All of it will be gone. A new heaven and a new earth will be made out of the old, and the Lord and His people will live together in perfect harmony for all eternity.

But faithful Christian eschatology also understands the application for believers today: We are told about what is to come, so we can live in light of it today. The purpose of eschatology is to say, “God wins, take heart, weary Christian!” This changes how we serve, how we live from day-to-day, how we handle suffering… with an eye toward the new creation, we will not be crushed by the trials of this fallen one.

2. I am thankful our salvation is not dependant upon our eschatology. Let’s be honest: there is not a single eschatological viewpoint that is entirely accurate. Because the subject matter itself is complex, and the texts that speak to it are so frequently filled with symbolism that is easily lost on modern readers, we should approach eschatology with a great deal of humility. We should be fully convinced in our own minds, even as we rejoice that our understanding of this area does not exclude us from the kingdom. Faithful Christians are dispensationalists, just as faithful Christians are amillennial, postmillennial, historic premillennial… and when we meet one another in the new creation, we will have plenty of opportunities to say to another, “Wow, we were all so wrong on that—but how amazing is this?”

3. Most importantly, I’m thankful for areas of disagreement that do not require division. This can’t be said of all doctrinal issues, certainly. Some demand us to divide in order to be faithful to historic orthodoxy, but those tend to be matters of first importance—the person and work of Christ, the nature of Scripture, the nature and character of God… the things that, unless you hold to, you can’t rightly be called a Christian. But in matters where we can disagree without division—and I believe eschatology is one of them—it is a glorious thing indeed.

Links I like

New eBook—Good: The Joy of Christian Manhood and Womanhood

A new eBook from Desiring God and CBMW:

We have teamed up with the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood to produce a multi-contributor volume that aims at a fresh articulation of God’s good design in creating men and women. This new resource — the collaboration of 14 contributors — seeks to cast a vision for manhood and womanhood that is rooted more in beauty than mere ideology, more in gladness than mere position.

The book’s aim is to capture and highlight the glorious reality that God, after creating humans male and female, looked at his creation and called it good.

10 Lessons from 10 Years of Public Schooling

Tim Challies:

Last weekend I was a guest on Up for Debate on Moody Radio where we discussed whether or not Christian parents should send their children to public schools. I am not opposed to homeschooling or Christian schooling—not even a little bit—but do maintain that public schooling may also be a legitimate option for Christian families, and this is the perspective they asked me to represent. It is quite a controversial position in parts of the Christian world today.

As I prepared for the show I went back through my archives to find what I had written on the subject in the past. I found that I first wrote about it around eight years ago when my son was in first grade. Well, he is now just days away from his eighth grade graduation and this seems like an opportune time to revisit the subject and to ask, What have we learned in ten years of public schooling (which includes two years of kindergarten)? I spoke to Aileen and together we jotted down a bit of what we’ve learned from having three children in public schools. Here are ten lessons from ten years of public schooling.

Vague Pastors

Josh Reich:

Last week, Carl Lentz, the pastor of Hillsong NYC made his rounds on CNN and Huffington Post. The interviews were fascinating to watch and see what God is doing through Lentz and Hillsong.

In those interviews, gay marriage came up as it always does if you are a pastor.

His answers were an attempt at a non-answer. He said in a sermon, “Some churches want us to give blanket answers on huge issues. Well, my Bible says, be attentive to individual needs. So I’m not gonna make polarizing political statements about certain things in our Christian community right now. No matter who says what, we won’t be pressured into giving blanket statements to individual needs. Never.”

[But] saying he won’t, “Preach on homosexuality” is misleading.

Kindle deals for Christian readers

In addition to all the other deals that have come up so far this week, here are a few more:

One for Your Kids

David Murray:

Hi kids. I usually write a few lines each day for your Mom and Dad, but today I thought I’d write something for you.

I was doing a Bible study about children the other day, and discovered that the most common word God uses when talking about children is “obedience.”

Think Before You Post

Kevin DeYoung:

I’m thankful for blogs and tweets and posts and embeds and links and all the rest. God is no Luddite when it comes to defending his name and proclaiming the gospel. And yet, on many days I would be thrilled if all digital sound and fury disappeared and we went back to the slow churn of books, phone calls, journal articles, newsletters, and (gasp!) face to face conversation.

But we won’t and we aren’t. So we need to think about how to post, what to post, and when to post. As Christians, we need to be more prayerful, careful, and biblical about our online presence. After more than five years of blogging—less than that with Twitter and Facebook—and having gleaned lots of wisdom from others and having made lots of mistakes myself, here are ten things to think about before you hit “publish” on your next blog post, status update, comment, or tweet.

Will Revival Happen Again in Frankfurt?

Stephan Pues:

Today Frankfurt is in many ways a different city. It is a global city, the financial capital of Europe, in the heart of Germany. It is shaped by postmodern thinkers, big companies, and creative people. Skyscrapers, subways, cars, stores, and dense living spaces shape the city. I think Spener would wonder many things if he could walk the streets of his city today. But he would find at least one thing the same: the situation of the church.

When our culture helps and hinders our witness

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Though I was born and raised in a small agricultural community in northwest Mississippi, some may doubt my southern roots when they learn that I’ve never been to a county fair. I’ve never risked my life on a thrill ride that fits onto an 18-wheeler, never entered a farm animal into a competition, and never ridden a mechanical bull. I can’t see myself doing any of those things, ever.

But if I did go to a county fair, one thing I know I would do is enjoy the many deep fried delicacies. I’m not referring to potatoes or even pickles, but to things like fried Hershey bars, Oreo cookies, and blocks of butter. These treats are sweet to the tongue but sour on the stomach. They are so delicious that you can’t help but finish them and seek more, but they soon turn into lead balls in your belly and wreak intestinal havoc. Only time and liters of water can help the trials pass.

Neither of my grade school boys share my affection for deep fried delights, not even the savory varieties. Recently I attempted to surprise them with an unhealthy treat for dinner: fried chicken. As I ripped into a chicken leg that dripped with greasy goodness, my boys removed all of the skin and breading and pulled the meat from the bone. “I don’t like all that crunchy stuff, Dad. It’s too drippy with grease.” I was simultaneously proud and disappointed. That they prefer healthier foods is great, but I hate for them to lose a crucial part of their southern heritage. If they give up fried chicken now, they may give up sweet tea and watching college football tomorrow.

I confess my high level of ignorance when it comes to any Canadian cultural distinctives y’all have (that is, those of you who are Canadian1). Most of what I know about Canada I learned from Martin Short in that quirky tourism film y’all put on at Epcot in Walt Disney World. I’ll bet you a toonie there is more to Canadian culture than ice hockey, a two-four of Molson, Celine Dion, money that looks like it belongs in a board game, maple leaves, and Justin Bieber.2

I also imagine that in the same way I am grateful for my southern heritage, Canadians are grateful for theirs. When my wife and I got married 14 years ago, we were willing to live anywhere, but we preferred to root, bloom, and produce fruit in the South. We desired to go to restaurants that served sweet tea. We wanted Yankees to be the ones with funny accents. We hoped to use phrases like “I used ta could” or “I am fixin’ to do it” and not be questioned about our command of the English language. We sought the surroundings of hospitable, hard-working, kind and patriotic people who usually did the right thing just because you’re supposed to.

But the American south, not unlike the frozen tundra that is Canada, has more than its fair share of cultural qualities that I, as a follower of Jesus, am not thrilled about. Take southern hospitality. When I talk with Yankees who are on vacation or have just moved down here, they almost always say, “Everyone is so nice.” Of course we are. But they don’t know what we may really be thinking. We may simply be keeping the peace, telling ourselves how much better we are than them so that we’ll be nice to them and they will think highly of us. If we’ve ever said, “Bless your heart” to you, we’re glad you felt better about whatever stupid thing you did, but that was really our way of saying, “We’re so much better than you! Aren’t you thankful for how kindly we have expressed our superiority?”

Isn’t it fascinating that a culturally ingrained commitment to kindness can also produce a sense of moral superiority over the person you are being kind towards? It’s moments like these that led me to explore the relationship between the cultural behaviors and habits I have and my faith in Jesus. What I’m discovering is that distinguishing between the seed of the gospel and the soil of the culture in which the gospel seed is planted can be a difficult task in cultures that are, by and large, moral.

Kind of like the American south.

Kind of like parts of Canada, eh?

So the trick in living as a Christian, then, is to separate our faith from those parts of our culture that taint it without a harsh disregard for the gift of the culture God put us in. There will always be things associated with our culture to peel away because they distract us from the gospel or distort our message to a lost world. There are also things about our culture that make us who we are and are God’s gifts to us to use for the expansion of His kingdom. The more we grow in our love for Jesus, the more we will see where to be more like our culture because it helps and less like it because it hinders.


Today’s post is by Rob Tims. Rob is the author of Southern Fried Faith: Confusing Christ and Culture in the Bible Belt. He blogs at SouthernFriedFaith.com. You can follow him there and on twitter @robertltjr.


Photo credit: pengrin™ via photopin cc