Pursue unanimity, not uniformity

unanimity

There are times when our doctrinal disagreements can hinder more than help. There are some things that can be set aside for the sake of gospel work.

Just think about competing views on baptism for a moment. Some of us are convinced infant baptism is biblically acceptable; others believe that only those who have confessed faith for themselves should be. And this is important: only one position is right. One is absolutely correct. The other is completely, flat-out wrong.

But should our convictions on an issue like baptism (as important as it is) get in the way of our partnership in the gospel?

No.

I’m not saying we cannot debate, sometimes with great passion. Nor am I saying we can’t disagree strongly. But if we believe the same gospel—that, as the Apostle Paul wrote, “Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3-5)—can we not partner together?

One would hope so.

Now, without question there are some we absolutely cannot partner with—fundamentally because we believe a different gospel. Evangelicals cannot partner with Roman Catholics on gospel matters because we fundamentally disagree on how we are made righteous before God. Those who believe there will be judgment for unbelievers cannot partner in gospel work with universalists. Those holding to man’s depravity cannot partner in gospel work with those who deny the existence of sin.

But whether we are continuationist or cessationist, Baptist or Presbyterian, Christian celebrity or one who has embraced obscurity, if the essentials are in alignment,1 we should be able to work together. We may not have uniformity, but we absolutely can and should have unanimity.

One can’t play Scrabble while his partner plays Candyland, after all.

Links I like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

And don’t forget these from earlier this week:

Today is also $5 Friday sale at Ligonier. They have a whole bunch of great resources on sale, including:

  • Why We Trust the Bible teaching series by Stephen Nichols (DVD)
  • The Truth of the Cross by R.C. Sproul (ePub and MOBI)
  • Think Like a Christian teaching series by R.C. Sproul (audio download)
  • When Worlds Collide by R.C. Sproul (ePub)
  • The Evangelistic Zeal of George Whitefield by Steven Lawson (hardcover)

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

How Jesus Would Act in a Homosexual Bar?

C. Michael Patton:

I have a family member who lives in an apartment that backs up to a homosexual bar. I can imagine that in the church, there are people who think this is wrong. It’s not that these would assume she might be a homosexual, but that why would she, being a Christian, even dare live in such proximity to such evil. I am sorry to say this, but its very sad—no, tragic—to say that the church is filled with such a mentality. Oh, they have their verses to justify it, but these are always based in unbiblical emotional passions that cannot ever be justified.

Hold on, it gets worse so hang with me.

Lessons from the School of Prayer

An excerpt from D.A. Carson’s Praying with Paul:

Throughout my spiritual pilgrimage, two sources have largely shaped, and continue to shape, my own prayer life: the Scriptures and more mature Christians.

The less authoritative of these two has been the advice, wisdom, and example of senior saints. I confess I am not a very good student in the school of prayer. Still, devoting [space] to their advice and values may be worthwhile before I turn to the more important and more authoritative of the two sources that have taught me to pray.

Among the lessons more mature Christians have taught me, then, are these.

“Does God Care if Your Favorite Football Team Wins?”

Derek Rishmawy:

How we answer the question, “Does God care a whole lot about the outcome of football games?” reveals much about how we understand God’s love, sovereignty, and care for the world.Some might hear the question and interpret it, “Well, is God rooting for a particular team?” Unless you’re a total fanatic, convinced that God himself favors your home-team, your gut instinct is “probably not.” It seems inconsistent with his universal love for all. Still, in Scripture, God did pick Israel to be his chosen people, and within Israel, he is seen to bestow special grace on various figures, either for particular purposes in redemption or his own good pleasure. God loves all, but he also seems to focus on particulars.

Christ and Pop Culture LIVE: With Real People, In a Real Space, With a Real Audience (We Hope)

If you’re going to TGC, this could be a lot of fun. Am I going to TGC? That remains to be seen. But if I am, I sure hope to be at this.

On the Christian’s anger problem

Aaron Earls:

Too often we seek to baptize our rage and treat our temper as sanctified, when in reality we are merely trying to find a biblical sounding excuse for being a jerk.

So how do you differentiate between man’s anger in James 1 and the ability to be angry without sin in Ephesians 4? I see three questions that we need to ask about each situation in which we feel anger rising in us.

I think we should treat each one as a gate that has to be passed through to before asking the next one. If the answer to only one is negative, then we should question whether or not our anger is biblical.

Looking for Love in all the Right Places

Lore Ferguson:

Here is what I know about looking:

When I was young, rebellious and caustic, rolling my eyes at my parents at age 10 and sneering at them by age 15, they would say, “Look at me when I’m talking to you,” and I felt seen, exposed.

I knew I was already seen and exposed, but I felt it. I felt it when I saw their disappointment or disapproval or anger at me. When I saw it in their eyes. I felt that. I felt every weight and every sin and every bit of my flesh rolled up and held in their parental gaze. And I looked away. I could not hold that look for long, my sin was too great, their anger too heavy.

The good news in Abraham’s story

good news-abraham

There’s an old children’s song that goes like this:

Father Abraham had many sons
Had many sons had Father Abraham

I am one of them
And so are you
So let’s just praise the Lord.

I’ve never really liked this song, though, admittedly, I never heard it until I was an adult. 

The problem I have with it at times is the rose-colored glasses view of Abraham himself. He is the man of faith. He is the one who followed the Lord away from all he had known, not knowing where he was to go, and believed God’s promise to bring him to the land he would show him (Hebrews 11:8-10). He is one of the few to be called a friend of God in Scripture (James 2:23).

And yet, when you really consider Abraham… this was one messed up guy. A paragon of virtue, he was not. He grew up a pagan man. And though he believed God, he also had a habit of doing things his own way. On the journey, not once, but twice, he lied and said Sarah was his sister, and she was given to foreign kings as their brides (Genesis 12:10-20; 20:1-18). Why? Because he feared for his life. Could you imagine if the song included some of the other details of his life?

Father Abraham sold his wife
And pretended she was his sister
It’s kind of creepy
Oh, yes it is
So let’s just praise the Lord.

Doesn’t have quite the same ring to it, does it?

But it doesn’t get better. Though he was promised a son by Sarah (Genesis 15), Abraham—at her encouragement—took Hagar as a concubine, and had a son with her, Ishmael, who would be the father of the Arab nations (Genesis 16). So he not only was a liar who prostituted his wife—because he got paid by these kings, too—he was a polygamist, to boot.

How could God use a man like this? How could this man be a part of the family line of Jesus?

Before we get all judgmental and self-righteous on Abraham, it’s helpful to remember: Abraham’s story is, in many ways, ours.

He was not a man of outstanding moral character, it’s true. But neither are any of us. He was not a man who consistently did what was right. Neither are we. He was not a man who, though he believed, even believed consistently. And that can most certainly be said of all of us, too. (Or at a minimum, it can definitely be said of me.)

If his character and actions were the measure of salvation, he would have been damned for all eternity—just like you and me.

And there’s the good news in Abraham’s story. “Abraham believed, and it was counted to him as righteousness” (Romans 4:3; Galatians 3:16; James 2:23a). It was his faith that saved him, that declared him righteous. It was not his character, nor his performance. It was faith alone alone that saved him. And it is faith alone that saves us as well.

Links I like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

New Fantastic Four trailer

I know purists haven’t been keen on the news they’ve heard about this film, but the trailer looks interesting. Thoughts?

Baptizing “Masculinity”: The Real Reason Men are Leaving the Church

Luke Harrington:

I wonder, if we are serious about attracting men to church, if the solution is less to infantilize them by waving steaks and guns in front of their noses and more to challenge them by teaching the rich ideas and contentious debates from the Christian tradition. Clearly there’s no shortage of important questions to be debated. Is human nature as corrupt as Calvin claimed? Is the will as free as Wesley taught? Is God as transcendent as Aquinas believed? Are the Law and the Gospel as separate as Luther wanted them to be? Is Christ as fully present in the Eucharist as Iranaeus argued?

My Baby’s Heart Stopped Beating

Jasmine Holmes:

As soon as the thought came to my head, I felt horribly guilty. I know you’re not supposed to think those things, and when you do, it’s certainly not nice to admit them. But there it was, clear as day: I was jealous.

13 Ways You Waste Your Money

Good stuff here from Tim Challies.

Addressing Cultural Issues in the Pulpit

Daniel Darling:

How do pastors preach on contemporary cultural issues? Or should they? This is a question every pastor faces as he contemplates both the spiritual needs of his congregation, the questions swirling in society, and the weighty commission to preach the Word of God. When I pastored, I constantly wrestled with when to address certain topics, how to address them, and in what format. I’ve also observed and watched pastors of large and small churches organize their preaching. Here are a few ways I’ve seen pastors address contemporary cultural issues.

How do you get to know unbelievers?

get to know unbelievers

I’m only day into seminary and I’m already challenged.

My first seminary lecture dealt almost exclusively with outlining the requirements of our term paper: a 10-ish page personal letter to an unbeliever with whom we have a close relationship. Now, the challenge for me is not trying to think of unbelievers to write to. I have no less than eight people in my close family to whom I could address this—my parents, my sister, my niece, my in-laws, my sister-in-law and her husband. And then we have a number of non-Christian and nominally Christian friends on top of that.

But as I listened to Jerram Barrs’ lecture, I realized just how easy it is to find yourself in a position where you have no one in your life who is an unbeliever. And if you’re someone like me, who works with Christians, and serves with Christians and meets with Christians… man, it is difficult to get to know non-Christians.

That’s actually one of the things I miss about working outside of a ministry context. While many of my co-workers love that we can pray at work, and that we have staff meetings where we sing together, there is one thing we miss out on, one of the things I think we probably need more than singing songs: the opportunity to build relationships with non-Christian co-workers and share the faith with them.

And it’s actually something I wish I had taken more opportunities to do when I did work in those environments.

Now, at the time, I don’t know what stopped me from being more intentional about this. Maybe it was because these were the same people who knew me before I was a Christian, and saw me working through the mess of my earliest weeks, months and years as a believer… Maybe it was just that I was chickening out. The truth is, I really have no idea why I didn’t, only that I didn’t.

But for me today, it’s harder than ever to meet and get to know non-Christians, largely because I’m not really the type that does small talk or social engagements well. Work made socializing a little easier. So my daughter’s dance class really helps. Making sure I actually talk to baristas at Starbucks (and frequent the same ones) really helps, too.

These ways don’t work for everyone, obviously. But even still, we are all still responsible for getting to know non-Christians. We are called to share the gospel and make disciples. So, friends, who are the unbelievers in your life? How are you intentionally getting to know non-Christians?

Modesty, #ChristianCleavage and me

modesty-post

Some of you may have noticed the hashtag #ChristianCleavage bopping around Twitter. It was started after an unfortunate “modest is hottest” genre post by a pastor named Jarrid Wilson.1

(I must disclose I participated in some of the jesting as well.)

Now, I’m not going to spend time vilifying Wilson, whom I don’t know and I’m sure is feeling pretty rough right now. But the excerpts on Twitter of his original article reminded me of my own time in youth groups in the 90s.

Clothes don’t make the woman(‘s heart)

I wasn’t a Christian, but had friends who were. I had a great time pretending to be a Christian with them at church, at youth group, and Kingdom Bound™. I sat through some pretty weird youth sermons so we could get to the part where we could sing along to Jars of Clay songs, mostly because I liked the sound of my own voice and wanted everyone else to hear how awesome it was. And riding in the flatbed of a truck to get back to town and smoke illicit cigarettes at Tim Horton’s (yes, I am that old) was pretty awesome, too.

I learned pretty fast that sartorial code-switching was going to be required at some of these kids’ houses. I remember calling a friend to vet my outfit before her mom took us to the mall. My jolly roger shirt was’t going to work for that occasion. No fishnet stockings, either.

But you know what? It didn’t matter what I wore. My heart was still dead. I “got with the program” to chill with the church kids, but it wasn’t because of wanting to glorify God.

Sanctification and ostentatious dress

There are many women who, though they are far from Christ, dress demurely. Meanwhile there are new Christians who are filled to the brim with the Holy Spirit, immensely grateful for the free gift Christ has given them, and excited to share the gospel. But, in some people’s eyes, they might still look like worldly women. Perhaps, then, it would be unwise to use modest or immodest dress as our measure for holiness. It’s not that modesty in dress doesn’t matter (it does), but God works on the things in our hearts he deems most important first. A gunshot wound must be tended to before a sprained ankle, after all.

All Christian ladies are being sanctified at their own pace, as God works in them. And as a new Christian, I had to come to terms with a horrible fact: I am a tremendously vain woman. As I was nearing my wedding, I realized I wasn’t interested in looking good for my fiancé. I was interested in being admired by everyone else! My heart really strained against the idea that I had to let go of trying to impress everyone in a three block radius with my looks. But God, in his mercy, gave me three children and a lifestyle that necessitates wearing sweatpants much of the time. I still love dressing up, and I think that’s normal, but I’m no longer trying to win everyone’s admiration.

It’s helpful to remember that if we see a woman at church whom we think is dressed immodestly, she may be a new Christian. Or she may come from a different culture (there’s a subject to write a whole book on!). Or this may be the form of dress modelled for her. Or she may simply be so well endowed up top that anything lower than a turtleneck shows their #ChristianCleavage.

While ostentatious dress is a concern, we can’t forget that we don’t know what else is going on in a woman’s heart. We don’t know where God is working most profoundly. So before we get tempted to point fingers, we might want to consider where he’s working in ours first.

Take away the foundation and lose everything

Inspiration-Bavinck

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.

Can we be politically disengaged as Christians?

politics

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?

Never make peace with death

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

FINAL_AbortionMap_CN4.29.14

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)

Links I like (weekend edition)

Kindle deals for Christian readers

And Crossway’s Foundations of Evangelical Theology series is on sale for $4.99 each:

What did you see in heaven?

Painfully accurate commentary from Adam Ford.

How to write a joke

A Soiled Bride He Will Not Have

Lore Ferguson:

But the presence of the gospel doesn’t change the presence of messy theology. In fact, the presence of the gospel sets us free to work all things out in submission to a singular reality: broken beyond repair in our sinfulness, the Father sent the Son to suffer, die, resurrect, and leave the perfect love of the Holy Spirit with His children in order that we might have a helper to bring us into all truth.

Is glorifying God a hate crime now?

Russell Moore:

Of course the chief wants to glorify God in his job. That doesn’t mean annexing his fire department for the Southern Baptist Convention. It means living with integrity, respecting other people, dealing honestly, as one who will give an account for his life.

That’s hardly surprising, just as it is hardly surprising the chief holds to a typical evangelical Christian (and Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox and Orthodox Jewish and Muslim) view of marriage and sexuality.

Doing and being

Jeremy Walker:

There are times when – because of fear, weariness, laziness, busyness, sickness, doubt or other reasons – we have to take ourselves in hand and stir ourselves up and spur ourselves and others on. Nevertheless, we should not need to be beaten into testifying of the grace of God in Christ. It bubbles out of a man like the apostle Paul under a variety of motivations, but it rarely seems to need to be drawn out, only directed as it flows.

Links I like

$5 Friday at Ligonier

Today’s $5 Friday sale at Ligonier has a whole bunch of great resources on sale, including:

  • The Mystery of the Trinity teaching series by R.C. Sproul (audio & video download)
  • Willing to Believe teaching series by R.C. Sproul (audio & video download)
  • Reformation Profiles teaching series by Stephen Nichols (DVD)
  • The Psychology of Atheism teaching series by R.C. Sproul (CD)
  • Defending Your Faith by R.C. Sproul (ePub)

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

The “Boy Who Came Back from Heaven” recants

Alex Malarkey, the book’s co-author, says “I didn’t die,” and “the Bible is sufficient.” Good on him for doing it, too.

Expositional imposters

Mike Gilbart-Smith:

Mark Dever rightly describes Expositional Preaching as “preaching that takes for the point of a sermon the point of a particular passage of Scripture.” However, I have heard many sermons that intend to be expositional, yet fall somewhat short. Below are seven pitfalls that one might try to avoid. Each of these pitfalls either doesn’t correctly make the message of the passage the message of the sermon, or doesn’t make it a message to that congregation at all.

Why and How to Be Self-Critical When You Write

Justin Taylor shares a great excerpt from John Frame’s The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God.

5 Simple Ways to Teach Your Kids Theology

Aaron Earls:

How can you weave theological teaching into their daily lives, without necessarily setting them down for an in-depth family sermon (though there is nothing inherently wrong with that)? How can you impart good theology into the lives of your children, without possessing a theological degree (though hopefully there is nothing inherently wrong with that)?

You don’t need to feel like you’re trying out the latest parenting fad or complicated system. If you are like me, you’ll try it for a month or two and then give up because it didn’t feel natural.

Instead, here are five simple ways to teach your kids theology virtually every day.

 

The Way Home podcast

Check out this new podcast by my friend Dan Darling. The first episode is good stuff, and features interviews with Karen Swallow Prior and Matt Chandler.

The Indispensable Value Of Practical Theology

David Murray:

Reformed Christians are famous (some would say “infamous”) for our emphasis upon theology; especially biblical theology, systematic theology, historical theology, and exegetical theology.

Just look at our creaking bookshelves and impressive libraries!

Critics, though, often ask, “Where’s your practical theology?”

And they sometimes have a point. At times we do struggle to translate the knowledge our heads are bursting with into our vocations, our families, our evangelism, our ethics, and other areas of the Christian life.

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

origin_4353718520

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?

Links I like

Spurgeon’s Sorrows

spurgeons-sorrows

Be sure to pick up a copy of Spurgeon’s Sorrows by Zack Eswine for $5.50 (or $4.50 when buying four or more) at Westminster Bookstore.

Quoting “Heretics” Approvingly

Mark Jones (note: the quotation marks are important):

Who are Reformed Christians, theologians, and pastors allowed to read? Or, more specifically, who are we allowed to cite positively in our writings and conversations? Are we allowed to speak positively of anything N.T. Wright has written, for example, without getting accused of all sorts of things?

Consider Thomas Goodwin, an important member of the Westminster Assembly who helped craft the Westminster documents. Those he read and cited approvingly provide a fascinating test case into how a Reformed theologian from the seventeenth century regarded the writings of those from within and those from outside his own theological tradition.

Our seared conscience on abortion

Matt Chandler:

One of the things I have found so interesting around this topic in particular is when I sit across from unbelievers, they will often bring up … scientific data to prove their point. “How could I believe that? Look at this!” The reason I’m becoming more and more inclined that what we’re dealing with here is no longer sane but rather insane is the science of the matter falls on deaf ears when you speak to those who are secular around this matter.

Stress destroys your brain

Jane Porter:

But before you get stressed about your ever-shrinking noggin, know that we are talking about prolonged chronic stress here. There are plenty of healthy kinds of stress we experience in small doses—the kind you feel before an important meeting or presentation, for example, that can give you a boost of energy and adrenalin.

A Word for Writers and Publishing Houses

Joey Cochran shares a thought-provoking quote from William Bridge.

How to Write More Gooder

Kevin DeYoung:

I wish I knew better how to articulate the keys to good writing. When I write it is a very intuitive process. After the fact I can look back and tell you why I did what I did, and looking at an intern’s paper I can point out what needs to be improved, but coming up with the ten most important principles of effective writing has so far eluded me. What I can point to are a few simple practices which may help a great deal.

You might also enjoy my similarly titled eBook on this subject.

My Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal For This Year – It’s Not What You Think

Mark Altrogge:

Maybe BHAGs work for companies and even for some churches. But I would submit that the Bible encourages a different kind of BHAG. Here’s the Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal that I am going to shoot for this year: to be faithful. Better yet, I want to be faithful in a few small things.

The Bible doesn’t encourage us to pursue greatness, but to be faithful servants. To be faithful in small things.

Gospel Formed

gospel-formed-medders

It’s all the rage to talk about being gospel-centered, shaped or formed these days. We have gospel-centered conferences, gospel-centered discipleship, gospel-centered blogs and teaching… With so much emphasis is being put on being gospel-centered, it’s easy to forget that we also need to live it out.

But what does that look like? What does it look like as we should know grow by, in, and with the gospel—and what does that even mean?

This is the heart behind J.A. Medders’ book, Gospel Formed: Living a Grace-Addicted, Truth-Filled, Jesus-Exalting Life. Divided into five parts, Medders’ offers 27 accessible and thoughtful meditations on the gospel, and its implications for our lives and identity.

He writes it like he means it (and that’s really important)

There’s a lot to like about Gospel Formed. Medders does a great job of laying an accessible theological foundation for Christian living in each chapter. He takes these nebulous concepts we float around—the buzzwords too many of us use, and almost all of us fail to define—and helps us get a sense of what they really mean.

For example, consider his definitions of the four primary aspects of gospel-centered living:

Gospel worship: “Gospel worship is the glorifying of God in all of life, in light of and in accordance with, motivated by, and empowered by the gospel of grace… [It] is living in response to the gospel in spirit and in truth.” (49)

Gospel identity: “Gospel identity is discovering the Christian’s meaning, purpose, acceptance with God, and position in the universe based on our union with Christ.… [It] is first, foremost, and always that we are ‘in Christ.'” (111)

Gospel community: “Gospel community is a group of Christians encouraging and exhorting each other to walk in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.… [It] is the people of God living out the gospel ethics of the kingdom of God.” (146)

Gospel mission: “Gospel mission is the call and commitment to spread the good news of the gospel of grace to all kinds of people in all kinds of places.… [It] is the spread of the name and fame of Jesus by gospel proclamation.” (168)

There’s a lot here, but as far as overarching definitions go, these are pretty good. And where it gets better is when Medders actually digs into the details of each of these. For example, central to worship is the joy produced by the gospel. And about this, Medders writes with joy:

Gospel worship has a certain zest to it, a nuance that is much more than simply a catchy melody or guitar riff. A gospel-centered heart dances tot he beat of a different exegesis. It looks for a crucified Galilean; it listens for the echoes of “It is finished!” Many claim that if churches aren’t giving eye-popping visuals, people will be lumps in the pew; the gospel, however, gives a different perspective. The gospel doesn’t need to be dressed up to inspire worship; it just needs to be seen with the eyes of the heart. Faith in Jesus ignites worship. The person and work of Jesus wills et your heart ablaze for him. (70-71)

Hopefully you caught the same thing I did in reading this paragraph. Where Medders succeeds in his writing is that he writes as though he really means it. There’s a difference between explaining something and demonstrating. What I find Medders does well consistently in Gospel Formed is the latter—as he explains, he actually demonstrates. His excitement about the gospel comes through. And for the reader who is desperately lacking that in his or her own life, this is a great gift.

It’s only funny if it doesn’t seem like you’re trying to be

Though a very strong book, Gospel Formed is not without its weaknesses, only two of which I’ll mention for the sake of time:

First—and this is one of those hard to quantify things—at times I felt like there was a disconnect between the tone and the content of the book. The only word I could use to describe it is “swagger.” Please do not read this brief critique as an accusation of pridefulness. This is an intangible—it wasn’t that Medders wrote something specific that jumped out as such. It may simply be a case of misreading on my part. If it’s something you pick up on as well, my recommendation is to chalk it up to first-time author jitters (something we all deal with).1

The second, for me, is connected to this, but a bit more serious. Where Gospel Formed suffers most is that Medders tries too hard to be funny at times. It’s not that being funny is a bad thing, by any means. But the best kind of humor is that which doesn’t call attention to itself—that seems almost effortless (which takes an extraordinary amount of effort to pull off, incidentally). However, what I found in Gospel Formed was that I was frequently distracted by the jokes—to the point that I frequently wanted to cross them out just so I could focus on Medders’ main points.

Sit and steep

All that being said, Gospel Formed is a very well-crafted book, especially for a first-time author. So if you choose to read it (and I do think it’s worth your time to do so), here’s what I’d recommend. Do not read it in a couple of sittings (as I did in preparing to review it). Read a chapter a day. Sit with it; steep in its message, with your Bible open. Soak in the good encouragements Medders offers and be reminded afresh that the good news is actually good. If you do that, I believe you’ll find this book a worthwhile addition to your library.


Title: Gospel Formed: Living a Grace-Addicted, Truth-Filled, Jesus-Exalting Life
Author: J.A. Medders
Publisher: Kregel (2014)

Buy it at: Amazon