Four truths that will change how you care for the poor

happy days

Let’s be honest: no one with a firm grip on reality looks at the world and says, “Yep, everything is running exactly as it should.” When we millions of people go to sleep each night unsure if they’re going to eat the next day while others have an abundance beyond what they could need for a thousand lifetimes, we know something’s not right.

And therein lies the problem: we know things are wrong, but we don’t know what we can do about them. The problem seems too big to really make a difference! And you know something? We’re right to think so, at least in one sense. When we look at the suffering and injustice that exists in this world as a whole, it’s overwhelming. The problem is just too big!

And yet, we see throughout Scripture an overwhelming concern for the needs of the poor.… So we can’t simply turn a blind eye, or give into the despair that comes with the overwhelming nature of poverty. Instead, we need to engage as God has called us to—caring for the needs of others, both in the church and in the world (Galatians 6:10).

So where does it start? I believe it starts with a change of mind and a change of heart. In order for that to happen, we need to understand four things.

Read the whole piece at Christianity.com – Four truths that will change how you care for the poor

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A gospeled church

Jared Wilson:

The gospel cannot puff us up. It cannot make us prideful. It cannot make us selfish. It cannot make us arrogant. It cannot make us rude. It cannot make us gossipy. It cannot make us accusers. So the more we press into the gospel, the more the gospel takes over our hearts and the spaces we bring our hearts to, and it stands to reason, the less we would see those things antithetical to it.

You cannot grow in holiness and holier-than-thou-ness at the same time. So a church that makes its main thing the gospel, and when faced with sin in its ranks doesn’t simply crack the whip of the law but says “remember the gospel,” should gradually be seeing grace coming to bear.

The Secret of Joy

Jim Martin:

What God promises in return for obedience is astounding: a level of connection to God, a level of joy that is hard to imagine. And in my repeated experience, it is a level of joy that cannot be achieved by direct pursuit. Who stands to benefit more from God’s people being obedient to his mandate? Certainly the oppressed who are set free will benefit greatly. But it seems like God wants to show us that the people of God in general have at least as much to gain.

Churchoholics Anonymous

Mark Dance:

Since my computer didn’t recognize the term churchoholic, it vainly attempted to change it to the ignoble addiction of a chocoholic (def: a person who is excessively fond of chocolate). If you love the church, but suspect that your love has grown into an unhealthy obsession, consider getting help soon. Here are seven symptoms to love for that will help you to confirm and confront your addiction.

Jesus Cares About Your Words

Jeff Medders: “A day will come when Jesus will raise our bodies from the dead; I think he can transform our speech.”

Remembering Sermons

Aimee Byrd:

I stumbled upon a journal I had totally forgotten about. It is a sermon journal. I usually take notes on Sundays, but eventually, when I declutter my Bible, they get tossed as well. So back in 2008 I came up with the idea to keep a sermon journal. In rediscovering it I thought, “How the heck did I forget about this? It’s awesome!” The sermon journal is easy to do, great to go back and read, and therefore got promoted to a shelf on my desk. It’s just three easy steps.

Welcome Back, My Old Friend

Tim Challies:

Summer had some great moments of fun and relaxation. We had lots of good times vacationing and staycationing and otherwise enjoying the season. But it has also been tough. The day the kids left class for the last time and came home chanting something about “no more pencils, no more books…” I saw Routine following along behind them. His bags were packed and he was holding a ticket to somewhere far north, or maybe it was far south—I don’t really know. But I do know that he waved goodbye and disappeared that day.

Facing Leviathan

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Influence. Leverage relationships. Eschew formal authority. Develop compelling values… this is pretty much what you see in all the best-selling leadership books. And while it’s not all bad (although not all good, either), it begs the question: if influence is the silver bullet, why isn’t it working? 

Mark Sayers, senior leader of Red Church in Melbourne, Australia, may have stumbled onto the answer, and, as he writes in Facing Leviathan: Leadership, Influence, and Creating in a Cultural Storm, it’s less of an issue of technique or style than one of worldview.

A clash of worldviews

 

We are in the midst of a battle between what he describes as “mechanical” and “organic” values—a move away from traditional values surrounding leadership, which includes authority and power toward fluid, creative and (sometimes) leaderless leadership styles. And while some argue that this is our “evolving beyond” the modernist approach to life and leadership, Sayers argues it’s actually a reversion. It’s the reassertion of the values of Romanticism.

“Romanticism arose in reaction to the Enlightenment,” he writes, “attempt[ing] to create an alternative to the mechanical worldview. It would base its ideology on the suspicion of power and structure… They preferred emotion and experience to reason and the empirical.” And while the Englightment (or modernist) vision imagines the leader as hero, “the Romantic vision imagines the creative genius as a heretic, always pushing the boundaries and breaking taboos” (26-27).

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Go take a look at any of the leadership books littering your shelves and you’ll see this conflict front and center. But Sayers goes deeper than the Romanticism vs Enlightenment ideology clash—those two are merely alternatives to the Christian worldview, options that fail to stand up against the true battle:

The real battle in which our culture is engage is not between the mechanical and the organic but rather between the pagan and Christian worldviews. A Christianity that attempts to model itself on the hero or the genius will be a faith that has little potential to speak the good news to the West. Instead, we must rediscover the truly radical vision of leadership found within the Bible. A model of leadership… that dared to proclaim in pagan streets and squares that God had lowered Himself to come and live in the mess and muck of human life, within history, in time, in human flesh. (29)

Christlike leadership

The first and last chapters—and the passage above in particular—makes Facing Leviathan worth reading. Sayers succinctly and precisely identifies the battle within our world, and the struggle within leadership circles. We’re essentially fighting the right battle with the wrong weapons. We’re combating “leader as hero” with “leader as heretic,” preferring to be hip over being heard. And both approaches leave us—both leaders and followers—wanting.

The leader as hero types quickly tend to veer into becoming overbearing and authoritarian. I once knew a man who seemed more like a supervillain than a human being in this regard, laughing maniacally whenever he learned an employee had purchased a car or a house. It meant, from his perspective, he owned them—they needed their jobs, and he delighted in that fact. Followers of this type often feel beaten down and abused. But I’ve also seen the leader as heretic, too, and it also quickly falls apart as they’re too busy deconstructing what already exists to figure out how to move forward. Followers of this type are typically frustrated by the lack of forward direction, which feeds into their distrust of authority, which then makes them even more frustrated, which then…

We don’t need more heroes, and we definitely don’t need more heretics. We need something better. “We must become leaders who are deep in a society of the spectacle that produces shallowness” (115). In other words, we need leaders modelled after Christ. We need people who are, as Sayers calls them, rebuilders, those who are quietly “getting on with the job.”

“Our culture of deconstruction no longer makes sense to them,” he writes. “The culture of deconstruction that has come to dominate the church no longer helps them. It hinders them. They are the rebuilders, partners with God in the rebuilding of His creational order” (217). These are the kinds of people we need to become, he argues, people less concerned with worrying about “moving from the mechanical values to the organic values,” and instead “living wholeheartedly for the God we find in the storm” (218). And out of that comes something compelling and beautiful, something deep in a sea of shallow. Maybe even leaders worth following.

Weaknesses punctuated by the author’s strengths

There is so much strength to Facing Leviathan, particularly when Sayers is exercising his considerable skills as a cultural commentator, that it’s hard to find much fault with the book. But what weaknesses do exist come from its author’s strengths.

Sayers is clearly gifted as a cultural commentator, but is not nearly as gifted a biblical one, as demonstrated by his novel (but not entirely unorthodox) approach to Jonah throughout the book. Jonah isn’t the first book I’d go to tease out lessons on leadership, but maybe that’s just me. I’ve seen it done occasionally, but the results have always left me wanting. Jonah is a powerful illustration of the gospel, to be sure, but I’m not sure he really fits the mould of either the “heroic” or “heretic” leader. Instead, he, like the rest of us, is a deeply confused, broken, sinful, selfish, individual—one who desperately needs the saving work of the One whom he foreshadows.

As borderline blasphemous as it might seem to say “I wish he hadn’t included discussion of this or that biblical passage,” I’d almost rather he’d have not bothered with it since it lessens the impact of the rest of his writing. His theologically informed reading of culture, the arts, and literature stands on its own.

Nevertheless, I would not let this prevent me from recommending this book to most any reader, especially those in a position of influence (or leadership). By recasting our leadership principles as a conflict between worldviews, Sayers will surely cause its readers to rethink what they’ve read in the latest leadership bestseller—and perhaps reconsider their approach to Christlike leadership.


Title: Facing Leviathan: Leadership, Influence, and Creating in a Cultural Storm
Author: Mark Sayers
Publisher: Moody Publishers (2014)

Buy it at: Amazon

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How to speak Christianese

HT: Jeff Medders

Are We Passionate for People?

Jonathan Parnell:

It is an amazing thing that God comforts the downcast, and that he tells us this so clearly. The idea of God’s comfort isn’t religious folklore, nor is it some spiritual platitude to pull out when we can’t think of something more specific to say. This is a truth read explicitly in the words of Scripture, and pervasively narrated throughout.

But how exactly does he comfort us? This is an important question. Comfort, in order for it to be real comfort, must be as palpable as our pain. Theoretical comfort won’t do. The idea of comfort won’t satisfy. Therefore, in what ways might the “God who comforts” actually comfort his people?

7 Ways We Pray Without Praying

Aaron Earls shares how we might be praying without praying at all.

Who’s Self-Controlled Now?

Lore Ferguson:

People are prone to affirmation when it comes to commentary on one’s goodness or their kindness, but rarely do I hear someone say, “Wow, your self-control is really stellar. You’ve got it going on in that department.”

Why?

Because you can’t see my self-control unless I give you opportunity and opportunities like that are few. Before you can see me exercise my will power you have to know that there’s a struggle of my wills.

And I don’t let people see those things.

Don’t You Worry Child

Tullian Tchividjian:

One night about 18 months ago when I was putting Genna to bed, I asked her, “Honey, how do you think God feels about you?” Her immediate response was, “Disappointed.” After some probing, I realized that she wasn’t feeling convicted about any particular sin, she simply sees God as someone whose feelings toward her are basically unhappy ones. She knows that God is perfect and that she is imperfect—she understands that God is holy and that she is sinful—and so it only makes sense to her that God is perpetually displeased with her.

Lloyd-Jones on Scandalous Grace that Isn’t Cheap

Kevin DeYoung shares wisdom from Martyn Lloyd-Jones.

Even now, the Lord is betrayed

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Just now, the Lord Jesus is betrayed by not a few of His professed ministers. He is being crucified afresh in the perpetual attacks of skepticism against His blessed gospel; and it may be that things will wax worse and worse. This is not the first occasion when it has been so, for, at various times in the history of the Church of God, His enemies have exulted, and cried out that the gospel of past ages was exploded, and might be reckoned as dead and buried. For one, I mean to sit over against the very sepulchre of truth. I am a disciple of the old-fashioned doctrine as much when it is covered with obloquy and rebuke as when it shall again display its power, as it surely shall. Skeptics may seem to take the truth, and bind it, and scourge it, and crucify it, and say that it is dead; and they may endeavour to bury it in scorn, but the Lord has many a Joseph and a Nicodemus who will see that all due honour is done even to the body of truth, and will wrap the despised creed in sweet spices, and hide it away in their hearts. They may, perhaps, be half afraid that it is really dead, as the wise men assert; yet it is precious to their souls, and they will come forth right gladly to espouse its cause, and to confess that they are its disciples. We will sit down in sorrow, but not in despair; and watch until the stone is rolled away, and Christ in His truth shall live again, and be openly triumphant. We shall see a Divine interposition, and shall cease to fear; while they who stand armed to prevent the resurrection of the grand old doctrine shall quake and become as dead men, because the gospel’s everlasting life has been vindicated, and they are made to quail before the brightness of its glory.

C. H. Spurgeon, in a sermon at Metropolitan Tabernacle, 1878, (as quoted in C. H. Spurgeon’s Autobiography, vol. 4, 253)

Brothers, abandon the green room

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Every so often, I’ll be reading a book by a pastor and see mention of a green room at the church. For those who don’t know, a green room is one in which in which performers can relax when they are not performing (typically, they’re found in a theaters, concert halls, and studios).

Which, of course, is one of the goofiest things ever.

Now, I get it: I am not a natural “crowd” person. My favorite time at a party is when it’s time to go home. Most pastors (at least, most of the pastors I know) tend to have a more introverted temperament.

And while I get that, I hope we all realize that the green room runs completely contrary to the gospel.

No matter how we over-spiritualize it—whether we say that area is used for pre-service prayer, or yet another review of our sermon notes—it represents more of a detriment to our spiritual well-being than we might realize, both those of us in the congregation and those who preach. The green room is about isolation, about creating barriers between the shepherd and the sheep.

The green room is a place to hide.

The gospel, however, refuses to let us remain isolated. It connects us to God through Christ; but it also connects us to others. That whole “body” metaphor Paul kept using? Yep. The vine and branches analogy Jesus used? Ditto.

No matter how much we believe, “No one knows what it’s like to feel these feelings,” autonomous Christianity doesn’t work. Ever.

If a pastor does not feel that he can be present with the congregation while waiting to preach, there is something dreadfully wrong, internally. And if there’s a lesson for all of us—both congregation members and pastors alike—it’s that. Pastors cannot be disconnected from congregations. When they cease to be connected, they cease to truly be pastors. They become something else entirely. And this should never be.

Brothers, abandon the green room. Do not hide from the congregation; do not perpetuate the leadership is lonely garbage. Worship with the congregation, seeing your place in the body so you might experience the ministry of the body.

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Get The Attributes of God in today’s $5 Friday at Ligonier.org

Today you can get The Attributes of God, a teaching series by R.C. Sproul, Jr (DVD), for only $5 in today’s $5 Friday sale at Ligonier.org. Other items on sale:

  • A Shattered Image teaching series by R.C. Sproul (audio download)
  • The Christian Mind 2012 conference series (audio and video download)
  • The Gospel Focus of Charles Spurgeon by Steven Lawson (ePub + MOBI)

Although not a $5 Friday product, the latest teaching series from Ligonier, Only Two Religions by Peter Jones, is now available. Watch the trailer below:

You can also watch the first session online right now at Ligonier.org$5 Friday ends tonight at 11:59:59 PM Eastern.

11 Preaching and Pastoring Lessons Learned from My Mentor

Chris Hefner offers “11 of the preaching and pastoring lessons I’ve learned from my mentor.”

Bill Cosby responds to Victoria Osteen

Godly Parenting Isn’t Really Godly If It Lacks Affection

Joey Cochran:

Now, giving your kids plentiful affection is no guarantee for their healthy, productive, or carefree life. Neither should that be the aim; that’s actually short changing them of something far better. Heaping affection has a much richer aim. That aim is to prepare them for God’s love.

When we smother our kids with the comforting blanket of love and affection, their hearts are being prepared for receiving God’s love and affection. We’re tilling the soil of their heart to prepare for the implanted Word of God. That’s the chief aim in our affection – to give them the gospel. So here are four ways to fill up your child with affection that leads them to the gospel.

If He Can’t Destroy You, He’s Content to Divert You.

Erik Raymond:

I’m fascinated by summits between leaders. Whether we are talking about Roosevelt and Churchill or Reagan and Gorbachev or a host of other historical moments, I’m intrigued.

But there is perhaps no bigger meeting than what we find in Matthew chapter 4 between Jesus and Satan. Here you have the seed of the woman and the serpent meeting together in that long awaited moment. The head of the true evil empire and the head of the new humanity, the kingdom of grace.

This phony best practice for subject lines has to go

This is good advice for fundraisers.

“While the bylaws greatly restrict our authority, we must act like elders nonetheless”

This took courage on the part of these nine elders (now eight as one was dismissed the other day). Read it and pray for real change at Mars Hill Church.

Show me the body

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Recently I was asked this question by a reader, and it’s a good one: What would cause me to abandon Christianity?

What many people forget about Christianity is it’s not based on experiences or feelings. This is, of course, due to the fact that we’ve elevated experience to a place it doesn’t belong, and talk about “just believing” and all sorts of other nonsense.

But Christianity is based upon facts. And in reality, Christianity is the most falsifiable religion to ever exist, because all you have to do is two thing, both of which are accomplished in one act: Prove that Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, and prove the New Testament is false. How do you do that? With one piece of evidence: the body of Jesus Christ.

After the apostle Paul reminded the Corinthians of what is first importance in 1 Corinthians 15:3-11, he explained that:

Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. (1 Corinthians 15:12-19)

Paul is very clear here: if the body of Jesus could be produced, it would mean that He was never raised from the dead. And because He was never raised from the dead, the gospel would then be false. And if the gospel were proven false, Christians are “of all people most to be pitied” for they’ve put their hope in something meaningless.

He is confirming what we should all know: Christianity is easily falsifiable. You can easily disprove it. To do that, one only had to produce a body—and this is something that would have been easy, particularly in the earliest days. And yet none was then, and one still hasn’t been produced in the nearly 2000 years since Jesus was crucified. It wasn’t because the original followers of Jesus were super-creative guys, nor were they apparently the sharpest knives in the drawer. They were often rebuked by Jesus for not picking up most of what He was putting down. The makers of a conspiracy to deceive the masses these were not.

And then there’s the hundreds of witnesses to the resurrected Christ. “He appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time,” Paul wrote, most of whom were, again, alive at the time. (1 Corinthians 15:6). Paul was writing, give or take, about 20 years after the crucifixion of Jesus. If he and the other apostles had made the whole thing up, they could easily have been found out. And yet, here we are.

Because Christianity is so easily falsifiable, arguments of experience, feelings or “Jesus being resurrected in our hearts” just won’t do. It doesn’t allow for that. Christianity is based on historical facts, not on feelings. And if you could produce the body of Jesus today, you’d knock the foundation out of it. You’d not only prove that Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, you’d prove that the entire New Testament is false. And if the New Testament is false and Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, Christianity’s no good to anyone.

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Kindle deals for Christian readers

Only new ones that I’m aware of are Am I Called? by Dave Harvey (99¢) and Shame Interrupted by Ed Welch (FREE).

Help us plant a church in Rutland, Vermont

Jared Wilson:

Since my family’s arrival here in 2009, our church has seen a steady increase in mission-minded believers with a heart to plant a gospel-centered church in the downtown area of Rutland, Vermont, the largest town nearest us and the second largest town in the state.

Our church has more than doubled in the last 4 years, and we have already established a solid, mature, multi-generational core team in the city of Rutland that has already begun the work of community groups and evangelism. Our plan now, Lord willing, is to move from twice-monthly prayer gatherings to weekly “simple church” gatherings with the goal of launching public worship services for Redemption Church on Easter Sunday, 2015.

David Platt elected new IMB president

Yesterday, David Platt was elected as the new president of the International Missions Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. Here’s a word from Platt on the news:

Russell Moore offers his thoughts on why he’s glad Platt is in this new role. Tim Brister also gives some thoughts on why Platt’s the right man for the job.

Labor Day: Your Need for Both Work and Rest

Nick Batzig:

As we come to celebrate another Labor Day, it may be beneficial for us to step back for a moment and consider what Scripture has to say about the rhythm of work and rest—i.e. the cyclical configuration by which all the events of our lives occur. Learning the theology of work and rest is one of the greatest challenges of our own day. Many of us have adopted faulty views of work, and therefore have faulty views of rest. We are commanded to do all the work that needs to be accomplished every week in the six days that follow, and lead up to, the glorious day of rest. Then we are commanded to rest. This rhythm of work and rest is both a creational and a new-creational (i.e.redemptive) ordinance. The suffix to the 4th commandment in Exodus 20:11 and Deuteronomy 5:15 teaches us this. God commanded His people to rest one day in seven because He rested from the work of creation and because He redeemed them from the hand of their enemies. In short, we need to learn to work hard at learning to work as unto the Lord and we need to learn to work hard at learning to cease from our labors, by resting in the finish work of Christ.

Kindle + Evernote = ♥

Tim Challies:

As time goes on, I find myself doing more and more of my reading on my Kindle, and taking advantage of its super-simple ability to make notes and highlights. At the same time, I find myself relying on Evernote to help me retain and organize information. Books hold the information I want to know while Evernote holds the information I want to retain. When I put the two of them together, I get a powerful system to record and remember what I have read. Let me share a simple technique to quickly and easily get every one of your Kindle notes and highlights into Evernote.

5 Steps To Creating A Culture of Evangelism In Your Church

Brandon Hilgemann offers good advice.

What Is the Prayer of Faith?

Sinclair Ferguson:

Years ago, the editor of a publishing company asked me to write a book on prayer. The theme is a vitally important one. The publishing house was well known. To be honest, I felt flattered. But in a moment of heaven-sent honesty, I told him that the author of such a book would need to be an older and more seasoned author (not to mention, alas, more prayerful) than I was. I mentioned one name and then another. My reaction seemed to encourage him to a moment of honesty, as well. He smiled. He had already asked the well-seasoned Christian leaders whose names I had just mentioned! They, too, had declined in similar terms. Wise men, I thought. Who can write or speak at any length easily on the mystery of prayer? Yet in the past century and a half, much has been written and said particularly about “the prayer of faith.” The focus has been on mountain-moving prayer by which we simply “claim” things from God with confidence that we will receive them because we believe that He will give them. But what exactly is the prayer of faith?

Links I like

Kindle deals for Christian readers

And in print book deals, Westminster Bookstore has Alex Chediak’s terrific Preparing Your Teens for College on sale for $2. They’re also offering a Questions Christians Ask four-pack for $18. This set includes Can I Really Trust the Bible? by Barry Cooper, How Will the World End? by Jeramie Rinne, How Can I Be Sure? by John Stevens, and Is Forgiveness Really Free? by Michael Jensen.

Does the Bible Ever Get it Wrong? Facing Scripture’s Difficult Passages

Michael Kruger on his new blog series, for which he has invited “evangelical scholars to respond to some of the critical issues raised in Pete Enns’ “Aha moments” series. Scholars who have agreed to participate include Craig Blomberg, Greg Beale, Darrell Bock, Andreas Köstenberger, and Don Carson.” This will be a good series to read.

Christ Did Not Die for You to Do Keg Stands

Kevin DeYoung:

With most major college getting whipped into a full frenzy, I thought it would be worthwhile to dust off a few thoughts about binge drinking on our nation’s campuses. Most students won’t have to look hard for opportunities to drink over the next days and weeks (and months and semesters). They may have to go somewhere off campus to party, but the party scene comes recruiting right to them. Some students arrive at college looking to make their Party U dreams come true. Others just find themselves all alone and eager to fit in and make friends. The sad reality is that choices made in the first weeks (or even days) of college can set a trajectory that’s hard to break.

Which means churches and Christian groups must bend over backward to meet, greet, invite, and include. It also means churches must be ready to winsomely and courageously confront the university lifestyle when it is inconsistent with Christian commitment. Many professing Christians will live duplicitous lives–getting smashed on the weekends while still trying to be the good Christian boy or girl their parents and ministry friends imagine them to be. The problem is huge and anyone wishing to minister to college students needs to think about a biblical approach.

Here are a few suggestions on how to begin formulating a Christian response to drinking on our college campuses.

The One Thing My Mother Would Not Let Me Become

Thabiti Anyabwile:

I must have been about the age of my son, around seven, when my parents started what felt like a campaign of encouragement. They’d repeatedly tell me, “You can be anything you want to be in life, even President of the United States.” Then they’d follow with a question, “So, what do you want to be when you grow up?” I was trying on answers during that period of time. Professional football player. And a professional basketball players. Lawyer. Doctor. Perhaps something exotic like a marine biologist. They encouraged every ambition. Except one.

One evening my mom asked me the question and with beaming eye I answered, “A police officer.” I don’t know where the idea came from. Maybe we’d had an elementary civics lesson on “Officer Friendly” or perhaps a visit to our class from an officer. Perhaps it was watching “Kojak” or “Starsky and Hutch” (I know; I’m dating myself!). But whatever was the source of inspiration, it all got dashed in a moment. My mother’s face grew solid, the soft flesh of her cheeks stone. She snapped back, “You cannot be a police officer.” I asked why. She said, “I will not have you arresting our people all the time.” I think she also said something about worrying and sleepless nights, but her main point had to do with this adversarial relationship between the police and African Americans. I mentally crossed the police off my list of aspirations and got on about the business of being a little boy.

Never Resist the Urge to Pray.

Erik Raymond:

As people we know that it is often wise to resist various urges that we have. We can keep ourselves out of trouble by resisting the urge to say something when we are offended. We can prevent various health issues by resisting urges to overeat or (routinely) eat unhealthy foods. We can steer clear from financial debt by resisting the urge to buy something on impulse. We can almost develop a reflex of resistance in this fallen world. This can be good for us (and others).

However, there is one urge that you should never resist. This area is prayer. I believe it was Martyn Lloyd-Jones whom I first read who said, “Never resist any urge to pray.” That is great advice without much need for explanation. But let me point out a couple of reasons why.

Chosen is Better Than Worthy

Aaron Earls asks, “What if we have problems with feeling worthy because we weren’t made to be worthy, necessarily? What if we were made for something more?”

 

The irony of God’s strength

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In, Psalm 8:1-2, David gives God praise, describing the gloriousness of His nature and the majesty of His name. And almost immediately, he presents us with a curious irony: God’s strength is displayed in weakness:

O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. Out of the mouth of babies and infants, you have established strength because of your foes, to still the enemy and the avenger. (emphasis mine)

Notice how God has established his strength—”out of the mouth of babies and infants.” God reveals His majesty using the “weak” and “foolish” things of this world. He uses voices that don’t matter, at least in worldly ways. He revealed himself to the world through the nation of Israel—redeemed slaves taken out of the land of Egypt. Through Moses, God revealed himself to Pharaoh with power and authority. Moses, a man who stuttered. Later, as Israel’s earthly throne was established, God rejected Saul, who was the epitome of what a human king should be, and gave the throne to David, a lowly shepherd boy.… On and on we could go through the Old Testament as God consistently used seemingly insignificant voices within the culture of the time—the poor, women, children—to reveal his power and majesty to the world.

And today, it’s no different. God continues to reveal his strength through the weak things in the world. He reveals himself through the church. A church founded by uneducated fishermen, a former tax collector and zealots, with a message that sounds like absolute lunacy to most who hear it: that God would come in human form, suffer and die on a roman cross to pay for the sins of the world, and rise again from death.

In his excellent book, The Way of the Righteous in the Muck of Life, Dale Ralph Davis describes the day General T.J. “Stonewall” Jackson’s world came crashing down around him. His wife had given birth to a stillborn son, then she suffered an uncontrollable hemorrhage. In the span of a few hours, Jackson went from joyful expectant father to crushed widower.

The next day he wrote his sister Laura; he told her he thought he could submit to anything if God strengthened him for it; but he made no attempt to cover his sad despair. But then there in the middle of his note, there is a most moving one-liner. He says: “Oh! my Sister would that you could have Him for your God!”

Can you imagine that? Can you think of anything weaker than Jackson dashed and devastated by the Lord’s “taking away”? Here is a man beaten and crushed who nevertheless says, Oh that you could have him for your God.

This is one of the great ironies of the gospel: God’s strength is made known in weakness. That is what God has entrusted to us. Fallible, foolish, sinful people, who, by God’s grace, have been saved and redeemed by this foolish message of good news and great joy. And so, like David, we give God praise because of the irony of his strength.


Photo credit:__o__ via photopin cc

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On Platforms, Self-Promotion, and Pleasure Complete

Tim Brister:

You think that, following such an ordinary introduction, his list of accomplishments would soon follow to make up for a bland beginning. And yet, it seems to be all the more paradoxical. The Apostle John says John the Baptist “was not the light.” This was confirmed through the testimony of John the Baptist who, at every point, told people who he was not. “I am not the Christ.” “I am not Elijah.” “I am not the Prophet.” Finally, when asked to explain who he was, John could only describe himself as a voice in the wilderness. And when his followers pressed him to be more aggressive and increase his influence, John could only respond by saying, “I must decrease.”

So there you have it. The man who Jesus said was without comparison (Jesus excluded of course). His life did not end with him on a throne but in prison. He did not have a crown on his head but ended with his head on platter. How could it really be true what Jesus said about John the Baptist? Is there really none greater?

Driscoll steps down for at least six weeks while disqualifying charges are reviewed

More at RNS.

Parable of the Vineyard Workers: The Best for Last

Aaron Earls:

o what it is it that makes the last different from all the other workers? They went into the job blind – totally relying on the landowner’s generosity. He didn’t even promise to pay them anything.

Then why did they go to work for someone without having any type of agreement? Trust. They trusted the landowner to do right by them.

After the workers put their trust in the landowner, how did he treat them? Grace. They didn’t deserve the denarius. They barely deserved any pay, yet the landowner was compassionate to them. Their trust found grace. Their reliance was met with undeserved favor.

Losing your voice: 4 ways pastors lose pulpits

Clint Archer:

There are many ways to leave a church honorably. You could die in the pulpit. You might gracefully retire so a younger man can fill your shoes. Perhaps you feel called to another ministry, and your current elders support you in that endeavor. But there are some ways no pastor wants to be ejected from his ministry.

The Questions God Asks

Lore Ferguson:

I can’t shake the heaviness. It’s been there for weeks, months, a year. A funeral shroud. “Where, oh death, is your sting?” Oh, it’s here. All here.

I’ve been thinking of Mary in the garden these days, weeping by the tomb, the empty tomb. Standing by the evidence that her Lord had risen and she didn’t even recognize the man who asked, “Why are you crying? And whom do you seek?”

But he knew.

This should make us stop and think

Without realizing it, leaders can paint their own dysfunction over churches, ministries, and missions fields. All too easily, the effort to preach the gospel becomes about appeasing fears and insecurities, turning leadership into a tool used to primarily gain a sense of personal meaning.

If this doesn’t make us sweat a little bit, I’m not sure we’re examining ourselves carefully enough, what do you think?

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The Sin in Our Cynicism

Jonathan Parnell:

Cynicism is a problem.

Maybe it’s not explicitly on your radar, but you’re sure to have felt its force. Cynicism is that sneering bitterness toward all things true and deep. It’s the subtle contempt trying to contaminate the cheeriest of moments — that slow, thick smoke of pessimism toxifying the oxygen in the lungs of our hope, suffocating any glad-hearted embrace that God did something meaningful in our lives and strangling our childlike faith to opt for “another angle” on why things happen the way they do.

Dethroning Celebrity Pastors

Joe Thorn:

Celebrity Pastors do not simply build themselves. They are built with the help of fans. It’s not wrong or idolatrous to get a photo with a person you admire. Nor is it dangerous to love the preaching or teaching of a particular leader. But at some point admiration turns into allegiance, and allegiance gives birth to adoration, and adoration, when it is full grown, produces idolatry. I am not sure exactly when the line is crossed–maybe when we start asking well-known pastors to sign our Bibles. Maybe. But the line is well behind us when a leader’s word is more valuable to us than God’s word and when they become our authority.

The Importance of Persuasive Preaching

Eric McKiddie:

It would be nice if persuading our congregations of these things was as simple as constructing a sound argument. Unfortunately, even bulletproof logic can fail to change people’s hearts. In the midst of our sermons, we often think that we are articulating a biblical position with impeccable precision, all while the young professional struggles to see himself as a part of the story we are telling, the stay at home mom can’t see how this applies to dirty diapers, and the high school student is just plain bored. This happens every week to every preacher.

My Thoughts on “Boyhood”

Russell Moore offers his take on Richard Linklater’s 12 years in the making new film.