Earth Day, religious devotion and creation care

earth-day

The first time I heard about Earth Day was when it interrupted my Saturday morning cartoons. I was probably seven or eight at the time, and this particular weekend NBC decided to air one of their NBC All Star type shows. This one featured the Huxtable family talking about how we shouldn’t be taking long showers as it wastes water. This was a way we could take care of Planet Earth. Next, came the announcement at school: because we had to do our part to care for the planet, we’d be spending a couple hours on Earth Day cleaning up trash in the school yard and the surrounding neighborhood.

Things escalated from there: recycling clubs (yep, I’m old enough to remember when recycling was a new thing), more posters, more TV specials, Ferngully, and Captain Planet:

As a child, I was heavily exposed to the fear of global warming and acid rain. But it didn’t really change my life that much. Nor did it really seem to change the habits of anyone else I knew, either. But I did slowly see it starting to change how people wanted to present themselves. Though there was little overt pressure, people seemed to want to appear to be environmentally conscious, even if they didn’t really care all that much.

Because thinking about something is just as good as doing it, right?

But over the years, I noticed a change as the message shifted and the rhetoric took on a more overtly religious tone. The local coffee shops put up posters exposing the dangers of styrofoam cups and their continued existence over the next 1000 years in landfills (despite only having been invented in the 1940s). Garbage and recycling programs have escalated to require separate bagging of items—paper, plastic and metal, compost, and other (yet still crushed in the same bins in the pickup truck). Our government has even got in on the action, instituting environmental fees on your electronic products (a sure sign of environmentalism being mainstream). Earth is no longer the place we live, but “the mother of my mother,” and the use of fossil fuel is comparable to human slavery.

And then there’s the public schools. I’ll be honest, even though I noticed the changes in behavior, it didn’t really hit home until a few years ago, when my daughter came home from school with a handout that talked about how we were hurting the earth because we drove cars, and should really be using public transit or bicycles instead. This led to the following conversation:

Abigail: “We shouldn’t drive our car. We should take the bus.”

Me: “Okay… So, let me ask you something. Does your teacher take the bus to school?”

Abigail: “No.”

Me: “Does she ride a bike?”

Abigail: “No.”

Me: “So how does she get there?”

Abigail: “She drives.”

Me: “So does that mean your teacher is bad?”

Abigail: “No…”

Me: “So if your teacher isn’t bad for driving a car, then why are we bad for driving one?”

Abigail: *Lightbulb moment*


Now, obviously, I’m not going to declare we should all start driving gas-guzzlers to the arctic circle for a wild weekend of seal hunting. I don’t want anyone to think I’m saying don’t bother recycling (even if I question its efficacy at times). But as we come up to Earth Day and the increase in environmental messages and rhetoric, I want us to consider the question:

What does it really teach?

The more I consider it, the more I wonder if what it really teaches is that humanity is simultaneously the problem, and the solution. We are to be our own saviors, even as we lament our existence. Our world is overpopulated.1 We are consuming our resources at an unheard of rate and within the next 50-ish years, we’ll be running out of water, fossil fuels and possibly even air, as the doomsday prophesying goes. We’ve gotten ourselves into a horrible mess, and we are the only ones who can get ourselves out of it.

Notice the religious contours of this: there’s a state of perfection that’s been lost. There’s a problem to be resolved. And there’s a promised salvation from the problem we face. The problem, of course, is it all centers on us. It’s a religious system without God.

This sort of environmental hoobity-boobity is rooted in what Peter Jones would call Oneism—a radical rejection of the Creator/creation distinction. Because we ignore or outright reject the Creator—the one who created all things and supplies all our needs—the creation becomes the object of our worship. Thus, environmentalism becomes a matter of life and death.

And this religious devotion is fundamentally what Christians must reject. We are not worshippers of the creation. We have dominion over it. Not to abuse, but to carefully use its resources as God’s image bearers—his representatives—in the creation. So what does this mean for us?

1. We don’t worship the earth. A Christian caring about the environment is a good thing. But we must reject anything that smacks of placing any created thing (including the planet) in a position it does not deserve.

2. We consume responsibly. As I’ve written elsewhere, while I’m skeptical that a styrofoam cup in a landfill will still exist in 15,000 years, I’m all for being responsible as a consumer. Don’t buy more than you need. Buy things that last. Just because you can be conspicuous in your consumption doesn’t mean you should be.

3. We trust the Lord to provide for all our needs. If God provides for us—if he makes it rain on the just and unjust alike—then we have nothing to fear. Ever. This means it’s highly unlikely that we’ll ever run out of clean drinking water, or appropriate fuels, or lose the ability to produce food to eat. Our problems around these things really have more to do with distribution than actual shortages (even in the case of California).

As wonderful as the earth is, it does not deserve our devotion. There is only one who does, and that is our Creator, the maker of the heavens and earth. Caring for the environment is a good thing, but only if we understand it in relationship with the ultimate thing.


photo credit: Full Disk Image of Earth Captured August 24, 2011 via photopin (license)

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Kindle deals for Christian readers

This week’s Crossway deals focus on biblical authority:

Be sure to also check out Cross edited by John Piper & David Mathis ($4.99) and Ordinary by Tony Merida ($4.99).

When Your Twenties Are Darker Than You Expected

Paul Maxwell:

The human body starts dying at age 25. Our twenties slap us with the expiration date of sin’s curse (Genesis 6:3): slowly, in our ligaments; tightly, in our muscle fibers; subtly, checking for bumps; decimally, with a rising BMI. We feel death in our twenties; emotionally and relationally, in ugly and odious ways. Death latches its chain to our frame, slowly pulling us deep into an answer to the question “Death, where is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:55). Our twenties bring so many answers to that question — transition, failure, desperation, dependence, accusation, responsibility, moral failure, stagnation, unfulfillment. “Sting” isn’t sufficient. Our twenties can be a dark time.

How should writers and editors work together?

Aspiring writers, you’d do well to take this advice from Gavin Ortlund seriously.

Does Open Theism solve the problem of evil and suffering?

Randy Alcorn:

I don’t enjoy opposing a doctrine that seems to comfort some suffering brothers and sisters. However, I believe open theism redefines God Himself, altering one of His most basic attributes, omniscience, in a misguided and unsuccessful attempt to make it more compatible with His love.

4 Things the ‘Hate Psalms’ Teach Us

Wendy Stringer:

My husband and I spent the first 15 years of our life together with a church that sang the psalms in corporate worship. They were set to old hymns and anthems, with language similar to a sonnet and sung a cappella. Opening burgundy psalters, waiting for four notes blown on the pitch pipe, we would break into harmony and sing our hearts to God.

It was a beautiful experience, but every once in a while we would come to an imprecatory psalm, and I couldn’t choke out the words. Singing Psalm 137, for example, felt offensive and unnecessary; Jesus is not explicitly present, so why sing as though he has not come and saved us?

Why these imprecatory psalms? Why Psalm 137? What do these psalms tell us?

Faithfully Delivering the Gospel

Erik Raymond:

If we really believe that the gospel is the power of God for salvation we probably would not mess with it. It is not wise to edit perfection; we have not been given proofreading writes by God to add or delete elements from his masterpiece of Christ exalting truth.

What teaches us the preciousness of the Creator?

A little while ago, I started a new periodic series called “Going beyond inspirational gobbledygook.” Much of what’s offered to us as inspirational quotes (and much of what we see shared on social media) is little more than sub-biblical nonsense (or worse), so I wanted something for the rest of us—something that encourages us personally, but also truly inspires others in the gospel.

While occasionally, these will be original quotes, often they will come from saints older and wiser than me. Today’s  comes from Charles Spurgeon, from his sermon, “Order and Argument in Prayer”:

precious-creator

(Be sure to save and share this image with your friends!)

And just for fun, here’s some additional context for this quote:

My brethren, nothing teaches us so much the preciousness of the Creator as when we learn the emptiness of all besides. When you have been pierced through and through with the sentence, “Cursed is he that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm,” then will you suck unutterable sweetness from the divine assurance, “Blessed is he that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is.” Turning away with bitter scorn from earth’s hives, where you found no honey, but many sharp stings, you will rejoice in him whose faithful word is sweeter than honey or the honeycomb.

Got a quote you’d like to see in this series? Let me know in the comments!

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Kindle deals for Christian readers

Today’s the last day to take advantage of these deals from Crossway:

Traits of leaders who hire well

Eric Geiger:

In my role, I interact daily with leaders and managers who hire people, who invite others to join the teams they lead. I have observed these seven common traits in leaders who hire well, leaders who seem to excel at attracting the right players to their teams.

Batman v Superman: the first teaser trailer

Well, this is pretty impressive:

Paul Was Inspired, Yet He Wanted Timothy to Bring Him Books to Read!

This is a great from Spurgeon, courtesy of Justin Taylor.

What Kind of King Is This?

Mike Leake:

I think if we are being honest we can all identify with Clapton. None of us likes to be disrespected. We especially don’t like being forgotten. Who of us hasn’t been a bit insulted because someone has forgotten our name?  We have a certain idea of our standing in society and our dignity before our fellow man. If someone treats us in a way that does not match up to our perceived worth and dignity we respond with anger.

Teens react to the 90s Internet

A mild language warning for those who might appreciate it aside, this is a lot of fun:

3 favorite teaching moments from #TGC15

tgc15

From April 13-15, 2015, around six thousand Christian men and women came together in Orlando, Florida, for The Gospel Coalition’s 2015 National Conference, to consider the new heavens and the new earth. Yesterday, I shared three personal reflections on the conference, and today, I wanted to share a few of the standout moments from the plenary sessions:

1. John Piper on Christians as radical truth-tellers. As Piper applied his texts, Isaiah 11 and Isaiah 65 (the whole message was terrific), he declared that Jesus is “calling us to be people of radical truthfulness. To not make judgments on appearances, but on truth.… We are to be radically truth-driven Messiah people.”

His key example? Ghostwriting among Christian authors:

“If you write something, put your name on it! If you didn’t don’t put your name on it! If someone wrote it with you, put both names on it. We do not use the ways of the world to write a book or win a soul!”

2. Keller on what a circumcised heart is. “When the Bible talks about the heart it’s the control center of the whole being. Hearts put their trust in something. They face things. … The thing your heart looks to is what you think about when you don’t have anything to think about. What the heart wants, the mind finds reasonable, the emotions find desirable.”

And this is why God commands us to have circumcized hearts. This, external sign of being obedient to the law of God. Circumcision of the heart, he said, “means that the innermost will wants to do those things. Our pleasure and our duty are the same. What you ought to do and what you want to do are the same things.”

But it’s the illustration he gives about why God commands that particularly intimate part of the body be involved in physical circumcision that got me. It’s to remind us of the grossness, the vileness of sin.

3. Ligon Duncan on why the “not yet” matters right now. Most Christians are familiar with the idea of the already/not yet, or the now and not yet of reality. The gospel has present affects, but has future implications. And yet, so many people seem to think that if you pay too much attention to the “not yet” you’re good for nothing right now. As he preached on Romans 8:16-25, Duncan politely called bunk on this idea. “There are a lot of people who say if you care about the ‘not yet’, you won’t care about ‘now’, and you’ll be escapist in your view of the Christian life. But the Bible says that the ‘now’ matters forever, and ‘forever’ matters right now.

You must have your eye on that future hope. If you’re just hoping in the now, you’re not hoping as Paul is telling you to hope. The reformed doctrine of justification in grace alone by faith alone in Christ alone ended slavery in the British empire. We’ve been told our doctrine isn’t “social” enough. We need to modify it to make it more social. No.

It is the doctrine of justification in grace alone by faith alone in Christ alone that caused Wilberforce and his coworkers to expend their last breath to set captives free! You can’t live now unless your hope is in the not yet. The now is so overwhelming, if you really look at it, you can’t survive without the not yet.1

(Sadly there’s no clip of this available, but it was great.)

Were you at TGC15 or watching the livestream? What was a top moment for you?

Links I like

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Kindle deals for Christian readers

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

  • Herman Bavinck: Pastor, Churchman, Statesman, and Theologian by Ron Gleason (paperback)
  • The Psychology of Atheism teaching series by R.C. Sproul (audio download)
  • The Gospel Focus of Charles Spurgeon by Steven Lawson (ePub)
  • The Mighty Weakness of John Knox by Douglas Bond (hardcover)
  • What Is Reformed Theology? teaching series by R.C. Sproul (DVD)

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

This. Is. The. Day.

Michael Kelley:

The statement is simple: This is the day that the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it. Despite its simplicity, the rejoicing of the day is contingent upon the weighty assumptions packed into the first section. It’s only by embracing what’s between the lines of part A that we can really get to part B. Here’s what it might look like.

How to become gluten intolerant

This is shared in good fun (note: the last 30 seconds or so are a bit gross):

The Seed of Divorce

Tim Challies:

I recently sat with a group of young adults, men and women in their late teens and early twenties, and we spoke about singleness, dating, and courtship. Eventually the conversation advanced to marriage and to both the joys and the difficulties of marriage. We realized together that as these young adults are considering relationships and begin to pursue marriage, they are wondering how they can divorce-proof their marriages. Many of them have grown up surrounded by divorce and its effects. Some are afraid of commitment because they are afraid they may not be able to keep that commitment.

The latest Star Wars trailer

Jesus, the Gentle Pastor

Jared Wilson:

These words of Christ really minister to me. The immediate context is this: Jesus has resurrected and he is issuing warnings and promises to his disciples. He is consoling them about his soon departure, saying he is going to send the Holy Spirit to guide them into all truth. He’s going to keep speaking to them, only now through the Holy Spirit, primarily through the Spirit-inspired new covenant Scriptures.

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Inerrancy Is Not a New Idea, Just Ask Irenaeus

Brandon Smith:

…the idea that Scripture is without error isn’t something fundamentalists cooked up in a lab a century ago. Irenaeus, in Against Heresies, lays out a very explicit inerrancy-like view of Scripture when battling the Gnostics who taught the errancy of Scripture.

A Legacy Worth Leaving

Ray Ortlund:

The following is a letter my dad wrote several years before his death, which he left in his desk, where he knew we would find it.

2 Real Reasons People Don’t Go to Church

Aaron Earls:

People give all types of reasons for why they no longer attend church. Most of those given mask the real reasons someone becomes a former church member? It’s the same motivations for virtually every other human decision: pain and pleasure.

If you associate church with pain or church with interfering with your pleasure, you probably won’t go. Those are the real reasons why you don’t go to church, but they still shouldn’t be what keeps you out. Here’s why.

Our Preachers Still Need Our Prayers

Gary Millar:

In the book of Acts, it’s hard to miss the fact that the apostles gave their attention “to prayer and to the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:4). But what does this actually mean? Up to this point in Acts, there hasn’t been that much praying (so, for example, it isn’t even completely clear whether 2:42 means ‘they prayed’ or ‘they kept going to the temple’). But in Acts 4:24-30 we see that when the church prays, it prays for the preaching of the apostles. And although I can’t prove it, I suspect that from this point on in Acts praying for the impact of the apostles’ preaching is considered a complete no-brainer.

Wreckages and Seeds and All the Difference in the World

Lore Ferguson:

The difference between wreckage and seeds though, is that one falls apart and produces nothing, and one falls apart and produces everything. And it is important to remember the difference and to keep on remembering it.

 

The primary (and peculiar) task of the Church

business-of-church

Why does the church exist? Is it to clothe the naked, feed the sick, liberate the oppressed? Is it wrong for churches to do this? Not at all; in fact, it is quite good and necessary to our Christian witness. But they’re not the main thing.

As Martyn Lloyd-Jones argues in Preaching and Preachers, those things are good, but they are symptoms of a greater problem. A sin problem. The problem of being separated from God. And so, it falls upon the church to bring people into a right relationship with God. He explains:

It has come into the Church and it is influencing the thinking of many in the Church—this notion that the business of the Church is to make people happy, or to integrate their lives, or to relieve their circumstances and improve their conditions. My whole case it that to do that is just to palliate the symptoms, to give temporary ease, and that it does not get beyond that.

I am not saying that it is a bad thing to palliate symptoms; it is not, and it is obviously right and good to do so. But I am constrained to say this, that though to palliate symptoms, or to relieve them, is not bad in and of itself, it can be bad, it can have a bad influence, and a bad effect, from the standpoint of the biblical understanding of man and his needs. It can become harmful in this way, that by palliating the symptoms you can conceal the real disease. . . .

The business of the Church, and the business of preaching—and she alone can do this—is to isolate the radical problems and to deal with them in a radical manner. This is specialist work, it is the peculiar task of the Church. The church is not one of a number of agencies, she is not in competition with the cults, she is not in competition with other religions, she is not in competition with the psychologists or any other agency, political or social or whatever it may chance to be.

The church is a special and a specialist institution and this is a work that she alone can perform. (30-32, formatting mine)

Links I like

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TGC 2015 Livestream

The 2015 TGC National Conference kicks off this afternoon in Orlando, Florida. If you aren’t able to attend, be sure to take advantage of the livestream throughout the event. And if you are here, come say hello if you see me around.

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Crossway’s put eight books on sale this week, all focusing on the subject of suffering:

Be sure to also grab Becoming Worldly Saints by Michael Wittmer today for $2.99.

The Secret Sessions At The Gospel Coalition Conference

This is worth reading simply because Stephen Altrogge enjoys being silly.

Introducing the new ESV Bible app

Hero 1

Today, Crossway’s completely redesigned ESV Bible app releases for iOS devices. Here’s a look at some of the new features:

  • Innovative layout options, including new Reader’s and Verse-by-Verse Modes
  • Integrated reading plans
  • Free access to the ESV Global Study Bible notes and resources
  • Personal notes, highlights, and bookmarks
  • An in-app store
  • Streaming audio
  • Beautiful book illustrations

Find out more at ESV.org/mobile.

Can You Love Jesus and Hate Jesus’ Followers?

Dan Darling:

My neighbor is not a theologian. I’m not even sure he is a follower of Christ. But those simple lines gave me some good insight into a phenomenon that unfortunately plagues the evangelical church.

We think it’s acceptable to love Jesus and hate His followers.

The Church Is Not Your Frat House

Ryan Shelton:

In college, I joined a club that sought to foster a sense of community through secrecy. We sought to build fraternity through exclusivity, private ritual experiences, and of course, password-handshakes. The idea was that relationships grow deeper by cutting others out and surrounding ourselves in mystery and darkness.

Sometimes we can treat Christian worship like an insider’s club. And who doesn’t want to be included in a family-like brotherhood and sisterhood? But the New Testament blueprint for worship gatherings has little room for secrecy. Rather, hospitality rises to the top of the values we want to characterize our Sunday morning services.

You can’t justify its existence

sin-exists

You have to wonder: why on earth are people so intent on proving Genesis 1-3 untrue? Why do so many want to cast doubt on these early chapters’ credibility as being true? Why do we want to dismiss them as mere fairy tales or mythology?

Because they reveal the truth of the human condition—and how sin came into our lives.

We don’t like these chapters because they leave us with little doubt about the chief problem of humanity. But we want to change that—we don’t want to say it is disobedience to our Creator, or that we chose to believe a lie over the truth. Instead, we convince ourselves that our real problem is ignorance.

But in doing so, we are lying to ourselves. But, as Herman Bavinck explains, lying about sin, trying to justify its existence, is always a losing proposition:

Sin started with lying (John 8:44); it is based on illusion, an untrue picture, an imagined good that was not good. In its origin, therefore, it was a folly and an absurdity. It does not have an origin in the true sense of the word, only a beginning. Satan has, therefore, not incorrectly been called an “irony of all logic.” The impossibility of explaining the origin of sin, therefore, must not be understood as an excuse, a refuge for ignorance. Rather, it should be said openly and clearly: we are here at the boundaries of our knowledge. Sin exists, but it will never be able to justify its existence. It is unlawful and irrational. (Reformed Dogmatics: Sin and Salvation in Christ, vol. 3, 69–70)

Links I like

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Kindle deals for Christian readers

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

  • The Unwavering Resolve of Jonathan Edwards by Steven Lawson (hardcover)
  • Abortion by R.C. Sproul (ePub)
  • The Attributes of God Teaching Series by Steven Lawson (DVD)
  • Defending Your Faith by R.C. Sproul (ePub)

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

You can’t afford a stay-at-home mom

This is really great. Also, my wife is severely underpaid.

Why Homosexuality is an Issue of First Importance

Sam Allberry:

In Romans 14:1, he instructs his readers not to pass judgment on “disputable matters.” On such issues, Christians need to know their own mind and receive in fellowship those who differ. We might consider as examples of present day “disputable matters” issues like infant baptism or our understanding of the millennium. On such matters, Christians are free to differ. But on matters of first importance, we must remain in agreement if we are to be faithful to the gospel.

Here are five reasons why we must regard the issue of homosexuality as being of first importance.

ERLC Summit

The videos from the recent ERLC summit on the gospel and racial reconciliation are now available online.

The Most Important Thing My Parents Did

Tim Challies:

Why? I ask the question from time-to-time. Why are all five of my parents’ kids following the Lord, while so many of our friends and their families are not? Obviously I have no ability to peer into God’s sovereignty and come to any firm conclusions. But as I think back, I can think of one great difference between my home and my friends’ homes—at least the homes of my friends who have since walked away from the Lord and his church. Though it is not universally true, it is generally true. Here’s the difference: I saw my parents living out their faith even when I wasn’t supposed to be watching.

Google Is Always Listening. Should I Be Concerned?

Mark Altrogge:

I’ve been told Google records every word I type and knows my every preference. Google is always listening. Hey Google, make me some coffee….you know…that kind I really like. (Let’s see what happens). Recently a speech recognition program developer Tal Ater, discovered “an exploit in (Google) Chrome’s speech recognition that enabled unscrupulous websites with speech recognition software to listen in when users aren’t expecting.” Well, maybe some of those unscrupulous website folks will hear me share the gospel and get saved.

Are our missionaries teaching that Muhammad was a prophet?

Mike Tisdell helps us understand the “Insider movement” and gives good guidance on exploring what the missionaries we consider supporting may or may not be teaching.

Links I like

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Kindle deals for Christian readers

A couple of new ones for today:

Also, be sure to grab a copy the audio edition of Radical by David Platt at ChristianAudio.com (this deal ends very soon). And finally, RJ Gruenwald has put together a really nice new eBook, Galatians: Selections from Martin Luther.

Naive Young Evangelicals and the Illiberal DNA of the Gay Rights Movement

It might take you a couple of sittings to get through it, but Matt Anderson’s piece here is well worth reading.

Strong Enough to Have Convictions

Brandon Smith:

A tightly-held belief is sometimes a dangerous thing, but it can also be a precious thing.

And this is where Evans and her story take a left turn. Being “pro-church, pro-ecumenical” sounds great on the surface (and, frankly, I’m more broad in what I consider “orthodox” than perhaps many or most of my friends), but deeply-held theological convictions aren’t always something to be shared. People have died for these beliefs. People have sacrificed everything to defend these beliefs. One might say, “Well, if we’d all get along, there would be no need to die!” Well, yes, but… no.

Our First Response is Usually Wrong

Aaron Earls:

If I’m honest, the first action I usually take after every significant global, national, local or personal event is mistaken.

It’s not that I lash out in misdirected anger or refuse to follow the facts of the case. Instead, my first response is always to say something to anyone except the One who can actually do something about it.

3 Attributes of God Millennials Misunderstand

Chris Martin:

I think Millennials misunderstand three key attributes of God: his love, his holiness, and his justice, and I think the misunderstandings of each one fuel the misunderstandings of the others.

The Happy Christian

happy-christian-review

It’s on coffee cups, greeting cards, and posters of cute little baby animals. It’s one of the most important words in the Bible, yet one of its least understood and unpracticed concepts: joy.

Christians, by and large, do not seem to be terribly happy people, at least if you give any serious thought to the stereotypes that exist about us. We’re mean, intolerant, hateful, spiteful… but not terribly happy (unless, it seems, we’re telling a particular group they’re going to hell). And while it’s important that we realize stereotypes do not equal reality, it’s still worth considering: why do non-believers have the impression that we lack joy—and just as importantly, how do I actually become a joyful Christian?

In The Happy Christian, David Murray wants to help readers recover a positive faith—to help us “return to the overall positive balance of biblical truth and the elevating experience of real Christianity” (xxi). To do this, he offers ten ways we can increase our joy:

Happy Facts: Facts > Feelings
Happy Media: Good News > Bad News
Happy Salvation: Done > Do
Happy Church: Christ > Christians
Happy Future: Future > Past
Happy World: Everywhere Grace > Everywhere Sin
Happy Praise: Praise > Criticism
Happy Giving: Giving > Getting
Happy Work: Work > Play
Happy Differences: Diversity > Uniformity

More than “positive thinking”

The Happy Christian by David Murray

If you’re unfamiliar with David Murray, you should know: he’s not on a mission to become the next Robert Schuller or Joel Osteen. The Happy Christian, therefore, is not a rehash of The Power of Positive Thinking, or my personal (fake) favorite, Get Happy, Stupid! What Murray offers is not an encouragement to think positively, but realistically:

The kind of thinking I’m advocating is not so much positive thinking but realistic thinking, thinking that faces the facts (even the most unpleasant and unwanted facts), deals with the facts, uses the facts, and reframes the facts to move thoughts and feelings into a more appropriate perspective, resulting in a more positive mood. It’s all about reasoning and persuading on the basis of evidence and truth. And its foundation is not faith in self, but faith in God. (21)

Consider how what Murray suggests here changes how we view recent events close to home, such as those faced by the owners of a pizza parlor in Indiana who were forced to close their restaurant due to threats as a result of a hit piece on the local news that exploded online. Many Christians look at what’s going on in America—to say nothing of the serious persecution of Christians in the Middle East and beyond—and lament.

While, obviously, there is cause for great concern (for the social and political left’s agenda logically ends in a form of fascism), we need to look at events like these in light of what Scripture says. We should not be surprised when these events happen, for the world hates those who are like Christ (in as much as we are genuinely like him, and not just being grade-a jerk stores). But we should also remember that Jesus promised hostility and persecution—and we would also be wise to remember that while our afflictions are real, they are temporary. The hope of Christians should not be a Christian America, or a Christian Canada or United Kingdom, for that matter. Instead, our hope is in Christ and in his kingdom. While it isn’t easy, when Christ is our hope, our joy increases, even as grieve what’s going on around us.

Challenging deficient anthropology through common grace wisdom

What I appreciate most about the book is Murray’s grasp of common grace wisdom. After all, “The Christian should see far more beauty in the world than the non-Christian” (119). The same is true with, well, truth. Therefore, readers will notice right away that, in addition to Scripture, he frequently refers to extra-biblical material in support of his conclusions—scientific studies and secular books, in particular. Here are a couple of ways this approach—seeing far more beauty and truth in the world—helps us:

1. It challenges our deficient anthropology. We are right to be skeptical about much of what we see in the world, for a good deal is suspect. However, we cannot forget that, though fallen and lost in sin, every single man, woman and child is still made in the image of God. However stained and marred the image is, we still get a glimpse of the reality, usually through the moral actions and right conclusions of non-believers. Thus, it challenges us to think better of those around us, even as we recognize their right knowledge condemns them (a la Romans 1:18-23).

2. It encourages us to see more of God’s grace in the world. Along the same lines, just as we need to embrace the reality that all humans—regardless of our standing before God—are still made in his image and likeness, we would be wise to remember that Gods grace is bestowed upon all. Remember, God “makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” alike (Matthew 5:45). Thus, we should recognize all true things as true and receive what is true with thanks to God (which, incidentally, leads to greater joy…).

Joy moves and spreads

“A Christian pessimist is an oxymoron, a contradiction in terms,” Murray writes (93). More than that, a Christian pessimist doesn’t move forward. It doesn’t spread beneficially. But Christian hope always looks forward. It doesn’t long for the past, or fear the end of the world, but longs for the beginning of eternity, even as we work to help those suffering in the present. After all,

Christians have a future hope … that should form a much larger part of our conscious thoughts than our present or our past. Our prevailing viewpoint is forward, onward, advance. (92)

If we want to see the gospel go forward, if we want to see true, lasting joy spread, we need to embrace that sense of joy for ourselves. Let’s recapture that viewpoint Murray describes. Let’s, as he puts it, beat non-Christians at the happiness game because we can. We have the greatest reason to hope in the entire universe! We need to remind ourselves of reality. A great way to start is by reading The Happy Christian and put the wisdom contained within its pages to work.


Title: The Happy Christian: Ten Ways to Be a Joyful Believer in a Gloomy World
Author: David Murray
Publisher: Thomas Nelson (2015)

Buy it at: Amazon | Westminster Bookstore

Links I like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Today’s big list comes from B&H, who have put a whole pile of great books on sale in anticipation of TGC’s National Conference (which starts on Monday):

And finally, from the Christ-Centered Exposition commentary series ($2.99 each):

If Avengers: Age of Ultron came out in 1995

This is fantastic:

One Day He Appeared

Really enjoyed this piece by Betsy Childs.

The Formula for Endurance

Michael Kelley:

Endurance is more spiritually important than we sometimes think. In the book of Hebrews, for example, the writer exhorts the suffering and persecuted church over and over again to endure. Remain. Persevere. Stay in the fight until the end. But how do you do that? What’s the formula for endurance? It’s surprisingly simple.

Fatigue from the Culture War That Never Was

Jake Meador:

There is good reason, then, to be a bit more skeptical of these culture war fatigue narratives than we often are. They’re still popping up on a regular basis (see this Molly Worthen piece that alludes to fatigue published in 2012 and this more recent Ruth Graham piece) and yet for all the noise the classic culture war issues keep popping up–Chick-fil-a in 2012, Hobby Lobby in 2014, the Indiana religious freedom law this year.

That said, on an anecdotal level anyone who has spent much time amongst younger evangelicals probably understands where these continued reports of fatigue from the culture wars are coming from.

True Marriage with Ray and Jani Ortlund

A few week’s back, a number of Acts 29 churches in the Houston area hosted a marriage seminar with Ray and Jani Ortlund (who are lovely people). The videos of the sessions are now available, courtesy of Jeff Medders.