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Sex Trafficking: What it is, why it matters, and what you can do about it

Barnabas Piper interviews Stephanie Clark, executive director of Amirah.

Why We Need a Christian Counter-Culture

Ivan Mesa shares a few excerpts from the following video:

Saint Samson

David Murray:

Following my attempt to resurrect Jephthah’s reputation, I now turn my attention to Samson. In some ways, Samson is even harder to rehabilitate due to his popularity (or should I say “infamy”) in children’s Bible story books. We’re all familiar with the narrative and the moral: “Don’t be like Samson who committed adultery, murder, and suicide.” …Is resuscitating Samson a lost cause? I don’t think so, for the following reasons.

Four Keys for Avoiding the Anger Trap

Mark Dance:

The more vocal our critics become, the more vocal we should become in prayer. I realize that this concept is both counterintuitive and countercultural, but it really works! Have you tried adding your enemies to your prayer list?

5 Ways to Keep Church Discipline from Seeming Weird

Jared Wilson:

Recently, the subject of church discipline has hit the radar in many circles due to some high profile controversies and scandals.  The way some churches appear to poorly exercise church discipline is as distressing as the way many Christians reacted to the concept. There has been a collective incredulity about church discipline as some kind of “strange fire” in the evangelical world.

I can’t help but think that this aversion is partly because, as God has built his church, his church leaders have not always kept up with what makes a church a church. So even to mention the idea of a church disciplining its members strikes tenderhearted and undereducated Christians as weird, mean, and legalistic. How do we work at keeping church discipline from seeming weird?

 

They will argue your experience, but share it anyway

share-your-story

A few years ago, a couple friends and I were hanging out with colleagues of ours from the Netherlands. As we enjoyed some chicken wings and soda, one of them asked me, “So how did you get saved?”

I hesitated for a moment, and then told him the short(ish) version: that both my wife and I were attacked by demons, I asked Jesus to save me (which he did), and it all stopped. After what seemed like several minutes of stunned silence, one of my friends said, “And if I didn’t know him, I’d think he was crazy, too.”

This wasn’t the first time that’d happened, either. A couple of years prior to that, back when I used to frequent the message boards of a couple of big name comic book writers, an artist named Alex wanted to hear from people who’d had a conversion experience (he was and is not a believer, to the best of my knowledge). I offered to share what happened, which he was glad to hear about… but then suggested it probably wasn’t actually something supernatural that happened, but sleep paralysis. And then there was the time when… You get the idea, right?

As you can imagine, I have a hard time telling people about how I came to faith. Now, it’s not that I’m ashamed or embarrassed, but because there’s some freaky deaky stuff in there, I’ve come to expect people to back away slowly. And to be honest, it gets a little disheartening when people look at me as though I’ve got two heads and one has spinach in its teeth. And it frustrates me to no end when I see the cavalier attitude with which some charismaniac nitwits brag about such thing because I’ve had experiences that would make them tremble in their biker boots.

Some well-meaning people will tell you that the best tool in your evangelistic arsenal is your testimony—no one can argue it. They can’t tell you that isn’t really what happened… y’know, except for when they do. And make no mistake: they will. But you know what? I still try to tell it, awkwardness and all. Why? Because it’s how God saved me.

The same is true for you. Whether it was a seemingly mundane experience or a terrifying one, how God saved you is how he saved you. You might feel awkward, but you know what? Share it anyway.

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Tucking them in

Becky Wilson:

“Well, that’s not that weird,” you may think. No, for real. It’s weird. Because for some reason, I can’t just do it once and be done with it. First, I go and tuck them in as soon as they’re ready for bed. You know the drill: Make sure the doors and windows are locked. Make sure they have enough blankets. Turn the big lights off and the little lights on. Pray. Hugs. Smooches on all 4 cheeks and 2 foreheads. That sort of thing. And then as I’m walking out the bedroom door to close it behind me, we try to see who can be the last one to say “I Love You.” (Macy always yells it one last time after the door is closed, which I treasure more than she knows.) At this point, the girls are all set. They’re happy and cozy and likely to drift off to peaceful sleep in just a few minutes. I literally do this every single night we’re in the same house together. I can’t sleep if I don’t.

Why Shia’s faith may not look like yours

Preston Sprinkle:

When you try to cut out Christians with a religious cookie cutter, you not only tarnish diversity, but you trample on grace. It’s one thing for Christian subcultures to cultivate unique values. But it becomes destructive when those values are chiseled on Sinaitic tablets for all to obey.

How Different Cultures Understand Time

Richard Lewis:

Time is seen in a particularly different light by Eastern and Western cultures, and even within these groupings assumes quite dissimilar aspects from country to country. In the Western Hemisphere, the United States and Mexico employ time in such diametrically opposing manners that it causes intense friction between the two peoples. In Western Europe, the Swiss attitude to time bears little relation to that of neighboring Italy. Thais do not evaluate the passing of time in the same way that the Japanese do. In Britain the future stretches out in front of you. In Madagascar it flows into the back of your head from behind.

Are You Discontent?

Erik Raymond:

Christians are to be content. We see this modeled in Scripture in the life of the Apostle Paul (Phil. 4:9-11). We also see it commanded in Hebrews 13:5. In previous blog posts (here,here, and here) I’ve attempted to define what contentment is and why we must pursue it. Well, what is contentment? I’ve defined it the following way: Contentment is the inward, quiet spirit that joyfully submits to God’s providence.

Staring at Dementia, Fighting for Joy

Jeff Robinson:

She looks like my mother, but it couldn’t be her; this lady doesn’t even know my name. She thinks I have eleven brothers (I have two), including another named “Jeff” who lives next door. I reside 400 miles from my hometown in the Deep South, arguably in the lower Midwest if you want to make the case Louisville is not a Southern city. They don’t have sweet tea here. Not many grits are on the menu unless you count Cracker Barrel. Not exactly a Southern town. Formerly, mom would have agreed. Today, she doesn’t know I live in Louisville and cannot name the state in which it is located.

Love in the time of clickbait

 

heart

Nearly three years ago, my wife deleted her Facebook account and hasn’t looked back. She’s now on her second Twitter account, having deleted the first after she found the people she was following were a little too intense (and sure) in their belief that Obama is letting America go to pot so he can declare martial law, thus becoming Barack the First. Now, even though she’s occasionally tempted to pack it all up, she routinely unfollows people when they’re getting consistently cranky.

She is a reluctant social media user. And she is wiser than many of us, I suspect.

Part of the issue for her—and for me, too—is the clickbait we Christians keep shoving at one another. Now, it’s usually not the “Someone ate a sandwich and YOU WON’T BELIEVE WHAT HAPPENED NEXT” all-caps type of nonsense promoted by Buzzfeed and Answers and the like.

No, ours is of a different sort. It’s outrage (and fauxtrage) and open letters and op-eds—some helpful, most not—about everything from a theologically liberal Christian coming out in support of something most people already assumed he supported, or a celebrity who is deeply confused about his identity, or issues that were handled wrongly at one church or another, or blog posts carefully examining every word a pastor has to say, looking for the one thing that could discredit him…

These are the really tempting stories to share because they get attention. (They got your attention, right?) And many of us feel a particular need to bring to light the injustices that happen when church leaders handle situations wrongly or we feel it’s important to shine the light on wolves in sheep’s clothing. And certainly, there are times when this is necessary (so please don’t hear me as saying the sins of churches and their leaders should never be spoken of publicly).

But maybe it’s not a good idea to be sharing these all the time. I wonder if we’re being just a little too liberal with it and not considering its effect on other believers. After all:

  • What does it do to a believer when he or she feeds on a steady diet of stories detailing the faults of church leaders they may not have heard of otherwise?
  • What does constantly being inundated with story after story after story of things they can’t do anything about do?

Now, I again, I don’t want to be so crass as to suggest that sin should remain hidden, for what is hidden will always come to light (as we’ve seen time and again). But is it not helpful for us to consider whether or not what we’re sharing demonstrates love for those who follow us on Twitter or Facebook, or read our blogs? Should our greatest concern be not to point out faults, but to encourage and build up believers in the faith?

Love doesn’t conceal truth, nor does it treat sin lightly. But it also doesn’t leave us wallowing in the muck and mire. And this is what I see lacking in so much of the conversation around so many issues. There are so few pleas to not lose heart. There seem to be no exhortations to think upon whatever is good and true. No appeals to consider what is honorable and just. No pleas to press into what is pure and lovely. No giving thanks for what is commendable and praiseworthy. Of all these Paul instructs us to think on, and yet publicly we spend so much of our time considering the exact opposite.

We speak with so much fire, but seem to do so with so few tears.

Friends, this should not be said of any of us.

Around seven years ago, I was having lunch with my former pastor, and we were talking about my tendency to wield truth as a hammer, smashing falsehood indiscriminately, without considering the collateral damage. My actions and my words were inconsistent with the grace I’d been shown in the gospel. I wasn’t acting out of love for those around me, even when I was right in what I was saying. I wasn’t speaking out of a desire to build others up, but to tear someone down—or more often to build myself up.

And that’s a dangerous place to be. It’s lacking in love. It’s barren of joy. It’s out of step with the Spirit.

My fear is that many of us are saying so much and not paying attention to the effect we’re having on those around us. We are rightly concerned about the piles of dead bodies left by domineering pastors, but we’re not checking to ensure we’re not creating piles of our own in the process.

Links I like

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Kindle deals for Christian readers

Westminster Bookstore has a terrific deal on books by Tim Keller and Dennis Johnson: get Preaching, The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness and Him We Proclaim together for only $30. Each book is also on sale individually. These deals end in a few days, so act quickly.

Not Your Average Paedobaptism

This is an interesting piece by Jared Oliphint:

It took awhile to sort out the complexities involved with baptism, specifically the infant variety. The “click,” the light bulb, and the “Aha!” moment occurred when someone helped me ask the right questions like, “Whom does Scripture include within the new covenant people?” As I tinkered with the idea of a covenant people, the meaning of the covenant sign started to take shape.

 

A better kind of selfie-stick

Also, don’t call your friends selfie-sticks:

“The Thief’s Prayer”

Brandon Smith shares the previously unseen notes of a sermon by a very young Charles Spurgeon.

When Marriage Is Miles Away

Marshall Segal:

My wife and I dated long-distance for two years — 1,906 miles and two time zones apart.

Any dating couple — whether they’re next-door neighbors or international heartthrobs — should pursue clarity and postpone intimacy. The great prize in marriage is Christ-centered intimacy; the great prize in dating is Christ-centered clarity. We all do well to make decisions in dating with that reality in mind. However, since long-distance relationships bring special challenges, they require special wisdom.

2 Billion Christians Believe in Traditional Marriage

Mark Galli:

But it’s not at all certain that the rapid cultural shift in America on gay marriage will be mirrored in the Christian church. North American and European Christians who believe in gay marriage are a small minority in these regions, and churches that ascribe to a more liberal sexual ethic continue to wither. Meanwhile, poll Christians in Africa, Asia, and practically anywhere in the world, and you’ll hear a resounding “no” to gay marriage. Scan the history of the church for 2,000 years and you’ll have a hard time turning up any Christian who would support same-sex marriage. The church has been and remains overwhelmingly united. It’s undergoing stress, certainly. But the evidence doesn’t support a narrative of division and collapse on this point.

Does history matter to Christianity?

Blind Spots

blind-spots

A lot of people are going to hate Collin Hansen’s new book, Blind Spots.

Some are going to be upset because it seems too accommodating. Others are going to be upset because it’s not accommodating enough. Yet those who feel this way are the most in need of hearing what Hansen has to say.

And in case you hadn’t already guessed, that includes all of us.

Blind to our blindness

You’re no doubt familiar with the concept of a physical blind spot—the place where you don’t have visibility in your vehicle. You’re also most likely familiar with the concept of psychological and emotional blind spots, too. We’re unaware of our own personality or behavioral ticks, though they are painfully obvious to everyone else (one of mine begins with, “The reality is…”). We have certain people we continue to think the best of, despite all the evidence to the contrary.

Is it any surprise, then, that if we contend with physical, psychological and emotional blind spots, we would also have to address our theological ones?

Regardless of where we land on the theological spectrum, we have our heroes—the people we look to, and tend to trust without hesitation. We have our systems of theology that we either wholesale reject or unquestioningly embrace. We even have churches we look at in our neighborhoods where we’d say, “They’re not a true church” (even if it’s just to ourselves).

We look at the churches where people are doing good deeds, but no one is hearing about Jesus as lacking courage. We look at churches contending for the truth but ignoring the needs of others as lacking compassion. We look at churches that seem to be all about unbelievers or seekers, yet not about godly living as lacking conviction. Not only is this unfair, it’s dangerous. It presumes we have a lock on Christian truth. The only problem with that, of course, is  you. And me. And that guy over there.

What we need to do is to learn to “see the faults in [ourselves];” because until we do, we “can’t appreciate how God has gifted other Christians” (26).

Embracing our weaknesses and pursuing unity

Hansen argues the need for Christians to embrace courageous, compassionate and commissioned ministry—to pursue the Christian life with our heads, hearts and hands. But he is quick to clarify: We are not to pursue each in a balanced way, but to practice all three in “full, blessed abundance—in ourselves, our churches, and the church at large” (36).

This is important: To pursue the lost is good. To practice compassion is good. To contend for the faith is good. All of these are completely and utterly biblical, and anyone who says otherwise may need to check themselves before they wreck themselves. But we can’t just be good at one. We need them all.

Together. All the time. Among all of us.

In other words, we need to pursue biblical unity.

We are our own worst enemies

When it comes to the pursuit of unity, though, we are our own worst enemies. Unless it’s just me. I work for an organization where the staff are from all sorts of streams of evangelicalism (with a couple of mainliners and a Messianic Jew thrown in for good measure). We don’t agree on a lot of things. But we do agree on the majors (or at least most of them). But it’s easy to forget that. There are times when I find I have to remind myself not to make assumptions, and to remember that if I have a question or a concern, I don’t need to write out a theological treatise. I can just ask my question or have a conversation.

Now think about your own experience: where do you see the need to pursue biblical unity to a greater degree? Where do you see God giving you opportunities to put into practice what you already know about it?

No finger wagging, and no free passes

Some critics will no doubt be quick to point out Hansen’s connection to The Gospel Coalition, a ministry that is often accused compromising the gospel (from the right) or corporatizing it (from the left and the right). And it’s fair to bring it up as Blind Spots is an explanation and application of the core convictions of TGC. However, it would be wrong to assume this book is a “do life and ministry the TGC way” piece of propaganda. It’s not an apologetic for that particular ministry, any more than it’s one author pointing out what everyone else is doing wrong without pointing to himself first (even if there are more “yous” than perhaps I would have used). No one gets a free pass, including the author himself. Why? Because no one is exempt from the need to walk humbly before God. Regardless of the level of responsibility we have or the position we hold, we are all called to humble ourselves and repent. To abide in Christ—to pursue unity in its biblical fullness by pursuing Christ (109). For that, Hansen says, is our best hope:

Abiding in Christ is the best defense against the blind spots that destroy our joy in following Jesus and set us against other believers with different gifts and callings. Abiding in Christ will protect you from growing discouraged and getting sidetracked in trying to obey Jesus’s commandments.… Whatever direction the world tries to steer us—toward retreat, compromise or assimilation—the Spirit points us to Jesus, the true north on our moral compass. Only when we abide in him will we resist the cares of the world and the snares of the flesh. (111-112)

So, do I really think a lot of people are going to hate this book? Okay, maybe not hate. But they will definitely have a hard time with it. Though it’s a small book, it offers much by way of challenges to our thinking. And regardless of the degree to which we agree with what Hansen writes, we need to consider what we are going to do once our blind spots are revealed. I can’t easily answer the question, not because there isn’t an answer, but because it’s one you can’t answer hastily. But it is worth answering—because when we do we will find ourselves better equipped to bear witness to Christ in the world.


Title: Blind Spots: Becoming a Courageous, Compassionate,and Commissioned Church
Author: Collin Hansen
Publisher: Crossway (2015)

Buy it at: Amazon | Westminster Bookstore

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The Seeds Project is now available

My friend Mike’s been working long and hard on the first volume of The Seeds Project, Jesus Is All You Need, a devotional for children on Colossians. Be sure to grab a copy of this!

Leadership is always temporary

Eric Geiger:

Leadership is always a temporary assignment—always. It is a temporary assignment because leaders do not ultimately own the teams, ministries, or organizations that they lead. They simply steward what the Lord has entrusted to their care for a season. Wise leaders embrace the temporal reality of leading, and they prepare the ministry for the future. Because the assignment is fleeting, developing others for leadership is an essential responsibility of a leader.

The Six Definitive Rules Of Internet Behavior

Stephen Altrogge offers a good example of satire.

Dustin Kensrue covers “Wrecking Ball”

Seriously:

How Should Christians View World History?

R.C. Sproul:

It is also important for us to understand that in terms of biblical eschatology, the end of the world does not indicate an annihilation of the world but a renovation and redemption of it. The New Testament makes it evident that the final renovation of creation is cosmic in scope, that the whole universe groans together in travail waiting for the redemption of the sons of men (Rom 8:18–23). Questions of our future, personal and cosmic, are all subject to the inquiries associated with eschatology. The question of life after death—the issues of heaven, hell, and resurrection—are all integral to our study of eschatology. An understanding of the last judgment also falls under the scope of this consideration.

The Rise of the Selfie Generation

Nathan Bingham:

We all know the Greek myth of Narcissus—the attractive man who was lured by Nemesis to a pool. Narcissus, fatally falling in love with his own reflection, drowned. But what would a 21st-century Narcissus myth involve? I suspect it would include a smartphone, selfies, and crossing the street without looking.

The Lost Sermons of Spurgeon

Brandon Smith interviews Christian George on the previously-unpublished sermons of Charles Spurgeon.

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Kindle deals for Christian readers

This week’s deals from Crossway focus on social issues:

You can also get Get Out: Student Ministry in the Real World by Alvin L Reid for $4.97, The Mystery of Providence by John Flavel for $2.99, and my tiny book, Everyday Theologyfor 99¢.

The Importance of the Pastoral “I Don’t Know”

Jared Wilson:

One of the most valuable sentences in a pastor’s arsenal is “I don’t know.” The pressure to know and be everything everybody expects us to know and be can be pride-puffing. I once worked at a bookstore where we were told never to say “I don’t know” to a customer. We must give them some answer, any answer, even if it was a guess or a likely wrong answer. Customers don’t want to hear “I don’t know” from service people, but even a wrong answer makes them feel helped. I confess the temptation to “satisfy the customer” has persisted through my ministry days, for a variety of reasons. I want people to feel helped. And I also don’t like looking like a rube.

Are You Insulting God in Worship?

Sam Storms:

Little words can mean a lot. They can make the difference between good and evil, between heaven and hell. In this case, a right understanding of a single word is the only thing that prevents an act of worship from degenerating into a colossal insult to God. It’s the word “for.”

What Dodgeball Taught Me About Growth in Christ

Kevin Halloran:

Looking back at where I have come since I left my physical “prime”, I notice that I have grown deeper in my knowledge and love for Christ, my love for others and the desire to see souls saved, my desire to bless His church with the gifts He has given me, and my ability to withstand temptation by the Spirit’s power.

The Bible and Same-Sex Relationships

Tim Keller:

There are a number of other books that take the opposite view, namely that the Bible either allows for or supports same-sex relationships. Over the last year or so I (and other pastors at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City) have been regularly asked for responses to their arguments. The two most-read volumes taking this position seem to be those by Matthew Vines and Ken Wilson. The review of these two books will be longer than usual because the topic is so contested today and, while I disagree with the authors’ theses, a too-brief review can’t avoid appearing cursory and dismissive. Hence the length.

I see five basic arguments that these books and others like them make.

How healthy is our growth?

healthy-cancer

Any time I hear a pastor speak about church growth—whether in a book, a podcast, or a conference message—I want to cringe. Not because I’m against having a large number of people as part of a congregation, but because congregation size is so often used as a defense: What we’re doing must be working since people are showing up, so God must approve, right?

And yet.

The thing I wonder about among many of these apparently healthy churches—and perhaps it’s just me being me—is how healthy are they, really? And how would you know if the growth experienced is actually beneficial? Based on what I’ve read so far in The Prodigal Church, Jared Wilson shares this concern. He writes:

It is a customary mantra of ministry that healthy things grow. And yet sometimes healthy things shrink. This is certainly true of our bodies, when we’re eating right and exercising. I mean, the formula doesn’t always work in every circumstance. “Healthy things grow” sounds right. But cancer grows too. (40)

Now think about that for a second: healthy things grow—but you really need to qualify what you mean by healthy growth. Are the people attending growing in godliness, or are more people simply showing up? Are more people being invested in so their gifts can flourish, or do they have to look elsewhere in order to exercise their gifts? Are leaders growing more deeply in their love for the people they serve—or are they beginning to hate them?

This is the danger of the unqualified (and unhelpful) mantra of “healthy things grow.”

If having a large number of people show up every week is our primary goal, we will inevitably do whatever it takes to make it happen. And as more people show up, while we might enjoy the high of it, we’ll eventually grow bitter toward some—perhaps many—of them because they don’t give, serve, or contribute to the life of the body in any discernible way.

The thing we want risks becoming the thing we hate.

The body will be ravaged by cancer, and we’ll be hard-pressed to do anything about it.

So what’s the solution? Having people show up on a Sunday isn’t bad, obviously, and if people are legitimately meeting Christ, we should praise God for his use of crooked sticks such as us. But maybe the best place to start, perhaps, we sit among the congregation on Sunday morning or we serve them as our vocation, is to begin asking ourselves not “are we growing”, but “are we growing in the right way”? Is our growth helping us—or is it hindering us?

There isn’t an easy answer to the question—even if that difficulty is merely accepting the truth—but it is worth asking.

Links I like (weekend edition)

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Kindle deals for Christian readers

Today’s the last day to get these titles in the Foundations of Evangelical Theology series for $5.99 each:

Also on sale is Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners by John Bunyan for $2.60.

How Age of Ultron should have ended (part one)

And just for fun…

5 Errors of the Prosperity Gospel

David W. Jones:

No matter what name is used, the essence of this message is the same. Simply put, this “prosperity gospel” teaches that God wants believers to be physically healthy, materially wealthy, and personally happy. Listen to the words of Robert Tilton, one of its best-known spokesmen: “I believe that it is the will of God for all to prosper because I see it in the Word, not because it has worked mightily for someone else. I do not put my eyes on men, but on God who gives me the power to get wealth.” Teachers of the prosperity gospel encourage their followers to pray for and even demand material flourishing from God.

Cochrans4Chicago Update

Glad to see this update on my friend Joey’s family and ministry (and that he’ll be staying in the Chicago area for a while).

What kind of men does God use?

Ray Ortlund:

The Bible says, “If anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work” (2 Timothy 2:21).  This is a big part of the power of the gospel.

Horatius Bonar painted that picture with greater detail after observing the kind of “vessels” God clearly used with divine power.  Writing the preface to John Gillies’ Accounts of Revival, Bonar proposed that men useful to the Holy Spirit for revival stand out in nine ways.

No, I Won’t Bless the Food

Don Whitney:

Maybe it reflects the limits of my own experience, but it’s been my observation that nowadays fewer followers of Jesus pause like this at the beginning of a meal to give thanks for what they are about to eat.

This seems to be true for individuals and for families, at home and in public.

Why the decline? As with all Christian practices and disciplines, unless each successive generation is taught the reason for something, it soon devolves into mere a routine, then an empty tradition, and then disuse.

Links I like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

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

  • Moses and the Burning Bush Teaching Series by R.C. Sproul (DVD)
  • John by R.C. Sproul (Hardcover)
  • After Darkness, Light: Distinctives of Reformed Theology—Essays in Honor of R.C. Sproul (Paperback)
  • The Spirit of Revival: Discovering the Wisdom of Jonathan Edwards (ePub)
  • In Christ Alone: Living the Gospel-Centered Life by Sinclair Ferguson (ePub)

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

You Don’t Need a Good Reputation

Aaron Earls:

Is that really how you want to live your life—overly concerned with how others view you? Chasing after a good reputation places us at the whims of those around us. That’s never a good place to be.

Even if our desire is to have a godly reputation, we are still missing the point. Ultimately, what does it matter if everyone around you thinks you are an obedient follower of Christ, if underneath that’s not the case?

A Pastor’s response to the death of a childhood abuser

Mez McConnell:

I thought I might dance a little jig or even feel a sense of release and elation at news I longed dreamed about and ached for as a kid. This is a woman who drove me to such despair that I attempted to set her on fire in her (drunken) sleep when I was no more than 10 years old. But there is no jig. There is just a heaviness of heart and the nagging itch of my suffering and her evil never admitted in this life. The problem is that I want to feel joy at her passing. I want to rejoice in the belief that she will face the judge of all the earth for her crimes against me. I want to revel in the thought that she is having her own spiritual Nuremburg moment right now. That father time has caught up with her and her sins are about to be found out and brought into that terrible, perfect light. That the angels in glory will see just what a monster she truly was.

I’m a liberal professor, and my liberal students terrify me

This was interesting, and kind of terrifying (note: language warning—there is a bit of cussing in this article).

Four Reasons Why Pastors Should Quit

Mark Dance:

In light of the famously exaggerated statistics about pastoral attrition, you may be wondering why LifeWay’s pastor advocate would hope for even more to quit. We are all painfully aware that there are people in the ministry who never belonged there in the first place. While I prefer encouraging pastors to fulfill their call and finish strong, I am also a pastoral pragmatist who desires to speak the truth in love to those who are miserable in ministry, as are those around them.

I want to suggest four check-points to consider before quitting or continuing in ministry.

They Believe God Is The Only One Who Wants Them

Jared Wilson:

Hersh said that a Christian church service in the village might have been one of the most vibrant experiences of worship she’d witnessed. There was so much joy, so much emotion, so much confession, so much exaltation of and desire for God. They were excited, expectant, enthusiastic, enthralled. “Is it always like this?” she asked a local.

“Yes,” came the reply. “They believe that God is the only one that wants them. And so they want him.”

You know they’re not in conflict, right?

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It’s probably safe to assume that any time the “religion vs. Jesus” thing comes up, I’m going to wind up annoyed. Some Christian gobbledygook of this persuasion popped up in my Twitter feed the last night, this time on how to use the Bible—find out what it says and follow that, or find out how it points to Jesus and follow him.

Now, before I go any further, I agree with the whole “do vs. done” element of the general argument. And I also firmly believe you should absolutely read the Bible with an eye to how it points to Jesus because he is the one we not merely follow, but worship as God. If you don’t read your Bible this way, you’re not reading it as a Christian (he says, preaching to the choir).

But this whole “follow the Bible” vs “follow Jesus” thing… Can we just not, please?

Let’s be honest, this sort of either/or—either follow what the Bible says or follow Jesus—isn’t really all that helpful. It’s actually kind of dumb. Let’s not forget:

Jesus followed commands in the Bible. Jesus was a devout Jew. Devout Jews kept the Law. Jesus kept the Law perfectly, as no one else did or could.

Jesus gives us commands. It’s true. “Follow me”, and “abide in me” are commands. Not only that, he tells us to pray (and even says “like this”), to love others, to give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and give to God what is God’s… He even says “if you love me, you will obey me.” Those don’t sound like suggestions, do they?

The commands Jesus gives us are in the Bible. At least, that’s where they were the last time I checked. (Yep, still there.)

We are expected to do what we’re told in the Bible. When we read that we are to “love your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength” and “love your neighbor as yourself”, it’s not a suggestion. It’s an imperative, which means we are to do it. Repent and believe? Yep, that’s another one we are expected to do. Make disciples? That one too. Submit to one another out of love for Christ? Ditto. Have nothing to do with false gods? You know it. These are things we are to do, as obeying the commands of God1 is evidence of our love for Christ.

Pitting Jesus against the Bible comes across like a kid trying to pit mom and dad against one another. The only one it’s going to go badly for is the kid.

So, yeah.

If we could never do that again, that would be super.

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Sexual Abuse Among Us

Christopher Pierre:

The media have responded with continued attempts to dig up and display the shameful details of Joshua Duggar’s past and repented sin. This has been accompanied by an analysis of how appropriately his parents, his church, and law enforcement did or did not respond. As both a prosecuting attorney and a pastor, I am particularly intrigued and concerned by these unfolding events.

But how should the church respond? How should we deal with similar situations of abuse and wickedness in our midst?

The Fields Are White

Don Whitney encourages us from John 4:35:

It’s important to realize that He said this in Samaria—a place where Jews (like Jesus and His disciples) weren’t welcome and where Jesus had seen only one convert, and that one just a few minutes earlier

In other words, the twelve apostles did not consider Samaria a place where there had been, or likely ever would be, many conversions.

The Courage To Tell My Story

Mike Leake:

Mr. President, you tweeted yesterday that it takes courage to share your story. This has inspired me to tell my story…or at least a portion of it.

The Most Courageous People In The LGBT Movement

Stephen Altrogge:

But I am increasingly convinced that the most courageous people in the LGBT movement are those men and women who have come to the conclusion that they are gay, have publicly told their friends and families that they are gay, and yet for the sake of Christ, have chosen to remain celibate for the rest of their lives. To make such a choice requires incredible, God-given, Holy Spirit-inspired courage.

Raising voices

Mike Cosper:

Eugene Peterson once said the primary goal of pastoring was to teach people to pray. I agree, but I might amend his words slightly: to learn to pray, we must learn to sing.

This shouldn’t take any serious student of the Bible by surprise. Music shows up early in the Book of Genesis, and the people of God are seen singing throughout both Testaments, in ordinary places and odd ones: on their way to battle, while chained up in prison, and at the end of the world. I confess, I cringe a little when I hear the Psalms described as the great “prayer book” of the Bible. It’s not that this statement is untrue – the Psalms are certainly prayers – but it is incomplete; the Psalms are first and foremost songs.

“Who am I to judge?”

judgmental

Some time ago there was a young guy who was hanging out with my neighbor at the time who was a professing Christian. Really nice, sweet guy—the give you the shirt off his back type. One morning I drove him over to the Tim Horton’s on the corner (because, Canada), and we somehow got on the topic of same-sex relationships. He had a very live-and-let live attitude about the whole thing, not because he had a conviction that such things are or are not acceptable, but because he hadn’t given it much thought. And since he didn’t want to be seen as being judgmental, he simply said, “Who am I to judge?”

Everybody judges

It sounds very noble to say something like this, but it’s actually kind of silly. Why? Because everybody judges.

All the time.

We can’t help it. We judge people about everything. People who love Starbucks are either coffee snobs who enjoy being robbed every morning, or they have discerning tastes and don’t like coffee that tastes like an ashtray. Apple users are either with it and hip, or they’re desperately trying to be. Star Trek fans are… okay, there’s no winning on that one. But the same goes for Star Wars fans, too. So let’s not kid ourselves: everybody judges.

(And you might have just judged me for writing that just now.)

Judge whom?

The real question is not who am I to judge, who am I to judge: Ourselves? Non-Christians? Fellow Christians?

On judging non-Christians. I do my best to avoid blanket condemnation of non-Christians. Why? Two reasons: first, we are told not to by Paul. “For what have I to do with judging outsiders? …God judges those outside” (1 Cor. 5:12-13). Second, because of the example of Jesus. Though we are told that “someday” on the final day of judgment, believers will participate in Christ’s judgment of the world—and even the angels (1 Cor. 6:2-3)—Jesus reminds us that in his first coming, he did not come to condemn the world but to save it (John 3:17). During his earthly life, he was a friend of sinners, after all. Thus, we should be wise to do likewise. This does not mean participating in sinful behavior, nor approving of it; however, pursuing genuine relationships with non-Christians means we should not be condemning of them as people, even when we take opportunities to challenge behaviors. An “I think I’m better than you” attitude has no place in the Christian life, as I think we can all agree.

On judging Christians. Among Christians, the practice of judgment changes. We are not told to withhold judgment. In fact, we are told quite clearly that we are to judge among ourselves, and to “purge the evil person from among [us]” (1 Cor. 5:12-13). Therefore, we are to judge with right judgment and not according to appearances (John 7:24)—a good lesson for us all whenever we see blog posts and articles bringing to light issues with well-known pastors and churches.1 We are wise to use Matthew 18’s process for dealing with personal sin—that is, deal with personally and fairly, with unbiased witnesses being included where required. But we are also reminded that love covers a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8). Some of our sins don’t require confrontation or even a conversation. These we can let go; but only we can judge what those are for ourselves.

On judging ourselves. Where we see Scripture’s strongest commands about judgment relate to judging ourselves. As a general rule, we are to deal with our own sins before those of others (Matthew 7:1-5). We should never be so presumptuous to think we’ve got all our junk together or that our sin is somehow less serious than the sin of another. We never hold anyone to a higher standard than we would ourselves (7:2). If we don’t deal with ourselves first—and if we don’t hold ourselves to the same standards we hold others—we should not be surprised that Jesus would call us hypocrites.

We all fall down

When it comes to judgment, we all fall down. Sometimes we’re too harsh on non-Christians. Others, we give Christians a pass when it’s not appropriate. Most commonly, and though we would never say it, we act as though we’ve already achieved perfect sanctification, and sin is no longer an issue for us (but everyone else, oh my stars…). But this doesn’t mean we should give up. Instead, we should learn how to judge rightly, which begins with self-evaluation.

Some questions we should always try to consider:

  1. What is it about the situation that I find offensive? Trying to pinpoint the exact issue and why it is offensive to us is helpful in keeping us focused on the specifics and avoid generalities.
  2. Is this incident a one-time event or the latest in an ongoing pattern of behavior? The answer to this question may completely change our response to what we’ve experienced. The offense of one who is not characterized by being harsh with his words should probably be different than that toward the one who is known for being domineering and hostile.
  3. Is my reaction in line with the nature of the offence? There are some things we should be angered by, but sometimes our reaction doesn’t match the incident. We should be careful to consider why this is so.
  4. How can I best address the offence in a way that honors Jesus? Sometimes this will mean taking drastic action (such as calling the police in the case of sexual abuse or any other illegal activity); other times, it may mean dropping it entirely and seeking to live at peace with those around us.

Certainly, these questions are not exhaustive, but they are a good starting point. Christians are not free to abstain from judgment. If we are seeking to be faithful to Christ, it is important for us to judge with right judgment in as much as we are able and with the Spirit’s help. Lord willing, we will be up to the task.