How do we keep these things from happening?

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This weekend, the news broke that Tullian Tchividjian resigned as pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale, after admitting to an extramarital affair in a statement provided to the Washington Post.

There’s so much that could be said about this issue, and no doubt, much of it will be in the days (or hours) to come. Some of us will make the mistake of reading most of it (not that all the commentary will be bad, but because most of it won’t be necessary). So, naturally, I’m writing something related to it that I hope you’ll actually read and find helpful.

Although I’ve met Tullian, shared emails periodically and had a couple of Skype calls (for an interview a couple of years back), what I know of him mostly comes from his books and preaching. I’ve never attended his church, so I don’t know what the culture is like there in terms of the whole creepy pastor-celebrity worship thing that sometimes happens in churches with pastors who have a large platform. I don’t know what his accountability structure was like at his church, but I do know from what we see in the Post article that there was some form of authority playing an active role in his life, one looking out for his good—and not merely his platform.

So please don’t read this as someone trying to do armchair detective work and pinpoint “the real problem”. I don’t want this to be assumed to be a rant that comes across like the self-righteous boasting of the Pharisee who prayed, “Thank God I am not like this tax collector” (Luke 18:11). And likewise I don’t want to offer the despicable “nobody’s perfect/we all make mistakes” sentiments you often see when a high profile Christian is found to be engaged in disqualifying sin.

So why I am I writing this then?

Honestly, I think I mostly want to address one question: How do we help ensure these sorts of things don’t keep happening? This sort of sin is heartbreaking on every level: It’s awful for the people involved. It’s devastating to a local church. It hurts so many people on so many levels, both inside and outside the church. And we need to treat it as such. And one of the best ways to do that is to figure out how we protect our pastors, our fellow church members, our friends, our family, and ourselves from crossing that line we’re all only one or two wrong decisions away from.

Now, here’s the first thing we need to remember: Sin isn’t a problem for “celebrity” Christians alone. Sin is no respecter of a person’s anonymity or notoriety. So we can’t say point a finger and say, well, of course XYZ happened—look at the size of his or her church, platform or whatever. Nor do we point fingers at theology in general. While sometimes the sins we see committed (or we commit) are the outworking of a deficient theology, the problem can’t be neatly pegged on a theological system. After all, as we’ve seen, it’s possible to learn directly from Jesus and still fall prey to the fear of man and be guilty of hypocrisy (Galatians 2:11-14). So while it’s tempting to say that sin is the result of being too light on law or too free with grace or something like that, we need to look at a different area of our lives. The problem we face is certainly a theological one, and there’s no one answer to the problem, but I wonder if it’s helpful to consider our view of the place of the church in accountability?

More pointedly, how do we answer these two questions:

Who really knows us? If you’re in a North American evangelical church with a congregation larger than 200, there’s a good chance that you can easily hide if you so choose. You could come every single week, sit in the same seat, and leave again without ever being noticed. It’s possible to do this (in fact, I know of one church in my city that’s known for being the church you go to if you want to hide, which I’m sure is not the leadership’s intention whatsoever). And if you’re a pastor, it’s possible to set up your entire life in such a way that you never, ever have to deal with the people who are (allegedly) being shepherded by you. While it might be convenient, perhaps even appealing, there’s a pretty significant problem with this set-up: if no one knows us, there’s no one to protect us from ourselves.

Now, make no mistake: letting people know you is risky. It means you actually have to let them know you. They must know things about you, and not just what you’re looking at on the Internet. After all, we have CSIS and the NSA for that (hi, guys). We need to have people who can ask us about just about anything in our lives—and expect a real answer. If you don’t have someone who’s willing to call you out when you’re full of crap, you might have a problem. Speaking of which…

How highly do we esteem ourselves? How we see ourselves is just as important as anything else. If we act as though we are somehow above certain sins, we’re almost certainly going to fall to those very things. Bloggers know where I’m coming from on this: If someone doesn’t read my blog today, am I going to lose my mind and check my stats incessantly? How do I react when others experience greater success than me? How do I react when people leave my church and go to the one down the road? Do I actually believe that if Jesus is to increase, I must decrease—or do I just affirm it with my lips all the while thinking I’m a pretty big deal? All of this, though, is just an expression of autonomy—which is really just a polite way of saying “I worship myself.”

I’m not exaggerating when I say we’re all only one or two wrong decisions away from being in a similar situation as any number of Christian leaders who’ve committed adultery, become domineering or otherwise abused their authority. I don’t wonder, “How could this have happened?” when I learn about adultery among pastors or any of the other sins we see being committed. I grieve over them because I know exactly how they happen. It just takes one decision. It happens in an instant, and happens in the heart long before it happens in the body. That’s one of the things I love about people who know themselves well: they’re not naïve enough to assume they couldn’t do something similar, and so are intentional about being faithful, God-honoring men and women (in every sense).

And this is one of the things that terrify me about the advice I see offered in leadership circles. It’s the whole, “Nobody gets your struggles/leadership is lonely/you’re a snowflake” thing. Which, incidentally, is the same kind of stuff someone trying to tempt you into sin will say to you (as many a woman or man knows). The problem, of course, is it’s complete bunk. It not only sets up the pastor as being somehow in a different class than other believers, but it leaves him without the protection that comes from being a part of the body.

Which brings me back to something sorely lacking within evangelical churches today: accountability. Is this the only issue? Nope. Like I said, when it comes to sin in general, and sin such as adultery in particular, it’s a lot more complicated than just accountability. Nevertheless, it is an issue. The gospel doesn’t just save us from sin, but saves us into community. And among the many ways community helps us is to protect us as people know us. To continually call us all to live in light of what Jesus has done and continues to do in our lives. Is accountability a perfect failsafe? Nope. But you and I need it nonetheless—desperately. Likewise, we need to carefully consider how we would answer these two questions: Who really knows us, and how highly do we think of ourselves? The answers to those may make a world of difference for ourselves, our churches and the world around us.

God doesn’t need an invitation

 

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There’s a peculiar thing I’ve noticed in some of the songs in popular Christian praise and/or worship music—typically the ones you hear at the beginning of the “set”1 intended to warm everybody up and get everyone excited. It’s this idea that we are somehow summoning God into our presence. Songs about inviting him into our midst, calling him down, telling him to show up in power, and show us his glory, and all this kind of stuff…

Now, depending your congregation’s proclivities, you’re probably going to sing a song like this today. And I’ve gotta say, to me at least, it’s really weird. It’s not that I’m against being aware of God’s presence, nor am I against praying—or singing for that matter—for true, Spirit-wrought revival. But I’m not sure this is what these songs are talking about. Instead, they seem to be putting us in the drivers’ seat, making us the ones in control during the our time of corporate worship.

In a chapter of The Prodigal Church at least 75 percent of worship leaders will skip, Jared Wilson calls our attention to the heart of this peculiar problem:

The danger we face when we worship is coming into the experience assuming we are summoning God. Assuming worship is our initiative. Assuming we are somehow the ones in control, that we are bringing the best of ourselves and our holy desire to worship. But the reality is, worship does not begin with the worshipper. It begins with God. It is a response to God’s calling upon us. (97)

This is the danger of experientialism. It moves us by inches away from the center, from the reality of who God is, of what the purpose of worship is—of who the object of worship is. And if we’re not careful, and the slide continues, our worship songs may wind up more closely resembling the frantic cries of the Baal-worshippers on the mountain than those of Christ’s disciples.

You’re not calling God down this morning. He doesn’t need an invitation. But I have some better news for you: He is already here. The Holy Spirit dwells within all of his people, every moment of every day. He is the one who empowers our worship, who gives us the desire to sing God’s praises. His power has already shown up—and it resides in us. Should we not rejoice and be glad of this?

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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?

 

How healthy is our growth?

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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.

Six books I want to read this summer

summer reading

Summer vacation is already here for some of us, and nearly upon us for others. Although my reading has left me feeling a little unfulfilled of late, I’m still looking forward to what some time off with a good book or two will bring. Here’s a look at what I’m planning to read this year:

The Prodigal Church: A Gentle Manifesto against the Status Quo by Jared C. Wilson

This is one I’ve been meaning to get to for a while now. I’ve read a few pages, though, and it’s delightful.

Buy it at: Amazon | Westminster Bookstore


The Return of the King by JRR Tolkien

I’ve been reading the Lord of the Rings series for the last little while, so it’s going to be fun to finish it up.

Buy it at: Amazon | Westminster Bookstore (trilogy box set)


Newton on the Christian Life by Tony Reinke

I am a big fan of the Theologians on the Christian Life series from Crossway, and based on what I’ve seen so far, this volume looks pretty spectacular.

Buy it at: AmazonWestminster Bookstore


Onward by Russell Moore

Though this one has the least practical relevance to my life (since I live in Canada), it should be a thought-provoking read nonetheless.

Buy it at: Amazon (pre-order)


Preaching by Timothy Keller

The people we have the most to learn from about preaching (aside from those to whom we preach) are those who have done it for a long time. Given Keller’s decades of pastoral ministry experience, I’m really looking forward to learning from this one.

Buy it at: Amazon | Westminster Bookstore


The Batman Adventures, vol 2 by Puckett, Parobeck, and Burchett

For an entire generation, Kevin Conroy’s Batman from Batman: the Animated Series is the definitive Dark Knight. I finally introduced Abigail to this staple of the 90s, and she thinks it’s pretty rad. It’s also one of the few superhero comics I’ve been able to find that isn’t kind of porny or otherwise wildly inappropriate to share with my kids (but that is a story for another time…).

Buy it at: Amazon


That’s a quick look at what I’m trying to read. Some of it I’ll be done sooner than others, naturally, but I think it’s a reasonable goal. What’s on your reading list?

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:

  • Mark by R.C. Sproul (ePub)
  • Surprised by Suffering by R.C. Sproul (Hardcover)
  • Developing Christian Character Teaching Series by R.C. Sproul (DVD)
  • Living for God’s Glory: An Introduction to Calvinism by Joel Beeke (ePub)

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

Three generations on ethnic relations

Should Christians confront Mormons?

L.L. (Don) Veinot Jr., Lynn K. Wilder, and Cory B. Willson share their views.

The Complexity of Pastoral Care

Nick Batzig:

Pastoral care is exceedingly complex. In seminary, our professors taught us to labor to become discriminating preachers–that is, men who preach to different categories of hearers in the congregation. In any assembly it is fairly certain that there will be present hard-hearted hearers, spiritually mature believers, believers with wounded consciences, etc. Additionally, there are husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, children, singles, etc. This means that the applications of Scripture must be pinpointed to specific people living in specific situations. The same is true in pastoral ministry. Pastors need to become discriminating pastors. We must abandon any idea of “mechanistic pastoral ministry.” Far too many adopt a “slot machine’ approach to ministry–just put the coin in and pull the handle. Rather, pastoral ministry takes a keen knowledge of the personalities, life-situations and struggles of congregants. When the Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Thessalonica, he charged the whole congregation to  “warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all” (1 Thess. 5:14). Here are five categories to keep in mind when laboring to become a discriminating pastor.

Why Does it Matter that the Holy Spirit is a Person?

Derek Rishmawy:

Many of us are confused about the Holy Spirit. The Father we have a decent conception of, the Son too (Godman, Lord, Redeemer, etc), but the Spirit? We honestly don’t know what to do with “it.” And that’s one of the main problems. Some of us think of the Spirit primarily as an “it”; a thing, a force, and not a person. But according to the Scriptures the Holy Spirit is a person, coeternal, and coexistent with the Father and the Son. What’s more, it matters that we know that he’s a person.

The Village Church apologizes for lack of compassion

Church discipline is not easy, and leaders often get it wrong. However, it’s not often you see those same leaders repent specifically.

Links I like

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Kindle deals for Christian readers

Also, Tony Reinke’s new book, Newton on the Christian Life, is now available. Westminster Bookstore has it on sale for $13, or $10 each when you buy three or more.

Does the Internet turn cowards into bullies?

A couple weeks back, I was on Greg Dutcher’s new podcast, These Things Go to 11 talking about contending for the faith, doctrines worth fighting for and how the Internet lends courage to people whom might otherwise have lack it:

5 Things Every Christian Leader Should Pray for Themselves Everyday

Kevin Halloran:

I desperately wanted to honor Christ and influence others toward Him, but learned the hard way how to damage relationships by trying to force-feed them what I thought was best—I tried to do the work of the Holy Spirit. Reading Jesus’ words “you can do nothing” at the close of the year seemed to be a fitting description of the recent fruit of my labors for the Lord. I quickly learned that I couldn’t bear fruit apart from abiding in Christ.

An Open Letter to Christian Parents of Unbelieving Adult Children

Jason Helopoulos:

“What about our son?” “What about our daughter?” As a pastor there are conversations that I routinely have with parishioners. One of the regular exchanges I have had over the years begins with a Christian parent or both parents approaching with downcast gazes. The discouragement, and at times even despair, are apparent in their eyes. The opening words are either, “Pastor, would you pray for our child?,” or “Pastor, what advice would you give to us for child?” They then proceed to explain that their adult child has wandered from the faith. With anguish in their words, they detail how they brought him or her up in the faith: their child had attended Sunday School each week, participated in corporate worship, and attended Youth Group. A few times, I have even been told that they were a paragon of virtue and seemed to love the Lord in their teenage years. Their parents were not shy about sharing the faith with their child at home and they tried to surround him or her with good and godly friends. But now, sadly, their child has rejected Christ. They are living a life of unbelief and their parents are filled with grief.

Christian Ethics, Evangelicals, and Functional Marcionism

Jake Meador:

All we need, apparently, is the red letters. The Old Testament God is angry and vengeful and not very Christian, but New Testament God is great. Old Testament God is just God in his teen years when he was ready to fight if you looked at him the wrong way. But New Testament God has grown up. He doesn’t lose his temper over little things any more. He’s chill now. He listens to NPR and loves Portlandia and is kinda embarrassed by all that wrath and judgment stuff in the Old Testament. So don’t worry about that 2/3 of the Bible. Just read about Jesus and you have everything you need to understand Christian ethics.

Of course, to any student of church history this thinking should sound familiar. All of these arguments trade in a form of Marcionism, the ancient Christian heresy attributed to Marcion, a second century Christian who rejected the Old Testament.

Letter to a Teen Unboxing Their First Smartphone

Tim Challies:

You just got your first smartphone! This is a major milestone in your life. That phone you are about to take out of the box is one of the most amazing devices ever created, and it is going to be your constant companion for the next couple of years. It is an incredible piece of technology that can be used in many different ways.

It can be used to do so many good things, but if you are not wary, it can also be used to do an awful lot of bad things. So before you power it on for the first time, I think it would be wise to invest just a few minutes in thinking and planning.

How to get millennials back in church

Which Kind of Writer Are You: Microwave, Crockpot, or Stir-Fry?

I’m probably the first kind.

Links I like

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Kindle deals for Christian readers

This week, Crossway’s put seven eBooks from the Reclaiming the Christian Intellectual Tradition series on sale for $2.99 each:

Also on sale is Desiring God’s edition of The Pilgrim’s Progress ($2.99).

The Hardest Sins to Talk About

Tim Challies:

One of the most difficult things to do is to lovingly confront another person about sin, or—even harder—about what may have been sin. In his excellent book Side by Side, Ed Welch offers some practical counsel on doing this well.

Was The Holy Spirit Not On Earth Before Pentecost?

Jared Wilson shares an illustration from John Piper.

Why your children’s ministry should take a break

Miles Morrison:

What exactly is meant by the words “children’s ministry” can be very different depending on the church. But while these ministries can come in all different shapes and sizes, they’re all based on the same basic principle that children require specialized teaching and care separate from their parents. I’m not saying that’s wrong or that children’s ministry is bad – I love and serve in the children’s ministry in my church – I’m merely making the observation that while this ministry can and should serve the church, it will never replace it. Regardless of what curriculum or structure or teaching style your children’s ministry uses, here are some reasons why it’s healthy from time to time to take a break and encourage your parents to worship with their children.

Introverts in the Dearest Place on Earth

Jared Musgrove:

In the last century, especially here in the United States, we’ve morphed into a “culture of personality” that can’t stop talking. Those with a preference for extroversion—energized by and focused on people, activity and accomplishment—tend to be better understood by the world, progressing faster in organizations and relationships.

Both extroverts and introverts must do the work to see that those with the gift of introversion are a grace to God’s Church. In this sense, I have some considerations for my fellow introverted church members and the extroverts who love them.

How to revive a Sharpie

One-third of American 8th graders think Canada is a dictatorship

According to the U.S. government’s National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), 33 per cent of American eighth graders currently believe that Canada is a dictatorship.

This finding was one of many revealed by the NCES in its 2014 National Assessment of Educational Progress report when it was released late last month.

How much bandwidth can you give controversy?

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Whenever I read news of a church imploding, some sort of scandal arising involving sexual abuse, or any other scandal really, I can’t help but think, “I wonder what it would have been like to live during a time when the entire world wasn’t at my fingertips?”

Now, obviously, I’ve never been one to entirely avoid controversial issues (or people). And when we see a celebrity pastor lose his mind, or when patterns of abuse are revealed that affect anyone, man, woman or child, it is hard to ignore. But at the same time, though we should grieve these things—and if a crime has been committed, we should report them—we can only give so much mental bandwidth to these things. Here are a few reasons why I believe this is so, at least from my perspective:

1. Because I really can’t do much to help. Without (I hope) sounding callous toward those who’ve experienced abuse (sexual, physical, or emotional), there’s not a lot I can do to help in a specific situation happening in Florida, Texas, or, honestly, even in a different town 30 minutes down the road. I can pray and, if the issue warrants, I can say something where I feel compelled to, but that’s about it.

2. Because I have people close by who need my attention more. What I am responsible for is not so much what happens out there, but what happens in my local church and within the various communities I associate with. I am required to love and serve those whom I am closest with differently than those who are far off. So if there is someone in need within my local congregation, or within one of the groups I’m a part of (our homeschool co-op, for example), I have a greater sense of obligation to address that need. If I become aware of a pattern of behavior that is concerning, I need to say something in the appropriate way. If I’m aware of a crime being committed, I am obligated to report it.

3. Because it can lead me to despair. There is no shortage of bad news out there—no shortage of controversies, abuses of authority, violence and all the other evidences of humanity’s desperately wicked state. Knowing about the ugly things that are happening in other congregations, other communities and other nations doesn’t add a sense of urgency to the call to love and serve others, or tell me anything I didn’t already know. It’s just more.

4. Because it tempts me to become even more distrustful. Many who report on abuse issues within the church have been severely harmed by an experience in a local congregation they were once a part of. And my fear is that for some, confusion has found a foothold, and authority exercised by a godly individual is seen as authoritarianism.

I’ve got to be honest: I’m already distrustful of some of the leaders God has placed over me, some with more reason than others. But what I find myself needing to do more and more is praying for those leaders, rather than trying to parse the meaning of every word they use, attempting to find some hidden meaning or a message between the lines. I want to be lead by people that are worth following, and the only way for that to happen is for God to be at work in them. And if I am not praying for them, what does it say about what I think about them?

5. It tempts me to put myself in the place of God. The truth is, none of us know the full story of what goes on in any given scandal. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t care, but it does mean we need to be cautious. When I judge too quickly, I often find myself thinking as though I am standing in for God, and therefore capable of rendering a sound and infallible judgment. And a lot of the time, I’m completely and totally wrong. That isn’t to say that wrong isn’t wrong or sin isn’t sin (far from it!)—it’s just that we ought to be very careful about what we put out there in our outrage. There are certain things you say that you can never come back from. I’ve made a lot of mistakes in this regard, and I’m not eager to repeat them.

So getting back to the question at hand: how much mental bandwidth should we give controversy that doesn’t directly affect us? Speaking only for myself, only as much as my conscience allows—and only in so far as it doesn’t become a distraction to loving and serving those with whom I am in relationship. For most, that means almost none. For some, it means a great deal of attention. But for all, it means learning when to say “when” so that I don’t neglect the things that are most important.

Links I like

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Kindle deals for Christian readers

Three freebies to get you started:

Also on sale are:

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

  • Luther and the Reformation teaching series by R.C. Sproul (audio & video download)
  • The Expository Genius of John Calvin by Steven Lawson (Hardcover)
  • Feed My Sheep by Don Kistler (ePub)
  • Why We Trust the Bible teaching series by Stephen Nichols (DVD)

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

Modern espionage

Because Community:

‘Groundbreaking’ gay marriage study retracted over faked data

Rachel Lynn Aldrich:

The senior author of an allegedly groundbreaking study on gay marriage has retracted it following evidence that some of the data likely was fabricated.

The study claimed people opposed to gay marriage would change their minds after having a 20-minute conversation with someone canvassing their neighborhood who identified as a homosexual. The study also claimed other members of the same household were more likely to change their views as well. But the data supporting the study was too good to be true, according to the Daily Caller.

Protestant reformer Martin Luther’s 16th Century notes found

This is really cool.

A Good Word from a Veteran Preacher

Erik Raymond shares a confession from Bryan Chapell. It’s really great.

Running from a Bad Church Situation May Hinder Your Spiritual Growth

Trevin Wax:

It’s true that there are plenty of Christians whose lives don’t resemble Christ’s. There are pastors who abuse their authority or lead poorly. There are churches that implement changes quickly, without the consent of key leaders, which then breeds disunity and quarrels. Leadership fumbles, personality conflicts, relationship breeches — they all exist in the church. That’s why, for many churchgoers, the temptation is strong to seek refuge and peace in another church across town.

But what if the choice to leave a difficult church situation will actually short-circuit your formation as a Christian? What if your desire for a better congregation will stunt your spiritual growth? Does God use uncomfortable church situations as part of His process of sanctifying us?

Be sure to also read When You Should Flee Your Church.

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A Goodbye to Youth Ministry

Mike Leake:

Though I’ve made mistakes I’ve also watched God do phenomenal things in the life of teenagers. I’ve always said that the success of a student ministry isn’t determined by what it looks like when the kid graduates—it’s better viewed by how he/she lives out his/her life as a disciple. I’m proud that I have quite a few former students who are now serving in local churches. I’m proud that students who I was allowed to lead to Jesus are still walking happily in the faith. I think, by the grace of God, I have done some things well.

As I’m passing the baton off to a group of guys here at Jasper I laid out for them a simple philosophy of youth ministry. Perhaps it will be beneficial to you as well.

The Importance of Friendship

Michael Haykin:

Here is but one example: On Jan. 27, 1552, Calvin wrote to Farel and chided him for reports he had heard—true reports, one must add—about the undue length of Farel’s sermons. “You have often confessed,” Calvin reminds his friend, “that you know this is a fault and that you would like to correct it.” Calvin went on to encourage Farel to shorten his sermons lest Satan use Farel’s failing in this regard to destroy the many good things being produced by his ministry.

Biblical Marriage Has Always Been Counter-Cultural

Aaron Earls:

In one sense, a Christian view of marriage does have less cultural sway today than in previous generations. However, there has never been a time when all of cultural rightly understood marriage from a biblical perspective.

Scripture has been challenging the way culture views marriage since the beginning.

Clickbait Headlines Are Killing My Soul

Stephen Altrogge nails it.

What small churches can do (part 3)

Joe Thorn:

Smaller churches are no less hindered from doing what God has called his people to do than are larger churches. Having more people does not maker it easier. Get that. More people does not make it easier. Just have a conversation with pastors of larger churches and you will find that leading God’s people into mission isn’t easy for anyone. In fact, larger numbers often makes things more complicated. However, clarifying what the church is all about and what it will give itself to does make things simpler, if not easier.

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:

  • When Worlds Collide by R.C. Sproul (ePub)
  • The Poetic Wonder of Isaac Watts by Douglas Bond (Hardcover)
  • John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine, and Doxology by Burk Parsons (ePub)
  • A Survey of Church History, Part 1 A.D. 100-600 Teaching Series by W. Robert Godfrey (DVD)

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

The Long Way Home

Lore Ferguson:

I have numbered the dreams that have slipped from my palms over the years and a home was the one that died the slowest death, particularly the dream of a husband in a home. To paint the walls, to settle in, to build something as permanent as anything on earth can be: this is the work of a home.

You May Not Like ‘em, but You Have to Love ‘em.

Erik Raymond shares from Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ Life in Christ.

What the stories we consume say about us

This conversation between Dan Darling and Mike Cosper is worth watching:

Our Words Will Be Thunder When Our Life Is Like Lightning

Matt Capps:

When one examines the character qualifications for pastors in the New Testament, especially in the Pastoral Epistles, it becomes clear that there is a standard for spiritual and moral maturity (1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:6-9). In short, pastoral character is vital for faithful ministry. Don Carson has said on many occasions that what is most remarkable about the qualifications for a pastor is that they are so unremarkable. In other words, the quality of character called for in pastors can be found mandated for all Christians in other parts of God’s word.

The Organization That Will Surpass Google, Apple, and Wal-Mart

Mark Altrogge:

Many believers have written off the church. I recently talked with a man who told me he reads his Bible and prays every morning but wants nothing to do with a church. “They’re a bunch of hypocrites,” he seethed when I asked him why he so loathes the church. Maybe he’d had some bad experiences, but not every church is full of hypocrites. We’re weak and messy and fail often, but Jesus hasn’t given up on his people. He’s building his church, and he will be successful.

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:

  • Knowing God’s Will Teaching Series by R.C. Sproul (audio download)
  • Habakkuk: A Wrestler with God by Walter Chantry (Paperback)
  • God in Our Midst: The Tabernacle and Our Relationship with God by Daniel Hyde (Hardcover)
  • How the Gospel Brings Us All the Way Home by Derek Thomas (ePub)
  • Psalm 51 Teaching Series by R.C. Sproul (audio and video download)

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

An Open Letter to Tom Brady

Jared Wilson gets his super-fan on, and I’m glad he did.

The Problem with Good Advice

Christina Fox:

The problem comes when our advice sounds no different from the advice a counselor from another religion or even no religion at all would give. If an atheist would suggest the same child-rearing techniques or a Buddhist the same stress-management strategies as we do, then there is something missing from our counsel. Even though truth is truth no matter who says it, the advice that followers of Christ give ought to point to the source of all truth.

Wanted: A Teaching Church

Daniel Hyde:

The Bible is the Word of God. All Bible-believing evangelical churches affirm this. In historic Protestantism, there is a theology of the Word that not only professes sola Scriptura but also professes the sufficiency of Scripture for all things concerning doctrine, worship, and godliness. What the church of the twenty-first century needs to be is a teaching church that plainly and powerfully proclaims the Word of God. Then the church will be equipped to fulfill its task in the world to worship and to witness to that world.

Beware the Idol of Self-Preservation

Michael Kelley:

Now let’s be clear, here – there are moments, many in fact, when you find yourself (as I do) in an over-committed situation, and for the health of your family and even your soul, you need to release some of those demands. But in those occasions, you are releasing some demands so you can fully give yourself to others. It’s not an escaping; it’s a re-aligning of yourself to make sure you are giving what limited resources you have to the most appropriate places.

Stating the Obvious in Worship

Dustin Rouse:

Pointing out what is plain to see is annoying, yet gospel truth and the worship it inspires is different. Gospel truth is only obvious to believers because the scales have been removed from our eyes. We see what once was obvious in the Garden of Eden – that our God is glorious.

Links I like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

I’m Glad Jesus Doesn’t Take Joel Osteen’s Advice

Me too.

I Have Cursed You

Tim Challies:

Never mind all that stuff about “words will never hurt me.” Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words…words hurt worse. Somehow a full-out beating hurts less than a tongue-lashing. After the bruises have faded, the words remain dug in like daggers. I know people who are still deeply wounded by brutal words launched at them years or even decades before.

How Pride Poisons the Soul

Sam Storms:

Of all that God hates, of all that is an abomination to him, what is first on the list? Haughty eyes, which is to say, prideful, arrogant eyes. Haughty eyes does not refer to how a person’s eyes look to others but how a person views himself and others. He views them as less than himself, as essentially worthless. He is arrogant and puffed up with his own sense of value.

To the Sons and Daughters of Divorce

Paul Maxwell:

Few things are more traumatic than a car accident — 2,000 pounds of steel and glass bending and scraping, with no respect for the limits or boundaries of the human body inside. There’s a path of healing that every victim of a serious accident must take.

Children with divorced parents have experienced a different kind of violent, traumatic collision. And every child of divorce must likewise walk a path of healing. It will, of course look different for different sons and daughters, but no one can deny that the emotional and relational bleeding needs attention, likely long after the papers are filed.

The Antidote to the Coming Persecution

Mike Leake:

Instead the type of persecution that I see playing out will be something similar to what the “scattered exiles” were facing in 1 Peter. The type of persecution that they faced wasn’t so much the beat you with rods, execute you, and throw  you into prison. There was persecution like that in the Roman empire but most of that type was local. Their persecution was more about social ostracization.