Links I like

links i like

The Evangelical War on Contraception

Matthew Lee Anderson:

If you haven’t heard, evangelicals are currently campaigning against contraception.

Oh, you haven’t? Well, I can’t blame you. After all, it was only two years ago when a evangelical theologian seriously proposed that churches should give out contraception to single Christians because that supposedly reduces abortions and evangelical attendees responded with a collective, “Um, sure, why not?!”

Desiring God Conference for Pastors

The Desiring God 2014 Conference for Pastors starts today. If, like me, you’re at home instead of in Minneapolis, you can watch live online at desiringgod.org/live.

Legalistic Relativists

R.C. Sproul Jr:

The appeal of ethical relativism is rather plain to see. If there is no right and wrong then I can’t be convicted of any wrong. Ethical relativism allows me to write my own law, to edit on the fly, to finish “I may do this . . .” with an unassailable “. . . because I want to.” Desire becomes its own justification. My will becomes my law.

This appeal, however, soon enough begins to dissipate if we have any interest at all in being coherent, consistent in our thinking. We quickly turn, “I may do this, because I want to” into “You may not do that, because I want to do this.” Consider, just as an example, sexual perversion. The problem, morally speaking, with sexual perversion is that it is an abomination to God. Ethical relativism, of course, bars God from the conversation. Therefore there is no reason by which we might condemn the practice. There is, to these folks, no transcendent moral standard by which we are all bound. We can do what we want, no matter how perverse. Which means, doesn’t it, that I can call sexual perversion an abomination to God? What, after all, is to stop me?

Free stuff for book lovers

Christian Audio’s free audiobook of the month is When Helping Hurts by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert. This is well worth the free. Ligonier has also made The Prayer of the Lord by R.C. Sproul free until Feb. 28. Finally, the Logos edition of Biblical Theology in the Life of the Church by Michael Lawrence is free until the end of February. Enjoy!

This looks fun!

In April, the next big superhero movie, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, will be released. Here’s a look:

Beware of Backdoor Legalism

Dan Darling:

Last week, during an apparent display of debauchery at the Grammy’s (I don’t usually watch award shows. It’s just not my thing. Other folks feel that way about NFL football, which I love). This caused award-winning singer, Natalie Grant to walk out. She was, from all accounts, not self-righteous or judgmental about it, but just posted a simple explanation about it on her Facebook page.

Of course, this action provoked conversation online, on Twitter and in blogs. Perhaps the most prominent reaction is Laura Turner, who clearly disagreed, writing in her blog for Religion News: “But reading about her decision to leave early and then publicize that decision sounded to me just like the self-righteousness of those people who couldn’t hear a swear word without their faith being threatened.” Now I respect Turner’s instincts here and I have those same ones myself. Christians have, at times, developed an isolationist bent, a sort of fundamentalism that rejects any thoughtful engagement with the world. This inward inpulse has often put us on the same side as the Pharisees who couldn’t entertain a Savior who hung out with the very people he came to save: the sinners, the needy, the sick.

10 Hot Tips For The Christian Life

Jeff Medders:

There is no secret to Christian growth. Paul actually despises any idea of some hidden, underhanded way of Christianity.… The gospel is an open statement of the truth: We need Jesus and Jesus gives us all that he is by faith in his person and work. No more hot tips, only more of Jesus. “Tips must decrease, he must increase.” The Christian life isn’t that complicated.

5 Things Everyone Needs When Going to a Conference

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This morning I’m on the road to Louisville to take part in the Together for the Gospel 2014 conference. I’m very much looking forward to hearing the speakers, learning lots and spending time with a number of friends, old and new, who will be there. As I’ve become more of a regular attendee at these sorts of things, I’ve found that there are a few things that every person should really have on hand at a conference:

An eReader of some sort

This just makes the travel-time go so much more quickly. I bring my iPad pretty much everywhere with me and it’s so worth it, in part because it keeps my bags light (I like to have options when reading). Also, you’re probably going to be coming home with a whole whack of books (either from giveaways or purchases), so you’re going to need the room in your luggage. Which brings me to my next point…

Appropriate luggage

You’re almost certainly going to come home with more than you planned. Pack light and bring roomy luggage (this goes double for all you folks who are flying).

A contact card (optional)

It’s a bit old-school, but a contact card (read: business card) is super helpful to have handy when you know you’re going to meet a bunch of people with whom you’ll want to keep in touch.

Comfortable shoes

Because you’re going to be on your feet a fair amount of the time, it’s wise to wear comfortable shoes. Even the best business casual slip-on gets unpleasant after a long day.

Oral B brush ups (and/or mints and gum)

Roaming around a conference for 10+ hours, drinking coffee… yeah. Take care to protect your breath.

Anything else you’d add to the list?


This post has been updated since it was first published in April, 2012.

photo credit: marfis75 via photopin cc

#TGC11 Day 2 Reflections

Emily and I took a few minutes last night to talk about some of the highlights of day 2 of the Gospel Coalition’s 2011 National Conference. Check out the video below for our thoughts:

 

And just a reminder—the Don’t Call It a Comeback giveaway is still on until Friday afternoon. If you’ve not entered already, now would be a great opportunity. Go here for more details.

Cultivating Private Prayer as a Pastor

On Tuesday, February 1, Dr. Joel Beeke spoke at the Desiring God 2011 Pastor’s Conference, “The Powerful Life of the Praying Pastor.” His topic: Cultivating Private Prayer as a Pastor. Though many visiting this site are not pastors, I hope you’ll find Dr. Beeke’s message beneficial to cultivating your own prayer life.

Video:

Audio: : (Download to listen later)

Below are the notes taken during Dr. Beeke’s session (courtesy of Desiring God):

It is always convicting to receive the assignment to speak on prayer to other pastors. And as I was writing the book that Dr. Piper referenced on prayer, I became increasingly convicted by the Puritans about how little I pray. So tonight, I am preaching first of all to myself. This topic is at the heart of revival of the church of Jesus Christ. My father told me when I was a teenager that the greatest problem of the church today is prayerless praying.

The sermons of the Reformers and Puritans are not that different than ours. We’re saying essentially the same thing. What was so different was their prayer lives. My aim is that we would truly pray in our prayers. So turn with me to Isaiah 64:6-9 and James 5:13-18.

True prayer is putting ourselves into our petitions, crying out to God Almighty and praying in our prayers. The problem is not that we don’t pray, but rather that seldom we truly prayerfully pray in our prayers. What is this praying? The primary exercise of faith. Private prayerful praying is the work of the triune God. It has more to do with God than with us. It is Heaven’s greatest weapon that we have at our disposal as a minister of the gospel. This kind of praying is supposed to be half of our vocation—giving ourselves to the Word and to prayer. [Read more…]

Ministry Idolatry

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During the Advance conference several years ago, Mark Driscoll spoke on the issue of ministry idolatry. During his session, he asked the audience to consider eleven forms this idolatry can take:

  1. Attendance idolatry: Does your joy change when your attendance does?
  2. Gift idolatry: Do you feel that God needs you and uses you because you are so skilled?
  3. Truth idolatry: Do you consider yourself more righteous than more simple Christians?
  4. Fruit idolatry: Do you point to your success as evidence of God’s approval of you?
  5. Method idolatry: Do you worship your method as your mediator?
  6. Tradition idolatry: What traditions are you upholding that are thwarting the forward progress of the gospel?
  7. Office idolatry: Are you motivated primarily by God’s glory or your title?
  8. Success idolatry: Is winning what motivates you at the deepest level?
  9. Ministry idolatry: Do you use the pressure of ministry to make you walk with God?
  10. Innovative idolatry: Does it matter to you that your ministry be considered unique?
  11. Leader idolatry: Who, other than Christ, are you imaging?

Looking back on this message in light of how Driscoll’s ministry has unfolded, I can’t help but think they represent an irony: A good warning unheeded by its messenger. He knew the dangers that faced him, clearly. And yet, based on what we see taking place before us, he either lacked self-awareness or voices willing to lovingly warn him with his own words.

Now, whether he does (or has) truly heard and repented, only the Lord can say, and time will tell. But whatever happens, reflecting on these questions should remind us to not view any church leader who falls in a “Lord, thank you I am not like that guy,” sort of way. Instead, they should make us consider how each of us would respond if our friends or we were to fall prey to our own weakness.

If a friend falls, will we encourage people to pray for him and his family (which is right to do), as well as to pray for those he’s wronged (which is equally right and necessary, as Matt Redmond has reminded us)? This is hard in some ways, because it requires us to challenge the idol of our preconceived notions and also the idol of “credibility” (and the danger, again, as Redmond has pointed out, is when we fail to speak out about glaring abuses we actually lose that which we sought to keep).

But were we to fall, would we desperately cling to what we believed made us successful, pointing to the apparent fruit of our ministry, even as it all falls apart? Or would we let it go, repenting of our sin and looking to Jesus as something greater than any success we might have had?

For me, perhaps because I’ve not had much success from many perspectives—my books aren’t bestsellers, my blog doesn’t pull in hundreds of thousands of readers each month and I rarely  preach at a church with more than 50 people in attendance—it’s pretty easy to hold the idea of success loosely. At least right now. And even as I try to figure out what to say next, I keep coming back to this: I really have no idea how I would respond. I don’t know what I’m blind to about myself.

Are any of us any different?


Note: this post was fully re-written in September 2014.

Cliff Notes from the Xchange

Recently I spent a few days in Escondido, California, basking in the mid-teen temperatures (sorry, folks, I still think Celsius when it comes to temperatures), enjoying the sunshine… and taking part in the TruthXchange 2011 Think Tank. The theme of the conference was One-ism: A Poison Pill for the Church?

Building on the messages from The Exchange Conference in 2010, the Think Tank addressed issues of the gospel, social justice, environmentalism, spirituality, missiology, gender, worship, education, eschatology, literature and epistemology (that is, thinking). While my full notes would be too intense (I’ve got something like 12,000 words worth), I wanted to share some highlights from the sessions I most appreciated.

The One-ist Gospel

Brian Mattson spoke on the One-ist gospel by examining Brian McLaren’s most recent book, A New Kind of Christianity, asking two key questions:

Is McLaren’s Christianity new—and is it really Christian at all?

The answer to both of these questions, says Mattson is no. McLaren’s new kind of Christianity is nothing more than classical Enlightenment liberalism. Mattson’s analysis suggests that the gospel put forth in this book (and by many like-minded thinkers within the Emergent stream of evangelicalism), is actually Universalism, which is necessarily Gnostic, not Christian.

In the Gnostic gospels, you’d run across a motif that runs through all of them; it’s not enough for the Gnostics to claim that the “violent, tribal deity” is a lesser God—they call Yahweh, the God of the Bible an ignorant God; “the bastard child deity of a screw-up.”

The explanation is elegant and simple. The God revealed in the Old Testament Scriptures claims to be the only God. He actually says “I am the only God and there is no other.” His ignorance is manifest in his claim of exclusivity.

On the one hand there’s a God who claims to be the only God, to whom all allegiance is owed. On the other, there’s a group of people saying, “no, this cannot be true because divine love is universal.”

The question is, how do they know?

They know because they are “Gnostic.” He can claim that he is the only God to whom all allegiance is owed, but they know better.

All claims to Universalism are claims to have access to spiritual knowledge beyond bounds of God’s revelation. It goes all the way back to the first temptation in the garden; his “new kind of Christianity” is actually the oldest kind of heresy. [Read more…]

Truth and Lies: Mark Driscoll – One-ism in Culture

In his first lecture, Mark Driscoll addressed how we are created to reflect, mirror and image God, but through our sin, we have a proclivity to, rather than reflect God, fall into one of two idolatrous options.

The first is that we worship ourselves. “This is, perhaps best evidenced by Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. In his hierarchy, Maslow says that our greatest need is self-actualization,” says Driscoll.

Our second option is to we worship other people. This accounts for rise of celebrity culture.

Radio personality Dr. Drew Pinsky has come across this condition that people are suffering from the effects of mirroring other people. We no longer have role models, we have celebrities.

What we need, Driscoll argues, are role models. People would live an exemplary life, a model life, and we would imitate them (cf. Hebrews 13). You don’t worship them, but you learn from them how to be a better mirror. (As an aside, Driscoll is impressed that in God’s common grace and general revelation, the non-Christian radio host can identify the same problem that Scripture reveals, even if his solutions are different.)

“Today we have celebrities. They’re not role models. They’re infamous for bad behavior. But they haven’t done anything,” says Driscoll. “‘The only way to become a celebrity is to do something extreme,’ says Dr. Drew in The Mirror Effect. There’s a cultural appetite for more extreme examples.” [Read more…]

Truth and Lies: Francis Chan – The Truth and the Lie in Social Justice

Francis Chan is the bestselling author of Crazy Love and Forgotten God. Until recently, he was also the teaching pastor of Cornerstone Church in Simi Valley, California. His message, The Truth and the Lie in Social Justice, was, perhaps, one of the most intriguing for me to see at the conference. Largely because I didn’t know where he was going to go with it.

Chan’s message found its foundation in Colossians 1:16:

For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.

“We’ve been talking about one-ism and two-ism [at this conference],” said Chan. “Here’s the ultimate [example]: Everything was created for Him!”

Robbing God of His Glory

“Everything we do is to give God glory,” he continued. “Somehow everything I do should give glory to God and in the area of social justice it’s difficult. These are good things, but if we’re not careful but we can get lifted up instead of God.”

The bad part is there are times that I like it. In the last few years my life’s gotten really weird. Our American Christian rock star thing… it’s really messed with my heart at times. And the Lord’s shown me at times… I was at a pastor’s conference, and my face was on the magazine, and on posters and people were talking about me, and he impressed upon me, “You actually like that, don’t’ you? You actually enjoy the buzz of your name around the room?” [Read more…]

Truth and Lies: Dr. Peter Jones – the Truth and the Lie in Worship

In his first session, Dr. Peter Jones focused on giving us a foundation for everything we would hear about the effects of one-ist and two-ist worldviews.

Romans 1:25 tells us that “they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator.” Jones (and all the speakers) reminds us that it is essential to keep this text top of mind as it explains what we’ve done in creating for ourselves our own worldview in our sin.

We live in a culture of spirituality. “Elements of Eastern faiths and New Age thinking have been adopted by 65% of American adults.”And, according to USA Today, 70% of Americans surveyed believe many religions can lead to God.

Some of the most popular religions in America (among celebrities) include Kabbalah (adherents include Demi Moore, Britney Spears, Madonna, & Courtney Love); Scientology (Brad Pitt, Sylvester Stallone, John Travolta, & Tom Cruise); and Buddhism (Harrison Ford, Richard Gere, Tiger Woods and others).

“All these share a one-ist worldview—that we are one together and God is one with us,” says Jones. “One-ism is a faith presupposition since we cannot know by research if everything is one, [and] it leads to worship.”

One-ism Affects Everything

One-ism affects everything; it frames the issues that we face every day: [Read more…]

Truth and Lies: Mark Driscoll – One-ism vs Two-ism

Pastor Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church is borderline infamous. His blunt and sometimes brash style of expository preaching has made his sermon feeds one of the top of the iTunes charts—and made him the internet’s piñata.

As the co-host of The Exchange, Driscoll covered the topic of one-ism vs. two-ism, primarily focusing on the realm of popular culture over two sessions, with his third session devoted how one-ism affects pastoral care. This post relates the big ideas of the first session (although I unfortunately missed the first half of session one due to a meeting).

Driscoll focused primarily on what it means to be a worshipper, and simply that we are all worshippers all the time. It’s what we’re created for—and also what we were created as.

We were created to reflect, mirror, image God in creation, says Driscoll. However, through sin, we have a proclivity to worship created things rather than our Creator God.

This is most apparent today in our “sacred culture,” the marks of which are:

  1. The myths that define life
  2. Community
  3. Sacred ritual

These aspects show up in most every area of our lives.

Music. We follow our favorite bands; we sing their songs, we buy all their records. When they make a bad one, we’re in music hell. Concerts are worship events.

Sports. We worship teams, dress up like our favorite athletes by wearing the same jersey and number. Our worship activities start up a few blocks away as we walk to the stadium and talk about what’s going to happen. “People won’t even drive to your church, but they’ll walk to the ball park,” says Driscoll. There are sacred spaces, such as “the hallowed ground of old Yankee Stadium.” If your team is winning, you’re in heaven. If it’s losing, you’re in hell. [Read more…]

Trajectories Toward an Adjusted Gospel – Al Mohler at Together for the Gospel 2010

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more about “Trajectories Toward an Adjusted Gospe…“, posted with vodpod

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.

Galatians 1:6-9

Dr. Mohler addresses eight trajectories that lead to an adjusted gospel:

  1. The Modern Trajectory – The de-mythologizing of the Bible and the Christian faith. “‘The world has changed and we must rescue Christianity,’ they say, ‘and what they really mean is rescue Christianity from itself,'” says Mohler. So out goes the Trinity, miracles, the incarnation, the virgin birth, the deity of Christ, the Bible…
  2. The Postmodern Trajectory – Post-modernity came along and turned modernity into a contemporary myth to go along with the “ancient myths” that modernity exposed. Meaning becomes completely subjective because the reader is the one who identifies truth, not the author.
  3. Moral Trajectory – Christian theology and the gospel are immoral. “Christianity is immoral because it breeds weakness.” It claims our modern moral conscience is superior to the morality espoused in the Bible. Substitutionary atonement becomes viewed as  a form of “divine child abuse.” “God is supposedly portrayed as a selfish monster in the Bible according to this view.” God has to be fair, as though you can subject an infinite being to the idea of being fair. [Read more…]

"My Goal is to be a Faithful Minister of Jesus Christ until He Calls Me Home" – Matt Chandler at Together for the Gospel 2010

Matt Chandler was a special guest at Together for the Gospel 2010, sharing about how his experience with cancer has impacted him and his theology:

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“My goal is to be a faithful minister of Jesus Christ until he calls me home,” says Chandler.

I don’t know about you, but I’m not sure I’ve got that kind of faith. But I want it.

When we suffer, will we suffer well? Will we look at our circumstances with despair or will we join Paul in saying,

For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account.

Philippians 1:21-24

HT: Matt Robbins

Proud, Devoted and Dead

During Jesus’ incarnation, the religious elite of His day, the scribes and Pharisees, would follow Him around and seek to trap Him, discredit Him and have Him arrested and killed.

The Pharisees honestly get a bad rap sometimes. During the 400 year silence prior to John the Baptist’s arrival on the scene, these men saw the godlessness of their countrymen and wanted to do something about it. They wanted Israel to live according to the Law.

So the strove to obey the Law as closely as possible. To obey God as His people.

The problem is they started adding to the Law.

The most common place was with the Sabbath. They had a lot of extra rules, particularly that there was to be no healing on the Sabbath.

So one day, Jesus is at Bethesda and sees a man who has been an invalid for thirty-eight years.

When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me.” Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked. (John 5:6-9a)

Jesus performs an amazing miracle in the life of this man. People should be celebrating, right?

Here’s the problem: “Now that day was the Sabbath” (v. 9b).

So the Jews said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath, and it is not lawful for you to take up your bed.” But he answered them, “The man who healed me, that man said to me, ‘Take up your bed, and walk.’” They asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘Take up your bed and walk’?” Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, as there was a crowd in the place. Afterward Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you.” The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had healed him. And this was why the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because he was doing these things on the Sabbath. But Jesus answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.” (v. 10-17)

The Pharisees sought to persecute Jesus because “he was doing these things on the Sabbath” (v. 16).

They did it because He broke their rules.

And they became so blind with pride that they could not see who Jesus was or what He was doing. [Read more…]

Around the Interweb (02/28)

Ruined for Anything Else

Tim Challies shares a story from his life as he looks at the resurgence of Reformed theology. An excerpt:

I once went on a weekend men’s retreat that featured teaching from several local pastors. We heard some interesting messages about serving our wives, about being men of integrity and so on. . . . The thing that has remained in my mind, though, was one of the sermons delivered that weekend. While we had received a steady diet of topical sermons, one of the pastors stood and delivered what was, in effect, a biblically-grounded expository message. He simply opened up the Bible and explained to us what it meant and how we could apply it to our lives. He gave us real doctrine—true meat instead of mere milk.

As we walked from the meeting room to our cabins I could tell there was a buzz running through the crowd of men. They had enjoyed the sermon and had been electrified by it. But they had no category for it. I heard comments like, “I don’t know what that was, but it was amazing! I wish we could hear more teaching like that!”

It was a pivotal moment for me. It drove home to me something that the Bible teaches but something I had never really seen before—that true believers want and eventually need to move from milk to meat. Though they may not have a category to describe what is missing from their lives they will feel a restlessness. The Spirit works in them to give them a craving for solid food. And when they take a bite of that food, their eyes light up and they know that they are experiencing something that they were meant to enjoy.

It’s a pretty powerful piece; go read it in it’s entirety.

In Other News

Another bit of news from Tim Challies: His redesigned blog is now up and running. It’s quite nice.

Matt Chandler will be a special guest at Together for the Gospel this Spring. He’ll be taking CJ Mahaney’s spot to share what God’s been teaching him through his struggle with brain cancer. The latest video update on Matt’s health is up at the Village’s pastor’s blog.

Ray Ortlund: How the Devil spoke through Peter

Another update on Michael Spencer’s health.

In Case You Missed It

Here are a few of this week’s notable posts:

A review of Erwin Lutzer’s latest, When a Nation Forgets God

Are you being confident or presumptuous when you take risks?

Truth, Love and Jonathan Edwards

Charles Spurgeon on the difference between true and false humility