Links I like

Holy Relics: The Church Pew

Martyn Wendell Jones:

Unlike the Lord, they are hard and unforgiving. Wherever two or three hundred are gathered, there they will be also. The Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head, but his followers will have somewhere to rest their behinds, even unto the end of the age.

Evangelical church pews are a sign of our identification with the Christian Church universal because they are not unique to our houses of worship. Austere, they stand in sanctuaries all over the world, colors changing with those of the available materials for building them in different countries and climates. I’ve seen them bolted to stone floors, hardwood floors, and floors covered in carpet to mask the material underneath; I’ve dozed on them in balmy Mediterranean weather and shivered on them through a bitter midwestern winter’s worth of Sundays, helplessly caught in the draft of God’s house and praying for the Lord to seal the door, as he sometimes does.

Tribes and the lost art of discernment

Yancey Arrington:

Unfortunately for some, looking to leaders who don’t share your theological distinctives or church philosophy is anathema. I’ve been places where if you quote [a non-tribe leader's name] or say you like [said leader's] approach to dealing with a specific issue you run the risk of being regarded as some kind of sellout, pragmatist who’s a heartbeat away from purchasing a laser light show and circus clowns for your Sunday morning “event.” You definitely are in need of a strong rebuke…or better yet, a gossip session: “Did you hear who [leader in your tribe] has been influenced by? What’s he thinking? We started our tribe because we don’t want to be like those guys!” The sad result is that isolationism and insularity become shibboleths for who the real faithful are. Do they quote our guys, go to our conferences, read our books? Another unfortunate product is the fostering of an either/ormentality which tragically pits good things against each other, forcing a tribe’s faithful to embrace one at the loss of the other. For example, one person’s tribe is either into theology or leadership but it can’t be into both. Embrace theology and you’re regarded as too doctrinaire for your own good. Embrace leadership and risk being branded as guy who puts ends over means. It’s crazy, pick any tribe and often you’ll get subjected to all kinds of false dichotomies (attractional church vs. incarnational church, Sunday school vs. missional communities, etc.) forcing you to pick the “right” side.

Whenever I see this either/or mentality I want to scream, “Whatever happened to discernment?”

Youth-Driven Culture

Stephen Nichols:

The subtle and not-so-subtle pulls of the idolization of youth manifest themselves in three areas. The first is an elevation of youth over the aged. This reverses the biblical paradigm. The second is a view of being human that values prettiness (not to be confused with beauty and aesthetics), strength, and human achievement. Think of the captain of the cheerleading squad and the star quarterback. The third is the dominance of the market by the youth demographic. That is to say, in order to be relevant and successful, one must appeal to the youth or to youthful tastes. These manifestations of our youth-driven culture deserve a closer look.

How I Almost Became a False Teacher

John Knight:

[Disability] touched every area of my life, including my understanding of who God is. I looked for this issue in the Bible and thought hard about it. But I didn’t just read the Bible, I scoured memoirs, scholarly journals, testimonials, history, academic textbooks.

I responded to the strong temptation to look for somebody else — somebody with experience with disability — to provide the theological answers to the questions I had about the Bible and disability. Some of those voices made sense to me.

One such voice was a well-known blind theologian dealing directly at some of the hardest passages in the New Testament. His writing was clear and organized. He was seriously engaging the Bible. He knew and understood the history of the church on this topic. His argumentation was tight, and his experience with the subject was relevant. His emotional appeals gelled with his rationale. He was no prosperity charlatan trying to get rich off his followers. It was a serious look at God’s word and its impact on his life as a man living with blindness.

And he was wrong

The real problem with female masturbation

Jordan Monge:

When men talk about masturbation (or at least what I have heard and read), everyone pretty much settles on the basics: It’s hard to practice self-control. It’s hard to resist indulging in lust. Really hard. Few men try to psychoanalyze the process, explaining masturbation away by realizing that they secretly have underlying issues relating to real women. (Though, it’s true that many men do struggle to relate to real women in the flesh, if the movie Her is any indication.) Men realize that even if they do resolve those relational issues with women or somehow meet their “unmet needs,” that won’t solve their real problem. Their real problem is lust.

My Memory Moleskine: Think On These Things

Memory Moleskine - Image by Tim Brister

Continuing to work through the last portion of chapter four and reflecting more on Phil. 4:8-9:

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

These verses have been ones worth savoring in the last several weeks. The hoopla surrounding you know who continues and it has been really easy to get distracted from everything else. In light of that, I’ve been considering the following question(s):

Despite the need and command to be extremely discerning (see Phil 1:9-10), is it possible to spend so much time focused on what is unpure, unlovely, lacking commendation, and unworthy of praise that you miss out on all the glorious things that God is doing around you, through you and to you? Do you need to be intimately familiar with evil to know what is good?

Discernment is essential, and I am grateful for the measure of it that the Lord has given me. But I’m also by nature something of a curmudgeon. This tends to make it very easy for me to focus solely on negative things rather than on whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent and praiseworthy. And sometimes I wonder if this is what gets us into trouble when it comes to issues of discernment?

I know that whenever a pastor writes a book that says something either heretical or merely stupid (while all heresy is stupid, not all stupidity is heresy), there is a tendency to say “You need to read the book first before you can say anything about it!”

Now, to a point I agree. I do think we would all do well to guard our tongues, especially in making pronouncements without facts. But Philippians 4:8-9 have been reminding me of an important truth:

One does not have to engage with what is evil in order to know that it is evil.

In fact, Paul says the opposite: “I want you to be wise as to what is good and innocent as to what is evil” (Romans 16:19b).

In the same way that I don’t need to try heroin to know it’s bad for me, I don’t have to familiarize myself with false doctrine to know it is evil. If my focus is on what is right, true, pure and praiseworthy, if my focus is on knowing what God is saying to His people through the Scriptures, it’s easy to discern what is evil and avoid it—or, if necessary, confront it.

And truth be told, I’d much rather read my Bible than a bad book any day. Wouldn’t you?

"Just So You Know, Hell Doesn't Have Heroes!" Be Discerning About Your Books

Mark Driscoll discusses Twilight and examines a few of the books that are being promoted for young girls today.

Driscoll’s critique should be well considered. Too often we assume that just because it’s a movie, a book or a song that it’s fine (as if these things don’t have an agenda to promote). It’s why the Bible commands us all to be discerning. A great resource in developing discernment? Tim Challies’ book, The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment (review here).

The transcript of the video follows:

…I do want you to be discerning when it comes to culture because I believe one of the ways that Satan works in our day, is he will take things out of the category of religion and spirituality, put them into the category of entertainment, and we completely fail to be discerning. We just think, “Oh, that’s not demonic. That’s a movie.” A movie is a sermon with pictures. “That’s not demonic, that’s a song.” Satan can write music. He can inspire story-telling and filmmaking, music. He sets ideology, and worldview, and he’s at work in the world.

I’ll back this up, give you an example. I have a thirteen-year-old daughter. My daughter, Ashley, recently turned thirteen. So now I am the proud daddy of a teenage girl. It’s awesome. I love her. Some people say, “Oh wait till she’s a teenager.” She’s there. It’s fantastic. It’s great. I adore her. She’s a voracious reader. She reads a lot, and she’s got a big library. She’s a discerning reader. She’s starting to write, and we’re getting ready to publish her blogs, which are recommended readings and critical book reviews for preteen and teenage girls so they don’t read garbage, which I think is awesome, and I really am excited about that. It was her idea. [Read more...]

The Way God Speaks

A couple months back, James MacDonald examined personal revelation in his Hope in the Authority of the King series. Here he explains his perspective on the way God speaks:

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more about “The Way God Speaks“, posted with vodpod

MacDonald describes five methods in which God speaks:

  1. From the Word of God itself (this is most common)
  2. From the Word through a person (this is less common)
  3. From a person, not contradicting the Word (this is not common)
  4. From the Holy Spirit to my spirit (this is uncommon)
  5. In a dream to my mind (this is very uncommon)

You can find a PDF of the chart shown in the video here.

The first two, we’ve undoubtedly all experienced at some point.

If you’ve read the Bible wanting to hear from God, you’ll hear from Him. [Read more...]

Matt Chandler on being Reformed and Charismatic

Really appreciated this interview with Adrian Warnock & Matt Chandler on how embracing the charismatic gifts plays out in Chandler’s life and ministry. The big ideas from Chandler:

  1. No one swings from chandeliers
  2. Any word that someone may have received is brought privately to the elders
  3. They pray over it and determine its veracity
  4. Sometimes it’s brought out to the congregation, other times it’s not

In short, they’re seeking to handle these kinds of things—like a personal word, a dream or a vision—very, very carefully.

They’re obeying Scripture’s commands concerning such things. To “not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God” (1 John 4:1).

I tend to approach the charismatic gifts very cautiously, probably as an overreaction to being around a number of people who tended to not test but blindly accept. For me, it’s always interesting and helpful to see how others are approaching them.

What about you? What’s your background on this issue?

Do you think the charismatic gifts are active today and for everyone?

If so, why? If not, why not?

Book Review: The Twilight Gospel by Dave Roberts

Title: The Twilight Gospel: The Spiritual Roots of the Stephenie Meyer Vampire Saga
Author: Dave Roberts
Publisher: Monarch Books

There’s no question that Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight Saga has taken teen-girl-world by storm.

The tale of Bella and her vampire beau Edward has sold more than 100 million copies worldwide. The first two movies made a ridiculous amount of money at the box office, even more in DVD sales, and the next several are already in various stages of production.

But, what is it teaching us? What ideas and values are being promoted—and should they be embraced or rejected?

That’s the question Dave Roberts asks in The Twilight Gospel, an examination of the spiritual and sociological worldview of Meyer’s bestselling series.

An Even-Handed Critique

It’s a bit odd to review a piece of literary criticism, particularly based on a series of books I’ve not read (as a 30-something man who doesn’t really like a lot of fiction, they don’t hold much appeal). With critical review, there’s a great temptation to take the most scandalous bits out of context and present that as the sum total of a book.

Having said that, I believe Roberts takes a very even-handed approach to the subject matter. He doesn’t focus on the negative aspects of the book solely; instead he notes the admirable traits of characters alongside the less virtuous qualities, even as he compares them to the Christian worldview. [Read more...]

Learning vs. Criticism

A thought-provoking clip from Mark Driscoll’s recent sermon, Jesus the Sabbath Lord:

The Bible said, “No working on the Sabbath,” so the religious people came along and they made a number of rules, one of which was you’re only allowed to do emergency medical care on the Sabbath, and they had a whole list of rules for what defined emergency care—a baby being born or a traumatic accident. Religious people worked this way as well. They worked through something called “the fear of man.” Proverbs 29:25, “The fear of man is a trap or a snare.”

They like to make a scene in public, that’s why they’ll swarm to a blog, swarm to a Facebook, swarm to a Twitter account, swarm to a church, swarm to a church meeting, swarm to a dinner at someone’s home.

Swarm you at work, swarm you as family members at the holidays. They swarm, and they’re always looking for an audience to pressure you, back down, compromise, be quiet. Do you want to get stung some more? Then tap out, give up, give in. So they’re always picking a fight with Jesus where there’s a crowd, and here it’s on the Sabbath, a Saturday, in the synagogue in front of an audience.

And it says they came not to listen to Jesus, but to find fault with him.

Let me say this—you need to examine your own heart.

When you listen to me, another preacher, teacher, radio, podcast, read a book, are you listening, are you reading? First asking, “Okay God, teach me. I want to be humble. I want to learn. Secondly, “Show me my sins, my faults, my flaws, my failures so I can grow.” Thirdly, “Show me things I can help other people with as a good friend.” Fourthly, “If there’s anything wrong or askew or really dangerous here, show me that so I don’t get led into error.”

But don’t start with, “If I disagree, they’re wrong, I’m right and I’m here as God to judge.” [Read more...]

Be Intolerant of the Right Things

intolerant

The other day, I posted “The Intolerance of Tolerance,” wherein D.A. Carson discusses the development and ramifications of the postmodern understanding of tolerance. Listening to his thoughtful and careful exposition set my mind to work, and I found with a number of questions.

Do we, particularly those of us who have been raised with a postmodern mindset, have a right understanding of what it means to be tolerant? And how is our understanding of tolerance affecting us spiritually?

Take the bookstore for example. When I go to Chapters, it’s always interesting to look at the titles in the Religion/Christianity section. There’s a very diverse selection of titles  by a number of authors offering a variety of perspectives and positions. Naturally, some of these are very helpful and generally biblical, and others are anything but. (It’s fun to see Tim Keller and Bart Ehrman next to each on a bookshelf.) They run the full gamut. And, truthfully, I wouldn’t expect the mass market bookstore to have anything but this kind of mix, simply because they’re not catering to a specialty market.

Then there’s the specialty market—the Christian bookstores. What’s funny is I notice a lot of crossover between the mass market and the specialty. A lot of works that are really good and helpful, and others that are downright unbiblical. [Read more...]

Discrediting the Truth

discrediting-the-truth

As we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit of divination and a brought her owners much gain by fortune-telling. She followed Paul and us, crying out, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.” And this she kept doing for many days. Paul, having become greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And it came out that very hour.

Acts 16:16:18

Reading this passage got me thinking: What’s one of the easiest ways to discredit the truth?

With a false witness.

Paul, Silas and Luke are in Philippi, where they were to do ministry. Meanwhile, this slave girl with a “spirit of divination” shows up (read: she’s a demon possessed fortune-teller), and starts following them and shouting that “These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.”

The thing that’s interesting is she’s telling the truth.

They are servants of the Most High God, and they are there to proclaim to the Philippians the way of salvation.

She does this solely to hinder their work.

This girl, a slave, has made her owners rich with her fortune-telling. No doubt she’d have something of a reputation for being accurate. So by following them and telling the truth about who they are, she could very easily be assumed to be part of Paul’s team.

Sneaky, isn’t it? [Read more...]

Sunday Shorts (06/14)

Josh Harris: My Run-in with Borat

A great story on the need for discernment:

Thoughts on Evangelical Superstardom

Kevin DeYoung offers a very insightful follow-up to John Piper’s recent article on Hero Worship v. Holy Emulation. Here’s an extremely important excerpt:

[D]on’t like someone just because others do, and don’t dislike someone just because others like him. Both are dangers in a celebrity culture. Some people wait on the corner just looking for bandwagons they can hop on. Others–the too cool for school crowd–have a dire fear of being a part of something popular. These folks decide to dislike an author or pastor or speaker or band or movie just because all their friends rave about them. I understand the reaction, but you don’t have to be a groupie to be edified. Don’t like Calvinism or Piper or Driscoll or whatever because it’s cool. And don’t be the cynical I-hate-labels, why-are-Christians-such-lemmings person either. Give thanks for godliness where you see it, the gospel where you hear it, and good examples when you can find them.

Read the whole article at Kevin’s blog.

The Perfect Technology

Tim Challies wrote this enjoyable article on why he feels books are the perfect technology:

…there is more to a book than its words. A book is an experience, and the experience includes the media through which we consume those words. Reading a book printed on paper, reading a book on a reading device and listening to a recording of a book are, at least in some way, different experiences.

Read the rest at Challies.com.

In case you missed it

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

The Persevering Prophet: I Know the Plans I Have for You Exploring the meaning of that famous coffee-cup verse, Jeremiah 29:11.

Book Review: Agape Leadership Reviewing spiritual leadership lessons from the life of RC Chapman.

Made in the Image of God: Choice How humanity images God through the ability to make choices

I Have No Words Zack Morris(!) appears on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. I am shocked that Mark-Paul Gosselaar didn’t break character once.

Breathed Out by God

“All Scripture is breathed out by God…” says Paul in 2 Tim. 3:16. Honestly, if you have ever had any doubt about this, you need to look at a passage like this:

“If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat, and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink, for you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you” (Proverbs 25:21-22).

It’s such a bizarre concept, isn’t it? This concept of loving your enemy.

This is not an idea that people could come with on their own. The best we can come up with on our own is “don’t fight back.” Don’t retaliate. But Jesus went so much farther than that, commanding us to repay evil with good:

To love our enemies.

But why? Why should we do this? Why not just seek justice (or more correctly, vengeance)?

“[S]o that when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil” (1 Pet. 3:16-17). [Read more...]