Letters to a New Believer (For the Church)

letters-leadership

This year is my tenth as a Christian—in fact, if I remember correctly, the actual date is coming up in about three weeks, which is pretty neat to think about. Over the last 10 years, I’ve learned a LOT—mostly by making a lot of bone-headed mistakes. There’s so much I wish I’d known then, and so many things I wish someone would have told me…

So, that’s what I’m doing in a new series for For the Church, “Letters to a New Believer.” The first part is now up, which focuses on the dangers of rushing into leadership roles:

About a year or so into being a Christian, I did something absolutely, spectacularly dumb: I joined the men’s ministry leadership team at our church. Seriously, on a scale of dumb to really dumb, this was just the worst. It was such a bad idea.

Why did I think this was a good idea? And who on earth approved me for any of this?

Well, here’s the thing… It wasn’t just men’s ministry. As a brand-new baby Christian, I was not only trying to figure out the mess of my own life, I was facilitating in our children’s ministry. And within about a year of coming to faith, I was leading a small group. And…  Here’s the point: when I most needed to be sitting under someone’s leadership—to be learning, growing, and building the foundation of my faith—I was in a place where I was trying to do that for others. And it was bad—so bad. The Lord graciously prevented me from doing any serious damage to the faith of other believers (at least as far as I know), but wow, did I ever do a lot of damage to myself. I developed an extremely prideful attitude. I had a swagger that didn’t befit a Christian. I had delusions of grandeur that were just… wow.

Keep reading at For the Church.

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Gideons distribute their two billionth Bible

This is great news.

How to survive in a free-falling elevator

Now you know:

How to take Christ out of Christianity

This is tragic:

When I tell my socially progressive, atheist friends that I’m “culturally Christian,” they’re momentarily concerned that I have a latent preoccupation with guns and the Pledge of Allegiance. Using the term with devout believers gets me instructions that I just need to read more sophisticated theology to come around. I’ve tried hard to accept my fully secular identity, and at other times I’ve tried to read myself into theistic belief, going all the way through divinity school as part of the effort. Still, I remain unable to will myself into any belief in God or gods — but also unable to abandon my relationship to the Episcopalian faith into which I was born and to the ancient stories from which it came.

And though I am without a god, I am not alone.

Why Twitter is better than Facebook

Yep:

What Proximity is Worth

Brett McCracken:

It’s easier to find a tribe of like-minded kindred spirits online or at national conferences; much harder to make community work with the “hand you’ve been dealt” in physical proximity. As my pastor likes to say, it’s often harder to love and serve the guy across the street, the crotchety landlady, the awkward coworker, than it is to go on a mission trip to Myanmar or support a cause on the other side of the world. People who go to the ends of the earth or take up “radical” calls are to be commended, of course, but the “ordinary” calling of domestic faithfulness and commitment to community is never to be diminished. Augustine is right: We should show “special regard” for what and who is right in front of us.

Leaders stoop

Joey Cochran:

Here in Nehemiah 3, nestled in verse 5, we learn a lesson — an important lesson about biblical leadership. Real leaders stoop. In their stooping, they offer their submission as service to the Lord.

The way we show love to abusive leaders

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I’m generally not a fan of leadership conferences. While a lot of people really dig these sorts of events, they tend to not be my thing, either because they’re frustratingly free of mentions of Jesus, or they’re not terribly applicable for guys like me who don’t lead from the top.

This weekend one caught my eye, though. But it wasn’t because I was super-excited about the theme or anything like that. In fact, I had no idea it even existed until I learned of a surprise speaker delivering a message to the pastors in attendance. What caught my attention was this particular speaker was one who apparently remains unrepentant over a laundry list of misdeeds, including plagiarism, a domineering attitude and frequent use of abusive language.

That a church would grant an apparently unrepentant individual a position of authority—even as temporary a one as a conference speaker—is disturbing. And yet, for some reason, it’s altogether unsurprising.

And this, I think is what terrified me the most.

I wasn’t surprised.

Unfortunately, it seems to be all-too-common for Christians to allow those who have no business doing so—at least not according to any reasonable reading of 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 2—to exercise an authority out of line with their character. I was reminded of this even as our pastor preached from 2 Corinthians 11 this weekend, as Paul, dripping with sarcasm, continues a full-frontal assault on the false teachers who’d lead this confused group of believers astray.

Thinking back on the message, and re-reading the passage, I was particularly struck by verses 19-21:

For you gladly bear with fools, being wise yourselves! For you bear it if someone makes slaves of you, or devours you, or takes advantage of you, or puts on airs, or strikes you in the face. To my shame, I must say, we were too weak for that!

Does anyone else wince even a little when reading this?

Think about the people we listen to via podcasts and the blogs we frequent. Consider the Twitter feeds we follow and the books collecting dust on our shelves. Sadly, I suspect there are many names included there whose conduct would line up far more with what Paul describes than with that of an actual minister of the Word. People who take advantage and make slaves of us. People who put on airs—who have the appearance of godliness, but none of its power. Fakers, maligners of God’s word, if not in their words, then certainly in their conduct.

And what does Paul do here? He lovingly confronts the Corinthians with the deception. He is asking them, “Why do you put up with this evil? Why do you allow it to be done to you? Why do you welcome with open arms what ought to be purged from among you?”

Sometimes I wonder what Paul would say to us:

  • Would he rebuke us for allowing disqualified men to continue to speak and lead and have influence in the church?
  • Would he shudder to think that self-appointed men were taking on burdens for which they were not called nor gifted to bear?
  • Would he ask us why we would give cover for those who have abused God’s people for their own ends?

These are questions we need to be asking, whether we worship in healthy churches or (God forbid) in ones characterized by the behaviors Paul suggests in 2 Corinthians 11. And yet, it seems as though we are not.

Why?

Perhaps it’s because we are afraid to find out the answer. We value the gifts this or that person has, their sense of humor, their rhetorical flair… Yet, if their lives reveal them to be liars, or at a minimum those who do not practice what they preach, what business do they have being allowed to teach or influence anyone, anywhere, under any circumstances?

And worse, what does it say to those who suffer when we give them cover?

Does it reveal us to be people who are concerned with compassion and justice? Does it show us to be people concerned with the plight of the oppressed, the weary and those burdened by many sins?

We tolerate Jezebel, even as her victims cry out for justice.

Friends, this should never be.

The church is to be a place of great love and affection—for both perpetrators and victims of abuse. But how we express our love for the former is drastically different from how we do for the latter. When it comes to these phonies, we must acknowledge them for what they are: peddlers of God’s word. If a Christian leader refuses to acknowledge their sin, if they attempt to plead Jesus so as to exempt themselves from the need to ask forgiveness—we show love by saying “no.” We must not allow them a place to be heard until their business with Jesus and with those they have wronged has been dealt with. Only then can they be welcomed back as a brother or sister in Christ.

Just as we must never tolerate abusive behavior by a parent or a spouse—just as such evil should never be named among us—so too must evil of this sort never be allowed to gain a foothold. After all, an unrepentant Christian is no Christian at all. We know this is true, and it is well past time that we started acting like it.


Photo credit: Skley via photopin cc

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The fire of Jesus and the patience of Paul

Trevin Wax:

If you were to pick someone in the New Testament who most resembles a ”hellfire and brimstone” preacher, it would probably be John the Baptist, the prophet who baptized Jesus, and about whom Jesus said no one greater had been born. We like to caricature offensive evangelists as if they are weirdos holding up signs saying, “Turn or burn!” But the testimony we receive about John isn’t far from that. His words are pointed; his call to repentance is clear; his clothing is strange. The way John prepared the way for the Lord was by denouncing all kinds of sin: personal, social, and sexual. He called out the immorality of the king and lost his head for it.

Aside from John, Jesus best fits the description of a “hellfire and brimstone” preacher, even more than Paul. Just read the New Testament and you’ll often find the red letters to be more fiery than the letters of Paul.

Getting Bored With the Right Things

Jared Wilson:

Whether it’s outrage about the sinful state of popular media—whatever new scandal the news people want you to get mad about—or fear about the declining state of our political process—”It’s the Democrats!”; “No, it’s the Republicans!”; “No, it’s politicians!”—or just the crushing anxiety of everyday demands and stresses, in the flesh we are like the disciples in that boat, thinking the skies are crashing down on us as if God is not in control, as if all sin will not be judged, as if justice will not prevail, as if the church will not endure, as if the Spirit is not ever-present and all-powerful, as if our hopes are pinned to what happens to our bodies and bodies politic. But when it comes to the things of the gospel, we can barely keep ourselves awake.

But not Jesus. He has the right priorities. When it comes to the temptations of earthly things, the temporal stresses of cultural idolatry, he is practically stoic, uninterested.

How to Prevent Brotherly Love

Erik Raymond:

If we are going to persevere this brotherly love amid adversity we need to know what the problem is. What impedes brotherly love? What derails it? What suffocates it?

In short: selfishness.

Ministering to the Mobile

Nick Batzig:

During the first three years, I allowed myself to become sinfully frustrated by this aspect of our church plant; it felt like I was trying to do college ministry while having to establish a local church. On one occasion, while venting my frustrations, a friend looked at me and said, “What are you complaining about? Think about foster care parents. At best they hope to love the kids they are entrusted with, move them on to a better home and never see them again.” It was like getting hit in the face with a bag of bricks. That was a turning point for me. Instead of viewing the situation as something negative, I learned to view it from the perspective of a foster care parent. In addition to learning to change the perspective by which I viewed the situation, I began to realize all the benefits of ministering to a mobile community, such as the military. Here are 5 benefits about being in a place where you minister to the mobile military.

The missing conviction of developing leaders

Eric Geiger:

If we look at Moses and Joshua, his successor, we see conviction for developing leaders in one and lacking in the other. And we also see that the implications of either possessing or lacking a conviction for development are huge.

Links I like (weekend edition)

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Kindle deals for Christian readers

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

Traits of leaders who hire well

Eric Geiger:

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

Batman v Superman: the first teaser trailer

Well, this is pretty impressive:

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

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

What Kind of King Is This?

Mike Leake:

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

Teens react to the 90s Internet

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

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Kindle deals for Christian readers

Lots (LOTS!) of Kindle deals today from Zondervan:

Be sure to also grab What Do You Think of Me? Why Do I Care? by Edward T. Welch, which is free today.

What Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality?

Kevin DeYoung’s latest, What Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality?, officially releases today and Westminster Bookstore has a great sale on it for the next few days: $10 for a single copy; $8 each when buying five or more; $6 each when purchasing a case (60). Look for a review really soon!

Leading strong-willed people

As a strong-willed person (and the parent of a couple of strong-willed little people), this was really helpful.

Rolling Stone and the Culture of Lying

Russell Moore:

Rolling Stone magazine printed serious criminal accusations against a campus group, accusations the periodical now admits are completely false. Despite all of this, both the article’s author and the magazine editor will keep their jobs according to the publisher. This matters, and matters to far more people than just those on the campus of the University of Virginia or even to the target demographic of Rolling Stone. Behind this scandal is a larger point. In our society, it’s become acceptable to lie about people and ideas, as long as the crisis created is in line with a perceived social good.

Should We Give the Death Penalty to Adulterers?

Mike Leake:

We don’t burn witches anymore. And I imagine all of us celebrate this fact. But what is your justification for saying that the Old Testament no longer applies on these issues? This is an important question because how we answer this determines whether we’ll give muddy responses to contemporary issues related to morality.

10 Pointers for “Untrained” Preachers

As a mostly untrained preacher, I really appreciated reading these ten tips from Peter Mead.

Quiet the Fear, Do the Work

Jon Bloom:

Being strong and courageous was not some kind of self-confident swagger for Joshua. It was trusting God’s promises more than his own strength and acting on that trust. Courage meant faith-filled action in the face of fear.

The number one way to encourage rebellion

legalistic leadership

I’ll admit it: I’ve got a bit of a rebellious streak. It doesn’t come out often, but it’s there.

See, I like rules. Specifically, I like rules that make sense. I appreciate decisions that I understand (even if I don’t agree). I can’t stand when people take power trips (especially when they have no real power or authority anyway). I have no patience for those who act like arrogant so-and-sos. I really struggle with heavy-handed bureaucracy. I chafe whenever I’m told to “just do it,” no matter what “it” is…

This, naturally, puts me at odds at times with authorities. I don’t (usually) defy them, but I certainly don’t comply with joyful obedience. I’m guessing I’m not alone in this. In fact, it’s almost a sure bet that some, maybe most, of you reading this have a similar kind of reaction.

Why do we do this though? Is it simply because we’re sinful people that always want their own autonomy? When we chafe under reasonable rules, and humble leaders, yep. But what about when it’s the leader who habitually leaves his or her decisions unexplained, who tends to power trip, or just wants what he or she wants? Then, I’d suggest it may be reacting to something else: legalism.

Legalism has a number of manifestations, obviously, but one of the chief ways it reveals itself is in arbitrary behavior. If you don’t think you need to explain your decisions or positions and people should just obey, you’re probably a legalist. If you demand your own way and use your authority (or emotional or spiritual manipulation) to make sure people comply, you’re probably a legalist. If the only “right” way to practice a particular spiritual discipline is the way you happen to be most comfortable, you’re probably a legalist. If you think “because I said so” is actually a good reason for someone to obey any and every command, you’re probably a legalist.

And guess what? This is the number one way you encourage people in their rebellion and to undermine your authority.

It’s worth repeating: not all of the blame for this lands on the shoulders of those we perceive as legalistic or domineering. We are, by nature, sinful people who desire complete and total self-rule, as mentioned above. But without removing the need to honestly evaluate ourselves, we ought to recognize that legalism certainly doesn’t help us become more holy, humble, coachable and compliant.

And here’s the rub: this isn’t a problem that can be solved with more rules. If you’re a pastor or a manager or a supervisor or anything else for that matter, you can’t have a meeting with those you lead and say, “There will be no more of X, Y, or Z,” any more than you can say, “We’re going to do even more of A, B, or C!” All either does is further undermine your authority and push people deeper into their resistance. Jerram Barrs explains this well:

Legalism fosters rebellion against parents, schools, and churches, and ultimately against God. Whenever we add to God’s Word we immediately increase the likelihood of resistance to our authority. … If we try to make worship obligatory, we will produce either spiritual arrogance or superficial observance and a resistant heart. (Learning Evangelism from Jesus, 174-175)

Though Barrs writes with church ministry in mind, we can all apply this regardless of our context. The more rules we heap upon people, the more they will resist. The more we demand a certain kind of posture, the more people will openly defy us or comply while hating you in their hearts.

So here’s what we need to ask ourselves:

First, if we primarily identify ourselves as leaders in whatever capacity we serve: Does our posture bring life or death? Are we overbearing? Are we domineering? Are we truly as patient as we think we are, and doing our best to explain our decisions? Or do we try to solve problems by making more policies and procedures?

Second, for those who sit under leaders we perceive as legalistic or domineering: Are we actually thinking rightly about those who lead us, or are we misinterpreting their behavior? If we are right in our thinking, what are we going to do about it? Just as more rules won’t solve rebellion, so too rebellion won’t eliminate legalism. So, how can we protect our hearts from hate? How can we prevent bitterness from taking root? And how can we extend love and grace to our legalistic leaders, who may not even realize how they appear?

There are no easy answers to these questions, on either side. But they are worth asking, if we ask in the right spirit, and with a desire to do something with what we learn.

 

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Kindle deals for Christian readers

Just a couple to add today, in addition to yesterday’s list:

And if you missed these last week at, these titles by C.S. Lewis are still on sale:

The Loins of Leah

Lore Ferguson: “Rachel was loved, Leah was hated, but God brought the Lion of Judah through the loins of Leah. Don’t waste your suffering.”

The healthy leader

This is really helpful

Let’s Rethink Our Holly Jolly Christmas Songs

Russell Moore:

But then this man explained why he found the music so bad. It wasn’t just that it was cloying. It’s that it was boring.

“Christmas is boring because there’s no narrative tension,” he said. “It’s like reading a book with no conflict.”

Now he had my attention.

Top Ten Theology Stories of 2014

Collin Hansen highlights a few of the most significant events of 2014.

Joy to the World: A Christmas Hymn Reconsidered

Alyssa Poblete:

Watts’s father issued a challenge. He told Watts that if he struggled with the songs they sang, then he ought to do something about it. Perhaps he should attempt to write something different. This moment set Watts on a lifelong pursuit to write lyrics that exalted Christ and reminded Christians of their hope in his saving work on the cross.

This desire is evident in the way he wrote “Joy to the World.” Watts was inspired to write the timeless tune while meditating on Psalm 98. Verse 4 gripped him: “Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises!” And this is exactly what Watts set out to do. Little did he know that this song would spark a joyful noise that would ring through the ages.

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Kindle deals for Christian readers

There are a ton of Kindle deals this week. Here’s a look at the latest:

99¢ or less

$2.99 or less

$3.99 and up

Ferguson response

Good thoughts here from Darrin Patrick.

How Guardians of the Galaxy should have ended

I loved the movie, but this is pretty fantastic:

Why Is Church So Boring? R C Sproul’s Answer

David Murray:

Two quotes from The Holiness of God by R C Sproul, the first identifying boredom as the main reason people stop going to church, and the second identifying awe as the antidote to boredom.

Summary: More awe in church services = less boredom in church = less people leave church.

If Sproul is right, and I believe he is, how do we create more awe in our church services. Is this something only God can give, so we have to just wait for it to happen? Or is it something for which we are also responsible?

How Board Games Conquered Cafes

This is pretty cool.

HT: Tim

Gratitude Is Hard to Do

Joseph Rhea:

We live in maybe the most prosperous country in certainly the most prosperous era yet of all time. And as people bought back into relationship with God by the merit of Jesus Christ, Christians should be even more thankful than anyone else. Besides, gratitude is fun! As G. K. Chesterton says, “Thanks are the highest form of thought, and gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.” We miss out on so much when we fail to live gratefully.

I think there are three big reasons why gratitude can seem so hard to find.

4 Ways a Christian Leader Should Know “What Time It Is”

Trevin Wax:

To think of leadership in terms of timeless principles is easy, but we do well to remember that the tasks of exercising leadership and exerting influence do not take place in a vacuum. They are by nature contextual; that is, they require the use of wisdom in applying principles to various and often-changing contexts.

In this sense, then, Christian leadership is never timeless. Instead, it is a timely application of God-given wisdom regarding specific decisions that must be made in particular moments in time.

Check out the latest Logos pre-pub titles

For those not familiar, Logos’ Pre-Publication program is how the newest titles get into Logos. This program gives users special low prices, as well as a say in what gets added to the Logos library (read more on that here). Here are a few standout titles (note, all prices are in USD):

Rising Above a Toxic Workplace

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I have a hard time imagining what it’s like to work in a “healthy” workplace. I mean, I know they exist. I even have friends who work in places they absolutely love. But I’ve worked in more unhealthy ones than not. And some have been downright toxic. Like, hearing the owner of a company I worked for curse a blue streak at my supervisor repeatedly. (Did I mention they lived together, too? Yeah, I worked in a soap opera.)

If Rising Above a Toxic Workplace is any indication, it seems as though my experience isn’t as out of the ordinary as I thought. In fact, according to Gallup, “seven of ten US workers are either ‘going through the motions’ or flat-out hate their jobs” (11). Thousands of people dread going to work every morning, wondering if they can survive another day, or if today will be the day they say “when” and resign. It’s to these people that authors Gary Chapman, Paul White and Harold Myra primarily write this book, providing insight, encouragement and practical strategies for survival. What they’ll find are numerous stories of men and women just like them who have faced the choice of how to cope—and when to quit.

Toxic bosses aren’t necessarily evil—they’re just over their heads

What these stories (which comprise the vast majority of the book) help us see are the choices before us. Consider Melanie’s story of a coworker who was a victim of the Peter Principle—a cheeky description of one who “keeps getting promoted till they reach the level of their incompetence. Often they are promoted into positions of power without the skills to exercise [it]” (29).

Melanie’s colleague, Brenda, was one of these. When she was promoted, Brenda became ornery and “even nasty… She was losing our respect,” Melanie said (29). She would pick a staff member and harass her, and this continued until Melanie finally had enough and told her “I love my job here, and I like you as a person, but I can’t respect you as a boss. I’m no longer going to sacrifice my life here” (30). And so she quit.

But what’s especially helpful in Melanie’s story is the question that arises from it: although Melanie’s husband suggested that Brenda had an evil streak, it might have been just as likely that she simply had no clue how to do her job. When people are overwhelmed, they perform out of their weaknesses, rather than their strengths. Thus, when a person with limited or no leadership skills is elevated to a management position, he or she is doomed to fail. This doesn’t excuse the behavior, by any means, but it should help us consider our responses to these people.

I once knew a man who was Peter Principled; he was a nice guy, fairly decent at the job he had, but he wasn’t someone I would ever have considered a leader. He just wasn’t wired that way. Yet, he wound up in a position he was completely ill-suited for. I knew the moment I heard about it he wouldn’t last. And he didn’t—the job crushed him.

Why do I share that, and why do I find Melanie’s story so helpful? Because it’s a reminder that we should have sympathy even for bad bosses. Very often they’re not bad people; they’ve just over their heads.

We also need to remember that churches and non-profits are just as susceptible as any other organization to becoming toxic. “Appeals to ‘the cause’ create pressures to conform to unhealthy codes. Poisons in ministry culture range from subtle fumes that slowly sicken to flames that scorch. Some workers suffer quietly for years while other get fired” (54). (Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?)

Learning from toxic bosses and cultures

As depressing as reading so many stories of toxic environments can be, we can also learn much from their example.

First, as the authors point out in a survival strategy: toxic work environments naturally make people frustrated and angry. And if we’re not careful, we can become bitter. And bitterness will only make us toxic, too. We need to “find ways to nurture [our] inner reserves and gain perspective. Develop toughness, but resist embittered resentments” (35). We can’t “let bad leadership start to sour [ours].”

Second is to consider what’s right. When the opportunity for a promotion comes our way (if it happens), we need to consider:

  • Am I actually the right person for the job?
  • Has God wired me for this sort of work?
  • Do I have the necessary character and gifts?

Just because an opportunity comes our way, it doesn’t mean we need to say yes. For the good of our colleagues, organizations, families and selves, sometimes the best thing we can do is say “no.”

Finally, we need to remember that our workplace—whether we work in a church, charity, or multinational conglomerate—are all susceptible to having toxic cultures, and we are all responsible for how we contribute. Through our actions, we will either spread the toxicity, or we can can be a voice for health.

Being part of healthy change is probably the hardest. In fact, it’s much easier to continue on in patterns that tear down, rather than build up. And in some organizations, the healthiest thing we can do is leave. I know many people who have done this. But sometimes the hardest thing—staying and fighting for change, either until it happens or they get sick of you and you get fired—is the right thing to do. It’s risky, but sometimes the risk is right.

Helpful tools for gaining insight and developing a plan for change

Rising Above a Toxic Workplace is one of the business culture books you see all-too-rarely: one that actually talks about the problems in a workplace as though they’re problems by speaking to the people most affected by them. Whether your organization is healthy or toxic, and whether you are a leader or a staff member, this book will offer you many useful tools to help you see where you and your culture are at and develop a plan for change.


Title: Rising Above a Toxic Workplace: Taking Care of Yourself in an Unhealthy Environment
Authors: Gary Chapman, Paul White, and Harold Myra
Publisher: Northfield Publishing/Moody Publishers (2014)

Buy it at: Amazon

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Free eBook: An Essential Guide to Christian Accountability

My friend Jacob Abshire’s put together a terrific free eBook discussing “the concept of teaming up to kill sin and practical ways to thrive in it.” Head over to Jacob’s blog to download your copy.

Steve Jobs on Leadership and the Idol of Approval

Eric Geiger:

Jony Ive is the senior vice president of design at Apple and is known as the great design mind behind the products at Apple. In a rare interview, Jony shares some lessons he learned from working with Steve Jobs. In the interview, he recounts a conversation with Steve where Steve rebukes him for leading to be approved, for wanting approval from his team more than anything else.

What Millennials Misunderstand About Marriage

Aaron Earls:

Millennials, perhaps more than any other generation, grew up with the reality of broken homes and divorced parents. But in their efforts to avoid those mistakes, they often go in the wrong direction and end up in the same situation.

In the NPR story, “For More Millennials, It’s Kids First, Maybe Marriage,” we meet Michelle Sheridan, her boyfriend Phillip Underwood, and their children. Their lives were characterized by scraping by with low income jobs and government assistance as well as having no real desire to get married.

Their reasoning continuing to live together without the rings sounds like many other millennials and the common misunderstandings they have about marriage. Here are four things Sheridan, Underwood and millennials in general miss about living together and getting married.

Faith To Keep Praying For Your Unsaved Children

Mark Altrogge:

Nothing concerns Christian parents more than the salvation of their children. And God is concerned even more than we are.

God created the institution of family to reflect his own desire and love for his family. He sent his Son to bring us into his family.  When God saves us he adopts us as his children. He becomes our heavenly Father. He loves us as his precious children and makes us joint-heirs with Christ. Scripture is filled with his promises to parents.

The “S” Word: Three Models of Submission

David Murray:

These words, especially the “S” word, sound horrendous to most modern ears and also to many Christian ears. That’s partly because most people’s idea of marriage comes from Hollywood. But it’s also partly because we may have had awful experiences or seen terrible examples of this biblical principle being abused.

That’s why it’s so important to begin any consideration of submission with the husband’s duty to be a Christ-like leader and a Christ-like lover in a complementary relationship, and also with confession and repentance over our past failures in these areas.

Laboring that Vancouver Might Reflect the Beauty of Christ

Alastair Sterne:

The city is crying out for renewal, yet it is also becoming more and more irreligious. Statistics Canada projects that by 2031, almost 33 percent of people living in Vancouver will not align themselves with any religion. And those who currently checkmark “no religion” in Vancouver already exceed any other metropolitan area in Canada. Religion, and Christianity in particular, has been relegated to the corridors of personal opinion. Religion is seen as deludedly useful for self-help but useless for anything else. People are welcome to believe whatever they wish, but they should not be so mistaken as to think their beliefs have any usefulness in the public sphere, or accuracy about how things really operate in the universe. This is deeply problematic because the issues that plague Vancouver find their ultimate resolution in the very place they’ve determined to be deluded and useless.

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Brittany Maynard, Rachel Held Evans, and Not Giving Up

Samuel James:

What Evans is too tired to do is the hard work of theology. Putting together the doctrine of God’s love and mercy with the doctrine of God’s sovereignty and righteous condemnation of sinners is too difficult. The paradox has created an irreparable dissonance within her spirituality. Rather than submitting to the view of Scripture that Jesus endorsed, and trusting in the goodness of the Spirit that illuminates the meaning of the Word, Evans believes she has to make a choice: Scripture or conscience, Bible or values, Joshua or Jesus.

A non-answer is an answer

Andrew Walker:

Let’s be very clear on that. It’s also a very vapid answer. What we’re seeing in many corners of evangelicalism is a pliability that makes Christianity an obsequious servant to whatever the reigning zeitgeist is. With non-answers like this, it isn’t Jesus who is sitting at the right hand of the Father. Culture is. Perhaps Hillsong would rather abide by a “Don’t Ask; Don’t Tell” policy on matters of orthodoxy. That’s their prerogative. But let’s be clear that this is not the route of faithfulness.

Sexuality and Silence

Andrew Wilson:

I’ve heard rumours of a silent trend beginning to take hold in some city churches in the UK and the US. I don’t just mean a trend that takes hold silently; presumably most trends do that. I mean a trend toward silence: a decision not to speak out on issues that are considered too sticky, controversial, divisive, culturally loaded, entangled, ethically complex, personally upsetting, emotive, likely to be reported on by the Guardian or the New York Times, uncharted, inflammatory, difficult, or containing traces of gluten. Since I do not attend a city church, but am a proud member of the backward bungalow bumpkin brigade, this is coming to me secondhand, and it may turn out to be a storm in the proverbial teacup, or even (for all I know) entirely fictional.

But let’s imagine that there were such things as well-written booklets which had been discontinued simply because they were about sexuality, and leaders who were avoiding making any public comments at all on controversial ethical issues, or churches whose lectionaries or sermon series were systematically avoiding passages which addressed pressing contemporary questions, presumably in the name of being winsome or wise or likeable or culturally sensitive, because of the number of Influencers and Powerful People in the area. Without knowing any of the behind-the-scenes discussions that had taken place—all well-intentioned, I’m sure—what would I say then?

Seven things.

How To REALLY Help Someone Change

Stephen Altrogge:

We tend to get this wonky, thoroughly unbiblical idea in our minds, that we can actually change people. That by the force of our will, we can move a person from ungodliness to godliness. We think that if we get sufficiently angry, they will see our point and change. They will feel the force of our anger, come under the cutting conviction of the Holy Spirit, and repent. Of course, this is complete nonsense. We know this both from Scripture and from experience.

The Healthy Elder Board Is a P.C. Elder Board

Thabiti Anyabwile:

The abbreviation “P.C.” has an almost universally negative connotation. We hear “P.C.” and we think “politically correct.” Being “P.C.” is synonymous with cultural capitulation, a kind of cowardice that refuses to call things what they are.

If that’s all the letters “P.C.” could stand for then we’d be right to suspect a “P.C. elder board” of unfaithfulness and ineffectiveness. But, thank God, there are other words for which “P.C.” can stand. And some of them actually help us define what a well-functioning eldership looks like. In general, I think we need “P.C.” elder teams. Here’s what I mean.

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Get Mark in today’s $5 Friday at Ligonier.org

Today you can get the ePub edition of Mark, from the St. Andrew’s commentary series by R.C. Sproul, for only $5 in today’s $5 Friday sale at Ligonier.org. Other items on sale:

  • Recovering the Beauty of the Arts teaching series by R.C. Sproul (audio and video download)
  • Contending for the Truth conference series (DVD)
  • By Grace Alone by Sinclair Ferguson (ePub)

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

Why Micromanaging is Ungodly

Barnabas Piper:

Nobody likes a micromanager, except maybe the one doing the managing. Even people who need close oversight hate it. Why? It’s annoying. It’s overbearing. We generally chalk it up to a “poor leadership style” or “ineffective management.” It’s more than that, though. Micromanagement among Christian leaders reflects poorly on our faith and the gospel. It doesn’t work, and that’s mainly because it’s not the way God designed things to work.

Here are five reasons why.

Sexual Sin and the Single

Lore Ferguson:

What if it is true that any sexual act outside of marriage is in some sense the physical embodiment of those other sins? I want what is not mine—envy; I want it now—impatience; I want pleasure—selfishness. I am committing what St. Augustine—the father of sexual ethics and self-professed great wrestler of them—called “disordered love,” placing any desire above God, which is sin.

The Best Things About the Boring Parts of the Bible

Nancy Guthrie:

Let’s admit it, there are certain parts of the Bible we skim because . . . well . . . because we think they’re boring. They’re repetitive, overly detailed, full of names and places we can’t pronounce. So why bother with them? There are many reasons — not the least of which is that even the parts of the Bible we deem to be boring are significant because they are God’s word to us. Here’s my top ten list of the best things about the boring parts of the Bible.

A Time To Dance: A Christian Defense of Pop Music

Steve McCoy:

I cannot get over my love for pop music.

This is a problem. Well, it’s a problem for me. You see, I pride myself on being an indie music snob. I like quirky, creative music from people you probably don’t know. Or, if you do know them, you’re probably an indie music snob too.

As you might guess, I closely identify with this label. My wife, for example, bought me a t-shirt I proudly wear, one whose enigmatic epigram draws many questions: “I listen to bands that don’t even exist yet.”

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Leaders Must Have Conviction and Courage

Erik Raymond:

Leaders must lead with conviction and courage, speaking clearly about what they are going to do. This is true at any level, whether leading two people or two million, because there will always be opposition and a need to make a decision. At the end of the day the leader must lead.

Get The Expository Genius of John Calvin in today’s $5 Friday at Ligonier.org

Today you can get The Expository Genius of John Calvin by Steven Lawson (ePub), for only $5 in today’s $5 Friday sale at Ligonier.org. Other items on sale:

  • Crucial Questions bundle by R.C. Sproul (paperback)
  • Why Christ Came: 31 Meditations on the Incarnation (paperback)
  • Developing Christian Character teaching series by R.C. Sproul (DVD)

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

The Drama of Preaching

Murray Campbell:

We need to understand what is driving some peoples’ preference for dialogue. Dialogue is code for a theological concept: divine conversation. Divine conversation says God has not spoken authoritatively, sufficiently, and finally in his Word. Rather, God invites us to converse with him and each other. Thus, God speaks in the Bible, but he speaks in many other ways and places, and the meaning of any given text is not fixed but dependent upon the community of believers who interpret it.

This Too Is The Day the Lord Has Made

Derek Rishmawy:

Thirteen years ago 19 men hijacked a few airplanes a blew a hole in the psyche of the Western world. We may not think of it this way, but in a sense, they claimed the day. For 13 years we have marked this day as the day we were attacked. It is a day when loved ones were taken from us. It is a day when a dark design was executed to great destruction and a historic, culture-shaping aftermath. It is a day, much like December 7th, that will live in infamy.

It’s also a day that still inspires fear. Many of us around the nation grow anxious at its approach. We wonder whether other men will choose to mark the occasion with similar violence, or an even worse attack that will eclipse the original. We avoid public places, possibly keeping our children at home, or simply go about our daily business with dark thoughts and breathe sighs of relief when the tense day closes.

How to Prepare Leaders of Integrity for Public Influence

Michael Lindsay and Mark Mellinger discuss:

Timing Isn’t Everything

Brian Tabb:

We focus a great deal of attention on the clock and the calendar, from the time our alarm clocks go off —When is the report due? When are we meeting the Smiths for dinner?

We are easily frustrated by delays, when our appointment is late, when the kids are slow to get ready. We see this focus on timing and frustration with delays in our spiritual lives as well, as we wait for God to answer prayers and wait for Jesus to return.

Jesus Did More to Save Us than Die

Gavin Ortlund:

How do we maintain the centrality of the cross without displacing the empty tomb, the manger story, the final trumpet call? To what extend is our gospel Good Friday, and to what extent is it also Easter and Christmas? On the one hand, we don’t want to focus on Christ’s crucifixion so much that we simply have nothing to say about his temptation or his transfiguration, his representation or his return. On the other hand, we don’t want to so flatten out the narrative so much that Christ’s crucifixion loses its central, dramatic significance.