Links I like

Why I Repented from Twitter Following Everyone

Joey Cochran:

One sunny day in March I woke up and decided to follow everyone on Twitter. I’d like to think that I had no real reason to do it, but if I’m honest the stunt was stimulated from the base desire of wanting more followers. It was shallow. I wasn’t going to buy them because that’s just crazy. But I thought, maybe if I followed a bunch of people, they’d just follow me back. I justified it by calling the following act a wave. I told myself: “You know what, I’m gonna wave to everyone in Twitterdom, and see who waves back.”

The Case for Face to Face Meetings

Erik Raymond:

Technological advancements have made communication much easier. We can email, text, instant message, call, or Skype. While this makes meeting easier it does not necessarily make it better. As Christians we should endeavor to be loving in everything we do. This requires thoughtful intentionality when considering the medium for communicating information. Ease must never trump love.

In my experience, particularly in pastoral ministry, the preferred format for meetings is face to face. If there is ever a potential to be misunderstood or if the subject matter is wired with emotion then a face to face meeting is nearly essential.

Is Open Theism Still an Issue?

Jeff Robinson:

Much has changed since members of ETS wrestled with open theism more than a decade ago. You will not find papers in defense of open theism being read in seminars at ETS today. Books are less likely to emerge from evangelical publishing houses to debate the merits or demerits of this theology over against the classical Christian view of God. Instead, open theism mainly finds its voice through more popular means. A quick internet search reveals numerous blogs written by pastors and laypersons espousing open theism. Open theism today makes its case not so much through books and refereed scholarly journals, but through the mostly unfiltered voice of the blogosphere.

“You are cured of MS!”

David Murray shares the testimony of Gary Timmer, whose son Trent was diagnosed with MS in 2012.

It’s a dance-off!

Imagine if this had been the ending to Guardians of the Galaxy:

HT: Aaron

Is abundance dangerous?

fortune-cookie

Hosea is one of those books that’s both extremely fascinating and troubling, not simply because of the illustration of God’s pursuit of his adulterous people through Hosea’s marriage, caring for children not his own and purchasing his wife out of slavery. (Side note: when was the last time you heard a really great Jesus-focused sermon from Hosea?)

The reason Hosea makes me uneasy when I read it, though, isn’t because of my spiritually adulterous ways (Lord willing, I’m faithful in that regard). It’s because of a different, but related, danger: that of abundance.

Hosea 10:1-2 give us a picture of what happened to Israel:

Israel is a luxuriant vine that yields its fruit. The more his fruit increased, the more altars he built; as his country improved, he improved his pillars. Their heart is false; now they must bear their guilt. The Lord will break down their altars and destroy their pillars.

God gave Israel great wealth and prosperity. And it seduced them. They had their fill—more than their fill—and they became comfortable. They became complacent.

They started to say for themselves, “We have no king, for we do not fear the Lord; and a king—what could he do for us?” (Hosea 10:3) They became proud and they forgot the Lord (c.f. Deut 8:14).

And so, God tore them down. He humiliated them, taking a great nation and making them a laughing stock. He tore down their pillars, destroyed their kingdom and sent them into exile.

Because God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.

The great danger of abundance for us today is complacency and pride. That we’ll rely on our own abilities to provide for our needs, rather than on God who actually does provide it through the abilities He has given us. That we’ll stop seeing the wealth He gives us as a gift to be stewarded and used for His purposes and begin building kingdoms for ourselves.

It’s easy at this point to start pointing fingers. We can look at the excesses of North American Christianity and shake our heads while tsk-tsk-tsk-ing until the sun comes up, even as we drive to church sipping a $4 latte. We can look at the pervasive goofiness of prosperity theology, with its tendency to store up treasure on earth for the promise of heavenly gain, and ignore our own natural inclination toward the pursuit of the same.

At the same time, though, we need to be careful not to demonize wealth and abundance. They’re not bad things in and of themselves. Wealth can be good. Abundance can be good… but it’s probably really, really healthy if we find that they make us a bit uncomfortable. When stewarded poorly, they bring about our downfall, but well stewarded well, they can be a great blessing to others.


An earlier version of this article was published in 2009.

What makes a person divisive?

It doesn’t take an in-depth understanding of the New Testament to see an important truth:

God really isn’t pleased with divisive people.

A totally unexpected and mind-blowing truth, I know. In Paul’s day, there were many who were stirring up division and dissension; the super-apostles in Corinth, the Judaizers in Galatia, former ministry colleagues throughout the land who’d abandoned the gospel…

These are some of the examples of overtly divisive people—but you don’t have to be someone who’s openly defying the Lord and proclaiming a false gospel while seeking to destroy God’s people to be divisive.

Being divisive is a lot easier than you think. In fact, you might be a divisive person and not even realize it.

All it takes is a little bit of pride.

My wife and I both love to be right. And it’s usually over the most trivial matters. In our efforts to help ourselves recognize our behavior, we’ve given it a title: being the rightest person in the room. It’s a silly term, but it helps snap us back to reality when we’re getting ridiculous.

Imagine, though, if we didn’t do this. Our meaningless debates would escalate into a serious conflict eventually. We’d dig our heels in, refuse to give ground and, sooner or later, say something we’d regret.

That’s why we need safety measures in our lives. We need silly names to defuse our own goofiness. We need people who can call us on our guff and tell us to chill out.

This is what I’ve seen people desperately needing in the recent Driscoll ballyhoo, on both sides. The folks who are looking to lynch him need to look at themselves for a second. It’s not that the idolatry of celebrity isn’t a crucial issue (it is), but what does the response of many say about the state of their own hearts?

Remember the behavior Paul charged Titus to teach: “to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people” (Titus 3:2). Does the delight some seem to take in thrashing this particular person online reflect this kind of attitude? Worse, do they think it’s really going to help him be responsive to legitimate concern and attempts at correction?

When you look at a guy like Driscoll, it’s not hard to make a case that he’s a divisive figure. In fact, he absolutely is that guy and should be held appropriately accountable.

But we also need to be careful, because, really—are the rest of us any better?

There’s a certain extent to which we’re all that guy.

The difference is, we just don’t get as much airtime, and it’s but by the grace of God that we are not also being torn apart by people who, arguably, care little to nothing for us as people. Who don’t necessarily want us to get better, but just don’t want us to have a voice anymore.

But we ought to remember that, as Paul says, all of God’s people “were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another” (Titus 3:3). This is what God rescues us from. Why sink back into that kind of divisiveness?

The Arrogance of Youth and the Subtle Danger of Experience

For most of the last week, a number of folks have been chiming on John MacArthur’s critique of Darrin Patrick’s book, Church Planter: The Man, the Message, the Mission. If you’ve been following it at all, MacArthur says that he was shocked by the following passage:

The man who is experiencing head confirmation [of his calling to pastoral ministry] is thoughtful about his own philosophy of ministry, his own ministry style, his own theological beliefs, his own unique gifts, abilities and desire. In short, there is uniqueness to the way he wants to do ministry. Unlike many young men who know much about what they are against and little about what they are for, the man who is experiencing head confirmation thinks through very carefully and deliberately, What am I for with my life and ministry? What are my specific burdens for the church? How can I best serve the church in these areas? (Church Planter, page 37, emphasis in original)

MacArthur’s take on this section is that Patrick is suggesting that “everything about one’s ministry (Patrick expressly includes “his own theological beliefs“) needs to be self-styled and individualistic” (source). What he suggests is that what this paragraph (and indeed the whole book) is calling for is a radical individualism.

Having read both the book and MacArthur’s concerns, I believe that his take is uncharitable at best, but I can understand how one could make this conclusion. However, my point is not to defend the book, nor is it to criticize John MacArthur, who is a godly man and a great Bible teacher.

What concerns me is something that caught my attention in the follow-up post on the Grace to You blog.

After rightly calling out those who have been (perhaps) overzealous in their responses to MacArthur’s critique as needing to be a little more thick-skinned and to remember that Scripture is our authority, the author writes the following:

John has more than fifty years of preaching faithfully, more than forty years in the same pulpit—don’t you think you ought to listen? Don’t despise the older generation; don’t dismiss their wisdom; don’t ignore their criticisms of you. Proverbs is full of wisdom like that: “The ear that listens to life-giving reproof will dwell among the wise. Whoever ignores instruction despises himself, but he who listens to reproof gains intelligence” (Prov. 15:31-32; cf. 10:17;12:1; 13:18; 15:5).

Now here’s where I agree entirely. John MacArthur has been in ministry for a long time. He has a great deal of wisdom to offer, much of which is well worth heeding. Older men who have been in ministry can an invaluable resource to younger men and we would be foolish not to give them our ear.

That said, one’s experience does not make a man infallible. We are all subject to error and we must be careful to recognize this, especially when we comment on what we perceive to be the errors of others lest we fall into pride.

This is why the Apostle Peter in addressing both older pastors and younger men:

Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you… (1 Peter 5-6)

Pride is an equal opportunity sin. It doesn’t discriminate against youth or experience. Any of us, whether because of the arrogance of youth or through the subtle danger of experience, can easily be ensnared by our pride if we’re not watchful. And the result is we look and act like this:

I don’t want my contemporaries to fall into that trap. I don’t want it for myself. And I don’t want it for those who are ahead of us in the race. God, help us, please.

(Video HT: Z)

"I’m a Christian and I want to apologize…"

microphone

A young man walked onto the stage at the front of the crowded room. All eyes were fixed on him. He smiled awkwardly and wondered, can I really do this? What will people think?

Heart racing and palms sweating, he gathered up his courage and began to speak softly into the microphone.

“I’m a Christian,” he said, “and I have a confession to make.

“I apologize for the Crusades and political action being confused with Christian faith. I apologize for hate crimes being perpetrated in the name of Christ and for slavery. I’m sorry for everything that we’ve ever done that has made life difficult for anyone.

“But I want you to know something. We’re really not all that bad. I hope you’ll forgive us.”

As he exited the stage, people came up to him, congratulating him on his effort. “I don’t know if I would have had the courage to say that,” they said. “That was so humble of you.”

The young man blushed and thanked them for their kind words. “I just want to be real. Authenticity is important to me.”

You’ve probably seen, heard or read something similar to this before. The Christian confessional.

This idea was most recently popularized by Donald Miller in his too-young-to-write-a-memoir memoir, Blue Like Jazz. Miller describes setting up a confession booth on a college campus where he and others would confess the sins of Christendom and ask for forgiveness.

Since the book’s release a number of similar things come out of the woodwork, whether it’s a video of a guy confessing the institutional sins of Christendom on youtube or a pastor publishing letters he wrote to people he’s sinned against in a book.

While I don’t want to judge the motivations of people who have done things like this, I have to ask the question:

Is it really authentic to publicly confess sins you didn’t commit to people who were not sinned against? [Read more…]

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…]

Defensiveness: A Sign of Pride or Immaturity?

Convicting and thought provoking.

Two questions for you, dear reader:

When you’re challenged, do you offer a defense or are you being defensive?

How do you know the difference?

HT: Joel @ 5Pt Salt

Charles Haddon Spurgeon: If You Desire Shame, Desire Pride

 

[Pride] is a brainless thing as well as a groundless thing; for it brings no profit with it.

There is no wisdom in a self-exaltation.

Other vices have some excuse, for men seem to gain by them; avarice, pleasure, lust, have some plea; but the man who is proud sells his soul cheaply. He opens wide the flood-gates of his heart, to let men see how deep is the flood within his soul; then suddenly it flows out, and all is gone—and all is nothing, for one puff of empty wind, one word of sweet applause—the soul is gone, and not a drop is left.

In almost every other sin, we gather up the ashes when the fire is gone; but here, what is left? The covetous man has his shining gold, but what has the proud man? He has less than he would have had without his pride, and is no gainer whatever.

Oh! man, if you were as mighty as Gabriel, and had all his holiness, still you would be an arrant fool to be proud, for pride would sink you from your angel station to the rank of devils, and bring you from the place where Lucifer, son of the morning, once dwelt, to take up your abode with hideous fiends in perdition.

Pride exalts it head, and seeks to honor itself; but it is of all things most despised. It sought to plant crowns upon its brow, and so it hath done, but its head was hot, and it put an ice crown there, and it melted all away. Poor pride has decked itself out finely sometimes; it has put on its most gaudy apparel, and said to others, “how brilliant I appear!” but, ah! pride, like a harlequin, dressed in thy gay colours, thou art all the more fool for that; you are but a gazing stock for fools less foolish than yourself. You have no crown, as you think you have, nothing solid and real, all is empty and vain.

If you, O man, desire shame, be proud. A monarch has waded through slaughter to a throne, and shut the gates of mercy on mankind to win a little glory; but when he has exalted himself, and has been proud, worms have devoured him, like Herod, or have devoured his empire, till it passed away, and with it his pride and glory. Pride wins no crown; men never honor it, not even the menial slaves of earth; for all men look down on the proud man, and think him less than themselves.

Charles Haddon Spurgeon, from the sermon Pride and Humility,
delivered on August 17, 1856, at New Park Street Chapel, Southwark

Charles Haddon Spurgeon: The Wretchedness of Pride

…Pride is a protean thing; it changes its shape; it is all forms in the world; you may find it in any fashion you may choose, you may see it in the beggar’s rags as well as in the rich man’s garment. It dwells with the rich, and with the poor. The man without a shoe to his foot may be as proud as if he were riding in a chariot.

Pride can be found in every rank of society—among all classes of men. Sometimes it is an Arminian, and talks about the power of the creature; then it turns Calvinist, and boasts of its fancied security—forgetful of the Maker, who alone can keep our faith alive. Pride can profess any form of religion; it may be a Quaker, and wear no collar to its coat; it may be a Churchman, and worship God in splendid cathedrals; it may be a Dissenter, and go to the common meeting-house; it is one of the most Catholic things in the world, it attends all kinds of chapels and churches; go where you will, you will see pride. It comes up with us to the house of God; it goes with us to our houses; it is found on the mart, and the exchange, in the streets, and everywhere. Let me hint at one or two of the forms which it assumes.

Sometimes pride takes the doctrinal shape; it teaches the doctrine of self-sufficiency; it tells us what man can do, and will not allow that we are lost, fallen, debased, and ruined creatures, as we are. It hates divine sovereignty, and rails at election. Then if it is driver from that, it takes another form; it allows that the doctrine of free grace is true but does not feel it.

It acknowledges that salvation is of the Lord alone, but still it prompts men to seek heaven by their own works, even by the deeds of the law. And when driven from that, it will persuade men to join something with Christ in the matter of salvation; and when that is all rent up, and the poor rag of our righteousness is all burned, pride will get into the Christian’s heart as well as the sinner’s—it will flourish under the name of self-sufficiency, teaching the Christian that he is “rich and increased in goods, having need of nothing.”

It will tell him that he does not need daily grace, that past experience will do for tomorrow—that he knows enough, toils enough, prays enough. It will make him forget that he has “not yet attained;” it will not allow him to press forward to the things that are before, forgetting the things that are behind. It enters into his heart, and tempts the believer to set up an independent business for himself, and until the Lord brings about a spiritual bankruptcy, pride will keep him from going to God.

Pride has ten thousand shapes; it is not always that stiff and starched gentleman that you picture it; it is a vile, creeping, insinuating thing, that will twist itself like a serpent into our hearts. It will talk of humility, and prate about being dust and ashes. I have known men talk about their corruption most marvellously, pretending to be all humility, while at the same time they were the proudest wretches that could be found this side the gulf of separation.

Oh! my friends, you cannot tell how many shapes pride will assume; look sharp about you, or you will be deceived by it, and when you think you are entertaining angels, you will find you have been receiving devils unawares.

Charles Haddon Spurgeon, from the sermon Pride and Humility,
delivered on August 17, 1856, at New Park Street Chapel, Southwark

Proverbs 16:18

“Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.”

HT: Andy Naselli

Book Review: Humility

humility

Recommended: A helpful, Christ-exalting look at the pursuit of a most elusive character trait.

“God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (1 Pet. 5:5b)

We live in a culture that is built on pride. Facebook, blogs, podcasts, vodcasts, our self-esteem centered education system (our city has a no-fail policy), marketing… Everything about our culture is centered around “me.”

The message we constantly receive is, “You’re special. You’re worth it. You’re a winner. You’re unique. Be the best you that you can be.”

It is a message designed to bolster our pride. Without question, pride is considered a (if not the) primary virtue in our society. And, most troublesomely, it’s an attitude that’s crept into the church. It affects how we serve, how we give, how we participate in corporate worship, how we interact with non-believers.

But, God opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble, doesn’t He?

In Humility: True Greatness, C.J. Mahaney reminds us of the spiritually-critical need for every Christian to pursue humility by the grace of God, and provides readers with some helpful tools to aid us in our pursuit.

Humility is, without hyperbole, is the most needed character trait for all Christians. It’s also the most elusive, because as soon as we profess to be humble, we reveal ourselves to be proud. But what is biblical humility? Mahaney defines is as, “honestly assessing ourselves in light of God’s holiness and our sinfulness” (p. 22). It is an honest assessment that affirms the need of the Savior. We cannot possibly hope to be holy as God is holy without grace. And grace requires humility.

As Mahaney methodically moves through both his arguments about the perils of pride and how we can cultivate humility in our own lives, he reminds us that pride is not simply a sin, but it is one hated by God with a particular passion—indeed, John Stott calls it “the root of all sin.”

Because of pride, we make idols for ourselves (or of ourselves). Because of pride, our first parents rebelled. Because of pride, Satan fell. Because of pride, Jesus was beaten and crucified.

This book is particularly helpful to me because I struggle with pride to a frightening degree. As those who know me can attest, I can be extremely prideful about everything. It tempts me to rebel against the authorities over me. It tempts me to indulge my selfish desires over the desires of my wife and friends.

I’ve read this book several times, and every time I’ve found something that I didn’t notice or appreciate in the previous reading. But every time, I’m struck by the profundity of what I believe to be the heart of the book:

Reflect on the wonder of the cross of Christ… To truly be serious and deliberate in mortifying pride and cultivating greatness, you must each day survey the wondrous cross on which the Prince of Glory died.

And (quoting D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones):

Nothing else can do it. When I see that I am a sinner…that nothing but the Son of God on the cross can save me, I’m humbled to the dust…Nothing but the cross can give us the spirit of humility (p. 66).

The cross destroys our pride as we see our true selves when we gaze upon it. May we gaze upon it all the more as we appreciate the important reminder from a “proud man pursuing humility by the grace of God” (p. 13).

Purchase your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.ca

Blogging the Psalms: Psalm 32

Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven,
    whose sin is covered.
Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity,
    and in whose spirit there is no deceit
(Psalm 32:1-2).

This psalm opens with this bold statement: We are blessed when the Lord forgives our sins and transgressions. This weekend, Christians have celebrated the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus—by which all our sins are covered and our transgressions are forgiven. Because “He who knew no sin became sin,” we can now, in Him, “become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor 5:21).

Those who have trust in Christ for the forgiveness of sin, who have been born again by the power of the Holy Spirit, have been given the greatest blessing of all.

But sometimes I wonder—do I really see repentance as the blessing that it truly is? [Read more…]