Crash the Chatterbox

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How do we hear God’s voice? Are all negative thoughts really bad for us? My thoughts on these questions and more can be found in my review of Crash the Chatterbox: Hearing God’s Voice Above All Others by Steven Furtick over at The Gospel Coalition:

First, let’s talk about the good of this book. Furtick builds his argument, or rather his counterargument to the lies we believe, around four “confessions”:

  1. God says I am. Overpowering the lies of the enemy in your insecurities.
  2. God says he will. Overpowering the lies of the enemy in your fears.
  3. God says he has. Overpowering the lies of the enemy in your condemnation.
  4. God says I can. Overpowering the lies of the enemy in your discouragement. (Kindle location 382)

“These are truths about God and truths about you that come straight from God’s Word,” Furtick writes. “So by filling our spiritual ears with these four declarations of truth, we receive and respond to what God says about who he is and who we are in him” (Kindle location 371).

Taken on their own, these confessions (or, more accurately, declarations) are actually pretty helpful. What matters isn’t what I, or others, think about me but what God says about me. What God says he will do and what God has already done is more than enough to overcome my fears. What God says I can do—or, more correctly, what he’s empowered me to do through the Holy Spirit—is more important than what others think I can do.

But the devil, as they say, is in the details. And the details, I’m afraid, spoil Crash the Chatterbox. I’ll limit myself to four significant errors I see in this book.

Read the full article at TGC.

Spontaneous baptisms and a nasty case of the heebie jeebies

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Over the last week, there’s been a lot of discussion about the practice of spontaneous baptism, spurred on by controversy surrounding Elevation Church’s how-to guide for “doing your part in God’s miracle.” Russell Moore’s weighed in, The Gospel Coalition released a roundtable discussion between Matt Chandler, Mark Dever and Darrin Patrick about 18 months ago, and undoubtedly many more voices are bound to say something.

None of us, of course, should be surprised that Furtick and Elevation would meticulously plan out such things—after all, anyone who has read Furtick’s books or heard him speak anywhere would be painfully aware of his Revivalist, um, “exuberance.” The first time I heard him speak was at the Willow Creek Leadership Summit a few years back where he demoed the power of Spirit Keys to set the mood during a worship gathering (and I hated Spirit Keys ever since).

Obviously there’s a lot more to be concerned about with Furtick than the spontaneous baptism issue (I’ll spare you my laundry list)—but the spontaneous baptism issue is an important one. While we see a few instances of spontaneous baptism in Scripture, which should lead us to be cautious of completely ruling it out as a practice in all circumstances, it’s still something we need to be careful of.

A bit of backstory: I was baptized in a more-or-less spontaneous situation. I’d been a Christian for about three months at that point and knew it was something I should do, but didn’t know when. One weekend in August 2005, the church we attended was performing baptisms (the majority of which were planned in advance). Emily and I watched each person and as we did, I felt compelled to get baptized. So Emily and I both talked to the youth pastor, asked if we could, the pastor got back into his wet pants, we shared what God had been doing in our lives—how He brought us to faith, how the gospel changed us—and then we were baptized.

The church I was baptized in was careful—their wasn’t a pressure for us to get baptized right away. There wasn’t an overly emotional appeal at the end, although they did invite people to come forward if they felt the Holy Spirit compel them to do so (which is fairly typical for most evangelical churches these days from what I can tell).

As you can imagine, the whole conversation is very personal to me. But here’s where I land, for what it’s worth: we should be very, very cautious to baptize anyone too quickly. I’d rather wait and (as best as any of us are able) be sure that someone is truly saved, is bearing fruit (even if it’s a tiny amount) and understands the significance of the sacrament.

What Furtick’s approach (and the revivalist mindset in general) reveals is a deficient understanding of this essential sacrament. But Furtick isn’t alone in this. We laughingly call baptism getting a bath, or getting dunked… When we’re being serious, we tend to stick to the now standard “outward declaration of an inward transformation” definition.

And while this elevator speech version is certainly true, we need to more fully express what that “inward transformation” entails. J. I. Packer’s definition of baptism is exceptionally helpful in this regard:

Christian baptism, which has the form of a ceremonial washing (like John’s pre-Christian baptism), is a sign from God that signifies inward cleansing and remission of sins (Acts 22:16; 1 Cor. 6:11; Eph. 5:25–27), Spirit-wrought regeneration and new life (Titus 3:5), and the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit as God’s seal testifying and guaranteeing that one will be kept safe in Christ forever (1 Cor. 12:13; Eph. 1:13–14). Baptism carries these meanings because first and fundamentally it signifies union with Christ in his death, burial, and resurrection (Rom. 6:3–7; Col. 2:11–12); and this union with Christ is the source of every element in our salvation (1 John 5:11–12). Receiving the sign in faith assures the persons baptized that God’s gift of new life in Christ is freely given to them. At the same time, it commits them to live henceforth in a new way as committed disciples of Jesus. Baptism signifies a watershed point in a human life because it signifies a new-creational ingrafting into Christ’s risen life. 1

While a convert doesn’t necessarily have to understand all the implications of this reality, if they understand none of it—if they’re compelled only by an emotional experience, if there is no credible evidence of Spirit-borne fruit, if there’s no evidence they understand the gospel at all—then we are absolutely right to have a nasty case of the heebie jeebies. Baptism signifies our union with Christ, the forgiveness of our sins and is a commitment to living as one of His disciples. When people just take a bath, they’re missing the point. And when we encourage them to do so, so are we.

photo credit: Mars Hill Church via photopin cc

What’s the Role of a Pastor’s Wife?

Is the Pastor’s wife to be the “co-pastor,” the church’s “First Lady,” or just another member?

What role should the wife of a Senior Pastor have in the church? Steven Furtick, Greg Laurie and James MacDonald offer their takes here:

(Can’t see the video? Please click through to the site)

 

James MacDonald’s closing remark in this clip is particularly insightful:

We’re to love our wives. . . . the way we treat our wives in public is a signal not only to our own wives but to our congregation of what that’s supposed to look like . . . and I just don’t think there should be any further expectation beyond that…

This brings up an important question, not just for pastors, but for all Christian men:

How are we treating our wives in public? Do we treat them better in publicly than privately? Do we treat them better privately than publicly? Are we striving to be consistent in how we show honor to our wives wherever we are?

HT: James MacDonald

Book Review: Sun Stand Still by Steven Furtick

Title: Sun Stand Still: What Happens When You Dare to Ask God for the Impossible
Author: Steven Furtick
Publisher: Multnohmah (2010)

I wasn’t sure what to think of Steven Furtick’s Sun Stand Still when I first received it.

I’d heard a bit about Furtick, the founder and lead pastor of Elevation Church in Charlotte, North Carolina. Most of it had to do with numbers —Elevation has a congregation in the thousands, and its founding pastor has only just turned 30.

But I didn’t really know what he was all about. I didn’t know what he stands for and what he’s passionate about.

The back cover copy of the book didn’t make things any clearer. As I cracked it open, I couldn’t help but wonder if this would be completely ridiculous, or if it would be a lot more helpful than I anticipated.

By the time I finished the book, I had great deal more clarity regarding those questions. Furtick is deeply passionate about seeing Christians live in the fullness of their faith, and this book is his attempt to guide readers through the process of doing so.

Sun Stand Still is a call to what Furtick calls “audacious faith”—to live and pray like the God we worship and serve is actually capable of the impossible (because He is).

Furtick takes his inspiration from Joshua 10:1-15; there Joshua commands the sun to stand still so the Israelites can finish off their enemies, and God causes the sun to stand still. He wants readers to have God-sized visions; plans and prayers that are absolutely terrifyingly impossible to accomplish if God is not at work in them and through them.

In this sense, the book is right at home with Francis Chan’s bestseller,Crazy Love. That is, there’s this strong desire to see Christians living fully in their faith. To not try to live your best life now, but actually do big things for God’s glory.

That’s something that I greatly appreciate and resonate with, particularly in my own life. It’s easy to get wrapped up in getting by or sidetracked pursuing comforts in life that I might be at risk of missing an opportunity that God is giving me to take a big, bold step of faith. None of us should be content with actions that, as Ecclesiastes 1:17 says, are merely grasping or striving after the wind. A great deal of effort exuded for very little payoff. [Read more...]

Black holes and Revelations

Okay, so there might not be any black holes, but there is at least one revelation here.

The other day, I asked you all to decide which of these three books I would review.

After several days of voting, the results are in and a book has been requested.

Because you demanded it, I’ll be reviewing Sun Stand Still by Steven Furtick.

Sun Stand Still Cover

In case you don’t recall, here’s the write-up of the book:

If you’re not DARING TO BELIEVE GOD for the impossible,
you may be SLEEPING THROUGH
some of the BEST PARTS of your Christian Life.

“This book is not a Snuggie. The words on these pages will not go down like Ambien. I’m not writing to calm or coddle you. With God’s help, I intend to incite a riot in your mind. Trip your breakers and turn out the lights in your favorite hiding places of insecurity and fear. Then flip the switch back on so that God’s truth can illuminate the divine destiny that may have been lying dormant inside you for years.

In short, I’m out to activate your audacious faith. To inspire you to ask God for the impossible. And in the process, to reconnect you with your God-sized purpose and potential.”

I’m very intrigued by the idea of having my audacious faith activated, so this should be interesting.

Look for the review in December.

So is that it?

Well… there is something else (although it’s probably not as “earth-shattering” as the Beatles being available on iTunes).

I’m working on a new book. Working on the details of where/how it’ll be published, but it should be available in 2011. Keep your eyes peeled for news and updates.

Also, there’s this (which may or may not have a hint at something else…)