Links I like

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What do if my pastor is on the Ashley Madison list?

A good word here from Ed Stetzer, who estimates that at least 400 church leaders will be resigning this Sunday (or in the weeks to come):

I know this is hard, but quiet resignations and hushed conversations are not the answer. Pastoral repentance is different—the Bible says it is.

I know of pastors right now who are negotiating a quiet resignation after an Ashley Madison related affair—but you don’t get to do that if you have taken on the office of pastor.

Aaron Earls also offers a good encouragement here.

The Mark of Christianity That is Disappearing from Our Worship

Trevin Wax:

As a part of corporate worship, confession has historically been near the beginning of a service. Once we have been summoned to worship God, and once we have seen and begun to experience His presence, we are like Isaiah – falling on our knees before a majestic and holy God, amazed when seeing the brightness of His glory, ashamed when seeing our sin for what it is. Before we can move forward in worship, or move outward in mission, we fall down in repentance.

4 Kinds of Pastors

Nick Batzig:

About five years into the pastorate–trying to discern my own weaknesses and deficiencies–I started to realize that there are essentially four kinds of men (the lazy pastor aside) who labor in pastoral ministry–“the Idealist,” “the Visionary,” “the Worker Bee” and “the Connector.” While these categories are somewhat over-generalized and a bit artificial (since we are all very complex people), I have found them helpful to my own ministry. Those men who fall only into one of the four categories either have to labor hard to surround themselves with the other three, or they do an enormous disservice to the congregation they pastor because of the greatness of the imbalance they create. Finding men with all four of these characteristics is beyond rare, because they are borderline geniuses. While this rare breed is often used mightily by God for the growth and development of the church, such a man must work diligently to fight against trying to micromanage everyone and everything in the church; otherwise, he too will do a great disservice to the congregation that he has been called to pastor.

5 Questions on Creating an Organizational Culture

Eric Geiger:

I recently sat down with Todd Adkins and Barnabas Piper to discuss leadership and reading for the “Five Questions Leadership Podcast.” You should check out the podcast, which has skyrocketed on iTunes, for some great content. Here are the five questions we discussed about organizational culture, with a few notes I jotted down after each question.

Cultivating a gracious climate in your church

Jared Wilson:

A message of grace may attract people, but a culture of grace will keep them. What our churches need, not in exchange for a gospel message but as a witness to it, is a gospeled climate. But how do you get that? How do you develop in your church community a safe space to confess, be broken, be “not okay”? What are some ways to cultivate a climate of grace in your church?

Links I like

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Kindle deals for Christian readers

Why Gay Marriage Can’t Be Christian Marriage

Ben Witherington:

At the end of the day either we realize that gender matters, and gender difference is essential to a real Christian marriage, or we totally change the definition of what counts as marriage, what counts as husband and wife, what counts as mother and father Biblically speaking. It is in no way surprising that in the most individualistic and narcissistic culture on the planet, that Americans would like to be able to even choose their gender, their own biology. But in fact you can’t do that, and since gender matters Biblically speaking when it comes to Christian marriage, you also do not have Biblical permission to redefine marriage, husband, wife, mother or father.

I Don’t Know, And That’s OK

Nick Horton:

Why are so many of us uncomfortable saying the words, “I don’t know?” It’s incredibly freeing, I recommend you try it  some time. We give voice to the truth that we are not God when we do so. The expectation of full and total knowledge is nothing more than unmasked pride, quivering in its rush to be like God. Yet we will never know everything, now or in Heaven. Omniscience is a divine attribute and as such does not convey to us.

The Distracted Worshipper

Check out the first part of a new series at the Leadership Resources blog.

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Bible Rebinding

Matthew Everhard:

There is no book called The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Bible Rebinding, but if such a volume is ever to be written, I have a feeling that I may inadvertently be its protagonist.

Incidentally, The Bible Design Blog may well be my new favorite blog.

If You Don’t Have Anything Nice to Say to Your Wife then…

Erik Raymond:

We have all heard the expression, “If you don’t have anything nice to say then don’t say anything at all.” This may be good advice for elementary school children but it is not preferred for husbands.

Am I saying, “Feel free to insult your wife.” Hardly. Instead I am saying that we need to try harder, look deeper, pay more attention.

Links I like (weekend edition)

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

This sale on the Theologians on the Christian Life series from Crossway is wrapping up really soon. Get the following titles for $5.99 each:

Also on sale are:

Video Killed the Pulpit Star

This was very interesting.

9 Marks of a Healthy Worship Leader

Alex Duke:

I suppose I’m equal parts grateful and terrified. After all, the title “worship leader” is nowhere in the New Testament. This fact tempts even the most levelheaded toward the subjective and superficial, where already drawn lines and white-knuckled commitments merely evidence what we’ve previously seen, known, or been comfortable with.

So I wanted to pass along a few thoughts I’ve developed as I’ve prayed through what my church is undertaking in the coming weeks, and what your church may be going through right now. I’ve unoriginally titled them “Nine Marks of a Healthy Worship Leader.”

Don’t Know What a Fetus Is? Here Are Your Options

Clarifying words from Peter Kreeft, via Justin Taylor.

Performance in Music City USA

Ray Ortlund:

But there is a dark side to our culture of performance.  The dark side is bondage to appearances — smiling, beautiful, impressive, attractive appearances.  Nashville is a city of truly amazing people.  But under the surface are also stories of unspoken disappointment, insecurity, heartache, failure, loneliness, fear, regret, injury, loss, even as the show must go on.  We may well wonder, “Does anyone care about my broken heart?”

Focus on the Family

D.L. Mayfield:

I was told for so many years to focus on my family, to make it good and strong and holy. But now all I ever want to tell my daughter is that it is sometimes those who speak the loudest about morality and spirituality who are all bluster and bluff.I remember Bill Cosby as being one of my dad’s heroes. He was respectable, safe, clean, funny. He was a regular guy. He was a dad, exasperated and busy and lovably frustrated by the self-absorbed monsters he himself had created. As a family, we would watch the Cosby show. I always thought it was a bit boring, especially those long extended musician solos. When I was young, it seemed to me that I had no taste. I didn’t like jazz. I didn’t like the comedy records that my dad played. And I never really liked Bill Cosby. When I was twelve, the youth pastor at our church was a man in his forties. He was married, and his wife terrified me with her frizzy red perm and long, claw-like nails. This youth pastor looked a lot like Sully from Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman (one of the other few television shows we were allowed to watch). He had long, curly brown hair and very broad shoulders. He did not seem to mind at all when people mentioned that he looked a little bit like Jesus.

Links I like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Openness Unhindered

Westminster Bookstore’s got a really great sale going on for Rosaria Butterfield’s latest book, Openness Unhindered ($11 each, $10 each if you’re buying five or more copies). There are also a number of other books on sale including What Does The Bible Really Say About Homosexuality? and The Accidental Feminist.

God Made All of Me pre-order special

Justin and Lindsey Holcomb’s new book for kids,God Made All of Me, is coming out very soon and have put together a great set of bonus resources if you pre-order between August 7 and September 7. Just order God Made All of Me from Amazon or any other online retailer, submit your proof of purchase and you’re set.

There is No Pro-Life Case For Planned Parenthood

Ross Douthat:

So let’s be clear about what’s really going on here. It is not the pro-life movement that’s forced Planned Parenthood to unite actual family planning and mass feticide under one institutional umbrella. It is not the Catholic Church or the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles or the Southern Baptist Convention or the Republican Party that have bundled pap smears and pregnancy tests and HPV vaccines with the kind of grisly business being conducted on those videos. This is Planned Parenthood’s choice; it is liberalism’s choice; it is the respectable center-left of Dana Milbank and Ruth Marcus and Will Saletan that’s telling pro-life and pro-choice Americans alike that contraceptive access and fetal dismemberment are just a package deal, that if you want to fund an institution that makes contraception widely available then you just have to live with those “it’s another boy!” fetal corpses in said institution’s freezer, that’s just the price of women’s health care and contraceptive access, and who are you to complain about paying it, since after all the abortion arm of Planned Parenthood is actually pretty profitable and doesn’t need your tax dollars?

The giant iMac wheel

This is pretty rad:

What’s It Like to Abort Your Own Child?

Bethany Jenkins:

To achieve that goal, Nathanson would later admit, they “pursued dubious and in some cases straightforwardly dishonest strategies,” noted Robert George. They promoted the idea that abortion was about medicine, not morality; lied about the number of illegal abortions performed annually and about the number of women who died from them; suggested that opposing abortion was a “religious dogma” imposed by a Catholic hierarchy; and argued that abortion was an effective means to fight poverty.

“Shocking Videos!” and the Art of Looking Away

Trevin Wax:

Many pro-choice people in our country are uncomfortable with the idea of abortion, but don’t want to see it outlawed. They can see a doctor talking callously about the unborn and they think, “How insensitive!” They see another video or two, with the haggling over fetal body parts being severed for sale, and think, “Well, this is disturbing, but they haven’t broken laws, have they? Isn’t this ultimately for a good cause?”

The Sound of Silence

Kevin DeYoung offers some thoughts on the problem of people not singing in church. While I might not agree with everything said here, DeYoung offers some real food for thought.

Links I like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

You may also find something of interest in these special deals on through the month of August.

Free from Christian Audio this month is Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert by Rosaria Butterfield (it is brilliant). The free Logos book for August is Paideia Commentaries on the New Testament: Acts by Mikeal C. Parsons. You can also get Ephesians and Colossians by Charles H. Talbert from the same commentary series for $1.99.

What Should We Do When They Stray?

Nick Batzig:

Not long after I was converted, news of my conversion spread through the church that I began attending in Greenville, SC. People would frequently approach me to ask if I would reach out to their son or their daughter–children who were living prodigal lifestyles akin to that which I had lived. The first year of my conversion exposed me to the prevalent nature of such rebellion among children who had grown up in Christian homes. I started to realize a few things as I labored to bring the Gospel to young adults who were strung out on pharmaceuticals, cocaine, acid, crack, meth, MDMA, etc. First, I realized how true my Calvinistic beliefs really were (i.e. unless the Lord–in His sovereign mercy and grace–redeems, all is hopeless); and, second, I realized that most of the parents were at a loss to know how to pursue their rebellious covenant child. The only example that I had was that which was etched in my mind by the actions of my father and mother. Today, whenever I am counseling the parents of a rebellious child, there are five things that I always remind Christian parents with rebellious children.

Whom Do Tim Keller and Don Carson Look Up To?

Ivan Mesa:

Alec Motyer, that’s who. The 90-year-old former principal of Trinity College in Bristol, England has served as both a pastor and a professor. Although much of his academic life has been devoted to the study of the Old Testament, particularly Isaiah, Motyer has aimed to bring his insights to the layperson through lecturing and writing, most notably serving as co-editor with John Stott of the The Bible Speaks Today series.

The Most Important Ear in Worship

Matthew Westerholm:

Perhaps the distance between the speaker and our listening eardrums is too far for the sounds to be intelligible. Or perhaps there is a social or relational gap between speakers and listeners, such as when a celebrity walking past a crowd believes himself too important to stop and listen to all the shouts from his adoring fans.

The Epidemic of Male Body Hatred

Paul Maxwell:

A man who hates his body is really searching for love — a fundamentally relational search for intimacy with self in the form of confidence, intimacy with the opposite sex in being sexy, intimacy with the same sex in intimidation or acceptance, intimacy with authority in competency, and ultimately intimacy with God, in appearing worthy. The lie is that performance offers intimacy at all — it is, in fact, its foil. Yet this is the path we choose.

Links I like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Eleven volumes in the Christ-Centered Exposition commentary series are on sale through August 4th:

Also on sale is Understanding Genesis by Jason Lisle for $2.99, which looks interesting.

Haven Today

This morning I’ll be on Haven Today speaking with Charles Morris about the recently released documentary, Through The Eyes of Spurgeon. Check your local station for air times or listen online at haventoday.org. The show airs at 9 am (EDT) on FaithFM (99.9).

4 Magic Words for Your Next Argument

Erik Raymond:

The primary source of our conflict is within us. We crave something often times from someone. When we do not get it then we get very upset. Our passions or desires are at war within us. We are not getting what we want (usually under the headings of honor, comfort, or control) so we lash out. We then try to manipulate the other person actively by doing things like yelling or even physical aggression or we do it passively by ignoring them with the silent treatment. Whatever extreme we are on we can be sure that it is our unmet cravings of our heart that are fueling this conflict.

We’ve Got Spirit, Yes We Do

Dustin Rouse:

My fear is that we can fall down that slippery slope that an awesome worship experience equals the Holy Spirit. The Spirit can move mightily in a worship gathering, and I pray every weekend that He does. But we must be careful that we don’t gauge the Spirit’s effectiveness in our church based on how many people are raising their hands.

A California Court Just Banned The Release Of More Planned Parenthood Videos

This is altogether unsurprising. I’m guessing whatever’s on the next one must be particularly awful.

After Outrage, What?

Scott Oliphint:

It was John Adams who said “Facts are stubborn things.” If Adams lived in today’s America, he would have to amend that statement to something like, “Facts are stubborn things, but their stubbornness pales into insignificance compared to the stubbornness of  folly.” As the recent Obergefell decision, as well as the less recent Roe vs. Wade decision, show, the intractable darkness of foolishness can suppress the stubbornness of facts in the blink of an eye. In Obergefell, foolishness suppresses the obvious facts of gender, substituting in its place a vacuous and intentionally undefined notion of “love.” In Roe vs. Wade, foolishness suppresses the obvious facts of human life, and substitutes a penumbral notion of privacy. In each case, foolishness covers facts like a slimy, diseased blanket.

If your goal is to do enough, you’re going to be disappointed

medium_11975144065

Every week, I’ll see another email hit my inbox talking about the strides humanity is making in alleviating extreme poverty. And while I’m thankful for all the good work that’s being done, I can’t help but wonder about the message I pick up from many of the communications I receive.

See, most of them, though they are well meaning, have the wrong goal in mind. They’re trying to figure out what “doing enough” means. The only problem is, “doing enough” doesn’t work, as a goal or a reality. Why? Here’s how I put it in Awaiting a Savior: The Gospel, the New Creation and the End of Poverty:

“Doing enough” can be overly simplistic. One problem with “doing enough” is that it tends to focus us on the wrong goal. We pick a dollar amount, or an income percentage, or a number of hours per month. We construct a set of checkboxes to see if we’re meeting the output criteria we have set for ourselves. Some suggest, for example, that if we all give just one percent more financially, global poverty can be wiped out forever. All we have to do, they say, is track the progress, allocate the resources, and we’re set.

When “doing enough” becomes primarily a matter of numbers, we can be sure we are focusing on the wrong thing. Alleviating poverty is about more than a certain amount of giving, whether of time or money.

“Doing enough” is legalism. Worse, this “doing enough” mindset is textbook legalism—the effort to be pleasing to God through our external behavior. And encouraging people to be active in helping the poor can promote legalism like few other activities. Unless God cuts someone to the heart and instills a compassion for the poor, exhortations to “choose your fast” or “just give more money” either will be ignored or will feed one’s “inner legalist.”

If our focus is whether we are doing “enough,” it may be that our hearts are as dead as those to whom Isaiah, Amos, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel preached. “We have all become like one who is unclean,” Isaiah said, “and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment” (Isaiah 64:6). (58-59)

Doing enough isn’t the point—not even with such a noble cause as caring for those in need. Glorifying God is. This must be our goal, all the time and in all places. It’s the only one that will keep us from being disappointed—and potentially doing more harm than good along the way.

God doesn’t need an invitation

 

calling-god-down

There’s a peculiar thing I’ve noticed in some of the songs in popular Christian praise and/or worship music—typically the ones you hear at the beginning of the “set”1 intended to warm everybody up and get everyone excited. It’s this idea that we are somehow summoning God into our presence. Songs about inviting him into our midst, calling him down, telling him to show up in power, and show us his glory, and all this kind of stuff…

Now, depending your congregation’s proclivities, you’re probably going to sing a song like this today. And I’ve gotta say, to me at least, it’s really weird. It’s not that I’m against being aware of God’s presence, nor am I against praying—or singing for that matter—for true, Spirit-wrought revival. But I’m not sure this is what these songs are talking about. Instead, they seem to be putting us in the drivers’ seat, making us the ones in control during the our time of corporate worship.

In a chapter of The Prodigal Church at least 75 percent of worship leaders will skip, Jared Wilson calls our attention to the heart of this peculiar problem:

The danger we face when we worship is coming into the experience assuming we are summoning God. Assuming worship is our initiative. Assuming we are somehow the ones in control, that we are bringing the best of ourselves and our holy desire to worship. But the reality is, worship does not begin with the worshipper. It begins with God. It is a response to God’s calling upon us. (97)

This is the danger of experientialism. It moves us by inches away from the center, from the reality of who God is, of what the purpose of worship is—of who the object of worship is. And if we’re not careful, and the slide continues, our worship songs may wind up more closely resembling the frantic cries of the Baal-worshippers on the mountain than those of Christ’s disciples.

You’re not calling God down this morning. He doesn’t need an invitation. But I have some better news for you: He is already here. The Holy Spirit dwells within all of his people, every moment of every day. He is the one who empowers our worship, who gives us the desire to sing God’s praises. His power has already shown up—and it resides in us. Should we not rejoice and be glad of this?

Links I like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

This week’s deals from Crossway focus on social issues:

You can also get Get Out: Student Ministry in the Real World by Alvin L Reid for $4.97, The Mystery of Providence by John Flavel for $2.99, and my tiny book, Everyday Theologyfor 99¢.

The Importance of the Pastoral “I Don’t Know”

Jared Wilson:

One of the most valuable sentences in a pastor’s arsenal is “I don’t know.” The pressure to know and be everything everybody expects us to know and be can be pride-puffing. I once worked at a bookstore where we were told never to say “I don’t know” to a customer. We must give them some answer, any answer, even if it was a guess or a likely wrong answer. Customers don’t want to hear “I don’t know” from service people, but even a wrong answer makes them feel helped. I confess the temptation to “satisfy the customer” has persisted through my ministry days, for a variety of reasons. I want people to feel helped. And I also don’t like looking like a rube.

Are You Insulting God in Worship?

Sam Storms:

Little words can mean a lot. They can make the difference between good and evil, between heaven and hell. In this case, a right understanding of a single word is the only thing that prevents an act of worship from degenerating into a colossal insult to God. It’s the word “for.”

What Dodgeball Taught Me About Growth in Christ

Kevin Halloran:

Looking back at where I have come since I left my physical “prime”, I notice that I have grown deeper in my knowledge and love for Christ, my love for others and the desire to see souls saved, my desire to bless His church with the gifts He has given me, and my ability to withstand temptation by the Spirit’s power.

The Bible and Same-Sex Relationships

Tim Keller:

There are a number of other books that take the opposite view, namely that the Bible either allows for or supports same-sex relationships. Over the last year or so I (and other pastors at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City) have been regularly asked for responses to their arguments. The two most-read volumes taking this position seem to be those by Matthew Vines and Ken Wilson. The review of these two books will be longer than usual because the topic is so contested today and, while I disagree with the authors’ theses, a too-brief review can’t avoid appearing cursory and dismissive. Hence the length.

I see five basic arguments that these books and others like them make.

Links I like (weekend edition)

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Today’s the last day to get severn of the Reclaiming the Christian Intellectual Tradition series for $2.99 each:

Also on sale is Know Your Bible From A to Z by Jim George ($2.39).

Google And Levi’s Are Teaming Up To Make Computerized Pants

And the “just why?” award goes to…

But today, we got some true futurism: computerized pants.

This morning, Google announced that it is teaming up with Levi’s to make jeans with conductive fabric — which could eventually allow wearers to use their legs as touchscreens — swiping their thigh, say, to accept a phone call.

My Father Killed My Mother

Joel Lindsey:

When I was 6 years old, my father murdered my mother.… He was convicted of murder in 1981 and sentenced to die in Georgia’s electric chair. His appeal reduced his sentence to life in prison.

In the aftermath, my sisters and I were adopted by my maternal grandparents, and in the face of that great tragedy, we did what any family would do—we circled the wagons, we bonded over our grief. A significant portion of that bonding came through our shared hatred of not just the evil things my dad did, but of my dad himself. So I grew up hating him, and 23 years without contact only increased the distance, fear, and disdain that defined our “relationship.”

Your Paper Brain and Your Kindle Brain

T.J. Raphael:

Linear reading and digital distractions have caught the attention of academics like Maryanne Wolf, director of the Center for Reading and Language Research at Tufts University.

“I don’t worry that we’ll become dumb because of the Internet,” Wolf says, “but I worry we will not use our most preciously acquired deep reading processes because we’re just given too much stimulation. That’s, I think, the nub of the problem.”

Not A Single One Will Fail

Stephen Altrogge:

You may not see all his words fulfilled in your lifetime. You may not see God fulfill his promises to your children in your lifetime. I pray for God to save and bless all my children, grandchildren and every descendant of mine long after I’m gone, until the day Jesus returns.

When Your Heart Isn’t In It

Joe Thorn:

Do you really think that avoiding worship will be the means by which your heart will changed, prepared to engage in worship? Can disconnecting from the means of grace somehow bring about a revival of the heart? No! The means of grace are for those who need them; for those who are not feeling as they ought, to change the heart, realign the will, and draw men and women to Jesus Christ.

Links I like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Today is also $5 Friday at Ligonier, where you’ll find a number of great resources for sale, including:

  • Knowing God’s Will Teaching Series by R.C. Sproul (audio download)
  • Habakkuk: A Wrestler with God by Walter Chantry (Paperback)
  • God in Our Midst: The Tabernacle and Our Relationship with God by Daniel Hyde (Hardcover)
  • How the Gospel Brings Us All the Way Home by Derek Thomas (ePub)
  • Psalm 51 Teaching Series by R.C. Sproul (audio and video download)

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

An Open Letter to Tom Brady

Jared Wilson gets his super-fan on, and I’m glad he did.

The Problem with Good Advice

Christina Fox:

The problem comes when our advice sounds no different from the advice a counselor from another religion or even no religion at all would give. If an atheist would suggest the same child-rearing techniques or a Buddhist the same stress-management strategies as we do, then there is something missing from our counsel. Even though truth is truth no matter who says it, the advice that followers of Christ give ought to point to the source of all truth.

Wanted: A Teaching Church

Daniel Hyde:

The Bible is the Word of God. All Bible-believing evangelical churches affirm this. In historic Protestantism, there is a theology of the Word that not only professes sola Scriptura but also professes the sufficiency of Scripture for all things concerning doctrine, worship, and godliness. What the church of the twenty-first century needs to be is a teaching church that plainly and powerfully proclaims the Word of God. Then the church will be equipped to fulfill its task in the world to worship and to witness to that world.

Beware the Idol of Self-Preservation

Michael Kelley:

Now let’s be clear, here – there are moments, many in fact, when you find yourself (as I do) in an over-committed situation, and for the health of your family and even your soul, you need to release some of those demands. But in those occasions, you are releasing some demands so you can fully give yourself to others. It’s not an escaping; it’s a re-aligning of yourself to make sure you are giving what limited resources you have to the most appropriate places.

Stating the Obvious in Worship

Dustin Rouse:

Pointing out what is plain to see is annoying, yet gospel truth and the worship it inspires is different. Gospel truth is only obvious to believers because the scales have been removed from our eyes. We see what once was obvious in the Garden of Eden – that our God is glorious.

Links I like

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Today is also $5 Friday at Ligonier, where you’ll find a number of great resources for sale, including:

  • The Christian Lover by Michael Haykin (hardcover)
  • Parenting by God’s Promises by Joel Beeke (ePub)
  • The Promise Keeper: God of the Covenants Teaching Series by R.C. Sproul (audio and video download)
  • What Did Jesus Do?: Understanding the Work of Christ Teaching Series by R.C. Sproul (DVD)
  • Katherine Parr: A Guided Tour of the Life and Thought of a Reformation by Brandon Withrow (paperback)

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

Financial decisions to make in your 20s and 30s

There’s a lot of good advice here.

Clinging to the golden calf

Michelle Lesley:

There are a ton of Jeroboams out there today. Some of you reading this might be following one of them and worshiping the idol their false theology tells you is the God of the Bible. And in the same way that a man of God came along and rebuked Jeroboam for his blasphemy, a man or woman of God might come along and call out the Christian celebrity you’re following, or take you aside -out of love and concern- and let you know that person is a false teacher.

I hope you won’t respond like Jeroboam did. He was so angry, he tried to kill the prophet. But sadly, I have seen this type of response (at least verbally) many times, especially from women, when faced with the fact that their favorite Bible teacher or author is preaching a false gospel.

So, what’s a godly way to respond when someone tells you you’re following a false teacher?

The Difficulty of Receiving

Mason King:

Receiving is difficult. Being given something affects us differently than being the giver. Receiving something is harder than earning it, especially for driven people. It’s an insult to our pride and to our ingrained desire to be self-reliant. It picks at our identity of being self-sovereign and self-sustaining, so we try to reconcile the tension by repaying the debt or promising to give an equal (or better) gift, rather than trusting the goodness of the gift and the giver. Receiving is difficult for us because it requires trust, humility and imagination.

8 Reasons People are Leaving Denominational Churches for Non-Denominational Churches

Thom Rainer shares a few interesting findings from some data published by the Hartford Institute of Religion Research.

God Owes Me Nothing

Darryl Dash:

If we’re not careful, we will think that God is stingy and ungrateful. That’s not true at all. God is anything but stingy, and he repeatedly promises rewards for those who serve him.

“I Couldn’t Worship a God Like That”

Jared Wilson:

It is one of God’s eternal blessings that he is a good God, a loving God, a merciful God, a beautiful God. And we ought to worship him for these attributes and more. But we also ought to worship him because he is God, and we are not.

This imperative is no time more crucial than when God reveals himself in ways inscrutable and uncomfortable, when God is being seeker-insensitive.

 

The answer to our worship problem

worship-problem

One of the inescapable realities of human existence is we are all worshippers. We are always putting someone or something in the place of “ultimate” in our lives. And there’s no where where this is more easily seen in western culture than with celebrities.

We look at certain individuals, and we are in awe. We admire their talent; we enjoy the movies or TV shows or music in which they perform. We kind of wish we had their gifts (or at least their looks—remember “the Rachel”?). They promise to rescue us from the hell of our boredom with the ordinariness and obscurity of our own lives. We want to be known and important—and because that’s not going to happen for most of us, we are (somewhat) content to live vicariously through them. We read blogs or news sites that talk about new projects they’re involved with. But as time goes on, the boredom creeps back in. So the stories change from their work to their lives. And, voyeurism aside, we are enthralled, and our boredom is sent back into exile. But then it happens again: we start getting bored with the happy narrative. Soon, the tone of the reporting begins to change. We no longer have a happy picture of their lives:

  • We’re confronted with their revolving door relationships.
  • Then the ugly divorce.
  • Then the debilitating drug habit.

Before long, this person we so admired becomes a punch line. We mock and jeer as our would-be savior from our boredom is crucified. And once the spear has entered their side, we go off in search of our next savior.

This, in a nutshell, is what the Bible calls idolatry. It’s to take someone or something that isn’t God and worship him, her or it, despite these idols always over promising and under delivering. They simply cannot do what we ask of them. In idolizing celebrities, in treating them as being “more” than human, we are making them less. We dehumanize them, turning them into puppets and pawns to make us happy (or at least, help us forget about what’s going on in our own lives). And while they have power over our affections, they don’t control over our destiny. That’s the greatest lure of idolatry. We want to be the masters of our domain, and there is no fate but what we make. Ultimately, in worshipping people and things, we are kind of worshipping ourselves. Idolatry is all about us being in control of our own destinies. About being our own gods. All of us—every single person on the face of the earth, every person who has ever lived—are prone to doing this. And there isn’t a single person who is excluded from it.

This is where the message that the Bible contains is so important. It tells us of the problem of humanity—we worship the wrong things and we fail to worship the only one worth worshipping. And it shows us the lengths to which this God who created everything has gone to fix the problem. It tells us of how we were lured away from true worship by the promise of being like God in a way that we were never meant to (and could never actually be). It tells of how this world became the mess that it is even to this very day, as humanity pursued its own desires. As it chased after its sad substitutes for the fulfillment that only comes through our relationship with our Creator. And it tells us of how God, from the very beginning, perfectly planned the events of history to bring humanity back into relationship with him. And this plan all centered on a man named Jesus—a man who was also, somehow, God.

Jesus came into the world, born as we are (well, sort of) and lived as we do. Except not. See, the Bible makes some extraordinary claims about Jesus. It tells us that from before time began, he existed. It calls him the Word who was with God and was God. It tells us that this same Jesus’ mother became pregnant through a miracle (hence the “sort of” with being born as we are). He became hungry and tired. He probably got sick from time to time. But one thing we have no record of is Jesus ever doing or thinking anything wrong. Ever. Not even once. He never lied, stole, or dishonored his parents. He never mocked people behind their backs. He never once behaved hypocritically. When he looked at people, he always gave them the appreciation and respect they were due—never thinking too highly or too lowly of anyone. He taught thousands of men, women and children, and showed extraordinary compassion to them. He frustrated the religious leaders of his day, because he kept calling them hypocrites and liars. Despite being a celebrity, with an entourage numbering in the tens of thousands, he wasn’t interested in status and making a name for himself. He was a servant of all. The writers of the Bible tell us he performed incredible miracles—including healing the sick and raising the dead! He said things like believing in him was the only way anyone could have a relationship with God. More than that, he even claimed to be God. And for this, he was arrested, beaten and brutally murdered. But even the grave wasn’t enough to stop him, for it’s said that he rose from death just a few short days later and appeared to hundreds of people, as many as 500 at once!

In all he did and all he taught, Jesus showed us was what a life of true worship looks like, one that is devoted to the God who created us. A life that consistently denies our selfish desires to put us at the center of the universe, and instead forces much needed perspective back into our lives. And that perspective really comes when we figure out what to do with Jesus, because he is the answer to our worship problem. And because he is the answer to our worship problem, we have to do something with him.

This is why so many people want to dismiss or discredit him. This is why some people pretend he never existed at all, and claim the story of Jesus was cobbled together from competing mythologies. This is why some try to say that the earliest writings of Christians didn’t include all of this Jesus is God talk; that this was something that was added later (what we might call the purple-monkey-dishwasher effect). This is why others still try to add him to a pantheon of little gods and goddesses, of spiritual teachers from whom they can pick and choose what they like and ignore the jagged bits. But I’ve got to be honest, having tried all of those, I can safely say they’re unsatisfying answers.

They don’t work.

There’s really only one honest answer to the question of what to do about Jesus, and that is to worship him as God. This is what Christians do, however much we falter: we worship Jesus because Jesus is the way God fixed our worship problem.

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Kindle deals for Christian readers

14 Pop Culture Events from 2014 You Already Forgot

Aaron Earls shares 14 events “that took over social media for a few days only to be forgotten the next week.”

Erwin Lutzer announces to transition to Pastor Emeritus

Big changes coming to The Moody Church in Chicago:

On Sunday January 4, 2014, Pastor Lutzer announced an upcoming change in the leadership of The Moody Church. Speaking with his wife Rebecca by his side, he informed the congregation that a search would begin for a new Senior Pastor.

The Lutzers have given this transition much thought and prayer, and have concluded that God is leading them to take this step at this time. They, along with the Elders, have agreed that Dr. Lutzer will remain in the role of Senior Pastor until a new Pastor is found. When that transition occurs, Pastor Lutzer will step into a new role of ministry, that of Pastor Emeritus of The Moody Church.

Essential Texting Acronyms Parents Must Know

If you’ve got kids with a cellphone, you’re going to want to know these.

What would Jesus say to someone like Leelah Alcorn?

Garret Kell:

It is heart-wrenching to know that a young person was so overwhelmed with pain that their only response was to stop living. That should mean something. Whether you’re LBGT, Christian, liberal, conservative, religious or otherwise—we are humans and a tragedy like this should lead us to stop, weep, pray, and take notice.

7 Truths We Have Forgotten

R.C. Sproul Jr:

Every generation has not just its blind spots, but its amnesiac moments—truths once held, even honored, that the rising generation let go of. One might call these things “Slipping Off the Shoulders of Giants.” Here are seven truths our fathers in the faith grasped that we have forgotten.

Location in Worship

Check out this new poem by John Piper.