You might think I'm writing to throw my lot in with your strongest defenders. After all, I've faithfully attended one of your high-church Anglican iterations for seven years, watching with disdain as peers hop from building to building, seeking an "awesome" and "powerful" worship experience (and attractive members of the opposite sex). Instead, I'm writing to apologize. While claiming publicly to have loved you as Christ does—like a spouse—in spirit I have loved you like an on-again, off-again fling. My faithful attendance suggests a radical commitment to gathering with your people. But many Sundays, my heart is still in it for me. And while I think the blogger is ultimately misguided about his relationship (or lack thereof) with you, I can appreciate his honesty. At least he's not leading you on.Read the rest.
Here's where I need to confess my true feelings about you, Church: The romance of our earlier days has faded. The longer I have known you, the more I weary of your quirks and trying character traits. Here's one: You draw people to yourself whom I would never choose to spend time with. Every Sunday, it seems, you put me in contact with the older woman who thinks that angels and dead pets are everywhere around us. You insist on filling my coffee hour with idle talk of golf, the weather, and grandchildren. As much as I wax on about the value of intergenerational worship, a lot of Sundays I dodge these members like they're lepers. (This is of course my flesh talking, to borrow a phrase from one of your earliest members.) Many Sundays I long to worship alongside likeminded Christians who really get me, with whom I can have enlightening, invigorating conversations, whom I'm not embarrassed to be seen with in public. I confess to many times lusting over one of your sexier locations, wondering if I would be happier and more fulfilled there.
Friday, March 07, 2014
Interesting post for those entering into college and those reflecting on their collegiate experience. I agree with his seven points.
Labels: College Education
- Life for our ancestors was filled with far more suffering than ours is. And yet we have innumerable diaries, journals, and historical documents that reveal how they took that hardship and grief in far better stride than do we. (p. 15)
- [S]ecularization thins out traditional beliefs . . . . And this secularized belief in God, or this residue of Christianity, may be the worst possible preexisting condition in which to encounter suffering. (p. 58)
- If an all-powerful and all-wise God were directing all of history with its infinite number of interactive events toward good ends, it would be folly to think we could look at any particular occurrence and understand a millionth of what it will bring about. (p. 101)
- If there is no Judgment Day, then there are only two things to do—lose all hope or turn to vengeance. (p. 116)
- [I]t is even more likely that this kind of betrayal [one of four types of suffering that Keller presents] happens simply through a personal relationship going sour. When someone perceives that they have been wronged by you, they may embark on a program of trying to hurt you or damage your reputation. Often someone you thought you knew well can turn on you and attack you because it furthers their career or interests. Personal betrayals are particularly horrific, and this sort of trial can tempt you to give in to debilitating anger and bitterness. While the first kind of suffering requires that you learn repentance, this kind of suffering will entail that you wrestle with the issues of forgiveness. The temptation will be to become bitter and to hide your growing hardness and cruelty under the self-image of being a noble victim. (p. 210)
(HT: Andy Naselli)
Thursday, March 06, 2014
“There has been a long tradition which sees the mission of the Church primarily as obedience to a command. It has been customary to speak of ‘the missionary mandate.’ This way of putting the matter is certainly not without justification, and yet it seems to me that it misses the point. It tends to make mission a burden rather than a joy, to make it part of the law rather than part of the gospel. If one looks at the New Testament evidence one gets another impression. Mission begins with a kind of explosion of joy. The news that the rejected and crucified Jesus is alive is something that cannot possibly be suppressed. It must be told. Who could be silent about such a fact? The mission of the Church in the pages of the New Testament is more like the fallout from a vast explosion, a radioactive fallout which is not lethal but life-giving.”- Lesslie Newbigin, The Gospel in a Pluralist Society, page 116.
Wisdom here from Kevin DeYoung:
Books by Kevin DeYoung:
When we think of Paul, we often think of a spiritual giant, going through the Roman world planting churches, routing the philosophers in Athens, writing the most profound letters ever written, getting bloodied by stones, whipped, flogged, and shipwrecked–all by himself. A one man superhero.
Paul didn’t accomplish all this or endure all this by himself. He constantly had people around him: co-laborers, associates, apprentices, friends, partners in the gospel. There’s a reason that when Jesus sent out the disciples he sent them out in pairs. You are not meant to do gospel work by yourself.
If you want a ministry to be short lived, start it by yourself, do it by yourself, and share authority with no one but yourself. If you’re really gifted and dynamic, you’ll see something grow up for a time. People will flock to it because you have a lot of gifts, but then when you’re done it will be done. No team, no partners, no investment in future leaders, no future ministry.
How do you do ministry? Paul says in 2 Timothy 2:2, “What you have heard from me in the presence of many others entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.”
A huge part of ministry is constantly training up others, releasing others, and empowering others, so that they can replicate what you do or replace you when you’re done. How are we doing?
Books by Kevin DeYoung:
- The Hole in Our Holiness: Filling the Gap between Gospel Passion and the Pursuit of Godliness
- Just Do Something: A Liberating Approach to Finding God's Will
- What Is the Mission of the Church?: Making Sense of Social Justice, Shalom, and the Great Commission
- The Good News We Almost Forgot: Rediscovering the Gospel in a 16th Century Catechism
- Why We Love the Church: In Praise of Institutions and Organized Religion
Wednesday, March 05, 2014
In Al Mohler’s book The Conviction to Lead he writes of
. . . an old preacher [who] told a group of younger preachers to remember that they would die. “They are going to put you in a box,” he said, “and put the box in the ground, and throw dirt on your face, and then go back to the church and eat potato salad.”
Here’s the point: As great as you can make yourself, as many wonderful things as you can accomplish in your lifetime — even religious things — it will all be a blip on the radar of eternity. You will become dust. The worms will eat you. Statistically speaking, since most of us will never accomplish such great things that history will laud throughout the ages, memory of us will start fading with our grandchildren. Our great grandchildren will (likely) not have any clue who we are.
If you are bringing glory to Christ, not a thing about you is wasted, because the mission of the Spirit of God is to maximize the glory of Christ over all the universe. So that even at the end of days, as Revelation shows us, all the glorious kings of the nations in all their renown and splendor, file in one by one into the holy city to throw their crowns at the feet of Jesus. Revelation 21 reveals that the light of the new heavens and new earth comes not from the “sun” but from the “Son,” and the kings of the nations will bring their glory into it.
There is the vision of greatness the redeemed of the Lord ought to aspire to. That he would increase and we would decrease. That our decrease would serve his increase!
And those who are willing to lose their lives — whatever that might mean — for Christ’s sake, will find them.
And from dust you will return.Read the rest.
Books by Randy Alcorn:
In an interview I was asked, What is your advice on how believers should deal with a culture that is increasingly hostile to Christianity?
Jesus said, “No servant is greater than his master. If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also” (John 15:20). Followers of Jesus should expect injustice and misrepresentation. I’m grateful there are organizations working to protect the rights of Christians. But I’m concerned if we view ourselves as one more special interest group, clinging to entitlements and whining when people don’t like us. God’s people have a long history of not being liked.
Of course, this does not mean being hateful or seeking to be hated. It's important that we represent the Gospel well, and I am all for graciousness, kindness and servant-hearted love as we speak the truth. Romans 12:18 says, "If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all."
But the fact is, while the gospel is good news, it is also insulting. Many people don’t like being called sinners and told they deserve to go to hell. Peter said, “Don’t be surprised at the fiery ordeal you are suffering as though something strange were happening to you” (1 Peter 4:12).
If our eyes are on anyone but Jesus, we’re not going to have the stamina to put up with criticism or outright hostility. Paul said, “If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ” (Galatians 1:10).
Jesus is the Audience of One. We will stand before His judgment seat, no one else’s. We should long to hear Him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” What other people think won’t matter.
Books by Randy Alcorn:
Tuesday, March 04, 2014
In everyday practical terms, what does it mean to do this? It means at least these four things:
1. Renouncing all (counting all as loss) means that, if we must choose between Christ and anything else, we will choose Christ.
That is, even though God does not bring us to the crisis of either-or at every point, nevertheless, we are ready, and have resolved in our hearts that, if the choice must be made, we will chose Christ.
2. Renouncing all (counting all as loss) means that we will deal with everything in ways that draw us nearer to Christ, so that we gain more of Christ, and enjoy more of him, by the way we relate to everything.
That is, we will embrace everything pleasant, by being thankful to Christ; and we will endure everything hurtful, by being patient through Christ.
3. Renouncing all (counting all as loss) means that we will seek to deal with the things of this world in ways that show that they are not our treasure, but rather that Christ is our treasure.
That is, we will hold things loosely, share things generously, and ascribe value to things in relation to Christ. We will seek to live the paradox of 1 Corinthians 7:30-31, “Let [Christians] buy as though they had no goods, and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it.”
4. Renouncing all (counting all as loss) means that if we lose any or all the things this world can offer, we will not lose our joy, or our treasure, or our life — because Christ is our joy and our treasure and our life.
That is, in smaller losses we will not grumble (Philippians 2:14), and in greater losses we will grieve, but not as those who have not hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13).Read the rest.
I love my church. Without question it's a community unified in worshiping the Father, ministering to our surrounding environment, and encouraging one another to deepen our faith. In some ways, though, I'm nothing like this body of believers. I look different. I have a different cultural background. There certainly are churches I could run to where everyone looks like me. That might be easier. Or I could find a church that sings and worships the way I prefer to—or one with a preacher who addresses his congregation in my favorite style.
But ultimately, I know all those preferential things are just that: preferences. If a church doesn't teach sound doctrine, after all, none of those preferences matters, since my soul could be at risk. I want to be in a place where I know I'll be fed the solid Word of God. This promise keeps me returning each Sunday morning; I need to be reminded that my greatest need is the good news, and that Jesus' redeeming love and resurrection is for today—for me today.
Of course, I might be able to find a local church where everyone looks like me, where each aspect of the worship service is exactly how I'd desire, and where sound teaching is proclaimed. But is that really what I need most? How can we fulfill the Great Commission to go and make disciples of all nations if we all only seek churches that make us feel completely comfortable? Does God call us to have every felt need fulfilled?
Monday, March 03, 2014
Since the charge of "legalism" is tossed around carelessly, we should define the terms and see who does and who does not deserve the label. Let me name four classes of legalists.
1. Class one legalists believe that they can do something to earn God's favor and even obtain salvation. The rich young man who asked Jesus what he could do to inherit eternal life fits this category (Matt. 19:16-22, Luke 18:18-23). Many of the world's religions are legalistic in roughly this sense.
2. Class two legalists require believers to submit to man-made commandments, as if they were God's law. Think of the Pharisees who attacked Jesus when he didn't follow their rules for the Sabbath, for washing hands, and for avoiding sinners (Matt. 12:1-14, 15:1-2, Luke 15:1-2).
3. Class three legalists obey God and do good in order to retain God's favor. Here we think of disciples who believe God's daily favor depends on their daily performance. When something goes wrong, they are prone to ask, "What did I do to deserve this? Is God punishing me for something?"
These three errors are different from each other, yet each is a form of legalism. Sadly, some hurl the "legalist" label at anyone eager to understand and obey God's law. Let us remember that Jesus said, "If you love me, you will keep my commandments" (John 14:15; see also Gen. 26:5, Exod. 20:6, Psalm 119, John 15:10).
That said, there is probably one more kind of legalist. It is a borderline case. This person avoids the worst forms of legalism. Yet he so accentuates obedience to God's law that other ideas shrivel up. He thinks of Christian living as little more than obedience to God's law. He reasons, "God says we should tithe, so I tithe. The Bible says we must pray, so I pray. It says submit to leaders, witness, read Scripture, so I submit, witness, and read." We could call this person a Nike Christian. He hears a command and thinks I'll just do it. He reasons, "God has redeemed us at the cost of his Son's life. Now he demands my service in return. This is my duty."
Class four legalists so dwell on God's law that they neglect other aspects of the Christian life—the love of others, the nurture of character, the pursuit of noble but optional projects, and more. They may forget why we obey God. They don't see that the law is more than a command, that it reflects God's very character. That is, we obey, in part, because obedience leads us toward to conformity to him. We don't kill because God gives life. We are faithful in marriage because he is faithful. We tell the truth because God always tells the truth. We are kind to the poor and the alien because God cares for the poor and the alien.
If we return to the man I met a few weeks ago, we might answer him this way. There are Christians who have tried to love both doctrine and holiness in equal measure. In the history of the church, the Puritans and the early Pietists both hoped to live out that ideal. But given our fallenness, it's hard to get it right. Theologically minded believers can act as if right action will surely follow if we just get our ideas straight. And practically minded believers can avoid the great Christ-denying forms of legalism and yet hurt themselves by wandering into a lesser form of legalism (Nike Christianity). So by all means let us strive to love doctrine and holiness in equal measure. And let us love our Lord all the more, for he loves, forgives, and restores us when we miss that mark.Read the rest.
Wednesday, February 19, 2014
In the past month, I learned that two more Christian leaders whom I know have either tarnished or destroyed their ministries. Neither was a friend, in the full sense, yet I've been friendly with both men and respected their talents and the fruit of their labors.
Once again, I wonder: How could a man who studied and knew Scripture and taught it faithfully to others, brazenly violate its most basic principle of love and self-control?
Even as I ask the question, I know I'm liable to self-destructive sin too. Everyone needs Paul's admonition: "Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted" (Gal. 6:1). Self-aware leaders know that we can violate principles we thought we knew.
But how can we repent quickly and keep from hardening ourselves to God's voice as he calls us back to himself?Read the rest.