Whether we like it or not, God intends to give us what we need, not what we now think we want. —C.S. Lewis
Constructive Criticism at Work
Does our work now reflect our grateful response? Do we labor with both humility in ourselves and confidence in the One who is transforming us into his own likeness? He’s the one who took it personal. And he is the one who will personally be the advocate for his people on that last day. For this reason, those who look at our work should be able to see our joy in the artist behind it.
Avoiding a Spirit of Lethargy
Christ knew that there is a gravity to evangelism and we do well to take it to heart. We are not offering membership to a political party, or a social club, or a retreat center; we are offering life and death. Those who hear the gospel and reject it or receive it insincerely heap condemnation on themselves. Those who receive the gospel with faith and repentance receive an inheritance that the world cannot contain.
Monday Morning Ministry Blues Should Fade Fast
Monday has come again. I have worked hard last week, praying and preparing. I worked hard yesterday preaching God’s word. Now I wake up today and am reminded that it is God that gives the increase (1 Cor. 3.6-7). He DOES give the increase. He has grown his people and He will continue to grow his people. And, to be humbled and encouraged again, he will continue to do it through means. The means in the local church are often times through a praying, hard working, faithful pastor. This exercise has a way of revealing pride and fostering humility. And I think that sounds about right.
Ministers, not Masters
We who would claim to be ministers of the Gospel in the service of Christ’s flock need to be on guard against that domineering spirit in our own hearts. It is so easy for those who are naturally gifted as leaders to fall prey to this temptation. You give a prideful and insecure man a title, a little publicity, and a bit of a following, and he immediately starts kingdom-building. He likes being the guy in charge. He likes being the one to make decisions. He likes being the one that everyone looks up to, and respects, and reveres. And before long he becomes enamored with the glory of himself, and his ministry becomes less and less about the magnification of Christ, and more and more about the preservation of his ego.
5 Reasons Your Church Should Be Smaller
When Jim Collins wrote his renowned leadership manual Good to Great, church leaders ate it up. His central thesis, “Good is the enemy of Great,” contends that leaders who become satisfied with a good organization will cease to press toward greatness. My thesis is a complete reversal of Collins’s. I say that Great is the enemy of Good in Christian leadership. The drive to be great is crowding out goodness and virtue as the central focus. Christian leadership has become too pragmatic, while faithfulness has taken a backseat. Pastors have morphed into CEOs, and the worth of the leader has become intrinsically tied to the size of their congregation.
My 2 Cents: Feminism, Stereotypes, and Experiences
When we move past experience and stereotypes to biblical truth, we find that there are some things that are absolutes on which we should not budge. And there are other things that are matters of discernment and liberty. We should be kind but firm on the one, and gracious and flexible on the other.
Discrimination against gay people in Indiana?
by Denny Burk
I applaud Indiana Governor Mike Pence for taking a courageous stand in defense of our first freedom—religious liberty. Gov. Pence has been on the hot-seat ever since he signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) into Indiana law last week. Not only did he sign the bill into law, but he also had the moxie to go on national television to defend the law in the face of scurrilously unfair criticism (see video above).
God The Savior Of All?
If God saves such a great number of people, such a great diversity of people, with such a great salvation – from sin, guilt, death, and hell – but they must put their faith in Christ to experience this, that will get us out of bed in the morning, that will fuel evangelistic passion, and that will make us willing to endure suffering and hardship for the sake of getting that message out.
Children’s Ministry – A Litmus Test Of Biblical Faithfulness In The Church…
Is your Children’s Ministry predominantly teaching the kids about Christian principles and values? What kind of lessons are being taught? Is it mostly about being more kind, honest or obedient? Do they teach the full counsel of God? Are they telling kids about who God is? Is Christ and His grace at the center of the teaching? Do children have Bibles in their hands at church? Do they open those Bibles when they are in Sunday School?
Does Christening and Confirmation Count?
As the pastor of a Baptist church I frequently encounter this recurring couplet of questions posed by prospective members:
“Since I was baptized as an infant, and then later (in my denomination’s confirmation ceremony) confirmed publically that I trust Jesus as my Lord and Savior, why do you believe I should be re-baptized? Is this re-baptism not a renouncing of my previous confirmation ceremony, which to me was a precious and public expression of my personal trust in Jesus?”
Here is the essence of a letter I recently wrote to answer the question. Let’s call the inquirer something that rhymes with dunking.
Your questions are good and show a commendable desire to reconcile what you have been taught with what you are learning now. Here are four handrails for our thoughts to grip as we wade through the issue.
Strengthen Your Assurance
“Salvation comes from the Lord.” Jonah 2:9 (NIV)
A lot of believers lack confidence in what the Lord Jesus Christ is doing in their lives, “If my salvation boils down to my decision to follow Jesus, how do I know that I can keep it up? The best I could do is to say ‘I’ll give it my best shot, and I hope I make it.'” Thank God the Bible doesn’t say, “Salvation comes from me.”
Salvation comes from the Lord! If God is saving me, I can have confidence in his ability to keep me. Augustus Toplady wrote this hymn in the 1700s, but it is still very relevant to us today:
The work which His goodness began,
The arm of His strength will complete;
His promise is ‘Yes’ and ‘Amen’
And never was forfeited yet.
Things future, nor things that are now,
Nor all things below or above,
Can make Him His purpose forgo,
Or sever my soul from His love.
My name from the palms of His hands
Eternity will not erase;
Impressed on His heart it remains
In marks of indelible grace.
Yes, I to the end shall endure
As sure as the earnest is given;
More happy, but not more secure,
the glorified spirits in heaven.
When you grasp more clearly that salvation comes from the Lord, then your confidence in the Lord, who died to save you and lives to keep you, will soar. And so will your assurance that he will never let you go.
Do you struggle with confidence in what the Lord is doing in your life?
That’s this week’s LifeKEY!
Colin S. Smith
This devotional is taken from the sermon series “How to Avoid a God-Centered Life” by Pastor Colin S. Smith. CLICK TO BUY THE SERMON SERIES
Nine Traits of Church Bullies
Church bullies are common in many churches. They wreak havoc and create dissension. They typically must have an “enemy” in the church, because they aren’t happy unless they are fighting a battle. They tend to maneuver to get an official leadership position in the church, such as chairman of the elders or deacons or treasurer. But they may have bully power without any official position.
Church bullies have always been around. But they seem to be doing their work more furiously today than in recent history. Perhaps this look at nine traits of church bullies can help us recognize them before they do too much damage.
- They do not recognize themselves as bullies. To the contrary, they see themselves as necessary heroes sent to save the church from her own self.
- They have personal and self-serving agendas. They have determined what “their” church should look like. Any person or ministry or program that is contrary to their perceived ideal church must be eliminated.
- They seek to form power alliances with weak members in the church. They will pester and convince groups, committees, and persons to be their allies in their cause. Weaker church staff members and church members will succumb to their forceful personalities.
- They tend to have intense and emotional personalities. These bullies use the intensity of their personalities to get their way.
- They are famous for saying “people are saying.” They love to gather tidbits of information and shape it to their own agendas. See my previous post on this one item.
- They find their greatest opportunities in low expectation churches. Many of the church members have an entitlement view of church membership. They seek to get their own needs and preferences fulfilled. They, therefore, won’t trouble themselves to confront and deal with church bullies. That leads to the next issue, which is a consequence of this point
- They are allowed to bully because church members will not stand up to them. I have spoken with pastors and church staff who have been attacked by church bullies. While the bully brings them great pain, they have even greater hurt because most of the church members stood silent and let it happen.
- They create chaos and wreak havoc. A church bully always has his next mission. While he or she may take a brief break from one bullying mission to the next, they are not content unless they are exerting the full force of their manipulative behavior.
- They often move to other churches after they have done their damage. Whether they are forced out or simply get bored, they will move to other churches with the same bullying mission. Some bullies have wreaked havoc in three or more churches.
Church bullying is epidemic in many of our congregations. They must be stopped. In my article on Wednesday, I deal with the topic of preventing church bullying. In the meantime, let me hear from you.
Always Care, Never Kill
It starts under the pretense of alleviating suffering, but it ends up killing the most vulnerable among us. I’m talking about physician-assisted suicide.
Listen Now | Download
I first began thinking about note-taking in relation to what preaching is when I heard Tim Keller, echoing Lloyd-Jones, say in a sermon, “I don’t mind if you take notes at the beginning of a message, but if you’re still taking notes at the end, I feel like I haven’t brought it home.” I thought to myself then, “Hmmm.” It resonated with me and how I both was experiencing the kind of preaching I found to exalt Christ and the kind of preaching I was trying to get better at.
I’ve made huge gains in my personal and professional life from people who could make sailors blush. But here’s the thing: I don’t always feel comfortable directing my audience to do the same. It’s just not worth offending them.
That means great content providers are losing potential audience growth, and potential audiences are missing some great content. So is cussing really worth it?
Take that, hipsters (or something).
Enjoy some good old-fashioned common sense in this post. Sadly, most of the folks who need it won’t read it. Joe Carter also provides some insight into what Indiana’s RFRA actually means here, and Mollie Hemingway slams the botched and biased reporting on the act here.
1 John 2:12-14 gives us one of the most wonderful prose-like theological structures in Scripture. The Apostle, writing about the benefits that believers have in Christ casts it under the figure of little children, young men and fathers. His intention was to explain the benefits that believers have that come to us by means of the Scriptures. On the surface, it appears that John may simply have been seeking to address the children, young men and older men in the congregations to whom he is writing; but, a consideration of what he says, namely, that all the saving benefits belong to all believers who are united to Christ–leads to a very different conclusion.
This is What the Brave New World Looks Like
by Bill Muehlenberg
Imagine a world where children are treated as mere commodities and where those who seek to defend children are treated as villains and outcasts. And imagine those who seek to use children for their own selfish ends are treated as heroes and saints.
Imagine a dangerous and high-risk lifestyle which nearly everyone considered to be socially unacceptable until just recently now becoming the most celebrate, promoted, protected and privileged lifestyle in the West, with anyone daring to disagree with it treated as a criminal.
brave new worldImagine our elites and most of the mainstream media doing everything they can to promote this lifestyle, and doing everything they can to demonise, vilify and punish those brave voices who dare to stand against this downward trend to depravity and wickedness.
Imagine our sons going overseas to fight and die for freedom, only to find that today freedom is really only reserved for the militant lobby groups and their supporters, while actively taken away from those who refuse to go along with them.
Imagine censorship of anything which goes against the reigning political correctness. Imagine media outlets refusing to carry pro-children and pro-family advertisements. Imagine those concerned about the state of our society and the wellbeing of our children being viciously attacked and vilified for their efforts.
The “Empire” Strikes Back
Is the “Persian Empire” getting bigger, or is that just your imagination? If you’ve been paying attention to the news headlines lately, you might have noticed that Iran is tightening its grip on Arab states, from Iraq to Lebanon, and Syria to Yemen, all ahead of a nuclear deal. Who is the man behind what […]
It’s the justices, stupid
by Denny Burk
Rod Dreher might be accused of being a “Debbie Downer” for his dire predictions about religious liberty, but I think his analysis is spot-on. In an essay posted this morning, he argues that the take-away from the Indiana RFRA is not the law itself, but the media “freak out” that happened in response. It reveals just how deep our nation’s indifference is to religious liberty and just how willing some of our elites are to stamp it out. And it won’t stop with RFRA’s. He says that churches that support traditional marriage will soon face attacks on their tax-exempt status. If you think this isn’t coming, you aren’t paying attention.
You need to read Dreher’s entire piece, but here are the political implications he draws in the conclusion:
The Abortion Spa: Rebranding Infanticide
by Denny Burk
What do abortionists do when they are losing the abortion argument? When their “blob of cells” trope has collapsed under the moral weight of ultrasound images? When everyone can now see that the humanity of the unborn is as plain as the nose on their face? What do they do? They double-down on deception.
Equipping Eve: Christ-less Checklists and Holiness (Part 2)
In this episode, we continue our discussion from J.C. Ryle’s book, Holiness, on growing in grace. What are some of the marks of growing in grace, as revealed to us in Scripture? Most importantly, why do we strive for holiness? Click here to listen to the latest episode of Equipping Eve. Click here to listen to ‘Christ-less Checklists and Holiness (Part 1). Further Listening/Reading
Did you ever expect to see those three words linked to the U.S.-Israel relationship? Have we fallen down a hole and we now are in an “Alice-in-Wonderland” world? America embraces her enemies and lifts sanctions on Iran. She will likely place sanctions on Israel. It is an upside down world. Is the Mad Hatter in charge?
Things aren’t falling apart–they’re falling in place.
The entire world is in the process of abandoning Israel which the Bible foretells in Zechariah 12:3. It is ultimately fulfilled in the Tribulation but the process begins much sooner.
Here’s what some are saying.
ARTICLES I LIKE FROM AROUND THE WEB:
(Click title to go to full article)
Never Sorry Enough – “I am not easily offended. People will sometimes apologize to me for something they have said or something they have done, concerned that I was offended at their behavior. But I rarely am. It usually doesn’t even occur to me to be offended. But then there is that one situation with that one friend.”
Culture War — Now More Than Ever – “In 1992, Pat Buchanan put the phrase “culture war” on the map with his speech at the 1992 Republican National Convention. Since that time, there’s been a lot of water under the bridge, but — we should be careful to note — it is all the same river.”
“My God, My God, Why Hast Thou Forsaken Me?” – “It is noon, and Jesus has been on the cross for three pain-filled hours. Suddenly, darkness falls on Calvary and “over all the land” (v. 45). By a miraculous act of Almighty God, midday becomes midnight. This supernatural darkness is a symbol of God’s judgment on sin. The physical darkness signals a deeper and more fearsome darkness.”
Discrimination against gay people in Indiana? – “Critics allege that this law allows citizens to “discriminate” against gay people. The accusation is completely misinformed, and the media have played a big part in the dissemination of ignorance about what this law actually does and doesn’t do. I won’t rehash the law here, but I will direct you to Joe Carter’s helpful explainer as well as that of John McCormack who puts the Indiana law side-by-side with the nearly identical federal law which was signed into law by Pres. Clinton in 1993.”
Contend Mondays: Our Heart Attitude and the Gospel – “Answers In Genesis posted some handy acronyms to help us remember the attitude of our heart while we share the gospel. I’m not the best when it comes to remembering acronyms, especially when I create them like this…”
John MacArthur – What the Cross Means to God
Why Ray Comfort’s Bible is so Big
Challenge Response: You Can’t Trust the Christian Authors of the Gospels
“If you alter or obscure the Biblical portrait of God in order to attract converts, you don’t get converts to God, you get converts to an illusion. This is not evangelism but deception.” – John Piper
Our Time is Short
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The New Believer’s Guide is a series of articles designed to show you how to walk in the new life Christ has given you— a life of faith and freedom.
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