“I Hate You” – Do You Actually Believe This, or Do You Just Keep Repeating It Because it Works?
It’s true that we preach repentance. Holiness. Obedience. That we must change when we come to Him. But to characterize that as “hate,” well that’s just an old-fashioned, damnable lie. It’s slander and you know it.
So do you actually believe it, or do you just keep repeating it because it works?
Our Problem With Princes
The Westminster Confession of Faith tells us God governs even over the sins of men, ordering and governing them to his own holy end (See WCF 5.4). God is not in heaven wringing his hands over these disorderly justices. He turns their hearts whichever way he wills. We do not know the final destination of this chapter of history, but we know God is in control of it.
Court Upholds Law Society’s Decision Not To Accredit Trinity Western University
“Simply put, in balancing the interests of the applicants to freedom of religion and of the respondent’s members and future members to equal opportunity, in the course of the exercise of its statutory authority, the respondent arrived at a reasonable conclusion,” reads the decision.
David and Achish: The Minority Report (Part I)
I argue: that David was doing what he could to serve God in desperate circumstances. And in doing so, he continues to act as a type of Christ. In this story then, David is the king in exile with nowhere to lay his head. He is an alien king, a stranger to his own land – one already inaugurated as king, but whose kingship is not yet fully consummated. In this, he models the ministry of Christ, who also lived among us as an alien and exile, rejected by His own, and received by Gentiles.
Hope College and Belmont University to Offer Benefits to Same-Sex Spouses
“Here at Hope College we are a family of Christians who hold diverse and often conflicting points of view,” Knapp wrote. “We understand that the new legal definition of marriage is an intensely heartfelt matter for many. We also recognize that not everyone will agree with decisions that have been made; that is to be expected.”
Gay Marriage: What the Church and God’s People Need to Do Now
We must not be cowed into silence in speaking about further societal consequences and about the future of religious liberty, two major issues embedded in this controversy. But, again, we should not place our faith in any human political or legal structure as our ultimate protector or savior. Jesus said that his kingdom was “not of this world”—neither is ours. The mission of the church continues. The church cannot be either dismissed or destroyed. It remains God’s vehicle of redemption, worked out through his people. That mission will endure until he returns.
Trusting Christ to Provide
He was showing them that He would supply what they needed for minister. Like the symbolic act of washing their feet in the Upper Room, the miraculous feeding of the multitude was a symbolic lesson for the disciples. Astonishingly, the lesson culminated, not in Jesus supplying the provisions to the disciples to minister to the multitude, but in his provision for the disciples themselves. Luke tells us, “They all ate and were filled, and twelve baskets of the leftover fragments were taken up by them” (9:17). Twelve baskets of leftovers! Jesus provided one basket for each of the disciples.
Social Justice Bullies: The Authoritarianism of Millennial Social Justice
This particular brand of social justice advocacy assaults reason in a particularly frightening way — by outright denying it and utilizing fear-mongering to discourage dissent. There is no gray: only black and white. One must mimic the orthodoxy or be barred forcibly from the chapel and jeered at by the townspeople. To disagree with the millennial social justice orthodoxy is to make a pariah of oneself willingly. Adherence to the narrative is the single litmus test for collegiate (and beyond) social acceptance these days.
Demythologizing Adam: Case Unproven
If scientific plausibility should guide the expectations we bring to Scripture, then why would we be Christians? Why would we believe that the Son of God became a man? That he died and rose again after three days? That he ascended into heaven? These fundamental Christian beliefs contradict everything we know from mainstream science. If we can no longer believe Adam was historical, then why should we believe in the resurrection?…We’re told that we can’t affirm a historical Adam because it’s scientifically unbelievable, but why trust Paul on the resurrection when that, too, is scientifically unbelievable? Or, to flip the script, if we believe the resurrection, then a historical Adam is no biggie.
The what!? OK, for those of you not fully up on their biblical terminology, I refer of course to something found in the gospel accounts. In Matthew 3:1-12 we read about John the Baptist, how he is preparing the way for Jesus, and what he says of his work. As we read in verses 11-12:
“I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”
Here John says that a major work of Jesus will be one of separation and division. He will separate the wheat from the chaff. As we read the biblical account of Jesus we find this happening all the time. There will always be a separation of those who are truly his from those who are not his.
And as I have written so often now, in one sense the push for all things homosexual may be a blessing in disguise. This is doing a terrific job of making a clear separation in our ranks: those who remain true to the word of God and all that it teaches about human sexuality in general and homosexuality in particular versus those who are wilting under the pressure, succumbing to the world and its agenda, and effectively showing us what their true colours are.
So in that sense the homosexual juggernaut crushing everything in its path in the West may be performing a very helpful service here. We are rather quickly and decisively learning who are truly Christ’s and who are not. If we in effect call God a liar on these issues and tell him he and his Word are wrong on this, then that tells us pretty much all we need to know about such folks.
Those persons are tares or goats. They are not wheat or sheep. Something this basic is a great way to separate the men from the boys when it comes to biblical Christianity. So I am sort of grateful that this is now happening. It tells me rather simply and easily who is a real disciple of Christ and who is just a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
Examples of this are occurring every day. And it is not just with individual believers either. There are churches and entire denominations going down the path of pro-sodomy apostasy. Just the other day the Episcopalian Church in America approved of homosexual “marriage”.
And we also have parachurch groups and other Christian institutions now declaring their hand on these matters. Thus we have Bible colleges and seminaries which used to be strongholds of biblical orthodoxy now utterly collapsing and caving in when it comes to homosexuality.
Consider this very recent and very tragic case. Baylor University in Texas, the largest Baptist college in the world, has now decided that homosexual acts are just peachy. Yep, you heard me that right. As one report says:
Fresh off the SCOTUS ruling legalizing homosexual marriage, activists are pressing their advantage and seeking to silence anyone who disapproves of an act that the Bible clearly calls sinful. Businesses are being threatened, and churches and Christian ministries are being warned that any public statements disapproving of homosexual marriage will be costly. The battle for […]
“The View” talks about Christian bakers in Oregon
I think it’s helpful to remember how the average person is processing the national debate over legal gay marriage and religious liberty. It is very clear that many people aren’t even aware of what exactly the dispute is about.
A recent discussion on “The View” is a case in point (see video above). The panel was discussing the Christian bakers in Oregon who were recently fined $135,000 for refusing to participate in a lesbian wedding. Read more of this post
Director Amy Berg exposed the cover-up of pedophilia in the Catholic Church in her 2006 Oscar-nominated documentary, “Deliver Us from Evil.” On Friday night, July 3, New Yorkers can see her explosive new documentary on how pedophiles operate in Hollywood and cover up their crimes. Her film “An Open Secret” is being shown at the […]
Christian Headlines reports:
When the trailer for “Audacity,” Ray Comfort’s new movie on homosexuality, was removed from YouTube over the weekend, he suspected foul play.
“The trailer had been removed ‘as a violation of YouTube’s policy against spam, scams, and commercially deceptive content,'” said Comfort. “But since we found nothing in it that fit that description, we naturally concluded that YouTube didn’t like the content and yanked it.”
In attempting to get the trailer back online, however, Comfort did receive an explanation.
Christian Headlines reports that so-called Christian university, Baylor, bows to political correctness:
Baylor University, the world’s largest Baptist college, has lifted its ban on “homosexual acts” in the school’s sexual conduct policy.
“These changes were made because we didn’t believe the language reflected Baylor’s caring community,” spokeswoman Lori Fogleman said in an email to the Houston Chronicle.
Students, alumni and others had appealed for years to the private Texas-based university to drop the ban on gay sex, according to the Houston Chron.
Under the new policy, which was approved by Baylor’s board in May, the university will be guided by “the biblical understanding that human sexuality is a gift from God.” Sex “is to be expressed in the context of marital fidelity.”
Life In Post-Christian America
For the greater part of our history, a Judeo-Christian worldview has been predominant in the USA. About 100 years ago, the modernist controversy hit both church and society. In some early battles, the Biblical values of a created order and a fallen man won the day (the scopes trials, for example). In the end, however, these values slowly gave way to a completely modernist worldview which is materialistic and humanistic.
Hitler marginalized, vilified and then openly persecuted the Jews; a process that led directly to Auschwitz.
Christian business owners, lawyers, parents, judges, county clerks, organizations, universities, hospitals, adoption agencies and other individuals and groups now stand marginalized, openly vilified.
Persecution is coming.
Jimmy Carter on ‘Gay Marriage’: ‘I Think Jesus Would Encourage Any Love Affair’
“I believe Jesus would. I don’t have any verse in Scripture,” he told the Huffington Post on Tuesday. “I believe Jesus would approve gay marriage, but that’s just my own personal belief. I think Jesus would encourage any love affair if it was honest and sincere and was not damaging to anyone else, and I don’t see that gay marriage damages anyone else.”
I Told You Things Are Getting Crazier – David Limbaugh
The world is upside down, inside out, sideways, crazy, nutso. Bad is good; up is down. Left is right; right is wrong. Evil is good; insanity is sanity. Abnormal is normal. Circles are squares. Hot is cold. Luke warm is red hot — among Republicans, anyway. Common sense is uncommon. The world is otherworldly. Dissent is “hate.” Diversity means conformity. The good guys are the bad guys; virtue is vice; sophistry is intellectualism; jerks are celebrated; debauchery is glorified; the holy is debauched. Let me share some of these headlines, which speak for themselves — loudly and depressingly.
With his usual emphasis on social justice, the Jesuit pope called for the goods of the world to be shared by everyone, not just “exploited by the rich.” According to a Fox News report:
Francis will visit the elderly and give a pep talk to local priests before flying to Bolivia, where the environment, ministering to the poor and the government’s tense relations with the Catholic Church are high on the agenda.
Bolivian President Evo Morales, an Aymara Indian known for anti-imperialist and socialist rhetoric, will greet Francis at the airport and join him for a speech to local officials and diplomats before the pontiff goes to the Bolivian city of Santa Cruz. The stop in La Paz is being kept to four hours to spare the 78-year-old pope from the taxing 4,000-meter (13,120-foot) elevation.
Check out CRN’s research paper on Roman Catholicism
“You can’t continue to have a college that is seen as hateful, that is seen as discriminatory toward gay people, regardless of whether that college be Christian or otherwise,” said Shane Windmeyer, the executive director of Campus Pride, which promotes LGBT life at universities. Charisma News reports that the world’s largest Baptist university, Baylor, has […]
Christian Colleges Falling Deeper into Apostasy As They Cave in to Supreme Court Ruling
Lighthouse Trails has been tracking Christian colleges, universities, and seminaries for many year now, documenting the steady decline into apostasy as the majority of them have now begun to embrace contemplative spirituality through their Spiritual Formation programs.
Video: Responding to Same-Sex Marriage
For more great resources, visit Stand to Reason.
Four Leadership Lessons from a King Who Finished Poorly
Unfortunately, we don’t have to look far to see failure in leadership. All leaders need to know what God wants them to do and not to do.
The books of 1 and 2 Kings share many lessons on life and leadership from Israel’s many kings – the good, the bad, and the ugly. Each king’s legacy is typically summarized in a statement describing if the king lived a life pleasing to the Lord or if he followed the way of other wicked kings. The portrayal of King Jehu’s story in 2 Kings 9-10 recently struck me. Here is a brief summary:
- Jehu was chosen by God and anointed by Elisha to be king of Israel and destroy the wicked house of Ahab, which was filled with Baal worshippers, as the Lord had promised him earlier. Jehu had a divine calling by God to destroy the house of Ahab.
- Jehu then made quick work of assassinating the current king of Israel, as commanded, but didn’t stop there — he also assassinated the king of Judah, something not commanded.
- Then Jehu exterminated Baal worshippers from the land by gathering them all together in the house of Baal — and sending in men to slay them. He even ensured that worshippers of the Lord were spared. This was to fulfill his calling and the word God spoke against Ahab earlier in Kings. 2 Kings 10:28 summarizes this event: “Thus Jehu wiped out Baal from Israel.” (That’s good!)
Then something caught my attention. Verse 29 says,
But Jehu did not turn aside from the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, which he made Israel to sin — that is, the golden calves that were in Bethel and in Dan.
Even though Jehu obeyed the Word of the Lord by successfully campaigning against one type of idol worshippers, he did not give up the idols that he himself treasured. Even so, the Lord both rewarded him for his good actions (2 Kings 10:30) and punished him for the bad (2 Kings 10:32).
Verse 31 provides a biting summary of the rest of Jehu’s life,
But Jehu was not careful to walk in the law of the Lord, the God of Israel, with all his heart. He did not turn from the sins of Jeroboam, which he made Israel to sin.
Like many kings mentioned in the Bible, Jehu is a mixed bag. I don’t want to leave a legacy like that. Here are a few leadership lessons we can glean from Jehu:
1. God wants your whole heart.
This is a continual theme in 1-2 Kings and in the whole Bible. God doesn’t want a share of your affections and love — he wants 100%. Just because we forsake one idol in the name of the Lord doesn’t mean we don’t have others to forsake. Our goal must not be to solely destroy idols but to replace idol worship with the worship of the One True God.
As we pursue him with greater fervency and intensity, God will expose idols by his grace and help us forsake them. As Calvin said, our hearts are “idol factories,” constantly churning out false gods to worship. We must constantly be on watch of worshipping something or someone other than God alone.
2. A divine calling doesn’t ensure a life pleasing to God.
Jehu had a divine calling and was given a very specific task — to eliminate Ahab’s house and destroy Baal worshippers. He did that, but he did not take care to walk in the law of the Lord as the kings of God’s people were commanded to do (Deuteronomy 17:14-20). Jehu’s story, which started with a divine anointing and prophecy, teaches us that a great start doesn’t mean a good finish. We may feel a divine calling on our lives, but we need to continually submit ourselves to the Lord and his Word with all of our hearts.
3. God rewards justly.
God rewarded Jehu for the good things he had done and punished him for others. For those who are in Christ, we know that Jesus took our sins upon himself and that we will not be punished eternally for them. But that doesn’t mean we won’t have consequences for our actions here on this earth. Our sin might affect us, those close to us, or possibly an entire nation, like we so often see evidenced in the kings of Israel. At the Great White Throne of Judgment (Revelation 20:11-15), God will reward believers according to their works. Our eternal rewards should push us to live lives that honor God in every detail.
4. Success can make us complacent.
After we succeed, we can become overconfident and think our jobs are done. Jehu took care of part of his assignment from God by destroying Baal worshippers — but he didn’t take care to walk in God’s ways or forsake his own idolatry. Success can lead to pride and complacency if we are not careful. Jehu should have humbly thanked God for his help and rededicated himself to his service. When we succeed, let us take heed that we don’t fall (1 Corinthians 10:12).
I have noticed in my own heart that after God uses me, I am susceptible to coast spiritually and pat myself on the back, not continuing to seek the Lord like I should. Just because he did use me doesn’t mean I’m done needing him!
Thankfully, the Old Testament provides good examples of kings, along with the bad ones. It also points us forward to the only King, Jesus Christ, who did walk perfectly in the law of the Lord with all of his heart — the One who will reign perfectly forever and ever.
The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever. (Revelation 11:15)
- Five Effects of the Holy Spirit on Christian Leaders
- Four Things God Supplies to Overwhelmed Leaders
- What Did God Want in a King?
The post Four Leadership Lessons from a King Who Finished Poorly appeared first on Unlocking the Bible.
Supreme Court’s Re-definition of Marriage
Q: Hello Dr. Craig,
With the recent Supreme court decision regarding same sex marriage I reread some of your Q/A response regarding homosexuality. In a question regarding the connection between interracial marriage and same sex marriage you said “Once we start down that route, anything goes: a man and two women, a man and a child, two men and a goat, etc. I see no reason at all to start down that road.” with regards to same sex marriage. My question is does this statement constitute a slippery slope fallacy? My concern is that non believers would easily dismiss it.
Dr. Craig’s Answer: I’m going to use your question, R.C., an excuse for addressing the Supreme Court’s tragic and misguided decision to re-define marriage in Obergefell v. Hodges.
We need to understand clearly that that is exactly what the Supreme Court has done. By ruling that same-sex unions can count as marriage the Court has implicitly redefined what marriage is. Marriage is no longer taken to be essentially heterosexual, as traditionally conceived, but has been implicitly redefined so that men can be married to men and women to women.
The Court’s majority opinion, written by Anthony Kennedy, shows a clear consciousness of what the Court is doing. Referring to the traditional view, Kennedy writes, “Marriage, in their view, is by its nature a gender-differentiated union of man and woman. This view long has been held—and continues to be held—in good faith by reasonable and sincere people here and throughout the world” (my emphasis). It is this view which Court’s majority declares is now obsolete.
What is ironic about Kennedy’s opinion is that he eloquently extols marriage as foundational to American society and to civilization itself. He writes,
From their beginning to their most recent page, the annals of human history reveal the transcendent importance of marriage. The lifelong union of a man and a woman always has promised nobility and dignity to all persons, without regard to their station in life. Marriage is sacred to those who live by their religions and offers unique fulfillment to those who find meaning in the secular realm. Its dynamic allows two people to find a life that could not be found alone, for a marriage becomes greater than just the two persons. Rising from the most basic human needs, marriage is essential to our most profound hopes and aspirations.
The centrality of marriage to the human condition makes it unsurprising that the institution has existed for millennia and across civilizations. Since the dawn of history, marriage has transformed strangers into relatives, binding families and societies together.
One would think that this provides good reason for preserving the traditional concept of marriage, rather than radically redefining it! Instead, the Court throws caution to the wind and has decided to revise this fundamental cultural institution.
In the Court’s view, marriage should no longer be considered to have an essence or nature but is a mere social convention, indeed, whatever the Court declares it to be. The majority opinion justifies this move by pointing out how marriage has evolved: for example, marriage was once viewed as “an arrangement by the couple’s parents” but no longer is so today. Such examples, however, concern only contingent properties of marriage, not its nature or essence (indeed, arranged marriages are still common in parts of the world today). Such contingent changes provide no grounds for the fundamental, essential change wrought by the Court.
By redefining marriage the Court has handed homosexual activists what they have aimed and worked for: the deconstruction of marriage itself…
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Former atheists speak: 44 Quotes
by James Bishop
Here follows a list of quotes I’ve collected and compiled from over the last two or so years (my digital quote library is bursting at its edges!). There is no particular form that these quotes take, rather each is from the unique story of each former atheist. Where possible, I’ve left links that readers can follow to find out more about each conversion testimony, or articles that they’ve authored. The others are predominantly from books that i’ve read.
Wallace is a cold-case homicide detective, assistant professor of apologetics at Biola University, Christian case maker and author. He was once a vocal atheist.
- “In the end, I came to the conclusion that the gospels were reliable eyewitness accounts that delivered accurate information about Jesus, including His crucifixion and Resurrection. But that created a problem for me. If Jesus really was who He said He was, then Jesus was God Himself. If Jesus truly did what the gospel eyewitnesses recorded, then Jesus is still God Himself. As someone who used to reject anything supernatural, I had to make a decision about my naturalistic presuppositions.“
-Warner Wallace (‘Jesus Is Evidence That God Exists.’)
- “If skeptics were willing to give the Gospels the same ‘benefit of the doubt’ they are willing to give other ancient documents, the Gospels would easily pass the test of authorship.”
-Warner Wallace (‘Cold Case Christianity.’)
Frank is a mathematical physicist and cosmologist, holding a joint appointment in the Departments of Mathematics and Physics at Tulane University.
- “When I began my career as a cosmologist some twenty years ago, I was a convinced atheist. I never in my wildest dreams imagined that one day I would be writing a book purporting to show that the central claims of Judeo-Christian theology are in fact true, that these claims are straightforward deductions of the laws of physics as we now understand them. I have been forced into these conclusions by the inexorable logic of my own special branch of physics.”
-Frank Tipler (‘The Physics Of Immortality.’)
Alister is theologian, scientist, and a priest. He has delivered various lectures and presentations on God, faith, and science.
- “Atheism, I began to realize, rested on a less-than-satisfactory evidential basis. The arguments that had once seemed bold, decisive, and conclusive increasingly turned out to be circular, tentative, and uncertain.”
-Alister McGrath (‘Breaking the Science-Atheism Bond.’)
- “Christianity offers a worldview that leads to the generation of moral values and ideals that are able to give moral meaning and dignity to our existence.”
-Alister McGrath (‘Christian Quotes: Alister McGrath.’)
Lee was once a self-described militant atheist who worked at the Chicago Tribune. He is now a widely known Christian author, journalist, apologist and pastor, as well as author of the book Case For Christ…
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We Are Friends, Not Slaves
Contemplative Prayer or the Holy Spirit
By Ray Yungen Two authors from Great Britain portray a stunningly clear picture of New Age spirituality. They explain: [T]he keynote of it appears to be a movement for synthesis derived from an understanding of the underlying unity behind all things and the sense of oneness that this brings.
Preachers on Preaching
Here are ten reminders for those who preach and teach the Word of God, as articulated by some of history’s greatest preachers.
Protecting your church from SSM lawsuits
Part of stewardship is caring for what the Lord has entrusted to us. Elders and pastors have a stewardship to shepherd their people, and they also have a stewardship to protect their church’s property and resources (building, finances, etc.) from lawsuits.
When the same-sex marriage case was argued before the Supreme Court this year, the US Solicitor General, Donald Verrilli, said that if the court rules for same-sex marriage (which they did) then tax-exempt status for churches “is going to be an issue.”
With that kind of clarity, churches really have no excuse for being unorganized.
[As a side note, I’m old enough to remember when the mantra of the gay-rights movement was “don’t like gay marriage? Don’t have one!” Ha. Those were the good old days].
So what can churches do to protect themselves? Well, it is interesting that in God’s providence the main way churches can protect themselves is by doing things that good ecclesiology suggests anyway. In other words, many of the things we can do to protect ourselves (codifying membership, having a clear statement of faith, having standards for elders, by practicing church discipline, etc.), also serve to make our churches more spiritually mature.
In order to appreciate these steps, you first have to understand the threat and how a lawsuit would likely play out. Most churches do weddings, and many churches allow outside groups to rent/use their building. Suppose a same-sex couple calls your church and asks if you could host her wedding. You decline. You are sued for discrimination (and if you don’t think this kind of thing happens, read this).
To win their case, the couple would likely have to demonstrate a few things: that your church is open to the public, that your church lets others use your facility, and that you refused their wedding because of their sex. Even in states with religious protection laws, there is serious liability for churches under these circumstances.
Here are some practical steps that every evangelical church should follow to protect themselves from such a scenario:
What Does God Say About Rage?
Rage is anger run amok. It rears up in domestic violence and in other horrible scenarios. Listen to the culture’s handling of anger and the biblical answers.
The FDA believes it has the authority to tell you what you can eat. It is mistaken.
Imagine for a moment that you lived in a tyrannical nation.
Is Your Church a Worshiping Church? (Part 2)
As I write tomorrow’s daily devotion available on this site, it occurs to me that this devotion applies much to our church assessment question for today: Is your church a worshiping church?
TEXTS AND APPLICATION: The prophet Isaiah ministered during the reigns of four kings of Judah, beginning with Uzziah (Isa. 1:1). It is the prophet’s words about worship that give me much pause today. God’s people were apparently faithful in their rituals before God, but faulty in their relationship with God. Listen to the condemnation expressed through the prophet:
Isa. 1:11-15 “What are all your sacrifices to Me?” asks the Lord. “I have had enough of burnt offerings and rams and the fat of well-fed cattle; I have no desire for the blood of bulls, lambs, or male goats. When you come to appear before Me, who requires this from you—this trampling of My courts? Stop bringing useless offerings. Your incense is detestable to Me. New Moons and Sabbaths, and the calling of solemn assemblies—I cannot stand iniquity with a festival. I hate your New Moons and prescribed festivals. They have become a burden to Me; I am tired of putting up with them. When you lift up your hands in prayer, I will refuse to look at you; even if you offer countless prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are covered with blood.”
How much this text says to our churches today! Our people—beginning with me, I’m sure, at times—go through all the motions of worship. We establish our rituals and follow them as if they were written in a concrete worship bulletin. We give our offerings and celebrate our fellowships. What we do not do is deal with the sin in our lives. Like the Hebrews, we assume our worship rituals equal a strong relationship with God — and we fail to see that God “cannot stand iniquity with a festival.”
Our worship rituals without repentance become nothing more than trampling on the court of God; we might wear out the carpet of a worship center, but we give God no room to wear out our heart in contrition.
Then, we wonder why God does not respond to our prayers with our hands lifted high. The answer should be clear . . . .
PRAYER: I want to know that my individual worship and the corporate worship of my church are pure offerings before God. Pray our worship would be genuine and our prayers would consequently be heard.
10 Fine Lines of Church Leadership Tension
By Chuck Lawless
Dr. Rainer recently wrote on “Nine Common Tensions Pastors Face.” Today, I add ten tensions to that list – tensions often separated by a fine line:
- Vision vs. ego. I want church leaders to long for God to use them to do something significant for His glory. I want them praying for God to mark history through them so the nations might know His name. There’s a fine line, though, between “God, use me mightily” and “God, make sure the press knows how much You’ve used me.”
- Full effort vs. self-dependence. Frankly, we don’t need any more lazy ministers of the gospel. We need leaders who give their absolute best – learning well, planning fully, working diligently, assessing honestly, taking their paycheck without shame. There’s a fine line, though, between giving full effort and depending on self rather than on God.
- Faith vs. recklessness. Without faith, it is impossible to please God (Heb. 11:6). By faith, the heroes of Hebrews 11 did some phenomenal things – including dying for the sake of the gospel. There’s a fine line, though, between living by faith and making reckless choices that we claim as faith steps.
- God-centered pragmatism vs. man-centered pragmatism. It’s right to ask the questions, “Is God using our church to make disciples – and if not, why not? Might we need to change something to do God’s work more effectively?” There’s a fine line, though, between asking these questions and making changes that lose a Godward focus.
- Disciplemaking church vs. classroom. Few people would deny that several generations of church leaders have failed in discipleship. We’ve taught too little doctrine and expected too little accountability. There’s a fine line, though, between addressing this problem biblically and turning the church into a classroom where information transfer is assumed to be enough.
- Burden vs. discouragement. I long to see church leaders who are broken over their communities. We need leaders who grieve the unreached living in their ministry area and around the world – leaders who cannot help but weep over the lost. There’s a fine line, though, between bearing that Great Commission weight and getting discouraged and defeated if few people respond.
- Corporately evangelizing vs. not personally evangelizing. Here, I’m thinking primarily of preaching pastors. Gospel-centered preaching should always point to the cross and call hearers to respond in faith and repentance. There’s a fine line, though, between evangelizing through this means and granting oneself permission to ignore personal evangelism.
- Contextualization vs. compromise. Contextualization may be as simple as speaking the gospel in the language of the hearers or as complicated as understanding the worldview of an unreached people group – and is, in my opinion, a necessary task in sharing the gospel. There’s a fine line, though, between legitimate contextualization and compromise to reach more people.
- Building God’s kingdom vs. building our own kingdom. Building God’s kingdom includes reaching non-believers, equipping believers, and addressing social issues. “Success” might even bring legitimate opportunities for more godly influence in His kingdom. There’s a fine line, though, between using our gifts fully for God’s kingdom and thinking God’s kingdom needs us.
- Global focus vs. “Jerusalem neglect.” I am deeply grateful for churches that engage the nations, pray for unreached people groups, and send their own to the ends of the earth on short-term or long-term commitments. There’s a fine line, though, between prioritizing the nations and ignoring the local community (and vice-versa, for that matter).
Here’s the point: we need to live on the fine line that separates these tensions. For example, the enemy would not want us on the line of vision vs. ego; he would want us to have no vision at all or be arrogant about our vision. He would want us to be lazy or self-dependent, faithless or reckless, unconcerned or discouraged. We counter his calls to the extremes by living on the line – and trusting God to empower us and guard us there.
What other tensions come to mind for you?
Forget the First Amendment
Adding tyranny to injustice, an Oregon official not only fined Christian bakers for refusing to bake a cake for a gay wedding, he has ordered them not to speak about it.
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Is Your Church an Evangelizing Church?
During this blog post series, I am trying to help you assess your church by providing ten questions to evaluate your church’s approach to each of the purposes of the church: worship, evangelism, discipleship, ministry, prayer, and fellowship.
Christians are often divided because we are by nature defensive. Too many divisions in the church — specifically in personal relationships — stem from insecurity and defensiveness in the face of accusation, whether real or imagined.
Christianity has grown significantly in Mexico over the last few decades, especially among Mexico’s indigenous population who suffer discrimination and oppression, and typically live as second class citizens.
A Self-Righteous Wife
I’ve been married for eleven years. Eleven years for some seems like forever and for others like just a beginning. In our short (or long?) years of married life, I have struggled off and on with a fear of not measuring up to the ideal wife. You know what wife I’m thinking of: the one who is “far more precious than jewels.”
Not a Measuring Stick
This woman apparently wakes up super early—it’s still dark outside, and she has already taken care of her children. She’s business savvy and also sews clothing. Who does both? Well, apparently she does. She is generous to the poor and caring. The woman is careful with her time; she will have nothing to do with idleness. If you haven’t already guessed, I’m writing about the Proverbs 31 woman. This beautiful character in Scripture is not intended to be a mandate or to pressure women. But how often have we gone to this list of virtues and despaired or lamented? She does good and not harm to her husband all his life? we think. Well, I’ve failed. I was sinfully angry just yesterday.
Even when I fell into the temptation to judge my husband and attempted to meet the perceived standards of those around me, God remained unswervingly committed to forgiving me.
My first year of marriage was a mixture of trying to be this perfect wife and trying to change my husband. I struggled greatly with self-righteousness. I wanted us to fit a certain mold. I had a fear of not measuring up to this ideal—you know, the “godly couple.” My fear mounted that we wouldn’t be good, godly examples, while I was also judging my husband almost relentlessly.
And I know I’m not alone in this temptation.
I’ve spoken to newly married girlfriends who have told me of their frustrations with their new spouse. There is generally some area in which these women wish their husbands would improve, and they are growing weary waiting. While their husbands may need to grow, it’s easy and common for the wives to struggle with being judgmental and self-righteous. We can look at our men, see sin, and be too quick and eager to point it out. Worse, we can look at them and not see the grace so evident in their lives and our own sinfulness.
I relate. That was me.
A Redwood-Sized Plank
I remember my wedding like it was yesterday. It was a cold yet beautiful December day. All of our decorations were red, white, and green to reflect the season. It was exactly what we hoped it would be and more.
After the honeymoon (which was all but magical), we returned to our home eager to start our new lives together as one. But soon the fairy tale ended, and real life began. It didn’t look quite like I had imagined. There were no glaring problems. No deep-rooted sin issues. Yet I was extremely aware of my husband’s shortcomings, and I wasn’t holding back on sharing my thoughts.
I was quick to point out sin and eager to share “observations” about how he could change or grow as a leader, all under the pretense of being his helper. I judged my husband harshly our first year of marriage. I thought I was right, and I played the role of his “holy spirit.” Like I said, I masked it as being his helper. Wrong!
But wasn’t I helping him by sharing my wisdom and insights into every single part of his life? I mean, surely he needed my help to become a godly man, right? Let’s just say that there was a plank in my eye the size of a California redwood, but all I could see was the speck in his (Matt. 7:3).
I was filled with self-righteousness and self-absorption.
Behind all this nagging was a desire to have it all together. Also, so much of my corrections stemmed from a desire to fill some perceived need of mine and had little to do with his sanctification. My desire was that he would change for me, not to please and glorify God. My observations were generally (though not always) selfish.
Learning to Enjoy
I’m so very thankful the Lord has given my husband and me more years to grow. Now, eleven years after our wedding day, I’m still learning how to lovingly help my husband, but even more, I am learning how to enjoy him. I’ve learned that God has designed us both for a purpose, and we do not need to live up to the standards we set for ourselves or the pressures we think we may experience from outside of us. I have grown in looking for areas of grace and for gifts. God has helped me use my tongue to encourage, build up, and praise my husband for how God has made him rather than to tear him down for how God didn’t make him.
And just as I’m not surprised by my sin, I’m equally unsurprised that God would help me grow in this area. God works all things together for the good of those who love Him (Rom. 8:28). He provides a way of escape for our sinful self-righteousness (1 Cor. 10:13). He promises to finish the good work He began in you and in me (Phil. 1:6). This is good news for us! God is faithful.
Amazingly, even when I fell into the temptation to judge my husband and attempted to meet the perceived standards of those around me, God remained unswervingly committed to forgiving me, because my sin—not in part but the whole—is covered in the blood of Jesus Christ. And, sister, so is yours.
Has fear of not measuring up ever caused you to judge others? How might God want to grow you in this area?
This post was excerpted from Trillia’s book Fear and Faith: Finding the Peace Your Heart Craves.
If you enjoyed this post, you may want to read “The Weight of Perfection in Marriage.”
Why Objective Moral Truth Is Best Explained by the Existence of God (Cold-Case Christianity Broadcast #36)
In this episode of the Cold-Case Christianity Broadcast, J. Warner Wallace examines the nature and existence of objective, transcendent moral truths. If such truths truly exist, how can we account for them? Is there a naturalistic explanation for moral truth or is the best explanation the existence of an objective, transcendent moral law giver? Here is part 1 of this week’s broadcast:
Here is part 2 of this week’s broadcast:
Stop Calling Yourself a Christian
I think all of us “Christians” should stop referring to ourselves as “Christians.”
Nor should we ask other people if they are a “Christian.”
I have two lines of reasoning for why we should stop saying we’re Christians.
1. They were first called Christians in Antioch (Acts 11:26)
When the term “Christian” was first invented, it was coined by an outside group of “pagans” who observed the way Jesus-followers behaved and recognized the similarity between what they were doing and what Jesus did. And so they called these Jesus followers “Christians.”
In other words, the first “Christians” did not take this title for themselves; it was given to them.
The term means “little Christ,” and while some scholars think that it was maybe intended to be a derogatory term (sort of like Yankee Doodle), I do not think so. I think the people of Antioch noticed how “Christ-like” the people were who claimed to follow Him, and so they started to referring to this Christ-like followers of Jesus as “Christians.” It was a way to identify them and talk about them.
The Christians of Antioch were not known for their hate, venom, judgmentalism, or religious pride, or even for their good theology, pious life, and vast Bible knowledge. Instead, They were knowing for looking and acting and behaving like Jesus Christ, and as a result, they were “called Christians” by those who were not Christians.
If the watching world started giving titles and nicknames to those who proclaim to follow Jesus today, what sort of titles do you think they would give us?
I am not sure I want to know … but I doubt it would be “Christian.”
But this leads me to the second line of reasoning for why we should stop calling ourselves “Christians.”
2. They will know you are Christians by your love (John 13:35)
If you truly are a “Christian” you don’t have to tell people. They will know it. How? By your love.
Those who truly act like a “Christian” do not have to tell people they are a “Christian” because people already know it. They know it by your love.
I walked by two guys in the store the other day who were both wearing Christian t-shirts. One was saying to the other, “Yeah, they all hate me at work, but that’s okay, because I’m standing up for Christ.”
Now, I cannot say for sure, but I imagine that since I heard this about five days after the United States Supreme Court ruled in favor of gay marriage, that this man’s idea of “standing up for Christ” consisted of telling his coworkers that LGBT people were headed for hell, were destroying our country, and were signs of the collapse of modern society and traditional marriage.
Some religious people think that “standing up for Christ” in today’s culture means telling others that God hates gays. Just check out some of the comments on my post from two days ago.
Look, I don’t know where you stand on the gay marriage issue. I don’t care.
What I do know, however, is that wherever you stand on gay marriage, the proper response to gay people is love. This is the proper (and only) response to ALL people, if we are followers of Jesus.
If you want to represent Jesus to people, don’t do it by hating or condemning them. (And don’t use the line about how you “Love the sinner, but hate the sin.”)
Anyway, back to the conversation I heard in the store, I wanted to tell this guy who was proud of his “stand for Christ” that just because people hate you for what you say doesn’t mean that you are standing for Christ.
In fact, in the Gospels, the only people who really hated Jesus were the religious people. Those who were condemned and judged by the religious people loved Jesus and hung out with Him and were accepted by Him.
So if the world hates you but religious people love you, you might not be following Jesus.
Also, if, like this guy in the store, you have to tell people you are a Christian by broadcasting it on your t-shirt, you’re doing it wrong.
If we want to tell people we are followers of Jesus, we do it by loving them. Just as He loves us. Unconditionally. That’s what Godly love is.
I am convinced that the person who loves others unconditionally but doesn’t claim to follow Jesus is closer to the Kingdom of God than those who claim to follow Jesus but doesn’t love others unconditionally.
If love is of God, and everybody who loves is born of God and knows God because God is love (1 John 4:7-8), then it only makes sense that love will be the prevailing characteristic of one who is born of God and know God!
It is not a person’s words that make him or her a Christian, or what they post on Facebook or wear on their t-shirts, or even how many Bible verses they can quote, or how often they attend church and Bible studies, or whether they can “take a stand for Christ.”
They will know we are Christians by our love, and if you have not love, they will never know you are a Christian, no matter how much you tell them you are.
Or maybe I should put it this way: If you have not love, you can never properly act like a Christian, no matter how much you tell people you are one.
The REAL Question We Should be Asking Ourselves (and others)
So the question we should be asking is not “Am I a Christian?” but rather, “Am I Christ-like?”
“Do my words sound like words Jesus might say?”
“Do my actions look like things Jesus might do?”
“Do I love unconditionally, forgive freely, serve sacrificially, and accept all?”
“Do I challenge the religious status-quo for setting up barriers to God and creating groups of us vs. them?”
“Do I break down the walls of religion by eating with the so-called ‘tax-collectors and sinners’?”
If so, then keep living in love and looking like Jesus, and maybe, just maybe, someone might call you a “Christian.”
Charles Spurgeon Addresses Church Shoppers
I once read that if you really love books, you don’t just love the best sellers. Anyone can find something to love in a best seller. If you really love books, you can find something to love within a book you snagged at the dollar store. You love watching narratives unfold, characters develop, and ideas take shape so much that you can appreciate those things even within the most convoluted, clumsily articulated books.
What if we loved Jesus so much that we could recognize and appreciate his qualities in even the worst of his followers?
It doesn’t mean you should cringe your way through sermons or clench your teeth through worship or prayer to prove your love for Jesus.
It means you can find something to appreciate among the flaws: that’s what Jesus does every time he looks at us. Seek the pieces of truth and glimpses of glory, wherever you find yourself in the global body of Christ.
Seeing the cup as half full instead of half empty doesn’t make you delusional. You know the cup isn’t full. But you appreciate what’s there more than you criticize what’s not.
This doesn’t mean that we simply ignore the faults in our churches and fellow believers. On the contrary, the more we love who Jesus is, the harder it is to tolerate misrepresentations or distortions of his character.
But no matter where you look within a church, and no matter how many churches you visit, you’ll always find something that’s not quite right or that could be better.
You will never find the perfect church
Flawed individuals cannot form a flawless group of people.
When you have the freedom to choose between multiple churches, countless reasons arise to choose one over the other. Some differences are theological and some are superficial.
“This church has a better teaching pastor.”
“That church has better child care.”
“I don’t like the way [insert church name] handled [insert situation].”
These may be deeply personal reasons. They may be completely valid concerns. But if you can’t find a church that satisfies you, consider these words from Charles Spurgeon, The Prince of Preachers:
You that are members of the church have not found it perfect and I hope that you feel almost glad that you have not. If I had never joined a Church till I had found one that was perfect, I should never have joined one at all! And the moment I did join it, if I had found one, I should have spoiled it, for it would not have been a perfect Church after I had become a member of it. Still, imperfect as it is, it is the dearest place on earth to us.
In his sermon, “The Best Donation (No. 2,334),” Spurgeon goes on to say,
. . .the Church is faulty, but that is no excuse for your not joining it, if you are the Lord’s. Nor need your own faults keep you back, for the Church is not an institution for perfect people, but a sanctuary for sinners saved by Grace, who, though they are saved, are still sinners and need all the help they can derive from the sympathy and guidance of their fellow Believers.
Why Philippians is the Best Book in the Bible – “Do you struggle with anxiety and depression? Does it ever feel like joy is fleeting and impossible to maintain? Are you beaten down by your own desire for ‘things’, unable to find contentment? Do you wrestle with how to follow Christ’s example in the midst of trials and suffering? If so, Philippians is for you.”
Living with a Sense of Eternity – “It is commonplace today in Reformed theology to recognize that the Christian lives ‘between the times’—already we are in Christ, but a yet more glorious future awaits us in the final consummation. There is, therefore, a ‘not yet’ about our present Christian experience. John Calvin well understood this, and he never dissolved the tension between the ‘already’ and the ‘not yet.’ But he also stressed the importance for the present of a life-focus on the future.”
The hypocrisy of “Judge Not” – “There are two common expressions I hear from people used to defend a belief or action. In fact, most of us have probably encountered it, if not used it at one point in our life. For instance, your sibling is cheating on her husband and you tell her it is a sin and she needs to repent. What is the common response? ‘Stop judging me.’”
What are our options in post-Obergefell America? – “David Gushee has a stimulating column at RNS arguing that ‘strident’ calls for civil disobedience in the wake of Obergefell are empty. Yes, federal policy now disfavors those who adhere to a traditional definition of marriage, but there really isn’t any relevant way for Christians to disobey the government—at least not where things stand now. Instead, he argues that Christians will have to face the crushing consequences of their views and that they have no appropriate way to ‘disobey’ in order to resist…”
I Pledge Allegiance to My Flag – “Another day, another flag story. Recently, a pastor in North Carolina raised a Christian flag high upon a pole outside of his church. Under that, the Stars and Stripes. The pastor is making a plea for religious freedom and is encouraging people to recognize of the primacy of obedience to God over national allegiance.”
John MacArthur – Arminianism Debunked
A word for 4th of July
Persecution Is It Coming, How Do We Prepare
“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
Right To Die
Could you tell me where you stand on the topic of “right to die?” And also what might be in the scriptures to support or deny this kind of choice someone could be facing in their terminal illness. Thank you and God bless you and all that you do in teaching others the Lord’s word.
More On The Mark of the Beast
There are some well known bible teachers that say salvation is possible even after one has taken the mark of the beast. I believe that scripture teaches that once someone takes the mark, they have sworn allegiance to the antichrist and their end is eternal separation from God. I would greatly appreciate your thoughts on this. Thank you
When Do We Begin Counting?
If the 6000 year old creation theory is correct when do we begin counting? Do we begin with creation or when Adam left the garden? Did Adam start counting his age when he was created or rather when he lost immortality.
The Essentials of Salvation
What is The Gospel?
“My Last Day” — the Jesus Anime
9 powerful minutes of animation that begins with a thief behind bars watching the scourging of Jesus, and it ends with the thief dying next to Jesus, and waking to see Him in a beautiful place.
The dying thief: What was so great about his faith?
Our Time is Short
Ready to start your new life with God?
Who do you think that I am?
With that brief question Jesus Christ confronted His followers with the most important issue they would ever face. He had spent much time with them and made some bold claims about His identity and authority. Now the time had come for them either to believe or deny His teachings.
Who do you say Jesus is? Your response to Him will determine not only your values and lifestyle, but your eternal destiny as well.
Consider what the Bible says about Him: Read more
Look to Jesus
Have you ever felt a little lost and wished there was a quick-start guide to your relationship with God? This is it!
30 Day Next Steps
John Beckett, a leading Christian businessman, has written a series to read over 30 days for new believers.
New Believers Guide
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.
Jesus is the Savior of the world. Discover who Jesus is today in this series.
Know Jesus Christ and your life will be transformed
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