Heidelberg 115: The Three Functions Of The Law In The Christian Life
The law remains the law and we remain sinners. “If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar” (1 John 1:10). The nomist thinks that, now that we have grace, we have no need of the gospel or that the gospel is only to help us obey the law. The antinomian thinks that now that we have grace, we have no need of law. Both are wrong. The gospel is that Christ obeyed in the place of, died for,and was resurrected for, and intercedes for sinners. We were justified in order that we might be gradually, graciously sanctified and that means being brought into conformity to Christ and to his holy law.
A Note to Christian Men
What does this tells us about these men – the “evaluators”? It tells us that the power of lust and desire for sexual gratification, even through brief visual stimulation, is compulsive and controlling. It is the most immediate and powerful impulse. Everything else, for that moment or two, becomes unimportant, in order to get a hit. Sin is addictive. And the worst part? This sin resides deep in the heart of each and every one of us.
Killing Sin by the Spirit, Post 2 (Know and Live Your Identity in Christ)
You need to spend time meditating on passages like Colossians 3, Ephesians 2, Romans 6 and 1 Peter 2. These passages will help you solidify your understanding of your new identity in Christ. But do more than read and think. Pray. Sing. Worship God for your new identity in Christ. Then, as you’re living your life, preach these truths to yourself. Regularly remind yourself of who you are in Christ.
10 Ways to Overcome Spiritual Weariness
Being a disciple of Jesus is hard. He said we must daily take up our cross and die to ourselves. He calls us to serve, love, and look to the interest of others. Following Jesus yields immeasurable joy, but we can also grow weary from day to day. Weary in parenting, weary in serving, weary in trials and affliction.
Recovering from Biblical Manhood and Womanhood
I realized that the Ask Pastor John answer that I responded to last week basically comes right out of his teaching in Chapter One of RBMW. So I decided to skim over the chapter again. It has been shocking for me to reread this as a more mature woman. Some parts were actually quite unbelievable. For instance, John Piper asserts, “Mature masculinity expresses its leadership in romantic sexual relations by communicating an aura of strong and tender pursuit” (40). After affirming that this is very difficult to put into words, he does just that. And it gets weird.
Pro-Choice or Pro-Options: On Leadership
Much of the culture surrounding Christianity at the moment militates against the kind of commitment that making a choice, rather than merely having a choice, demands. The language of conversation, so popular in certain quarters, has a certain open-ended quality to it. Once upon a time, arguments and debates were designed for the express purpose of reaching a conclusion, of deciding which, if any, of two or more positions was the best or the strongest or the most true. Conversation has more of a `I’ll hear what you say; you hear what I say and we can all agree to differ while remaining friends’ feel.
Southern Baptists Will Cut 600 to 800 Missionaries and Staff
The first of the cuts will come from voluntary retirements, followed by a restructuring. Overall, the IMB could release as many as 800 employees, according to an FAQ posted on the IMB’s website. Currently, the IMB has about 450 staff and about 4,700 missionaries overseas, down from 5,600 in 2009. Platt said earlier this year the total number of missionaries would likely drop to about 4,200—a 25 percent decline from 2009.
Doctors Advised My Mom to Abort Me
As a pastor, I am sensitive to the guilt of those who have had an abortion, knowing that God is a God of forgiveness and healing. My prayer is that more families, single moms and confused couples would have the courage and selflessness that my mom displayed to reach out for help. May we reclaim the truth and dignity of life and speak for those without a voice, those most vulnerable in the womb. I, for one, am grateful that my parents did.
Is It a Sin to Buy a Lottery Ticket?
Is it a sin to purchase a lottery ticket? Dr. Roger tackles the subject of gambling.
Does the World Get to Decide How Valuable You Are?
Your value as a human being is not defined by the “stuff” you own.
‘War Room’ is ‘resounding success’ at weekend box office
In the midst of a weekend box-office slate without much to get excited about, the faith-based drama “War Room” surprised to the tune of $11 million, according to studio estimates reported by Rentrak. The film, based on the story of a crumbling marriage saved by prayer and faith, is expected to end the weekend in …
Stargazing in September: Supermoons and rising tides – the end of the world is nigh?
Be prepared for something extraordinary on the night of 27 to 28 September: both the brightest full Moon of the year – and the dimmest full Moon. First, we are due a supermoon. Our celestial companion travels round the Earth in an orbit that’s distinctively oval. Every month, the Moon swings from a distance of …
Charles Colson’s ‘My Final Word’ Warns of ‘Long Bloody Clash’ in War Against Radical Islam
Imagine that a loved one dies, and years later you receive a letter they wrote before they passed. That’s how writer Anne Morse describes My Final Word, the new book she co-authored posthumously with the late evangelical figure, radio commentator and former Nixon aide Charles Colson, which shares Colson’s uncanny foresight and words of wisdom regarding many of today’s critical issues — most notably religion.
Earth-Just Before The Rapture
One of the more remarkable scriptures in the Bible is the statement in both Matthew and Luke that the coming of the Lord will be just like in the “days of Noah” before God flooded the earth.
“For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah. For as in those days which were before the flood they were eating and drinking, they were marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so shall the coming of the Son of Man be.” Matt. 24:37-39
Convergence: What Does it All Mean?
Jan Markell and Eric Barger discuss the convergence of many events in September, including the Shemitah, with Jonathan Cahn. From the United Nations to the Jewish holy days to the Pope, and much more, there is a strange alignment of activity in September, not the least of which is the Shemitah. They emphasize that no one knows for sure if we can draw any conclusions. Cahn looks at patterns in the past as well. It is a provocative hour. We use the mobile app found at http://www.oneplace.com.
Christian Film ‘War Room’ Stuns Hollywood With $11 Million Weekend
Outside of evangelical circles, the names Alex Kendrick and Stephen Kendrick are likely to be met with blank stares.
But thanks to low-budget hits like “Fireproof” and “Courageous,” the brothers have transformed themselves into Steven Spielbergs of Christian cinema. Their names above the title are enough to open movies that are firmly pitched to the faithful.
Professor fired for mentioning God in letter to students
Based on my conversations with leaders from several denominations in the U.S. and Canada, I estimate that at least 400 church leaders (pastors, elders, staff, deacons, etc.) will be resigning Sunday. This is a significant moment of embarrassment for the church—and it should be.…… Click here for full story
An evangelical seminary professor is calling The Shack the “greatest deception foisted on the church in the last 200 years” and urging Christian leaders to speak out against it ahead of its release as a movie.
James B. DeYoung, professor of New Testament language and literature at Western Seminary in Portland, Ore., says controversy over the 2007 bestselling book by William Paul Young will resurface when the film – which began shooting in June – is released.
The Shack, a New York Times Best Seller has sold 25 million book copies and was printed in 41 languages.
A film release date has not been set.
Though the author, like others uses fiction “as a servant” of theology, the allegorical book has an unbiblical view of God, DeYoung said, and clearly affirms universalism – that is, that all people will be saved.
“I maintain that The Shack represents the greatest deception foisted on the church in the last 200 years!” DeYoung wrote in a column for MovieGuide.org. “Not since the time of the Colonies and Isaac Backus has universalism been in such ascendency in the public psyche. The Shack is not a new Pilgrim’s Progress for our day but a house of deceit deserving destruction.”
In this piece Mike Ratliff of Possessing the Treasure points out something that many of Christians are unaware of: “An apostate can remain in an organized so-called “Christian Church” and be very religious and remain quite active in the “ministry” of deceiving as many people as he or she can. I mentioned it earlier in […]
No wonder The Donald is so lucky with money! He’s been planting seed faith cash into strategic WOF alliances. God will surely smile and bless his campaign….(/snark) Hat tip to Janet Mefferd for sharing this from the Daily Beast: Donald Trump, who meets next month with a group of televangelists, has strong ties to the […]
It is a story that everyone has heard. Evangelical high school student, who is involved in the youth group and committed to Christ, heads off to the local university. As a freshman, he takes an introductory religion class–probably intro to the OT or NT.
The professor is a critical scholar, deeply skeptical about the historicity of the Bible, and antagonistic to evangelicals. After seeing the Bible take a pounding for an entire semester, and with no one around with any answers, our freshman decides Christianity probably isn’t true after all.
The question isn’t whether this scenario plays out every year all over the country (it does). The question is what can be done about it. Most church youth groups don’t have this scenario on their radar screen when they are preparing students for college. Most of the attention is designed to help students survive morally or ethically, not intellectually.
So, for the student in this situation, I offer some advice in the video below. Thanks to TGC for putting this together and making it available.
Bolstered by the sad decision of the U.S. Supreme Court that legalized homosexual “marriage”, secular progressives are pressing their temporary advantage, doing all they can to suppress and silence the voices of Christian churches and ministries. They’ve found an ally in the court system and an opponent (Christians) who seem apathetic as a whole. Are […]
He attended Wheaton, one of America’s best-known evangelical Christian colleges
“Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.” Acts 26:28 (KJV)
EDITOR’S NOTE: Horror movie guru Wes Craven was given a great gift at an early age, a chance to accept Jesus Christ as his Lord and Saviour. A lot of his fans might be shocked to know that he attended Wheaton, one of the premier Christian colleges in America. But according to his own testimony, Craven rejected the salvation offered by Jesus Christ, and instead chose to spend his life giving glory to the things of the Devil through his acclaimed body of work in the horror film genre. Now, his life is over, and he has gone from this life to the next. A life that by his own choice does not include Jesus Christ, Heaven or anything connected with God. If the Bible is right, he is burning in Hell right now. I wonder if he still thinks that giving up Jesus Christ in exchange for Hollywood fame and fortune was worth it. Where are you going to go when you die?
Wes Craven, the famed writer-director of horror films known for the Nightmare on Elm Street and Scream movies, died Sunday after a battle with brain cancer. He was 76. Craven, whose iconic Freddy Krueger character horrified viewers for years, died at his home in Los Angeles, his family announced.
Born in Cleveland, Craven was raised in a conservative church where”we didn’t smoke, drink, play cards, dance or go to movies,” he said. He attended one of the nation’s best-known evangelical Christian institutions, Wheaton College, in Wheaton, Ill., before earning a master’s degree in philosophy at Johns Hopkins University. Before making movies, he taught college.
Craven recalled his Wheaton years as a period of both searching and rebellion. “I really frankly was in trouble a lot,” he said, explaining that he and about a dozen classmates, while considering themselves Christians, chafed under the college’s restrictive interpretation of the faith.
The soul searching took different forms. Sometimes Craven told himself, “I am bad because I am rejecting the Holy Spirit of Christ.”But at other times, the doubts served more positively as signs that he needed to rethink reality.
Asked if he considered himself a religious person now, Craven responded, “I don’t do anything in an organized way.” Rather, he has come to see filmmaking as the most significant way to express his beliefs and longings.
Craven said he found something in the whole process of crafting a film, from the business nuts-and-bolts to “wrestling with my inner demons and inner glimpses of light,” that was more satisfying and beneficial than anything he could have done in traditional venues of religious service. “I think that’s … the best approach to (the) spiritual … I’m capable of,” he said.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3:16 (KJV)
In our series on Killing Sin by the Spirit, we have seen so far three things we must do:
1. Understand and respond to the call to kill sin by the Spirit.
2. Know and live our identity as children of God who have been born again and who have the Holy Spirit.
3. Get the grace we need to be empowered to kill sin and grow spiritually through God’s ordinary means of grace.
Once we have the grace we need, what do we do? Well, the Bible calls us to the daily exercise of putting off the practices of the “old self” and putting on the practices of our “new self.”
Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. – Colossians 3:9-10
Colossians 3:5-17 is a great passage to read for specific guidance on putting off and putting on, as is Ephesians 4:17-32. Consider this from Ephesians 4:
But that is not the way you learned Christ!— assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. (Eph. 4:20-24, ESV)
The principles behind these passages that teach us foundational, practical Christian living are simple:
1. Your outward behavior is a reflection of your inward desires.
2. As you love Jesus more and more, you must also work to live out what you believe and who you love.
3. You aren’t going to simply do nothing. You will be doing something, so as you stop old patterns of life that come out of selfishness and unbelief, they must be replaced by new patterns of life that come out of our love for Jesus.
Colossians 3 and Ephesians 4 give a number of specific examples of this kind of behavior change, but these chapters are not giving us exhaustive lists. Notice also that when Paul tells us to put off sinful patterns in these chapters, he also uses the language of putting these things to death. In other words, we’re not supposed to be putting things off and folding them and putting them in a drawer to be brought out later when we want to wear then again. We’re to put them off and put them to death!
Here are the things we’re told to put off and put to death in these chapters:
1. sexual immorality
3. passion (Greek “pathos” – unhealthy and inordinate desire)
4. evil desire
10. obscene talk
13. corrupt talk
15. clamor (crying out, outcry, loud complaining)
Here are the things we’re told to put on instead:
1. compassionate hearts
We can read passages like these and look at lists like these in two different ways:
1. As a do and don’t list, a checklist for behavior.
2. As descriptions of the overflow of two different heart orientations.
The context of Colossians and Ephesians makes it clear that we’re to read these in the second way and not in the first way.
If our hearts are oriented on ourselves, we will seek to gratify our own desires. We will not take the truth seriously, but will manipulate our words to serve our purposes. We will not see other people as precious images of God but as tools and objects to advance our desires or else as obstacles that stand in the way of our desires.
If our hearts are ruled by grace and filled with love from God, we will seek the glory of God and the good of others. We will love and forgive, seek purity in speech to bless others and build them up. We will embrace work as a gift from God and will worship God in our hearts and with our lips in song. We will forgive as readily as we have been forgiven and will be patient with the faults of others, knowing how patient God is with us.
Remember that this heart change comes only by the Holy Spirit, who works His will in us. We respond to the grace given us. So, we should seek His face more and more as we’re convicted of our shortcomings.
“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” – Colossians 3:17
READING: Ezekiel 16-17
TEXTS AND APPLICATION: I shudder to think about how many promises I’ve made to God that I did not keep. Honestly, I could probably list them by the dozens — if not the hundreds, or more — over 40+ years of being a believer. Were my relationship to God based on my level of commitment to Him, our communion would have ended a long time ago.
What I’ve learned over and over again is that He keeps His Word, and He loves me more than I love Him. I have broken my word to Him, but He has never broken His Word to me. Thus, these words from Ezekiel 16 are both painful and gracious:
Ezek. 16:59-60 “For this is what the Lord God says: I will deal with you according to what you have done, since you have despised the oath by breaking the covenant. But I will remember the covenant I made with you in the days of your youth, and I will establish an everlasting covenant with you.”
The Hebrews continually broke their covenant with God made at Sinai — so much so that they recurrently turned to other (false) gods. The true God would then judge them, but He would do so to bring them back to Him. He would bring them to remembrance and shame as He kept His covenant with them to be their God (Ezek. 16:61-63). In fact, just as He used judgment to show that He was Yahweh, He would use restoration of His people to show the same (Ezek. 16:62).
I’ve said it before in these devotions: God keeps His promises to a people who don’t always keep theirs to Him. He shows who He is by keeping us in His hand when we struggle to wander away. That truth makes me want to be more faithful to Him, to be sure to keep my word to Him. He alone is God.
PRAYER: “God, forgive me for my many broken promises to You. I’m amazed that You have always been faithful to us — except that that’s just who You are. Thank You for loving us enough to bring us to shame when necessary to turn us back to You.”
I recently reflected on the dark conclusion to the book of Judges—how the book ends with a note of desperation. “In those days Israel had no king; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” And what was “right in their eyes” was patently horrific. It seemed so appealing at the beginning, to define God how they wanted him to be. But it turned out to be hell on earth.
If the book of Judges were all we had to capture this time in Israel’s history, it would be a dismal piece of history indeed. But there’s another story, a hidden sub-plot, to what’s going on in Judges. It’s the tiny companion volume known as Ruth.
The book of Ruth is set in the waning days of the rule of the Judges. In case you forgot what those days were like, it wasn’t a great time to be a woman in Israel. Women were bought and sold as property, kidnapped to satisfy the demands of the warriors, and murdered with no apparent concern for justice. Yet the central character of Ruth is a woman. Not only that, she isn’t even an Israelite. And at the start of her story, she’s a widow. By all outside appearances, Ruth is as low and as weak as a person could get.
Mark 9:33–37, 42, Matthew 18:1–5, and Luke 9:46–48 give parallel accounts of Jesus’ use of a child to illustrate His teaching to the disciples. These passages differ, however, in which teaching they choose to report. We see at least four teachings from these passages.
Have the faith and humility of a child (Matt 18:3–4). Speaking of how to “enter the kingdom of heaven,” Jesus says that we must “turn and become like children,” which means that one “humbles himself like this child,” that is, a child that Jesus had called to stand in their midst (Matt 18:3–4; cf. 18:1–2). We must humbly trust in Christ and not ourselves if we hope to enter His kingdom.
Welcome all believers alike with no thought to their social standing (Matt 18:5; Mark 9:36–37). Jesus speaks of one who “receives one such child in my name” as the one who “receives me” (Matt 18:5; Mark 9:37). The phrase “one such” implies that it was not only children that Jesus admonished His disciples to receive, but all who are like children in some sense. In context, this sense is along the lines of who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven (Matt 18:1). Even if one is like a child (one without social standing and recognition), if such a one bears the name of Jesus (“receives…in my name”), then we as believers should seek to welcome and serve such a one, not figure out whether we are ranked higher than such a person in the coming kingdom of God. And, by serving all believers, and especially those who are little in the eyes of men, we are thereby evaluated by God to be the greatest in His kingdom (Matt 18:4; cf. also James 2:1–10).
To welcome all believers without discrimination is to welcome Jesus and, therefore, His Father (Matt 18:5; Mark 9:36–37; Luke 9:48). One of the primary ways we show our love for God is to show our love for His people. By welcoming those who bear His name, it is as if we were welcoming Jesus Himself (Matt 18:5; Mark 9:37a; Luke 9:48a), and to welcome Jesus is to welcome His Father, the One who sent Him on our behalf (Mark 9:37b; Luke 9:48b). How we treat others is a reflection of how we treat God Himself (cf. also Matt 25:31–46).
Causing a believing child to sin is great sin (Matt 18:6; Mark 9:42). If we allow our pride to dismiss other believers and provoke them to sin, we commit great sin ourselves (Matt 18:8; Mark 9:42; cf. 9:38–41). Rather, we should support one another and strive for unity instead of thinking that we alone our righteous in our ways (cf. also John 13:34–35 and Rom 15:7).
Remember Gollum from Tolkien’s The Hobbit? Gollum once was a hobbit, named Sméagol, but has become an ex-hobbit. He’s this creepy, little monster, who is possessed by the ring — literally. Because he has made the ring the object of his adoration, he no longer possesses it, but it possesses him.
In fact, he calls the ring “my precious.” It’s telling that Gollum never refers to himself as “precious,” but only the ring. The object of his worship stole his identity. He is no longer precious, because it is precious.
This is what idolatry does to us. Maybe it doesn’t turn us into little monsters — but close. Verse eight of Psalm 115, after mocking man-made idols — which have mouths but can’t speak, eyes but can’t see, and so forth — decrees, “Those who make them become like them; so do all who trust in them.” Those who put their trust in idols lose their personhood. They slowly lose their ability to be human, which is represented by the language of speaking, seeing, and hearing. When this happens, you turn into an “it.” You’re not a person, but a thing.
Those who put their trust in idols lose their personhood. (Ps. 115:8)
As a “thing,” you lose your sense of preciousness. Then the idol you worship becomes “my precious.”
But there’s more. Gollum never refers to himself as an “I,” but only a “we.” He is no longer an individual.
“The Precious” is a shorthand for what it means to make an idol out of something: you lose your individuality and sense of preciousness to the object of your worship. It is your master, and you are its slave. “For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved” (2 Peter 2:19).
S. Lewis wrote:
Every time you make a choice you are turning the central part of you, the part of you that chooses, into something a little different from what it was before. And taking your life as a whole, with all your innumerable choices, all your life long you are slowly turning this central thing into either a heavenly creature or a hellish creature…Each of us at each moment is progressing toward the one state or the other.
Gollum didn’t think that he was precious, because only the ring was precious. How about you? Has some dumb idol taken your place? Has an “it” become what you should be? What is the central part of yourself turning into?
Here are some tests. Ask yourself if you think you’re nothing. Or, could you imagine yourself to be precious if you didn’t have that idol? Do you need that thing in order to feel like you’re precious or worthy?
This is how idolatry manifests itself. You think you’re worthless if you don’t have beauty. You think you’re worthless if you don’t have accomplishment. You think you’re worthless if you don’t have a certain material possession, status, or person in your life. You cannot conceive of yourself as precious on your own, just how your mother brought you into this world.
Something else has taken your place as “the precious.”
And not for a million years can you fathom what God said of his people in Isaiah 43:4, “You are precious in my sight.” Do you see? God wants to give you back yourself, which you’ve lost. Stop thinking that some idol is precious, and start realizing that you are precious.
On the cross, Jesus became the monster. He became the “it.” He made him who knew no sin to become sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21). In a sense, on the cross, Jesus became the ex-human, so that you might become human again. The Bible calls this being born again. You are made into a new creation. The old monster has passed away, and behold, the new precious person has come (2 Corinthians 5:17).
Don’t let some idol wrap you around its little finger. For in Christ you are a new creation, precious in the sight of God.
What idol has threatened to steal your “preciousness”?
Every church has its problems. There are no perfect churches. But there are some churches that are so bad that they make atheism look appealing. Anyone compiling a list of worst churches in the world would need to consider, as a top candidate, the notorious Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas.
Founded in 1955 the church began with promising doctrinal standards. They called themselves Christian, Biblical, Baptist, and even Calvinistic. They took a strong view on inerrancy, the need for repentance, and the Lordship of Christ. But it soon became evident that the church lacked one virtue vital for anyone who bears the name of Christ: the church has no love. I realize that’s my opinion, but let the evidence help you decide if they show love.
WBC has been officially categorized by a number of organizations as a hate group. They are most known for the abrasive slogans used when protesting homosexualty. The members picket funerals of homosexuals with signs declaring “God hates fags,” God hates you,” “God hates America,” and “You are going to hell.”
They don’t only hate homosexuals. They also vocally express hatred for Jews, Catholics, Nelson Mandela, the US Army, the Swedish, and countless politicians. And just to toss their wet blanket of prejudice over billion or so more, they host a website called GodHatesIndia(dot)com.
I’m not saying they express disagreement with these groups. I’m saying they express hate.
In an investigative documentary the interviewer asked Shirley Phelps-Roper (the founding pastor’s daughter) if she thought this technique might put people off the gospel. Her response: You think our job is to win souls to Christ. All we do, by getting in their face and putting these signs in front of them and these plain words, is make what’s already in their heart come out of their mouth. She admitted that the money they spend flying to funerals is spent “to spread God’s hate.”
Every major denomination has denounced them, including the Baptist World Alliance and the Southern Baptist Convention.
Anyone known for hate rather than love doesn’t deserve to be called a Baptist or a Church.
Ps 15:4 …In whose eyes a vile person is despised, but who honors those who fear the Lord…
We all agree that God hates sin and that believers should hate sin (Prov 8:13). The question is, whether it is acceptable to hate the sinners who commit the sins? Advocates of this view may cite the rare verses that seem to legitimize hating sinful people (e.g. Ps 15:4). Most notably, David’s declaration of fealty to God’s cause in Ps 139:21-22 Do I not hate those who hate you, O Lord? And do I not loathe those who rise up against you? I hate them with complete hatred; I count them my enemies.
Bear in mind David was a king anointed by God’s decree, given prophetic capabilities, and a divine military commission to wage war against Israel’s enemies. If that’s you, perhaps you could make a case for stirring up a bloodlust to fuel your grim responsibility to kill the men of war God instructed you to exterminate. (There isn’t really a loving way to disembowel a guy with a sword on a battlefield).
But we are not told anywhere to be like David. We are called to imitate Christ’s example (1 Cor 11:1).
Jesus never expressed hatred for sinners. He ate with tax collectors and other moral bottom feeders. He told the woman caught in adultery that he didn’t condemn her. He allowed a prostitute to publically wash his feet (Luke 7:37-38). He prayed that God forgive his murderers (Luke 23:34). He taught explicitly that God loves the world (yes, including the sinners in it; John 3:16). He modeled grace, mercy, and compassion for those who were wicked. The sternest words in Christ’s repertoire were always reserved for religious unbelieving hypocrites; but even then he targeted their deeds and attitudes.
So what does it look like to love the sinner and hate the sin? How could Westboro Baptist show love for homosexuals without condoning the sin of homosexuality? Ask Ray Comfort. That’s what the Kleins did.
Melissa and Aaron Klein, bakers from Oregon, declined to make a wedding cake for a lesbian couple. And they were successfully sued for discrimination. The case is being appealed, but in the meantime the Kleins approached famed evangelist Ray Comfort who has shed a beam of solace on the situation. At his suggestion the couple baked and sent cakes to ten gay rights organizations. They included a gift certificate, a gospel message, and decorated the cakes with the words “We really do love you.”
No one could misconstrue the Klein’s gesture as approving of homosexuality. And yet no one can dispute that the Kleins are doing a better job at showing love to homosexual people than Westboro is.
I try remind myself that God loved me while I was still his enemy. He didn’t love what I would one day become when I repented. He loved me first. And that love changed me.
Rom 5:8,10 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. … For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son …
It is my prayer for our flock at Hillcrest Baptist Church that we never derail into a dissonant congregation of clanging cymbals. I hope we build a reputation in our community of people who love the truth and sinners, but hate sin. And hatred.
PS. you should really check out Jesse’s encounter with the picketers at his church in DC. It’s worth the price of admission.
There is rarely a simple explanation for the decline of a church. It is often a complex mix of cultural, theological, attitudinal, and internal issues. In this article, I address the latter issue.
Internal barriers refer to those obstacles that are inherent in the organization and the facilities of the church. They are also called structural barriers. Stated simply, these barriers are self-imposed or self-inflicted.
Some of these barriers are long-standing and difficult to remove. Others, such as a redesigned website, can be accomplished with little pain. Let’s look at the six most common internal barriers in churches.
- Facility Barriers. We have addressed these barriers several times on this site and on the Rainer on Leadership podcast. The two most common are poor signage and inadequate parking. The former is often more easily addressed than the latter. Other common facility barriers include dirty and cluttered facilities, inadequate worship space, inadequate children’s space, and poor sound and lighting in the worship space.
- Governance Barriers. These barriers include restrictive bylaws and policies, a model of church government that is not working as intended, and frequent acrimonious business meetings. I am familiar with a church that had a policy where the executive pastor was on every committee, but the pastor was not. The particular problem was the personnel committee, where the executive pastor abused his authority to prevent the pastor from leading staff or having an influence on any personnel matters. That situation did not end well.
- Staffing Barriers. Churches often staff the way they’ve always done it. But times change and needs change. Staffing alignment and job descriptions of the 1990s may be inadequate today. Sometimes the job descriptions can be fine, but the wrong people are in those positions. Jim Collins, in his classic book Good to Great, uses the metaphor of getting the right people on the bus, and getting the right people in the right seat on the bus. If a church leader is not in a position that matches his or her gifts, abilities, and passions, the church has a structural growth barrier.
- Cultural Barriers. These barriers refer largely to attitudes and practices of the leadership and membership as perceived by guests. They could include a general unfriendly spirit in the church, acrimonious business meetings, perceived lengthy services, and worship times that are not convenient for guests.
- Church Calendar. Many churches are notorious for being activity-driven. One activity is stacked upon another. The church is so busy doing good things that it neglects the best things. Typically, the most often neglected ministries in busy churches are evangelism and ministry beyond the walls of the church. Most busy churches are not Great Commission churches.
- Worship Times. Why does your church have the specific worship times it offers? For many churches, it is the way we’ve always done it. Many church leaders have not asked what are the most conducive times to reach the community. Frankly, the traditional 11:00 am worship time as a single offering makes little sense today. I will admit, however, it’s still a good time for the farmers who need to milk the cows and feed the animals before they come to church.
- Website Barriers. One of the simplest internal or structural changes a church can make to reach more people is to update the website. The website is the front door for guests. It is their first stop before visiting the church. It makes no sense to have a lousy website when it is so effective when done well. And churches should follow the cardinal rule of websites: the church’s physical location and times of service should be clear and evident on the home page.
Some of the reasons a church may not be growing could be self-inflicted barriers. These are seven of the most common barriers. What do you think of them? Let me hear from you.
Do’s And Don’ts To Preserve Your Brain Power | Harvard Business Review
“Like any good machine, the brain needs a little care and attention as it ages to ensure it continues to run in good working order.”
A Sense of the Love of Christ | Feeding on Christ: Nick Batzig
“John Owen held to a Christological interpretation of the Song–namely, out of a desire for true progress in Christian piety.”
Afflictions Sanctified by the Word | Upward Call
A beautiful piece from William Cowper for all afflicted Christians.
How To Answer Skeptics from Romans 1 | Nancy Pearcey
For everyone going off to College – and their parents.
Leading Your Leaders Retreat | Kevin DeYoung
Kevin offers a snapshot of how his church makes the best use of leaders’ retreats.
Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand $2.99.
Managing God’s Money: A Biblical Guide by Randy Alcorn $4.61.
What Is Biblical Theology?: A Guide to the Bible’s Story, Symbolism, and Patterns by James Hamilton $3.99.
Michael Kruger entered his freshman year at the University of North Carolina as a committed Christian. He thought he was ready for the intellectual challenges college would mount against his faith—that is, until he found himself sitting in a New Testament introduction class with Bart Ehrman as his professor. It left him shell-shocked.
If you have ever wanted to get oriented in Biblical Theology, you will appreciate these two books from Crossway: What Is Biblical Theology? by James Hamilton ($3.99) and Biblical Theology in the Life of the Church by Michael Lawrence ($3.99). Both are reader-friendly introductions. Other Kindle deals include Going Beyond the Five Points edited by Rob Ventura ($1.99), The Bookends of the Christian Life by Jerry Bridges ($2.99), and The Bible Answer Book (Volume 2) by Hank Hanegraaff ($1.99). Also, Amazon has several hundred Kindle books on sale today. The sale is targetted at students, but open to anyone.
Nancy Pearcey shows how to answer skeptics from Romans 1. The article is a brief overview of the heart of her book Finding Truth which I have reviewed here.
TIME has an interesting infographic that displays how Hurricane Katrina changed New Orleans.
This Day in 1688: John Bunyan died at the age of 59. Bunyan is remembered in history as author of The Pilgrim’s Progress, one of the most-read books of all-time. The book has been translated into more than 200 languages and, to this point, has never gone out of print.
Whether or not you agree with every part of this review of War Room, I think you will find that much of it resonates. “This is precisely where War Room, like so many Christian films, stumbles. The characters and situation are so thinly drawn that even those of us who believe in the film’s ultimate message have a hard time with the package wrapped around it.”
It sounds like The Purpose Driven Life may be back in the headlines soon. The Grace To You blog is beginning a short series to remind us what the book is about and why many parts of it are concerning.
ARTICLES I LIKE FROM AROUND THE WEB:
(Click title to go to full article)
My Wife’s Plea to Christian Men – “Over the weekend I could see that Aileen had something on her mind. We spoke and she told me about reading the news, about seeing more Christian men fall into scandal, and, in the face of it all, her confusion, her despair, the crumbling of her hope. I asked if she would write about it. Here is what she said…”
The Place and Purpose of Parachurch Ministries – “The world of campus ministry is a world filled with parachurch ministries. Names like Cru (formerly Campus Crusade for Christ), InterVarsity, and Navigators are household names for most evangelicals. Their founders are some of the past century’s heroes of the faith. These ministries are the gold standard of evangelicalism for good reason.”
How Could Noah Build Something So Large? – “Imagine that you had never studied ancient monuments and had never heard of Stonehenge in England. How would you respond to someone who told you that long before the advent of modern machinery, ancient people moved 30-foot-tall, 25-ton stones a distance of 20 miles and arranged them in precise alignment with the sun on the summer solstice?”
Honor authorities, but fear God – “First Peter 2:13 starts with six words most of us probably really, really hate: ‘Be subject to every human institution.’ Admit it: you just bristled, didn’t you? None of us particularly like authority. That is, in large part, because we are sinners prone to wanting to be our own authorities. But some of us also have a habit of being so concerned about our human authorities that we forget that they are also under God’s authority. Yes, respect and obey the earthly authorities—whether parents, pastors, police or presidents—but don’t forget: they’re not the primary authority. God is.”
The Biblical Basis for Missions – “What is mission, and what is the principal foundation for the mission of the church? The word mission itself comes from the Latin verb missio, which means ‘to send.’ So, literally, missions has to do with sending. In the Scriptures, we see the verb to send being used over and over, in a multitude of ways. But there’s a sense in which the whole life of the church and the whole experience of the Christian are rooted ultimately in some kind of sending that is founded in the authority and the action of God Himself.”
Worldview of a former youth pastor refuted
Do Jehovah’s Witnesses Worship Jesus Christ?
“All death can do to the believer is deliver him to Jesus. It brings us into the eternal presence of our Savior.” – John MacArthur
Christian Headlines Daily – Monday, August 31, 2015
Christian Actress Candace Cameron Bure Set to Co-Host ‘The View’
Texas Church Responds with Standing Ovation to Gay Marriage Proposal
Death Threats, Forced Conversions of Christians Cited in India
Egyptian Christian Imprisoned for Handing Out Bibles in Shopping Mall
Hillary Clinton: Republicans’ Views on Women Comparable to That of Terrorists
Billy Graham: Only Person God Can’t Forgive is One who Doesn’t Seek Forgiveness
Southern Baptists to Cut up to 800 Missionaries due to Lack of Funds
33 Christian Leaders Who are Speaking up for Life
Husband and Wife Who Converted to Christianity Shot by Muslim Family Members
Religious Freedom a ‘Reality’ in Recovering Central African Republic
Whom Shall We Worship: A Look into Canaanite Culture
More On-air Shootings Expected
Ashley Madison and the Death of Monogamy
From Suicide to Euthanasia: Devaluing Human Life
The 3 Zip Codes without Ashley Madison Users
Only Two Religions!
I don’t know if you know this but there are only two religions in the entire world.
You might say I’m nuts. There are hundreds if not thousands!
But there is one religion that likes to put on hundreds if not thousands of different masks on, and so ultimately there are only two: the religion of Human Achievement and the religion of Divine Accomplishment.
You see Islam, Mormonism, Buddhism, Catholicism, Judaism and every single religion that you have ever heard of, ultimately teaches some form of a works-based salvation. They say that you have to be a little more good than bad in order to make it to heaven. These religions encourage you to hand God a resume when you face Him one day. The resume will be filled with all your accomplishments. It will list everything you’ve done for other people, every penny you’ve given to charity and every good deed you’ve done. God will look over this resume and say, “Good job! You’ve made it into heaven”.
The problem is that if you were to enter into heaven because of a resume based on your accomplishments God would get no glory; you would be the one who gets all the praise. In fact, Ephesians 2:9 would say that salvation is not of works lest you should boast! Genesis chapter one shows us that God created the entire universe including you. Everything He created is designed to bring Him glory. The problem is that sin has entered the world, and from birth we all have replaced exalting God with exalting ourselves. Everything we do from birth is geared towards bringing us glory and bringing praise to ourselves. We all have a throne in our hearts that God should be sitting and reigning on, but instead we are born with ourselves sitting on it. We are so used to it we don’t even notice it to the point where we all think that our resumes are good enough to get us into heaven.
Of course we are going to think that we are good people! Of course my mom is going to tell me I’m a good person! But what does your Creator think? He says in Romans 3:23 that we all have sinned and fall short of His glory. He also says in Romans 6:23 that the wages of sin is death. So if we stand before God and start listing accomplishments or hand Him a resume we might as well slap Jesus in the face because God is going to look at the resume and say, “I killed my only Son because you were not good enough to get to me!”
And that’s where the only other religion comes in.
The religion of Divine Accomplishment. God saw your situation, and decided that since man was so sinful and could not save himself, that He would come Himself and take the form of a man. He humbled himself, spent nine months in a womb he created, grew up with every temptation you and I face every day, but without sinning. He then died on the cross for our sins, and then rose from the dead and defeated death. He made it possible for human beings to stand before God one day and not hand Him a resume and condemn themselves further, but rather, tell God that they deserve His wrath but have placed their faith and trust in the work that Jesus did on their behalf on the cross and through His resurrection.
You see we need someone to be a substitute for us because no matter how hard we try, we can never bridge the gap between God and us. And the substitute can’t be merely a human. It must be God Himself.
Do you see the difference between Christianity and every other religion?
The Greatest Story Ever Told
What is The Gospel?
CanIKnowGod.com is a website inspired by LifesGreatestQuestion.com, with new content, images, audio and video that will help you understand more about who God is and how to know Him. The site is mobile responsive and has an infinite scroll which makes for a very user-friendly experience. After you indicate a decision on CanIKnowGod.com, you are directed to a page that details what it means to have a new and transformed life through Jesus Christ. There’s even a Facebook page for daily updates, encouragement and scripture sharing.
“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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