Hen and Rooster

August 30, 2012

20120830-110601.jpg

Advertisements

Share Your Faith?

August 30, 2012

1. Fear
Sharing your faith is a scary prospect. You can lose face and friends as a result of communicating this “narrow-minded” message of the gospel even when you do so in love. When choosing between being accepted by others and sharing the good news with others too often Christians choose silence. Fear is the biggest culprit that keeps most Christians from evangelizing.
The Cure: “Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.” Ephesians 6:19-20

2. Ignorance
There are many Christians who, down deep inside, want to share their faith but they honestly don’t know what to say. Sadly, if you were to put a microphone in the face of the average church goer leaving a typical Sunday morning service and asked them to define the gospel message the answers could range from “um” to dumb. To add insult to injury far too many preachers have over-complicated the gospel to the point where even true Christians wonder if they are saved. They’ve added caveats and small print to John 3:16 and, as a result, many believers are confused by the clear and simple gospel that once they embraced with child-like faith.
The Cure: “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures….” 1 Corinthians 15:3,4

3. Arrogance
Sadly, there are Christians who think they are above sharing the gospel. After all, isn’t that what they pay the pastor, youth leader and missionary to do? These Christians want to sing about Jesus in the sanctuary, exegete his book in Sunday school but don’t want to get their lily white hands defiled with the diseased and dirty “sinners” by having to actually talk to them.
The Cure: “And their scribes and the Pharisees complained against His disciples, saying, ‘Why do You eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?’ Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 32 I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.'” Luke 5:30-32

4. Apathy
Sadly, there are many who call themselves Christians but they just don’t care about the lost. They believe there is a hell. They know that those who don’t know Jesus will go there forever. But they, for whatever reason, just don’t care. They have lost their first love and, therefore, refuse to do what he commands. And, like the church of Ephesus in Revelation 2, if they don’t start letting their little lights shine they could have their candles snuffed out altogether.
The Cure: “When he saw the crowds he had compassion on them because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” Matthew 9:36

5. Bad Theology
This brand of bad theology has a range. One extreme defangs hell by making it mythical or instantaneous suffering (as opposed to eternal) therefore removing the urgency to evangelize. The other side of the range uses the doctrine of election as a way to eradicate urgency. After all, if God is sovereign in salvation why evangelize? Although I believe in the sovereignty of God in salvation I’m also fully convinced that if people don’t hear and believe the gospel then they’ll be damned forever. I chose not to try to solve the riddle but live in the tension between God’s sovereignty and human responsibility. It is in the midst of this tension that God provides us both urgency and assurance, urgency to reach the lost who are headed to hell and assurance that God is the only one who is sovereign in salvation.
The Cure: “Therefore I endure all things for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.” 2 Timothy 2:10

-Greg Stier

Restrictions

August 30, 2012

Agreed.

Government bureaucrats at the federal, state and local levels, Warren said, “are daily trying to limit that freedom, impose restrictions, and stifle expressions of faith on campuses, in hospitals, and in businesses. There are widespread attempts to redefine the First Amendment to simply mean ‘You are free to believe anything at your place of worship but you are not free to practice your conscience elsewhere.'”
“The Constitution doesn’t just guarantee your freedom to worship,” Warren added, “it guarantees your freedom from government intervention in your daily living out what you believe.”

One-Anothering

August 27, 2012

1. Love one another
2. Have the same mind toward one another
3. Greet one another
4. Receive one another
5. Be kind to one another
6. Forgive one another
7. Forbear one another
8. Use hospitality to one another
9. Prefer one another
10. Care for one another
11. Bear one another’s burdens
12. Pray for one another
13. Confess faults to one another
14. Exhort one another
15. Provoke one another
16. Admonish one another
17. Edify one another
18. Submit to one another
19. Minister to one another
20. Serve one another

Law-Gospel

August 24, 2012

We are a law-gospel community, this means we believe God uses his law to crush hard hearts and his gospel to cure broken hearts. The law is God’s first word; the gospel is God’s final word.

Worry

August 22, 2012

Worry is fear that God won’t get it right.–Tim Keller

Robertson Gone Wild

August 19, 2012

In a recent broadcast of The 700 Club, a woman sent in a question about a man who wouldn’t marry her because she has children who were adopted internationally. If they were her “own” biological children, he would have no problem, she said. But because they were adopted, he saw too much risk. Host Pat Robertson’s female co-host bristled and said he was acting like a “dog.” Robertson disagreed.
He said the man “didn’t want to take on a United Nations,” and that, after all, you never know about adopted children; they might have brain damage and “grow up weird.”
I am taking a deep breath here and reciting Beatitudes to myself. I had promised never to mention Robertson here again. Every few months he says some crazy scandalous thing. He blames 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina on gays and lesbians, cozies up to the Chinese coercive and murderous one-child policy, counsels a man that he can divorce his Alzheimer’s-riddled wife because she’s “not there” anymore.
Let me just say this bluntly. This is not just a statement we ought to disagree with. This is of the devil.
The last go round, Robertson “clarified” his statements on a man leaving his sick wife. Didn’t mean to say it was right, he said, just that the man’s got to have some companionship and a divorce is better than adultery. Please. Robertson’s defenders said to me in letters and calls and emails that Robertson is just not what he used to be mentally and that you ought to hold him to a lower standard. That would be true if people were tapping his phone, or going to his house and recording conversations. However, the man is on television, representing to millions of people what Christianity is about.
The issue here isn’t just that Robertson is, with cruel and callous language, dismissing the Christian mandate to care for the widows and orphans in their distress. The issue is that his disregard is part of a larger worldview. The prosperity and power gospel Robertson has preached fits perfectly well with the kind of counsel he’s giving in recent years. Give China a pass on their murderous policies; we’ve got business interests there. Divorce your weak wife; she can’t do anything for you anymore. Those adopted kids might have brain damage; they’re “weird.” What matters is health and wealth and power. But that’s not the gospel of Jesus Christ. For too long, we’ve let our leaders replace the cross with an Asherah pole. Enough is enough.
Like us on Facebook
Jesus was, after all, one of those adopted kids. Joseph of Nazareth was faced with a pregnant woman he could easily have abandoned. He knew this child wasn’t his, and all he had to go on was her word and a dream. He could have dismissed either. But he strapped on his cross, provided for his wife, and protected her child. Indeed, he became a father to her child. God called this righteous. The child Jesus seemed to be a colossal risk. His own family and neighbors and villagers thought he’d turned out “weird” (Mark 3:20-21). Maybe he was demon-possessed, they speculated, or maybe even “brain damaged.”
The Bible tells us that Jesus is present with the weak and the vulnerable, the “least of these,” his brothers and sisters. When one looks with disgust at the prisoner, the orphan, the abandoned woman, the mentally ill, the problem isn’t just with a mass of tissue connected by neural endings. The issue there is the image of God, bearing all the dignity that comes with that. And, beyond that, the issue there is the presence of Jesus himself.
Christians are the ones who have stood against the prophets of Baal and the empire of Rome and every other satanic system to say that a person’s worth doesn’t consist in his usefulness. Christians are the ones who picked up abandoned babies, who wiped drool from the dying elderly, who joyfully received developmentally disabled children, and who recognized that our own sin has made us nothing noble or powerful. We’re all just dead and damaged and, well, “weird.” But Jesus loved us anyway.
I say to my non-Christian friends and neighbors, if you want to see the gospel of Christ, the gospel that has energized this church for two thousand years, turn off the television. The grinning cartoon characters who claim to speak for Christ don’t speak for him. Find the followers who do what Jesus did. Find the people who risk their lives to carry a beaten stranger to safety. Find the houses opened to unwed mothers and their babies in crisis. Find the men who are man enough to be a father to troubled children of multiple ethnicity and backgrounds.
And find a Sunday School class filled with children with Down Syndrome and cerebral palsy and fetal alcohol syndrome. Find a place where no one considers them “weird” or “defective,” but where they joyfully sing, “Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world.”
That might not have the polish of television talk-show theme music, but that’s the sound of bloody cross gospel.

-Russell D. Moore

The Good News

August 19, 2012

The “good news” of Christianity begins by describing the way things are. There is much beauty and joy in our lives, but there is also pain, loss, dissatisfaction, and trauma. We wish we didn’t war with each other, but we do. No one wants to become an addict, but we do. No one wants their marriage to end in divorce, but it happens. We are not as free as we think. We are unable to fix ourselves, our family, or our world. Are we left alone?

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved” (Ephesians 2:5).

The Gospel—literally the “good news”—is that God has descended into the depths of our failure, even into hell itself to rescue us. “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ” (Ephesians 2:13). In Jesus, God himself took the consequences of our ignorance, our selfishness, our cowardice, and ultimately our rejection of him. Jesus alone reveals that God is not an angry judge but a loving father gathering his hurting children to himself to heal, to forgive, to redeem.

We are reconciled to God by faith through grace alone. As a result, we believe that the gospel is the same for all people, Christian and non alike. Only God’s grace unleashes freedom—the kind of freedom to accept, to forgive, to walk in love, to live boldly. “It is for freedom Christ has set us free” (Galatians 5:1). God’s forgiveness means that we are motivated by love instead of fear. The fruit of that freedom of the Gospel is a spontaneous, creative, and compassionate life.

We believe that the very thing that makes a Christian—namely, the Gospel—is the same thing that grows a Christian.

Mormon Model

August 17, 2012

6 Reasons Why Mormons Are Beating Evangelicals in Church Growth

Our churches face a demographic crisis.

Young people are leaving, even the Southern Baptist Convention is losing members, and when you drill down deeper—comparing church attendance with population growth—the picture looks even more bleak. Simply put, when America’s fastest-growing religious segment is “nonreligious,” we have a problem. The Barna Group recently compiled the results of a number of national studies and published a list of six reasons why young evangelicals leave the church:

1. The church is overprotective.
2. Their experience of Christianity is shallow.
3. Churches seem antagonistic to science.
4. The church’s approach to sexuality is judgmental and simplistic.
5. They wrestle with the exclusivity of Christianity.
6. The church feels unfriendly to those who doubt.
These answers are just what you’d expect, because they correspond to many leading churches in modern evangelicalism that combine nominally traditional doctrine with shallow commitment and have been plagued by rampant divorce and extramarital sex—all against a backdrop of extreme cultural hostility. In other words, we’re about 95 percent like the surrounding culture and hated for the 5 percent deviation.

But one religious group shows consistent growth year by year and decade by decade. Mormons, living in the same country and culture as evangelicals, keep growing their church. Why? I propose six reasons.

1. Mormons have bigger families.

This is the easiest and simplest explanation. But it’s far from the entire story. In fact, if family size were determinative, then many churches in America would be growing at a rate that exceeded general population growth. After all, the birth rate of religious families generally exceeds that of nonreligious families. Instead, church after church shrinks or remains basically steady in spite of the higher birth rate. Mormons start with a bigger baseline family, but then they tend to hold on to their kids while evangelicals often do not.

2. Mormons have lower divorce rates.

While regular church-going evangelicals divorce less often than secular couples, Mormon-marrying Mormons have the lowest divorce rate of any major religious group. Families that stay together are more likely to pray together. Few experiences are more demoralizing to a young Christian than seeing his parents destroy their own marriage and destroy their own kids’ childhoods in a blaze of selfishness, lust, and pride.

3. Mormons share their faith.

Who hasn’t met a Mormon missionary? My wife used to debate them at the doorstep, but we made many new Mormon friends and now welcome them into our home, offer them rides in the rain, and generally get to know young people who experience a very different young adult rite of passage than your typical evangelical. A Mormon mission is a sacrifice—a deep sacrifice. Evangelism not only wins converts, it also strengthens the faith of the evangelist.

4. Mormons are “orthodox.”

No evangelical can call Mormons “orthodox” in terms of the Apostles’ Creed and biblical canon. But they are orthodox within their own, distinct faith tradition. In other words, members of a Mormon church tend to know and believe their faith. Go to a typical evangelical church—like my own Presbyterian congregation—and you’ll find very wide theological divergence. Nationally, 84 million people self-report as evangelicals, but of that number only 19 million according to Barna actually have orthodox evangelical beliefs. In other words, the evangelical church must improve in transmitting even the most basic elements of the Christian faith from generation to generation.

5. Mormon leaders ask a lot of their members.

I’m always amazed at the level of church involvement of Mormons compared to evangelicals. From giving, to service, to teaching, to raw number of hours in the church building, Mormons are simply doing more. To some evangelical critics, you’d think we lose members because we’re so demanding. But compared to the Mormon experience, evangelical churches are a carnival ride of short services, low accountability, and rare church discipline. If you’re a faithful Mormon, you’re not living a 95 percent secular life like so many evangelicals. At least in this regard, Mormons are truly countercultural.

6. Mormons are less selfish.

Add up points one through five, and you get to the sum. Too many of us evangelicals have forgotten the fundamental paradox of Scripture—you won’t gain your life until you lose your life. We ask our kids to lose just a little life to gain . . . what, exactly? If Christianity isn’t worth losing everything, is it worth only losing some things? And if it’s not worth losing everything, why is it worth losing anything?

Big families, intact families, years-long missions, faithfulness to church teaching, and a lifetime of service add up to a sustainable, Christ-honoring counterculture. By contrast many of our churches will prove to be ashes and dust—unable to resist a culture that relentlessly demonizes even the small remaining differences between evangelicals and atheists.

As a Calvinist member of the Presbyterian Church in America, I’ve got my theological differences with the LDS church. But if we evangelicals don’t believe we have anything to learn from our Mormon friends, then we’re foolish. Our churches will not grow by conforming, by shedding the last remaining distinctions between Christians and the secular world. That route is well-traveled by the imploding mainline denominations. Instead of asking less of our families and youth, let’s ask more by the grace of God and the power of the Spirit. Instead of giving less, let’s give more. Instead of believing we’re unique theological snowflakes capable of discerning truth on our own, let’s teach church doctrine early and well. And let’s not be afraid of church discipline.

What are the core lessons for the church? Conform and die. Resist and live.

David French is an attorney, author, contributor to National Review Online, and blogger at Patheos.

Elevated Vagueness

August 16, 2012

A good article from thegospelcoalition.org

The term “elevated vagueness” caught my eye.

It was in a tweet by Fred Sanders linking to his article about F. W. Robertson, a 19th century British preacher. Even before I read the article I could smell the rot. Robertson, it has been discovered, was covering his sexual affair in private while covering the truth in the pulpit.

That is not surprising. There is a connection between skilled vagueness and concealed immorality. Why else would a man use great gifts to make things unclear unless he was afraid of clarity? And fear of clarity in preaching is a good sign that something besides doctrine is being concealed.

This is not new. And the reason I call attention to Sanders’ article is because I want to plead with pastors to be crystal clear in their preaching, and surgically clean in their private lives.

Be clear about what you affirm and what you deny. Don’t fudge. Don’t play clever games with the truth. Don’t slither like a snake. If you are a snake stand upright on your tail and hiss with all your might: “I am a snake!” And if you are a spokesman for the risen Christ, paint his crimson portrait with lucid precision. Conceal nothing that is true. “What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops” (Matthew 10:27).

This was a beautiful mark of the apostle Paul.

“As men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ” (2 Corinthians 2:17).

“We have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God” (2 Cointhians 4:2).

Yes. Yes. Yes. Pastors, let this be the mark of all your ministry, especially the pulpit. Clarity in preaching, cleanness in private.