And it was good…

October 29, 2013

And like I do every week, I will whisper to myself as I walk out the door: And God saw that it was good.

“It is good” doesn’t mean “it was all perfect” or “there’s nothing more to do.” It means I rest in the affirmation of a heavenly Father who has given me gifts and talents and commissioned me for His purposes. Because of His grace, I want to do all I can for King Jesus – to lay it all on the field, to die “spent” – with all my gifts and talents exploited to the uttermost for the kingdom of Christ.

I encourage you too, at the end of this week, when you look back and start thinking about all the things you wanted to do but didn’t have time for, when you ponder the improvements you hope to make, and the tasks that await you in the future, stop your list-making for a moment and celebrate the work you’ve done. And God saw that it was good. Try it.

Trevin Wax

Biblical Dating

October 23, 2013

In dating, theology informs our conduct, intentions, boundaries, relationships, and the manner in which we go about expressing them. If you are dating someone, no matter the level of formality or intimacy, there are helpful biblical truths that God has provided for your encouragement, discipline, and faithfulness. He has not left you to crude speculation (libertarian) or crass rigidity (purist).

Here are some starting places for living in an other-worldly (Eph. 2:7; Heb. 6:5) and holy (Eph. 1:4; 1 Pet. 1:15) manner in a this-worldly and non-holy cultural institution:

Creation: (1) Your conception of humanity should govern your conception of your gender (Gen. 1:26-28), not the other way around. (2) Because you are finite (Psalm 39:4; Psalm 90:12), you are not called to God-like certainty about the future of your relationship. (3) Awkwardness is okay. It is the emotional experience of being vulnerable with another person. God is not sitting on the sidelines of your romantic life waiting for you to become winsome (Prov. 15:28). He anticipates, delights in, and works through awkward faithfulness (1 Cor. 2:4). (4) Pre-marital romantic feelings are part of the inherent goodness of creation (Gen. 2:23), so they should be celebrated, not condemned.

Fall: (5) You are a sinner, and will desire to use, lie, manipulate, and push emotional, physical, and relational boundaries for unholy reasons (Jer. 17:9). Don’t structure your relationship as if you will always be at the top of your game (Matt. 18:7). Create external accountability (Eph. 4:27) and internal boundaries (Matt. 18:7; Eph. 6:11). Guard against idolatry (Deut. 4:15-16). (6) You are dating a sinner (Rom. 3:23). Anticipate patience, forgiveness, and frustration (Gal. 5:22-23; 1 Pet. 1:22). This also means that preferences, standards, desires, fears, and annoyances do not control the agenda of the relationship (Gal. 5:24-26). (7) Always be ready to break up if the relationship becomes unhealthy or continually sinful (Psalm 66:18).

Redemption: (8) Your primary goal should be to assist the other person in growing in sanctity and love for Christ and others (Phil. 1:9-11). (9) Because of our union with Christ, the brother/sister relationship is the foundational relationship between two dating Christians (Mark 3:35; 1 Cor. 12:27), and even between two married Christians (cf. Eph. 5:1, 8, 22-33). (10) The great command to love your neighbor as yourself is not superseded or subverted by romantic love, but provides the necessary context for romance to be love (Rom. 13:9).

Consummation: (11) Seek to help the person you’re dating to cherish the coming consummation of Christ more than the possible consummation of marriage (James 5:8; 2 Pet. 3:10). (12) Those who presume upon the foretaste of covenantal realities for the sake of this world are storing up greater judgment for themselves (Heb. 6:4-7). Likewise, dating someone when you know it will not lead to marriage is to consciously consume foretastes of marriage covenantal realities (romance, special emotional intimacy, vulnerability, a level of security) for selfish, and therefore sinful ends.

Paul Maxwell

The Bible plays a vital role in understanding dating, both in the nature and function of dating as a culture and institution, and the manner in which we date. But more than anything else, I pray that sanity and peace would come to my peers in the world of Christian dating. God is with you, brothers and sisters, and he is working his perfect plan through the inevitable, excruciating awkwardness of Christian dating (Psalm 37:23; Prov. 16:9; Prov. 19:21).

Reclaim

October 18, 2013

This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success.
Joshua 1:8

As a people, we are healthier but not happier. We are drenched in knowledge but parched for wisdom. Materially we are wealthy, but we suffer a profound poverty of the soul. The longer I live, the more I see that our nation needs a spiritual reformation in its inner spirit.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in the state of the family. The biblical values that built our great nation–once passed on from each generation to the next as a national treasure–are being questioned and dismissed. As a result, never before have we seen such deterioration in our homes:

Never before have so many children grown up in broken homes.

Never before has the definition of marriage been altered to allow for two people of the same sex.

Never before has the marriage covenant been viewed with such contempt by a generation of young people.

Never before have parents been ridiculed for seeking to raise children with biblical values.

Never before have so many Christians laughed, shrugged their shoulders or did nothing about adultery, divorce and sin.

Never before has materialism been so flagrantly embraced over relationships.

Never before has the family been in such need of a new legacy.

The pivotal national issue today is not crime; neither is it welfare, health care, education, politics, the economy, the media or the environment. The pivotal issue today is the spiritual and moral condition of individual men and women, husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, and families.

Nations are never changed until people are changed. The true hope for genuine change in the heart lies only in the life-changing power of Jesus Christ. Through Him, lives can be rebuilt. Through Him, families can be reformed.

Dave Rainey

World is still turning

October 18, 2013

And again he went away and prayed, saying the same words. And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy, and they did not know what to answer him. And he came the third time and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? It is enough; the hour has come. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.
– Mark 14:39-41

Jesus is in emotional and psychological agony in this garden. He is sweating blood. And the disciples are sawing logs.

One of the important exercises in reading Scripture is making connections. Thinking through what passages and narratives the passage or narrative before us reminds us of. Where do we see parallels, similarities, foreshadows, fulfillments? Sometimes the exercise doesn’t take us anywhere discernibly meaningful. Many times it does.

As I reflected on this passage, it reminded me of another time in Christ’s ministry, another time when someone was in agony and someone was sleeping. I think of Jesus and his disciples in the boat. The storm is crashing all around them. The disciples are despairing of life itself. It seems they will be sunk and drowned. And Jesus sleeps.

“Don’t you care that we’re going to die?” they cry (Mark 4:38).

As the disciples agonized, Jesus slept. Later, in Gethsemane, as Jesus agonized, the disciples slept. What gives?

Well, it’s just like the disciples – I mean, it’s just like us – to freak out about the world’s storms and be asleep to the things of the cross.

Whether it’s outrage about the sinful state of popular media — whatever new scandal the news people want you to get mad about — or fear about the declining state of our political process — “It’s the Democrats!”; “No, it’s the Republicans!”; “No, it’s politicians!” — or just the crushing anxiety of everyday demands and stresses, in the flesh we are like the disciples in that boat, thinking the skies are crashing down on us as if God is not in control, as if all sin will not be judged, as if justice will not prevail, as if the church will not endure, as if the Spirit is not ever-present and all-powerful, as if our hopes are pinned to what happens to our bodies and bodies politic. But when it comes to the things of the gospel, we can barely keep ourselves awake.

But not Jesus. He has the right priorities. When it comes to the temptations of earthly things, the temporal stresses of cultural idolatry, he is practically stoic, uninterested.

e.g. “What about taxes, Jesus? God, the tax burden!”
“Pay them,” Jesus says.
“But they’re so oppressive!”
“Pay them,” he says.

He’s revealing his view of temporal things. And exposing our false comforts and idolatrous securities.

Insist Jesus order the stress du jour, and he will decline. But when it comes to redeeming sinners — to the praise of his glorious grace! — he brings all his energy to bear. Show him the array of worldly treasures offered by the glossy pages in the grocery checkout line, their bold lines and photoshopped bait promising lurid gossip and fabricated scandals, and he rolls his eyes. Show him the latest People magazine cover, and he will yawn. (Oh, that Christians would YAWN more when the world tries to bait us into outrage over shallow things!) But show Jesus not People magazine, but people — needy, desperate, sinful people — people who are like sheep without a shepherd — put him in the thickest thick of dealing with souls, and he weeps, he prays, he loves.

In the light of Christ’s cross, may we find the Spiritual energy to carry our own cross and the courageous conviction to be utterly bored by comparison with the stuff that is passing away. And let’s remember Jesus blood in that garden and on the cross was for those sleeping disciples. Now that is something amazing. And exciting. Let’s get bored with the right things.

Jared Wilson

Quote of the Day

October 16, 2013

No worries, mate. People are still smoking and NFL players will still be taking shots to the head. Our country’s freedom allows us the right to be stupid.

Reaching the “Converted”

October 16, 2013

By Bob Johnson | 10.10.2013PRINT

Some of our most obvious evangelistic opportunities are with the people who are members of our churches. You already have a relationship with them. You already have the advantage of consistently telling them the gospel. You also have some God-ordained opportunities to personally point them to Christ.

Paul warned the elders of the church at Ephesus that fierce wolves would come in among them and seek to do great damage to the flock (Acts 20:29). Christ warned several of the churches in Revelation 2-3 that they had unbelievers in their number. If these churches had unbelievers in them, we probably have some in ours too. But, how do we reach them?

HOW TO REACH UNCONVERTED MEMBERS

I am assuming that you are faithfully preaching the gospel and pointing your people to Christ. The effect of faithful gospel preaching is like napalm: it has a way of wiping out everything else. But, in order to conquer, you still need to ground troops. So, while you are joyfully preaching Christ, pursue these steps as well.

1. Pray about the conversions of your church members.

First, pray about the conversions of your church members. Pray that God would distinguish the posers from the possessors. Most of you, I would assume, publicly pray at the beginning and conclusion of your preaching. These are wonderful opportunities to pray about this critical matter—that people would not rely on their membership as giving them a right status before God, but that all would be truly repentant and trusting in Christ.

2. Preach about the conversion of your church members.

Second, preach about the conversion of your church members. If you are preaching expositionally, you can’t preach too many sermons before you run into the issue of false conversions. In your preaching, illustrate the point with stories from your own church family.

When someone gets baptized, we give them the opportunity to explain the gospel and how they came to faith in Christ. Last month, David told our church family how he had pretended for years to be a believer. His story is a great example that I refer to often.

3. Be aware of this in counseling.

Third, be aware of this in counseling. Devin (not his real name) and his wife met with me for some marriage counseling. Devin was not all that interested since, as he eventually revealed, he thought he had found someone else. One Sunday, I stopped him after the service and told him that if continued down that road, he needed to know that he could no longer confidently claim to be a follower of Christ. In fact, his determination to pursue this adulterous relationship may be an indication that he had never become a genuine follower of Christ.

Devin did not repent, but Greg (not his real name) did. Greg met a girl on a business trip and was ready to leave his wife and kids over her. I sat at his kitchen table one night and asked him what would it be, Christ or the girl, because he could not have both. Although Greg had professed faith and joined the church many years before, his life had demonstrated very little gospel fruit. Greg bowed the knee of his heart to Christ and by the grace of God, he was not only redeemed, but his marriage was rescued.

4. Be aware of this in hospital visits and other life and death situations.

Fourth, be aware of this in hospital visits and other life and death situations. Chuck (his real name) was in the hospital. The doctor had just told him that there was nothing left that could be done for his heart. He had already outlived the expectations, but the end was near. Chuck was a successful businessman and had been involved in many Christian organizations. In previous churches he had served on boards and taught classes. Now he was dying and he was terrified.

Chuck carried around a secret that very few people knew. During World War II he flew bombing missions over Japan, dropping thousands of pounds upon that country. He knew that he had killed hundreds if not thousands of people. On his 24th mission, his plane was shot up pretty badly, but he was able to get it back to base. His co-pilot, however, died. Chuck was eligible to go home after his 25th mission, but he was so angry about the death of his co-pilot that he signed up for another 25 missions and then yet another 25 missions so that he could kill more Japanese. And he did. After 76 missions, he finally went back home.

On his way back to Michigan, he was at a base in California where he met some Japanese prisoners of war. Some of them were very kind and told him that they did not want the war. They just wanted to go back to their home as well. They showed him pictures of wives and children. Chuck’s anger turned to fear. He assumed that he had killed some of their wives and children. He began to realize that he had not only killed civilians, but he had signed up to do it.

Now, sixty years later, the reality of facing God revealed his deepest fear. He would die and be condemned to hell. Chuck finished his story, tucked his knees under his arms, turned away from me and stared at the wall. His frail body made even a hospital bed look big. Chuck had heard me preach the gospel for years. But that day it was obvious that while he thought it was true, it just wasn’t true for him. His case was different.

I sat silent and tried to imagine the weight of his guilt and then said, “Chuck, you are a big sinner, but Jesus is a bigger Savior than you are a sinner.” Chuck responded like he had been hit by lightning. He looked at me like he had heard this for the very first time. His eyes got big, his face was animated, and he said, “That’s it, isn’t it?! Jesus is a bigger Savior than I am a sinner.”

Chuck died two weeks later. The joy of his life in those last two weeks made it evident to everyone who visited him that his chains were broken. His heart was free.

Your members will let you in to some of their most private thoughts. You may discover that what they need is to believe in Christ—for the very first time.

Bob Johnson is the senior pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Roseville, Michigan.

Why Criticize Your Pastor

October 11, 2013

Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.
– James 3:1

No, your church leaders are not above criticism. Sometimes they deserve it and need it. Here are some reasons you should criticize your pastor(s):

1. They don’t preach the gospel.
As in, they actually don’t preach Christ’s finished work. Not that they don’t emphasize the points you would or they don’t present the gospel the way you prefer or they don’t give an altar call or they miss this angle of the good news or that one or they don’t preach like Carson or Keller or Piper or Chandler — but that they actually don’t preach the gospel.
(Titus 1:9; Galatians 2:11-14)

2. They are regularly engaging in sins or unhealthy habits that would disqualify them from the office.
He’s cheating on his wife or engaging in other sexual immorality. He’s a drunk. He has no self-control. His reputation in the community is terrible. He’s inhospitable. He doesn’t know how to teach. He’s violent. He’s domineering or emotionally, verbally, or otherwise psychologically abusive. He’s argumentative. He’s greedy. He doesn’t take care of his wife and kids. He got saved recently. He does not submit to his authorities. He’s arrogant. He’s undisciplined or lazy. He doesn’t rebuke those who contradict sound doctrine, won’t correct heresy or protect the flock from wolves. He himself teaches doctrine in contradiction to the tenets of the historic Christian faith.
(1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9; 1 Peter 5:1-8)

Well, that’s pretty much it. But that’s a lot and can be applied in a variety of ways.

Now, just because you are allowed to criticize your pastor doesn’t mean you are allowed to do it any way that seems right to you. So when criticism is merited, how should you criticize your pastor?

1. Gently.
2. Personally and privately, first. If necessary, personally and with witnesses, second.
3. Humbly.
4. Respectfully.
5. Graciously and lovingly.

And it bears mentioning that there are ways to have conversations with your pastor that sharpen him and encourage him toward improvements of various sorts without criticizing him. And there are ways to make suggestions without criticizing or complaining (but be sure you’re actually doing that, not being passive aggressive).

And it bears going the other way, too. Why should you not criticize your pastor?

1. He just kind of annoys you.
2. He’s not your best friend. (Or, for the ladies, his wife isn’t yours.)
3. He knows how to teach but he’s not as dynamic or animated or interesting as you’d prefer.
4. He makes decisions that aren’t the result of sin or unhealthy habits but are simply decisions that you wouldn’t make if you were in his shoes.
5. You think every critical thought needs to be expressed or that being the “loyal opposition” or “devil’s advocate” is normal.
6. You don’t understand something he’s done or said. (This would be cause to ask questions, not lodge complaints.)
7. He’s not ____________ enough. (See: political, creative, extroverted, entrepreneurial, rich, poor, outdoorsy, indoorsy, scholarly, etc.)
8. A bunch of other stuff the Bible doesn’t condemn or forbid.

This may all seem a little burdensome when you feel like you ought to be able to say whatever you feel however you feel whenever you feel it. But your pastor bears similar burdens. Keep in mind that he likely has multiple people with “helpful suggestions” speaking to him every week. Measure your thoughts out appropriately, choose the right hills to die on, and pray for your pastor. He needs it.

Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.
– Hebrews 13:17

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
– Galatians 6:1-2

Jared Wilson

Storming the Memorial

October 2, 2013

This is a sad and scary state of affairs. Our “greatest” generation stormed the banks decades ago, risking their lives for freedom. And now, this gov’t is making them do it again, because this gov’t and the prez are again sabotaging our freedoms.

Way to go.

The White House and the Department of the Interior rejected a request from Rep. Steven Palazzo’s office to have World War II veterans visit the World War II memorial in Washington, the Mississippi Republicantold The Daily Caller Tuesday.

Palazzo helped the veterans commit an act of civil disobedience against the Park Service Tuesday, when the heroes stormed through barricades around the closed memorial.

The veterans were visiting the memorial as part of Honor Flight, a non-profit that provides veterans free transport to the nation’s capital to visit the memorials to the wars they fought in.

“We got the heads up that they will be barricaded and specifically asked for an exception for these heroes,” Palazzo told TheDC. “We were denied and told, ‘It’s a government shutdown, what do you expect?’ when we contacted the liaison for the White House.”

Palazzo’s office was in touch with the heads of the National Park Service, the Department of the Interior and the Capitol Police. He says all these officials rejected his request to allow the veterans, many of whom are octogenarians and some of whom are in poor health, to attend.

Palazzo, a Gulf War Marine veteran who has participated in all five of the Honor Flights, blames the White House for making it harder on veterans and playing politics. “At first I thought it was a huge bureaucratic oversight,” Palazzo told The Daily Caller, “but having talked with the officials I can’t help but think this was politically motivated. Honor Flights, which bring WWII veterans to the nation’s memorials, are planned a year in advance and cost anywhere between $80,000 to $100,000. How low can you get with playing politics over our nation’s veterans?”

In a statement, Palazzo noted that he is introducing legislation to ensure that all Honor Flights are granted access this week. “This is an open-air memorial that the public has 24/7 access to under normal circumstances — even when Park Service personnel aren’t present,” Palazzo said in the statement. “It actually requires more effort and expense to shut out these veterans from their Memorial than it would to simply let them through. My office has been in touch with NPS officials and the Administration to try to resolve this issue.”

To Become Great…

October 2, 2013

…you must forgive.

“Forgiveness is one of the most important qualities you must practice if your marriage is to become great.”

If you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.
Matthew 6:14