Many of the theological and ministerial circles I run with are not known for their humility. While I don’t think it’s right that they’ve been caricatured in this way, they have been for a reason. And because of this, I love Joshua Harris’s Humble Orthodoxy. Here’s three reasons why.
1. It’s right. ”I don’t know any other way to say this: it seems like a lot of the people who care about orthodoxy are jerks” (3). Harris is quick to point out that orthodoxy is important, which it is. He is also quick to point out that our attitude is important, which it is. The old adage is true, people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. And more than that, God cares about our attitudes. Therefore, this little book is much needed as a call to humble orthodoxy. When speaking the truth in love, there is a lot of balance and opportunities for “yeah, but….” and Harris does a good job diffusing these. For example, “there’s a difference between having a critical mind that carefully evaluates and having a critical spirit that loves to tear down and belittle” (44). Nothing in this book stood out as me thinking “I’m not sure if that’s quite true” or “I get what you’re saying, but there’s a better way to say that.” At the end of the day, Harris is right.
2. It’s personal. Originally I thought that this book would be helpful for “that guy,” not for me. I didn’t think I was arrogant with my orthodoxy. But Harris does not give you the option to compare yourself to those worse than you. He makes you take an honest assessment of yourself. He says, “all of us should be less concerned with whether others are being faithful to God’s truth than whether we are being faithful to God” (33). Then a few pages later he talks about measuring yourself not by what you know but by what you practice. Wow, convicting stuff. No more was I thinking about “that guy,” but “this guy.” There are questions that I wanted Harris to ask, but he didn’t ask them. Instead, he asked the questions I needed him to ask. It’s personal.
3. It’s accessible. The actual text of this book is about 60 small pages. I read the whole thing in 45 minutes one night. It’s not difficult to read, nor is it overwhelming. If it was a normal sized book, I wouldn’t have given it the effort. But I needed to hear what this book said, and it was small enough where I was willing to listen. If I toss it at a friend, they can knock it out on a lunch break and be better for it. Many people have complained about the size, I really like it - it’s accessible.
This book was unlike any other that I’ve read. Dr Mohler is a leader I trust and a leader who is worthy to be emulated. As a student at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, I have seen first hand and been greatly shaped by those convictions he speaks of leading with. Dr. Mohler is one of those leaders whom I will gladly follow. I really did like this book and Its because of at least three different aspects.
First, this Dr. Mohler seeks to change the way one thinks about leadership. This isn’t just another “how to” book on leadership or the results and interpretation of the latest studies. Instead, a whole new category is introduced -convictional leadership. I have no idea if this is original with Dr. Mohler, but it is a profound difference from other books I’ve read.
Second, The Conviction to Lead is a very useful book. It effectively walks the line between overly practical and only theoretical. Some chapters, such as with dealing with the media, are extremely practically focused. Others, like those focusing on convictions in general and one’s use of time say this is something each leader has to figure out for himself. This balance is extremely helpful.
Third, Dr. Mohler writes in a way that is very easy to read. I doubt any will accuse this book of being simple or unintelligent - it really is complex and informed - but it is a really easy and fun read. The chapters are pretty short and Dr. Mohler illustrates wonderfully how his points actually come into practice. There are several topics crammed into the 200ish page book, so it always stays interesting.
I could continue on with the reasons I really like this book, but I think those three should suffice. Needless to say, I commend this book to all sorts off leaders and aspiring leaders. Dr. Mohler doesn’t just write to one category, but all leaders and I think all who read will be helped, convicted, and encouraged.
*i did receive this book free from Bethany House in return for posting a review, but that did not influence my opinion of the book.
I’ll be honest, I don’t really have a strong opinion either way about this book. I’ve read my fair share on gender roles, parenting, the role of a father, and the likes, and this book was quite different than what I had previously read. Whereas most Christian books start with the biblical commands and principles and work out to their implications, Wilson starts with culture and works backward to show that what the Bible says is true. I think this method can be helpful, especially for someone curious about fatherhood who doesn’t pick up this book already believing that what the Bible says is true.
There are several points that are particularly good and helpful. Chapter 4, Masculinity, False and True, for example, makes the argument that masculinity is not culturally determined. At the same time, how it plays out in life is often a matter of cultural definition. For example, Salutes look different in different cultures, so it is not the form of the salute that shows respect. However, a salute still is demanded to show respect, and if you use one culture’s form in another culture, it shows no respect at all. Now escalate this example to masculinity - I find this extremely insightful and helpful.
Other areas make you think, and wonder if what Wilson is concluding is true. For example, he says that our government is against fatherhood:
"Over time, what you subsidize and what you penalize reveal what you are actually after. What does our government subsidize? If a girl in the inner city gets pregnant, the state will offer to take care of her provided she does not marry the father. We then scratch our heads over the epidemic of illegitimacy we have created when we are subsidizing that illegitimacy. And when a man takes responsibility, marries a woman, starts a business, begins employ other people, we make sure to fine him heavily and throw in a bunch of regulations to keep the hassle factor high." (84)
I suppose what he says is true, but is that really what the government’s going for? I don’t really think so.
Stylistically, I did really enjoy reading Wilson. He’s somewhat quirky and ADD, and fills his pages with random allusions. For me, this makes his arguments more engaging and not at all sterile and clinical. I found this to be a real strength of the book.
Finally, I have to ask myself what this book is good for. I helped me understand a few areas better, but I don’t think I’ll reference it in the future. If someone is coming to me for advice on fatherhood, I’d recommend something that is more based in the biblical commands and principles on the topic. As an apologetic for his - our - position, I would not recommend this either because Wilson is not completely winsome or tactful in his writing.
Like I said in the beginning, I don’t have a strong opinion of this book. If you’re part of the choir and want to be preached to, sure, go ahead and buy this book. If you’re looking for life shattering advice, go elsewhere. If you’re trying to understand a Complementarian position from the outside, again, go elsewhere. However, if you want something to read that’s of substance, but not too academic, this may just be the book for you.
*Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review (but I did anyway). The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.
A few months ago I was very excited about reviewing The Truth About Forgiveness, so I decided to order another book in the series on the Lordship of Christ. Overall I really like this book. Comparatively speaking, I liked Forgiveness a little bit better, but that in no way means that this book was bad.
MacArthur’s biggest strength here is the simplicity in which he presents his information. From what I’ve read of MacArthur, he doesn’t sugar coat his words and lets those doctrines that are offensive be offensive. This doesn’t change in The Lordship of Christ. The simplicity I’m talking about is giving straightforward answers to common questions about Jesus’ lordship.
Second, MacArthur is very practical with principles in his writing. He doesn’t leave the doctrines in the abstract, he gives principles that one can build their life on. This is especially well done in the final chapter on assurance. I like the fact that MacArthur does not give specific application, which makes the book widely applicable.
The weaknesses I found in this book are very subjective. First, it is not very deep. I did not really learn anything new by reading it. Obviously, the book was a good reminder and the Lord used it to convict me in different areas, but there is not deep theology in the book. Also, I think the lack of application - which I already said I liked - will probably be seen as a weakness by some.
Overall, I do like this book. It is especially helpful to new believers, or someone looking for an introduction to what the Lordship of Christ looks like.
Book Review: The Truth About Forgiveness - MacArthur
I’ll admit, I’m somewhat of a bibliophile, and I’m cheap. I love books. Especially free books. So when I saw I could get John MacArthur’s new book in exchange for writing a review (this very review you’re reading right now) I jumped at it. I’ve read a lot on forgiveness, both toward God and man, and was planning on taking an hour, skimming the 115 page book, and getting the next book in his series. My plan failed… Let me explain why.
From the first page, I found myself screaming “Yes!” I assumed that this was going to be a basic book, but MacArthur hits the nail on the head when dealing with reasons we don’t want forgiveness. He starts by rallying against the sin as sickness mentality in one of the best presentations I’ve ever read (this is coming from a Biblical Counseling student. I’ve read about it before.) Granted, it is a few years dated (cites the DSM III-R, DSM IV-R is current [p. 5]), but it is true none the less. He describes the ways man tries to obtain forgiveness, through the law or through Christ. He cites studies and scripture, and is poignant and eloquent in doing it. I’m in love with this book… and I haven’t even started chapter two.
Now chapter two: MacArthur speaks of the fact that only God can forgive sins. And Jesus forgave sins, which means that Jesus is God and forgives sins. He uses the case study of the quadriplegic lowered through the ceiling’s healing to show this. He presents the story and it’s meaning and implications well - he is helpful in showing the connections between healing and forgiveness, and offers a fresh (read: biblical) take on the story (not “what will you do to bring your friends to Jesus.”)
Chapter three then deals with God’s forgiveness in spite of who we are, not because of who we are. MacArthur speaks clearly about confession and repentance as necessary. He continues in chapter 4 to show from the Prodigal Son and story of Joseph how God actually wants to forgive. MacArthur is faithful to present the full truth of the scriptures on the issue of forgiveness. I’m glad I didn’t skim like I wanted too! Chapter five finishes up the story of the Prodigal Son focusing on the father’s desire to forgive.
Chapter six speaks of the narrow and wide paths, and speaks against Finny-esque easy believism. He does not (unfortunately) outline a doctrine of substitutionary atonement, but rather focuses on man’s role in forgiveness with God. Which is the point of the book - and it is brief - which is why I’m keeping my “unfortunately” comment in parenthesis. Chapter seven concludes with our response: Seek forgiveness from God and forgive others.
Final Thoughts: throughout my summary, you get some of my opinions. Here are the rest. I really do like this book. Run, don’t walk, to the internet and consider buying it. It’s a really good book. It’s very practical and not theology heavy. You can read the book quickly, I did it in one day. This is somewhat peripheral, but the binding is a little bit cheap. I’ll probably have some loose pages in it because I’m bound to be lending this book out and reading it over again.
*Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review (but I did anyway). The opinions I have expressed are my own - but if you disagree you are still wrong. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255; mostly because having all this legal mumbo-jumbo at the bottom of my review makes it look official and I feel important when it looks official.
This is a sermon that I had the privilege to preach at Crossing Church last weekend. It comes out of 1 John 2:15-27. Below I’ve given some notes if you want to follow along. If you’d rather download the file, click here. And to answer your question, no, that’s not a picture of me. I found it on google.
Do Not Love The World
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.
Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us. But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge. I write to you, not because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and because no lie is of the truth. Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also. Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father. And this is the promise that he made to us—eternal life.
I write these things to you about those who are trying to deceive you. But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie—just as it has taught you, abide in him.
1 John 2:15-27
Call for Allegiance: Do Not Love The World (15-17)
Usage of “The World” - The system of the kingdom of Satan in this present age - John 12:31, 14:30; 1 John 5:19, 4:4.
Defining love - Not an emotion or feeling, but devotion and service.
Desires of the flesh - Temptation from the inside.
Desires of the eyes - Temptation from the outside.
Pride of Life - Finding importance in outward circumstances (e.g., money, position, possessions).
“Worldliness…does not lie in the things we do or in places we frequent; it lies in the human heart, in the set of human affections and attitudes.” -F.F. Bruce
We cannot love God and love the world. Where do we love the world?
Caution against Apostasy: Results of Loving the World (18-23)
The Last Hour - A theological truth, not a chronological reference.
The Antichrists - Plural, any who deny Christ (Luke 11:23). Wolves, False prophets.
Perseverance of the Saints - Endurance in the faith is evidence of salvation.
Denying Christ - Early heresies of not seeing Jesus as Christ.
How do we deny Jesus as God with our lives?
Command to Abide: Safeguards from Loving the World (24-27)
We look for new methods, but God tells us to use what He has already given.
Scriptures - Teaches us truth, shows us what humanity is, defines what it looks like to live in the Kingdom of God. Also gives the promise of eternal life.
Holy Spirit - A result of the gospel is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Conviction of sin and leadership into all truth.
Do we implement these safeguards to keep from loving the world?
Do you love God or love the world?
Jesus enables us to reject the world and live for Him.
I’m not sure if you’ve heard the hype over the last couple months, but apparently there’s a book out called Real Marriage by Mark and Grace Driscoll. Here are my thoughts after reading it….
It seems that most people either love or hate this book. To be honest, I’m somewhere in the middle. I’ve read quite a few marriage books, which is weird coming from a single guy, buy hey, whatever. Lets go chapter by chapter here:
Chapter 1 -New Marriage, Same Spouse: The Driscolls are very open in this chapter (maybe too open?) yet helpful. They talk about their story. One of the really strong points is the difference between ignorance and naivety. Talk about some of the problems of being life partners instead of lovers and friends.
Chapter 2 - Friend with Benefits: This was an awesome chapter. A lot of books on marriage don’t talk about the importance of friendship - the Driscolls do. I appreciate that.
Chapter 3 - Men and Marriage: “There is nothing wrong with being a boy, so long as you are a boy. But there is a lot wrong with being a boy when you are supposed to be a man” (43). Let’s be honest, who didn’t expect a “man up” chapter in the book. But it’s nicely written. Mark talks about men as producers, not consumers, both tough and tender. Also speaks to how to properly honor a wife.
Chapter 4 - The Respectful Wife: I’m not a wife and will never be a wife, but from what I know about what a wife is supposed to be, Grace seems to hit the nail on the head. She talks about how to respect a husband and explains submission.
Chapter 5 - Taking Out the Trash: Conflict will come (married people, is this true?), so this chapter says how to deal wit hit. Lots on repentance and forgiveness, and a good section on bitterness (“The true test of whether or not we are bitter is our tongues” ).
Chapter 6 - Sex: God, Gross, or Gift?: Well written, and for the most part tasteful, however there were a few places where I felt really awkward reading this chapter in Starbucks… Strongest point I thought was that “your standard of beauty is your spouse” (109).
Chapter 7 - Disgrace and Grace: 1/4 women and 1/6 men are sexually assaulted at some point in their lives, this chapter talks about dealing with this pain. I really do disagree with some of the counseling methods Driscoll gives here (Asking the Holy Spirit to restore memories of it so you can be cleansed, for example. I think God blesses people with forgetting the situation).
Chapter 8 - The Porn Path: A good explanation of the evils of pornography that only Driscoll can get away with writing. Really strong and informative chapter, including interviews with an ex-porn star and Ted Bundy.
Chapter 9/10 - Selfish Lovers and Servant Lovers/ Can We ____?: From other reviews I read, it seemed these chapters are where the controversy about crossing the line lays. I was told it isn’t helpful, uplifting, or edifying to read them. I followed this advice, so I’m not sure if it’s true advice or not.
Chapter 11 -Reverse-Engineering Your Life and Marriage: Really strong and helpful chapter talking about how to plan a marriage (and life in general). I’ll use a lot of the stuff in this chapter, even though I’m not married, because it is very applicable.
Final thoughts - as you can see, I did find this book quite helpful. Granted, I did skip the two controversial, juicy chapters, but everything else was quite balanced and biblical. Sure, there were things I disagreed with, but there was a lot of other really good stuff. I don’t think this will be my go-to book on marriage - I’ve read better ones, but it is certainly a helpful read. I’m going 4 out of 5 stars.
A book review that should have been posted a while ago..... Hell, Rob Bell, and What Happens when People Die
Confession from the outset - I had this as a review copy from the publisher, and then my phone was reset and I lost it about half way through. So, I did not get through the entire book. However, what I read did prove to be helpful.
Conway does not pretend that this is a book about the doctrine of hell, it is a book about “love wins” that inevitably speaks to the doctrine of hell. He speaks as one filled with grace and truth, never mocking Bell or diminishing him. Ultimately, he says “The most unloving thing I could do is hold out false hope or go mute about this awful, endless reality.” The book itself does refute many of Bell’s misapplications of scripture and shows a proper interpretation. He is not bashful in calling out what is wrong and seeking to correct those views.
Whether or not you have read “Love Wins,” this is a helpful book to read to understand some of the faulty teachings on eternity floating around in the church and culture.
Review: The Biblical Counseling Movement After Adams
One of my favorite movies, A River Runs Through It It begins with the narrator saying “Long ago, when I was a young man, my father said to me, “Norman, you like to write stories.” And I said “Yes, I do.” Then he said, “Someday, when you’re ready you might tell our family story. Only then will you understand what happened and why…”’
In After Adams, Lambert gives a succinct and excellent evaluatio
n of the last forty years of biblical counseling. It combines first class scholarship with a passion to help people with the gospel of Jesus Christ, a combination that is both informing and edifying to the reader. Lambert claims that his book “is about a group that has spent the last four decades trying to help the church figure out how to have conversations with troubled people in a way that is most faithful to the Scriptures and most honoring to Jesus Christ” (48). This claim proves true as he shows what has changed and has been held firm in the second generation leaders of the biblical counseling movement. In a sense, he looks at the family history of the Biblical Counseling Movement and tells the family story, so that we can understand what happened and why.
Lambert begins by giving nine reasons that counseling diminished for one hundred years between the puritans and Adams, ranging from theological issues such as revivalism and fundamentalism to practical, cultural influences like the economic changes from the industrial revolution. These nine points give the context to understand the world that Adams worked in, thus help in understanding his ministry. Next After Adams moves to discussing the advances in how counselors think about counseling. Chiefly, these advances include the focus on suffering in addition to sin with the second generation being more sensitive to suffering, as well as advances in the area of motivation. While Adams places sin at the center of motivation, second generation counselors focus on idols of the heart. When speaking of advances in methodology, Lambert cites three continuations (information gathering, instruction, and implementation) of Adams’ methods, along with advancement in relationship between counselor and counselee. In the last of the main chapters, Lambert claims that apologetics have changed over eight key meetings, but there is still much room for advancement. Chapter five serves as a defense against Dr. Eric Johnson’s critique of the biblical counseling movement that puts traditional biblical counseling (first generation) and progressive biblical counseling (second generation, for the most part) against each other. Lambert shows that though their emphasis and tone may be different, their position on sufficiency is the same. After Adams concludes by giving the main area in the biblical counseling movement that still needs improvement - idolatry, especially in its relation to self-exaltation.
Overall, Lambert does an excellent job of explaining how and why the biblical counseling movement has changed since the work of Adams. Through the three main chapters, he adequately explains the changes in theory, methodology, and apologetics. Furthermore, the supplemental chapters dealing with the cultural and theological reasons for the neglect of counseling, the defense against Johnson, and path forward do not necessarily show advancements in the movement, but are helpful in understanding why it looks and functions the way it does. Perhaps one of the greatest strengths of the book is Lambert’s distinction between what Adams believed and taught. Several times, Lambert affirms that Adams acknowledged certain truths such as suffering (52), authority (88), and affection in counseling (92), yet does not emphasize them in his writing. For one who believes “methodology and practice plainly reveal what’s truly central to a theory,” (81) this distinction between belief and emphasis is insightful and helpful to understanding Adam’s work.
In Conclusion, The Biblical Counseling Movement After Adams accomplishes its goal of explaining how the group of counselors has moved forward in ministering the gospel of Jesus Christ to broken, hurting people. It is both informative and inspiring, showing the reader how far the movement has come and the great work the giants of the first and second generation have accomplished and also pleads with the reader to continue on with the task. This book comes highly recommended, especially to students who read the works of many leaders because it helps to make a connection between the thoughts and emphases of each author. Furthermore, it builds somewhat of a reverence for the counseling task and a great appreciation for those giants whose shoulders we now stand on.
Nothing is more precious this time of year than the stories of Christmas hope overcoming evil. We gravitate toward the stories of the church who’s organ broke but came together to write Silent Night. Who isn’t inspired by the soldiers of World War 1 who ventured into the no man’s land to celebrate with their enemies. And what about that Cellist playing Christmas carols on the heaps of rubble in Sarajevo? These stories show peace; they give hope. But sometimes they blind us, rendering us disillusioned toward the real world.
For some, Christmas isn’t all holly-jolly with mistletoe and chestnuts roasting over an open fire; it is far from the most wonderful time of the year. Rather, it can serve as a stark reminder. Last Christmas grandpa was alive. My family still doesn’t accept me. I lost my job and can’t give my kids any presents. We were still dating last Christmas. The bank foreclosed on my house, how can we be home for the holidays?
When you get past all the tinsel and garland, Christmas is sometimes a somber event. One not of peace on earth and good will toward men. One of angst and not everything feeling quite right. Advent captures this feeling. One of hope; not that peaceful “it’s ok” hope, but one of “God better do something or I’m doomed” hope.
Advent was a time when an Israel who was, in a very real sense, rejected by their God. They were restored to their land, had rebuilt their temple, but something was still not right. God had promised a messiah, but for several hundred years, he was silent. For the church, Jesus has come and we know He is coming again. But still, something about this world is just not right. We have pain and grief and suffering and angst. Like our Hebrew counterparts, we are waiting for the Messiah to come and to set things right.
So Advent is the season that we understand the human soul. We are confident in God’s promises, but we are anxiously awaiting. We don’t look at the world through poinsettia colored glasses, we see the hurt all around. The talking heads will not be silent of the evils. But there’s a hope. A promise. A trust. And so, in the midst of the cold, wintery night, we sit, listening for God. And when God seems quite, in that silent night, we wait.
Everyone knows that the Bird is the Word. But in in ancient philosophy, the word was so much more. It was seen as a cosmic force that held everything together and gave meaning. So when John wrote:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
(John 1:1-5 ESV)
there are profound meanings that you lose when you modernize the Bible to make it more readable. The Voice puts it this way:
Before time itself was measured, the Voice was speaking. The voice was and is God. This celestial Word remained ever present with the Creator; His speech shaped the entire cosmos. Immersed in the practice of creating, all things that exist were birthed in Him. His breath filled all living things with a living, breathing light - A light that thrives in the depths of darkness, blazes through murky bottoms. It cannot and will not be quenched.
Poetic, yes. The Bible, not quite. This is why I’m not a big fan of The Voice. However, I wanted to start with a reference to that song, so let me put my cards on the table real quick.
I believe in something called Verbal Plenary Inspiration, which says that every word of scripture is inspired. There were church councils over an iota (think the dot of an i) that separated orthodoxy from heresy when it came to the deity of Christ. If God wrote a book exactly the way He wanted it, I don’t see why you would want to make it more poetic and “readable.”
Sure, modern paraphrases have their place. They can help explain one’s view of the text, or get rid of some of the theological jargon, but I don’t think they can replace a solid, word for word version of the Bible. I like the ESV, but would much rather read the NASB, NKJV, HCSB, or NIV that tries to keep the text how it is.
Therefore, I’m not a huge fan of The Voice. God spoke, I believe that’s good enough. We can’t all learn Greek, Hebrew, and a little Aramaic (trust me, I’ve tried), so we have to trust our translators. But in doing it, I want them to leave their artistic abilities at home and give me the words God gave us.
However, Judging The Voice for what it is, it does a nice job of doing what it sets out to do. It is beautiful. It is easy to read. It flows. It’s musical. So, kudos to that.
But it also takes some of the more controversial texts and in expanding them, loses their meaning (Romans 8:29-30). So no bueno there.
This is a nasty review, I know. I think you can probably tell that I really want to like The Voice, but it just does too much damage to the Word of God.
This is totally copy and pasted, but I don’t care.
Going to Seminary is expensive. On top of that, finding a scholarship can be really difficult. That’s why I was so excited to find this Seminary Scholarship website today. Not only are they giving away a $1,000.00 scholarship and a digital theological library, all I had to do to apply was watch a short video and answer a few questions! It took less than 15 minutes. What is best of all is that if you’re in seminary and apply for the Seminary Scholarship, and put my name (Dan Seidelman) as the person who referred you, if you win the scholarship, so do I! We could both get a $1,000.00 scholarship and digital theological library. So, do us both a favor and go apply for the Seminary Scholarship today.
I know I neglect my blog during the semester, but I have good reason to neglect it. Here’s the next series of posts I will be posting. However, don’t be surprised if you don’t start seeing them until November or so…
Often we look at the past and wish we could give the younger, more naive version of ourselves advice. But, alas, we can not - what has happened to us in the past is set in stone, unable to be changed. However, we do have the opportunity to invest what we have learned into others who stand in the same position that we once stood.
This is the letter that I wish I had received when I was starting my theological education. Or, perhaps I was given advice such as this, but I wish I had followed it. Hopefully it serves as a help to you.
Dear Theological Student.
“The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest” (Matthew 9:37-38). You have responded to God’s summons on your life to be a minister of His gospel. Many saints have prayed for laborers and you are part of God’s answer. However, right now you are in a time of training. While preparing for full time ministry, there are many snares to avoid and many sirens singing out for your affections. You will experience new ideas, situations, and temptations that you have never faced before. Bible College and Seminary are not easy. However, we have a powerful savior who will strengthen you and empower you for your trek. For the sake of the church and dignity of Christ’s reputation, I want you to succeed. My knowledge is limited and understanding of life is flawed, but let me humbly give you the advice I wish I had followed.
“If we easily confess to God something that shames us to confess to a friend, we are thinking too highly of the opinions of people and not highly enough about the holiness of God.”—Dr Ed Welch, Addictions: A Banquet in the Grave p198
Our participation in the process of sanctification comes only after we’ve been totally accepted and made right before God through faith in Jesus. So yes, we work hard ant obeying God’s word. We read our Bibles. We pray. We meditate on Scripture. We memorize Scripture. We share the gospel. We serve in our church. We fast. God commands us in His Word to do many things, and our obedience is both pleasing to Him and brings His blessing to our lives.
But not one of these good spiritual activities adds to our justification. We’re never “more saved” or “more loved” by God. Our work is motivated by the grace God has poured out in our lives.
-C.J. Mahaney, The Cross Centered Life, p. 34
I just finished reading this book. It was excellent.
Some Years ago, I was deeply depressed. I knew whom I had believed, but I could not get comfort from the truth I preached. I even began to wonder if I was really saved.
While on vacation, I went to a Wesleyan chapel. The sermon was full of the gospel and tears flowed from my eyes. I was in a perfect delirium of joy. I said, “Oh yes, there is spiritual life within me; the gospel can still touch my heart and stir my soul.”
When I thanked the good man for his sermon, he looked at me and could hardly believe his eyes.He said , “Are you not Mr. Spurgeon?”
I replied, “Yes.”
"Dear, dear," said he, "that was your sermon I preached this morning." I knew it was, and that was one reason why I was so comforted. I realized that I could take my own medicine. I asked the preacher to my inn for dinner. We rejoiced that he was led to give the people one of my sermons that day, that I could be fed from my own kitchen.
I do know this. Whatever I may be, there is nothing that moves me like the gospel of Christ. “For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day.”
The thing I dislike most about technically being an adult is that you often forget about the most basic things. I guess we think we are somehow beyond the basics or need sophisticated words and thoughts. As a kid, you get it. You are excited about the little things that we take for granted.
I got a letter from Jeffri, my compassion kid, today that includes this simple yet awesome sentence:
Praise God because He has helped us till now.
That is pretty much the coolest sentence ever. Apparently because I’m in seminary now I have to say things like “Praise God for displaying His glorious grace by pouring out the riches of His mercy on a wretched worm such as I.” Sure, it’s true and it sounds good, but when is the last time you or I simply thanked God for the mundane things that we take for granted in everyday life.
And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them.
“Each book of the Bible is assigned its logical place in the theme of salvation history. The Bible is not to be regarded primarily as a collection of proof-texts or a repository of doctrine but a witness to God’s activity in history which will not be fully completed until the eschatological consummation.”—Gerhard Hasel, Old Testament Theology, p. 22
I read David Platt’s Radical last fall and thoroughly learned from it and was convicted through it. There were a few concerns I had (and Kevin DeYoung voiced them perfectly -[…]) but overall I was very satisfied with Platt’s work, which made me very excited to read his sequel, Radical Together. I received this book last night, read about half of it before going to bed, and finished the book this morning before work. Yeah, it’s that good. So let me tell you what the book’s all about, then why I like it so much.
Radical Together is broken into 6 chapters, each focusing on a different aspect of being a member of a radical church. Chapter 1 focus on how good things can be the enemies of Christians. This was an extremely helpful look at what the Church is to be, contextualization, and priorities of ministries. Chapter 2 than clarifies the gospel - it saves us from work but also saves us to work. Platt was accused of not being “gospely” enough in Radical, this accusation can not be made of his sequel. Chapter 3 talks about the importance of the Word of God instead of showmanship. 4 says that mission is for the average joe in church, not the “professional.” Chapter 5, my favorite, puts our small lives in perspective with the end of the world - talking about how all the nations must be reached before Christ returns and some of the pitfalls of missional churches we need to avoid. Finally, Chapter 6 speaks to the glory of God in missions. Also, there are small group questions that I will probably use one day for a core group in a church plant.
There are several reasons I liked this book. First, I felt it was a little more mature than Radical, while keeping the same radical attitudes. You don’t get the If you sent the money you spent on biggie-sizing your lunch, you could have saved a life type vibes I got from his first book. Second, Platt does an awesome job of balancing. Far to many books about the nations discredit reaching your community. Far to many books about reaching your community discredit the nations. Platt has a “both/and” attitude that is needed. Third, everything is motivated by the gospel. Often Platt says he is not trying to guilt people into anyone into anything - he motivates by grace. Finally, I think he’s right. I felt convicted about my apathy in reading this book. Especially by a quote from page 75:
Is it really possible to have all the trappings of the church and yet miss the heart of Christ? Is it possible for church people to be so focused on personal comforts and so fearful of the potential cost that they virtually forget the purposes of God among all the peoples of the world?
Do yourself a favor, buy this book, read it, meditate on it, and see what God says to your heart through it. I’m not one of those people who say “This book will change your life, you will never be the same,” but it will be a good reminder of what God has done for you and what He has called you to do for others and for Him.
I know that everyone hates this technical junk, but please read it. I really need you to rate this review if you read it. Waterbrook Multnomah, who supplies free books to those who will review them, only gives out print editions to people with a certain number of ratings. Because I did not have enough, I had to read this book on my phone - I really didn’t like that. Plus, if I get the print edition, than you can borrow it after you read my review. So take 3 seconds and help yourself by helping me.
I need to start this review by saying I love being an American. Toby Keith is better than the Dixie Chicks, I think Apple Pie is delicious, and I vote in the major elections. I take showers, I have short hair, don’t protest wars, work a job, and pay taxes. In fact, I am listening to Johnny Cash’s “American Recordings” as I write this review. This being said, God’s Promises for the American Patriot does not sit well with me.
For those of you who do not know, God’s Promises for the American Patriot is a gift book that has a story from America’s history on the left page and Bible verses ripped from their context on the right. But I don’t want to be completely cynical, because I want to keep getting free books from Thomas Nelson, so let me say some good things about this book.
First, the historical content is actually quite interesting. I did not know about the faith of Henry Heinz (the ketchup guy) or Longfellow’s poems against slavery. Second, the fact that the author’s surname is “Countryman” is entertainingly ironic. Third, structurally and aesthetically this book is fantastic.
But here’s my big problem with God’s Promises for the American Patriot, Lee and Countryman (I giggle every time I write that) constantly equate Israel with America. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but America is not God’s chosen people. I know, I’m a communist now, but America is not a Christian nation. Sure, some of our founding fathers were Christians, and Ben Franklin is often confused with the Bible (God helps those who help themselves?), but we are in no way God’s chosen nation. Israel was rescued by God to follow Him alone and show the world what it looked like to submit to God all aspects in order to show the inferiority of trusting one’s own self as his authority. This is why they had laws covering everything from what to eat, how to worship, family relations, to where you are allowed to defecate. God rescued the nation and made a covenant with the nation. That nation is Israel, not America.
What’s this mean for us? It means that when you quote Deuteronomy saying that God will fight your enemies (17), Zechariah saying the cursed nation will be blessed (89), or Micah saying God will end all fighting against nations(137), it does not directly apply to America - it applies to God protecting His name by protecting Israel.
Also, Ben Franklin (166) was a deist, as was Thomas Jefferson (134) - who cut all the miracles out of His Bible because he didn’t believe they could happen. It’s funny that his section talks about the miracles of Jesus…
*Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review (obviously). The opinions I have expressed are my own - but if you disagree you are still wrong. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255, but mostly because having all this legal mumbo-jumbo at the bottom of my review makes it look official and I feel important when it looks official.
Recently I saw a Facebook post pointing to an article. It caught my attention, and having never read that blog before I was curious as to what this post said. I decided to comment on the link, but needed a bit more space to treat this adequately - it’s an intriguing topic to me. But first, let me do a quick recap of the article:
Basically, the author thought the idea that “God will never give you more than you can handle,” was biblical and true - this reassured her, it sounded right. However, this isn’t exactly what the Bible says… she is adapting 1 Corinthians 10:13:
No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. (ESV)
The focus then moves to two ideas - temptation and ability. She says that “Temptation is very different from the vast, exhaustive list in life of anything that could happen to us. God doesn’t say He won’t give us what we can’t handle. He says we won’t be tempted beyond our ability.” On ability, we are told that an exit is paired with ever temptation, and our ability is related to our maturity in Christ.
She concludes by saying that we will be given things we can not handle - she shares stories about losing children as well as the Biblical examples of Job as well as the sufferings of Paul.
I think there are some good things and bad things in this article, and the discussion surrounding it. Mainly, I want to speak to four of these - the context, defining temptation, the idea of beyond your ability, and the way of escape.
(1) The Context: This particular verse comes in a much larger chunk of scripture talking about eating meat sacrificed to idols. A lot of the Christians in Corinth came from a pagan background that was marked by sacrificing animals to idols. Therefore, those temples served as both restaurants and meat factories to make a profit from the dead carcasses. City culture revolved around these temples, then, so the Christians don’t really know what to do with them. The idols aren’t really gods, just carved pieces of wood - so can they eat the meat - or because of the symbolism should they avoid it? Paul gives some clarification. In Ch 8 he says not to eat in the temples, because a weaker Christian might see this and fall into worshiping in the temple because he saw you there and misunderstood what you were doing. Second, he shows himself of doing this in forfeiting his rights for the sanctification of others (ch 9). Finally, in ch 10 Paul warns them not to be idolaters, but if they unknowingly buy meat that was sacrificed to an idol, it’s cool to eat it unless it hinders the mission of the church (ch 10-11:1).
We also have to note that this verse is in one part of this argument talking about the example of the Exodus generation who received all the blessings of God, yet still fell to idolatry. He says twice to not be idolaters (10:7, 10:14). And he warns them, take heed because it’s when you think you are standing that you are most likely to fall. Then we get this famous verse 13. This is followed by a grand conclusion in 10:19-22
"What do I imply then? That food offered to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. Shall we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he?" (1 Corinthians 10:19-22 ESV)
So, the specific temptation that Paul has in mind is eating meat sacrificed to idols,but let’s look at this idea of temptation a little more.
(2) Temptation: I like this simple definition: “Temptation is that which moves us to sin.” From this, there are three relevant things that can be said about temptation:
First, Temptation can be part of a “test” like in Job’s case, or it can simply be the mundane aspects of life. If temptation is that which moves us to sin, specific testing can do that, but also a traffic jam, a woman writing a check in the express line, or running out of milk after you pour your cereal. These things all present the opportunity to sin. Furthermore, good things can be temptation. My education, friends, family, and possessions are really good things, but at times I have desired them more than God, which is idolatry and the root of all sin.
Second, you’re not exceptional. I know we like to say pithy stuff like “I’m a snowflake - there’s no one like me” but 1 Corinthians 10:13 says that you’re not an exception; “no temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man.” Therefore, all sin is common, you’re not in a unique situation where your temptation is somehow different. Practically, this means that God’s rules are not situational… I’m speculating here, but I’m sure there were some well-meaning Corinthians who were feasting in the pagan temples because their situation was different and they thought it wasn’t sin for them. But this is clearly not the case, all temptation is common to man.
Third, Christ has been tempted in every way as we have, but without sin. I’m pulling this from Hebrews 4:15, and the benefit of this is that we have a high priest who can sympathize with us. So, not only is your situation common to man, it is also common to Christ.
With those three points being foundational, we can move on to the two big issues here: not being tempted beyond what your ability and having provided a way of escape.
(3) Beyond your ability: Here’s where I hear this verse most often misinterpreted. It’s almost like God is in Heaven planning out each person’s day and he has John walking to Starbucks to get his morning coffee, but Susan is in line in front of him. Then the Son peeks over God’s shoulder to look at His day-planner and say “woah woah woah, this isn’t going to work. You know that Susan’s beautiful and John struggles with lust. We have to have Susan stop to buy a newspaper or something so she’s not in front of John, this is beyond John’s ability.” So God relents, and changes the plans for their days so that John will be protected from that temptation.
I don’t believe this is quite right, though. Sure, God does supernaturally ordain our days and interactions, but perhaps this is not meant by “beyond your ability.” If I was never tempted beyond my ability, then I would never sin, right? If I took a math test where no questions were beyond my skill and intelligence, I’d get them all correct. So what does this “beyond your ability” mean. I think there are two essential words implied, “In Christ.” Romans 6 says we are either a slave to righteousness or a slave to sin. Bob Dylan says “It may be the devil or it may be the Lord, But you’re gonna have to serve somebody.” I think what Paul is really getting at here is that we will never have a temptation come along that we absolutely must give in to - we will never be salves to sin if we are in Christ. Look what my dawg John Calvin says regarding this:
“He exhorts them, however, to look to the Lord, because a temptation, however slight it may be, will straightway overcome us, and all will be over with us, if we rely upon our own strength. He speaks of the Lord, as faithful, not merely as being true to his promises, but as though he had said: The Lord is the sure guardian of his people, under whose protection you are safe, for he never leaves his people destitute. Accordingly, when he has received you under his protection, you have no cause to fear, provided you depend entirely upon him.”
In the next paragraph, Calvin does say that Paul also has in mind limiting temptation that comes. So, in a sense, that wrong interpretation is half right… In God’s sovereign rule, He has the power and authority to limit temptation. However, this doesn’t mean more than we can handle on our own or else we would never sin. He will never let us drown under the weight of temptation, but as Americans we want this verse to mean that we will never feel the sting of water in our lungs.
One more mess to clean up before I move on. As a culture who loves to quote scriptures such as “God helps those who help themselves,” “Cleanliness is next to godliness,” and “Hate the sin but love the sinner,” we often quote 1 Corinthians 10:13 as “God will never give us more than we can handle.” This was what the blog post that inspired this blog post was about. In all actuality, God is being merciful to us in giving us more than we can handle on our own. By doing this, He shows us our need for Him, that we are small failures and He is perfect and strong. How awful would it be to have an easy life where you never saw a need for God, then wake up in hell one day? This is the curse of Romans 1 - I would much rather have a hard life that showed me my need for God, leading to an eternity with Him through Christ’s sacrifice.
Now that that tangent’s over, let’s finish up this verse… “But with the temptation He will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”
(4) The way of escape: Which Bible personality illustrates this point in every sermon? Joseph with Potiphar’s wife when he runs away naked. And then the preacher says that whenever we feel we are trapped by sin, there is always a way of escape. Like with the idea of “beyond our ability” this is true, but I don’t believe it’s the whole truth.
First, the truth is that there is a way out. For the Corinthians, there would never be a situation in which they were forced to sin by eating the sacrificed meat. They could always go hungry or hit Taco Bell down the street. The same is true for us, we will never be put in a catch-22 where their only option is sin. There is always a righteous path to take. With each temptation, He will also provide the way of escape.
What we don’t like is that this path of escape is never the path of least resistance. This path involves Joseph streaking, the Corinthians going hungry, Paul being beaten and imprisoned, and all the disciples dying a martyr’s death. It’s not a simple blue or red pill choice; the path of righteousness is difficult and the path of sin is easy - but the difficulty is worth it.
Now here’s where I think we get it wrong, and that comes with the word “endure.” Fleeing like Joseph is not enduring (As a side not, scripture says to fight temptation but always says to flee sexual temptation. I’m not sure what the significance of this is exactly, but it’s interesting). So, if we are enduring we are not escaping, which makes me think that perhaps this way out is not something we find but something Christ has already provided. Christ has to be our refuge when we are tempted; only He is the way of escape. Apart from him we are salves to the temptation and slaves to sin. He is our way out.
Both people who read my blog probably see this as a “duh” statement, I do as well, but we so often forget it. If we look for purely human ways of escape, we miss the point of this verse; Christ has to be our escape. When we try to run away from a sin in our own strength another sin will capture us on our course. But the question still remains of how is Christ our escape? First, I think it has to do with a reminder that God is now our master. When we flee to Christ, He reminds us that we are bought with a price and no longer our own. This makes us see sin for what it is, deliberate disobedience to our creator, redeemer, sustainer, and master. Second, it has to do with our affections. When you look at the beauty of Christ and His gospel, sin begins to lose it’s appeal. Naturally, your affections turn to Him rather than the sin. Third, through the indwelling Spirit Christ actually gives us strength. When we feel we have nothing left to fight with, Christ fights for us. This is the provided way of escape.
(Conclusion) So what does this mean for us? While doing some research on this topic I noticed a couple responses in my life. First, it inspired me to step up my game in fighting sin - as John Owen said “Be killing sin or sin will be killing you.” The simple reminder of Christ’s dominion of sin is inspiration to fight. Second, I began looking for the paths of escape. Personally, I fall on the side of the spectrum that focuses so much on the sovereignty of God that I forget about the responsibility of man. Looking at my responsibility made me examine the options to avoid sin in my own life. Third, I was drawn to Christ, my high priest, in mourning over my sins. I hope this post gives you similar reactions and many more. If you disagree with what I said, have other comments, or are bored, lets get some comments rolling. I never get comments on my blog.
[Sources: ESV Study Bible, Calvin’s Commentary on 1 Cor, Articles on Desiring God]
Step 5: Use self-righteousness as the ultimate motivation.
There are several key motivations that can be used as to why your Christians should grow in faith and obedience, however the best of these is always self righteousness. If people can use their good deeds and spiritual dedication as a way to prove they are better than everyone else, they have all the more reason to do what you say. Honestly, who doesn’t want to be better than everyone else?
You see, this is essential. Motivation out of thankfulness for what Christ did on the cross and obedience to our master is good, but self righteousness is so much better. Now, if you are a nerd, you know the whole Desiring God discussion that obedience produces joy, so ultimately we do please ourselves in pleasing God, but that’s not what I’m talking about here. I want you to do this to make yourself seem righteous.
So, with this long awaited conclusion, let me give you my plea to get my hypothetical congregation to read their Bibles more.
(1 - Mock immaturity) “God helps those who help themselves.” “Cleanliness is next to Godliness.” “Spare the rod, spoil the child.” “God works in mysterious ways.” Those are some of your favorite and most beloved scriptures, am I right? But the problem comes in trying to find where they are. Are we really so ignorant of our Bibles that we can’t find these verses. Do you even know what is in the BIble. I was having coffee with one guy this week who thought that there was a book of Hesitations… maybe that’s where these bogus scriptures are found. Look, a lot of you are morons, you don’t know what’s in the Bible because you have no passion to read it.
(2 - Discipline into Loving) But, here’s what might happen. What if you read the Bible without passion, eventually you will learn and be interested, and this discipline will grow passion in your soul. Serious times for serious measures - fast until you read 5 chapters a day. Give a dollar to charity every day you don’t read. This discipline will make you love it - we all know it only takes 21 days to make a habit. Be hard on yourself, there is no mercy that comes with discipline.
(3- No need for training) I know what you may be thinking. “I don’t know how to read the Bible,” or “There’s things I don’t understand.” But do you really think that God would give you something too hard for you. There’s a lot you can understand. And, you read your emails, what’s different when it comes to the Bible? The word is for everyone, there is no need for a seminary education to read the Bible.
(4- Focus on Starting) So here’s what our church is going to do. For each of you who commit to begin reading the Bible daily before this day is over, we have a calendar with a yearly plan printed on it. But here’s the deal, you need to commit today. Don’t take time to make excuses, because you will make every excuse you can think of. We are not offering this again, let’s start this together. Today is Bible Sunday…. we won’t be doing this for another year next Bible Sunday. Today is the day of commitment.
(5- Self righteousness) You know you are going to hear this sermon again next year. Won’t it feel good to know that you’ve read the entire Bible by then? When I quote philosophers and politicians and claim them as scriptures, you’ll be able to have the upper hand on the rest of the congregation because you know what’s in the Bible. You’ll have the authority to speak into other’s lives who don’t know as much as you. You will have all the benefits of reading the Bible. So what do you say, are you going to commit to reading the Bible today - or are you going to be left looking for “To thine own self be true” in the book of Hesitations instead of Shakespeare’s Hamlet?
Here’s what is scary. That pitch is not unreasonable to be heard. And, there is a whole lot of truth in it. However, the problem is what’s left out. There is no God, there is no Gospel, there is no connection to Jesus. This is simply self-help and not Christian. So in growing Christians, make sure that there is relation to the Gospel - not just disconnected truths. God is growing you by His mercy, have the same mercy on your people.
Part 4 of “How To Grow Christians.” This one is short and not overly sarcastic…
I’m not sure that I really need to write much here because pretty much everyone agrees that a good start apart from a good finish is worthless. But lets be honest, how many times do we roll out huge starts instead of huge finishes. I see this all the time - churches beginning a huge “Let’s read through the Bible” campaign and by Genesis 20, you hear nothing more about it. Genesis 1-20 are really good, but what about sustaining and finishing well?
This is unbelievably important in the ministry. We’ve all heard that about 70% of Christian leaders don’t make it in the long run. So how do you plan so you finish well and make it and help others finish well also?
This is part 3 of my sarcastic “How to Grow Christians” series… GO!
Before We dive into this, let me assure you that I passionately believe in the priesthood of all believers. In no way do I think that I am better than you because I have had several years of theological education (I think I am better than you for other reasons… Kidding). The brand new believer has a role to play in ministry, just like the dude with a PhD, even though these roles will probably look different. However, I think there has been an overreaction to the professionalization of ministry that many churches have gone off the deep end when it comes to avoiding training.
Let me ask, how many times have you seen a video like this during announcement time at church…
Then some guy comes on stage and says “It’s not hard to lead a small group. In fact, anyone can do it - all you need is a Bible, couch, and the ability to make cookies. You should be a small group leader.” And you hear that and you realize that you can be a small group leader. You’re convinced that you have everything you need.
But then you start as a small group leader and the people start to come to you… My wife wants to leave me. Where do infants go when they die? I can’t overcome this addiction. How do I know I can trust the Bible? Why do I have this guilt / suffering / pain / habit and how can I get rid of it?
Sometimes you need more than just cookies.
But in this, I don’t think you need a seminary education. Here’s the thing, in the time it takes to convince people that they don’t need any training, you can probably give them adequate training to do their ministry properly and with confidence that they know where to go for answers.
Another example, evangelism. We are so quick to to answer people’s “what if I can’t answer their question” question with simply saying humbly “I don’t know” or proof-texting with “the Spirit will give you the words” (Mark 13 - read it in context). Now, of course these are true, but how long does it take to give a “real” answer as well. How do I know God exist? Take 2 minutes, look at the moral argument (Where do morals come from? Personal - what if I punch you in the face - it’s right because I think so. Can’t be. Cultural - Look at Sept 11, America said it was wrong, terrorists said it was right. Can’t be. So, there has to be something outside the universe that is the basis of all morals.)
So, let’s proclaim the priesthood of all believers, but also let’s train said believers. We do not need to be pouring the time, energy, and resources into convincing people they do not need any training to the neglect of actually using that time, energy, and resources to train them.
How to Grow Christians: Discipline them into loving
Step 2: Discipline them into loving.
What’s that? You don’t love the ways of God, communing with His people, or spending time in His word? Well, if I were you, I’d pretend like you do and do it anyways - perhaps if you fake it long enough you’ll actually become it. Because, you realize this, the human heart begins to love whatever it does - not do whatever it loves. Therefore, if you have a dry spiritual life, jump in to Leviticus - then Judges. Read. read. and read some more. Once you sacrifice enough for God, He will reward you with the emotion to go behind it - that’s how it works. Proverbs (or was it Ben Franklin) says that God helps those who help themselves.
Fake it until you make it.
Wait, really? Sure, love and discipline are linked, but it’s love that produces discipline, not the other way around - If you love me, you will keep my commandments (John 14:15). Love comes first, then obedience - this is the way it has to be. So what then, we just sit around and fulfill the desires of the flesh until God forces us to follow His will? Not at all. If one doesn’t have the desires for what He should it is his job to assemble kindling and pray fervently for God to light a fire in his heart. John Edwards said that the affections are the main way of telling if one truly is a Christian.
Before we leave this topic, let’s get a little balance. I’m often uncomfortable sharing the gospel with someone who does not want to hear it. It’s awkward telling them that there is something wrong with them that they can not fix. So, since my desires are to keep me to myself, should I follow them. No, sinful desires should never jettison obedience - this is an area where I need to sincerely beg God for desires - but obey nevertheless until He does. Not hoping that my obedience will lead to love, but loving God so much that I obey in spite of my desire.
Recently, I’ve noticed that a lot of churches try to inspire people to do things and grow in their faith. However, this means of motivation often seems a little, well, anti-gospel. I’m not saying it’s wrong, but possibly just not the best approach. So today, I begin a 5 part series on how to grow Christians - and if you can not tell, the list is completely sarcastic and probably counterproductive in the long run.
5 Steps to Grow Christians:
Mock their immaturity.
Discipline them into loving.
Convince them they don’t need training.
Focus on starting, not sustaining.
Use self-righteousness as the ultimate motivation.
Step 1: Mock their immaturity.
[Now, before I get into this let me say that using sarcasm or humor to point out flaws does have its place. If I did not believe this, I wouldn’t be writing this post right now. But gracious, helpful humor is not what I’m talking about here. So let’s go.]
If you want your Church to become more mature, you first have to show them their immaturity. Obviously, the best way to do this is to find an area of weakness, exploit and caricature it, and present it back to them as reality. Point and laugh at them. No one wants to be laughed at, so they will change.
[That should be a video - if it doesn’t show up check out http://youtu.be/6fnWenpN2dc] You see, in all reality, no one in the church will help up a fallen lady. In fact, statistics show that the #3 cause of death in that town is from being trapped under a garbage can. I’m not making this up. But by laughing at our failures we see that maybe it’s not as serious as we though. Maybe it is a laughing matter….
But in all seriousness, isn’t there a better way to point out sins than making fun of them? If you are trying to get Christians to follow the Word of God, I think showing their need for maturity should come from the Word of God. Often, the Bible uses warnings to motivate - or simply stating that you are drinking milk instead of solid foods. I just does not seem like mocking is the best option. However, Jesus often poked fun at the religious people to get them to see their sin and stupidity.
So, on step one I’m still thinking through how this should look. In the other 4 steps I have a more definite opinion. So what are your thoughts on this. Lets get some comments rolling.
On March 12th I started this 30 post challenge. Today, I finish it. This is a big question, so let me answer it vaguely with what I write on my social media page: I am an eccentric, unique man doing my best to fulfill whatever God calls me to do.
Well, I have learned that I can not complete blog challenges on time. This has taken me way more than a month. Furthermore, I have learned what I take seriously in life and where I am snarky. That’s a good thing to know. Furthermore, I think I’ve remembered how to write in a non-academic sense - I don’t always have to use whereas and henceforth and words like those. These posts have been good for me to reflect on all God has done in my life and how thankful I am for where He as placed me at this time.