- D.A. Carson
So, remember several years ago when the Emerging/Emergent church was emerging?
Well, what happened? Did it finally finish emerging and do we now just call it "church"? Or are the days long gone when church could consist of a faith maze, a fourth-century latin chant, followed a peace-ripple and then a response time in which you would finger-paint your desire for covenant membership on the worship-wall?
All kidding aside, I'm actually curious and not trying to be snarky. What happened? Back in that day the Christian blogosphere - which was a smaller pond where even a shoestring blog like ours could make a splash - was exploding with emerging/ent talk. The watchbloggers were out in force, newspaper in one hand and MacArthur in the other, and the emergers were dredding themselves up spectacularly and getting their left calves cross-tatted. Those were indeed heady days.
I kind of miss them.
I've been tasked in recent months with finding employees for my company. Here are some helpful hints for people who are looking for a job.
- If you leave a phone number, make sure your voice mail box isn't full.
- If you don't have voice mail, get it.
- If you send me an email, I probably won't respond if the domain name is from a video game cafe.
- If you leave me a voice mail, I'll be more apt to respond if you sound coherent and fully awake.
- If you ask me to call you in the morning, it might be a good idea to be available in the morning.
- If you set up a time for an interview, you probably don't want to show up an hour late.
- If you do show up an hour late, you might want to have a good I-had-to-save-a-baby-from-certain-death type excuse.
Pastor Steve Bezner writes on hospitality here. An excerpt:
So about ten years ago we decided to make the table a significant place in our home. We put Sharpie markers in the drawer of our table and invited each of our guests to sign our table.I love the idea of guests signing the table. I've long thought that it is significant that meals together play such a large role in the narrative of scripture. From Abraham preparing a meal for his three heavenly visitors to the solemn, hurried, dark and awe-filled feast the night the angel passed over, to Elijah and the widow with her never-ending handful of flour and cup of oil, to all the meals our Lord attended with the sinners, tax collectors, and national leaders he befriended, to his Last Supper, to fish on the beach, to the love-feasts of the vibrant early church and finally to the wedding feast of the Lamb. Scripture is replete with meals.
Yes, that's right, they sign it.
Not on top, but underneath. They get on the floor and sign whatever they want.
This created quite a stir for the first few guests. People honestly believed we were playing some sort of practical joke. But, eventually, we would coax them under the table and they would see other signatures.
And so they would sign.
Ten years later that good table gave up the ghost. Sadly, we didn't think to take pictures of the bottom of the table. But we're on our second table now, a table that once belonged to my grandmother. JB [Steve's wife] has reupholstered the chair cushions and we have moved the Sharpies to a new home.
And our guests are now signing here.
When you sit across the table from someone, there is an inherent sense of community immediately fostered. Inhibitions drop quickly. Laughter ensues. I almost always ask new friends, "What is your story?" You'd be amazed at the answers that question brings. Some answers are short, but most are twenty or thirty minute stories that tell us more than we might ever gain in a year of Sunday school classes or social get-togethers.
I think they are more important than we believe. And that is one reason why our culture, our flesh, our ancient enemy, our schedules, our fast-food appetites and our sloth war against the beauty of a simple meal and fellowship.
It is of such things that the Kingdom is built.
Jim Gaffigan's hilarious - and quite insightful - take on McDonalds and our culture:
Note: Gaffigan is a refreshingly clean comic, but there are two four letter words in this sketch, FYI.
Gay rights leader Shane Windmeyer writes about his new friendship with Chick-Fil-A's Dan Cathy. This shows that, contrary to contemporary political wisdom and practice, you can be gracious and kind to those who disagree with you. And you can do so while still holding to your principles. Grace is a beautiful thing. Some excerpts below:
I spent New Year's Eve at the red-blooded, all-American epicenter of college football: at the Chick-fil-A Bowl, next to Dan Cathy, as his personal guest. It was among the most unexpected moments of my life.And, no, I don't want to debate gay marriage in the comments thread. :-)
Yes, after months of personal phone calls, text messages and in-person meetings, I am coming out in a new way, as a friend of Chick-fil-A's president and COO, Dan Cathy, and I am nervous about it. I have come to know him and Chick-fil-A in ways that I would not have thought possible when I first started hearing from LGBT students about their concerns over the chicken chain's giving practices.
. . .
On Aug. 10, 2012, in the heat of the controversy, I got a surprise call from Dan Cathy. He had gotten my cell phone number from a mutual business contact serving campus groups. I took the call with great caution. He was going to tear me apart, right? Give me a piece of his mind? Turn his lawyers on me?
The first call lasted over an hour, and the private conversation led to more calls the next week and the week after. Dan Cathy knew how to text, and he would reach out to me as new questions came to his mind. This was not going to be a typical turn of events.
His questions and a series of deeper conversations ultimately led to a number of in-person meetings with Dan and representatives from Chick-fil-A. He had never before had such dialogue with any member of the LGBT community. It was awkward at times but always genuine and kind.
It is not often that people with deeply held and completely opposing viewpoints actually risk sitting down and listening to one another. We see this failure to listen and learn in our government, in our communities and in our own families. Dan Cathy and I would, together, try to do better than each of us had experienced before.
Never once did Dan or anyone from Chick-fil-A ask for Campus Pride to stop protesting Chick-fil-A. On the contrary, Dan listened intently to our concerns and the real-life accounts from youth about the negative impact that Chick-fil-A was having on campus climate and safety at colleges across the country. He was concerned about an incident last fall where a fraternity was tabling next to the Chick-fil-A restaurant on campus. Whenever an out gay student on campus would walk past the table, the fraternity would chant, "We love Chick-fil-A," and then shout anti-gay slurs at the student. Dan sought first to understand, not to be understood. He confessed that he had been naïve to the issues at hand and the unintended impact of his company's actions.
. . .
Throughout the conversations Dan expressed a sincere interest in my life, wanting to get to know me on a personal level. He wanted to know about where I grew up, my faith, my family, even my husband, Tommy. In return, I learned about his wife and kids and gained an appreciation for his devout belief in Jesus Christ and his commitment to being "a follower of Christ" more than a "Christian." Dan expressed regret and genuine sadness when he heard of people being treated unkindly in the name of Chick-fil-a -- but he offered no apologies for his genuine beliefs about marriage.
And in that we had great commonality: We were each entirely ourselves. We both wanted to be respected and for others to understand our views. Neither of us could -- or would -- change. It was not possible. We were different but in dialogue. That was progress.
[Hat tip to the always awesome Brant Hansen]
Here’s the complicated reality in which we live: All life is not equal. That’s a difficult thing for liberals like me to talk about, lest we wind up looking like death-panel-loving, kill-your-grandma-and-your-precious-baby storm troopers. Yet a fetus can be a human life without having the same rights as the woman in whose body it resides. She’s the boss. Her life and what is right for her circumstances and her health should automatically trump the rights of the non-autonomous entity inside of her. Always.I think we're entering a new phase in the abortion debate, one in which the pro-choice side is going to become more comfortable with the, in my view obvious, admission that abortion is the murder of a human being, while still defending the practice even more strongly than before. As Ms. Williams writes, "All life is not equal".
It's sobering to realize that support for abortion rights is on the upswing in our country, after a number of years where it looked like the tide might be turning toward the pro-life position. At least now there will be more honesty in the debate, but what can you say to someone who agrees with your basic stance that abortion is murder but supports it anyway?
Come quickly Lord Jesus.
"Our souls have shriveled to the size of a TV sitcom." - John Piper
"If you keep your hand off that mouse, guys, the world will open up to you." - John Piper
I'm speaking to the church here.
I don't hide my past, but rather glorify God in it. When one has been freed from the chains of sexual sin it's something you generally want to talk about. When you're "out there" with your past, people tend to gravitate toward you with questions about freedom from sexual sin. The big question is always the same, "How can I be free?" The answer is in Romans 12:2, a complete transformation -- a renewal -- of one's mind. That renewal only comes through persistent mediation on the word of God. Soak yourself with the the water of the word, because the oily taint of sexual sin can't mix with living water.
"Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body" (1 Corinthians 6:18).
This week I had the privilege of talking to two men who are wanting to be free. The first man I talked to, a stranger who I got connected with through a mutual friend, said his wife walked out on him two weeks ago (in no small part due to his pornography problem). He said he has since had a revelation of God's goodness, and he's a changed man. What I say to that brother is, "Work out your salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God who works in you ...". Two weeks of sobriety is wonderful, but the real proof of repentance is humility fused with time. The narrow way is a way of pressure: glorious, catharsis-inducing pressure.
The second man I talked to, a friend, wants to stay pure online. He's struggled. He's flirted with adultery. He's played with a double life. I sensed so much humility when he confessed his sins. He didn't shy away from tough questions; in fact, he asked for tough questions. He doesn't care who might find out about his problem; he simply wants to be free, no matter what humiliation may come. To him I feel confident claiming the promise that "He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus."
The reality of sexual sin is a reality every Christian man must face because our culture demands our lust and Christ demands our holiness. What's the exchange? You get to lay down the burden of constantly fleeing, even when no one pursues (Proverbs 28:1). What's more, you get to abandon the seedy websites, the late-night porn binges, the constant high-seeking of self gratification, and the illusion of "life." What do you get in return? As C.S. Lewis said, "Christ. And with him, everything else thrown in."
Nevertheless I [Jesus] have a few things against you, because you allow that woman Jezebel . . . to teach and seduce My servants to commit sexual immorality. . . . And he who overcomes and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations.
- Revelation 2:20, 26
John Piper writes on the abortion tragedy in America:
We have killed fifty million babies. And what increases our guilt as a nation is that we know what we are doing. Here’s the evidence that we know we are killing children.I recommend you read the whole thing.
1. Anecdotally, abortionists will admit they are killing children.
Many simply say it is the lesser of two evils. I took an abortionist out to lunch once, prepared to give him ten reasons why the unborn are human beings. He stopped me, and said, “I know that. We are killing children.” I was stunned. He said, “It’s simply a matter of justice for women. It would be a greater evil to deny women the equal right of reproductive freedom.” Which means women should be no more encumbered by the consequences of an unplanned pregnancy than men. That equal freedom from the burden of bearing unwanted children is the basis for abortion that President Obama refers to again and again when he talks about equal rights for women. We know we are killing children.
2. States treat the killing of the unborn as a homicide.
We know what we are doing because 38 States (including Minnesota) treat the killing of an unborn child as a form of homicide. They have what are called “fetal homicide laws.”
It is illegal to take the life of the unborn if the mother wants the baby, but it is legal to take the life of the unborn if she doesn’t. In the first case the law treats the fetus as a human with rights; in the second case the law treats the fetus as non-human with no rights.
Humanness is defined by the desire of the strong. Might makes right. We reject this right to define personhood in the case of Nazi anti-Semitism, Confederate race-based slavery, and Soviet Gulags. When we define the humanness of the unborn by the will of the powerful we know what we are doing.
3. Fetal surgery treats the unborn as children and patients.
High risk pregnancy specialist, Dr. Steve Calvin, in a letter some years ago to the Arizona Daily Star, wrote, “There is inescapable schizophrenia in aborting a perfectly normal 22 week fetus while at the same hospital, performing intra-uterine surgery on its cousin.” When the unborn are wanted, they are treated as children and patients. When they are not wanted, they are not children. We know what we are doing.
I was alive when Roe v. Wade was decided, though I was not really aware of the abortion issue. I remember throughout the seventies and eighties the general pro-abortion argument broke down into two main categories. The first was "we don't really know if a fetus is alive", which is the old "when does life begin" debate. The second was framed as a compassionate "quality of life" stance. "No child should ever be unwanted" (a sentiment I heartily agree with) justified the killing of those who's mothers didn't want them.
Time has passed. We know far more about what's going on in the womb now than we did forty years ago, and so you hear the first argument less and less. Oddly enough, you hear the second argument less and less as well.
We know what we are doing.
Yesterday in Obama's 2nd Inagural speech he spoke about rights for women, blacks and gays. And he linked them all in a way that hasn't been done before by any President ever. He said:
We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths -- that all of us are created equal -- is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall...
Seneca Falls -1848- The first women's rights meeting ever
Selma - 1965, police beat people marching for the right of black people to vote
Stonewall - 1969 standoff/riot - gays vs. the police outside a gay bar. (I had never heard of this before the President mentioned it today.)
And later he said...
It is now our generation’s task to carry on what those pioneers began. For our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers, and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts. Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law -- for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.
This kind of support, and tieing in of rights of the sexually deviant to race and gender is historic. (And by the way, my use of the word "deviant" here will one day be called hate speech. The dictionary defines "deviant" as "differing from the norm or the accepted standards of society".) The President of the U.S. is now going to do everything in his power to make sure that homosexuality is never considered deviant again.
Read this blog post by Al Mohler. It's important. Here it is, in it's entirety.
Jan. 10 - A new chapter in America’s moral revolution came today as Atlanta pastor Louie Giglio withdrew from giving the benediction at President Obama’s second inaugural ceremony. In a statement released to the White House and the Presidential Inaugural Committee, Giglio said that he withdrew because of the furor that emerged yesterday after a liberal watchdog group revealed that almost twenty years ago he had preached a sermon in which he had stated that homosexuality is a sin and that the “only way out of a homosexual lifestyle … is through the healing power of Jesus.”
In other words, a Christian pastor has been effectively disinvited from delivering an inaugural prayer because he believes and teaches Christian truth.
The fact that Giglio was actually disinvited was made clear in a statement from Addie Whisenant of the Presidential Inaugural Committee:
“We were not aware of Pastor Giglio’s past comments at the time of his selection, and they don’t reflect our desire to celebrate the strength and diversity of our country at this inaugural. Pastor Giglio was asked to deliver the benediction in large part because of his leadership in combating human trafficking around the world. As we now work to select someone to deliver the benediction, we will ensure their beliefs reflect this administration’s vision of inclusion and acceptance for all Americans.”
That statement is, in effect, an embarrassed apology for having invited Louie Giglio in the first place. Whisenant’s statement apologizes for the Presidential Inaugural Committee’s failure to make certain that their selection had never, at any time, for any reason, believed that homosexuality is less than a perfectly acceptable lifestyle. The committee then promised to repent and learn from their failure, committing to select a replacement who would “reflect this administration’s vision of inclusion and acceptance.”
The imbroglio over Louie Giglio is the clearest evidence of the new Moral McCarthyism of our sexually “tolerant” age. During the infamous McCarthy hearings, witnesses would be asked, “Are you now or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party?”
In the version now to be employed by the Presidential Inaugural Committee, the question will be: “Are you now or have you ever been one who believes that homosexuality (or bisexuality, or transsexualism, etc.) is anything less than morally acceptable and worthy of celebration?”
Louie Giglio, pastor of Atlanta’s Passion City Church, is also founder of the Passion movement that brings tens of thousands of Christian young people together to hear Giglio, along with speakers such as John Piper. They urge a rising generation of young Christians to make a passionate commitment to Christ. In recent years, the movement has also sought to raise awareness and activism among young Christians on the issue of sex trafficking. It was that activism that caught the attention of both President Obama and the Presidential Inaugural Committee.
Note carefully that both the White House and the committee were ready to celebrate Giglio’s activism on sex trafficking, but all that was swept away by the Moral McCarthyism on the question of homosexuality.
Two other dimensions of this story also demand attention. First, we should note that Louie Giglio has not been known lately for taking any stand on the issue of homosexuality. To the contrary, Giglio’s own statement withdrawing from the invitation made this clear:
“Due to a message of mine that has surfaced from 15-20 years ago, it is likely that my participation, and the prayer I would offer, will be dwarfed by those seeking to make their agenda the focal point of the inauguration. Clearly, speaking on this issue has not been in the range of my priorities in the past fifteen years. Instead, my aim has been to call people to ultimate significance as we make much of Jesus Christ.”
A fair-minded reading of that statement indicates that Pastor Giglio has strategically avoided any confrontation with the issue of homosexuality for at least fifteen years. The issue “has not been in the range of my priorities,” he said. Given the Bible’s insistance that sexual morality is inseparable from our “ultimate significance as we make much of Jesus Christ,” this must have been a difficult strategy. It is also a strategy that is very attractive to those who want to avoid being castigated as intolerant or homophobic. As this controversy makes abundantly clear, it is a failed strategy. Louie Giglio was cast out of the circle of the acceptable simply because a liberal watchdog group found one sermon he preached almost twenty years ago. If a preacher has ever taken a stand on biblical conviction, he risks being exposed decades after the fact. Anyone who teaches at any time, to any degree, that homosexual behavior is a sin is now to be cast out.
Second, we should note that Pastor Giglio’s sermon was, as we would expect and hope, filled with grace and the promise of the Gospel. Giglio did not just state that homosexuals are sinners — he made clear that every single human being is a sinner, in need of the redemption that is found only in Jesus Christ. “We’ve got to say to the homosexuals, the same thing that I say to you and that you would say to me … It’s not easy to change, but it’s possible to change,” he preached. He pointed his congregation, gay and straight, to “the healing power of Jesus.” He called his entire congregation to repent and come to Christ by faith.
That is the quintessential Christian Gospel. That is undiluted biblical truth. Those words are the consensus of the Church for over 2,000 years, and the firm belief held by the vast majority of Christians around the world today.
The Presidential Inaugural Committee and the White House have now declared historic, biblical Christianity to be out of bounds, casting it off the inaugural program as an embarrassment. By its newly articulated standard, any preacher who holds to the faith of the church for the last 2,000 years is persona non grata. By this standard, no Roman Catholic prelate or priest can participate in the ceremony. No Evangelical who holds to biblical orthodoxy is welcome. The vast majority of Christians around the world have been disinvited. Mormons, and the rabbis of Orthodox Judaism are out. Any Muslim imam who could walk freely in Cairo would be denied a place on the inaugural program. Billy Graham, who participated in at least ten presidential inaugurations is welcome no more. Rick Warren, who incited a similar controversy when he prayed at President Obama’s first inauguration, is way out of bounds. In the span of just four years, the rules are fully changed.
The gauntlet was thrown down yesterday, and the axe fell today. Wayne Besen, founder of the activist group Truth Wins Out, told The New York Times yesterday: “It is imperative that Giglio clarify his remarks and explain whether he has evolved on gay rights, like so many other faith and political leaders. It would be a shame to select a preacher with backward views on LBGT people at a moment when the nation is rapidly moving forward on our issues.”
And there you have it — anyone who has ever believed that homosexuality is morally problematic in any way must now offer public repentance and evidence of having “evolved” on the question. This is the language that President Obama used of his own “evolving” position on same-sex marriage. This is what is now openly demanded of Christians today. If you want to avoid being thrown off the program, you had better learn to evolve fast, and repent in public.
This is precisely what biblical Christians cannot do. While seeking to be gentle in spirit and ruthlessly Gospel-centered in speaking of any sin, we cannot cease to speak of sin as sin. To do so is not only to deny the authority of Scripture, not only to reject the moral consensus of the saints, but it undermines the Gospel itself. The Gospel makes no sense, and is robbed of its saving power, if sin is denied as sin.
An imbroglio is a painful and embarrassing conflict. The imbroglio surrounding Louie Giglio is not only painful, it is revealing. We now see the new Moral McCarthyism in its undisguised and unvarnished reality. If you are a Christian, get ready for the question you will now undoubtedly face: “Do you now or have you ever believed that homosexuality is a sin?” There is nowhere to hide.
I wonder if this post will be used against me 20 years from now?
I already knew this when I saw two of my daughter's best friends in high school drift away from the Lord after reading The Fountainhead. I am a conservative in philosophy and voting patterns, but I get troubled by some of the Rand fanboy action going on in the (currently stalled) conservative movement.
Here's a Rand quote from our friend Phil over at the excellent Brandywine Books: Why Christians Should Stay Away from Ayn Rand. This is from an interview she did with Playboy:
Christ, in terms of the Christian philosophy, is the human ideal. He personifies that which men should strive to emulate. Yet, according to the Christian mythology, he died on the cross not for his own sins but for the sins of the nonideal people. In other words, a man of perfect virtue was sacrificed for men who are vicious and who are expected or supposed to accept that sacrifice. If I were a Christian, nothing could make me more indignant than that: the notion of sacrificing the ideal to the non-ideal, or virtue to vice.The cross is a scandal, isn't it? So glad Christ sacrificed for non-ideal people like me.
[H]ow much more will the magnificence of marriage in the mind of God seem unintelligible in a modern Western culture, where the main idol is self; and its main doctrine is autonomy; and its central act of worship is being entertained; and its three main shrines are the television, the Internet, and the cinema; and its most sacred genuflection is the uninhibited act of sexual intercourse. Such a culture will find the glory of marriage in the mind of Jesus virtually incomprehensible. . . .
So I start with the assumption that my own sin and selfishness and cultural bondage makes it almost impossible for me to feel the wonder of God's purpose for marriage. The fact that we live in a society that can defend two men or two women entering a sexual relationship and, with wild inconceivability, call it marriage shows that the collapse of our culture into debauchery and anarchy is probably not far away.
- John Piper, "This Momentary Marriage"
Some semi-random reflections on the morning after the re-electing of our President.
- I do hope in 4 years the GOP can do better. Much better. I think we can. I thought we could. I was one of those "undecideds" many of my conservative friends were dogging the last many weeks, although I never publicly revealed it. Now, I wasn't undecided about who I wouldn't vote for. I was undecided about if I'd vote at all. I've become increasingly discouraged by the pragmatism necessary in the political endeavor to the point of my conscience being troubled. This is laughed at over in some blog-quarters, but I wasn't going to be cowed by somebody's derision into choosing "Not Obama." I was hugely dissatisfied with the Republican nominee. In the end, I made peace with voting for him anyway. I believe I did the right thing. But while you're making fun of conservative undecideds realize it's largely you who've put us in this position.
- Most people pushed into this corner like me decided either not to vote at all or to vote third-party, which of course ensured the President's re-election. We have nobody to blame but ourselves. In the end, I liked voting for a milquetoast bore -- b/c I think we need more of them in charge of things -- but milquetoast bores don't win elections. And if Republicans couldn't win in the middle of this gigantic mess we're in, we have to realize that campaigning a "Not Obama" isn't good enough. We need a strong, compelling conservative candidate next time around, and preferably a Hispanic/Latino one.
- We now have another four years of the most dangerous President in history for unborn children. It's clear that a more missional way for the pro-life passion is all the more necessary.
- Our President campaigned vigorously on a platform of progressive social issues: same-sex marriage, abortion rights, institutionalized class warfare on the wealthy, entitlements. I believe this is a clear case of calling evil (killing of the innocent, exploitation of the vulnerable and distressed, approval of sexual immorality, theft, and exploitation of the poor) good. I cast my vote as an echo of the woes of Isaiah 10:1-2. This resulted in a clear-conscience vote for Romney as a man unwilling to call evil good.
- I don't think that by and large most African Americans voted for Obama because he's black. I think they voted for him because he's liberal. This is proven by their reception of African American conservative and Republican candidates. When pressed, the greater African American community will choose a white liberal over a black conservative every time. And the stuff found funny about Obama, calling him white, becomes utterly inexcusable for conservative black candidates. Acting "white" is a liability, cause for derision and hate. Change the politics, however, and it's endearing. This isn't racism so much as hypocrisy.
- All along I did hope our evangelical conservative brethren understood that quoting Old Testament statutes to support the idea that Mitt Romney would return our nation to its "Christian foundations" was problematic given that the man would have been executed for heresy under the same statutes. I believe the Scriptures ought to guide our civic responsibilities, including voting, but I am always troubled by how readily we spiritualize our pragmatism and conflate empire with heaven. We help mainstream Mormonism as a Christian movement -- and therefore compromise the gospel -- when we mash up a Mormon candidate with Christian dominionism. But Glenn Beck has been helping evangelical political junkies do that for the last several years anyway.
- Another four years of this Presidency likely means four more years of accumulating crippling debt, increasing unemployment, growth of the welfare state, decline of the middle class, infringing of religious freedom and violation of free speech. As we give freer official reign to sexual immorality we will eventually see more spiritual and emotional anguish bubbling up in systemic and cultural ways. The time will (may?) come when the progressives will discover their shackles. That will be no time for the Church to play "I told you so." It will be a massive opportunity to proclaim and embody the difficult rest of the gospel of Jesus.
- Similarly, there will be more and more opportunities to stand up and be counted. I minister in perhaps the most liberal state in our nation. If trends outside the US are indicative, it is not impossible that our nation will see "hate speech" laws levied against public profession of biblical teachings or the refusal to officiate same-sex weddings (threatening fines, imprisonment, o or simply tax exempt status or whatever). Things will get tougher for conservative evangelicals. Perhaps a separation of the men from the boys is on the horizon. It is crucial that even now evangelical churches all over America stop playing stupid games and offering entertainment and Christianity-lite and start prepping the people of God for devotion to the gospel and taking up of their cross.
Every time we walk into Sam's someone asks us that. It's always a guy in a blue shirt.
"What TV service do you have at home?"
It's a satellite TV salesman, trying to get us to sign up.
"We don't watch TV. Don't even have rabbit ears," I often reply. Which is true, even though we do subscribe to Netflix and do own a couple TVs that we use to play DVDs sometimes.
"Hey, to each his own," one blue-shirted dude responded. They always look surprised, shocked even.
My encounters with the Blue Boys is on my mind this morning because last night Brandi and I scoured Netflix to see if we could find something decent to watch before heading to bed. We were both in the mood for something funny, but we noted how sitcoms usually play up casual sex for laughs while simultaneously making men look like buffoons.
"I think this show has a reputation for being somewhat wholesome," I said, pointing to Everybody Loves Raymond. We agreed to watch an episode, so I picked a random episode from Season 2 and started streaming it through our Wii.
Within two minutes of the show starting, Raymond's co-workers were talking about how ads in newspapers for "massages" are not really talking about massages. "Oh, so all of these ads are selling sex?" an idiot co-worker responded to Raymond and another guy. "Yes!" they shot back. "Well, these are some really good prices!" the idiot retorted.
At that point, we decided that we didn't love Raymond. We shut him down.
I know that a mature Christian can watch a show like "Raymond" and not be compelled to solicit prostitution. What I tend to doubt is whether or not a mature Christian would want to continually, night after night, weekend after weekend, fill his or her mind with hours upon hours of banality, when the riches and pleasures of God are ever-present via His word, prayer, and relationships with the body of Christ.
"What I watch doesn't have an impact on my thoughts or behavior," some might say.
If there's anything Americans are good at, it's making money. And American Business knows that it's worth spending $3.5 million to plant a 30 second seed in your mind during the Superbowl. American Business also knows that the female body is the most effective marketing tool in world history.
What am I advocating? A proactive approach to visual entertainment. The world has lulled us into passivity, wasting away while we passively watch other people live their lives on a screen. Furthermore, allowing the world so many "shots on goal" will eventually get a score past even the best goalie. We will reap what we sow, eventually. Even if we don't know a thing about gardening.
Don't waste your life.
Don't do it.
TV still reigns as the great life-waster. The main problem with TV is not how much smut is available, though that it is a problem. Just the ads are enough to sow fertile seeds of greed and lust, no matter what program you are watching. The greater problem is banality. A mind fed on TV diminishes. Your mind was made to know and love God. Its facility for this great calling is ruined by excessive TV. The content is so trivial and so shallow that the capacity of the mind to think worthy thoughts withers, and the capacity of the heart to feel deep emotions shrivels.
- John Piper, Don't Wast Your Life
Stuff you need to know from Psalm 46.
The world isn’t a stable place. Situations and people we take for granted can be gone in a moment. You can’t count on anything always being the same. Scary, right? This is why we need this reminder from Psalm 46.
“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (v.1).This great Psalm, which inspired Martin Luther's "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God", is worth reading in it's entirety, regularly. I think it's the solution for our way busier than we should be lives.
I saw on a survival show recently that if you are walking across a frozen lake and fall through thin ice, that you should try to climb back out the way you fell in, because that’s the last place you know for certain is stable. God won’t shift or give way. When everything else changes, isn’t it good to know that you have someone who never changes? If you are in danger of falling through thin ice or you have already fallen through, isn't it time for you to go back to the only place you KNOW is stable?
“Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at it’s swelling” (vv.2-3).Sometimes it seems like everything is shifting around us, like our very world is falling apart. That’s when you know you can trust in God.
“The nations rage, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts. The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress” (v.6-7).I know that many are worried about local, national and international politics. Those are certainly serious things, but God is bigger. When nothing else is stable, he is.
“He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the chariots with fire” (v.9).With this Psalm writer, we certainly look forward to the day that God will bring peace. When this Psalm was written, the ancient Israelites were trusting in alliances with the militaries of pagan nations to protect them. In other words they were depending on human strength to keep them safe. The truth is that everything humans make can be broken.
God is saying that one day he will destroy all of the things they are trusting in and then finally they will be able to “Be still and know that I am God” (v.10).
Let me repeat that. God said, “Be still and know that I am God”
What are we waiting for? Are we waiting for him to break our cars...ahem...chariots? Are we waiting for him to destroy our TV's? Are we waiting for him to rain out soccer practice? Why wait until all the chaos of life is silenced by force? One day it is going to all stop. For the world, and for you.
I think that through this passage God is saying something like this to me today: “Be still now. Stop running to and fro from one piece of unstable ground to another. Put your focus on me. Trust that I am in charge. Trust me more than your busyness. Trust me more than your government. Trust me more than all of the things you are trusting in. Stop moving around so much. STOP! Eventually something will fail. And then in that moment you will know that you need me. You will know that your busy schedule doesn't save because it will cease to be.
Why wait until then? Be still and know that I am God now.”
I'm beginning to develop a theory that a lack of modesty among Christian women in a church culture is directly related to a lack of sexual purity among the men in that particular church.
At church on Sunday I was disturbed to see a missionary's daughter -- probably no more than 16 -- dressed like a woman of ill repute, right down to the spiky high heels. She was fully "covered up," mind you, but her clothes were so tight they may as well have been painted on. I kid you not, I thought to myself, If this little girl were out alone at night, could she be mistaken as a prostitute? The answer was yes.
It's good for a woman to be sexy ... to her husband behind closed doors. In like manner a man's eyes are reserved for one woman, his wife. I see time and time again, at least in my evangelical circle, a standard of purity that isn't much different from the world's. The missionary's young daughter was a case in point.
As I was struggling with frustration, I looked out at a sea of nearly 500 men and had another thought, How many of these men looked at porn last night? Then the correlation hit me: There's got to be a connection between a lack of purity among men and a lack of modesty among women (within the context of a church culture). If men are not sexually pure, how can we expect our women to be marked by prudence of dress? What's more, if men are not pure, why would they even want their women (and daughters) to be modest?
Am I wrong?
I'd love to hear anyone's thoughts on this.
Warning: The following post speaks bluntly about sexual issues, but not as bluntly as your average sitcom.
Some sources are claiming that as many as 60 percent of Christian men and 30 percent of Christian women are addicted to pornography. Not dabblers. Not "social users." Addicted.
Twenty years ago you needed Showtime, a dirty magazine subscription, or the audacity to walk into a porn shop in order to access the stuff, now the majority of you carry around a potential pornographic movie theater in your pockets. What's more, that little beloved screen can be accessed in private, virtually any time we choose. No longer do we need to sit with our finger on the remote, ready to change the channel if someone walks toward the living room. Public compulsion has morphed into private addiction. I know. I was there.
A testimony is a powerful thing. When I share mine I get excited, jacked up really, thinking about the glory that's magnified in Him through the grace He's given to me. If I'm speaking to a man, my testimony involves sharing how many years I've been free from pornography (and all sexual sin* for that matter). What I find interesting is how many men respond to my testimony by not saying something like, "Man, I'm free too. I got free from that junk on such and such date." Honestly, most men I share my testimony with simply smile and say something like, "That's awesome."
I'd guess that 75 percent or more of men in our churches are consistent porn users (if perhaps not addicts). When I say "consistent," I mean they can't stay off the stuff for more than, say, a month or two at a time. Of course, that's based purely on anecdotal observation, but with an iPhone in virtually every hip pocket, and with ambient, soft core porn on virtually every grocery checkout aisle, does anyone really think I'm overstating the problem?
The good news is the Good News. The gospel is powerful enough to defeat the works of darkness in anyone's life, but the gospel isn't about a passive mental acknowledgement -- it's about a violent overthrow of all the idols in your life, beginning with the idol of self.
So if you're a wife reading this, ask your husband, point blank, this simple question: "When was the last time you viewed pornography?" If communication is good in your marriage, as it should be, he'll answer your question directly and honestly. If your marriage needs help, he may hem, haw, stall, look away, get defensive, or act offended. If he says he's never in his life looked at pornography, he's probably lying. If things come to light, and you realize your marriage needs help, get with your spiritual authority (e.g., a pastor) and get your husband into counseling with you right away. If he refuses to go to counseling, go by yourself. The Porn War is just that -- a war. Passivity and apathy will not bring victory in this war.
If you're a husband reading this, stop looking at porn and make a commitment to only let your wife satisfy your visual desires. If you need help, man up, repent, and seek spiritual counsel. If you want to continue to be a dishonorable man with no character, continue to hide your sin and think about what you'll say when you're in front of the Almighty one day.
1 John 2:13 says, "I have written to you young men because you have overcome the evil one." In our society the primary way a spiritually young man overcomes the evil one is by stomping the head of the devil, and allowing Christ to triumph over him in victory over the flesh (Col. 2:15). If you're a young person reading this (man or woman), know that Christ bought your freedom, so walk in it. Your problem with pornography will not go away when you get married; on the contrary, it'll kill your marriage and leave you spiritually dead.
And everyone remember, again, there's good news, and it's the Good News. One man lived perfectly, never yielding to temptation, so that you can live perfectly in Him.
"For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him" (2 Cor 5:21).
*A la 1 Corinthians 6:18 & Ephesians 5:3
That's how many hours are in a week. It doesn't matter if you're Bill Gates, President Obama, or a burger-flippin' teenager -- we all only have 168 hours per week.
I'm 36 years old. I've got a growing family (5 kids and the best wife ever!), a great job, a side business, 35 chickens, friends I like to spend time with, a newly begun ministry at church, and an insatiable desire to read. The more and more responsibility I get, the more I realize what a precious gift time actually is, and how easy it is to squander it. In fact, the most egregious sin in my life right now may be the way I routinely waste hours and hours of precious, God-given, irreversible time.
In Don't Waste Your Life, John Piper calls TV “The Great Life Waster.” Is he wrong? I haven't read any Ray Bradbury, but according to a recent New York Times piece, Bradbury's nearly 60-year-old classic Fahrenheit 451 was, to say the least, prescient:
Most of all, Mr. Bradbury knew how the future would feel: louder, faster, stupider, meaner, increasingly inane and violent. Collective cultural amnesia, anhedonia, isolation. The hysterical censoriousness of political correctness. Teenagers killing one another for kicks. Grown-ups reading comic books. A postliterate populace. “I remember the newspapers dying like huge moths,” says the fire captain in “Fahrenheit,” written in 1953. “No one wanted them back. No one missed them.” Civilization drowned out and obliterated by electronic chatter. The book’s protagonist, Guy Montag, secretly trying to memorize the Book of Ecclesiastes on a train, finally leaps up screaming, maddened by an incessant jingle for “Denham’s Dentifrice.” A man is arrested for walking on a residential street. Everyone locked indoors at night, immersed in the social lives of imaginary friends and families on TV, while the government bombs someone on the other side of the planet. Does any of this sound familiar?
Not only is all of the above “vanity” (to borrow a word from the Preacher of Ecclesiastes), it's a case study in a society that values banality, superficiality, and, of course, a cultural zeitgeist that nurtures a deep lack of respect for a most precious non-renewable resource: time. Is the world of “Fahrenheit” much different from modern day America?
Of course, TV isn't a bogeyman. Wisely (and sparingly) used, TV can actually be a source of education, real information, and God-honoring entertainment. The same can be said for other time-wasting outlets: the Internet, smart phones, video games, pop fiction, magazines, etc.
I'm not an expert on this topic, but I'd like to suggest a few ideas on how to make the most of the time God has given us:
- Go to bed at a decent hour. Nothing good or productive happens after midnight. Back when I was a porn addict, 99% of my licentious surfing was done under the cover of darkness.
- Get at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep. As antithetical as it may sound, skimping on sleep is one of the worst ways to waste time. God designed our bodies to need 7 to 8 hours of sleep on a consistent, nightly basis.
- Get up early and spend time in prayer and Bible reading. I typically get up about 6 to 6:15 a.m., and my time with Jesus in the morning is, without doubt, my favorite time of the day.
- Schedule your time. I'm horrible at this. I detest schedules and feel like a schedule is a slave master. I'm learning, though, that the best thinkers and most effective people in the world use schedules.
- Turn off the TV. Make it a point to keep the TV off for a week. In that time, seek God, pray, spend time with family and friends. You'll become addicted to real life, and TV will begin to sound like noise.
- Think about your funeral. Think about how you want to be remembered when you're six feet under. Do you want to be remembered as the gal who never met a sitcom she didn't like? As the guy who watched every inning of every MLB baseball season? (The incomparable Stephen Covey calls this, “Beginning with the end in mind.”)
- Ask yourself, “How can I glorify God today?” Just asking the question opens up a range of seemingly infinite possibilities.
Now go forth and live life.
“Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31).
If you knew you were going to die within the next few seconds, what would you say? Here's what a few Texas Death Row inmates have had to say throughout the years. . . .
Beunka Adams, #999486
First, I want to let my mom know not to cry, there is no reason to cry, everybody dies. Everybody has their time, don't worry about me.
Jesse Hernandez, #999425
I can feel it, taste it, not bad.
Milton Mathis, TDCJ #999337
When I knock at the gates, they will open up and let me in. To my mom and everybody, I love you. I can feel it right now. My life, my life.
Robert Carter #999091
To the Davis family, I am sorry for all of the pain that I caused your family. It was me and me alone.
Some of the most sobering last words come from those who deny their guilt, right to the end. The question arises, if they're denying wrongdoing before meeting God, maybe they're telling the truth?
Keith Thurmond, #999435
All I want to say is I'm innocent, I didn't kill my wife. Jack Leary shot my wife then her dope dealer Guy Fernandez. Don't hold it against me, Bill. I swear to God I didn't kill her. Go ahead and finish it off.
Steven Woods, #999427
You're not about to witness an execution, you are about to witness a murder. ... I never killed anybody, ever.
Gary Graham #696
I would like to say that I did not kill Bobby Lambert. That I'm an innocent black man that is being murdered. ... Keep marching black people. They are killing me tonight. They are murdering me tonight.
Finally, how beautiful is the testimony of those who died at peace with the Father through Jesus Christ:
Mark Stroman, TDCJ #999409
Even though I lay on this gurney, seconds away from my death, I am at total peace. May the Lord Jesus Christ be with me. I am at peace.
Ronford Styron #999124
Y'all be careful. Lord Jesus, I see your Spirit, it's o.k. I love you.
Clayton, James #921
I would like to take this time to, ah, to use this moment an example for Christ. I would like to follow his example and leave with peace in my heart and forgiveness. There is no anger in my heart about this entire situation. I just want to testify to all of y'all that I have loved you. I appreciate your concern and genuine love for me. God bless you. I love all of all. Jesus is Lord.
Richard Foster #815
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who lives, but Christ who lives in me. So for the life for which I live now in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me. I love you, Annie. You have been the best friend I have ever had in the world. I'll see you when you get there, okay? I am ready, Warden.
Karla Faye Tucker #777
Yes sir, I would like to say to all of you – the Thornton family and Jerry Dean’s family that I am so sorry. I hope God will give you peace with this. Baby, I love you. Ron, give Peggy a hug for me. Everybody has been so good to me. I love all of you very much. I am going to be face to face with Jesus now. Warden Baggett, thank all of you so much. You have been so good to me. I love all of you very much. I will see you all when you get there. I will wait for you.
The above post isn't meant to be a social or political statement on the death penalty, but, rather, a reflection on the temporal nature of the tremendous gift of life.
We'll all be there one day, only a breath away from His tangible presence.
Why is it that it's always the prosperity "gospel" types that have to end up making excuses for why they get arrested, sued, or called to task for various malfeasances?
I am not by any means a cessationist. (In fact, my church would be construed as "charismatic" by most people, though I don't really think it is a classical charismatic church.) I am, however, becoming more and more disenchanted with the vast majority of what falls under the big umbrella of the charismatic movement these days.
I recently received a free copy of Charisma, and I was disgusted by the infiltration of the prosperity "gospel" (which is no gospel at all) within the pages of that magazine. The pages were littered with advertisements paying homage to the satanic "gospel" -- always with a smile, accompanied by a $2,000 suit, jewels befitting a queen, or any other number of worldly measurements of success and prosperity.
The prosperity "gospel" is damned heresy, a load of sensual trash that preys on the weak, feeble, and desperate. The prosperity preachers are wolves who willingly and greedily devour tithes, offerings, and other gifts from their disciples, just to prove that -- as Joyce Meyer once said in order to explain why her house was so nice -- "the Word is working!"
That "word," Joyce, is not the Word of Jesus.
May the very foundations of the prosperity "gospel" be shaken. May the monolith of health, wealth, and prosperity crumble to the ground, and be made but dust under the finger of Yahweh. May the beautiful Bride of Christ know what it means to be "killed all day long," and yet be "more than conquerors through Him who loved us" (Romans 8:36, 37).
"That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His suffering. Being conformed to His death." -- St. Paul