Thursday, February 28, 2013

Raising Kids in a Pornified Culture

Found this article here.

A recent article in The Telegraph highlights the tragic symptoms of a disease that's infecting our worldwide culture. The piece focuses mainly on teenagers and the dysfunction that has become normative in their lifestyles as a result of consuming porn.

In light of this, how can parents raise children in a pornified culture? Here are eight suggestions for this ever-increasing problem. 
1. Aim to give our kids a huge view of God who is gloriously delightful.
We can't simply tell our kids to stop doing certain behaviors; we must also teach them to delight in what God has made. I've been trying to make a discipline of pointing out all the good in God's creation. A few weeks ago it was a blessing to watch my two older kids spend hours picking the wild raspberries that grow in their grandma and grandpa's huge backyard. They need to be reminded of God's goodness in giving us such amazing created blessings, like raspberries. If we're not careful, we can become functional gnostics (flesh and matter are bad; only what's "spiritual" has value) in our communication about sexual ethics with our kids. A helpful verse for them to memorize is 1 Timothy 4:4.
In short, I want my kids to know that sexual perversion is the height of idolatry (Rom. 1), but also that sexual integrity is the height of beauty. This demands we talk about it, probably more than we're comfortable with or experienced when we were kids. But it's a new world, and a new world demands new communication to train our children.
2. Teach them the gospel. Our kids are spring-loaded legalists.
They have to see us model gospel truth through active repentance and forgiveness. They have to know their acceptance before God isn't based on their performance, but on Christ's. They have to know their standing as a family member doesn't depend on their obedience, though their standing does imply a certain type of living.
For example, when we're disciplining our kids we often say, "Since you're a member of this family and since I love you so much, you will not do this." Consider the difference from saying, "If you want me to love you and if you want to keep living in this house, you better stop doing this." The indicatives of our faith must precede and inform the imperatives. Don't reverse the order.
3. Teach them that boundaries bring freedom and obedience is a blessing.
When I was a kid I thought if I screwed up, God was going to whack me with a big stick. No one ever taught me this, but it's what I felt. Obedience wasn't motivated by love, but fear of punishment. This didn't get me very far.
When my kids are age appropriate I plan to communicate that sexual sin will never provide the freedom we crave. They can choose to reap the harmful consequences of disobedience, but I'll warn them from Scripture and experience that they don't want to start down that path. Obedience leads to blessing.
4. Talk to them sooner than later about sex and internet porn.
When I was 8, I remember going next door to our neighbor's garage. Like any curious kid, I enjoyed snooping around a bit. I soon discovered he had boxes full of pornographic magazines. Sometimes a friend and I would sneak over there, grab a few, and go sit in the bushes to look at the naked women. Back then, this risky endeavor filled my stomach with butterflies for fear of getting caught by my parents or the neighbor. But all you need today is a closed door and an internet connection. The vilest perversion imaginable is only two clicks away.
We must communicate in general terms what's available and why it's so destructive. Some would contend this discussion will just stir up their curiosity, but what's the alternative? I'd rather have them be warned by me so I can offer reasons and means to fight than to have them innocently stumble on pornography someday on the internet.
5. Begin to train your kids how to interact with the opposite sex.
We've already started to "date" our kids. We feel it's crucial for them, at an early age, to begin experiencing what it's like to be treated well by a member of the opposite sex. Especially for girls, a lack of healthy male attention from dad will often prompt them to seek it in unhealthy ways from younger men more than happy to provide it. My boys need to learn women aren't objects to be consumed but image-bearers of God to be loved.
6. Guard who your kids spend time with.
Since sexual exposure is much more accessible today than 25 years ago, we're much more aware of whom our children spend time with. There will come an age (sooner than I'd like to think about) when we won't be able to guard them as tightly, but hopefully the foregoing points will have taken root in their lives such that they'll be equipped to make wise decisions.
Be careful, though, you don't take this too far and communicate an unhealthy fear of unbelievers. The older our kids get, the more we have to let them go and pray our training has taken root. There's really no other choice. We must train our kids so they're sheltered enough to be age-appropriately safe but informed enough to make wise decisions on their own. Just don't hide your kids behind the fortress of your supervision until they're 18.
This demands great wisdom. There's no manual. We must be parents of prayer.
7. Guard the computer and turn off the television.
We have Covenant Eyes on all our computers and, via the AppleOS, our children can only access the websites we've approved. Certainly this will change as they get older, but hopefully they will have internalized the gospel and tasted the blessings of obedience.
Victory over porn is finally a heart issue, but that doesn't mean we should forsake preventative structures. You'd never say, "I want to know my obedience is motivated by more than just following the right rules, so I'm going to dive into unwise situations to see if I'm strong enough to withstand sin!" That's absurd (1 Cor. 10:12-13). We need right hearts so as not to be legalists, but right boundaries can help us taste the blessing of obedience.
The TV will show your kids functional soft porn all the time. There are countless better things to do with your kids than watch TV. Read with them, play sports with them, enjoy creation with them, tell them a story, or just serve them in an activity of their choice. The key phrase here is with them. If they spend more time with the TV than with you, you're all in trouble.
8. Seek to cultivate a relationship with your kids such that they feel they can be open with you about anything.
As a young dad, I'm not totally sure how to make this happen, but I know it'll come through modeling openness. I try to draw out their hearts and show them that if they're honest with me, I'll be fair, loving, and compassionate. If they see me as guarded and reserved, why would I expect them to be any different?
Last, do you ever repent in front of your kids? If they never see you repent, what makes you think they'll come to you for help after seeing internet porn for the first time? Modeling repentance for our kids is probably the quickest way to show we believe the gospel and are a safe refuge in the midst of their sin.
Zach Nielsen (@znielsen) is one of the pastors at The Vine Church in Madison, Wisconsin, where he serves in the areas of preaching, leadership development and music. He is a graduate of the University of Northern Iowa and Covenant Theological Seminary and blogs at Take Your Vitamin Z.
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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Turn the Other Cheek

Tim Keller on turning the other cheek:
When people come to me and say, ‘What does the Bible teach I should do when I’m persecuted?’ I say, ‘It’s simple. You want to not go get them and hate them. The Bible says reverse that. You have to go get them and love them.’ What do people say? ‘Impossible. That’s ridiculous.’ Of course, that’s what the Bible says you’re supposed to do. That’s what turn the other cheek means. Turn the other cheek does not mean you let people walk all over you. Absolutely not. Paul didn’t; he appealed to Caesar. Jesus didn’t; he protested when he was struck. ‘Hey, this is illegal,’ he said. The Bible always says you uphold justice for the sake of justice, but you let God be the judge. You give over the ultimate judgment of that person’s character to God and you go after justice without any vengefulness in your heart. You forgive.

Blemishes in Christian Character: a List for Self-Examination

For those of us who make excuses for the little sins that beset us! Another post from Tim Keller.

For years I’ve been haunted by one of John Newton’s letters, which was later titled “Blemishes in Christian Character.” Newton was an 18th century Anglican minister who had once been a slave trader. After a dramatic conversion, he went into the ministry and became one of the wisest and most insightful pastors of his time. His hundreds of pastoral letters are masterful and many are in print to this day.

In the letter I’ve referred to, Newton points out that while most Christians succeed in avoiding the more gross external sins, many nonetheless overlook blemishes on their character by passing them off as mere “foibles.” They “may not seem to violate any express command of Scripture” and yet, they are “properly sinful” because they are the opposite of the fruit of the Spirit that believers are supposed to exhibit. While our faults always seem small to us due to the natural self-justification of the heart, they often don’t look so small to others. As a result, these “small faults” cause large swaths of the Christian population to have little influence on others for Christ. Newton lists these faults that we tolerate in ourselves, and which do great damage to our public witness as well as to our relationships within the Body of Christ.

Over the years I’ve gone back again and again to this list in the manner he directs—for self-examination, not as a way to find fault with others. As I have done so I’ve seen things in myself that I’ve sought to stamp out with God’s grace. And as I’ve worked through the list I’ve expanded it—often breaking some of his larger categories into smaller ones for better discernment. Here I’ll share my expanded list—based heavily on Newton’s original one. Since Newton gave each case study a slightly humorous Latin name, I’ve done the same.

Austerus is a solid and disciplined Christian, but abrasive, critical and ungenerous in dealing with people, temperamental, seldom giving compliments and praise, and almost never gentle.

Infitialis is a person of careful and deliberate character, but habitually cynical, negative, and pessimistic, always discouraging (“that will never work”), unsupportive and vaguely unhappy.

Pulsus is passionate, but also impulsive and impatient, not thinking things through, speaking too soon, always quick to complain and lodge a protest, often needing to apologize for rash statements.

Querulus is a person of strong convictions, but known to be very opinionated, a poor listener, argumentative, not very teachable, and very slow to admit they were wrong.

Subjectio is a resourceful and ambitious person, but also someone who often shades the truth, puts a lot of spin on things (close to misrepresentation), is very partisan, self-promoting, and turf-conscious.

Potestas gets things done, but needs to control every situation, has trouble sharing power, has a need to do everything him or herself, and is very suspicious and mistrustful of others.

Fragilis is friendly and seeks friends, but constantly gets his or her feelings hurt, easily feels slighted and put down, is often offended and upset by real and imagined criticism by others.

Curiosus is very sociable, but enjoys knowing negative things about people, finds ways of passing the news on, may divulge confidences, and enjoys confrontation too much.

Volatilis is very kind-hearted and eager to help, but simply not reliable—isn’t punctual, doesn’t follow through on promises, is always over-extended, and as a result may do shoddy work.

Let’s end this post as Newton does his letter: “Other improprieties of conduct, which lessen the influence and spot the profession of some who wish well to the cause of Christ, might be enumerated, but these may suffice for a specimen.”

6 Ways to Preach with Passion

Found this at Pastoralized.

Many preachers are like a light switch when it comes to passion, it’s either flipped on or off, either talking or yelling. To more effectively use passion in your preaching, think of it as a dimmer switch with various levels of passion and smooth transitions from one to the other.
Calvin Miller, in his book Preaching: The Art of Narrative Exposition, points out six ways to preach with passion, each with its own spot on the dimmer switch:
Ask yourself how [the six purveyors of passion] must be used in your preaching to convince your audience that you feel strongly about your subject. Consider how these six elements of passion might be used to connote how you want your audience to feel the resurrection  Let us take the account of John 20:1-2, 11, 16-17.

1. Silence

“Early on the first day of the week, while it was dark” (John 20:1a).
They said nothing as they walked. Silence. Aching silence. Heavy, breaking, agonizing silence. He was dead – dead – dead.

2. Tears

“Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance” (John 20:1b).
Tears, hot, cutting, desperate. He was not there.
“But Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb” (John 20:11).

3. Urgency

“So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!” (John 20:2).
They have taken the Lord!

4. Volume

“Jesus said to her, ‘Mary.’ She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, ‘Rabonni!’ (which means Teacher)” (John 20:16).
Mary cried out at this point. The volume must keep pace.

5. Velocity

“So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved…” (John 20:2)
Mary came running (let the rhetoric pick up speed).

6. Poetry

Christ the Lord is risen today, Alleluia! Sons of men and angels say, Alleluia!
This is but a tiny model of the aspects of passion but is valid in all the rhetorical aspects that compose passion. Use each aspect only when the text or your feeling about it connotes passion.
But anywhere you suspect that you’re saying things louder than you feel them, then you need to rein in your rhetoric with conservative humanity and let the other aspects of passion show their stuff. But getting loud and staying loud is neither true humanity nor good homiletics.
What I appreciate most about Miller’s model for passion is that it takes its cues from the text. It is not so much a response to a disinterested audience - I’m losing them, I better whip up some passion to get their attention back – but a response to the passage. When you respond with passion to what the passage says, your congregation will respond to God’s word, not to you. Which I think is the goal of preaching in the first place.

Not By Might, So It Just Might Work

I think one of the main reasons we struggle to tell people about Jesus is that deep down we just don’t think it will ever work. We think we’ve already tried to share with people before and nobody was interested. We imagine sharing our faith to be nothing but muscling up our strength to go do our duty and embrace failure. We soldier on, expecting fruitlessness, so we can say, “I did it, pastor.”
Most of us lack faith that God actually has people prepared for us who will listen. This is where the doctrine of predestination is the best news in the world. We have not yet exhausted the number of God’s elect. God has more people to be saved, so keep on sharing.
When Spurgeon was asked why he kept preaching the gospel when he believed in election, he replied, “Because the elect don’t have yellow stripes down their back.” In other words, he could not see who was elect and who was not, so he had to keep sharing, believing that God had more people who would listen.
The sovereignty of God is the greatest motivation for mission. God still has people, preordained from the beginning of time to be responsive to the gospel message. You may think that you have already shared with everyone who would possibly be interested in the gospel, but it is not so. Remember: that the Spirit of God goes before you. As the it says in Zachariah 4:6, “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts.”
God is more interested in saving people than we are in telling people how to be saved. So as we keep sharing, he will keep providing some to be saved.
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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Five Love Languages of Pastors


Photo by Chris JL.
With apologies to Gary Chapman for playing on his well-known “Five Love Languages” theme, I asked 24 pastors how a church member might speak to each pastor in his own love language. And though 24 persons do not constitute a massive survey, I was amazed at the consistency of the responses.
To fit the theme of five, I determined at the onset that I would only report the top five responses. To my surprise, there was an obvious break between the fifth and sixth most frequent responses. The five love languages thus were a natural fit.
So how can you speak a love language to your pastor? Here are the pastors’ top five responses in order of frequency. I offer a representative response from one of the pastors for each of the five.
  1. Books. “I have a limited family budget, so I can’t just go out and buy a bunch of books. But I sure do love books. One year a deacon gave me a $200 gift card to a Christian bookstore. I was ecstatic! Now the church gives me a $300 book allowance each year. I know it’s not much for the type of books I get, but I sure am grateful.”
  2. Encouraging notes. “I treasure every word of affirmation I get. It helps to soothe the pain of the criticisms. I keep all of my notes of encouragement in a box, and I sometimes read many of them at one time just to remind myself how blessed I am. I particularly appreciate handwritten notes. I know the church member took some time to write that to me.”
  3. Time guardians. “My most encouraging church members are those that try to help me protect my time. They do everything they can to make sure I have enough time to prepare sermons and to spend time with my family. They are able to speak to other members about my time constraints in a way that I’m not able to.”
  4. Compliments about children. “There are times that I really feel sorry for my three kids. They are really good kids, but they aren’t perfect. They live in a glass house, and any wrong move they make usually gets the attention of a church member. But I have a few church members who go out of their way to tell me the good about my children. One sincere compliment about one of my three kids will make my day.”
  5. Defenders. “You know, I deal with critics, and I realize that in any leadership position, you will have critics. My greatest hurt takes place when my supporters remain silent in the face of intense criticism toward me. They are more afraid of rocking the boat than speaking the truth. But I have one guy in the church who will always speak a defending word for me unless he thinks I’m wrong. Then he speaks to me privately. I could use a dozen church members like that.”
Pastors, are these five your love languages as well? What would you add to the list? Church members, do you speak love languages to your pastor? Tell us your stories.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Suffering for Christ as Americans

What constitutes suffering for the name of Christ? Often we recall the most severe examples of suffering—Stephen crying out to the Lord as enraged Jewish leaders hurled rocks at his body; Paul and Silas with feet shackled to a Philippian prison, still feeling the pain of their earlier beating; Jim Elliot and his four missionary friends rushed by armed Huaorani Indians. These are all graphic examples of Christians enduring great sacrifices for the advance of the gospel.
Scripture teaches (even promises) that all Christians will suffer, but these graphic examples are not the norm for faithful Christians in the West today. So what does suffering for the name of Christ look like in twenty-first century America?
During one panel discussion at the Together for the Gospel conference, Ligon Duncan and I interviewed our friend John Piper on this issue.
Ligon Duncan: John, you have done a pretty extended exposition on kinds of suffering, available on the Desiring God website. You have done it in different forms. You are addressing this very question that, that suffering just means taking a bullet or getting your head hacked off. You make a great point in that message about how any kind of suffering can become suffering for Christ if you will embrace it that way.

John Piper: If you pick a text on suffering and you try to apply it to cancer, when it is dealing with persecution, a lot of people will say, “I don’t think that applies to me, because that is really applying to getting suffering from somebody hurting you or saying something evil.” So I have developed an argument: All suffering that a Christian endures in the path of obedience is suffering with Christ and for Christ (though not in the same way).

And there are a couple of reasons for that.

One is that in suffering, the temptation is the same whether it is coming from cancer or slander. And the temptation is to say, “God is not good and it is not worth serving him, and escaping from this suffering in some sinful way is to be preferred.” Those are the same. And so the real battle is the same, whether it is coming from a physical thing or another.

Secondly, I don’t think historically you can draw a line between suffering from persecution and physical suffering. Just try to imagine a particular kind of Pauline persecution, like being whipped 39 lashes, five times (2 Corinthians 11:24). Well, let’s just take the third time. You can imagine what his back must have looked like—39 times five is a lot—and it healed five times. So the third time his back is turned into jelly again.

Now they don’t know anything about antibiotics. When they are done with him, they throw him on the floor and his back is now covered with dirt. What happens when your back is lacerated and it is covered with dirt? I’ll tell you what happens: infection happens. What happens when you get an infection? Fever happens.

 Now which is the physical suffering here and which is the persecution suffering? Where are you going to draw that line between the fever and the lashes? Which is why I say that any fever experienced in the path of obedience—getting my sermon ready, making hard calls, staying up late with the suicide situation, and not enough rest and I have got this awful sore throat—tell me these are not the same suffering as being criticized for your ministry. It is the same essential suffering.

And so I think I can develop textual and thoughtful arguments for why almost all texts on suffering can help our people, whether their pain is coming from a difficult marriage, coming from slander, coming from cancer, or coming from wherever.

The issue is in all suffering, when we trust him and keep trusting him, we will find some evidences of his sovereign mercy toward me. And the source of it is a very minor part when it comes to the real battle down here of “Will I trust him? Will I hold on to him or not?”

C.J. Mahaney: Knowing you, John, and knowing your church, you have devoted much time to addressing the topic of suffering and to preparing your church for suffering. Why and how would you recommend that local pastors here do the same?

JP: Well, the why is because the Bible promises, “Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22, ESV). It is a given that to come to Jesus is to compound your suffering, not minimize your suffering. Certain kinds of sufferings get minimized. The suffering that comes from drunkenness will probably go down. So don’t hear me saying nothing changes or is beneficial. That is not true. There are amazing releases for conscience. A lot of psychological things will improve, but others will get worse.

So, if you are now in a marriage where one of you is a believer and one is not, that is this sort of thing. They will suffer.

And the second is because you see it out there. You see the little Down-syndrome kids, and you see the people in the wheelchair, and you see the painful marriages that are out there. You see it, and you either are going to just ignore it, or you are going to give them something to help.

Third, I don’t think Christ is glorified anywhere more than when suffering people rejoice in him as their treasure. If everything is going rosy for all my people, the possibilities of us making a name for Jesus in the city is smaller than if things are going hard for our folks. Then the possibility of making a name for Jesus is greater. What the world wants to see is not for you to tell them, “Jesus makes things go well for me.” Things are going well for them, too, probably better than for you, and it is money and doctors that are doing it for them. So that argument has teeny-weeny effectiveness.

Rather, when neighbors know that the baby in your womb has a liver outside his body, no spinal column, and you have carried this baby to the end and they watch you, the possibilities of making much of Jesus are staggering.

Not many people see life that way. My job as a preacher is to help that mom, way before the pregnancy, get ready for it so that she has some resources. And one of the most satisfying things in ministry, guys, is to do this long enough so that you get a steady stream of testimonies that come to you at funerals and in hospitals and other places where a mom or a son or a relative just takes you by the hand and says, “So glad we have been at Bethlehem. We would be insane if we didn’t have a big God, if we didn’t have a strong God, if we didn’t have a sovereign God, if we didn’t have a holy God.”

I love those testimonies and I get a lot of mileage of late-night work out of testimonies like that, and they are pretty common stream.

We have got a lot of strong women at our church. They bear a lot of things. They endure pain through marriages and through kids that are disabled…Strong women are magnificent testimonies to Christ because, if they are complementarian, they are combining things the world can’t explain. They are combining a sweet, tender, kind, loving, submissive, feminine beauty with this massive steel in their backs and theology in their brains.


Listen to the T4G panel discussion here.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Leadership and the Law of Replicatio

This is a great post for leaders and parents on the influence we have on those who follow us found at Michael Hyatt.

My dad was injured in the Korean War, a few years before I was born. As a result of that injury, he walks with a limp. As a young boy, I unconsciously emulated him. I just thought that was the way grown men walked.
Leadership and the Law of Replication
Photo courtesy of ©
When I was about three or four, I remember my Mom saying to me, “Michael, you don’t need to walk with a limp. Dad walks that way because he was hurt in the war.” Regardless, I still walked with a limp for another year or so, simply because I wanted to be like my dad.This was the “law of replication” in action. This law says that like begets like. Dogs beget dogs. Trees beget trees. And people beget people.
This law also applies to leadership. Like it or not, you will replicate yourself. Your followers will adopt your behaviors, habits, and—if you have a strong personality— even your mannerisms.
Years ago, I remember visiting one of our authors at his corporate headquarters. I was amused to see his staff imitating him, down to the cadence of his speech and the inflection of his voice. It was as if they were paid impersonators.
This has powerful implications for leadership. Unconsciously, your people will mimic you. This means:
  • If you are late to meetings, your people will be late to meetings.
  • If you don’t take notes in meetings, your people won’t take notes in meetings.
  • If you are angry and defensive when you get negative feedback, your people will be angry and defensive when they get negative feedback.
  • If you are humble and grateful, your people will be humble and grateful.
  • If you are warm and engaging, your people will be warm and engaging.
  • If you are even-tempered and unflinching under fire, your people will be even-tempered and unflinching under fire.
Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” I would add, “Be the change you want to see in your organization.” If you don’t like the culture of your department, division, or company, start by changing yourself. Set a new standard. Let your word become flesh. This is the most powerful thing you can do to change your world.
The bottom line is that you are the prototype for your followers. Your actions speak louder than words. You must pay careful attention to your own behavior. You are a living example of what it takes to go to the next level. You willreplicate yourself.
Question: If your people imitated you in everything you do, would you be happy with their performance? You can leave a comment byclicking here.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

God's Sovereign Grace in Conversion

And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed. (Act 13:48 ESV)

Schreiner comments:
Luke does not write that those who believed were appointed to eternal life, but rather that those who were appointed by God to experience eternal life subsequently believed.  He thereby underlines God's grace that secures the response of belief in the hearts of Gentiles.  New Testament Theology, p. 140; italics mine.

Friday, February 15, 2013

The Daily Tension Between the Already and Not Yet

Here is another quote from Schreiner's New Testament Theology which further explains the tension of the age we live in that I quoted earlier in the blog on New Creation:

Christians live in, so to speak, the "twilight zone," for they have  experienced the saving power of the age to come, and yet they still reside in the present evil age.  Even now Jesus reigns, but the consummation of his rule and the destruction of every enemy have not yet occurred (Eph. 1:21; 1 Cor 15:26-28).  Because of the cross of Christ believers are a new creation (Gal 1:4; 2 Cor 5:17), and yet the redemption that they enjoy (Rom. 3:24) is not yet completed, for they endure the anguish of death and await the redemption of the body (Rom 8:23); cf. Eph. 1:14).  In the meantime, as believers inhabit the interval between the inauguration and consummation, they must resist the blandishments of this world (Rom 12:2).  The world allures and captivates even those who have the first fruits of the Spirit, but those in whom the Spirit dwells must surmount fleshly desires and live in the realm of the Spirit (Rom 8:13).  p. 98-99.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Why the Pharisees Kept the Law Meticulously

This passage in Schreiner gave me an insight into the reason why the Jews pursued meticulous adherence to the law that I had not considered before.
"The Qumran community and the Pharisees believed that if the Torah were kept more faithfully, God would fulfill his promises.  Israel had been unfaithful to the Lord because it repeatedly sinned and violated his law.  Hence, they urged rigorous and meticulous observance of the ways of the Lord.  By way of contrast, Jesus called on the people to repent and to recognize that God had sent him.  The focus is not on the Torah but on Jesus himself and a right relation with him.  What Jesus call for was, in one sense, stunningly simple, but it was also remarkably different from the views of his contemporaries, and so opposition arose.    Thomas Schreiner, New Testament Theology, p. 52, Italics mine. 

The Struggle we Still Face as a New Creation in Christ.

The present world is still corrupted and awaits its full transformation (Rom 8:18-25).  Believers, then are a new creation in an old world.  But the reality is even more complex, for even though believers are new persons in Christ, in that the old person - the old Adam - was crucified with Christ (Rom 6:6; Col 3:9-10), they still put off the old person and put on the new (Eph. 4:22-24).  As Rom. 13:14 says, they must "put on the Lord Jesus Christ."  Believers await not only a transformed world but also their own final transformation." - Thomas Schreiner, New Testament Theology, p. 32.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Foundational Truths Necessary for Sharing the Gospel

Found this at Multiply here
Foundational Truth 1: The gospel is not popular. “…but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles…”(1 Cor. 1:23). We need to recover a Christian world-view that understands that, in some way, the gospel will be rejected as offensive, foolish, or both to everyone who has either not been born again by the Spirit of God, or who does not have the Spirit already beginning the miracle of the new birth within them. We shouldn’t be surprised by the fact that we could share this good news in the most perfect way possible and still be rejected apart from the Spirit’s work in our sharing and in their hearts.
Foundational Truth 2: We must be dependent through prayer. “I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people…This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:1-4). Pray. This is the next logical step that flows from the last truth. We are dependent upon our Father to change the hearts of those around us, through the work of his Spirit, from hearts that see the gospel as foolish and offensive to hearts that see the gospel as wise and precious. What might happen if we joined the Father in what he is already doing by being a people desperate in prayer everyday for those around us who desperately need Jesus?
Foundational Truth 3: We must be walking in love. “...walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us…” (Eph. 5:2). We must love the people we are engaging. This may seem obvious, but loving sacrificially is essential. If the person in front of you doesn’t feel like you care enough for them to sacrifice time, money, pride, etc., then how do you expect them to believe that Jesus cared enough to have sacrificed his own life so they could live? We are the living witnesses to the life of Christ. We model the suffering servant who sacrificially loved us, by sacrificially loving others so that our lives would affirm our mouths in sharing the gospel. Otherwise, as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13:1-2, “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.” Without love for the person in front of you, your words are about as good a noisy gong that no one wants to listen to.
Foundational Truth 4: We must be listening. “…be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger…” (Jas. 1:19). Because the gospel is rejected as either foolish or offensive, we sometimes get into situations where we become frustrated, which can then lead to an argument. James offers this needed admonition in our day. Listen! Listen! Listen! Did you hear that? If not, then listen some more! Speaking is obviously an essential part of sharing the gospel, but before we speak, let us first humbly listen. Ask questions that will allow the other person to do most of the talking. Being genuinely interested in someone else’s life not only shows them that you love and care for them, but it also maps out where all of the land mines are in the field of their life so that you can navigate around them to get to their heavily guarded heart with the good news. We don’t want any unnecessary casualties on the battlefield of evangelism. Remember that the gospel of Jesus is always relevant, but never relative. Knowing your audience enables you to see how the unchanging truth of the gospel is relevant to them personally.
Again, this list is not exhaustive when it comes to sharing the gospel. No one formula is going to fit every person in every situation, but these foundational truths should inform any approach to discipleship as we seek to be both loving and faithful as we share the message of the gospel.

Monday, February 11, 2013

The Nature of Sin

Most conceive of sin in terms of failing to do what is mandated, and Paul certainly agrees.  Fundamentally, however, sin exists when people fail to thank and glorify God (Rom. 1:21).  The root sin consists in worshipping and serving the creature rather than the creator (Rom. 1:25).  All the discrete acts of sin, are a consequence of failing to honor and give thanks to God (Rom. 1:24, 26, 28).  Paul indicts his fellow Jews as sinners because their actions have caused unbelievers to revile God's name (Rom. 2:24).  The behavior of the Jews is heinous because it casts a stain upon God's name.  The sins recorded in Rom 3:10-18 culminate with the rationale behind them all: the failure to fear God (Rom. 3:18).   Schreiner, New Testament Theology, p. 144-145.

The Already and Not Yet Dimensions of Salvation.

All of God's saving works of God in Christ are eschatological (ie future) gifts.  The declaration that people are righteous during the present time indicates that God's end-time verdict has now been pronounced ahead of the last day, and it will be declared to the whole world on the day of judgement (cf. Rom. 5:1; 8:33-34; Gal 5:5).  Salvation is fundamentally eschatological because it represents deliverance from God's wrath on the final day (Tom 5:9; 1 Thes. 1:10; 5:9).  And yet that salvation belongs now to those who believe in Jesus Christ (Eph. 2:8-9), so that the gift of the end time belongs to believers during the present evil age.  Now is the time of salvation (2 Cor. 6:2), so that God's eschatological promises have penetrated a world that has not been transformed.  So too redemption will be the portion of believers when their bodies are redeemed and made whole (Rom 8:23; Eph. 1:14).  And yet are now redeemed and forgiven through the blood of Christ (Eph. 1:7; Col. 1:14).  - Thomas Schreiner, New Testament Theology, p. 30-31.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

8 Ways to Engage the Culture Around You.

Helpful and practical from

Engaging CultureMany Christians know that it’s important to engage those in the culture around them with the message of the cross, but they often don’t know how to start. It seems a little intimidating to hang out with those who aren’t followers of Jesus. It’s much more comfortable to do things together with Christian friends.
To start engaging those around you who don’t believe in Jesus, you have to overcome your complacency. You need to get over any fears or discomfort. One way to do this is to focus on 1 John 4:4 - “You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.” Recognize that the power of God in you is greater than the power of the enemy.
You have to begin by overcoming your commitment to do nothing!
8 Ways to Engage Those in the Culture Around You
1. Start conversations - just talk to people: your neighbors, the person in line with you at the grocery store, the person pumping gas next to you, or the person ordering coffee or enjoying a latte next to you. Just talk to people!
2. Hang out with people who enjoy the same things you do - find some non-Christians who you can join enjoying what you enjoy: join a book club, an local sports league, a service organization, the PTA, etc. Find a way to hang out with people who don’t know Christ who enjoy doing what you enjoy doing!
3. Volunteer somewhere - just find a place to serve in your community: tutor kids at a local school, coach a sports team, serve meals at a shelter, etc. Just start serving in your community and be consistent!
4. Tell stories - people enjoy good stories so good at sharing stories. Tell people your life story, your faith story, and even Bible stories. Get really good at telling stories.
5. Get to know your community by asking questions - intentionally ask people questions: what matters to you about our community? what frustrates you? what do you love? what would you love to change? Discover the important aspects of your community by listening and asking questions. Become an expert on your part of town.
6. Invite others to join you - Jesus sent His disciples by twos. Find some friends to join you as you engage those in the culture around you. Never go alone.
7. Pray with others - Ask non-Christians in our life what challenges they are facing and offer to pray for them with them. The key is to pray with them! When you see them again, follow-up by asking how God answered your prayer!
8. Address physical and spiritual needs around you - just meet needs! If you don’t know of any needs in your area, just ask those around you: “What needs do you or others you know have?” You’ll be surprised at the amazing needs that are right around you. Start small – do one thing this week!
It isn’t difficult to start engaging those in the culture around you. You just have to start somewhere.