Culture Creep. Tim Challies linked to this and I had to as well. This is a sickening look at the way that paedophilia is creeping into the mainstream.
Take Your Kids With You. Travis Agnew shares an important parenting tip. When you go somewhere, take your kids with you…even if it isn’t easy.
Most Unmarried Evangelicals Not Sexually Active. A recent survey by the National Association of Evangelicals bucks conventional beliefs regarding sexual activity among evangelical millenials.
God Mad Boys to Play with Dolls. I didn’t see Owen Strachan’s blog on Sesame Street until I had read this article by Caryn Rivadeneira, but both are worth your time and I think they reflect the need for evangelicals to balance gender roles with the Scripture (Disclaimer, I plan to write on this later and I have a son who plays ball, shoots guns, and helps care for his sister’s dolls…and I think thats OK).
There is a tendency for people to use the Bible as a book of spells, incantations, or magic words. In fact, even believers can often be guilty of doing this very thing. There is the belief by many that simply reciting the right words in the right order will yield results.
In his classic monster of a book on spiritual warfare, The Christian in Complete Armour, William Gurnall warns believers against seeking safety in a carnal understanding of the armor of God.
We must not confide in the armour of God, but in the God of this armour, because all our weapons are only ‘mighty through God.’
Without constant care, we will miss the main point of the Bible. The Bible is God’s word. It has power because of its author–not for any other reason. Christian, do not follow the folly of the Jews who trusted in the ark and in Jerusalem for their protection. The Bible under your pillow or the verse blazoned upon your wall is no defense against the onslaughts of Satan.
No, Christ is your defense. Take courage in Christ. Take not confidence in your ability to perform religious duties or even your dedication to spiritual disciplines. Take confidence, instead, in the fact that you are Christ’s and he is yours. He fights for us. Satan trembles not at our self-disciplines, but at our Savior.
In 1 Corinthians 3, Paul speaks to the church at Corinth once more about the divisions that are raging within the church. Some of the people are evidently not very pleased with his style of preaching, perhaps they weren’t “getting fed” and wanted more “meat” to their sermons.
Paul defends his preaching, however, by pointing out that he gave them what they needed even if it wasn’t exactly what they wanted.
But, I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, for you are still of the flesh.
Oftentimes, what we want is not what we need. This is true in the sermons that we hear. We may often desire to have our ears tickled and our egos stroked, but more times than not, that is not what we need. We need to be challenged and changed. We need to be bathed in the word of God, even in those passages that we do not consider to be our favorites.
This is also true in the sermons we preach. We must preach what is needed, not what we want. We, as preachers and pastors, are tempted to preach flashy sermons with big words, bright illustrations, and scholarly exposition. None of those things are necessarily bad, but they may not be what is needed. We must preach the sermon that is needed, needed to help our people glorify God and enjoy him forever. Our people may respond best to farming illustrations instead of Tolkien quotes. Preach what is needed, not what you want.
And let us remember when we hear a sermon we do not like but we need or we preach the needed sermon instead of the one we wanted to preach…Jesus was the savior we needed, but he was not the Savior that the world wanted.
Denny Burk shares a story about Dan Cathy showing Christian love in the face of criticism by befriending a leading gay activist. This is a great look into a man who seems really serious about honoring Christ with his whole life.
Albert Mohler on the recent decision by the Boy Scouts of America to rescind its decision prohibiting the participation of openly homosexual members and leaders.
How to Read and Interpret the Bible. Southeastern Seminary is offering a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) by Dr. Danny Akin on Hermeneutics starting in February. This looks like a really great opportunity. (Extra Credit, here’s an interesting article about MOOC’s and the possible future of Christian Higher Education.)
There is no Moral Majority according to Colin Hansen, and we as believers need to Dare to Be Immoral in the eyes of our culture. The tides are turning (and have turned). Standing on biblical principles of morality will be deemed immoral by the culture. This is nothing new in the history of Christianity, but for American evangelicals, this is a foreign landscape that we must embrace.
Porn is mainstream in America. We no longer even blush to mention it. Porn stars are celebrities and books like Fifty Shades of Grey glorify it. A couple of years ago, Ed Stetzer wrote a short article outlining some of the dangers that included an infographic of stats related to pornography. You should read Ed’s article and view his statistics here. Unfortunately, you will probably not be surprised, but the long and short of it is that porn addiction has been shown to lead to job loss, financial ruin, divorce, and according to this TED Presentation, even re-programing of the brain.
Certainly the pornification of America is disturbing on a number of levels, but possibly the most disturbing fact is that 11 years old is the average age at which children are first exposed to pornography. This early exposure has led to a frightening turn among children in middle school where sexting is fast becoming the norm rather than the exception.
A recent article from the Telegraph of London,Children and the culture of pornography: ‘Boys will ask you every day until you say yes’, exposes some of the sickening tragedies that are occurring among tweens and teens as a result of the over-sexualization of our culture. Cole Moreton begins his article this way,
There is a storm coming. I can feel it as I stand on a street corner in south London, thinking about my daughters. Lily and Rose are both 11 years old. One is crazy about dogs, the other loves owls.
They are at that tender age when the hormones have begun to stir, and they could be stomping around the room like furious teenagers one minute but snuggling up for a cuddle the next.
The girls are fast approaching 13, the age that Chevonea Kendall-Bryan was when she leaned out of one of the windows on the fourth floor of a block of flats on this street. A boy she knew was down here on the ground, but this was not Romeo and Juliet. Far from it.
Chevonea had been pressurised into performing a sex act on him, and he had shared a phone clip of her doing so with all his mates. She threatened to jump from the window if he did not delete it. Then she slipped and fell 60 feet to the ground, dying from massive brain injuries.
Moreton goes on to tell stories of young girls who feel constantly pressured to peform sex acts for boys and to take sexually suggestive pictures and videos of themselves for distribution. Young boys have been so influenced by the pornification of our society, that they have begun to see girls as nothing more than servants for their own sexual gratification and unfortunately, many girls have been so influenced by pop-culture as to believe the lie that they exist only as sex-objects.
The Christian community has for too long stood with our heads in the sand on this issue. We preach against pornography and sex abuse, but have we shed tears and mourned yet for the portrayal of girls and women (who are coincidentally probably God’s most beautiful creation) as possessions of men for their own self-gratification rather than as image-bearers of God. Pornography is destroying our culture and we are allowing it into our homes and lives. Pictures that would have been considered taboo only a generation ago are common among advertisements and they are invading our homes and destroying our children and our marriages.
We read in Genesis 1:27 that God created men and women in his image. We need to honor women and men as image-bearers of God. Slavery was wrong, at least in part because it denigrated human beings into possessions to be used for the selfish welfare of others. Porn does essentially the same thing and our children are learning this lesson well. We must love our children and teach them of their intrinsic value and of the value of others in the sight of God. We must also work to see that we add value to all lives–a part of doing that in our culture is to fight against the prevailing winds of popular culture that over-sexualize women and girls (even toy dolls are dressed like street walkers) and that promote a chauvinistic abusive attitude for men. Ladies, stand up and show modesty and class in your dress and your attitude, and men, let’s do all we can to celebrate women who display godly beauty…
A few quotes from John Broadus for your Monday:
“In every age of Christianity, since John the Baptist drew crowds into the desert, there has been no great religious movement, no restoration of Scripture truth, and reanimation of genuine piety, without new power in preaching, both as cause and as effect.”
“Brethren, we must preach the doctrines; we must emphasize the doctrines; we must go back to the doctrines. I fear that the new generation does not know the doctrines as our fathers knew them.”
“Be willing to let the Scripture mean what it wants to mean.”
Sometimes making sense of the world is difficult. We have questions and we do not always have answers. However, sometimes our greatest problem is that we focus more on our questions than on our answers. This is akin to materialism in our western world today. We find ourselves wealthy and surrounded by more things than many of our ancestors would have ever expected to exist, and yet we always want the one thing that we do not have.
Our materialism looks something like this: My phone works, but it doesn’t have the noise-cancelling qualities of the iPhone 5. Sure, I can make calls and I can send and receive emails, texts, and everything else that I need to do, but since noise-cancelling technology now exists (that I didn’t even know I needed) I must have it. I neglect to focus on the fact that I really have all that I need and instead focus on what I do not have.
Often, people approach the world and their knowledge of the world and of God in this way. Rather thank acknowledging all that they know and enjoying and appreciating what is known, people get hung up on what they do not know. So, in this case belief in God is suspended or rejected despite the many evidences that exist because a person focuses on the one, two, or three questions to which he or she cannot find sufficient answers. In A Jigsaw Guide to Making Sense of the World a new book by IVP Books, Alex McLellan argues that we should seek to make sense of the world first from a big picture perspective.
Just as a jigsaw puzzle takes absolute shape even when some pieces are missing, so too he argues that a Christian worldview is obvious when all of creation and all known facts and realities are considered from a birds-eye view. His argument is not that we should not seek answers to our various questions, but instead that we should look for the answers in the same way that we look for missing pieces to a jigsaw puzzle. We use the evidence of the adjoining pieces to fill in the gaps. Just like we want to the noise-cancelling technology that we didn’t know we needed, people often get hung up on a new question and an answer that prior to its introduction into their psyche, they didn’t even know existed.
Likewise, in our worldview, if we begin with the unanswered questions we may never move to the answered questions, we seek to create context from ignorance rather than using the context of our world to aid in the answering of other questions. I agree with McLellan. There are questions in our world that are difficult and some that may not even have sufficient answers in this life, yet the overwhelming evidence from a birds-eye view is that all we know of creation points to a creator. The big picture helps us to formulate the skeleton for our worldview and as we seek answers to our questions that arise upon further consideration, we have the strength of a sturdy worldview skeleton to aid us in discovery and to provide a structure upon which we can stretch the skin and muscles of our worldview.
I recently had a conversation with a pastor who has lost about fifty pounds. In addition to saying how much better he felt, he talked about how some people seemed to engage with his preaching now who had not done so before. Now, for some of you that may seem a bit shallow, and to some degree it may be. However his experience does point to a reality within the life of any minister: You affect the way that people hear your message.
Before we as pastors and preachers ever open our mouths many assumptions have already been made by those who will be hearing our sermons. A waitress that you shorted on a tip is in attendance and has already turned you off, an elderly lady is engaged because you preached her dear husband’s funeral with care and compassion three weeks ago, and your staff is listening to your sermon based in large part upon the way that you have spoken to them daily in the past five years. In short, who we are has a huge effect on how we are heard.
This is not a new post-modern phenomenon. William Perkins wrote about this reality in the late 1500s in his little book, The Art of Prophesying,
Ordinary people do not distinguish between the ministry and the minister. They are not able to see the importance between the ministry without first assessing the person of the minister. Herod heard John Baptist willingly, not because he was a good minister, but because he was a good man (Mark 6:20). Gregor of Nazianzus strikes the right note again when he says: ‘He that teaches sound doctrine and lives wickedly, reaches with one hand what he knocks away with the other.’ John Chrysostom (347-407), commenting on Matthew 20, says: ‘The doctor of the church by teaching well and by living well instructs the people how they ought to live well; but by living ill he instructs God how to condemn him.’ And again: ‘It is an easy matter to show wisdom in words; teach me to live by your life, this is the best teaching.’ Words to not make as great an impression on the soul as works do.
You may be a great orator and you may be able to give great speeches regardless of your lifestyle, but you will never be a great preacher without a holy life. People are willing to hear truth, but that truth rings hollow when it is not evidenced in your own life. Do not just speak the truths of God’s word, go out of your way to live them out publicly, not for show or admiration, but for the sake of the gospel message you preach. Pastors, be men of God, not hypocrites pushing a truth that you do not practice.
Tragedy often causes us to question God. For some, the question of “Where were you, God?” drives them away from faith and into despair. Many people throughout the centuries have turned away from God in anger as a result of tragedy. Others find God in tragedy. We need look no further than the events of September 11, 2001 as a reminder that national tragedy drives people into churches looking for answers.
We rarely question God’s presence when things are going well. We assume that if life is good that God has blessed us, or in a more practical sense, if life is good, we just don’t have an immediate need of or for God. However, I would challenge you to question God’s presence when life is good. We have a need for God in the good times as well as the bad. Not only do we need God in the good times, we need to question the good times.
We must never assume that because life is going well, that we are in the will of God. Could it be that our greatest tests of faith are found, not in times of want, but in times of plenty. Perhaps it is easier to turn to the Lord when he is the only hope we have, and harder to lean upon him when we do not immediately see our need of him. We never ask “Where are you, God?” when things are good because if we are honest, we often do not care. We are not concerned with where God is as long as I am happy.
We must look for the Lord in good times and bad. Tragedies and trials are sure to come in this world and God is faithful and sure to stand beside us during those times, but God is also faithful in the good times. Good times or bad, God is always there. He has never left. We may stray, but he always stays. Look to the Lord today, no matter your circumstance. Praise him for the trials that draw you closer to him knowing that all things work together for the good for those who love him and are called according to his purpose. Praise him for the blessings and bounty you experience, knowing that all gifts come from the Father of lights. Lean on him when you can’t stand on your own, and when you can stand, lean on him anyway remembering that pride comes before a fall. He is righteous, and he is near, lean upon him today.