Two Principles to Consider if You are Planning to Move

movingDeepak Reju has an important article over at the Biblical Counseling Coalition’s blog where he gives two principles to consider if you are planning to move. Here are the principles and the link to the article so you can read his explanations:

1) If you are considering moving, make sure there is a good church in your new location before you make the final decision to move.

2) Consider, at some point in your life, committing to a church long-term.

January 21 2015 | Blog | Comments Off on Two Principles to Consider if You are Planning to Move

You Can’t Win People to Christ without Winning them to the Church

Joe Thorn has a great post over on his blog about winning people to the local church. Here’s an excerpt:

65386410.aJ7doyey.OldChurchOnTheHillKayvilleSKOf course it’s possible to be converted and not be a part of the local church. Possible. And dangerous. You see, the goal–the mission of the church–is not to see converts, but to make disciples. Conversion is but a part of that process. The making of spiritually mature disciples who obey Jesus Christ can only fully happen inside the church. It is in the church where we discover and exercise our spiritual gifts; where we bear one another’s burdens, exhort, encourage, and rebuke one another; where we share in one body, one Spirit, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one Father.

Preach the gospel. Preach the hope of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection for sinners. Preach it with the aim of reconciling people to God and receiving them into the fellowship. The local church (in all it’s ministries and meetings) is “where it’s at,” not because it’s cool, entertaining, or perfect, but because that it is where Christ stands with his people, fellowshipping with them, and leading them through this life into the life to come.

You can read the rest here.

September 18 2013 | Blog | Comments Off on You Can’t Win People to Christ without Winning them to the Church

Christians & the Surveillance State

Ed Stetzer has an outstanding article over at Christianity Today about how Christians should think and what we should do about the surveilance state. Here’s an excerpt:

Either way, part of the role of Christians in any society is speaking up against wrongs committed by their government– and to be wise to discern the potential for such wrongs. We have a responsibility to recognize and respond to unethical behavior and the decisions that emboldened such behavior.

So, we should speak up when the government decides it knows best about our personal information and freedom. We cannot sit idly by while they decide to store the phone numbers and names of people we call, touch the private parts of 13-year olds in the name of airport security (using a system that is more about “security theater” than safety), track every piece of mail we send, or know where we drive (note that the USAToday article specifically mentions places of worship).

Part of the role of Christians in any society is speaking up against wrongs committed by their government.

For the record, I don’t watch (much) right-wing television or believe there is a global cabal working toward a New World Order. Furthermore, I think that conspiracy theories make Christians look ridiculous. And, I think that President Bush (under whom most of these policies began) and President Obama (who spoke against many such policies as a candidate but largely continued them when he became President) both want to protect Americans and believe these means do so.

However, I do recall that when this country was forming, it was free-church Christians who said that government could not be trusted with the type of power that is becoming the norm today–and will only grow more expansive with each tomorrow.

This expansiveness is also a concern of retired Associate Justice of the Supreme Court David Souter, an admittedly liberal judge from New Hampshire. As he stated in a 2012 forum:

“I don’t worry about our losing a republican government in the United States because I’m afraid of a foreign invasion. I don’t worry about it because of a coup by the military, as has happened in some other places. What I worry about is that when problems are not addressed people will not know who is responsible, and when the problems get bad enough—as they might do for example with another serious terrorist attack, as they might do with another financial meltdown—some one person will come forward and say ‘Give me total power and I will solve this problem. That is how the Roman republic fell. Augustus became emperor not because he arrested the Roman senate. He became emperor because he promised that he would solve problems that were not being solved.”

You can read the rest here.

August 21 2013 | Blog | Comments Off on Christians & the Surveillance State

Playing the Numbers Games

J.I Packer shares some powerful thoughts on the danger of trying to quantify spiritual things in his book A Passion for Faithfulness.

I have found that churches, pastors, seminaries, and parachurch agencies throughout North America are mostly playing the numbers game—that is, defining success in terms of numbers of heads counted or added to those that were there before. Church-growth theorists, evangelists, pastors, missionaries, news reporters, and others all speak as if

(1) numerical increase is what matters most;

(2) numerical increase will surely come if our techniques and procedures are right;

(3) numerical increase validates ministries as nothing else does;

(4) numerical increase must be everyone’s main goal.

…Orienting all Christian action to visible success as its goal, a move which to many moderns seems supremely sensible and businesslike, is thus more a weakness in the church than its strength; it is a seedbed both of unspiritual vainglory for the self-rated succeeders and of unspiritual despair for the self-rated failures, and a source of shallowness and superficiality all round.

The way of health and humility is for us to admit to ourselves that in the final analysis we do not and cannot know the measure of our success the way God sees it. Wisdom says: leave success ratings to God, and live your Christianity as a religion of faithfulness rather than an idolatry of achievement.

HT: Justin Taylor

July 30 2013 | Blog | Comments Off on Playing the Numbers Games

What Should You Do If You’ve Been Hurt by the Church?

One of the most common reasons I hear for “Christians” not attending a local church is that they have somehow been “hurt by the church.” I’ve often wondered what exactly this phrase “hurt by the church” means. It seems like it could refer to anything from “I was assaulted in the foyer by a mean-spirited deacon” to “I didn’t like what the pastor had to say about my sin,” which makes it very difficult to know how to help someone who has been “hurt by the church.”

Thabiti Anyabwile has an excellent post over at the Gospel Coalition’s blog on how we should think about this phrase “hurt by the church” and on what someone who has been “hurt by the church” should do with their hurt. Here’s an excerpt:

Most people “hurt by the church” were hurt by individuals in a local congregation. Once we establish that, then we’re then left to help them think through whether the offense occurred knowingly and intentionally or unknowingly and accidentally. I’m surprised how often the individuals or churches that “hurt” someone have no idea an offense has occurred. They’re bopping along rejoicing in the Lord while unbeknownst to them dark clouds of anger and resentment swirl over their names and reputations.  And I’m always grieved for the person experiencing the hurt. It’s never pretty to be dominated by pain. So here’s one pastor’s simple plea:

1. Take your pain to the Lord who bore your pain and bore the sin of those who offended. In His arms are 10,000 charms.

2. Take your hurt to the ones who actually offended you and seek reconciliation–and if necessary take godly, impartial help.

3. Stop saying, “The church hurt me.” It’s affecting your heart toward an entire congregation, many of whom are likely unaware and uninvolved in your hurt, and possibly affecting your heart toward all Christians everywhere. Don’t blame “the church.” Don’t spread your “hurt” over a wider area. If you do, it will dominate you. But if you target your pain and your reconciliation efforts–making it as small and specific as you can–you’ll experience greater control over and freedom from the hurt.

4. Do realize that not every church hurt you and people are not “all the same.” Find a local church you can join. Start slow if you need to. But let the Lord’s manifold grace come to you in the fellowship of His people. That’s normally how He comforts us in our trouble and pain (2 cor. 1).

5. Live in hope. Your Lord is also Lord of the Church. He cares for your brokenness but also the brokenness of the Church. And guess what? Your pain is the means He will use to teach the church to grow in love and their love will be the means of your healing. The church needs your hurt and you need the church’s love.

You can read the rest here.

July 03 2013 | Blog | Comments Off on What Should You Do If You’ve Been Hurt by the Church?

Advice for Raising Children

Scott Smith has a great collection of sayings at the gospel coalitions website from John Witherspoon (1768-1794) on raising children. Here are a few of my favorites.

1. The best exercise in the world for children is to let them romp and jump about, as soon as they are able, according to their own fancy.

2. A parent that has once obtained and knows how to preserve authority will do more by a look of displeasure, than another by the most passionate words and even blows. It holds universally in families and schools, and even the greater bodies of men, the army and navy, that those who keep the strictest discipline give the fewest strokes.

3. There is not a more disgusting sight than the impotent rage of a parent who has no authority.

6. Let it always be seen that you are more displeased at sin than at folly.

7. Nothing is more destructive of authority than frequent disputes and chiding upon small matters. This is often more irksome to children than parents are aware of.

You can read the rest here.

HT: Challies

April 29 2013 | Blog | Comments Off on Advice for Raising Children

Learning to Hope

My friend Sean Higgins over at tohu va bohu has been writing a series of posts on hope. His latest titled Eight Cups of Water is well worth the read. Here’s an excerpt:

God put us here and God often makes life hard so that we will learn to hope. He desires that we hope in Him and, as we do, He often uses our hope to provoke questions from unbelievers. Peter said, “in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15). We may be diligent to prepare our apologetic answers but if we don’t have hope, why do we think they’ll ask us anything? They can read Evidence That Demands a Verdict for themselves. They can’t explain our hope when they see no evidence.

We will not grow in hope in heaven; when we get there we’ll see what we’ve hoped for. God has us here for now for His glory to be known, explained, and hoped in, for our own maturation and as a platform to watching eyes. Organizing gospel presentations requires less effort than being Christians who sanctify Christ as Lord in our hearts and who live with a hope that makes others ask why.

April 26 2013 | Blog | 2 Comments »

It Depends on the Song

My friend Sean Higgins has a great post over at his blog about giving comfort to the afflicted. Here’s an excerpt:

One great temptation for believers, especially the ones who are more familiar with and founded on the truths of God’s sovereignty, is to rejoice when others weep. I do not mean that we rejoice that they are in a condition of weeping but rather that we rejoice in a pietistic way that shields us from sharing their hurt.

We ought to communicate hope when it’s hard. We ought to encourage and comfort rather than wither and wallow. Yet we must take care to do it with our hearts engaged. It is not loving to hurry over another’s heaviness, nor is it wise…

Glib, breezy, “It’s okay, God is sovereign, Romans 8:28” ditties, while theologically accurate in content, are not theologically consistent in attitude. God Himself grieves and weeps and attends to the cries of His people. He doesn’t tell us to “Stop being upset” because He doesn’t have the time. When we “sing songs” we remove warmth, taking away someone’s coat on an already cold day. When we “sing songs” we remove peace, stirring up more agitation not calming down anxiousness. We should not be afraid to get our hearts mixed up in the joys and pains of our brothers and sisters.

You can read the whole thing here.

April 03 2013 | Blog | Comments Off on It Depends on the Song

25 Years of Evangelizing My Husband

Paula Hendricks has an absolutely compelling post over on the true woman blog titled “25 Years of Evangelizing My Husband.” As a pastor this is one of the most frequent and heartbreaking things that I encounter. Because of that I am exceedingly thankful for this article and I’m confident that I will be using often to encourage women walking through this valley. Here’s are a few excerpts:

The nest would soon be empty. As was our marriage.

We had our roles down pat. I was the aggressor, bordering on a plate thrower; he was the passive aggressor, master of the silent treatment. We pressed each other’s buttons with heartbreaking regularity.

Over the years I constructed a compelling case of “he did’s”—stories I relayed to accommodating girlfriends. Mind you, I did this strategically. Prayer groups were preferred. There I got head nods—even a prayer on my behalf. Please change him.

My own prayer life was all about change (meaning, him). Clearly, God was sympathetic to my cause. I was David in the psalms unjustly treated by Saul. I was Joseph imprisoned for my faith. I was on my way to martyr status.

Why then, being so unjustly treated, so right, was I so miserable? And, for all my Bible verse quoting, why was my spiritual life so stagnant?

You see, my husband is not a believer . . . a fact I routinely brought before the Lord and prayer partners. During our twenty-five years of marriage, I had purchased countless books and CDs with titles such as Beloved Unbeliever. Yet, my daily prayer, Please change his heart, had gone unanswered.

Not, however, because of a lack of evangelism on my part. I left tracts on our coffee table and upped the volume on sermon CDs.

On Sunday mornings I would tear up. If only my husband was sitting next to me at church. If only he would thumb through a Bible. If only he could hear this sermon. From my balcony view, I would glare at the backs of other husbands, arms draped over their wives’ shoulders. Surely these husbands led nightly devotionals, volunteered at Vacation Bible School, and prayed before meals. If only . . .

Inevitably my mind would drift toward a vision, twenty-five years in the making. My husband and I would be called to the pulpit to share our story. I would smile through humble tears as he would credit me for my contagious Christianity. His testimony would highlight my years of faithfulness: attending Bible studies, teaching Sunday School, rising at 5 a.m. to seek the Lord. The applause would be deafening. Maybe we’d write a book. A video series perhaps…

Looking at the negative aspects of my marriage had only produced despair—twenty-five years of whining to God about my righteousness in journals that I have since destroyed. Even Christian therapy had been reinforcing my case of “he-did’s.”

The truth is, I was the one who needed to change.

So, if I ever get called to a pulpit to give a reason for my despair giving way to joy, I will take the microphone with a humble heart. After all, it was my negativity that impeded marital intimacy for all those years. No more. The joy I now feel at waking up next to this man rivals that of any newlywed.

March 25 2013 | Blog | Comments Off on 25 Years of Evangelizing My Husband

A Social Media Heart Check

Tim Challies recently wrote an excellent post titled “A Social Media Heart Check”. Here’s an excerpt:

imagesWhen a fugitive is on the run, he leaves behind a trail. This trail of breath and sweat and dropped skin cells is invisible to the human eye and undetectable to the human nose, but it contains all the information a bloodhound needs to stay on the trail, to distinguish that one scent from thousands of others.

One of the remarkable facts about life in this digital world is that we leave trails behind us wherever we go and whatever we do. I am writing today from Huntsville, Alabama; Rogers, my cell phone company, knows I am here. They know the route I took to get here—from my home to Toronto’s airport, a layover in Chicago, then my route from Huntsville’s airport to this home. It has all been recorded as my phone has checked in with a variety of cell phone towers. In the same way Google has a record of searches I’ve made today, and yesterday and the day before.

Facebook keeps track of the name of every person you’ve searched for, every status update, every comment on another person’s status, every photo you’ve liked, every friend you’ve made. Taking a look at this list makes for a helpful social media heart-check.

March 20 2013 | Blog | Comments Off on A Social Media Heart Check

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