Monthly Archives: August 2009

What Happens When You Love Haters?

Yesterday a funny thing happened to Craig Gross, co-founder of (for those nervous about the link, it is a Christian site whose primary ministry is against p()rnography) and author of the new book Jesus Loves You, as he and some colleagues, as part of promotion for the book, spent time with the legalistic hatemongers at Westboro Baptist in Topeka, Kansas. (They are the Fred Phelps gang, the “God Hates Fags” people who say 9/11 was God’s judgment on America and who picket soldiers’ funerals, among other things.)

Craig and his buddies went to church at Westboro, got to know some of the Phelps clan, and went to counter-demonstrate as Meghan Phelps and other Westboro protesters held up their ridiculous and offensive signs at The American Idol tour stop, ostensibly to let Idol runner-up Adam Lambert know God hates him. (Craig and his team held up “Jesus Loves The Gays” signs and such.)

But what was really interesting is how human a face Craig and the Jesus Loves You team were able to put on these folks. The tweets, the videos, they all show these people laughing, playing, joking around. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen them not screaming and looking angry. It is scarily easy to stereotype them, and yes, while they are idiots, they are broken people awash in bitterness and rage and false religion. And it takes a guy who spends his time ministering to prostitutes and p()rn stars to bring some humanity out of …

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Pastoral Great Expectations

John Catanzaro at The Resurgence recently posted on Healthy Expecations as part of his Healthy Pastors series. Good stuff.

I have the privilege of being a pastor to the pastors in coaching and praying for their wellness. The expectations parishioners place upon pastors in this church age are both complex and demanding. For the last two decades I have observed the continual decline in the heath of pastors in the Pacific Northwest. It is both distressing and grievous when pastors share some of the pressures of the ministry and the criticisms and burdens they carry. I believe the best place to begin is to clarify the pastor’s responsibility list.

Unhealthy Expectations

* They are not substitute parents * They are not shrinks * They are not janitors, plumbers, or construction workers * They are not crisis managers * They are not perfect problem-solvers * They are not corporate executives * They do not have wireless access to the Holy Spirit concerning your problems * They are not responsible for your sin * They are not constructed for long-term bashing * They are not required to shoulder repeated harsh criticisms * They are not celebrities * They have families with real problems too * They are not always available and tireless …

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What Makes a Church Gospel-Centered?

Tullian Tchividjian — pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, grandson of Billy Graham, and completely unfashionable dude — has a great new post up, borrowing from The Gospel-Centered Life by Coram Deo pastor Bob Thune (who I got the chance to meet while at the Acts 29 Quarterly event last week).

Tchividjian by way of Thune answers the question What is a Gospel-Centered Church?

A truly gospel-centered church understands and embraces the fullness of the gospel as content, community, and cause.”

GOSPEL CONTENTThe Gospel is a message that is to be preached or proclaimed (Mark 1:14; Acts 14:21; Rom 1:15; 1 Peter 1:12). It is the story of God’s redemption of his fallen creation. It is the good news that God has acted in history to conquer evil and reconcile sinners to himself through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus (1 Cor 15:1-12). A gospel-centered church is one where the gospel is proclaimed clearly, consistently, and compellingly (1 Cor 9:16-23).

GOSPEL COMMUNITYThe gospel is not just a message to be believed, but a power to be experienced (Rom 1:16). The gospel shapes a new community as those who were formerly God’s enemies are reconciled to Him (Rom 5:10) and adopted into his family (Gal 4:4-7). The church is not a place, but a people – a community that is continually being reformed and renewed by the transforming power of the gospel (Col. 1:6).

GOSPEL CAUSEThe gospel is a call to action – a declaration that “the kingdom of God is at …

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When You "Assume" the Gospel, You Adopt Moralistic Deism

Young adults are leaving the church (and many the faith), according to some research, at a rate of 70%. And it’s not because we’re not equipping them to refute evolution.

The incomparable Matt Chandler on what happens when our churches assume the gospel:

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"Moral Fervor is Our Deepest Evil"

Moral fervor is our deepest evil. When we intend to serve God, but forget to crucify Self moment by moment, we are capable of acting cruelly while feeling virtuous about it.

Let’s always beware that delicious feeling that we are the defenders of the holy. Christ is the only Defender of the holy. He defends us from persecutors. He defends us from becoming persecutors. We can take refuge in him. But that esteem of him also means we regard ourselves with suspicion, especially when judging another.

Ray Ortlund

My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.– 1 John 2:1

Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.– Hebrews 7:25

This is why the message of the gospel is not “Behave!” but “Believe!”

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5 Ways to Feel Scripture

Many of us read the Bible, and many of us do not. Many of us go into Bible reading looking for anything but transformation, which is unfortunate, given that transformation is the primary reason the written word of God exists. Devotional Scripture reading requires discipline and consistency, but its aim is the treasuring of God’s word in our hearts and the delighting of ourselves in God’s statutes. We have at our fingertips the very revelation of God to us, and yet we treat Scripture like a blunt instrument, like a reference book, like a prop for our propaganda, anything but the wellspring of God’s truth to be drunk deeply from. Devotional Scripture reading means meditating on Scripture, chewing on it, savoring it, learning not just how to read Scripture, but how to feel it.

My conviction is that evangelicals by and large have lost their ability to feel Scripture. The great irony is that now when the Bible is more available than any time in history, we are perhaps more biblically illiterate than any Christian generation in history.The great opportunity in this, of course, is that our generation is now extra ripe for biblical transformation and a revival in commitment to the deep well of Scripture.

I’ve come up with five ways one might begin to develop a greater feeling for Scripture. Some or all of these may not be new to you (and none were invented by me, of course), as they are basically good practices for essential Bible study, but …

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Putting the Devil On Notice

I’m not a fan of spiritual bravado, but I do think there are times when believers ought to realize the frustrations occurring in their life may be satanic. Our enemy is real and he does not want the gospel to bear fruit in our lives.

We need to remind ourselves and him that we are not trapped in this world with the devil. He is trapped in this world with us.

Lord, give us tender hearts and strong backbones.

The seventy-two returned with joy and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.”He replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” – Luke 10:17-20

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Division Begins with the Heterodox

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has voted to allow congregations’ appointing of homosexual clergy in non-chaste same-sex relationships.

I am not wringing my hands.

This is not a rant about homosexual behavior (which I believe is a sin, in case anyone’s wondering). It is about what happens in evangelical discourse when these sorts of things are discussed.

When concerned folks raise voices of protest and warning, when they say adamantly “This isn’t right,” they are accused of singling out the sin of homosexuality for special treatment, laser-focusing in on the homosexual as a sinner above all sinners, worse than the rest of us.

But I actually think it’s sort of the other way around. It is the proponents of gay clergy who single out homosexuality. It is they who are pressing us to respond to this issue. Nobody is pushing for resolutions on the allowance of adulterous clergy, of gossipy clergy, of alcoholic clergy, of p()rn-addicted clergy, or what-have-you.

It is not those who protest who are singling out this sin. It is the proponents of the sin as normative — or at least, passable — who are singling it out.

This reminds me of where we got our creeds — the original stands for normative truth — in the first place. They were subsequent to heresy. It took heretics to promote their particular heterodoxy for the Church to say, “Supposing we summed up orthodox doctrine as a standard of sorts?”

And so it wasn’t the crafters of the creeds who were being divisive. …

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The Gospel According to Psalm 24

Q: Who will ascend the mountain of the Lord? Who can be in his presence? Who gets his blessings?

A: Whoever is perfect and never committed idolatry.

(Well, that stinks, because I’m not perfect and I’m sure not innocent of idolatry.)

“Lift up your heads, o you gates, that the King of Glory may come in!”

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We’ve Got to Get Ourselves Back to the Garden

Apologies to CSNY Joni Mitchell, but we are neither stardust nor golden.

The problem is that we can’t get ourselves back, and no matter how it’s done, it won’t be our way. But we must get back. And that it is not wishful thinking; it is God’s plan.

The long road of cursed banishment out of the Garden of Eden meanders (give or take) 3500 hard years until it crashes into the climax of the covenant. Rough places are made smooth, high places brought low, crooked roads made straight, valleys raised.

They called him Jesus.

Jesus is the great reversal. In the redemption of his perfect obedience leading to the reconciling condemnation of the cross, he lays his body to be crushed in the gears of time and doing so stops their turning.

The curse dies with him. It stays dead. He does not.

And the gears start turning the other way.

I believe it was J.R.R. Tolkien who invented the word eucatastrophe. It refers to a catastrophe of goodness and glory. It is an eruption of un-damage, an explosion of unbrokenness. It is the un-unraveling. It is the sudden turn of wonderful events at the end of the story. It is a cataclysm of beauty and wonder, the reversal of darkness and death.

The eucatastrophe of history is the resurrection.

And the road back begins. Like the roads of the old covenant they are difficult, meandering. And long.But we are on the downhill slope of history, the turning point of time in the cross of Christ and …

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