Don’t Let a Fight Against Error Kill Your Love

Caution cone on keyboard

Last week’s article wasn’t supposed to be an article. I started out writing an opening illustration for a different point, but it took on a life of its own and I ended up with a whole post about the dangers of getting so caught up in the fight against racism, sexism, and other ugly -isms that we forget Jesus’ command to be peacemakers, to turn the other cheek, to love our enemies. We must always remember that Satan loves to tempt us to fight the right fight in the wrong way… Which I suppose still works as an opening observation to bring us around to what I meant to talk about last Monday. Because there is more than one “good fight” which can become an idol. For many conservative, Bible-believing Christians, one of the most potentially dangerous good fights is the battle against error in the church.

Are you entirely satisfied with everything taught by every part of the American church? I thought not. Neither am I. From churches which don’t bother to teach the Bible to churches which outright teach against the Bible, there is every reason to be concerned about the spiritual health of many of the professing Christians around us. And such caution is appropriate and biblical. Paul warned Roman believers, “I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them” (Rom 16:17). Corruption in the church is the worst kind of corruption, because it dishonors the name of Christ and destroys our witness to the world. Vigilance is essential—but vigilance has a way of killing our love.

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Thursday Roundup (4/13/17)

Thursday Roundup

Today’s video features a discussion with an atheist writer about how God’s sovereignty could coexist with human free will. The weekly podcast is my last on Your Best Life Now, considering Part 7, “Choose to be Happy,” as well as looking back over the book and drawing out some overall lessons. The links of the week discuss church and work, suffering and disappointment, Christianity as a spark for social reform, and more!

(If you receive these posts by email and aren’t seeing the video and podcast, just click the “Thursday Roundup” title to view the original post on my site.)

“Mercy can never be earned. Its very necessity is evoked by unworthiness, else there would be no need for it. Because we have sinned, we need mercy, not because we have obeyed. The only qualification for mercy is affliction.”
~ Bob LaForge

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Servants Don’t Take Offense

Potter with clay

A couple years ago, an academic and writer who was researching the role of women in Reformed churches flew in for a day to attend a presbytery meeting in my little part of the Christian world. Her subsequent scathing report generated quite a bit of discussion and controversy, with particular outrage over her revelation that the women’s restroom was temporarily labeled for male use. What kind of church, readers demanded, would care so little about female concerns as to refuse to even give them restroom facilities? The account of the omission was one of the most dramatic parts of her report, with three paragraphs devoted to describing and analyzing the way in which “women’s physical needs were considered unimportant and inconvenient.” It was a damning indictment—and perhaps a tad overstated.

Frankly, the bathroom labeling was thoughtless, creating an uncomfortable situation for any women who had to remove the sign and wait for the bathroom to clear before using it. But in a denomination which does not have female elders, everyone knows there are going to be hardly any women at a presbytery meeting. As someone who has run large events in the past, I have a great deal of sympathy for the harried organizer, worrying the night before about the prospect of long bathroom lines snaking through the foyer of a small church, who hastily tried to solve the problem with the “Men’s Restroom” sign which was shortly to become a thing of infamy. (Had the same organizer been running a women’s conference, I expect we’d have seen a “Women’s Restroom” sign on the men’s room.) Was it a less-than-ideal solution? Yes. Was it a significant sign of underlying sexism on the part of everyone associated with the meeting? Perhaps… not?

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Thursday Roundup (4/6/17)

Thursday Roundup

Today’s video looks at how Islam’s conception of God is different from the Bible’s. The Answers for Ambassadors podcast considers Joel Osteen’s call for Christians to live generously (and why—which turns out to be important). The links of the week cover filthy rags and perfectionism, grey hair and Down Syndrome, “the strange persistence of guilt,” and much more!

(If you receive these posts by email and aren’t seeing the video and podcast, just click the “Thursday Roundup” title to view the original post on my site.)

“We have no real sense of the terror and awesomeness of God, for we think intimacy with God is an inalienable right rather than an indescribable gift. There is nothing amazing about grace as long as there is nothing fearful about holiness.”
~ Dale Ralph Davis

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Puzzlement at Pence: How the World Lost Intimacy and Doesn’t Know It

Initials on a tree

Last week, the Washington Post reported that vice president Mike Pence avoids dining one-on-one with women other than his wife, and the internet erupted. Pence’s policy was puritanical, silly, sexist. It might, in fact, be “rape culture at work” according to one writer, because it shows “we still live in a culture that produces vice-presidents who ardently believe women are a wellspring of possible sin.”

The obvious rebuttals are, well, obvious. There’s the fact that Pence might possibly be avoiding extended social time alone with other women not because he believes women are the root of all evil but because, of the two genders, only one of them can offer any temptation to compromise his marriage. (If an influential woman avoided dining alone with other men, would that be sexism against men?) Then there’s the cynical amusement of listening to 20-something singles earnestly pontificate about healthy relationship boundaries. And there’s the hypocrisy angle: Apparently Bill’s serial adultery is no one’s business but the Clintons’, but Pence’s attempt to avoid adultery is a threat to the republic which demands endless think pieces.

But as I perused the flood of commentary which followed the revelation of what was dubbed “the Pence Rule,” I was struck by something else: the amount of sheer puzzlement over why such a self-imposed restriction might be needed or helpful. One journalist wondered whether “social conservatives actually have higher libidos on average, hence the greater perceived need to control sexual desire.”

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Thursday Roundup (3/30/17)

Thursday Roundup

Want to know more about Islam and how to reach your Muslim neighbors? My “Islam: Understanding and Apologetics” online class starts one week from today at 7:30 EST (I moved the start-date back one week because I have lost my voice today due to a cold), and it’s recorded too, in case the time doesn’t fit your schedule. Click here for more information.

Today’s video asks whether God is “interested in relationship, not religion.” The weekly podcast looks at Joel Osteen’s call in Your Best Life Now to stand strong and trust God amid trials. And the links of the week range across catechisms, productivity, intimacy, tithing, and more!

(If you receive these posts by email and aren’t seeing the video and podcast, just click the “Thursday Roundup” title to view the original post on my site.)

“A life once spent is irrevocable. It will remain to be contemplated through eternity… The same may be said of each day. When it is once past, it is gone forever. All the marks which we put upon it, it will exhibit forever… Let us, then, each morning, resolve to send the day into eternity in such a garb as we shall wish it to wear forever.”
~ Adoniram Judson

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You Have Enough Time

Hurrying crowd

Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
~ Matthew 6:25-33

For most Americans, Jesus’ promise of provision in the Sermon on the Mount may seem like a nice abstraction. It’s lovely to think of God providing for our physical needs, but how many urgent needs do most of us really feel? How many of us have really had to worry about the next meal or whether we’ll have someplace to spend the night? Of course, for some in America and for many of our brothers and sisters around the world, these assurances are a much more urgent and wonderful thing, but for most Americans they are promises to meet a need they have never really felt.

But even if God’s rich provision for our nation means that you never have to worry about food or clothing, studying Jesus’ promises in Matthew 6 offers a helpful, encouraging template for thinking about another resource, one which we always seem to be needing more of: our time.

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Thursday Roundup (3/23/17)

Thursday Roundup

Want to know more about Islam and how to reach out to Muslims? My popular “Islam: Understanding and Apologetics” online class is beginning next Thursday, March 30. The live class meets on three successive Thursdays at 7:30pm EST, but it’s also recorded. Click here for more info or to register!

Today’s video takes a look at the difficult topic of church discipline. It can seem more judgmental than loving, so why would Jesus command it? The Answers for Ambassadors podcast considers Part 4 of Your Best Life Now, in which Joel Osteen discusses how to deal with pain and disappointment. And I have an unusual number of excellent links this week, ranging across loneliness and celibacy, the Ten Commandments and the Apocrypha, Christian satire, The Benedict Option, and more!

(If you receive these posts by email and aren’t seeing the video and podcast, just click the “Thursday Roundup” title to view the original post on my site.)

“[Prayer] turns ordinary mortals into men of power. It brings power. It brings fire. It brings rain. It brings life. It brings God.”
~ Samuel Chadwick

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After We Sin

Kneeling man

There are few more famous sins in the Bible than David’s adultery with Bathsheba, followed by the murder of her husband. Yahweh’s anointed king, “the man after God’s own heart,” showed the ugliness that lurks in every one of Adam’s sons, and the Lord’s response was swift and angry. II Samuel 12 describes the scene as the prophet Nathan challenged King David, “Why have you despised the word of the Lord, to do what is evil in his sight?” The account only includes the initial, simple response of the stricken king: “I have sinned against the Lord,” but Psalm 51 conveys the depth of David’s repentance and grief as he writes,

I know my transgressions,
and my sin is ever before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you may be justified in your words
and blameless in your judgment.

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Thursday Roundup (3/16/17)

Thursday Roundup

Today’s video was inspired by my recent discussions of The Shack and Your Best Life Now. It considers when imperfect Christian books are still worth reading and when we ought to skip them. The weekly podcast looks at Joel Osteen’s view of the importance of our thoughts and words. And the links cover pleasing God and giving to the poor, singleness and happiness, secularization, the national epidemic of opiate addiction, and more!

(If you receive these posts by email and aren’t seeing the video and podcast, just click the “Thursday Roundup” title to view the original post on my site.)

“It’s easier to avoid temptation then to resist it.”
~ Bill Shannon

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