• Is Liberal Christianity really Christianity?

    Liberal Christianity is a wing of the church which tries to modify or change some of the central beliefs of Christianity so that the modern world, in which we are in, would see Christianity as more acceptable. But if you do this type of theological and ethical surgery to Christianity do you still have Christianity when you are done?

    One of the greatest books on Liberal Christianity is Christianity and Liberalism by J. Gresham Machen. In it he says that Liberal Christianity is not Christianity at all. Here is his conclusion:

    What is the relation between Christianity and modern culture; may Christianity be maintained in a scientific age? It is this problem which modern liberalism attempts to solve. Admitting that scientific objections may arise against the particularities of the Christian religion — against the Christian doctrines of the person of Christ, and of redemption through His death and resurrection — the liberal theologian seeks to rescue certain of the general principles of religion, of which these particularities are thought to be mere temporary symbols, and these general principles he regards as constituting “the essence of Christianity.” As a matter of fact… what the liberal theologian has retained after abandoning to the enemy one Christian doctrine after another is not Christianity at all, but a religion which is so entirely different from Christianity as to belong in a distinct category.

    I think Machen is correct in his assessment of Liberal Christianity. Because, in the end, when you take out the guts of the gospel you are left with no Gospel at all.

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  • What is The Primary Aim in Preaching?

    What is the main aim in preaching? Is to teach the Bible? Is it to educate? Is it to persuade? To motivate? In Tim Keller’s great book Center Church: Doing Balanced, Gospel-Centered Ministry in Your City Keller has a great quote from Martin Lloyd-Jones about the primary aim of preaching:

     The first and primary object of preaching… is to produce an impression. It is the impression at the time that matters, even more than what you can remember subsequently… Edwards, in my opinion, has the true notion of preaching. It is not primarily to impart information; and while [the listeners are taking] notes you may be missing something of the impact of the Spirit. As preachers we must not forget this. We are not merely imparters of information. We should tell our people to read certain books themselves and get the information there. The business of preaching is to make such knowledge live.

    What do you think? Do you think the primary aim in preaching is to make an impression or something else?

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  • How to Deal With Your Guilt

    The thing one pastoral conversation I seem to have more than any other is about a past sin that a person has committed that is still haunting them. What are we to do about that sin? What are we to think about that sin? Maybe you are reading this blog and you are haunted by past sin. Check out these wise words from Mark Driscoll’s book  Who Do You Think You Are?: Finding Your True Identity in Christ

    What deep regrets haunt you? What words have you spoken, deeds have you done, motives have you held, lies have you believed, harm have you caused, people have you grieved, and shame have you carried? What have you done to try to assuage your guilty conscience? Have you sought to deny your sin, blame others for it, minimalize it, hide it, pay God back, or punish yourself for it? How have your efforts failed? In Christ, you are totally, completely, and eternally forgiven. It doesn’t matter what you’ve done or will do. Jesus died for it all and lives to forgive it all. You’re forgiven. God doesn’t hold your sin against you, isn’t going to punish you, and loves you in spite of your sin.

     

    Driscoll’s words are powerful and appropriate. Jesus has done it all, he forgives you of your sin and you need to rest in his forgiveness. Take your guilt to the cross and leave it there.

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  • The Trap of Materialism

    We live in a very materialistic society. We work jobs we don’t like to buy stuff we don’t need to impress people we don’t like. Mark Driscoll in his book Who Do You Think You Are?: Finding Your True Identity in Christ shows us the problem of our culture’s incipient materialism:

    Today, with television tours of the world’s wealthiest people’s homes, we no longer compare our possessions to those of the generations before us or our neighbors but rather to the elite’s. The results are coveting, overspending, and debt fueled by advertising. Some sociologists call this “competitive consumption,” which forces average people and families to work harder, spend less time with those they love, and live more miserably enslaved to debt in an ongoing effort to prop up some false sense of identity and personal value. Third, products are not simply valued for their usefulness but rather play a central role in the cultivation and maintenance of our identity. This is a powerful explanation for why consumer goods are so much more than objects we use; they are things for which we will fight and sometimes even kill. The point is that in today’s consumer culture, our goods are carriers of meaning. They define us, send social signals to others, and construct our identities. Subsequently, wearing non-designer clothes, driving an old car, and using anything but the latest technology somehow devalues us as human beings. Put bluntly, when consumerism is your religion and stuff the object of your worship, “the things you own end up owning you,” to quote Tyler Durden from the movie Fight Club(1999).

    Where can you see materialism in your own life?

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  • What You Have To Know About Our Culture’s Preoccupation With Sex

    We live in a world where sex is everywhere. It seems every magazine has a sealed section about how to have hot sex. Sex sells everything. People pay for sex or pay to watch people get naked and have sex.

    But what does our cultures preoccupation with sex say about us and our culture? In the middle of last century C.S. Lewis said this about the culture’s preoccupation with sex:

    “You can get a large audience together for a strip-tease act–that is, to watch a girl undress on the stage. Now suppose you came to a country where you could fill a theatre by simply bringing a covered plate on to the stage and then slowly lifting the cover so as to let every one see, just before the lights went out, that it contained a mutton chop or a bit of bacon, would you not think that in that country something had gone wrong with the appetite for food? And would not anyone who had grown up in a different world think there was something equally queer about the state of the sex instinct among us?

     

    One critic said that if he found a country in which such strip-tease acts with food were popular, he would conclude that the people of that country were starving. He means, of course, to imply that such things as the strip-tease act resulted not from sexual corruption but from sexual starvation. I agree with him that if, in some strange land, we found that similar acts with mutton chops were popular, one of the possible explanations which would occur to me would be famine. But the next step would be to test our hypothesis by finding out whether, in fact, much or little food was being consumed in that country. If the evidence showed that a good deal was being eaten, then of course we should have to abandon the hypothesis of starvation and try to think of another one. In the same way, before accepting sexual starvation as the cause of the strip-tease, we should have to look for evidence that there is in fact more sexual abstinence in our age than in those ages when things like the strip-tease were unknown. But surely there is no such evidence. Contraceptives have made sexual indulgence far less costly within marriage and far safer outside it than ever before, and public opinion is less hostile to illicit unions and even to perversion than has been since Pagan times.”

    C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, pp. 89-90

     

    Lewis shows that our preoccupation with sex shows that our society is broken. That we are defined by sex shows that we are enslaved by it. The gospel shows us that our identity is not formed by or based on our sexuality. It is based on the fact that we are made in the image of God and he has redeemed us through his son. Only through that lens can we see our sexuality in the light that we should see it in.

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  • Why Pastors Must Cultivate A Passionate Love For Jesus

    Pastoral ministry is hard work. It is hard work because there is always more going than merely the here and now. One of the hardest things to do in pastoral ministry is to work out of a love for Jesus and the gospel.  Paul Tripp in his book  Dangerous Calling says this about the the shaping of ministry by the heart of the Pastor:

    You see, it is absolutely vital to remember that a pastor’s ministry is never just shaped by his knowledge, experience, and skill. It is always also shaped by the true condition of his heart. In fact, if his heart is not in the right place, all of the knowledge and skill can actually function to make him dangerous.

    What should a pastor’s like look like? Tripp says this:

    The pastor must be enthralled by, in awe of—can I say it: in love with—his Redeemer so that everything he thinks, desires, chooses, decides, says, and does is propelled by love for Christ and the security of rest in the love of Christ. He must be regularly exposed, humbled, assured, and given rest by the grace of his Redeemer. His heart needs to be tenderized day after day by his communion with Christ so that he becomes a tender, loving, patient, forgiving, encouraging, and giving servant leader. His meditation on Christ—his presence, his promises, and his provisions—must not be overwhelmed by his meditation on how to make his ministry work.

    But why is it vital for a pastor’s heart to be filled with the love of Jesus? Tripp explains:

    You see, it is only love for Christ that can defend the heart of the pastor against all the other loves that have the potential to kidnap his ministry. It is only worship of Christ that has the power to protect him from all the seductive idols of ministry that will whisper in his ear. It is only the glory of the risen Christ that will guard him against the self-glory that is a temptation to all who are in ministry and that destroys the ministry of so many. Only Christ can turn an arrogant, “bring on the world” seminary graduate into a patient, humble giver of grace. Only deep gratitude for a suffering Savior can make a man willing to suffer in ministry. It is only a heart that is satisfied in Christ that can be spiritually content in the hardships of ministry. It is only in your brokenness in the face of your sin that you can give grace to the fellow rebels to whom God has called you to minister. It’s only when your identity is firmly rooted in Christ that you are free from seeking to get your identity out of your ministry.

    What are you doing to cultivate a passionate love for Jesus?

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  • The Sin of Plagiarizing Sermons

    I went into this particular church for the first time. I had been interviewed to be on staff as a student minister and then I heard the preacher and his sermon convinced me not to take the position.

    No the sermon wasn’t heretical

    No the sermon wasn’t terrible

    But the sermon was plagarized

    I had heard this particular sermon a few months ago from another man who I know got it from a preacher in the states. When I confronted the Preacher who was interviewing me he didnt think preaching someone else’s sermon was a big deal. When I told  the search committee why I wasn’t taking the position no one seemed to mind that this man had plagiarized the sermon.

    With the advent of the internet and podcasting plagiarism in sermons is continuing to go through the roof. I have heard of more than my share of Pastors with theological degrees from great colleges plagiarizing sermons.

    But is this such an issue?

    I think it is and here is why:

    1. The pastoral task it to preach the word in season and out of season (2 Timothy 4:1-5) so there is a biblical command that you preach. But it is the content of what you preach that matters. The content is meant to be the word. I think that implies you have spent good amounts of time studying the text of scripture yourself and have let it shape the sermon. You haven’t merely downloaded the sermon  and become a human speaker for someone else.

    2. The congregation is paying you to preach. So there is a sense in which you are taking money under false pretenses if you plagiarize sermons.

    3. The sermon is meant to be from your heart to the congregations heart. Out of love for God and your congregation you are meant to preach.

    4. The heart of a pastor is corrupt when he plagiarizes a sermon because he thinks that faithful preaching isn’t good enough. That is why he plagiarizes the sermon because he thinks that what the congregation needs to is a killer sermon replete with great illustrations, awesome applications and a few great jokes. But in the end faithfulness not flair makes a good preacher. It is love for your congregation not laughter from your congregation that matters.

    If you are plagiarizing sermons you are robbing your church and yourself of great time in the word. Repent of this sin and take Paul’s words to Timothy to heart:

    In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.

    2 Timothy 4:1-5

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  • Do You Have Unhelpful Assumptions About Your Pastor?

    Pastors carry a huge weight. It is a weight that sometimes is unbearable. A lot of this weight is felt by pastors because they or their congregations assume the wrong things about them and what their life is meant to look like. Paul Tripp in his great book Dangerous Calling points out some of the most dangerous assumptions that congregations make of pastors and pastors make of themselves:

    It should be obvious that the unhelpful assumptions made as the pastor is coming to lead the church would be fruit in a whole set of unrealistic expectations. The biggest is that many churches simply don’t expect their pastor to struggle with sin. But he is not sin-free! Since he is still being sanctified, sin still remains and is being progressively eradicated. They don’t expect him to get discouraged in the middle of the war for the gospel. They don’t expect him to be tempted toward bitterness or envy. They expect him to be a model husband and father. They don’t expect him to be lazy or to settle for mediocrity. They don’t expect that in moments of self-protection he will be tempted to be antisocial and controlling. They expect that he will be able to joyfully carry an unrealistic job description that would overwhelm anyone this side of Jesus’s return. They expect that he will be content with significantly less pay than most people with his level of education. They expect that his wife is so fully committed to ministry herself that his coming to the church is actually a two-for-one deal. They don’t expect that there will be moments when he is tempted to doubt the goodness of God. They don’t expect that in a meeting or in the pulpit, fear of man will keep him from doing or saying the things that God calls him to do and say. They don’t expect to hire a flawed man who is still desperately in need of the very grace that he is called to offer and exegete for others.

     

    If you are a church member what are you assuming about your pastor from this list?

    If you are a pastor what are assuming about yourself from this list?

    How will you change your assumptions to be more in line with what the Bible says about pastoral ministry?

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  • The Demise of Guys

    I have just finished an amazing E-Book called The Demise of Guys by Phillip Zimbardo and Nikita Duncan. It is a book outlining why guys are not performing as well as they used to and what we can do about it.  To whet your appetite have a look at the TED talk that Zimbardo did below and if you like it buy and read the book. I think everyone (yes everyone) should read the book!

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  • What’s Wrong With Our Young Men?

    There is something wrong with a lot of young guys today. A lot of young guys don’t seem to have drive, enthusiasm, commitment or courage. And these are the things that older generations prized in men. I have been reading a brilliant book that everyone should read (no that is not hyperbole) it is called The Demise of Guys: Why Boys Are Struggling and What We Can Do About It by Philip Zimbardo and Nikita Duncan. They say this about guys today:

    Consequently, many guys lack purposeful direction and basic social skills. They’re living off, and often with, their parents well into their 20s and even 30s, expanding their childhood into an age once reserved for starting a family and making a career. Many young men who do manage to find a mate feel entitled to do nothing to add substance to that relationship beyond just showing up. New emasculating terms such as “man-child” and “moodle” (man-poodle) have emerged to describe men who haven’t matured emotionally or are otherwise incapable of taking care of themselves. Hollywood has caught on, too, to this awkward bunch of dudes, who appear to be tragically hopeless. Recent films such as Knocked Up, Failure to Launch, the Jackass series and Hall Pass present men as expendable commodities, living only for mindless fun and intricate but never-realized plans to get laid. Their female co-stars, meanwhile, are often attractive, focused and mature, with success-oriented agendas guiding their lives. The sense of being entitled to have things without having to work hard for them — attributed to one’s male nature — runs counter to the Protestant work ethic, as well as to the Vince Lombardi victory creed (“Winning isn’t everything. It’s the only thing.”) These guys aren’t interested in maintaining long-term romantic relationships, marriage, fatherhood and being the head of their own family. Many have come to prefer the company of men over women, and they live to escape the so-called real world and readily slip into alternative worlds for stimulation. More and more they’re living in other worlds that exclude girls — or any direct social interaction, for that matter. Over the past decade, this pattern has escalated into adulthood where grown men remain like little boys, having difficulty relating to women as equals, friends, partners, intimates or even as cherished wives.

    Guys are pushing their adolescence into their retirement but what is the cause of this? The cause is, understandably, porn and technology:

    We believe this demise can be traced to the rise of technology enchantment. From the earliest ages, guys are seduced into excessive and mostly isolated viewing and involvement with texting, tweeting, blogging, online chatting, emailing, and watching sports on TV or laptops. Most of all, though, they’re burying themselves in video games and in getting off on all-pervasive online pornography.

     

    The authors quote some disturbing statistics about guys and pornography:

    One in three boys is now considered a “heavy” porn user, with the average boy watching nearly two hours of porn every week, according to University of Alberta (Canada) researcher Sonya Thompson.15 And that’s the average; just imagine what the outliers are doing! Add to the mix older guys watching adult videos online, at work, at home or in hotels across the country and around the world.

     

    As they go on to state that guys have become addicted to games and porn and this is changing their brains and ruining their lives:

    This new kind of addictive arousal traps users into an expanded present hedonistic time zone. Past and future are distant and remote, as the present moment expands to dominate everything. And that present is totally dynamic, with images changing constantly. Boys’ brains are being digitally rewired in a totally new way to demand change, novelty, excitement and constant stimulation. And their brains are being catered to by porn on demand and by video games at a flick of the switch or a click of the mouse. That means they are becoming totally out of sync in traditional school classes, which are analog, static and interactively passive. Academics are based on applying past lessons to future problems, on planning, on delaying gratifications, on work coming before play, on long-term goal setting.

    The church needs to step in and teach young men what it is to be a man again today. Young men need to be taught that being a man is not about sex, violence and getting drunk.  What is a man? 1 Corinthians 16:13-14 are great verses on this issue:

    Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.

    From this verse we see a man stands firm in his faith. He is not swayed by the winds of teaching. He knows and loves his Bible. Act like men can be translated be courageous like a man. So a man has courage, he may be sacred but he does the right thing despite his fear. Strength doesn’t refer to physical strength but it refers to strength of character, a man does what he says he will do. And finally a man loves selflessly and sacrificially.

    Let’s teach our young men to be men like this.

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