Archive for the ‘Being Real’ Category

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4 Questions When Jesus Confronts Us

In Being Real on May 15, 2014 by The Spillover

J.D. Greear:

One of the ironies of our current culture is that most people today find Jesus rather boring. Most people don’t mind Jesus, but they don’t really love him or hate him either. This proves that which proves they haven’t actually met him.

No one in the Bible was ever bored with Jesus. The real Jesus was polarizing; people either loved him or hated him. The more attractive he grew to some, the more loathsome he grew to others. Certain people thronged to him, while others plotted his death.

That’s why I love it when I bump up against a tough saying of Jesus, like you find in Luke 12:51: “Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division.” Here is Jesus confronting each and every one of us, saying, “I didn’t come to be a religious addition to your life. I came to turn your entire world upside-down.”

Four questions in light of that:

1. Have I “owned” Jesus in all my relationships?

Are we really letting Jesus take the lead in our families? Parents, are you teaching your kids to obey Jesus more than you? The Christian world is filled with parents who don’t want their kids to obey God and go on the mission field. And if they must defy you to obey God, then that’s what Jesus is asking. But do we really want our kids to obey God in spite of us?

Are we letting Jesus redirect our work? I know business leaders in the community who have lost jobs because they refused to sacrifice their integrity. I know others who were ostracized or fired for sharing their faith. As our society continues to debate about public religious liberty, this may be more and more costly for us. Are we going to own Jesus at our workplaces?

Will you own Jesus in your friendships? Will you continue to confess Christ in the midst of withering criticism from those you hold most dear? When they lie about you, and cut you out of their circles? Or will you treasure certain relationships more than your devotion to Christ?

2. Am I obeying him with what’s in front of me right now?

It’s pretty easy to talk about “total sacrifice” in the abstract. Would I die for Jesus? Of course! But are we obeying him right now? It’s always easier to be obedient in a dramatic hypothetical than in the nitty-gritty of life. Before we say we’re willing to have our throats slit for Jesus, we need to examine our current habits. Are we serving others, giving to the mission, or spending time in biblical community?

Here’s a huge one: are we submitting to the biblical pattern of sexual ethics?Most young Christians have no qualms with sleeping together before marriage. What business do we have saying we would die for Jesus when we aren’t willing to obey him with our lives today? Dying isn’t the hard part; living is.

3. Do I have any conditions for following Jesus?

What areas do I insist that God provide for me if I’m going to follow him? I have been tempted this way plenty in the past, and I know people who have walked away from Jesus because of some pain or disappointment in their life. They thought that they deserved a better marriage, or a better job, or they were broken up about somebody’s death.

All that revealed was that Jesus wasn’t “all” to them. He was a means to an end. When the means stopped working, they looked for a better one. Jesus doesn’t want us following him because he’s the fast track to a better life; he wants us to follow him without reservation and without condition.

4. Where I am causing division, am I doing it like him?

Sadly, a lot of Christians take Jesus’ words about division and they apply them in all the wrong ways. They’re divisive, but only because they’re acting like jerks.

But Jesus didn’t cause division like that. Jesus spoke the truth, and when that caused division, he drew all of the fire onto himself. “When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly” (1 Peter 2:23).

We tend to defend ourselves in anger, but Jesus bore our insults with compassion. We tend to press the issue, but Jesus patiently responded to different people in different ways. We tend to dismiss people when they disagree with us, but Jesus was able to clearly confront sin and still draw us close to him.

Is there division in your life because of Christ? Or do people around you still think Jesus is boring?

Articles

We Are Our Secrets

In Being Real,Perspective on October 8, 2013 by The Spillover

Ray Ortlund:

O. Hobart Mowrer, the psychologist, set himself to understand more deeply our hollowed-out emotional lives.  He noted that, commonly, when we perform a good deed, we advertise it, display it, draw attention to it, at least hint at it, hoping to collect on the emotional credit of it.  But when we do something cheap, evil or stupid, we hide it, deny it, minimize it.  But the emotional discredit from that stays with us and even accumulates with each further hypocrisy.  This is how we make ourselves chronically empty in conscience and heart.  Our lives are required of us, and we are found wanting.  No felt “net worth.”  Lost confidence, pizzazz.  Our positive energies are depleted by fugitive concealing.

Then Mowrer wondered, What if we reversed our strategy?  What if we admitted our weaknesses, owned up to our failures, named our idiot-moments, confessed our follies, errors and debts, and also hid away from everyone’s view our smart ideas, heroic sacrifices, kind deeds, charities and virtues?  What if, instead of throwing back at the other guy his worst failure while trotting out our own best moment, we put up our worst against his best?  What then?  Our hearts might start filling up.

He entitled his essay “You are your secrets.”  It is in his book The New Group Therapy (New York, 1964), pages 65-71.  His insight has a long and honored history:

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. . . . Your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (Matthew 6:14).

Articles

Hard Words, Good Words

In Being Real,Calvary Baptist Church on September 12, 2013 by The Spillover

Perhaps there are lessons for CBC in this story from Joe Thorn of his church’s assessment:

5 years ago I was assessed by a group of pastors for the Acts 29 Network. We had just launched Redeemer Fellowship and wanted to partner with like-minded brothers and churches who share our core theological convictions and approach to ministry. When I received the completed assessment a week later, welcoming us into the network, the brothers were careful to include thoughts on my strengths and weaknesses.

Hearing where you are weak is hard, but necessary. Hard, but good–if you have ears to hear it. One of the things they called me out on was how deficient I was in connecting with those outside of the church. Here is some of what they said to me.

Though you can articulate a missional-church philosophy, you are not effectively leading your church into mission. You can speak of activities and initiatives you want the church to pursue, but you do not talk joyfully and passionately about unbelievers you are engaging with the gospel. If you do not immediately begin developing your elders in the practice of personal evangelism and mission, you risk having a church that preaches the gospel but does not live it. We recommend taking your elder team through Jack Miller’s book “Outgrowing the Ingrown Church” and applying Miller’s grid of a pastor/elder as a “gospel pacesetter” in the local body.

It is easier to articulate a good ecclesiology than to act on it. Anyone can parrot the truth, but practicing the truth is less frequently attempted. I know this from my own heart and life, and by the grace of God I have been learning to not be satisfied with sound doctrine that is not also experienced. Pastors, we should frequently ask ourselves if we doing the work of an evangelist. Are we known among unbelievers in our cities? Are we taking every opportunity (and creating opportunities) to share the message of the cross with outsiders? Tomorrow I’ll talk about the changes I made (repentance) in my life to move from theoretician to practitioner (hearer of the word vs doer of the word).

I am so thankful for these brothers who said this, and even harder words to me though the assessment, for it helped to set me on a better path. The Lord gave me wisdom through these men, and I am better for it. Our church is better for it.

Articles

I Weep for Miley

In Being Real on August 27, 2013 by The Spillover

Trevin Wax:

Picking up a sub sandwich today, I saw a news report on CNN about Miley Cyrus’ performance at last night’s VMA’s. I was shocked, then sickened, then saddened.

For the rest of the day, I wondered:

What kind of people are we?

What kind of culture have we created?

What do we want our children to be?

No more wondering. Tonight, I weep.

I weep for the little girl who gave us Hannah Montana and became a role model to millions of little girls across America.

I weep for the lostness of a girl who doesn’t see herself stumbling around in the dark.

I weep for the news channels that profit from their all-day coverage of a young woman spiraling out of control.

I weep for the American Idol culture that promises glitter and gold to children, then chews them up and spits them out.

I weep for an entertainment culture that celebrates the breaking of every social taboo and the casting off of every restraint, only then to turn and mock the stars that follow suit.

I weep for a tabloid culture that finds celebrity gossip and embarrassing moments titillating.

I weep for women enslaved by a false view of sexual liberation.

I weep for men (myself included) who have failed to say, “Enough is enough.”

I weep for all the times I’ve looked at women as objects and failed to see them as someone’s sisters and daughters.

I weep for the fathers of Miley Cyrus, Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, Madonna, and all the family members of all the other women who feel they have to sexualize themselves to achieve success.

I weep for my five-year-old little girl, who twirls around like a princess and hugs me tight at night, when I think of the world she is growing up in, the world I will send her into.

I weep for the broken, messed-up world we live in.

But then I weep at the power of grace.

There’s Jesus, lifting the head of a woman of the night and sending her away into the light. There’s Jesus in a crowd, healing a woman desperately trying to cover the shame. There’s Jesus at the well, transforming a woman tossed aside by multiple men.

Weeping is no longer enough. Now, I pray.

Articles

We Are All Virgins Now

In Being Real,Perspective,Soul Food on July 25, 2013 by The Spillover

Tim Challies:

We Evangelicals are known for our obsession with virginity. Now don’t get me wrong—I affirm that it is good and God-honoring to remain sexually pure before marriage (and within marriage and after marriage). As a pastor I want to teach the people in my care the value of having their first sexual experiences with their spouse in the marriage bed and not with a prom date in the back of a car. I want my children to value sexual purity and to understand that lust is not love, that love expresses itself in self-control. Virginity matters because sexual purity matters because God says it matters. But it is not the highest of virtues. It is not the measure of a godly young man or young woman. It is not the goal and the measure of Christian living.

This Evangelical obsession with virginity manifests itself in youth conferences where a flower is passed around a room, going from hand to hand, until the speaker can hold it up, all bent and twisted, and ask with a knowing grin, “Who would want a rose like this?” The teens look and say, “I would never want a rose like that.” But then there are the few who silently look away and weep because they are that rose. They learn they have been spoiled, that their beauty has been given away. (As Matt Chandler reminds us, Jesus wants the rose!)

The obsession manifests itself in the pre-marriage course where the young man who burned up his teens and early twenties staring at tens of thousands of pornographic images somehow thinks he holds the moral high ground over the young woman who had sex one time with one boyfriend. After all, he is a virgin and she is not. She is the one who ought to seek his forgiveness for giving to someone else what was rightly his.

It manifests itself in young people who ask questions about “technical virginity” like doing these sexual acts, which stop short of full-on sexual intercourse, are somehow less serious or less morally significant than going all the way. “It’s okay, I’m still a virgin!”

This obsession with virginity measures so many of the wrong things, asks so many of the wrong questions, delivers so many of the wrong answers.

Not only that, but this obsession causes such pain. Elevating virginity to the first place among the virtues hurts those who were raised in the discipline and instruction of the Lord, who were genuinely saved, who knew better, and who chose to ignore God’s good command. They may feel they sinned irreversibly, that this was the greatest of all sins, that they have been relegated to a lesser class of Christian, that they can only ever disappoint that future spouse.

It is painful to those who were raised in ignorance of what God commands, who simply acted the way unbelievers will act as they committed sexual sin. They may feel like second-class citizens of the kingdom, those who gave away the most precious thing they could bring to a marriage.

It is particularly painful to those whose virginity was taken from them, who were unwilling participants in abuse or rape. They may feel spoiled, like all they had to offer was brutally, heartlessly taken from them, and they now carry a diminished status into marriage.

God does not look upon his people as non-virgins and virgins, spoiled and unspoiled, defiled and undefiled. He does not see two classes of people: those who have waited to experience sex within marriage and those have not. So why do we? Why do we obsess about those who have experienced sexual intercourse and those who have not, like this remains a matter of the utmost significance? Why is this the one sin in the whole pantheon of sin that forever marks a person, that forever changes their status?

This whole obsession with virginity misses one New Testament key, the gospel key. When Paul writes to the church in Corinth he specifically addresses sexual sin along with a whole litany of other offenses against God. He addresses the sexual immoral, the adulterer, the homosexual, and at the end of it all he says, “And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” A key word in all of that is were. Such were some of you. You were these things, but then God washed you. You were these things, but then he made you holy. You were these things, but then he justified you. And now you are these things no longer. Your sexual immorality was transferred to Christ and he bore its shame, its guilt, its punishment.

Paul tells us that in God’s eyes we are all holy. Through Christ we are all redeemed, all forgiven, all made new, all unspoiled. In Christ we are all virgins.

Articles

Cigar Smoking and Grace For the Accountability-Holder

In Being Real,Perspective on July 23, 2013 by The Spillover

Jared C. Wilson:

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
– Galatians 6:2

I started smoking cigars the summer after I graduated high school. That would’ve been in 1994. I smoked cigars for nearly seventeen years. Smoking cigars was my favorite way to pass the time. It may sound silly to some, but some of my favorite moments in life involved sitting with friends and enjoying some good tobacco together, talking about important things and silly things, sharing and laughing and eating. Some of my favorite moments in life involved just me and a cigar and deep thoughts about the gospel. It’s something probably only serious cigar smokers might understand.

Then I stopped. I didn’t want to, but I did. I transitioned my family’s health care coverage from insurance to a Christian “health-share” program. Incredible insurance costs were the main reason. But one of the stipulations for participation in the new co-op is abstention from all tobacco use. Alcohol in moderation is okay, but there is no consideration for “tobacco in moderation,” which I assume my roughly one cigar a month might have qualified for. I won’t lie; it was tough. Again, this might seem odd for some to understand, but take one of your favorite hobbies, something “unnecessary” but that nevertheless brings you joy and satisfaction and is an exercise of a good gift that you’ve enjoyed for over a decade — ladies, maybe it’s crafting; fellas, maybe it’s golf — and imagine someone said you have to stop. Like, for good.

But I decided it would be worth it. So two years ago I agreed to abstain. It has not been easy. Joe Thorn’s Instagram is one particular sticky thorn in my flesh. :-) When I go visit friends or attend after-hours hangouts at various conferences, I will be among friends who are enjoying fine cigars all around me. They always offer me one, not knowing about my pledge to abstain. I have been tempted to flout the rules. I can come up with all kinds of justifications. For instance, there is no rule against eating junk food or sitting in smoggy traffic all day every day, and surely I’m healthier smoking 13 cigars a year than some folks on the plan eating McDonald’s three times a week. The flesh is great at self-justification. Iam great at self-justification.

So what has kept me from cheating? On the form you fill out every year to renew membership, which includes the pledge to abstain from tobacco, there is a place where a church officer must sign to vouch for the veracity of your statements. My friends Elder Dale and Deacon Neil have been signers of this document. I know that if I cheat on my pledge, it doesn’t just make me a liar, it will make them liars. It will make me a liar to them. So even though they are not asking me (ever, really) if I’m really keeping my promises in that form, they are signing with the assumption that I am, and therefore their vouching for me is my accountability-holder.

When we think of accountability relationships (or accountability “partners”), we often think of all the ways someone might keep a weaker brother responsible for his actions. We rarely talk about how the one being held accountable might live in such a way to not make his accountability-holder look like a jerk. This runs through issues of church discipline and the like, as well. The focus is so much on gentleness and directness and loving rebuke for those sinning — which is a necessary focus, of course — that we sometimes neglect to remind people that walking in repentance and integrity is a good gift to leaders (Hebrews 13:17) because it keeps them from having to enter conflict. Us folks under accountability can take real burdens off those holding us accountable by striving to act right.

Maybe your accountability partner receives your Internet logs each week to hold your online surfing habits under inspection. When you go where you shouldn’t online, you’re not just sinning against God, you’re sinning against your brother by putting him in the difficult, undesirable, burdensome position of figuring out how to confront you, rebuke you, and restore you in ways that bring glory to God and joy to you. He will do that, because he’s committed to do it (and you asked him to). But isn’t it better to work at making sure he’s not having to be in that position?

We are looking for grace from our accountability-holders. But we ought also to be looking to how we might give grace to our accountability-holders. Maybe we ought to strive for holiness and integrity in our lives not simply out of personal religious ambition but out of relational mercy, out of a desire to not make religious cuckolds of our friends.

Outdo one another in showing honor.
– Romans 12:10

Articles

I Still Believe in Marriage

In Being Real,Home and Family on July 8, 2013 by The Spillover

Jeremy Dys:

For two millennia, it has stood at the apex of human relationships. Every culture has witnessed it and added their own cultural significance to how it is conducted. It has been celebrated and lampooned, but it has survived. It has received the blessing of both Church and State. In recent decades, it has staggered. Culturally “enlightening” ideas of radical feminism, the sexual revolution, and even ‘no-fault’ divorce has all but reduced this venerable institution to its knees. Most recently, one judge (with the backing of four others) allowed for its redefinition.

And yet, it stands. It bows to no man, winces from no blow, and walks with head held high as yet the ultimate union of a man and a woman. No matter what happens to it, I still believe in marriage.

I still believe in that union of one man and one woman that has seen my parents weather 46 years together. I believe in their marriage that steadied a wife to her husband when his heart failed and bound the husband to his wife when cancer dared invade their union.

I still believe in the marriage of a grandfather who mourns his wife who has preceded him in death these dozen years. I believe in a marriage that, when one is taken to heaven leaves one of the “Greatest Generation” in tears at her absence when he holds the great-grandson she never saw. I believe in marriage because he has shown that, “’til death us do part” is not a momentary phrase on the lips, but a conviction of the heart.

I still believe in the marriage of a near-perfect woman to this imperfect man. I believe in the good and the bad, the rich and the poor, and the sickness and health that has been shared by a helpmeet so dear. I believe that my marriage, though imperfect, is the best means by which we teach my four sons what makes a husband, what makes a man, what makes a wife, what makes a woman.

I still believe in marriage as told from Genesis 1 through Revelation 21. I take God at his word that He meant for a man and woman to leave father and mother and be bound to one another. I believe that this is good.

I believe in the marriage bed of Solomon’s Song and the celebration Christ witnessed at Cana as the Son of Man and Son of God. I believe in marriage as the human picture of a God that pursues his people and sacrifices himself as a kindly groom for the good of his most precious bride. I believe in the Marriage Supper of the Lamb and the foretaste of that grand banquet that my humble kitchen table – amidst its din and crumbs – now prefigures. I believe I will sit at that Grand Banquet. I believe marriage protects against infidelity and is the most honorable of all human relationships.

I still believe in marriage as the best hope for my children. I believe a husband like me ought to be bound lawfully (not just genetically) to the children he fathers. I believe I can wrestle my sons better than any man alive. I believe there is something taught to my sons amidst my wrestling and tickling and horseplay.

I believe that I wrestle them better than my wife, but no man – no matter how compassionate – could rival the tenderness by which she heals a scraped knee with a kiss or patiently prepares an over-tired toddler for much needed rest. I believe no man – no matter how well he might sing – can better hum a lullaby to my child than my wife. I believe that my role as husband teaches my sons to be men. I believe that my wife as a wife pictures in real life what they ought to expect in a woman. I believe that, in their mother – my wife – that my sons first learn to protect women, gently treat them, and tenderly provide for them.

I still believe marriage matters beyond the four walls of my home. I believe that it is the last best hope for a government that is overburdened. I believe marriage is the foundation stone for democracy and when marriage is flattened into redefinition by a human government, it is government – not marriage – that is most harmed.

I still believe marriage is government’s best method of connecting men to the children that they father, protecting women from abuse, and creating personal wealth. No government program could ever hope to attain the efficiency by which marriage cares for children, provides for individual happiness, and increases one’s happiness.

I still believe that marriage increases individual liberty and limits the size and scope of government. I believe marriage allows us to assume the paternity of children born to a marriage, rather than force government to determine the same by DNA and courtroom drama.

I still believe that government cannot redefine what it did not first define. I believe the power of the judicial pen is rendered laughably impotent in the face of the Eternal Judge of the Universe that holds those who govern unjustly in derision. Despite his best efforts, I still believe that it is possible to believe in marriage and hold against its imitations without the slightest feeling of animosity.

I still believe in marriage and that means I don’t have much hope for the idea of divorce. I believe ‘no-fault’ divorce has done more damage to the institution of marriage than any alleged bigot or homophobe could have ever conceived. I believe that ‘baby-boomers’ have shamefully served their self-interest and made meaningless the terms, “vow” and “covenant.” In the process, they have damned the generation below them to distrust marriage and invent ideas like, “starter marriage” and “trash the dress.” But, I do not believe that marriage is beyond recovery – for them or for us.

Vilify me, mock me, and force me to submit under penalty of law, you will not change what I believe. Insult me, mock my faith, and use the supposedly limited power of the government to shout me down, you will not shake my resolve to better the loving and lifelong union of one man and one woman. Cite polls, tell me loud enough, long enough, and often enough that redefinition is inevitable, or come up with more variations to human coupling (or tripling, quadrupling….) than Baskin Robbins, I am resolved to support that which makes my grandfather pine to embrace once more, that has sustained my parents these 46 years, and has changed my life over the last (almost) twelve years.

I still believe in marriage. Do you?

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