Reblog: The Lingering Stench of Sin

by Tim Challies

We used to live on the fringes of a small town surrounded by farmland. We quickly learned that of all the farm creatures in the world, pigs must be the stinkiest. It was not unusual to drive down the highway on a hot summer afternoon and to begin to detect a faint whiff of pig manure in the air. As we kept driving the smell would get stronger and we’d soon spot a truck in the distance ahead of us. Drawing closer, almost choked by the reek, we’d see that, sure enough, it was stuffed full of pigs on their way to the slaughterhouse. These pigs were so smelly that they would leave a trail of stink that would stretch for miles and linger for hours.

This world reeks of troubles and sorrows. Sometimes we are innocent victims of other people’s sin and sometimes we are willing participants who cause trouble all our own. At other times we are simply caught up in the stink of a sinful world. In any case, we are regularly called upon to respond to situations that are difficult or even excruciating. How can we respond? How should we respond? What’s the best way to bring hope, to bring healing?

The problem with sin is that it is too dreadful, too ugly, too pernicious to allow solutions that are perfectly clean and neat. Instead, a stink lingers in the aftermath of any great sin. We long for good solutions or even perfect ones, but invariably there are only mediocre and bad and worse ones. Sin is too sinful to allow perfection.

I think of people I’ve known whose marriage has been rocked when one spouse admitted to an addiction or an affair. Their friends, their church, and their family offered supported and gave counsel. But there was no neat and tidy way to heal a devastated relationship. There was no clean and easy way to dissolve a broken marriage. It was never a matter of finding a perfect solution, but of finding the least bad one. Why? Because sin is messy. It leaves a stink in its wake. We pray earnestly, we labor faithfully, but all the while we acknowledge our insufficiency. We acknowledge that even our best efforts will be imperfect.

I think of churches whose pastor failed to keep a close watch on his doctrine and began to lead his church into error. Some of the church identified the sin and expressed concern; some of the church embraced the sin and expressed admiration. Words were thrown, sides were taken, rifts were opened. People offered their solutions, but none of them was perfect, none was just right. Why? Because sin is too sinful, and the stink lingered in the aftermath. It would be naive to expect a perfect solution to such an evil problem.

Sadly, there will always be little messes in the wake of big messes, little hurts in the wake of big hurts, unanswered questions in the wake of attempted solutions. Where there is great sin, there will be great stink. We ought to labor to find the best possible solutions, to bring the deepest and truest healing. But we simply can’t expect there will be perfect solutions to messy problems. Not on this side of heaven, at least. The stink of sin always lingers.

Find the original article here.

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Reblog: 12 Marks of Excellent Pastoral Ministry

John MacArthur has had a long, faithful, fruitful ministry unblemished by great scandal. For decades he has maintained a tight focus on teaching the Bible verse by verse and book by book. In 2006 he taught through 1 Timothy 4 and there he saw Paul providing his young protégé with “a rich summary of all of the apostle’s inspired instruction for those who serve the church as ministers, as pastors. And it all begins with the statement, a noble minister, an excellent minister, a good servant of Christ Jesus.” What are the marks of such a man? MacArthur reveals twelve of them.

An excellent minister warns people of error. Paul urges Timothy to “instruct certain men not to teach strange doctrines… rather than furthering the administration and stewardship of God” (verse 3). The same instructions are given two chapters later and in 2 John, 3 John, Jude, and 1 Thessalonians 5. An excellent minister “understands the devastating potential of lies” and instructs his people against teaching and believing them. “When you point out error, you are a noble servant of Christ.”

An excellent minister is a faithful student of Scripture. This is a continual process he gives his life to. “You will spend your whole life mastering one book – one book, the only book that God has inspired which he has placed all of his truth. The Bible becomes the sole content of your ministry, the sole theme of your preaching and it must saturate your mind and your soul. You make a radical commitment to the Bible and to Bible study and to Jesus. That is being lost rapidly in ministry.” That loss is evident in a culture in which the Bible is no longer authoritative. Publishers, pressured to bring Bible sales back up, feel they must “appeal to felt need rather than the revelation of God.” The Bible is not fiction, it is not a book of suggestions, it is the inspired Word of God. “We are to saturate ourselves with the teaching of Scripture, the content, the words of the faith, and the dedoscalia, that which Scripture affirms propositionally.”

An excellent minister avoids the influence of unholy teaching. “Have nothing to do with worldly fables” (verse 10). The word used here is Peritaomi which means to radically separate from what is holy. There are some things so evil that a pastor must not even listen to them. “Many young men who started out in ministry have been ruined, not by learning error as error, but by sitting under someone teaching error as truth. Being seduced with error from someone who believed that the error was true.” An excellent minister separates himself from the “corrupting influence of unholy teachers.”

An excellent minister is disciplined in personal godliness. “Discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness” (verse 4b). This implies “strenuous training, self-abnegating, self-dying discipline in the direction of godliness – pulling up the loose ends, girding up the loins of your mind, as Peter would say it, beating your body into submission, lest in preaching to others, you become a documas, disqualified.” All the while the excellent minister needs to keep his conscience clear. Paul was speaking to a culture that like ours, was obsessed with vanity and physical exercise, but “an excellent minister, while responsible for his physical health, is far more consumed with his godliness and the disciplines that produce godliness.”

An excellent minister is committed to hard work. “If a man is willing to pay the price for fatigue and weariness, his ministry will not be mediocre.” Excellent ministry should be exhausting. Paul calls Timothy “to labor and strive “ (verse 10). The word for this is agonidzimi, to agonize in struggle. The gospel is worthy of a minister’s agony for his labor has eternal significance. “For momentary light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison; while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things that are not seen” (2 Corinthians 4:17). MacArthur continues, “There is no more important, no more glorious, no more wondrous work than as Paul said in 2 Corinthians 4… adding souls to the heavenly hallelujah chorus so that their voices can redound to the glory of God.”

An excellent minister teaches with authority. Verse 11 says “command and teach these things.” The Bible does not give prescriptions or suggestions, it gives commands. “Authority comes from God through the Scriptures to you when you handle the Scripture accurately, clearly and boldly.”

An excellent minister is a model of spiritual virtue. “Example is the most powerful rhetoric.” Paul commands Timothy, “Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather… show yourself an example of those who believe” (verse 12). MacArthur, reflecting on his first week at his church remembers being introduced in this way: “We don’t know what this young kid is gonna be able to tell us.” How did he overturn this? By living a godly life: “The single greatest support of truth in your preaching is the power of an exemplary life. This is your most reliable weapon. This is what makes everything believable.”

An excellent minister maintains a thoroughly Biblical ministry. Verse 13 is a summation of what a minister is called to do: “Until I come, give attention to the reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching.” Read, explain, apply, and be consumed with Scripture. “The greats of the past understood their whole life was given comprehensively to the word of God.” MacArthur, when asked by his students the secret to great preaching answers, “keep your rear end in the chair until you finish your work. Come out when you have something to say.”

An excellent minister uses his spiritual gift and employs it. “That is to say he is faithful to the usefulness of that gift, that calling, that ordaining, that setting apart over the long, long haul.” Verse 14 says, “Do not neglect the spiritual gift within you.” The excellent minister knows that the gift he has, given by the Holy Spirit and confirmed in his life, is a gift he has for life: “You’re headed for a long life. And I hope it’s long – very long.”

An excellent minister is passionate regarding his work. The phrase used in verse 15 literally translated means, “in these things be you.” This applies to all life – there is no work/life separation here. “In this you live, move and have your being.” In these things be you.

An excellent minister is manifestly growing spiritually. Already, MacArthur established that the excellent minister’s life must be one of spiritual advancement, but a key word here is “manifestly.” This ought to show! “Let your progress be seen by everybody. People can live with that. They can love someone like that. They need to see your weakness. They’ll embrace you for it. They’ll love you for it. And they’ll know you understand their weakness.”

Finally, an excellent minister perseveres in ministry. All eleven elements thrive on this. Here, MacArthur reflects on 37 years of ministry: “I’ve seen 37 years of the work of the word in his church and what a joy, what an unspeakable benediction to my life. And when you do all these things, you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you.”

This is what an excellent pastor does. and the solemn commitments he must make. In closing, MacArthur asks, “You want results? Those are the best results you’re gonna get. Heaven—that is the greatest result.”

Find the original article here.

Reblog: 59 Percent of Millennials Raised in a Church Have Dropped Out—And They’re Trying to Tell Us Why

by Sam Eaton

I want to send global, sky-writing airplanes telling the life-change that happens beneath a steeple. I want to install a police microphone on top of my car and cruise the streets screaming to the masses about the magical Utopian community of believers waiting for them just down the street.

I desperately want to feel this way about church, but I don’t. Not even a little bit. In fact, like much of my generation, I feel the complete opposite.

Turns out I identify more with Maria from The Sound of Music staring out the abbey window, longing to be free.

It seems all-too-often our churches are actually causing more damage than good, and the statistics are showing a staggering number of millennials have taken note.

According to this study (and many others like it) church attendance and impressions of the church are the lowest in recent history, and most drastic among millennials described as 22- to 35-year-olds.

  • Only 2 in 10 Americans under 30 believe attending a church is important or worthwhile (an all-time low).
  • 59 percent of millennials raised in a church have dropped out.
  • 35 percent of millennials have an anti-church stance, believing the church does more harm than good.
  • Millennials are the least likely age group of anyone to attend church (by far).

As I sat in our large church’s annual meeting last month, I looked around for anyone in my age bracket. It was a little like a Titanic search party…

IS ANYONE ALIVE OUT THERE? CAN ANYBODY HEAR ME?

Tuning in and out of the 90-minute state-of-the-church address, I kept wondering to myself, where are my people? And then the scarier question, why I am still here?

A deep-seated dissatisfaction has been growing in me and, despite my greatest attempts to whack-a-mole it back down, no matter what I do it continues to rise out of my wirey frame.

[To follow my publicly-chronicled church struggles, check out my other posts The How Can I Help Project and 50 Ways to Serve the Least of These.]

Despite the steep drop-off in millennials, most churches seem to be continuing on with business as usual. Sure, maybe they add a food truck here or a bowling night there, but no one seems to be reacting with any level of concern that matches these STAGGERING statistics.

Where is the task-force searching for the lost generation? Where is the introspective reflection necessary when 1/3 of a generation is ANTI-CHURCH?

The truth is no one has asked me why millennials don’t like church. Luckily, as a public school teacher, I am highly skilled at answering questions before they’re asked. It’s a gift really.

So, at the risk of being excommunicated, here is the metaphorical nailing of my own 12 theses to the wooden door of the American, Millennial-less Church.

1. Nobody’s Listening to Us

Millennials value voice and receptivity above all else. When a church forges ahead without ever asking for our input we get the message loud and clear: Nobody cares what we think. Why then, should we blindly serve an institution that we cannot change or shape?

Solution:

  • Create regular outlets (forums, surveys, meetings) to discover the needs of young adults both inside AND outside the church.
  • Invite millennials to serve on leadership teams or advisory boards where they can make a difference.
  • Hire a young adults pastor who has the desire and skill-set to connect with millennials.

2. We’re Sick of Hearing About Values & Mission Statements

Sweet Moses people, give it a rest.

Of course as an organization it’s important to be moving in the same direction, but that should easier for Christians than anyone because we already have a leader to follow. Jesus was insanely clear about our purpose on earth:

“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:30-31)

“Love God. Love Others.” Task completed.

Why does every church need its own mission statement anyway? Aren’t we all one body of Christ, serving one God? What would happen if the entire American Church came together in our commonalities and used the same, concise mission statement?

Solution:

  • Stop wasting time on the religious mambo jambo and get back to the heart of the gospel. If you have to explain your mission and values to the church, it’s overly-religious and much too complicated.
  • We’re not impressed with the hours you brag about spending behind closed doors wrestling with Christianese words on a paper. We’re impressed with actions and service.

3. Helping the Poor Isn’t a Priority

My heart is broken for how radically self-centered and utterly American our institution has become.

Let’s clock the number of hours the average church attender spends in “church-type” activities. Bible studies, meetings, groups, social functions, book clubs, planning meetings, talking about building community, discussing a new mission statement…

Now let’s clock the number of hours spent serving the least of these. Oooooo, awkward.

If the numbers are not equal please check your Bible for better comprehension (or revisit the universal church mission statement stated above).

“If our lives do not reflect radical compassion for the poor, there is reason to wonder if Christ is in us at all.” –Radical, David Platt

Solutions:

  • Stop creating more Bible studies and Christian activity. Community happens best in service with a shared purpose.
  • Survey your members asking them what injustice or cause God has placed on their hearts. Then connect people who share similar passions. Create space for them to meet and brainstorm and then sit back and watch what God brings to life.
  • Create group serve dates once a month where anyone can show up and make a difference (and, oh yeah, they’ll also meet new people).

4. We’re Tired of You Blaming the Culture

From Elvis’ hips to rap music, from Footloose to “twerking,” every older generation comes to the same conclusion: The world is going to pot faster than the state of Colorado. We’re aware of the down-falls of the culture—believe it or not we are actually living in it too.

Perhaps it’s easier to focus on how terrible the world is out there than actually address the mess within.

Solution:

  • Put the end times rhetoric to rest and focus on real solutions and real impact in our immediate community.
  • Explicitly teach us how our lives should differ from the culture. (If this teaching isn’t happening in your life, check out the book Weird: Because Normal Isn’t Working by Craig Groeschel)

5.  The “You Can’t Sit With Us” Affect

There is this life-changing movie all humans must see, regardless of gender. The film is of course the 2004 classic Mean Girls.

In the film, the most popular girl in school forgets to wear pink on a Wednesday (a cardinal sin), to which Gretchen Weiners screams, “YOU CAN’T SIT WITH US!”

Today, my mom said to me, “Church has always felt exclusive and ‘cliquey,’ like high school.” With sadness in her voice she continued, “and I’ve never been good at that game so I stopped playing.”

The truth is, I share her experience. As do thousands of others.

Until the church finds a way to be radically kinder and more compassionate than the world at large, we tell outsiders they’re better off on their own. And the truth is, many times they are.

Solutions:

  • Create authentic communities with a shared purpose centered around service.
  • Create and train a team of CONNECT people whose purpose is to seek out the outliers on Sunday mornings or during other events. Explicitly teach people these skills as they do not come naturally to most of the population.
  • Stop placing blame on individuals who struggle to get connected. For some people, especially those that are shy or struggle with anxiety, putting yourself out there even just once might be an overwhelming task. We have to find ways to bridge that gap.

6. Distrust & Misallocation of Resources

Over and over we’ve been told to “tithe” and give 10 percent of our incomes to the church, but where does that money actually go? Millennials, more than any other generation, don’t trust institutions, for we have witnessed over and over how corrupt and self-serving they can be.

We want pain-staking transparency. We want to see on the church homepage a document where we can track every dollar.

Why should thousands of our hard-earned dollars go toward a mortgage on a multi-million dollar building that isn’t being utilized to serve the community, or to pay for another celebratory bouncy castle when that same cash-money could provide food, clean water and shelter for someone in need?

Solution:

  • Go out of your way to make all financial records readily accessible. Earn our trust so we can give with confidence.
  • Create an environment of frugality.
  • Move to zero-based budgeting where departments aren’t allocated certain dollar amounts but are asked to justify each purchase.
  • Challenge church staff to think about the opportunity cost. Could these dollars be used to better serve the kingdom?

7. We Want to Be Mentored, Not Preached At

Preaching just doesn’t reach our generation like our parents and grandparents. See: millennial church attendance. We have millions of podcasts and Youtube videos of pastors the world over at our fingertips.

For that reason, the currency of good preaching is at its lowest value in history.

Millennials crave relationship, to have someone walking beside them through the muck. We are the generation with the highest ever percentage of fatherless homes.

We’re looking for mentors who are authentically invested in our lives and our future. If we don’t have real people who actually care about us, why not just listen to a sermon from the couch (with the ecstasy of donuts and sweatpants)?

Solutions:

  • Create a database of adult mentors and young adults looking for someone to walk with them.
  • Ask the older generation to be intentional with the millennials in your church.

8. We Want to Feel Valued

Churches tend to rely heavily on their young adults to serve. You’re single, what else do you have to do? In fact, we’re tapped incessantly to help out. And, at its worst extreme, spiritually manipulated with the cringe-worthy words “you’re letting your church down.”

Millennials are told by this world from the second we wake up to the second we take a sleeping pill that we aren’t good enough.

We desperately need the church to tell us we are enough, exactly the way we are. No conditions or expectations.

We need a church that sees us and believes in us, that cheers us on and encourages us to chase our big crazy dreams.

Solutions:

  • Return to point #1: listening.
  • Go out of your way to thank the people who are giving so much of their life to the church.

9. We Want You to Talk to Us About Controversial Issues (Because No One Is)

People in their 20s and 30s are making the biggest decisions of their entire lives: career, education, relationships, marriage, sex, finances, children, purpose, chemicals, body image.

We need someone consistently speaking truth into every single one of those areas.

No, I don’t think a sermon-series on sex is appropriate for a sanctuary full of families, but we have to create a place where someone older is showing us a better way because these topics are the teaching millennials are starving for. We don’t like how the world is telling us to live, but we never hear from our church either.

Solutions:

  • Create real and relevant space for young adults to learn, grow and be vulnerable.
  • Create an opportunity for young adults to find and connect with mentors.
  • Create a young adults program that transitions high school youth through late adulthood rather than abandoning them in their time of greatest need.
  • Intentionally train young adults in how to live a godly life instead of leaving them to fend for themselves.

10. The Public Perception

It’s time to focus on changing the public perception of the church within the community. The neighbors, the city and the people around our church buildings should be audibly thankful the congregation is part of their neighborhood. We should be serving the crap out of them.

We desperately need to be calling the schools and the city, knocking on doors, asking everyone around us how we can make their world better. When the public opinion shows 1/3 millennials are ANTI-CHURCH, we are outright failing at being the aroma of Christ.

Solutions:

  • Call the local government and schools to ask what their needs are. (See: Service Day from #3)
  • Find ways to connect with neighbors within the community.
  • Make your presence known and felt at city events.

11. Stop Talking About Us (Unless You’re Actually Going to Do Something)

Words without follow-up are far worse than ignoring us completely. Despite the stereotypes about us, we are listening to phrases being spoken in our general direction. Lip service, however, doesn’t cut it. We are scrutinizing every action that follows what you say (because we’re sick of being ignored and listening to broken promises).

Solutions:

  • Stop speaking in abstract sound bites and make a tangible plan for how to reach millennials.
  • If you want the respect of our generation, under-promise and over-deliver.

12. You’re Failing to Adapt

Here’s the bottom line, church—you aren’t reaching millennials. Enough with the excuses and the blame; we need to accept reality and intentionally move toward this generation that is terrifyingly anti-church.

“The price of doing the same old thing is far higher than the price of change.” —Bill Clinton
“The art of life is a constant readjustment to our surroundings.” —Kakuzo Okakaura
“Adapt or perish, now as ever, is nature’s inexorable imperative.” – H.G. Wells

Solution:

  • Look at the data and take a risk for goodness sake. We can’t keep trying the same things and just wish that millennials magically wander through the door.
  • Admit that you’re out of your element with this generation and talk to the millennials you already have before they ask themselves, what I am still doing here.

You see, church leaders, our generation just isn’t interested in playing church anymore, and there are real, possible solutions to filling our congregations with young adults. It’s obvious you’re not understanding the gravity of the problem at hand and aren’t nearly as alarmed as you should be about the crossroads we’re at.

You’re complacent, irrelevant and approaching extinction. A smattering of mostly older people, doing mostly the same things they’ve always done, isn’t going to turn to the tide.

Feel free to write to me off as just another angry, selfy-addicted millennial. Believe me, at this point I’m beyond used to being abandoned and ignored.

The truth is, church, it’s your move.

Decide if millennials actually matter to you and let us know. In the meantime, we’ll be over here in our sweatpants listening to podcasts, serving the poor and agreeing with public opinion that perhaps church isn’t as important or worthwhile as our parents have lead us to believe.

About the Author: Sam Eaton is a writer, speaker, and in-progress author who’s in love with all things Jesus, laughter, adventure, hilarious dance parties and vulnerability. Sam is also the founder of Recklessly Alive Ministries, a mental health and suicide-prevention ministry sprinting towards a world with zero deaths from suicide. Come hang out with him atRecklesslyAlive.com.

Find the original article here.

TED Talk: I grew up in the Westboro Baptist Church. Here’s why I left.

What’s it like to grow up within a group of people who exult in demonizing … everyone else? Megan Phelps-Roper shares details of life inside America’s most controversial church and describes how conversations on Twitter were key to her decision to leave it. In this extraordinary talk, she shares her personal experience of extreme polarization, along with some sharp ways we can learn to successfully engage across ideological lines.

You Tube: Bono & Eugene Peterson | The Psalms

Published on Apr 26, 2016

This short film documents the friendship between Bono (of the band U2) and Eugene Peterson (author of contemporary-language Bible translation The Message) revolving around their common interest in the Psalms. Based on interviews conducted by Fuller Seminary faculty member David Taylor and produced in association with Fourth Line Films, the film highlights in particular a conversation on the Psalms that took place between Bono, Peterson, and Taylor at Peterson’s Montana home.

SBC Sermon: Adjustments

scbible

This was a great sermon from the series, Adjustments, from the book of John. It was helpful to differentiate the common mistakes people make about the act of judgement. How do we handle these situations? The Bible uses the word judgement in many places, however you will see that the Greek words used have different meanings from our English word for judgement. Take a listen.

sermon (dated October 2, 2016)

Reblog: The Provocative People of Proverbs

by Tim Challies

I feel sorry for those people who spend all day on social media snarking at others. Do they just sit there hour after hour, following people they despise, then throwing barbs their way? That must be an awful way to live. Some people seem to shrivel where there is peace and thrive where there is contention. The book of Proverbs warns us about people like that, people who love to incite conflict and hate to resolve it. Lou Priolo highlights a number of them in his excellent book Resolving Conflict. These are the provocative people of Proverbs.

The hot-tempered person. “A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but the slow to anger calms a dispute” (15:18). The hot-tempered man is passionate about all kinds of things and allows that passion to well up into anger. He’s your classic hothead who so easily blows his top. His passion and anger incites him to stir up strife, to cause problems that could otherwise be avoided or resolved.

The perverse person. “A perverse man spreads strife, and a slanderer separates intimate friends” (16:28). Just like a computer hacker writes a virus and releases it to spread across the internet, this perverse person creates strife—bitter disagreement—and seeds it into his relationships. He may do this through slander, through gossip, and through backbiting, always with the design of turning other people against his victim. His perversity is aimed at harming others.

The lover of transgression. “He who loves transgression loves strife; he who raises his door seeks destruction” (17:19). Instead of loving and pursuing all that is good and lovely in the world, this person loves sin, he loves strife, he loves what is evil and ugly. “Who else would love strife besides a person who also loves sin? He enjoys a good fight, whether he is in the ring himself or is coaching from the corner. By raising his door (opening his mouth in pride) he finds what he is looking for—someone getting annihilated.”

read the rest here.

Reblog: 10 Ways to Practice Normal Evangelism

by Juan Sanchez

Many of us find evangelism daunting, even frightening. However, evangelism should take place as we naturally converse with people. As we have normal conversations, we are to look for opportunities to speak to people about Christ. In a normal evangelism culture, we will pray together for the unbelieving, and we will celebrate gospel conversations, not just “deals closed.”

Here are 10 practices of normal evangelism.

  1. Know the gospel (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). Four words provide an outline for the gospel: God, man, Christ, response. When we understand the gospel, we know that GOD is holy and created a world without sin. God provided mankind with all he needed to dwell in his presence. But, MAN rebelled against God, and rebellion requires judgment, the penalty of which is death. Yet, God in his grace, provided CHRIST as a representative substitute to live a life of perfect obedience and to receive upon himself the penalty of sin on our behalf. Jesus was raised from the dead on the third day, proving his victory over sin and death. Now, all who RESPOND with repentance from sin and faith in Jesus have eternal life. This is the good news that we must know in order to share it with others.
  1. Live your life in light of this gospel. As this gospel takes root in our own lives and we begin to apply it to our marriages, parenting, relationships, and lives together as a church, then our lives will be markedly different than the world and thereby attractive. How can we announce that this gospel is the power of God to save and change lives if we who profess Christ continue living just like the world?
  1. Pray and fast for unbelievers (John 14:12-14; 15:7-8). One reason unbelieving people are not on our minds is because we don’t pray for them. Make a list of unbelieving people and begin praying for their salvation. But also ask God to open doors for evangelism, then by faith be obedient when the opportunities arise.
  1. Be willing to share your life with unbelievers (1 Thessalonians. 2:1-8). If we are going to reach unbelievers, we need to get to know them: where they live, shop, eat, recreate. Look for opportunities to relate with them where they are, instead of thinking they will come to us. Let us wisely share our lives with unbelievers: talking to them, inviting them to church or into your home for a meal.
  1. Share the gospel with urgency (2 Peter 3:8-10). To be sure, we need to share the gospel naturally & clearly, but we must also share it urgently. Right now is the time for salvation. When a person dies or Christ returns, there will be no more opportunities for repentance and faith.
  1. Study the doctrine of hell. If you lack urgency in evangelism, then study the doctrine of hell. As you consider the fate of those who reject Christ, ask God to break your heart and move you with urgency to share the good news with the lost.
  1. Invite unbelievers to repent and believe. The gospel requires a response. We must call on all people everywhere to repent (turn away from their sinful ways) and believe (in Jesus Christ).
  1. Invite unbelievers to church. Invite the unbelieving, unchurched to come with you on the Lord’s day so that they may hear the gospel proclaimed. Surprisingly, in a 2010 study of unbelieving, unchurched people in Austin, a large number indicated that they would be open to invitations to go to church. Imagine that! They don’t come because we don’t ask.
  1. Trust Christ for the results. Faithfulness, not results is what God requires of us. Salvation is of the Lord, so we must trust the sovereign Lord to do his work in the hearts of unbelieving people. Our responsibility is to faithfully share the gospel indiscriminately.
  1. Share with others and ask them to join you in prayer. I have found it encouraging to hear other Christians’ stories of evangelism. Share your evangelism encounters, celebrate simply sharing the gospel, and pray together for those souls. Let’s make evangelism normal again!

Find the original post here.

Reblog: 3 Types of Legalism

by RC Sproul

Have you, as a Christian, ever been accused of legalism? That word is often bandied about in the Christian subculture incorrectly. For example, some people might call John a legalist because they view him as narrow-minded. But the term legalism does not refer to narrow-mindedness. In reality, legalism manifests itself in many subtle ways.

Basically, legalism involves abstracting the law of God from its original context. Some people seem to be preoccupied in the Christian life with obeying rules and regulations, and they conceive of Christianity as being a series of do’s and don’ts, cold and deadly set of moral principles. That’s one form of legalism, where one is concerned merely with the keeping of God’s law as an end in itself.

Now, God certainly cares about our following His commandments. Yet there is more to the story that we dare not forget. God gave laws such as the Ten Commandments in the context of the covenant. First, God was gracious. He redeemed His people out of slavery in Egypt and entered into a loving, filial relationship with Israel. Only after that grace-based relationship was established did God begin to define the specific laws that are pleasing to Him. I had a professor in graduate school who said, “The essence of Christian theology is grace, and the essence of Christian ethics is gratitude.” The legalist isolates the law from the God who gave the law. He is not so much seeking to obey God or honor Christ as he is to obey rules that are devoid of any personal relationship.

Read the rest here.

Reblog: The 100 Top Christian Blogs

About this list of the 100 Top Christian Blogs

To make this list of top Christian blogs, I gathered and inspected about 500 Christian blogs and ranked them using a variety of factors. Some of the blogs I inspected are listed below the list of the 100 Top Christians blogs.

I will update this list occasionally, so if you want your blog to be considered for future ranking, and your blog is not listed below the list of 100 Top Christian blogs, please include a link to your blog in the comment section. Thanks!

Oh, and do I need to say it?

I guess so…. sigh…

Disclaimer: I do not necessarily endorse all the views or perspectives of the bloggers on this list. The list contains many Christian bloggers who write from theological perspectives with which I have some disagreement.

Like who? (Let’s see who I can offend…) Calvinists, Charismatics, Conservative Baptists, and Catholics, just to name a few. Remember, I, Jeremy Myers, am the ONLY correct blogger in the world. (I’m KIDDING!)

Anyway, if someone is on the list of Top Christian blogs and you think they are a heretic, don’t burn me for it! Go be a troll on their site… (I’m kidding again!)

How I Created the List of 100 Top Christian Blogs

Below is an explanation of how I went about ranking these 100 Top Christian Blogs.

First, I gathered the list of Christian blogs using these sites:

Second, I removed all “Community Blogs” which had multiple authors. This caused all blogs from Patheos, the Gospel Coalition, and other similar blogs to be dropped from the list. The reason I did this twofold. Many of these community blogs are not accurately ranked by Alexa and SimilarWeb, which are two of the ranking factors I used (see below). But more than this, I wanted this list to honor the individual blogger who started his or her blog from scratch, and has labored away at it for years, slowly building an audience and faithfully writing quality posts which get read and shared. Those huge mega community blogs often overshadow the quality writing and hard work of individual bloggers. So if a blogger was writing on a community blog, I kept them off my list.

Finally, once I had my list of individual bloggers, I ranked them using a variety of factors. These factors include:

  • Traffic Rank on Alexa
  • Traffic Rank on SimilarWeb
  • Back link Count (shows people are linking to your content)
  • Pages Indexed by Google (shows that the blogger is writing a lot)
  • A variety of other traffic and social signals

The ranking number in the list below is a compilation of these ranking signals. The lower the number, the better the blog ranks.

How to get on this list of Top Christian Blogs

If you are not on this list and you want to work toward getting on it, or if you are on it and want to know what you can do to rise in the ranks of these top Christian blogs, here are six recommendations:

  1. Hone your blogging skills by watching my free Blogging Tutorial Videos
  2. Add the Alexa Traffic Rank Extension to your preferred web browser.
  3. Read and leave comments on popular blogs (like this one!). By reading blogs you learn how to write a blog, and commenting is a great way to gain readers for your own blog.
  4. Get a Premium WordPress blog theme that is mobile responsive. Most blog readers are reading on mobile devices these days. I only use StudioPress themes.
  5. Get a WordPress plugin like Social Network Auto Poster to help your posts get listed on social sites like Twitter, Facebook, and others.
  6. Write, write, write, and write some more!

 

Get the blog list here.

Reblog: Why Do We Major in the Minors?

This post goes hand in hand with the last I just posted. To different authors but if you read them both you will see the correlation. ~Beth

from at Ligonier Ministries

The Pharisees distorted the emphasis of biblical righteousness to suit their own behavioral patterns of self-justification. Jesus frequently confronted the Pharisees on this point. Jesus said to them, “You tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness” (Matt. 23:23a). On numerous occasions, Jesus acknowledged that the Pharisees scrupulously obeyed some points of the law. They paid their tithes, they read their Scriptures, they did a host of things the law required-and Jesus commended them for their actions, saying, “These you ought to have done” (Matt. 23:23b). However, it was the emphasis that was out of kilter. They scrupulously tithed, but in doing so they used their obedience to this lesser matter as a cloak to cover up their refusal to obey the weightier matters of justice and mercy. That distortion occurs today.

It is much more difficult to measure the disposition of our hearts than it is to measure the number of movies we attend

Why do we have a perpetual tendency to major in minors? As Christians, we want to be recognized for our growth in sanctification and for our righteousness. Which is easier to achieve, maturity in showing mercy or in the paying of tithes? To pay my tithes certainly involves a financial sacrifice of sorts, but there is a real sense in which it is cheaper for me to drop my money into the plate than it is for me to invest my life in the pursuit of justice and mercy. We tend to give God the cheapest gifts. Which is easier, to develop the fruit of the Spirit, conquering pride, covetousness, greed, and impatience, or to avoid going to movie theaters or dancing? We also yearn for clearly observable measuring rods of growth. How do we measure our growth in patience or in compassion? It is much more difficult to measure the disposition of our hearts than it is to measure the number of movies we attend.

It is also our inclination as fallen creatures to rate as most important those virtues in which we have achieved a relative degree of success. Naturally, I would like to think that my moral strong points are the important ones and my moral weaknesses are limited to minor matters. It is a short step from this natural inclination to a widespread distortion of God’s emphases.

 

Reblog: The Family Idols

From: FEEDING ON CHRIST

One of the more important aspects of the book of Genesis is the way in which the Holy Spirit lays bare the inner motives and desires that drive the actions of the members of the patriarchal family. The cameos of the men and women of the covenant family set out, in stark contrast, the antithesis between living life in the flesh and living life in the Spirit, by human effort or by divine promise–by works or by faith. In short, we find, in the patriarchal narratives, the seemingly insatiable quest for safety and satisfaction–interestingly, the very things that God graciously pledged to give Abraham by faith in the coming Christ (Gen. 15:1).

In the patriarchal family we see the father of the faithful handing his wife off to a powerful king (twice!) in order to gain security (Gen. 12:10-20; 20:2). We find him taking his wife’s handmaiden to himself in order to attempt to gain, by human effort, the satisfaction promised by the Covenant God (Gen. 16). We find this same principle at work in the life of his son, Isaac, when he also lied about his wife to protect himself (Gen. 26:7); and again when he chose to show partiality to Esau–the son of Isaac’s flesh who seemed to embody what he wished were true of himself (Gen. 25:28). Additionally, we see it in Jacob seeking to gain the birthright by con-artistry and deception (Gen. 25:29-34; 27:1-29)–another attempt to work for the blessing of God.

While all of these acts are meant to draw our attention to the fact that the promises of God can only be received by faith in the Redeemer, they also warn us about the heart-idolatry that manifested itself in the lives of the patriarchs…even as it often does in our own lives. The essence of this idolatry was seen in the members of the covenant family seeking to find protection and fulfillment in themselves or in their closest of relations rather than in the living God of promise.

This family idolatry is preeminently seen in Leah seeking to win the love of her husband by having children for him and in her sister, Rachel, putting herself in competition with her in order to find satisfaction and fulfillment in bearing children (Gen. 30:1).

In his excellent book on the lives of Isaac and Jacob, Living in the Grip of Relentless Grace, Iain Duguid draws out of the Rachel-Leah saga the fact that idolatry lay at the heart of both women’s race to have children. He writes:

“This is the essence of idolatry: someone or something other than the living God is occupying the God-shaped space at the core of our being. We were created as worshiping beings, people whose meaning and purpose cannot be derived from ourselves but must come from outside us. There is always someone or something other than ourselves on which we have hung our whole identity or self-worth. If we turn our backs on the true God, we inevitably attempt to fill that void with something else. Whatever we must have instead of, or as well as, the God of the Bible, if life is to have meaning for us—that is our idol. For you, it may be health, comfort, wealth, control, the affection of a particular individual, or any of a thousand and one things. Whatever it is, it is an idol. Idols, however, ultimately never satisfy. In reality, a deep relationship with God and God alone is all we need to possess life in all its fullness (see Ps. 27:4–5).”1

This serves as a warning for those of us in the church today. We, no different than they, have hearts that are conditioned and bent toward giving our time, energy and affection to created things and persons–even to those who are our closest of relatives in the home–rather than to the living and true God. The perniciousness of this idolatry is seen in the fact that we can even make idols of our spouse or children in the name of being a good husband or wife, father or mother–all the while justifying our idolatry as if we are doing it as unto the Lord. Throughout the Genesis narrative, the men and women of the patriarchal home are constantly appealing to the name of the God of the covenant while acting with sinful and idolatrous motives (Gen. 27:20; 30:6; 30:13).

Read the rest here.