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Whose Kingdom?

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This article is not just for pastors or those in full time ministry. It applies to all of our lives and it is worth your time. Read. Pray. Seek the Lord. Whose kingdom are you living for? 


It took God employing pastoral hardship for me to embrace the inescapable reality that everything I did in ministry was done in allegiance to, and in pursuit of, either the kingdom of self or the kingdom of God. This truth is best exegeted for us in Matthew 6:19-34. (Please grab your Bible and read the passage.) I’m convinced that this passage is an elaborate unpacking of the thoughts, desires, and actions of the kingdom of self. Notice the turn in the passage in verse 33, where Jesus says, “But seek first the kingdom of God.” The word but tells us this verse is the transition point of the passage. Everything before it explains the operation of another kingdom, the kingdom of self. This makes the passage a very helpful lens on the struggle between these two kingdoms that somehow, some way, battles in the heart of everyone in ministry.

In this article I want to examine four treasure principles that emerge from this passage that I find helpful as I seek to examine the motivations of my own heart in ministry.

1. Everyone lives for some kind of treasure

We’ve been designed by God to be value-oriented, purpose-motivated beings. God gave us this capacity because he designed us for the worship of him. So what you do and say in ministry is always done in pursuit of some kind of treasure. Now you will recognize that there are few things that are intrinsically valuable. Most treasures have an assigned value. So the familiar saying says, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” This side of eternity, here’s what happens to all of us: things begin to rise in importance beyond their true importance and set the agenda for our thoughts, desires, choices, words, and actions. What is the battle of treasure about? It’s daily working to keep what God says important in our personal lives and ministries.Pastor, what’s important to you in ministry?

2. The thing that’s your treasure will control your heart

Jesus says, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” The heart, being the summary term for the inner man, could be characterized as the causal core of your personhood. What Jesus is saying here is profound. He’s suggesting that there’s a war about treasure that’s being fought at the center of what makes you think what you think, desire what you desire, and do what you do. Whether you are conscious of it or not, your words and actions in ministry are always your attempt to get out of it what’s valuable to you.Pastor, what are the deep heart desires that shape your everyday words and actions?

3. What controls your heart will control your behavior.

Remember that by God’s design, we’re worshipers. Worship isn’t first an activity; worship is first our identity. That means everything you and I do and say is the product of worship. So the treasures (things that have risen to levels of importance in my heart) that rule the thoughts and desires of my heart will then control the things that I do. The war between these two kingdoms in ministry is not first a war of behavior; it’s a war for the heart. If I lose this deeper war, I’ll never gain ground in the arena of my words and actions.Pastor, what do your words and actions reveal about what’s truly important to you?

4. Your functional treasures are always attached to the kingdom of self or the kingdom of God.

Christ really does give us only two options. Either I’ve attached my identity, meaning, purpose, and inner sense of well-being to the earth-bound treasures of the kingdom of self or to the heavenly treasures of the kingdom of God. This is an incredibly helpful diagnostic for pastoral ministry. Consider these questions:

  • The absence of what causes us to want to give up and quit?
  • The pursuit of what leads us to feeling over-burdened and overwhelmed?
  • The fear of what makes us tentative and timid rather than courageous and hopeful?
  • The craving for what makes us burn the candle at both ends until we have little left?
  • The “need” for what robs ministry of its beauty and joy?
  • The desire for what sets up tensions between ministry and family?

Could it be that many of the stresses of ministry are the result of us seeking to get things out of ministry that it will never deliver? Could it be that we’re asking ministry to do for us what only the Messiah can do? Could it be that in our ministries we’re seeking horizontally what we’ve already been given in Christ? Could it be that this kingdom conflict is propelled and empowered by functional, personal gospel amnesia? When I forget what I‘ve been given in Christ, I will tend to seek those things out of the situations, locations, and relationships of my ministry. Pastor, in what ways are you tempted to seek from your ministry what you’ve already been given in Christ?

You see, the biggest protection against the kingdom of self is not a set of self-reformative defensive strategies. It’s a heart that’s so blown away by the right-here, right-now glories of the grace of Jesus Christ that you’re not easily seduced by the lesser temporary glories of that claustrophobic kingdom of one, the kingdom of self.

Your Pastor Needs YOU!

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October is Pastor Appreciation month and this article gives some practical ways to support and encourage our seven pastors here at HBC. Do your part of keeping the Body of Christ healthy and working together for His glory. It is also important to remember that appreciation, affirmation and prayer support of our spiritual leaders is appropriate throughout the entire year, not just this month.

“Will you pray for me as a minister of the gospel? I am not asking you to pray for the things people commonly pray for. Pray for me in light of the pressures of our times. Pray that I will not just come to a wearied end—an exhausted, tired, old preacher, interested only in hunting a place to roost. Pray that I will be willing to let my Christian experience and Christian standards cost me something right down to the last gasp.” — A.W. Tozer, “Pastoral Ministry: Please Pray for Me”


Six ideas on how you can stand behind and alongside of your church’s pastor and leaders

Pastors are under attack today in every denomination and in every country. They are attacked from within their own churches by disgruntled attendees, within their own spirits by our enemy the devil, and from without by those who don’t even attend or aren’t members of the churches pastors have the privilege and responsibility to lead.

It’s no wonder so many pastors are often discouraged, exhausted, frustrated, and in their minds (if not in actuality) have tendered their resignations. Pastors move from church to church or from church to another line of work at an alarming rate. Some of this could be greatly reduced if they received more affirmation and encouragement from those they lead, especially those who are younger.

I am well beyond the teens and 20s (74 at the end of 2013) but in my 45 years of ministry I have worked with lots of young people both with the Navigators and at Mars Hill Church. Many young adults hang back and stay on the fringes of church, afraid or reluctant to commit themselves. But as you deliberately support and encourage your pastor, you will identify yourself as someone who’s on board and positive, and potentially someone whom your pastor can begin to invest in.

Today’s pastors need to focus on developing the next generation of leaders in their respective churches because young adults are the future of the church. It is, therefore, incumbent on young adults to especially be aware of how they can help, support and encourage their pastor(s). Here are some of my ideas on how you can stand behind and alongside of the pastor God has allowed to lead the church you call home.

1. Pray for your pastor.

Undoubtedly, the most important thing you can do to help your pastor be fruitful and effective in his role is to pray for him. You can use passages such as Ephesians 1:15-23Ephesians 3:14-20 and Colossians 1:9-12 to pray for your pastor(s) and other leaders.

  • Pray for him daily.
  • Pray the Lord will give him wisdom in his various responsibilities in the church he serves.
  • Pray for his role as both husband and father (if he is married and has children).
  • Pray the Lord will protect him in the area of sexual purity.
  • Pray he will experience courage and anointing in his preaching/teaching.
  • Pray he would be able to strike a good balance between his ministry, family and personal life.
2. Encourage your pastor.

Lots of people will criticize and find fault. They will both email him and talk to him (and about him) in discouraging ways. You can be one of those who look for ways, and reasons, to encourage him — to camp on the positive, not the negative.

Tell him what you appreciate about his ministry, and be specific. What has he recently done or said that you have profited from? After he preaches/teaches, go out of your way to tell him how it has blessed you. A pastor’s teaching/preaching help many, but few tell him specifically how he has been a help and blessing.

Every once in a while, write a personal note telling him you are praying for him and appreciate something he has said or done. Once again, be specific. For example, “When you said in a recent sermon that Jesus totally understands me and deeply loves me, that ministered to me because I am going through a difficult time right now and feeling lonely, and that is exactly what I needed to hear.”

3. Submit to your pastor’s leadership.

The Bible is clear on the topic of being willing to submit to the authority in the church you have chosen to be a part of. (I am not suggesting, nor does the Bible suggest, that you submit to ungodly or abusive leaders.) Here are two such passages talking about submitting, respecting and following your leaders.

We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves” (1 Thessalonians 5:12, 13).

Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you” (Hebrews 13:17).

By being a regular attender/member at your church, you are placing yourself in a position to be taught, shepherded, led, and discipled by your church’s pastor(s) and other leaders. It is an awesome step to accept God’s call to be a pastor and to take seriously the roles and responsibilities that such a call entails. You should be able to trust, believe in, and submit to those the Lord has placed in authority over you. If you can’t do this, you need to address this issue, and in extreme cases, leave if you can no longer respect and trust the leadership over you; more on this in point six.

4. Get to know your pastor.

A pastor, at times, has a lonely job. Many people instead of giving wind up taking from the pastor — taking his time, his energy, his resources, his wisdom and his counsel. It is refreshing and encouraging to know that people in the church family really care about him, pray for him, and really want to get to know him, not so they can take, but so that they can give.

Why not call the church office to schedule some time with your pastor and offer to take him to lunch at his favorite restaurant? Ask him to tell you his story, how God saved him, called him into ministry and is currently leading him. I can guarantee you that he will appreciate this and be a better leader as a result of your initiative.

5. Ask how you can serve your pastor/your church.

Are you currently serving at your church? If you are serving, are you able to step it up a notch? Give more time or volunteer somewhere else where needed?

I have never been in a church that had all the servants and leaders it needed and wanted. One of the best ways to grow personally, and at the same time help your church grow, is to find a place where your gifts, capacity and interests can make a unique contribution to what Jesus wants to do through you and through your church. If you are not serving in some capacity, please do so, leaving the ranks of the consumers and joining the ranks of the contributors.

6. Talk honestly to, not about your pastor.

If there is something that you honestly have a problem with — some decision he made, something he wrote or said that you disagree with — please talk to himnotabout him.

This is one of the big sins in the body of Christ. We talk about people, but not to people.

Most pastors want to hear from people who have issues or questions with something at the church. Most would relish the opportunity to genuinely hear what is bothering you and to have the chance to both genuinely listen and share concerning your issue so the two of you can have mutual understanding and respect for each other.

Talking about others rather than talking to others is gossip pure and simple, and it never makes things better, only worse. The book of Proverbs is loaded with words of warning about gossip. Here are a few for starters: Proverbs 11:1317:918:8,20:19.

There are a lot of other things that could be said, but I will stop with these six. Let me say it again, “Your pastor needs YOU!”

Most pastors want to be relevant to the younger generation and know that they can positively influence them for the kingdom. He needs your support, prayers, honest feedback and involvement to do this well. As you do this, you will experience more joy and personal growth in your walk with Jesus, your pastor will be more motivated and become a better leader, and Jesus will be honored.


Copyright 2013 Dave Kraft. All rights reserved.

Why Do We Say, ‘God Told Me’?

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When someone begins a sentence with “God told me . . .” I have to admit a silent alarm goes off somewhere inside me—unless the phrase is followed by a verse of Scripture. I know that many see this as the way the Christian life is supposed to work—that if we are really in fellowship with God we will be able to sense him speaking to us through an inner voice. But I’m not so sure. And it’s not because I think God is incapable of or uninterested in speaking to his people today. In fact I resist this language precisely because God is speaking to his people today. He speaks to us through the Scriptures.

When we read the Scriptures we are not just reading a record of what God has said in the past. God actively speaks to us in the here and now through the words of this amazing book. The writer of Hebrews makes this point clear when he quotes Old Testament passages and presents them not as something God said to his people sometime in the past, but as something God is currently saying to his people (Hebrews 1:6,7,8, 2:12, 3:7, 4:7). He writes that “the word of God is living and active” (4:12). It is exposing our shallow beliefs and hidden motives. This word is personal.  You and I hear the voice of God speaking to us—unmistakably, authoritatively, and personally—when we read, hear, study, and meditate on the Scriptures.

Something More, Something Different

But many of us want something more, something different. We read the Scriptures and witness God speaking to individuals in amazing ways throughout the history of redemption. Job heard God speaking from the whirlwind. Moses heard him calling from the fiery bush. Samuel heard him calling in the dark. David heard him speak through the prophet Nathan. Isaiah felt the burning coal and heard assurance that his guilt was taken away and sin atoned for. Saul and those traveling with him on the road to Damascus heard Jesus asking why Saul was persecuting him. Prophets and teachers at Antioch heard the Holy Spirit tell them to set apart Barnabas and to send out Saul. John felt the glorified Jesus touch him and heard his assurance that he didn’t have to be afraid.

Many of us read these accounts and assume that the Bible is presenting the normal experience of all who follow God. But is it? Graeme Goldsworthy speaks to this question in his book Gospel and Wisdom. He writes, “Every case of special guidance given to individuals in the Bible has to do with that person’s place in the outworking of God’s saving purposes.” He adds, “There are no instances in the Bible in which God gives special and specific guidance to the ordinary believing Israelite or Christian in the details of their personal existence.”

Are there instances in the Scriptures in which people describe a sense of God speaking to them through an inner voice? We read accounts of God speaking in an audible voice, through a supernatural dream or vision, a human hand writing on a wall, a blinding light, or a thunderous voice from heaven. This is quite different from the way most people who say that God has told them something describe hearing his voice—as a thought that came into their mind that they “know” was God speaking. One prominent teacher who trains people on how to hear the voice of God writes, “God’s voice in your heart often sounds like a flow of spontaneous thoughts.” But where in the Bible are we instructed to seek after or expect to hear God speak to us in this way?

Some who suggest that a conversational relationship with God is not only possible but even normative point to John 10 in which Jesus describes himself as the good shepherd, saying, “My sheep hear my voice.” However, in this passage Jesus is not prescribing a method of ongoing divine communication. He is speaking to the Jews of his day using a metaphor they understand—a shepherd and his sheep. His point is that the elect among the Jews will recognize him as the shepherd the prophets wrote about and will respond to his call to repent and believe, as will the elect among the Gentiles so that they will become one flock, one church, with him at the head.

Longing for God’s Guidance

So why do we speak about hearing God in this way? We grew up being told that we must have a “personal relationship with God,” and what is more personal than hearing him speak to us about our individual issues and needs? Sometimes if we dig deep we realize we speak this way because we want to impresses others with our close connection to God and make sure they know we’ve consulted with him on the matter at hand. Another reason may be that to say, “God told me . . .” can prove useful to us. If you’ve asked me to teach children’s Sunday school this fall, it sounds far more spiritual and makes it far more difficult for you to challenge me if I say that God told me I need to sit in adult Sunday school with my husband than if I simply say that I don’t want to or have decided not to teach.

But I think there is something more at work here than simply our desire to sound spiritual or to make it difficult for someone to challenge our preferences or decisions. We genuinely long for God to guide us. We genuinely long for a personal word from God, a supernatural experience with God. Yet we fail to grasp that as we read and study and hear the Word of God taught and preached, it is a personal word from God. Because the Scriptures are “living and active,” God’s speaking to us through them is a personal, supernatural experience.

God has spoken and is, in fact, still speaking to us through the Scriptures. We don’t need any more special revelation. What we need is illumination, and this is exactly what Jesus has promised the Holy Spirit will give to us as his word abides in us. The Holy Spirit of God works through the Word of God to counsel and comfort and convict (John 16:7-15). Through the Scriptures we hear God teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training us in righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16-17). The Word of God transforms us by renewing our minds so that we think more like him and less like the world. Instead of needing God to dictate to us what to do, we become increasingly able to “discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2).

I appreciate the way John Piper described his experience in hearing God speak through the Scriptures in his message “How Important is the Bible?” given at Lausanne 2010:

God talks to me no other way, but don’t get this wrong, he talks to me very personally. I open my Bible in the morning to meet my friend, my Savior, my Creator, my Sustainer. I meet him and he talks to me. . . . I’m not denying providence, not denying circumstances, not denying people, I’m just saying that the only authoritative communion I have with God with any certainty comes through the words of this book.

And if we want to go back a little further, Jonathan Edwards warned:

I . . . know by experience that impressions being made with great power, and upon the minds of true saints, yea, eminent saints; and presently after, yea, in the midst of, extraordinary exercises of grace and sweet communion with God, and attended with texts of Scripture strongly impressed on the mind, are no sure signs of their being revelations from heaven: for I have known such impressions [to] fail, and prove vain.

What Difference Does It Really Make?

Does it really make a difference when we expect God to speak to us through the Scriptures rather than waiting to hear a divine voice in our heads? I think it does.

When we know that God speaks personally and powerfully through his Word, we don’t have to feel that our relationship to Christ is sub-par, or that we are experiencing a less-than Christian life if we don’t sense God giving us extra-biblical words of instruction or promise. When we know God speaks through his Word we are not obligated to accept—indeed, we can be appropriately skeptical toward—claims by any book, teacher, preacher, or even friend when they write or say, “God told me . .  .” We don’t have to wait until we hear God give us the go-ahead before we say “yes” or “no” to a request or make a decision. We can consult the Scriptures and rest in the wisdom and insight the Holy Spirit is developing in us and feel free to make a decision.

As we delight ourselves in the law of the Lord day and night, we can expect his Word to be living and active in our inmost parts. As that Word transforms us by the renewal of our minds, we will find that our thoughts and feelings, dreams and desires, are being shaped more by his Word than by our flesh. We will find that we are more drawn to obey his commands than to follow the culture. We will ask him for wisdom and receive it out of his generosity.


Nancy Guthrie and her husband, David, and son, Matt, make their home in Nashville, Tennessee. She and David are the co-hosts of the GriefShare video series used in more than 8,500 churches around the country and host Respite Retreats for couples who have experienced the death of a child. Nancy is the author of numerous books, including Holding on to Hope and Hearing Jesus Speak into Your Sorrowand is currently working on the five-book Seeing Jesus in the Old Testament Bible study series.

Maundy Thursday?

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Today is Thursday. Generally a ho-hum day. There is really nothing special about a Thursday. For most it is just another step towards the weekend, another grind to get through. And that is exactly why we need to pay close attention.

This is Maundy Thursday or Holy Thursday or Covenant Thursday. Maundy refers to foot washing and specifically to Jesus washing the feet of His disciples. Now there, in this account of Jesus serving these boys, is the colliding of the mundane and the magnificent, the ho-hum and the jaw-dropping.

Foot washing – The ugly step-brother to taking out the trash. The lowest of chores. The thing that had to be done, but no one ever wanted to do it. The job you paper/rock/scissor to get out of. The no praise, no glamour, no fun task that no one signed up for and everyone dropped their heads hoping not to get assigned.

Jesus – THE Firstborn of all creation. THE Author and Perfecter of our faith. THE only child of THE Most High God. THE spotless Lamb. THE Way. THE Truth. THE Life. THE And…

Foot washing and Jesus are a strange combination and yet we all know about it. Let’s be honest we only know about foot washing because of what Jesus has done. The only reason people have painted pictures of it, written songs, and carved statues is because we are humbled and amazed by what Jesus has done.

Last year we studied the book of Revelation with the college students.  When studying Revelation there is no avoiding the wrath of God. Maundy Thursday is a great reminder that One has taken our place, has paid our debt, has become a curse, and suffered the wrath of God so we would not.

Revelation 16 speaks of blood as part of the judgment the world will face. The waters will be turned to blood and there will be nothing else to drink. It even goes on to say “They deserve it“.  Ironically, on that same Thursday where Jesus washes His disciples feet He calls them to drink His blood (Matt 26:27-28, “ And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you; 28 for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins.”). He leaves for the garden and sweats blood (Luke 22:44, “And being in agony He was praying very fervently; and His sweat became like drops of blood, falling down upon the ground.”)

Jesus was crushed for our sins. He took our shame, our curse, our punishment which we deserved. He took the very form of a servant and modeled for us how to follow.

Colossians 2:13-15 says,

When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, 14 having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. 15 When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him.

Let us not miss the beauty of what God has done by moping through another Thursday.

It is not mundane. It’s Maundy Thursday.

His foot washing was not just another thing. It was the Lamb/King humbly serving those who deserved punishment. We deserve punishment, but in His grace we find rescue. It’s not ho-hum, but rather humbling and truly awe-inspiring.

What Rob Bell Talks About When He Talks About God

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by Kyle Beshears

Rob Bell’s latest work What We Talk About When We Talk About God is his first book after the controversial Love Wins.

Bell, former evangelical pastor of Mars Hill Bible Church in Michigan, moved to California after Love Wins became too divisive of an issue within the church.

Since his departure from his pastoral role, some individuals in the evangelical community have questioned his relevance. Does he even matter any more? Others argue that he does still matter.

I tend to agree with the latter – Bell still matters to our culture, and we need to be keenly aware of his sway over the spiritual matters of our day. So, when Rob Bell writes a book about God, I think it’s important to give it a look and separate the good from the bad and the ugly.

Others have already given much better reviews than I could ever give. There will no doubt be many more reviews coming, but there are a few things that crossed my mind as I read through the book that I wanted to share.

So, what does Rob Bell talk about when he talks about God?


First, a quick summary of the book. What We Talk About is a quick read – don’t let the 207 pages fool you. In typical Rob Bell form, the book is

empty and

white and

small and

bite-size and

filled with run-on sentence after run-on sentence to give you a sense of urgency! followed bycalmness and reflection because Rob Bell is avant-guard.

So, if you choose, pick up a copy and skim through it in a couple of hours.

But, when it’s all said and done, What We Talk About argues that science is slowly proving that God exists. The God that science is discovering is a God who is for us as humanity and will save the world by pulling us forward through history to a more evolved, enlightened, and better future.

So, Bell invites (or warns), join in the trajectory that God is pulling culture or be left behind.


There are good aspects to What We Talk About. Like most of Bell’s writing, I agree with about 50% of what I read. I want to like him for his amazing communication skills and boldness to maintain (if even loosely) a Christian identity, but it’s that other 50% that makes me cringe at the thought that people might be influenced by the theologically baneful aspects of his writings. Especially because of that Christian identity.

So what was the good?

Bell kicks off the book by bringing to the reader’s attention current scientific discoveries that are forcing us to realize that the universe is much, much weirder and unpredictable than we ever thought. He argues that there is plenty of room for God in science. Indeed, science is actually providing evidence that such a being could exist.

This is great stuff for conversations with atheists and agnostics. It’s very compelling and begins to break down the rigid divide of Science v. Faith.

Also, along the same lines, Bell reminds his readers that the spiritual isn’t categorically separated from everything else. We don’t have a spiritual life – life itself is spiritual.

In fact, God’s creation of the human body and soul are connected to each other, which is why the resurrection of Jesus was a real, physical and spiritual event. It’s also why the resurrection at the end will be both a physical and spiritual event. Heaven is not simply a spiritual, ethereal dimension lacking any tangible matter. Heaven will be a combination of both – much like it is now – only recreated without sin and death.

But just before the reader begins to think along the lines of pantheism, that God is literally everything, Bell puts the kibosh on that (Pg. 109) and maintains that God is both separate from creation as its Creator yet intimately involved.

This is a reminder I think we all need once in a while. The spiritual and the material aren’t categorically separated. Need proof? Just look at the incarnation of God where the spiritual meets the physical in Jesus.


Unfortunately, What We Talk About seems to be a continued departure of Rob Bell from biblical Christianity. Of the many examples in the book, the one that stuck out the most to me was on Pg 128.

It’s time for a radical reclaiming of the fundamental Christian message that God is for us. God, according to Jesus, is for us because God loves us.”

This sounds great, but it’s also greatly misleading. Yes, God loves us, but God isn’t necessarilyfor us; rather, God is absolutely for Himself and His glory.

Why? Because God, according to Jesus, is for His own glory and invites us along in a radical reformation of our lives, minds, and souls for now into eternity.

God is not on anyone’s side but His own. If we claim otherwise, we fall into the very same tribalistic trap that Bell has accused many religious institutions of falling into – God is on my side but definitely not theirs. Or we might believe that God is our own personal, divine life coach – God is on my side to make me a better me.

*cue applause from Joel Osteen fans*

On the other hand, if we believe God is on God’s side and invites us along, then we will come to understand that everything we do and are we owe to Him.

This dramatically shifts our focus off ourself and onto God. Because, at the end of the day, we were created by God to worship Him and to reflect His glory. We messed that up, but by God’s grace, we’re invited to participate in how He’s fixing it.

This is displayed in a very intimate prayer that Jesus prayed before His crucifixion. John 17:1-2(emphasis added) reads:

Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all flesh, to…

Pause there for a second. What do you suppose comes after?

God gave Jesus authority over us all to be for us? To encourage us to be the very best us we can be? To pull us forward in a trajectory of an ever-evolving culture? No…

“…to give eternal life to all whom you have given him.”

There it is. Eternal life through Jesus to the glory of God. That is the fundamental Christian message – not that God is for us, but that God is for His own glory and invites us to experience that glory through eternal life starting now and spanning through eternity.


I have to admit, Bell has four really great lines about the gospel in What We Talk About. But then later deflates the amazing point these first four make, which turns out to be the ugliest part of the book in my opinion.

Gospel insists that God doesn’t wait for us to get ourselves polished, shined, proper, and without blemish – God comes to us and meets us and blesses us while we are still in the middle of the mess we created.”


Gospel isn’t us getting it together so that we can have God’s favor; gospel is us finding God exactly in the moment of our greatest not-togetherness.”


Gospel is grace, and grace is a gift. You don’t earn a gift; you simply receive it. You don’t make it happen; you wake up to what has already happened.”


Gospel isn’t doing enough good to be worthy; it’s your eyes being opened to your unworthiness and to Jesus’s insistence that that was never the way it worked in the first place.”

Preach it, brother!!!

But then, the ugly. Bell later concludes that the gospel accomplishes all this through Jesus, “announcing who we truly are and then reminding us of this over and over and over again (Pgs 151-152).”

This is completely contrary to the gospel.

Jesus accomplished (past tense) our liberation from sin and death on the cross, then proved it by His resurrection three days later. Now, today, God saves us by that work, His grace, and through faith. He then sustains us in our salvation through Jesus, announcing who He truly is and then reminding us of His person and work over and over and over again.

Throughout What We Talk About Bell has shifted the focus of the gospel away from Jesus and onto the individual. This is perhaps the most dangerous aspect to the entire book.

We cannot take the focus of the gospel off Jesus and onto ourselves, even for a moment. The gospel is about Jesus, not about us. But the gospel is for us. If Bell wanted to write about what isfor us, then he could have picked the gospel.

Bell has blurred a very fine line that can cause a lot of confusion in our lives. God is not for us, God is for His glory. The gospel is not about us, but it is for us.

Bell needs to shift the focus off of us and back onto God – that’s truly avant-guard, revolutionary, controversial, novel, fresh. In today’s modern (evolved and trajectory-driven) world, we are becoming more and more humanity-centered. It’s all about us. And Bell falls right in line with this us-centeredness.

So, what does Rob Bell talk about when he talks about God?

Us. And God is simply the supporting actor.


Kyle Beshears lives in Cambridge, England, is the author of Robot Jesus and Three Other Jesuses You Never Knew and blogs at Dear Ephesus on church issues and apologetics. This article was originally posted here.

How Might Christians Respond To The Question of Homosexual Marriage?

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Today marks the beginning of a monumental Supreme Court debate about a state and nation’s ability to define the parameters of marriage.  With the recent state elections moving in the direction of affirming same-sex marriage as a normative political and social value, many Christians are being pressed into an awkward and unforeseen circumstance: They must come to terms with how to respond to the question – What do you think about gay marriage?

At least three religious-ish sounding responses to the question have made their way into the public eye within the last month.  Each offers a possible response to the gay marriage question. In this blog post I want to address each response and offer my answer to the question at hand.

1) The first begins with a cup of coffee. Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz was recently caught on an NPR audio file lambasting a company shareholder for his opposition to gay marriage (Washington state recently voted to legalize gay marriage).  This leaked audio file caused a reaction from conservative groups on facebook calling for a boycott of the coffee company.  But notice the internal logic and sequence of the reported events.

The shareholder, Thomas Strobhar, runs a Dayton Ohio based company called the Corporate Morality Action Center, an organization that seeks to challenge corporations on issues like gay marriage, abortion and pornography.  Mr. Strobhar apparently purchases shares of a company so that he has a platform to show up and troll CEO’s about ethical issues.  In this particular meeting, Mr. Strobhar raised his hand in order to make an unsolicited and unwarranted connection between the affirmation of gay marriage by Starbucks and a recent quarterly dip in numbers. He made the statement in the form of a question to which Schultz responded with gusto.

Not to claim any wisdom of leadership, especially of a Fortune 500 company, but Schultz could have responded in many other ways to Mr. Strobhar’s question.  His curt and ungracious response was a misstep for sure. But, Mr. Strobhar was equally guilty of pushing Mr. Schultz’s button with a self-described “maverick” style of aggression.

Strobhar’s position presents option 1 in the response to the gay marriage question.  In this position, Christians make it their agenda to confront proponents of Gay marriage in bombastic and argumentative ways.  

I don’t tend to recommend this approach for many reasons, most importantly because aggression tends to choke off dialogue.  This conversation is complicated and requires nuancing, facts, longitudinal studies, discussions of natural law, and discussions of what the Bible says and doesn’t say.  Nuancing generally cannot take place where aggression has become the mode of operating.

2) Option 2 comes from spirituality writer Rob Bell, who stirred up controversy in the past few weeks by aligning his evangelical Christian heritage with a pro-gay marriage position.  Bell stated:

I am for marriage. I am for fidelity. I am for love, whether it’s a man and woman, a woman and a woman, a man and a man. I think the ship has sailed and I think the church needs — I think this is the world we are living in and we need to affirm people wherever they are.

Bell represents a second position on the issue of gay marriage: Christians transform Bible doctrine in a way that accommodates the gay marriage momentum. 

This option is not appealing for several obvious reasons.  Most pressingly, why hold to the Bible’s teaching at all if it directly conflicts with the culture?  If one has to transform the Bible’s plain teaching, then just get rid of the Bible?  Why hold on to this Bible tradition in the first place?  Isn’t Bell trolling all of us in a different manner than Strobhar?  In this case, Bell has nuanced his position without holding to the plain teaching of scripture.  In other words, Bell has left the Bible by the wayside and is holding to his own choose your own adventure Christianity — which is not Bible Christianity at all.

3) The third option comes from another famous CEO and involves the best tasting chicken nuggets on the planet.  By now you know the story. Dan Cathy, CEO of Chick-Fil-A, made some off-the-cuff remarks to Baptist Press writer K. Allan Blume in response to his position on supporting the Biblical view of marriage.  Cathy responded, “Guilty as charged.”  Pro-gay writers and bloggers quickly pounced on the phrase and reported it as being, not in response to being pro-Bible marriage, but as a response to being anti-gay marriage.  While being evidence A of suspect journalistic integrity, it produced website clicks, college protests, and political grandstanding.

So how did Cathy respond to such negative criticism?  By sitting down with gay activist Shale Windemeyer and talking openly about his pro-Bible marriage position.  Windemeyer recalled the first phone call:

On Aug. 10, 2012, in the heat of the controversy, I got a surprise call from Dan Cathy. He had gotten my cell phone number from a mutual business contact serving campus groups. I took the call with great caution. He was going to tear me apart, right? Give me a piece of his mind? Turn his lawyers on me?

Never once did Dan or anyone from Chick-fil-A ask for Campus Pride to stop protesting Chick-fil-A. On the contrary, Dan listened intently to our concerns and the real-life accounts from youth about the negative impact that Chick-fil-A was having on campus climate and safety at colleges across the country.

Dan Cathy.  Hateful oppressor of gay people? Nope.  Evil CEO with an evil agenda? Not quite.  Homophobic wealthy white Southerner?  Negative.  Shane Windemeyer called Dan Cathy “respectful” and “civil.”  And with this story, we see that Cathy demonstrates a third option in the Christian response to gay marriage: Christians live in the tension of confidently proclaiming the Bible’s teaching while respectfully and lovingly pursuing relationships with those who identify as gay for the Glory of God.  

By now it is obvious that I wholeheartedly affirm the third position on the gay marriage question and I commend it to Christians everywhere.  I think it is the way forward, because it has historically been the way that Christians have approached these emerging issues.  The Apostle Paul said in Ephesians 4:15, “Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ.”

When it comes to the gay marriage question, I think Christians would be wise to follow Paul’s advice:

  1. Make growing in the satisfying relationship with Christ your daily goal.
  2. Know truth and boldly speak truth.
  3. Make “lovingness” your method and the manner in which you do all things.

Today the Supreme Court will debate the future of the political definition of marriage.  I, personally, don’t have much hope for this discussion ending up on the side of the Bible’s definition.  There are several God-centered folks who will make some political arguments for the traditional definition of marriage.  I am not someone who would be good at speaking into that world.  That is not my calling.

All this being said, I am not ultimately saddened by the prospect of the government taking a position that may be contrary to Scripture.  My hope rests, not in horses or chariots, but in the Name of the Lord.  I will continue to follow Paul’s advice no matter what the government decides.  I have been and will continue to love God, lift up Truth, and love people.  I hope my gay friends will truly practice the tolerance they talk about by respecting my position.



This post was written by Doug Hankins. Doug is a pastor and theologian at Highland Baptist Church, in Waco, Texas. Although not a Christian in his youth, Doug came to believe in Jesus during his teenage years. He followed the Lord to Baylor University through a B.A. and M.Div, and to Trinity Evangelical Divinity School for a Ph.D in theological studies. When not playing sports or pastoring Doug is probably spending time with his wife, reading a nerd book, or researching his next writing project. Doug’s first book Dawson Trotman: In His Own Words is available wherever books are sold. You can follow Doug on twitter.

An Astonishing Message from a Gay Sister in Christ

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(You must make it to the third paragraph in order to understand.)

To the churches concerning homosexuals and lesbians:

Many of you believe that we do not exist within your walls, your schools, your neighborhoods. You believe that we are few and easily recognized. I tell you we are many. We are your teachers, doctors, accountants, high school athletes. We are all colors, shapes, sizes. We are single, married, mothers, fathers. We are your sons, your daughters, your nieces, your nephews, your grandchildren. We are in your Sunday School classes, pews, choirs, and pulpits. You choose not to see us out of ignorance or because it might upset your congregation. We ARE your congregation. We enter your doors weekly seeking guidance and some glimmer of hope that we can change. Like you, we have invited Jesus into our hearts. Like you, we want to be all that Christ wants us to be. Like you, we pray daily for guidance. Like you, we often fail.

When the word “homosexual” is mentioned in the church, we hold our breaths and sit in fear. Most often this word is followed with condemnation, laughter, hatred, or jokes. Rarely do we hear any words of hope. At least we recognize our sin. Does the church as a whole see theirs? Do you see the sin of pride, that you are better than or more acceptable to Jesus than we are? Have you been Christ-like in your relationships with us? Would you meet us at the well, or restaurant, for a cup of water, or coffee? Would you touch us even if we showed signs of leprosy, or aids? Would you call us down from our trees, as Christ did Zacchaeus, and invite yourself to be our guest? Would you allow us to sit at your table and break bread? Can you love us unconditionally and support us as Christ works in our lives, as He works in yours, to help us all to overcome?

To those of you who would change the church to accept the gay community and its lifestyle: you give us no hope at all. To those of us who know God’s word and will not dilute it to fit our desires, we ask you to read John’s letter to the church in Pergamum. “I have a few things against you: You have people there who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin by eating food sacrificed to idols and by committing sexual immorality. Likewise, you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans. Repent therefore!” You are willing to compromise the word of God to be politically correct. We are not deceived. If we accept your willingness to compromise, then we must also compromise. We must therefore accept your lying, your adultery, your lust, your idolatry, your addictions, YOUR sins. “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

We do not ask for your acceptance of our sins any more than we accept yours. We simply ask for the same support, love, guidance, and most of all hope that is given to the rest of your congregation. We are your brothers and sisters in Christ. We are not what we shall be, but thank God, we are not what we were. Let us work together to see that we all arrive safely home.

A Sister in Christ


This post was originally posted here.

Doesn’t science disprove Christianity?

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There have been obvious conflicts between the scientific community and the religious community over certain points. Of course, the most notable dispute historically was the embarrassing episode of Galileo and the whole theory of whether the earth or the sun was the center of the solar system. We know that many bishops refused to even look at the evidence of a telescope because they had already baptized another scientific tradition that wasn’t biblical. This was a case, incidentally, in which the scientific community corrected theological interpretation and misinterpretation of Scripture because Scripture doesn’t teach that the earth is the center of the solar system, and it took the scientific community to correct us at that point.

To go further than that and to say that sometimes science corrects erroneous ideas is one thing, but actually to disprove Christianity . . . there are very few points of the Christian faith that are vulnerable to scientific attack. If a person says, “Well, we can scientifically prove that people can’t come back from the dead,” for example, and if science could prove that it’s impossible for the God of the universe to raise his Son from the dead, then obviously Christianity would be discredited and disproved. I don’t see how a scientist could even begin to approach that. All a scientist can do is to say that, under normal conditions and standard procedures, people who die stay dead. Of course, it doesn’t take a twentieth-century scientist to understand that; first-century people were well aware of the fact that when people died, they stayed dead. So unless the scientist could somehow disprove the existence of God or the resurrection of Christ, I don’t see how they could in any way actually falsify the claims of the Christian faith. Just because they’re not falsified doesn’t mean that they’re verified obviously. But I don’t see how we have anything to fear at that level.

The usual point of tension, however, has to do with the origin of the universe and the origin of life. If science proves that the world was not created, I think that would destroy the Christian faith. Christianity is committed to the concept of divine creation—that there is an eternal Creator before whom we are all responsible and by whom we were all created and that all that is made has been made through him and that the universe is not eternal. If the scientist could prove that the universe were in fact eternal, that would be the end of the Christian faith. But I don’t think we have the slightest need to worry about that.


This post was originally posted on and can be found here.

Rob Bell, Homosexuality, and the New Cultural Acceptance

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BellSo the new thing today is to publicly support same-sex marriage. Hillary Clinton just did; Rob Bell just did.

Here’s what Bell was quoted as saying in the Huffington Post:

In response to a question regarding same-sex marriage, Bell said, “I am for marriage. I am for fidelity. I am for love, whether it’s a man and woman, a woman and a woman, a man and a man. I think the ship has sailed and I think the church needs — I think this is the world we are living in and we need to affirm people wherever they are.”

Bell went on to say that while it used to be fair to equate evangelicals with social conservatism, that assumption no longer holds true. More pointedly, he said, “I think we are witnessing the death of a particular subculture that doesn’t work. I think there is a very narrow, politically intertwined, culturally ghettoized, Evangelical subculture that was told “we’re gonna change the thing” and they haven’t. And they actually have turned away lots of people. And i think that when you’re in a part of a subculture that is dying, you make a lot more noise because it’s very painful. You sort of die or you adapt. And if you adapt, it means you have to come face to face with some of the ways we’ve talked about God, which don’t actually shape people into more loving, compassionate people. And we have supported policies and ways of viewing the world that are actually destructive. And we’ve done it in the name of God and we need to repent.”

I’m sorry to hear this for the sake of Bell’s soul. I hope that he repents and turns to the truth.

With that said and meant, this shift is altogether unsurprising. The new mark of being culturally acceptable is affirming homosexuality as virtuous (not merely okay, but virtuous, even exemplary). This is the litmus test. I don’t think many of us expected that it would so quickly fill this role, but it has. The mark of being a progressive, kind, socially courageous person today is simply this: affirming same-sex marriage. There are other cardinal virtues of a contemporary au courant identity, but this is the lodestar, the one that hangs one’s personal moon.

This shows us that the cultural middle is indeed vanishing. The space where broad-minded people could hang out is rapidly disappearing. Either you are for same-sex marriage or not. If you’re not, and you’re a known commodity, you’re now behind the curve in a public, image-driven sense. Expect in coming days to see a veritable torrent of declarations of affirmation of SSM. Celebrities, news anchors, intellectuals, politicians, religious types, tycoons, and many more are heading to the pro-marriage exits. They’re going to be calling press conferences as quickly as they can. They’ll be getting into line with the value that drives the New Cultural Acceptance: affirming same-sex marriage.

We are witnessing in these very moments the propulsion of the New Civil Rights movement: the homosexual lobby. A decade ago–five years ago!–it seemed unthinkable that this issue would have vaulted into the cultural mainstream. But it has. Not only is affirming same-sex marriage part of our cultural conversation, though. It has become the moral pearl of great price. Public figures like Rob Portman, Bell, and Clinton–a strange assortment, admittedly–will deny prior statements, their own personal commitments (to marriage, that is), and the will of many of the people they serve or lead to be on the right side of history on this issue.

This has major implications for evangelicalism. A soft middle has developed as evangelicalism has become culturally popular. It’s very on trend in certain circles to occupy this space. Past generations have prayed, with Proverbs 30:8, “give me neither poverty nor riches.” Today’s generation modifies the prayer for our own situation. “Give me neither conservatism nor liberalism,” many evangelicals seem to have whispered. “Let me be an evangelical, but an inoffensive one.”

Perhaps you don’t want to breathe fire in public discourse. Whether you do or not, though, you’re going to be seen as very clearly on the wrong side of history if you continue to back marriage (and don’t affirm SSM). If you’re a pastor who has distanced himself from the Religious Right, and who regularly digs it in a pulpit aside or two, you’ve now got to go one better. To be truly progressive, truly open-minded, truly relevant, truly savvy in your cultural engagement, you need to now affirm same-sex marriage, with all that represents (the moral purity of homosexual acts, for example).

It will, to be sure, take time for this shift to shake itself out. But it’s here. What does this mean for people whose first love is not the culture, but God? It means that we really are behind the times now, and will be so in increasing measure. We’re backward. We’re mean. We hate people not like us. That’s how we will be interpreted. And make no mistake: this is not a quest for some rights and a piece of paper. We will, most assuredly, face the threat of losing our religious liberty.

How should we respond to all this? By being afraid and attacking those who oppose our biblical convictions? Not at all. We need to be like the Proverbs 31 woman. We need to laugh at the days to come (Prov. 31:25). Our hope is in Christ. He has already rescued us from the only peril that really matters, our condemned state (Rom. 4-5). We are set free from sin and hell and death. We have triumphed over the grave through vicarious participation in the resurrection of Christ.

What we must do now is gear up for persecution of varying kinds (per Matthew 5:1-11). And we must set our faces like a flint to speak the truth and to love our neighbor, including those who would silence us (Matt. 22:37-39). Do you see this? People are going to watch us. They’re going to see if we respond to those who call us bigots with hatred and anger. Will we lash out?

I believe that we won’t, many of us. We won’t budge a millimeter from the Word of God. We know that sin, in whatever form, only brings pain and destruction, and that the gospel, however demanding its call of transformation, only brings life and joy. So we will proclaim the truth without any fear or hedging. And we will love our neighbor to the utmost.

This is not a new problem. It’s a new face to an old problem. The church is being called to capitulate. Professing believers have done just that, with prominent examples coming to mind from the nineteenth- and twentieth-centuries. We know full well how this plays out. If we acquiesce to the culture, we will soon become a more religious version of the culture. On the other hand, if we stand fast in the power of God’s Spirit, we may lose some influence, some cache, some power. But we will honor the Lord.

We will show the coming generation that God’s people are not made out of sand, but solid rock.

No matter what we lose, we will glorify the Lord as in olden times. Perhaps our connection with Isaiah and Jeremiah and the Minor Prophets will no longer be expository, a matter for our devotions. Perhaps we will walk in their paths and experience their sorrows. If so, we know their God, and he will bear us through.


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Don’t Take It from Me: Reasons You Should Not Marry an Unbeliever

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Over the course of our ministry, the most common pastoral issue that Tim and I have confronted is probably marriages—either actual or proposed—between Christians and non-Christians. I have often thought how much simpler it would be if I could remove myself from the conversation and invite those already married to unbelievers do the talking to singles who are desperately trying to find a loophole that would allow them to marry someone who does not share their faith.

That way, I could skip all the Bible passages that urge singles only to “marry in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 7:39) and not “be unequally yoked” (2 Corinthians 6:14) and the Old Testament proscriptions against marrying the foreigner, a worshiper of a god other than the God of Israel (see Numbers 12 where Moses marries a woman of another race but the same faith). You can find those passages in abundance, but when someone has already allowed his or her heart to become engaged with a person outside the faith, I find that the Bible has already been devalued as the non-negotiable rule of faith and practice.

Instead, variants of the serpent’s question to Eve—“Did God really say?” are floated, as if somehow this case might be eligible for an exemption, considering how much they love each other, how the unbeliever supports and understands the Christian’s faith, how they are soul-mates despite the absence of a shared soul-faith.

Having grown weary and impatient, I want to snap and say, “It won’t work, not in the long run. Marriage is hard enough when you have two believers who are completely in harmony spiritually. Just spare yourself the heartache and get over it.” Yet such harshness is neither in line with the gentleness of Christ, nor convincing.

Sadder and Wiser

If only I could pair those sadder and wiser women—and men—who have found themselves in unequal marriages (either by their own foolishness or due to one person finding Christ after the marriage had already occurred) with the blithely optimistic singles who are convinced that their passion and commitment will overcome all obstacles. Even the obstacle of bald disobedience need not apply to them. Only ten minutes of conversation—one minute if the person is really succinct–would be necessary. In the words of one woman who was married to a perfectly nice man who did not share her faith: “If you think you are lonely before you get married, it’s nothing compared to how lonely you can be AFTER you are married!”

Really, this might be the only effective pastoral approach: to find a man or woman who is willing to talk honestly about the difficulties of the situation and invite them into a counseling ministry with the about-to-make-a-big-mistake unequal couple. As an alternative, perhaps some creative filmmaker would be willing to run around the country, filming individuals who are living with the pain of being married to an unbeliever, and create a montage of 40 or 50 short (< 5 minutes) first-hand accounts. The collective weight of their stories would be powerful in a way that no second-hand lecture ever would be.

Three True Outcomes

For the moment, though, here goes: There are only three ways an unequal marriage can turn out, (and by unequal I am willing to stretch a point and include genuine, warm Christians who want to marry an in-name-only Christian, or someone very, very far behind them in Christian experience and growth):

  1. In order to be more in sync with your spouse, the Christian will have to push Christ to the margins of his or her life. This may not involve actually repudiating the faith, but in matters such as devotional life, hospitality to believers (small group meetings, emergency hosting of people in need), missionary support, tithing, raising children in the faith, fellowship with other believers—those things will have to be minimized or avoided in order to preserve peace in the home.
  2. Alternatively, if the believer in the marriage holds on to a robust Christian life and practice, the non-believing PARTNER will have to be marginalized. If he or she can’t understand the point of Bible study and prayer, or missions trips, or hospitality, then he or she can’t or won’t participate alongside the believing spouse in those activities. The deep unity and oneness of a marriage cannot flourish when one partner cannot fully participate in the other person’s most important commitments.
  3. So either the marriage experiences stress and breaks up; or it experiences stress and stays together, achieving some kind of truce that involves one spouse or the other capitulating in some areas, but which leaves both parties feeling lonely and unhappy.

Does this sound like the kind of marriage you want? One that strangles your growth in Christ or strangles your growth as a couple, or does both? Think back to that off-cited passage in 2 Corinthians 6:14 about being “unequally yoked.” Most of us no longer live in an agrarian culture, but try to visualize what would happen if a farmer yoked together, say, an ox and a donkey. The heavy wooden yoke, designed to harness the strength of the team, would be askew, as the animals are of different heights, weights, walk at different speeds and with different gaits. The yoke, instead of harnessing the power of the team to complete the task, would rub and chafe BOTH animals, since the load would be distributed unequally. An unequal marriage is not just unwise for the Christian, it is also unfair to the non-Christian, and will end up being a trial for them both.

Our Experience

Full disclosure: One of our sons began spending time a few years back with a secular woman from a Jewish background. He heard us talk about the sorrows (and disobedience) of being married to a non-Christian for years, so he knew it wasn’t an option (something we reminded him of quite forcefully). Nevertheless, their friendship grew and developed into something more. To his credit, our son told her: “I can’t marry you unless you are a Christian, and you can’t become a Christian just to marry me. I’ll sit with you in church, but if you are serious about exploring Christianity you will have to do it on your own—find your own small group, read books, talk to people other than me.”

Fortunately, she is a woman of great integrity and grit, and she set herself to looking into the truth claims of the Bible. As she grew closer to saving faith, to our surprise our son began growing in his faith in order to keep up with her! She said to me one day, “You know, your son should never have been seeing me!”

She did come to faith, and he held the water when she was baptized. The next week he proposed, and they have been married for two and a half years, both growing, both struggling, both repenting. We love them both and are so grateful that she is both in our family and also in the body of Christ.

I only mention the above personal history because so many of our friends in the ministry have seen different outcomes—children who marry outside the faith. The takeaway lesson for me is that even in pastoral homes, where the things of God are taught and discussed, and where children have a pretty good window on seeing their parents counsel broken marriages, believing children toy with relationships that grow deeper than they expect, ending in marriages that don’t always have happy endings. If this is true in the families of Christian leaders, what of the flock?

We need to hear the voices of men and women who are in unequal marriages and know to their sorrow why it is not merely a disobedient choice, but an unwise one.

This post was written by Kathy Keller and can be found here. She serves as assistant director of communications for Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City. She is co-author with her husband, Tim, of The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God.

There’s a technical German theological phrase for this stuff….

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Having seen this,

words almost fail me — but not quite.  Perhaps the weirdest thing is that I too have found peanut eating Italian monkeys to be a great source of spiritual inspiration — it is as if, you know, Rob and I are like totally connected at some kind of deep spiritual level and stuff!  Awesome.  Whodathunkit?

Seriously, this kind of bullsgeschichtlich Abfall, to use the technical German theological phrase, is its own refutation and should be called out for what it is: laughable, self-important gibberish.    To build on a phrase from Niebuhr,  for these chaps “A God of their own invention brought people just like them into a kingdom without clear definition through the ministrations of a Christ who looks like an over-indulged American thirty-molesworth_reasonably_small.jpgsomething.”  So, yes, people will take it seriously and the book will no doubt sell in vast quantities.   As the old song has it: Find out what they like and how they like it and let them have it just that way.

Originally posted by Carl Trueman here.

Maybe you should think about Kenya

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Given the fact we have a Kenyan in our group (Mindi) this little call to prayer seems that much more important. Be thinking about the nations as you go about your lives today.

Kenya: Uncertain Future for Christians Prompts Call for Prayers Ahead of Election

 Kenya Election

Political instability in Kenya, triggered by influences from the Muslim minority group al-Shabaab, is causing great concern over the future religious atmosphere in the Eastern Africa country, says Open Doors, a Christian persecution watchdog group. The organization is asking for prayer with less than one month to go before the country’s general election.

“We are at a defining moment because these are the first elections under the new constitution with its many new structures and elective and nominative posts,” explains the Open Doors coordinator for the region, who – as the case with most of the ministry’s international field workers – remains anonymous for security reasons.

Al-Shabaab’s success in pressuring the government to allow greater official influence for Islam is troubling, say Open Doors officials. Islamic family courts based on Sharia Law have been implemented in all counties – even in those with a low Muslim presence. It is feared that at least 10 of the counties with higher Muslim representation may push for the implementation of Sharia Law and may even be harboring ambitions to break away from the rest of the country, which is Christian dominated (83 percent).

“It was reported by Open Doors that 22 Christians were killed in incidents last year and over 100 seriously injured or maimed,” said Open Doors USA spokesman Jerry Dykstra. “The persecution of believers in the Muslim parts of the country has increased. Please join Open Doors in praying for Kenya as it prepares for elections next month.”

More than 1,200 people died in post-election violence in 2007. After the setup of a tribunal was blocked by politicians in Kenya, the International Criminal Court (ICC) decided to prosecute six politicians. Charges against two were dropped, while two of the remaining four are running in the elections – one for president and the other as his running mate. Some reports of violence have already surfaced this year. The election is scheduled for March 4.

Open Doors released the prayer requests below:

The New Constitution: The country voted in a new constitution and it is in the process of being implemented. There continues to be a backlash against Christians who opposed some clauses in the constitution. Pray that the Lord would guide the full implementation process and this harassment of Christians will stop.

The Presidency: Current president Mwai Kibaki has completed two terms and must now hand over leadership to a new elected president. Pray that the handover process will be smooth. Pray that God gives the new president wisdom.

The 42 Tribes: Kenya has a total of 42 recognized tribes that have been polarized against each other. Pray that God would protect Kenyans against political pressures to divide along these tribal lines, but instead rise higher to accept and celebrate one another.

The Challenge of Islam: Islamic influence is growing in the country and with it the levels of persecution towards Christians, especially in Muslim-dominated areas. Pray that the Christians in those areas would gain wisdom and strength to enable them to stand strong in the faith.

Refugees: The government decided to relocate all Somali refugees to the camps in readiness to repatriate them. Pray for Christian refugees. This decision directly affects them. They are worried and afraid for their safety. May the Lord bring solutions to their individual cases.

Open Doors Work in Kenya: Pray for the Open Doors team as it travels to difficult areas in the region to do research, conduct training and give comfort and encouragement to believers.


Imperishable Beauty

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Some time ago a reader of this site asked if I could address a concern in his life. He had been pursuing a young lady and beginning to think about marriage, but rather suddenly found that he was no longer attracted to her. She was a godly person and just the kind of woman he could see himself settling down with. But then he looked at her and saw that the physical attracted had just plain disappeared. What could he do? What had gone wrong? Michael McKinley recently addressed a question much like this over at the 9Marks blog, so I will begin with his thoughts and add my own.

I want to encourage this young man to do three things:

Look in the Mirror. Start by taking a look in the mirror. “It’s unlikely that the paunch hanging over the waistband of your cargo shorts represents her idea of masculine perfection. And even if women are less hung up on physical appearances, you’re probably not the romantic and emotional connection she’s been dreaming of her whole life either.” Exactly so. It smacks of pride to look at this woman, created by God in his image, and to determine that she is not up to your standards. Men are often looking for an ideal of physical perfection even though they are far from the male equivalent. Why begin with a mirror? Because, as Michael points out, we’re all making compromises. That complete package who is perfect in every way—from the physical to the spiritual to the realm of character—that person doesn’t exist; and if she did, you’d drag her down in no time.

Look at Your Character. I have written regularly and as forthrightly as I know about young men and their dedication to pornography. Porn is giving young men a completely unrealistic view of women, elevating the physical and completely ignoring all matters of character. Have you ever watched a pornographic video that emphasized beautiful character? Exactly. It’s ridiculous to even imagine it. Five or ten or twenty years of dedication to pornography will go a long way to convincing you that only beauty and sexiness will maintain your interest in the long run. Yet nothing could be farther from the truth. Need proof? Just look to Hollywood and these ugly old men who marry the beautiful starlets, only to grow tired of them a few months later. No amount of beauty can overcome sour character.

Look at the Bible. Best of all, look to the Bible. Read the book of Proverbs three or four times. Here is a whole book dedicated to young men, so read it and see what it says about choosing a wife. From beginning to end it will contrast the wise woman with the foolish woman, showing how the ideal wife is marked not by physical perfection but by the unfading beauty of godly character. Eventually you’ll find your way to Proverbs 31:30 and read “Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” Our God is a God of beauty and he rates physical attractiveness far, far below what Peter refers to as “the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious” (1 Peter 3:4). If you choose beauty over character, you are a fool.

The reality is that physical beauty is attractive and wonderful and a reflection of God’s character, but in this world it is also fleeting and fading. You may marry a woman who is physically perfect in every way, be she is only ever one illness or disease or accident away from disfigurement. Then only character will remain—character that may be sweet and joyful, or character that may grow bitter and resentful.

Does physical attractiveness have any function in marriage? Sure it does. It matters. But it matters very, very little in comparison to character. Here’s the rub: If you cannot be attracted to beautiful character, you won’t remain attracted to physical beauty. So should you keep pursuing that godly young woman who just isn’t attractive enough for you? My concern isn’t for you, it’s for her. I wouldn’t advise you to stop pursuing her, but I might advise her to run away from you!


The above post is from and can be found here.

Why Doesn’t God Do More to Restrain Evil and Suffering?

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In thinking about the subject matter on Wednesday nights, it makes me want to dive in deeper to how great God is. There are no shortage of questions and people willing to question God, but few take the time to seek answers. Here Randy Alcorn begins to unpack some of the questions. I will be breaking it into parts because it is quite lengthy. If you are eager you can find the whole thing here.


Why Doesn’t God Do More to Restrain Evil and Suffering? Part 1

Survivors of 9/11

God may already be restraining 99.99 percent of evil and suffering.

Why does the chaos that breaks out in some corner of the world always prove the exception rather than the rule? Why haven’t tyrants, with access to powerful weapons, destroyed this planet? What has kept infectious diseases and natural disasters from killing 99 percent of the world’s population rather than less than 1 percent?

In the collapse of New York’s Twin Towers, fifteen thousand people came out alive. While this doesn’t remove the pain felt by families of the nearly three thousand who died, it shows that even on that terrible day, suffering was limited.

CityNanci said to me, “Given what Scripture tells us about the evil of the human heart, you’d think that there would be thousands of Jack the Rippers in every city.” Her statement stopped me in my tracks. Might God be limiting sin all around us, all the time? Second Thessalonians 2:7 declares that God is in fact restraining lawlessness in this world. For this we should thank him daily.

If God permitted people to follow their every evil inclination all the time, life on this planet would screech to a halt. Sometimes God permits evil by giving people over to their sins (see Romans 1:24–32), and this itself leads to the deterioration and ultimate death of an evil culture, which is a mercy to surrounding cultures. The most morally corrupt ancient cultures no longer exist.

“But many children suffer; why doesn’t God protect them?” We don’t know the answer, but we also don’t know how often God does protect children. The concept of guardian angels seems to be suggested by various passages (see, for example,Matthew 18:10).

God gives us a brief, dramatic look into the unseen world in which righteous angels battle evil ones, intervening on behalf of God’s people (see Daniel 10:12–1320). How many angels has God sent to preserve the lives of children and shield them from harm?

My earliest memory is of falling into deep water and nearly drowning; someone my family didn’t know rescued me. As a parent and a grandparent I have seen many “close calls” where it appears a child should have died or suffered a terrible injury, but somehow escaped both.

This thought, of course, doesn’t keep a parent’s heart from breaking when her child suffers or dies. Still, though I can’t prove it, I’m convinced God prevents far more evil than he allows.

Are the Atheists Right about Christmas?

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This Christmas the American Atheists have posted a large billboard in Times Square New York. It has two pictures: one of Santa Claus and the other of Jesus on the cross. The captions under the pictures are “Keep the Merry” and “Dump the Myth”. Apart from having the captions under the wrong pictures, the sentiment is one I agree with.

Christmas is a merry season that is based on truth, not myth. Confusing the truth with myth doesn’t help people understand the event, or experience the merriment. Santa Claus is an ever growing and developing myth. It is possibly based on some fact, lost to any serious historical research. St Nicholas is said to have been born in AD 270, and became a bishop in Myra. He is reputed to have suffered and been imprisoned under the persecution of Diocletian and subsequently attending the Council of Nicaea in AD 325. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church says that this is “most improbable, as he is not in any of the early lists of bishops present at the Council, nor referred to in the writings of Athanasius.” Indeed the Dictionary goes so far as to state that “scarcely anything is historically certain about him”. The earliest reference to him is a church built in his honour in AD 565, and his popularity only rose after his supposed remains were moved to Bari, in Southern Italy in AD 1087. The mythical quality of Santa Claus has increased over the last century through American advertising campaigns. Today, he is one of the most treasured and universal icons of Western civilisation—promising to generously give gifts to good children.

In comparison to this, the historical evidence for the death of Jesus is overwhelming. It is widely referred to during the first century. The very earliest Christian writings build their arguments on the basis of his crucifixion. Some of these were written within 20 years of the event. Non-Christian writings (both Jewish and Roman) also refer to his death by crucifixion.

Even sceptical scholars accept that Jesus was crucified. After all, it is an extraordinary idea to have the Messiah killed. Who would have expected such an outcome? Yet it is in his death, and subsequent resurrection, that the merriment of Christianity is found, as Christians claim to find forgiveness and new life in Jesus’ death and resurrection.

The difference between Jesus and St Nicholas is not only in the historical evidences but also in their meaning. One man comes like a cargo cult, as the smiling face of our malignant materialism; rewarding morality by giving gifts only to good children. The other does not give gifts but himself – and not for the good, but for the bad, for he came to not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance. His gift means forgiveness and a fresh start.
The gift of Christ is the joy of Christmas. Christians cannot help but rejoice in the coming of our Saviour and our joy is expressed in song. We sing because of his birth, we sing because of his death, we sing because of his resurrection. We sing because we are His! Few people are as committed to singing as Christians. We are not like the shops playing carols because it is that time of the year again. The gift of rebirth is not like a toy: coming without a battery, broken on Boxing Day and discarded by New Year. The joy that comes from knowing our Lord and sharing in his spiritual family far exceeds the “happy holiday season” of those whose world is limited to materialism (economic or philosophical).

Some cultural Christians—even atheists—like to share in our merriment by singing the carols with us. And of course they are very welcome. However, true joy is found not in the music or the emotions or the nostalgia it produces but in the words and ideas the carols express. Christians are singing of their Lord and Saviour, who loved them and died for them. Their joy, which the congregational singing clothes, is the message of the gospel.

Some other people have an arrogant confidence that somehow the shifting sand of modern scholarship has disproved the Bible. This enables them to make up a new religion and call it “Christianity”. A frequent SMH Christmas columnist wrote: “The Christian God exists within us, and nowhere else. It is a spirit within us to make us whole… If we nurture that spirit and revere its power, we will have found God—not in the wonders of “creation” but in the greater wonders of human kindness and charity. Since there’s no supernatural God…” Such mythologists attack believers for not sufficiently doubting, while apparently never doubting their own confident assertions. They misuse the truism that doubt is an essential part of belief, to gut Christianity of all historical certainty; reducing Christmas to symbolic myths and knowledge to the post-modern faux humility of relativism. The ancient world was well versed in mythology, but every reference to myths in the New Testament is negative (1 Timothy 1:44:72 Timothy 4:4Titus 1:14 and 2 Peter 1:16).  Indeed one apostle contrasts myths with truth and another goes out of his way to say, “For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty”(2 Peter 1:16).

This history is certain: the New Testament writers believed they had witnessed the crucifixion and resurrection of the true Messiah. Accepting their witness is not arrogance, but has brought to every generation unbounded joy—”Joy to the world—the Lord has come!” It is possible that they were wrong, and Jesus isn’t the Saviour of the world. However, it is arrogance, not humility, to claim the name “Christian” while rewriting Christian beliefs in terms of mythology or replacing the historical Jesus with the mythical Santa Claus.

The atheists are right—dump the myth and keep the merry.


This post is courtesy of Phillip Jensen, Dean of St Andrew’s Cathedral in Sydney.

The Story of God

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Well, here you go. The Story of God in just a few minutes. I’m posting it because it is interesting. It is also a great picture of finding ways to communicate what God has done. We don’t have to put it on video. We don’t even have to be creative, but we should be willing and ABLE to share this great story.

What Is Sin?

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The following is a definition of sin by David Powlison  from The Journal of Biblical Counseling (Spring 2007; Vol. 25, No. 2) pp. 25-26. My hope is for you to keep thinking about our questions and let the Word of God richly dwell within you. Let us be people who are becoming more like Christ in all areas of our lives

Grace and peace,



First, people tend to think of sins in the plural as consciously willed acts where one was aware of and chose not to do the righteous alternative. Sin, in this popular misunderstanding, refers to matters of conscious volitional awareness of wrongdoing and the ability to do otherwise. This instinctive view of sin infects many Christians and almost all non-Christians. It has a long legacy in the church under the label Pelagianism, one of the oldest and most instinctive heresies. The Bible’s view of sin certainly includes the high-handed sins where evil approaches full volitional awareness. But sin also includes what we simply are, and the perverse ways we think, want, remember, and react.

Most sin is invisible to the sinner because it is simply how the sinner works, how the sinner perceives, wants, and interprets things. Once we see sin for what it really is – madness and evil intentions in our hearts, absence of any fear of God, slavery to various passions (Eccl. 9:3; Gen. 6:5; Ps. 36:1; Titus 3:3) – then it becomes easier to see how sin is the immediate and specific problem all counseling deals with at every moment, not a general and remote problem. The core insanity of the human heart is that we violate the first great commandment. We will love anything, except God, unless our madness is checked by grace.

People do not tend to see sin as applying to relatively unconscious problems, to the deep, interesting, and bedeviling stuff in our hearts. But God’s descriptions of sin often highlight the unconscious aspect. Sin – the desires we pursue, the beliefs we hold, the habits we obey as second nature – is intrinsically deceitful. If we knew we were deceived, we would not be deceived. But we are deceived, unless awakened through God’s truth and Spirit. Sin is a darkened mind, drunkenness, animal-like instinct and compulsion, madness, slavery, ignorance, stupor. People often think that to define sin as unconscious removes human responsibility. How can we be culpable for what we did not sit down and choose to do? But the Bible takes the opposite track. The unconscious and semiconscious nature of much sin simply testifies to the fact that we are steeped in it. Sinners think, want, and act sinlike by nature, nurture, and practice.

Is It Okay for a Christian Couple to Live Together If They Aren’t Married?

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The following is part of a discussion on the topic from I am posting this because it was part of our discussion this past Sunday and I promised to start putting some resources on here to help push the convo. You can listen to the audio right here. Know I am praying for you and looking forward to our time together this upcoming Lord’s day.

Grace and peace,


My daughter and her live-in boyfriend have become saved and are repentant. They want to get married now, but our church won’t let them get married until they move apart. What would you advise?

I think this is a good policy. I think it’s a very good policy. I don’t know if we have it, but we should if we don’t.


And so I would advise to this parent to say to the boyfriend and daughter, “Move out!”

And if they say, “Why?”—and I’m dealing with a situation like this right now, where a kid is about to move in as a Christian with his girlfriend (“Not going to have sex!”)—here’s the why:

It’s not primarily, “You’re going to be tempted, and you’re going to give in, and you’re going to have more sex. That’s why.” That’s not the main reason.

The main reason is that when a man and a woman live together it says crystal clear to the world that having sex together without marriage is okay. That’s what it says.

Now, you say you’re a Christian. Do you want to say that sex before marriage is okay? And if you want to say that, then something is profoundly wrong!

And if you say, “That’s their problem,” you’re not loving people. It’s not their problem. It is your problem. You should take steps to communicate truth, and the sanctity of sex in marriage is a glorious truth, and you should want to hallow it and cherish it.

And the last thing I might say is to the guy: “Sixteen years from now—it’s going to be here just like that—your daughter says she wants to move in with her boyfriend. What would you say? She says, ‘Dad, it’s their problem! We’re not going to have sex!’ What would you say? Well, say it to yourself now.”


5 Reasons to Study Old Testament History

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Shakespeare said that history is “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” The Christian view of history is quite a contrast; we believe God ordained it, organizes it, and moves it towards a meaningful, definite, and certain purpose.

However many Christians entertain a negative view of Old Testament History, of its usefulness and even of its accuracy. It is often regarded as “far away” and “distant” chronologically, geographically, socially, and theologically. “What can it do for me?” and “Why study it?” are common questions. Here are five reasons to study it and benefit from it.

1. OT History is True History

Israel’s neighbors expressed their beliefs through fantastic, elaborate, “out-of-this-world” myths In contrast, Old Testament narratives about Israel describe real events in real time involving real people and a real God. The reality of Israel’s faith rested on the reality of Israel’s history.

Similarly, if we lose or give up the truthfulness of the Biblical record, we lose and give up the Truth. We also lose our Christian faith because it is founded not on detached philosophical speculations but on God’s acts in human history.

Approaching Old Testament narratives with unshakeable confidence in their accuracy and truthfulness will build up unshakeable faith.

2. OT History is Selective History

No matter how much they deny it, every historian has an agenda. Though often unspoken, that agenda can often be deduced by analyzing his selection, arrangement, and editing of events. Old Testament writers also had an agenda that guided the selection, arrangement, and editing of their accounts. The only difference, and it’s a major difference, is that their selectivity was divinely inspired and, therefore, in no ways diminishes their truthfulness.

Therefore, when reading Old Testament history, ask yourself why the author selected these events and that particular angle on them. It will get you much closer to the message he intended to convey to his original audience.

3. OT History is Relevant History

Old Testament preaching often faces the charge of seeming irrelevance. There are vast differences between the world of the Old Testament and the modern world. However, this “relevance gap” cannot be bridged by forgetting Old Testament history. Attempting this may make the sermon relevant but it makes the Scriptures irrelevant.

Rather, a right understanding of Old Testament history enables us to understand the original message to the original audience at the original time and place; and that having done this, the bridge to the present message is far easier and safer to construct.

4. OT History is Purposeful History

Many history books simply relate the what, when, where, and how of each event. Not many attempt to answer the “Why?” question, and those that do usually prove laughably unreliable.

In contrast, biblical history has a clear purpose: it is a progressive revelation of the mind and heart of God for the benefit of needy sinners. God is the subject and the hero of the Bible. Therefore, when we read an Old Testament narrative, we ask three questions:

  1. What does this story reveal about God?
  2. How is this intended to help needy sinners?
  3. What role does this story play in the larger and longer biblical story?

The last question will help prevent us reading the chapters as disconnected dots and unrelated atoms.

5. OT History is Redemptive History

The Old Testament is redemptive history. God actively directs human history for the purpose of redeeming sinners to Himself. The Holy Spirit inspired the writers of the Old Testament to record what would graciously reveal that redemptive purpose, and even the Redeemer Himself (Luke 24:27). The Biblical history, then, is not just facts to teach us theology. These historical facts serve to bring in God’s elect. What greater motive do we need to study it than that these Scriptures are able to make us wise unto salvation (2 Tim. 3:15).


David Murray is Professor of Old Testament and Practical Theology at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary, and chairman of HeadHeartHand. He blogs atLeadership For Servants and you can follow him on Twitter @DavidPMurray.

Twitter “Bible”? Ohhhh yeeaaaahhhhhh.

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Did you know there is a Twitter Bible just in time for the super spiritual gift giving season of our Lord, otherwise known as Christmas? Apparently it summarizes the over 31,000-verse Bible into nearly 4,000 little “Mini-Messages”.

It was originally called “And God Decided to Chill”, the book is the compilation of tweets by more than 3,000 Christians who participated in the church project earlier this year. In honor of the Pentecost holiday, they used the micro-blogging service Twitter to summarize 3,906 Bible sections into 140 character messages, according to Berlin-based newspaper “The Local.” Though the project was scheduled for May 20-30, it was completed 37 hours ahead of schedule and achieved a world record.

At this point I have so lost sight of the point due to my own fascination with breaking a world record. I may or may not get back to the original point in writing this. I had never thought of breaking a world record by stripping the Bible of content and robbing it of it’s meat. There have been thoughts of starting my cereal milk business by changing the Lord’s Supper to the Lord’s Breakfast. But now my mind is racing on how I can break a record.

The tweets were sometimes entertaining, such as the tweet describing God’s day of rest after creation: “Thank God! It’s Sunday!”  Melanie Huber, portal manager of the Protestant Website putting this on said about the initiative: “We want with this action to encourage a debate about the Bible and to simultaneously show the modern possibilities that exist to receive and make known the Word of God,

Wow! This may actually be the spark of creative genius that launches my cereal milk business. It is for the Gospel… I want to make the substitutionary sacrifice of the Son of God known to the world and the method I will use is really not the point. So I’m going to replace the sacrament of drinking the symbolic blood of Jesus with drinking the (cereal) milk of the lamb. No harm done, right? I think it would spark debate. Certainly people would be arguing over which flavor best represents the atonement and people will come to love Jesus because hey, who doesn’t love cereal?

Similarly in the United States, many Christian leaders have found Twitter to be an effective ministry tool to share the Word of God. Some U.S. churches have even embraced the micro-blogging service to the point of flashing tweets from worshippers on large video screens during Sunday service.

Apologies for not getting to my commentary on this story, but I am deep into my fantasies of reaching the lost through “The Lord’s Breakfast”, cereal milk of the atonement.  It appears as if Newton’s AppleJacks just fell on my head with this marketing epipheny: People could “tweet” their love for cereal milk communion during the actual service, on the screens. Something like a spontaneous clap offering or something. I’m certain I would love it and my guess is if the tweets said something about Jesus, He would receive glory.

Clearly I am too busy to give commentary on this story. I’m off to get my product, errrr… our elements for this worship experience ready.  So, in lieu of my witty thoughts I will leave you with this.

God is good…. All the time.