Thursday, October 31, 2013

Adoption as Basic Christianity

Author: Steve Burchett

James would be surprised that we now have what some have called an "adoption movement" in our country. When he wrote, "Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress" (James 1:27), he was writing about basic Christianity.

The previous verses (18-25) in James 1 show the relationship of both a true believer and an unbeliever to the word of God. The real believer hears, receives, and does the word, but the unbeliever does not. In James 1:26-27, James gets even more detailed in his description of the real Christian versus the false Christian. He contrasts "worthless religion" in verse 26 with "pure and undefiled religion" in verse 27. Put simply, James is teaching about what marks authentic believers.

Within his description of the characteristics of believers, James says it is typical for them to "visit orphans and widows in their distress." 

Those who have been "brought…forth by the word of truth" (v. 18) will reveal they have truly been regenerated by caring for suffering and needy people like orphans and widows.1 This is God's will for the church.

I understand why we sometimes use the phrase "adoption movement," but rescuing2 and meeting the physical and spiritual needs of helpless, hurting, and even near-death children is just normal Christianity. A renewed emphasis on adoption is welcome, but it must not become a forgotten fad.

Not only is adoption God's will, but it is also God-like. The ministry known as "Together for Adoption" helpfully emphasizes, "Christianity has a vertical to horizontal movement."3 For example, as Paul argues in Ephesians 4:32, since God forgave us (vertical), we should forgive others (horizontal). The idea concerning adoption is this: Just as God delivered us by the life and sacrifice of His Son, resulting in our adoption into His family, we should sacrifice our time and resources for orphans and adopt them into our families.
It is not a coincidence that James speaks of visiting orphans in their distress as "in the sight of our God and Father," because God is a "Father to the fatherless" (Psalm 68:5). In other words, God is "pro-life," and we should be also, both when children are in the womb, and when out!

Practical Considerations:

Certainly, then, God is calling the church to do more than just stand along a street with signs that declare our pro-life beliefs. Barry Maxwell, a pastor and father of three adopted children, agrees:

We may moderately impress the world with our protests and pamphlets. But we will get the world's attention when we commit to fostering and/or adopting otherwise aborted, abandoned and/or estranged children. We'll prove how committed we are to a pro-life worldview when we go beyond platitudes and protests to the proactive, long-term care for the children we strive to save at birth. We don't want children (just) to be born, but to thrive and grow in the knowledge of the life-giving God. What's the point of saving their life if we're not committed to helping them live?4

Does this mean that every Christian should adopt? Definitely not. The church is one body made up of members with a variety of gifts and callings. However, the "body life" language of the New Testament reveals that though you may not adopt personally, you will eagerly uphold those who do with your prayers, listening ears, and resources (cf. 1 Cor. 12:14-27). The entire church will have a part in caring for these children and giving them what they need most: The good news of Jesus Christ.

On a trip to the Philippines, I was privileged to visit an orphanage. As I was walking away from one of the living areas, I heard a little girl crying out, "Daddy! Daddy! Daddy!" I said to the director of the orphanage, "What's she doing?" She responded, "She thinks you're her daddy." Some would tell the church that story and ask, "Do you hear the children calling?" That's the wrong question. The better question, upon a consideration of James 1:27, is, "Do you hear God calling?"

If we have been born of God, we will "visit" the millions of distressed orphans in this world. That's what Christians do.

1Both orphans and widows were two obvious groups of people in James' day who fit in this category. The principle James teaches, however, would allow us to expand out beyond just these two segments in our day to include groups like the poor, the disabled, and children in the foster care system.
2The verb for "visit" carries with it the idea of redemption (cf. Luke 1:68).

4Search "Foster/Adoption a Better Strategy than Pro-Life Lobbying" at

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

5 differences between Catholic Theology and the Gospel

by Jesse Johnson

Divided With Reformation Day this week, it is a good time to remind ourselves of what exactly the differences are between the Roman Catholic Church and Protestants. Certainly on just about every single area of theology there are differences, but here are what I think are the five most glaring and significant issues that separate the Catholic Church from the gospel of grace:

1) Justification

Evangelicals teach that sinners are justified on the basis of faith alone, and that ones’ faith is placed in the finished substitutionary work of Jesus on the cross, confirmed by his glorious resurrection, and that this is a gift based entirely on his grace. Finally, that justification is complete and total at the moment of our conversion, and that believers never grow more justified.

In contrast the Catholic church teaches that justification is a process that includes works (with those works “infusing” one’s faith), and that those works are the cause of the justification process. Beyond that, the Catholic Church teaches:
“If anyone says, that by faith alone the impious is justified; let him be anathema” (Council of Trent #9)


“If anyone says that the justice [or justification] received is not preserved and also not increased before God through good works but that those works are merely the fruits and signs of justification obtained, but not the cause of the increase, let him be anathema” (Council of Trent, 24).

2. The Pope as head of the church

For evangelicals, the church is made up of all of those who have been justified by God through faith. Local churches are led by elders, and each church is generally autonomous. Jesus Christ is the head of the church, and there is no authority over any local church on earth apart from Scripture. Elders and pastors are fallible in how they lead the church.

In the Roman Catholic teaching, the church is composed of laity and is led by those who have received the sacrament of Holy Orders (deacons, priests and bishops). The head of the church is the Pope, who when speaking authoritatively on matters relating to the church, is protected from the possibility of error concerning doctrine and morals of the church. Also, for anyone to be saved, they must be under the Pope’s authority:

“We declare, say, define, and pronounce that it is absolutely necessary for the salvation of every human creature to be subject to the Roman Pontiff” (Unam Sanctam, 1302).

3. Mass vs. communion

For evangelicals, communion is commemorative, and acts as a remembrance of the substitutionary atoning work of Jesus. The bread is symbolic of the body, and wine symbolic of the blood. There is nothing mystical or meritorious about it, but it is a means of grace and of provoking growth in godliness.

The Catholic Church teaches transubstantiation, that the bread and wine are transformed literally into the body and blood of Jesus. Thus in the mass, the priest calls Jesus down from heaven, and in the breaking of the bread Jesus is re-sacrificed. The mass is meritorious, as one of the seven sacraments, and it is a “true and proper sacrifice.” Here again is the council of Trent:

If any one saith that in the Mass a true and proper sacrifice is not offered to God; or, that to be offered is nothing else but that Christ is given us to eat; let him be anathema.”

As a side note, many of the Protestants and puritans made martyrs by the RCC went to their deaths over this issue. They considered participation in the Mass to be idolatry, and refused, and often were put to death for their refusal.

4. Mary

For evangelicals, Mary was Jesus’ mother, a sinner, and one who was saved from her sins by her faith in Jesus. We recognize a period of her life where she did not believe in Jesus (see, for example, Mark 3:30-33), but that by the time of Jesus’ death she had placed her faith in him as her Messiah. She had other children after Jesus, and died a physical death. She is to be admired as a woman of faith.

In the Catholic Church, Mary is an object of devotion—and in much of the world, she is an object of outright worship. It is normative to pray to her (consider, for example, the Hail Mary), and it is taught that she was sinless. In fact, the Immaculate Conception is the Catholic doctrine that Mary was conceived without a sin nature, thus she was not a recipient of Jesus’ redemption, but instead was a participant in that redemption. She was a perpetual virgin, and did not die a physical death, but was rather assumed into heaven, where she reigns now as the Queen of heaven and is herself Ineffabilis Deus (“ineffable God,” or “inexplicably divine”)

5. Purgatory

Evangelicals believe that there is no such place as purgatory, but that hell is real and heaven is obtainable only as a gift from God, through faith in Jesus’ sacrifice, and this is all of grace. For those who place their faith in Jesus, when they die they are immediately ushered into glory, where they will be in the presence of the Lord.

In Catholic theology, purgatory is where Catholics go when they die. Only those who are in a state of grace may go there, and once you have suffered for your non-mortal sins, you are made ready to see heaven. Thus purgatory is not eternal—but it is like hell in another way: purgatory involves both flames and suffering, and serves to make atonement for sins that you did not confess before you die. In many ways, Purgatory is the glue that holds the system together. Because it is a system where eternal judgment is based on works, and because sins are frequent and it is impossible to know and confess all of ones’ sins, purgatory is an essential piece of Catholic theology.

I give this list here simply because it always surprises me to find those that say “Catholics and Christians believe the same thing on the important issues, it is just in details where they differ.” Well, I suppose it matters what the “important issues are” but these five certainly touch on areas that are essential to the gospel.

Three Good Reasons to Give Thanks

1. Because God is Good.
1 Chronicles 16:34, “O give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; for His lovingkindness is everlasting.”

2. Because His Name is Good.
Psalm 54:6, “Willingly I will sacrifice to You; I will give thanks to Your name, O Lord, for it is good.”

3. Because It is a Good Thing to Do.
Psalm 92:1, “It is good to give thanks to the Lord and to sing praises to Your name, O Most High.”

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

How to Change the World

by Josh Moody
If anyone else had said it we would have thought him insane. He was surrounded by a large group of nobodies—Galilean peasants, wannabe-successful fishermen, a few intrigued Pharisees, riffraff, and religious zealots. On a hillside, in a far-flung corner of a little-known backwoods of the Roman Empire, there sat a carpenter encircled by a crowd of insignificant, ignorant followers. And without a trace of irony, or a momentary hesitation, he stated loud and clear the Messianic Principle of World Change:

"You are the light of the world; you are the salt of the earth."

I imagine a fair few of them, when they first heard that statement, glanced over their shoulders to see if a cohort of senior religious leaders, a jewel-encrusted aristocrat, or a military general or two had at last turned up. Surely he must be addressing someone else, not us, not this group of paltry peasants. Perhaps they even thought he was joking, until they looked carefully into that face and discerned nothing but warm-hearted, genuine belief. Yes, you can change the world.
Unless anyone reading the above think I make this point because I am defending uneducated, unsophisticated, or plain inaccurate understandings of Christian faith, let me summarize my personal biography in two sentences. Sentence one: Private prep school British culture, Cambridge University-educated culminating in PhD in theology, fellow of Jonathan Edwards College at Yale University. Sentence two: I count all as loss for the sake of Christ.
The Messianic Principle of World Change tells us that those who follow him are the light of the world. Whoever follows him. Not just the cultural elite, or (inverse snobbery) the poor or disadvantaged. Anyone and everyone who follows Jesus is part of his program for changing the world. To establish the truth of that principle consider a counterintuitive example, a democratic observation, and a contrarian conclusion.

Counterintuitive Example

World history is full of highly educated and sophisticated people who have been used by God to do great things—Augustine, Jonathan Edwards, and John Wesley, to name but three. However, the most successful, most read, most influential book in the English language beside the Bible was not written by learned John Milton or aristocratic William Wilberforce. The author, my counterintuitive example, described himself as "poor as poor might be" without even "a dish or spoon." His native language skills were so hidden that those who knew him only noticed that he was "the ungodliest fellow for swearing they ever heard." He, like his father before him, made his living (such as it was) by traveling the roads of England mending broken pots and pans.
This was the same man who wrote the sentence, "I saw a man clothed with rags . . . a book in his hand and a great burden on his back." He recounted pilgrim travels from the City of Destruction to the Celestial City. The first editor of the famed Pilgrim's Progress[1] noted that by 1692 there were already 100,000 copies in print. Samuel Taylor Coleridge said it was the "best Summa Theologicae Evangelicae ever produced by a writer not miraculously inspired." It became the bestselling book ever written in the English language.

All by John Bunyan, a poor "tinker" who made his living hammering out dents in family pots and pans.

Democratic Observation

We all know that cultural elites—those who have disproportionate control over politics, media, and education—wield enormous power. However, this power not only flows from the top down but also from the bottom up. That is, the power at the top of a large institution, especially when that institution is even broadly democratic, is inevitably shaped by the will, opinions, and general tastes of the majority. Someone in elected office will either reflect the view of those who elect or not be successful as a politician.

Our political leaders can (and should) lead, not only making decisions based upon opinion polls. But such leadership is shaped within the context of democratic realities. Only a dictator can completely ignore the wishes of his people, and even then only for a time—eventually even dictators, if they are resolutely unpopular, will fall. African warlords, Middle Eastern colonels, and South American dictators can only survive if they harness at least a portion of popular support.

The early church, then, did not achieve its famed takeover of the Roman Empire (for better or for worse) by first converting all the elite. Numerous studies have shown that Christianity was a mass popular movement that eventually even the Roman elite had to acknowledge. Constantine saw that he could conquer by the sign of the cross because by that time large swathes of the Roman Empire were Christians.

Cultural elites who ignore the wishes of the people, especially but not only within democracies, will fail. Just look at the French aristocracy during the French Revolution: the Bastille was stormed and the world was changed.

Contrarian Conclusion

I take it that Jesus was right: you can change the world. "You are the light of the world. You are the salt of the earth."

I take it that Paul was right: God has chosen the foolish things to shame the wise so that before God no one can boast. Paul did not mean that education or learning or well-crafted sentences were unimportant. His writing evidences a man of great learning and significant rhetorical ability. But the power is from God, not from us. This was the key part of the vision that Paul received: My power, God said to Paul, is made perfect in weakness. My grace is sufficient.

I ask God for more Augustines, more Jonathan Edwardses, more John Calvins.

I ask God for more John Bunyans.

The power to change the world comes from Christ. It is exercised through his people, regardless of their human strengths and weaknesses.

That world-changing power could start in Chicago, New York, or London.

It could start in the cornfields of Illinois, or in shanty town on the outskirts of Delhi.
It might even start in a stable.

Article printed from The Gospel Coalition Blog:
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[1] Pilgrim's Progress

Monday, October 28, 2013

What Will It Take to Reach 100 Million Street Children?

There are many proven ways to reach needy street and underprivileged children with the gospel and compassionate care. Camps, drop in centers, Bible club type outreach, feeding programs, discipleship and vocational centers, street outreach teams, medical street clinics, and other ministries are all effective. But what will it take to reach 100 million street children? This is a huge incomprehensible number! If Bible churches worldwide took on the responsibility of ministering to 200 street children each, this would amount to 500,000 churches! Seem impossible? Charles Spurgeon said, "Don't let the immensity of the task deter you, but let it drive you to do something about it to the glory of God!"

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Lessons Learned at Strange Fire

by Tim Challies

When I began blogging through last week’s Strange Fire conference, I had no idea how big an impact the event would have. Even while attempting to transcribe John MacArthur’s opening address, I was not convinced I wanted to dedicate three days and eight or ten articles to it. But once I began to see and hear the reaction, I determined there would be benefit to listening in, writing it down, and in opening it up for conversation.

I attempted to make my summaries as objective as possible—simply sharing what each speaker had said without offering my own opinions. Today I want to circle back one more time to share a few final reflections on the event. Here is what I am thinking several days later.

This is a worldwide issue and I need to ensure I see it that way. We need to ensure we see it that way. Those who listened to the conference heard again and again just how many charismatics there are in the world—somewhere around 500 million. Conrad Mbewe made it clear that in many places in the world, and especially in the developing world, to be a Christian does not mean that you trust in Jesus Christ for salvation, but that you believe in and practice something akin to the miraculous gifts. Charismatic theology is a North American export that is making a massive impact elsewhere in the world.

There is a challenge here for myself as a Reformed, North American believer: I have a very narrow view of the Christian world—a too-narrow view. MacArthur made it clear that he did not host this conference in order to critique the Wayne Grudems and John Pipers of the world; if these men were representative charismatics, Strange Fire would have been a non-event or, at the least, a very different event. He hosted the event because there are hundreds of millions of people around the world who make the fraudulent practice of fraudulent gifts the heart of their expression of the Christian faith.

This is the time to address that issue. There is a call here for all of us to build on and even improve what MacArthur began and much of the onus here falls on charismatics to do this from the inside. As Clint Archer concludes, “All true believers are on the same team, and we’re all against the abuses and excesses of masquerading unbelievers. Conservative Continuationists need to start their own version of the conference to police the excesses as best they can, or they should muster a cheer while the Cessationists do it.”

The charismatic/cessationist issue is polarizing. Before Strange Fire I did not know just how polarizing it could be, though I suppose others did know, and this is why we have been loathe to address it. Based on the reaction to the event and the discussions back-and-forth, it seems clear that this is an issue many of us feel as much as it is an issue we believe by reasoning it out from Scripture. It is one of those issues where we see our own position with utter clarity and look to the opposite position with shock that they can believe something so absurd. Those tend to be the most dangerous issues of all because they can turn sour so quickly and easily. In the face of such a polarizing issue, I need to consider how I can maintain unity in the faith while still holding fast to what I believe the Bible teaches.

I saw at Strange Fire that we can sometimes confuse confidence with arrogance. And it’s not just we, but me because I suspect that if the tables were turned, I might react in much the same way. I am convinced one of the reasons so many people reacted badly to the event is that MacArthur and the other speakers are so sure of what they believe. They spoke with confidence about their understanding of what the Bible permits and what it forbids. Some of the reaction from those who were offended seems to imply that certainty is incompatible with humility. If this is what they truly believe, they have succumbed to dangerous and worldly thinking.
Trevin Wax goes into some detail on this and says, “If you agree with MacArthur, the best way to engage critics is not to defend him as if he were the pope, but to back up your claims by appealing to Scripture. If you disagree with MacArthur, the best way to engage the conference is not by railing against the man, but by showing specifically the ways you think he caricatured your position and by providing a calm, sober affirmation of continualist claims, backed up by Scripture.” And again, “let’s not judge the conference speakers as wrong simply for gathering together and taking a stand against doctrines they believe to be false. As Christians, we may be continualists or cessationists, but we are not relativists.”

I have long believed that many of the issues related to charismatic and cessationist theology owe to misunderstandings between the two sides. The reaction to this conference—the many discussions through social media and elsewhere—reveal that we need to do a better job of understanding one another, of affirming common ground, and of determining the importance of our differences. As a convinced cessationist, I was troubled to hear caricatures from charismatics about quenching the Holy Spirit, about elevating Scripture above God, about excluding all possibility of miracles, and so on. All of these caricatures show an uncharitable and unhelpful misunderstanding of cessationism. I am sure many cessationists were equally unfair and that I, myself, do not understand the continuationist position as well as I should. The simple fact is, until we rightly understand one another, we are in a weak position to bring critiques. But I know I am prone to do it anyway, to argue out of ignorance. I have to challenge myself here to be quick to listen and slow to speak, and when I do speak, to speak through the Scriptures.

This is a late addition to the article (a half hour after posting it), but I wanted to express it. We always face the danger of making our theology about who we believe rather than what we believe. The last thing we want or need is “I am of MacArthur” and “I am of Grudem.” I am sure this is the very last thing those men want. So even while we take our cues from the men we admire and the men who may think better than we do, let’s be sure that we are all Bereans, that we are all going back to the Bible to determine what we believe. Let’s be known for what we believe far ahead of whom we believe.
Strange Fire was an event that primarily targeted the worst of the charismatic movement. As I said when I offered an early look at the book, it is more about Benny Hinn than Bob Kauflin. While the Reformed charismatics may be a valued and significant part of the New Calvinism, they represent only the smallest fringe of the wider charismatic movement. What still remains to be done is to interact with the best arguments of the best of the charismatics and to address this from within the Reformed resurgence. This would be a very different event with a very different purpose and I hope someone will sponsor it before long.

Only time will tell of the long-term impact of Strange Fire, but as I think back to the past few days, I find myself grateful for it. I suppose that may be easier to say as a cessationist than a charismatic, but I believe the event and its aftermath will prove beneficial. I continue to pray that God would use it to to strengthen His church and to glorify His name.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Adoption was Not God’s ‘Plan B'

by Paul Tautges
Commenting on Ephesians 1:5, J. Stephen Yuille writes,

"Regrettably, many people tend to view the adoption of a child as an afterthought: “Oh, you couldn’t have your own children, so you decided to settle for adoption.” Having adopted, I would never describe it as ‘settling.’ I would never refer to it as an ‘afterthought.’ In terms of God’s adoption of us, he definitely wasn’t settling. God didn’t create the world in the hope that he would have natural children—only to discover that he had a bunch of little rebels on his hands. He didn’t throw his hands into the hair (anthropomorphism intended), crying, “Oh no, what will I do now? What are my options? I suppose I could always adopt!” No. God ‘predestined’ us for adoption. He did so before the foundation of the world. That necessarily means his adoption of us isn’t plan B, but plan A. Moreover, it means that his adoption of us is the revelation of his eternal will."

[From A Hope Deferred: Adoption and the Fatherhood of God]

Friday, October 18, 2013

Shepherds Should Be All Over the Place

 At a large church missions conference the pastors, elders, leaders and many staff of the church were on the whole nowhere to be seen. The nonparticipation (and non-presence) was VERY discouraging to the many volunteers who worked extremely hard and for many hours towards the success of the conference. Pastor/Shepherds are to care for ALL the sheep and be everywhere; in the front leading, in the mud rescuing, and in the back encouraging. Elders, leaders and pastors cannot be everywhere but should differently be at ALL major events such as weddings, anniversaries, memorials and yearly mission conference. Yes, it might be boring and is not your thing, but it goes with the responsibilities of a shepherd.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Why Do So Many Women Dress Immodestly in Church?


My wife brought up the topic as we drove by cornfields on the way home from church. “You just can’t wear something like that on stage.”

I knew exactly what she meant. During the worship set, one of the praise leaders wore a dress that covered about as much skin as a tight-fitting, low-cut swimsuit with a short skirt. Remembering the lessons from Every Young Man’s Battle, I’d locked my eyes on the praise lyrics or simply closed them so that I couldn’t see her.

“When you dress like that,” my wife added, “you take the focus off God and put it on you. You’re undermining the whole reason we’re there.”

In a trending article from, Jennifer LeClaire suggests that this issue of revealing clothing in church is troubling:

Some women—and I am talking about so-called "mature believers," not lost souls or baby Christians—come into God’s sanctuary on Sunday morning wearing clothes you might rather expect to see them wearing at a dance club on Saturday night. Their blouses cling to their bodies, their necklines dip so low and stretch so wide that they reveal cleavage, and the slits up the sides of their skirts offer more than an innocent glimpse of their thighs. Again, I’m not talking about sinners seeking God or new believers who plain don’t know better. I’m talking about those who claim to be "born-again, baptized, blood-bought" (even tongue-talking) members of the church!

Paul instructed Timothy that women should “adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation” (1 Tim. 2:9), and he told the church at Corinth that “our unpresentable parts have greater modesty” (1 Cor. 12:23). Regardless of how hot it is outside or how busy we are, there’s no justification for Spirit-filled women to come to church wearing clothes that cause some men to pay more attention to the things of the flesh than the things of the Spirit.

However, other Christian women think that such a push toward modesty is rooted in shaming the female members of a congregation. Using such slogans as “modest is hottest” makes women feel as if they are the root cause of temptation, rather than teaching them how to view themselves as beautifully made in God’s image. Last year, Sharon Hodde Miller suggested three ways to tackle the problem:

How do we discuss modesty in a manner that celebrates the female body without objectifying women, and still exhorts women to purity? The first solution is to dispense with body-shaming language. Shame is great at behavior modification, even when the shaming is not overt. But shame-based language is not the rhetoric of Jesus. It is the rhetoric of his Enemy.

Second, we must affirm the value of the female body. The value or meaning of a woman's body is not the reason for modesty. Women's bodies are not inherently distracting or tempting. On the contrary, women's bodies glorify God. Dare I say that a woman's breasts, hips, bottom, and lips all proclaim the glory of the Lord! Each womanly part honors Him. He created the female body, and it is good.

Finally, language about modesty should focus not on hiding the female body but on understanding the body's created role. Immodesty is not the improper exposure of the body per se, but the improper orientation of the body. Men and women are urged to pursue a modesty by which our glory is minimized and God's is maximized. The body, the spirit and the mind all have a created role that is inherently God-centered. When we make ourselves central instead of God, we display the height of immodesty.

Miller makes an important point here. The church must do a better job teaching a “theology” of the body that isn’t rooted in shame. We are all designed by God and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14). Everything God gave women was created “very good” (Genesis 1:31). But at the same time, our fallen nature has impacted the way we (especially men) see women’s bodies. The flesh nature gets in the way of what was once a perfect posture of purity toward each other. While we’re no longer slaves to our sin nature (Romans 6:6), that doesn’t mean our minds don't harbor impurity (Romans 13:14). Both men and women must live and dress in ways that humbly help each other in our weaknesses (Galatians 5:13).

In addition, we should also consider the motivations behind those who design such clothing. Are they making skin-baring outfits because they view women as God’s creation or are they doing so to exploit their bodies?

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Failure in Leadership

Often leaders, especially in seeking to be servant leaders, fail to deal with issues with fellow team members -- issues that are disruptive to godly ministry and the gospel. Many times we do not address issues for fear of man. Issues such as laziness, rudeness, selfishness, lack of vision and planning, sloppy inappropriate dress, unkindness, wastage of finances, non-ethical behavior, etc. We let these and other matters slip by, therefore, becoming political expedient mangers rather than godly leaders. When we do this, people we lead do not grow in godliness and responsibility nor does the ministry expand in effectiveness.

Yes, the fear of comforting issues has been one of my failures in leadership responsibility. Don't let it be yours.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Do the Things You Do and the Way You Dress Make a Difference?

The Bible says, "In all things show yourself to be an example...dignified..." (Titus 2:7). As a testimony for Christ, Christians in Cuba do not smoke, nor could they afford to. They, therefore, wonder why some visiting pastors and conference speakers purchase the famous Cuban cigars to take back to friends in Canada and the US or to sell. Christians in many countries wonder why Christian visitors and short-term workers dress so sloppy (casual is one thing, but sloppy is another), not seeming to care about cultural sensitivity.

Leadership -- Criticism

by Mark Altrogge

Mark Altrogge lists twelve things to do when you are criticized:
1. Be quick to hear

“This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger…” (James 1:19, nasb).

This can be hard to do because our emotions rise and our minds begin to think of ways to refute the other person.  To be quick to hear means we really do try to listen to and consider what the other person is saying. We don’t just write it off. Even if it seems unjust or undeserved.

2. Be slow to speak

“This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger…” (James 1:19, nasb).

Don’t interrupt or respond too quickly. Let them finish. If you speak too quickly you might speak rashly or in anger.

3. Be slow to become angry

Why? Because James 1:19-20 says the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. Anger will not make someone do the right thing. Remember, God is slow to anger, patient and long-suffering with those who offend Him. How much more should we be.

4. Don’t rail back

“…and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously…” (1 Peter 2:23).  Jesus was unjustly accused, yet continued to trust the Lord and did not revile in return.

5. Give a gentle response

“A gentle answer turns away wrath” (Proverbs 15:1). Be gracious even to those who offend you, even as God is gracious to us when we offend him.

6. Don’t defend yourself too quickly

“…casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7)

Defensiveness can rise out of pride and being unteachable.

7. Consider what might be true in the critique, even if it is given in a poor way

Even if it is given with the intent to hurt or mock, there still might be something worth considering. God might be speaking to you through this person.

8. Remember the Cross

Someone has said that people won’t say anything about us that the Cross hasn’t said and more, which is, we are sinners who deserve eternal punishment. So actually, anything anyone says about us is less than what the Cross has said about us.  Turn to God who accepts you in Christ unconditionally despite your many sins and failures.  We can be discouraged when we see areas of sin or failure but Jesus has paid for those on the cross and God is pleased with us because of Christ.

9. Consider the fact that we have blind spots

We can’t always see ourselves accurately. Maybe this person criticizing you  is seeing something you can’t see about ourselves.

10. Pray about the criticism

Ask God for wisdom – “I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you” (Psalm 32:8).

11. Ask others for their opinion

Share with others. Your critic could be right or completely wrong. If this is an area of sin or weakness in your life, then others will have seen it too.

12. Consider the source 

Don’t do this too quickly, but consider the other person’s possible motives, their level of expertise or wisdom, etc. They may be criticizing you to hurt you or they may not know what they’re talking about.

When you receive criticism, one of the first things to do is “casting all your cares upon Him (God) because He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).

Busy with Business and Babies, But Blessed!

Recently I met with a CPA who has been helping with churches, missionaries, and pastors for over 32 years.  During our conversation I learned that he and his wife in the midst of the business (his wife is also a co-partner and works in the office) have been caring for emergency foster care needs for the last several years.  They take emergency, respite babies from one-day old to 6 months old.  Over the last several years they had 28 foster children in their home.  He told me some of the stories of how the children have been abused, covered with scabies, frightened, little babies, but under their loving care they begin to respond to love and care.  This is excellent fulfillment of James 1:27, "Pure and lasting religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit [care for] orphans . . . in their distress . . . " (James 1:27 nasb).

Possibly you and I would consider doing the same – caring for little children to the glory of God.