Friday, December 30, 2011

Some Encouragement to Read Through the Bible in 2012

As we near the beginning on 2012, I wanted to take a minute to encourage everyone to make reading through the Bible in 2012 a priority. I've been extremely blessed by doing so in the past, and I'll be starting a new plan on January first.

If you're looking for some different plans to choose from, Justin Taylor had a great post which brings together many of the options. One of those options is George Guthrie's "Read the Bible for Life Chronological Plan." I just finished Guthrie's book Read the Bible for Life (one of the best books I read this year), and was very encouraged. Through a series of discussions with friends, scholars, and pastors, he walks through each part of the Bible and helps readers think through how to best read each part (i.e. don't read the prophets the same way you read the narrative stories of Jesus' ministry). He also has some practical tips and encouragement as to why reading the Bible, and doing so with a structured plan, is so important.

I'll be using Guthrie's Reading God's Story: A Chronological Daily Bible this year. He tries to lay out the whole Bible in a mostly chronological way that gives readers the overarching story God tells in the Bible. Looks very well done and I'm excited to get started.

I've also done a straight-through the Bible plan and a customized, Old-and-New-each-day plan in the past. If you've never done one before, I would probably recommend a plan that has you in both the Old and New Testaments regularly. The straight-through the Bible plan was difficult at times (although getting to the coming of Jesus was very powerful). Regardless of which plan you choose, I would highly encourage you to spend daily time in the Word with a structured approach to help keep you motivated. The rewards of doing so are huge, I promise.

Monday, December 26, 2011

NBA Montage from Christmas Day

This is fantastic...and makes me miss the old NBA.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Repost: "Daddy, are you happy with me?"

I was in full-on discipline mode. My 2 and ½ year-old son had fixated on what he wanted, and he was willing to whine/cry/yell as much as would be needed to obtain said item. Ever the diligent father, I was faithfully fulfilling my fatherly responsibility to discipline my son and correct his thinking and actions.

Admittedly, my methods weren’t perfect. My volume was raised. My tone was something less-than-loving. More than a little anger propelled my words in addition to my genuine concern for his heart. Nonetheless, I was determined to say what needed to be said and help my son see his error.

I sat him on the edge of the bed to explain what he had done and why I would need to discipline him. It was then that he looked up at me with his big eyes, and with more sincerity than I’d ever seen from him, Seth asked me a simple question:

“Daddy, are you happy with me?”

Sometimes God speaks so clearly through my son’s 2-year-old mouth.

Seth has given me multiple object lessons about my relationship with God over the past few years, but I don’t think there have been any as clear as that. He’s hardly able to even comprehend a lot of what he takes in from the world, but he already knows that he desperately desires his father’s approval, and he’s already scared (at least to some extent) that he doesn’t have it.

I will freely confess to some of this doubt being attributable to my sins as his father. I’m prone to anger and don’t always handle his immaturity with the patience and grace I wish I did. But there’s a profound truth behind his statement as well. After all, don’t we often pray the same thing, albeit in different words, to our Father in heaven?

Don’t we have times where we sin, or when we rightly feel Him disciplining us in love and say in effect, “Father, are you happy with me? Are you really pleased with me?” He is a perfect Father, so this doubt is entirely attributable to us, our insecurities, and our failures. We look at our lives, our constant inability to live up to God’s standards, and our circumstances, and think, He’s mad at me. He can’t possibly love me.

And if that love was based on our performance as believers, we’d be right.

But…

Because of the death of Jesus Christ on the cross, God doesn’t see us the way we sometimes do. We have been justified. Though our specific actions don't always please Him and may incur loving discipline aimed at repentance, by faith we have been clothed in the perfect righteousness of Christ. His perfect life is credited to us. There is no longer any condemnation. We truly are perfect in him. That imputed righteousness allows God to look at us and always say, “You are my beloved son. With you I am well pleased.”

Imperfect father though I am, I’m attempting to reassure my son that although I might not be happy with his actions and will discipline him for his good, I will always be happy with him. More importantly, though, I want him to know that through Jesus, he (and I) can experience the ultimate approval of our heavenly Father. He truly is pleased with us.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Top 10 Books I Read in 2011

Some of these books weren't published in 2011. In fact, some are much older, but these are my favorites that I read this year. Some were read solely for pleasure earlier in the year, and some were required reading for seminary, which I started in August.

I make no claim of objectivity or ability to discern what is necessarily the "best" book. As I looked back over the books I read this year, these are the ones I enjoyed and/or was edified by the most.
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1. Russell Moore - Tempted and Tried: Temptation and the Triumph of Christ
Struggling Saints everywhere need to read this book. Modern Evangelicals tend to appear to have everything together as we fear being exposed as not what we say we are (and mostly want to be). We feel isolated. Like Adam and Eve in the garden, this cycle causes us to turn further and further inward into hiding, away from people and more importantly, away from our Father. This book will help you fight those urges. It will help you begin to take steps to walk in the Light. It will encourage you to see yourself rightly in relationship to God through Christ. I’m thankful for men like Dr. Moore who understand the gospel so well and can articulate the themes and passages to help struggling sinners like me.

2. Jared Wilson - Gospel Wakefulness
Many believers today seem to have intellectually assented to belief in the traditional doctrines of the Christian faith, but they exhibit no evidence of a really changed heart that has had its affections towards God awakened and stoked. In this book, Jared Wilson tries to expound on the glory of God in the gospel and outline what he calls "gospel wakefulness," a sort of second awakening to the gospel that results in a believer's increased sanctification and conscious love towards God. He makes clear that it's not a second conversion experience, nor does it place believers into two "tiers" (plain believers and "super" believers), but I was edified and encouraged by his vision of the Christian life and how it impacts the ways we interact with life. Very powerful.

3. Greg Lucas - Wrestling With An Angel
In a world that tends to define a person by their utility, their usefulness to others, and deem those of little use of little worth, this book was a breath of fresh air and an emotional powerhouse. Greg Lucas outlines the impact of raising his son, someone with multiple disabilities and challenges. Ever conscious of the way the gospel addresses these situations, Lucas outlines what his son has taught him about our relationship to God and grown him in Christlikeness. There were multiple times while reading this book that I had to simply set it down and take a deep breath. The ways Lucas recounts personal stories and then brings out the gospel truths in the stories is simply masterful. I would especially recommend this for parents of these children, but also for all believers to help them understand how we should think about disabilities and God.

4. Wesley Hill - Washed and Waiting
Christianity has struggled to find a balance with how to address the sinful nature of homosexuality without demonizing those who recognize their need to fight against it. This book strikes that balance for me. Hill is very clear about the Bible’s teaching, but that doesn’t make his obedience to it easy, and it’s obvious he’s only made it through because of supportive believers in his life. I wish every gay believer had these kinds people to love, support, and encourage them. If more people read this book, more of them probably would.

5. Stephen Altrogge - The Greener Grass Conspiracy
My generation is one that operates on principles of entitlement and discontent. Many have even painted discontent as a positive quality, in that we should never be satisfied and should always “push for more.” God’s people shouldn’t lack ambition, but it shouldn’t be motivated by a lack of contentment. Paul wrote to the Philippians that he had learned to be content in any circumstance (which included much more than most of our struggles that lead to discontent). How? Through Christ, who strengthened him. That’s the source of our contentment. This book will help you love Christ more, and in doing so, will point you to the source of true contentment, regardless of your temporal circumstances this side of heaven.

6. Robert Stein - Jesus The Messiah
An excellent survey of the life of Christ from the four gospels. I read this for my New Testament class covering the four gospels and really enjoyed it. It has a great balance of academic and devotional feel to it.

7. N.D. Wilson - Notes from the Tilt-a-Whirl
One of the more creative explorations of the implications of the Christian faith I've read. Wilson is a storyteller, and he uses that skill powerfully to interact with the seemingly ordinary things of life and make them seem extraordinary in light of the gospel.

8. Joe Thorn - Note to Self 
Don’t “assume the gospel” in your daily life and live on auto-pilot. Force the truth of the Bible into your heart. This book is a great example of how to do that.

9. Jerry Bridges and Bob Bevington - The Great Exchange
Jerry Bridges is one of my favorite writers. In this book, he and Bob Bevington explore the idea that Christ became sin so that we might become the righteousness of God. Fantastic look at the book of Hebrews and Christ as the passover lamb and fulfillment of the priesthood.

10. Tim Keller - King's Cross
Keller shows how the Gospel of Mark builds on different ideas and how different narrative sections further the gospel storyline. The result is an encounter with Jesus that is truly intense and forces readers to make decisions about what they will believe about the man.

Honorable Mention:

Tim Keller - The Meaning of Marriage (Likely to be a favorite once I finish it)
Gilbert Meilaender - Bioethics:A Primer for Christians
Casey Lute - But God…
Tim Challies - The Next Story
Wendell Berry - Sex, Economy, Freedom, & Community
Trevin Wax - Counterfeit Gospels
Elyse Fitzpatrick - Give Them Grace
Sam Crabtree - Practicing Affirmation

Monday, December 19, 2011

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Ethics Response Part 4: Tyler and Conclusion

This is Part 4 of my response to my Christian Ethics final exam. Please take some time to read the scenario at Dr. Moore's blog and read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 of my response if you haven't. Here's the final piece, Part 4.
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Tyler’s Hiring Practices and the Church’s Response

With that in mind, what is to be done about Tyler, the man who hired Pablo and operates his business with what amounts to illegal labor? To be consistent with the message given to Pablo and to communicate to the Church that the same standards of obedience are required by all believers, he must be rebuked for his practices. Depending on how well known his practices are by the Church and the community, it may be necessary to publicly discipline him. I don't believe this would be preferable, but the congregation needs to know that even its most Christlike members are held accountable. Tyler’s conscience needs to be shaped as well.

He needs to understand that just because his practices “work” and he is providing jobs for people who need them does not justify disobedience to the governing authorities. He is living in falsehood the same as Pablo if he continues these practices. It would be ideal if Tyler could play a major role in helping Pablo and others. Additionally, the Church needs to be prepared to help Tyler once he makes the decision to change his hiring practices. His business is likely to suffer, at least in the short term, and the church needs to extend the same support to him to help him provide for his family during that time as well.

Conclusion

Clearly, this is a very complex situation with no ideal solution from a temporal perspective. Pablo and his family are going to be made very vulnerable. Truly, Pablo’s vulnerability led to his decision to enter the country illegally in the first place. This aspect of the situation is very important for all involved to remember. Pablo is a person made in the image of God (Gen. 1:26-27). This is true of all “illegal immigrants,” and it will be important for pastors and Church members to keep this in mind when dealing with these types of situations.

These are people who need Christ just as much as any others. Treating those within the Church family in these situations with dignity and respect communicates to the outside world that although the Church recognizes the authorities of the land, it refuses to apply the laws of that land without compassion for people. The Church must be willing to sacrifice for its brothers and sisters who face extremely difficult decisions and circumstances from those decisions. Ultimately, the gospel must permeate the thinking of everyone involved and put the glory of God in Christ above all else.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Ethics Response Part 3: The Church's Role

This is Part 3 of my response to my Christian Ethics final exam. Please take some time to read the scenario at Dr. Moore's blog and read Part 1 and Part 2 of my response if you haven't. Here's part 3.
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Implications for the Family and the Church

Since it was established that Pablo was a genuine believer and part of the Church family, there are clear implications for how the Church should respond to and participate in this situation. Pablo is their brother in Christ, and that allegiance goes far beyond any national or political distinctions. The unity of believers in Christ is eternal and will ultimately be manifested in the fully realized Kingdom. For now, it exists within the Church, and the Church’s response to Pablo’s situation will send a clear message to those in the community watching about what the believers there truly value. The Church needs to rally around Pablo and his family to try to come up with an alternative to splitting up the family. Maybe this will involve working to send the whole family to another country other than El Salvador where they can live together and Pablo can provide for his family and extended family. Depending on the connections of those in the Church, it would seem that this would not be out of the realm of possibility. The Church could even send the family to a Spanish-speaking country as a supported missionary or church-planter of some kind. They should pursue any ways of helping his extended family as well.

The main thing is to make sure that the actions communicate a love for Pablo and his family that is willing to sacrifice for them to help. This might include monetary gifts or other contributions, but all resources should be exhausted. Additionally, it needs to be communicated to the congregation that they need to be committed not only to Pablo, but to others in the same situation. They are setting a precedent for others who might soon hear the gospel and realize the cost of choosing to follow Christ. These people need to know that there are many who will stand with them and help in whatever way possible.

Ultimately, it might be the case that Pablo will need to leave while the family stays. It is possible that there will be no other alternative. In this case, Pablo would not be abandoning his family and “not providing for his household” in a 1 Tim. 5:8 way. Pablo’s issue is not laziness or abdication of responsibility. He is placing obedience to Christ and a life of repentance above all else. Ultimately, he is providing much more for his children by way of example than he would be by living a lifestyle of falsehood and giving them food and shelter. The children need the gospel and he will be modeling obedience to Christ in a very powerful way to them.

Pablo can live out his obedience in this situation and trust God with the consequences of that obedience. His actions are no guarantee that God will take care of his family, but he can trust that God will always use obedience and all things for the ultimate good and glory of those who love him (Rom. 8:28). In this case, Hannah and the children would essentially be a widow and orphans and the Church would have an opportunity to do good to them (Gal. 6:10). None of these consequences are easy, and the pastor’s job here in large part would be to keep Pablo and his family from becoming a “test-case” or “issue” in any way. The main focus in all of this must remain the gospel and its implications. The situation must be an opportunity to grow everyone in the congregation in Christlikeness.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Ethics Response Part 2: The Gospel of Truth

This is Part 2 of my response to my Christian Ethics final exam. Please take some time to read the scenario at Dr. Moore's blog and read Part 1 of my response if you haven't. Here's part 2.
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Truthfulness and Christ, Authority and the Kingdom

One of the main issues in this case is the issue of truthfulness. By misrepresenting himself and lying about his identity by using a false social security number, Pablo is not only refusing to obey the governing authorities, he is simply lying. For a Christian to live in a state of perpetual lying is inconsistent with their identity in Christ, who is truth and cannot lie. If the Christian life means participation and growth in the life of Jesus, living under false pretenses will almost always mean a lack of growth and sanctification since lying is imaging Satan rather than the true Word made flesh who brought grace and truth (John 1:14,17).

Ultimately, Pablo would be saying something false about Christ if he continued to lie. For a believer to constantly live in a state of falsehood will over time have a dulling effect on the conscience and extend the idea of moral relativity. In Pablo’s case, to continue to live in a situation where he is lying about who he is, even for reasons related to the protection of his family, is dangerous for his conscience, his growth in Christ, his witness to others, and ultimately his state as a repentant believer. God takes lying and truthfulness very seriously, and this must be communicated to Pablo as a new believer thinking through such a complex situation as this.

In addition to ethical implications for what Pablo’s lack of truthfulness says about Christ, a decision not to submit to the governing authorities now that he is a believer would say something about not only his view of scripture’s commands to believers (specifically Rom. 13:1), but it also has implications for the Kingdom of God and Pablo’s future role in it. A Kingdom ethic looks at decisions in terms of one’s place in the unfolding of God’s plan for the universe. As a believer, Pablo will participate in the Kingdom of God, and different things in this life are designed by God to help prepare him for that. The ability to not only exercise authority but also submit to it when appropriate is an important part of the Christian life and prepares believers for their roles in the Kingdom.

Breakdowns in the authority structures established by God, whether on the personal or governmental levels, are counter to a true Christian ethic and must be avoided wherever possible. While there have been occasions in history where believers chose to resist unjust laws (from Paul preaching the gospel against Roman opposition to Martin Luther King, Jr. fighting for civil rights and others), they were always willing to suffer the consequences of their resistance; thus, even amidst their decision to disobey the laws, they still respected the authorities put in place by willingly accepting the right of those authorities to punish. In Pablo’s particular circumstance, this type of action does not seem appropriate since Pablo would not be openly disobeying, he would be skirting the law and refusing to accept the consequences of the legitimate authorities, and the disobedience would be unlikely to affect any change.

Therefore, based on the facts that, as a believer, Pablo must begin to live in accordance with his true identity in truthfulness and that he must obey the governing authorities and recognize the Kingdom implications of refusing to do so, the best course of action to recommend would be to leave the country. There simply does not seem to be a way to square a truly repentant Christian life with one that perpetuates falsehood and refuses authority.

While this may ultimately result in extremely difficult circumstances for Pablo, he must be guided to realize that obedience to Christ and walking by faith does not always mean positive circumstances in this life. He needs to develop an eternal perspective that counts this life as nothing compared to knowing Christ (Phil. 3:8). The issue is clearly not solved, however. Pablo’s decisions have affected more than just him. He has taken a wife, and God has blessed their union with four children. Pablo’s mother, nieces, and nephews who are also dependent on Pablo further complicate the issue. Is it possible for Pablo to live out his Christian life in a genuine way that does not result in the demise of these vulnerable ones?

Monday, December 12, 2011

What To Do About Pablo: My Ethics Final Response (Part 1)

I just completed my first semester at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. One class I took was Christian Ethics with Dr. Russell Moore. Our final exam was to think through a hypothetical situation and walk through our steps in how we might handle it as a pastor.

You can head over to Dr. Moore's blog to read the scenario. You'll need to read that first or my response won't make much sense at all. I'll be posting my answer in a few parts. Here's part 1.
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Introduction

The issues facing Pablo and his family are complex, vitally important, and are going to become more and more common in the years to come. Immigration laws and how to handle those who break them are not as clear-cut as many would like them to be, especially from a Christian point of view. As the question demonstrates, Pablo is facing an ethical dilemma in which he has competing “goods”; he is to obey the governing authorities established by God (Romans 13:1), but he is also required by God to provide for the needs of his family (1 Tim. 5:8), which in this case includes even extended family. Whatever his choice, he will seemingly be disobeying one of these commands, and as a believer, he will need to know that his decision is living out his faith in Christ in the best way possible.

Not only that, but many are watching how the pastor handles this situation, using it in many ways to see what the gospel really means and what the church really exists to do. The solution is not simply to provide Pablo with an answer of what he should do and let him face the consequences alone. This situation is an opportunity to help shape the consciences of everyone in the congregation and those watching in the community. The real issue is the gospel of Jesus Christ and the kingdom of God. These must remain paramount and permeate every piece of the decision-making process.

Pablo and the Gospel

The first issue to deal with in the scenario is whether or not Pablo has genuinely repented of his sin and has a real, saving faith in Jesus Christ. It would be very easy for this to get lost in the complexity of the situation. In a culture that tends to politicize everything and view situations like this as “issues” instead of people, every effort must be made to refuse to de-humanize any aspect of Pablo’s situation or the very real consequences that are facing his family. Pablo, Hannah, and their children represent real people with real sins in need of a real faith in the real gospel Jesus Christ. Pablo has sins and a past that has led to his current circumstances. First and foremost, he and his family need Jesus. Their eternal state is far more pressing than any temporal concerns. Any action that would minimize or negate these facts must be rejected.

Is Pablo a genuine, repentant, believer? As far as his belief, it seems clear that he understands the truths of the gospel, recognizes his own sin, and desires to receive the forgiveness made possible by the death and resurrection of Christ. The question is whether or not he can be considered repentant based on his current circumstances. After all, he is clearly bearing false witness about who he is (Ex. 20:16) and disobeying the governing authorities of the United States (Rom. 13:1). It would seem, though, that the very act of volunteering the information about his being an “illegal immigrant” gives some evidence of the work of the Holy Spirit in his heart. This is “fruit in keeping with repentance” (Mt. 3:8, Lk. 3:8). He has “counted the cost” (Lk. 14:28) of following Christ by “outing” himself and risking deportation. He is feeling the conviction of the Spirit about the fact that he has been misrepresenting himself for years.

The question does not appear to be whether he wants to repent, but how he is to go about that repentance. He seems to feel the pull of competing “goods” in the situation. He needs his conscience to be shaped, molded, and informed, not provoked by judgment and condemnation. As such, it would appear based on the information presented in the case that Pablo is a genuine believer who should be baptized and recognized as a member of the family of God and the Church.

Music Video of the Week: Josh Garrels

Josh Garrels - "Farther Along"

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Interview with Jared Wilson on "Gospel Wakefulness"

I just finished Jared Wilson's new book Gospel Wakefulness. Seriously fantastic book. Here's a quick summary from Amazon:
We may know the gospel. We may believe it—even proclaim it. But we also may assume the gospel and become lethargic. In this book Jared Wilson seeks to answer the central question, how do we experience and present the gospel in a fresh, nonroutine way in order to prevent ourselves and others from becoming numb? His answer may be surprising: “by routinely presenting the unchanging gospel in a way that does justice to its earth-shaking announcement.” We don’t excite and awaken people to the glorious truths of the gospel by spicing up our worship services or through cutting-edge, dramatic rhetoric, but by passionately and faithfully proclaiming the same truths we have already been given in Scripture.

Wilson’s book will stir churches to live out the power of the gospel with a fervent, genuine zeal. After an explanation of the term “gospel wakefulness,” Wilson unpacks implications for worship, hyper-spirituality, godly habits, and sanctification, as well as other aspects of church life. Pastors, church leaders, and all in ministry, especially those who are tired or discouraged, will be uplifted, emboldened, and empowered by this book.
And here's an interview he did with Desiring God about the book.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Noel Piper: Thinking About Santa

From Desiring God:
Over the years, we have chosen not to include Santa Claus in our Christmas stories and decorations. There are several reasons.

First, fairy tales are fun and we enjoy them, but we don’t ask our children to believe them.

Second, we want our children to understand God as fully as they’re able at whatever age they are. So we try to avoid anything that would delay or distort that understanding. It seems to us that celebrating with a mixture of Santa and manger will postpone a child’s clear understanding of what the real truth of God is. It’s very difficult for a young child to pick through a marble cake of part-truth and part-imagination to find the crumbs of reality.

Third, we think about how confusing it must be to a straight-thinking, uncritically-minded preschooler because Santa is so much like what we’re trying all year to teach our children about God. Look, for example, at the “attributes” of Santa.
  • He’s omniscient—he sees everything you do.
  • He rewards you if you’re good.
  • He’s omnipresent—at least, he can be everywhere in one night.
  • He gives you good gifts.
  • He’s the most famous “old man in the sky” figure.
But at the deeper level that young children haven’t reached yet in their understanding, he is not like God at all.

For example, does Santa really care if we’re bad or good? Think of the most awful kid you can remember. Did he or she ever not get gifts from Santa?

What about Santa’s spying and then rewarding you if you’re good enough? That’s not the way God operates. He gave us his gift—his Son—even though we weren’t good at all. “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (ROMANS 5:8). He gave his gift to us to make us good, not because we had proved ourselves good enough.

Helping our children understand God as much as they’re able at whatever age they are is our primary goal. But we’ve also seen some other encouraging effects of not including Santa in our celebration.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Friday, December 2, 2011

A Response to Kurt Warner's Comments on Tim Tebow

If you didn't see Kurt Warner's comments about Tim Tebow, here's what he said:
“You can't help but cheer for a guy like that," former NFL star Kurt Warner said. "But I'd tell him, 'Put down the boldness in regards to the words, and keep living the way you're living. Let your teammates do the talking for you. Let them cheer on your testimony.'

I know what he's going through, and I know what he wants to accomplish, but I don't want anybody to become calloused toward Tim because they don't understand him, or are not fully aware of who he is. And you're starting to see that a little bit.

There’s almost a faith cliche, where (athletes) come out and say, ‘I want to thank my Lord and savior,’ Warner told the Republic. “As soon as you say that, the guard goes up, the walls go up, and I came to realize you have to be more strategic.

The greatest impact you can have on people is never what you say, but how you live.... You set the standard with your actions. The words can come after.”
A devout believer himself, I have typically liked and agreed with Warner in the past, but I didn't like those comments. My reaction was pretty much the same as Jared Wilson's, but he says it better so I'll just quote him.
The idea behind this and other counsel to young master Tebow to lighten up on the Jesus talk is that talking about Jesus turns people off, so one should just be a good person instead. I've now seen both Christians and non-Christians suggest this approach.

There are a few problems with this advice:
1. It assumes Tim isn't already "being a good person."
2. It assumes one can simply imply the gospel with actions and it be understood.
3. It assumes that the gospel isn't offensive, really, but is made so through verbalizing it too much.

All of those assumptions are incorrect. Clearly for Tebow (who I respect and appreciate as a person -- my football loyalties lay elsewhere :-) which is a good thing since even though "he just wins," he's not a very good quarterback (yet?)) speaking the gospel and demonstrating its implications is not an either/or proposition. He rightly understands you cannot do one without the other.

I listened to a guest on Jim Rome's ESPN2 show yesterday say Tebow would commend his message more if he stopped talking about it and simply became a good football player. What all these folks appear to be saying is this: "Tebow turns people off by talking about his message so much." But what my ears hear is this: "Tebow's message makes me really uncomfortable and I don't like it, so I wish he'd just shut up and 'be nice'."

In fact, the Rome guest used the words "shoving it in our face," which is what offended parties often say about people who actually don't shove anything in anybody's face but merely talk most about what's most important to them. Last I heard, Tebow was not randomly showing up at people's homes and workplaces and cornering them with an evangelistic appeal. People are asking him questions, requesting interviews, wanting to hear what he has to say. And what Tebow has to say is directly influenced by the most direct influence on his life. Shouldn't this be true of everyone who claims Christ saved them?

What most of us seem ill-equipped to understand is a public figure so enamored with the love of Jesus he won't shut up about it. May his tribe increase, I say.

Tebow is apparently not the kind of star interested in paying Jesus some lip service when he wins a game or award. He's apparently a guy whose mouth is connected to the overflow of his heart.

The truth is that the gospel is a scandal. I wish brothers like Kurt Warner would factor that into their consideration. That people are blanching at Tebow's Christ-centered words is not because Tebow is offensive but because Christ is.

The truth is that faith comes by hearing, not by deducing through comfortable apprehension of good deeds. An implied gospel is a gospel fail.

Bob Costas on the Ridiculousness That Happens after NFL Touchdowns

Why can't guys be more like Barry Sanders and act like they've scored a touchdown before? Great stuff from Bob Costas here.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Russell Moore: Jesus Has AIDS

Russell Moore re-posted his provocatively titled post from AIDS day a couple years ago. Very powerful stuff.
Jesus has AIDS.

Just reading that in the type in front of you probably has some of you angry. Let me help you see why that is, and, in so doing, why caring for those with AIDS is part of the gospel mandate given to us in the Great Commission.

The statement that Jesus has AIDS startles some of you because you know it not to be true. Jesus, after all, is the exalted son of the living God. He has defeated death in the garden tomb, and defeated it finally. Jesus isn’t weak or dying or infected; he’s triumphant and resurrected.

Yes.

Yes, but, what we’re often likely to miss is that Jesus has identified himself with the suffering of this world, an identification that continues on through his church. Yes, Jesus finishes his suffering at the cross, but he also speaks of himself as being “persecuted” by Saul of Tarsus, as Saul comes after his church in Damascus (Acts 9:4).

Through the Spirit of Christ, we “groan” with him at the suffering of a universe still under the curse (Rom. 8:23,26). This curse manifests itself, as in billions of other ways, in bodies turned against themselves by immune systems gone awry.

That’s why the church is to suffer, continually, with Christ as we take his presence into the darkness of a fallen creation. The Apostle Paul says, then, “I rejoice then in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church” (Col. 1:24).

Some of Jesus’ church has AIDS. Some of them are languishing in hospitals right down the street from you. Some of them are orphaned by the disease in Africa. All of them are suffering with an intensity few of us can imagine.

Some of you are angered by the statement I typed above because you think somehow it implicates Jesus. After all, AIDS is a shameful disease, one most often spread through sexual promiscuity or illicit drug use.

Yes.

Yes, but those are the very kinds of people Jesus consistently identified himself with as he walked the hillsides of Galilee and the streets of Jerusalem, announcing the kingdom of God. Can one be more sexually promiscuous than the prostitutes Jesus ate with? Can one be more marginalized from society than a woman dripping with blood, blood that would have made anyone who touched her unclean (Luke 8:40-48)? Jesus touched her, and took her uncleanness on himself.

AIDS is scandalous, sure. But not nearly as scandalous as a cross.
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