Black Friday & The Christian Consumer


It seems like advertisements for Black Friday started very early this year.

Promises of large sales and great deals starting on the night of Thanksgiving or on 12:01 AM on Black Friday have taken over the airways, tv channels and Pandora and iTunes radio.

Companies and corporations have poured untold billions into advertising, so that in return folks buy their products this holiday season.

No doubt in the next few hours we will read about folks standing outside of stores for hours on end, we will read about people being injured or killed because of a stampede at a Big Box store, we will see videos of people fist fighting over the last in stock hot ticket item of the year.

Buy.

More.

Things.

Isn’t that the corporate message of this season?

Go into debt, spend what you don’t have, buy, buy, buy!

In light of the teachings of Jesus, what is a Christian consumer to do?

How should a Christian respond to the consumer drive of Black Friday?

In a portion of Jesus’ most famous sermon he said this:

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

And

“You cannot serve both God and money”

Jesus gave his followers a clear warning to avoid consumerism and greed.

People who follow him are to avoid the trappings of earthly treasures and instead are called to focus upon heavenly efforts and service.

During this holiday season let us put people above corporate profits, let us place heavenly efforts above hot ticket items and in the name of God let us serve those around us.

Shame & Storytelling


Every human being has a story.

Every mom and dad, every grandmother and grandfather, every son and daughter, every person in your place of work, every person you bump into on the street and every person who sits beside you at your place of worship has a story.

Our stories are made up of our experiences, those events we have gone through, our struggles, our celebrations, our achievements and our secrets.

Our secrets.

Those things we did, or happened to us, that we would rather not make public or talk about.

Or think about for that matter.

Those experiences which are attached to shame.

Shameful and shame-filled events.

Growing up in a traditional northern New England home I learned at a young age that it was best not to talk about family secrets or give recognition to events that might bring shame. Better to ignore, better to keep silent, better to keep secrets and to sweep the ugly things under the rug.

I am not placing any blame on my parents as they are both amazing parents and pretty special human beings; but there is just something in the culture that I live in that pushes people away from telling their “whole” story.

That is what shame does, it keeps us from telling our story. It forces us not to be open and authentic with one another with our stories.

In my last blog “Shame & The Christian Church” I showed how shame is a thief and a cancer, how it robs from us and can cripple us.

Telling your “whole” story is a good tool in the battle against shame.

James, the half-brother of Jesus Christ, wrote this in his letter to the early Christian community,

“Make this your common practice: Confess your sins to each other and pray for one another so that you can live together whole and healed.” *

Within the context of telling our story, that verse could be re-wrote to say this,

“Make this your common practice: Tell your whole story to each other and pray for one another so that you can live together whole and healed.”

James,under the influence of God, reminded the early Jesus followers, and reminds us today, that as we tell our stories to others and as we engage in divine communication (prayer), it opens the door for wholeness and healing.

Telling your story to someone will not fix all your problems and it may not bring total wholeness to your life, but it will open the door.

It will plant seeds of wholeness, healing and love where once trees of shame grew.

Within the next seven days purposely and intentionally tell your whole story to someone.

It will take courage, and all sorts of fears will try to get you not to do it, but believe me, it will be worth it.

Tell your whole story to a clergy person, to a family member, a friend, a loved one, or you might even have the courage to pull a Forrest Gump, and tell your story to a complete stranger sitting on a park bench while you eat your way through a box of chocolates.

You are not alone.

You are unconditionally, radically and scandalously loved.

And your story is worth telling.

I leave you with this quote from noted author and speaker Dr. Brene Brown,

“You’re imperfect, and you’re wired for struggle, but you are worthy of love and belonging.”

*James 5:16 MSG

Shame & The Christian Church


Shame & The Christian Church


It has been one year and change since I  have blogged and boy has my life changed. I am no longer in relationships that I was once in. I am no longer in the career that I had spent the last ten years in. I am now living in a different community, I own less, and I find myself expressing my faith in a different way.

Despite some very hard challenges, I find myself at age thirty four probably living authentically for the very first time in my life.

For years I have allowed all different types of pressures to keep me from being “real”, from being the person who I am, and who the Creator created me to be.

As I allow for authenticity in my life, I realize that there are things in my life, in my soul, in my heart, in the inner parts of my being that are very painful, that have left some deep scars and that I would rather leave unexposed.

Let me pause and ask you (dear reader) a question, “Do you have something in your life that causes you shame? Do you have a story, an experience, a secret that if posted on Facebook or Twitter would drive you into a shame spiral and make you not want to leave your house or answer your phone for a while?”

Of course I know the answer, the answer of course is “Yes, I do”.

We all do.

Over the years I have listened to some folks stories and at the end I can only ask the question, “How are you functioning?”

I have been a Christian for twenty three years, I have been involved in some sort of Christian ministry for seventeen and I have served as a church minister for over a decade and if there is an area where as a faith community we have failed I believe it is in this area of shame.

There is something I have to just make transparent here;

Shame has been used as a tool.

Shame has been used as a tool on probably more than one person reading this in the context of a Christian Church or from the mouth of a misguided preacher in some sort of attempt of spiritual abuse or manipulation.

I am sorry if you can relate to shame being used in a church context.

Author, scholar and noted public speaker Dr. Brene Brown has said this on the subject of shame, “Shame needs three things to grow exponentially in our lives; secrecy, silence and judgement.”

Secrecy.

Silence.

Judgement.

In my over twenty years in the Christian Church I have found these three things to be growing in abundance. As I take an objective view of my personal life I see these things growing or taking root at during different times and seasons.

“Let’s not talk about that…” Secrecy.

“Don’t talk about that…” Silence.

“Because you talked about that, I am now viewing you differently…” Judgement.

It is so much easier to not be authentic, it is so much easier not to deal with the things that hurt, and it is certainly much easier not to talk.

The problem with shame is that shame is a cancer.

If not dealt with, it will grow, and grow, and destroy more of your heart, and take control of your mind and soul, until it cripples you completely.

Shame is a thief.

And where the Christian Church has failed in its efforts, the Savior of the Christian Church has not.

Many years ago the Savior found himself dealing with a person who probably had some shame issues, and after shielding her from the religious leaders of the day, Jesus looked at her and said “Neither do I condemn you…”

Jesus didn’t tell her, “Why don’t you keep your hurts and pains a secret”.

Jesus didn’t tell her, “It’s probably better if you don’t talk about your experience”.

Jesus didn’t pick up a stone to throw at her in judgement.

Shame will convince you that because you are flawed, you are no longer acceptable. You are no longer acceptable to have healthy relationships. You are no longer acceptable to thrive within a faith community, and you are certainly not acceptable to God.

But the person who exists as grace personified says “even though you are flawed, you are cherished”.

There is a thought that exists that says “Because you have hidden shame, you are a second rate person of faith. If only you had true faith, than your shame issues would go away.”

This idea is rooted in hell.

The true thought is “You have hidden shame, you are like every other person sitting around you and faith tells us that although we deal with shame, we are cherished, God is with us and there is a process of healing that is available to us”.

In all of our efforts of trying to hide our shame, the voice of the Savior is quietly still saying to us “Neither do I condemn you…”

Moving forward in my journey I hope to never use the tool of shame again, and my prayer and hope for those around me in my community of faith, especially its leaders, is that they too would retire shame for good.

Even after following the teachings of Jesus for two thousand years, we still have much to learn.

I am sorry you went through what you did, I really am.

Please know that you are not alone and that you are loved, unconditionally and radically.

Errors of Premillennialism


I thought I would take some time and look at some errors of which are found in the end time teachings which are commonly called “Premillennialism”. This teaching is common among Western Evangelicals and often involves some sort of “rapture”. 

1 )It Attacks Some of Christ’s Redemptive Work

One of the notable achievements of Christ’s redemptive work was to break down the middle wall of partition between the Jews and Gentiles (Eph. 2:14). Judaistic Premillennialists attempt to prove that this wall will again be raised. By perpetuating the distinction between Jews and Gentiles, they deny this accomplishment of Christ either completely or as being temporary in nature. It is well nigh incredible that Christians do this, but the facts cannot be denied.

The work of Christ also abolished the law. In order for Christ to become our high priest, the Mosaic law had to be set aside. The main reason for this is that the law confined this office to descendents of Levi and Aaron, whereas Christ was from Judah (Heb. 7:11-14). A restoration of the law of Moses and its animal sacrifices, as many Premillennialists teach, is another very serious attack on the redemptive work of Christ, and His continuing high priesthood.

2)It Makes the New Covenant Future with the Jews

The eternal priesthood of Christ and our salvation are closely related to the new covenant. Dispensationalists and many other Premillennialists deny that Christ established the new covenant of Jeremiah 31 at His first advent. But the law of Moses was set aside in order for Christ to become our high priest. And the law of Moses is the heart of the old covenant. This means that the old covenant was abolished. Then either the new covenant was established at Christ’s first advent, or we Christians are operating without a covenant.

3)  It Exalts the Old Testament Above the New Testament

That Premillennialism depends too much on the Old Testament is recognized by most. But this is the reverse of what is proper and correct. The New Testament is a fuller, more complete revelation than the Old. The New explains the Old. The Old is full of types and shadows (Heb. 8:5), whereas the New contains the realities. If Old Testament prophecies are explained in the New Testament, the explanation given in the New Testament takes precedence over any interpretation one might consider or give to the Old Testament record. But Premillennialists often refuse to accept New Testament interpretations. They continue to insist that their interpretation of Old Testament prophecy is correct, even when the New Testament says otherwise.

The following are but a few of the many examples which could be cited in this connection. Amos prophesied that at some future time the “tabernacle of David” would be raised up (Amos 9:11-12). James clearly interprets this as applying to the Gentile converts which were accepting Christ through the labors of Paul and others (Acts 15:13-18). But Premillennialists refuse to accept this plain statement by James, placed in the Bible by inspiration. By one means or another, it is claimed that it applies to a future age.

Dispensationalists and many other Premillennialists refuse to accept the New Testament teaching that the Abrahamic covenant has its fulfillment in Christ, rather than through those who are racial descendents of Abraham and Jacob. Paul contends, “Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ” (Gal. 3:16). According to this inspired statement, individual descendents of Abraham have no promise based solely on their descent from Abraham. The promise is to Christ. Thus, only as one believes into Christ does the promise take him in. Unbelieving Jews have no promise.

Premillennialists are likely to be literalists, but the Bible itself, and the New Testament in particular, spiritualizes the Abrahamic covenant. Paul argues that there is no longer “Jew nor Greek, … And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Gal. 3:28-29). Those who attempt to maintain the Old Testament distinction between Jews and Gentiles do so at the expense of denying or twisting the intent of New Testament inspiration. A Gentile Christian is just as much a descendent of Abraham, insofar as God is concerned, as those who are genetically descended from Abraham.

This leads to the further conclusion that the Church is the Israel of the New Testament.

4)  It Reflects on the Importance of the Church

Dispensationalists contend that the Church is an after-thought of God. They say that no Old Testament prophecy foretold of the Church, and that God instituted it because Christ was unable to establish an earthly kingdom during His first advent. This makes the Church a substitute for what God really wanted. Other Premillennialists may not reflect on the Church quite to this degree, but there is a tendency to exalt the millennium age above the Church age. To show that the Old Testament does speak of the Church, two passages which have been discussed in this chapter are again mentioned.

Chapters 8-9-10 of the Hebrews epistle definitely state that the new covenant of Jeremiah 31 was functioning at the time that letter was written. It was Christian believers who were receiving the sanctifying grace made possible by the redemptive work of Jesus Christ. This does indeed speak of the Church. Therefore, when Jeremiah prophesied of the new covenant, he was prophesying of the Church. The prophecy of Amos regarding the raising up of the tabernacle of David (Amos 9:11) does refer to the activity of the Church according to the New Testament (Acts 15:13-17).

In the New Testament, the fact that Jesus died for the Church (Acts 20:28; Eph. 5:25-27) is some indication of its importance to God and Christ. Christ died for no other institution. For this reason no other institution can have the meaning to God that the Church does. But all Premillennialism causes the Church to stand in the shadow of the so-called millennium. This is not the way it should be. Any doctrine that reflects on the Church is reflecting on Christ’s prized possession—His bride.

The Westminster Shorter Catechism


I am going to attempt to blog my way through the Shorter Westminster Catechism.

For those who do not know what the Shorter Westminster Catechism  is a catechism that was written in the 1640s by English and Scottish divines (Theologians). The assembly also produced the Westminster Confession of Faith  and the Westminster Larger Catechism. The three documents are considered by many Protestants to be the grandest doctrinal statements to come out of the English Reformatation.

The purpose of the WSC is to educate lay persons in matters of doctrine and belief. The Shorter Westminster Catechism is in a simple question and answer format to facilitate memorization. Typically, parents and the church would use the shorter catechism to train their children in the ways of the Lord. New converts are also given the Shorter Westminster Catechism as well as the Confession of Faith and Holy Scriptures to study.

Let’s start with the first question of the Catechism.

Question 1: “What is the chief end of man?”

Answer: Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.

John 17:22,24 “The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.”

Romans 11:36 “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.”

1 Corinthians 10:31 “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

 

Soli Deo Gloria,

+MTM

Jesus calls for a new birth


“Not everyone who claims to be a Christian really is. Unbelievers do make false professions of faith in Christ, and people who are not truly Christians can be deceived into thinking they are.

That might have been taken for granted a couple of decades ago, but no more. The cheap grace and pseudo faith of a distorted gospel are ruining the purity of the the church. The softening of the New Testament message has brought with it a putrefying inclusivism that in effect sees almost any kind of positive response to Jesus as tantamount to saving faith. Christians today are likely to accept anything other than utter rejection as authentic faith in Christ. Modern day evangelicalism has developed a large and conspicuous fringe, embracing even those whose doctrine is suspect or whose behavior indicates a heart in rebellion against the things of God.

The gospel Jesus proclaimed did not foster that kind of gullibility. From the time He first began to minister publicly, our Lord eschewed the quick, easy, or shallow response. He turned away far more prospects than he won, refusing to proclaim a message that would give anyone a false hope. His words, always tailored to the individual’s needs, never failed to puncture an inquirer’s self righteousness, unveiled wrong motives, or warned of false faith or shallow commitment.”
The Gospel according to Jesus page 43

During this Christmas season can you and I take a step back from the stresses of the season and ask ourselves if we are truly serving Christ? Are we really serving Him in a way in which that most glorifies His name? Or are we just serving Him with our lips?

Merry Christmas,

+MTM

 

 

 

Idols


“David Powlison writes:

… that most basic question which God poses to each human heart: “Has something or someone besides Jesus the Christ taken title to your heart’s functional trust, preoccupation, loyalty, service, fear and delight? Questions . . . bring some of people’s idol systems to the surface. ‘To who or what do you look for life-sustaining stability, security and acceptance? . . . What do you really want and expect [out of life]? What would [really] make you happy? What would make you an acceptable person? Where do you look for power and success?’ These questions or similar ones tease out whether we serve God or idols, whether we look for salvation from Christ or from false saviors.”

Do we really have faith in God or do we place our hope in our idols?

Are we loyal to anything more than Jesus?

Is our faith reflected in our charity?

MTM

 

John Calvin on evangelism


“It ought to be the great object of our daily wishes, that God would collect churches for Himself from all the countries of the earth, that He would enlarge their numbers, enrich them with gifts and establish a legitimate order among them.”     –   John Calvin

 

One of the most common charges raised against those who practice Calvinism or Reformed Theology is that it is not conducive to fueling a long term passion for missions and evangelism. Views of John Calvin’s attitudes towards outreach have ranged from hearty on the positive side to opposition on the negative side. Some go so far as to say that he is the father of the missionary movement.

To get Calvin’s views on evangelism correct, we must to look to and understand what Calvin wrote on the subject. Most of his views can found in Institutes of the Christian Religion.

Here is a list of six reasons for evangelism according to John Calvin;

1) God commands us to do so.

“We should remember that the gospel is preached not only by the command of Christ but by His urging and leading.”

2) We want to glorify God.

“True Christians yearn to extend God’s truth every where so that God may be more glorified.”

3) We want to please God.

“It is a sacrifice well pleasing to God to advance the spread of the Gospel.”

4) We have a duty to God.

“It is very just that we should labor to further the progress of gospel.”

5) We have a duty to fellow sinners.

“Our compassion should be intensified by knowing that God cannot be sincerely called upon by others than those to whom, through the preaching of the gospel, His kindness has been known.”

6) We are grateful to God.

“We owe it to God to strive for the salvation of others.”

May the Lord turn our hearts towards the spreading of the Gospel

+MTM

On the Puritan family


“A holy family is a place of comfort, a church of God…Oh that God would stir up the hearts of people thus to make their families as little churches, that it might not be in the power of rulers or pastors that are bad to extinguish religion, or banish godliness from the land.” -Richard Baxter

 

The Christian’s relationship with his family is inseparable from personal sanctification, according to the Puritans. The Scriptures set for the ways in which we are to live righteously, and since the Bible takes great pains to tech how parents and children should relate to one another, these relationships are an index of sanctification. So it is of primary importance that Christians recognize that holiness begins at home and then extends to all of life.

Puritan pastors spent much time teaching fathers how to exercise spiritual leadership in the home. They also advised Christian mothers of their role in the biblical pattern, and they taught children to show proper respect for parents in service to God. In this family emphasis, they aimed to follow only the Bible, for, as they said, the Bible presents the family as the fundamental unit of human history.

Although much of the writing about Puritan ideas of child-rearing seems familiar with us, some of their ideas were revolutionary at the time. Here are just a few of their contributions that promoted biblical child rearing:

  • Child-rearing begins at conception: Prospective parents had two major tasks before a child was born. First, they were to pray daily for the salvation of their child, since the child was conceived in sin. They also were to pray daily for the protection of both mother and child.
  • Mothers have the major role in caring for newborns: The Puritans stressed that a mother’s responsibilities included breastfeeding, which ought not to be delegated to a midwife or nanny.
  • Baptizing infants is part of parents’ covenant obligation to God: Puritan child rearing was rooted in the conviction that children belonged to the covenant God makes with Believers, evident in baptism, which, being a sacrament, is a visible sign and seal of God’s invisible grace.
  • Children must be trained early in the nurture and admonition of the Lord: The salvation and godliness of children is the main purpose of their education.
  • Family worship is the most powerful means for child-rearing: Puritan families gathered for worship once or twice a day.

[Taken from Living for God’s glory: An Intro to Calvinism by Joel Beeke pages 333-340]

Chosen by God by RC Sproul part 3


After a month or so away from “Chosen by God” by Sproul, it’s time to jump back on the Predestination train.

“Predestination seems to cast a shadow on the very heart of human freedom. If God has decided our destinies from all eternity, that strongly suggests that our free choices are but charades, empty exercises in predetermined playacting. It is as though God wrote the script for us in concrete and we are merely carrying out His scenario.

To get a handle on the puzzling relationship between predestination and free will, we must first define free will. That definition itself is a matter of great debate. Probably the most common definition says free will is the ability to make choices without any prior prejudice, incineration, or disposition. For the will to be free it must act from a posture of neutrality, with absolutely no bias.

On the surface this is very appealing. There are no elements of coercion, either internal or external, to be found in it. Below the surface, however, lurk two serious problems. On the one hand, if we make our choices strictly from a neutral posture, with no prior inclination, then we make our choices for no reason. If we have no reason for our choices, if our choices are utterly spontaneous, then our choices have no moral significance. If a choice just happens, it just pops out, with no rhyme or reason it, then it cannot be judged good or bad. When God evaluates our choices, He is concerned about our motives. 

The second problem this popular view faces is not so much moral as it is rational. If there is no prior inclination, desire, or bent, no prior motivation or reason for a choice, how can can a choice even be made? If the will is totally neutral, why would it choose the right nor the light? It is something like the problem encountered by Alice in Wonderland when she came to a fork in the road. She did not know which way to the turn. She saw the grinning Cheshire cat in the tree. She asked the cat, “Which way should I turn? ” The cat replied, “Where are you going?” Alice answered, “I don’t know.”,”Then,” replied the Cheshire cat, “it doesn’t matter.”

We must reject the neutral will theory not only because it is irrational but because it is radically unbiblical.

Christian thinkers have given us two very important definitions of free will. We will consider first the definition offered by Jonathan Edwards in his class work, “On the Freedom of the Will.”

Edwards defined the will as “the mind choosing”. Before we ever can make moral choices we must first have some idea of what it is we are choosing. Our selection is then based upon what the mind approves or rejects. Our understanding of values has a crucial role to play in our decision-making. My inclinations and motives as well as my actual choices are shaped by my mind. Again, if the mind is not involved, then the choice is made for no reason and for no reason..

A second definition of free will is “the ability to choose what we want/” This rests on the important foundation of human desire. To have free will is to be able to choose according to our desires. Here desire plays the vital role of providing a motivation or a reason for making a choice.

Edward’s Law of Choice is this, “The will always chooses according to its strongest inclination at the moment.” This means every choice is free and every choice is determined.”

(paragraphes from pages 52-54)

This issue of free will is certainly a very powerful and debated issue within the Christian Church.

I would like to know your thoughts on the matter.

(If you choose to do it, although you could just be predestined to do it).

Soli Deo Gloria,

+MTM

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