Last week Untold Podcast released a rather controversial episode. It delves into LGBTQ issues within the context of Christian faithfulness. We also produced a great trailer for the show. If you're so inclined, give the show a listen and let us know what you think.
In case you missed it, here is the video update for the third CrossTalk Global residency.
Just before the 2017 Academy Awards, Oscar winner John Irving encouraged artists who received an award to use their speeches to talk about their political platform. While I find intermingling entertainment with overt political messages to be frustrating, it isn't morally problematic.
But then he made the following two statements:
1. "the creative community has an obligation: to be intolerant of intolerance."
2. "In our community, tolerance of intolerance is unacceptable."
I understand the sentiment. And if I'm being honest, it is how I want to operate. I want to love the lovely, accept those who accept me, and befriend those who think along the same lines as me.
John Irving doesn't expound on what intolerance of intolerance looks like. Is it merely speaking out against anyone's ideas who don't match with his own values? Maybe. Or is it more along the lines of "hating the hater"? I don't know.
I have no doubt, Mr. Irving's intentions are honorable: defend the defenseless. Don't let those with power bully the weak. Don't allow hatred to win the day!
And again, while Mr. Irving's values likely differ from mine on a number of issues, the sentiment is very appealing to me.
But then the Apostle Paul comes along:
Do not be conquered by evil, but conquer evil with good. (Romans 12:21)
Paul, under the inspiration of God the Holy Spirit, tells me I can't do shady business to beat an even shadier businessman. I can't spread malicious gossip to hurt a person who hurt me by spreading malicious gossip. In the same way, I can't beat intolerance with intolerance.
Worse still, Jesus comes along:
You have heard that it was said, Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, (Matthew 5:43-44 )
This is a higher form of love than romantic love. A higher form of love than friendship. A higher form of love than a family's love for each other. This is divine love! Unconditional! And sadly, utterly impossible for me or anyone else to actually achieve.
So, I ask for the help of Christ to do within me what I am not able to do myself. No one can love their enemies. No one can seek the good and betterment of people who who have hurt and abused us. It is divine love that accomplishes this. It is the sort of self-sacrificial love we saw in Christ.
I cannot settle for a lower form of love that only loves those who love me. I am trying to follow Jesus. And to follow Jesus, is to do what he did: sacrificially love our enemies.
Pray with me:
Maker of heaven and earth,
and of all things visible and invisible.
There are many people I do not like,
If I am being honest, I want their lives to be ruined.
I confess to you this is hatred.
Please forgive me.
Lord, Jesus Christ,
by whom all things were made:
Thank you for loving me when I was your enemy.
Teach me to walk in your ways.
Teach me to love in truth,
and seek the good for those who hate me.
God the Holy Spirit,
Lord and Giver of life,
change me heart.
May I not love merely with words or speech,
but with truth and action.
I ask all this in Jesus' Name.
Review: Sensitive Preaching to the Sexually Hurting
Summary: Sensitive Preaching to the Sexually Hurting walks preachers through a variety of topics related to human sexuality. Dr. Sam Serio offers practical suggestions and language to use while discussing these sensitive topics.
Review: For six years, I served in a sexual abstinence program through my local pregnancy support center in upstate New York. In retrospect, we should have been named a sexual design program. So, I was very interested to read this book with my background biblical sexuality and my current role as a pastor.
Serio explores sexual topics with an openness that’s needed in the Christian church. He covers the topics of Casual Sex, Abortion, Sexual Assault, Childhood Abuse, Same-Sex Attraction, and Sexless Marriage. His categories are helpful, and he highlights some topics that had not occurred to me.
At the end of each topic, Serio gives text suggestions to talk about these individual topics. I did not find these terribly helpful. However, the main sections of the chapters are very helpful. He offers terms, phrases, and great insight on how to present these sexual issues to congregations in a gentle but biblically truthful way.
My one major criticism with the book is the chapter on Same-Sex Attraction and Homosexuality. While I appreciate Serio’s balanced and loving concern for individuals, he puts too much emphasis on the parents as a root of same-sex attraction. He highlights four types of fractured parental relationships that lead to this type of attraction but fails to address what happens when none of these fractured relationships is present and a person still experiences same-sex attraction.
Ultimately, I was surprised with how helpful I found this book. There are areas I disagree with his approach, but Serio offers pastors an image of gracious, biblical conversations from the pulpit.
Find it on Amazon here.
Find it on Kregel here.
Rating: 4/5 Stars (I really liked it)
Note: I received a physical copy of this book for free in exchange for an unbiased review.
My daughter loves the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Now, she's never seen the show, but her friends like it so she does too. She's informed me that "Mikey" is her favorite and asked me which one was mine. Without hesitation, I said "Raphael - the red one."
And then she asked, "Why?"
I did not share the following with her, but I now share it with you, dear reader:
I was six years old when the Turtles became a hit cartoon show. My parents pre-screened it and said we could watch it as long as it didn't become any more violent. All three of us Norman boys loved the show, so for Christmas we were asking for the action figures.
Somehow, this is how the selection of the action figures went down. My older brother, naturally, was going to get Leonardo. He was the oldest and the defacto leader. Keeping with Old Testament familial practices (and also because he was really smart), he received a double-portion. My older brother would also receive Donatello.
My youngest brother would be getting Michelangelo. At the time, he was goofy and ate weird things. (Currently, he's less goofy and I think he secretly eats weird things.) Mikey was a natural selection for him.
So, in keeping with the way things usually go for middle children like me and Jan Brady, I was left with Raphael. As a consolation prize I was also given Casey Jones.
And that's how I became the most awesome brother.
Left with the scraps of Teenage Mutant Turtle fandom, my characters became the greatest ones of all! And as they rose in prominence, so too did I.
Raphael is the best Turtle forever!
Note: Variant versions of this story may be floating around the inter-webs. Please fact-check your data before commenting.
The reading of sermons is a dull way of preaching. Sermons when Read are not delivered with Authority and in an affecting way. It is prophesied of Christ, Mic. 5.4 He shall stand and feed in the strength of the Lord, in the Majesty of the Name of the Lord his God. When Sermons are delivered without Notes, the looks and gesture of the Minister, is a great means to command Attention and stir up Affection. Men are apt to be Drowsy in hearing the Word, and the Liveliness of the Preacher is a means to stir up the Attention of the Hearers, and beget suitable Affection in them. Sermons that are Read are not delivered with Authority, they favour of the Sermons of the Scribes, Mat. 7.29. Experience shews that Sermons Read are not so Profitable as others. It may be Argued, that it is harder to remember Rhetorical Sermons, then meer Rational Discourses; but it may be Answered, that it is far more Profitable to Preach in the Demonstration of the Spirit, than with the enticing Words of mans wisdom.
I have been preaching without notes for almost seven years now. I thought I was being innovative! But Stoddard advocated for preaching without notes nearly three hundred years ago.
His argument is incredible. The pastor isn't arguing that preaching without notes merely gives the speaker better stage presence. Instead, he is arguing it gives the preacher greater authority as he is empowered by the Holy Spirit.
From firsthand experience I have seen this in my own personal ministry. When my sermons are rooted deeply in Scripture and study, something happens when I stand before the congregation with only a Bible in hand.
This is why we will be discussing how to preach without notes as one of our topics during the upcoming One Day Preaching Seminar at The Orchard Church and in partnership with North West Baptist Association.
(Hint: Preaching without notes has very little to do with memorization.)
Click on the picture below and register for this free seminar!
What effect will the 2016 presidential election have on the sovereignty of Christ?
The election, like many before it, has prophets working hard to convince the public we are in the midst of an apocalypse: "Vote for my candidate, otherwise the earth shall crack open and hell-fire will bubble over onto you and your children and your children's children."
It is true that elections have consequences. And these consequences are rather high. So the apocalyptic language feels true.
If I am being honest, I also feel the pull. My heart teeters on the edge of being completely convinced of the message.
But this is a confusion of the City of Man for the City of God, as Augustine put it. The City of Man is coming to an end, but there is an enduring City - an eternal Kingdom - which is here now, and is coming in power. The eternal City of God cannot be stopped nor its purposes thwarted.
The ultimate power is not in the U.S. presidency. The ultimate authority and direction for the course of human history does not depend on the outcome of the 2016 election.
I have found myself in the Scriptures even more in this season, because my mind needs to be renewed. I need to be reminded by the prophets of the One True God, over and against the prophets of the false political gods, that Christ is sovereign over all.
Below I have compiled a brief list of Scriptures I have found challenging and comforting during this season:
Some take pride in chariots, and others in horses, but we take pride in the name of Yahweh our God. They collapse and fall, but we rise and stand firm. Lord , give victory to the king! May He answer us on the day that we call.
Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us hold on to grace. By it, we may serve God acceptably, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.
Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help and who depend on horses!
They trust in the abundance of chariots and in the large number of horsemen.
They do not look to the Holy One of Israel and they do not seek the Lord ’s help.
But He also is wise and brings disaster.
He does not go back on what He says;
He will rise up against the house of wicked men and against the allies of evildoers.
Egyptians are men, not God; their horses are flesh, not spirit.
When the Lord raises His hand to strike, the helper will stumble and the one who is helped will fall; both will perish together.
For we do not have an enduring city here; instead, we seek the one to come.
“My kingdom is not of this world,” said Jesus. “If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I wouldn’t be handed over to the Jews. As it is, My kingdom does not have its origin here."
Habakkuk 3:17-19 (Read the Whole Book)
Though the fig tree does not bud and there is no fruit on the vines,
though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will triumph in Yahweh;
I will rejoice in the God of my salvation!
Yahweh my Lord is my strength;
He makes my feet like those of a deer and enables me to walk on mountain heights!
May Your faithful love rest on us, Yahweh, for we put our hope in You.
He who testifies about these things says, “Yes, I am coming quickly.” Amen! Come, Lord Jesus!
Which Scriptures have you found comfort in during this season?
Scripture References from the Holman Christian Standard Bible.