Say What You Want!…..

Dear friends,

Dan Cathy, President of the popular food chain Chick-fil-A unleashed a mighty liberal assault when he commented that he supports “the biblical definition of the family unit.”

Cathy’s comments sparked angry protests from a number of gay rights and LGBT groups, including the mayor of Boston who said he wouldn’t allow Chick-fil-A to open business in his city.

Similar sentiment arose in Chicago where an Alderman said he was working to block Chick-fil-A. Windy City mayor Rahm Emanuel punctuated the outrage saying, “Chick-fil-A’s values are not Chicago’s values.”

Of course, this was just before Emanuel welcomed Islam leader Louis Farrahkhan to Chicago. Apparently, the radical leader and hater of traditional American values better represents the “family values” of Chicago?

Whether you agree or disagree with Cathy’s comments, he has a right to speak his mind. Elected officials who should know better have no authority or right to censor Cathy’s speech or use government blockades of business over differing opinions.

The True Knight Is Risen-Collin Hansen

The True Knight Is Risen

I was a senior in high school a little less than one month from graduation during the 1999 Columbine shootings. Even far away from Colorado in my small South Dakota school, where the lockers don’t even lock, we had a sense that everything would be different from here on. Indeed, metal detectors and lockdown drills have taken their place alongside reading, writing, and arithmetic in schools around the country. Few today question the necessity of these precautions as schools continue to top target lists for killers.

We don’t yet know if or how last night’s horrid theater shootings in Aurora, Colorado, will change our everyday lives. It’s bad enough the murderous act has taken at least 12 lives so far, wounded 59 others, and scarred countless more who loved these men, women, and children who just wanted to see a blockbuster movie on opening night. The dark confines of a theater now seem like a murderously efficient place to conceal a weapon and spread deadly panic. A night at the movies may never be the same.

Before many even awoke to this tragic news from Aurora, reporters and pundits had already searched for blame beyond the alleged shooter, now in custody. What is his political party affiliation? What are his known beliefs? All of us who lived through Columbine and its aftermath well remember this hunt for explanations and scapegoats. Where were the parents? Who bullied the killers? Who is this Marilyn Manson character? Why are first-person shooter games so popular, and how are they affecting our kids’ brains and behavior? More than a decade later, bullies still prowl school hallways, parents still struggle to understand teenage boys, and video games and musicians still celebrate violence. We learned a lot about Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, but we didn’t learn anything new about humanity. Our track record, smeared in blood, speaks for itself.

Now is a time for mourning and comforting the victims. The hunt for blame will not bring the victims back to life. Not even interrogating the alleged killer, while good and necessary, will necessarily result in special insight about the human condition. As President Obama said this morning in Florida in response to the killings, “Even as we learn how this happened and who’s responsible, we may never understand what leads anybody to terrorize their fellow human beings like this.”

Why? And yet, we cry. What could possibly justify such murder? “Such violence, such evil is senseless,” President Obama said. “It’s beyond reason.”

Indeed. We think if someone could only answer why—by finding fault with gun lobbyists, or theater security, or the Tea Party, or Batman—we might be able to snuff out the source of this violence. Then maybe we’d be safe. But right now, no one can promise you’ll be okay tonight if you decide to see The Dark Knight Rises. One Aurora victim even escaped a shooting last month at a Toronto mall, only to die shortly after tweeting friends last night about her excitement for the movie to begin. This might be the scariest thought about this random killing spree, which follows many others in varied settings in countries around the world: Authorities will promise to do everything in their power to ensure our safety. But in the end, no one can guarantee our security.

Scary World

Our ancestors lived in a world like this. At any moment they might succumb to a disease no one yet understood. Or become collateral damage in a war they didn’t start. Or suffer starvation when the skies withheld their rain. The patriarchs of the Old Testament lived in such a world. So did the apostles of the New Testament. So did Jesus.

Not even the Son of God escaped gruesome, torturous death. He lived in a world where religious leaders conspired with political tyrants to kill so-called enemies who made the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers clean, the deaf hear, the dead rise, and the poor rejoice over good news (Matt. 11:5). He was not safe and secure in this world. In fact, he said, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head (Matt. 8:20).

And yet this man, not even welcome in his hometown (Luke 4:24), could point to those same birds of the air and see reason to trust in our heavenly Father, who feeds them, “who neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn” (Luke 12:24). So when his season of sorrow approached, when one of his closest friends handed him over to evil men, he could say to his heavenly Father, “Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done” (Luke 22:42).

Jesus knew exactly who to blame for his impending execution. He stared into the faces of the chief priests and scribes who sought his death. He answered to Pilate, who signed his death sentence. And yet, when he looked out on these murderers from the excruciating elevation of the cross, he prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).

No cry of why will satisfy our search for a reasonable explanation to the horrors of this age. But the God-man who cried, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” comforts us in our grief (Matt. 27:46). Even more, his unjust death and ultimate triumph in resurrection is the very means by which we can begin even now to enjoy never-ending peace with the “Father of mercies and God of all comfort” (2 Cor. 1:3).

Jesus had no illusions about why the nations rage. They rage in their sin, against their God, going so far as to put God in human flesh to death. But such evil plots in vain, because the ascended Jesus promises to return in justice. He will hold his and the Aurora movie theater’s murderers to account. And he will usher in the safety and security of the new heavens and new earth for all who believe in him.

“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Rev. 21:4).

What did you just say??

Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire;
he breaks out against all sound judgment.
A fool takes no pleasure in understanding,
but only in expressing his opinion.
When wickedness comes, contempt comes also,
and with dishonor comes disgrace.
The words of a man’s mouth are deep waters;
the fountain of wisdom is a bubbling brook.
It is not good to be partial to the wicked
or to deprive the righteous of justice.
A fool’s lips walk into a fight,
and his mouth invites a beating.
A fool’s mouth is his ruin,
and his lips are a snare to his soul.
The words of a whisperer are like delicious morsels;
they go down into the inner parts of the body.
Whoever is slack in his work
is a brother to him who destroys.
The name of the LORD is a strong tower;
the righteous man runs into it and is safe.
A rich man’s wealth is his strong city,
and like a high wall in his imagination.
Before destruction a man’s heart is haughty,
but humility comes before honor.
If one gives an answer before he hears,
it is his folly and shame.
A man’s spirit will endure sickness,
but a crushed spirit who can bear?
An intelligent heart acquires knowledge,
and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.
A man’s gift makes room for him
and brings him before the great.
The one who states his case first seems right,
until the other comes and examines him.
The lot puts an end to quarrels
and decides between powerful contenders.
A brother offended is more unyielding than a strong city,
and quarreling is like the bars of a castle.
From the fruit of a man’s mouth his stomach is satisfied;
he is satisfied by the yield of his lips.
Death and life are in the power of the tongue,
and those who love it will eat its fruits.
He who finds a wife finds a good thing
and obtains favor from the LORD.
The poor use entreaties,
but the rich answer roughly.
A man of many companions may come to ruin,
but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.
(Proverbs 18 ESV)

How Do Word and Deed Ministry Fit Together for a Church? by Tim Keller

Should local churches stick to evangelizing and producing disciples? Or should they strive to do justice and work for good in the culture?  Or should they equally emphasize both?

Those who talk more of justice and cultural engagement are fearful of social marginalization. Without that emphasis, they believe, non-Christians will regard the church as a useless and divisive institution that should not be tolerated.

Those who stress evangelism and discipleship talk instead of the reality of limited resources. It would simply overwhelm the local church to try to meet the endless economic and material needs of the city, they say. Besides, there are plenty of agencies doing that, while the church alone is calling people to salvation through faith in the gospel. So the church should focus its limited financial resources almost exclusively on evangelism and the ministry of the Word.

How should we resolve this?

RESOLVING THE TENSION BETWEEN WORD AND DEED MINISTRY

First, we should establish that the ministry of the Word is the priority for the local church. The first thing I need to tell people when they come to church is “Believe in Jesus,” not “Do justice.” Why? First, believing in Jesus meets a more radical human need. Second, if they don’t believe in Jesus they won’t have a gospel motivation to do justice in the world. So the first priority of the local church under its elders is to make disciples, not to do housing rehabilitation or feed the poor.

However, the church must disciple and support its members so they love their neighbor, integrate their faith in their work, and seek a more just and wholesome society and culture. This means that within the church there must be adequate teaching, preaching, and emphasis on how to be Christian in the public sphere, and how to be loving servants in our neighborhood. And of course there should be strong “diaconal” or mercy ministry within the congregation to meet the economic and material needs of members.

Nevertheless, while the church disciples its members to help the poor and, for example, to be Christian filmmakers, the congregation should not own low-income housing or start a film production company.

So the institutional church should give priority to Word ministry, but Christians must do both word and deed ministry in the world, and the church should equip them to do so.

WHAT ABOUT LIMITED RESOURCES?

What about the idea of limited resources? Most of the money that members of Redeemer Church in Manhattan give for mercy ministry within the congregation and for service to the needy out in the city comes through annual special offerings and designated giving. One special offering is taken at Christmas and goes to diaconal ministry within the church. Another special offering is taken at Easter and goes to Hope for New York, a Christian 501©3 birthed out of Redeemer which does all sorts of mercy and justice ministry in the city. A lot of other giving to mercy and justice related ends comes from our membership through individual gifts. Many Reformed churches have funded diaconal ministry this way over the centuries, with second or “special” offerings taken on communion Sundays or on other special occasions for the diaconal fund. The money was then used to meet needs inside the congregation and in the neighborhood. Meanwhile, basic Word ministry is funded from regular offerings and not from special or designated giving.

This works very well for us. The special offerings do not cut into the regular offerings very much. They are generally “new monies” over and above regular giving. The existence of dynamic and compassionate ministry to the needy draws out giving that would not come if you did not give people the opportunity to give as their hearts direct. So Word ministry and acts of service are not an “either-or.” It is not a zero sum game. In fact, I have seen that when people see a church caring about its community in tangible ways, that generates a lot of goodwill and it makes people more willing to give to the regular offerings as well. So there is no trade-off. We have found that if you fund mercy and justice in this way, it only increases the overall giving to Word ministry.

What about the charge that “we don’t have the money or resources to feed all the hungry”? Well, we do not have the money or resources to take the gospel to every single person in our city either. Instead, we do what we can with what we have.

WHAT ABOUT RELEVANCE?

What about the concern for relevance? If the church is giving a priority to Word ministry, will our city think us useless? No. We have shown how a church can give priority to the Word and nonetheless show great concern for the poor in its message and raise lots of financial and human resources for the poor in its ministry. And the better the church’s ministry of the Word, the more it will fill the city with mature Christians doing “salt and light” work, tackling the needs of the needy in sympathy and service. The local church and its Lord can and should get a lot of credit for that.

Timothy Keller is the founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan, and is the author, most recently, of Center Church: Doing Balanced, Gospel-Centered Ministry in Your City (Zondervan, forthcoming 2012). An earlier version of this article was posted at the Redeemer Church City to City blog.

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No Ordinary Marriage- Book Review

Tim Savage’s contribution, No Ordinary Marriage: Together for God’s Gloryis a God-centered, gospel-driven approach to marriage that’s as far removed from legalistic and therapeutic guides as east is from the west. Savage, senior pastor of Camelback Bible Church in Paradise Valley, Arizona, begins with a painfully accurate observation: Far too often, the wedding is the high point of a marriage. Savage suggests the problem is a selfish quest for happiness—a quest that will be crushed by the vicissitudes of life, swinging hormones, the fading of youthful beauty, and the shocking discovery that no two people are compatible. He contends that couples need a common cause if they hope to overcome their obstacles, and he proposes that only one cause is worthy—the glory of God (15-26).

Married couples should therefore aim to glorify God as they praise him, obey him, and conform themselves to his image. This occurs above all in self-giving, cruciform love. Self-giving love is essential to God and man. Self-giving also reverses the prime cause of marital strife and divorce. Instead of marrying for the benefits, “we should marry for the good of our partner.” This provides the antidote to the age-old problem of spouses fleeing to work, children, and avocations when a marriage proves disappointing (31-41, 44-52).

According to Savage, marriages founder on self-centeredness but find hope and restoration if they seek “something beyond” themselves with their attraction, hopes, children, and plans. That “something,” of course, is the glory of God, manifest above all in the gospel of the sacrificial love and grace of Jesus. It binds couples together when beauty fades, hopes are dashed, and sin creates seemingly irreconcilable rifts.

Savage advances this thesis in chapters 1-4. If we live for the glory of God and according to the pattern of love supremely displayed in the work of Christ, much will simply fall in place. Subsequent chapters treat standard topics (the roles of husband and wife, sex, reconciliation after sin, and so on), but Savage carefully subordinates his counsel to his master concept. Therefore, while he summons wives to submit to their husbands, he stresses that her concern must be his interest. She will pray for him regularly, accept him unconditionally, and encourage him regardless of his performance. She aims to please him even if he is difficult (63-71). Likewise, husbands will love faithfully, attentively, sympathetically, and sacrificially, convinced that if his wife ought to change, love will transform her more effectively than criticism (77-88).

A Risen People-Octavius Winslow: Part 2

If this is our exalted character, then how great our responsibilities, and how solemn our obligations! The life we now live in the flesh is to be an elevated, a risen, a heavenly life. “If you be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sits on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For you are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.” What is the holy state here enjoined?—heavenly-mindedness. On what ground is it enforced?—our resurrection with Christ. As a risen people, how heavenly-minded, then, ought we to be! How incompatible and incongruous do groveling pursuits, and carnal joys, and earthly ambitions appear, with a life professedly one and risen with the incarnate God! But even here much heavenly wisdom is needed to guide in the narrow and difficult way.

To go out of the world—to become as a detached cipher of the human family—to assume the character, even in approximation, of the religious recluse—the gospel nowhere enjoins. To relinquish our secular calling, unless summoned by God to a higher and more spiritual service in the church—to relax our diligence in our lawful business—to be indifferent to our personal interests and responsibilities—to neglect our temporal concerns, and to be regardless of the relative claims which are binding upon us, are sacrifices which a loyal attachment to our heavenly King does not necessarily demand; and, if assumed, are self-inflicted; and, if made, must prove injurious to ourselves and displeasing to God.

But to be heavenly-minded, in the true and Scripture sense, is to carry our holy Christianity into every department of life, and with it to elevate and hallow every relation and engagement. There is no position in which the providence of God places His saints, for which the grace of Jesus is not all-sufficient, if sincerely and earnestly sought. Nor is there any sphere or calling, to which the life of Jesus in the soul may not impart dignity, luster, and sacredness. Christianity, through all grades, and classes, and occupations, is capable of diffusing a divine, hallowing, ennobling influence, transforming and sanctifying all that it touches. Blessed and holy are they who know it from personal and heartfelt experience!

A Risen People- Octavius Winslow: Part 1

“Buried with him in baptism, wherein also you are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who has raised him from the dead. And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, has he quickened together with him; having forgiven you all trespasses.” Colossians 2:12, 13

Is Jesus alive? then the saints of God are a risen people. What a glorious character is theirs! Mystically they are risen with Christ from the tomb, and spiritually they are risen from the grave of death and sin to newness of life. One of the most fruitful causes of a feeble Christianity is the low estimate the believer forms of his spiritual character. Were this higher, were it more proportioned to our real standing, our responsibility would appear in a more solemn light, our sense of obligation would be deeper, and practical holiness of a high order would be our more constant aim. Ours is a glorious and exalted life.

Our standing is higher, infinitely higher, than the highest angel; our glory infinitely greater than the most glorious seraph. “Christ is our life.” “We are risen with Christ.” By this we are declared to be a chosen, an adopted, a pardoned, a justified, and a quickened people. This is our present state; this is our present character. We bear about with us the life of God in our souls. As Jesus did bear about in His lowly, suffering, tempted, and tried humanity the hidden essential life; so we, in these frail, sinful, bruised, dying bodies, enshrine the life derived from a risen Head—the hidden life concealed with Christ in God. What an exalted character, what a holy one, then, is a believer in Jesus! Herein lie his true dignity and his real wealth—it is, that he is a partaker of the Divine nature, that he is one with the risen Lord. All other distinctions, in comparison, vanish into insignificance, and all other glory fades and melts away. Poor he may be in this world, yet is he rich in faith, and an heir of the kingdom; for he has Christ. Rich he may be in this world, titled and exalted, yet, if Christ is in his heart, that heart is deeply sensible of its native poverty—is lowly, child-like, Christ-like.