Bell Creek Community Church

A non-denominational church in Livonia, Michigan with Biblical teaching, worship, and kid's ministries.

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David Murray blogs on ministry, leadership, preaching, counseling, technology, and theology.
Updated: 2 hours 37 min ago

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Wed, 02/21/2018 - 1:00am
Blogs

The Missing Word in Our Modern Gospel
“There’s a word missing from the presentation of our modern gospel. It’s the word repent. Yeah, I know, that sounds old school, like an embarrassing sidewalk preacher with a sandwich board and cheap tracts with bad graphics and lots of exclamation points. And yet, even a cursory glance at the New Testament demonstrates that we haven’t understood the message of the gospel if we never talk about repentance.”

I have forgotten how to read
“For a long time Michael Harris convinced himself that a childhood spent immersed in old-fashioned books would insulate him from our new media climate – that he could keep on reading in the old way because his mind was formed in pre-internet days. He was wrong”

Does It Bother You That God Barred Moses from the Promised Land?
“Numbers 20 doesn’t bother me anymore. It challenges me, as God always intended it to. I’m thankful for the warning this story provides. I’m thankful also that even in this act of judgment, God’s heart of holy love shines.”

5 Reasons Emotional Intelligence Is so Important for Leaders
“Emotional intelligence is the extent to which someone is able to understand, filter through, and leverage his or her emotions in order to accomplish a task.It is an interpersonal, intangible set of abilities. And whereas your IQ is a constant, EQ can be developed and increased. ”

Gather Your Seashells while Ye May
How Don’t Waste Your Life inspired a generation to limit theirs.

Mass Shootings, Mental Illness, and Local Church Ministry
“Yes, I believe the church should have a more active voice in the conversations around mental illness, but it is unwise for a church to begin talking about mental illness in the immediate aftermath of these kinds of tragedies.

Kindle Books

What Happens After I Die? by Michael Allen Rogers $2.99.

Killing Calvinism: How to Destroy a Perfectly Good Theology from the Inside by Greg Dutcher $5.78

The Absurdity of Unbelief: A Worldview Apologetic of the Christian Faith by Jeffrey D. Johnson $0.99

Digital Technology is Killing our Minds

Tue, 02/20/2018 - 1:00am

We have gained much from technology, but we have also lost much. It has enhanced our lives, but it’s also (slowly) killing our lives. I want to highlight its murderous power over the next few days, starting with how it’s killing our minds

Digital technology is killing our concentration

How tech ate the media and our minds – Axios

Our brains have been literally swamped and reprogrammed. We spend around 6 hours per day consuming digital media. As a result, the human attention span has fallen from 12 seconds to eight seconds since 2000, while the goldfish attention span is nine seconds.

Digital technology is killing our IQ

The Great Disconnect: MegaHERTZ to MegaHURTS

University of London found people who multitasked during cognitive tasks experienced IQ score declines similar to if they had smoked marijuana or stayed up all night. IQ drops of 15 points for multitasking men lowered their scores to the average range of an 8 year old child.

Digital technology is killing our reading

It’s A Problem Literature Reading Is Low. ‘Digital Temperance’ Can Help

Christopher Ingraham reported for the Post last year that the percentage of Americans who read literary content has dropped to at least a three-decade low. In 2015, less than half of Americans reported reading at least one work of literature—down from 57 percent in 1982.

Digital technology is killing our memory

Memorizing Scripture texts and references has become a lost art because we just need the odd word and a rough idea of location to Google the verse. We think we know things but all we know is that we can find it on Google.

Digital technology is killing our problem solving.

We don’t work at answering questions, puzzling something through, but, again, just Google it. In YouTube is my Father, Michael Anthony Adams describes how YouTube has become his substitute father, teaching him things like how to tie a tie and fix a flat.

Digital Technology is killing our creativity

Are You Suffocating Your Creativity?

With nearly every technological advancement comes secondary effects. Most of these are unseen and certainly not intended. One such area involves free time to simply think. This is an open time when we can allow our minds to wander a bit and latch onto things that we may not normally have the opportunity to think through. I believe this free space is vital and increasingly being diminished…It’s like we are allergic to mental down time. There is no space for deep thinking, creativity, or dreaming when we are constantly distracted or diverted by our technology.

Previous Posts: Technology is Created by GodTechnology is the Gift of GodTechnology Reveals God, The Dangers of Digital Babylon

The Dangers of Digital Babylon (1)

Mon, 02/19/2018 - 2:00am

A few thousand years ago, God sent his people into Babylonian exile where they had to live in a culture that was extremely hostile to them and their faith. Yet God called them to continue to seek the good of the land, to have children, and parent them for his glory (Jer. 29:4-14).

Although we are not in physical Babylon, we are very much living in digital Babylon, an all-pervasive digital culture extremely hostile to the Christian faith and true spirituality. I believe digital Babylon is at least as dangerous as historical Babylon. Historical Babylon slew its thousands but digital Babylon its tens of thousands.

Although hundreds of thousands were taken into Babylonian captivity, seventy years later, when God called them to return to Israel, only several thousand actually did so. The rest had been thoroughly Babylonized over the years. If we want to avoid that in digital Babylon, we need to clearly identify the digital dangers we are facing and the damage they are doing.

This is vital because those who do so and can get digital technology under control are going to be uniquely placed to excel – intellectually, relationally, vocationally, educationally, and financially. There is no surer way to stand out and gain a massive “competitive advantage” in every area of life, relationships, and work.

But control (or lack of it) of our devices is also the biggest determinant of our spiritual health, growth, and usefulness. If we want to grow in grace and in the knowledge of Jesus Christ, we must grow in digital self-discipline

I’m 100% convinced that there’s nothing more important for individual Christians than to get digital technology under control. I really mean that. This is going to make or break our Christian lives, our families, and our churches for decades to come.

This is a multi-dimensional problem with multi-dimensional solutions. It’s going to require some eye-gouging and some hand-amputation (Matt. 5:29). It will involve much putting off and much putting on (Eph. 4:22-24). But life on the other side of this will be so worth it that we may eventually look back with shock and horror, asking one another, “What. Was. I. Doing?”

Over the coming days, I’m going to be highlighting how digital Babylon threatens this generation

Previous Posts: Technology is Created by GodTechnology is the Gift of God, Technology Reveals God,

Check out

Mon, 02/19/2018 - 1:00am
Blogs

Four guidelines for mental health issues and the church
“Developing pastoral practices and a church environment that welcomes people who struggle with mental health issues requires awareness, intentionality, and wisdom, but every effort a church makes, both great and small, offers new hope and practical help to the silent sufferers among us.”

18 Questions about Faith and Mental Illness
“As I’ve read, counseled, and thought about the subject of mental illness, here are some of the questions that have emerged. ”

Getting Beyond the Stigma of Mental Illness
The study found that pastors and churches want to help those who experience mental illness. But those good intentions don’t always lead to effective ministry.

Heath Lambert’s Story of Abuse
This is a remarkable testimony to the grace and power of God

Kindle Books

Heaven by Christopher W. Morgan and others $2.99.

A Loving Life: In a World of Broken Relationships by Paul E. Miller $3.19.

The Unquenchable Flame: Discovering the Heart of the Reformation  by Michael Reeves $2.99.

Are you a policeman?

Fri, 02/16/2018 - 1:00am

Here’s the video to show your kids at the end of Expedition Seven of Exploring the BibleIf you want to bookmark a page where all the videos will eventually appear, you can find them on my blog, on YouTube, or the Facebook page for Exploring the Bible.

If you haven’t started your kids on the book yet, you can begin anytime and use it with any Bible version. Here are some sample pages.

You can get it at RHBWestminster BooksCrossway, or Amazon. Some of these retailers have good discounts for bulk purchases by churches and schools.

Digital Doxology (3): Technology Reveals God

Thu, 02/15/2018 - 2:00am

The world is the theater of God’s glory. But it’s not just beautiful natural landscapes that motivate our worship; it’s beautiful work as well, even when done by unbelievers.

Who can look at an apple and not worship God? Who can look at an Apple and not worship God. The simplest natural product and the most sophisticated digital product both provoke and promote worship.

Why is that?

It’s because both reveal God in ways that lead us to admire his attributes. Here, for example, are six attributes of God that are revealed in technology,  providing lyrics of praise to God.

Technology makes us worship God’s wisdom: It’s God’s mind that conceived of silicon, radio waves, fiber-optics, light, electricity, magnetism, space travel, rocket fuel, etc. It’s God’s mind that put sufficient general principles in Scripture to guide our use of technology

Technology makes us worship God’s creativity: Behind every good invention and ingenious design is The Inventor and The Designer.

Technology makes us worship God’s goodness: How thankful we should be that we are living in an age of such life-saving and life-enhancing technology.

Technology makes us worship God’s power: It’s mind-blowing to think of the amount of energy that technology uses every day – hundreds of billions of kilowatts – and yet that’s just a little part of God’s great power.

Technology makes us worship God’s patience: What incredible patience and longsuffering that sees such good gifts taken, abused and turned against the Creator and His creatures, and yet He still spares us and our world.

Technology makes us worship God’s grace:  because our overuse and abuse make us realize how much we need his grace of forgiveness for our sins and the grace of his Holy Spirit to deliver us from tech enslavement.

Previous Posts: Technology is Created by God, Technology is the Gift of God

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Thu, 02/15/2018 - 1:00am
Blogs

1 in 5 college students have anxiety or depression
“Teenagers, he warns, are increasingly pushing into splitting their attention between a virtual life and the real world, meaning there is no ‘switch off’ ”

America’s Real Digital Divide
“A group of former Facebook and Google employees last week began a campaign to change the tech companies they had a hand in creating. The initiative, called Truth About Tech, aims to push these companies to make their products less addictive for children — and it’s a good start.”

The Slow Miracle of the Lord’s Day
“”God’s intention was to bless his people through the constant and conscientious observation of the [Sabbath], week after week and year after year. Believers are sanctified through a lifetime of Sabbath observance. In other words, the Sabbath is designed to work slowly, quietly, seemingly imperceptively in reorienting believers’ appetites heavenward. It is not a quick fix, nor is it necessarily a spiritual high. It is an ‘outward and ordinary’ ordinance, part of the steady and healthy diet of the means of grace.”

Trusting God in the Decision to Care for a Loved One
“Approximately 34.2 million Americans have provided unpaid care to an adult aged 50 or older in the past 12 months. The majority of caregivers are female (60 percent)… These statistics reveal that at some point in our lives, most of us will be faced with the decision to care for a loved one—sometimes sooner than we expect.”

The Effects of Sleep on Your Relationship
“We are aware of the effects sleep has on our mood, cognition, and performance, but we may not realize that our relationships also depend on it. Relationships depend on decision making, shared responsibility, even humor and attractiveness. Sleep deprivation affects all of those aspects ultimately leading to a less than ideal partnership.”

What City Was Once “The Jerusalem of the East?”
Don’t give up praying for the liberation of North Korea. I grew up when the “iron curtain” looked impregnable.

What do you think of when you hear “Pyongyang”? Despite what it means now, Pyongyang once stood as a symbol of faith, evangelical fervor, and theological fidelity. Perhaps naïve, but I join many around the world in praying for Pyongyang that it will once again become the shining light on a hill where Christ is known and proclaimed.

A Simple Treatment for Ministry Weariness
“Follow God’s prescription for Elijah: Eat. Sleep. Get time with the Lord. ”

Kindle Books

Loving the Way Jesus Loves  by Philip Graham Ryken $3.19.

Awakening the Evangelical Mind: An Intellectual History of the Neo-Evangelical Movement by Owen Strachan $6.99.

Christians in an Age of Wealth: A Biblical Theology of Stewardship by Craig L. Blomberg $7.99

Digital Doxology (2): Technology is the Gift of God

Wed, 02/14/2018 - 2:00am

Yesterday we started forming the Digital Doxology Choir, and provided the lyrics of their first praise song. Today, we want to add a second verse based upon the second biblical principle for digital technology: Technology is the gift of God.

When we see so much carnage resulting from the digital revolution, we are tempted to view technology as simply the spawn of hell. But just because the devil uses it to destroy, doesn’t mean God never gave it as a good gift to his people. Let’s remind ourselves of the goodness of God in the wonderful benefits that technology has brought us.

Health Benefits: Many of us wouldn’t be alive today were it not for God’s gift of technology in various diagnostics, surgeries, etc. Technology has increased the quantity and quality of our lives.

Family Benefits: Distant families can communicate in voice and video via Skype or Facetime. No wires, no delay, no cost, no hassle. It’s absolutely incredible. We can share photos and news with families with one quick click

Financial Benefits: Online banking, online shopping, online investing, etc.

Administrative Benefits: Digital storage, word-processing, email, scheduling, accounting software, tax filing, etc.

Educational Benefits: Online education, MOOCs, homeschooling resources, access to less-biased media, whole libraries on one Kindle.

Publishing Benefits: Everyone’s a film-maker and everyone’s a publisher.

Spiritual Benefits: Christian sermons books, articles, blogs, podcasts from the best speakers and writers. Connections with other Christians from other backgrounds. Access to current Christian comment on latest moral and ethical dilemmas.

Ministry Benefits: Logos Bible Software, access to books and online libraries, outreach to local and international mission fields via Facebook, internet radio, sermonaudio, etc.

I work at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary and sometimes when we are enjoying the beauty of Reformed and Puritan theology, someone will ask, “Don’t you wish you were alive in these days?”

I have to be honest, I don’t. I’m glad to live in our own day with all its technological blessings and benefits. God is so good! We trace all these good gifts to our good Giver. ”Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning” (James 1:17).

Why is it so important to recognize that technology is a gift of God?

When someone we love gives us a precious gift, our affection for that person will make us look after that gift far more than one from a stranger. Therefore the more we see technology as the good gift of our heavenly father, the more we will abhor taking his good gift and using it against him; and the more we will take his gift and use it as he intended.

Like all of God’s good gifts, technology has been perverted and abused by the devil and by sinful men and women. That means we need to exercise great discernment and care in our use of technology. But it doesn’t change the fact that it is a good gift from a good God to underserving sinners.

Check out

Wed, 02/14/2018 - 1:00am
Blogs

Marriage Tune Up: Five Books, Five Questions
Here are five questions to ask yourself and your spouse on Valentine’s Day.

Looming Debate Over SSA
Rick Philips discusses the problem of affirming same-sex-attraction or “gay Christian” as a Christian category.

Advice to Guys Who Want to Date My Daughters
“Men, you can do this! You can show manful care. Bring glory to Christ by being countercultural in your dateless, sex-saturated generation where men have the backbone of a jellyfish.”

Preacher’s Toolkit: How Do I Teach Difficult Doctrines without Splitting the Church?
“Doctrine does not have to divide, however, if a pastor will employ a few basic strategies when he encounters a difficult or controversial doctrine in the Bible.”

Science Says Silence Is Much More Important To Our Brains Than We Think
Here’s an easy way to a bigger and better brain (as well as improved mental health).

Why Monday Is Your Most Productive Day Of The Week
Even if it doesn’t feel like it. Here’s how to make the most of it.

Planning a Wedding? Say Yes to the Guests and Spend Less on the Dress
“The evidence suggests that the types of weddings associated with lower likelihood of divorce are those that are relatively inexpensive but are high in attendance.”

Kindle Books

How Can I Serve God at Work? by Ray Pennings $0.99.

Understanding Biblical Theology: A Comparison of Theory and Practice by Edward W Klink III and Darian R. Lockett $5.99.

Because He Loves Me: How Christ Transforms Our Daily Life by Elyse M. Fitzpatrick $3.99.

Video

Yesterday would have been R.C. Sproul’s seventy-ninth birthday. Watch this message from the Ligonier team.

Digital Doxology (1): God Created Technology

Tue, 02/13/2018 - 2:00am

Let’s praise God for digital technology!

“What? Have you no idea how dangerous digital technology is? Don’t you know that even many secular studies are warning about the peril of our digital devices? I mean, even Facebook directors and shareholders are sounding the alarm. And you want to praise God for digital technology?”

Yes, I do, and so should you, because, as I’ll show you in a minute, it’s right to do so and we have plenty reason to do so. But I also believe that by starting with positive praise, we have a better chance of getting a hearing for our later negative critiques. So, yes, I’m going to warn and caution, but not before I appreciate and praise.

So let’s now turn to the Bible.

“What? The Bible? What’s the Bible got to say about smartphones and snapchat?”

Nothing specifically, but everything in terms of general principles of guidance and direction.

“What do you mean?”

Well, you’re right, the Bible does not give an specific rules about digital technology. However, God has placed sufficient general principles in the Bible so that with the help of prayer and the Holy Spirit we can identify the relevant general principles and then apply them to today’s specific technological challenges.

“Right, hit me with it then. What does the Bible teach about technology?”

The first general principle we find in the Bible is that technology is created by God.

“O, come on, be serious, technology is of the Devil.”

No, the devil did not create technology, neither did Apple, Facebook, Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerburg. The devil may abuse technology but God created it. Tech companies, and tech-titans may discover technology, but only because God had already created it.

“OK, so where’s the iPhone in Genesis 1?”

It’s there alright, not in finished form of course, but God created all the physical elements that manufacturers use to produce technology and he did it knowing that all these things would be required to make the iPhone. He also created the forces and powers that we need to make technology work: magnetism, electricity, radio-waves, and so on. And his creative work continues in the sense that he creates and directs the human minds that discovered and invented the silicon chip, the internet, fiber optics, and so on.

God is the ultimate Inventor of everything. He just allows men and women to discover what he has already invented. And that’s the first reason why I say, “Let’s worship God for digital technology. Because God created its materials, its forces, and its inventors brains and skills.”

And if you want a verse for that, try this one: “For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him” (Col. 1:16). Or “All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made” (John 1:3).

I’ll give you a second reason to amp up the praise tomorrow.

Check out

Tue, 02/13/2018 - 1:00am
Blogs

How to Teach Boys to Respect Women
“First, fathers and male teachers, especially, can highlight the ways they learn from and are sharpened by godly, strong women—from the biblical examples of such leaders as Ruth and Priscilla and Lydia and our Lord’s mother Mary to our more immediate mothers- and sisters-in-Christ. If you are married, men, pay attention and give respect to the counsel of your wife. If you are a pastor, do not patronize women in your sermon illustrations or introductions. Highlight the creation and eschaton callings of women bound up in our common inheritance.”

4 Things I Learned from Stealing Credit Cards and Buying Beer in High School
Here’s an encouraging testimony for parents who are struggling with rebellious teens:

“One night a couple of friends and I foolishly broke into vehicles, stole credit cards, and drove throughout New Orleans buying beer and other things on the cash and credit cards we stole. We were arrested and charged with eleven felonies. The news hit the paper and the shame and guilt quickly consumed me. In God’s mercy, the night that was the worst night of my life was what He used to crush me and bring me to Himself. Here are four things I learned.”

What Christians Should Know About Embryo Adoption
“A hallmark of the evangelical church in America is the backing of a pro-life worldview. As such, abortion clinics and the politics that govern them are primary areas of focus in this important cause. However, there’s another front that often gets overlooked in the fight for life: the state of the thousands of children who remain cryogenically frozen as human embryos following in-vitro fertilization cycles.”

Five Reasons Why the Children’s Minister Is the Staff Position in Greatest Demand
The staff position of the greatest demand in congregations is the children’s minister.

Know These Signs Of Domestic Abuse So You Can Help
“Many abusive partners may seem absolutely perfect in the early stages of a relationship. Possessive and controlling behaviors don’t always appear overnight, but rather emerge and intensify as the relationship grows.” Warning signs that a relationship may be abusive include a partner who:”

Pornography, Respect, and Responsibility: A Letter to the Hotel Industry
“A letter on pornography and business ethics written by two prominent public intellectuals—one a Christian, one a Muslim—sent to hotel industry executives last week.”

Life In Post-Christian Britain
“American readers, especially Christians, so many of us think it can’t happen here. It can, and it will.”

Kindle Books

Being There: How to Love Those Who Are Hurting by Dave Furman $3.99.

I Exalt You, O God: Encountering His Greatness in Your Private Worship by Jerry Bridges $5.99.

Faith. Hope. Love.: The Christ-Centered Way to Grow in Grace by Mark Jones $4.99.

Who’s the Worship Leader when there’s no “Worship Leader”?

Mon, 02/12/2018 - 2:00am

Over the past years, I’ve been in a number of churches and conference settings where the worship was led by a worship leader or worship pastor. For those not familiar with the idea, in churches this is often a full-time paid position, sometimes a part-time position, and sometimes just voluntary. The worship leader is often involved in selecting the songs in consultation with the preacher, training musicians and singers, practicing through the week, and teaching the principles and practice of worship. Whether full-time or part-time, the climax of the work each week is leading the worship at the Sunday services.

I’ve seen this done really badly and I’ve seen it done really well. More recently, I’ve seen some good examples of this and appreciated the difference it’s made to the worship experience. It can be especially helpful in teaching and training people with no church background how to  worship God.

So, should conservative reformed churches adopt this practice?

Some of my Presbyterian friends will say, “Our precentor is our worship leader.” For those of you unfamiliar with this term, this is a person who leads the singing in Psalm-singing churches that do not use instrumental music. However, it’s hardly comparable to the modern day “worship leader.” Usually the precentor is given the psalms by the pastor just before the church service and he has a few minutes to choose the tunes and then sing the first few words in the hope that the congregation will recognize the tune and join in before too long. At its best, it’s heaven on earth; at its worst, well….

Some of my Dutch Reformed friends will say, “Our organist is the worship leader.” It’s true that the organist probably exercises the greatest influence over such worship services. An organist can make or break worship services. But should the organist be the most influential person in the worship?

Modern Innovation?
Many of my conservative reformed friends will be resistant to the modern idea of a “worship leader” and certainly of a “worship pastor.” They will view it as a modern innovation. “We never had them in the past. Why should we need them today?”

I’m sympathetic to this argument, especially because I’ve seen some really awful examples, where the worship leader ended up becoming the only worshipper, or, even worse, ended up being the one worshipped!

So let me suggest a “compromise,” one that I believe is biblical. Reformed pastors should view themselves not only as preachers but as worship leaders. Very few do. If you doubt that, ask how long most reformed pastors spend preparing their sermons, and then how long they spend preparing the worship. I know, I know, the sermon is the worship too; but I’m speaking especially here of the singing part of worship.

Let’s assume I’m right, that reformed pastors should be not only the best preachers they can be, but the best worship leaders they can be. What would this look like? How can a reformed pastor grow in his ability as a worship leader? Here are some basic steps to begin with.

1. Regularly teach the congregation about the elements of worship. Don’t assume that people know why we worship the way we do. By way of sermons, book recommendations, small booklets, articles, and occasional brief comments introducing the elements of worship, explain what we are doing and why.

2. Motivate people with the benefits of worship. Encourage worshippers by reminding them of how worship has a heavenward,  outward, and inward impact. Explain how God is pleased, unbelievers are impressed, and souls are healed via songs of praise.

3. Choose appropriate songs. Too often this is done at the last minute and almost as an afterthought to sermon preparation. The reformed worship leader should select songs that will form a fitting beginning, middle, and ending to the worship service, as well as fit the theme of the sermon. Songs should not simply be the pastor’s or the congregations favorites. And sometimes explain why you chose the song and the connection with the sermon.

4. Model a true worshipper. This is where I believe there is greatest room for reformation in reformed congregations. Way too often, the preacher is hardly opening his mouth during the worship songs. He is looking around the congregation, shuffling his papers, or just half-heartedly mumbling the words while his mind is clearly elsewhere. This must inevitably undermine the congregation’s worship. The pastor has a responsibility to be one of the most enthused and engaged worshippers in the whole congregation, in the hope that his example excites and ignites the whole congregation.

At this point I hear some objections rising up.

“But I’m not a singer.” Turn off your mic then and make a “joyful noise” to the Lord even if you can’t make a joyful harmony. If the sound of your worship can’t inspire others, the sight of your worship can.

“But I don’t want to be the center of attention.” You already are. You’re standing at the front, you’re visible to everyone, you’re the representative of God to the people and of the people to God. Accept the reality of this and take the responsibility for it. No one is asking you to raise or clap your hands. Just open your mouth wider and at least look alive.

“But I don’t want to be an actor.” Why assume that a vigorous worshipper is an actor? Maybe this gets to the heart of the problem, that worship is not in the heart. If true worship is in the heart, will it not naturally break out in at least the face and lips? I must confess sometimes I have acted in worship — but the act was to maintain a stoic “reformed” expression when my heart was bursting at the seams with joy. That kind of acting has got to be wrong.

“But people will think I’ve gone charismatic.” Seriously? Just because you look up from your psalter/hymnal from time to time, and actually put some energy into singing? Ever had a look into heavenly worship (Rev. 4, 5, 14, 15, 19, 22)?

“But this will feel so uncomfortable.” Initially, yes. But so did preaching at first, didn’t it? You’ll get used to it and so will the congregation. And think of the gain, not just the pain. Imagine the possibility of improved worship bringing more glory to God and more good to souls.

“But is this really that important?” Whether you’re Psalms, Hymns or CCM; whether you have a worship leader or are the worship leader, the principles of Keith Getty’s words are relevant:

“Singing isn’t just some side-subject. Singing is the second most common command in Scripture. So it has to be absolutely crucially important for the spiritual transformation of the individual, the family, the church, and the witness to the community…So any pastor who isn’t taking an active role in the leading of worship and working closely with his worship leader is probably abdicating his responsibilities.”

The Spirit of the Age: Age of the Spirit

Mon, 02/12/2018 - 1:00am

More details here.

Saved from Slavery (Video)

Fri, 02/09/2018 - 2:00am

Here’s the video to show your kids at the end of Expedition Six of Exploring the BibleIf you want to bookmark a page where all the videos will eventually appear, you can find them on my blog, on YouTube, or the Facebook page for Exploring the Bible.

If you haven’t started your kids on the book yet, you can begin anytime and use it with any Bible version.

You can get it at RHBWestminster BooksCrossway, or Amazon. Some of these retailers have good discounts for bulk purchases by churches and schools.

Check out

Fri, 02/09/2018 - 1:00am
Blogs

Entrepreneur developed a solution to smartphone addiction now used in over 600 U.S. schools
“I don’t think people realize how radically different it is to be a human being with a phone in your pocket,” he said. “If it becomes something that’s going to hollow out the meaning in your life, that’s something we’re going to have to address. … All we’re saying is, step into a phone-free zone; see what that’s like for a while.”"

Why we need kind, compassionate dialogue about mental illness
“We need to talk about mental illness. But more than that, we need kindness and compassion. And we definitely don’t need simplistic remedies that betray ignorance.”

31 questions to ask for a more Christ-centered 2018
These are great questions for discipleship and positive counseling.

Brokenness Is Not a Barrier
This is quite the story. Looks like a book well worth a place in your library.

“I wish I had a fairy-tale ending to share, but I’m still disabled. I’m unable to do normal, everyday things: play ball with my kids, drive our car, open the car door or put my seatbelt on by myself. I can’t even pick up a glass of water or hold a book. I’m in pain 100 percent of the time. Joy is a daily, often hourly, fight.”

There’s Dignity at Work for the Gleaner and the Businessperson, Too
“When people learn what their work is worth in God’s eyes, they are freed to work with all their might for him and the good of others. They actually become better workers, recognizing that God has called them to responsibly steward all of their lives for his glory and the benefit of their neighbor.”

Is Homosexual Practice No Worse Than Any Other Sin? by Robert A. J. Gagnon
“As we shall see, there is a mountain of evidence from Scripture (in addition to reason and experience) that shows (1) sins do differ in significance to God and (2) God regards homosexual practice as a particularly severe sexual sin.

Kindle Books

The Silent Shepherd: The Care, Comfort, and Correction of the Holy Spirit by John MacArthur Jr. $2.39.

The Company We Keep: In Search of Biblical Friendship by Jonathan Holmes $2.99. EXCELLENT BOOK.

New Book

Kiss the Wave: Embracing God in Your Trials by Dave Furman.

The Competitive Advantage of Digital Discipline

Wed, 02/07/2018 - 2:00am

Listen to the Revive our Hearts series of broadcasts on Refresh here.

Check out

Wed, 02/07/2018 - 1:00am
Blogs

How does food expose the activity in a pastor’s soul?
“Pastors, be honest with the place food has in your life. It took me thirty years before I was honest about it. It will always be a battle for me. I assure you, the soul will continue to languish in the pain and sadness that exists that food tries to cover. Remember, God’s grace will meet you in that place of openness and honesty and will give you strength to walk in self-control and victory with the snares that food brings. It will create a space in your soul that will bring the relief and peace that you truly seek.”

The Effective Leader: Five Essential Habits
“What I’ve discovered in studying effective leaders is that they demonstrate consistent disciplines or habits that build the foundation for their success.”

On Writing Books and Getting Published
L
ots of helpful advice here from Kevin DeYoung.

10 types of thinking that undergird depression-anxiety
“There are styles of thinking that are highly prone to cause and perpetuate depression-anxiety. The first step for someone to stop biting their nails is to realize they are doing it. Likewise, an important step in overcoming depression-anxiety is to recognize these patterns of thought as they are occurring.”

The Power of De-Conversion Stories: How Jen Hatmaker is Trying to Change Minds About the Bible
“De-conversion stories are designed not to reach non-Christians but to reach Christians.  And their purpose is to convince them that their crusty, backwards, outdated, naïve beliefs are no longer worthy of their assent.  Whether done privately or publicly, this is when a person simply gives their testimony of how they once thought like you did and have now seen the light.”

The Benefits of Listening to the Elderly
Sweet little story.

Kindle Books

The Son of God and the New Creation by Graeme Goldsworthy $3.99.

Work and Our Labor in the Lord by James M. Hamilton Jr. $3.99

Marriage and the Mystery of the Gospel by Raymond C. Ortlund Jr. $3.99

The Book on Leadership by John F. MacArthur $2.99.

Why do Churches cover up sin?

Mon, 02/05/2018 - 2:00am

Over the past few weeks, many questions have been asked about why professional institutions like Michigan State University and the United States Gymnastic Association would cover up Larry Nassar’s crimes.

But these events force another painful question to the surface. Why do churches also do this? Why do Christians cover up similar sin within the church? The same questions can be asked of para-church ministries and institutions, and all of what follows here is applicable to them too.

I’ve seen and heard of multiple occasions on both sides of the Atlantic where good people (and some not so good) have made horrendous decisions about how to handle complaints against individuals within the church. Time and again I’ve found myself utterly perplexed: “Why are they doing this? How can they do that? What is their motivation?”

As I’ve processed this agony and listened to people who have made bad decisions in these situations, I’ve come to realize there is no one reason that explains everybody. Instead there are numerous possible motivations, and often a few are found in the same heart.

I’m going to list the various motivations I’ve discovered over the years with a view to helping Christians in positions of power examine themselves as they make decisions and judgments going forwards. But, before that,  a few caveats are in order.

First, This is not about one church or institution. I’m not referring to any particular case.

Second, this is not about recriminations about the past. It’s more about offering help and guidance for the future. It’s a kind of checklist to help men test their motives and therefore make purer decisions.

Third, I’m going to be referring to “men” throughout because, in most church situations, it’s men that are making these decisions.

Fourth, just because men find someone not guilty who is actually guilty may be a genuine mistake. It’s part of the pain of earthly justice, that men can make sincerely wrong judgments. When people make misjudgments we disagree with, we should not jump to the conclusion that they are corrupt and they are trying to cover up sin.

Fifth, many (I hope most) churches do the right thing. We only hear of the bad examples and the media only expose the cover-ups (as they should). However, there are many Christians who bravely and courageously stand up against evil and protect the innocent.

With these caveats in place, why do Christian churches, institutions, and ministries cover up sin?

Genuine belief in innocence: I just said that men can be sincerely wrong in their judgments and that we shouldn’t immediately condemn them as corrupt if they find a guilty person not guilty. However, this genuine belief in someone’s innocence can sometimes lead to a refusal to fairly consider evidence or even hear the accusers. That is corrupt and wrong.

Management approach: Some men who have been in positions of leadership for a long time can become pragmatic managers more than principled leaders. Their instinct when faced with serious accusations against someone is to manage the situation, to find a middle way, to take the path of minimal stress, to put peace above principle, to replace truth with accommodation and compromise. “Let’s see if we can come to some arrangement here.”

Gifted offender: Sometimes the accused is a man of great gifts and usefulness in the church or organization. It might seem that to lose him would sink the church or ministry. If an ordinary person were accused of the same thing, the approach would be much swifter and more serious, but charisma skews the judgment. “What a pity it would be to lose such a gifted preacher.”

Personal blessing: Related to the above, many have been blessed through the man’s ministry. Some were converted under him. Others were called to the ministry through him. Still others were brought to see the glory of Christ in a new way. God used him to guide people through dark times. This creates a spiritual and psychological debt and an obstacle to just judgment. “How can he be guilty if he’s been such a blessing to my life?”

Friendship: There can be a false sense of loyalty to someone due to a long and valued relationship with them. “How can I do this to a friend?” Or it may be a fear of losing friends who support the accused. Loyalty to men takes precedence over loyalty to God.

Lack of friendship: While the accused can benefit from the misplaced loyalty of so-called friends, victims can suffer from being unknown to the church or the examining committee. There’s no personal connection, there’s no relationship. Sometimes it’s only a written statement that’s before men looking at the case. Indeed, the accused’s defenders will often go to some lengths to prevent any direct contact with or examination of victims because they fear the power of that encounter. It’s far easier to dismiss the accusations of faceless strangers than the defenses of long-time friends.

Loss of reputation: If this gets out, the media will be all over it and our reputation will be destroyed. Or, perhaps it’s more “local” as people consider the impact on their own families. “What will people think?” or “How could I explain this to my unconverted children?”

Financial loss: Often related to the above. The loss of this person will mean the loss of money, the loss of some in the congregation, the loss of some donors. “We can’t afford to lose him and his supporters.”

Loss of career: I hate to acknowledge this, but sometimes men are afraid to ruin their chances of promotion within churches, or moves to other churches, or conference invites, or publishing contracts, and so on. “If I get involved in this, I’ll never be accepted in the ‘in’ crowd.”

Stalled agenda: Perhaps this person was at the forefront of a particular agenda within the church. It could be a modernizing agenda or a conserving agenda. Or it could be a particular theological or practical emphasis. If he goes down, then that agenda goes down too. “We don’t want to lose the leader of our party.”

Ignorance of effects: It’s very difficult for some men to grasp the long and serious psychological consequences of sex offenses, and that leads them to minimize the offense. “It was just a kiss…What’s in a cuddle?…He didn’t go the whole way….It was a long time ago…” 

“Weak” accuser: Some men target women who are unlikely to be believed, either due to their age, personality, background, or circumstances, knowing that they will win any credibility battle. “Are you really going to believe her/them instead of him?”

The accuser’s supporters: Sometimes supporters of victims can be over-zealous and can say and do things that rub establishment types up the wrong way. Sometimes people with their own personal agenda and mixed motives can attach themselves to victims as their “advocates.” In both situations, the establishment then closes ranks and the victim is forgotten in the cross-fire. “We’re not going to let that guy/group beat us.”

The judges’ pasts: Men who are in positions of judgment have sinned in similar ways as the accused. They don’t have a clear conscience and therefore cannot deal truthfully with other people’s sins. In one case I know of, the accused had, over the years, counseled many men with various problems. Men had disclosed their deepest secrets to him. Some were terrified that if they found him guilty, he would reveal their own secrets. They used “Let him who is without sin, cast the first stone….” as a defense of inaction.

Dug into a hole: Men can dig themselves into such a deep hole by defending the accused to the hilt at the beginning, that they make it very difficult to change their mind when more and more evidence is revealed. “I don’t want to be proved wrong.” But if you’re in a hole, you not only need to stop digging, you need to get out and fill in the hole.

False view of sovereignty: Some men take the theological high ground and say that God is sovereign and God is judge and we should therefore wash our hands of the matter and trust God to act. But they refuse to see that the Sovereign Judge has also called men to judge on his behalf. Once we have taken responsibility and done all we can, then we may eventually have to say, “We have to trust the Lord to put this right.” But we don’t say that up front.

Abusing grace and peace: “Aren’t we all about forgiveness and second chances?” “Shouldn’t we just love one another?” Related to this is also the ”peace” card: “What will the world say if we are just fighting one another and condemning one another.”  “Disunity is a bad witness.”

Intimidation: The accused often has very loud and confident advocates acting on their behalf and sometimes the loudest voices silence any opposing voices. “Procedure” can also be used to by adept administrators and bureaucrats to silence or stifle legitimate questions and investigations.

Inexperience: Men who have never dealt with serious accusations like these, or dealt with such deceitful men, have no idea what to look out for. Instead of calling in professionals immediately, they bumble around making lots of amateurish mistakes which they then try to cover and hide as their folly is realized.

Fear of condemning the innocent: This is a genuine and legitimate concern. It’s a huge responsibility to have to come to a judgment of guilt. Some men fear making a mistake here so much that they forget the equally serious error of failing to protect genuine victims.

As I said at the beginning, let’s use this checklist not for past recrimination but for future self-examination, to purify our motives when we’re called to make judgments on serious cases. I know my own deceitful heart and I’ve felt the tug of all these temptations when called to make costly decisions in these areas.

And if you’ve ever succumbed to the pressure, bring your sin to the Savior of sinners, confess it, and you will find mercy (1 John 1:9). But then go and sin no more. And, if you can, go and put the wrong right — privately certainly, and publicly if necessary. And do it before you stand accused before the Judge of all the earth who will do right (Gen. 18:25)

Check out

Mon, 02/05/2018 - 1:00am
Blogs

Longing for likes: How to capture the hearts of Gen Z with a greater love
“This hyper-connected, hyper-concerned generation in on a quest for transcendent love. With bold love and kind invitations, let’s show them their value and invite them into a better story. Let’s help them put down their devices and find deeper satisfaction in Jesus.”

Perfectionism Is Increasing, and That’s Not Good News
“There is growing evidence that the increase in psychological ill-health of young people may stem from the excessive standards that they hold for themselves and the harsh self-punishment they routinely engage in. Increasingly, young people hold irrational ideals for themselves, ideals that manifest in unrealistic expectations for academic and professional achievement, how they should look, and what they should own. Young people are seemingly internalizing a pre-eminent contemporary myth that things, including themselves, should be perfect.”

Heavenly Stepping-Stones
“The Lord has clearly laid out the stepping-stones for us. Following His steps each Lord’s Day will help prepare and lead us eagerly to our final meeting with Him.”

The End of Anonymous Access to Pornography?
“This new law will not eliminate pornography.  And, yes, lots of people will sign up so they can keep accessing porn.  But doing so will no longer be anonymous.  Removing the veil of anonymity will have an inhibiting effect.  At least with individuals who know, deep down, that it is wrong.”

Who Watches Porn? 3 Key Predictors of Porn Use
Pornography reveals your sin, but far more, it reveals the themes of your life that God is relentlessly committed to transforming within you. In this way our sexual struggles are messengers. You may not like the news they bring, but they will continue to knock on the door of your heart until you listen to what they are attempting to tell you. Rather than exclusively focusing on saying ‘no’ to pornography, learn to say ‘yes’ to purpose, ‘yes’ to healing the harm of abuse, and ‘yes’ to turning to face your shame.

Kindle Books

Lincoln’s Battle with God: A President’s Struggle with Faith and What It Meant for America by Stephen Mansfield $2.99.

The Most Important Place on Earth: What a Christian Home Looks Like and How to Build One  by Robert Wolgemuth $2.99.

John Knox: Fearless Faith by Steven J. Lawson $2.99

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