The Christian message, the Christian story, goes something like this: God came to earth and we killed him.

This is a good article, with lessons for the church that apply far beyond Hillsong. When the church puts being cool above being holy, when church leadership is more concerned with relevance than faithfulness, bad things happen. The article might be behind a paywall so here are some key takeaways:

On Maundy Thursday, Jesus gave his disciples a new command: to love one another as he has loved us. While the command to love had been given in the Old Testament law, Jesus deepens and redefines that law with his own example of love, first in washing the disciples' feet, then in dying on the cross for his people (which is what the foot-washing pointed to).

This is a modified email I sent out to my congregation in August 2020, but I thought it would make a good follow up to last week's sermon on courage from Daniel 3.

 

TPC family,
 

The times we live in require courage on the part of God's people. Our faith is assailed from various angles in our culture. We need courage to hear and do God's Word. We need courage to preach the gospel in a culture that is increasingly hostile towards Jesus and his truth. We need courage to stand against influences that come from the entertainment industry, civic leaders, major corporations, and news media. We need courage to resist the temptation to panic in the face of pandemics and politicians, rioters and newscasters. Remember: There are people out there who want you to live in fear. If you become fearful, you are easier to control, easier to manipulate.

C. S. Lewis rightly regarded courage not a separate virtue but as the testing point of all the other virtues. If we lack courage, all our other supposed virtues will fail when they come under fire, which is perhaps why Scripture is so emphatic that cowards will not inherit the kingdom of God (Revelation 21:8). The Christian faith is not for cowards.

G. K. Chesterton rightly captured the paradox at the heart of courage: "Courage is almost a contradiction in terms. It means a strong desire to live taking the form of a readiness to die. A man must seek his life in a spirit of furious indifference to it; he must desire life like water, yet drink death like wine." We can further unpack Chesterton's insight: Courage means a strong desire to be liked taking the form of a readiness to be despised and vilified. Courage means a strong desire to be successful taking the form of a willingness to lose everything, if faithfulness requires it. And so on. Anais Nin further underscores the value of courage: "Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." Courage means doing the right thing even when facing your worst nightmare for doing so, but this is precisely why courage opens up new possibilities and brings us to maturation.

Alexander Solzhenitsyn noticed the waning courage of Western man in famous speech: "A decline in courage may be the most striking feature which an outside observer notices in the West in our day." He then went on to ask the question: "Should one point out that from ancient times decline in courage has been considered the beginning of the end?" Our culture is undergoing a failure of nerve, and many in the church are contributing to this deficit of courage. Billy Graham once made the point that courage can spread: "Courage is contagious. When a brave man takes a stand, the spines of others are often stiffened." But of course, cowardice can also spread like a virus through a community or a culture, leaving it in shambles.

We must set an example of courage for our children. We need to teach our children stories of noble bravery. Lewis again: "Since it is so likely our children will meet cruel enemies, let them at least have heard stories of brave knights and heroic courage."

We must remember that as Christians we are a race of dragon fighters and serpent-skull crushers. God commands us again and again in his Word to "Fear not." Our courage arises from our faith in the God who is with us. It's been rightly said, "Courage is fear that has said its prayers." Saint Patrick sang, "I bind unto myself today the strong name of the Trinity" -- and thus he did not fear any thing or any man in all of creation. We can do the same, and God helping us, we will.

Blessings,

Pastor Rich

 

In 1 Timothy 3:4-5, Paul requires that a man rule his house faithfully if he is going to rule in the household of God. The proof he is ruling his house faithfully is manifested in the faithfulness of his children. Sadly, this is a very neglected qualification for pastors and elders in the evangelical church today. If a man’s ministry is not bearing fruit in his own household, in the lives of his children, why would we expect him to be an effective shepherd in the household of God, the church? In the book of Proverbs, the rebellion of a son is often said to bring shame on his mother and father precisely because the parents are presumed to be responsible for the child’s life. They could have shepherded and disciplined his more effectively, but failed to do so. In other cases, we have explicit teaching of Scripture that good, wise parenting produces fruitfulness and faithfulness in the lives of the children (e.g., Titus 1:6), and undisciplined, unfaithful parenting leads to rebellion (e.g., 1 Sam. 3:13). Scripture is very clear: there is a deep and abiding connection between faithfulness on the part of the parents and faithfulness in their children. But how deep does that connection go? Are there any exceptions or qualifications? If a child rebels, should we always automatically conclude the parents are also to blame?