Monday, August 30, 2010
I hardly ever listen to the radio anymore. I mainly listen to classical and jazz and lots of rock when I workout. But I still want to be up to date on what music is popular and thus I browse the iTunes top charts to see what is going on.
Today Katy Perry is leading the pack. Her song "Teenage Dream" is the number one song on iTunes. She is an amazing singer and apart from the completely superficial picture of relationships and sex it is a perfectly crafted pop song. Congrats to her. This is common grace on display. What a beautiful person with extremely unique musical abilities.
But Katy Perry grieves me. She is is another classic example of the "sex on a plate" female musician. Britney, Christina, Katy... and on and on. Another girl on the long list of those who embrace glorified prostitution for the sake of music sales. Scoot your chair up to the table and consume.
I am sad for Katy. She has a fabricated image that has been created by a music industry that functions as a corporate pimp. It will use her for profit and then cast her aside when they are done with her.
I am sad that millions of young girls who don't have a clue about sex and relationships will look to her lyrics as an example to follow.
I am sad because her song "Teenage Dream" is one of the catchiest pop tunes I have heard in a long time and I love listening to it. I know that I am not alone here. This song has probably already sold millions and embodied in it is view of sex and relationships that will leave so many lonely, unsatisfied, and broken. Our idols always leave us that way.
I am sad because this song will be consumed by many too young and naive to know that it's just a lie marketed to them to make lots and lots of money.
I don't blame Katy. This is the culture that we have created and enabled to exist. We pay for it and we reap the carnage of it. She is simply the next one up and more will be sure to follow. But Katy doesn't represent the real world. Like her song "Teenage Dream" that is all it is, a dream. So what do we do?
Teach your kids, especially your daughters.
Live such transparent lives with those who don't know Jesus that they sense something different is going on. I can honestly say (by God's grace alone) that I am more satisfied with and in love with my wife today after 12 years than I have ever been. But it's no "teenage dream". It is blood, sweat, and tears. Sounds a lot like crucifixion doesn't it? Yeah, nails hurt. They hurt real bad but the resurrection that follows is sweet beyond words.
Does an onlooking world see The Gospel on display in our lives and in our relationships? This is the only way to counter the destructive worldview that is preached from the radio waves and iTunes playlists. Show them and tell them that only Jesus can give us more than a "teenage dream". He gives us himself and only this will satisfy.
Sunday, August 29, 2010
A Mormon television star stands in front of the Lincoln Memorial and calls American Christians to revival. He assembles some evangelical celebrities to give testimonies, and then preaches a God and country revivalism that leaves the evangelicals cheering that they’ve heard the gospel, right there in the nation’s capital.
The news media pronounces him the new leader of America’s Christian conservative movement, and a flock of America’s Christian conservatives have no problem with that.
If you’d told me that ten years ago, I would have assumed it was from the pages of an evangelical apocalyptic novel about the end-times. But it’s not. It’s from this week’s headlines. And it is a scandal.
Fox News commentator Glenn Beck, of course, is that Mormon at the center of all this. Beck isn’t the problem. He’s an entrepreneur, he’s brilliant, and, hats off to him, he knows his market. Latter-day Saints have every right to speak, with full religious liberty, in the public square. I’m quite willing to work with Mormons on various issues, as citizens working for the common good. What concerns me here is not what this says about Beck or the “Tea Party” or any other entertainment or political figure. What concerns me is about what this says about the Christian churches in the United States.
It’s taken us a long time to get here, in this plummet from Francis Schaeffer to Glenn Beck. In order to be this gullible, American Christians have had to endure years of vacuous talk about undefined “revival” and “turning America back to God” that was less about anything uniquely Christian than about, at best, a generically theistic civil religion and, at worst, some partisan political movement.
Rather than cultivating a Christian vision of justice and the common good (which would have, by necessity, been nuanced enough to put us sometimes at odds with our political allies), we’ve relied on populist God-and-country sloganeering and outrage-generating talking heads. We’ve tolerated heresy and buffoonery in our leadership as long as with it there is sufficient political “conservatism” and a sufficient commercial venue to sell our books and products.
Too often, and for too long, American “Christianity” has been a political agenda in search of a gospel useful enough to accommodate it. There is a liberation theology of the Left, and there is also a liberation theology of the Right, and both are at heart mammon worship. The liberation theology of the Left often wants a Barabbas, to fight off the oppressors as though our ultimate problem were the reign of Rome and not the reign of death. The liberation theology of the Right wants a golden calf, to represent religion and to remind us of all the economic security we had in Egypt. Both want a Caesar or a Pharaoh, not a Messiah.
Leaders will always be tempted to bypass the problem behind the problems: captivity to sin, bondage to the accusations of the demonic powers, the sentence of death. That’s why so many of our Christian superstars smile at crowds of thousands, reassuring them that they don’t like to talk about sin. That’s why other Christian celebrities are seen to be courageous for fighting their culture wars, while they carefully leave out the sins most likely to be endemic to the people paying the bills in their movements.
Where there is no gospel, something else will fill the void: therapy, consumerism, racial or class resentment, utopian politics, crazy conspiracy theories of the left, crazy conspiracy theories of the right; anything will do. The prophet Isaiah warned us of such conspiracies replacing the Word of God centuries ago (Is. 8:12–20). As long as the Serpent’s voice is heard, “You shall not surely die,” the powers are comfortable.
This is, of course, not new. Our Lord Jesus faced this test when Satan took him to a high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the earth, and their glory. Satan did not mind surrendering his authority to Jesus. He didn’t mind a universe without pornography or Islam or abortion or nuclear weaponry. Satan did not mind Judeo-Christian values. He wasn’t worried about “revival” or “getting back to God.” What he opposes was the gospel of Christ crucified and resurrected for the sins of the world.
Read the rest here.
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
Saturday, August 21, 2010
Monday, August 16, 2010
Sunday, August 15, 2010
This week Eva and I took the plunge and enrolled our children for the first time in a public school system. This is a matter that we have wrestled with for years and in particular in the last six months. Much consideration, research, and most importantly prayer went into the decision. And since the issue of schooling is perhaps the number one topic that I discuss with parents of young and school-aged children, I thought I would share a few of the key reasons behind our decision. Before I share these reasons however, let me state the following caveats:
· I'm not sharing all of the varied factors that influenced our decision, only the ones that I believe will be the most important to my readers.
· What I'm sharing isn't prescriptive; in other words, I am not telling you what schooling you should provide for your children. That's for you to decide.
· I am very thankful for the Christian school that my children have attended for the last 6 years; for a number of reasons (see some below) we have decided that a change is what is best for our children (and us) at this time. That might change in the future. Only God knows.
Those caveats behind, let me elaborate on several key reasons for our decision:
1. The Scriptures are clear that parents are responsible for the development of their children (Deut 6:1-4, Prov. 22:6, Ephesians 6:1), not the school or church. There is no Biblical mandate for Christian education, or home education, any more than there is for public education. The Scripture holds parents, and parents alone, responsible for raising their children. God has given parents the church and school as a tool to help them in this task, but at the end of the day, I will be the one who is held accountable for how my child has been raised (note I didn't say turns out; ultimately the child has to answer for himself).
2. I have been involved in Christian education in some way, either as a student, a teacher or a parent of students, for all but 5 years of my life. And during my 10 years as a pastor I have interacted with hundreds of public and home-schooled children. Here is what my unofficial research has determined: the number one influence on a child, by far, is the parents. You might be saying, well, duh, of course, but here is what my "research" also shows: when parents follow Proverbs 22:6 (i.e., shepherd their children spiritually) it doesn't matter what school they go to, the children will grow up to walk with the Lord. While this is not always true (Proverbs 22:6 isn't a guarantee, simply the way of the wise) it is true most of the time. It certainly was for me; I love the Lord today largely because of my parents involvement in shepherding me spiritually, not because of (and actually to some degree in spite of) the Christian school I attended.
I have also found the converse to be true: when parents don't follow Proverbs 22:6, children normally don't grow up to walk with Lord, regardless of where they go to school. In fact, and this is what scares me the most, when parents abdicate their role to shepherd their children to the Christian school (and the church), children often see little connection between what they see in school/church and the home, and often leave the church (and the faith) as soon as they leave home. This leads me my next point.
3. Here is what I have come to realize in recent days: I have been using the church and Christian education as a crutch. I have slowly and subtly abdicated my responsibility to "bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord." Since I knew they were receiving Biblical instruction at church and school, I have bought into the thinking (lie?) that they were getting all that they needed. In reality, what they need the most is what only I can give to them (Fathers, bring them up in the training.....).
4. Finally, my family, and in particular me, live in a Christian bubble. We are a Christian family. We go to a Christian church. A Christian church I work at. What's missing? Involvement with those who aren't Christians. How can I be salt and light when I am never around those who need the salt and light? How can I train my children to live a missional life and share their faith if they don't see me doing it?
Here's a transparent moment for you: we lived in our last home for 7 years. During those 7 years I can count on one hand (without using my thumb) the number of significant conversations I had with any of our neighbors. That has to change. And in our recent move we have determined that we are going to begin to break out of the Christian bubble, begin to build relationships in our community, begin to attempt to reach our neighbors for Christ, and use the relationships that our children and their activities help us make to do so.
Oh, and one more thing here. I have an 8-year old daughter who I am convinced God has given the gift of "relationship-building". She can walk into a room with people she has never met and in five minutes she will be playing with a girl who is her age. She has never met a stranger. And she wants to tell them about Jesus. What a gift. As her father, I believe that it is my role to help her develop this gift. How will she ever do this if she is never around non-Christians?As I said earlier, these are not the only reasons, just the most important. I know you might not agree, and you don't have to. But I would be happy to hear your thoughts none the less. Either way, I hope this helps as you consider how God would have you lead your children.
Saturday, August 14, 2010
The terms election and predestination are often used interchangeably, both referring to God’s gracious decree whereby he chooses some for eternal life. In Romans 8:30 Paul speaks of those whom God has predestined, called, justified, and (in the end) glorified. In 8:33 Paul references “the elect,” apparently a synonym for the predestined ones described a few verses earlier.
A sharp distinction between the two words is not warranted from Scripture, but if there is a distinction to be made, predestination is the general term for God’s sovereign ordaining, while election is the specific term for God choosing us in Christ before the foundation of the world. That is, predestination is the broader category of which election is the smaller subset. Calvin defined predestination as “God’s eternal decree, by which he compacted with himself what he willed to become of each man…Therefore, as any man has been created to one or the other of these ends, we speak of him as predestined to life or to death” (Inst. III.xxi.5). For Calvin, predestination encompasses the entire eternal decree. Election and reprobation, then, represent two different aspects of the decree. The Canons of Dort Article 1 makes the same distinctions.
This delineation is not without merit. The “elect” is always a positive designation in Scripture (e.g., Matt. 24:31; Titus 1:1), suggesting that election implies eternal life (though Rom 9:11 may be an exception to this rule). Predestination, on the other hand, can be used more broadly. Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and people of Israel, did to Jesus what God’s “plan had predestined to take place” (Acts 4:27-28). Indeed, all of our days are written in God’s book before one of them comes to pass (Psalm 139:16 ). Every form of prosperity and affliction comes to us not by chance, but from God’s fatherly hand (Heidelberg Catechism Q/A 27). Or as Augustine put it, “The will of God is the necessity of all things.”
Does this mean we are “predestined” to marry so-and-so or take a certain job? In one sense, looking back at God’s providential care, we can say “Yes, that’s was God’s plan for my life.” And yet this notion of divine superintendence is not meant to undercut personal initiative and responsibility. Everything happens after the counsel of God’s will (Eph. 1:11), but this is no excuse to neglect the use of means, nor is it a reason to think every decision we make is automatically pleasing to God. God’s sovereign unalterable will of decree is not be confused with his violable will of desire.
Thursday, August 12, 2010
Yesterday was the beginning of Ramadan, the month when Muslims fast in remembrance of the time of year when they believe Allah revealed the first verses of the Koran to Mohammed.
If you would like to pray for Muslims during Ramadan (August 11-September 9) you can download a prayer guide here.
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
Monday, August 9, 2010
Saturday, August 7, 2010
Parents, if you can’t afford a sitter, is there a way to set up a rotation with three other families to take turns each week watching kids for date night?
Husbands, when is your date night? Your wife needs it. You do, too. Grace and I have enjoyed Friday date nights for about 20 years.
Husbands, don’t waste every date night at a movie where you can’t talk. Use the time to visit with your wife, draw her out, and study her like you do the Bible.
Husbands, plan out your date nights. Ask you wife in advance what sounds good, see what your options are, and make a plan. She’ll be thankful.
Date night killers: no plan, selfishness, laziness, letting technology keep interrupting, and doing the same old predictable thing.
Time with other couples now and then is OK, but if most date nights involve other people, there is likely an intimacy disconnect in the marriage.
Dads, moms who stay home all day with the kids need to get dressed up, taken out, and have some adult conversation with their husbuddy.
Husbands, what can you do to find some creative ways to make date night fun and endearing even on a tight budget?
Husbands, what can you start doing days or hours before date night to build the expectation of connection with your wife? Flowers, cards, calls, texts?
When life gets crazy, the kids are sick, etc. is there any way to sneak in a bit of a date night at home with say a soak in the tub together, glass of wine etc. after the kids go to sleep?
Sometimes sending the kids out to someone’s house and having a date night at home can be cheap and fun if planned right.
Men, you don’t pursue a woman to marry her and stop pursuing her. You pursue a woman to marry her and pursue her with more passion and creativity than ever. How’s it going husbands?
Men, you don’t need to understand women. You will be doing better than most men to understand just one woman. Date nights are to ask inviting questions, listen, and learn about her. It’s also a night to open up and let her do the same.
Men, if you don’t date your wife, someone else may eventually volunteer for the job.
Ladies, sometimes it’s a great gift to go into your husband’s world for a date night by doing something like putting on a jersey going to a game and eating a hot dog. His love language may just be hot dog.
Men: find a shirt with buttons, try two eyebrows instead of one, find a breath mint or 20, show up with a gift, don’t ogle other women, and go to a restaurant that does not have a spork.
Sometimes the best date night is date breakfast, date lunch, or surprise pick up your spouse from work for an hour at a hotel.
Wednesday, August 4, 2010
This is a need that is almost constant at Bethel, and both Melissa and I are convinced that a primary reason for this is that many (most?) people fail to see the value and joy of ministering to children. This is apparently not something that Jesus failed to see (Matthew 19:12-14), nor should we.
Along this line, as I was browsing through some of my favorite blogs this evening, I was directed to this post at Radical Womanhood:
Almost three years ago, a dear friend of mine passed away in a fatal car accident. She was married and had two little boys, and the months after her death led to an increased desire in my heart to care for her kiddos. I completed my spring semester of my freshman year of college, and sought counsel about it and prayed a ton, which led to an increased burden for the children. God was opening doors and guiding me, and I excitedly decided to take a break from college to take care of Mason (4) and Evan (2) full time. Since then, I've been very involved in their lives, watching them 40+ hours a week and homeschooling them.
Directors and professors from my college asked me why I'd throw away my education and waste my life to care for children. I told them I could come back to school anytime, but more importantly that I did NOT see it as a waste at all. God values life and He loves children, and that, I told them, is what motivated me. I was shocked that people were asking me these questions; I thought everyone had a high view of care for children. But these interactions, which happened more frequently than even I like to acknowledge, made me eager to see God prove Himself to me in this new season, and left me with a passion to somehow reveal the lies of our culture that say the training of and investment in children is unimportant and demeaning. Because I didn’t believe that, and two years later, I still don’t.
Read the whole thing here.
Monday, August 2, 2010
Our church gives 100% of its budget to missions. That’s because our church is a mission.
Staff salaries are mission. Benevolence (our fund to support those who are in need financially) is about missions. Paying the rent, again, missions.
And why shouldn’t we think of church in America like this? Are we still under the assumption that we are the chaplains to our culture, to use Ed Stetzer’s apt illustration? We are missionaries. We are not at home, even in our home country. We don’t share similar world views with people outside of the body of Christ.
It’s hard to think like missionaries. It is not intuitive to see the world where WE LIVE as missions. After all, it’s home. We speak the same language, we wear similar clothes, listen to similar music. But we have forgotten, or maybe never learned, that we are really different. This culture doesn’t share similar assumptions about God, man, justice, love, righteousness, etc. We don’t have a common language anymore for these concepts.
So we must adapt, just like a missionary would. No missionary would think that the culture where they are sent has to adapt to the missionary’s cultural norms. The missionary, if they are worth anything, seeks to understand the culture and then find creative ways to communicate the gospel in a way that the people will understand.
All of this is rooted in the incarnation of Jesus Christ. If we are to walk as He walked, then we need to be a missionary like He was; a missionary that did not look to his own interests, but the interests of others. The Son of God came in a way we could understand. He laid aside His rights as God to reach us — why should we not do the same?
- Chris Carr
- I am a husband to Eva, father of 4, pastor, and most of all passionate follower of Jesus Christ. The focus of my life is to make the most of every opportunity God gives me to bring glory to Him. Outside of the time spent in my role as a pastor, I spend most of my time with my family -- a good deal of that coaching various sports teams that my children are involved with. Every fall and winter you will find me rushing to the woods of Indiana and West Virginia in search of a monster whitetail buck.