Message Notes from Day One of the Global Leadership Summit

The Willow Creek Association Blog has a great summary of each of the messages yesterday from the Global Leadership Summit. Here they are:

They will continue posting notes from the messages throughout today as well, so check their blog periodically to stay up to date.

August 15, 2014 | Filed Under Global Leadership Summit | Leave a Comment 

Your Obedience is Not Filthy Rags

Michael Kruger nails it at The Gospel Coalition:

When it comes to our justification — our legal standing before God — our own good works are in no way the grounds of God’s declaration that we are “righteous.” Indeed, the gospel is good news because we are saved not by what we have done, but by what Christ has done. We are accepted by God not because of our works, but in spite of them.

So what does God think of our good works after we are saved? Here, unfortunately, Christians often receive mixed messages. Somewhere along the way we have begun to believe that our pride is best held in check, and God’s grace is most magnified, when we denigrate all our efforts and all our labors as merely “filthy rags” in the sight of God (Is. 64:6).

But does God really view the Spirit-wrought works of his own children in such a fashion? Is God pleased only with Christ’s work, and always displeased with our own?

Read the whole thing.

August 15, 2014 | Filed Under Christian Living | Leave a Comment 

The Global Leadership Summit: Beginning Now

The Global Leadership Summit is today and tomorrow. For those who aren’t familiar with it, here’s a brief description:

The Global Leadership Summit is a two-day, world-class leadership event experienced by more than 170,000 leaders around the world, representing 14,000 churches. This event is crafted to infuse vision, skill development and inspiration for the sake of the local church.

Speakers this year include Susan Cain (author of the great book The Power of Introverts), Jeffrey Immelt (president and CEO of GE), Patrick Lencioni, Carly Fiorina, Louie Giglio, Bill Hybels, and more.

This is the Summit’s twentieth year — a great milestone. I’m excited for the Summit every year because Bill Hybels and the Summit leaders actually understand leadership. Their thinking is in line with the best contemporary research and studies on leadership, and the Scriptures. This is, unfortunately, sometimes a rare thing in the church today.

So, it would be worth your while to follow along with the Summit online these next two days. Here are three chief ways to follow the Summit:

  1. The Summit Facebook page
  2. The WCA blog
  3. WCA on Twitter

Through those avenues you’ll also find links throughout the day to posts by some of the blogging team for the Summit, which are always a highlight.

I’ll also try to post a few thoughts or quotes if I can.

 

August 14, 2014 | Filed Under Global Leadership Summit | Leave a Comment 

11 Objections on Giving to the Poor Answered by Jonathan Edwards

One of the best sermons of all time is Jonathan Edwards’s “The Duty of Christian Charity: Explained and Defended.” In it, he argues that helping the poor is one of the highest duties of the Christian. It is not a just a small duty, but a great duty — and even heaven and hell lie in the balance with how we respond to the poor (Matthew 25: 41-46). Further, Christians are not just to help the poor from a little bit of their surplus, but are to be abundant, liberal, and utterly generous in giving to the poor (Deuteronomy 15:7-11; Psalm 37:21, 25-26; 112:5; Proverbs 11:24-25; 2 Corinthians 8:1-7; 9:6-11). 

Edwards not only goes into all the passages which command helping the poor as “one of the three chief duties of true religion” (Micah 6:8; Matthew 22:23; 1 John 3:17-19), but also all the commands to do this with great generosity. Then, he goes into the vast promises that God makes to those who help the poor. The promises Edwards outlines are amazing and incredible (Deuteronomy 15:10; Psalm 37:25-26; Proverbs 11:24-25; 12:9; 19:17; 28:27; Ecclesiastes 11:1-2, 6; Isaiah 32:8; Luke 6:35-36; 12:32-34; 14:13-26; 2 Corinthians 9:6-11), and show that the ultimate foundation and motive for helping the poor is not only love but also faith – faith in God to fulfill his promises. (Thus, refusal to help the poor reveals not only a lack of love for people, but also lack of faith.)

Edwards argues that “God, in his providence, generally smiles upon and prospers those men who are of a liberal, charitable, bountiful spirit,” whereas “God has threatened to follow with is curse those who are uncharitable to the poor [consider Proverbs 21:3; Ezekiel 16:49].” In calling Christians to take seriously these promises that God makes to generosity, he encourages us to remember:

It is easy with God to make up to men what they give in charity. Many but little consider how their prosperity or ill success in their outward affairs depends upon Providence. There are a thousand turns of providence, to which their affairs are liable, whereby God may either add to their outward substance, or diminish from it, a great deal more than they are ordinarily called to give to their neighbors.

And:

When men give to the needy, they do as it were sow seed for a crop. When men sow their seed, they seem to throw it away; yet they do not look upon it as thrown away; because, though they expect not the same again, yet they expect much more as the fruit of it….

If it be not certain that they shall have a crop, yet they are willing to run the venture of it; for that is the ordinary way wherein men obtain increase. So it is when persons give to the poor; though the promises of gaining thereby, in our outward circumstances, perhaps are not absolute; yet it is as much the ordinary consequence of it, as increase is of sowing seed.

At the end of the sermon, Edward then lists and answers the chief objections people make about helping the poor. Edwards’s answers are penetrating and especially important, because I think most of us see ourselves in many of these objections. He shows that these objections are based on bad theology (best case) or just plain excuses (worst case).

In light of Ann Coulter’s insensitive article on the Ebola doctor (and see my response), I thought it would be helpful to post my notes on this section of Edwards’s sermon. While he obviously isn’t directly addressing Ann Coulter, Coulter’s assertion that Christians should focus on helping America rather than going overseas is simply a species of some of these objections.

More than that, though, is that this discussion in general simply points out the importance of making sure we all have a good theology of helping the poor. Time and again I have seen people (and churches!) refuse to help those in great need on the basis of some of these objections. That is a true disgrace to the name of Christ — not to mention inhumane. Such a thing is worst of all when done “in the name of reason and sensibility.”

Yet, many of these objections do sound reasonable at first. The biblical call to the poor is in some sense very counter intuitive. That’s why it’s so important that we not settle for stage one thinking, but probe deeply into what the Bible actually teaches. If we don’t do that, we easily end up refusing to help those in legitimate need on the basis of what Edwards shows to be superficial and unbiblical objections such as “they aren’t in extreme need yet” or “they brought this on themselves through their own fault” or “they haven’t asked for help; I only help people who ask.”

For that reason, as Christians we need to make sure we have a better theology of helping the poor. Edwards’s sermon is a great start, especially his answers to these 11 objections.

There is a whole theology of helping the poor in these notes. Edwards’s answers reflect an incredible grasp on the biblical teaching on why we should help those in need, and why it is actually hypocritical to refuse to help the poor even on grounds such as “they don’t deserve it” or “they are not in extreme need.”

And for those who love theology, considering Edwards’s answers to these objections is an incredibly sharpening and even enjoyable theological discovery in its own right. His answers (and the whole sermon) are an incredible manifestation of the truth that the best theology is ultimately very practical, and right practice is ultimately highly theological.

Here are my notes:

 

1. If I give to the poor, it will not be with a right spirit, and so I would get nothing by it.

You could say this about any other duty of religion as well. You are to obey and seek the heart from God.

 

2. If I am liberal and generous, I will make a righteousness of it, and it shall do more hurt than good.

But you could also say this about any other moral duty.

God has counseled you to do this, and doesn’t he know what’s best?

 

3. I have given to the poor in the past, but never found myself the better for it.

Perhaps you looked for the fulfillment of the promise too soon. And perhaps you have actually been sparing and grudging.

The promises are not made to every man who gives any thing at all to the poor. The promises are made to mercy and liberality.

If you give by compulsion and little, that may be more an expression of covetousness than generosity.

How can you tell how much greater calamities and losses you might have had, if you had not been generous?

“If you expected to meet with no trouble in the world, because you gave to the poor, you mistook the matter.”

And how can you tell what blessings God has yet in reserve for you, if you continue in well doing? The time may come when you see it remarkably.

We should not say “I cannot afford to give,” for he who observes the winds shall not ever sow. Ecc 11:4. And the context there is giving.

Do not grow weary in doing good, for in due season you will reap: Gal 6:9

 

4. We may object to charity against particular persons, that we are not obliged to give them anything, for though they are needy, they are not yet in extreme need. They do meet with difficulty, but not so as they cannot live.

“It does not answer the rules of Christian charity, to relieve those only who are reduced to extremity.”

a. We are commanded to love one another as brothers and show pity: 1 Pt 3:8

Is it like brothers to refuse to help one another, except when extreme need?

“The rule of the gospel is, that when we see our brother under any difficulty or burden, we should be ready to bear the burden with him”: Gal 6:2

“The Christian spirit will make us apt to sympathize with our neighbor, when we see him under any difficulty.” Ro 12:15

“When our neighbor is in difficulty, he is afflicted; and we ought to have such a spirit of love to him, as to be afflicted with him in his affliction. And if we are afflicted with him, then it will follow, that we ought to be ready to relieve him; because, if we are afflicted with him, in relieving him we relieve ourselves.

“Christianity teaches us to be afflicted in our neighbor’s affliction; and nature teaches us to relieve ourselves when afflicted.”

We are fellow travelers together. If brothers are on a journey together, and one meets with need, don’t they all help?

We should not be overly exact and fearful lest we give others too much.

b. Loving our neighbor only when he is in extreme need does not fit with the fact that we are to love our neighbor as ourselves.

We do not wait until we ourselves are in extreme need to meet our own needs; so neither should we wait until our neighbor is in extreme need.

 

5. We may object against charity to someone because he “deserves not that people should be kind to him.” He has a temper, an ungrateful spirit, and treated people poorly.

a. But Christ teaches us to love even our enemies.

And the parable of the Good Samaritan shows that our enemies are included in the command to “love your neighbor as yourself.”

b. We are commanded to love one another as Christ has loved us John 13:34

This opens up our duty to love in a new manner, and goes to a further degree than loving our neighbor as yourself.

Christ loved us so as to be willing to deny himself, and suffer greatly, in order to help us. So also we should be willing to deny ourselves, in order to help one another.

Christ loved us though we were far below him.

Christ loved us though we were unable to repay him.

Christ loved us, though we were evil and hateful and not deserving any good.

Christ loved us though we were his enemies and had treated him ill.

c. Many particular rules also oblige us in this way.

We are to be kind to the unthankful and evil, thus following the example of God Mt 5:45

 

6. I have nothing to spare

a. Some are not obliged to give by reason of their own circumstances

“For instance, if there be a contribution for the poor, they are not obliged to join in the contribution, who are in as much need as those are for whom the contribution is made.” “It savors of ridiculous vanity in them to contribute with oth3ers for such as are not more needy than they. It savors of a proud desire to conceal their own circumstances, and an affectation of having them accounted above what they in truth are.”

b. There are scarcely any who may make this objection, as they interpret it

“There is no person who may not  say, he has not more than enough for himself, as he may mean by enough.” He may mean he has not more than he desires, or more than he can dispose of to his own advantage, or not so much but that, if he had anything less, he would be in worse circumstances than he is now. He could live if he had less, but not well.

All can say they have not enough for themselves—rich, middle class, and poor. “Thus there will be found none to give to the poor.”

c. “In many cases we may, by the rules of the gospel, be obliged to give to others, when we cannot do it without suffering ourselves.”

For we should be willing to suffer with our neighbor, and take part of his burden on ourselves; otherwise “how is that rule of bearing one another’s burdens fulfilled?”

Though we may not have much excess, we may be obliged to afford relief to others who are in much greater necessity: Lk 3:11

They who are very poor may be obliged to give for the relief of those who are in even greater distress than they.

The Macedonians were generous in their giving even though they had almost nothing: 2 Cor 8:1,2

d. A farmer who is having a hard time having enough to eat will still sow seed that he may be able to eat in the future.

Giving “doth not tend to poverty, but the contrary; it is not the way to diminish our substance, but to increase it.”

“All the difficulty in this matter is in trusting God with what we give, in trusting his promises. If men could but trust the faithfulness of God to his own promises, they would give freely.”

 

7. We may object that we do not know whether a particular person is an object of charity or not. We do not fully know their circumstances or what sort of person they are. Or how he came to be in want, and whether it was by his own idleness and wastefulness. Thus they argue that they cannot be obliged, until they know these things.

a. This was Nabal’s objection, for which he is condemned in Scripture: 1 Sam 25

“This story is doubtless told us partly for this end, to discountenance too great a scrupulosity as to the object on whom we bestow our charity, and the making of this merely an objection against charity to others, that we do not certainly know their circumstances.”

“It is better to give to several that are not objects of charity, than to send away empty one that is.”

b. We are commanded to be kind to strangers whom we know not, nor their circumstances.

We are not to neglect to entertain strangers, for by such some have entertained angels: Heb 13:2

 

8. But we are not obliged to give to the poor, till they ask. If any one has need, let him come and make it known to me.

a. “It is surely the most charitable, to relieve the needy in that way wherein we shall do them the greatest kindness. Now it is certain that we shall do them a greater kindness by inquiring into their circumstances, and relieving them, without pitting them upon begging.”

There is none of us but who, if we were in the situation, would look upon it more kind in our neighbors to inquire into our circumstances and help us of their own accord.

“To put our neighbors upon begging in order to relief, is painful.” “It is more charitable, more brotherly, more becoming Christians and the disciples of Jesus, to do without. I think this is self-evident, and needs no proof.”

b. This is not agreeable to the character of the liberal man in Scripture, for it is said that he devises liberal things. Is 32:8

“It is not to devise liberal things, if we neglect all liberality until the poor come a begging to us.” “But to inquire who stand in need of our charity, and to contrive to relieve them in the way that shall do them the greatest kindness, that is to devise liberal things.”

c. This is not how we would treat our own brother or sister. And Christians are commanded to love as brothers.

d. If we heard of a people where they took diligence to identify needs proactively and meet them, wouldn’t it appear well to us? Wouldn’t we all commend that?

 

9. “He has brought himself to this by his own fault.”

But what do you mean by fault?

a. Do you mean lack of a natural faculty to manage affairs to his advantage?

If so, that is to be considered as his calamity. Such a faculty is a gift that God gives to some, and not others. It is not owing to themselves. And it will be a very suitable way for you to show your thankfulness, to help those to whom that gift is denied, and let them share the benefit of it with you.

b. Even if it is by some oversight on their part, this does not free us

If we should refuse to help them because of that, it would be for us to make their inconsiderateness an unpardonable crime, which is quite contrary to the rules of the gospel, which insist so much upon forgiveness.

And we would not resent such an oversight in any for whom we have a dear affection, such as our children. We would not refuse to help them.

c. If they came to want by a vicious idleness and prodigality, we still are not excused from all obligation to relieve them, unless they continue in those vices.

If they continue not, the gospel directs us to forgive them, and if their fault be forgiven, then it will not remain to be a bar in the way of our charitably relieving them.

If we do otherwise, we shall act in a manner very contrary to the rule of loving one another as Christ has loved us. Christ loved us by laying himself out to relieve us from the misery which we brought on ourselves by our own folly and wickedness.

d. If they continue in the same course still, that still does not excuse us from charity to their families that are innocent.

And if we cannot relieve those of their family without their having some of it, that not be a bar in the way of our charity.

If we look upon that which the heads of the families have of what we give to be entirely lost, yet it is better that we lose something of our estate than suffer those who are really proper objects of charity to remain without relief.

 

10. “But others do not do their duty; if they did, the poor would be sufficiently supplied.”

But we are to relieve those who are in need even though it be another’s fault.

“If our neighbor be poor, though others be to blame that it is so, yet that excuses us not from helping him.”

And notice also the parable of the good Samaritan.

 

11. The law makes provision for the poor, and the government

This is built on two false suppositions.

a. It is a false assumption that the towns are obliged by law to relieve every one who otherwise would be an object of charity

It was never the design of the law to cut off all occasion for Christian charity.

It is fit that the law should make provision for those that have no estates of their own. “They are in extreme necessity of relief, and therefore it is fit that there should be something sure for them to depend on,” and by this he means the government and law. For “voluntary charity in this corrupt world is an uncertain thing.”

But it was not the design of the law to make such provision for all who are in need, as to leave no room for Christian charity.

b. The town does not always in fact do this.

August 11, 2014 | Filed Under Poverty | 15 Comments 

Is it Really the Case that People Don’t Value that Which is Free?

When I was at Desiring God and we were implementing the vision of posting everything online for free, this was a common objection.

I think the people who make this objection are very smart. Further, they have some good evidence for their thinking. For example, who hasn’t returned home from a conference with a huge pile of free books that they are not interested in and might actually just throw away? Or who doesn’t get annoyed by marketers trying to stick them with “free” stuff as they walk by.

And I have to say that one of the most annoying things to me is websites that try to promote their newsletter or other stuff by putting FREE in all caps, as if we are dogs programmed to salivate at any idea of “free” and as if we don’t have enough to do already. My question whenever I see that is always “who cares if it’s free; will it actually add value to my life?” Much of what is “free” actually takes value away from you by taking your time and creating hassle.

In other words, “free” is often a value vampire.

Of course, though, the problem here is that in these cases, we really aren’t dealing with free at all. We are dealing with low-value stuff that imposes a cost on us — the cost of time and hassle, all in the service of the marketers aims, not the recipient’s aims. By definition, that is not free. That’s called taking. It’s taking in the guise of “FREE.”

Back to something like abundantly free online sermons (like at Desiring God) or even the case of free books. The fact is, sometimes we do value free stuff — and sometimes we don’t.

You can’t just make a blanket statement that people don’t value free stuff, or that they do. Experience constantly contradicts this.

For example, think of your favorite TV show (if you have one). If it’s on one of the major networks, it is free to you. Does that make you value it less? For years my favorite show was Lost, and I didn’t value it less because of the fact that I didn’t have to pay to watch it. Likewise, just because I do pay for an episode of something now on iTunes doesn’t mean I am going to value it more. I value it based on how much I like it, not based on how much it cost me.

The biggest factor here of all, though, is the issue of salvation. Salvation is fully free (Romans 6:23). Does that make us value it less?

Of course, based on the behavior of some Christians, some people might actually argue that the answer is yes! But we know that can’t really be the case, for God would not set things up such that the way he grants the right to heaven is intrinsically flawed so as to make us devalue it.

I think the answer is this. People value free things when those free things meet immense needs or enable them to invest in things that matter. 

In the case of free online sermons, if a person simply has a consumer mentality, they might not be valuing those free sermons the way they should. But the free sermons aren’t there for such people. The sermons are there for the people who want to take what they learn from those sermons and invest it into their lives and into other people. 

Note that in these cases, the person is actually doing a lot of work. But the work is not to earn the right to the free items (in this case, sermons), but in learning from them, applying them, and living them out. That is very demanding, and causes people to value the sermons very much. (I’ve spoken to pastor after pastor, for example, that has remarked on how they use the sermons in their research as they are preparing for their own sermons.)

And that’s why making something free does not necessarily diminish its value. Sometimes, it actually enhances its value by enabling the person to focus on the real purpose of that which is free — namely, putting it to use.

Why distract people from that purpose by putting up additional barriers?

August 8, 2014 | Filed Under Uncategorized | Leave a Comment 

The Goal is Not to Show How Bright You Are By Shooting Holes in Ideas

Anyone can do that.

Right?

Jim Collins nails the problems with this in his excellent book Beyond Entrepreneurship:

Most of us have been trained to do just the opposite [of acting on good ideas rather than spending hours deliberating on all the reasons they can't work]. We’re well schooled in criticism, having learned that the way to show how smart we are is to cite all the reasons that something is a stupid idea or doomed to failure.

We’ve noticed many new MBAs, for example, are adept at finding all the flaws in a business idea, but they’re much less practiced at coming up with ways to make the idea work.

Many times we’ve stood facing a self-satisfied person who has just done a marvelous job of demolishing a new product idea during a discussion. Then we ask, “Yes, we know it’s an imperfect idea. But then no idea is perfect. So, now how do you intend to make this idea successful in spite of its flaws?”

Some people rise brilliantly to the challenge when they realize that the goal is no longer to show how bright they are by shooting holes in ideas.

But, alas, others do not. They’ve been trained too well in the ethos of criticism, and to build a great company, they’ll have to overcome this negative training.

August 7, 2014 | Filed Under Uncategorized | Leave a Comment 

How Should We Respond to Ann Coulter’s Insensitive Article on the Ebola Doctor?

In response to Ann Coulter’s article on the ebola doctor, “Ebola doc’s condition downgraded to idiotic,” one person on Facebook said “If you remain a fan of Ann Coulter after reading this, you are as pathetic as she is.”

I understand his strong reaction, and disagree very much with her article, but the fact that she was willing to state her views so clearly serves one vital purpose: it forces us to think hard about what the Scriptures teach and helps us refine our understanding of the truth.

Coulter argues that those who go off to the developing world to serve Christ forget “that the first rule of life on a riverbank is that any good that one attempts downstream is quickly overtaken by what happens upstream.” Hence, “if Dr. Brantly had practiced at Cedars-Sinai hospital in Los Angeles and turned one single Hollywood power-broker to Christ, he would have done more good for the entire world than anything he could accomplish in a century spent in Liberia.”

Further, “your country is like your family. We’re supposed to take care of our own first….Right there in Texas, near where Dr. Brantly left his wife and children to fly to Liberia and get Ebola, is one of the poorest counties in the nation, Zavala County — where he wouldn’t have risked making his wife a widow and his children fatherless.”

I think the best summary of Coulter’s point was made by a person on Facebook, who wrote: “Our neighbors start with those closest to us.”

Is that true?

Do Our Neighbors Really Start with those Closest to Us?

On the face of it, to say that our neighbors start with those closest to us sounds like common sense. But the surprise of the gospel is that in some sense Jesus was very much committed to countering that very notion in his teaching.

For example, Jesus himself left heaven and came to earth to save us. We were by no means his closest neighbors. We weren’t even in the same universe. Yet he came anyway. That is one of the things that makes the gospel so glorious. He didn’t have to come get us, yet he did.

Likewise, Jesus tells the parable of the shepherd leaving the ninety-nine (his closest neighbors) to go after the one (Luke 15:1-7). That is a risky thing to do! It is not at all about loving those closest more than those far away; if anything, those closest are actually put at risk.

And the parable of the Good Samaritan is about loving our enemies — whom most people at the time didn’t even regard as their neighbors at all. Though the issue wasn’t physical proximity, in Jesus’ day the common thinking was that people were decidedly not to love their enemies. That’s simply another form of the notion that our neighbors start with those closest to us — though with “closest” defined in relational terms rather than in terms of physical proximity. 

At the same time, the rich man in Luke 16 was condemned for failing to love the poor man who was right at his gate — not halfway around the world. And in one sense the Good Samaritan was indeed loving his closest neighbor after all, because he was serving a dying man he had come across right in front of him in the road.

How does this fit together?

Though it’s tough to figure out, I’d suggest something like this. When we encounter a need right in front of us, we are to meet it. In that sense, we are indeed to serve those closest first. But when it comes to meeting long-term needs (including relief of the poor in Africa), we are not commanded to always start with those most physically nearby. The issue becomes one of calling and gifting — where one can serve best — and making sure we don’t let the needs nearby become an excuse to keep us from meeting the sometimes much more challenging needs far away.

If the ebola doctor had passed by a man bleeding on the road on the way to serve in Africa, that indeed would have been a bad thing. But when faced with two large fields of great need (America and Liberia), it is right and appropriate to choose the one farther away.

Further, in relation to Coulter’s point that it would have had more impact for Dr. Brantly to serve people in America (and been less risky), the above passages show us that it is right to do this even if the people farther away are less influential and more risky to reach.

Which raises another issue, best summarized by a Facebook commenter as well: “If he went to Africa to try and help the sick, only to get sick himself, it does seem a little pointless.”

In other words, is what Dr. Brantly did pointless?

We’ve already seen that that can’t be true, based on the emphasis Jesus places on helping those who are indeed far away and even taking risks to do so. To this we could also add his insistence that we serve “the least of these” (Matthew 25:40).

But why wasn’t it wasteful for Dr. Brantly to go to Africa, only to catch ebola and have to be brought back at great expense?

Here’s another way to ask the question: Why does God commend taking risks to serve “the least of these”? And why does he commend that even when the whole attempt ends up costing way more than any results that we see?

Why does God operate this way?

I think the answer is: grace. God is a God of grace, and since grace is unmerited favor, it by definition cannot be clearly seen if the primary focus is on helping those who seem most influential. For then it looks like there are conditions — namely, how influential you are. To show manifestly and decisively that grace is grace – that is, without conditions of merit or influence or ability — God serves (and commands us to serve) those who seemingly have nothing to offer, even at great risk.

This, in turn, allows us to see those with seeming influence (in Coulter’s example, Hollywood power-brokers) in the right light as well — namely, as those who in fact do not have anything to offer of their own either, but rather who are just as dependent on God as those visibly in great need and without influence.

So God isn’t creating an us vs. them scenario where people of influence don’t matter but those of no influence do, or where people next door don’t matter but those 8,000 miles away do. Rather, he is doing exactly what it takes to make it clear that we are all equally and fully dependent on grace. 

That’s why we read “God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God” (1 Corinthians 1:28-29).

Coulter’s Real Problem

In sum, the problem is not first of all Coulter’s pragmatic argument that helping influential people here in the U.S. is better because it will be more effective (as insensitive as that is).

The problem is that she is failing to recognize that when people like Dr. Brantly go help those who have nothing to offer in far away lands, it helps those of us in America as well. For it helps us see that we are all equally dependent on God’s grace. That’s the message America needs. It’s the message we all need to grasp to the core of our being, and something that can’t happen if we avoid helping the sick worldwide.

In this sense, then, Dr. Brantly’s going to Liberia is indeed far more influential for God’s kingdom than had he focused on helping turn Hollywood power-brokers to God. For it shows that God is not dependent on such power-brokers, and that those with influence in the world are not in any special category before him.

That’s the message of grace, it’s the message we all need to hear, and it’s exactly what Dr. Brantly has demonstrated in his life.

 

August 6, 2014 | Filed Under Current Events | 7 Comments 

The Kindle Version of What’s Best Next is on Sale for $3.79

This is an absolutely incredible deal. Going on now.

(And, spread the word!)

August 6, 2014 | Filed Under Book | 3 Comments 

Distinguish Skeptics from Cynics

This is so, so important. I don’t think there is any place for cynics on a high performing team (or in theology, to make what may seem to be an unlikely connection but which matters a lot). But there can be a place for skeptics.

The difference is that skeptics are genuine, and thus convincible. Scott Belsky, in Making Ideas Happen:

As you cultivate your team’s immune system, you will want to differentiate between skeptics and cynics. Cynics cling to their doubts and are often unwilling to move away from their convictions. By contrast, skeptics are willing to embrace something new — they are just wary and critical at first.

To expand on this a bit: the problem with the cynic is not that they will not move away from their convictions per se. People should not move away from convictions that are true. The problem with the cynic is that their convictions are false, because they stem from a false view of reality. A cynic is not guided by principles, but by themselves. They are “wise in their own eyes,” and that’s the reason they will not move away from their “convictions.”

A person whose convictions, on the other hand, are based on correct principles is something else altogether. Namely, a leader.

August 4, 2014 | Filed Under Productivity | Leave a Comment 

The Nature of Pastoral Authority in One Sentence

This is really, really important to understand:

“The true picture in the New Testament is not that of a congregation under the authority of the preacher; but of both preacher and congregation under the authority of God’s written word” (Eric Alexander, What is Biblical Preaching).

August 3, 2014 | Filed Under Church Authority | Leave a Comment 

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