Tag Archives: christian living

“I Want to Die in Three Years”

The introvert in me burns for solitude. The Christian in me burns for the lost.

A house on a hill. A room with a window. A desk near that window. A typewriter on the desk. Piles of books about the desk.

Look down from the window and you see a garden. Then a long lawn. And a road that winds through the hills. Miles before it reaches civilization.

Morning, noon and night spent reading, writing and wandering. In the evening a novelist pops in for a pint. On the weekend a photographer and a poet crash until Sunday afternoon.

That was my idea of utopia. Bliss fit for an Emily Dickinson, J. D. Salinger or Thomas Pynchon. Bliss fit for a self-absorbed intellectual snob.

Then Jesus wrecked that vision. Not all at once. But over time.

What Your Utopia Says about You

We all have our own versions of utopia. Some might be crawling with people. Others, like mine, might be devoid of people. But they all share a common theme: unfettered debauchery.

That debauchery could be mild–like endless days of reading and writing whatever I wanted. Or it could be extreme–like endless days of drinking and fornicating. But it is all damnable for one very simple reason: insertion of ourselves as the great I AM over the real I AM.

See, when it comes down to it, God doesn’t care about the brand of debauchery. He sees straight through it. He sees straight to the very root of the revolt: our rebellious hearts. Those very hearts that dream up our custom-tailored versions of utopia–the ones we carry with us into our Christian life.

The Truth Behind “Pick Up Your Cross”

It would be nice if we could cling to our utopian hopes when we become a Christian, wouldn’t it? To get Jesus plus [enter preferred pleasure]?

But do you know the verses that wreck it for us? That turns what the culture says we need [everything our heart desires] upside down to give us what God says we need [nothing but Him]?

And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. 

Jesus certainly didn’t save his life. He gave it all. In word, deed and even death. So he’s not asking something of us that he is unwilling to give.

In America we don’t understand what it means to lose our life for the gospel. We think “pick up our cross” and imagine a nagging mother or a failing Chevy truck. We don’t understand that to his disciples those words meant crucifixion.

They meant death.

As G. K. Chesterton said, “Jesus promised his disciples three things–that they would be completely fearless, absurdly happy and in constant trouble.”

Jesus Would Die in Three Years

Yet we live in our homes on the outskirts of a city with low-crime rates, an abundance of fine restaurants and clean theaters.

And two or three times a year we travel to a beach on an island in the Atlantic Ocean, a mountain in Northern Europe or seafood pavilions in South-east Asia–rehearsal for when we retire.

We say to ourselves, “I want to save for a tour of the Great Wall of China. I want to dog sled across Alaska. I want to write the great American novel. I want to send my children to Princeton or Harvard. I want to build my retirement portfolio so I can retire at 60 and enjoy it for 20 years. I want to live forever.”

We want a lot of things, but rarely do we ever say, “I want to die in three years.”

Jesus may never have expressed those very words, but his life did. He knew that his earthly ministry would be short. And he knew that his earthly ministry would be capped off by his death. And he knew that if it was possible to avoid his death, God would’ve granted it.

But it wasn’t so.

Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour.

For it was God’s will that must be obeyed. Not His. Not ours. We do well to imitate John the Baptist and say, “He must increase, and I must decrease.”

Pity the Complacent

Not every Christian’s life will end in crucifixion. Some Christians will die by drowning. Others by stones. Still others will be beheaded, shot in the mouth or set on fire.

Of course, not every saint will die a martyr’s death. Revelation tells us there is a .

Others may only lose a limb or rot in a prison. In solitude. Or forgotten in the back country of a poor nation nursing lepers or passing out Bibles.

But one thing is for certain: we are not to pity these saints. Nor do we accuse these saints  of being complacent.

These are not Christians who . They are the ones who stood on the beam and charged through a risky routine.

It is the complacent who are to be pitied :

For the simple are killed by their turning away, and the complacency of fools destroys them. 

Resist the Culture

The paradox of our utopian dreams is that if we indulge them they will quickly decay into hell on earth as one after another self-centered desire is gratified.

In time we manifest our worst fears.

The recluse becomes hateful, anxious and suicidal. The gregarious becomes demanding, sensual and dependant on the approval of man. And in time we taste the misery of being our own god.

The Bible never promises a utopia on earth. The only time we see a utopia is before the Fall and after the redemption of heaven and earth. Everything in between is simply corrupted by sin.

Even our utopias.

This is not to say we can’t enjoy creation now–that we should neglect our duty to subdue the earth. I love an abusive hike through the Appalachian Mountains.

But it is to say that we should surrender our wishes for a life that conforms to culture. One that seeks security in an IRA, position of power or PhD. One that seeks definition in positive affirmations and significant achievements. Or one seeks solitude at the expense of the lost.

Instead, we should seek a life that does not love the things of this world except for this: God’s people. That is the closest thing in this world we have to gain Christ. And the closest we will ever get to utopia.

We get the real utopia (being in the presence of Christ) when we die, which very well may be an incentive to proclaim, “I want to die in three years.”

Always Tell a Child Jesus Came to Heal the Broken Hearted

This is the other side of Never Tell a Child They Are Personally Worth the Sacrifice Jesus Made.

The side I seem perfectly incapable of articulating. So much so I actually need someone else to write it to get it right.

The person who knows my blind spots inside and out. And protects me against their dangers like a champ.

See, I knew yesterday’s post deserved a balanced treatment. I was just exploring a fraction of God’s majesty. Tinkering with but a fragment of the whole counsel of God.

So not long after I published it I began to nurture today’s post in my mind. To toy with text like  and an idea about “self-worth” versus “God worth.”

Then my wife commented. And wrote the post for me. So much better than I ever could have.

Here is an excerpt:

Maybe it isn’t our job to bolster self-esteem (and maybe it is), but it is certainly our job to point to the One who desires to bind up those hurts enough to allow a person to love others AS he LOVES himself. We don’t want to be too glib about the deep hurts that abuse cause. Christ obviously wasn’t. He came to heal the brokenhearted and set the captives free. If abused children aren’t counted among the brokenhearted and the captives, I can’t imagine who is.

Read the whole thing here.

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Frustrated with Your Pastor? Pray Like This

One of the better lessons I learned from the book was to pray that God would make your wife the model of beauty.

An apt prayer in a culture steeped in the cult of self-image and supermodels.

The point behind Gary Thomas’ statement is two-fold: one, to steer us away from the temptation to compare our wives to a cover of a Cosmopolitan;  two, to cultivate our sense of beauty on our wives–and not the other way around.

The same principle can be applied to how we view our pastors and preaching.

The Cult of the Superstar Pastor

With easy access to sermons online, and the subsequent rise of superstar preachers like , ,  and , we can easily slip into a pattern of frustration and disappointment with our very own pastors.

You might find yourself making statements like this:

“Why doesn’t he preach the gospel like Chandler?”

“He’s good–but he’s no Driscoll.”

“Mark Dever would never do that.”

Just like with supermodels and celebrities, what we don’t see is the dirty side of these pastors’ lives. We typically only see their most polished work. The stuff that is photoshopped so to speak.

Pray Like This for Your Pastor

Here’s what you need to do if you find yourself frustrated with your pastor: pray that God will make your pastor and his preaching the standard by which all preaching is to be judged.

Just like in a marriage you have to live with this man on a weekly–if not daily–basis. That means you have a commitment to support him. And the best way to do that is to pray for him. Praying for his preaching is a great place to start.

Then you need to repent. Repent for being critical, impatient and self-absorbed. Most of our frustration with our pastors lies in the fact that our needs are not being met.

It’s not the pastors job to meet your needs. His job is to faithfully preach the gospel.

Now, this isn’t a one-way street. You should expect from your pastor a faithful preaching of the whole counsel of God. If he’s not doing that then address it with him. Simply approach him and make your case.

And never gossip. Then you’ll just be a hypocrite.

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Your Simple Statement of Faith (2012 Update)

Back in 2009 I wrote a post in the Curmudgeon’s Guide to Sharing the Gospel on creating a simple statement of faith.

The point behind this exercise was to create a one-word sentence that defines you.

That defines your faith.

That serves as a compass in tight situations when you have to think fast or answer hard questions. Or serves as a filter to run through all of what is competing for your attention.

And then defines you in the future when you are dead.

In other words, how people remember you.

That year I chose as my simple statement “Christ and Christ crucified.”

That’s served me well. And it still serves me today. But…

Fast Forward to 2012

Last November I stumbled across a similar idea in Daniel Pink’s book .

Pink shares an anecdote where Carol Boothe Luce confronted John F. Kennedy with this statement:

A great man is one sentence. Abraham Lincoln’s was ‘He preserved the Union and freed the slaves.’ What’s yours?

My mind was off to the races.

Throughout December and the early part of 2012 I sketched some ideas. Here are three of the more memorable ones (memorable is debatable):

  • “Nobel prize winner of literature and professor.” How insanely self-serving, right? Not even punctuated with a verb. Fail.
  • “Innovated literature and raised a godly family.” Okay, half of it seems to be on track. But raising a godly family, while noble, is not all-encompassing. It is, in the scheme of Christianity, short-sighted. Let’s try again.
  • “Slave to Christ and walking New Testament concordance.” All right, much better, don’t you think?

This is actually how I have it written in my journal/daily calendar:

That is how I would like my grave stone to read.

The first half is obvious and sound, but the second half I think may come off like I want to be a warehouse of biblical trivia. That is, an .

Not so.

The purpose of becoming a walking New Testament is established on these three verses:

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. 

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.

But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.

In other words, I want to renew my mind. I want to encourage and exhort believers. And I want to share a sound faith with unbelievers.

Things impossible to do with out a solid foundation in God’s word.

By the way, this is not to neglect the Old Testament. This is just a recognition that  will be more than I can handle.

Your turn: Do you have a simple, clear statement of faith? Please share.

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“The Definition of Marriage in the US Is Dead and It Was Killed by Christians”

That’s a quote from a discussion I started on Reddit. I asked the question ““

The answers fell into two general categories: one, without question, sharing the gospel was more important. And two, the two are not mutually exclusive. They are the same thing.

My own bias leans toward sharing the gospel. In the introduction to the question I gave a 300-word reason why.

But I have to say that the arguments from those who said the two were the same thing were persuasive.

Where Sharing the Gospel and Subduing the Earth Are the Same

Keep in mind that this discussion occurred in a thread where users affirmed the teachings of Calvin and embraced the ideas behind TULIP. In other words, the group as a whole were opposed to same-sex marriage. We did have one dissenter, an Episcopalian. I thanked him for joining our discussion.

The arguments for those who defended the notion that saving biblical marriage and sharing the gospel were the same thing centred around the premise that we were given two commissions: the great commission and the cultural mandate.

As a previous student of the cultural mandate to subdue the earth, I understand where those who use this argument stand, and where they were going with it.

We were to create and cultivate civilization by building schools, businesses, art, laws and communities…and raising families, which are the bedrock of civilization. If the family unit is broken, then civilisation is broken.

As many pointed out this is equivalent to Jesus’ statement to .

Where Sharing the Gospel and Subduing the Earth Are NOT the Same

While I can buy that, I’m stuck on this: the gospel is a story about what the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ accomplished for us, namely peace with God.

To say that sharing the gospel is equivalent to defending biblical marriage I think is tantamount to saying we can live out the gospel, which is impossible.

How do you live out the narrative of redemptive history?

Certainly I believe that our lives can be a testimony to what the gospel can accomplish. While the gospel can save a marriage that is headed for divorce–and that testimony of its power can lead to a discussion about the gospel–a saved marriage is not the same thing as the gospel.

Why is this even important? Because God commanded us to , and through that method people are saved by the Holy Spirit.

So when energy is invested, at the expense of sharing the gospel, in preserving an institution that some people in a free nation don’t want then we look bad. Furthermore, we then start to look like we believe that we can create a utopia by preserving this nation through legislation…not salvation.

There was one key comment for me in this discussion. The one that said marriage is dead in the U.S. Here is the comment in full :

The definition of marriage in the US is dead and it was killed by Christians and non-christians alike long before the homosexuality issue. So when people see us yelling about the definition of marriage they see us yammering over something which does not exist.

It was killed by divorce and abusive and neglectful parents. Marriage is seen as just so easily breakable, by Christians and non-christians. Parenthood is defined by what the parents want to do, not by what is best for their children. These sorts of marriage and parenthood are just as displeasing to God as gay marriage.

As long as these issues are not taken seriously, there is no reason for seculars to view us as anything but anti-gay idiots, because it is what we are. We are rightfully labeled as hypocrites. Not that confronting those problems will solve everything, but I find it much more important to fix Christian marriages than nonchristian.

I think that last line is sublime, and reminds me of

I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people—not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”

The statement made by bygrace-faith is a strong statement. However, is there any proof that marriage is dead in the U.S.?

Proof That Marriage in the U.S. Is Dead

Well, you have the that from 2000 to 2010 nonfamily households doubled in growth over family households. A common nonfamily household is a person living alone, with an increase of 25.8 percent in 2000 to 26.7 percent in 2010.

In addition, the number of non-married partners living together grew by 41 percent.

However, the divorce rates actually declined in 2009. So, is America on a moral slide?

I’d argue that it is. But that’s debatable. And misses the point. Because regardless of our moral condition, we desperately need Jesus.

Clearly as Christians we are to take the biblical idea of marriage very seriously. But we can’t expect the culture around us to do the same thing.

So do we acquiesce? Do we let civilisation crumble around us?

No, I think we attack these issues head on. But there are better ways to do this than by legislation.

Mentoring young men who are at risk of abandoning their families. Supporting single mothers who are struggling to raise a family. Adopting children who are abandoned or abused by a family.

It’s a bottom-up approach versus a top down.

History is full of instances where Christians make very bad politicians. History, however, is abundant with examples of charity that have saved the lost, protected the forgotten, healed the wounded, visited the prisoners and fed the hungry.

Christianity didn’t spread because missionaries like Paul and Barnabas changed Roman law. It spread because of their relentless efforts to obey Christ. In that wake civilisations and their laws grew based upon Christian principles. And this is the appropriate way I believe in which we redeem the earth.

Your Turn

Do you think I’m off my rocker? Do you think that America is on a moral slide? Is there evidence? Is marriage dead in the U.S.? Did Christians kill it? Am I off with my bottom-up approach? Is there any room for a bottom-up and top-down approach? Is saving biblical marriage and sharing the gospel the same thing?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Brutal and all.

The Sublime Definition of Beauty That Leo Tolstoy Pooh-Poohed

In which I encounter one of the most sublime definitions of beauty–because God cares about art.

In the last two decades of the 19th Century Leo Tolstoy went on a philosophical and polemical tear, attacking the Russian church, landowners and even the Gospels. It culminated in a book called  

To say this book is intense is a gross understatement. He condemns Pushkin, Shakespeare, Dante, Goethe, Raphael, Michelangelo, Bach and Beethoven. As well as his own novels.

He considers What Is Art? a challenge “hurled at all educated men.” He wants to strip art of mystery, irrationality and ambiguity.

What does he suggest as a substitute? China dolls, door knobs, chickens. Peasant women singing to the clanging of scythes. Sentimental genre paintings–like ?

If he lived half a century later he might have been chums with who penned “the red wheelbarrow”:

so much depends

a red wheel

glazed with rain

beside the white

Or who wrote “The Snowman”:

One must have a mind of winter
To regard the frost and the boughs
Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;

And have been cold a long time
To behold the junipers shagged with ice,
The spruces rough in the distant glitter

Of the January sun; and not to think
Of any misery in the sound of the wind,
In the sound of a few leaves,

Which is the sound of the land
Full of the same wind
That is blowing in the same bare place

For the listener, who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.

Or even Marcel Duchamp who submitted a porcelain urinal to the 1917 Society of Independent Artists exhibition and called it “.”

That may be pushing it.

The Beauty Definition in Question

The third chapter of the book, after a compelling narrative of a disgruntled visit to see the rehearsal of an opera that spans the first two chapters, he runs through the philosophical definitions of beauty.

He skips the ancients and medieval philosophers and starts with Enlightenment thinkers like Alexander Gottlieb Baumgarten.

What follows is a catalog of these thinkers views. Most of these views are abstract and confusing. You can ignore them. Until you reach a fellow named .

Hemsterhuis is Dutch and a follower of German aestheticians like Goethe. His thoughts on art fascinate me to know end. I quote Tolstoy:

According to his teaching, beauty is that which gives us the greatest pleasure, and that which gives us the greatest pleasure is that which gives us the greatest number of ideas within the shortest amount of time.

This is pragmatism. This is efficiency. And the stuff of .

Hemsterhuis may have enjoyed living in our generation where . He may have been just as comfortable in Athens during the :

And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, ‘May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? For you bring some strange things to our ears. We wish to know therefore what these things mean.’ Now all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there would spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new.

Naturally Tolstoy dismisses Hemsterhuis’ definition, as well as the dozens of others he provides. He prefers art to be religious in the same way that Charles Murray described it in his New Criterion article :

By “religiosity” I do not mean going to church every Sunday. Even belief in God is not essential. Confucianism, Daoism, and Buddhism are not religions in the conventional sense of that word—none postulates a God—but they partake of religiosity as I am using the word, in that that they articulate a human place in the cosmos, lay out understandings of the ends toward which human life aims, and set standards for seeking those ends.

I think it would be safe to say that Tolstoy believed that God cared about art.

But Tolstoy was not an orthodox Christian. Neither was he evangelical. He was a moralist and an anarchist. And a tormented soul striving to balance wealth, fame, family and asceticism.

What Is Art? is a product of that torment.

For grins, here is one of the , a movie about the end of Tolstoy’s life in which he abandoned his wife and family.

Feeling Sorry for That Poor Man in Sierra Leone? Don’t

Talk about flawed. Read the following verses from :

And the Lord spoke to Moses and to Aaron, saying, 27 “How long shall sthis wicked congregation grumble against me? tI have heard the grumblings of the people of Israel, which they grumble against me. 28 Say to them, u‘As I live, declares the Lord, vwhat you have said in my hearing I will do to you: 29 wyour dead bodies shall fall in this wilderness, and xof all your number, listed in the census yfrom twenty years old and upward, who have grumbled against me, 30 not one shall come into the land where I zswore that I would make you dwell, aexcept Caleb the son of Jephunneh and Joshua the son of Nun.

What was your reaction to reading that? Sorrow? Sorrow for the rebellion of a people toward their gracious God?

Want to know mine? I was sad. I was sad that that generation was forgotten. It was erased off the face of the earth. Erased out of collective memory.

I was sad that no one’s name–except for Caleb and Joshua–was preserved in history. And that that fate was more than likely my fate.


The Man in the Sierra Leone Village

I am obsessed with obscurity. I fear falling out of earshot with the literary elite–both living and dead.

I fear if my name is not embedded for AT LEAST four hundred years in our anthologies that I will have failed.

As you can imagine, this has created massive and unnecessary grief in the mornings spent agonizing over my future. Stupid attempts at attention.

Strangely enough, I used to feel sorry for the anonymous of the world. The man in the small village in the hills of Sierra Leone.

I used to feel guilty for my fortune of growing up in a country where opportunities are abundant. Where fame is at arms reach. While they were damned to obscurity.

Then it dawned on me: if not for the grace of God, those forces are at work on everyone.

Including me.

How I Have It Backwards

But that scheme is all wrong to begin with. I am elevating popularity in this life over popularity in the next life. On this note, the Bible is clear: popularity in this life equals .

However, obscurity–anonymity–in this life equals popularity in the next. Every advantage I have over that man in Sierra Leone in this life amounts to a disadvantage in the next life.

He will be honored beyond anything I could have ever imagined. And that is the more precious prize.

Does God Care About Art?


Guest post by copywriter and painter .

Our introduction to God at the opening of Genesis places us in the midst of His work as creator of the universe.

We get to look over His shoulder, if you will, and watch as He creates everything from nothing.

Beauty for it’s Own Sake

Not only do we see God create things that serve a purpose and function, but we also see He creates some things simply to be “pleasing to the eye.”

While beauty is the sole reason for some of God’s creation, it is also apparent in all of His handiwork.

Created in His image, we too have the ability and desire to appreciate and create beauty.

The imagination, creativity and beauty are clearly important to God, making them important to us as well.

What About Now?

But what role does imagination, creativity and art play in our lives as Christians today? Is being an artist a legitimate vocation for Christians? Why do some churches have such a negative view of the arts?

First, by “art” I mean every creative discipline: music, dance, painting, sculpture, performance, film, writing, and those endeavors that combine and straddle these disciplines.

So let’s look at these three questions in order.

Cultivate Culture

In his book, , N. T. Wright says, “The arts are not the pretty but irrelevant bits around the border of reality. They are the highways into the center of reality which cannot be glimpsed, let alone grasped, any other way.”

Creativity and the arts are central to our response to the  mandate to “cultivate the earth.”

This is a culture-shaping directive.

We are told to influence and impact our culture (which by definition includes art, music, literature and other endeavors) to reflect God’s glory.

In his book, , Philip Graham Ryken says, “Art has tremendous power to shape culture and touch the human heart. What we need to recover (or possibly discover for the first time) is a full biblical understanding of the arts—not for art’s sake, but for God’s sake.”

Christian painter and writer Makoto Fujimura, in his book, , wrote, “Art is a building block of civilization. A civilization that does not value its artistic expressions is a civilization that does not value itself.”

And John Calvin said, “All arts come from God and are to be respected as divine inventions.”

Art of the Bible

And if we look at the content of the Bible itself, we see that 75% of it is narrative,15% is poetic, and 10% is instructional.

This means that 90% of the Bible is story and poetry, which engages and appeals to our imaginations in order to communicate God’s truth.

The imagination, creativity and the arts are intrinsic to our understanding of God, the world around us, and ourselves.

Artists Are Called

As the Bible has the answers to all of life’s questions, this is where we will look to determine whether or not being an artist is a legitimate vocation for Christians.

In , God has just given Moses explicit, detailed instructions for building the tabernacle, the structure where God will manifest His presence on earth and communicate with His people.

God then tells Moses that He has chosen Bezalel to build it, with the help of Oholiab. God says:

…and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, ability and knowledge in all kinds of crafts, to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, to cut and set stones, to work in wood, and to engage in all kinds of craftsmanship.

Not only does God call these artists by name and bless them with the very gifts they’ll need for the task, but it is also worth noting that this is the very first time in Scripture where God fills someone with His Spirit.

Ryken states, “Taken together, skill, ability, and knowledge refer to what the artist is thinking in his mind, feeling in his heart, as well as making with his hands. The artistic work that Bezalel and Oholiab did came from their whole persons.”

But God could have built the tabernacle himself.

On this issue Ryken adds, “Instead, God called artists to make the tabernacle, and to make sure that they did it well, He equipped them with every kind of artistic talent. By doing this, God was putting the blessing of His divine approval on both the arts and the artist.”

In addition to calling Bezalel and Oholiab by name, we see in  that Jabal is called “the father of all who play the harp and flute.”

God clearly chooses some men and women to be artists.

I could go into more depth than this post will allow to cover how we can know if we are being called to be an artist, but suffice it to say that the short answer is passion, gifting, commitment to developing and honing our skills, and submitting our work to be judged by others.

Artists and the Church: a Rocky History

But why does the church tend to hold a negative view of the arts and artists?

At one time in history, the church was the world’s largest and most influential patron of the arts.

Then came the Reformation, where the arts, particularly the visual arts, were deemed secular endeavors that encouraged idol worship and were essentially banished from the church.

In its defense, the church has a right to be suspicious of an endeavor that is so susceptible to becoming idol worship. The commandment not to create graven images is still debated in some circles today.

Suffice it to say it is not the image itself that is sinful…it is what is done with the image and the image maker.

But the answer isn’t to simply reject all art and all artists.

Doing so has caused great harm and has resulted in many lost opportunities to glorify God through the arts once they were rejected by the church and relegated to the world.

As Ryken stated earlier, we need to regain a full biblical understanding of the arts, and that goes for both the church and the artist.

Reclaiming The Arts and Imagination for Christ

While the church has made tremendous strides to embrace the arts and its artists over the last two or three decades, there is still more that both can do to reclaim the arts and imagination for God’s glory.

I’m greatly encouraged to see more churches embrace and support its artists, not only by making them part of the worship service, but also providing encouragement and support outside of the church’s walls.

There are many churches that now have pastors and affinity groups for artists.

And there are more Christian colleges offering degrees in nearly every artistic discipline today than there were even a decade ago.

A Call to Christian Artists

My appeal to Christian artists today, who by nature tend to be isolated because of their work and temperament, is to become part of the body of Christ and submit their lives to the oversight of a pastor, preferably one who understands the blessings of their gift and the temptations and potential pitfalls artists face every day as they pursue their calling and hone their craft.

If God puts such a high value on the arts, so should we. But not, as Ryken states, only for arts’ sake, but for God’s.

I’d love to know what your experience with the arts has been, either as a pastor, an artist, or an observer.

What Do Your Bible Study Habits Look Like?

In the end, there are only two responses to the Bible–either you receive it or you reject it.

I recommend you receive it. Here’s why.

Basic to the Christian faith is the conviction that God, far from being dead and dumb, is living and vocal.

This means you can get to know him on a personal level…

Why is it important to get to know him? To know him means to build your life on a solid foundation.

As , it’s about putting ballast in the belly of your boat so that you can survive the wicked storm surge of the sea.

What You’ll Learn from Studying the Bible

If you read your Bible, you’ll learn how to survive adversity and judgment. You’ll overcome temptations, avoid sin. You’ll reform your mind. You’ll share words of wisdom and encouragement with people who need comfort.

But reading your Bible involves time. Lots of time.

It’s not going to be easy. You’re going to have to get up extra early in the morning. Stop staying up so late. Avoid the television, the radio. Practice patience and quietness.

It’s going to cramp your style–something fierce. That’s the drawback. The dark side.

What You’ll Gain from Studying the Bible

However, if you believe the Bible is God’s spoken Word that expresses God’s unapologetic purpose, then you’ll never regret the time spent.

You’ll never begrudge the sacrifices. (You’ll just learn how to make coffee at 4:30 AM.)

In fact, make the sacrifice and you’ll re-discover the lost art of meditation. You’ll experience the joy of solitude. The joy of isolation with Christ. You’ll crave time with Christ and your Bible.

And you’ll find what you need to survive in our post-modern, soap-opera saturated world.

Your Turn

So, what do your Bible study habits look like? Do you have strange circumstances that demand bizarre accommodations? And what personal changes have you seen from a sustained study and memorization of and meditation on the Bible?  I look forward to your thoughts.

Young Men: 8 Ways to Resist Sexual Temptation


Sexual temptation is one of the most potent challenges young men face.

This was true in ancient Israel. It’s true in 21st America.

Unique to our culture, however, is the time span between puberty and marriage.

In ancient Israel, young men were often married at 16.

The .

Depending on when puberty starts in boys, that leaves a 16-to-20 year window open for sexual sin to creep in.

Our Culture and Sexual Temptation

To make matters worse, our culture views sexual sin as, well, an unsexy myth. In fact, to remain a virgin until you are married is not only sappy, but anachronistic.

What’s also unique to our culture is the , the rising skirt line and the plummeting neck line.

Opportunities to sin sexually abound.

So what’s a young man [what’s any man to do!?] who wants to guard his heart and virginity against sexual temptation to do?

In his book  [a book worth buying, reading, re-reading and teaching to every single and married man you know] Andreas J. Kostenberger gives eight suggestions on how to safely resist sexual temptation.

Here they are summarized:

1. Pray

One of the best prayers to pray: “Lord, deliver me!” Prayers of desperation are acceptable. As is the confession that you cannot resist temptation in your own strength. Moreover, pray at all times [not just during temptation].

2. Grow in God’s Knowledge

When faced with temptation, Jesus demonstrated that he knew God’s word. In the same way, the word of God must live in young men and that .

3. Develop Self-control

Self-control develops as the first two points are practiced over a long period of time. Self-control is a sign of maturity and a desire for a pure heart. Self-control is a main theme in Proverbs. Study it.

4. Seek Like-Minded Believers

One of the best ways to guard against sexual temptation and pursue a virtue like self-control is to spend time in the company of strong believers.

5. Recognize Temptation Is Not Sin

, but did not sin. If young men can see that temptation itself is not sin, then they safely back away without feeling like they already sinned. Of course, the ability to tell the difference improves over time.

6. Seek Forgiveness When We Do Sin

God’s grace doesn’t give us liberty to sin. No. It gives us liberty to confess when we do sin [instead of being immobilized by guilt] and experience God’s full forgiveness.

7. Avoid Female Paranoia

First century rabbis taught young men to avoid women. Reversing that,  by treating them as sisters and mothers in all purity.

8. Regard Your Power to Resist Temptation with Suspicion

We live in a culture that promotes self-sufficiency. That’s dangerous on many spiritual levels, notably the will to control our passions. Don’t trust yourself when it comes resisting sexual temptation. Instead, lean on God.

This isn’t an exhaustive list. So what other ideas can you suggest? What strategies did you employ in your own experience to guard against sexual temptation–whether young or old?

Granted, this list isn’t for young men only. It’s for men of all ages. [And women. , too!] As I’m told by a few men who are 60 and older, the ability to sin sexually may flag, but the temptation never does.

And by the way, one of the best ways to avoid sexual temptation is to do as Joseph did when Potiphar’s wife came on to him–run.