Archives For Shepherding

cutActor William Shatner once did a parody performance of himself reacting to his obsessed fans at a Star Trek convention. He exploded with a sharp rebuke: “Get a life! It’s only a TV show!” To a Trekkie that’s like being told Santa isn’t real…by Santa. Shatner then apologized to his rattled fan base explaining he was merely in character as Captain Kirk from episode 27 where he becomes Evil Captain Kirk. So, no harm done as long as it was “in character.”

Not so fast.

A negligible slice of the world’s population is comprised of genuine believers who are professional actors. But I have a handful of dear friends who are believers in Jesus Christ, seek to honor him in their chosen profession, desire to be shining lights in a shadowy entertainment industry, and are thus sometimes confronted with conundrums the watching world isn’t.

We all face temptation to sin in our jobs, and it may happen that a boss instructs you to do something against your conscience. But in those situations at least you know what the sin is and you know how to please the Lord. But what if you were required by your boss to pretend to sin? Granted, that’s not a scenario we face every day; but it is one actors face whenever they are working (which also isn’t every day).

Imagine you are assigned the role of Lady Macbeth or Darth Vader or Judas. Someone has to play the villain. And no director would allow you to massage Shakespeare’s script; “Out, out darn spot” doesn’t quite have the same ring to it. And, except for the role Jim Caviezel snagged in The Passion, even good guys sin—The Good the Bad and the Ugly demonstrates this as adequately as the Die Hard franchise.

Here are two very basic guidelines my actor friends employ when selecting scripts:

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October 15, 2014

Portrait of a Hypocrite

by Eric Davis

Drama MasksIf you spend any amount of time with little kids, a particular phrase will be heard more than once: “Watch this!” Perhaps they’ll perform a new trick they learned on the playground or show you how fast they can run on their budding legs. And it’s cute to watch. They are learning life and enjoying the thrill of using their newly-discovered, God-given skills.

But it’s quite another thing when the, “Watch this!” isn’t shed by the adult years. And it’s not so cute any more when “Watch this!” becomes the underlying operating principle for which we do life and religion. In fact, far from being cute, Scripture gives it a name: hypocrisy. The New Testament idea comes from a word used to describe an actor who would put on a certain mask during a theatrical performance. You get the idea. Hypocrisy is that thing which is all-too easy to see and diagnose in others, but might be more present in us than we’d like to see and admit. It’s a deep sickness, showing itself in several ways.

Here are 7 things we might see in a portrait of a hypocrite:

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(Editor’s note: In light of recent news events, it seemed fitting to repost this article written in February 2012 by George Lawson.)

In the beginning of May, 1665 London had a divine appointment with what the Puritan Thomas Vincent described as “one of the most terrible plagues that was ever visited on this or perhaps any other kingdom.” We now know it as the bubonic plague.

plague_victims

The disease at first claimed the lives of only nine people, but after a pause it rapidly spread across the city and was soon taking no less than 470 people a week. The number of deaths collected from the bills of mortality amounted to 68,596 in that first year, though some have estimated that the number was much higher.

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Dear (usually young) single male,

I have been asked this same question by many of your ilk. To be more honest than I’d be if I were posting this answer on a blog, I confess I have made that same enquiry myself. The conventional wisdom I received was that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. That is true, but some beholders are idiots. I was one of them.couch potato

The answer is now so obvious to me; but it is because I can still remember the days before I got married twelve years ago that I don’t want to make too much fun of you. so, here are five principles I’ve learned you might find helpful.

 

1. Know Thyself

As the ancient Delphic maxim goes, you must have self-awareness to avoid much frustration. One mentor proffered this rather opaque aphorism:  “If you want to shop on aisle ten, you need to stop looking like you belong in aisle one.” I’m still not sure exactly what that means—is there a rating system to the aisles in grocery stores?— but I stewed on that wisdom til I realized he was saying: “If you want to date a cute, smart, well-dressed, well-groomed, intelligent gal, then lose the earring, get a haircut, wash your clothes more often than you do, stop stuffing your face, trade your PlayStation for a library card, and try breathing through your nose.”

Many young men are oblivious as to what league they are trying out for. If you want to marry a godly woman, start by becoming a godly man. And if you’d prefer her to be easy on the eyes try becoming a bit more presentable yourself.

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There are many ways to leave a church honorably. You could die in the pulpit. You might gracefully retire so a younger man can fill your shoes. Perhaps you feel called to another ministry, and your current elders support you in that endeavor. But there are some ways no pastor wants to be ejected from his ministry.

candle burnt out1. Burn out.

Some men don’t last in the ministry because, as Maverick was warned in Top Gun, “You ego’s writing checks your body can’t cash.” In their defense, most pastors who burn out are demanding more from their bodies, not out of ego, but out of zeal for the ministry.

George Whitefield, for example, was told by his doctor to take it easy and refrain from preaching to preserve his extremely precarious health. That night he was invited to preach the gospel to an audience in the house in which he was convalescing. He promptly hauled himself out of bed, and preached his guts out at full tilt to a packed house until the candle burned out. He then retired to bed and died.

Whitfield had responded to the chiding of his doctor, “I’d rather burn out than rust out.” Which brings us to another way pastors lose their pulpits.

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When other people treat us badly, or backstab us, or wrongly speak ill of us, how are we to respond?

Jeremiah Burroughs, in The Rare Jewel of Contentment, answers that question by reminding us that, even when others mistreat us, it is no excuse for growing anxious, angry, or discontent.

He says this:

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“I think I could be content with God’s hand,” says one, “So far as I see the hand of God in a thing I can be content. But when men deal so unreasonably and unjustly with me, I do not know how to bear it. I can bear that I should be in God’s hands, but not in the hands of men. When my friends or acquaintances deal so unrighteously with me, oh, this goes very hard with me, so that I do not know how to bear it from men.”

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August 15, 2014

Law and Grace

by Wyatt Graham

Schütte_&_Pöppe_Fabrik_hauswirtschaftlicher_Maschinen_Hannover-Linden_Rechnung_1909-01-16_Rückseite_Detail_IIIIIIIIIIBalancing God’s grace with his commands can overload even the most sincere Christian. And it’s not only lay believers who struggle with this balance. Recently, Christian leaders vigorously debated how to balance law and grace in the Christian’s life. Some argued that Christians should live their life solely by grace, while others advocated that both grace and law should guide a person’s life.

You’ve probably experienced the practical side to the debate in your life. Recall sinful behavior that you struggle with, and which you want to overcome. Perhaps you struggle with pornography, recurring anger, or even slothfulness. Whatever your struggle is, you’ve probably tried many different ways to overcome it. Do you rely on grace and turn to God’s commands in the Bible or create a system of rules that guide your eyes away from your ailing sin? Or, do you turn solely to God’s grace to overcome this sin? Put another way, do try to find some command in the Bible to tell you what to do, or do you rely on God’s grace even if you accidentally do something against God’s will?

I have seen both tactics take place in lives of people around me. I have observed people struggling with bitterness run to Scripture and locate all of the verses that directly apply to that area and hang them around the house, and start to memorize them. These verses often are commands to put off, followed by a command towards the opposite godly trait. After creating these “rules”, grief and remorse can often roll down upon them and refuse to leave—taunting them that they the uttermost sinner who will only ever wallow in this sin and never conquer it.  Continue Reading…

At the National Association of Nouthetic Counselors (NANC) annual meeting last October the membership voted to change the name to Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC). While a name change is not that significant, the attitude and approach of the organization has been refreshing. People’s problems are solvable only through the truth of God’s word and this ministry is poised to help those in need.

Under the new leadership of Heath Lambert, ACBC will launch a conference at Grace Community Church in Los Angeles. Scheduled for October 6-8, this conference will speak to the critical issue of our day: “The Gospel & Mental Illness.”   Continue Reading…

I came to faith in Christ when I was eighteen-years-old. I knew that the previous way I had handled dating relationships was sinful, and I also knew that I was not spiritually mature in any real way—and thus I was not ready for marriage.

So instead of finding a wife, I set out to find other Christians my age who were in love with Jesus, and who really wanted to maximize their singleness for the glory of God. We formed a group that was committed to NOT dating, so that we could be fully committed to serving the Lord in the church. Our pastor referred to us as—you guessed it—“bachelors till the rapture.”

In fact, he (jokingly?) gave us a code of conduct to live by.

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In today’s post, I would like to briefly consider one of the most well-known and often-quoted verses in the New Testament. In fact, it is one of the most popular verses in American evangelical culture today.

It has been printed on posters and inspirational wall art. A quick internet search reveals that you can buy key chains, rings, buttons, t-shirts, stickers, postcards, bracelets, handbags, and other Christianized trinkets with the words of this verse emblazoned, embroidered, or embossed upon them. This verse even gained some notoriety among college football fans a couple years ago when a championship quarterback sported the verse on the glare-reducing strips he wore under his eyes.all_things_football

But the irony is that, by taking this verse out of context, many people have actually turned it on its head—making it mean the opposite of what it actually means. They have turned it into a slogan of personal empowerment—a declaration of self-achievement, ambition, and accomplishment. For many, this verse has been trivialized into some sort of motivating motto for material prosperity, career advancement, or athletic success.

But in reality it is nothing of the sort.

By now, you may have guessed that the verse I am describing is Philippians 4:13. There, the Apostle Paul writes, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”

Now, if we read Philippians 4:13 in isolation, apart from its context, it’s possible to see why so many take it as a declaration of personal empowerment.

Out of context, the “all things” seems like it could refer to whatever someone might want to accomplish—from winning a football game to losing weight to getting a new job to gaining material wealth. Out of context, it is often treated like a spiritual boost of self-confidence that can be applied to any ambition or aspiration in life.

But in context this verse has a very specific, defined meaning—one that most Americans don’t want to hear about, but one that is very important for us to remember as believers. Continue Reading…