July 23, 2014

Holding the Rope

by Jesse Johnson

A lifehack is a trick that makes common activities easier and more profitable. With many lifehacks, once you try them they seem common sense, and every other way of doing the same thing—even the way you used to do it until you learned that lifehack—seems so ignorant and strange.

Holding the Rope, by fellow Cripplegate blogger Clint Archer, is an attempt to show that most people do Short Term Missions (STM) wrong. Archer isn’t just content to show that they do it wrong, but he also then gives a better way. Reading this book felt like learning a new lifehack (a missionhack?). Once you understand his point, the other ways of doing STM just seem so outdated.

Here is how most churches do STM: they find a place they want to go, or perhaps a task they want to do. They then look for churches in that area and ask if they can host a STM team. Often the trip itself involves spending way more money on travel than it would have simply cost for the STM to get the job done by sending the cash. Generally there is no lasting relationship between the STM team members and those served—or more likely, those who serve the STM team! In best case scenarios, where a church might go to the same place year after year, even then the relationship looks like “Thanks for letting me crash on your floor…see you next year!”

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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…

In the shadow of the movie’s release, I thought it apropos to regurgitate this (one of my first) posts…

This annoying little book is not going away. Upon hearing his 4-year-old claim that he had visited heaven and met Samson and a blue-eyed Jesus, Pastor Todd Burpo encountered the same challenge all parents of toddlers frequently face. When my boy claims that he is actually Superman I wrestle with an identical dilemma: Do I just smile and play along til he grows out of it, or do I write a book sharing the claim with the world? What to do, what to do? 

Pastor Burpo didn’t chicken out and opt for the condescending smile-and-nod approach most of us lazy dads do. No, he employed a literary agent who successfully lured Thomas Nelson Publishers into eventually putting 1.5 million copies into print. (If anyone can get me that agent’s number, I’m very interested!) Dad exploited assisted his boy to polish his story, and Nelson presented their newest father-and-son trophy as the very yellow “Heaven is For Real: A Little Boy’s Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back.” It shot to #1 Bestseller for non-fiction.

The NY Times ran an article facetiously titled “Celestial Sales for Boy’s Tale of Heaven.” In it there is a priceless explanation of why reputable literati types would stoop to promoting this project. Patricia Bostelman, the vice president for marketing at Barnes & Noble admitted: “When you buy the religion subject, you are presented with many stories about heaven, personal experiences about …the afterlife,… But what was unusual about this book was that it was the story of a little boy. It deactivated some of the cynicism that can go along with adults capitalizing on their experiences.” In other words, when you rub shoulders with the gullible folk who “buy the religion subject” you are bound to meet shameless kooks who try to profit from fanciful lies. But this one we could promote, because it will sell. And why will it sell? Because the picture of a little boy will “deactivate” some of the normal discernment that might hinder sales.

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JusticeLast Friday, I posted some selections of Jonathan Edwards’ famous sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” since last Tuesday was the 273rd anniversary of the greatest sermon preached on American soil. If you haven’t read that post, I would invite you to read America’s greatest sermon for America’s greatest need.

However, because I was on vacation last week, away from a computer, I wasn’t able to participate in the very disappointing comment thread that followed that post. The discussion was immediately derailed by objections to the doctrine of hell as the eternal conscious torment of the wicked who die outside of Christ. So because I wasn’t able to respond then, and because the objections presented are very common from our increasingly-secular, anti-biblical, and Christianity-intolerant culture (and so are objections you will need to respond to as you engage your “world” with the Gospel), I wanted to respond to those objections today.

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Authentic Fire is Dr. Michael Brown’s book-length response to John MacArthur’s Strange Fire conference. Because of the importance of this debate, TheCripplegate is using every Thursday to respond chapter-by-chapter to Authentic Fire. You can find an overview of this debate, as well as links to the reviews for each chapter by clicking here.

In the original review of Authentic Fire, Fred Butler and I didn’t address all the appendixes because of the four, the other three were already dealt with in various places on the internet.  I felt it was appropriate to interact with Dr. Keener in depth, seeing that he is one of the oft cited intellectual defenders of the entire charismatic movement, and though this entry has be extensively reduced in size (I’ve cut it in half) and it’s still colossal…I apologize in advance to any CrippleGate readers who have ADD.

Appendix 1 Summary (Seeing that I’m interacting with the honored Dr. Craig Keener, I felt it was appropriate to change the image to something fitting)

matt-smith-doctor-who

Now that’s someone who would destroy me in a debate!

Okay!  Let’s summarize Dr. Keener’s appendix.  Dr. Keener’s appendix is broken into seven sections: Continue Reading…

“What does your church do for evangelism?”

A few years ago, when I was an outreach pastor at Grace Church in Los Angeles, I was at a meeting with a group of outreach pastors from other large churches in the country. The topic was what our churches do to transform our communities. When the question about what we “do for evangelism” was lobbed my way, I knew what the expected answer would look like: a list of programs. People around the table, many of them pastors at some of the most extreme program-driven and seeker-sensitive churches in the country, looked over to me. They were curious about what Pastor MacArthur’s church does to impact our community.

“What does your church do for evangelism?” the man repeated. Continue Reading…

200wordsIn early church history, one of the biggest theological debates centered on the deity of Jesus Christ. There are still groups that deny His deity today, from Muslims (who say Jesus was merely a prophet) to Jehovah’s Witnesses (who insist that He is not equal to the Father).

If I were asked to defend the doctrine of Christ’s deity, in 200 words or less, this would be my response. (Note that my word count does not include Scripture references).

I believe that Jesus is God for at least the following eleven reasons: Continue Reading…

Hello, my name is Clint, and I am a Baptist. [Insert “Hi Clint”].

To our beloved pedobaptist readers, before we plunge into the discussion please understand that I am not making a case for believer’s baptism by immersion—I am assuming it.under water

This article is not an attempt to wade neck-deep into a turbulent,century-spanning controversy, nor to convince R. C. Sproul, Kevin DeYoung, or the Pope that Baptists are right. I am sharing the Anabaptist perspective of three practical scenarios that tend to pop up occasionally in the ministry of Baptist pastors.

1. The sprinkled Baptist

Occasionally a mature believer will sidle up to me and confess in hushed tones that although they are now fully convinced that baptism by immersion is the biblical method, they were—ahem—not immersed but—ahem—sprinkled.

I nod my head gravely, furrow my brow sagaciously, and then pose two diagnostic questions:

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Last week Jesse wrote about how understanding soccer will make you a better Christian. Today, I want to give some balance to this discussion. I want to lay out why the whole concept of soccer is actually contrary to biblical values.

Soccer should be rejected for these 11 reasons:

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While the United States celebrated her 238th birthday last Friday, many Americans are unaware of another significant anniversary taking place this week. On July 8, 1741, America heard what is often hailed as the greatest sermon preached on her soil from a man who is often hailed as the greatest theologian and thinker to minister on her soil.

In the years 1733 through 1737, Jonathan Edwards continued to preach in the  Northampton pulpit that was now his own, having been bequeathed to him by his grandfather, Solomon Stoddard. During these years God had blessed Edwards’ preaching and ministry with revival in New England and beyond. Many were converted and others edified in their faith. Biographer George Marsden quips, “By March and April of 1735, the spiritual rains had turned the stream [of conversions] into a flood.”[1] Edwards himself describes the revival’s effect on his congregation:

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