Christians have a long history of disagreeing with each other over doctrine. There is nothing new about that. Sometimes that disagreement can get quite heated. So for example, in the time when Wesley and Whitefield were arguing over Calvinism, Charles Wesley wrote a shameful hymn called “The Horrible Decree” which says of Calvinism:
O HORRIBLE DECREE
Worthy of whence it came!
Forgive their hellish blasphemy
I was saddened then by the hubris and the grandstanding, and even by the predictable confusion about exactly what happened when Mark Driscoll turned up (in a moment of high emotion its easy for people to get conflicting impressions of what transpired).
During the confernce the following Tweet appeared on MacArthur’s account, and I replied with an open question to him:
To be clear, the only reason I mentioned “reformed” charismatics in that tweet was because it seemed to me that he had already determined that the many non-reformed charismatics that I would count as my brothers and friends were not saved.
MacArthur’s closing address contained a few quotes that give an answer of sorts to that question (thanks to Cripplegate for the transcript from which these were taken):
“We have also been accused of being divisive. I would agree with that. Truth by its very nature is divisive. It’s why Jesus said I came to bring a sword, to divide people, families. Truth by its very nature is separated from error. And it is far more important to be divided by the truth than united by error . . .
There are others who criticized by saying, “You’re attacking brothers.” I wish I could affirm that. We’ve said this one way or another this week: this is a movement made up largely of non-Christians . . .
I’m convinced that the broader charismatic movement has opened the door to more theological error than any other theological aberration in this day. Liberalism, psychology, ecumenism, pragmatism, mysticism, are all bad. Nothing is as bad as Charismaticism because of its extensive impact. And once that kind of experientialism gets a foothold, there’s no brand of heresy that won’t ride it into the church.
Charismatic theology becomes the strange fire of our generation and we have no business flirting with it at any level.”
So, there you have it, I am a part of a movement which, according to MacArthur, is worse than liberalism, and which he said in the first session, has nothing good to offer the church, oh and “most” of us are not even Christians.
To be very clear, I have no problem with other Christians holding to a different posisition on the gifts of the Holy Spirit than I do. I do also recognise, as I have outlined in my Charismatic Spectrum there are many different possible positions. MacArthur seems to have missed all these nuances and simply want to reject all charismatic thinking as heretical.
In particular there is little or no attempt in this conference to separate doctrine and experience. What I mean is, when MacArthur claims a long stream of Christians in church history were theologically cessationist, he is absolutely correct. Yet, for many of the people he cites, including many of the reformers, (see this talk), the Puritans (see this talk), Spurgeon, and others, despite their views on the supremacy of Scripture, there was a strong focus on an experience of God.
This experientialism was key to the worldview of the Puritans. An awareness of the power of the risen Jesus at work in us was once seen as vital to the Christian walk by all. MacArthur even warns against books on prayer by E.M. Bounds in one of the Q and A sessions. It is very sad indeed if, as it at least appeared to me from this conference, that strong tradition has also been rejected. Phil Johnson seems aware of our concern on this point and even quoted me in his second talk, as follows:
“What I want to know about Phil is not whether he speaks in tongues . . . but rather does he have an intimate, experience of the Spirit?” He went on to suggest that cessationism portrays God as “a passive and absent figure who has left us only an intellectual relationship with the Bible.”
But in the rest of his talk he doesn’t address at all the sense some Christians have of a real relationship with God. Perhaps many cessationists do feel they have such a personal relationship, but as Packer has once pointed out today most people dont like talking about such things. Piper speaks openly about “meeting God” in his quiet times, and this would be very similar to countless experiences described by Christians of old. This experiential Christianity from the past is something I outline in part of my own book Raised With Christ which deliberately does not mention charismatic gifts, but strongly advocates this historic stream of knowing Jesus.
What is fascinating also is that there are many examples of respected Christian leaders who would not have had a charismatic theology but who had experiences which we today would call prophecy. So you see for example please do watch clip of Sam Storms describing Spurgeon’s remarkable experiences with this while preaching:
Clearly Spurgeon didn’t really have a category within his theology to explain things like that.
If MacArthur had said something like “Of course God grants certain experiences to people today, and they are even quite important at times, but we need to be more theologically precise about how we describe them,” that would have been one thing, to deny such experiences as demonic is something totally different.
Indeed, it is very possible to argue that between some more moderate cessationists and some more moderate charismatics many of the differences are ones of semantics. Vern Poythess has argued this case in a couple of papers that are worth reading. But MacArthur is apparently eager to throw out any chance of such experiences, and even the modern worship songs written by charismatics. To be consistent he would have to reject what is possibly the most popular modern hymn: In Christ Alone.
But to be fair to MacArthur, he does seem to allow two exceptions to the rule that even Reformed Charismatics have nothing good to offer: John Piper and Wayne Grudem. But it is interesting the way he speaks about them in a Q and A session:
With John Piper, that is a complete anomaly. That is just so off everything else about him. It’s not that he speaks in tongues or prophesies. He admits that. But there’s this anomaly in his mind that’s open to that. He’s always stated it that way. He’s even made statements like, “I don’t know, I’m not sure, I don’t know exactly what to think.” That’s’ a far cry from propagation. Even Wayne Grudem. I look at this as an anomaly [in his theology]. I don’t know and don’t need to know where this impulse comes from. But I do know the great body of work that John Piper has done is true to the faith. John is a friend not only whom I admire but whom I love. I don’t know why on this front he has that open idea, but it’s not an advocacy position for the movement and he would join us in decrying the excesses of that movement for sure, and even the theology of it.
MacArthur doesn’t seem to give any credence to the idea that Piper may think the way he does about the charismatic because he is convinced by biblical arguments. But throughout the Strange Fire Conference there was no real attempt at interacting with charismatic theology, and our actual reasons for believing what we do. So RC Sproul outlined his case for baptism of the Holy Spirit not being a subsequent experience, but didnt address Lloyd-Jones famous comment:
“There is nothing, I am convinced, that so ‘quenches’ the Spirit as the teaching which identifies the baptism of the Holy Ghost with regeneration. . . Got it all? Well, if you have ‘got it all’, I simply ask in the Name of God, why are you as you are? If you have ‘got it all’, why are you so unlike the Apostles, why are you so unlike the New Testament Christians?” READ MORE
As another example of a failure to engage with other perspectives, several times during the event the blatantly unbiblical claim that prophecies and other gifts were only ever given to authenticate Scripture-writers was made. As I outlined in a post before the conference began, it is patently clear that much prophecy discussed in the Bible had nothing to do with creating Scripture.
Instead of engaging theologically with our views, they either outlined their own, or as is in both the talks by Conrad Mbewe went into detail of the many horrid things that some in the charismatic movement do. Some sessions were spent watching video clips and simply mocking the extremes which are then used as a stick to beat us all over the head with.
To be honest, watching Phil Johnson’s first talk did make me ask myself: do I speak out about charismatic abuses often enough? Its not that I don’t recognise the problem. For example, I could easily speak volumes about the horror I felt when I watched the broadcast of God TV rehabilitating Todd Bentley and justifying restarting screening his bizarre meetings. Once I start down that route, though, where do I stop? As I said, in a tweet do I really have the time?
For that matter, surely spending my focus on highlighting the good things is a better use of my time? If people are taught to recognise real money by studying it, when fake currency turns up they will identify it in an instant. I am surprised how much time some of these folks seems to spend hunting out increasingly bizzare YouTube videos. Surely building and declaring a true model of the Christian life is a better use of our time?
Some of what MacArthur said during this event was patantly and blatantly untrue. For example he claimed that charismatics are not engaged in social action:
People who have any connection to Judaism and Christianity have a connection to philanthropy. It is a striking anomaly, however, that there is essentially zero social benefit to the world from the charismatic movement. Where’s the charismatic hospital? Social services? Poverty relief? This is a scam. SOURCE
Has he never heard of YWAM’s Mercy Ministries, of Rick Warren’s PEACE campaign? The list goes on and on. It is simply an untruth to claim that charismatics don’t care for the worlds poor.
I’d like to end with a video which demonstrates that it is possible for us to talk about issues that we disagree strongly about without rejecting one another as brothers and sisters in Christ. Thanks to Justin Taylor for posting this earlier this week.
With all the cessasionist craziness of John MacArthur – I am reminded of A.B. Simpson, founder of the C&MA who was one of the very few Evangelicals of his day who embraced a continuationist position before the modern charismatic movement.
He said there was “something of God in it” in reference to Azuza street revival and encouraged Alliance branches to go. He said we should welcome all the gifts of the Spirit in the public worship of the church, even “tongues, without making them a controversy.”
He said we all should seek ongoing baptisms of the Holy Spirit (in the Lukan sense).
He said things like this:
“What we need today is the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and then the union will come because of the unity. Then we will not need our platforms and our convocations to bring the body together, but bone to bone, member to member and heart to heart we will stand in unity of the Spirit (Ephesians 4:3), and the Church of Jesus will be fair as the moon, bright as the sun, majestic as the stars in procession (Song of Songs 6:10).
The baptism of the Holy Spirit will always bring a spirit of love. It will fill the heart with devotion and devotedness to God, with tender consideration for one another, with loving regard for our brethren, with intense longing for the salvation of souls, and with sweetness and charity toward all men.”
HERE is a nice summary of the arguments. I do not agree with all the particular viewpoints of this author, but it will at least give you an easy introduction to the arguments.
A Response to Tom Pennington’s Seven Cessationist Arguments
Posted on October 19, 2013 by Micael Grenholm
While the strange Strange Fire conference mostly was dedicated to accuse the majority of charismatics for being weird, heretic non-Christians (yes, John MacArthur did say that most of us are non-Christians), at least one session was about the root cause of these people’s uncomfortability with the charismatic movement: their cessationist belief. I gave a short summary of why I think cessationism is unbiblical in my previous post, but I felt that the cessationist arguments given at Strange Fire were so bad that I cannot let them pass unanswered. The session was held by Tom Pennington and here are a short summary and a longer transcription of his lecture.
Before Pennington even starts to give his seven “biblical” arguments for cessationism, he admits that “the New Testament nowhere directly states that the miraculous gifts will cease during the church age.” Amen to that. But then he simply states that this is irrelevant “because the New Testament doesn’t directly say they’ll continue either.”
Wow, now I feel tempted to produce my own gospel. I don’t like to pray very much, so I’ll just preach that we don’t have to pray in the post-apostolic age. And if someone would say to me “The Bible actually never says that we should cease to pray” I will simply answer “it doesn’t directly say we should continue praying either.”
For a Bible-believing Christian who thinks that we should base our lives on the life and teaching of Christ, the burden of proof lies on the cessationist, not on the continuationist. Jesus commanded his disciples to heal the sick and cast out demons (Mt 10:6-8), and then he ordered them after His miraculous resurrection to teach their disciples everything He had commanded them (Mt 28:20). It’s Tom Pennington’s job to prove that we should not do the stuff that Jesus and His disciples did, the burden of proof does not lie on the charismatics.
All right, here are Pennington’s arguments:
1) “There were only 3 primary periods in which God worked miracles through unique men. The first was with Moses; the second was during the ministries of Elijah and Elisha; the third was with Christ and his apostles. The primary purpose of miracles were to establish the credibility of one who speaks the word of God—not just any teacher, but those who had been given direct words by God.”
I thought people didn’t believe in the “three miraculous periods” stuff anymore. The book of Judges is filled with miracles and prophecies. The book of Daniel as well. Genesis, Isaiah, Jonah – they all account for amazing miracles. And the whole Bible is per definition filled with the gift of prophecy!
But more importantly, whether you believe in three or five or ten periods of “miraculous concentration”, it’s not at all an argument for the cessation of the gifts. Actually, most charismatics believe that there are periods of greater concentration of miracles – we call them revivals.
Miracles confirm the Word, yes, but they also do a lot of other stuff – healing the sick, feeding the hungry, casting out demons. And people are still sick, hungry and demonized today. Furthermore, miracles confirm the Word today when people come to Christ because they have seen Him do something supernatural. Here is one example:
2) “One of the gifts Christ gave his church was the apostles, but they were a temporary gift. Most agree that there are no more like the original apostles. No one meets the qualifications anymore, which included being an eye-witness of the life of Christ and his resurrection. You also had to be personally appointed by Christ and be able to work miracles (Matthew 10:1-2).”
Pennington is smart, he is not stating that only apostles could do miracles (which other cessationists have mistakingly argued) and then tries to prove that the apostolic ministry has ceased, he simply says that if the gift of apostleship has ceased it is reasonable to believe that other gifts have as well. But doing this, he wrongly argues that you had to be an eye-witness to Jesus’ life to be an apostle, which embarrassingly enough excludes a guy named Paul.
Apostolos means “being sent out” and simply describes a translocal church planting leader who did miracles. Surely those people hang around today. We’ve got rid of the title, not the ministry. Modern apostolic leaders, like Surprise Sithole, are indeed doing amazing miracles and have been called and appointed by Jesus in supernatural ways, similar to how Paul was called. Of course, I’m not arguing that their writings should be canonical, since that is not the biblical definition of an apostle.
3) “The New Testament identifies the apostles and prophets as the foundation of the church (Ephesians 2:20-22). In the context, it is clear that Paul is referring here not to Old Testament prophets but to New Testament prophets. Once the apostles and prophets finished their role in laying the foundation of the church, their gifts were completed.”
This argument is really easy to disprove. If apostles and prophets cease to exist, the foundation of the church is lost (which is why I think large parts of the church look so crazy today). According to Eph 2:20, Jesus is the cornerstone, and He surely hasn’t ceased, nor have apostles and prophets. Eph 2:20 does not say that the gifts of apostleship and prophecy were “completed” after the church was founded, just as the ministry of Jesus isn’t “completed”. Pennington has already decided that apostles is something that only existed in the past, and thus he is unable to see that Paul talked in a contemporary sense about the church’s foundation, a foundation that was expanding and thus needed more and more apostles, why the early church appointed quite a lot of them apart from the original twelve.
4) “If the Spirit was still moving as he was in the first century, then you would expect that the gifts would be of the same type.”
Pennington is applying this to three gifts: tongues, prophecy and healing:
“Consider the speaking of tongues. At Pentecost, the languages spoken were already existing, understandable languages. The New Testament gift was speaking in a known language and dialect, not an ecstatic language like you see people speaking in today.”
At Azusa Street, many people were speaking existing languages. Interpreters, immigrants and missionaries went there and identified countless languages: French, Greek, Hindi, Zulu. My pastor has seen this twice – a Swedish Christian sister who spoke Farsi when she spoke in tongues and a man in Nepal who started to speak a language he didn’t know. When I met Surprise Sithole in South Africa I did a long interview with him in English – a language he has never studied but has received from the Holy Spirit. More examples of this can be found inSpoken by the Spirit by Ralph W. Harris.
Having said that, I think it is pretty clear that what Paul describes in 1 Cor 12-14 are mostly languages that are not understandable for others than angels. But either way, xenolalia does exist today.
“Consider also the gift of prophecy. Nowhere does the New Testament distinguish Old Testament prophecy from New Testament prophecy. Just as the Old Testament prophets spoke direct, infallible revelation from God, so did the New Testament prophets. And once it was checked against previous revelation and approved, it was added to the church’s revelation.”
Here, Pennington seems to mix up prophecy and canonicity. Surely, Old and New Testament prophets spoke things that didn’t end up in Scripture. And when the New Testament canon was defined, it’s only criteria wasn’t that a book was prophetic but that it was written close to Jesus’ time. Most of the bishops and priests who defined the canon (which I guess are the only catholics that evangelicals would call infallible) surely believed that God was still speaking (we’ll come back to that below) but all prophetic words were not put into the canon.
To “check against previous revelation” before approving a prophetic word is exactly what sound charismatics are doing in accordance with 1 Thess 5:19-22. But it doesn’t mean that we put every knew genuine prophetic word into canon, just as the Christians in Corinth and Thessalonia didn’t put everything they received into a canon.
“Consider the gift of healing. In the New Testament when someone with the New Testament gift of healing used his gifts, the results were complete, immediate, permanent, undeniable, every kind of sickness, and every kind of illness. The purported healings of today’s faith healers are the antithesis: incomplete, temporary, and unverifiable.”
Jack Deere, a former cessationist who is now a passionate charismatic, writes in his excellent book Surprised by the Power of the Spirit that he had two favourite cessationist arguments – the first one being that the apostles unlike contemporary charismatics could heal anyone anytime at will, the second one being that the gifts clearly ceased even when the Bible was written since Paul in his later, pastoral letters mentions sick people that clearly hadn’t been healed yet. When Deere realized that these arguments are contradictory he opened himself up to charismatic theology. Everyone aren’t healed. Jesus couldn’t heal in Nazareth. Once even He had to pray twice.
5) “Even in the written books of the New Testament, the miraculous gifts are mentioned less as the date of their writing gets later. After the New Testament era, we see the miraculous gifts cease. John Chrysostom and Augustine speak of their ceasing. Martin Luther, John Calvin, Jonathan Edwards, Charles Spurgeon, and B. B. Warfield all agree that the gifts ended after the 1st century and had been given only to confirm the message when it first appeared.”
When claiming that the gifts ceased even in Biblical times Pennington is primarily referring to Hebrews 2:3-4 which he claims says that “God also testifying with them [the apostles]” not us, “by signs, wonders, and gifts of the spirit.” Thus, he argues that the authour of Hebrews is making a distinction between his generation and the earlier apostles, claiming that miracles only belonged to the latter. Problem is, this is not what the text says! The Greek does not say that God testified with “them”, that’s an interpretation that some (but definitely not all) translations put in there, so Pennington’s argument is invalid. Instead this is a powerful declaration of the beauty and utility of miracles.
Anyways, Pennington quickly jumps on to church history. And of course he skips the majority of church fathers and goes directly to John Chrysostom. Because as John Wimber clearly showed in his awesome book Power Evangelism and as you can see here, almost all church fathers believed in the miraculous gifts and had seen them in action. John Chrysostom was probably the first cessationist in world history. Augustine seemed to believe in the cessation of tongues but surely not other gifts, in City of God he is giving a detailed account of numerous healings and miracles he have witnessed or heard about, including the raising of the dead. He clearly says that miracles have not ceased!
After mentioning these two church father Pennington jumps 1200 years or so to the classical cessationists. And he seems to imply that this means that between Augustine and Luther everyone were cessationist, which of course is ridiculous. Catholics and Orthodoxs are not cessationists, they have strong faith in miracles. Perhaps that is why Pennington doesn’t like Catholics very much.
6) “The sufficiency of Scripture. The Spirit speaks only in and through the inspired Word. He doesn’t call and direct his people through subjective messages and modern day bestsellers. His word is external to us and objective.”
Scripture is awesome, but to say that this is the only way God speaks is unscriptural. Pennington vainly tries to prove that 1 Tim 3:16 says that the prophetic inspiration of Scripture means that prophecy is unnecessary, which would be very strange since Paul some years before argued that people who wasn’t writing Scripture should eagerly desire the gifts, especially prophecy (1 Cor 14:1).
Argument 7: “In 1 Corinthians 14, where Paul lays out specific guidelines for how two of the miraculous gifts were to be practiced.”
This is not an argument for cessationism at all, just an exhortation to charismatics to take it easy and forbid women to speak.
To sum up, I think Tom Pennington should have stopped in the beginning when he realized that there is no direct support for cessationism in the Bible and then questioned why on earth he as a Bible believing Christian still believes in cessationism. Most of the arguments above are in my opinion really bad – both exegetically and dogmatically – and have already been dealt with in books like Jack Deere’s Surprised by the Power of the Spirit. If you are a cessationist, please just bow down your head, thank God for His Spirit in you, and go out and do the stuff that Jesus did.
A little over a year ago, my dad had a massive heart attack.
We didn’t expect it (which sounds weird to say, because who ever expects someone they love to have a heart attack) but it’s true. He’d never had any heart trouble before, he was only fifty-five years old, and you could find him at the gym at least a few times each week.
Then, out of nowhere, his just heart stopped beating.
In the weeks before I got the call we hadn’t been talking much. We were close, and had been close for most of my adult life, but I had recently gotten married and moved across the country, and things were hard, and weird with the transition.
Every time I would think to call I would say to myself, “I’ll call tomorrow…”
So when my sister called to explain what had happened, I felt all of the reasons I’d given myself to hold back from calling him crash against me like a river of grief and regret. “I should have called,” I kept saying to myself, in a blur of tears. “God, don’t let him die. Please, don’t let him die.” I prayed and I sobbed.
*Photo by Robert Gaal, Creative Commons
I was brought back to this moment the other day after getting in an argument with a friend.
It wasn’t a yelling-screaming fight, but we were both frustrated with each other and by the time we hung up the phone, things were weird, like they’d been my with my dad. We were still friends, but we were confused; we weren’t sure who should say what, or when. I laid awake in bed that night, going over the fight in my mind. I felt myself thinking, “I’ll call tomorrow…”
But instead, I sat up in bed and immediately sent them a text: “I love you and care for you, even when we disagree. We’re okay.”
It was simple. So simple. But at the same time, it changed everything for me.
• • •My grandma turned 90 years old recently, and the whole family traveled to Chicago to celebrate. After the celebration we sat around asking her questions, gleaning from her wisdom about life and marriage and career and family.
My cousin asked, “Grandma, what’s the best thing you ever did for your marriage?”
She thought about it for a minute and then said, “Each night, before we fell asleep, we would turn to each other and say, ‘I’m sorry if I hurt you today. I love you.’” I smiled at her words and then, that night, when I climbed into bed, my husband looked me in the eye and said, “I’m sorry if I hurt you today. I love you.”
It was simple. So simple. But at the same time, it changed everything.
• • •
I wonder if this is why Paul urges us in Scripture not to let the sun go down on our anger — not because it makes God happy (although it probably does), but because he knows it will make us happy. Perhaps he knows our deepest desires, as well as our deepest regrets, come from the same place: Our connection to others.
By a beautiful miracle, my dad survived his heart attack.
But I live differently now, knowing my chance to say “I love you, Dad,” in person, was almost taken away from me. Before I go to bed at night I try to say — to my husband, and whoever else needs to hear it — I’m sorry if I hurt you today. I love you.
It’s simple. So simple. But at the same time, it changes everything.
Christian culture, along with the spiritual leaders, churches, institutions, communities, and other entities it consists of, are supposed to make our faith stronger. But in many cases the opposite happens, and it actually causes our faith to die. In religious environments often surrounded by cynicism, hypocrisy, hurtfulness, and disappointment, it’s easy to give up on Christianity. Here’s how to prevent spiritual burnout:
1) Avoid Legalism
Historically, Christianity has always struggled with legalism, where churches often forced beliefs and practices on people with domineering power. Legalistic groups thrive on strict rules, ruthlessness, enforced doctrines, and authoritarian judgment.
Various agendas — that are valued more than the loving gospel of Christ — are promoted and pushed onto people. And it wasn’t that long ago (in fact, it still exists) that American believers were expected to be anti-gay, conservative, pro-choice, anti-evolution fundamentalists.
If fear, condemnation, and shame are used as spiritual weapons to gain power, influence, and control — run!
2) Embrace Discovery
Christianity is a lifelong journey of learning. Are we really expected to know everything there is to know about God by the time we’re in high school, or college, or by the time we become adults (whenever that is), or grandparents? Your beliefs and theology should change, and when they do, that’s OK.
Life experiences, new information, and changing relationships (along with hundreds of other factors) are constantly shaping our faith and forcing us to ask new questions, look at old ideas differently, and inspiring us to mature in our spirituality.
God created us to discover. When religious leaders promote certainty, refuse to allow questioning, and shame those who experience doubt, they are being unbiblical.
So go meet new people, travel, learn from different cultures, listen to new worship, read the latest books, educate yourself, and stay relevant.
Jesus was constantly challenging the Pharisees (who confidently thought they knew everything) and rebuking those who were the most certain about their beliefs. He used parables and teachings to help people — including his disciples — to think in completely new and different ways.
Be open to the idea that Jesus might also cause you to rethink your presuppositions.
3) Expect Change
Discovery lends itself to change. New doesn’t automatically mean better, and it’s not always right to make changes, but don’t expect to remain safely entombed within a Christian “bubble” for the rest of your life.
The changes will be big and small, both good and bad — but they are inevitable.
Yes, there will come a day when your favorite pastor retires, your preferred worship band moves on, the service times get moved, the church building is remodeled, and the youth pastor starts promoting radical new ideas.
The Christian faith isn’t static. It’s a journey, a Pilgrim’s Progress, so expect change — and don’t freak out when it happens.
4) Join a Community
People often abandon their faith because they feel alone, rejected, ignored, or simply out of place. Oftentimes, they find acceptance — and a more loving community — somewhere else, outside of Christianity.
Fostering community isn’t easy, and it doesn’t just happen. Community demands vulnerability, time, energy, relational commitment, emotional investment, and risk. Conflict will occur — but it’s worth it. If you aren’t experiencing spiritual community on an intimate level, find it (or work on it) as soon as possible!
5) Have Fun
There’s a season for everything, and while our faith is often full of serious and deep moments, it’s also meant to be freeing and uplifting.
If you associate Christianity with sadness, depression, guilt, boredom, and mundane routine — something’s wrong.
Obviously, Christianity isn’t all fun and games, and it shouldn’t be used as a source of superficial distractions meant to fill us with constant cheer and laughter — but you should occasionally have fun.
Christians often associate the term ‘holiness’ with liturgical communions, ornamental ceremonies, reverent sermons, and prayer meetings. We assume God doesn’t exist outside of certain religious venues. But God iseverywhere, and God’s glory can be experienced anywhere: while we’re hanging out with friends, playing with our kids, participating in sports, attending music concerts, and just enjoying life.
Sometimes these carefree moments are when we feel God’s presence the most — and they are holy moments.
Unfortunately, Christians can hurt each other, and eventually, you’ll be the victim. Maybe they will hate your theology, gossip about you, slander your family, lie, steal, cheat, or betray you — but it will happen. Prepare yourself.
Regrettably, many people reject Christianity not because of Christ, but because of those who representChrist: a pastor, a church member, or a Christian that did something horrible.
When you are sinned against by a fellow believer, God empathizes with you, feels your pain, and will ultimately bring about justice, but God also calls us to forgive, and your capacity to enjoy life — and your faith— is directly related with your ability to do so.
7) Be Positive
There are two types of Christians: those who are positive, and those who are negative — the optimists and the pessimists.
Some live out their faith motivated by fear, guilt and shame. They believe that almost everyone is going to Hell, God is constantly waiting to strike people with a bolt of lightning, the world is increasingly getting worse and worse (“Just look at today’s youth!”), and impending doom is just around the corner.
Then there are those whose faith is motivated by hope, inspiration, and love. They see God as redeeming humanity, bringing about goodness, healing, and restoration, and view the Gospel as good news! Imagine that!
Which type of Christian are you?
8) Love Jesus
Essentially, it all comes down to loving God.
But too often, we make the mistake of identifying Christianity as Christ, and we idolize the religion instead of focusing on the relationship.
When this happens, we either love or hate Christianity — not Christ. In the end, when we inevitably get let down by Christianity, we assume that God let us down, when all along we were following a false misrepresentation. This is our constant challenge as believers, to love and follow Christ — not “Christianity.”
Stephen Mattson has contributed for Relevant Magazine and the Burnside Writer’s Collective, and studied Youth Ministry at the Moody Bible Institute. He is now on staff at Northwestern College in St. Paul, Minn. Follow him on Twitter @mikta .
20 Things Every Twentysomething Should Know How to Do
BY TYLER HUCKABEE
OCTOBER 8, 2013
Tyler is something else. He’s a writer who loves blue jeans, camping, hamburgers and rock and roll. He’s also the managing editor at RELEVANT. You can read all about his fascinating life over at The Unbearable Lightness of Huckabeing, or read every dumb thought that comes into his brain on Twitter.
First things first, most twentysomethings are too hard on themselves.
It’s one of the downsides of a youth-obsessed culture. We tend to think if we haven’t published our first book, planted our first church or gotten married by the time we’re 30, then we’re on the fast track for a lonely, penniless death which will be mourned by none. Sure, some people get famous when they turn 25. Some people also swim across the English Channel.
Your twenties are a prime time to explore and grow, without all the baggage that comes with settling down and making your mark. (Jesus Himself was an unknown carpenter in a reviled corner of Israel until He was 30.)
That said, there are a few things every twentysomething should know how to do.
YOUR TWENTIES ARE A PRIME TIME TO EXPLORE AND GROW, WITHOUT ALL THE BAGGAGE THAT COMES WITH SETTLING DOWN AND MAKING YOUR MARK.
1. Make a Great Breakfast
Ideally, you should be able to craft a great meal for any time of the day, but this is the most important meal of the day and so, it’s the one you should have down. Use real butter, large eggs, fresh mushrooms, cheese, whatever, but know the ins and outs and invite lots of people over to eat it with you regularly.
2. Argue Kindly
An increasingly rare trait, but you’ll be better for it. Learning how to have your own opinions (and make sure they’re actually yours—not just something you “heard somewhere”) and how to put them firmly and politely, in a way that invites spirited conversation is a rare and wonderful thing.
3. Hold a Conversation With Someone of Any Age
Whether the person you’re talking to is eight or 80, you should be able to hold a meaningful, intentional conversation with them. Remember to ask a lot of questions, be more interested in who they are than in who you are, and strive to make their day.
4. Parallel Park
Nothing menial about it, and not nearly as hard as it looks. Practice a little. Become an expert. Dazzle your friends.
5. Defend Your Media Choices
Whether you like Kendrick, Kings of Leon or Ke$ha, you should be able to articulate why. The media we consume affects us, and you should be able to explain to yourself why you’re listening, watching and reading the things that you are.
6. Limit Your Online Life
This cannot be over-emphasized. The inability to manage an online presence has toppled promising careers and made fools out of otherwise competent individuals. You should have a good grip on how often you use social media and what you’re using it for. If you find most of your free time spent on the Internet, it’s time to make some choices. If you’re checking your phone at every awkward pause, delete that Facebook app.
7. Approach a Stranger
Whether it’s for directions, a favor or even just to pass the time on an airplane, knowing how to strike up a conversation out of the blue is a marvelous skill. Ask them questions (don’t lead with information about yourself), be approachable (not aggressive) and look for clues that they’d rather be left alone.
8. Stand Up for Yourself
Whether it’s your boss shooting down an idea before you’ve explained it or a guy shouting rude comments as you’re walking by, you should know how to keep from getting walked over.
9. Say “I Was Wrong”
Whether it was a relationship squabble, a professional tiff or a theological debate, you should always be looking for where you might have messed up. “I was wrong” is a magical little phrase that diffuses conflict and brings peace to any situation. You should have it at the top of your go-to phrases.
10. Brew a Great Cup of Coffee or Tea
Look. Once and for all, turning on the coffeemaker and brewing a pot of coffee is totally fine. But you should also be aware how to make a perfect cup of coffee or tea. For yourself. For your friends. Do a little reading. Perfect your technique. It’s a skill you’ll be glad you have forever.
11. Tip Generously
What’s just an extra buck or two to you can completely make your server’s day? Make it a habit to tip generously and, if you’re really feeling daring, write a brief thank you note on your check.
12. Maintain a Mentor
Your twenties are a great time to invest in a mentor. Find someone you want to be like—be it your pastor, a friend or even a peer—and commit to meeting with them regularly. It takes a little humility and a lot of dedication, but there is no ceiling to the value it will add to your life.
13. Bite Your Tongue
Know how to pick your battles. It’s OK for you to be right without you having to get everyone to admit you’re right. It’s OK for you to be offended by something without everyone knowing you’re offended. Understand when you should go to bat for what you’re thinking and when you can let it go.
14. Stay Well Rested
Late nights will come (if you’ve got kids, they’ll come pretty frequently) but our generation has forgotten the value in a good night’s sleep. Push yourself to go to bed earlier. Utilize your downtime wisely. Resting is just as important as being productive. In fact, you’ll be more productive if you are resting well and often.
15. Respond to Criticism
Defending yourself against criticism is easy. Graciously accepting it is harder, but the improvements it can make to your life and work are wild. Remember that criticism usually isn’t meant to be a personal attack and, if you can learn to take it in the spirit its offered, people will have fewer things to criticize you about in the future.
16. Write a Cover Letter
Filling out an application is a pretty simple process but, in all likelihood, the job you really want is going to take more than a list of references and previous employers. Cover letters require some effort, but it can be the difference between “don’t call us, we’ll call you” and “when can you start?”
17. Be Alone
The Millennial generation prizes community, which is very good, but it tends to come at the cost of fearing loneliness. The truth is, being alone can do you a lot of good. Be able to sit quietly—reading, writing, praying or just listening to the silence—and use that time to truly evaluate how your spirit is. Loneliness is exercise for your heart. Do it regularly.
KNOW THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN WHAT’S URGENT AND WHAT’S IMPORTANT, AND KNOW WHICH ONE MATTERS MORE.
18. Recommend a Book, Movie or Album
It’s harder than it sounds. It’s easy to sound like a pretentious snob or a gushing fan when you’re telling someone to check out something you love. Be able to explain not only why you love something, but why you think someone else would love it.
19. Prioritize the Important Over the Urgent
There are two types of demands on your life. The first and easiest to focus on are the urgent: paying your rent, getting ahead in work, etc. The second and much harder to tackle are the important: your spiritual life, your relationship with your family and looking after the health of your soul. Know the difference between what’s urgent and what’s important, and know which one matters more.
20. Hold on to a Good Friend
There’s going to be a lot of transition in your twenties as both you and your friends float from job to job and location to location. You’ll have to say a lot of good bye’s in the midst of it all, but you should know when you’ve found the rare friend who you don’t want to lose, and you should be able to prioritize staying in touch with them beyond the occasional text message.
Shel – a friend posted this. I think Keller has one of the best conservative evangelical views on the subject. Not to be confused with fundamentalist approaches.
Christianity has view about what makes for human flourishing. What sends you to heaven or hell is your relationship to God’s mercy through a relationship with Jesus and loving others out of that. FYI until you are made perfect as He is perfect you have sins that are worthy of hell and death. Sin is the great universalizer of all people before God’s Love. That is an Evangelical and orthodox view.
Want to know more about Evangelicalism – join us this Sunday at Mercy Church for the Stepping Into Three Streams of Mercy series #2.
There are some essentials that every one serving a church in a pastoral role should know.
1) You are there to EQUIP the body for ministry (Read Eph 4). That means making disciples, who make disciples. If you’re looking for classical church growth language – that means you can “multiply” or “scale” or “reproduce” or “share leadership” etc etc. The means of making disciples is always real relationship. However those circles must welcome new believers in and push maturing believers out to connect with people you never could.
2) You must constantly turn to Jesus for your sense of self-worth. It cannot be the church as people or organism. If you do not do this – then subtly you connect people more to you and your personality – than HIM. Insecurities multiply there power when it’s about us. This also means we cannot release ministry to others in a healthy way.
3) Models of ministry are not sacred – EXCEPT that Jesus and people and making space for new people and people on the margins of the Kingdom matter.
4) Prayer IS vital. You cannot share holy imagination if your mind and body are not formed by habits, routinues, workouts of prayer. Don’t care which models (contemplative, charismatic, etc.) it’s that you do prayer in different ways that engage all that you are and leverage the redeemed aspects of your personality type without being chained down by the parts that the spiritual battles consistently comes up in.
When I ask men about their sexual behavior, most guys are surprisingly honest when anonymity is a factor. We’ve spoken about porn, oral sex, prostitution, lust, marriage, thoughts, immorality, intimacy, desires, homosexuality, masturbation, sexual abuse, incest, greed, and idolatry. I’ve eaten meals with pastors, executives, bankers, doctors, religious people, church planters, frat guys, students, entrepreneurs, traffickers, and average guys that work 40 hours a week and stay relatively pure.
THE MAJORITY OF US ARE SEXUALLY BROKEN
Most of us had absent fathers. 1 in 5 of us were sexually abused. Every one of us has learned the art of concealing sin. Around 80% of men in the church are currently using pornography. Some of us don’t need a girlfriend because we’re in full-fledged relationship with our hand or laptop. And some of us know the feeling of cold emptiness after leaving a strip club or a brothel. Some of you men know what it’s like to go to sleep next to an empty shell of a woman that used to be your wife because your infatuation with photoshopped women has extinguished the intimacy. You’re no longer lovers, you’re roommates with children. Some of you are fathers that see your sexual sin manifested in your children, but you’re too fearful to expose it in your own life regardless of the damage its doing to your marriage and family. “What if coming out with this stuff makes things worse?” is the only question you’ve thought of.
I know where you’re at. I know what you’re thinking. And I know the lies you’re deceived by. I’ve been where some of you are.
YOU LOVE PORN…AND JESUS?
A good friend of mine has battled sexual addiction all of his life. He’s a graduate of Bible college and is part of a healthy church. He’s got a lovingly invasive community and has had numerous Godly mentors pushing him towards Jesus for the last 7 years, but he still uses pornography every chance he gets—disabling the X3 watch on his phone and computer. If he’s alone for longer than 30 minutes with an internet connection, he begins searching for filth. He still habitually masturbates. He lies about his sin. He conceals his secrets. He manipulates Christian women into sinning with him, then he lies about that. He exemplifies the epitome of selfishness and a lack of self control.
But he also calls Jesus his Lord…Are you that guy? It’s sometimes confusing to me when men can be sexually enslaved while following Jesus, yet that’s what the overwhelming majority of them tend to be living. Can the two coexist? Are they diametrically opposed? Isn’t one the antithesis of the other?
I’m not going to quote your favorite authors or offer free accountability software. I don’t have a PDF to read or an invitation to a men’s conference. You’ve probably already tried those things. You’ve read books and made countless commitments, which you’ve broken. You’ve tried accountability. You’ve gone through a “freedom season.” You’ve confessed your sin. You’ve been rebuked. You’ve disconnected the internet. You’ve been kicked out of the house. You’ve destroyed the computer. You’ve memorized the Word of God. You’ve pleaded with Jesus to remove the thorn in your flesh. You’ve shouted, screamed, and wept. You’ve tried everything and you’re still shackled.
A DIFFERENT KIND OF IMAGE
Just imagine for a moment that this is reality: You’re on a battlefield. It’s dark. Chaotic. Cold wind is whipping your face. The stench of death fills the air. Corpses of demons lie all around you and the field is soaked in blood. You can hear the sounds of armor and weapons colliding while sparks are flying. Screams pierce your ears.
You see chiseled, powerful beings radiating in white and they’re destroying shadows, gripping the throats of principalities and slitting them with iridescent blades. But you’re without armor. You wonder how you got to this place and why you came unprepared.
Since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.
Men that you recognize are rushing the opposite direction—spears aligned, ready to throw. Swords sharpened, shields fixed, helmets lowered they’re ready for battle. They’re calling for you to join them. They’re rushing for the the front lines—they’re unafraid. They know they’ve been given victory.
But not you. You’ve got your pants down around your ankles. You’re roaming in circles looking for the seductress that’s calling you by name. You can’t wait to fornicate on the battlefield.
And all the while, the kingdom is coming. The lost are being found. The sick are being healed. Demonic assignments are being cancelled. The veil is being lifted off of false religion and the persecuted church is exponentially growing in the face of opposition. Jesus is authoritatively mediating a covenant—the Spirit is interceding for the children of God, breathing life into dry bones.
You can approach God with freedom and confidence – not because of your obedience, but because of Jesus’ obedience Ephesians 3:12
When you are faithless, he will remain faithful, because he cannot deny himself 2 Timothy 2:13
FIX YOUR EYES ON JESUS
Since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him, he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? (Hebrews 12:1-5).
You’ve been eating with the pigs long enough. Come home, son.
You know, because in our self-me-I American late-western culture that’s what it’s all about. We have 1/4 life and 1/3 life crises now. One does not need to be 40 or 50 to claim existential angst anymore.
So my way of handling such things (I am joking here about “life crisis” but times when one is drawn inward by stress good or bad) is to learn or rediscover things that brought me joy at a younger age. E.g. my earlier post of water and swimming. BTW my times and technique are getting better.
Teaching my children piano has been one of the other ways. I know I know, it’s not a highly praised idea to teach your own kids. But with our venture into the rigorous version of home schooling for the littles, it’s a way I can contribute.
They (of course) on the first week had mild frustration. This resulted in the first breakthrough of realizing you cannot play the piano perfectly from one initial lesson or sight-reading of music (let alone READ the music).
The impulse to give-up was taught through to practice and NOW they are starting to have some fun and learn that practice is what enables one to push forward and experience new joys and pains of music.
Life is like this. We often think we should be naturals – even if you have some natural talent – un challenged by a teacher, life, and self – it does not become something of value and eventually of play. Play is work that turns back and outward into new play you can get lost in.
Practice and the journey enables new vistas of play.
It’s all connected.
Oh, and now I’ve rediscovered that I enjoyed playing the piano too. I have strange attraction to Edvard Grieg’s (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edvard_Grieg) pieces that I started to play in High School (ages ago).
Don’t worry they;re not up to public performance level yet. But thank God for teachers who push naturally talented people.
In your life crises rediscovering joys of childhood and listening for the voice of God the Father (who loves you and pushes you into new destiny) might be the most life-giving thing to do.
So who’s making space to go lifting, swiming, playing piano, and so on in their 1/4 and 1/3 life crises?