Beware of the Selfie-Preacher

In 2013 selfie was the Oxford word of the year. This indicates an ongoing and widespread cultural fascination with taking pictures of ourselves and sharing them with the public. Of course there is nothing inherently wrong with the practice. For centuries we have captured moments and shared them with others. It helps us to celebrate, remember, and even cherish times in our lives.

There are a couple of concerns that tend to arise in our snap-happy age. The first is the frequency. One study found that young women spend nearly an hour per day taking selfies. This would seem to be a bit of an unhealthy preoccupation with self. Another concern would be the creation of a pretend world. Selfies tend to create a reality for the one behind the camera. They are in charge and they control what others see. It creates a look, a feel, that presents us in our best light in a way that we approve of. This is simply not the real world. In the real world we are seen at our worst and often limp along together as we grow older and less photogenic.

My concern here is not primarily with selfie snapping teenagers however. Instead, I am concerned with the selfie culture in the pulpit. The Apostle Paul exhorts believers not to be conformed to the world (Rm. 12:2). If you had a word for the bottom, the irreducible core of what is wrong with the world it would be selfishness. …

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I’m Sorry, I Don’t Care for that Sorry.

The Veterans Affairs Secretary is in hot water and all the while he is instructing us about glory and repentance.

VA Secretary, Robert McDonald has apologized for lying about his service in the special forces. He recently was serving food to a homeless man in Los Angeles when he told the man that he also served in the special forces. The cameras were rolling and caught the exchange. The news did some digging and found out that he never actually served in this capacity.

As a result, Secretary McDonald issued a statement where he stopped short of the issue while tipping his cap to his “error.” He said, “I incorrectly stated that I had been in special forces. That was inaccurate and I apologize to anyone that was offended by my misstatement…I have great respect for those who have served our nation in special forces.”

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Fear Not, Little Flock

I am thoroughly enjoying Michael Horton’s new book Ordinary. I hope to review it soon, but will doubtless be quoting from it for months.

Here is a sample:

I think that if Jesus were to return today, he might tell us to stop taking ourselves so seriously. “will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matt 16:18, italics added). The gates of hell are no small matter, at least for us. We’re quite anxious. We have to do something about this (this being whatever we’re shocked by at present). America is in moral free-fall. The media are persecuting us. Churches seem to be losing their way. Radical Islam is on the march–not to mention the perfect storm of AIDS, famine, and war that has taken millions of lives in Africa. Every time we turn on the news, our compassion or anger is aroused–to the point that we become numb to it. And people in the pews are numb to it, especially when the church places still more burdens on their shoulders.

This burden of extraordinary impact weighs heavily, first, on the shoulders of pastors. But here is the good news: it is not your ministry, church, or people. You do not have to create and protect a personal legacy, but simply to distribute and guard Christ’s legacy entrusted to his apostles. You don’t have to bind Satan and storm the gates of hell. Christ has already done this. We’re just sweeping in being him to …

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Selfies and The Gospel

President Obama remains in hot water for his selfie with Denmark’s Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt and British Prime Minister David Cameron at the memorial service for Nelson Mandela. People are outraged not only at the setting, a service for a deceased dignitary, but also the act itself (unbecoming, juvenile, and narcissistic).

The fact is we are a world of selfies. Oxford Dictionary named selfie the word of the year in 2013. Even if we cringe at other people incessantly taking and posting personal portraits of themselves, we do it ourselves (even if we feel kind of dirty for doing it). The term selfie is a perfect term for us. We are a people who are uncomfortably and unhealthily drawn towards ourselves. And we like drawing other people to ourselves. We are, after all, about ourselves.

Selfie-ness is not new. It has been around since the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve decided to make the world about themselves rather than God. They wanted God to be the supporting actor in story of their lives.

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Rick Warren tells Piers Morgan: “I fear God more than I fear your disapproval…”

Pastor Rick Warren was on Piers Morgan and answered a number of tough questions. In particular, Piers Morgan (as he is known to do) continued to press the issue of gay marriage. Warren, thankfully, answered tactfully, articulately, winsomely, and more important–faithfully. What a great encouragement. (Link)

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The Benefit of a Large Family: “Pack-Life”

I’ve always enjoyed those scenes in the old Westerns when a guy walks into a saloon. You know what happens next; the music stops, conversations stop, and people turn their heads to look at the alien who just walked into the room. It’s great television. Sometimes I feel like we are living the domestic version of this scene. Our family is considered large by today’s standards. My wife and I have 6 children (ages 2-17). We tend to do things together and when we roll in with the kids the music stops, the heads turn and people’s eyebrows give each-other hi-fives.

We have embraced the freakishness of it. You kind of have to. In a society where families are radically changing, both in terms of size and substance, the freak factor will only increase. We get funny comments ranging from the sarcastic to the sympathetic. It is always entertaining. However, one question that we don’t regularly get is, “What is it like?” Questions usually pivot on the detriment (time and money) rather than the benefit (to us and society). In this post I want to highlight a few of the particular benefits to a large family. We call it the benefit of “pack-life.”

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Is it OK for a Christian to drop OMG’s?

It is not uncommon to hear people toss around God’s name as the exclamation point of their frustration. Their angst or excitement is not usually directed at God but nevertheless his name seems to find its way into our canned responses (even in texts with “OMG”). In the last year I have heard an uptick of Christians engaging in the same routine. So here is the question, “Is it OK to drop OMG’s (Oh, my God!)?”

Answer: No (with some qualification).

The obvious Scripture here is the 3rd of the 10 Commandments:

“You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.” (Ex. 20:7)

There is a command and a consequence. The command is don’t take God’s name in vain and the consequence is judgment. This should get our attention.

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March Madness and Eternal Happiness

What is the deal with March Madness? Every year millions of Americans become glued to their TV’s, computers and/or phones to stay updated with games played by teams they largely neglect the other 49 weeks of the year.

Several of my friends and I were discussing this last week and it became a helpful vantage point for better understanding the human heart and its insatiable thirst for glory.

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Is this a Compelling Christian Case for Gay-Marriage?

This weekend a church member sent me an article from the LA Times concerning Gay Marriage and the Bible. The article is an opinion piece by C.S. Pearce. Her basic point is that as the cultural acceptance for gay marriage continues to snowball it is only a matter of time before the majority of Christians catch on and become allies for same-sex marriage.

The article is more than a blind prophecy. Pearce evaluates history, the Bible and reason to support her optimistic forecast. Whatever her ostensible aim, Ms. Pearce’s evaluations do not have their reference point in the Bible but in the canon of her own experience. The result is strabismal. My goal is to interact a bit with the article and provide some clarity and consistency.

Pearce writes:

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“Why was that Big Man Hugging You and Mom?”

“Why was that big guy hugging you and Mom in the middle of the road?”

That was the big question from our kids before bed last night. The story that answers it tells us something about us as image bearers.

After picking our son up from baseball practice last night we were headed home. In the grassy median of a busy four lane road I noticed a woman abruptly fall down. We made a quick U-turn and headed back up onto a side street. My wife went out first and then I followed after parking. We were quickly joined by another family. Upon further inspection the lady who fell was clearly out of it and pretty highly inebriated. She was also cut up, bleeding and bruised all over the place. Myself and the other guy were attempting to keep the woman from walking back into the oncoming cars. She certainly would have been hit if we weren’t there. Our new friends joined together with us to be the physical barriers for this woman until the ambulance came. This proved to be a challenge, but we worked together and got it done.

Our kids, watching this scene unfold then saw a perfect stranger, an African-American big enough to be confused with an NFL offensive lineman, hugging Mom and Dad in the median. They asked “why?”

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