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We are all expert planners, are we not?

Those people [the builders of Babel’s Tower] were planners. They drew the specifications of the city. They had it all worked out. We all do that in life, do we not? You have your plans. Your future life and career are mapped out. You know what you want to do.

Where does God come in? Is the plan made under God, or is it made apart from him?

The one lesson of [Genesis 11] is that if you plan your life without God at the center, it will come to nothing, nothing at all. It will be as futile and as fatuous as the Tower of Babel. God will come down and will destroy it, whether you like that or not. This is the whole history of the Bible. It is the history of the subsequent centuries after the end of the Bible. It is the history of the twentieth century. The human race is not allowed to build a civilization without God, and you are not allowed to build your life without God.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones

From <a href="Al Mohler“>Al Mohler

There is no excuse for theatrics as a substitute for Gospel ministry.

That is the main issue here from a Christian perspective. Pastor Jones is not wrong to see Islam as a way that leads millions of people away from the message of the Gospel and thus to spiritual death. But he did not reach out with the Gospel message; he simply staged a theatrical stunt intended to draw attention to himself and his church. The way he toyed with the media and major public figures earlier this year was an indication of the game he intended to play — and now he has played it out.

He put human lives at jeopardy for a publicity stunt. Those who responded to his actions with murder have blood on their hands, and they demonstrated a key distinction between Islam and Christianity. Christians are not called to defend the honor of our Savior or of the Bible. The Islamic sense of honor leads to what are even called honor killings. Those who would kill for honor thus dishonor their cause. What belief system would justify murder in response to being offended?

There is a crucial distinction between being willing to die for a cause, as Christians are called to do, and being willing to kill for a cause. That distinction is rooted in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, who did not kill his enemies, but died for them.

Christians are not called to burn the books of other religions. We are not called to publicity stunts that put lives at risk and subvert the preaching of the Gospel of Christ. Such actions deserve only the most severe condemnation. But even the condemnation serves its purpose — to gain publicity.

This is a pastor of a tiny congregation who is now known all across the globe for his actions performed in front of thirty people in a small room in Florida. Welcome to the age of the Internet. Publicity is a dangerous fuel and a lethal intoxicant. We must condemn Pastor Jones for his publicity stunt. But, in so doing, we give him what he wanted all along.

From Cal Thomas

Like those clowns who makeup the family-only Westboro ‘Baptist’ Church in Kansas, Jones does not represent the example of Jesus, but is a grand stander who seeks attention for himself. More than two [dozen] people died in Afghanistan. The murderers said Jones’ burning of the Koran was the reason. Again, those killers might well have found another excuse for their acts, but Americans — and especially ministers who claim to be acting in God’s name — ought not to be providing more fuel to an already incendiary situation.”


A 1951 laughable thought: IIn 50 years the President of the United States will refuse to define marriage as between a man and a woman.

A 2011 laughable thought: In 50 years the President of the United States will refuse to exclude from marriage a man and a chimp.

Are you laughing?

1. The toughest person to lead is yourself.

2. Leaders will either serve others or they serve themselves.

3. A person’s talent can sometimes take them to where their character cannot sustain them. See Tiger Woods.

4. People don’t need information. They already have an abundance of that. People need inspiration.

5. The most intimidating leadership assignment I have is husband and father because I am sending people forth into a time I cannot see. – Crawford Loritts

6. The best leaders come out of crock pot, not a microwave. They are made over time.

7. Don’t rush to judgement. Gather information at one level and then make decisions at the leadership level.

8. There is great power in a good compliment.

9. Take risks. The fruit is out on the limb, not close to the tree trunk.

10. You will either prepare or repair.

11. No one likes change but a baby. However, change is desperately needed.

12. Embrace your uniqueness because no two leaders are alike. They come in all different shapes, sizes, backgrounds, temperaments, etc…

13. People have to like you. You have to have a team that CAN help you. You must also have a team that WANTS to help you.

14. Leaders are readers – and learners.

15. The most valuable commodity a leader has is time. Don’t ever waste a person’s time. It’s the one thing that once you have taken it, you can’t give back.

16. The only difference between ANGER and DANGER is a “D”. Your temper can destroy your influence.

17. Great leaders don’t want a position. They want influence and to make a difference.

18. What you say “No” to is more important than what you say “Yes” to.

19. Generosity is the new evangelism, both in business and relationships.

20. The success of a leader is determined by those closest to them. Build a great team. – John Maxwell

21. Nowhere in the Bible does God call someone to an easy task. Therefore, have courage because it is not going to be easy.

22. Leadership has some very lonely times.

23. There are great perks to leadership. Everyone wants those. There is also a great price to leadership. Few are willing to pay it.

24. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do something. God can do extraordinary things through ordinary people.

25. What matters most to me is does my wife respect me and does my family love being with me. All others definitions of success are simply not as important.

Bonus – There is never a traffic jam on the 2nd mile.

Brian Dodd


Dave Dorr:

So what is patience? Patience is understanding the settled reality that we are not in control. We are at peace with the fact that life is run by someone else. When we are patient we are paddling downstream, letting the force of life guide us along, knowing we can steer, but not turn upstream. Impatience is turning the boat, rowing hard against the current; we still move downstream, but with incredible exhaustion.

Impatient people are tired people.

We want more control than we have. But God wants patience to permeate our inner being. Why? Not just because life and its trials will require patience, but we need to reconcile our souls to our lack of control, trusting that God is good. If God is good and he is in control, then we can trust the satisfaction or obstruction of our will is the good design of a loving and gracious Father.

And that is worth the wait.

Read the rest.

One year ago, our son Joey was attacked while in India. His face was deeply sliced. His life was threatened – as were the lives of his team. He carries the scar on his face. You can read the initial story here.

Yesterday, Joey sent his reflections to his family. I share his letter with his permission.

Today is the one year anniversary of our mugging and my stabbing in India. Last year, I wrote this paper reflecting on what God had taught me through the whole incident. A couple months later, I preached this sermon further explaining what God has done in me since the attack.

I’ve moved on from the attack in India. I’m pressing on in ministry. But I have learned a few more things in the past year that I hope will sharpen you and prepare you for your day of suffering.

Physical trauma is always linked to emotional trauma. I’ve learned through this attack as well as the arthritis in my foot that daily plagues me that physical pain leads to emotional pain and emotional pain often leads to physical pain. The emotional pain of suffering is often more lasting than physical pain. By far, most of my temptation to unbelief in God since the attack has been due to emotional trauma and not physical trauma. My face feels fine now… my spirit is often racked with temptation to fear. Fear tempts me every day. The temptation is subtle and deep, but it is there.

The fear is mostly for my family. Fear is squarely grounded in unbelief, as is all sin. I’m thankful for emotional and physical trauma for revealing layers of unbelief of which I must daily repent. I repent and cling to the cross of Jesus. I cling to promises like Josh. 1:9: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” Amazingly, Josh. 1:9 was the ‘life verse’ that my parents have prayed for me since I was born.

I’ve learned that God uses broken people to lead broken people. As I shared with thousands of people what happened to us in India, I began to notice that the most encouraging thing that I could share with them was the stories of my weakness and struggles and God’s grace and power in helping me overcome those struggles. People are encouraged when they hear and follow leaders that are weak in themselves, but strong in Christ. It was said of the Messiah, “a smoldering wick he will not quench” (Matthew 12:20). While Jesus does not quench the wick, he blows his life giving breath on the smoldering flame so that it bursts into a conflagration!

Suffering really is, ultimately, good for us. It is good for our joy as we are forced to embrace God over and above the hollow and evanescent thrills that come from earthly activity.

It is good for our prayer life because we remember that, let’s face it, prayer is the most strategic and transformative activity in the world.

It is good for our humility because we are desperately and dependently thrust into the mercies of God for all our needs.

It is good for sharpening our focus on the few things in this world that really matter.

It is good for our love of the Bible, because we learn that nothing – absolutely no other spoken or written word – encourages us so deeply and so lastingly as the written Word of God.

It is good for our relationships with others, because our the memory of suffering becomes our source of compassion for others.

It is good for our heart, because suffering is a sharp mirror into the heart. I

t is good for our families, because the stories of our sufferings and God’s faithfulness build a lineage of faith in our children upon which they may build their own faith.

It is good for evangelism, because our response to suffering testifies to the world what or who is on the throne of our hearts.

Lastly, it is good for worship, because we learn to leap into the protective and comforting arms of our Savior.

This morning, the pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, wrote a letter to his elders and deacons. I found the letter to be both convicting and encouraging.

Brothers,

As I was thinking about you and praying for our church this morning, God renewed my conviction to be resolute in demanding that our men (and specifically our Elders and Deacons) understand and embody the life-giving power of the Gospel in their daily lives. The best way to tell how well the Gospel is gaining traction in a local church is the kind of men it produces. So here are some questions I asked myself this morning before God and I’m asking you to do the same:

Do you rejoice in position, power, accomplishments, entitlement, control, degrees, knowledge, status, authority, numbers, and rank?

Or do you rejoice in service, mercy, sacrifice, pastoral care, love, prayer, prudence, grace, relationships, and repentance?

Are you proud or humble?

Do you put others before yourself?

Do you find your daily security and significance in your own accomplishments or in Christ’s accomplishment for you?

Do you seek first place or last place?

Do you boast on yourself or on Christ?

Do you talk about yourself a lot?

Are you prone to envy and do you get defensive easily?

Do you weep with those who weep?

Do you love people and look for opportunities to serve and shepherd them?

Do you revel in self-confidence or self-sacrifice?

Do you have people in your life that you confess specific instances of sin?

Do the people in your life find it easy to correct you?

I know these are tough questions to ask yourself but honest answers to these questions will tell you how well you grasp the Gospel and how qualified you are to lead this church. The Bible demands that we be Gospel-men. And since his security and significance is in Christ, a real Gospel-man is not afraid of questions like this.

Furthermore, we all have blind spots, so I charge you to ask your wives and your children to answer these questions about you. If that charge makes you feel uncomfortable than it’s a sure sign that you know you need to grow in your grasp of the gospel–like I do! As I said yesterday to the whole church: your spiritual health is my greatest goal and responsibility.

Please know that I love you all, am learning and growing with you, and am grateful to serve with you.

In Christ Alone,

Tullian

When I read Al Mohler’s reflections on the death of Tyler Clementi, I found myself thinking, “that is exactly where I am.” His thoughts are truthful (in line with Scripture and honest about sin in both the church and the homosexual community) and sensitive (compassionate and heartfelt).

His summary is…

I am haunted by the one question that seems so obvious and clear in the account of Tyler Clementi’s tragic death. In those days of crushing anguish, humiliation, and confusion, was there no one who could have stood between that boy and that bridge?

Mohler writes…

By all accounts Tyler Clementi was an 18-year-old young man who was excited to be a freshman in college, gifted as a violinist, and looking forward to the future. All that changed last week when he walked out onto the massive George Washington Bridge that connects New York with New Jersey and jumped 200 feet to his death.

The last few days of Tyler Clementi’s life were a cauldron of confusions. Over the course of three days, he learned that his roommate at Rutgers University, also age 18, had surreptitiously turned a webcam toward his bed, filming him in a romantic encounter with another male student. The roommate employed social media to inform friends of the event, turning what Tyler Clementi assumed was a private moment into a devastating public disclosure.

It is now clear that Tyler was crushed, confused, and angry. He posted thoughts about how he might respond on the Web and finally wrote this on his Facebook page: “Jumping off gw bridge sorry.”

In September, no less than three additional teenagers committed suicide, and these are believed also to be connected to disclosures or struggles with homosexuality. As Geoff Mulvihill and Samantha Henry of the Associated Press report:

Clementi’s death was part of a string of suicides last month involving youngsters who were believed to have been victims of anti-gay bullying. Fifteen-year-old Billy Lucas hanged himself in a barn in Greensburg, Ind. Asher Brown, 13, shot himself in the head in Houston. And 13-year-old Seth Walsh of Tehachapi, Calif. hanged himself from a tree in his back yard.

That is four teenagers in just one month. And look at those ages. Two were only 13, one was 15, and Tyler Clementi was 18. That is four dead boys in the space of one horrible month, and all were struggling with sexual identity.

Read the rest of the article

James Emery White writes an occasional blog on Church and Culture. Today’s was a note of warning and reality.

Another well-known Christian leader has come under fire for sexual immorality.

I won’t go into the details. If you are at all dialed into church world, you know the megachurch pastor I’m talking about, and can find all the salacious details on the internet.

He’s denied the allegations and vowed to fight the charges. I hope for the kingdom’s sake that he’s innocent, and is fully exonerated.

But whether that proves to be the case or not, many leaders have fallen.

Why is this happening so frequently?

Some would argue that there aren’t enough checks and balances in large ministries today; some would say there is a lack of personal accountability in leader’s lives.

Perhaps.

But if that’s what it takes to keep a leader clean, well…

So I’ve got another theory to throw into the ring.

Ministry is spiritually hazardous to your soul.

Why?

First, it is because leaders are constantly doing “spiritual” things, and it is easy to confuse those things with actually being spiritual. For example, you are constantly studying the Bible in order to prepare a talk. It’s easy to confuse this with reading and studying the Bible devotionally to apply to your own soul.

You’re not.

You are praying – in services, during meetings, at pot lucks – and it is easy to think you are leading a life of personal, private prayer pouring out your praise, your confession, your thanksgiving, your needs, to God.

You’re not.

You are planning worship, leading worship, attending worship, and it is easy to believe you, yourself, are actually worshipping your God in spirit and truth.

Again, chances are, you’re not.

What’s at play here? It’s actually quite simple. When you are in ministry, it is easy to confuse doing things for God with spending time with God; to confuse activity with intimacy; to mistake the trappings of spirituality for being spiritual.

But there’s a second reason why ministry is hazardous to a leader’s soul, and it’s even more subtle than the first. It is because as a minister you are constantly being put on a spiritual pedestal and treated as if you are the fourth member of the trinity.

In truth, the people you lead have no idea whether you have spent any time alone with God in reflection and prayer over the last six weeks; they do not know what you are viewing online; they do not know whether you treat your wife with tenderness and dignity.

They just automatically afford you a high level of spirituality.

Here’s where it gets really toxic: you can begin to bask in this spiritual adulation and start to believe your own press. Soon, left unchecked, the estimation of others becomes your own bead on things.

This is why most train wrecks in ministry are not as sudden and “out of the blue” as they seem to those who just “hear the news.” Most leaders who end up in a moral ditch were actually veering off of the road for some time. Their empty, or “false front,” spiritual life simply became manifest; or caught up with them; or took its toll.

You can only run on empty for so long.

I had a defining moment on this in my life when I was around thirty years old. A well-known leader, who had been a role model for my life, fell through an adulterous affair.

I was devastated.

But more than that, I was scared.

If it could happen to him, then I was a pushover. It didn’t help my anxieties that I was in a spiritual state exactly as I have described: confusing doing things for God with time with God; accepting other’s estimation of my spiritual life in a way that made it easy to bypass a true assessment of where I stood.

I was like a cut flower that looked good on the outside, but in time would wilt dreadfully and display quite plainly how divorced I was from any roots of life.

It was a life-defining moment.

I remember so clearly the awareness that I too, could fall; that no one would ever own my spiritual life but me; that I needed to realize that the public side of my life was meaningless – only the private side mattered.

This was not flowing from a position of strength; it was flowing from a deep awareness of weakness.

From this, the gun went off.

I began to rise early in the morning for prayer and to read the Bible.

I began to take monthly retreats to a bed-and-breakfast in the mountains for a more lengthy immersion in order to read devotional works, pray, experience silence and solitude, and to journal.

I began a two-year, intense mentoring relationship with a man who had many more years on me in terms of age, marriage and ministry.

There were many more “begans” as more disciplines, acts and choices found their way onto my agenda, but you get the idea: I was going to be a public and private worshiper; I was going to be a student of the Bible for my talks and for my soul; I was going to pray for others to hear and for an audience of One.

I hope you hear my heart on this. It’s not to boast, it’s to confess.

I still could end up in a ditch. You could too.

Let’s keep working to make sure that we don’t.

James Emery White

On the morning of April 9, 1945, German pastor and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer was executed at Flossenburg concentration camp. The camp doctor, H. Fischer-Hullstrung, later remembered:

[Just before the execution] “I saw Pastor Bonhoeffer kneeling on the floor, praying fervently to God…so certain that God heard his prayer…I have hardly ever seen a man die so entirely submissive to the will of God.”

Others testified that, up to his last day, the 39 year old Bonhoeffer remained cheerful. He knew what he had to do, was reconciled to God’s will, and was able to climb the steps to the gallows “brave and composed.”

Who was this man who died so bravely–who Hitler himself, from his bunker beneath Berlin just three weeks before his suicide, ordered to be “destroyed?”

Eric Metaxas’ biography of Bonhoeffer is a gripping picture into the heart of Christ-follower who seeks to be faithful in a very difficult time.

Metaxas emphasizes Bonhoeffer’s theology and how it played out in his life. In contrast to “cheap grace,” Bonhoeffer believed that true grace influences all aspects of a Christian’s life. Christianity is more than going to church. It requires believers to be willing to sacrifice everything to God. Christianity is also more than legalistic morality. Ethics, according to Bonhoeffer, can’t be reduced to a set of rules. These beliefs are what led this humble and devout follower of Christ to be involved in a plot to assassinate Hitler.

Instead of buying a new coat this winter, wear the old one and use the money to purchase Bonhoeffer – Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy, by Eric Metaxas.

One week before his execution, Bonhoeffer wrote his famous poem, “Who Am I?” It gives a glimpse into the heart of this Christ-follower’s struggles in prison and his final resolution.

Who am I? They often tell me I would step from my cell’s confinement calmly, cheerfully, firmly, like a squire from his country-house.

Who am I? They often tell me I would talk to my warden freely and friendly and clearly, as though it were mine to command.

Who am I? They also tell me I would bear the days of misfortune equably, smilingly, proudly, like one accustomed to win.

Am I then really all that which other men tell of, or am I only what I know of myself, restless and longing and sick, like a bird in a cage, struggling for breath, as though hands were compressing my throat, yearning for colors, for flowers, for the voices of birds, thirsting for words of kindness, for neighborliness, trembling with anger at despotisms and petty humiliation, tossing in expectation of great events, powerlessly trembling for friends at an infinite distance, weary and empty at praying, at thinking, at making, faint and ready to say farewell to it all.

Who am I? This or the other? Am I one person today, and tomorrow another? Am I both at once? A hypocrite before others, and before myself a contemptibly woebegone weakling? Or is something within me still like a beaten army, fleeing in disorder from victory already achieved?

Who am I? They mock me, these lonely questions of mine.

Whoever I am, Thou knowest, O God, I am thine.

Tomorrow – Thursday, September 9 – “The Nines” – a free online conference on leadership will be hosted by Leadership Network.

Over 100 inspirational leaders will share their wisdom in six-minute segments all throughout the day. Church, ministry and community leaders will present the “game changers” for them. It should be really good. And, it’s FREE.

You can register at http://thenines.leadnet.org.

Five statements worth remembering during your next 50 years of leadership

1) Whatever you do, do more with others and less alone

2) Whenever you do it, emphasize quality not quantity.

3) Wherever you go, do it the same as if you were among those who know you best.

4) Whoever may respond, keep a level head.

5) However long you lead, keep on dripping with gratitude and grace

Chuck Swindoll accepted a Lifetime Achievement Award at Catalyst 09. He offered the following lessons he has learned:

1. It’s lonely to lead. Leadership involves tough decisions. The tougher the decision, the lonelier it is.

2. It’s dangerous to succeed. I’m most concerned for those who aren’t even 30 and are very gifted and successful. Sometimes God uses someone right out of youth, but usually he uses leaders who have been crushed.

3. It’s hardest at home. No one ever told me this in Seminary.

4. It’s essential to be real. If there’s one realm where phoniness is common, it’s among leaders. Stay real.

5. It’s painful to obey. The Lord will direct you to do some things that won’t be your choice. Invariably you will give up what you want to do for the cross.

6. Brokenness and failure are necessary.

7. Attitude is more important than actions. Your family may not have told you: some of you are hard to be around. A bad attitude overshadows good actions.

8. Integrity eclipses image. Today we highlight image. But it’s what you’re doing behind the scenes.

9. God’s way is better than my way.

10.Christlikeness begins and ends with humility.

fighting1

Sometimes it seems that pastors should be trained in a fight club!

For example, mention “predestination” – and you better be wearing body armor!

No issue, however, creates more heat and less light than the subject of appropriate music in worship.

I heard a seasoned pastor say, “people will change their theology before they change their music.”

Perhaps an overstatement, but not by much. People feel strongly – very strongly – about their worship music.

I’ve been accused of siding with the devil by allowing drums in worship. I’ve been told I’m totally irrelevant if we use any song written before 2000!

Unbelievable!

For many of us, it boils down to personal preference.

Some prefer hymns. Others prefer Southern Gospel/Bill Gaither – or 1980’s Maranatha and Integrity/Hosanna – or Tomlin/Redman/Crowder/Passion – of Christian Indie Rock – or the resurgence of old hymns in new dress.

I just read the Breakpoint article by Chuck Colson, who asked,

“Is there a right and wrong kind of music for worship?”

His answer?

Yes.

Donald Williams is director of the School of Arts and Sciences at Toccoa Falls College in Georgia. In his excellent Touchstone magazine article, “Durable Hymns,” Williams notes that there have been wars over music almost as long as there’s been a church. So what’s the answer?

Williams says we should study the music of the past to “learn the criteria by which to discern what is worthy in the present.”

Much of today’s music is of poor quality, he writes. But so was some music written centuries ago. The difference is the old hymns have endured a centuries-long weeding-out process. If we hope to identify the best new music, Williams writes, we must know “those marks of excellence that made the best of the past stand out and survive so long.”

These marks of excellence “are not arbitrary.” They “are derived from biblical teaching about the nature of worship.” They come, Williams writes, “from an understanding of the nature of music and how it can support those biblical goals.”

Among these marks of excellence is biblical truth. Lyrics need not to be literal Scripture, but they do have to be faithful to it.

Another mark of excellence-theological profundity. Think of how the words to this great hymn encourage us to worship God with our minds:

Immortal, invisible, God only wise
In light inaccessible hid from our eyes

By contrast, some contemporary choruses are often “so simplistic and repetitive that theological reflection never has a chance to get started,” Williams says.

A third mark of excellence is poetic richness. For instance, the use of a question in the hymn “What Child is This?” helps us capture “the wonder of the Incarnation.” In “Amazing Grace,” the word “wretch,” Williams notes, is “a simple but evocative” choice.

A fourth mark is musical beauty. In great music, “there are certain contours, structures, and cadences that make for a singable melody.” And the right harmony “can make that melody more memorable . . .,” he writes. For instance, “Be Thou My Vision” “rises and falls like an ocean wave or a sine curve.”

Tragically, Williams notes, “more recent praise choruses seem to ignore all the rules of good composition, giving us not well-shaped melodies but just one note after another.”

Colson concludes…

Surely all sides of the music wars can agree that we want to praise God by singing hymns and spiritual songs that are biblically true, theologically profound, poetically rich, and, yes, musically beautiful.

What do you think?